Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

language, but, sir, have we not been told that "all the political power in the country within ten or twenty years shall be in the hands of persons whose characters have been formed at Sunday Schools”-formed under the direction of those who can force out of circulation that of which they do not approve of those who boldly assert that they will force into use that which they have mutilated, and have adapted to their own ends of those who daringly declare that they are dictators to the consciences of thousands of immortal beings of those whose organ utters anathemas from the House of God, calling on his followers to form a "christian party in politics," to be supported by half a million of followers to establish ecclesiastical domination—the rites of baptism-the orthodox faith throughout the land.

Such consequences are not to be apprehended within our day, but they are to be apprehended if we believe the predictions of the pious gentleman, and if we regard the prayer of the petitioners asking a charter, and the bill which they have prepared for our file, authorizing them “forever hereafter to hold all and all manner of lands, tenements and hereditaments," without limitation of time or capital, but merely acquiescing in the limitation of monied income, not to exceed ten thousand dollars per year.

We are told that no sectarian feeling can operate in the board of managers that all persons may become contributors may be made voters, and that no man is disqualified by his religious sentiments from participation in their concerns. Let it be admitted that there is no test at this time in force. But has not their reporter--the accomplished and frank expounder of their views, the Reverend gentle. man told us, from the pulpit, in the house of God, that he would marshal his forces,--that he would call on half a million of followers to proscribe, exclude from the highest to the lowest civil offices those who had not been "baptized”-who are not orthodox in their faith—"those who are not Presbyterians's. Can it be believed that this gentleman whose character stands so deservedly high for steadiness of purpose, would say that which he did not mean to be seriously received, that having said it, he would not act upon it, or that he acting upon it would disre. gard the means which we have been told would in ten years give effect to the great end? Would he in his pious endeavours to do that which he conscientiously thinks right, forbear to apply his eloquence? would he not marshal his forces to exclude from the list of agents, if not from the board of managers, all those whose creed, whose purposes and whose objects were not consistent with his own?

But, sir, how is the fact? A reverend gentleman has already been employed with a large salary "to take the field:” a missionary fund has been established, collected from the auxiliary schools connected with the vast machine.

A grand system of proselytism has been formed-rules are given for the modes of attack upon the old and the young-"the hour of affliction, the moments of despair,” are pointed out as fit occasions to grasp the victims of sectarian zeal.

I must again absolve the gentleman at the head of this institution; and, Sir, most emphatically do I except those, whose names are embodied in your bill with their consent, and those whose names are so embodied without their consent, and those who have contributed by their money, and their countenance, to the objects of the Sunday School Union--from all suspicion of aught unjust or unfair.

I shall be forgiven, I trust, by them, if in obedience to my oath to defend the constitution, I oppose a deliberate plan to exclude in ten or twenty years, any set of men, whether educated or uneducated, whether “orthodox”or heterodox, from the political power of the country, a plan avowedly to operate in destroying the freedom of the press in fact to establish ecclesiastical domination throughout the land.

The Honourable Mr. Wise followed in the train of Mr. Powell, and announced a wonderful discovery. “But, Sir,” said he, “this is not all that has been discovered. Whether it be the intention to form a union of Church and State, can only be known or suspected from circumstances. I take this opportunity of noticing a sermon delivered by the celebrated Doctor Ely, on the 4th of July last in the seventh

Presbyterian Church. He was pleased to say, "That our presidents, secretaries, representatives, judges, justices and city magistrates are bound to be orthodox in their faith. I concur with him in opinion, that true piety and faith in the Saviour should belong not only to our rulers but to all of us." In this one sentence Mr. Wise indicates that his name is not whetly a misnomer. He then proceeds to quote the passages in my discourse which are above cited in the show bill, and then adds,

"Sentiments in direct opposition to the sacred charter of our liberties, which declares "that no person who acknowledges the being of a God, and a futuro state of rewards and punishments, shall be disqualified to hold any office or placo of trust or profit," and that “Our elections shall be free and equal," but further does this gentleman say, "I am free to declare, I would prefer for my chief magietrate, and judge and ruler, a sound Presbyterian."

I leave this part of the subject without further comment; only observing that the gentleman last spoken of, is the writer of the report and in full confidence and league with the Sunday School Union. If our elections are to be trammelled upon, if our rights are to be invaded, if public opinion is to be forestalled by the adoption of these principles from such a union may we be delivered.”

Let me ask Mr. Wise if my preference of a Presbyterian, other things being equal, to a man of different theological opinions disqualifies any one from holding an office? That our elections may be free and equal, is it necessary that I should vote for every man, whether wise or other-wise, to be a ruler? Must I violate our constitutional charter, if I refuse to vote for a man whom I deem not merely worthless, but absolutely a nuisance to civil society?

I should rejoice to believe, on good evidence, that there are none in the Senate of this State who deny “ a future state of rewards and punishments;" but confessedly, Mr. Wise being my expositor of the constitution, I may refuse to vote for one who does not acknowledge “ the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments:" and this is no violation of the freedom and equality of our elections. Will Mr. Wise have the goodness to inform the republic what part of our constitution it is, which requires a Deist to vote for a Christian, or a Christian for a Deist? Where is our freedom, if we may not, so many of us as are agreed in the propriety of the measure, support a man of good moral character, who is friendly to Christianity in preference to Buch profane, drunken, scurrilous, and anti-christian characters as are sometimes found in our halls of legislation?

It seems that all the liberty which some men conceive that our constitution secures is granted to the enemies of Christianity; for they will allow us no liberty to withhold our suffrages from candidates for office whom we think, on account of irreligion and immorality, to be unworthy of public confidence.

I have contended for no other privilege than this, that all good and Christian men, who can coincide with me in judgement, should be at liberty to withhold their votes from candidates whom they do not choose to elect, and to confer them on persons whom they may prefer, on account of their morality and religion. This liberty it seems we may not exercise, without hearing from the senate chamber the cry of a sage Wise man indeed, "our elections are to be trammelled upon;" [pray, what does that meanr] “ our rights are to be invaded,” and “public opinion is to be forestalled by the adoption of these principles." From

such Senators may our enlightened, Christian people be delivered; not by legislative, not by constitutional disfranchisements, but by the prev. alent good sense, and established moral principles of an honourable, but dishonoured community.

The Pennsylvania Reporter of Feb. 15th, from which the sayings of Mr. Wise were cited, ascribes to Mr. Brown the following pertinent language, which bears not on my Sermon, but on the business before the Senate.

* Now, sir, what is it that the members of the Sunday School Union ask of this Committee? Do they ask you for the privilege of writing, publishing, and dissemina. ting their books throughout the commonwealth or the union? no, they ask you for no such thing: and why, because they have the privilege already to the greatest possible extent-But, sir, they ask you for an act of incorporation, they ask for the usual corporate privileges—privileges which have been granted to all literary, charitable, and religious societies without distinction, and it is the first time, sir, since I have had the honour of being a representative of the people, yea I might add, since the formation of our most happy system of government, that such objections have been made as those raised to defeat the bill now under consideration.

But it is gratifying, sir, that the opponents of this bill are constrained to admit, that Sunday Schools have done much good, and that many poor and destitute children have been taught through their instrumentality. This being admitted, why refuse an act of incorporation? If the old adage still stands good, that "the tree is known by its fruit,” why refuse the usual facilities that are given to other societies, to enable them to transact their fiscal concerns. Might not this society with the greatest propriety, say to the opposition in this committee, many good works have we done among you, for which of these do you oppose us and reject our application?

But sir, in my humble opinion, the objection that is urged against this bill, that the society may probably at some future period do much mischief, is one of a most extraordinary nature: they tell us, sir, that there is danger of this institution producing sectarianism, and a thousand other evils that they have conjured up. Indeed sir, they deserve credit for the fertility of imagination, with which they have gone back many centuries to the dark ages of the world, and presented to our view an host of hobgoblins, that had long since been consigned to the shades of forgetfulness, and with this appalling picture of human misery and degradation, they flatter themselves that they will be able to deter us from granting an act of incorporation to the Sunday School Union. But sir, I conceive the gentlemen have been extremely unfortunate in the application of their arguments for if I know any thing about the natural connection between cause and effect, the very reverse of what they predict, will be the consequence of Sabbath School teaching:

I believe sir, it will be admitted, that ignorance is the parent of bigotry, and su. perstition, and that in proportion as a community becomes enlightened, it is less liable to be led away by what the gentlemen are pleased to call religious fanati. cism; now if this be the case, the Sabbath schools are raising the most effectual barrier, that human wisdom could devise, to prevent the very evil so much deprecated by the gentlemen in the opposition, for until the order of nature is inverted, it will never be dangerous to enlighten the minds of our children. Indeed sir, á very large portion of human calamity may and will be prevented by the course of instruction, that is adopted in Sabbath schools; for in this institution children are not only taught to read, but they are instructed in the principles of morality and religion.

But sir, we are told that the incorporation of this institution will have a tendency to produce a union of church and state. I am at a loss to know how the gentle men have come to this conclusion, as there is nothing in the premises that will warrant it. So far from there being any danger on this score, the manner of teaching in Sabbath schools will most cffcctually prevent it, for it is certain as any demonstra

tion can be, that an enlightened and intelligent community, composed too of dirferent denominations of christians, will never suffer such an unholy alliance. But, Mr. Chairman, why won't the gentlemen oppose this bill on the usual grounds of opposition; if we were to be told in this case, that it would be injudicious to grant this society corporate powers that it would be unsafe to remove that personal responsibility which now attaches itself to it-Then sir, we could meet the question fairly, and discuss it on its true merits—but sir, I do protest against the introduction of objections to this bill on the score of religion—it is the first time that such objections have been urged against granting a simple act of incorporation and I hope it will be the last.

Before I sit down, Mr. Chairman, I will ask the gentlemen in the opposition, to point out what part of the constitution will be violated—which of your laws will be broken-what right or privilege of the citizen will be invaded by this act of incorporation-and if they point out to me all' or any of these, then sir, I will go with them in rejecting the bill."

To the Honourable gentlemen who have introduced my sermon to considerable distinction I tender my thanks, because their strictures, whether just or unjust, will have a tendency to promote the consideration of the truth, and the more extended influence of Christian principle in our future elections.

Some of the errors, however, into which these learned commentators have fallen ought to be corrected.

It is not true that I have ever advocated the union of Church and State in any publication from the pulpit or the press: but on the contrary in my discourse on the 4th of July last, the very discourse which is adduced as proof of a disposition friendly to such a union, it is distinctly stated,

“I would guard, however, against misunderstanding and misrepresentation, when I state, that all our rulers ought in their official stations to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. I do not wish any religious test to be prescribed by constitution, and proposed to a man on his acceptance of any public trust,, Veither can any intelligent friend of his country and of true religion desire the establishment of any one religious sect by civil law. Let the religion of the Bible rest on that everlasting rock, and on those spiritual laws, on which Jehovah has founded his kingdom: let Christianity by the Spirit of Christ in her members support herself: LET CHURCH AND STATE BE FOR xver distinct: but, still, let the doctrines and precepts of Christ govern all men, in their relations and employments."

It did not suit che convenience of the persons who furnished the Senate with extracts from my sermon, to give them a sight of these lines, which originally stood as they now stand, in immediate connexion with some of the extracts published.

For twenty years past I have publicly returned thanks, on almost every Lord's Day, for our civil and religious liberties, and for our freedom in this happy country from an unhallowed union of Church and State; and I can confidently assure my fellow-citizens, that there is, to the best of my knowledge and belief, neither Minister nor Elder in the Presbyterian Church in the United States, who is an advocate for any establishment of any religious sect by any civil government. Our whole system of Presbyterian Church government coincides with the civil liberty and the representative governments of our country. All our pastors are chosen by their congregations, and all our ruling Elders in our Sessions and Presbyteries are the representatives of the people.

It is not true that I ever was the Agent of the American SundaySehool Union, or "in full confidence and league" with that Institution,

in the sense in which two of the Senators would convince their con. stituents that I am. Last May a committee of the Managers of that union, requested me to compile

their annual report for them, from documents which they furnished. That labour I performed. The Managers took my compilation into their own hands; and altered it according to their own pleasure. Subsequently I read the report in public.At another time, by particular request, I examined a small publication, which they reprinted. This is all the connexion I ever had with the Sunday-school Union, direct, or indirect; if you except the purchase of a few of their books; the obtaining of one donation in books from them for Cantonment Leavenworth in the Missouri Territory; and the contribution, lately, of a small sum to their funds. It is not more than 3 months since I first became a subscriber of any thing to this truly philanthropic charity. I hope, however, in future to become more effectually their fellow servant in their benevolent operations, as some compensation for the injury intended them, and partially done them, by the discharge of broken fragments of my discourse at their devoted head. There is reason to hope, that the resistance which the School Union has erperienced in the Senate will commend it to the more ardent friendship of all who love the progress of knowledge, liberty, and piety in our land.

It was an error in the Honourable Mr. Duncan, to speak of my dig. course as having been delivere:) at Norristown. He was probably led into this mistake by some represen.ations in the News-Papers of a sermon which I preached in that place on the 2d of September last.

In illustration of the assertion, that we can form correct notions of the moral character of a being whom we have never seen, I reminded my hearers, that they had all formed some conceptions of the moral character of Washington; and latterly of General Jackson. My notions of his character might be correct, or incorrect; but I would tell them an anecdote which I thought conveyed a just idea of him. I then stated what I now reiterate:

That between three and four years prior to the General's being first nominated as a candidate for the Presidency, Mr. Sommerville, then an accoinplished young officer in the Navy, but since deceased, informed some of my family connexions, that he had lately spent a week in the General's company, at his own house; that the General appeared to him to be greatly changed in several respects; and that the General had said to him, in a very serious and impressive manner, “ YOU MAY DEPEND UPON IT, SOMMERVILLE, THAT WITHOUT TRUE RELIGION THERB IS NO HAPPINESS IN THE PRESENT LIFE, AND NONR TO BE EXPEOTED IN

I told my hearers, that this is a true saying; and I was aware that coming from a distinguished fellow citizen it might have some influence with some men who more regard the word of their deservedly favourite Hero than the word of God.

This statement has been shamefully distorted; but I think the anecdote worthy of any pulpit, and calculated to do good. Would to God that many admirers of General Jackson would record this among many of his patriotic and excellent sentiments, on the tablets of their hearts! They would then cease to think him likely to prove a patron of their exterminating party zeal, and licentious lives." I have repeated the same anecdote, years ago in Flemington, N.J.; and in August last in


« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »