John Allyn.

A sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 online

. (page 16 of 18)
Online LibraryJohn AllynA sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 → online text (page 16 of 18)
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thorough manner. See also Dr. Cheever's " Journal of the Pilgrims," &c.
Chap. XVin. " Our fathers," says Mr. McClure, " turned Mr. Williams



56

out of doors, because lie was tearing tlieir house to pieces. For perform-
ing this necessary act of self-preservation, we leave tliem to be vindicated
by John Quincy Adams, that foe of bigotry, and firm friend of civil and
religious liberty. In a discourse published by him some six years since,
after a candid statement of the facts, he asks : ' Can we blame the found-
ers of the Massachusetts Colony for banishing him from vdthin their juris-
diction? In the annals of religious persecution, is there to be found a
martyr more gently dealt with by those against whom he began the war
of intolerance ? whose authority he persisted, even after professions of pen-
itence and submission, in defying, till deserted even by the wife of his
bosom ? and whose utmost severity of punishment upon him was only an
order for his removal as a nuisance from among them ? ' " * * " Williams's
colony was obliged to procure the help of Massachusetts in banishhig the
fanatical Gorton and his outlaws ; obtaining an illegal extension, over their
own territory, of the very laws by which Williams was then excluded from
Massachusetts. This hard necessity of theirs, may amply excuse the like
necessity on the part of ' the people of the Bay.' "

If any one will read Morton's account of the dismission of Roger Wil-
liams from the Church of Plymouth, and of the subsequent proceedings at
Salem and Boston, it vdll be seen, that the same view was taken of him in
both colonies. The Church " consented " to his dismission, " through the
prudent counsel of Mr. Brewster, (the Ruling Elder there,) fearing that
his continuance amongst them might cause divisions, and there being many
able men in the Bay, they tvould better deal with hiin than themselves could,
and foreseeing (what he feared concerning Mr. Williams, which afterwards
came to pass) that he would run the same course of rigid separation and
Anabaptistry, which Mr. John Smith, the Sebaptist at Amsterdam had
done," &c.

Roger Williams was not banished for being a Baptist. He never was a
Baptist in Massachusetts, and but "for three months" in Rhode Island.

In respect to the " intolerance " attributed to " the fathers," Dr. Cheev-
er's remarks concerning the " Brownes " at Salem, are much to the pur-
pose. Take, for example, a single paragraph.

" ' I will be tolerant of every thing else,' said Mr. Coleridge, ♦ but every
other man's intolerance.' Now here it was plainly the intolerance of
others, not their religion, of which Governor Endicott would not be tole-
rant. And in this thing he and the colonists were evidently guided by
Infinite Wisdom. Eor, if the churchmen had been permitted to go on,
there would have been an end to this sanctuary of freedom in the wilder-
ness. There would have been no New England in existence, in the history
of which there should be scope for a sneer at the piety, or the freedom, or
the sujierstition of its founders. Their iwt being suffered to go on, is the
reason why they, and all other sects, even Bunyan's Giant Grim, with his
nails pared, are here in quiet now. God, in his gracious divine providence,
would not suffer any others than the persecuted Puritanic Dissenters to
get footing here, until both in the Old World and the New, the great
lesson of religious liberty had been more fully taught and understood.
He had much light yet for Cromwell and the Independents of England to
pour upon this question. The sneers at the course of our Pilgrim Fathers
are sneers against the providence of God and the freedom of man."

It was " in the Bay," that the innovating spirits were disposed to settle.
The attractions to emigrants were very few at Plymouth. In ten years the
Colony had but thi-ee hundred souls. And although it has sometimes been
intimated, that the Church there was much more tolerant than the Chm-ches
" in the Bay," there really is no valid proof, as yet furnished, that there
was any difference in principle, or prevailing opinions. And if there be
any appearance in favor of Plymouth, it is at once explained by a differ-
ence of the circumstances ; or the operation of such causes as make some
men more " prudent" than others, and not unwilling to evade personal re-
sponeibDity, instead of acting with decision and firmness.



(^ob'0 Cau) Mncl)an2eablc in U0 (Elatms.

A SERMON

PREACHED IN THE

ELIOT CHURCH, NEWTON, MS.

ON THE

ANNIVERSARY

OF THE

LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS,

Dec. 22, 1850.
BY REV. W. S. LEAVITT,

PASTOR OF THE CHURCH.

Published by Request.



BOSTON:

PRESS OF J. HOWE, 39 MERCHANTS ROW,
1851,



SERMON.



LUKE XVI : 17.

"it is Easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one
tittle of the law to fail."

This day — the 22d of December — is widely recog-
nized and hallowed as the anniversary of the Landing
of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. It is a day wor-
thy to be had in perpetual remembrance by all the sons
of New England. We point to our civil and religious
freedom ; to our churches and schools ; to the intelli-
gence of the people ; to their industry ; to their unri-
valled progress in all the arts of peace ; to their success
in every department of enterprise ; and are justly and
honestly proud of all these things, as the legitimate
results of that event — as results whose causes can be
distinctly traced back to the planting of those heroic
footsteps on Plymouth Rock. And if the inspired
prophet had then stood in this land, and seen its wilds
overrun with heathen tribes, and seen also with pro-
phetic eye what it was to become in two hundred years,
well might he have exclaimed, " How beautiful upon
this rock-bound coast are the feet of them that bring
glad tidings, that publish peace."

But while the sons of the Pilgrims build the tombs
of their fathers, and garnish the sepulchres of those
righteous men, they ought not to renounce their prin-
ciples, or deny any of those great truths which have
made New England what it is. They ought to be



their children in truth and in principle, as well as in
name and in blood. Our Pilgrim Fathers were noble
men ; they had many points of greatness ; they have
left the impress of themselves upon the world. But
the fact which stands out most prominently in their
history is, that they were religious men. Their great
characteristic was reverence for God and for his Law.
Many points in their history may have been disputed,
but no one ever dreamed of disputing this. And I
have thought that this day — the anniversary of their
establishment here — afforded a fit occasion, at the
present time, for considering one of those great prin-
ciples of theirs — a doctrine which had, perhaps, more
to do than any other in forming their characters, and
deciding their destinies, and bringing down upon the
generations of their children the blessings of God. That
principle is the one declared in the text : that

god's law is unchangeable in its claims.

In the first place, because its foundation is unchange-
able. On what is the Law of God founded ? This
question, it will be seen, is of the utmost importance
to our subject. For if this foundation be any thing
which it is possible to change, then there is a possibil-
ity that the claims of the Law may be altered too. It
is a question, also, to which very different answers have
bven given. It has been said that the will of God is
the foundation of his Law ; and that it is our duty to
obey, simply because God commands, and for no other
reason. This is a very general opinion, and perhaps
some of my hearers will be surprised if I venture to
express my dissent. I wish to be distinctly under-
stood : — every thing that agrees with the will of God
must be right of course, because that will is always



right. God's Law is of course an expression of his
will, and must be in accordance with it ; it is itself
God's will, and can never be otherwise than right.
But what I mean to say is, this is not a full account of
the matter : there must be some reason for this will —
some reason why God commands us to love our neigh-
bor instead of forbidding it — some reason why he for-
bids murder, instead of saying, " Thou shalt kill." I
mean that God's will is not a merely arbitrary will,
existing without a reason, and proclaimed because he
has the power ; but there is a reason lying back of
this, why he wills, commands, and forbids as he does.
If it were not so, then it was by mere accident that
God's Law is what it is, and if he had commanded us
to worship idols, to hate om' neighbor, to murder and
to steal, it would have been just as much our duty to
obey as it is now. But you will say it is impossible
that God should have commanded these. Very true —
and why is it impossible ? If his will is arbitrary, and
without a reason, then there was no impossibility in
its being otherwise : if there was no reason why he
commanded as he did, there was no reason why he
might not have commanded exactly the opposite. It
is because there is a standard of right and wrong, dis-
tinct from mere arbitrary will, to which God's holy na-
ture must conform, and which is the foundation of his
Law. To this standard God himself appeals when he
calls upon men to judge concerning the uprightness of
his conduct. " O my people, what have I done unto
thee ? and wherein have I wearied thee ? testify against
me." " Are not my ways equal ?"

The language of Scripture throughout, confirms this
view. " Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated in-
iquity," Now if God's will is the foundation and the



standard of righteousous, this expression simply means
that he loves his own will, and hates what is opposed
to it — which any being might do, no matter what his
character, whether infinitely wicked or infinitely good.
It gives no insight into the character of God, to say
that he does right because he does according to his
will. If this be the standard of right, it amounts simp-
ly to this : he does according to his will because it is
his will so to do. Such a character would be one of
willfulness, not of right. We are told that God is
"just and right^' — does that mean only that he does as
he pleases? that he cannot sin — does that mean only
that he cannot act in opposition to his own will ? What
idea can we have of the uprightness of a being who
wills without a reason, and acts upon this arbitrary
will ? Have we not an idea of rectitude distinct from
this ? and must we not say that God is righteous, that
his Law is holy, and his commandment holy, just, and
good, not because he doeth his will, but because his will
is right ? We are forced, then, to the conclusion, that
there is a standard of right beyond the mere will of
God, and that his Avill is right because it conforms to
this standard, and his Law is binding because it rests
on this foundation. What this standard is we shall
presently consider.

Again ; it has been said that God's Law is founded
in utility ; that he commands some things, and forbids
others, only because they will occasion good or evil to
the universe. In other words, that the moral quality
of an action lies not in itself, nor in its motives, but in
its effects. But if this be so, then the doctrine that
the end sanctifies the means is unquestionably true.
Then there can be no such thing as " doing evil that
good rnay come ;" for no matter what amount of fraud.



falsehood or crime be employed to effect the end — if
the actual result is more good than evil, all was virtu-
ous and right. It cannot be that God's Law^, or his
principles of action rest upon a foundation like this.
I do not mean to deny that righteousness is better than
sin, better in its tendencies, better in its effects : but
there is a moral quality in actions distinct from this.-
God commands virtue, not its effects ; and forbids not
the consequences of sin, but sin itself. But if utility
were the foundation of his Law, there could be no
virtue, there could be no sin, except in their conse-
quences. It is plain, then, that we have not yet reach^
ed the object of our search.

What then is the foundation of the Law of God ?
It is founded not in arbitrary will, not iri a mere regard'
to consequences — but in the very nature of things.
By this, I mean that it is impossible to imagine moral
beings placed in certain relations, without having at
once the idea of duty, of obligation, of right and wrong.
For example, the relation of parent and child instantly
suggests the idea of respect and obedience as the duty
of the child. We say at once, it is right fof him to
render these, and wrong to refuse. We do not reason
on the subject. We do not say it is right because it
is the will of God — we should say the same if we
knew nothing of his will. We do not say it is right
because it is best for the child to obey his parent—^
but simply because the parental relation exists. We
can go no farther than this. We can give no other ac-
count of the matter. We have reached an ultimate
fact, a first principle in morals, a self-evident truth.
We see and believe the duty, not because we can give
a reason for it, but because we cannot help seeing and
believing. The mere fact of the parental relation ^



8

the very nature of things — establishes the duty of the
child. So the idea of justice, of our duty to regard
the rights of our neighbor, to respect his property and
his life — this idea arises in our minds from the very
fact, that we have a neighbor. And we feel that our
duty in this respect would be the same if God had
never commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In the same way, we have certain duties towards
God, not because he has commanded them, but be-
cause he is God, and we are his creatures. In the
very nature of things these duties cannot be disjoined
from this relation. Now this nature and fitness of
things plainly is not built upon the Law of God ; it is
itself the foundation of that Law. God's Law is but
the expression of this nature of things ; the utterance
of this eternal rule of right — and now we see why it
can never be changed. For until the whole nature of
things can be made anew ; till good can become evil,
and evil be changed to good ; till the moral sense of
God and man can proclaim its own^falsehood ; and jus-
tice, mercy and truth be made to consist in falsehood,
violence' and crime — God's Law and its claims npon
men must be the same. But it is impossible, it is
absurd, to suppose that this change can take place.
Therefore the Law is immovable, founded on the na-
ture of things ; and its claims unchanging as the throne
of God. " It is easier for heaven and earth to pass,
than one tittle of the Law to fail."

In the second place, God's Law is unchangeable in
its claims, because the relations in which men are view-
ed by the Law can never be changed. They can
never cease to be creatures of God, and therefore sub-
jects of his government. They can never cast off their



allegiance, or declare themselves independent of his
control. They can never reach a point w^here they
shall have discharged forever all their obligations to
God, and where they no longer owe him homage and
love. If they could be placed in any such position, it
is plain that the claims of the Law in this respect would
cease ; but it is equally plain that such a thing is im-
possible. Men are creatures of God, and nothing can
destroy this fa(;t : of course the duties that belong of
necessity to the relation of creature and Creator, can
never be set aside. The character of God Ccm never
cease to be worthy of our love ; of course to love must
always be our duty* Nothing can be done to take us
out from these relations, and sever the chain of obli-'
gations that binds us to Godi We can never yield
the Creator so much worship that it will be right for
us thenceforth to withhold it. We can never love God
so much that we shall gain the right to hate him. We
can never obey his commands so long that obedience
will become a sin. And if our relations as subjects of
God^ and our duties to him while in those relations can
never cease, when and how shall the claims of his Law
be changed.

Neither can our relations and duties to other beings
ever cease. If a man were placed in the midst of a
desertj with no other being near him, and ignorant that
any other existed in the universe — then, indeed, he
would not be called upon to love his neighbor as him-
self : not because the Law was changed, but sim23ly
because he had no neighbor to love. He would not be
commanded to respect the rights of his fellow man ;
not because the nature of things was changed, and it
was no longer a duty to respect the rights of others,
but because he had no fellow man. If such a case as
2



10

this existed, the nature of right and wrong would not
be changed ; the Law would not be set aside, only its
claims in this respect would not be enforced, because
the man was no longer in the relation contemplated by
the Law. But only set him back again amid society,
or bring a single human being to share his solitude,
and that moment he is a debtor to the Law. He has a
neighbor whom he ought to love ; a fellow man whose
rights it is his duty to respect. The moment this re-
lation begins, the moment two beings exist together —
that moment their mutual rights and duties commence.
But no case like the one supposed can happen. The
relations of men to their fellow men can never be bro-
ken oiF. Or if their neighbor be not actually present,
before their eyes, and within the reach of their kind
offices and their practical benevolence — still they can-
not forget that he exists ; and remembering this, in
their hearts they can obey the command, " Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself." And if, even alone in
the desert, when they think of their fellow men, that
benevolence which is not bounded by space or time —
the desire for the happiness of all who can be happy —
does not arise in their minds — they are not guiltless in
the sight of God.

We have gone thus far, then, in our argument. We
have seen that the foundation of God's Law is un-
changeable, because it rests on the very nature of
things ; that the duties which the Law commands are
of necessity binding on men in certain relations ; and
that these relations — involving the rights of God and
their neighbor — can never cease. I see not, there-
fore, how we can escape the conclusion that God's
Law is unchangeable in its claims.



11

But it will, perhaps, be said, All this would be true
if the Gospel had not been introduced ; but the effect
of this has been to change the relations of men to the
Law, and, in some degree at least, to set aside its
claims. I remark, therefore.

In the third place, the proposition we are consider-
ing is true, because it was not the object of the gos-
pel to set aside the Law. What the gospel has done
is something very different from this. When the herald
of Messiah, " the voice of one crying in the wilder-
ness," was heard among the Jews — what was the
burden of his message ? Did he proclaim the downfall
of the Law ? the abrogation of its claims ? the repeal
of the commands of God ? Did he declare that men
were no longer under obligation to do right ? Did he
offer freedom from the Law, and impunity in sin ? "In
those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the
wilderness of Judea, and saying. Repent ye : for the
kingdom of God is at hand. Who hath warned you
to flee from the wrath to come ? Bring forth there-
fore fruits meet for repentance. And now also the
axe is laid unto the root of the trees ; therefore every
tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down
and cast into the fire." There is nothing in this that
announces a coming overthrow of the Law ; for if it
were so, why should repentance and a holy life be the
subject of his discourse ? And when the heavenly host
took up on the plains of Bethlehem the chorus, " Glory
to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will to
men," was it in their minds to rejoice, because the
rule of right was set aside, and men were no longer
bound to bear the image of God ? But if the object of
the gospel was to set aside the Law, this must have
been the ground of their rejoicing, this the burden of
their hymns of praise.



12

Will it be said that Jesus Christ taught that the
Law had come to an end ? What was the theme of
his first great discourse — the sermon on the Mount ?
" Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the
Prophets : for I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass
away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from
the Law till all be fulfilled." And what was the ob-
ject of that sermon but to rescue the Law from the
traditions of the elders by which they had made it void,
and set it before the consciences of men in all its puri-
ty and in all its spiritual power ? And throughout all
his ministry, we never find him relaxing the claims of
the Law, letting down the standard of righteousness,
teaching any looser morality, or demanding any thing
less than perfect obedience to God. So far from this,
he taught the strictest, the purest morality that ever
fell from the lips of man ; he presented the claims of
the Law with unequalled power ; and in all things
most comjDletely did he fulfill that which was spoken
of him by the projAet ; " He will magnify the Law,
and make it honorable."

But has not the death of Christ put an end to the
Law ? has not his atonement forever satisfied its
claims ? or at least, has it not done something to make
less strict the requirements of God ? In answer to
this, let us consider what it is that the atonement has
done. The Bible represents mankind as lost in sin ;
alienated from God by wicked works ; disobedient to
his Law, and lying under its curse. It represents God
as looking upon this ruin, and declaring that he has
found a remedy ; in the fulness of his love providing
a ransom — but how ? Not by repealing his eternal
Law ; not by relaxing its claims to accommodate the
depravity of men ; not by receiving to his friendship



13

the wicked, all stained with sin, and unrepenting in
their hearts — this was not the way in which Divine
compassion was displayed ; this was not the salvation
he proclaimed. But his design was to reconcile jus-
tice and mercy ; to save the sinner, and yet maintain
his Law. For this end the atonement was made.
And with this view God gave his Son to die for the
world ; he made his soul an offering for sin ; and thus
declared his unyielding purpose to uphold the claims and
the honor of his Law. For if even the repenting sin-
ner could be pardoned only through the blood of Christ,
then was it plain that he never would suffer his com-
mands with impunity to be disobeyed. And not only
this, but the salvation purchased by the cross was a holy
salvation. Christ gave himself for us " that he might
redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works." If, then, to
restore mankind to holiness and the image of God was
the work of the atonement, of course to break down
the Law, to relax its claims, was not its object, was
not its effect.

Besides, it was utterly impossible for the atonement
to set aside the Law. For, as we have seen, the foun-
dations of the Law cannot be changed : it is simply a
declaration of those things which are in their own na-
ture forever right and wrong. No atonement can
change this. No atonement can make that right which
is wrong in itself. The blood of Christ can cleanse
from sin ; it can whisper peace and pardon to the soul ;
it can wash out the stains, and make the scarlet white
as snow - — but it cannot change the moral quality of
actions ; it cannot transform sin into righteousness, nor
make virtue out of crime ; it cannot move the firm
foundations of the Law of God. It adds ten-fold ob-



14

ligations to keep the Law; for he who breaks it now,
sins also against redeeming love.

Again, the apostles — the inspired expounders of
the gospel — never taught that it set aside the Law,
or in the least degree relaxed its claims. When they
*' conclude that a man is justified by faith without the
deeds of the Law," they add at once, " Do we then
make void the Law through faith ? God forbid : yea,
we establish the Law." But Paul says, " Ye are not
under the Law, but under grace." True — and what
does he mean ? that Christians are not bound to obey


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Online LibraryJohn AllynA sermon delivered at Plimouth, December 22, 1801, commemorative of the pious ancestry, who first imigrated [!] to that place, 1620 → online text (page 16 of 18)