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s Charge unto
















Pastor of the Fiist Cougrejfational Church in Taunton.




dtontmontoealtl) of f&assacjwsetts,


Ordered, That Messrs. LEONARD of Norton, WALKER of Taunton, and FULLER
of Newton, be a Committee to wait on the Rev. ANDREW BIGELOW, and present
him the thanks of this House, for his very interesting and appropriate discourse, de-
livered yesterday before the Legislature, and request a copy for the press.

L. S. GUSHING, Clerk.

s \ The length of the ensuing discourse obliged the omission or abridgement of
considerable portions of it at the time of delivery. It is now presented as originally
prepared for the pulpit and occasion.



Exodus, nth Charter, 15th Verse.

IT was a dark hour for Israel, when the charge,
now rehearsed, was given by the voice of Israel's
God to the leader of the chosen tribes ; a still dark-
er hour, when the order it conveyed was proclaimed
in the hearing of the awe-struck host, and their
marshalled bands prepared to resume their march.
Pilgrims to a distant land, advanced but a few
stages on their toilsome route, not yet emancipated
from the power, and still within the dominions of a
fierce and cruel monarch, they were already brought
into a situation of great perplexity and hazard.
Encamped in a desert place, entangled mid rocky
defiles, the sea in front, bleak mountains around,
a hostile force urged on by a ruthless chief press-
ing upon their rear, the crisis was fearful, the
fate of Israel appeared to be inevitably sealed.


To stay, was to perish. To resist, was madness.
To advance, was seemingly but to plunge into a
watery grave. At this juncture, the mandate of
God as recorded in the text, thundered through the
camp of Israel. " The Lord said unto Moses,
Speak unto the children of Israel, that they GO
FORWARD!" And forward they moved. He, the
herald who transmitted the divine command, with
unshrinking reliance on the succouring arm of God,
himself led the terror-stricken van. Arrived at
the brink of the intercepting flood, he stretched
forth his rod, the mysterious wand which oft had
waved in dreadful power over Egypt, and the sea
was cleft in twain, opening a path for the amazed
and rejoicing tribes, through crystal walls miracu-
lously heaped on either hand. The opposite bank,
that friendly longed-for shore, was reached in safe-
ty. The sea then regained its ancient channel,
engulphing at the same time with terrific doom, the
pursuing host, burying the pride and flower of
.Fgypt, its chariots and horsemen, its captains and
v arriors, its nobles and menials, prince, page and
v<ssals beneath its wild and vengeful billows.

It was a dark hour for that little company of pious
ar.d dauntless spirits, exiles from the land of their
forefathers, sufferers for conscience sake, men
"persecuted but not forsaken, perplexed yet not
in despair," when they -gathered upon the quay
of Delft, on the memorable morn of the 22d of
July, 1620, surrounding their spiritual chief, the

patriarchal Robinson, and knelt down and implored
of God, that He would grant "aright way for
themselves and their little ones, and all their
substance,"* on their voyage to that far-off land,
here in this Western hemisphere, whither they
were bound. Yes, dark was the hour when with
streaming eyes and bursting hearts, that little
group joined in the last prayer they were destined
to listen to from the lips of their venerable pastor
and guide ; when they clung around the good
man's knees, and took their parting look, and ex-
changed a fond, final embrace ; when turning from
their pleasant homes though in a strange land, they
embarked in quest of a refuge on these then house-
less, savage shores, when so touching was the
scene that even the bosoms of the coldest observers
heaved in sympathy, and tears coursed down the
cheeks of men " albeit of no melting mood." But a
call as from heaven summoned them away. They
felt and obeyed the holy impulse. And He who
holdeth the waters in the hollow of his hand, and
who ruleth the winds and the seas, provided for
them a safe pathway across the Atlantic deep ; and
hither they came and laid the foundations of an
empire, which so long as it shall stand and flourish,
will abide a monument of their faith and fortitude,
their heroism and their renown.

It was a dark ho.ur when in 1675 the flame of a

* Ezra viii. 21, the text from which their beloved Pastor. Robinson, preached
a parting discourse on the melancholy occasion.


most barbarous Indian war was lighted on our soil ;
when the'genius of a fierce and crafty savage had
succeeded in combining the most fearful elements of
destruction ever let loose on the habitations of civil-
ized man ; when the cloud which had been gathering
in blackness, and hung lowering over the land, at
length burst with appalling violence ; and the de-
mon of havoc and slaughter sped on the furious
blast ; and amid savage yells, and victim groans,
and the hideous glare of blazing villages flashing
through our vallies, and reflected from hill to hill,
the work of threatened extermination seemed hasten-
ing to its certain and awful consummation. But did
our fathers quail at the peril? Did they "shake
and become as dead men"? No, they girded them-
selves to deeds of desperate resistance. They rallied
with intrepid firmness " to play the men" in defence
of their homes, their fields and their altars ; and
they moved where danger was greatest, and where
shafts flew thickest. For God spake and said unto
them, Go forward! And lifting their banners in the
dread name of Israel's God, they struggled, prevailed
and vanquished.

It was a dark hour when, a century still later,
our nearer ancestors, then suffering under oppres-
sion and goaded by wrongs, roused themselves in a
burst of indignant patriotism to cast off the yoke of
a grievous foreign tyranny, when they appealed for
justice and cried for succor to the God of Battles,
and with means as feeble as the Hebrew stripling's,

went forth to their stern encounter with a giant
adversary. That conflict was resolutely waged.
Their march was onward, " from conquering to
conquer." They were made strong in the Lord,
and by the power of His might. For God was with
them ; and HE their defender was invincible.

The time would fail me to count up all the dark
hours, contrasted with the bright passages and aus-
picious deliverances, which crowd our country's
annals ; to trace the steps of our national march
from feebleness to power, from lowliness to gran-
deur ; to exhibit the fruits of our fathers' courage,
constancy, and trust in God ; to point out the won-
drous energy of their faith crowned, as it was, by
most brilliant and surprising issues ; to show how a
benignant Providence has oft proved better than our
fears, turning our reverses into triumphs, our mis-
chances into blessings, and "from seeming evil, ever
educing good."

Brought as we are to the opening of another year,
and assembled at the chosen era for the re-organi-
zation of the civil authorities of the government of
our favored Commonwealth, as we pause to pay our
grateful homage to that Almighty Power whose guar-
dian hand has hitherto led and sustained us, it is nat-
ural to glance at the past, in connection with the
present and the anticipated future, and to ponder upon
our joint privileges, solicitudes and obligations. We
have completed another stage of our civil progress.


We have come to Elim,* pleasant for its salubrious
fountains, its verdant pastures and its shady palms.
But it is only for temporary refreshment and repose,
to cheer our hearts with the goodly scene around
us ; and to reanimate our zeal and fortify our reso-
lution for the toils and conflicts incident to our future
appointed career. We are then to strike our tents,
and set forward our standards, and press to the high
destinies which allure us from afar.

Let me have your indulgence then as I proceed
to remark on a few of our combined privileges as
citizens on some qualifying circumstances in our
otherwise bright and enviable lot on the duties
imposed by the juncture and on the means and
motives for obviating existing dangers, and perpet-
uating the blessings we enjoy.

I. Let us survey a few of our privileges. The
blessings we possess, are mainly the accumulated
treasures, or the rich products of the disposing agen-
cies, of by-gone generations. We owe them, under
God, to the wisdom, firmness and piety of the men
of clear heads, stout hearts, and high-souled pur-
poses, who planted the germs of empire upon our
shores. We dwell on a soil redeemed by their valor
from savage foes, and reclaimed by their patient
industry from a state of rudeness to fertility, from a
wilderness to "a fruitful field."

We enjoy by transmission the heritage of Liberty.
That precious boon, denied to many nations and

Exodus xv. 27.


but partially possessed and fiercely strove for by
others, is here the immunity of all. Whilst, in
divers regions, the will of one, or the tyranny of a
few, holds in slavish subjection the prostrate multi-
tude ; whilst there the people are degraded to a
populace, and the populace sunk to the character
and condition of a mob ; whilst the great mass of
mankind are counted as scarce endued with the
attributes of humanity, or but just supplied with so
much intelligence as to render them mechanically
more serviceable to their proud oppressors, are
treated as drudges and tools born to contribute to
the convenience or pleasure, the luxury, dignity and
pomp of the haughty ones who trample them down ;
here the poorest citizen is recognised in his just
relations. He stands up every inch a man. He is
placed on an equality of footing, in personal rights,
with the most prosperous and opulent. Station can
give no prerogative to crush, or to browbeat. The
poor man's hut is his castle, more strongly guarded
from spoil or aggression, than feudal fortress in the
iron age of Gothic barbarism. The avenues of pre-
ferment, the seats of power, the halls of legislation,
civic honors, official distinctions, are open to the
meritorious of every class. Useful arts, gainful traf-
fic, the rewards of industry invite the competition of
all ; and every man, pursuing the business of an
honest calling, may " sit under his own vine and fig
tree, having none to molest or to make him afraid."
But Liberty, sound Liberty, is not licentiousness.


The broadest charter of freedom can never give
exemption from all restraints. A man, whether
high or low, rich or poor, is not privileged to do that
which is alone right in his own eyes, to pursue
selfish and sinister aims, where they interfere with
the just claims or the absolute immunities of others.
The moment he enters into, or finds himself incor-
porated within the social state, he has to relinquish
some personal and natural rights both for the com-
mon interest, and in consideration of greater com-
pensating advantages to himself. Paradoxical as it
may seem, the first step to the enjoyment of rational
liberty, is the abridgement of a certain measure of
personal freedom. A citizen must sacrifice a por-
tion of his original rights, or make them, over (so to
speak) to the custody of the community at large,
His will, in many particulars, must be subordinate
to, or regulated by, the will of the public. But, in
return, he enjoys its protection for rights reserved,
as well as others acquired by the implied exchange.
Obedience is the price of such protection ; and the
power of a state the united force of the individuals
composing it is pledged, by parity, to make good
that protection to the humblest of its citizens, stipu-
lating life, property, and numerous domestic and
social privileges.

Hence arises the necessity of law a frame of
government a structure of civil polity, all skilfully
arranged and wisely administered to secure the pri-
vate interests of individuals, and to subserve the


salutary ends of the general union. Hence, too,
the duty and indispensableness oflegislation. Codes
of jurisprudence are a natural consequence. And
heads there must be to plan, and hands io execute ;
rulers to enact, and a people disposed (or submis-
sion. In a populous community one highly ad-
vanced and civilized such arrangements are matters
of great delicacy and moment. They require from
rulers besides a careful garnering of the lessons of
experience, an enlightened observation, the faculty
of prospective adaptation, keen, patient and profound
research ; and withal an honesty of purpose, and
fearless, single-eyed probity. Laws thus framed are
an inestimable dowry to a land. They cannot be
too highly prized, nor too sacredly guarded. And
the memory of their contrivers should be enshrined
in the grateful hearts of the people whom they

Such are the accessory distinctions of our fortune.
For, besides the heritage of Liberty, we have the
heritage of Law. Our civil jurisprudence is the
digest of the wisdom of ages. Our constitutions of
.government transcend, the vaunted models of other
and elder times. Our statute-books are the fruits of
a legislation illustrated by the lights of the past,
but shaped and improved according to the wants, cir-
cumstances and perceptions of the present. Laws,
in fine, we have providing for the social order, the
harmony and well-being of those collectively on
whom they operate ; laws which shield the meanest


and awe the mightiest, and spread the shelter of a
common defence over the poor man's cabin and the
rich man's mansion.

Defects in theory, or faults of detail, may be
detected in these institutions ; but a novice may spy
flaws in the noblest monuments of human skill and
genius ; and fools may blame what wise men cannot
always remedy. It is the part of legislation to en-
deavor to rectify what is palpably amiss ; to answer
every reasonable demand on its rightful interposi-
tion ; and to keep pace with the progress of society
by correspondent improvements in its statutory pro-
visions. The best political machinery is liable to
injury and disorders. It may be weakened by using,
or acquire a rust from age. Its weights may run
down, some spring may give way, a wheel may be
broken, or thrown from the grapple of the master-
regulator. Our civil fathers are the artificers to
whom we must look for the requisite repairs. Theirs
is the task, and at times a difficult and no enviable
one, to replace the unsound, to strengthen what is
weak, and haply to wind up and re-adjust the curi-
ous mechanism. More or less of this duty is annu-
ally necessary. But there is danger of over-much
doing. Innovations may not be improvements ; nor
are substitutes always amendments.

There was much of good sense in the language of
the Barons of England, when rebuking the arbitrary
and capricious edicts of a tyrant^ they said, " We
are opposed to changing the laws of the Realm."


And much also of shrewdness in the reply of the
mercantile deputation of Bordeaux to Louis XIV.
when asked what should be done to advance their
interests? "Sire," was their answer, "Let us
alone." Every one knows that there is such a thing
as encumbering with help. Where this may be sus-
pected in questions of legislation, the wisest course
obviously is, to refrain from so thankless an office.
Better assuredly it is, to do nothing > than work
mischief; better to bear the incidental ill, than
endanger the abounding good ; better to acquiesce
in a mixed benefit, than pass from a partial bad to a
possible worse, As our history knows of no fabu-
lous age, so our ordinances of government date back
to no mean nor obscure origin. Beginning with the
memorable compact on board the May Flower, when
the emigrant colonists deliberately combined into
"a civil body politic," and solemnly bound them-
selves to yield "all due subjection to such just and
equal laws, acts, offices and constitutions" as should
from time to time be enacted, and be "thought most
meet and convenient" for the general good, com-
mencing with that noble instrument as the corner-
stone of our civil edifice, the fabric has risen and
expanded, growing with the wants, and modified by
the circumstances of succeeding times, till attaining
its present fair and majestic proportions. If, aside
from occasional repairs, any alterations be thought
needful in so venerable a pile, prudence would sug-
gest that they be made in accordance with the rule


of established symmetry. If an enlargement of the
dimensions be called for, let it be done by the
simple method of annexations, instead of the bolder
process of entire re-construction on another ground-
plan and model.

I cannot leave this topic without adverting to a
feature of unfairness charged upon our systems of
legislation. Our laws are said to operate unequally.
A class of political seers has risen up in our times,
who pretend to have spied out this blemish ; though
they leave unexplained how it chanced to escape the
penetration of antecedent examiners. Their notable
discovery purports to be this : That our laws are
chiefly contrivances for the benefit of the rich, to
the aggravated grievance and damage of the poor ;
that they are the offspring of a cruel conspiracy to
exalt the one, and depress the other ; that they are
the ministers of a stern and jealous monopoly, per-
versely acting upon the maxim, " that whosoever
hath to him shall be given, and whosoever hath not,
from him shall be taken away even that which he

But who are the rich? Men sprung from the
mixed multitude thrown up from the indiscriminate
classes of society. Every walk of life leads natu-
rally on, or it opens into innumerable by-paths,
which conduct to ease, or competence, or affluence.
Industry, intelligence, frugality and uprightness are
ever sure of a fair recompense. Legislation influ-
ences wealth not wealth, legislation. It is the


object of the former to aid the general acquisition of
property, not, of course, by narrowing and shutting
up, but digging open and multiplying its springs for
the accommodation of all. Such policy is dictated
by sound interest, conformably to the homely but
common-sense adage, that every man, to be a good
citizen, must hdve a stake in the hedge. A needy and
starving population, on the other hand, having no-
thing to lose, would never fear the consequences of
public turmoils and insurrections.

But legislation, be it observed, whilst seeking to
increase the means of general wealth, has taken
care to provide that the fortunate possessors, in
proportion to the amount of their acquisitions, shall
bear their part in the public burdens of taxation for
the common welfare and defence. Laws, you may
say, protect the rich. We grant it; but the secu-
rity is just that which they extend to the private
possessions of all. So far, in fact, from their oper-
ating exclusively to roll up and concentrate capital
in the hands of a few, they have done all they can
to ensure its frequent change and dispersion. The
prohibition, for example, of entails and rights of pri-
mogeniture, is alone enough to preclude the possi-
bility of long continued accumulations of fortune in
any family lines. All is in a state of ceaseless
fluctuation. And hence, as we often find, the rich
man or the 1 flourishing household of to-day, may be
sunk into impoverishment and obscurity on the mor-
row ; and the meanest ^poor, or their children in


another generation, may mount on the swel'ing
wave of prosperity, to as enviable a height of afflu-
ence and distinction, as the proudest and most
favored of their cotemporaries.

Never was there a more senseless clamor than
this cry of partial legislation ; never a more pre-
posterous accusation than such alleged and success-
ful combination of the rich against the poor. The
rich are confessedly a minority, and the more odieys
and overgrown rich constitute a very small minority.
Under a government whose fundamental maxim is,
that the will of the majority shall bear rule, and
where the men who represent that majority are ever
shifting and dependent en the popular suffrage,
how absurd to suppose that, in action, so plain a
theoretic principle could be reversed! Where, still
more, a vigilant public scrutiny is posted at every
avenue of place and power, watching with keen and
lidless eyes each official act of maladministration,
what folly to charge on a fractional part of society,
such a controuling influence as shall outweigh the
acknowledged and far mightier powers of numbers !
Is that influence won by bribery? What a reflec-
tion on the virtue of a people! Is it accomplished
by artifice? What an insult on their understand-
ings! Has it been suffered to creep stealthily, of
long time, into our schemes of legislation, to twine
its parasitical fibres and tendrils around the goodly
vine planted by our sage ancestors, and under whose
shadow we have tasted the sweets of peace and


jprosperousness? Oh, what a libel on the patriotism
t)F those appointed to watch and guard that sacred
stem, and to cherish the precious fruits which it has
yielded in our common rights and liberties! The
man who indulges, on whatever ostensible grounds,
in imputations of this sort, displays more of the qual-
ities of self-conceit and consummate effrontery, than
shrewdness of intellect or integrity of heart. He
slanders the living, and he vilifies the dead. Re-
spect for the one, and veneration for the other, can
have no place in his bosom. It is hazarding little to
say of men of this stamp, that they pay a poor com-
pliment to the virtue and good sense of the people
whom they seek to cajole. But much or little I
will venture to pronounce that the very public whose
honest though sometimes misguided prejudices they
would bend to their selfish purposes, will send back
an indignant voice to rebuke their hollow preten-
sions, and silence or drown their worse than silly
their atrocious accusations.

The most conclusive evidence of the efficacy of
our frame of laws, is the gladsome picture of content
and prosperousness spread abroad over the commu-
nity: the means of social comfort so liberally pro-
vided and dispensed ; the rapid accumulation and
unmolested security of the gains of honest toil and
enterprise ; the many institutions, so blest and
blessing in their character and influence, nourished
into being by the self-same spirit which produced
our combined system of law and government ; the


multiform associations for the relief of human need
and suffering, whether moral or physical, teeming
on every hand; innumerable instrumentalities for
the encouragement of the diversified " arts which
make for peace;" establishments opened up for the
dissemination of knowledge, the promotion of sci-
ence, the dispersion of the blessings of religion ; our
seminaries and lyceums, our schools and colleges,
our churches and temples; Oh, these are the living
witnesses these the clustering fruits of the wisdom,
piety and patriotism of our fathers, which distil the
richest fragrance on their memory, and shed a grace
and glory over New England. What though we
boast no vine-clad, laughing shores, like the sunny
regions of poetic song some fairy "land of the rose
and the myrtle," where nature wantons in exhaust-
less fertility, and pours forth her ripened stores
disdainful of the aid of man? Ours is a soil which
kindly repays the toils of culture ; and human skill
and painstaking exertion have developed no niggard
resources ; and beauty and luxuriance have been
made to deck our rugged hills ; and we have drawn
"from the abundance of the seas, and the treasures
hid in the sands." What though we boast no clas-
sic fields, no long-drawn line of storied generations,
no pomp of heraldry nor race of kings? We can
look back with pride on an honored lineage, deduced
from a pious ancestry, and ennobled by Pilgrim blood.
We can turn to a history brief but crowded, bright-
ened with deeds of lofty heroism and virtues of pure


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Online LibraryAndrew BigelowGod's charge unto Israel → online text (page 1 of 5)