E. A. (Ezra Abel) Huntington.

Blessing received the sign of blessings in store : a discourse delivered Thanksgiving Day, November 20, 1856 in the First Presbyterian Church to the United Congregations of the first and second Presbyterian Churches, Auburn online

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Online LibraryE. A. (Ezra Abel) HuntingtonBlessing received the sign of blessings in store : a discourse delivered Thanksgiving Day, November 20, 1856 in the First Presbyterian Church to the United Congregations of the first and second Presbyterian Churches, Auburn → online text (page 1 of 2)
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NOVEMBER 20, 1856,










Dear Sir : Your discourse, recently delivered in the First Presbyterian
Church, in this place, on the occasion of the PUBLIC THANKSGIVING, was listened to
with great interest by the large congregation in attendance .; and that the sphere of
that interest and instruction may be enlarged, we respectfully request you to furnish
a copy for publication.

Yours, very truly,




Gentlemen : Jt gives me pleasure to comply with your request. The
issue of an exciting political contest naturally leaves many minds full of ominous
forebodings. On this account, I am willing to contribute, the little in my power, to
encourage those hopeful views of our country, which our national blessings wairant,
and which it is one sign of gratitude to the Father of our mercies to contemplate.
Yours, very respectfully,



" The Lord hath been mindful of us : he will bless
ws." PSALM 115 : 12.

When we are called upon, on an occasion like this, to
bring our offerings into the house of the Lord, in acknow-
ledgment of his benefits towards us, there are two aspects in
either of which these benefits may be gratefully contemplated
We may estimate their intrinsic worth, or rather their direct
and positive usefulness to us, and on this account we may
call upon our souls and all that is within us to bless the holy
name of Him from whom cometh down every good and every
perfect gift. It is our privilege to value them for so much
as they will measure, or weigh, or pass current in exchange
for the means of supplying our wants and increasing our
enjoyments. In a state of remarkable prosperity, we have
inspired authority to say, " The Lord hath done great things
for us ; whereof we are glad." But the text, and the whole
drift of the Psalm from which it is selected, and many a
parallel passage of the sacred volume suggest to us to con-
sider the riches of divine providence and grace in another

light ; that is, not barely as riches in hand, but as pledges of
greater riches to come.

Nor is it unnatural, on the contrary, it is habitual and
agreeable to us, to take this view of many of our blessings.
We hail the first symptoms of recovery from sickness rather
as a token for good than as the proper good which we desire.
And this is the secret of the husbandman's joy in the
springing of the blade from the seed which he has sown ; for
he knows that the blade will be followed by the ear, and
" after that the full corn in the ear." This, too, is the secret
of the inventor's rejoicing, when he beholds the first move-
ment of the machine which he has constructed ; albeit that
machine may be of rude workmanship, coarse material, and
diminutive size ; and albeit its movement may be as feeble
and awkward as that of a new-born child. It is not the
present appearance or efficiency of the instrument, but its
promise, for which the inventor congratulates himself. When
Israel trod the farther shore of the Red Sea, loud was the
song which they took up from the waves behind them, and
poured out over the wilderness before them. It was not the
triumphant end, but the auspicious beginning of their deliv-
erance which then they celebrated. The pilgrims coming to
our shores in bleak December are worn out by a long and
tempestuous voyage. They are ready to perish. Neverthe-
less, making their arduous way to land, as if it were a para-
dise, with one voice they lift up their hearts to God, and
thank him for the home which he has provided. But is that

home a paradise already, or a paradise to be? Those holy
pilgrims on that barren rock are praising the Lord, like the
fugitives in the wilderness of old, in view, not so much of
what they see, as of what they foresee in what they see.
They take up their song from the boisterous ocean, roughly
kind to them, in obedience to Him who " maketh the storm
a calm, so that the waves thereof are still," and who thus
through the treacherous deep openeth a safe path for his
chosen, and " bringeth them unto their desired haven," and
they pour out that song over this new world, and prepare to
follow its flying notes over hill and valley, across river and
lake, till "the day of small things," which they "despise
not," shall issue in a day of great things, in which their chil-
dren shall exult.

But it is not only in such cases as these, when the present
good is comparatively insignificant, that we should accustom
ourselves to read in it the promise, made valid by God's own
sign manual, of a better portion in store for us. The greatest
acquisition in this life is, after all, but a beginning, and
should be regarded more as a proof Qi God's good will toward
us than as the last and highest expression of it. Even the
choicest blessings of the Gospel are but means to an end
The very fruits of these blessings in our hearts, while we
remain here below, are but the first-fruits, the foretaste and
earnest of a more abundant harvest in heaven. Instead,
therefore, of bidding our souls take their ease in temporal
riches, we are not even to count ourselves to have apprehended

the grace and truth which come by Jesus Christ, so long as
we remain in the flesh. The very gifts of the Holy Ghost,
however fully experienced on earth, must still be estimated,
not only according to their actual value, but also according
to their value as notes, the representatives of something more
precious, to be paid at a future day ; for in this state of
trial, "as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which
God hath prepared for them that love him."

Although then, fellow citizens and Christian brethren, we
might well survey our national and personal blessings, in
order, from their inherent excellence and immediate service,
to derive motives for coming before the Lord with our thanks-
givings and our praises, yet let us prefer to take a larger view
of our obligations to our Heavenly Father, and let us magnify
his name for the manifold mercies foreshadowed in the
manifold mercies enjoyed.

It will not be difficult to show, that every distinguishing
element and characteristic of our unexampled prosperity, as
a people, is more a promise than a fulfilment. It is not a
finished, but a growing good. Great as it now is, it is 'be-
coming greater for the morrow, and, rightly improved, no
human foresight can discover when it will reach maturity
and begin to decay. Written all over with the finger of
God, may be read upon it, "The Lord hath been mindful of
us ; he will bless us. ... The Lord shall increase you
more and more, you and your children."

I. Carrying this train of reflection along with us, let us
glance for a moment, in the first place, at the extent of our
country compared with its population. Stretching from east
to west across the widest part of the continent, and from
the inland seas and their majestic outlet to the ocean, on the
north, to the American Mediterranean on the south when
we survey this vast territory, the unparalleled increase of its
inhabitants in eighty years, from three millions to thirty, is
as nothing. This vast territory, capable of sustaining a
population as large as. that of China, a third or a fourth part
of the whole race, three or four hundred millions, is as yet
inhabited by no larger number than crowd the little islands
of Great Britain and Ireland. What then is this boundless
domain to us, a mere handful, thinly scattered over it ? For
our present use and enjoyment, it is no more than that petty
pittance of it which we can occupy. But for our future en-
largement, it is everything which, known or unknown, already
appropriated or yet to be discovered, may be included within
its unmeasured limits. And to whom the Lord hath given
such an estate, hath He not promised an expansion to suit it ?
Accepting this " goodly heritage" as his allotment, and hold-
ing it in his name and for his glory, is it not his assurance
to us that we shall go on ever multiplying, as a people, while
" yet there is room ?" Is it not with us as it was with
Abraham, when the Lord said unto him, " After that Lot was
departed from him : Lift up now thine eyes, and look from
the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and


eastward, and westward : for all the land which thou seest, to
thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make
thy seed as the dust of the earth : so that if a man can num -
her the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be num-
bered. Arise, and walk through the land, in the length of
it and in the breadth of it ; for I will give it unto thee ?" It
cannot be doubted that it is because God intended, on certain
conditions, to make of us a great nation as the stars of
heaven for multitude that he has placed us where there is
ample space and verge enough for an indefinite increase.

II. We shall find a second illustration of the same point
in the resources of this " goodly land and large," compared
with our ability to develope them. We have not inherited a
desert, the terrible sublimity of its vastness constituting its
most remarkable peculiarity. It is full of all the various
material of national wealth ; material which it is impossible
for a sparse population to convert into wealth, and to raise
to its highest value or greatest utility. We can neither
bring the soil nor the mine to its utmost productiveness.
Our lakes expand, our rivers flow, our seas and oceans en-
circle us on every side, and excavate our harbors at convenient
distances along our coasts, and roll their billows to the ends
of the earth, not " to waft a feather," not to facilitate our
present comparatively inconsiderable commerce merely, but
to invite, and foster, and accommodate a commerce which shall
be adequate to the demands of any population with which

these States may hereafter teem and swarm. We have with-
in our own borders the means for the convenient subsistence
of well nigh the whole race. With husbandmen enough, we
may fill a granary for the world. With artificers enough, we
may supply the world with all the implements and fabrics
essential to civilized life. It is the glory of our mother
country to be the world's workshop. It may be our glory, in
coming time, to be the world's work-shop and granary both.
Such resources we may alienate ; but we cannot consume
them. We hold the title to them, but like heirs in their mi-
nority, we are constrained, by the circumstances of our con-
dition, as if by legal enactments, to content ourselves with a
petty allowance from these resources ; not such an income as
indicates their capital value, but only such as it is fit or pos-
sible for us to expend. Meanwhile the surplus proceeds ac-
cumulate, and the unproductive parts of the inheritance wait,
till we shall be of age, and our capacity, both for business
and happiness, shall be equal to the management and enjoy-
ment of them. Mirrored upon our many waters, embossed
upon our fertile fields, engraved upon the iron and copper
and silver and gold of our exhaustless mines, and chiseled in
the granite and marble of our great mountains, and etched
indelibly upon our interminable strata of coal, one and the
same sentence everywhere meets our eyes : " The Lord hath *
been mindful of us : he will bless us."

III. In connection with our acquisition of such a land


and such treasures in it } it may be instructive to notice in
passing, that, as if to enable us to keep and to improve them t
as one people, the most wonderful of all the modern discov-
eries in science and inventions in art have been made, ac-
cording to the proverb, " in the very nick of time." But for
these discoveries and inventions, it may be doubted whether
the union of these States could have been preserved even till
now. On account of them, it is to be hoped that it will be
preserved, time out of mind. At all events, they constitute
ties stronger than the ties of blood and language, to bind us
together. Bars of iron, crossing each other at all angles, and
prolonged farther and farther, year by year, are fastening
down upon these States to make them " now and forever one
and inseparable." And stronger than bars of iron, though
vibrating under the foot of the lightest bird, and swaying like
gossamer in the wind, a net-work of paths for the obedient
lightning serves the same purpose still more effectually.
And when, through this instrumentality, at once so frail and
so powerful, and by means of this swift-winged messenger, I
hear the Pacific whispering to the Atlantic, and the Atlantic
shouting back to the Pacific, methinks they say, We embrace
one family in our arms, and our fond duty it is to compel
them to abide, world without end, in mutual harmony ; never
to suffer them to entertain the spirit of strife and division,
even for a moment. It is the voice of God on both sides,
speaking benedictions which impel us to exclaim, " The Lord
hath been mindful of us : he will bless us."


IY. More significant still, are our extraordinary means of
intellectual and moral education ; their excellence and multi-
plication and diffusion, together with their perfect adapted-
ness to all sorts and conditions of men. Our schools and
Churches are the best evidence that the Lord hath been mind-
ful of us, and the surest token that he will bless us. Learn-
ing and piety are the only reliable safe-guards of any govern-
ment, emphatically of a popular government. More than this,
they are the real though often despised and forgotten sources
of all thrift in business, of all improvement in art, and refine-
ment in manners, and of all progress, in whatever direction,
towards a high civilization. Our theory, and in a good de-
gree our practice is, to educate everybody, to teach everybody
the wisdom which springs up at our feet and the wisdom
which cometh down from above. We have no exoteric phil-
osophy. We hide no secrets in our libraries. We hang up
no veil before the mercy-seat in our sanctuaries. We forbid
no class of mankind, save one, no individual, to strive for the
mastery, whether in the arena of intellectual gladiator ship,
or in the race " for the prize of the high calling of God in
Christ Jesus." We throw open the doors, and go out into the
streets, and into the highways and hedges, and invite, yea
urge the most ignorant and degraded with one exception
to aspire to all knowledge, human and divine, and to cultivate
every virtue of earth, and every grace of heaven.
. Such is our national profession, and our national contempt
of this profession though in some instances outrageous, is still


to be regarded as exceptional, and though recently perhaps
increasing, is destined, we hope and pray, henceforth to di-
minish, and at no distant day to disappear. To be the world's
work-shop, or the world's granary, or both, is a small matter-
It is for us, if we will, to be the world's school-house, and the
" house of prayer for all people," to preach the Gospel to the
poor, until " the poor of this world" shall be " rich in faith,'
and at sight of them, the rich of this world shall be "poor in
spirit," and thus both shall inherit " the kingdom which God
hath promised to them that love him." Surely, for this reason
also, and more than for any other reason hitherto mentioned,
it is our exalted privilege, like Abraham of old, by the light of
the present to gather gladness from the future, and, believing
God, to thank him because he hath been mindful of us, and
will therefore continue to bless us.

V. Resulting in part from the foregoing reasons partic-
ularly the last for appropriating the words of the Psalmist
to ourselves, and, in some aspects of it stronger than any of
them, or than all combined, is the tendency of emigrants
from almost all other lands to our shores. Hardly is there
a tribe under heaven not represented in these States. The
streams of immigration wash over our country from every
point of the compass, on every spot to precipitate their
mingled freights of poverty and riches, of good and evil.
Such a spectacle was never before witnessed. From the
cradle of humanity on the banks of the Euphrates, the chil-


dren of men separated, four thousand years ago, some going
east, some west, to replenish the earth and to subdue it ; and
now and here, for the first time, the descendants of those who
went east meet the descendants of those who came west, to
dwell together under one government, and to prosecute their
various avocations together, in peace and quietness, as one
people. The motto of our national banner, E Pluribus
Unum, One from Many, bears daily a larger import.
Originally expressing the union of but thirteen feeble colo-
nies, mostly from the same mother country, it now means a
vast deal more than thirty-one mighty States united. It
means one people formed out of all nations ; bearing at least
a remote resemblance to that great multitude which the apos-
tle saw in the new Jerusalem, redeemed out of every kindred
and tongue, yet speaking one language, and joining in one
song of grateful praise. Europe furnished the beginning of
our population, and is still making the largest additions to it.
But we have millions from Africa, and thousands and tens
of thousands from Asia and the isles of the sea. Here, during

times of c'w'il commotion in their respective States, have fled

refugees from Canada, Mexico, and every part of South
America, from France, and Germany, and Italy, and Austria,
and Poland, and Hungary, and from the most distant convict
settlements of Great Britain. Here they come flocking, ac-
cording to their most pressing wants, some for bread, some
for farms, some for political liberty, some for social equality,
and some for freedom of conscience. So it happens that


foreigners by birth, everywhere throughout our wide domain,
mingle with foreigners by descent, as we all are, in plough-
ing our fields, digging our canals, laying our railways, nav-
igating our rivers and lakes and seas, excavating our mines,
working our factories, exchanging our merchandise, electing
our rulers, framing our Constitutions, enacting, interpreting
and executing our laws, building and using our school-houses,
our academies, our colleges, our seminaries and Churches,
our prisons, our asylums and our hospitals ; in all possible
ways and by all possible means, forming and modifying our
national character, and evolving, if not our "manifest," certainly
our real and inevitable destiny. The miracle of Babel is re-
versed among us, and, instead of one speech confounded by
division, we witness many tongues made intelligible by union.
All the languages and diale'cts of men are abandoned for a
common vehicle of thought and at this moment, our strong
old English is spoken in greater purity and with greater
uniformity, by the mixed race of American citizens, from
Maine to California, than in the little island from which it
was imported, by the large majority of the native race, its blood
uncontaminated since the days of good king Arthur.

I am aware that in the eye of political prejudice and re-
ligious animosity, in which I confess myself to have an am-
ple share, the foreign element of our population is only
evil and that continually. On this question, in this place, I
have nothing either to deny or to affirm. This foreign ele-
ment may be in itself as bad as it can be regarded, and yet


the tendency of it towards our country may, after all, be the
most conclusive proof that the Lord hath been mindful of us,
and is still waiting to bless us more and more. The tendency
of the sick to a hospital, or of the insane to an asylum, is surely
to its commendation, speaking unequivocally of the wisdom
of its management and of the blessing on its inmates. The
inclination of pilgrims and strangers, the world over, to come
here, is one thing; the effect of their presence here is quite
another thing. And it is only of their inclination to come
here that I am now speaking.

This wonderful phenomenon may be attributed to the incal-
culable abundance and value of our physical resources. But
in this respect the territory of these States is not superior, in
some things not equal to Mexico and Central and South Amer-
ica. There are gathered all the elements of extended and
powerful empires. Yet thither turn not the eyes nor the
steps of the needy and oppressed. We must look, therefore,
for some other explanation of the unanimous converging of
these classes to our ports as to so many havens of hope and

But it may be said that our republican government is the
explanation. And is the security which we offer to personal
rights our great attraction ? Are the nations drawn to us by
the invitation which we hold out to men of all races but one
of all ranks and of all creeds, to meet here upon the same
footing ; and, under no other restraints than those which are
necessary for their mutual protection, to compete with one


another for all the rewards and all the honors at our disposal ?
It cannot fail to occur to you, that the existence of such a
government is itself to be explained. If it be our liberty
which constitutes our charm, then whence our liberty ? How
happens it, that we have here no landed aristocracy, no titled
nobility, no luw of primogeniture, to perpetuate an estate, or
a privilege, or a distinction, in the same family from genera-
tion to generation ? How happens it, that we have here no
established religion, no lordly hierarchy, no system of tithes,
no inquisitorial courts ? Why this strange difference between
our institutions and those of almost all other nations ? Why
is it that this people alone are the State, and that they alone
elect and change their rulers at their pleasure, only under
restrictions of their own making, and teach them by very
rapid and summary, yet orderly and peaceful revolutions,
that they must rule according to law or not rule at all ? It
is perfectly obvious that we must carry our investigations
farther back, if we would reach a satisfactory solution of the
question before us.

And who can doubt, who deny, that all nations flow unto
this land, for the very same reason ^only not so strong for
which they shall finally flow unto the mountain of the Lord's
house, saying to each other on the way, " For out of Zion shall
go forth the law, .and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke
many people : and they shall beat their swords into plough-
shares and their spears into pruning-hooks : Cation shall not


lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any
more ;" for the very same reason that " in those days, ten men
shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall
take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will
go with you : for we have heard that God is with you."

Far he it from me to claim for my country more than a very
remote approximation to that glorious excellence which, in the
last days, shall distinguish and adorn the kingdom of God
among men. Our national, and social, and personal faults,
our sins, we have cause to fear, are even now crying to heaven
for vengeance. But by the unmerited mercy of " the Gov-
ernor among the nations," we still retain those divine sources
of all true and lasting prosperity the law of the Lord, the
word of God, its righteous and benevolent and peaceful in-
fluences and effects, which in coming time shall make Mount
Zion the joy of the whole earth, a delightsome land unto all
the inhabitants thereof. It is, in spite of our heinous offences,
on account of these inestimable blessings, that all the kindreds
of the nations now mingle and multiply within our borders.
This holy Book, known and read of all men, whosoever will,
is incontrovertibly the Magna Charta of our liberties. The
principles, the laws and ordinances which this holy Book
teaches us to observe, lie at the foundation of our free insti-
tutions, and support the whole fabric of our republican gov-
ernment. Without a standing army, without a reliable and


Online LibraryE. A. (Ezra Abel) HuntingtonBlessing received the sign of blessings in store : a discourse delivered Thanksgiving Day, November 20, 1856 in the First Presbyterian Church to the United Congregations of the first and second Presbyterian Churches, Auburn → online text (page 1 of 2)