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THESE DISCOURSES were written during an engagement to supply the pulpit at BARRINGTON. With some abridgement and corrections, they are now published, in the hope of contributing something towards strengthening what remains of religious institutions in the State.
To the SOCIETY AND PEOPLE for whom these Discourses were prepared, and to the CITIZENS OF OTHER TOWNS, destitute of a regular and educated ministry, they are very respectfully inscribed by the
AUTHOR. April 9, 1824.
BX 7233 H5 1824
LUKE, XII, 48.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much re
Our best security for the performance of duty, consists in
-but no person
Our duties result from the relations we sustain to our Common Parent, to one another, to the present and the future world. Among the important relations we sustain to one another, is that of fellow citizens of the same town; and among our important duties, are those, which grow out of this relation.
In this Discourse, I shall lead you to consider the nature of the trust, reposed in you as citizens of the same town, and the duties, which this trust enjoins.
1. As townsmen, my friends, much is given to you. You are intrusted with privileges, which were procured at the expense of much toil and suffering ; privileges, that have been sealed to you with the blood of many, who were worthy.
Town governments, as we enjoy them in New-England, are of New-England origin. No such governments ever existed on the other side of the Atlantick. The very title of Selectmen, as a title of office, was first used in this country. Your privileges have descended to you, as an inheritance; and, in order to estimate rightly their value
and design, you ought frequently to trace back your history, and the history of your fathers. You ought seriously to weigh the grand motives and views, which produced the settlement of New-England.
At the end of twenty years from the landing of the Pilgrims on the Rock of Plymouth, there had arrived in NewEngland about twenty one thousand souls. After this period, more people left the country, than came into it.* These twenty-one thousand, therefore, are properly considered as our ancestors, as the Fathers of New England. Now it is a fact, as notorious as it is important, that they came to this country, with the express design of procuring for themselves the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty, and of transmitting the same to posterity. The emigration of the Fathers was produced by the civil and ecclesiastical oppressions of the mother country; and they looked upon New England, as an asylum prepared by Providence, where they might maintain the worship of God, and enjoy the blessings of equal laws. Spiritual privileges, however, in their estimation, far exceeded all others; and were placed by them as much above temporal privileges, as by us they are placed below them. The leading motives and views of the New-England Fathers, are well and truly stated by Mr. John Higginson, in a sermon, delivered before the General Court of Massachusetts in 1683.
- When the Lord stirred up the spirits of so many of his people,” said Mr. Higginson, “ to come over to this wilderness, it was not for worldly wealth, or a better livelihood for the outward man. The generality of the people that came over, professed the contrary; nor had we any rational grounds to expect such a thing in such a wilderness. Though God hath blessed his poor people here, and there are, that have increased here from small beginnings to great estates; yet these are but additions ; they are but additional mercies. It was another and a better thing, that we followed the Lord into the wilderness for. This is never to be forgotten, that New-England is a plantation of religion. And if any man amongst us make religion as twelve, and the world as thirteen, let such an one know, he hath neither the spirit of a true New-England man; nor yet of a sincere christian."
66 This was and is our cause—that Christ alone might be acknowledged by us as the only head, Lord and law
giver in his Church ; that his written word might be acknowledged as the only rule-That only and all his institutions might be observed and enjoyed by us, and that with purity and liberty, peace and power.” Mr. Higginson urged the duty and necessity of union and charity. For there is not,” said he, “ any one duty more pressed by our Saviour and his Apostles, than this of a holy and close union among those, who profess his name. The best of men may err; and there being divers measures of light and grace, there cannot but be different apprehensions in some things. And therefore, where there is not so full an agreement as is to be desired, it is our duty to forbear one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. 66 This,” he added, " is the chief interest of New-England, the matter of the greatest importance in itself, and of greatest concernment unto us. Whatever may be said of our interest in other respects, yet we may be sure, that here lies our predominant interest and cause ; and the great end for which we came into this wilderness, and continue in it."
The extracts, which I have now given, while they state the leading objects and views of the New-England Fathers, speak also the language and sentiments of the worthiest portion of the New-England people in 1683. They speak the language and sentiments of the worthiest portion of the people of New-Hampshire at that time. It is true, the people here laboured under great disadvantages ; they were of a mixed character; and religious privileges were not so highly and generally prized, as in other parts of New-England. Still your Fathers did by no means neglect them. They expressly acknowledged the duty of maintaining the publick worship of God and publick instruction in religion and morality. They reserved lands for the support and encouragement of the gospel ministry. If you examine the charter of your own town, you will find, that lands were reserved by it for these purposes; and the duties enjoined of erecting a House of worship, and supporting a minister. The same duties are strongly inculcated by the present Constitution of this state. Its language is to this effect--that morality rightly grounded on evangelical principles, is the only proper foundation of obedience to the laws--that religion is absolutely essential to the support of good government.