« PreviousContinue »
not been matured and adopted. Our forefathers felt the want and took early steps to meet it. It had been the policy of the land of their birth to keep the masses in ignorance; they determined that the land of their adoption should be characterized by a different and wiser policy. Hence, no sooner was the foundation-stone of the church laid, than the school-house and the college arose, and the patron of piety was also the patron of learning. There was no talk of sects, nor parties, but of union-the union of hearts that loved God and throbbed with a holy pulsation for posterity and the race. Since then, we have been borne on eagles' wings.
Colleges and common schools have been planted everywhere throughout the land. They are free and open to all. No barriers are thrown around their threshhold; no sect, nor creed, nor wealth, nor aristocratic pride can claim pre-eminence here. Our colleges, unlike the proud and moss-covered universities of the East, seek no solitude and emboweriug shades and seclusion, like reputed orbs of glory, viewless from the immense clouds, but as open suns and stars leading on and cheering every one in his pursuit after knowledge.
The first thing which strikes a traveler, as he enters the old world, is the immense soldiery, that everywhere meet his eye. Why are these stationed at every corner and nook of the land? Not to protect the rights of the many, but to guard the rulers from the people, and keep their crowns well balanced upon their heads. We, on the contrary, can point to our common schools, and say, "These are our standing army, the grand palladium of our liberties." It has ever been the policy of despotism, whether civil or religious, to monopolize knowledge, to enslave the popular understanding, and thus to hold the great mass of humanity passive and quiet. This is one of the great difficulties in the way of popular government in Europe. The truth is, the people, as a people, are not sufficiently intelligent for this purpose. In a sudden burst of passion, they may shake down a throne, but either they will go into anarchy, which is far worse, or some proud remnant of fallen greatness, chosen in the fury of popular excitement, will soon impose chains, perhaps golden chains, yet real chains, upon the delighted captives-the people. Look at France, her peasantry too republican for monarchy, too ignorant for a republic! See 100,000 soldiers stationed in Paris to keep the people from destroying their own government. See 30,000 Republicans sail into Italy to put down a republic, and at the point of the bayonet re-establish the most accursed system of ecclesiastical and civil despotism, which ever enslaved and degraded man! We see no such scenes enacted in this country, and, for the simple reason, that the laboring classes, those who control the ballot-box, are intelligent, and know how to appreciate civil liberty and the rights of man. True we have ignorance here, but it is mostly imported. Our native population, our farmers, our mechanics, our merchants, for the most part, are a thinking, reading,
intelligent population. And our peculiar institutions, our common school system, free to the poorest, have made them such, "But still," says a foreign critic, "how exceedingly raw you appear in this country; everything lies in the rough; your blunt manners, your provincialisms, all your ideas need to be taken across the waters to a planing-machine." This is the impression and the language of some, who look only at the surface of things, who are fascinated with the tinsel and glitter of royalty. But if we have not all the external polish, which adorns the more favored circles of Europe, we have intelligence more generally diffused, scattered, like the sun's radiance, over the masses of the people. England has always been able to boast of some tall pillars of intellectual light, but they have only made the surrounding gloom and darkness the more impressively visible. Our plan is to have a large number of fair men, who can do their own thinking, and do it well. Once in a while, we produce a great man, to let the world know what we are capable of doing. Such men we have, and such we have always had, and they will not suffer in comparison with the greatest men of the old world. But we prefer to kindle up a great many lights, which, like the thickly scattered lamps of a city, illumine every street and alley. This is our plan, and it is the best one on the earth. I want no country or system that finishes up a few men, called noblemen, and leaves the great mass of men in the rust. I prefer to distribute this polish, to have it a little less concentrated, so that common people can get at it and share in the lustre. Who would pour all the light of the sun through a gas-pipe, for the sake of having one bright spot? Or who would think of making one tremendous bonfire, to excite the gaze of the collected throng, rather than kindle a fire on every man's hearth-stone? This is what our system of education is aiming to do-to diffuse light over the great multitude, who hold the destinies of this country at their own disposal,-to bring every man's conscience under the power of truth and the grace of God. This is our plan for preserving the Union, and perpetuating the institutions for which our fathers shed their blood.
IV. Let us, in the fourth place, contrast the past and present aspects of our country in a religious point of view. If we compare Europe with our own country, we do virtually contrast the past with the present; for her institutions are stereotyped; what was, is now, and the evils which our forefathers suffered are the legitimate and necessary evils resulting from a union of Church and State. In England, where monarchy exists in its mildest form, Episcopacy is the reigning type of Christianity. The Queen is the visible head of the church. She appoints the archbishops, who, in virtue of their ecclesiastical office, are members of the House of Lords, mingling in the heat and strife of political debate, receiving an income of from 15 to £20,000 a year, the owners of palaces, and yet, the successors of the apostles! They move amid the most splendid circles o: gayety and fashion, and on retiring from Parliament, administer, within their baronial precints,
an extended patronage, appoint their bishops, wield an absolute sceptre over the inferior clergy, and by an indefinite prerogative awe and control the laity, who are taxed to oppression to support this ponderous hierarchy. Can the fruits of the Spirit flourish in such a soil? Like the deadly Upas, this wide-spreading tree casts its pestiferous shade over bishops, curates, pastors, and people.
The bad effects of this union are thus described by one who has recently left the establishment. The church and the world are completely fused at the table of the Lord. The theatres, the ballrooms, and the race courses, may pour their whole contents into the assemblies of communicants, and be welcomed by the churches as members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Believers are yoked together with unbelievers; the righteous with the unrighteous; the worshpers of Christ with the worshipers of Belial. Men of a schismatical spirit, who cast out their brethren, fierce successors of Diotrephes, violating the law of charity with shameless party zeal, kneel side by side with Christ's disciples at the altar, from which the most estimable and faithful brethren of dissenting churches are rudely excluded. The covetous, the railer, and even those who are generally thought to be fornicators and drunkards, may take their place at the Lord's table as easily as in their pew. Pastors who are ignorant, and even irreligious, remain under the sanction of law to misrepresent the gospel and mislead the congregation:" and yet the people are compelled to support them.
The evils of this union of Church and State are much more apparent in all Papal countries, where the Pope is the universal sovereign, to whom kings and emperors render a servile homage, and where millions of ignorant and degraded subjects are utter strangers to personal and political freedom. The Pope appears as the embodied reality of that prophetic delineation of the "Man of Sin," which is given by the apostle, when he says, "He opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." He sits as an arbiter over the human conscience, the infallible judge of right and wrong, and from his decision there is no appeal. The church, under his jurisdiction, is alike infallible, and her dogmas and decisions ultimate and binding. And though she may teach the most. strange and unscriptural doctrines-that the Virgin Mary, instead of Jesus, is "a mediator between God and men."-that the humble confession of a penitent to God, like that of the Publican, is unavailing, unless breathed first privately into the ears of a Romish priest, that the dead are not only subjects of prayer, but that they can be so deified by canonization, as to be objects of prayer, that the probability of a man's escape from purgatory depends upon the amount of money which his friends are willing to pay for masses to be said in Latin for his soul, and that the eternal and immutable law of God, which sweeps over a universe
and an eternity, the embodied transcript of Divine purity and glory, is so accommodating, that it can be safely set aside, if the Pope sees fit to grant, as he has often granted, a plenary indulgence to sin, these doctrines are taught by the church, and having all the enginery of the state at her disposal, her arguments are often the agonies of the dungeon, or the flames of martyrdom. She stoutly denies the right to question her infallibility. Whenever her errors of doctrine, or corruptions in practice, have been exposed, she has silenced their arguments by brute force. When they brought to light the scandalous immoralities of her clergy, she punished them, as slanderers, with the sword. When they sought permission to live and act according to the Word of God, she handed them over to the tender mercies of the inquisition. We cannot forget that it was the church of Rome which slaughtered the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and other Christians, before the Reformation, and the Huguenots of France, and the Scottish and Irish Protestants since. Inspired prophecy describes her as the "woman drunken with the blood of saints," as "the mystery of iniquity;" and the history of her cruelties fully justifies the prophetic declaration.
This union of Church and State is both corrupting and persecuting-it corrupts the state and it corrupts the church-it corrupts the subjects and functionaries of both-it forms a union of tyrannies-a conspiracy of popes and kings to enslave a race; the former determining what is true by authority, the latter coercing assent, and both robbing human nature of its dearest rights. If any struggle for liberty, they are met by the spear of kings and the thunders of the Vatican. This is the double iron yoke, under which mankind have groaned for centuries.
Happily, in this country, it has no reality. In the very infancy of our existence the Protestant principle took deep root in this wild soil. The tree once planted, was watered with prayers, with the tears of hearts made desolate by violence and oppression, with the blood of martyrs freely shed in resisting tyranny. Our forefathers, the framers of this government, instructed by the terrible lessons of the past, fully conceived the idea of a church not dependent on the state, whose internal economy might be left to herself, whose progress is in proportion to the power of truth and the grace of God in converting sinners. No one sect is preferred above another, for none are known, as such, in the government, the influences of moral causes arbitrating their destiny. The immense blessing consequent, it is hardly possible to appreciate, or for it to be sufficiently thankful. Think of an exemption. from the great evils incident to a union of church and state. Think of the style of character which an independent church must necessarily beget or sink into decay. Having no adventitious and false life, she must live in herself, by faith alone, or perish. She has no lordly revenues, no gorgeous ritual, no pomp of external service with which to encourage the hopes or foster the pride of worldly men. She has no civil powers to abuse, no bribes to
receive or to extend. She can affect the state only as she affects individuals, by the light of her piety and the power of truth. An educated and devoted ministry-a good character, sound doctrine, and the promise of the Spirit, are her only patrimony. "The weapons of her warfare are not carnal, but mighty to the pulling down of strong holds."
Such is the religion of this country. It has blessed it from the beginning. It constitutes the corner-stone of our American Republic. It permeates our civil polity and all our free institutions. It is thoroughly Protestant in its character. It is this principle which has stimulated enterprise and made our land what it is the glory of all lands. It is not because of our origin, not because the Anglo-Saxon blood flows in our veins-it is not because of the extent of our territory, or the fertility of our soil, or even because of the excellence of our institutions, that the wings of our eagle are poised far above every other nation on the globe. It is because we are Protestants. We have indeed a better government than Austria, because we have a better people; but our Protestant religion has made them better. Take away our religion and you introduce a despotism, or the anarchy which makes it necessary.
Our country is Protestant; the men who laid the foundation of its greatness were Protestants, and their mantle has fallen upon their children. And though we have different ecclesiastical organizations, and different forms of worship, we all rally to the Protestant standard. Here we stand on one broad and brotherly foundation, with hearts thoroughly responsive to the great principles of the reformation. We have a "Christian Alliance," which embraces in its fraternal union the Protestants of the world! Let this be known throughout the dominions of the Pope, and it will hush the shout of triumph, which Romanists are disposed to raise over our fancied disunion and anticipated fall. No man, who has marked the Providence which has borne us, as a nation, thus far on eagle's wings, can believe "that we have been led out of Egypt to fall by the Amorites."
If now and then you see a recreant from Protestantism, taking the backward track towards Rome and the dark ages, with affinities leaning in the direction of the mitre, the crosier, and the chair of St. Peter, vacated by the uprising of the spirit of the age, think not that we are becoming Papists in this country. No. Protestantism is the deep, firm, fixed form of the religious sentiment in this land. It is a sentiment in harmony with our institutions, the offspring of thought and free inquiry, guided by the teachings of revealed truth. It does not go by authority, dogmatic, simply, because it is old; oppresive, because it has the disposition and the power; gaping and moping in indolent stupor over obsolete and exploded wisdom. It goes by the light of truth, the power of thought, and the impelling wants of millions perishing in ignorance and sin. It operates in a very simple and practical way. Warm up a man with the current religion of this country,