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placed in circumstances of a more happy co-petency than in these United States. If none of them are luxuriating in princely incomes, none of them are left destitute of the necessaries of life. We find it also in the spirit of mutual kindness and good will which prevails among the various denominations of Christians. “Judah does not vex Ephraim, nor does Ephraim envy Judah.” No one sect, because established by law, can look down upon others who do not enjoy the same patronage. We all share equally in the favor of the State, and must all depend equally on ourselves for favor among the people. We find it also in the enlarged munificence and increased activity with which our churches act, for the spread of the Gospel. Universal experience shows, that it is those whose hearts are trained to liberality by sustaining religion among themselves, who lead the way in voluntary offerings for sending it to others. Not to cite farther proofs showing the vigor with which the minds of our people act, in new acquisitions of knowledge, and in correcting old and long established errors and abuses; let me now ask. what can it be that gives to the nation this elastic spirit, this indomitable energy and perseverance What, that diffuses this character so widely as to
make it extend to every class, in every condition of life 7 No doubt we owe it to our wide spread Christianity as the first and great cause. But had Christianity been cramped and enfeebled by civil disabilities and restraints, she would have been far from imparting this tone to the public mind. She has long existed under these counteracting influences in lands where we find but little proof of such power on the character of the people. No, it is only where Christianity is allowed to act herself out; to act in alliance with civil and religious freedom; a freedom which she sanctions by her own high authority; that she can “have free course,” reaching all classes and imbuing a whole community with a spirit which renders them alike blessed in themselves, and the instrument of blessing to the world around them. Surely then, if freedom is thus interwoven with the improvement and happiness of our race, it may well be expected that whatever is essential to its establishment should be revealed in a volume which “has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” The precious Book has assured us that “the hairs of our head are all numbered;” that our “bread shall be given us and our water shall be sure;” and when we are taught that the Most High governs with such care in the minutest
concerns of human life, can we suppose that he would fail to instruct men in the nature and importance of institutions by which every thing valuable in their personal, domestic, civil and Christian welfare, is so deeply affected.
I would not close this Lecture without asking you to reflect, that this desire for progress, this onward spirit which I have described as characteristic of our nation, unless wisely regulated may lead into errors of no ordinary magnitude. Let it not be supposed that we would have the elastic spring of the bow destroyed, because owing to unskilful hands it may sometimes send the arrow beyond the mark. Wrong, oppression and injustice have been so long prevalent in our fallen world, that inveterate evils are not always to be eradicated, nor great benefits acquired and secured by powers of action that have been tamed down to what some would call a safe mediocrity; and if the Sultry and deadly atmosphere can be purified by nothing short of the breeze freshening into a gale; then let the wind blow, and even, if need be, let the thunder roll, though the trees of the forest be shaken, and some of their branches be scattered in the storm. But while we would not have the energy of our people subdued or destroyed, we desire to see it wisely governed, and their eyes opened to the dangers which beset them.
There is danger of their being carried away by a spirit of recklessness and presumption. We have seen this too often, and especially in the crowded thoroughfares of business and of ambition, where men, excited by emulation and collision with each other, venture they know not where, until all is left to the hazard of the die. This gambling, whether for power or for wealth, is demoralizing. It blunts every sensibility to that which is right and commendable, and opens a door to temptation in its worst forms. “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence;” and no prize, however splendid in appearance, is worth the cost, if it is gained by disregarding the dictates of either the one or the other. -
We should also be on our guard against a spirit of pride and self-sufficiency, which would undervalue and repudiate much that is venerable from its age and long-trica worth. If our growth, as a people, has been rapid, we are yet young. We have yet much to gain before we can reach the grace and symmetry of nations much older than ourselves. We should be careful not to glide into the false notion that every thing which is old is also worthless. Many of the elements of our own happiness and prosperity are derived from nations now venerable for their years and time-honored institutions. While
we “prove all things,” we should be careful to “hold
fast that which is good;” and of things which are good, we should prize those most highly, the value of which has been tested by the experience of past ages, and which come down to us commended by the judgment of the wise and the great, who are now in their graves. Especially should we always remember with a grateful regard the country from which we have derived our language, our laws, and much of what belongs to the very essence of our civil freedom. If she once may have viewed us with feelings that were both unnatural and unkind, they have given place to a good will that is becoming more generous and more just. The speedy and constant intercourse of the present day has already corrected the mistakes of former years, and has led the two countries to a more just appreciation of each other. Let the daughter remember what the mother has done to challenge veneration and love; and let the mother rejoice in the growing beauty and strength of a daughter, who in her best deeds bestows a high commendation on her early training. Let both remember that they equally belong to that race of the human family by whose labors truth and righteousness are soon to be spread through the earth. The man is a poor interpreter of “the signs of the times,” who has not learnt that to England
and America, under God, belongs the foremost rank