Nathanael Emmons (1745-1840) graduated from Yale in 1767. He was pastor of a church in Franklin, Mass. from 1773 until his retirement in 1827. He received his D.D. from Dartmouth in 1798. He helped found and served as the first president of the Massachusetts Missionary Society. This election sermon was preached by Dr. Bassett in Boston on May 30, 1798.
His Excellency INCREASE SUMNER, Esq.
His Honor MOSES GILL, Esq.
The Honorable the COUNCIL, SENATE,
HOUSE OF REPRESENTTIVES,
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS,
MAY 30, 1798.
BEING THE DAY OF
By NATHANAEL EMMONS, A. M.
Pastor of the Church in Franklin.
Printed for the State.
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS.
ORDERED, That Mr. Fisher, of W. Mr. Coffin, Mr. Williams, of P. Mr. Slocum and Mr. Phelps, be a Committee to wait on the Rev. Mr. EMMONS, and in the name of the House to thank him for his Sermon, this day delivered before His Excellency the Governor, the Honorable Council, and the two Branches of the Legislature, and to request a copy thereof for the press.
Attest, HENRY WARREN, Clerk.
SO THIS DANIEL PROSPERED IN THE REIGN OF DARIUS, AND IN THE REIGN OF CYRUS THE PERSIAN.
The prosperity of this noble ruler, clearly appears from the whole history of his life. Though, in his youth, he was carried away captive from Judea to Babylon; yet that dark and distressing scene soon opened the way to a brighter prospect. His high descent, his graceful appearance, and his shining talents, secured the royal favor, and the peculiar privilege of a public education. Having finished his academical course, he was presented, in usual form, before the reigning monarch; who, strictly inquiring into his proficiency in learning, found him not only superior to all his companions, but ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in all his realm. Pleased with this promising youth, he took him into his own presence, and employed him in his own service. This was only a short and easy step to higher preferment. Being called to tell, and to interpret the king’s dream, which no other man was able to do, he was immediately advanced above all the governors in the province of Babylon. Though he had now scarcely reached the years of manhood, yet he faithfully and honorably discharged the duties of his office, during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, during the reign of Evil-Merodach, and until the close of the reign of Belshazzar. At that portentous period, he was sent for, to read, and to explain the hand-writing on the wall, which contained the awful doom of that vile and impious prince; for which he was raised to higher dignity, and made the third ruler in the kingdom. The following night, Babylon was taken, Belshazzar was slain, and all his dominions thrown into the hands of Darius the Mede, by the victorious arms of Cyrus the Persian. Upon this large accession to his empire, Darius found it necessary to make a new arrangement in the departments of state. And in this new arrangement, he took particular notice of the celebrated Daniel, and placed him at the head of an hundred and twenty princes. Here, in spite of all his enemies, he continued to prosper, until Cyrus took the full possession of the Persian monarchy. That auspicious event gave him a free and easy access to Cyrus, and a happy opportunity of gaining a just and honorable influence over that great and amiable prince. In a word, it was the peculiar lot of Daniel to enjoy the favor and confidence of four of the greatest monarchs of the East; and to sustain, with dignity and success, some of the highest offices of state, for more than sixty years, in a constant, uninterrupted succession. Such another instance of long and increasing prosperity, in public life, we presume to say, cannot be found in the whole history of man.
Successful men have always been revered as well as admired. The Greeks and Romans held those in high estimation, who appeared to enjoy the peculiar smiles of the invisible powers. The same sentiment universally prevails in the minds of men. They spontaneously conclude, that those possess some extraordinary excellence, who are uncommonly successful in any important station of life. And if the Supreme Being governs the natural and moral world, according to a previous connexion between causes and effects; there seems to be a just foundation to suppose, that peculiar prosperity is a mark of peculiar merit. Under the impression of this sentiment, it is very natural to inquire what extraordinary qualities Daniel possessed, which mutually conspired to promote his prosperity, in the management of public affairs. Here it may be proper to observe,
First, That this excellent and prosperous ruler possessed superior powers of mind. The Father of Spirits has been pleased to display the same sovereignty in the bestowment of intellectual faculties, as in the bestowment of inferior favors. To some he has given ten talents; to some five; and to some fewer. The minds of different men are differently constructed. In one man, the memory is the superior power; in another, the imagination is the most brilliant talent; in a third, a clear and penetrating judgment is the most prominent faculty; but in Daniel, all these natural powers were equally strong and well proportioned. His quick apprehension and retentive memory were happily united with a strong and penetrating judgment, which formed him a great and noble genius. This appears from the account which we have of his mental improvements. He acquired knowledge with the greatest ease and rapidity; which discovered a sprightly and retentive mind. And he was able to excel in every branch of science, to which he turned his attention; which equally displayed the strength and symmetry of all his intellectual powers. These, perhaps, some may choose to ascribe to the plastic power of education: but taking education in the most extensive latitude, in which Helvetius, or any other author uses the term, it will not account for every mental distinction. It is readily admitted, that all the objects with which a man is surrounded, and all the connexions and circumstances in which he is placed, will either strengthen, or weaken his original powers. But to ascribe these powers to anything exterior to the mind itself, is no less absurd, than to ascribe the attractive power of the magnet to the needle, which only serves to discover that peculiar property. Daniel, like every other man in the morning of life, was unacquainted with the native strength of his own mind; but by repeated mental exertions, in the course of his education, he discovered those superior talents, which qualified him to manage the affairs of government, with great reputation and success. A party spirit, or the favor of friends, or a peculiar concurrence of circumstances, may chance to raise a man to a public station; but if his natural abilities are unequal to his office, he will most certainly fall, to rise no more. But Daniel began to rise, by the dint of merit, and therefore, he continued to rise from office to office, until he reached the next step to imperial power. Like Julius Cesar, he was born to govern, whether he lived in Judea, in Babylon, in Persia, or in any other quarter of the globe.
Secondly. Daniel possessed a large share of general information, which contributed to form him a great and successful politician. Civil government is extremely complicated and extensive, both in theory and in practice. It embraces all the objects in this world, and all the interests and concerns of men, in this life. No species of human knowledge is foreign to the business of a statesman, who needs to be universally acquainted with men and things. This idea was early and deeply impressed on the mind of Daniel. He was born a prince, and received a princely education. Providence directed his first and supreme view to the affairs of state. To be an able and successful politician, was the single object, which engrossed his whole attention, and which guided all his exertions. And no person, perhaps, ever enjoyed more ample means and opportunities of attaining this object. His great capacity; his refined taste; his studious habit; his early acquaintance with the solid branches of learning; and more especially his peculiar situation, prepared him to acquire the largest stock of general knowledge.
Babylon stood on the plains of Shinar, which was the most venerable and most enlightened spot on the face of the earth. There the residue of men first settled after the flood; and there they continued and increased, until their absurd and impious attempt to build the tower of Babel, proved the occasion of a general dispersion. Though this gave a universal shock to human affairs, and naturally checked the progress of knowledge; yet the feeds of science were happily preserved by the children of Ham, who still remained on the plains of Babylon. That city, therefore, was the fountain-head of information. There all the knowledge of both the old and of the new world concentred. There the arts and sciences were first cultivated. And there a literary society was first formed. The Chaldeans, who composed that society, devoted themselves wholly to the improvements of the mind, and made it their whole business to acquire and disseminate every species of rare and useful knowledge. And for this purpose, we may presume, they not only made deep researches into the works of nature, but also collected from every quarter, the most ancient and most valuable discoveries on every important subject. In such a circle of learned men, and in possession of so many means of information, such a man as Daniel, who had a peculiar capacity and taste for learning, must have amassed as large a stock of human literature, as could be derived from all the labors and researches of antiquity.
But I must further observe, that Daniel had the best sources of information in his own hands; I mean the sacred books of divine Inspiration. These acquainted him with the creation and fall of man, and the universal corruption of human nature. These exhibited the Church of God, as the great object, to which all human governments ought to be subservient. These placed before him a form of government, which was absolutely perfect. These presented him with the lives and characters of the greatest and best statesmen, for his constant imitation and encouragement. These reminded him of the awful fate of wicked nations and of wicked rulers. And these inculcated upon his own conscience his solemn obligations to live and act, like a dying and accountable creature. By reading and devoutly studying these sacred volumes, he obtained the best political as well as religious knowledge. Such a variety of books, however, would have been more injurious than beneficial to him, had he read without reflection, or thought without decision. But his strong, capacious, discerning mind could not be overloaded with learning. Like Pericles, he was able “to turn and wind everything to his own purpose,” and to apply every species of knowledge to a political use. The state physician needs an immense fund of political information, in order to prescribe on all occasions, a proper remedy for every political disorder. Such a source of political information Daniel possessed. He carried in his mind the history of the world, and the experience of ages. This enabled him to act with propriety, in every situation, and always to succeed in all his public measures. But,
Thirdly. Daniel’s extraordinary wisdom was no less beneficial, than his great information. Nebuchadnezzar pronounced him, even in his youth, to be ten times better “in all matters of wisdom,” than all the wise men in Babylon. And before he was thirty, his eminent wisdom was universally known and celebrated, not only through the empire, but through all the neighboring nations.
The haughty king of Tyrus had heard of the fame of his wisdom, otherwise he could not have felt the force of that severe reproof of the inspired prophet: “Thou art wiser than Daniel.”
Wisdom is a term of various and extensive meaning. It includes not only invention, but foresight and sagacity. Wisdom certainly implies the power of invention. It enables a man to take a clear and comprehensive view of things; and, under that view, to form the noblest designs, and to adopt the best means to accomplish the best purposes. But after a man has devised a great and complicated scheme, and made choice of the proper measures to carry it into execution, there is still occasion for what is commonly called foresight. This is that part of wisdom, which looks forward to, and provides against, unforeseen contingencies, which may possibly defeat a great and good design. But foresight is founded in sagacity, which is the power of discerning the near and remote connexion of things; of discovering the peculiar dispositions of mankind; and of penetrating their most dark and deep designs.
A large measure of wisdom, in all its branches, is indispensably necessary to form a great and good politician. Civil rulers are obliged, by the nature of their office, to be intimately concerned with every description of men. And unless they are “as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves,” they are in the utmost danger of being betrayed into measures, which will be injurious to themselves as well as to the public. Rehoboam lost the greatest part of his kingdom, by hearkening to the evil advice of young and conceited counselors. Political storms and tempests often rise, in which the ablest statesmen find occasion to exert all their wisdom, to devise the best measures, to prevent the political ship from foundering. Daniel frequently employed his wisdom to great advantage. By his wise and prudent conduct, he secured the favor and assistance of Cyrus, in restoring the Jews to their native land. By his great sagacity, he obtained the liberty of living according to the laws of his own religion. When he preferred his request to the superintendant of the captives, he replied, that he could not grant it, without endangering his head to the king. But Daniel was so perfectly acquainted with every avenue to the human heart, that he brought his benefactor to a cheerful compliance, even at the risk of his life. So, when the king had signed a rash and cruel decree, to destroy all the wise men of Babylon, he had the “wisdom and counsel” to stop the executioner in the discharge of his office, to appease the wrath of the king, and to preserve the lives of many of his most valuable subjects. By virtue of such extraordinary wisdom, he was able to promote his own and the public good; and to succeed in the administration of the most despotic government, that ever existed.
Fourthly. Daniel was a man of invincible firmness. This was but the natural effect of his wisdom. He was able to think for himself; to form his own opinions; and to comprehend the nature and tendency of his own designs. Having, therefore, once deliberately and wisely concerted a measure, he expected to succeed, and eventually to gain the approbation of the public. This well-founded confidence inspired him, with irresistible vigor and fortitude, in the prosecution of all his public measures. If he met with difficulty, or opposition, he steadily pursued his object, and appealed to the end, to justify the propriety of the means. He entreated Melzar to try his proposed expedient, and promised to renounce it, if it did not eventually answer a wise and valuable purpose. So, he besought the king to suspend the execution of his hasty decree, only upon the condition, that his dream should be interpreted, and his wishes completely gratified. Being ever fully persuaded of the wisdom and rectitude of his public conduct, he was always willing to suffer the opposition and clamor of the multitude, until his wisdom and rectitude should have a fair opportunity to triumph over all their prejudice and folly. Such a firmness of mind is the reverse of a vain and foolish obstinancy, which consists in a wilful opposition to the dictates of wisdom. This was the fault of Pharaoh, who ruined himself and his kingdom, by rejecting the advice of Moses. This was the fault of Saul, who disobeyed the voice of Samuel, and forfeited his title to the throne of Israel. And this was the fault of Ahab, who despised the admonition of the prophet, and died as a fool dieth, at Ramoth-Gilead. But Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, displayed a wise and noble firmness, in conducting the children of Israel to the land of promise, notwithstanding all their unreasonable opposition and complaints. If we consult the history of rulers, we shall find firmness of mind to be one of the distinguishing features of every great and prosperous statesman. And how often did God enjoin it upon the rulers of Israel, “to be strong and of a good courage,” in the discharge of their difficult and dangerous duties? There is no one thing, perhaps, more conducive to success in any important and difficult undertaking, than a firm, steady, unremitting spirit. And we have abundant reason to conclude, that this noble spirit had a large share of influence, in promoting the success and prosperity of Daniel, in some of the most critical and hazardous situations of his public life.
Fifthly. This same Daniel, who prospered so much under the most arbitrary princes, was a perfect pattern of inviolable integrity. By this is meant, that he always aimed to do justice, and to treat every man according to the eternal rule of right. As a ruler, he acted upon principle, in guarding the lives, the properties, and the characters of his subjects. Of this, we have incontestable evidence, even the united testimony of his most malicious enemies. “Then the presidents and princes fought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful.” It is very remarkable, that the most critical and malignant eyes could discover no blemish in the integrity of Daniel, through the whole course of his public conduct. But we are to remember, that he had derived his moral sentiments from the pure source of divine Inspiration. He had read, with serious attention, the solemn charge, which Moses delivered to the judges of Israel. “Hear the causes between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment, but ye shall hear the small as well as the great: ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; the judgment is God’s.” He had felt the force of that divine admonition to every civil officer in every civil department: “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow.” But, perhaps, no text in the Bible had a more steady, powerful, and practical influence upon his mind, than the last words which God put into the mouth of a dying statesman. “The God of Israel said, the rock of Israel spoke to me, He that ruleth over men must be just.”
The promotion of justice is the ultimate object of every branch of civil government. This is clearly and forcibly expressed, by an eminent British writer. “We are,” says he, “to look upon all the vast apparatus of our government, as having ultimately no other object or purpose but the distribution of justice, or in other words, the support of the twelve judges. Kings and parliaments, fleets and armies, officers of the court and revenue, ambassadors, ministers, and privy-counselors, are all subordinate in their end to this part of administration.” If the support of justice be the ultimate design of all civil governments, then the exercise of justice must be the indispensable duty of all civil rulers. They are appointed, not so much to promote, as to defend the public interest. Though they have the power of enacting laws; yet they have no right to dissolve the solemn obligation of mutual contracts, nor to require any man to do a single act, which is repugnant to that immutable justice, which is founded in the nature of things. And though they do, in a sense, hold the purse-strings of the people; yet they have no right to dispose of the public property for any other purpose, than the promotion of public justice. If they grant donations to particular corporations, or to particular persons, they ought to do it, not for the sake of those particular corporations, or particular persons, but simply to promote the public good. Indeed, their whole public conduct ought to be regulated, by the infallible standard of immutable justice. It is required of all stewards, whether sacred or civil, that a man be found faithful. Fidelity in civil rulers is, of all other virtues, the most acceptable to the people, who universally feel its happy influence, in every condition of life. Hence mankind have always manifested an uncommon attachment to, and veneration for, those eminent rulers who have given uniform and unequivocal proofs of their moral rectitude. Aristides among the Greeks, Cato among the Romans, and Daniel among the Jews, will be forever celebrated for their incorruptible integrity. This is that sterling excellence in a statesman, which needs no inscription, nor crowned head, to give it a universal currency among all nations of the earth. It was this rare, shining, captivating virtue of integrity, that recommended Daniel to Jews and Babylonians; to Medes and Persians; to Darius and Cyrus; and to every other prince, who employed him in public affairs. But,
Finally, The prosperity of Daniel, amidst all the burdens and dangers of public life, must be principally ascribed to his eminent piety and devotion. Like other men, who stood upon the pinnacle of power, he was continually exposed to the severest strokes of adversity. He came into administration in troublous times; and had a clear prophetic view of the dreadful convulsions, which were just ready to seize an expiring empire. And whilst he sat in the king’s gate, he was a spectator of many of those awful scenes, which were a fulfillment of his own predictions. He saw the haughty king of Babylon shook from his throne, driven from men, and degraded below the beasts that perish. He attended monarch after monarch to the silent mansions of the dead; and felt those heavy shocks, which falling princes never fail to give. And he was personally involved in the horrors of that memorable night, which sunk a mighty empire in perpetual ruin. But none of these things moved him, because his heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord. Those national convulsions and revolutions, which proved so fatal to others, all conspired to promote his personal prosperity and success. He secured the favor and protection of Heaven, by his sincere and exemplary piety. He carried conviction to all around him, that he possessed a truly “divine and excellent spirit.” His religion was neither a glowing enthusiasm, nor a gloomy superstition; but a pure and steady principle of universal benevolence. He gave God the supreme affection of his heart; and was neither afraid nor ashamed to profess the true religion, in the midst of a country and a court, that were involved in the grossest idolatry. He extended his benevolent regards to all the children of men, whether Jews, or Gentiles. He zealously promoted the cause of religion; and spent days and weeks, in humble, fervent, effectual prayers for the prosperity of Zion. He walked within his house with a perfect heart, and every day called upon God, at the head of his family. This he did; not because it was a common and reputable practice; but because it was a plain and important duty, which he owed to God, and to those whom God had committed to his care and instruction. His family devotion was known to his enemies as well as to his friends; and because there was nothing else to take hold of, his enemies took hold of this, as the only possible engine to work his ruin. Accordingly, they conspired together and obtained a royal decree, that “if any person should ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, except of the king, he should be case into the den of lions.” As soon as he knew the writing was signed, he went to his house, opened his windows, fell upon his knees, and three times a day prayed and gave thanks to God. This threw him into the hands of his enemies, and out of the protection of his prince, who was constrained to expose him to the furious beasts of prey. But his heroic faith and fervent prayers stopped the mouths of lions, defeated the designs of his enemies, and smoothed the path of declining life with signal prosperity. For it is in immediate reference to this astonishing event, that it is emphatically said in the words of our text—“So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
I have now delineated the most prominent features of this great and amiable statesman. His life is a bright assemblage of all the human virtues. And it is a just and beautiful remark, that “the collected virtues of one man, strike the mind much more forcibly and advantageously, that the scattered virtues of many.” Permit me then to hold up the character of Daniel as a mirror, in which all persons, and especially those in places of power and trust, may clearly and sensibly discover both what they are and what they ought to be.
The first thing suggested by this excellent character is, that great and good rulers are worthy of the highest respect. Who can contemplate the pious, virtuous, and useful life of Daniel, without paying him the sincere homage of the heart? Whilst he was acting his noble part on the stage of life, the happy influence of his public and private virtues commanded universal admiration and esteem. The greatest men in his day, honored him beyond the bounds of duty, or even propriety. Nebuchadnezzar prostrated himself at his feet, and payed him the excess of Eastern compliance. Darius gave him the strongest marks of sincere and ardent affection. Nor was he less esteemed in the court of heaven. The supreme Ruler dispatched an envoy extraordinary to assure him, “he was greatly beloved” by his Maker, and by all the principalities and powers above. This was no unmeaning compliment, but a divine testimony to his just desert of universal love and respect. All civil rulers of the same character, are equally objects of the highest veneration and regard. They are ministers of God for good to the people, and the principal instruments of all their temporal prosperity. Though the inventors of arts and sciences, and the promoters of agriculture and commerce, deserve the public esteem; yet wise and faithful rulers have a better claim to universal gratitude and respect. For it is ultimately owing to their exertions, that mankind derive any real benefit from their labors, their studies, or any of their natural advantages. A people may flourish in all the arts of Italy, or abound in all the wealth of the Indies; and yet drag out a poor, miserable life, under the power and oppression of a cruel and rapacious tyrant. But just men, ruling in the fear of God, give a people the full enjoyment of all the blessings of Providence. Those rulers, therefore, who direct all their views to the public good, and exert all their power and influence to promote it, are great benefactors to the world, and de4serve to be universally respected and revered. For this cause, therefore, God expressly commands every soul to be subject to the higher powers, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake; rendering to all in authority their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
The pious and devout life of Daniel, in the next place, loudly admonishes civil rulers how much they are capable of doing, to promote the religious as well as civil interests of the people. The children of Israel were extremely addicted to the worship of idols, from the time they made the golden calf, to the time of their captivity in Babylon. But in that land of idols, the parent of idolatry, they were effectually and finally cured of their national sin. This great and extraordinary reformation, we must conclude, was brought about by the instrumentality of Daniel. The captive tribes were struck with his pious and exemplary conduct, in the midst of the worshippers of idols. They saw him pay a strict and sacred regard to those divine rites and ceremonies, which were designed to separate them, from all the idolatrous nations. They saw him daily and devoutly worship the true God, in his own family. They saw his faith and piety stop the lions’ mouths. They heard, with deep conviction, proclamation after proclamation, published by the great monarchs of Babylon, giving honor to the God of Daniel, and pouring contempt upon every false and inferior deity. They were acquainted with his days of mourning, fasting, and prayer, for the revival of religion, and the prosperity of the Church. In a word, they saw the purest piety constantly displayed in the life of a man, who was seated in the king’s gate, and universally loved and revered. And is it a thing incredible, that the pious example and influence of such a great and renowned ruler should awe the minds of a whole nation, and constrain them to cast all their idols to the moles and to the bats forever? The living example of other religious rulers has had the same transforming influence upon the minds of their subjects. We read, “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the Elders that outlived Joshua.”
Among the pious kings of Judah, do we find one, who ever failed to bring about a visible reformation in piety and virtue? And is it not equally true, that pious rulers, by their personal example and influence, have actually formed the moral and religions character of the people in this land? We know, that so long as all the governors, senators, and representatives of this Commonwealth, were public professors and zealous promoters of religion, the Sabbaths were sanctified; the houses of God were filled; divine institutions were attended; family religion and parental authority were maintained; cards, and balls, and theatres were unknown, and all open vice and infidelity were treated with general and just contempt. Whether this was pure superstition, or pure religion, it was certainly owing, in a great measure, to the example of civil rulers, who meant to form the people to virtue and piety. It is to be expected, that rulers should form the character of the people, and not that the people should form the character of rulers. It was never known, that the house of Israel reformed one of their loose, irreligious kings; but it was often known, that one pious, exemplary king reformed the whole nation. If Daniel had fallen into the corruptions of Babylon, there is not the least probability, that his people could have prevented his ruin. But when they had forsaken the paths of virtue and piety, he was able, by his personal example and influence, to bring them back to the worship and service of the God of their fathers. Civil rulers would find no occasion of promoting religion, by their laws, if they would only heartily and unitedly promote it, by their lives. Let them only live religion, and they will do enough to discharge their duty; and I will venture to add, they will do enough to form this people to a virtuous and religious character. For if this effect should not flow from the example of their virtue and piety, it would be a singular instance, and such an one as cannot be found in the history of any nation, from the beginning of the world to this day. If civil rulers carry the power of reformation in their own hands, then their obligation to reform the people, must be equal to that power. Let me, therefore, entreat the man of office, the man of honor, the man of influence, seriously to consider, that “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
It further appears from the character and conduct of Daniel, that those who sit in the highest seats of government, have no excuse to neglect the profession and practice of vital piety. Real religion is necessary on their own account, as well as on account of those, who live under the influence of their powerful example. It is hard to say, whether the most dignified characters deserve our veneration, more than our tender compassion. They are certainly surrounded with peculiar temptations to forget their Creator, and to neglect the one thing needful. But Daniel has told them by his example, that they are under a great delusion, if they once imagine, their high stations and public employments, will afford them the least excuse for neglecting the duties of piety and devotion. They cannot seriously believe, that they have greater temptations to resist, than Daniel resisted; nor greater difficulties and embarrassments to surmount, than Daniel surmounted. He was born a prince, and spent his whole life in the presence of princes. But whilst he lived with the princes of Judah; whilst he marched with the army of the Chaldeans; and whilst he resided with the gay and dissolute youth, in Babylon, he remembered and obeyed his Creator. When his office seated him in the king’s gate, surrounded by profligate and infidel courtiers, he supported and adorned his religious profession. When an hundred and twenty princes sat at his feet, and the affairs of an hundred and twenty princes lay upon his hands, he found time and opportunity for the performance of every religious duty. And when propriety required him to submit to the most public and pompous parade; to be clothed in the silks of Persia, and adorned with the gold of Ophir; and to receive the incense of public honors; he could silently retire in the close of the day, and humbly prostrate himself, as a poor, guilty worm, before the supreme Majesty of heaven and earth, and devoutly implore his mercy. He very well knew, that though ornaments and honors might dazzle the eyes of unthinking multitudes, and conceal his imperfections from the view of men; yet they could by no means hide his heart, or conceal his criminal defects from the omniscient eye of God, to whom he stood accountable for all his internal feelings and external conduct. If young politicians, if aged statesmen, if the most dignified characters on earth, would seriously survey the pious and devout life of Daniel, they would be fully convinced, that neither the cares, nor honors, nor temptations of public life, can dissolve their obligations to call upon God; to read his word to reverence his sanctuary; and to attend all his holy and sacred institutions. Dignity and devotion have been, and may be united. Rulers over men have been, and may be, the most humble and faithful servants of God. “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Moreover,
The faith and piety of Daniel reprove the ignorance and presumption of those politicians, who profess and propagate the principles of infidelity. The infidels, in our Savior’s day, were men of superior rank and figure. And it is well known, that infidelity has commonly been first imbibed and propagated, by professed philosophers and politicians. Men of this exalted character have lately spread atheism and infidelity through a great nation; and attempted to diffuse the poison of their irreligious and disorganizing sentiments among the people of America. Such champions of infidelity endeavor to shake our faith in natural and revealed religion, by carrying us back into the dark regions of antiquity. Hume, Voltaire, and Condorcet, represent mankind as being originally involved in ignorance and barbarism. And they pretend to trace the progress of the human mind, in emerging from that primitive savage state, and gradually rising to a nobler state of civilization, learning, and infidelity. But were they better acquainted with the dark regions of antiquity, and with the rise and progress of human improvements, than the pious and learned Daniel? Did they ever live with him on the plains of Shinar? Did they ever search the same records and traditions of antiquity, which he searched? Did they ever converse with the Chaldeans, with whom he conversed? Were they ever personally acquainted, as he was, with the learned Amonians, who, as an incomparable writer has clearly proved, 1 spread every species of civil, political, and religious knowledge, through Egypt, through Greece, and through every part of the inhabited world? The most learned infidels of the present age, who have ransacked the bowels of the earth, and the dark corners of the globe, to pick up arguments against revealed religion, are but minute philosophers, in comparison with Daniel. Whilst he stood on the plains of Babylon, with the Bible in one hand, and all antiquity in the other, he saw, as clearly as the sun at noonday, the truth and divinity of that holy religion, which came down from heaven, through the medium of divine Inspiration. All his knowledge of the natural, moral, and political world, instead of weakening, confirmed his faith in the scriptures of truth. His strong and cordial belief of divine revelation, therefore, completely demonstrates, what has often been justly asserted, that infidelity is not seated in the head, but in the heart; and flows not from profound knowledge, but from a meaner and more criminal cause. Is it not sufficient to strike any modern infidel entirely dumb, to ask him this plain, pertinent, pointed question, “Art thou wiser than Daniel?”
Another important reflection, naturally suggested by the conduct of this able statesman, is, that civil rulers have no occasion for the use of art or intrigue, in any of their public measures. Those who conduct the intricate affairs of government ought to be wise and prudent; but yet they should never be artful, or designing. There are, however, professed politicians, who recommend this mode of conduct, by precept as well as example. They insinuate, that no man can succeed in political affairs without taking advantage of the weakness, folly, and caprice of human nature, and making use of measures, which are diametrically opposite to every idea of integrity. Some grave writers on moral and political philosophy, plainly inculcate the first principles of injustice and duplicity. They lay it down as a maxim, that politicians may and ought to make utility, or what they conceive to be the general good, the supreme rule of their conduct. But a great and good ruler will adopt and act upon a far more honest and noble principle: “Let justice be done, though the universe should sink.” Daniel found wisdom and integrity abundantly sufficient to answer all his political purposes, without ever stooping to the low arts of intrigue. These he was able to describe, and these he was able to defeat. In drawing the characters of the king of the North and of the king of the South, he gave a lively and striking picture of two profoundly artful and intriguing politicians. “And both these kings’ hearts shall be to do mischief, and they shall speak lies at one table; but it shall not prosper.” Whilst he presided over an hundred and twenty princes, he clearly and sensibly perceived the nature and tendency of that diabolical policy, which they employed to take away his life. But he opposed honesty to dishonesty; justice to injustice; wisdom to cunning; and open integrity to all their dark and deep designs. Nor did he fail of confounding their counsels; and of turning their own artful and malicious devices to their own destruction. Truly wise and upright politicians will never find occasion to employ any other weapon than perfect integrity, in order to defeat the pernicious purposes of their most subtile and malignant enemies, whether at home or abroad. Be it so, that our present connexion with distant nations may expose us to the arts and intrigues of foreign courts; yet those, who have the direction of our national concerns, may rely upon it, that a fair, open, upright conduct will be the best method, to frustrate the art, the duplicity, and unjust policy of five, or of five hundred unprincipled politicians.
This naturally leads me to observe, in the last place, that civil rulers have sufficient encouragement to be faithful, in the discharge of all their public duties. These, I shall not go out of my province to prescribe, nor even to suggest. If public men are but only faithful; there is no ground of anxiety about the wisdom or propriety of their public measures. Faithfulness, however, cannot be too often nor too forcibly inculcated upon those who have many opportunities, and of course many temptations to betray their trusts. But it is happy to reflect, that their encouragement to fidelity, is abundantly sufficient to balance all their unfavorable circumstances. The favor of God, and the esteem of men, are the most animating motives to duty. These had a commanding influence over the views and conduct of one of the most able and upright rulers. Daniel found by happy experience, that honesty was the best policy. For, his faithfulness to the Deity, secured his favor and assistance; and his fidelity to men, secured their sincere and warm attachment to his person and interest. As he constantly persevered and increased in integrity; so he constantly increased in wealth, in honor and outward prosperity. Let who would fall, Daniel stood. Let who would sink, Daniel rose. Let who would be in power, Daniel was their favorite. Let who would combine against him, Daniel always succeeded and prospered.
Is not this example worthy of the notice and imitation of all who sit in the seats of government? And may I not, with great propriety, take 0ccasion from it, to press the duty of fidelity upon the Honorable Legislature of this Commonwealth, which holds the first rank in the United States, for piety and virtue, as well as political importance? This large and religious community, are devoutly wishing and praying for a faithful administration of government. They would shudder at the thought, that their rulers should lift their hands to Heaven, and solemnly engage to administer a government, which they meant to undermine; and to protect a people, whom they meant to destroy. Their minds are alarmed at threatening dangers; and nothing can give them ease, but an unshaken confidence in the fidelity of their rulers. They do not distrust their abilities; but they may entertain some apprehensions respecting their integrity, since their enemies boast of corrupting it. But if those who direct our public affairs, would only display the piety, the integrity, and firmness of Daniel, they would undoubtedly possess the entire affection and confidence of this great and intelligent people. Indeed, some of the first characters in this Legislature, have already merited and secured the esteem and attachment of an enlightened part, and were it not invidious, I would add, of the most enlightened part of this Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the weakness and prejudice of some, we esteem it a favorable circumstance, that his Excellency has heretofore filled a dignified station; in which he had a peculiar opportunity of discovering his uprightness, and at the same time of forgetting the subtilties, and of imbibing the genuine spirit of the laws. This, and all the States in the Union, are much indebted to many eminent civilians, for the knowledge, the wisdom, and the integrity, which they displayed, in framing the Federal Constitution; which is not, and perhaps never will be, inferior to any one of mere human invention. This excellent constitution is the basis of all our national safety and happiness. And it is extremely difficult to conceive, that a single American, who is friendly to any good government, should be unfriendly to his own; and wish to alienate the affections of the people from it. But it is very natural to conclude, that the framers of the Constitution and those who were personally concerned in adopting it, should cherish an uncommon attachment to it, and labor to support it, with distinguished ardor and zeal. Upon this ground, the people have a just right to expect, that His Excellency will never mar the production of his own hands; nor renounce those political principles, which he has publickly and solemnly sanctioned, and which have had their proper influence in raising him to the head of this Commonwealth.
His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor, and the principal members of the Council, of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives, have not only gained the suffrages, but what is far more honorable and desirable, the confidence of the people, who sincerely esteem them for their able and faithful services. May this operate as a powerful and endearing motive to future fidelity and zeal, in the discharge of their important trusts. The greatest of all the men of the East, was highly gratified and animated, by the sincere affection of his grateful and dutiful subjects. “When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street, the young men saw me, and hid themselves; and the aged arose, and stood up. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: My judgment was as a robe and diadem. I broke the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.”
Such, sincerely respected rulers, are the consoling reflections, which naturally flow from fidelity in public life. If, therefore, you have begun to be faithful in your various departments, be not weary in well-doing; but be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the service of God, and of your generation. Cherish a warm attachment to the government, which you are called to administer, and do all the public good, which both the State and Federal Constitutions require and enable you to do. Guide this people in the integrity of your hearts, and by the skillfulness of your hands. Exhibit before them a shining example of piety and virtue; and employ all your honor and influence to promote their spiritual as well as temporal good. This wise and faithful discharge of your public trusts, will finally put you into the full possession of that transporting promise, which is emphatically yours—“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.” But, if any of you should be conscious to yourselves, that you have been unfaithful, unjust, and unholy; let Daniel’s counsel be acceptable to you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor, that it may be a lengthening out of your tranquility. For, it is most certainly true, that, if you cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God, and despise all his warnings and admonitions, the day is coming, when that invisible hand, which is now recording all your deeds, will write on the table of your hearts, in a language which will need no interpreter, this final and fearful sentence: “You are weighed in the balances, and are found WANTING.”
1.Bryant on Ancient Mythology.
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