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fear of God, or vital piety, be a peculiar beauty and excellence in civil rulers; yet those, who have no love to the gospel, may be great and useful statesmen. It is an absurd sentiment, that civil dominion is foupded in grace, and that none but the subjects of Christ's kingdom are qualified to rule in the kingdoms of men. But still, none are fit to be intrusted with civil power who believe and maintain, that all religion and religious teachers are a burden, rather than a benefit to civil society. This absurd and pernicious opinion, must give a dangerous turn to their public as weil as private conduct. And should they only have an opportunity, they would exert their power, to banish not only the appearance, but even the existence of religion from the face of the earth, and do all that in them lies, to subvert the foundations of government. Politicians of this description, lately seized the opportunity offered them, to carry their infidel opinion into practice; and they ordained, that there should be no teachers, nor even object of religion, in the nation. They denied the existence of God, destroyed the professed ministers of the gospel, and set the people free from all the motives and obligations of religion And what were the consequences of this bold and presumptuous attempt to govern without the ministers of religion, and without the motives of eternity? We know they were anarchy, and confusion, and the untimely end of those who made the foolish and wicked experiment. But did those politicians want either learning or abilities? Did they not plume themselves upon their superior knowledge and wisdom? How, then, canany nowimagine, that the greatest talents will qualify men to govern the affairs of state, who have the folly and temerity to discard the common and well founded opinion of mankind, that the fear of man, without the fear of God, is totally insufficient to support civil government? It is a glaring inconsistency in any people, who acknowledge the truth and divinity of the Christian religion, to commit their government into the hands of atheists and infidels, whose opinions are hostile to moral obligation and the strongest cements of civil society.
3. It appears from the leading sentiment in this discourse, that a people ought to consider the gift of wise and faithful ministers, as a great public blessing. They are competent judges of their own happiness, and of the means and instruments, by which it is promoted. When they find by observation and experience, that their religious teachers do really employ their time and abilities for their temporal, as well as spiritual benefit, they ought to be sensible of the divine goodness, in giving them such useful and necessary instructors. God justly expects, that a people should gratefully acknowledge his kindness in bestowing upon them the distinguishing favor of faithful and exemplary ministers. He appeals to the consciences of his ancient peculiar people, whether they were not greatly indebted to his goodness, for raising up and supplying them with faithful prophets and preachers of religion. His expostulation with them upon this subject is extremely plain and pointed. “I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up of your sons for Prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, 0 ye children of Israel? saith the Lord.” Before they be. came so degenerate, they were not so ungrateful to God for the gift of prophets and preachers.
In the days of Jehoiada, they were deeply sensible of the great good he did in Israel, and, at his death, express
ed their grateful feelings, by the highest marks of public respect.
Other nations have entertained and expressed the same sentiments, in regard to religious instructors. The British parliament have more than once returned their thanks to particular clergymen, for the essential services they had rendered the nation.* If we look into the history of our own country, we shall find, that New England have, heretofore, highly esteemed the sacred order, and considered them as some of the best promoters, not only of religion, but of learning and all the interests of civil society. It must be very ungrateful in Americans, now to rise up and contradict the voice of their fore-fathers, and the general voice of mankind in all ages Can they ever become so insensible of the goodness of God, and of the useful services of his ministers, as to wish to destroy them, or banish them from their borders! No people in the world, it is believed, have more reason to be thankful for religious instructors, than we of the United States. We have the best evidence, that, under God, our ministers have done great good in our Israel; and are now as necessary to secure and promote our civil and religious interests, as they have ever been, since our fathers landed on these western shores,
4. It appears from the foregoing observations, that it is the wisdom and duty of civil rulers to favor the cause of religion, and employ every proper method to promote the general diffusion of religious knowledge. They can do nothing more effectual to establish their just authority in the hearts and consciences of the people, and to form them good subjects of civil government. This has been the united opinion of the wisest and best statesmen. Those, who framed our State Constitution, wi re fully convinced of the great
importance of religious instructors, and made as ample provision for the religious instruction of the people, as they could make, consistently with the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Though nothing can be said in favor of religious establishments, which have done so much mischief in the Christian world; yet a great deal may be said in favor of protecting the preachers of the gospel in the discharge of their duty, and in the enjoyment of all their civil and religious privileges.
The rulers of our land never had a louder call, to promote religious instructions, than at the present day. Our nation is spreading, with astonishing rapidity, over the vast tracts of our uncultivated country, where the inhabitants will soon, in all probability, become equal in numbers to those who remain in their primitive settlements. And should they continue destitute of religious instructions, there is reason to fear, that no human laws will be sufficient to restrain them from those evil courses, which will be ruinous to themselves, if not to the nation. If our civil magistrates fear God, or regard man, or seek the public peace and welfare, they will consider it their wisdom and duty, to aid the propagation of Christianity, and give all parts of the country the best means of religious instruction. This appears to be the most probable way of preventing the spread and fatal effects of those pernicious sentiments in religion and politics, which the enemies of the gospel, and of the general government, are endeavoring to propagate with a blind and flaming zeal.
5. If it be a truth, confirmed by the common experience of mankind, that religious instructors are of real Service to promote the principle design of civil governmet; then it argues a great degree of infatuation in to who govern, to oppose or restrain religious in
keday be extremely wicked, without
being blind to their own present temporal interest. They may be wise to do those evils, which directly tend to promote their own power and aggrandizement. But when any pursue such methods to attain power, and wealth, and popularity, as reason, and scripture, and the general voice of mankind tell them, will certainly defeat their designs, then they may properly be said to be infatuated. And such is the infatuation of those who hold the reins of government, when they attempt to increase their power and influence, by depriving their subjects of religious instructions. We have many awful examples of such infatuated rulers, recorded in scripture, for the warning and admonition of all future magistrates. Jeroboam was so infatua. ted, as to put all the faithful priests out of office, and to forbid an inspired prophet to speak in the name of the Lord. “Then Amaziah the priest of Beth-el sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear his words. Also Amaziah said unto Amos, 0 thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: But prophesy not again any more at Beth-el: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court.” Ahab, another of the idolatrous kings of Israel, was so infatuated, as to cut off all the true prophets of the Lord that he could find. Zedekiah was no less blinded, when he delivered Jeremiah into the hands of those who sought his life, because he had faithfully admonished the nation of their duty and danger. Herod, and Pontius Pilate, and the Jews put the Son of God to death, for no other offence than that of preaching the most important truthg. I know, indeed, that all these religious teachers were charged with tlie odious crime of preaching sedition, but there