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Hosea Hildreth.

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on your lips, that your debts may be forgiven as you for-
give your debtors, you cannot avoid becoming an affec-
tionate and united people.



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Some excuse themselves from giving their support te
religious institutions, because they have an ill opinion of
individuals, already supporting them; or because they
disapprove some parish proceedings. Both of these rea-
sons, my friends, are very deficient, as justifying reasons.
You are bound, at all events, to do your duty, and to
make the best of every thing. Dislike to other persons
will certainly be a poor excuse to offer to your Judge,
for neglecting an institution, expressly designed as a
means of preparation for another and a better world.
And what an ill symptom is it, that pilgrims on the same
journey, and bound, as they imagine, to the same city of
rest and glory, should fall out by the way, and refuse to
walk together for mutual comfort and encouragement !
What an evidence is it of want of proper views and feel-
ings ! of want of that meekness and comprehensive benev-
olence, which distinguished the character of Him who
died, that we might live !

As to parish proceedings, no person should expect, that
they will always be conducted in the best possible man-
ner, nor in the manner he thinks best. Imperfection is
' the lot of all human institutions ; it is especially the lot of
towns and parishes. Of this you should always be sensi-
ble ; and, instead of refusing your aid to the support of
gospel order, stand forward in the good cause, and re-
main firm at your post. If measures at any time are
adopted, which are wrong in themselves, or which you dis-
approve, do all you can by fair, and gentle, and Christian
methods, to obviate their injurious effects. Religious so-
ciety, and all other society, in this imperfect world, must
be supported on principles of mutual concession.

But the great apology, which we most frequently hear
offered, for neglecting to support religious order in our
towns, are divisions in religious sentiments. Some are
Congregationalists, some are Baptists, some are Methodists,
some are Calvinists, some are Arminians, some are Trini-
tarians, and some are Unitarians ; and there is such a diver-
sity of opinions, that no general measures for the support
of any one denomination, can be adopted. Has it then
come to this ? And is it true, that God has revealed a re-
ligion, that you might know how to honour him, and how
to work out your own salvation ? has he revealed a reli-
gion, speaking peace on earth and good will to men ? and
now is it such a matter of uncertainty what the essential
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principles of this religion are, that you cannot be so far
united, as to worship your Creator under the same roof,
and sit under the preaching of the same minister ? that
you cannot, in fact, agree to support regularly any worship
and instruction at all ? Is Christ divided ? Is he not forever
one and the same ? And must not all who receive the ben-
efits of his mediation, possess one and the same spirit ? Is
not his religion most eminently a religion of love ? Did he
not, in the most solemn and affecting language, exhort his
followers to be united ; declaring, that the very badge by
which they were to be known, was mutual love ? Now,
how does this comport with the divisions among us ; and
with the party names, that are got up, to prevent these
divisions, if possible, from ever being healed ? For my part,
I consider most of our divisions as arising more from will
and feeling, than from conviction and principle, and the
names by which they are distinguished, as answering the
views of the great enemy, rather than of the great Head
of the church.

I believe, my friends, there are such things as conscien-
tious differences in religious opinion. But these seldom
form a proper ground of separation. Those who possess
the spirit of Christ's religion, can forbear one another in
love. They can agree to differ; and can walk together,
although they cannot think alike on all subjects of Divin-
ity. We have no reason to expect, that men will all
think alike ; but we have a right to ask, that they would
not make their differences in opinion such a ground of sep-
aration, as to abolish the very institutions of religion.
And we have a right to say, that this argument for neglect-
ing these institutions, on account of differences in opinion,
is a false argument, because it proves too much ; it goes
to the destruction of gospel order. It is my belief, that
it cannot be taken as an excuse at the hands of any people
of competent numbers and property, that they cannot
maintain gospel order, because they cannot agree to do
it; any more, than it could be taken as an excuse for
their general want of uprightness, that they could not
agree to be upright. The matter of agreement is a mat-
ter of duty ; of duty, which no people can perseveringly
neglect, without bringing down upon themselves, in one
form or another, the judgments of Heaven ; without per-
petuating a moral desolation.



DISCOURSE II.

REV. Ill, 2.

Strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die.

THESE words contain a serious admonition to all churches
and religious societies, in which religion itself is in a languid
and decaying state ; and, I trust, they will not be considered
as ill adapted to the present circumstances of this church
and people. They were originally addressed to a church
of which it was said, that it had a name, that it lived, and
was dead. That is, the church was still in an organized
state ; the institution remained ; but the ends of the insti-
tution were very scantily answered. The institution itself
was much less cherished, than it had formerly been ; its
friends were remiss, or discouraged ; and its enemies, un-
ceasingly vigilant in contriving its ruin. The situation of
the church at Sardis, seems to have been remarkably sim-
ilar to that of many churches at the present day ; and, I
am persuaded, bore no distant resemblance to the situation
of the church in this place. The same general considera-
tions, therefore, which made it desirable that the .things
which remained in that church, should be strengthened,
make it likewise desirable, that the things which here re-
main, should be strengthened. And the same general duties,
which devolved upon the few disciples of Christ at Sardis,
devolve also upon his few professing followers here ; and,
indeed, upon all, who have any serious desire to see the
regular ministrations of the gospel reestablished in this
place. u Strengthen the things that remain, that are ready
to die."

In this discourse, I shall endeavour to shew, that the
things, which here remain are worthy of being strength-
ened ; and to suggest the means of doing it.

The church and society here remaining, are of the an-
cient order, introduced and established by the first fathers
of New-England. For almost a century from the landing of
the Pilgrims, the people of New-England were nearly all of



this order. Ample time had been given to test the worth
of their religious institutions, long before some denomina-
tions, now growing numerous, were ever heard of in this
country, or even in the world. Now, my friends, all who
have paid any attention to the history of New-England,
know very well, that our Fathers were wonderfully pros-
pered and blest. Their religious institutions had a happy
influence upon their general character. They were emi-
nently a moral and religious people. Indeed, no person
can fairly examine their history without perceiving, that
God, in a remarkable manner, owned and blessed their re-
ligious institutions. Shall we, then, lightly esteem, nay,
shall we count as vile, what God himself has owned and
blest ? Shall we turn our backs upon institutions, which
the great Head of the Church has honoured with his own
presence, and rendered subservient to the conversion and
sanctification of multitudes, who have gone before us?
Shall we not rather strengthen what yet remains of these
ancient, venerable, and precious institutions ; and do all in
our power, to repair the breaches they have sustained ?

You will not understand me as recommending an institu-
tion, merely because it is ancient. I know very well, that
the antiquity of an institution, is no certain evidence of its
real value and utility. But when an institution has been
found by the experience of successive generations, to be
highly capable of answering all the important purposes,
for which it was established, it certainly is a good reason
for continuing to support it. We ought not to exchange
such an institution for any other of recent origin, and, at
the same time, of very doubtful tendency.

The Congregational churches of New-England have
been instrumental in bringing down the richest blessings
upon the land. In the bosom of these churches were nur-
tured that fervent piety, that Christian fortitude, that un-
wavering trust in a superintending Providence, which pre-
pared our fathers for the grand enterprise of converting a
savage wilderness into a dwelling-place for enlightened
and civilized man. In the bosom of these churches were
nurtured that spirit of liberty, and that boldness of charac-
ter, which fitted them for resisting, at every step, the
encroachments of arbitrary power. The Congregational
Fathers of New-England laid the foundation of all, that is
most valuable in our civil institutions.* To those fathers,

* I tillude to the civil institutions of the New-England States.



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under God, we owe it, that we are now a free people ;
and so richly provided with the means of becoming wise,
and virtuous, and happy. It was their earliest concern, to
establish schools, to organize parishes and churches, to
build houses of worship, to settle and maintain pastors and
teachers, and to do all in their power for the improvement
of succeeding generations.

I would not be understood to say, or to believe, that our
Fathers were perfect. I know they were tinctured with
a portion of the intolerance of their age. But I believe
myself entirely justified in saying, they were as worthy a
race of men, as existed in their day. Their memories are
worthy of being honoured by us ; and their institutions,
worthy of being maintained. And, I will add, unless they
are maintained ; unless they are cherished and supported
with greater zeal and interest, than seem to be customary
at present, especially in this quarter, there is much reason
to fear, that the state of society will grow worse and worse ;
and, at no very distant day, that we shall become a gross-
ly wicked and profligate people. Every father, every
mother, every friend to his country, has reason to be anx-
ious for the rising generation.

What, my friends, would have been the feelings of our
Fathers, had they supposed, that their children would treat
their most valuable institutions with cold indifference ?
Would they have encountered so many hardships for the
sake of transmitting such privileges to a thankless posteri-
ty ? Would they have offered so many fervent prayers to
God for his guidance and blessing, had they imagined, that
the more they themselves were prospered, the more guilty
would be their children ? And what a sad compliment to
the memory of those worthy and pious Fathers, is the sit-
uation of many a Congregational church and society in
New-Hampshire ! Say not that I am unreasonably attached
to a particular order of Christians. I can heartily say,
i; peace be with all those, that love our Lord Jesus Christ
in sincerity ;" and I can heartily rejoice in the success of
true religion, in whatever sect or denomination it may be
found. Still I feel authorised to plead for the Congrega-
tional churches^ because I believe them well calculated
in themselves, to promote piety and good morals ; entirely
consonant to the principles of republican government ;
and, to say the least, as much as any other existing
order, agreeable to scripture. I believe these church,-
2*



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es have been the means of preserving among us, more
than all other means, a sense of God's providence and
of a world to come ; of holding up, in a multitude of
honourable examples, a standard of Christian character,
which has been, and still is, of invaluable benefit to the
community. I believe, if these churches are forsaken, and
. finally become extinct, that no regular institutions of reli-
gion will soon be established in their place ; and that the
name, as well as influence of Christianity, will be in danger
of disappearing from the land. Believing these things, I
cannot hesitate to exhort you to strengthen the things that
remain ; nor can I hesitate to say, that the things which
remain, are worthy of being strengthened.

II. I will now suggest some of the means, by which the
end proposed in the text, may be attained ; some of the
means, by which you may hope to strengthen the things,
that remain in this place.

First, I would recommend to the few professors, who
remain connected with this church and society, a greater
earnestness and zeal in the cause of their Master. You,
my friends, must be especially solicitous to honour the re-
ligion you profess. You have assumed a situation highly
responsible. You have taken upon yourselves the vows
of God. You have declared your allegiance to Him, and
professed to experience the power of his grace. You pro-
fess to have taken up your cross, and to have become the
disciples of Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he
might redeem us from iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people. You call upon the world to take know-
ledge of you, that you have been with him. You have
charged yourselves with the high office of maintaining the
honour of his kingdom in the world ; of exhibiting the
power of his religion to rectify the human character. You,
in effect, say to others, be ye followers of us, even as we
are of Christ. The glory of God, the prosperity of the
church, the cause of religious order and religious instruction
in this place, the health of your own souls ; every consid-
eration of duty and interest, urge you to exhibit the pecu-
liarities of the Christian character. You must be persons
of sound morals, of daily prayer, of visible and fervent
piety. You must be frequent in your supplications at the
throne of grace, that pure religion, the religion of the
heart, the religion which renews and sanctifies the life,
may revive amongst this people. You must imitate the



19

examples of Nehemiah, Ezra, and other eminently pious
persons of every age. They humbled themselves before
God, on account of their own coldness and indifference, as
well as on account of the general disregard to religion.
And while they were earnest in prayer, they were earnest
also in action. So you, my friends, must evince, by your
personal exertions, as well as by your devotional habits, your
zeal to promote the cause of truth and righteousness. You
must let it appear, that you are not ashamed of the gospel.
As a church, you should occasionally meet for prayer and
mutual encouragement. You should endeavour to make
it manifest, that, although your number is greatly dimin-
ished, the spirit of prayer still remains among you ; and
that you are ready to do whatever is incumbent on you, as
professors of Christ's religion, to repair the breaches that
have been made here, and to strengthen the things that
remain.

In the second place, I would recommend to those, who
are decidedly favourable to the order and mode of wor-
ship, introduced and maintained by their fathers, to be
more active and engaged in the good work of reestablish-
ing the regular ministrations of the gospel. I trust, here
are still remaining a goodly number, who would rejoice to
see this church and society in a flourishing state. I trust
here are a goodly number, who are convinced and satisfied,
that the religious observation of the Sabbath, the regular
support of publick worship in a house set apart for that
purpose, and the weekly publick instructions, as well as
friendly private admonitions of a Christian minister, are
absolutely essential to a well regulated and moral people.
To this goodly number let me say then, you must take a
still deeper interest in this great concern ; this concern,
connected not only with your own personal welfare, but
with the welfare of the children, whom you love, and of
the town at large, whose prosperity you would gladly
promote. Here in this town, my friends, lie your most
important temporal interests. Here are your estates ; and
here are the children whom you expect to inherit them ;
and whom you wish to come forward in life, well inform-
ed, well behaved and respectable. You would gladly do
much to promote their advancement. Now what measure
can you adopt, better calculated for the instruction of your
own children, and of the children generally in the town ;
better calculated to secure an orderly, industrious, intel-



20

ligent and worthy posterity, than to provide yourselves
with a pious, discreet, and well educated minister ? I say
it seriously, I say it boldly, that your children and posterity
would be better situated with half the property they might
inherit, provided they could inherit likewise the blessings
of gospel order and gospel instruction, than with all your
property, along with a broken state of society and a gene-
ral indifference to the institutions of religion. The inhe-
ritance you might leave them in a convenient and respec-
table house of worship, and in the virtues and labours of a
worthy Christian minister, would be the most valuable in-
heritance in your power to leave ; even if you consulted
merely their welfare in the present life. For, after all,
it is moral worth, and not riches, which constitutes the
true dignity, and true happiness of a people.

But, my friends, you have immortal souls, and your chil-
dren have immortal souls, whose welfare in a future state,
should be your highest concern. This world is not your
home. It is a state of probation. It is a transitory state.
It will soon come to an end. But its consequences wilj
remain forever ! Will you not, then, take an important
step, on your part, towards rendering your being a bless-
ing to you, and your children's being a blessing to them ?
Will you not make great exertions, great sacrifices, if need
be* to provide yourselves and your children with the cus-
tomary privileges of a Christian people ?

In the last place, I may be permitted to say a few words
to those, who are in the habit of doing nothing for the sup-
port of any order of worship in any place.

You, my friends, stand aloof, and, like the nobles of the
Tekoites, put not your hands to the work of the Lord.
Can you now before God, and, at the bar of your own
consciences, justifv yourselves in the course you are tak-
ing ? And will you, on a more solemn day, be able to jus-
tify yourselves ? I take upon me to say, that you are
under obligations, which no law of man, nor "will of man
can dissolve, to assist according to your ability, in provid-
ing and maintaining the regular ministrations of the gospel.
You are as much bound by the law of God, to provide for
the instruction of yourselves and your children in religion
and morality, as you are, to provide food, and raiment,
and shelter.

But perhaps you are in doubt, what order of Christianity
to support. I reply, any order is better than none. But



21

if all were to follow your example, no order whatever
would be supported. No Christian institutions would be
found in the country. You would not see houses of wor-
ship erected or repaired ; but all would go to decay, and
disappear from the face of the earth. This state of things,
I am confident, would give you great pain. You could not
witness, without deep regret, such a sad departure from
the practice of your fathers. You cannot readily give up
all thoughts of attending publick worship ; of assembling,
at least occasionally, with your families and neighbours, in
the House, where God has graciously promised to hear
and to answer. Why, then, do you hesitate to contribute
according to your ability, towards the support of an insti-
tution, which you acknowledge and believe to be useful
and necessary ?

Perhaps some of you may plead, that your property is
small, and that you are unable to do much for the support
of the gospel. I do not ask you to do much ; I ask you to
do something, I ask you to do what you are able to do,
a/id no more. How little soever you may do, if it be
according to your ability, it will not only show, that you
are friendly to gospel order, but will help to strengthen
the hands of this society. You can all cast in, at least,
two mites; and you know, that two mites were neither
rejected, nor ill spoken of. ^Be entreated, then, to con-
sider this subject in a more serious light, than you have
hitherto done. Consider What bearing it may have on
your own welfare and that of your families in the present
world ; but above all, what bearing it may possibly have
on your welfare in the world to come. You cannot feel
certain, you are right in withholding your aid from this in-
stitution of religion. I think, you may be very sure, it
will be safe to give your aid. Now, my friends, it is a
good rule, where one side is doubtful and the other side
safe, always to take the safe side.

I trust you will all do me the justice to believe, that, in
the plain discourse I have now given, I have sought not
yours, but you. Though I have spoken plainly, I have
endeavoured to speak kindly ; and to offer such consider-
ations, and such only, as are worthy to influence the candid
hearer. " And now, brethren, I commend you to God,
and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you
up, and to give you an inheritance among all them, which
are sanctified,"



EXTRACTS
From DR. DAWS Election Sermon, 1823.

" Those laws which are founded in righteousness will
give an efficient protection to the Sabbath. Of all the insti-
tutions which our world has witnessed, this is the most
purely benign. Had it been a mere human invention, it
would have justly ranked its author among the greatest
of philosophers, and the most illustrious benefactors of his
species. Stamped, as it unquestionably is, with a divine
authority, it is most precious to the patriot and philanthro-
pist, as well as the Christian. The devotions of the

Sabbath are the grand cement of human society. They
put to flight those baleful passions which invade its order
and prey upon its peace ; while they powerfully cherish
all those dispositions which constitute its beauty, its har-
mony, and its happiness. The instructions appropriate to
this sacred season, are calculated to produce a similar
general effect. All which the Scriptures reveal respec-
ting God, his law, the wonders of redemption, the distin-
guishing excellencies of the Saviour, the genius and spirit
of his religion, powerfully tends to humble the pride, and
soften the asperities of the human breast; and at the
same time, to inspire those virtues which are the orna-
ments and safe-guards of human society, and the sweet-
eners of human life. The result is, that the Sabbath is the
best friend of social, as well as of individual man ; the
most efficient patron of publick peace, order, virtue and
happiness."

" It has, 1 am not insensible, been maintained that Reli-
gion, being a concern between man and his Maker, and
having its principal reference to our spiritual interests,
and our immortal destiny, needs not the support of civil
government. This position, with certain obvious limita-
tions, may be true. Still there remains a most important
question. Does not civil government; do not all the
great and momentous interests of society, need the sup-
port of religion ? Have not the wisest legislators, ancient
and modern, heathen and Christian, felt and acknowledged
the inefficiency of all institutions and laws merely human ;
and to supply the defect, resorted to the high and ever-



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lasting- sanctions of religion? Such were obviously the
views of the Framers of the Constitution of this State.
All restraints on religious liberty; all invasions of the
rights of conscience ; all preferences of one sect or de-
nomination to another; all impositions, by the civil power,
of creeds and liturgies, we sincerely deprecate. No en-
lightened Christian, nor enlightened patriot, would wish to
see, in our favored country, a religious establishment. It
would corrupt religion, without affording substantial aid to
the state. Nor is it to be desired that such provision
should be made by Christian societies, for the clergy, as


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Online LibraryHosea HildrethTwo discourses to townsmen. .. → online text (page 2 of 3)