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Election Day Sermon Dr Edward Hitchcock

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 10 months ago
Dr. Edward Hitchcock’s 1850 Election Sermon
 
 
 
A
 Sermon
 Delivered Before
His Excellency George N. Briggs,
Governor,
His Honor John Reed,
Lieutenant Governor,
The Honorable Court
And
The Legislature of Massachusetts
At
The Annual Election
Wednesday, January 2d, 1850
 
By Edward Hitchcock, D. D., LL.D.
President Amherst College.
 
Boston:
Dutton and Wentworth, State Printers
1850.
 
Psalm, XXXIII, 12
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord (Jehovah)
 
Isaiah, V, 13.
Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge,
 
John, VIII, 36.
If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
 
 
An important reciprocal influence has ever been admitted to exist between Religion, Education, and Freedom: but their inseparable connection and mutual dependence have rarely been maintained or demonstrated. If that can be done, the present is surely an appropriate occasion for attempting it. Such, therefore, is the theme which I shall present to this highly respected audience.
 
The position taken on this subject is this:
RELIGION, EDUCATION, AND FREEDOM, ARE INSEPABLE AND MUTUALLY DEPENDENT.
 
It will give, perhaps a clearer idea of this general proposition, if it be divided and illustrated.
 
First, then, true Religion, an enlightened system of Education, and genuine Freedom, form the three great vital centers of Social System; just as the Brain, the Heart, and the Lungs, are centers of life in the animal system. Nor can you separate those centers from one another in the one case, any more than in the other, without destroying them all. Without a brain to give sensibility and motion, there would be no beating heart, or heaving lungs. Without a heart to propel the blood through the brain and the lungs, the latter would collapse, and the former would be paralyzed. And did not the lungs oxygenate and purify the blood, it would prove a deadly poison to the brain and the heart; and no vital warmth would be imparted to the frame. So in the social system, were there no religion to give sensibility to our relations to God and our fellow men, and to lead us to act from higher motives than atheism or pantheism could inspire, education, in its legitimate and liberal meaning, would never exist; nor could freedom be enjoyed: since, without the purifying and elevating influence of religion, the strong would oppress the weak, and keep them in hopeless servitude. So, if education were stricken from the social system, religion would degenerate into formalism, or fanaticism; and freedom would soon be drowned in licentiousness, or crushed by an iron despotism. And if free were to be smothered, religion would lose its vitality, and become a mere tool of ambition; and education would be ostracized as a dangerous agent; at least in the hands of the people at large.
 
Secondly, no one of these vital centers of the social system can be in health and vigorous action, if the rest are diseased, or palsied. For such is their mutual sympathy, that just so far as one is defective, or its vitality lowered, by an admixture of erroneous principles, will the others be crippled and benumbed. In the animal system, if disease has attacked the brain, we expect, not only that the mind will be oppressed, or act irregularly and wildly, but that the lungs and the heart will partake of the disordered movement. In like manner, if disease or poison be operating upon the heart, or the lungs, we cannot depend upon the healthy action of the brain and the mind. And the degree of irregularity existing in one of these vital organs, is the index of derangement in the others. Just so, if any country, a false or defective system of religion prevails, we may be sure to find corresponding deficiencies and errors in its system of education and its principles of liberty. In like manner, if we find its inhabitants ignorant, we can safely infer that its religion is proportionally erroneous, and its freedoms defective. And if the liberties of a country have been usurped by despotism of the many, or of the few, we may be sure that in the same ration, its religion will be corrupt and its plans of education imperfect.
 
Such is my explication and elucidation of the general principal advanced. I may seem to have taken strong ground; but I trust it can be maintained by an appeal to REASON, to the BIBLE, and to EXPERIENCE. I proceed, therefore, to defend my position by evidence drawn from these three sources.
 
Preliminary to this argument, however, let me say, lest my positions should be misunderstood, that in maintaining the inseparable connection and mutual dependence of these three pillars of a nation’s glory and strength, I do not contend that they are equally important. It will be universally admitted that the brain, the lungs, and the heart, are inseparably connected and mutually dependent.  But who does not know that the brain occupies a place, and executes functions in the system, of preeminent importance? The influence that emanates from it, along the conducting nerves, causes the heart to beat and the lungs to heave: in fact, all the phenomena of vitality depend upon it; and so, in the present world, do the far more wonderful phenomena of intellect. But it is nevertheless true, that disordered action in the heart, or the lungs, will impair the functions of the brain; so that we infer a mutual dependence; while at the same time we assign the highest place, and by the far the most commanding influence, to the brain.
 
In like manner, in the social system, no observing and reasonable man will hesitate to place religion at the head of all those influences by which the public good is promoted, the national character formed, and its destinies shaped. Moral obligation is the only power that can give genuine life and regulated action to a nation’s energies: and if that do not send its galvanic shocks into the whole system, not only will education and freedom fail of vitalization, but paralysis will seize upon the whole body politic; - except that occasionally a convulsive agony, the symptom of approaching dissolution may rack its frame and distort its features. Highest and foremost, therefore, we place religion among the influences that determine a nation’s character; although an important reflex influence upon religion, from education and freedom, must be admitted.
 
It may be desirable to state another preliminary explanation. In maintaining the mutual dependence of these three great Institutions of social economy, so that when one fails or is crippled, the others suffer the same fate, it should be remembered that we speak of the community as a whole, and not of individual exceptions. For such exceptions may exist of a striking character. The prevalent system of religion may be very corrupt, and yet there may be found bright and beautiful examples of individual piety. So there may exist many splendid examples of scholarship, where the masses are profoundly ignorant. And even under the gloomy sway of despotism, individuals may be found, enjoying a high degree of personal independence. But single exceptions of this sort cannot invalidate conclusions based upon tendencies and results, which are generally the same, and whose failure is only as one to a thousand.
 
But what do we mean by the term Religion? Simply. I answer, the unadulterated system taught in the Bible, and illustrated perfectly in the life of the Founder of Christianity, and imperfectly, yet often beautifully, in the lives of those followers of Christ, who have been eminent for their self-denying labors and vigorous faith.
 
And what do we mean by Education? Not a system that provides for the gigantic scholarship of a favored few, while the many are left under the cloud of ignorance. But a system that carries the torch of science through every portion of the community, offering it to all as freely as daylight, and opening a path for the poorest and humblest genius to find his way to the summit of Parnassus.
 
And what do we mean by Freedom? Not liberty for a few, or even a majority, while a large portion of the community are cut off from its blessings: Not liberty for the whole without restraint: Not that reckless liberty, which abolishes all the salutary distinctions of society, founded on talents, character and office, and levels every thing downwards, till all are sunk to the lowest grade. But we mean such a degree of chastened liberty, as experience has shown most conducive to individual happiness and public good.
 
From these explanations I turn now to the evidence of the general position, that Religion, Education, and Freedom are inseparable and mutually dependent: I make my first appeal to Reason; in other words, to the NATURE OF THE CASE. The problem is this: Knowing the character of man, and the nature of Religion, Education, and Freedom, does reason alone, irrespective of scripture and experience, afford a presumption in favor of the proposition or against it? Reasoning a priori, should we conclude these three leading institutions of the social system to be mutually dependent, and so connected that diseased action in one shall be communicated to all the rest?
 
In order to obtain a satisfactory answer to these inquiries, let us make a series of suppositions.
 
Let us, in the first place, imagine that Religion is stricken from this trio: can Education and Freedom long survive?
 
To live without religion, is to be destitute of all sense of moral obligation to God, or our fellow men; and to be free from all influences and sanctions drawn from a future state of retribution. In such circumstances we need not resort to any theological dogma to show that supreme selfishness would be the controlling law of life, and consequently, that every man would strive to gain as much power and distinction, and property as possible. But the more talented and discerning few, would soon discover, that in proportion as the mass of men were enlightened and free, would be the difficulty of gratifying their selfish desires. While, therefore, they might encourage education and freedom among a favored few, they would try to keep the many ignorant and in servitude. This is in fact, the very process that has been acted over a thousand times in the history of our globe. The masse smut be kept ignorant and degraded, or the few cannot monopolize the power, wealth, and influence, which selfish nature urges them to seek after with irresistible impulse. To root out religion then, is to aim a death blow at education and freedom.
 
Let us next suppose a nation to be blessed with Religion and Freedom, but without Education. Can she long retain the former?
 
Although the great principles and precepts of religion are simple, they are liable to be misunderstood and misapplied, if the intellect be uncultivated. Individuals quite ignorant, may become devotedly pious, in a community where there are intelligent men to instruct them. But if the vast majority are unlettered, religion will almost inevitably lose its power, beneath a multitude of external ceremonies, or run wild with fanaticism. For these extremes are more fascinating to the ignorant mind, than the unostentatious piety of the heart, because accompanied by more external glitter and noise. Besides, it is much easier for a heart to love with sin, to practice pompous rites and ceremonies, or to cry with Jehu, come and see my zeal for the Lord, than to carry on a daily warfare with sin within and without, and to set an example of charity, humility, and self-sacrifice. Hence, it is, that in an ignorant community, religion never fails to degenerate into formalism, or fanaticism; and not unfrequently the two have been united.
 
No less essential is intellectual cultivation to the support of genuine freedom. Men must understand its principles, or they will either become the dupes, and ere long the slaves, of unprincipled ambition, or they will mistake licentiousness for liberty, and soon be glad to take refuge in the despotism of one from the despotism of many.
 
Imagine next, that a nation is blessed with Religion and Education, but has lost its Freedom. Can the former flourish under an arbitrary government?
 
Tyrants are usually eagle-eyed to discover any influences that are hostile to their usurped prerogatives. Now, the whole system of the Bible aims a fatal blow against all unrighteous authority, both because it brings all men on a level before God, and because it shows such authority to be hateful in his sight. Hence despotic power will not be satisfied till it has robbed Christianity of its vitality; and, alas! It has usually found a venal priesthood, ready to perform the mummifying process.
 
An enlightened system of public education is almost equally hostile to arbitrary power, as is Christianity. In fact, you cannot enlighten the people, generally, without teaching them their true character, and showing them that God made them to be free. Either, therefore, the power of the tyrant or education, must fall; and the same agency which he has employed to embowel Christianity will be ready to obliterate the primary school, and petrify the college, and the university.
 
These suppositions sustain, I trust, the first part of the general proposition, that religion, education and freedom are inseparable. But the second part maintains that there is such a connection and sympathy between them, that to mar and deteriorate one is to impart what the chemist would call a catalytic influence to all the rest, whereby they shall be degraded and become impure. To show this will require a parallel series of suppositions; and yet, by an appeal to history, we might convert these assumptions into facts. But that belongs to my third argument.
 
We will suppose the religion of a nation to become corrupt, either by the introduction of false doctrines, or the substitution of external forms of piety of the heart, or by an amalgamation with the world. Now, unadulterated Christianity is a stern advocate for the most liberal system of education; both because is courts the most rigid scrutiny, and because, without intelligence in the community, its plain and honest features would soon be buried, and its vitality smothered, beneath the meretricious ornaments of formalism, or burnt over and blackened by the fires of fanaticism. But a corrupt system of religion dreads a pure system of education, lest its hypocrisy should be detected. It knows very well that education must be so mollified as not to admit of freedom of discussion or freedom of opinion; and that the great body of the people must be kept in comparative ignorance, or they will not submit to the trammels of a perverted Christianity. And, therefore, it will be hostile to any system of education that is not clipped and moulded to conform to its own degraded standard.
 
Equally jealous of freedom you will find every false system of Christianity. Religious liberty, especially, cannot be tolerated; for, in such a case, the perversions of the truth, made by an unholy priesthood, or designing politicians, would soon be exposed, and then resisted. Uncomplaining conformity to the prevailing system, is the imperious demand of every corrupt religion. And since nearly every such system links itself with the state, it can enforce conformity; if not, at this day, by swords and faggots, yet by the almost equally powerful engines of governmental favors and disabilities. Hence, to pervert Christianity is to put a muzzle upon the mouth of freedom.
 
Suppose a defective system of education to prevail in a country; one, for example, where the majority of the people are uninstructed, and only the wealthy and aristocratic have access to the fountains of knowledge. The almost inevitable result would be, that the educated few would encroach upon the rights of the ignorant many; while the cunning priest would easily exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that, as God, he would sit in the temple of god, showing himself that he is God, and thus persuade the multitude that they must go to him for pardon and life eternal, instead of Jehovah.
 
Or suppose arbitrary power to have gained the ascendancy, where the people are well instructed, and pure religion prevails. In such a case, we may calculate upon one of two results. Either religion and education would teach the people rebellion, for there can be no doubt but both of them are decidedly hostile to arbitrary power, or the usurpers would contrive to infuse a narcotic influence into the pulpit, to close the primary school, and to render the press venal.
 
From the known selfish and ambitious character of man, therefore, and the admitted sympathetic influence between Religion, Education, and Freedom, does not reason decide that to obliterate one is to destroy the rest? and to corrupt one is to sink the others to the same condition? In support of these positions, I make my second appeal to the Bible.
 
It should not be forgotten, however, that the grand object of the Bible is to instruct us in religion; and no other subjects are mentioned, except as incidentally connected with this. We ought not to expect, therefore, that we shall find the general proposition which we are discussing, stated in so many words. Its leading features, however, I think we can find asserted and defended, directly or indirectly.
 
The Bible shows us, for instance, how indispensable to a nation’s happiness and glory is true religion. The passage first named at the head of this discourse, Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, is an example. It does not say that such would be the effect of acknowledging and serving any other God except Jehovah, the God of the Jews; for so it is in the original. The poet would make no difference between
“Jehovah, Jove, and Lord?”
But the Bible declares, that “though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, to us there is but one God, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” It is the service and love of that one God only, through that one Lord Jesus Christ, that can render a nation happy. That God declares that “He is a great king over all the earth; a governor among the nations;” and he challenges their love and service. “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” He goes farther, and declares the consequence of disobedience. “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it: If it do evil in my sight, that is obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them. If they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord.”
 
Thus does the Bible represent true religion as preeminently important to a nation’s happiness. It also declares knowledge to be essential to the preservation of freedom and religion. The second text named at the head of this discourse teaches this, at least in part: Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.  Here the loss of liberty is ascribed to ignorance; and this, as we have seen corresponds with reason, and, as we shall see, with experience also. In another place it is said, “For the transgressions of a land, many are the princes thereof;” that is, frequent changes and revolutions occur; “but by a man of understanding and knowledge, the state thereof shall be lengthened out. Again, it is said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” Again, “Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation.’ 
 
If it be objected that the term knowledge, in the scriptures, usually means religious knowledge, and therefore, does not embrace modern science and literature, whose acquisition is the chief thing in what we education, it may be answered, first, that the term knowledge, in such texts as have just been quoted, did embrace every kind of intellectual acquisition that entered into the Jewish system of education; of which, however, religion constituted nearly the whole. Again, who will deny that the religious applications of modern science and literature constitute their most important use? Nay, what principle of science (and of literature we may say nearly the same,) does not afford some illustration of the divine character, or government, or of man’s moral relations, and may not, therefore, be properly called a religious truth? Furthermore, it will be confessed that the moral and religious teachings and applications of modern education are precisely the principles that are the most important to the preservation of a nation’s freedom and happiness. So that what the Bible says of the bearings of knowledge and of ignorance upon a nation’s destinies may be applied to the most valuable and perfect system of modern education.
 
But the Bible proceeds a step farther, and shows us what is the character of the man who is most perfectly fitted to the exercise and enjoyment of freedom. This is pointed out in the third passage prefixed to this discourse: “If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” That is, if the transforming power of the gospel has been exerted upon a man, so that he has become free from the power of sin, he is every whit free, a freeman of the Lord, fitted rightly to appreciate and become a champion of civil liberty. The Jews resented the imputation of Christ that they were not free, and said, “We be Abraham’s see, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, verily, verily, I say unto you, whosoever committeth sin is a servant of sin.” Till that chain be broken, he cannot be truly free; as the poet has finely expressed it:
“He is the freeman, whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves besides.”
 
Finally, in the organization of the Christian church, as exhibited in the Bible, we have a divine testimony to the intimate connection between Christianity, Freedom and Education. It seems difficult to read the aspired history of the establishment of the church impartially, without coming to the conclusion that is was a pure democracy, or, rather, its government seems to be what may be called a Theocratic Democracy; by which I mean, a government of the people, and yet they are governed by the law of God, and their administration consists mainly in carrying out the divine law. Each church consisted of brethren, with equal rights. They elected their own pastor and deacons, disciplined their own members, settled their own difficulties, and were independent of other churches, except so far as they asked for advice. The pastors, too, were all equal, save so far as age, talents, or superior piety, gave any the precedence. I do not say that all Christian churches, in all circumstances, are required to be organized on such a republican model, The Jewish church, synonymous with the Jewish nation, was a theocracy; and I sincerely respect the opinion of eminent men, who have thought the diocesan and metropolitan forms of church government the best for men in other circumstances. I sincerely respect that opinion, I say, so long as they base it upon expediency, and not upon the Bible. That book certainly describes the primitive church, established by Christ and his apostles, as an institution thoroughly democratic; and is not this a strong testimony in favor a free civil governments? Especially when they, and they alone, harmonize with the whole spirit of Christianity, which regards all men as brethren of a common Father. Indeed, though the Bible directs Christians to obey whatever rulers Providence may have placed over them, so long as they are tolerable, yet where has it given a testimony in favor of any other, except a free government? 
 
In the characteristics of both of the members and the ministers of the church, which the bible has given, we find, also, a testimony in favor of education, as essential to the purity of religion and freedom. It demands, first of all, an intelligent and rational submission, of intellect and heart, to the authority and will of God; and then it directs believers to “prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good,” a requisition impossible to a mind entirely uneducated. The, too, if we read Paul’s descriptions of the ministerial character, especially in his epistle to Timothy, we shall see a demand for a very thorough mental discipline. Even under the old dispensation, it was said that “the priests’ lips should keep knowledge.” We are not, then surprised to hear Paul exhorting Timothy “to give attendance to reading, “ as well as exhortation and doctrine;” also, to ”meditate on these things, and to give himself wholly to them, that his profiting might appear to all: and that he might make full proof of his ministry.” Surely, nothing but thorough literary discipline could qualify a man for such a work. Theology, the noblest of all sciences, is but the quintessence of them all; and he only who has studied them can extract and condense it.
 
Is it not clear, then, that the Bible, while it places religion immeasurably above everything else, does yet, directly, or by fair implication, strongly advocate the most enlarged system of education, and the purest form of national freedom? And does it not represent the absence, or defects of the two latter, to be fatal or injurious to the former?
 
But I make my third appeal, in support of this position, to Experience; by which I mean history. And here the difficulty is not to find appropriate examples, but to make selections.
 
Let us first look at some examples where attempts have been made to sustain one or more of the institutions under consideration, while the rest were wanting.
 
The ancient Jewish state was an example, where the religious system, so far as it was developed, was pure, but the education was defective.    Excepting a knowledge of their own history and religion, there was almost nothing that could be called literature or science; and the views of the body of the people were very narrow and bigoted. Mark, now, some of the effects. One was, that in spite of the awakening power of a miraculous dispensation, and the repeated warning of Jehovah himself, and their strong national pride, they were almost constantly falling into the idolatry of the surrounding nations. Another was, that Jehovah found it desirable out of regard to what the scriptures call the “hardness of their hearts,” to allow certain practices among them, which most enlightened nations shrink from; such as polygamy, slavery, and bloody wars. Another effect was, that instead of allowing them freedom, it was necessary often for Jehovah not only to suffer them to have kings, but such kings “as would chastise them with whips and scorpions.” And notwithstanding all the wisdom of Jehovah, in managing their national affairs, and his mercies, judgments, and warnings, at the time of Christ they had become a province of the Roman empire, and their religion had degenerated into the whited sepulcher of phariseeism, or the yet more repulsive carcass of sadduceeism.
 
Look now at an opposite example, in the effort made in France, near the close of the last century, to establish freedom and education without religion. It was like an attempt to erect a noble edifice, without any foundation. It was worse; it was like placing such an edifice upon ground that was already rocking and heaving by the stifled fires of a terrific volcano. The fires of ferocious passions, fanned into sevenfold heat by the sirocco breath of atheism, id soon break for the beneath that temple of liberty, and it was blown to atoms; while streams of scorching lava were belched forth over every European nation, and the gloom of a military despotism settled down upon the fairest portion of the globe; the whole forming a memento of the terrible retribution that follows an effort to dethrone God and deify human reason.
 
Another fact which history furnishes, illustrative of this subject, is the intimate connection that has ever existed between despotism, ignorance, and false or perverted religion, par nobile fratrum . I am not aware of a single exception, in the whole annals of our world; and where the tyranny has been the most grinding, the religion has been the most corrupt, and the ignorance the most profound. As illustrations of this statement, in ancient times, memory shows imprinted on her tablet, Assyria and Media, Persia and Egypt; in the middle ages, almost the whole of Europe; and, in modern times, nearly all of Asia; over whom the triple-headed monster, above named, is seen enthroned in gloomy sovereignty, a snaky Gorgon, converting everything fair and lovely to stone by his hideous aspect. On such a soil, true religion, or popular education, or true freedom, could no more flourish than the palm tree on the glaciers of Spitzbergen.
 
It will doubtless be objected, that despotic governments have often been liberal patrons of learning and of art, and that countries thus governed, have produced many splendid examples of genius and scholarship. And why has this patronage been extended? Because such governments have learnt that knowledge is power; and so long as it is confined to comparatively few, they can monopolize it, and make it instrumental in upholding their authority. But they would not dare to extend its blessings to the community at large, because their power would be apt to change hands. Accordingly, we do not find that despotic governments encourage or permit the great body of their subjects to seek the blessings of an enlightened system of education; or if, in a few instance, they have made education somewhat popular, they have found themselves compelled, ere long, to allow more liberty to their subjects.
 
All the ancient republics, and most of the modern, furnish us with examples of the blighting influence of false religion upon popular education and freedom. It will not be doubted that, in the ancient republics, much freedom of thought and action was enjoyed by certain classes; and we know that literature and speculative philosophy were carried to a high degree of perfection; and that the fine arts, also, were most successfully cultivated. We are apt, however, to be dazzled and deceived by the splendor of those literary and artistic productions, that have escaped the ravages of time, and are yet the models of style and taste. We need to ascertain what was the character of the freedom enjoyed in those republics, and what the condition of the mass of the people. Accordingly, history informs us that, in the Athenian and Lacedaemonian states, as large majority were slaves, over whom their masters exercised the power of life and death, and whom they treated with the most inhuman rigor. Nay, since the debtor became, ipso facto, the slave of the creditor, a large part of those nominally free were in fact bondmen. Those, then, who were really free, constituted, in truth, only a numerous nobility, or aristocracy; so that the government was really an oligarchy. The military spirit, also, controlled and moulded every thing else; and we know how, in Sparta, it obliterated the domestic relations, justified theft and deception, and substituted an iron-hearted martial law for the tender charities of life. If the fine arts were cultivated in the Grecian states, yet agriculture and commerce were neglected and despised.
 
In Rome, the state of things was no better. There you find the same horrid system of slavery; the same right of life and death in the hands of the father and the master over the child and the slave, resulting in the practice of infanticide, murder, and gladiatorial combats. There, too, the patricians were engaged in endless contests for power with the plebeians; yet all united in submitting to the severest military discipline to the severest military discipline, and, while professedly free themselves, in subjecting all other nations to an iron yoke. In short, while you find a small part of the people, a numerous aristocracy, boasting of freedom, and well educated for the times, the great mass are left ignorant and in servitude, and the whole community is moulded by a martial code, inflexible and bloody, which, indeed, nourished some of the sterner virtues, but stifled the tender charities of life; and while it guarded with jealous care the honor and liberties of the state, kept a large multitude in hopeless servitude at home, and with insatiable ambition preyed upon surrounding nations, till the world and the Roman empire became synonymous terms.
 
Suppose now any one of the systems of government that were adopted by these ancient republics, with its military spirit, its slavery, and its religion, were to be introduced into New England. What a contrast to the systems of government, religion, education, and social life, which now exist among us! Who of use would not rather choose any of the monarchical, nay, even of the despotic, systems of civilized Europe?
 
After all, however, there were many noble hearts in those ancient republics, in whom the true spirit of freedom glowed, and who did all they could to impart true liberty and knowledge to their fellow men. What then were the causes that counteracted their efforts, and rendered it impossible for a true system of freedom, or of education, to succeed; which in fact marred and blackened the fair countenance of liberty and civilization with some of the most hideous features of despotism and barbarism? The philosophical historian and politician have long attempted to answer these enquiries; and doubtless some of the causes they have assigned, were powerfully instrumental of such results: But they seem to have overlooked one great source of influence, and that is, religion. They speak, indeed, of the necessity of public virtue to the purity and preservation of freedom: but they seem not to realize that virtue, which springs not from religion, is spurious and ephemeral, and that consequently, if the religion be false, or corrupt, the virtue, the freedom, and education, will be proportionably defective. True, the polytheism of Greece and Rome was the least offensive heathenism, modified as it was by philosophy and poetry, which the world ever saw. Still it was false enough, and pernicious enough, to permit opinions and practices inconsistent with genuine freedom and popular education.
 
Were there time, it would be easy to point out similar corrupting and paralyzing influences, emanating from perverted systems of religion, upon most modern republics. But this would require too much of detail for the present occasion.
 
The history of the efforts made to establish governments in South America, and in Mexico, strikingly illustrates and confirms the position taken in this discourse. The people there doubtless wonder why their exertions to build up free institutions have produced only a succession of civil wars, with short intervals of military despotism. But when we learn the intolerant character of their religion, we wonder not at the ignorance and superstition of the people; nor that they cannot be governed by any thing save despotic power. To expect freedom with such a religion, and such ignorance, is like looking for grapes upon thorns, and figs upon thistles.
 
Another historic fact illustrative of this argument, is, that a state religion has always exerted an unfavorable influence upon popular education and civil and religious liberty. The mere existence of a state religion, indeed, puts an end to religious freedom, by the bestowment of governmental patronage upon one denomination, and thus leaving the others, at best, to exist by mere sufferance. Despotism has always found religion a most convenient instrument for riveting its chains upon the people. The state first embraces religion, as if for protection, but soon throttles it, and then uses its lifeless form as a speaking trumpet, through which is proclaimed the divine right of kings, the duty of unreserved submission to their authority, and other anti-republican dogmas. Witness Turkey, Italy, Russia, and Austria; and, I might add, almost every Asiatic kingdom. There you see the perfected fruit of a union of church and state, in the almost total ignorance, degradation, and servitude, of the people. In some milder governments, however, as Great Britain, and Prussian, and other German States, the attempt has been made to combine state religion with education of the people at large; and Prussia especially presents us with a model system, so far as the mode of instruction is concerned. But the government directs what shall be taught the people, and takes special care that monarchical principles and was doctrines shall be instilled. And since every educated man depends upon the Government for a place, either in the state, the army, or the church, very little of true freedom of opinion can be enjoyed. Nor will a New England man think very highly of the system of popular education in Great Britain, Scotland excepted, when he learns, that of the sixteen million of England and Wales, nearly half cannot write their names, and nearly one third cannot read their mother tongue. Surely there must be some powerful obstacle to the diffusion of knowledge in such a country; but a state religion and a system of aristocracy explain it all. Of all monarchical countries, however, Great Britain possesses the most freedom, the most intelligence, and the most rue religion; and would she divorce church and state, almost the last incubus would be removed from her prosperity and happiness.
 
But the arbitrary governments, especially on the continent of Europe, are beginning to learn, that to instruct the people at large, is a hazardous experiment, even though the system of instruction be carefully adapted to the support of their power and the state religion. For if you once put the human mind upon thinking, it will not always stop where you would have it. And in the countries referred to, the people are demanding at lest the right of popular representation in the government: and though cannon and bayonets may for a time stifle this demand, it will soon gather explosive force enough, if not regarded, to rend the throne to atoms. The rocking thrones of continental Europe, clearly evince that education is in advance of liberty and religion. But the reciprocal influence that exists between them, will ere long bring them upon a level; by elevating the two later, as we may hope, and not by sinking the former.
 
History furnishes another support to this argument, in the fact, that the countries most distinguished for freedom and general education, are those where the Bible is most widely circulated. For examples we may refer to the United States, Scotland, and Iceland. The latter country, separated from all the world, with arctic snows upon, and volcanic fires beneath its surface, and too poor to be an object of cupidity, though nominally subject to the Danish government, is in reality a free state; and is blessed with a most effective, though peculiar, system of education, and with primitive simplicity of piety. Scotland, too, is nominally a part of a monarchical empire. But it were to be wished that all republics enjoyed as much liberty, and their people were as well educated, and their virtue and piety as pure and elevated. With the exceptions above referred to, we might say the same of England, where the Bible has a wide distribution. The republic of Switzerland too, may be quoted as a striking illustration of this argument. For here we have professedly free states, lying side by side, in some of which, the Bible is restrained in its circulation, and in others it is widely diffused; and it is said that the traveler needs no map to inform him when he has passed from one description of these provinces into the other. 
 
Now it needs no time spent to show, that if education and liberty follow in the track of the Bible, and with a few unimportant exceptions are cramped and sickly where that book is not diffused, it requires, I say, no labored argument to show that that book is eminently favorable to free institutions and popular instruction. But if further evidence on this point be required, we have it in the history of the Scotch Covenanters and the English Puritans.
 
Little did these men, who for two hundred years suffered an unrelenting persecution from despots and hierarchs, imagine that they were working out and giving to the world the great principles of civil and religious liberty. Driven from their native land by the persecutions of Mary, Providence sent them to Geneva, where, in the church founded by such men as Farel and Calvin, they found freedom of opinion, and rights of conscience asserted. Having caught the spirit of that church, when permitted to return to England and Scotland, they could not resist the impulse to establish religious freedom there. But in this attempt, they found that they could not secure freedom of conscience, without securing also civil liberty. Hence, they threw themselves manfully into the contest, and the result was the independence of Scotland, and the establishment of the Commonwealth of England. A later, but still more important result, was the settlement of this country, by men who drew their religious principles directly from the Bible, and who carried their lofty ideas of religious freedom into civil constitution, and into all their plans of education. To these men, therefore, was the world indebted for the first clear development of the true principles of civil and religious freedom. To them, says Hume, the English people owe the whole freedom of their constitution; and as a more recent and eloquent writer observes, “then were first proclaimed those mighty principles which have since worked their way into the depths of the American forest, which have roused Greece from the slavery and degradation of two thousand years, and which, from one end of Europe to the other, have kindled an unquenchable fire in the hearts of the oppressed, and loosed the knees of the oppressors with unwonted fear.”*
 
Such is what may be called the inseparable Trio, Religion, Education, and Freedom. And such are the arguments by which it is proved how strongly linked together they are, by a chain of influence that conveys with electric speed, the strength and purity, or the weakness and corruption, of one, to all the rest.
 
The subject suggests a multitude of important inferences:  And with a brief notice of a few, I will relieve your exhausted patience.
 
1)      It shows us the reason why arbitrary governments and corrupt religions have been so much afraid of the circulation of the Bible.
 
*Macaulay
Their supporters have usually been sagacious enough to discover that the Bible is a stern advocate for civil and religious freedom, and uncompromising towards all corruptions of its spirit.   They know that the man, who submits himself fully and sincerely to its principles and spirit, becomes thoroughly republican and hostile to false doctrine. Hence, they sympathize with the priest of a perverted Christianity in England, soon after the art of printing had begun to multiply copies of the scriptures: “we must root out printing,” said he in his sermon, “or printing will root us out.” This was a true prediction; and in these times we are witnessing its fulfillment.
 
2) The subject shows us that the religious element is fundamental, in order to the support of free institutions.
 
Nor is it a false religion, or a perverted Christianity, that will do this: but there must be genuine piety in the community, or liberty will ere long degenerate, if it does not utterly expire. And it was the lot of Puritanism, for the first time in this world’s history, to discover, and by its sufferings, and struggles, and triumphs, to demonstrate, this most important of all principles in the science of government. Even yet the world is purblind to this truth; and men are everywhere struggling for liberty, and expecting to sustain it when acquired, though religion have but a feeble hold upon the community. And when they are disappointed, as they always are, where pure religion does not prevail, enlightened statesmen seem in general to overlook this fundamental defect, and attempt to account for the failure upon other principles. Bu the Puritan has ever been distinguished, and in almost every country but our own, has been hated and persecuted, not more for the uncompromising features of his theology, than for the stern independence of his character. Yet that independence is founded in his religion, and not till his views prevail, and his example be imitated, will men come into the full realization of their dreams of freedom.
 
3) The subject shows us that the prevalence of true religion will ensure the prevalence of education and liberty.
 
Christianity is as stern an advocate of education among all classes, as for the freedom of all. Nor can it conceal features so strongly marked: so that wherever it prevails in its purity, it will insist upon enlightening men’s minds, and in breaking from their necks every yoke. And here too, Puritanism has set the example. Wherever she has planted her foot, her first care has been, to rear a temple to Jehovah, then to found the College, the Academy, and the Primary School.
 
4) We see how important to the defence and purity of true religion, are education and freedom, among all classes of the community.
 
Though an ignorant man and a slave may exercise pious feelings, he can neither defend Christianity against skeptical objections, nor accurately expound its doctrines, nor guard its spirit against the frosts of formalism, or the wildfire of fanaticism. When the metaphysician, by subtle arguments, attempts to show that the external world has no existence, and consequently no argument can thence be deduced for the being of a God: when the phrenologist makes virtue and vice dependent rather upon cranial conformation, than upon moral cases; when the physiologist maintains that mental phenomena are a mere function of the brain, and that organic beings, as well as all natural operations, may be the result of law, without a Deity; when the astronomer demonstrates that the earth is not fixed, nor does the sun literally rise and set, as it was formerly supposed the Bible taught; when the geologist describes a preadamite earth of indefinite duration, and the chemist declares that the world has already been burnt, and therefore, can undergo no future conflagration; and when the philologist throws doubts over the obvious meaning of scripture, and converts its plainest truths into enigmas; and when baptized philosophy makes divine and poetic inspiration synonymous: O, what but ripe learning can harmonize all these apparently discordant elements, and vindicate and enucleate the pure truths of the Bible! And what but general intelligence can secure the mass of the community, amid such angry waves, from making shipwreck of the faith.
 
5) The subject shows us when it may be safe and expedient to unite church and state.
 
Let no one be startled when we maintain that church and state should be united at the proper time. The only difficulty is, that men have attempted it too early. We have endeavored to show that the government of the church, as described in the New Testament, is a democracy, where the members are governed by supreme love to God, and equal love to all mankind. Now suppose the church to be enlarged till it embraces all the world, and all its members conform strictly to these great principles. Suppose moreover, that all civil governments become strictly republican, and the rulers take the law of God as the basis of all political action. How much, in such a case, would the church differ form the state? Unless there are political measures that have no moral character, the two institutions would be nearly, perhaps precisely, synonymous. Both of them would be, what I have called a Theocratic Democracy; and there would be buy one government and one church in all the earth. That would indeed be the perfect state of society, so much talked of, and so little understood. When such a state of the world arrives, alas, how long will it be delayed! Then let church and state be united. Indeed you cannot keep them apart. But till then their union will be as incongruous and incoherent, as the parts of Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold, brass, iron, and clay.
 
6) We se in this subject the reason why so many efforts to secure freedom, have failed of success.
 
Men under despotic rulers, suppose that the grand point is to obtain their freedom: whereas a much greater difficulty is to secure it. Knowing the character of religion, and the state of education in France, before the Revolution of 1789, and in South America, more recently, we might have predicted the anarchy and the despotism that followed the efforts in those countries to establish independence. As republicans, it was indeed natural for us to entertain hopes, that the recent convulsive efforts in continental Europe to establish free institutions, would not be wholly blasted. But we were too forgetful of the state of religion, and of general education in those countries. If a people, who scruple not to hold their political elections, their inductions to office, their public festivals, and their military reviews, on the Sabbath, can long maintain a pure republicanism, then the history of the world hitherto must go for nothing as a means of judging of the future. The same may be said essentially of that nation where the popular mind is left uninstructed. And when we recollect, moreover, what millions are ready, at the beck of despots and hierarchs, to smother every cry for freedom, we ought to have been prepared to hear the dying shriek of liberty, which reached us before the last year’s close, from every one of these countries but France; and for those rapid developments even there, which show her citizens yet unprepared for free institutions. These nations, it may be hope, will not sink back into as deep a political night as before: yet we may be sure they will sink to the level of the religion and the education among the people.
 
7) This subject shows us that nations, as well as individuals, should make the principles of the Bible the basis of their policy and their treatment of one another.
 
Strange that any other doctrine should have been promulgated: and that the same men, who acknowledge their individual obligation to love their neighbor as themselves, to do unto others as they would that other should do unto them, and to bless them by whom they are persecuted, and even to love their enemies, should maintain that principles of expediency and policy, should take the place of moral principles in managing the affairs of nations. For what reason can be urged to bind individuals to conform to the rules of the Bible, which will not apply to nations; and if pure religion be, as we have endeavored to show, the most important of all the foundations on which a nation’s liberty and true glory rest, can that people expect prosperity, if its government substitute something else as the guide of their measures? And yet, had governments conducted towards one another according to Gospel principles, what an amount of blood and treasure would have been spared, and what an amount of happiness secured!
 
8) In the eighth place, if these three great interests of the community are thus inseparable, then should the different classes, appointed for their protection and advancement, be united also.
 
He whose special business it is to watch over and defend the interests of religion, should be in sympathy and harmony with those whose lives are devoted to the cause of education; and with those who are appointed to manage our political concerns. And so should these latter classes reciprocate that sympathy towards the guardians of religion. They all should mutually realize, that if the interests of any one of the trio are not properly and efficiently provided for, the interests of the others will suffer also. Instead of indulging illiberal prejudices towards one another all should feel as if they had a common cause to sustain, and as if a wound could not be inflicted upon one, without reaching the whole. Thus would they form a three fold cord, which, both scripture and experience testify, is not quickly broken.
 
Finally, the subject defines the great outlines of that policy which the rulers of Massachusetts should ever pursue.
 
Far be it from me to allude to particular political measures in the presence of the constituted authorities of this Commonwealth. But my office and my subject force me to speak of the great principles on which a government, founded by the Pilgrims, should be conducted. Their first and constant aim was, to establish and foster the institutions of Religion, Education, and Freedom. To sustain Religion, they found it only necessary to allow perfect freedom of opinion, and to protect all in the peaceful exercise of those forms of worship which conscience dictates to be right. They had learnt by bitter experience, that to take religion into the embrace of the state, was only to cramp its vital powers, and convert it into a furious persecuting demon. Education, too, they did not attempt to bring under governmental control; but only by liberal benefactions to stimulate individual efforts. And with such a religion, and such means of education, they did not doubt that the people would select those men to manage their political affairs, who would defend their liberties, and wisely administer the government. It is a matter of just gratulation, that all who have filled the places of honor and trust, once occupied by the Pilgrims, in these respects have followed essentially their system of policy. On questions of political expediency they have had different opinions; but on these fundamental principles, they have all been united. Indeed, no Massachusetts statesman could outlive the storm, which a desertion of these principles would bring upon him. To honor and sustain religion, diffuse knowledge among the people, and preserve true liberty, this is a policy as settled in Massachusetts as the laws of the Medes and Persians. She cannot hope for superiority by her numbers, extent of territory, or any natural advantages. But by the fostering care of a free government over her religious and literary institutions, she can qualify and send forth, as she already has done, strong men into every part of the earth, to place a lever beneath the adobes of ignorance, sin and despotism, and lift them up into the sunshine of Christianity, civilization and freedom.
 
To give Massachusetts such a character, is the noble work committed to the constituted Authorities of the State now before me. We congratulate them upon the honor of occupying seats made sacred by6 so long a line of illustrious men, with so illustrious a beginning. It is indeed a distinction to be coveted, to take the place of such men, and to have confided to your management, interests so momentous. And it is a delightful evidence that the spirit of our fathers still lingers here, to find His Excellency, the Governor, His Honor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable Council, the Honorable Senate, and the House of Representative, instead of converting the Sabbath into a holiday, or a business day, converting a business day into a Sabbath, and calling to their aid the ministers of the Gospel, that at the commencement of their responsible duties, they may recognize their dependence upon an overruling Providence, and baptize their legislation with the spirit of religion.
 
It is gratifying also to know, that the ling and eminent public services of the beloved statesmen who, for six successive years have filled the two highest places in the Executive Department of the Government, have been a practical exemplification of the principles which I have advocated in this discourse; and therefore, although I have given them no instruction, I feel almost sure that I have had their sympathy. Their oft repeated reelection, affords evidence that the people of Massachusetts are not tired of hearing their rulers called “the Just.” Nor can I doubt that all the other gentlemen composing the government and elected by the same people, are imbued with the like spirit; and that their legislation the present session, will show, that they regard Religion, Education, and Freedom, as inseparable. God give them success in a career so noble and important! And God inspire all their successors with the like spirit. Then, though by the expansion of our national territory, Massachusetts should become relatively almost a point; yet shall it be a point radiant with the light of Piety, of Learning, and of Liberty. And as the stars in the heavens above us, that revolve within the circle of perpetual apparition, never sink below the horizon, so shall this Commonwealth ever shine bright in the political hemisphere; a morning star, to usher in the full daylight of civilization, of freedom, and of happiness, to the benighted and oppressed in all the earth.

 

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