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At St. Ann's Church, New-York,



ASCENSION, (MAY 12,) 1861.









Rev. and Dear Sir:

We, the undersigned, would respectfully request permission to publish the sermon you delivered last evening.

We are so thoroughly convinced of its appropriateness, fitness, and true Christian conservatism, that we think its dissemination would be highly beneficial.


NEW-YORK, May 14th, 1861.


I have received your note of yesterday, asking for publication the sermon preached last Sunday evening, at St. Ann's.

Inclosed I send you the manuscript; trusting that such as may peruse the discourse will kindly overlook any repetitions they may find in it, remembering that, though such are out of place before the eye of a reader, they are yet necessary in a sermon prepared for the hearer.

I remain, gentlemen, your friend,



Discourse on the National Crisis.

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.--JOSHUA i, 9th verse.

The children of Israel, after a bondage of four hundred years in Egypt, were at length aroused by the fact that God himself had sent them a leader. That leader rescued them from the hand of Pharaoh, led them into the wilderness, and encamped them before Sinai. From its summit God gave them a law, and moulded them into a military, national church. Through the wilderness God guided them in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire. Thirsty, God gave them to drink; hungry, God fed them. Before Amalek God warned them to retire. Before Sihon He charged them to advance. And at last they reached the borders of the Promised Land.

But now the messenger of God who had called them from their tedious tasks, and gathered them as a unit on the banks of the Nile--at the pointing of whose finger they had marched onward to the Red Sea--he who was alone thought worthy by God to enter among the thunderings of Sinai--he whose majestic brow was ever in their vanguard--Moses, was no more. Before them swelled and rolled the broad, unbridged, impassable tide of the Jordan, defying their passage into the Promised Land. Beyond it were the walled towns and fastnesses of their valiant enemies. The heaviest of their work to be done, and their leader gone.

Joshua had been called to the command, and called by God. A man far inferior to Moses; inferior in that subtle power of mental gravitation which unconsciously draws and binds men [5/6] without experience in military affairs; inferior in every respect save faithfulness to God. Moses was dead, but the blue heavens still bent over them. He that rideth upon the cherubim still sat enthroned there. God's manna to sustain them still lay around them in the vast storehouses of the soil; the ark of God's covenant still moved between the standard of Judah and the standard of Dan. And how fleeting soever may be man, God's plans are eternal.

And now, when Israel's heart was downcast, and when the dangers and difficulties before them were hidden in the darkness of a night like that of Erebus, and when, timid and almost despairing, and yet without other recourse, they were to plunge into that darkness and among its precipices and chasms, came the voice from Heaven to Joshua--"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Amidst the turmoils of earth, and amidst alternate success and disaster, and amidst the rapids and the whirlpool of conflicting opinions where "great interests are at stake and strong passions excited," it is indeed difficult to peer through the cloud and see God's calm hand directing all. But one thing is certain; that hand is there. Over the flow of national existences through history, as the torrent, meeting obstructions, parts into great streams; as those streams lace and interlace each other, here coming together in noise and tumult, there parting with mighty roar, here crossing each other's paths, and there gliding gently into one--over this great torrent of national existences, as they flow through history, the Bible as well as reason teaches us that there is a great, silent power presiding, who guideth all wisely, and calmly, and well. "He stilleth the raging of the sea, and the noise of his waves, and the madness of the people." "Who shall not fear Thee, O King of nations?" As Geology is a revelation in which we read of God the Creator, as the Bible is a revelation in which we read of God a Redeemer, so is History a revelation in which [6/7] we read of God a Providence. Well may we leave it to the disbeliever in God's Providence to reconcile the fact that God has created that which he cares not to rule, to guide and provide for. And so history in its process of construction is not like a temple. Its events as they occur are not a mere aggregation of blocks laid one upon another. History is rather an organized, growing individual. It is God's creation, not man's. It is therefore living, not dead. It is as it were a flourishing old oak, with marvels in its structure. And each event that buds, when its spring comes to call it forth, hath delicate hidden roots, which run down from twig into bough, and from bough into branch, and from branch into limb, and from limb far down into, hiding themselves in, the trunk.

And so, too, the events which are around us, and upon which on this my first occasion of addressing you since they have burst upon us, you will expect, and doubtless properly so, that I should speak--events which absorb all our minds, however we may strive to push them aside for a time; which absorb us as men, with the good of mankind at heart; which absorb us as citizens, with the good of social relations at heart; which absorb us as patriots, with the good of our dear country at heart; which absorb us as churchmen, with the good of God's kingdom at heart;--and, so too, these events have their roots, not in the issue of an election--not in the mistakes of one section or another--not in what happened on the twentieth of December--not in unwarrantable delays or precipitate action--not even in the security of the social institution of slavery, but far behind these, in problems of the past, unsolved in '76, unsolved in '89, in all human probability to be solved in the present, for the glory, the peace, the happiness, the success of man in the future. The event of the twentieth of December, the event of the twelfth of April, the consequent fall of Sumter, the perpetuity or downfall of slavery--these were but occasions opening the way for, not causes giving origin to, the present issue at arms. The cause lies deeper.

You will not expect me to say anything to-day to raise your enthusiasm or inflame your passions; for I am in this sacred desk, [7/8] not as an orator to urge you to battle, but as a man of God. You will not expect me to decide between the issues of the day; for this place is the seat of spiritual, not of worldly and national, economical or political decisions. And my Master hath taught me not to prostitute it to the applause of the multitude. Whatever my opinions may be as a patriot and a citizen, they are but the opinions of a patriot and a citizen; and I must remember that I am not here as a citizen, but only as a priest; that this is not the public rostrum, but the house of God; that while it is the duty of the Christian citizen to study and, under Heaven, to assist in making, in his day and generation, the History of God the Providence, it is the sole duty of the priest, acting in his capacity as a priest, to preach and advance the Kingdom of God the Redeemer.

It will be my aim, therefore, to display before you, to the best of my knowledge and ability, the real issue in which we are engaged, that you may enter upon it--as enter you must--not blindly and rashly, but calmly, as Christians; to fetch your minds up to a realization of what it is you are about to settle; and second, now that we are surrounded by these mighty events, and must go through them, as a pastor to show you, at least in part, how as Christians you should conduct yourselves among them.

In one respect mankind are like the individual. As a child, unable to know what is really best for them, they must be governed. But as they increase in knowledge, so they become more capable of governing themselves; so at last is freedom their right, which none can deny or withhold except at his peril. This is the law of Providence, written in the revelation of history. Now, in Feudal times mankind were governed. Kings and liege-lords held in check their peoples, while Hildebrand on his Papal throne ruled kings with absolute sway. It was a social system, where each class of society looked not within itself for laws and guidance, but to a higher and less numerous, until finally the reins of power as they came up from below, all centered in the Pope's hands, who capped the despotic pyramid. But in the eleventh century knowledge began to settle down from the apexes of society, and [8/9] to spread out among and through the broad base--the common people. Awakened into life by its warmth, that base began to indicate by its throes and convulsions, that the despotic weights above were cramping and galling it; until at last came the rending and overturning of the Feudal system, in the assertion that man has the right of governing himself. As an abstract, indefinite dictum this was settled affirmatively in the Revolution of '76. That was work enough for one great convulsion to decide. But an important subsequent question, to which the first, if settled affirmatively, would inevitably give rise, was not determined. This subsequent question lies at the bottom of the present issue. What our fathers began, therefore, we must complete. We broke from the Feudal extreme, and were right in doing so; that is settled--that is what our fathers decided. Now, the question is, how far in our oscillation shall we sweep from that extreme. That is what we are to decide. How far shall men be allowed to govern themselves. For in every great plan to be determined upon, if there is one extreme to be avoided, there is its opposite equally to be avoided. And so in this, if the extreme from which we broke was that condition in which one man governed all at his own will, the opposite extreme to be avoided by a nation endeavoring to put the indefinite liberty it has gained into practice, is that condition in which every man governs himself, each at his own will. Thus tyranny of one man is at one end of the oscillation; anarchy of all men is at the other end.

In breaking away from the Feudal system, we must stop somewhere short of such liberty of action as amounts to mere anarchy. Where shall we stop, is the undecided question. We are to determine how far individual, or neighborhood, or State liberty of action can be allowed to develop and display itself to be consistent with the security, the permanent internal peace and general highest success of all. For if one man, or a few men, have no right to rule all, one man, or a few men, have no right to ruin all. Each of these is a tyranny of the few over the many; and one is equally insufferable with the other. We are a social structure; trade, and commerce, and the [9/10] pursuit of the fine arts, and agriculture, and education, and travel, and investigations in science, and the interchange of thought--the thousand threaded net--work of the relations of enlightened life--must all go on undisturbed, if each man in the net--work is to prosper. These ramify out and interweave us all up together in an inextricable tangle. The manufactory with its hundred arms, why, it is laboring for me; yonder ship plows out and sails forth for me; yonder silent man that touches and tints the canvas with his pencils--yonder silent man that chips at the block of marble--he is thinking for me; yonder school--house, with its busy hum of voices, there is work going on there for my benefit, for the good of my posterity, for my country, for mankind, for God. And so a man is not an isolated being; he is set and knotted in the tangle of a social structure; he is bound to his fellows by ten thousand ties; he is dependent in some way upon every other man in the community. Every man is like a brain; and a million nerves of tender sensation run out from him and spread themselves throughout the community. What touches the community, touches him. Every wrong done to any man among us, is a wrong done to every man.

In this vast, complicated, interdependent social structure, for the happiness and highest success of the individual, we must have order and law and obedience and subordination of the individual, at least, to the authority of the whole, or we are ruined. But of what individual?--is it the individual man?--is it the individual neighborhood?--or is it the individual state? The great question, therefore, which we are now deciding, as supplemental to the great question of the Revolution, is, where must this blessed liberty of action which our fathers secured be checked, in order not to degenerate into license and plunge us into anarchy. We. are bringing an abstract question down to a concrete shape. We are giving to indefiniteness a form with definite outline. The issue of this contest will be the most practical of all issues, worked out by the most practical of all nations. How far should liberty of fractional action be allowed to proceed, in order to remain consistent with the security and weal of all. [10/11] In this liberty which our fathers established, shall the individual man--if not, then shall the individual neighborhood or county--if not, then shall even the individual State or States--be allowed by the whole to take any step they choose, at any time and for any cause they please, (for the cause is a minor consideration, so far as the effect of their action upon the whole is concerned,) whether such step bring disaster and ruin to the whole, themselves included, or whether it does not; for even the result is also a minor consideration in comparison with the great question now to be forever decided. I think, in the above statement, I have stripped the abstract issue of each and every temporary concomitant.

On this great question, of how far liberty of action rightly extends, our dear country has always been divided. As to the subordination of the individual man to the integrity and order of the whole, there has never been a question. As to the subordination of a county, or number of counties, there has never, until within the past week, arisen a question. And the fact that, practically, in this turmoil, the hitherto unraised question of the subordination of a county or counties has rolled up unexpectedly to the surface, and opened itself also out for decision, only renders more clear the fact, that the great question I have stated is the only real issue before us. But third, as to the subordination of a State or States, there has always been an open question. The North have generally held one view, the South have universally held another. I say generally, with a remembrance of the Hartford Convention before me. Thus this question was not settled at the Revolution; it has never been settled since; it has divided great parties; it has been ever waiting and ready on various provocations, not only in the South, but once at least in the North, to explode into an open issue.

The question to be decided before November, was the further advance, nay, if you please, the continuance or ultimate downfall of slavery. But since the election, the question of human bondage has, like a conjurer's touch, but raised and laid open to the quick this other greater issue; since, in attempting to decide the lesser, States have been urged to assert practically a [11/12] claim which before was merely entertained. And now, therefore, the question to be decided is no longer slavery, but one of governmental structure. Slavery was thus merely the occasion, not the cause, of these mighty events that ale thundering around us. The cause lies deep down in a difference of opinion between the North and the South as to the right of a certain kind of liberty of action; the latter asserting such right, the former denying it. The question is not now one of liberty--that has been decided; but of the extent of liberty. And slavery was the spark which ignited the explosion, not the powder itself which has now exploded. If slavery had long since been put to rest forever, this other greater question would still have remained undecided; and at some time something must have arisen of sufficient force to bring it to an issue and settle it, before we could have had peace as a normal internal condition of the country. For seventy years we have had prosperity, but it has been a fictitious prosperity, ready to disappear at the bursting of this mine, over which we have been resting all the while! A prosperity not to launch us forth successfully into a century of peace and its developments, but rather a prosperity to gird us up for the settlement, when the time should be ripe for it, of this great question.

That what I have stated is the question, is, moreover, evident from the fact that thousands and thousands in the North, who continued after the election, and up to the twelfth of April, firm friends of the South, and united foes to the Administration on the subject of Slavery, on that twelfth were found a unit against the South, and at the side of the Administration to sustain it. Are men madmen, devoid of reason, thus to turn in a night?--to turn without inter--consultation--to turn spontaneously--to turn unanimously--to turn definitively! Is this a mere delusion--a mere frenzy--a mere Fourth of July enthusiasm for a piece of bunting? Northern blood is not apt to be frenzied; and the great question with them is not now the policy of the Government, but it is the very existence of the Government itself as a power created by the whole, and binding upon the whole, until the whole, in their primary capacity, agree to alter it. This is the view of [12/13] the North. The view of the South is, that a part or parts have a right to alter, when it or they choose. Before that great blazing sun of governmental structure, the mere question of slavery is a gone--out star. The North feel, that whether it were, or whether it were not, the very refinement of cruelty, to turn the slaves, like children, out into the streets of freedom, to shift for themselves, that the Christian care or the neglect--the bondage or the freedom of all the slaves in the world is as nothing to the downfall of this great country, upon the success of which hang the dearest earthly hopes, and upon which the grandest development of enlightened man depends; that if it be for the present highest interest of the black man--of four millions of them--the South are fighting, it is against the highest present and prospective interest of the white man--and of two hundred and fifty millions of them--they are fighting.

How stands the case, then? The party of the South say:--Our fathers fought for and maintained their independence. They were a minority, as we are. Governments derive their just powers only from the consent of the governed. We no longer give our consent. We are in the position of our fathers. We detest the government which is over us. We have the same right to independence if we wish it. When we as individual States do not like our common government we each have a right to throw it off and organize such government as we please, or as we think will protect ourselves and our property better. Whether such will protect us better is no one's business but ours. The party of the North say:--We are all indeed a free people; but we are also a one free people--an individual, which cannot recognize its own suicide. Our fathers were a minority, but they fought for the principle of the representation at least of that minority in the councils of the nation; as a minority they concluded the war with Feudalism, whose spirit was to allow no representation, either to majorities or minorities. Our fathers of the Revolution indeed secured to us freedom; but if such construction is to be placed on that "liberty to govern ourselves," as that a one nation already free and governing itself by the voice of a majority, may break up, or be broken up into its [13/14] elemental fragments, at the will of any part or parts, at any time the latter choose, what possible security have we from impending anarchy and ruin at all times! What confidence have we in order! What trust can we place in the integrity of commercial, educational, manufacturing or private transactions! What trust can the civilized world place in the integrity of public or governmental obligations! What confidence or respect can we command among the community of great nations! What reliance in the harmony of all relations of life! In fine, what certainty in government and protection for life, limb, property, wife, children, home, family--for all that man holds dear! We cannot sit upon such a mine ready at any time to burst upon us unawares. We cannot submit to see this nation, that rose as a sun to spread the light of free institutions all round the earth, blaze across the firmament of History like a mere meteor, and before the astounded, disappointed gaze of the world explode with frightful report and leave a deeper darkness over land and sea! It is with us, say the North, not union and the tyranny of one part over another, but union of a one free country and that liberty in it, which is consistent with order. It must be either such union with the liberty of order, or disunion and the tyranny of anarchy. We must have a kind of freedom--and if we have it not we must create and possess ourselves with such a freedom as shall be organized and permanent; not bask longer in an erratic, uncertain freedom ready to fly away in a cloud of turmoil which any neighborhood or state may stir up. In this great city of freedom, none shall be allowed to set his own house on fire, no, nor his neighbors', whether such disposition be in the North or the South. We have now learned that incendiaries of all hues and shades and creeds are insufferable among us. Now, whatever you or I may think in this matter, that men nevertheless are differing honestly in opinion on the question, however misguided the one or the other side may be, it would be madness to deny. It seems to be, under Heaven, an irreconcilable difficulty except at arms. We have come to an inevitable open rupture on the construction of the Constitution--on the question of the [14/15] proper governmental structure for a free people, that the high claims of freedom may be adjusted with the high claims of order. A more solemn question for the welfare of mankind, a nation never before arose in the majesty of its two great parts to decide. A holier cause was never brought to issue! Holy and solemn for ourselves as a divided nation--divided in opinion, divided in arms! Holy for our country--holy for our children--holy for the struggling nations of Europe--holy for mankind in all the future! We are shedding our best blood, that the best blood of other nations may be spared; that we may settle for them a great principle. The clarion call for this contest was sounded by Luther at the gates of Wittenberg. The note was caught by Cromwell and prolonged. Ere it died away it rang clear and loud again, echoing among these hills from Lexington to Yorktown. And now, when its echoes had almost ceased, the blast swells again at Sumter and Baltimore. It is a one long contest in process of completion; settling not indeed the question of the liberty of man, but what is sound, healthy, permanent, safe liberty--a liberty in which man can rest secure. Pray God, that this blast now sounding may be the last.

That this country is destined for ruin, is not to be thought of an instant. The God of Battles has not done with this great nation yet. The Republic shall stand like Rome, through centuries. And her end shall be--not a murder;--but, with the glory upon her brow from hoary institutions, and with a peace there which alone the benedictions of a hundred generations of children could transfuse, her work done, she shall lie down in quiet, lamented by the world.

The highest duty of a nation is to develop out into all the glorious powers, and attainments, and possibilities, with which God has endowed it. And if there be any undecided question--any poison in the nation which will stop such development, it then becomes the duty of that nation to pause and eject the poison utterly from the body politic, that its development may go on to its acme. We are not, and have not been, a mere experiment, as a free people. We are but putting the final conclusion to an [15/16] ever-lasting lasting problem. What is before us to do, is something to be done, not to be tried. Of course, as a man and a citizen, I have no doubt of the issue. But, as I said before, this is not a question for the pulpit to decide. It is impossible, perhaps, not to show, by word, or hint, or action, one's proclivities. But I have endeavored, so far as I could, not to say aught which would appear to render judgment. I have endeavored to state what I understand to be the question in both of its sides. It is not for this chancel to decide. The God of battles hath long had this question in his own hands. And as He hath so guided affairs in his Providence, that it has been, and is beyond the power of any man or men to ward the national question off, and postpone it, so hath he intrusted its settlement to no priest--to no church, but to this nation of citizens; and will, as I believe, give his fiat for the right to the triumphant party.

Enter this God-sent contest, then, and go through it, we must. But you will ask me, as "a spiritual pastor and master," how, as Christians, you are to act, as thus surrounded by the mighty events of the day?

Remember, then, that a great question is to be settled; that you are engaged in a high and holy struggle. Rising to the dignity of the occasion, enter upon your share of the God-given work fearlessly, self-poised, calmly, and prayerfully.

A great danger to both sides is, that we may be swept away by passion, not guided by judgment. To be self-poised and calm, to be consistent with the dignity of the occasion, is to keep reason on the throne under the most trying provocations. Passion may intensify, but in a prolonged struggle it always weakens. There never was such a spectacle presented to the world before, as our Government presents this day. Threatened, attacked, reproached, reviled, insulted, and yet calm, unruffled through all, self-poised, its eye coolly fixed and not to be diverted from the course it had marked out as humane and wise. There is no passion in the government. There is apt to be passion in masses of men. If the passion of the mass, outrunning the cool judgment of their Government, is to rule, that mass but plunge themselves into the [16/17] anarchy they would seek to avoid. As Christians, then, in these troublous times, I repeat to you, as a pastor, the command of God; I impress upon you the principle implied in that command, whatever may be its words; that ye have a care--that ye always remember to "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: Whether it be to the King, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil--doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well--doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men." Remember that "Order is Heaven's first law," that God loves not anarchy. This great question is given by God to this nation to decide; let the clash of arms on each side be the struggle of two orderly bodies, not of the "fury and the madness of the people."

Thirdly. Let us all remember that this is a war of principle, not of vengeance. Let us remember that we are battling with our own countrymen--that Bishops of the Church, Clergy of the Church and our brother laymen, Clergy and laymen of the denominations, with us at the foot of the cross, are differing, and differing honestly from us in opinion on this matter. Let us remember that we are battling with them--with our dear kinsmen in the flesh, with our brethren in Christ. All must indeed be firm. But let war at least put off those terrors which are not absolutely necessary to secure a final, effectual, everlasting settlement, and its consequent peace and prosperity to man. For another great danger before us is unchristian personal exasperation and personal thirst for revenge. If ever there was a time for the Church to lift up her voice, and cry aloud to her children, it is amid the horrors of war and its demoralizing influences upon the individual. A handmaid of war is profanity. Keep, O Christian, the integrity of thy moral character. Remember through all thy prayers; remember through all, that thy trust must be only in Heaven, whose calm hand is untremulous amidst this turmoil. Guard thy tongue; and remember to be charitable. For charity, like a cloak, covereth in God's eyes a multitude of sins. "The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, [17/18] how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the, tongue is a fire: * * * so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature: and it is set on fire of hell. * * * Therewith bless we God, even the Father: and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so." These are the words of the good Saint James.

Another danger besides passion, uncharitableness, profanity; personal exasperation, thirst for revenge, and general demoralization, to which we as Christians are liable now, is arrogance. We of the North are the strongest--in men, in money, in ships--and, have no doubt of the result. But it is not for man to know the times or the seasons. We must remember that the Bible tells us the battle is not always to the strong. We must remember that in the Revolution the battle was not to the strong. Very strength is sometimes an element of weakness. This should all teach us the lesson of humility. Beware, then, of the sin of arrogance. In these great difficulties the right is never all on one side, nor the wrong all on the other. We have been arrogant as a nation--North, South, East and West. As a nation we lack reverence; reverence for age--reverence for authority--reverence for experience--reverence for old and tried landmarks--reverence, alas! for God. And we should remember that while man heaps together many means to accomplish one end--God in his profusion of power brings out one means to accomplish many ends; and that these difficulties may be at once a means of settling the great question, and in addition a means of punishment unto us all--North and South--for our public and private sins.

Lastly. Let us as Christians remember our duty of complete submission to the will of God. Let us not be rebellious against Him, the Governor of all. We are, at his summons, to suffer for the benefit of the future, for our children, for mankind. In this war the mother will be called to yield her son to the field, the wife will be called to yield her husband, the gray-haired widow may be called to yield the stay--the prop of her old age. And [18/19] on that field, their dear blood may be poured out a sacrifice to principle. We know not who among us will be thus touched most closely by insatiate war. Remembering the solemnity of this issue and its importance to our posterity, remembering that for their sakes God has called us to this struggle, we must as Christians be willing to suffer, and take the cup that God gives, as did He in Gethsemane, with the words on his lips:


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