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who dealt with their hearers as Christians “ of full age,” who required the “strong meat” of Christian doctrine. Many of these preachers were pastors of country parishes, their hearers the farmers of the district, the mechanics and small tradespeople of the village, with here and there a man of books and culture ; and when we read their long argumentative discourses, with such lofty spiritual doctrine, such keen, strong logic, such nice metaphysical distinctions refined to the twentieth subdivision, such earnest, fervid appeals to conscience, to reason, and to Scripture, and remember that these sermons were preached to men who lived by the sweat of their brow, that the sermon was looked forward to on Sunday, was talked over in the family on Sunday evening, and with the neighbors through the week, we see what stuff the yeomanry of New Eng. land were made of, and to what manhood they were trained. There were drawbacks, to be sure, in every such community; tares were mingled with the wheat; there was a decline from the primitive vigor in morals as well as in faith: yet the training that the yeomanry of New England had mainly through her pulpit was a moral force that the historian must know and measure, if he would comprehend the spirit of American liberty, and the motives and forces of the American Revolution.
Take an instance later down, while the old spirit of New England still lingered in the country towns of Massachusetts, after the war of the Revolution had so unsettled the condition of society. Read the sermons of Nathanael Emmons, — like a demonstration of Euclid for clearness of argument and closeness of reasoning, like an essay of Addison for polish of style, — and consider that such sermons were preached for fifty years to a plain country parish, and that Emmons lived among them till past ninety years, revered like an Oriental patriarch, obeyed almost like an Oriental sheik, and you will see
1 Heb. v. 14.
2 It is through lack of experimental acquaintance with the type of piety that marked the early Puritans and Presbyterians of America, anch also through lack of any recent experience in Germany of the pulpit' as a stimulating and renovating force in society, that so many German writers on America, even the most candid and capable among them, have altogether failed to comprehend and describe American life and society. They have missed its most vital element, because there was nothing answering to it in their own consciousness.
where lay the power of independent thought and action in New England. I remember, in my boyhood, two venerable farmers of Connecticut, — the one over sixty, the other over ninety, — who used to stand in their shirtsleeves in the sultry field, and talk of God's sovereignty and man's freedom, and things invisible and eternal, and quote Paul and Augustine, Calvin and Milton, in a way that could put a young theologue to the blush. Men who could discuss such themes with the scythe or the sickle in hand could take up the sword and the musket as sons of liberty, because sons of God.
I do not exaggerate this influence of the pulpit of New England upon her liberties. Boston was the focus of resistance to the usurpations of the crown. The General Court of Massachusetts originated the measures that resulted in the union of the Colonies: perhaps the most important of these was that of “ Committees of Correspondence,” who should keep each Colony advised of what was passing in all the others, and should concert plans of action for the friends of freedom. Now, it was a congregational minister who proposed this idea to a leading patriot, and he got it from his experience in church affairs. In 1766, Dr. Jonathan Mayhew, pastor of the West Church in Boston, wrote to James Otis these wise and weighty words. Dating his letter “ Lord's Day morning, June 8,” he says, “ To a good man all time iš holy enough; and none is too holy to do good, or to think upon it. Cultivating a good understanding and hearty friendship between these Colonies appears to me so necessary a part of prudence and good policy, that no favorable opportunity for that purpose should be omitted.” He then advises that the General Court should issue circulars to the legislative assemblies of the other Colonies upon the repeal of the Stamp Act, and other matters, “ expressing a desire to cement and perpetuate union among the Colonies, as perhaps the only means of perpetuating their liberties." He then adds, “ You have heard of the communion of churches : ... while I was thinking of this in my bed, the great use and importance of a communion of colonies appeared to me in a strong light, which led me immediately to set down these hints to transmit to you.” This conception of some formal and active union of the Colonies was afterwards carried out by such Committees of Correspondence proposed by Massachusetts.
1 Rev. Dr. N. W. Taylor told me that Dr. Emmons once preached in his pulpit when he was pastor of the Centre Church, New Haven. After service Dr. Taylor remarked, “The people listened very attentively.” Dr. Emmons answered dryly, “People will always listen when you give them something worth listening to." This was not alway3 the case, however, even with his own congregation at Franklin; for, as the story goes, one hot summer's day, the farmers, wearied with a week of haying, grew drowsy under Dr Emmons's close argumentation: whereupon he came to a sudden pause, which, of course, woke them up; when he said, “I see that this sermon cannot keep you awake: I have another in my pocket that I will give you instead.” He then deliberately preached the second sermon, and kept them awake. And a pastor could venture to say and do such things who was elected and supported by the people, because he always did give them “something worth listening to,” and they were trained to hear and value it.
This same Dr. Mayhew had made himself famous by his clear and bold enunciation of the doctrine of Paul concerning obedience to the civil power, as laid down in the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. In a discourse that was widely published, Mayhew argued that Paul does not teach implicit and absolute submission to rulers as such, but grounds the duty of obedience upon the end for which rulers are instituted, — the good of society. Hence “ the apostle's argument is so far from proving it to be the duty of people to obey and submit to such rulers as act in contradiction to the public good, and so to the design of their office, that it proves the direct contrary. For if the end of all civil government be the good of society, if this be the thing that is aimed at in constituting civil rulers, and if the motive and argument for submission to government be taken from the apparent usefulness of civil authority, it follows, that, when no such good end can be answered by submission, there remains no argument or motive to enforce it; and if, instead of this good end's being brought about by submission, a contrary end is brought about, and the ruin and misery of society effected by it, here is a plain and positive reason against submission in all such cases, should they ever happen. And therefore, in such cases, a regard to the public welfare ought to make us withhold from our rulers that obedience and submission which it would otherwise be our duty to render to them.”1 Here was no appeal to popular
1 Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission, &c., January, 1750.
ted by sixtece; and wevere ripe tont. We
passion, no declamation about the right of revolution, but a sober, argumentative statement of the true relation between rulers and subjects. This sermon of Mayhew anticipated by sixteen years the doctrines of the Declaration of Independence; and we cannot wonder that men trained in such political ethics were ripe for revolutionary measures, as their last resort against tyranny. We know also that books of law were in great demand in America, and that the works of Locke, Algernon Sidney, Milton, and like expounders of the rights of man, were in the hands of the yeomanry of New England, as well as of publicists in all the Colonies. It was such a people, with such preaching and such reading, that George III. attempted to deprive of their local government.
The assault was foreshadowed by the proposal of the Board of Trade to raise revenue out of the American Colonies by direct authority of the king, and by restrictions on American trade and manufactures, intended to keep the Colonies in a state of dependence upon Britain. Franklin narrates, that, in 1757, Lord Grenville, then president of the council, said to him, “ You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of your constitution: you contend that the king's instructions to his governors are not laws, and think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. ... But such instructions, so far as they relate to you, are the law of the land ; for the king is the legislator of the Colonies.” 2 The House of Commons, still mindful of their own struggles with the royal prerogative, were unwilling to sanction this step toward absolutism ; but, says Franklin, “ by their conduct towards us in 1765, it seemed that they had refused that point of sovereignty to the king, only that they might reserve it for themselves.” 3 And the attempt of Parliament
1 Burke said of America, “In no country, perhaps, in the world, is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of deputies sent to the Congress were lawyers. But all who read (and most do read) endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. I hare been told by an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the law exported to the plantations. The colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone's Commentaries in America as in England.” – Speech on Conciliation with America. 2 Bigelow's Life of Franklin, i. 366.
3 Ibid., 368.
to over-ride the colonial legislatures by direct taxation roused the selfsame spirit of resistance that the Commons had put forth against like usurpations of the crown. To make laws for the Colonies, and to levy taxes upon them, without either consulting their own legislatures, or giving to the Colonies a proportionate representation in the national Parliament, was a violation of their charters, an innovation upon their long-conceded privilege of “ being governed by laws of their own making,” and, above all, an invasion of their fundamental rights as Englishmen, which must lead to their being degraded from English subjects to mere dependants, and finally to political serfs. Energetic remonstrances against this usurpation were put forth either by the colonial legislatures, or by their agents in London: and such was the vigilance of the Colonies, that, for a period of twelve years from 1749, they succeeded in baffling any overt attempt upon their liberties; till in 1761 the acts of trade were enforced by the Court of Admiralty in a way so arbitrary and insulting, that Boston, then the chief port, was roused to resistance, and James Otis made his memorable declaration, that "an act of Parliament against the Constitution is void.”1 At the
1 The Boaril of Trade figures so largely in the history of this period, that its constitution and powers are deserving of special mention. Burke does not hesitate to characterize it as a political ), a sort o
tlyripening hot-house, where eight members of Parliament receive salaries of a thousand a year, for a certain given time, in order to mature at a proper season a claim to two thousand” (Speech on the Economical Reform). This Board was a device of Charles II., formed by combining in one the Council for Trade and the Council for Plantations. In this forin it survived but three or four years (1663–73); but in 1695 King William revived the Board of Trade with amplified powers, to checkmate a move in Parliament for bringing trade and the plantations under the more immediate control of that body. Though the Board was only an advisory council, it originated much of the mischief that was brought upor
on the Colonies. A frey well remarks (vol. iv. 21), its very name “expressed what was intended to be the spirit of colonial administration. The Colonies were to be made auxiliary to English trade. The Englishman in America was to be employed in making the fortune of the Englishman at home.” In 1721 the Boaril of Trade recommended to the king a scheme for bringing the Colonies “under his Majesty's immediate government;” that they should all be put “under the government of one lord-lieutenant or captain-general, from whom other governors of particular provinces should receive their orders in all cases for the king's service. By this means a general contribution of men or money may be raised upon the several Colonies in proportion to their respective abilities.” This scheme for over-riding the charters an:l legislatures of the Colonies was not then openly attemptel; but the spirit of such usurpation was carried out in many ways. Thus in 1733, against the remonstrance of some of the Colonies, duties were levied for the king ipon all sugar, rum, molasses, spirits, &c., imported into the