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gion constitutes no part of their qualification ? not to say what I fear is true, that religion would rather tarnish than adorn the candidate. We remember the occasion when it was long a question, and at length determined on the side opposite to justice and mer. cy, whether we would extend the privilege of holding men in bondage, to territories where the curse had not gone. And yet we are a Christian nation, and profess that our territory makes every man free, and gives all equal rights. But why might we break the bond that bound us to our mother country, and still hold our fellow men bond-slaves for life? Their right in us was the right of power—the right that the sword gives, not heaven. And what other right has any in his slave ?
I remember, too, that the laws of the United States justify a disregard of the Sabbath. The mail, with all its noise and retinue, may disturb on its route every house of worship, and carry its noisy and profane, and God-provoking influence into every vil. lage, and that by the direct authority of the general government,
nd in contempt of hundreds of thousands of petitioners who have preferred their prayers till they have no hope of success.
Thus from the very spot whence should issue none but the laws of piety and righteousness, where should be congregated the men who would rule in the fear of the Lord, whence there should go out a commanding Christian influence, to operate through all the parts of an extensive and complicated legislation,-from that very spot there flow out streams of moral putrefaction, to contaminate, as far as heaven will permit, the whole body politic.
Let the same principles that are supreme at the seat of government, go to regulate the social intercourse of all our cities and villages, and it is impossible not to see that we should be a miserable people. If one chances to violate the laws of honor, or is conceived to have erred, he can wipe away the reproach only by the exposure
of his life. He must stand a mark for the fatal ball, or be dubbed a coward, and lose his character. Thus when the blackest crimes should receive their punishment, they find a pattern ; where should prevail wisdom, originates the most consummate folly ; where should be generated the laws of kindness, there issues a permit to any man, who will do it honorably, to spill the blood of his neighbor and his friend. Thus the heart faints and sickens when it should receive its strongest and kindliest impulse, and the good man turns from the seat of the general government, as from a scene too disgusting to contemplate. Its palaces are splendid, its equipage costly, its fare sumptuous, its assemblies large, and gay, and brilliant, but God is scarcely acknowledged there, and there reigns throughout all its circles, a lightness and a vanity that is the very antipode of heaven. And when we leave the spot, and look upon the servants of the general government in their varied dispersions, our disgust is very little diminished. We cannot say that integrity, or piety, or wisdom, has received very largely the honors or the emoluments of the general government. There has not prevailed a disposition to employ those servants, that we should employ to administer upon our estates, or that we would wish'might be the guardians of our children. There have been, I know, some good men in the general government, and they have employed some servants and ministers, who have acted in the fear of God, but the mass, I believe, it will not be denied, have not been governed by the fear of God. And still they are the men of our choice, and this is the most painful thought, for the sin lies at our own door. We rise from our knces, and hand in our suffrage for the man who never prays, and would con. sider himself insulted, if one should urge him to the duty. Thus the good man is disgusted, and wishes to soar away and be at rest.
And as we pass down through all the subordinate branches of civil government, our prospect is not very greatly cheered. Enmity to God and his kingdom is not considered a disqualification for managing the best interests of civil society. The men that hate the Law of God, profane his name, and will not keep his sabbaths, nor honor his sanctuary ;-it is confessed we do not consider the interests of a Christian community very safe in their hands.
Is it asked whether we would make piety the test of office, we answer, no. But we would have other qualifications. We would have every man in office fear an oath, and not deliberately swear to do a duty which he has already resolved not to do. We would have him a man whose conscience is enlightened by the testimony of God. We would, that he regarded the Sabbath, and would not converse profanely, would be the friend of morality, and science, and religion. We would not have him intemperate, nor impure, nor infidel.
We would have him respect the name of God, and the people of God, and all the institutions of religion. Less than this in the men of office ought not to satisfy a Christian community.
But as the good man surveys the civil government, how little of all this does he sometimes discover in the men of office. They are often the patterns of vice, and often more yet its patrons. Thev will swear themselves into office, by pledges they never afterward think of, and which, at the time of the oath, they mean not to redeem. They are often found the enemies of the Church, and of the truth, of the Sabbath, of the sanctuary, of revivals of religion, and the whole code of Christian morality. Hence how long have good men petitioned and prayed, till they have quit praying, that such amendments may be made in the laws that guard the morals of the community, as to secure their execution, but all to no purpose.
Now, in view of all this, how can the good man fail to wish that he may live in a better community, and be governed by men that have a conscience, and act in the fear of God ? How can it please him to commit the temporal, and, to a great extent, the immortal interests of his offspring, to the rule and the authority of men who have no impressive sense of their future accountability. A lodge in the desert, where nature only can be seen to rule by the fixed laws of God, and vice is banished, offers him an asylum that has many charms above the partial misrule of unsanctified authority.
When the good man takes a view of the churches, he has still occasion for pain. He sees often a lackness of discipline, that tarnishes their beauty, weakens their strength, mars their fellowship, and greatly retards their usefulness. Men of ungodly life are suffered to eat the children's bread; men of profaneness, in temperance, and debauchery; men who neither pray nor repent, but cast their whole weight into the scale of error and irreligion. So slow is the work of discipline in many churches, that men are constantly dying in their communion, who have been notoriously ungodly for years; and of whose piety there never was indulged a hope. There are among the professed people of God contentions, backbiting, envy, and wrath. They sit down together at the table of the Lord, and covenant to love one another, but their vow does not bind them. They can exhibit toward each other every unkindness witnessed among the men of the world. Now who 'would not desire a better world than this? Who, that dares to be alone, would not covet a lodge in some vast wilderness, that his eyes might not see a world which the Lord Jesus built for himself, so polluted and destroyed? Who would not wish to belong to a better community, to be conversant with wiser men, to enjoy a more kind and friendly society, and have fellowship with a more pure and godly brotherhood ? “O that I had wings, like a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest.”
We have noticed what occasion the good man has to utter the
sentiment of the text, when he takes some of the more extended views of the objects around him. And we shall find that his disgust continues when he narrows the rule down to himself.
If he casts his eye over the town in which he dwells, he can seldom fail to see what must disgust a heavenly mind. The varied shades of political and religious sentiment, the party feelings, the jarring interests, the prejudices and the quarrels, are calculated to render one very sick of human life, and if they beget not the wish to quit the world, will render endeared the scenes of retirement and meditation. There is too little seen that deserves the name of friendship. Between very few is there a compact so firm, that the most trifling affair of interest will not sunder the fellowship, and create envy and strise. Every public measure, though the most useful and necessary, must have some to oppose it, by which it becomes almost impossible to promote our own convenience and comfort. How often, in many parts of Christendom, has the location of the sanctuary, or a school-house, or public road, riven and ruined a pleasant and flourishing town. Men have made sacrifices to gratify their will, which if made for the general good, would have cradled controversy to sleep in an hour.
Why must there be men in every little circle, who can be pleased with nothing that pleases others? Why must we calculate that every good measure will make some one angry? This might easily be made a happy world, if a very few would calculate to let the general voice govern them. And how does it happen that men do not suspect themselves in the wrong, when they are for ever on the list of opposition, when their attitude is that of hostility whenever they act with other men in public measures? The little passions of childhood are carried with some men into their maturer years. They make themselves offended at some measure, and can then no more be reasoned with than you could reason with a tempest. To try to please them but increases the spleen that controls them. “I have piped unto you, and ye have not danced, I have mourned unto you but
have not lamented.” Thus all measures that regard the general good are more or less defeated, except when public good yokes itself with private interest, while a spirit of condescension would render this a pleasant world. Now the good man, if his mind be at all enlarged, must turn from all this with disgust, and must sometimes feel ashamed that he belongs to a community so degenerate.
If he casts his eye into the domestic. circle, where it would seem we might look for happiness if any where in this desert,
there is there but little to cheer his soul. The marriage contract is so often not the result of affection, but convenience, that harmony in many cases is not to be expected. The husband and the wife have distinct interests, and a distinct character, and hope, and purpose. The kind attentions that nourish domestic joy, are put off with the marriage robes, and the result is not that sweetness which love produces, but a scene of jarring and noise, or at best, the attitude of mere forbearance. Hence, as we should expect, there goes down through the children the same spirit of selfishness and discord that reigns in the hearts of the parents. Thus where should be cradled every virtue, where should be nursed the kindest endearments, where our country and the Church of Christ should rest their hopes, there is sometimes found the embryo of all public litigation, and strife, and confusion. The seeds thus sown in the domestic circle are nourished in the schools, and thus are early matured for operation, all the principles of depravity that go to wither all that is flourishing, and deform all that is fair, and blight all that is promising in this ill-fated world.
When the good man contemplates the Christian character, not as presented in the word of God, but as exhibited in actual life around him, he still has before him a picture that fills him with disgust and with tears. The very men who are bound for heaven have carried into their religion so much of worldly maxim and of human passion, as to put a blast upon the only fertile spots that stud this desert world.
One believer has about him all that is gay, and vain, and trifling, in the higher circles of the ungodly, with scarcely difference enough to beget the hope that he is born of God. He breathes an atmosphere where the humble, and retiring, and self-condemning spirit of the gospel is very much a stranger. Another has carried into his religion the coarseness and the vulgarity that better comports with sin than piety; and would hardly seem consistent with the benevolence of the gospel. Another would seem too dull and stupid to have partaken of that Spirit which, as a well of water, is represented as springing up into everlasting life. One has rather the rashness of a heaven-daring sinner, than the gentleness of the lamb; while another has carried his maxims of prudence to a pitch that forbids the discharge of any duty which the most ungodly do not approve. We see one who is too willing to shrink from every public duty, who will hide in a corner, that he may not be called upon to pray; while another has no enjoyment but as he may go forward and be conspicuous in every measure