the Divine Discipline.
BLESSED be thou, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now, therefore, our God, we thank thee; and praise thy glorious name. 1 CHRONICLES xxix., 10-13.
On the fifth day of February, in the year of our Lord 1631, the ship Lyon, after a tempestuous voyage of sixty-six days from Bristol, England, sailed into the harbor of Boston, Massachusetts. She brought a large store of provisions--" two hundred tons of meal, and other things of prime necessity"--the arrival of which was most timely, for those who had watched and waited for her coming were "reduced to the last exigencies of famine." Many had already famished from want; and the day succeeding her arrival had been set apart for a public fast. It was changed to a general thanksgiving, and from it dates the custom we have gathered here to observe.
The good ship Lyon also brought the founder of a new State, Roger Williams, who embodied principles which will endure and spread forever, and which are now reckoned by us as being, in their continuance and operation, among the grandest blessings of the State and Nation, and to be mentioned among the first reasons for gratitude and praise.
The principles contended for and put in successful operation [3/4] in the State founded by Roger Williams, were, indeed, in some degree recognized and contended for in the establishment of many other American Colonies; but by him, with a more catholic spirit, and a more constant and unflinching purpose, than distinguished others.
Mr. Bancroft, our philosophical historian, has asserted, and truly, that "Tyranny and injustice peopled America with men nurtured in suffering and adversity. The history of our colonization is the history of the crimes of Europe."
Tracing out the facts on which this statement is based, we find that "the crimes" which called a very large number of the Colonies into being, were committed against conscience, against religious worship, and the rights and authority of religious conviction. The colonial districts now embraced in the State of Massachusetts were founded to secure the rights of conscience to the Puritans. Georgia was colonized as an asylum and refuge for persecuted Protestants. Maryland, as the home of hunted and abused Roman Catholics. Delaware, to be a blessing to "the whole Protestant world." "I hope," said Gustavus Adolphus, "it may prove the advantage of all oppressed Christendom." New York was founded by Dutch merchants, chiefly with an eye to trade, but it opened its arms to the persecuted Bohemian, and to the outcasts from the Italian Valleys. Through the instrumentality of William Penn, first, West New Jersey, and then Pennsylvania, became the chosen place where the Quakers, persecuted everywhere else, could successfully try "THE HOLY EXPERIMENT." Virginia and the Carolinas were not expressly established as asylums for those persecuted for religion, but at different times they afforded a refuge to the "Cavalier" and the "Churchman," to the "Huguenot" and the "German Protestant." Rhode Island was colonized by the passenger in the tempest-tossed Lyon, as the first State in the history of the world, as an asylum for allChristians, Pagans, Jews--for whoever was oppressed for conscience' sake.
These facts have suggested to me the propriety and appropriateness' of calling your attention in this service to the obligations imposed by our religious rights and privileges; [4/5] especially to the duty of giving prominence to religious suggestions in our political theories and efforts. We are here, not alone in obedience to the call of the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to render thanks for "gathered harvests," for "general health and welfare," for the blessings of prosperity which have followed "the industry of our people;" but we are also here as loyal citizens of our common country, affectionately invited by the President of the United States to observe this as a "day of thanksgiving and prayer and praise to our benificent Father who dwelleth in the heavens, that in the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to provoke the aggression of foreign States, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of our military conflict, while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.
"Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect a continuance of years, with a large increase of freedom."
The text which I have selected unfolds and illustrates the duty I would enforce. It is the most sublime national ascription of power and government to Almighty God that was ever made. It fell from the lips of David on the occasion when the people, with free will, gave themselves to the work which was to pledge the nation to the supremacy of religion in all their concerns, and was accepted by them as the sentiment of all Israel. It was an acknowledgment of dependence on God for all that was valuable and desirable in the national life, and a confession of obligation to keep constantly in mind that the success and perpetuity of the nation depended on its fidelity to the law of God.
Every nation has, indeed, in some form and by some expression, confessed to the fact that God has something to do with the life and stability of a government. That there is not alone a divine law enforced upon the individual conscience, and to [5/6] which the individual life is amenable, but that there is a supreme power, of which holiness is an essential attribute, to whom the perpetuity of States must also be referred. In momentary blindness, France, it is true, presumed to legislate the Deity out of the universe, and to blot out individual, as well as national, responsibility, by inscribing over the cemetery gates "Death is an eternal sleep;" but the acknowledgment of human independence, and of the supremacy of- human wit, in the worship of reason, in the person of a beautiful but lewd woman, brought from one of the brothels of Paris, was of short duration. Political wisdom and necessity led Robespierre to induce the Convention to restore the doctrines of the existence of a Supreme Being, and of the immortality of the soul; and the theophilanthropists, as they called themselves, aided by the public funds, opened some fifteen or twenty churches, delivered orations, and sang hymns, in honor of the Deity, and of the life to come.
But generally, as this fact of God's government and rule in nations, has been acknowledged, it is in Christianity, and in Judaism, its antecedent, that it is unfolded in the clearest doctrine and precept, and with the greatest force and authority. And it can hardly have escaped our notice that, as with reference to individual delinquencies, so with reference to the sins of a nation, there is not one which these records, the word of God, does not condemn. How great the condemnation of neglect and disobedience, let this inspired sentence show us: "The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."
If this fact of God's government, so generally acknowledged, and this assurance of responsibility, so impressively announced, is of any worth and importance to a nation, surely it should make a more than ordinary impression on the American people. Our origin demands it, for in our planting here, religion, as we have seen, was not a mere incident, one of many appendages, but the vital and controlling element, the central and all-absorbing thought, the sovereign idea which estimated and determined the worth and the place of all things else.
As such, it kept pace with our growth; or rather it determined [6/7] and characterized our growth during our preparation and struggle for freedom and independence. It fixed and directed those who with unequalled eloquence, pleaded for the removal of abuses and the restoration of rights; it animated and urged those who went forth willing to do or to die, that the nation might be born; it was the foundation and also the keystone of the Declaration of Independence; it entered largely into the State constitutions of the Republic, and from what little we know of the debates in which the Federal Charter was formed, it had no measured influence in determining the constructive meaning of the great Constitution.
The Father of the country, thus sets forth, in his Farewell Address, our continued obligations to it, and its claims upon us: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connection with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be sustained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
On this rock we have professed to stand from the clays of Washington until now; but never had we more stirring demand to look closely at the character of our foundation, and to satisfy ourselves that we are impregnably planted on the Rock of Ages, than now appeals to us. Never in the history of our race did so much depend on the clear apprehension of the religious duty of a people as is now depending on us, and on the manner in which we shall discharge the duty that lies before us. With all the emphasis which I can give to language, I wish to enforce the [7/8] conviction that now, and from this time on, our obligations to our country can be discharged only by bringing our politics under the direction of, and into harmony with, our religion. It has long been said, and it is unquestionably true, that the theory of Christianity is essentially Republican; and that our Government grew from the great truths of the Gospel. What is equally true, and what it concerns us to recognize and acknowledge, is that the practices under Republican institutions must be essentially Christian, or those institutions can never be permanent nor useful.
The venerable Josiah Quincy has thus eloquently and tersely set this forth with reference to individuals, and it is as true of nations: "The great comprehensive truths, written in letters of living light on every page of our history, are these: Human happiness has no perfect security but freedom; freedom, none but virtue; virtue, none but knowledge; and neither freedom, nor virtue, nor knowledge, has any vigor or immortal hope, except in the principles of the Christian faith, and in the sanctions of the Christian religion."
Consider now where we stand, what has brought us to our position, and the unavoidable crisis through which we must pass.
Since the days of Xerxes, no such bodies of armed men were ever gathered in battle array as now confront each other on this continent. Since the world began, no such numbers speaking the same language, owing their all to the same Government, formerly rejoicing in their allegiance to the same flag, were ever at war with each other. Nor in all the pretences of difference which men have formerly submitted to the arbitration of battle, was the issue ever so clear, distinct, or unmistakably presented as now. On the one hand, the integrity and life of the nation; on the other, its dismemberment and ruin. We are committed to the first. The rebels are terribly in earnest for the last. We keep our love for the Union. They have lost theirs. Why they have lost it, it is not difficult to say. They have not left us in ignorance of their reasons. They have not put forth those reasons in ambiguous phrases; and we have need to keep them ever before us.
In 1789, William Pinckney, of Maryland, put the following on [8/9] record:--"To me, nothing for which I have not the evidence of my senses, is more clear, than that the system of human bondage will one day destroy that reverence for Liberty which is the vital principle of a Republic."
We are now witnesses to the fulfilment of that prophecy. I-low abundant the proof! A leading spirit among the rebels, Dr. Smyth, of South Carolina, says: "What is the difficulty, and what the remedy? Not in the election of Republican Presidents. No. Not in the non-execution of the Fugitive bill. No. But it lies back of all these. It is found in that Atheistic Red Republican doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. Until that is trampled under foot, there can be no peace."
The Lynchburg Virginian, deploring the advocacy of the self-evident truths which form the foundation of the Declaration of Independence, says: "When the future historian shall connect all the threads of his narrative, and trace to their parent source the bitter streams that are now sweeping over the land, he will find that the poison was exhaled from the Mayflower."
How it is proposed to do away with the doctrines of humanity and liberty in the nation which the rebels have attempted to call into being, the following testimony of Vice President Stephens will show:
"'The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions--African slavery as it exists among us--the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.
"This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this as the 'rock upon which the old Union would split.' He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically.
"It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or [9/10] other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the Constitution, was the prevailing idea at the time.
"The Constitution, it is true, secured-every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly used against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a government built upon it--when the 'storm came and the wind blew, it fell.' Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas.
"Its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.
"This, our new Government, is the first in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.
"May we not therefore look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests? It is the first government ever instituted upon principles in strict conformity to nature, and the ordination of Providence, in furnishing the materials of human society. Many governments have been founded upon the principles of certain classes; but the classes thus enslaved were of the same race, and in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature's laws. The negro, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material--the granite--then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is the best, not only for the superior but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of his ordinances, or to question them. For his own purposes he has made one race to differ from another, as he has [10/11] made 'one star to differ from another in glory.' The great objects of humanity are best attained when conformed to his laws and degrees, in the formation of governments as well as in all things else. Our Confederacy is founded upon principles in strict conformity with these laws. This stone which was rejected by the first builders, 'is become the chief stone of the corner' in our new edifice."
After our reverses at Chancellorsville, the rebels were jubilant; for a short time their exultation knew no bounds. The spirit of the rebellion was triumphantly paraded before the world, and its avowed purpose put forth more boldly than ever before.
The Richmond Examiner, of that time, May 30, 1863, informs the world what the Southern Confederacy means. The picture is strongly painted, and there can be no mistake as to the meaning of the limner. It says:
"If the Confederacy is at a premium, she owes it to herself. And so much the better. We shall be all the more free to run the grand career which opens before us, and grasp our own lofty destiny. Would that all of us understood and laid to heart the true nature of that career and that destiny, and the responsibility it imposes! The establishment of the Confederacy is, verily, a distinct reaction against the whole course of the mistaken civilization of the age. And this is the true reason why we have been left without the sympathy of the nations until we conquered that sympathy with the sharp edge of our sword. For "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," we have deliberately substituted Slavery, Subordination and Government. Those social and political problems which rack and torture modern society, we have undertaken to solve for ourselves, in our own way, and upon our own principles. That "among equals, equality is right;" among those who are naturally unequal, equality is chaos; that there are slave races born to serve, master races born to govern. Such are the fundamental principles which we inherit from the ancient world, which we lifted up in the face of a perverse generation that has forgotten the wisdom of its fathers; by those principles we live, and in their defence we have shown ourselves ready to die. Reverently we feel that our Confederacy is a God-sent missionary to the nations, with great truths to [11/12] preach. We must speak them boldly; and whoso hath ears to hear let him hear."
Nothing can be more clearly established than these statements, establish the fact that the rebellion proceeded from, and is continued by a hatred of, what we reverence as Liberty; that opposition to the government proceeded not from the success, or the defeat of any particular party, but from dislike of the principles on which the Nation pretends to be based. Abraham Lincoln's election was only the pretext, the occasion, and not the cause of the outbreak. Andrew Jackson understood full well what was the real trouble, when he wrote, with reference to the attempt made thirty years ago, "The tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and a Southern Confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro or slavery question."
To show still further, even at the risk of prolixity on this point, that there was no real cause of complaint at the operation of our Government, I wish to introduce an extract from a speech which has not been brought before the public so much as its importance would seem to demand. I refer to the speech of Alexander H. Stephens, delivered in the Georgia State Convention, January, 1861. The language of this address is even stronger than that of his oft quoted speech to the people, a short time previous.
In the Convention Mr. Stephens said:
"This step (of secession), once taken, can never be recalled; and all the baleful and withering consequences that must follow will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war, which this act of yours will inevitably invite and call forth; when our green fields of waving harvest shall be trodden down by the murderous soldiery and the fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes; all the horrors and desolations of war upon us; who but this Convention will be held responsible for it? and who but him who shall have given his vote for this unwise and illtimed measure, as I honestly think and believe, shall be held to strict account for this suicidal act by the present generation, and probably cursed and execrated by posterity for all coming time, [12/13] for the wide and desolating ruin that will inevitably follow this act you now propose to perpetrate?
"Pause I entreat you, and consider for a moment what reasons you can give that will even satisfy yourselves in calmer moments --what reasons can you give to your fellow-sufferers in the calamity that it will bring upon us. What reasons can you give to the nations of the earth to justify it? They will be the calm and deliberate judges in the case; and what cause or one overt act can you name or point to, on which to rest the plea of justification? What right has the North assailed? What interest of the South has been invaded? What justice has been denied? and what claim founded in justice and right has been withheld? Can either of you to-day name one governmental act of wrong, deliberately and purposely done by the Government of Washington, of which the South has a right to complain? I challenge the answer. While on the other hand, let me show the facts (and believe me, gentlemen, I am not here the advocate of the North; but I am here the friend, the firm friend and lover of the South and her institutions, and for this reason I speak thus plainly and faithfully for yours, mine, and every other man's interest, the words of truth and soberness) of which I wish you to judge, and I will only state facts, which are clear and undeniable, and which now stand as records authentic in the history of our country.
"When we of the South demanded the slave-trade, or the importation of Africans for the cultivation of our lands, did they not yield the right for twenty years? When we asked a threefifths representation in Congress for our slaves, was it not granted? When we asked and demanded the return of any fugitive from justice, or the recovery of those persons owing labor or allegiance, was it not incorporated in the Constitution, and again ratified and strengthened by the fugitive slave law of 1850? But do you reply that in many instances they have violated this compact, and have not been faithful to their engagements? A s individual and local communities they may have done so, but not by the sanction of Government, for that has always been true to Southern interests.
"Again, gentlemen, look at another fact: when we have [13/14] asked that more territory should be added that we might spread the institution of slavery have they not yielded to our demands in giving us Louisiana, Florida, and Texas, out of which four States have been carved, and ample territory for four more to be added in due time, if you by this unwise and impolitic act, do not destroy this hope, and, perhaps, by it lose all, and have your last slave wrenched from you by stern military rule, as South America and Mexico were; or by the vindictive decree of a universal emancipation, which may reasonably be expected to follow?
"But, again, gentlemen, what have we to gain by this proposed change of our relation to the General Government? We have always had the control, and can yet, if we remain in it, and are as united as we have been. We have had a majority of the Presidents chosen from the South, as well as the control and management of most of those chosen from the North. We have had sixty years of Southern Presidents to their twenty-four, thus controlling the executive department. So of the judges of the Supreme Court, we have had eighteen from the South, and but eleven from the North; although nearly four-fifths of the judicial business has arisen in the free States, yet a majority of the court has always been from the South. This we have required, so as to guard against any interpretation of the Constitution unfavorable to us. In like manner, we have been equally watchful to guard our interests in the legislative branch of Government. In choosing the presiding presidents (pro tem.) of the Senate, we have had twenty-four to their eleven. Speakers of the House, we have had twenty-three, and they twelve. While the majority of the Representatives, from their greater population, have always been from the North, yet we have so generally secured the Speaker, because he, to a greater extent, shapes and controls the legislation of the country.
"Nor have we had less control in every other department of the General Government. Attorney Generals we have had fourteen, while the North have had but five. Foreign ministers we have had eighty-six, and they but fifty-four. While three: fourths of the business which demands diplomatic agents abroad is clearly from the free States, from their greater commercial [15/16] supply of its shamples with human sinews, can only be wrested from Africa. It must become no less dangerous on land, for it is impossible it should flourish unless it can occupy Mexico, and hold the highway of commerce at Darien. And must we, without a contest, allow such an empire to get a foothold? That, too, not merely by a few old States receding from their compact with us, but by their carrying with them others purchased by our money, elevated into equal partnership by our magnanimity, and intrusted with the stewards the moralhip of our ports and havens by our confiding and unguarded fraternity! Must we tamely suffer wrong and robbery, and the loss of all it has cost us such pains to construct; and that, to see it incorporated with elements of perpetual discord, of ceaseless conflict, of constant bloodshed, and final barbarism? Must we do this with the certainty that it portends evil, and only evil, to ourselves, to our children, and to the great family of man? There is but one reply. If war was ever forced upon a people, it has been forced on us by our brethren. Doubtless, God has permitted it for ours sins; but, that He forbids us to defend ourselves, I do not find in the precepts of Scripture, nor in the maxims of good men.
Naturally, we expected the moral support of nations, in this extremity; and, whatever have been our wrong dealings with England--not wholly unbalanced by hers towards us--it was from England that we confidently expected the sincerest good-will. We wanted nothing more than that. Our disappointment was simply astounding. Before we had recovered from a shock which, I must own, has greatly impaired by trust in the possibility of moral greatness in any national character, we remonstrated; it may be rudely, without dignity, and like a petulant schoolboy. But, America is only just full grown, and perhaps our conduct was not unpardonable. Our second resource, however, should be such as becomes a man. Let us calmly mind our [15/16] own concerns. We are satisfied that we know our duty. "Let Shimei curse;" and by Shimei I do not mean England--far from it. I mean those degenerate specimens of a great people who have acted Shimei's part, in this tragedy, so perseveringly and so well. The text encourages us to hope that their cursing is a sign that, after humbling us, God intends to do us good. "His loving correction shall make us great." Oh! let us think only of Him; of what He has done for us; of what we have done against His holy laws; and looking only to His judgment-seat, let us think no more of what is said about us by a feeble and superficial breed of public men, whose retrograde principles, in this great crisis, will prove a bequest of shame--I pray not of bitter retributions--to their children's children.
In anticipating the verdict of posterity, we imitate that old form of appeal, "from Philip drunk to Philip sober." The truly great are often obliged to trust the judgment of their actions to the next ages. And, unless all the lessons of history are to be reversed, we may be sure of the future approval of the wise and good. Future English historians, the men of another generation, will not rail; they will philosophize. They will show that, apart from all technicalities, the great spirit of our conflict was that of a final struggle between progressive freedom and a semi-barbarous system of labour, which Christian civilization might tolerate, but could never suffer to domineer, or to extend itself over new territories. It might be our circumstances rather than our merits which identified the national cause with that of the human race; it certainly was the misfortune of the South that she had been betrayed into a romantic propagandism of her own sorest plague; an evil which the majority of mankind had agreed to execrate. It will be seen, too, that such a contest could have had but one issue, and that wise men, when free to make choice, were necessarily found on but one side. In a word, the philosophy of the war will prove [16/17] itself to be this: God is closing up one chapter in the history of man's guilt and man's misery; He is opening a new book of His Providence; He is enfranchising four millions of the most abject of His creatures; and by a fiery process He is fusing the whole American people into one great nation--a nation whose corner-stone is Freedom.
Shimei has discovered, indeed, that we have not gone to war as philosophers, but only as men; and that is true. This is not an abolition war. We are not crusaders of philanthropy; we are not taking up the arms of the fanatic and the inquisitor to propagate our views of morals by pike and gun. Let those who admire that kind of warfare eulogize the brave and honest but utterly wrong-headed and Quixotic John Brown. We had no right to touch the South; we knew it and we were glad of it; we were as jealous of her rights as of our own. It was her misfortune that her leaders were not equally scrupulous. She might have gone on managing her own internal affairs, in peace, and forever. For one, I had all confidence in our Southern brethren. I loved many of them, and I love them still. It was good to sit with them in religious councils, to kneel with them at the same altars, or to take the cup of salvation from their hands, as I did to the last. I believed they would gradually dissipate slavery by benevolent, safe, and judicious measures, without bloodshed, and in the best and wisest way for the negro and for the superior race. In that conviction we all rested--the vast majority, I mean, of Northern men. We could not remove the old landmark; we could not devise evil against our neighbour while he dwelt securely by us." We could not do evil that good might come.
Oh, happy would it have been for the South had she educated herself up to this good understanding, and dwelt with us, as we were happy to dwell with her! This is our defence in history and before the throne of Gov, that we [17/18] made no war upon her peculiar institution: but that the peculiar institution made war on us, because it was resolved to be no longer peculiar but universal. And, before our fellow-men, this is our claim on their moral support--that whether it be to our credit or otherwise, we are in fact sustaining a great principle, and one dear to all civilization, against the most wanton and barbarous aggression.
How do men ordinarily act in such cases? What Protestant sides with Antonelli and the Pope, because Victor Emanuel is not technically waging a war of Protestantism? Who would prompt him to such a war? Why, everybody feels that he would deserve to be execrated if he were contending as the propagandist of religious reform. His claim to our sympathy and good-will is the fact that while he wages a just war, not with the Pope, but only with the Sovereign of the Boman States, that Sovereign has, by his insane policy, made the cause of Italy the cause of human progress and illumination. It may be the Pope's misfortune that he is determined to be a temporal sovereign, as well as a spiritual autocrat; it may be no merit of Victor Emanuel that his cause has, of necessity, become identical with the cause of enlightenment and reformation; but since it is so, it is but fair to presume that he is the representative of a principle, as well as the instrument of Providence; and, at all events, good men must wish him well. For reasons clearly analogous, then, we have a right to the goodwill of all who do not believe that Slavery is a Divine institution, and a blessing to the white race, to say nothing of the blacks. We are fighting only to maintain the law, and to put down the conspiracy and rebellion; but, what inspired the rebellion? If it was an insane hostility to the existing Constitution of our country, how can any reasonable man deny us the benefit of our position, as maintaining order? If it was the fanatical love of Slavery that bred such hostility, then we represent principles which make the enemies of the human race our enemies. Where, then, should we expect to find the sympathies of sound philanthropy? Alas! none are so blind as those who will not see. Shimei, you have observed, not only threw stones and cursed; he took care to fill the air with dust. It must be owned there is a great deal of dust in men's eyes, when they cannot see what is so clear. Still we must be allowed to wonder that a fortress bristling upon the corner-stone of Slavery," finds its eulogists, its capitalists, its enthusiastic allies, in the land of Christian homes and Christian mothers; in the land of the poet Cowper and the statesman Wilberforce!
We, however, have taken our part; and, if need be, we are content to bear our burden alone. We, at least, feel the worth of what we fight for, and are not indifferent to the honour of helping ourselves. It is good, sometimes, to be uncomforted; to be made hardy of spirit, by scorn and contempt, when we know we have praise of God. As for those who see nothing to contend for--" We would not die in that man's company." Let those who have made up their minds to straggle on, reconcile themselves to the prospect of much remaining contumely and to a loss of figure and position in the eyes of the world. So David bowed down his head before Shimei, with a sort of majesty in humiliation. That done--the bitterness is past: the worst is over.
For David survived the curses, nor do we read that Absalom's rebellion turned out altogether well. On the contrary, how soon the confidence of the text was fulfilled! How, as in a moment, the insanity of a people was changed! How, as by a divine influence, David bowed all hearts as the heart of one man; and with what outbursts of joy and feeling Jerusalem welcomed back her better days, and exulted in the return of peace! David never despaired. Even the dark scene we have reviewed was not allowed to deprive him of his self-possession nor of what we may call his [19/20] Christian philosophy. This holy house and the holy text repress a smile, but there is something which provokes it, in the quaintness of the context, which shows how a man may be a penitent and a sufferer, and still have that peace of mind which forbids him to be a suicide. Thus, one verse is full of Shimei's curses, and dust, and throwing stones--but the very next implies that it did little harm after all; for it is written--David and his men "came weary, and refreshed themselves!" They had clear consciences; they had spared their assailant; they did not hate him, but they were wearied with his company--and "they refreshed themselves." This implies good-nature, and a disposition to survive even such curses as Shimei's. It teaches us, too, that days of humiliation need not all be fast-days: and that even, amid sorrows like ours--sorrows which almost make life itself a burden, and the experience of human nature an intolerable weariness--it may even be a duty to rest and refresh ourselves, as we do this day. Such refreshment involves no unfaithfulness to our work: it is a duty, at times, to our minds and bodies. After David's example, then, accept your trials, and after the same example keep your thanksgiving, as a day of gladness and a good day. You have remembered the poor; you have prayed for your enemies; you have implored the Divine Protection for your friends and kindred in the field; you have praised God for cheering evidences of His mercy, and you have bewailed your unworthiness in His sight--poor sinners that we are! So now go your ways; "eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared." And may God grant that long before Harvest-home comes round again we may keep another thanksgiving for a blessed peace--such a peace as our brethren of the South may rejoice in, as well as ourselves! Though law demands its awful satisfactions, and though the great culprits should be punished--yet, if even [20/21] they escape beyond seas, let them go! When David was restored, he said--"shall a man be put to death this day?" What profits their ignoble blood? Let them go where they may, in their infamy, and bewail, if God gives them such grace, the lives they have sacrificed to their ambition; the blood of brothers, their dupes and victims, that cries against them from the ground! For the rest, as we all have sinned together, in past years, let a common forgiveness bury the memory of strife. Long ere we come to die, I trust it may be the privilege of every American to go to and fro, and where he will, over the length and breadth of our vast domain, meeting not one man in arms, and greeted everywhere by brethren. May we find everywhere the tokens of a genuine progress, of a substantial unity, of a triumphant Christianity! May we live to thank God for a regenerated country--a Nation no longer boastful, nor vain, nor even proud; but contented, self-respecting and truly great, because purified as by fire, and reposing on the sure foundations of love to God and love to all Mankind!