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practice, of sufficient force, to resist the passions of men. Oaths of office, and of testimony, alike, without the sense of accountableness to God, and the realizing belief of a future retribution, would become mere words of course, and be employed only to insult the Creator, deprave the juror, and cheat his fellow men. Thus with the loss of religion, all human confidence would be blown up, and the security of life, liberty, and property, buried in the ruins.
In aid of these observations, I allege that no free government has ever existed long, without the support of religion. Athens, Sparta, and Rome, stood and fell with their religion, false and gross as it was ; because it contained some of those great truths, and solemn sanctions, without which, man can possess no conscience, exercise no virtue, and find no safety. To religion, Great Britain owes her happiness and permanency, and we may say to this celestial denizen in every period of our prosperity, (as the devout and humble Christian to his God), “ Having obtained help of thee, we have continued to this time.”
In the history of the globe there is recorded but one attempt, seriously made, to establish a free government without religion. From this attempt has sprung new proof, that such a government, stripped of this aid, cannot exist. The government thus projected, was itself never established, but was a mere abortion, exhibiting doubtful signs of life at his birth, and possessing this dubious existence, only, as an ephemeron. During its diurnal life, it was the greatest scourge, (particularly to those for whom it was formed) and generally to the rest of mankind, which the world has ever seen. Instead of being a free, just, and beneficent system of administration, it was more despotic than a Persian caliphate ; more wasteful of life, and all its blessings, than an inundation of Goths and Vandals ; those who lived under it, and either originated or executed its measures, were the authors of more crimes than any collection of men, since the termination of that gigantic wickedness, from which nothing but an universal deluge, could cleanse this polluted world. These evils were the result of the only experiment ever made, of erecting a government without religion, until the remembrance of this experiment shall have been lost, it can never be made again.*
* To the astonishment of every sober man, France exhibited the spectacle of 25,000,000 of the human race, prostrating themselves, with religious reverence, before the word reason.
Louis XVI, the meekest and mildest monarch, ever elevated to the throne of France, was massacred with his family; and such of his subjects as were distinguished for probity and worth, were entombed in prisons, or made the food of the Guillotine. The realm was drenched in blood, and manured with the corpses of Frenchmen, murdered by Frenchmen; all the surrounding countries smoked with conflagration and slaughter. Republic after republic was blotted out of existence. In the cause and for the sake of liberty, the Bible, and the vessels of the eucharist, were paraded through the streets in mock procession, to degrade religion and its God. The former was laid on a bonfire, and the latter were polluted by a company of modern Belshazzars.
For the sake of liberty the Sabbath was abolished, and the decade instituted in its place, as a day set apart for villany and pollution, that ample opportumity might be furnished, of enjoying, without reins, the horrors of the club, or the brutism of the brothel. In fine, the souls of men, I mean of Frenchmen, (for the national convention were not, I presume, invested with dominion over the souls of other men,) were, for the sake of liberty, doomed by the legislature of France, to eternal sleep, in the dreary caverns of annihilation.
I am well aware that in spite of this, and any other reasoning, in spite of demonstration itself, there are men, who may, and in all probability, will say, that however good and useful the public worship of God may be, they do not wish to avail themselves of its benefits, and owe therefore no contributions to its support. To these men I reply, that he who has no children, or who does not wish to send his children to school, and he who does not use the roads and bridges of his country, because he is either necessitated or inclined to stay at home, may exactly on the same ground, claim an exemption from supporting schools, roads, and bridges. To such an objector, conviction and principle are out of the question--arguments to enforce a public duty, are addressed to a heart of stone, and an intellect of lead. If you attempt to persuade him that he is in an error, by reasoning, facts, and proofs, he regards you with a mixture of pity and contempt, for weakly opposing your twilight probabilities to his noon-day certainty, and for preposterously labouring to illumine the sun with a taper.
Sitting in the seat of the scorner, and being one of those men, whom the wise prince has told us, is given to change, he is either from infidelity, unwilling to attend upon ordinances, or from enthusiasm, fancying himself above them, he becomes dissatisfied with the religious institutions of his forefathers, and censorious of the clergy. A wanderer after every straggling exhorter, and every bewildered tenet, he is carried away by every wind of doctrine, and veers from one folly and falsehood, to another and another, throughout his life. This conduct is often challenged as the mere exereise of the rights of conscience, but conscience is equally a stranger to the conduct and the man.
Those who consider the legislature in supporting the public worship of God, as doing that which is unlawful, found this doctrine upon what they conceive to be revelation; in supportof which they quote such texts as the following,—“ freely ye have received, freely give.”
Every man, who soberly alleges scruples of conscience, in any case, has a claim to be answered, with seriousness and delicacy.