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The government was not the guardian angel of the people's happiness, protecting them in their inalienable rights, and facilitating the development of their powers, and the attainment of their happiness, in the exercise of those rights, but the people were led to sacrifice their individual and do. mestic enjoyments for the welfare and glory of the government. Their laws and public institutions tended not to equalize and diffuse the means of happiness, but to concentrate the sacrifices of individual and domestic happiness in the glory of the republic. And hence they never could perpetuate their republics, or protect themselves against the encroachments and ambition of aspirants after fame and power. Corruption and ignorance increased, and on the ruin of public inorals, and amidst the prevalence of public distress, designing demagogues, through flattery and deceit, persuaded them to erect the despot's throne.
We look in vain to the governments of earth, which have not felt the influence, or owned the authority of Christianity, for any of those great and permanent results, which are dear to every friend of virtue and humanity. What influence but that of Christianity has ever banished gross vices from their public haunts, and forced their perpetrators to hide them in the darkness of secrecy? We look in vain for the universal diffusion of the blessings of a wholesome moral education, for the creation and endowment of hospitals, infirmaries, asylums, houses of refuge, and other kindred institutions, which Christianity has scattered so profusely among modern nations, for the relief and mitigation of the suffer. ings of the helpless and wretched.
Where have you found among the nations of antiquity any thing like the influence which Christianity has exerted, and is still exerting, to eradicate slavery from the earth, and break the yokes and fetters which cupidity and cruelty had forged ? It is to Christianity the world is indebted for the elevation of the female sex from that degradation and servile condition in which they were held by the ancient heathen, and are yet held among anti-Christian nations ;-for those happy influences which have meliorated the state of human society, consecrated the ties which bind together the husband and wise, the parent and child, and introduce to our firesides all the virtues which sweeten every domestic relationship, and give endearments to home ;-for the laws which pro
tect the weak from the rapacity of the strong, the widow in her solitude, the orphan and the fatherless from the cunning and arts of those who would rob them of their rights, and for that sound healthful public opinion which alone can furnish an effectual guaranty against the evils, infallibly and abundantly resulting from the disrespect of oaths, the venality of of judges, the violation of public pledges, the treachery of public servants, the default of public officers, the recklessness of corrupt legislation, the chicanery of the bar, the subserviency of public functionaries, the selfishness of mercenary individuals, the cupidity of swindlers, and the dishonesty and vindictiveness of monied corporations.
“ If you are in search of the attributes which give dignity to a state,” says an eloquent divine, "of the virtues which shed a lustre and loveliness over families, give value to what is magnificent in enterprise, refined in civilization, lofty in ethics, adınirable in jurisprudence, you never think of turning to any but a Christianized territory, in order to obtain the most signal exhibition; and just in proportion as Christianity but gains a footing on the territories of heathenism, there is a distinct improvement in whatever tends to exalt a nation and bring comfort and respectability to its households."* It has ever proved itself to be the “great civilizer of nations, the great heightener of morals, the soother of the afflicted, the patron of the destitute, the friend of the oppressed. Of a nation under its control, and by whom its restraints are reverenced and cherished, it may well be said, “Happy is the people that is in such a case, yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord.”
Is this the happiness of our nation? We have reason to bless God that we yet feel the benefit of those laws and institutions, of those influences and customs, of those conservative maxims and social morals, and of that healthful public opinion, which are peculiar to Christianity. We have reason too to rejoice in the belief that the God who has done such great things for us has not yet cast us off. But while we rejoice, we have much cause to do it with fear and trembling. For while it is demonstrable, that Christianity alone secures permanent prosperity, and the highest amount of happiness to a nation,—that the righteousness it teaches exalts a nation, and that the sin it reproves is a reproach to any people, we cannot shut our eyes to the evidence, which meets us at every turn, that the conservative influences, and restraints of Christianity, among our population, have been greatly impaired.
We look back to the days of our infancy and admire the heroic virtues and Christian integrity of our Pilgrim Fathers, and the happy adaptation of their laws and manners for the rapid and amazing developments, which have placed us, like the young giant in the first vigor of his manhood, among the nations of the earth. Would that no symptoms of disease had made their appearance ! The present condition and future prospects of our beloved country, however, cannot fail to excite the uneasiness and fears of every patriot and philanthropist, who feels that the religious character of a people is the true element and best guaranty of their public prosperity.
We are indeed aware, that political men are apt to turn away with disgust from what they call the croakings of the pulpit or the alarms of prophets and seers. But moral causes can be traced, with as much certainty to their results, as physical ; and to shut the eyes and refuse to see where dangers threaten, is only one among the many indications which the history of ages has proved, are always given of an approaching crisis. Just in proportion as we discover that the religious character of a people suffers injury, that the great barriers which Christianity rears against the spreading of corruption are broken down, and that her appropriate and efficient influence to enlighten, purify and bless the great mass of the population are impaired, must we anticipate “a day of trouble, of treading down, and of perplexity.'
In applying, therefore, the truth we have been contemplating, to the circumstances and character of this nation, we feel that, however painful may be the task, it is one calculated to make us grateful for what we yet enjoy, and to evince that gratitude by our anxious efforts to prevent, if possible, any further deterioration. What then are the great public indications observable, that, as a nation, we have dishonored, if not disowned, that God, the blessing of whose providence is the only sufficient bulwark of our safety? In other words, are there any vices or states of public feeling and sentiment among us, which are at war with the genial and protective influences of Christianity ?
In detailing the prevalent crimes which peril our prosperity, and subject us to the displeasure of God, our attention shall be confined to those which characterize either the great mass of our population, or many of our conspicuous and influential men, occupying places of trust and power, or which have interwoven themselves with the administration and legislation of the country.
Intemperance leads the van. What multitudes of loathsome drunkards and tipplers are to be seen, throughout the length and breadth of this land, loitering about the numerous taverns and grog-shops which a mistaken policy prompts our civil authorities to license for the retail of intoxicating liquors? How is the industry of the country impaired, the happiness of numerous families destroyed, the youth corrupted, the miserable victims of a squalid poverty multiplied, the heavy taxes, which drain the profits of the industrious and frugal citizen for the support of an extensive system of criminal justice, for the erection and maintenance of jails, penitentiaries, and pauper establishments, increased the lives of hundreds and thousands, who might have proved valuable citizens cut short—the hopes, prospects and usefulness of many of our promising youih blighted-diseases of every type and form, to afflict and torture, induced-and the very staff of life converted into deadly poison, by the demands of this hydra vice! No class of the community has escaped from its rav. ages. The sot may be found in our chairs of state, our legislative halls the judges' seats, and even in the sacred desk. The temples of Bacchus far outnumber the temples of Jehovah; and the still small voice of the gospel of peace, and purity, is drowned in the shouts of the inebriate.
It is true, that a redeeming influence has gone forth, and the temperance reformation has called away many from the Bacchanalian revel, and prevented others from entering the walks of this lubberly divinity,—but much, very much yet remains to be done ; nor can we account ourselves safe from its pestilential breath, till habits of total abstinence become more prevalent, and the legislation of our country ceases to legalize and sanction the distribution of the maddening cup.
Close in the rear of intemperance, follow profanity, sensuality, and various forms of lewdness, with crowds of angry broils and contentions, personal assaults and menaces, and the blood-stained hands of rioters, homicides and murderers. The increase of profanity, especially among the youth, the boys of the country, the licentious disrespect of marriage and the marriage vow, and of horrid deeds of murder, within a few years past, is very observable. The remarks of the prophet may be repeated : “ By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood; therefore, does ihe land mourn." The increase of these things is mournful proof that we are fast losing our religious character as a people.
A third class of crimes, which have worked extensive mischief among us, and for which we are now suffering in the confusion and distress which prevail in money matters, is the spirit of adventurous cupidity, which, impatient to toil by industry and frugality for wealth, and eager after large and rapid accumulation of property, has prompted to excessive speculation, extortion, expansion in business, immense credits, abuse of the whole system of credit, dishonest attempts to evade obligations, and avaricious and usurious efforts to take advantage of the necessities of others. The spirit of speculation, (which is but the gambling spirit,) has been extensively substituted for that of diligence and industry, which alone God has promised the certain acquisition, and permanent possession of wealth. It is that evil covetousness, which, like the gambler's spirit, draws after it an endless train of vices and ills, and subjects those who indulge it, to the righteous denunciations of Him who has said :
66 Wo to him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil. Thou hast consulted shame to thy house, thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbors by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God. Behold, therefore I have smitten my hand at thy dishonest gains which thou hast made.” The innocent have been involved with the guilty here; and whatever we may think about the proximate or political causes which have produced the late revulsion, one thing is certain, it is the retribution of Heaven; and the spasm of distress, in which the whole country now writhes, is but a legitimate consequence of a departure from those principles of uprightness and integrity, which Christianity enjoins, as well in commercial and financial as in other transactions,