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diffuse their blessings, can you hesitate for a moment as to their source? Is it not visible as the day, that they are the precious fruit of the principles and efforts of our fathers as Christian freemen-principles and efforts which they declared and put forth for the very purpose of securing these identical results? As certainly as that heat comes from fire-as that water gushes from the fountain-as that light beams from the sun-so certainly are the elements and means of our national preeminence and well-being resident alone in the simple-Protestant-Apostolic-New Testament faith! Apart from that faith, we go back to grope in a darkness, and to be crushed by a despotism, dense and horrible as those from which, by the sole power of that faith, our illustrious ancestors emerged.
It is a question of intense interest: Are our liberties to remain ? Will the future behold us still elevated and ascending on the way of a real and enduring national greatness? Or will our institutions be overthrown? Will our glory be extinguished? Will our stripes and stars be covered with the sable pall? Will our eagle bite the dust?
The brave, the wise, the good reply, God save our country! Let all the people say, Amen!
Alas! our sky is not unclouded. Fervent as may be our hope, there is, at least, some ground of fear. We may be gathered to our graves in peace, but I confess those are sad scenes which sometimes rise upon my vision when, in the midsts of present sins and conflicts, I think of the future. One thing is certain; certain as the fixed laws of nature and the immutable truth of God, those principles and that spirit which gave us our existence and our distinguished blessings as a nation, can alone preserve them. If you take the deep, broad, firm base away, the superstructure, no matter how decorated or imposing, will fall; and the ruin will be the more complete and frightful, the more proud and lofty the edifice!
Hear, then, the terms on which we may still be elevated, great, and enduring.
We must sacredly guard as an imperishable and universal right, Liberty of Conscience. If even we deny this to others, the time is near when it will cease from ourselves. And, without this liberty, there is no liberty worth the name. In all matters of opinion, men, in respect to their fellow men, are to be absolutely free. Be they Christians or Jews, Mohammedans, Pagans, or Atheists, for their creed they are responsible to God alone. You may argue with them, you may refute their reasons, you may expose their fallacies, you may protest against their errors, you may subdue their understanding with truth, you may win their hearts by love; but away with the pincers, the screws, the fagots, the
chain, the axe, the halter! Never, in the land of the Puritans, let the finger of compulsion touch the soul!
We must also vigilantly cherish a free and pure Press. On its freedom depends its power; on its purity, its power to do good. Combining these, it more than realizes the sublime idea of Archimedes. It can-it will move the world. But this is one of those agencies which can curse as well as bless; which, too often, does curse. Not the least among the perils of liberty comes of that interminable issue of the press in the form of evil books, which flood the land, and throw their spell and pollution chiefly upon the young, and not unoften find a place in even Christian families. To stay this evil, what shall we do? Call back the days of the censors or abridge the freedom of the press to secure its purity? Shall we station an armed police in the study of the scholar in the office of the publisher in the store of the tradesman? Shall we demand on the title-page of every book or pamphlet the old imprimates of the powers that be? Shall we do here, as they do in Austria, in Italy, in Rome? No, no! Let us be pure ourselves, and patronize only that which is pure, and if selfishness and corruption will still prostitute some presses to send out malignity and error, let us erect others, and ply them with redoubled vigor, in diffusing love and truth. It is said that Voltaire first employed tracts as the propagandists of infidelity. He little thought they would become so powerful an instrument and support of the cause he so earnestly labored to destroy.
We must, moreover, multiply and maintain the means of a substantial popular Education. I have little faith, indeed, in human nature, when the mind only is enlightened. I have no conception that mere knowledge will ever prove strong enough to grapple with and overcome the innate tendencies to corruption, whether in an individual or a nation; and yet, if it be true that an enlightened people can be enslaved, it is still more certain that an ignorant people can not be free. It is utterly absurd to talk of freedom for men who do not know what freedom means. Look at the lands of tyranny, the world over and time through. Without exception they are lands of darkness-lands where the common mind is excluded from knowledge. What an illustration on this point exists among ourselves! Why not educate the slave? Why, but for the reason that such a process would almost inevitably set him free?
There are, indeed, some grave difficulties connected with the subject of popular education which I can not now discuss; difficulties touching the state on one side and religion on the other. It is plain, however, that simple knowledge, while it may not be able to repress corruption already existing, has no legitimate tendency to produce corruption. Hence the absurdity of charging on the public schools of New-York, as was done a few days since
by the Rev. John Hughes, the increasing crimes of that city. Pray, tell me, how can instruction in geography, grammar, history, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, corrupt? And what almost sublime effrontery, in such a charge, from such a quarter, when every intelligent man knows that the system for which he pleads as a substitute for ours, has ever been the foster-mother of ignorance, and hot-bed of corruption! But whether by Church or State, or both, our people must be educated-the whole people. We can not afford to have an aristocracy of knowledge. We want, not only our Harvards and Yales, our institutions of theology, medicine, and law, for professional culture, but we want also schools in every parish-enough for the mental wants of the entire population. The soldier who fights our battles; the sailor who mans our ships; the day-laborer; the mechanic; the merchant; our wives and daughters, as well as our sons and fathers, must be solidly and wisely educated, as one of the terms of rational and enduring liberty.
Furthermore, we must hold fast upon the Bible. It is the great charter of liberty. It is the only exhaustless fountain of life and light to men and to nations. It was the Bible which made our fathers so strong, valiant, and holy. It was from its pages they drew those large ideas, those lofty purposes, those divine affections. And when severing themselves from the throne and land of oppression, they crossed the Atlantic to rear the empire of freedom, like true philosophers, as well as devout Christians, they solemnly laid the Bible as the foundation and chief cornerstone. The gift of Heaven has made us all that we are, in respect to whatsoever is truly great and good.
Let us understand, however, there is no charm in the mere possession of the Bible. It has no power as a sealed or unstudied book. If we keep it, like those relics of royalty in the Tower, to be brought out only on occasions of state, or exhibited to curious and admiring strangers, it will do us no good. We must have it open, circulated, read, studied. We must ponder on its divine lessons. We must imbue our whole mental and moral being with its truths and spirit. We must make it, if we can, the controlling influence around every fire-side. We must see to it that its purifying power is felt by the young. We must build upon it, as their chief basis, our schools of learning, our institutions of religion, our whole fabric of society and government.
And in order to this, we must insist on the unqualified right of private judgment in reference to the Bible. Make a man a slave in religion, and it matters not what else he may be, you have ac complished all that the most insatiable despotism requires. And well they know this, who claim the enormous power. Bind my religious convictions to priest or church, to court or council, and the sacrifice of every thing else to this monstrous Juggernaut be
comes a duty, yea, a pleasure. In such a servitude the chain is not upon the limbs, but upon the soul. No, an open Bible, and an unfettered intellect and conscience in interpreting that Bible, we must have, or the whole structure of our liberties will at length exist in only the name!
Still further, we must preserve inviolate the Christian Sabbath. A nation without the Sabbath, will presently be a nation without God. It is not only invaluable and imperative as God's great provision for recreating the exhausted energies of the physical life; it is not only of incalculable worth and efficiency in diffusing those influences which cement, purify, and exalt society; but it is essential, too, in preserving among men a knowledge of the truth-I had almost said of the being of God; certainly, of any just and ennobling conceptions of Him. And when nations forget God, what remains? What must be the history of their future? That was a sublime scene in the assembly of those great and wise men who framed our national Constitution. They had been in session for weeks; they had searched for precedents in all history; they had examined constitutions of states and models of government; but they made no progress; they seemed to themselves still afar from political truth. At length Franklin arose. Addressing the President, he solemnly said: "Sir, in the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, sir, were heard they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor; and have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men." He closed his address by moving that God be recognized, and his aid implored in daily and solemn prayer. Thenceforth, that assembly looked unto God.
The Constitution is indeed framed, and we live prosperously under its wise provisions. But shall we now forget the God whose blessing its illustrious framers felt was indispensable then? Have we a wisdom superior to theirs? Or are we in any wise less dependent on the goodness and power of Jehovah ?
The Sabbath is the day when, as a nation, we can recognize God; when we can send up the tribute of a nation's gratitude-the voice of a nation's prayer. We must have the Sabbath as a day of holy quietude and worship. The laborer should rest; the din of traffic should be hushed; the departures and arrivals of steamers should cease; the noise of the rail-way should be still; from the domestic shrine families should go up to the public sanctuary; the devout, grateful, holy worship of the nation should be offered unto God.
We must have the Sabbath for the new life it imparts to
wearied nature. We must have the Sabbath for the impulse and expansion it gives to the intellect of the nation, bringing before it themes of thought, which occupy and aggrandize angelic minds. We must have the Sabbath for its vast moral and spiritual power. We must have the Sabbath as the strong right arm of our national defense, as the impregnable bulwark of our free institutions.
One thought more, and I will close. We must earnestly and persistingly seek the Holy Spirit of God. His were the energies which, brooding over old chaos, evoked from the turbulent gloom light, order, and beauty. His are the energies which, brooding over the passions of men, can calm them; over the affections of men, can change them; over the indomitable wills of men, can subdue and transform them. Edmund Burke said: "It is written in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds can not be free. Their passions forge their fetters." The Spirit of God alone can reach this deep disease, this immedicable wound of our common nature. We accord much to true theoretic principles; much to the instincts and affections of humanity and patriotism; much to the general intelligence of the people; much to the power of a pure morality; but, after all, the great and permanent elements, as of individual, so of national elevation and blessings, are in the sanctifying influence of the Holy One. They are freemen whom God makes free. Regenerate men have noblest liberty, and most beautify and guard that which others have. It is the utterance of a profound philosophy, as well as the voice of God: "Righteousness exalteth a nation!"
Let our beloved country hold fast by those truths, and act upon them, and no tongue can express the magnificence of her future! Let her disregard and reject them, and her doom is sure. She will sink ingloriously in the grave of impious and perished nations!