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with a song
No. Ambitious men must be restrained by the public morality: when they rise up to do evil, they must find themselves standing alone. Morality rests on religion. If you destroy the foundation, the superstructure must fall
. In a world of error, of temptation, of seduction; in a world where crimes often triumph, and virtue is scourged with scorpions -in such a world, certainly, the hope of a hereafter is necessary to cheer and to animate. Leave us, then, the consolations of religion. Leave to man, to frail and feeble man, the comfort of knowing that, when he gratifies his immortal soul with deeds of justice, of kindness and of mercy, he is rescuing his happiness from final dissolution and laying it up in Heaven.
Our duty as citizens is not a solitary one. It is connected with all the duties that belong to us as men.
The civil, the social, the Christian virtues are requisite to render us worthy the continuation of that government which is the freest on earth. Yes, though the world should hear me, though I could fancy myself standing in the congregation of all nations, I would say: "Americans, you are .the most privileged people that the sun shines on. The salutary influences of your climate are inferior to the salutary influences of your laws. Your soil, rich to a proverb, is less rich than your Constitution. Your rivers, large as the oceans of the old world, are less copious than the streams of social happiness which flow around you. Your air is not purer than your civil liberty, and your hills, though high as heaven and deep as the foundations of the earth, are less exalted and less firmly founded than that benign and everlasting religion which blesses you and shall bless your offspring. Amidst these profuse blessings of nature and of Providence, beware! Standing in this place, sacred to truth, I dare not undertake to assure you that your liberties and your happiness may not be lost. Men are subject to men's misfortunes. If an angel should be winged from Heaven, on an errand of mercy to our country, the first accents that would glow on his lips would be, ‘Beware! be cautious! you have everything to lose; you have nothing to gain.' We live under the only government that ever existed which was framed by the unrestrained and deliberate consultations
of the people. Miracles do not cluster. That which has happened but once in six thousand years cannot be expected to happen often. Such a government, once gone, might leave a void, to be filled, for ages, with revolution and tumult, riot and despotism.
The history of the world is before us. It rises like an immense column, on which we may see inscribed the soundest maxims of political experience. These maxims should be treasured in our memories and written on our hearts. Man, in all countries, resembles man. Whereever you find him, you find human nature in him and human frailties about him. He is, therefore, a proper pupil for the school of experience. He should draw wisdom from the example of others,—encouragement from their success, caution from their misfortunes. Nations should diligently keep their eye on the nations that have gone before them. They should mark and avoid their errors, not travel on heedlessly in the path of danger and of death while the bones of their perished predecessors whiten around them. Our own times afford us lessons that admonish us both of our duty and our danger. We have seen mighty nations, miserable in their chains, more miserable when they attempted to shake them off. Tortured and distracted beneath the lash of servitude, we have seen them rise up in indignation to assert the rights of human nature; but, deceived by hypocrites, cajoled by demagogues, ruined by false patriots, overpowered by a resistless mixed multitude of knaves and fools, we have wept at the wretched end of all their labors. Tossed for ten years in the crazy dreams of revolutionary liberty, we have seen them at last awake, and, like the slave who slumbers on his oar and dreams of the happiness of his own blessed home, they awake to find themselves still in bondage. Let it not be thought that we advert to other nations to triumph in their sufferings or mock at their calamities. Would to God the whole earth enjoyed pure and rational liberty, that every realm that the human eye surveys or the human foot treads were free! Wherever men soberly and prudently engage in the pursuit of this object, our prayers in their behalf shall ascend unto the Heavens and unto the ear of Him who filleth them. Be they powerful or be they weak, in such a cause they de
serve success. Yes, “The poorest being that crawls on earth, contending to save itself from injustice and oppression, is an object respectable in the eyes of God and man.' Our purpose is only to draw lessons of prudence from the imprudence of others, to argue the necessity of virtue from the consequences of their vices.
Unhappy Europe! the judgment of God rests hard upon thee. Thy sufferings would deserve an angel's pity if an angel's tears could wash away thy crimes! The Eastern Continent seems trembling on the brink of some great catastrophe. Convulsions shake and terrors alarm it. Ancient systems are falling; works reared by ages are crumbling into atoms. Let us humbly implore Heaven that the wide-spreading desolation may never reach the shores of our native land, but let us devoutly make up our minds to do our duty in events that may happen to us. Let us cherish genuine patriotism. In that, there is a sort of inspiration that gives strength and energy almost more than human. When the mind is attached to a great object, it grows to the magnitude of its undertaking. A true patriot, with his eye and his heart on the honor and happiness of his country, hath an elevation of soul that lifts him above the rank of ordinary men. To common -occurrences he is indifferent. Personal considerations dwindle into nothing in comparison with his high sense of public duty. In all the vicissitudes of fortune, he leans with pleasure on the protection of Providence and on the dignity and composure of his own mind. While his country enjoys peace, he rejoices and is thankful; and, if it be in the counsel of Heaven to send the storm and the tempest, his bosom proudly swells against the rage that assaults it. Above fear, above danger, he feels that the last end which can happen to any man never comes too soon if he falls in defence of the laws and liberties of his country.
THE TASK OF RELIGION
[Address by John Weiss, clergyman, lecturer, essayist (born in Boston, June 28, 1818; died there, March 9, 1879), delivered before the graduating class of the Divinity School of Harvard University, June 27, 1869.]
GENTLEMEN OF THE GRADUATING CLASS :-You linger a while, between the midsummer of the grass and the trees, elate as the season, infecting it with your own hope and confidence, just as if hearts outside were not swelling with the suppressed tears of desire to be at home with God. In what places do they await the coming of some modern and untrammeled word, to have enthusiasm snatch their hand away from doubts, and lay it warm in the hand that offers divine friendship? Whither do you journey-into what knowledge of distrust, what discovery of deep alienation from the ideal life, what revolt of souls against their own bondage,—but also into what delight, as you see all kinds of people acquiring truth for themselves, and turning it to life! Your scholarly reverie is almost over: this alarm that interrupts it is beaten by hearts at the front, on the contested line between the body and the spirit.
Your active ministry begins at a period of great mental disturbance, which marks a passage from one position of intelligence to another. Whatever may be your outfit of knowledge, or the depth of spiritual experience which you may have reached, it is safe to say that your education passes to its most important work, since you are about to meet men and women face to face. In doing this, you face for the first time the real problems of the spiritual life. Human nature is learning to ask very intelligent and
embarrassing questions, while its religious exigencies are the same that they ever were, and have to be harmonized with knowledge. Here you may have been taught to gauge and appreciate past epochs of spiritual development, and to note their connection with various mental states. and you have indulged religious feelings. But now you are about to discern, by contact with men in vital society, what is essential religion, in order that your service may be timely for this race and country. The past may be the soil that holds your roots, but not a ball and chain around the ankle. If you undertake to drag the dogmatic life of nineteen centuries across the face of the country, your traces will be marked by denudation of the fertility that would prefer your bold husbandry. You go forth to quicken the native germs that lie waiting to succeed the old crops, when decay or the ax shall clear the land. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree.”
Cheap publications of every kind spread the moods of the period far and wide. Their range passes through all the speculative forms, and all the emotions which the world at any time has known. The very richness is a cause of the distraction. Thought is unconsciously embarrassed as so many departments throw wide open their doors at once, and display their collections. And there is no statement too scientific to resist the intentions of popular treatment. It is macerated, dissected, volatilized, put up in packages for the trapper and emigrant. Every condition of half-knowledge appropriates it. People who are troubled with imperfect nutrition will snatch, at every railway station, a gulp of spectrum analysis, primeval man, the correlation of forces, spontaneous generation, social statics, Carl Vogt's impetuous atheism, Mr. Darwin's pangenesis, Professor Huxley's non-committal protoplasm, and the last message from the summer-land. Such a meal cannot be matched at the most indigestible depot in America. Westward the tide of empire runs and reads.
The scientific mind is making the whole world at once its laboratory and auditorium; and among the hearers there is no distinction of person, color, sex, or previous preparation. Is it at all wonderful that religion finds herself ill at ease in this promiscuous assembly, especially