The Destinies of our Country.
PREACHED ON THE
NATIONAL FAST DAY, MAY 14, 1841;
AND, BY REQUEST, ON THE
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
TRINITY CHURCH, NEWPORT, R. I.
"HE CALLETH TO ME OUT OF SEIR, WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT?
O LORD JESUS CHRIST, who, at thy first coming, didst send thy Messenger to prepare thy way before thee, grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so make ready and prepare thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that, at thy second coming to judge the world, we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the FATHER and the HOLY SPIRIT, ever ONE GOD, world without end. Amen.
O LORD! we beseech thee favorably to hear the prayers of thy people, that we, who are justly punished for our offences, may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy name, through JESUS CHRIST our Saviour, who liveth and reigneth with THEE and the HOLY GHOST, ever ONE GOD, world without end. Amen.
ISAIAH XXI. 11, 12.
"He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return! come!"
WHEN a great nation assembles with one accord to acknowledge the God of nations, to bewail their sins before him, and, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, to implore his forgiveness and invoke his favor, it is a spectacle solemn and impressive. For this purpose, called by their civil chief magistrate, the citizens of these United States, at this very hour, are thronging the house of God.
And what has caused this unusual summons, this uncommon movement? Why is the hurried tide that daily flows through our cities suddenly checked, and turned into an unwonted channel? Commerce, weeping, has suspended her doings, shut up her marts, and dismissed her servants. The courts of justice and the halls of legislation are closed. The sounds of the forge and the hammer, the loom and the shuttle, have ceased; and even the implements of the industrious agriculturist lie idle in the field. The noisy voice of party spirit is hushed; her votaries, unmindful of contention, of defeat, or of victory, are mingling in the indiscriminate brotherhood of fellow-citizens. All hearts are oppressed, and beat with the agitated pulse of a common sorrow.
 Why, then, is this singular interruption of ordinary avocations, this general assemblage in the house of prayer? My hearers, God has spoken to our country,—to you. God is felt in our streets, in our homes. The first-born of the land is smitten; and it is as though there were not a house in which there is not one dead. Our Chief Magistrate, our beloved, our honored President, is dead. The minister of divine chastisement has entered our nation's palace, and struck his dart into the nation's heart. Since the commencement of our financial troubles, the frown of the Almighty has settled on the land. Though no pestilence has destroyed, no famine starved, no sword smitten us, (save on a remote frontier, where an ignominious and unprospered war is waging,) yet, in spite of unexampled facilities for successful enterprise and rapid growth, we have exhibited the spectacle of a paralyzed people. Against the absorbing and demoralizing love of gain, against "the god of this land,"—insatiate covetousness,—Jehovah has uttered his angry voice, and from his apostate children has withheld his blessing. Yet they, though having eyes, would not see; though having ears, would not hear. And while party against party, and financier against financier, were hurling the thunder and lightning of their mutual criminations, as the authors of our distress; while the invention of ingenious minds was stretching and exhausting itself for the reasons and the remedies of the evil; and while all, fixed in the study of second causes, failed to penetrate beyond them, and notice the overruling and supreme First Cause of all things, then the almighty Sovereign spake, and it was done. Another idol of the nation fell; and, falling, tore open the hearts of this bleeding people, whose strong affections were entwined and knit together around their president. Never, since the great and good Washington, have the majority of the American States been enamored [4/5] of their favorite with such fond and fervent attachment as bound them to Harrison. Statesmen of every class, whatever their private preference, have acknowledged his worth. And even the venomous spirit of party could find no penetrable place where to insert its fangs; and, having exhausted its malice in impotent hissings, has crept into its loathsome hole. The genius of freedom, fresh from civil strife, but now subdued and solemnized, is adding his moan to the mournful diapason which has been swelling with a nation's grief, and to-day is rising to Heaven.
And has God now conquered us? Him whom we so lately adorned with garlands, and to whom we offered tributes of a fond political worship, death has seized as his victim. The morning came, and also the night! the morning of earthly distinction and glory,—the night of anxiety, of sickness, of death. Has God made us feel at last? Are we stirred with a sense of our mortality, of our dependence, of our religious obligation, of our grievous, our desperate, sins? And is this assembling the token of our national repentance? O, may it be so! for then will our present night of affliction be succeeded by the morning of our national prosperity and joy, when we shall inquire of the Lord, and come, and gladly come again, and live in the refreshing light of his reconciled countenance.
I shall accommodate the text to suit my purpose in this discourse, which is to contemplate THE DESTINY OF OUR COUNTRY.
But before we enter upon this subject it will doubtless be interesting to you to know something of the original design of the inspired prophet. The prophecy is confessedly obscure. None of the authorities which I have consulted has given me entire satisfaction respecting the meaning of the text; and therefore let us be satisfied, in our exposition, with the gleanings from history and probability.
 This dark and difficult passage is styled in Scripture the Burden, or the Oracle concerning Dumah. Some think that Dumah is a part of Arabia, whose inhabitants descended from Dumah, the sixth son of Ishmael. But, because Mount Seir is here mentioned, others, with more probability, understand by Dumah, Idumea, the country of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother.
At the time the oracle was uttered, both the Edomites and the Jews were suffering in captivity by the Babylonians; and history further informs us that the slavery of the Edomites was prolonged, while Israel was delivered. It is supposed that the prophet predicted the morning of freedom to the Israelites, and the night of continued captivity to Edom. There is also another supposition. Instead of associating the two nations, and predicting the destiny of each, Dumah only is addressed, concerning whom two events are foretold,—a night and a morning,—a protracted thraldom, to be succeeded by a sudden emancipation.
Let us, then, imagine an Edomite, or some one out of Seir, putting the solemn question to the watchman whose office it is, while others are asleep, to be awake and vigilant; some one who was more concerned for the public safety than the rest of his nation, who were generally careless and secure; some Edomite who is willing to be taught of the prophet, when many in Israel are drowsy and heedless,—calleth out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? As the man of Macedonia, in a vision, desired St. Paul to come over and help them, so this Edomite desired the prophet of God to inform and instruct his nation. "It is well for a country when there are any who are not unconcerned for the things that belong to the public peace." It is well for us, my hearers, if any are anxious for the commonwealth. The question, you observe, is serious. What of the night? Is all safe in the country? Is Christ acknowledged? Is God honored? Or, what [6/7] from [* Bishop Lowth’s version] the night? What vision has the prophet had tonight? What principles are abroad? When will our redemption come? What says the oracle of God? We are ready to receive it. The Lord Jesus will return as a thief in the night to assert his sovereignty. What are the signs of his second coming? What time of the night is it? When will our troubles end? Has not the country slept long enough in sin, and "is it not time, high time, to awake?" Is there hope of a dawning of pure and undefiled religion? The question, however we turn it, is a serious one. And it is repeated most earnestly,—Watchman, what of the night? what of the night?
It is recorded of our lamented president, that on the Thursday previous to his death he repeated this passage of Scripture to one of his family, remarking that it made an impression on his mind which he was unable to efface. It seemed to haunt him as a premonition of the scenes through which he was so soon to pass. It was then to him a night of care and official responsibility, and a morning of human glory; but O how evanescent were his honors! The night came with the waning of the moon,—the dreary night of disease and sickness,—the dark, cold, terrible night of death. How rapid was the transition! how vast the change! But yet to the solemn night of death, in his case, succeeded, we doubt not, the joyful morning of spiritual day; for he sleeps in Jesus. Christ was the bright morning star of his soul on earth, and death only ushered the believer into the glorious light of his Saviour's presence; where now, with the happy spirits of the justified in Paradise, he looks still for the morning of resurrection, the endless day of everlasting life.
How agreeable is the watchman's answer to God's dealings with men! In the course of His providence, [7/8] morning and night succeed one another. Is it night? yet the day breathes, and the shades flee away. Is it morning? it increases more and more to the perfect day, and then the sun declines. If there be a morning of youth and health, there will come a night of sickness and old age. Is there a morning of prosperity in a family or a nation? it is succeeded by the night of adversity. Is there a morning of religious opportunity, of "the light of the glorious gospel?" it will be followed by the loss of opportunity; privilege will cease; the gospel may be hid; the candle of the Lord may grow dim, and "the candlestick be removed out of his place;" and then a night of thick darkness, of irreligion, of crime, of anarchy, settles on the land. A night of the famine of the word of God, dear brethren, is followed by the destruction of the community.
We proceed to explain the probable intention of the latter part of the prophet's answer. It was to excite the man of Seir to persevere in his inquiry of the Lord. "If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return! come!" As though he had said, "You will be wise, by improving the present opportunity which you enjoy in preparation for the coming night. 'Inquire!' ask of the Lord earnestly; 'return! come!' Be penitent, be willing and obedient! for you have your choice; and, if you will not inquire, return, and come, it is at your peril. The privilege is offered to you." The prophet, moreover, urges him to a decision and to speedy action. "If ye will inquire, inquire ye!" Do not stand hesitating; but what you would do, do quickly. This is no time to trifle. Nations or persons who inquire of God's oracles are told that they have a great work to do, and but little time to do it in "for the night cometh in which no man can work."
The text, you perceive, furnishes topics suitable to the present occasion, on which I may suppose you to address [8/9] me the question of the man out of Seir,—Watchman! what of the night? To you, as to the nation, now is the night of embarrassment and distress. And I stand here, in this sacred pulpit, like the watchman on the mount of vision. I can indeed see, with mortal eyes, no farther into the darkness than yourselves. We are both equally blind, both alike incompetent to penetrate the future. Yet as God, by the establishment of immutable principles, whose workings are uniform and steady, has taught us to anticipate some events with certainty, we are permitted to use our reason and our judgment, under the control of his word, and the guidance of his Spirit, to declare things to come. And, in answer to your question, speaking as the oracles of God speak, I reply, that to nations, to the church, and to individuals, a night and a morning is at hand. Sin is the night, increasing as it advances into "the blackness of darkness forever." Holiness is the morning, whose "end is everlasting life." And repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, is the line of that horizon at which the sinner (whether he be one or many incorporated) emerges from darkness to light, from sorrow to joy, "from the power of Satan unto God."
This foreknowledge is the result of fixed and unchanging laws, which are founded in the attributes of God, revealed in his word, and confirmed by past events. Sin, in itself dismal, leads to an eternal night. Holiness, in itself happiness, ends in an undying morning. If, then, ye, as sinners, inquire to-day, inquire ye: return! come! until the day-spring from on high hath revisited you, "to give light to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide your feet into the way of peace."
And now let us inquire respecting our country, what of the night, and what prospect there is of a morning! It is now unquestionably night to our country. It is a [9/10] moral night. Notwithstanding the diffusion of knowledge, and the means of education and religion, we learn, from our criminal statistics, that the United States present the record of overt crimes more appalling than Ireland or Spain. (See Church Record No. 24, vol. i.)
It is a financial night. As a nation, we have hitherto enjoyed the morning of unexampled commercial prosperity. In one half century, which, in the history of states, is the period of infancy, we have emerged from colonial vassalage, and grown into the manhood of mature republics. Our eagle has stretched his broad wings over this continent, and our flag floats on every sea, and our ships return with precious freights from every clime. Yet, by our eager and reckless pursuit of wealth, we have brought on rapidly a prolonged night of financial troubles.
But let us turn to our political condition and prospects, to which the judgment of God directs our special attention.
In the eye of nations we have been marching on with a manly step, to take our place beside the proudest and haughtiest empires in the world. In the conscious preeminence of being the first-born of constitutional liberty, we have taught the old nations the principles of popular government. Whether for good or for evil, the influence of the American Revolution has been felt through the civilized world, and nations have swallowed that panacea to which they have attributed our apparent health and rapid growth. Since the birth-day of our independence, within the lifetime of many in this congregation, every throne in the limits of the ancient Roman empire has fallen, (except England's,) and every kingdom, without exception, has been revolutionized by the influence of American principles. Dynasties have been overthrown, new ones set up, or old ones restored and sustained, by the potency of the idea of popular rights. Prussia, for [10/11] example, though despotic in the theory of its Constitution, is governed by the people. France, on the other hand, is ruled with an iron rod under cover of a charter. England, since the Reform Bill, is controlled by the people. In a word, public opinion is the sovereign of Europe.
Now the change abroad is equaled only by the change at home. In our country, popular influence has been constantly widening the path of democracy; the federal features in our national Constitution have practically disappeared, and State Constitutions have been often renewed or altered, and, by every change, political privileges have been extended. The federal republic which our fathers reared out of independent States has now the aspect of a huge democracy. It seems as if the vast and solid rocks with which they built the edifice are split and multiplied into pebbles of doubtful cohesiveness and questionable strength. The populace, not the organized people, individuals, not embodied communities, persons, not States, are now the material of our political fabric. And out of this continued agitation the maxims have been thrown up that "THE FOUNDATION OF GOVERNMENT IS IN THE MERE WILL OF THE PEOPLE;" that "THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE IS THE VOICE OF GOD." And, as a necessary consequence from these maxims, the idea prevails that "THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO DO WHATEVER THEY PLEASE TO DO, AND WHATEVER THEY PLEASE TO DO IS THEREFORE RIGHT." In announcing these principles no one in this congregation is surprised. We hear them asserted, we see them applied, every day. I refer to no particular exhibition of them. They prevail every where, and we are familiar with them. Yet perhaps you never sat down to examine their soundness and truth. And yet they are unscriptural, and disorganizing, and atheistical. If I can prove this, you will need no watchman's voice to warn you of a present and a coming night. Let us, then, examine them.
1.  Government is the institution of God. He has created man a social being; he gives him birth in society; he makes him dependent on society for subsistence, for protection, and for justice. Man cannot, by the law of nature, be independent of society; and society cannot exist without government. These are evident truths, and suffice to settle the question that the foundation of government is not in the mere will of men, but in the will of God, in the very necessities of that nature which God has bestowed on man. Accordingly, the word of God confirms this statement of the case, and declares, further, that he is the God of nations as well as of persons, and that the object of government is to promote the ends for which man was born. The glory of God and the happiness of men (which are inseparable objects and convertible terms) is the twofold end of all human government, of every political constitution; for God's glory, by man's happiness, is the ultimate object of creation.
The sovereignty of the people, then, is not absolute and unrestricted. There is a limit and extent to their sovereignty. To say, for instance, that they will have no government is unnatural and absurd; for they are created to be governed: it is rebellion against God; for his will is that they shall be governed. Their sovereign rights, therefore, whatever they are, are not absolute, unlimited rights, but rights springing out of the duty of being governed; and to say that "the people have a right to do whatever they please to do, and whatever they please to do is therefore right," is subversive of all government, unnatural, and rebellious against God. It is the sole prerogative of the Almighty to act after the counsel of his own will; and it is usurpation, therefore, of divine attributes, to assert an absolute right to do as they please. Hence the idea of an unlimited sovereignty in the people is treason against Deity. The only absolute [12/13] right which men possess is the right of obeying and serving God; for this is the end of their being, the happiness of their life. The prevailing political maxims are leveled against this absolute right of man, and therefore the idea of unlimited sovereignty in the people is also treason against humanity.
2. What, then, is the true idea of the sovereignty of the people? It is the right to choose their form of government. Since men must be governed, and since some form must be elected out of many, and since no being on earth has the vested right to decide what form shall be established, and God has left it to the people's preference, they alone can make the choice, and set in motion the government they have formed. In this act the sovereignty of the people is expended; their sovereignty is transferred to their constitution; and they now and ever after derive all their political rights by a constitutional title. In framing and setting up their constitution of government, the maxim, that the "voice of the people is the voice of God," applies, having the authority of that scripture which declares that the "powers that be are ordained of God." Hence the foundation of even a form of government rests ultimately on the will of God, and not on the mere will of the nation. The people are henceforth subjects, not sovereigns; they are to obey, not to rule; they are under the law, not above the law. The constitution, and that alone, is the sovereign power of the state; it has the authority of God, and its officers and magistrates are God's ministers.
3. But what if the people have reserved certain rights to themselves? If they have prohibited certain acts by the constitution, why, those acts cannot be performed. If they have directed the power to revert to themselves periodically, or in certain contingencies, (as at elections, or for amendments,) still these rights flow back to them [13/14] from the constitution. Their title to them is a constitutional title, and they can exercise their reserved rights at no other time, and in no other manner, than the constitution directs. And thus we see that "reserved rights" (so called) do not imply an unlimited sovereignty in the people. It is a political figure of speech, implying a certain constitutional method by which the people may alter the form, or direct the administration, of government.
4. But, again, if a government is intolerable, is not revolution a right? Yes! but not an absolute right; but a right springing out of a duty to God,—the duty to be governed agreeably to his laws. The right of revolution is therefore a derived and ultimate right,—derived from the duty "to obey God rather than men;" ultimate, as not to be resorted to but in extreme cases, and for intolerable tyranny. Hence, my hearers, it should ever be a serious question whether a government is so intolerable as to justify a revolution to overturn it by force. What is the doctrine of Christ and his apostles? So long as the Roman authorities did not interfere with their duty to God, the apostles yielded and commanded obedience; and the Saviour of the world paid tribute to Augustus; and, by his example and teaching, has instructed us to "render unto Caesar the things that be Caesar's," as well as "unto God the things that be God's." Accordingly, allegiance to "the powers that be" is more likely to be right than revolution.
5. But what is the doctrine of the day? "Government is founded in the mere will of the people; and the will of the people is the will of God. They have a right to do as they please; and what they do is right." Brethren, these sentiments are disorganizing; and the more current they are, the more will a revolutionary spirit prevail. For, if "the voice of the people is the voice of God," and if "the people cannot do wrong," God is dethroned, and the [14/15] standard of his written word despised. The people are their own god, subject to no higher authority, submissive to no law! O what new idolatry is this? men worshipping themselves! And think you that God will keep silence? Nay, he will not, he cannot, give his glory to another. But look still farther into these principles. Where are the people who are thus supreme? If they are sovereign not in the organized, legitimate, constitutional authorities, where shall we find their sovereignty? Are they sovereign when gathered together in their primary assemblies? No; their acts are not laws, unless they are warranted by the legislature: if they require this sanction, then the constitution is still sovereign. Are they sovereign when scattered over the land? then either every man is sovereign, or else no man. Sovereignty resides in each or else in none; for sovereignty is a whole unit,—not a fraction. It is all lodged in every one of the scattered people, or else in neither of them. And which alternative is popular and prevailing? Need we ask the question? Is not the notion prevalent of personal sovereignty? A settled idea in each individual mind is, that I am the people; I am sovereign; I can do what I will, and what I will is right; my voice is the voice of God! This is despotism, and this is atheism. "I am the state" was the sentiment of Louis XIV.; and, while the opinion gave France one despot, it gives America fifteen millions. Why, "the voice of the people is the voice of God" is the very language of the tempter: "Ye may be as gods!" It is in its extreme meaning, the language of individual independence of all law, of all subordination. O what shocking blasphemy! what arrogant, what impious mockery of Jehovah!
6. And do you not see that it is easy to transfer the political sentiment of the day to every relation of life? And so men are taught to be habitually independent of [15/16] Deity, to exalt their own opinions to divine intuitions, to consult no oracle but their own wills, to obey no law but their own desires! O! is not this a night of anarchy, of atheism? I say not that such is the fearful extreme to which we are already come; but I say the continued progress of the age is leading us there. The mob is fearful now: magistrates fear them; politicians bend to them; the law has lain prostrate under their feet. It is night now; and I see no human prospect of a morning. Repentance may call forth the arm of the Lord to the rescue of our country, and deliver us as he delivered Israel. If we will inquire of God, and return to his Anointed, and obey Christ, the "King of kings, and Lord of lords," the morning will suddenly dawn upon us, and our country "shall be free indeed." But, if we will not renounce our idolatry of SELF, and come obediently to Christ, I foresee the ravages of licentiousness amidst the ruins of liberty.
Let us not forget, my hearers, that, as in the natural, so in the political world, every thing is tending to a dead level. We observe the mountains falling into the valleys, and the rough and rocky places crumbling into a plain; and then volcanic fires heave up new mountains again. And so there is a tendency to universal democracy in the world, which will be succeeded by despotism. In the circumference of the circle of political relations, democracy and despotism are contiguous; and as the mountains are cast up from the level by intestine fires, so do the commotions of democracy produce some mighty man, and anarchy is reduced to order by a single despot's rise.
My brethren, I am repeating the lessons of history; but now I will direct you to prophecy. Behold, then, the impersonation of the coming age, the incarnation of the unchecked principles of this, in that king who is to rise up in the latter days, foretold by Daniel,—"who shall do according to his will, who shall exalt himself and [16/17] magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things of the God of gods, who shall not regard the God of his fathers, nor the Messiah, [* Distinguished commentators refer the phrase in the original to the Messiah] nor regard any God; for he shall magnify himself above all, and he shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that which is determined shall be done: he shall come to his end, and none shall help him." (Dan. xi. 36, 37.) Self-idolatry, the unclean spirit of the age, is embodied in the wilful king, and, like him, shall finally be destroyed by a just and jealous God. The gleams of inspired prophecy further reveal "a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation;" (Dan. xii. 1;) a night of "distress of nations, with perplexity, sea and waves roaring, and men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth: and then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with power and great glory." (Luke xxi. 26.)
Do you ask, then, what of the night? The watchman still sayeth, "The morning cometh, and also the night." Brethren, I am persuaded the literal declaration of prophecy is, that this night of individual independence, this night of lawlessness, of irreligion, this night of atheistical politics, will extend and deepen over the earth to the last days, when it shall be broken by the sudden revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, to assume his rightful sceptre, and assert his sovereignty, to redeem his faithful people, and to settle them in his millennial kingdom. But the rebellious nations shall be overwhelmed, "broken in pieces as a potter's vessel," and destroyed. To this day of retribution, the language of the text may be strictly applied: "The morning cometh, and also the night." To the Israel of God, the revelation of their crucified but [17/18] triumphant King will be the morning of their day of redemption. To the infidel Edomites, the second coming of Christ will be the night of their ruin. And, finally, the judgment day, at the second resurrection, shall fulfil the prophecy to all individuals: "The wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal."
Let us now wind up our discourse, and inquire for our duty in the present crisis.
My hearers, have we not cause to tremble at the possible destiny of our country and of ourselves? It is possible that "darkness will cover the land, and gross darkness the people;" yet, as "in the land of Goshen there was light," while "throughout Egypt there was a darkness that could be felt," may we not hope that, when the night is hovering over our country, there will still be light in the church? Now, alas! "because iniquity abounds, the love of many is waxed cold." But yet a remnant shall remain, who, by the grace of God, will escape the infection of the times, and, amidst prevailing coldness and spiritual apostasy, will preserve the warmth of their love, and the steadfastness of their faith; and, if our country be saved from impending judgments, it will be owing to these righteous persons. Yes! if God will spare the Sodoms and Gomorrahs of the world, it will be for the sake of the few praying, holy inhabitants who live by faith on the Son of God. Their prayers will form the canopy that shall protect the wicked from the fiery rain; their holiness and their fidelity will interpose the barrier to the desolating scourge; "the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus" upon them is the sign which shall repel the destroying angel from the place of their dwelling. Happy are the nations who are in such a case! Happy will be our beloved country, if it contains the leaven of Christianity, and is defended by the shield of Christian faith, and [18/19] the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God!" A small number of Christians, thus armed, are champions better than the Spartan band, and are enlisted under a nobler Chief than Leonidas; for they fight for their country with spiritual weapons, mighty through God, and repel invading foes under the Captain of our salvation. The present crisis of our country, my hearers, demands such defence and such defenders as these. We need public men who shall distinctly recognize the authority of Jesus Christ,—who shall bow in faith before his cross, and lift on high the standard of the gospel, as the director of political as well as personal morality. O! in the death of our president, the nation has lost such a champion. He was a praying man. He was a devout worshipper of God, on his knees in the sanctuary; and an illustrious advocate of Christianity by the pious example of his daily life. To lose such a chief magistrate is a public affliction indeed! It is true that he was not elected for his religion, but for his imagined greatness. Yet he was truly great, because he was good. The greatness of the world is a bubble swelled by a breath, which another breath may destroy; but the greatness of goodness endures longer than adamant; yea, amidst the assaults of death, and in the trial of judgment: it endures forever. And that goodness which is the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ was the noblest quality and richest possession of our departed president. Of all his honors, this alone cleaves to him now. The gifts of indulgent countrymen, the unction of partial friends, the concessions of political enemies, are now to him all alike worthless and indifferent. They were tributes to his mortality, and are buried in his grave. But the gifts of God, the endowments of his Holy Spirit, and the ornaments of Grace, are acquisitions to his immortality, and now adorn his soul in the presence of Christ. But, though Harrison is "dead, he yet speaketh" [19/20] to our country. His patriotism, illustrious through life, was strong even in death. His last words were for his beloved country, desiring the true principles of government, which, in the close of his inaugural address, he had asserted to be the principles of the future administration. He asked no more than this. We ask no more; the country asks no more. And we devoutly trust that the mantle of the departed Christian patriot has fallen on our present president. A solemn responsibility lies upon him. Placed by the hand of God on that dizzy height to which politicians are looking with longing eyes, and straining every muscle in striving to attain,—that height which only one can occupy, but to gain which struggling competitors sacrifice peace and a good conscience, friendship and honor, domestic happiness, and possibly heaven itself,—our chief magistrate is set on that eminence, by the hand of God, to administer the government according to the true principles set forth by Harrison. And what are those principles? They are summed up at the close of the inaugural address. Listen, my hearers, again to the declaration of them, and call to mind the occasion when they were pronounced. They are too important not to be repeated on this day to every statesman and to every citizen of America; they exhibit the religious character, and the sanctified patriotism, of the president. Harrison then stood on the balcony of the capitol. Far and wide stretched the broad surface of his country. Below were the throngs of his countrymen, and around him were the members of his cabinet, and the ambassadors from distant nations. At his side stood the chief justice of the United States, holding in his hand the sacred Constitution, to whom the president elect turned, and, looking up to heaven, with his hand on the Holy Bible, he pronounced that solemn oath which invested him, in the sight of God and of men, with the authority and the burden of the [20/21] executive. When this was done, the president read his address, in that clear and sonorous voice, which, in the hour of battle, had been heard above the cannon's roar and the yell of the savage. Closing with the declaration, penned in the chamber of his mother, from whom he learned to pray, which certified his fidelity to his country, to his Saviour, and his God,—said he, "I deem the present occasion sufficiently important and solemn to justify me in expressing to my fellow-citizens a profound reverence for the Christian religion, and a thorough conviction that sound morals, religious liberty, and a just sense of religious responsibility, are essentially connected with all true and lasting happiness. And to that good Being who has blessed us by the gifts of civil and religious freedom, who watched over and prospered the labors of our fathers, and has hitherto preserved to us institutions far exceeding in excellence those of any other people, let us unite in fervently commending every interest of our beloved country in all future time."
And has God removed his servant? Mysterious providence! After one short month he died. But he fulfilled his course;—he has entered on the morning of his deathless reward; a weeping nation are standing over his tomb, and ask the oracle, What of the night? what of the night?
Let statesmen and politicians attend! The morning cometh, and also the night! If ye will inquire, inquire ye: return! come! The gospel of Christ will guide you to "glory, and honor, and immortality." But the maxims of the age are abhorrent to Christianity, destructive to our Constitution, fatal to yourselves. The notorious absence of political honesty and of religious responsibility, as well as of the charities and urbanities of social life, disgrace our public men, and will surely attract the displeasure of Heaven. God has already spoken to you. He has [21/22] taught you that the splendid vision of office is a delusive pageant; that "life is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." "Cease ye then from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, and obey the Lord your God." Be wise now, O ye rulers! be instructed, O ye judges of the earth! Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Ps. ii.)
Let the people of our country attend! If ye will return to the Constitution which our pious fathers formed, and promote its administration according to the Christian principles and the dying request of your late Christian president, there is before you the morning of political security. If ye will cease from your idolatry of mammon, there is a prospect of the dawning of commercial prosperity. If, above all, ye will renounce self-worship, yield your hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, and obey the laws of God and of your country, there cometh the bright morning of present peace and perpetual happiness. But if ye still run frantic with the lust of wealth, if ye cling to the unscriptural, and disorganizing, and atheistical dogmas of the times, the present night will be prolonged to our embarrassment and distress, to our destruction and woe. It is the duty of the nation to repent, and to return to God habitually, as we have come to him to-day. Soon shall the bodies of this busy generation sleep in the dust, by the side of their president. The night of death will involve them all, till it is broken by the morning of the resurrection, and then shall they awake, "some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." "The morning cometh, and also the night."
Let the church give heed! Shall the Edomite cry to the prophet and Israel be dumb? Shall the citizen express [22/23] solicitude for the welfare of the country, and the Christian feel none? Nay, the church has an interest and a duty in the present crisis; for the destiny of the nation is committed to her hands. Her prayers, her fidelity to her Lord, her holiness in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, is the safeguard of the republic. The last monument and pillar of the truth which will stand amidst the future wreck will be the CHURCH, whose "foundation is the apostles and prophets, and whose corner-stone is Jesus Christ."
What, then, is the duty of Christians? Not, I think, to take an active part in politics. The mightiest have fallen on that arena, and the holiest have become infected by that atmosphere. The office of the church is, then, to exert a quiet, passive political influence, by simply expressing, in the lawful mode, her choice of measures and of men. And if she can choose only between evils, and either choice would hazard her allegiance to Christ, she can only pray. She cannot follow the multitude to do evil. She must repent of her own sins, lift up her voice of warning to mankind, and besiege the throne of grace, (like Abraham for Sodom,) to avert the deserved and impending judgments of God from the world. Christians, ye have a great work to do! for yourselves, to disengage the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil; for our country, to relieve her from the present night of financial, political, and moral disorder; for Christ, to maintain his prerogatives, to diffuse his gospel, and to win souls to his great salvation.
May the Lord give us grace, dear brethren, to be faithful to ourselves, to our country, and to our God. Amen.
 O ALMIGHTY GOD, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men, grant unto thy people that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. Amen.
GRANT, O LORD, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy CHURCH may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. Amen.