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prolongation of this glorious epoch. It took place when, after the first era, human depravity unrestrained had deluged the earth with crimes and blood; and after the second era, when human naturé, únder favorable circumstances, had another trial of self-government and had failed—when pride, in both cases, had gone before destruction, and the haughty spirit before a fall; it was at this juncture that a new dispensation was ushered in, intended to show, that whilst men and nations without God, be come proud and hasten to extinction; with God, and by the grace of God, they may achieve triumphs without pride, and may earn and insure immortality without self-idolatry: From this date onward a new face entirely is given to the moral aspects of the world. This religion is designed to have an all-controlling sway over men and over masses of men over individual and national character. To existing nations not embracing or obstinately rejeeting christianity a certain period of probation will no doubt be given. But the Almighty will vindicate its claims, as the last grand experiment on fallen humanity.
As yet we can scarcely be said to have had a perfect model of a christian nation. I do not regard the Roman state under Constantine as such. There was too much pride and paganism there. It was christianity with its incipient corruptions, rendered still more corrupt by a partial amalgamation with paganism. The pomp and pageantry of that ambitious emperor ill-assorted with the humility and simplicity of the real cross. A state religion, I apprehend, can never be otherwise ; certainly not whilst the power of human depravity is as strong as it now is. I would make a difference between a state religion and religion acknowledged by and influencing the state. To God, under all circumstances, must be rendered the things of God, whilst Cæsar, in all his principles and doings, must humbly defer to Him who is “the King of kings and the Lord of lords.” Politics must have the sanction of religion, or they have no substantial basis, and can have no virtuous efficiency.
The error with Constantine consisted in an effort to strengthen religion by an appeal to human pride. The very thing with which christianity is at war was forced, as an unnatural ally, into her service. Hence the splendid cathedrals—the showy ritualthe gorgeous vestments of the priesthood. How in contrast was all this with the meek and lowly Jesus! This savoured of the lofty looks and pride of man. No wonder, then, that the church became more corrupt and the state more insecure. A proud hierarchy grew up under the wing of the empire; and overshadowing the empire itself, aimed at length at universal dominion. The secular and the spiritual power became united in one sceptre, and under this twofold despotism the human soul for ages forgot the very sentiment of liberty. This hierarchy claims the venerable name and the exclusive privileges of christianity, pretending that power is hers alone "to bind and to loose," and coolly turns over to damnation all who are without her jurisdiction. Who could have supposed, standing on some fête-day in the porch of St. Peter's, and viewing the regal priesthood as it defiles in splendor under its lofty dome, that all this originated in the lowly circumstances of Jesus and his impoverished disciples ? Fearful are the prophecies which foreshadow the doom of this presumptuous system of baptized idolatry. “For the day of the Lord shall be upon her hills that are lifted up; and upon her high towers, and upon her fenced walls, and upon all her pleasant pictures, and the haughtiness of her power shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day." Yet must it not be forgotten, that even amidst her appalling wickedness there remained secreted in her cloisters enough of the christian religion to operate as a conservative influence amid the general wreck of nations. The smothered spark of existence was there. Christianity, bound and fettered, heard at length the voice of her deliverer; and when at the era of the Reformation she came forth, her beauty was undimmed and her power undiminished.
I regard the long night of papal despotism as another experiment, if not the very last, of human weakness in contrast with the simple grace of God. Men were left to mix up religion with the pride of power—to use it as an iron sceptre over the trembling conscience-to wrest it out of its legitimate sphere, making it the lever of ghostly authority, instead of the regenerator of the human soul. That experiment--so awful in its consequences—is, we have reason to thank God, hastening to its close. Religion is now better understood. Her province is now conceded to be, a renewing influence on the heart and life. Instead of sealing up the word of God, she opens its page to the people as well as to the priesthood.
The religion of the Bible is hereafter to be emphatically the test of national endurance and of national prosperity.
Mohammedism is not only on the wane, but is hastening rapidly to its tomb. The followers of the false prophet, by inscribing the crescent on their war-standards, have symbolically “turned the moon into blood.” Let them not be surprised to see the red symbol of their power extinguished in blood; for “HE,” said Jesus, “who taketh the sword shall perish with the sword.”
Papacy, by the voice of prophecy, must die. It is the very personification of lofty looks and arrogant pretensions. It “opposeth and exalteth itself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ; so that as God, it sitteth in the temple of God, showing itself that it is God.” Its doom is sealed, alike by the Bible and by the tendency of its own policy. The human mind
is too far emancipated to be quiescent under its imposed fetters. This Goliath of Gath has strode across the Atlantic, and is now defying the armies of Israel in this land of their inheritance. Let not the vauntings of the foe intimidate us. The word of God, like the simple weapon of the shepherd youth, shall smite him to the dust.
It seems to me that we have now arrived where the clouds have in some measure cleared off, and the moral scenery of the universe is well-defined. We occupy a post of observation, from whence we can survey, backward and forward, the vast movements of providence, and can deduce the clear intimations of the Divine will. We are on the third era of human existence, the most eventful of the whole, and we cannot be at a loss as to what the path of duty is. I have no hesitation, therefore, in declaring as my settled belief, that any nation which does not connect itself with the true religion, as its conservative principle, is destined to a speedy extinction.
This may be inferred from what has already been said. The historical argument is forcible. It is with nations as with indi. viduals, without Christ and his religion they can do nothing, that is, they cannot prosper in a way to render the government enduring and the people happy. If history speaks any truth, it speaks this. Nor is it difficult to see that what history announces reason corroborates. It would be easy to show that human nature, without the influence of religion, is incapable of self-government. But on this discussion we cannot now enter. All that remains is to point out some dangers to which even protestant or christian nations are exposed.
I am no advocate for a union of church and state, but I am in favor of the union or intermixture of RELIGION with the state. Moral principle, having for its source the Bible, must lie at the basis of our government. Any other foundation-as for instance a selfish policy, otherwise termed expediency-is but a foundation of sand. I consider the proclamation, under which we this day convene, as a union of religion with the state ; but every one must see there is no union of church and state. I look upon the daily religious services in the halls of Congress as a union of religion with the state. I consider the general respect paid by the government to the moral sense of the people, in the discontinuance of official duties on the Sabbath, as expressive of the same thing. So far as all this goes, it betokens good for the nation.
But it is noticeable that an extreme jealousy seems to have been entertained by many, in relation to the influence which religion and religious men might exert upon the government. The danger, in my opinion, lies on the other extreme. The tendency has been not to lean too much upon religion, but to refuse her help altogether. There being among us no church establishment, the tendency has been to discard even that moral strengh of which the church is but the organized symbol. This has been and this continues to be our point of danger. Self-government is the pride and boast of Americans. Public sentiment-well or ill founded —is the deity we are in danger of worshipping.“ Free and independent”-the watchwords of the revolution-have been rung in our ears for half a century. See ye no tendency in all this to swing clear of our dependence even on the God of nations? We boast of what we have done, and we boast of what we intend to do. We glory in the past and we forestal a revenue of glory for the future. Is it not enough that we refuse to succumb to any or to all the powers of earth-must we declare off even from the Sovereign of the universe ? Is it wise for a nation but little more than half a century old to treat with indifference the offered arm of Omnipotence? Is it wise, with the examples already cited before us, to rest on mere human wisdom, or on any theory of government, however perfect, which that wisdom has has originated? The tendency, I repeat, even with christian nations, is to rest in man-to glory in man-to set up the state as an idol--to talk of their statesmen as if they were gods, and of their power as if it were omnipotent, and of their resources as if they were exhaustless. What arrogant language do even christian nations adopt! Who is she that styles herself the mistress of the ocean? Proud and presumptuous nation! Her usurpation of heaven's prerogatives is not unregarded in the council-chamber of the Eternal. The time may come when this haughty diction shall be brought low. What are her floating batteries but feathers in the hands of God! How easily could that ocean--of which she styles herself and is styled the mistress--play in derision with her mighty armaments, and then swallow them up for ever! She is a christian nation, we admit; she has performed many noble achievements; but her lofty style savors of anything but of ehristian humility. Whatever part she may be destined to act in the great developments of the the third era, she is yet to be humbled ere that office can be meekly fulfilled. She must put herself upon her knees, or God may see fit to place her in that position by unlooked-for judgments.
Humility is as becoming to a nation as it is to an individual. Never since our country had an existence has she stood in a more sublime attitude than she this day assumes whilst doing homage to the God of nations. She has been hitherto a recreant child. She was nursed on the bosom of piety. She was rocked in the cradle of persecution. From first to last she has been the child of providence. Amid the storm of elements--the howling wildernessthe savage foe, what could have saved her from extinction but the hand of God ? Again her existence was in peril. She was seen
planting her foot against arbitrary power, backed by the stern arguments of fleets and armies. What succour less than Omnipotent could have sustained her then? For seven long years she tracked her way to liberty, with bleeding feet. In that night of despondency was not God her friend? Did He not set the daystar of freedom on the brow of the firmament to cheer her desolate spirit? Did He not send an angel of mercy to guide her through the conflict? Can all this be forgotten; or must it be remembered to eulogize only the instruments-to glory only in the results--whilst the unseen hand of God is disregarded ? And now that she reposes on the basis of a free constitution, enjoying privileges that were bought with blood, and a prosperity which contrasts strongly with
the afflictions of her youth, shall she forget that she was the child of Providence? Shall she turn against her foster-mother, true religion, and talk and act as if she no longer needed her aid? Can this be done without incurring the displeasure of heaven? Yet this has been done. Fast were we marching in the track of ungodly France. We not only imitated her fashions, but we borrowed her philosophy. We caught the tone of her reckless materialism. We talked as if the state was our deity, on whose altar every thing must be sacrificed, even religion itself. Our congress could meet for business on God's holy day, and thus practically put the claims of politics above those of religion. From the high places of power and trust there went forth a malign influence, against which the ministers of religion and the ministers of justice united their strength in vain. A reckless law-defying spirit seemed to be in the ascendancy. The tyranny of the mob-worse a thousand fold than the tyranny of a monarch-threatened not only to disturb the peace of society, but to uproot the very pillars of public justice. Like the prodigal in Scripture, this nation seemed bent on spending the rich inheritance which God has given it, in riotous living. The very liberty for which our father's fought and bled, seemed fast coming into actual jeopardy.
We were becoming also a nation of gamblers. The citizen played for stocks, and the agriculturist for farms. The spirit of avarice under the plausible name of speculation, was let loose upon the whole community; so that even the hallowed precincts of our churches were in danger of being converted, like the temple of Jerusalem, into places of merchandise. As a vast community, it may be said of us, that we sacrificed to covetousness the highest moral considerations. The accumulation of wealth was the all-engrossing object of pursuit. If religion interposed her authority between the votary of the world and the object of his heart's desire, her authority was trampled under foot. If a pecuniary loss was threatened by carrying out a religious principle, the principle was not carried out. How has mammon swayed his tyrant dominion