Text courtesy of the Archives of the Diocese of Connecticut
1335 Asylum Avenue; Hartford, Connecticut 06105
WORTHY AND HONOURED
FRIENDS AND BRETHREN,
IT is with very particular pleasure that I embrace the opportunity, which your kind invitation has given me, of addressing myself to you at this Time. Both as a minister of that gospel which proclaimeth peace and good will to mankind, and as one of the common brotherhood of men, I feel myself deeply interested in the honor, prosperity and happiness of every society, whose object is the peace, order and welfare of the human species; and whose aim is the establishment and cultivation of unity, brotherly love and benevolence among its several branches.
 IN whatever light we view the nature and condition of man in this world, we must conclude that he was born for society. The helplessness of his infantine state, the many wants and necessities of his mature age, and the numberless evils attendant on his declining years all proclaim, That it is not good for man to be alone. They all declare that in a solitary unconnected state, He could not subsist, or could not subsist with safety and satisfaction to himself.
IF we view his mind; if we attend to the tender feelings of which it is capable--of which, indeed, without violence, and often repeated efforts, it cannot be divested:--To the sympathetic anguish which it feels for the distresses of others:--To the thrillings of joy and gladness with which it is delighted at the prospect of human happiness--To the soft emotions, the extacy of pleasure which arise from the reciprocal offices of mutual friendship and love--we must conclude, that God made man for society;--That [6/7] he intended every individual of the human species for the help and comfort of every other.
ACCORDINGLY we find that in that book, which contains the history of those revelations which God hath been pleased to make to mankind, this point is taken for granted, That man is made for society. It considers this to be the dictate of nature, not easily to be misunderstood or suppressed. Instead of loosing time to establish a point, which was already established by the very nature of man, it gives laws for the regulation and restraint of those appetites and passions which would interfere with our duty in this respect; it explains to us the nature of that benevolence and mutual love which it enjoins: It restrains us from all instances and all expressions of cruelty, malice, ill-will and revenge, by the most positive laws, enforced by the severest threatnings: It excites us to the practice of kindness, benevolence and charity, by the promise of the noblest rewards--the [7/8] heart-delighting pleasure of doing good--the approbation and blessing of our heavenly father in this world, and endless happiness with him in the next.
IT is true there are in man baneful and savage dispositions, as well as those that are gentle and benign. He would otherwise have needed no laws or directions to regulate his conduct in this particular: The laws of reason, which are the laws of his nature, and the laws of his God, concur in requiring him to check and curb his malevolent dispositions, and to cherish and indulge those that are of a benign and friendly tendency. That this is to consult the true happiness of man, needs no other proof, than to take an unprejudiced view of the different effects which the indulgence of these different dispositions produces in the world. Strike all the tender feelings, all gentleness and kindness, and meekness and benevolence, from the nature of man; give a full scope to the malevolent passions, the vindictive dispositions [8/9] of his nature, and see what would be the consequence. Would these only operate as far as his own preservation should require? Would they be always confined within the bounds of self-defence? I fear they would not. Fear did I say? I know they would not. The malevolence of wolves and tigers would fall far short of the malevolence of man. Every violence that you can conceive--rapine, and bloodshed, and murder, would ravage and desolate the earth. Every injury, real or supposed, would excite to revenge, and revenge would be unsatiated with any thing but the destruction of its object. No laws would be sufficient to restrain the impetuosity of their passions; no punishments of force enough to prevent the perpetration of evil: For that murder is now so seldom committed in the world, is probably more owing to the tender feelings of the human heart, than to any laws, human or divine, or to any dread of punishment. Were these feelings at an end, we should soon see parents and children [9/10] seeking the destruction of each other: and brother aiming the fatal dagger at the heart of his brother.
THIS is not vain conjecture and idle speculation. The history of mankind and daily observation both confirm it, and leave us no Room to doubt, That the most mischievous of all animals is man divested of the benign and tender feelings of his nature. We in particular who are assembled here this day, know that no government can bind, no laws can hold, and no principles can restrain men who, having suppressed the humane tempers and emotions of the heart, have given themselves up to the influence of the selfish, malignant and vindictive passions, the indulgence of which is both a disgrace to our nature, and a curse to our species. How strong must be the force of these passions unrestrained by meekness and benevolence, when neither the distress of individuals, nor the ruin of provinces, nor the misery of half a continent, can reach the hearts, [10/11] or move the affections of men while under their influence!
TO be more particular is unnecessary. Your own feelings will more than supply all that I could say. I will therefore turn from this distressing prospect, with this one remark,--That when men once attempt to accomplish their ends by means not strictly just and honorable, they know not where they shall stop; they know not to what a height of wickedness the impetuosity of passion may drive them, nor into what a depth of misery their own licentious conduct may plunge them.--The unhappy man may possibly wonder at himself while he contemplates his own progress in villainy; he may stare and be astonished while he pleases himself with the mighty ruin which he hath wrought; But evil hath now become his good; to do mischief his delight. He hath overpowered and suppressed the tender feelings of his heart, and to return again to the dictates of humanity, to the practice of benevolence, [11/12] is I fear an impossibility.--The distant thoughts of cruelty shocked the tenderness of Hazael's heart. Is thy servant a dog, said he to the prophet, that he should do this great wickedness? But he had already so far given way to the tempting prospect of his own aggrandizement, as o have plotted the death of his royal master; and notwithstanding the kind and tender manner in which the prophet endeavoured to recall him to a sense of his duty, he persisted in, and accomplished his horrid purpose; and at length became so hardened in cruelty as to burn the fortresses of Israel with fire, slay their young men with the sword, dash their children, and rip up their women with child.
THE laws of civil society, the laws of God, the tender, sociable and humane feelings of the heart, all concur to restrain the inordinacy of passion, to bridle the lust of revenge; and all these united, and assisted by education, are scarcely sufficient to answer the purpose. What then must ensue when [12/13] these all are broken through or suppressed? The impetuosity of passion, like the impetuosity of mighty waters, will drive us headlong down its furious current; bearing away all the little remains of principle, overwhelming the feeble restraints of reason, and giving us neither time for reflection, nor any means nor opportunity of escaping.
IF on the contrary we consider man under the influence of the gentle, benign and humane propensities of his nature--unsoured by revenge, untainted by malice, uninflamed by anger; exerting only his ability to do good, and to make others happy; exercising himself in all the offices of humanity, benevolence and charity; promoting peace, unity and concord among the brotherhood of men, and binding them all together by the indissoluble bonds of affection and love--and how amiable! how angelic does he appear! There would be an immediate end of all strife, and contention on the earth; injustice, [13/14] and oppression, and cruelty, and rapine, and murder, and war, and rebellion, and tyranny, would cease; and we should even in this world have a foretaste of the joys and blessedness of heaven.
TO bring about this happy state by restraining the malevolent tempers of our nature, and by cherishing those of a kind and benevolent tendency, is the proper business of reason, the grand aim of religion, especially of that religion which the son of God hath communicated to the world. A religion--which, the more we examine it, the more we shall be convinced, is exactly squared to the nature and condition of man, and perfectly leveled to his capacity;--which lays the surest foundation for his happiness, tending to raise his powers and faculties to their highest perfection, to cement together the whole brotherhood of men, and build them up an edifice of affection and love, supported by he two grand [14/15] pillars of virtue and holiness, the light and strength of the world.
THE royal psalmist, the author of the text, had from his own experience a perfect knowledge of the fatal tendency of indulging the bitterness of malice and revenge: He had been persecuted by Saul with the most implacable fury: He had seen and felt the evil effects of discord and contention: He had long viewed, and lamented over his country torn to pieces with party and faction, and languishing under all the horrors and distresses of civil war; and he had lived to see peace, and order, and good government restored, and the happy effects of unity, love, and mutual benevolence, flourishing, and diffusing the serenest joy and happiness among his people. His foreign enemies were subdued or humbled, his own people were united and happy. Rebellion indeed had once reared its horrid front, and displayed its bloody banners under the conduct of his own son; but publish justice had routed, had crushed [15/16] had punished the hedious monster, and peace, order and happiness were restored.--Viewing the happy effects of peace and unity, and filled with the pleasing prospect of their continuance and increase, his heart became too much affected to keep silence; its tender emotions burst forth in the exclamation of the text,--Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is brethren, to dwell together in unity!--He compares the happy effects diffused among mankind by unity and brotherly love, to the odours of the richest perfumes, which at once refresh and delight the senses. It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down unto the beard; even unto Aaron's beard, and went down to the skirts of his cloathing.--Nothing can be conceived more agreeable, more reviving, than the fostering due of Heaven to the parched, thirsty earth, scorched by heat and drought.--To this also is unity and brotherly love compared, It is like as the dew of Hermon which fell upon the hill of Sion.
 ON this occasion it would be superfluous to insist particularly on the motives to the practice of the duty of unity and brotherly love. The honorable fraternity to which I have the pleasure of addressing myself, make it their professed principle to cultivate the humane and sociable propensities of the heart, and to diffuse the blessings of unity, concord and peace, thro' the world. And may God, the God of unity and concord, bless and prosper their endeavours! Permit me however to observe, That the dictates of reason, of humanity, and of our holy religion, all concur to give a sanction to your efforts, and to excite you to persist in the well-meant undertaking, of spreading the blessings of benevolence and mutual love over the whole earth. Your society is not confined to parties and sects; it admits not of the local distinctions of nations and countries: Mankind is the object of its attention, their happiness the end of its pursuit; and this end it aims to accomplish, by the most reasonable means, the culture of the [17/18] benign and friendly propensities of our nature; by promoting peace and unity, benevolence and affection among all the individuals of the human species.--This also is one grand design of the religion of the holy Jesus. His gospel proclaims peace and good will to mankind; and endeavours to promote their happiness by promoting unity, concord and benevolence among them. It confines not its attention to particular sects, and parties of men, to particular nations, countries, states or kingdoms. It aims to connect the whole human race together by love and benevolence, and to make them all happy in this world by the mutual intercourse of good will and affection; and by cultivating the tender, benign and amiable propensities of the human heart, to fit and prepare them for perfect, never-ceasing happiness in the kingdom of God our creator.
WHO, I beseech you, would not wish to co-operate in this blessed work?--When we see and feel the [18/19] evil effects of animosity and discord, who would not wish for unity and peace? What heart can be so callous to the tender feelings of our nature, or so deaf to the soft and plaintive calls and sollicitations of humanity, as not to be willing to drive discord, animosity and ill-nature from the earth; and to lend his helping hand to plant unity, peace, love and affection in the world, and to diffuse their heavenly influence among all the nations of men?
WERE the precepts of our holy religion duly complied with; were they suffered to take deep root in our hearts, and to bring their proper fruits to perfection, we should soon see the happy effects produced by them, in the daily increase of human happiness: We should soon feel how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!--Our hearts would be cheered by the heavenly influence of benevolence, even as our bodily senses are delighted by the fragrance of rich perfumes; and our souls refreshed by its cordial [19/20] effusions, as the parched earth is refreshed by the kindly dew of haven. All moroseness, and rancour, and malice, and envy, and contention would cease over the whole earth: Nation would no more rise against nation, nor kingdom against kingdom: but they would beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, and the heavenly kingdom of our Redeemer would be established, in righteousness and holiness, in peace, unity, brotherly love and concord, among all the inhabitants of the earth.
MAY the God of peace hasten this happy period! grant that we may see it begun and increasing in stability and splendor! and make us all instruments in accomplishing the gracious designs of his love and goodness to the children of men! for the sake of his son our redeemer Jesus Christ: To whom, with the father and the holy spirit, the eternal, triune benevolent God of all nature, be ascribed adoration and worship, thanksgiving and praise, by all the creatures whom he hath made. Amen.