I. Corrinth. Chap. VII Ver. 21
Art thou called being a servant? Care not for it; but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather.
At first glance, it is certain, this text refers to a state of personal servitude, and extends to every instance of the same kind. It is also as clear that he Apostle exhorts the servant to prefer liberty. This proves that the inspired writer himself, preferred liberty to a state of servitude; for he would not exhort another to prefer what was not preferable in his own esteem. Now, if Paul esteemed personal liberty a valuable inheritance, he certainly esteemed the liberty of a community a far ricer inheritance; for if one man’s enjoyment of it was a good, the enjoyment of two must be a greater good, and so on through the whole community. From the same manner of reasoning, the slavery of a community appears to be a proportionably greater evil than the slavery of a community appears to be a propotionably greater evil than the slavery of an individual. Hence, we may observe from the text, that civil liberty is a great good.
This is the proposition to which I ask your present hour;s attention, and if it should appear in the sequel to contain an important truth, you will not esteem it below the gospel preacher’s duty to explain and support it in public, especially at such a time as this, a time, at the very prospect of which, our generous forefathers would have wept in bitterness of soul. If civil liberty is a great good, it ought to be deemed one of the blessings of Heaven; these it is the preacher’s duty to illustrate, that we may feel the obligations they bring us under — that we may enquire whether we have improved them for the glory of the giver, and that we my know how to conduct toward them for the future. Be pleased then to give your candid, close, and serious attention, while I endeavor to explain the nature of civil liberty and prove that is a great good.
As it is much less difficult to point out the nature of true coin in general, than to determine whether any particular piece is genuine, or how far it differs from the perfect standard: so it is much easier to point out the general nature of civil liberty, than to say what degree of it enters into any particular civil constitution. It is therefore most natural to enquire, in the first place, concerning the general nature of liberty; and indeed it is as necessary as natural. For nil we determine this question we have no rule by which we may estimate the quantity of liberty in any particular constitution: But when once we have found the standard, we shall be prepared to examine our own constitution, or any other, at pleasure, and to determine what part of the constitution should be supported, and what may be give up with safety. An enquiry into the nature of liberty in general, is also needful on another account. Without it we cannot see the force of any evidence that may be brought to evince the value of liberty itself.
That subject may be fairly elucidated, I will endeavor to remove some mistakes by which it has been obscured. In doing this, I observe that liberty does not consist in persons thinking themselves free. The Jews could say we were never in bondage to any man though they wore the Roman yoke at the very same time. Again, though a certain constitution should be contended for and supported by a majority of voices; yet this would be no sure evidence that it is free: because a hundred may as truly tyrannize over one, as one over a hundred; or otherwise, the majority may be in favor of licentiousness. What but love of licentiousness of tyranny, or both can induce the heathen nations to approve of their several systems of government? What but these could induce Saul and the men of Israel to persecute David and his handful? What but one or both of these drew down the fury of Sodom on Lot — of the Jews on the prophets — on Jesus Christ — on his apostles and their followers. What but these ever raised any one of the many terrible persecutions under which the peaceable disciples of Jesus Christ have fallen from time to time? In all these instances the majority have been unfriendly to liberty.
Civil liberty consists, not in any inclinations of the members of a community; but in the being and due administration of such a system of laws, as effectually tends to the greatest felicity of state. Herein consists of civil liberty, and to live under such a constitution, so administered, is to be the member of a free state; and he who is free from the censure of those laws, may full enjoy all the pleasures of civil liberty, unless he is prevented by some defect, not in the constitution, but in himself.
If liberty consists in the being and administration of a civil constitution, different from such as one as has been mentioned, I must confess, my inference from the Apostle’s exhortation is not just. For certain it is, that so far as a constitution doth not tend, in the highest degree, to the greatest felicity of the state, collectively considered; it is a comparative evil and not a good.
Where there is no system of laws, not liberty, but anarchy, takes place. Some degree of liberty may, indeed, exist where neither the constitution nor the administration of it is perfect. But in order to perfect freedom, the law must extend to every member of the community alike, both in its requisitions and prohibitions. Every one must be required to do all he can that tends to the highest good of the state: For the whole of this is due to the states, from the individuals of which it is composed. Every thing, however trifling, that tends, even in the lowest degree, to disserve the interest of the state must also be forbidden.
Originally, there were no private interests. The world and all things in it, were the common interests of all the inhabitants, under God the great owner. Nothing is to be esteemed an interest any farther than it tends to good or is capable of being turned to the benefit of the possessor. But whatever has this tendency, or may be thus used, is properly termed an interest. According to this estimate, the term interest includes all those various offices and employments that are capable of being improved for the good of the community. There interests, being such as cannot be managed by the whole body collectively, are distributed among the individuals according as they appear in the eyes of the body politic, to be qualified to use them for the good of the whole. In this way every member becomes a servant to the state, and is a good or bad servant according to the manner in which he discharges the trust reposed in him. This is equally true of the King on the throne and the peasant in the field. The laws of a fee state require each individual to use the public interests deposited in his hands, in every instance in that very manner that shall contribute more to the good of the community, without any particular reference to the Governor or subject, rich or poor, high or low. While the laws require such a continual course of conduct in every member of the community, they as critically forbid every one to take from another that part of the public property which is committed to him; or to impede him in making the best use of it for the public, unless when the community see it best to deprive an individual of his place and authorize another to do it in their name. In this manner the laws of a free state provide security for the particular properties of each individual member, or rather for the public interest deposited in the hands of individuals, by denouncing such penalties on every offender as are exactly adequate to his offense. There must be an exact proportion between the offense and the penalty. Where there is no such proportion, or equality, liberty is infringed, because the law is partial, as it will injure, either the public, by not giving it its due, or the offender, by inflicting a greater evil than he deserves. In this case there must be no distinctions, made by the law, between persons of different characters and stations, only as those different characters and stations may give the same criminal action different degrees of aggravation, A more humble condition; because it has a more detrimental aspect on the state. For this reason, the offences of the great should be punished with greater indignity and severity, than the crimes of persons in low life. In a perfectly free state, friendship to the community will be as carefully noticed as an offense. Punishment will not be more exactly allotted to the transgressor, than adequate and the practitioner of such of the learned professions as belong to the state, are directed by the community, in effect, to reward each other by an exchange of labor, or commodities. While those servants of the state, who are employed in managing the reins of government, are rewarded by a collection from the whole, an equality to which is returned in the happy effects of legislation and executive justice. At the same time that the laws make due provision for an equal distribution of rewards among the faithful servants of the state both of higher and lower rank, they make as full provision for the infliction of penalties on every class alike. They tender it as easy to bring a royal offender to trial, to procure an impartial sentence against him, and to inflict deserved punishment, as in the case of the meanest subject.
In such a state, the laws extend to all the members of the society alike, by making an impartial estimate of every offense, but as it is best in all communities, that some offenders should be pardoned, for special reasons, and that others should be punished; those same laws will lodge a power of determining that alternative with some one, whose capacity and integrity are equal to such a trust, so that the community may suffer no harm.
A good foundation for liberty is laid in such a constitution, but its whole worth lies in due administration. Perfect liberty takes place where such a constitution is fully administered: But where the administration is imperfect, liberty is likewise imperfect. In a perfectly free state, both the constitution, and the and the administration of it, are full of propriety, equality, and equilibrium.
These I take to be the outlines of genuine liberty, which by a proper application, may assist us in our enquiries after the degree of liberty enjoyed by any particular state.
Indeed, the circumstances and occurrences, that attend human states are so numerous, extensive and uncertain, that no one man, or body of men, can foresee and improve them all to the greatest advantage. Hence, it frequently happens, that we cannot ascertain the degree of liberty enjoyed by a community, by comparing the particular parts of a constitution, or the administration of it, with the abstract notion of liberty; for we see but a small part of the whole system, Our views are very partial. This is the case not only of individual subjects, but the body of government, itself, cannot, completely, comprehend the whole. Some degree of partial oppression is, therefore, to be expected in every human state, even, under the wisest administration. We may, however, determine, in some instances, whether liberty is unnecessarily infringed or not. When we see the body of a community plundered for the sake of indulging individuals in pride, luxury, idleness and debauchery — when we see thousands rewarded with pensions, for having either devised, or attempted to execute some scheme for plundering a nation, and establishing despotism, we cannot be in doubt whether some horrid attack is made on liberty.
We may reason thus in a few particular instances; but, in general, we must form our judgments by considering the various dispositions of mankind, and by noticing their various operations and effects, in various circumstances. We must turn our attention to the facts that have already taken place; and may reasonably conclude, that the same causes will always produce the same effects, unless something special prevents. One general inference from the whole will be, that liberty is much rather to be expected in a state where a majority, first, institutes, and then varies the constitution according as they apprehend circumstances require, than in any other.
Other things being equal, a majority has a more general and distinct knowledge of the circumstances, and exigencies of a state than a minority; and, of consequence, is more able to judge of what is best to be done. Add to this, that private interest is the great idol of the human mind; and, therefore, when a majority unite in any measures, it is to be supposed, they are such measures as are best calculated to secure the particular interests of the members of that majority; and consequently, the general interests of the body are more effectually provided for, in this way, than by the security of the private interest of any minority whatever. And if the maxims adopted by the majority are general, both in their nature and extent, it is supposed, they will prove as salutary to the members of the minority as to those of the majority, and, consequently, to the whole body. Hence, though liberty is not necessarily, nor invariably connected with the voice of a majority; yet, it is much more likely to be found in connection with such a voice, than with that of a minority. Indeed, there is in general no reason to expect liberty where a majority is counteracted, and, on the contrary, we may hope for some good degree of it, where a majority governs.
It is only on these maxims that the present British monarch can be exculpated from the several charges of rebellion, treachery, and usurpation, and on these, the glorious revolution in favor of the house of Hanover is perfectly justifiable.
Let us now attend at little, to a few particulars that may serve to excite in us some more adequate ideas of worth of civil liberty. Indeed, none but an omniscient mind can fully comprehend, and exactly estimate the true worth of this blessing, in its various consequences, effects, and inseparable concomitants, as they take place on various occasions. Our views of this subject may, however, be greatly enlarged and rendered much more distinct than they generally are.
That civil liberty is of great worth, may be inferred from the conduct of God toward the Jewish nation. He promised them freedom from the oppression of their enemies as a testimony of his favor in case of their obedience; and as a chastisement for their disobedience, he threatened them with a sate of servitude. From this it is certain that the omniscient God himself, esteems liberty a great blessing. The Israelites were taught by him to set their hearts much on liberty, and to avoid slavery with great caution, constancy and vigor.
It was observed that liberty has its rise in such a constitution as tends to the highest good of a community, and that the due administration of such a constitution affords a state of freedom. Hence, the bare idea of liberty discovers it to be an inestimable good, for whatever tends to the highest good of great numbers, must, undoubtedly, be an invaluable treasure. In this view liberty is an inexhaustible fountain, which, under God, sends forth an endless variety of such streams, as are both pleasant and salutary. I will instance in a few particulars. When we enjoy liberty, and are sure of its continuance, we feel that our persons and properties are safely guarded by her watchful eye, her impartial disposition and her powerful arm. This excites to industry, which tends to competency of wealth. The vassal, on the other hand, having no security of his present possessions, or for those he might obtain, concludes so uncertain a prize is not worth the seeking, and therefore will do no more than barely serves to silence the clamours of necessity from day to day.
In such a situation, every bias of the human mind tends to idleness and poverty. Even generosity itself will sink into inactivity and indolence; because it loathes a connection between tyranny and wealth and therefore refuses, will do nothing that might establish such a connection by strengthening a tyrannical state. Liberty not only removes every obstruction out of the way of industry, frugality and wealth, but rouses even indolence to action, and gives honest, laborious industry a social, sprightly, cheerful air; but in a state of slavery, sloth hangs heavily on the heels of dumb, sullen, moross melancholy. Industry and frugality spring from the same source, and are spontaneously productive of temperance. The former moderates the appetites, while the latter forbids unnecessary expense. This triple alliance is the natural parent of decent conversation and courteous behavior. They calm the passions and urge even pride and avarice to mimic humanity, and every generous sentiment. By these and such means, they, enable and dispose us to fulfill our contracts with exactness, ad to give us credit with our neighbors and lay a foundation for public confidence. In this manner liberty renders political virtue foundation for public confidence. In this manner liberty renders political virtue fashionable, and tends to diffuse public spirit. It discountenances disorder, and every narrow disposition. Thus the mind is fortified on all sides, and rendered calm, resolute, and stable. Industry and temperance give health to the body, and render it fit for the residence and operations of such a soul. In a nation raised to such a pitch of vigor, firmness, health and opulence, all the natural means of defense are collected, and to such the arts of war will be an easy acquisition. These united, will prove a bulwark against every assault of lawless power, whether foreign or domestic. In such a state, a free people will enjoy composure of soul and their taste will become refined. The study of the fine arts will follow or consequence, and, after these, a long train of science. Industry, frugality, and curious turn naturally invent and perfect the useful arts, What is more than all liberty secures the rights of conscience, by protecting every member of the state in the free exercise of his religion, unless it be such a religion as is inconsistent with the good of the state. The first effects of liberty, on the human mind, are calmness, serenity and pleasing hope, and all the various fruits of liberty produce the same happy effects. Thus liberty, first divides itself, as it were into various streams; which at length, all meet together again in soothing sensations and sweet emotion of soul. The pleasure that springs from liberty is the life of every other enjoyment, and the importance of it in a single instance is vastly great, too great to be conceived of, unless on a sudden transition from a state of refined freedom, to that of the most abject slavery, How great then must be the collective happiness that a community derives from a state of perfect freedom? I confess liberty never has been enjoyed in perfection by any of the nations of the earth; but this by no means affects the foregoing estimate, For, from the small degree of liberty, with which we are acquainted, the consequences of perfect liberty may be justly inferred. Nor is the imperfection of liberty, as it hath taken place in the world, any discouragement to the pursuit of it. The more we can obtain, the greater will be our enjoyment. Each degree of liberty is a precious pearl.
When we would learn how much any thing tends to happiness, we must view it with reference to the taste of the person in whom the happiness is supposed to take place. So, the happy tendency of liberty cannot be seen, unless it be viewed as terminating on some particular disposition in him by whom it is enjoyed. Liberty is so illy calculated to give to either tyrannical, or, licentious spirit, that it proves a galling curb to both. A free spirit — a spirit that is consonant to a free constitution; — a spirit that seeks the highest good of a community, in its proper place, this, and this only can extract and taste all the sweets of liberty. If we would learn how great a tendency liberty has to produce happiness, we must consider it in such circumstances as give it an opportunity to do good.
Let us then, for once, imagine a state whose members are all of a free spirit; and then attend to the glory and pleasures of liberty. The individuals are all of one mind. They unite in the same grand pursuit, the highest good of the whole. Only suppose all the members of such a state to be acquainted with the best means of promoting their general end; and we shall seem them all moving imperfect concert. The good of the body will be their first aim. And in subservience to this, they will impartially regard the particular interests of individuals. You and I shall perfectly unite in our regard for your interests and for mine. Your interest will not be the more dear to you, nor the less so to me, because it is yours. In these circumstances, there would be no room for the emotions of any of the angry painful passions; but, on the contrary, every soft and pleasing affection of every soul, would be called forth into vigorous and harmonious exercise. Every individual would choose to move in his proper sphere, and that all others should move in theirs. This would at once constitute pure felicity, and exalted beauty. How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity: Such a state of things, in the little community of a single family must be productive of great good. But should it take place through a nation, each family would enjoy the same good from its own domestic circumstances, beside the far greater pleasure which would accrue to each individual from a consideration of the same happy condition of the whole.
Should it be said, that such a scheme as has been mentioned is merely chimerical and romantic; because there never has been, nor ever will be such a general state of mind on earth; I would say, the same objection is equally strong against the worth of a state of perfect holiness. Such a state has never taken place, in perfection, in this world, nor will it hereafter; but must we therefore suppose that holiness is of no worth? The reason why we do not experience all the pleasures of liberty, that have been mentioned, is, not any defect in liberty, but the perverseness of our selfish hearts, which prevents our pursuits and enjoyments of the delights of perfect liberty. Liberty still remains a blessing too great to be compared with any other earthly good.
The thoughts that have been suggested in this discourse, open to use the nature of good government in its several branches. A legislature is denominated good, from the goodness of its laws, or, from the tendency of the laws made by it to produce the highest good of the community. In exact proportion to this tendency of the laws, is the legislature to be esteemed good: — the goodness of executive government consists in its due administration of the laws already made. It is for the good of the community alone, that laws are either to be made executed. So that,
Good government is not inconsistent with liberty. Perfect liberty and perfect government are perfectly harmonious, while tyranny and licentiousness are inconsistent with both. Yea further,
Good government is essential to the very being of liberty. Remove good government and you remove liberty. Abridge the former and you abridge the latter. Let good government increase and you increase liberty. These can never be separated in any degree. Their rise and fall is exactly uniform. Hence,
The impropriety of saying of a person, that he is a friend to government, but not to liberty; and of another that he is a friend to liberty, but not to government, appears to be very gross, Indeed on many may be a friend to tyranny and not to liberty, but then he is as truly an enemy to government. Another may be a friend to licentiousness and not to government; but then he is as truly an enemy to liberty; and both for this plain reason that good government in a state, and the liberty of that state, are one and the same thing., This suggests another idea, which is, that
He who infringes on liberty rebels against good government, and ought to be treated as a rebel. It matters not what station he fills’ he is a traitor; his treachery is, however, more or less aggravated in proportion to his state and condition,. He that fills an elevated station is proportionably more criminal in the same rebellion , than those in a lower state’ and where a man proves false to confidence reposed in him, his treachery is still more vase and detestable, Because his exaltation puts it into his power to do greater injury to the state than could possibly be done by inferior.
It is equally true, that every kind and degree of opposition made against good government is an enemy to liberty, a tyrant in heart, and they who are discontented and fretful under it are of the same cast.
If liberty is such a thing, and so great a blessing as it has been represented, it is, certainly, a rich talent that Heaven has been pleased to entrust with every man, and it undoubtedly becomes all to be constantly, and thoroughly awake to a sense of their duty respecting it, We are too ready to fancy, that when once we have appointed legislators, and given them charge of this inestimable treasure, we need give ourselves no further concern about it. But this is not our whole duty. We are all stewards, to whom the God of nature has committed this talent. The design of appointing a few individuals to government is not to free the rest from their obligations, but to assist them in the discharge of their duty, in the same manner that ministers of the gospel are to assist their hearers in those duties that respect the care of their souls. Communities ought therefore to keep an impartial and watchful eye on government. They are urged to do so, by a consideration of the avaricious and aspiring dispositions of mankind in general, and the peculiar opportunities and temptations that governors have to indulge them. In these latter ages of the world, after it has been found by several thousands years experience, that such as have been made the guardians of liberty, have in almost every instance, where it was thought practicable, endeavored to make themselves masters, instead of continuing stewards of the community; in these days, I say we are more distinctly sensible and frequently called on to watch the conduct of government. Liberty is not an absolute right of our own, if it were, we might support, and guard, or neglect it at pleasure. It is a loan of heaven, for which we must account with the great God. It is therefore, as unreasonable for us to place an unlimited confidence in any earthly ruler, as to place such a confidence in our spiritual ministers and depend wholly on them to settle our final account with the holy judge of the universe.
I do not mean that we should, as individuals, undertake to dictate to our rulers, or oppose them by force whenever we judge they act a wrong part. This would be utterly unreasonable, for surely we have at best, no better right to usurpation than they. What I mean is, that we should all endeavor to turn the attention of our fellow members of the community on the conduct of our rulers. We should notice and compare it with the standard of right and wrong ourselves, and excited others to do so likewise. We should endeavor on every alarming occasion, to collect the sentiments of the body, and vigorously pursue those measures that are thought the most salutary for the whole.
It becomes us, with united hearts, to make a firm stand against every attempt to wrest the jewel from us, either by force or fraud: — The present state of things is very alarming. In the view of the most simple common sense, we are now called on — men, women and children are called on to struggle for the preservation of those rights of mankind which are inexpressibly dear. Let us then rouse and exert ourselves to the utmost, on the present occasion. But you ask me. What shall we do? Shall we renounce the authority of our gracious sovereign? Shall we take up arms against his troops? What shall we do?
I answer, by no means. Do not suffer the thought of renouncing our king’s authority, so much as to turn in your mind; rather, be ready to shed your blood in defense of your rightful sovereign and his high office. Never let us think of entering on a civil war, unless the Pretender, or some other usurper should attempt to dethrone the British parent of his people. But should this be the case, then let the world see that their king is dearer to the Americans than their blood.
Though the time has been when our countrymen, but a handful, wee obliged to defend themselves against thousands of the native savages; by dint of arms; yet, notwithstanding, a cloud, in some respects, much heavier than that, lowers over us at present; such is the kindness of our God, that, humanly speaking, it is in the power of America to save both herself and Great Britain from total destruction, and that without a single hostile stroke. Nothing more than piety and economy are necessary, and in these, every age and character may unite. The pious supplications of the stammering child will as effectually reach the ear of our God, and be as acceptable to him as the most elegant address. A thousand things may intercept our petitions on their way to an earthly monarch; but a combination of our enemies in earth and hell cannot prevent a pious wish in its flight to Heaven; and let us remember, that the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous avail much. We have sought in vain for relief from our parent state — from our kind. And if salvation has not come from our gracious sovereign King George, we cannot expect it from the hills. We must look still higher. Instead of railing against man let us notice and imitate the example of Michael who railed not against the devil himself. David, said, of Shimel, let him curse for the Lord hath bidden him. He saw, he had deserved so illy at God’s hand, that it was no wonder, he had brought such a punishment on him. He, therefore, accepted it willingly at the hand of God; while he was not insensible to the wickedness of Shimel. It becomes us, likewise, to notice the hand of God, and settle in it our minds, that evil springs not out of the ground, — that there’s no evil in the city which the Lord hath not done. Under such views, let us all, like Daniel of old, piously pour out our hearts before God, acknowledging our own sins, and those of our people. Meanwhile, let us encourage no practice, in ourselves or others, that tends to enslave our country. Let us learn to live in the plain manner of our fore-fathers. It is high time for us to reform. We have had a rich inheritance and wasted it in riotous living. Let us return to our father’s house, least we be reduced to the want, even of husks to eat. These are the only expedients that seem needful at present, but if we will risqué our country for the sake of a few superfluities, posterity may curse our pride and luxury, and the present generation may find that death and carnage will terminate their folly. And should this be the case we must charge the horrid scene to our own misconduct. If any should say, it is in vain for them as individuals to be vigilant, zealous and firm in pursuing any measures for the security of our rights, unless all would unite: I would reply.
Ages are composed of seconds, the earth of sands, and the sea of drops, too small to be seen by the naked eye. The smallest particles have their influence. Such is our state, that each individual has a proportion of influence on some neighbor at least; he, on another, and so on’ as in a river, the following drop urges that which is before, and every one through the whole length of the stream has the like influence. We know not, what individuals may do. We are not at liberty to lie dormant until we can, at once, influence the whole. We must begin with the weight we have. Should the little springs neglect to flow till a general agreement should take place, the torrent that now bears down all before it, would ever be formed. These might floods have their rise in single drops from the rocks, which, uniting, creep along till they meet with another combination so small that it might be absorbed by the travelers foot. Let us receive instruction from the streams, and without discouragement, pursue a laudable plan. But,
Is it not to be feared, that an appetite for the leeks and onions, is the source of our difficulty? The ungenerous language of the objector seems to be, ” I could wish to seem my country happy, but if the fates have determined its destruction I will not forgo my share of the booty.”e;
It is great, it is glorious, to espouse a good cause, and it still more great and glorious in such a cause to stand alone. It is great and glorious to outbrave the reproach of the base. Should all our countrymen forsake us, perseverance would be an honor, and the honor will rise as the number of our adherents is diminished.
Let us, therefore, vigorously pursue prudent measures in the present alarming state of things. Then, should it please the righteous disposer of all, to reduce us to the most abject slavery, we shall at lease, have the consolation to think, that we are in no part chargeable with having riveted chains on our country, and the blessing of a clear conscience is incomparably better than the greatest temporal interest and worldly applause.
This has been a land of liberty. We have enjoyed that blessing in a great degree for a long time. It becomes us now to reflect on our ingratitude to the giver. When he was wrought salvation for us, on one occasion and another, how have we expressed our thankfulness? By bonfires, illuminations, revellings, gluttony and drunkenness. Would not a stranger have thought us worshipers of the whole race of the heathen deities, rather than of that God, who is a spirit, and who seeketh such to worship him, as do it in spirit and in truth?
We have boasted of our liberty and free spirit. A free spirit is no more inclined to enslave others than ourselves. If then it should be found upon examination that we have been of a tyrannical spirit in a free country, how base must our character appear! And how many thousands have been plunged into death slavery by our means?
When the servant had nothing to pay, and his master had frankly forgiven him all, and he had gone and cast his fellow servant into prison, there to remain till he should pay the last farthing; the master justly punished his ingratitude and severity with the like imprisonment. Hath not our conduct very nearly resembled the conduct of that servant? God gave us liberty, and we have enslaved our fellow-men. May we not fear that the law of retaliation is about to be executed on us? What can we object against it? What excuse can we make for our conduct? What reason can we urge why our oppressions shall not be repaid in kind? Should the Africans see God Almighty subjecting us to all the evils we have brought on them, and should they cry to us, O daughter of America who are to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us; happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones; how could we object? How could we resent it? Would we enjoy liberty? Then we must grant it to others. For shame, let us either cease to enslave our fellow-men, or else let us cease to complain of those that would enslave us. Let us either wash our hands from blood, or never hope to escape the avenger.
To conclude, unless we adopt some prudent decisive measures in humble dependence on God; we have reason to fear some almost unparalleled calamity. If we do not exert ourselves: it would not be strange, should a military government be established, and popery triumph in our land. Then, perhaps, those, who now want fortitude to deny themselves some of the superfluities of life, may see their husbands and sons slain in battle, their daughters ravished, their wives ript up their children dashed against the wall, and their pious parents put to the rack for the religion of Jesus. Now is the decisive moment. Gods sets before us life and death, good and evil, blessing and cursing, and bids us choose. Let us therefore choose the good and refuse the evil, that we may live and not die.