John Allyn.

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

. (page 18 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 18 of 18)
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heart loses a little of its pride at its physical' strength and
all its outward show of magnificence. It sees, that princi-
ple and consecration and faith in God outweigh them all,
as though they were the dust of the balance.

Shall the nation then stand humbled and self reproach-


ed, ashamed that it is so great, and so rich, and so magnifi-
cent ?— No, thank God, there is no need of that. If it
shoukl come without pride which despises the past, it can
come also without shame, that abases itself before it. — It
also has done its work. It has borne its burden and fought
its battle. It also has weighed money against principle
and found it wanting; it also has devoted itself with a lof-
ty consecration. It can then look the past calmly in the
face, without vainglory and without humiliation. It owes
to the past all things, and yet it has been true to the past,
and carried on its work, and helped to fulfil its ideal. —
Happy the man, who can return from his struggles with for-
tune, from the entanglements of business, whether loaded
or not with its spoils, whether successful or not with what
the world calls success, to the humble home of his boyhood,
that is rich with sacred memories, that has been consecra-
ted by religion, by integrity, by kindly generosity, and can
say, — "The lesson I learnt here I have never forgotten,the
virtue of my parents has not been tarnished in me. I owe
them all, but, thank God, I have not dishonored them". —
Happy the nation that can turn to such a beginning as that
at Plymouth Rock, with a heart full of reverence : yet full
too of a holy joy, that it has fought its good fight, and ful-
filled its work, and carried on without disgrace, and with
new honor, that which began in such pure devotion and in
such earnest faith.

I know the faults and the vices of the present. I know
too that the past had its faults. Those stern old Puritans
were not perfect. Their faults were theirs, and ours are
o'j. rsj but our virtues are theirs, and are derived from them ;
and to day, I would see only this shining line that binds
us together.

This brings us to ask. What is the true way in which we
should be able to approach the past, and compare ourselves
with it. — There are different ways in Avhich men love to
look back upon the Puritans. Some regard them with
mockery. They were stern, and merciless. Their religion
was harsh and austere. They had no lightness ; all was


rigid and arbitrary. But what — we may ask sucli mockers —
what went ye out into the wilderness for to see ? Eeeds
shaken with the wind ? — But what went ye out for to see ?
Men clothed in soft raiment, men soft and mild in thought
and speech or act ? Those that wear soft raiment are in
King's palaces. Had they been of such stuff, they would
have staid, contented, as they were. — But what went ye out
for to see ? Prophets ? Yea, I say unto you, and more than
prophets. They were the forerunners and the beginners
of the new epoch, and of all that have been born of woman
there are none greater than they. — Others would approach
the Puritans with unmixed reverence. J hey would seek
to prove that they think and believe just as the fathers did.
If they can go to Plymouth rock, and find that, word for
word, their creed just fits the Puritans' belief,they feel them-
selves worthy to be reckoned as their children. — What is
this but to say to them,-" We knew that you were harsh and
stern ; so we took your pound, and folded it in a napkin
and laid it carefully away, here thou hast that is thine."
Rather let us be of the number that shall say to them,
"Thy pound hath gained ten pounds. Take thine own with
usury." — The true descendants of the Puritans are not
those who think what they thought, but those who think as
they thought ; not those who say what they said, but those
who speak as they spoke. The Puritans were the fore-
most men of their generation. They were in advance of
their age. They dared to think for themselves, and they
dared to say what they thought. The Puritan of to-day is
not he who stands where they stood, though it be on Ply-
mouth Pock; and repeats their words, however sacred.
But it is he who follows truth wherever she may lead, who
welcomes her latest revelation, who is in earnest with the
truth, who despises constraint and authority, and acknowl-
edges no priest and no church, which can come between
his soul and God. — The testimony then that I will bear to-
day to the Puritans is, that their ideas have moulded this
nation, their virtues have purified it, their devotion has en-
nobled it. But their ideas and their principles have not

been mere dead weight, transmitted fiom liand to liand^
they have germinated and expanded. 'Ihe ideas of
the present are not the same as theirs, but they are parts
of the same process.— Their pound has gained other ten
pounds. — In a word, I would claim for the Puritans, that
they are the source of our most advanced, most progres-
sive, and most liberal thought ; and I would claim for our
most advanced, progressive and liberal thoright, that it is
the true representative and the true descendant of Puritan-'
ism in this generation.

Let us illustrate this by reference to the actual position
of the early pilgrims. I will first speak of tlieir church or-
ganization. And here I will quote directly from Palfrey's
History of New England.

"A church was a company of believers, associated to-
gether by a mutual covenant to maintain and share (Jhris-
tian worship and ordinances, and to watch over each oth-
er's spiritual condition. The covena?its — remarkably free
in the earliest times from statements of doctrine — were
what their name imports. They were mutual engage-
ments in the presence of God, to walk together in all his
ways, according as he was pleased to reveal himself in his
blessed word of truth * * * A church officer, of what-
ever degree, was an officer only in his own congregation.
The primitive doctrine of New England was, that no man
was a clergyman in any sense, either before his election by
a particular church, or after his relinquishment of the spec-
ial trust so conferred ; and that, even v/liile in office, he
was a layman to all the world except to his own congrega-
tion, and had no right to exercise any clerical function else-
where. In the earliest times a minister was ordained, not
by other ministers, but by officers of the church which elect-
ed him, or when it had no officers, then by some of its pri-
vate members. This absolute mutual independence of the
churches was in principle equivalent to universal mutual
toleration ; and if the original scheme of an ecclesiastical
constitution had been carried out, there could have been
no interference on behalf of the whole community, as rep-
resented by its government, with the belief or practises of
any single congregation."*

It does not need much knowledge of history, to know
* Palfrey's History of New England, Vol. 2, pages 36 and 39.


liow soon these principles were modified. They were so^
because church membership was a pre-requisite for voting
and holding office. Thus the central authorities felt call-
ed upon to control this matter of church membership. But
of the Congregationalism of the Puritans, as represented by
the Pilgrim Fathers, during the first years of their resi-
dence in America, our liberal churches are the true and on-
ly representatives. These churches which it has become
the fashion not to include in the word Congregation alist,
are the only churches, which are Congregational, in the
sense in which the early Pilgrims were Congregational. I
noticed in the papers a suggestion from a gathering of
Congregationalists, that the ministers of Congregational
societies preach to-day on Congregationalism, in reference
to the approaching Forefathers day. As a Congregational
minister, I accept the suggestion ; and I repeat, that oui*
liberal and independent Congregational societies are the
only ones, which represent at the present day, the Congre-
gationalism, which was first planted on Plymouth Rock.

In regard to matters of doctrine, I confess, and I do it
with joy, that the belief of the Pilgrim Fathers is not oui's.
Their thought of God is not ours. Their Sabbath is not
ours, their notion of retribution is not ours. It is owing
to our truth to their traditions, to their spirit and their his-
tory, that our belief thus differs. Those who have given
up the independence of the Puritan Congregationalism have
remained more fixed, and repeat more nearly the expres-
sion of the Puritan belief We, who have accepted the
original independence, which marked their Congregations,
and their impatience of interference from without, have,
by this very fact, and by the impulse which we received
from them, been driven further along the course, on which
they were moving.

If we turn from the church to the state, we find that
though the political organization of the early Puritans was
not a perfect Democracy, it was, perhaps, the nearest ap-
proach to a Democracy, that the world had seen. In the
Puritan state, the original voters determined what new com-

ers should be voters. They elected them, as if into a close
society. But still the power was in the hands of the peo-
ple. The world has never seen, and perhaps will never
see, a perfect Democracy. Our own State has affixed arbi-
trary limits to popular suffrage. Young men of the age of
twenty cannot vote. Foreigners must remain here a certain
length of time before they can vote. Women cannot vote.
All of these lines are more or less arbitrary. Why should
the line be drawn just here ? All lines of this nature must
be arbitrary. Yet there must always be some such lines.
The child, for instance, will never be allowed to vote, and
the point where the child becomes a man, must be always
artificial and arbitrary. We have followed strictly the Pu-
ritans. The voters have, all along, marked the limitation
of the right of suffrage. As our liberal churches have fol-
lowed their traditions of freedom and independence, and
have thus advanced to a broader faith, and a clearer insight
into religious truth ; so our state, folloAving their funda-
mental principle of popular government, has reached a
broader Democracy and a freer life. We received our cap-
ital from them. We owe them a debt of thanks, which
can never be repaid. Yet, we have used that capital, not
wholly in vain, and can meet them on this anniversary,
with frank and grateful hearts, saying, — Thy pound hath
gained ten pounds. — This is not self glorification. It was
the nature of their principles to expand. Their claim to
worship God, according to the dictates of their own con-
science, could not help expanding into that right of all men
thus to worship him, upon .which their claim must rest.
Their independence could not help leading to broader
knowledge. Their Democracy could not help leading to
a broader Democracy. All this could not help being, un-
less we were false to them and to ourselves.

I have spoken of their principles, as being the control-
ing power of the nation. They settled New England on-
ly, yet their settlement was the planting of an idea. They
were idealists, and nothing has the expansive force, the rul-
ing power, of an idea. Other settlements were for gain,
this for principle. Other colonies were planted in the


name of Mammon, this was planted in the name of God.
Thus the otEer settlements had no more root-hold in the
soil than the Indian tribes. They must yield before the
expanding principles of this idea^ as the Indian's fled before
an advancing civilization. The great West is mainly an out-
growth of New England. And now the South is becom-
ing New Englandised. The very year, that the Mayflow-
er reached Plymouth, with its fi'eight of Liberty, came, like
its dark shadow, the first slave ship to Jamestown. From
these two germs sprang two powers, one of light and one
of darkness, one of order and one of chaos. The continent
was not large enough for both. At last they met, they
touched ; and for them to meet and to touch, was a life
and death struggle. — Now at last we can hail Fore Fath-
ers day, with the welcome greeting of final triumph. The
Puritan has conquered the Cavalier. The South itself is
overrun by Noichern emigrants and Northern ideas, -as it
has been overrun by Northern armies. Ideas of the digni-
ty of labor and of the rights of man are taking the place of
the Feudal notions of the right of oppression and of the dig-
nity of idleness. Plymouth Pock is becoming the center.
Forefathers day the anniversary, of the whole nation. The
Puritan is supreme. And it is the Puritan principles that
are to be the cement and the guarantee of our new Union.
All lovers of the woods know, that the Mayflower buds
in the autumn. All through the dreary winter, the May-
flower bud lies beneath the snow, like the bud of summer
itself; and when it opens, summer itself begins. The May-
flower of the Puritans, in the winter wildness, in the cheer.
lessness of nature and the darkness of history, was the un-
opened bud of oiu- whole glad Summer of Liberty, of Civ-
ilization and of light. Well may we commemorate its ad-
vent, and hold sacred its memoiy. So long as we cherish
X, the simple virtues of the Puritan, his honesty with God
J^ and with man, his earnestness in church and in state, his
fearlessness for the right, and his intolerance of the wrong,
though we may exercise this intolerance in a wiser way,
so long may we call ourselves his children, and bring every
year fresh usury for the talent, which he entrusted to us.


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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 18 of 18)