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Thus, only by a transformed soul, a soul shifting its affections and aims from the world to the kingdom, can you reach true national rectitude, and prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. May God, in mercy, incline every man in these Confederate States, especially every member of the Christian church, to ponder this truth from heaven, with a severity and integrity of thought demanded by the eventful condition of the country and the world.
In the order of statement, these elements lead the one to the other, and transmit their moral impress--each to that which follows.
The incarnation and crucifixion of God's Son--for pardon; the descent and regeneration of God's Spirit--for purification. This salvation by Jesus Christ--while it enjoins the faithful performance of every worldly duty, it not only forbids any such avidity of pursuit as implies the proximate importance of the world, but demands that every enterprize and aim of life shall be prosecuted not as subordinate only, but as strictly subservient to God's grand end in the gospel. BY THE WORD OF GOD.--Man has but two possible objects of supreme pursuit--God and the world.
Universal reason teaches that, though a sensual world may refresh the appetites of the earthly part of man, she has no ministries for the more anxious cries of his higher nature.
By these few words Jesus cuts out a life's work for every child of Adam and every nation under heaven, and assures us that if we would be righteous, we must select his cause as the object of our supreme pursuit. The provisions of the kingdom--Jesus Christ the foundation, the Holy Ghost the agent, the word of God the instrument--they never, never act but to bring man away from the world and consecrate him to the kingdom.
How could God bring up all the elements of his kingdom to work in solid phalanx for the saving of the lost and yet be willing that man, made to be good and useful, should stand by and do nothing for the rescue of his dying race? The structure of man--like the constitution of the kingdom, is substantially a re-utterance of the voice of the gospel.
Reason is that part of the structure of man which was planned to provide light for the soul. Rather let the wanderings and conflicts of the past lead us to rectitude and peace in the future, by following the light of heaven and seeking first the kingdom. Such a nation practically insists upon a joint occupancy of the eternal throne with Jehovah himself; for they substantially decide that God shall rule them in some things, but he must submit to be ruled by them in others. Engage now the powers of the soul in seeking first the kingdom and witness the instantaneous and wonderful change.
Now, that heart feeds upon the stupendous, sanctifying, comforting teachings of revelation, and in hearty love of God and man, longs and labors to elevate the human family to a state of immortal and ineffable virtue and rapture.
Popular exaltation.--I employ this term in a liberal sense to express the idea that, by the constitution of things, righteousness constrains universal mind to accord to the righteous merited praise. Such is angelic appreciation of righteousness, that there is joy in the presence of the host of heaven if but one sinner repenteth. But we will hope better things of our native land: and God helping, we will struggle to brace up her fidelity in this, the hour of her momentous decision.
May God impower me to disarm my unhappy adversary so palpably and perfectly that the visible, sensible force of heaven's truth shall inspire the conscience and the courage of the christian church to advance herself and struggle to bring up the masses, forthwith, to that national position so indispensable both to the virtue and the hope of the country. And, yet, not a tithe of one solitary nation has been brought to a practical exchange of worldliness for christianity. Why should it seem a thing incredible to you that God should raise this nation from the dead and raise her now? And why may not God be stirring up, at this very moment, just such thoughts and prayers as these in many a heart throughout the length and breadth of the land, expressly that he might reward the same and bring up our beloved country to perform that act, to discharge that duty, of all acts and duties, far the most honorable and serviceable to humanity, the most gratifying and glorifying to God? Confront this question in manly candor; Does not your imaginary patriotism perish under the blow which your objection aims at my impregnable religion? Party power and personal popularity ensure his election, and this, to him, is the one all-absorbing aim of life. He can ponder all the brutal, crushing cruelties of Northern subjugation, and dwell upon all the swelling, bursting, maddening endurances, endurances of the Southern captive, and yet feel nothing. Utterly incompetent to manage their own affairs, what capacity have they to govern the country? The very first step toward reformation here is to bring the community to see and to decide that such coarse and sordid assiduity to obtain government appointments is prima facia evidence of the official unfitness of the seeker. Where are all the nations of the earth that have sprung up and flourished since the fall of man?
National Rectitude, the Only True Basis of National Prosperity: An Appeal to the Confederate States. God has laid his providential grasp upon our national foundations, and, by a series of public convulsions, has been shaking our social fabric to its very center for the last eighteen months. By the nature of mind, therefore, all the good or evil of the motive passes so perfectly through the act to the aim, that if there is no rectitude in the aim, there is none in the act, none in the motive, and none in the agent. Every attribute of God's nature, every letter of his law, every eye to the welfare of man in accordance with the original economy, emphatically forbade the attempt.
In fine, it summons our country, our whole country, to embark with all her heart and soul, in life-long co-operation with the Redeemer of the world, to work out the glory of God in the salvation of men! Holy writ completes the record, by assuring us that the insatiate malignity of the world, not content with the negation of all good to man, makes her every friend the enemy of God, and dooms him to perdition. So, too, the ordinances, the promises, and the sanctions of the kingdom, they literally accomplish nothing when they do not separate men from sin and the world and consecrate them to the service of God. By the desire to save lost men, and the planning to save lost men, and the power to save lost men expressed and laid out in the structure of his kingdom, we reach the mind and will of the architect. Every prominent faculty of man's nature, properly interpreted, would seem to have been fashioned to re-assert the great christian command--seek ye first the kingdom.
Now God's proposed end--the kingdom--is the very purest light in origin, essence and operation. In stolid contempt of the all-merciful direction of God, under such prodigious responsibilities, shall we as a people venture to set out under a carnal guidance; and a carnal guidance which has never conducted to substantial prosperity one solitary branch of the human family, though tried by all? It's every element is an arm working out with almighty force, and yet within, every other element is an almighty brace of the arm at work. Spiritual exaltation consists in man's rising from the fall toward his original character and position. The good man's intellect rises up to God, studies his perfections, reads his word, traverses his dominions, embraces his works, scans his government, explores his providence and pervades eternity. Assemble all the mighty angels in God's presence, bid them behold a great nation, under the power of heaven's truth and a godly conscience boldly turning her back upon the worldly atheism of the race, and, throwing all their summoned power into Christ's kingdom, go to work valiantly for the conversion of the world--tell me, in every sentiment and feeling of their nature, would not these holy beings break out in strains of admiration and praise such as creature-conduct had never, never elicited before?
God has said, that the time shall come when one of his servants shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. A freer nation, the sun does not shine upon; and you know it, though she has never been blatant about free thought, free speech, and free soil.
Blush, my friend, your heart harbors a brood of treacherous promptings that would strike down the men who struggle to press up our sluggish country to that position where only her highest good and safety can be found. Until a higher condition of society better trains them, such men will always be the tools of the vicious. But, I put it to you, in the present state of morals in the country, will you dare to stand out and proclaim any such doctrine as this? He hides himself behind the popular maxims of political economy An article is always worth what it will bring; and trade is its own and its only proper regulator. Rome and Greece, and Babylon and Egypt--and the thousands that the sun hath shone upon--where are they? It is the decree of God's law in nature as well as in scripture, that rectitude in principle demands rectitude of aim.
He, who with his voice in the gospel uttered that second command--'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' by his hand in the construction of christianity, first, shows us, distinctly, that very neighbor in the jaws of destruction, and then summons us, imperatively, to come to the rescue and work for his deliverance.
By its intensely benign and holy spirit, it calls you forth to set your heart upon the gospel of Christ and live to save a dying world. For the renewed soul furnishes obedience to God our sovereign, love to God our father, gratitude to God our benefactor, reliance upon Christ our saviour, and fraternity to the whole family of Adam.
Methinks I see the spirit of Reason standing before our infant nation in a most persuasive attitude. Manifestly God is not executing his law strictly upon fallen man in this life; he is not dealing with the rebel upon the principles of absolute justice. To a great extent, he has placed our destiny in our own hands; for under the dominion of absolute justice our character must shape our history.
Now he begins to dwell upon the immortality of man, the responsibility of his soul, the beauties and beatitudes of virtue, the deformities and disquietudes of sin, the redemption of Jesus, the day of judgment, and the retributions of eternity. It is precisely what Jesus came to accomplish, and what must revolutionize the world--gloriously. That impracticable work which all the prayers and sermons of christianity and of Judaism in all time past have scarcely commenced--does this exhorter expect to accomplish by the effort of an hour?
Ere long, some one of her nations, by the earnest application of truth to the people and prayer to heaven, shall come out from her ranks and take a stand on the Lord's side. A nation of simpler, purer Christianity, thank God, earth does not hold, and you believe it, though she has never been as boastful as some, whose religion bears many a sad mark of corruption.
What political power--heads, hearts, hands--wealth, position, influence--which should have wrought for the country, is now diverted and works only for the demagogue. You object to the advanced christianity I have so strongly commended to my country at this time.
Do you not know, sir, that the great army of office-hunters in the land would raise a clamor which would not only drown your voice and crush your effort instantly, but imprint upon your forehead a brand of political reprobacy that would be buried in the coffin that held your mortal remains? He who would kill a tree by stripping off its leaves aims a blow at the foundations of God's natural kingdom. And do you not see, sir, if our people would but give heed to the command of God, abandon their former low ambition to satisfy themselves with some form of secular prosperity, study to quit themselves like men redeemed, and stir up their souls to the holy aspiration of becoming the very first nation under heaven that ever stepped out of the ranks of broad rebellion to work with God to save a dying world; do you not see, sir, that a people seeking such an eminently holy object could not endure, for an instant, the prevailing crimes of society? This, in a word, is that supreme object--which God commands every child of Adam, and every nation under heaven to seek instantly, and for life, and with all the heart. If our country therefore, would escape the displeasure of heaven, her carnal desires must not find in the world the object of her prominent affection. If we would assume the stand of a righteous nation, most surely we must renounce the world and seek first--the kingdom. In a word, the kingdom of God is a perfect echo of the word of God, and by its very nature emphatically reiterates God's great command 'Forsake the fascinations of the world and labor to save your dying race!
For it determines and discharges the duty of a nation precisely, by promoting the welfare of every individual of the nation perfectly. Thus let our country, our whole country but follow the second dictate of reason and prosecute those aims which God commends, and all the interests of our people both for time and eternity shall be admirably secured, and the high duty of the nation faithfully discharged. With one hand she points to the graves of national worldliness, stretching in unbroken succession all along the past quite back to the fall of man: With the other she holds up for our adoption that ever-living, all-comforting godliness which hath the promise of this life, and of that which is to come. In all seraphic imagination, is there ought so bright and beautiful, so grand and glorious as God's wonderful love of man!!
Seek first the kingdom--and by your righteousness honor your maker, serve your country, help the world, and save your souls.
Who can fail to perceive that righteousness works an essential exaltation of man's intellect, by securing the illimitable range of its action and the elevated objects of its contemplation?
Tell me, thoughtless fellow-creature, does not righteousness work an essential exaltation of every grand element in the constitution of man? It is undeniable, you perceive, that, by the very working of moral nature, all humanity must realize that every worldly aim preferred to this devotion to God's kingdom is malignity to man and rebellion against God; while, on the contrary, the national act of consecration to God and his cause must extort the very highest honor and exaltation from all the human family. Why should not God distinguish this nation, which has so decidedly distinguished herself in his behalf? What a breaking down of the solid interests of the country, by mischievous measures planned and working simply to build up the sordid schemes of the demagogue.
Without the aid of that very christianity I challenge you to deliver our country from these inherent, crying evils if you can. There is a larger class of our people, for lack of moral principle, totally disqualified to be entrusted with the responsibilities of suffrage.
That such a people must cast a convicting light, fix a determined frown and wield a reclaiming power upon all surrounding depravities? Have you set up such a structure as is likely to survive those severe shocks which human depravity is sure to develop under the reign of absolute holiness?
It is not enough, therefore, to constitute a good man, that his feelings should seem to correspond with God's perfections, and his agency, to be governed by God's law. The voice of God in providence, therefore, is but the echo of God's voice in the gospel, and summons every child of Adam to engage with him forthwith in his kingdom-work of saving lost men.
God's immutable word from heaven, and God's confirmatory work on earth: each divine, and each by its every element, bracing itself and bracing the other beautifully, variously, perfectly. If we continue to yield to that absorbing worldliness which, in all past time, has been the distinguishing characteristic of every nation under heaven, we shall surely continue to reap the never failing fruit of apostacy--unsatisfying experiences, disappointed hopes, perilous conflicts, and final abandonment. Does it not illumine his intellect, and gladden his heart, and rectify his conscience, and quicken his power, and thus ennoble his soul and brighten his destiny? What wide-spread corruption of public morals, through a course of profligate electioneering which seeks only the personal aggrandizement of the demagogue. He can gaze upon all this heart-rending spectacle and feel nothing, nothing but the splendors of that fortune he sucks out of the last drop of his country's blood.
At every election they sell their votes for money, whiskey, flattery, anything, nothing, and often without concealment, to the highest bidder. Do you not see that so strong a religious conscience, example and utterance in society must condemn, shame and overcome popular debasement, largely, in proportion to the degree of its own comparative moral elevation; and, therefore, that the demagogue, office hunter and extortioner, stripped of their former countenance, co-operation and power, must forthwith come back toward virtue, or fly away before the indignant scorn of a holy community and hide themselves in the obscure corners and impotent circles of society? Are you looking to the proper source, and trusting to the proper principles for deliverance from the sharp and perilous conflicts of the day?
The following testimony of the same apostle combines the prohibition and the command but reverses the order of statement.
By the voice of these two infallible witnesses, let the truth be established--that national consecration must precede national acceptance. If on the contrary we would exchange these penal disquietudes for the christian promises, these fearful convulsions for the tranquillities of virtue, we stand instructed by our two witnesses--God in his word and God in his work--that we must mortify our inborn earthly appetite and seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. How do you know that present means shall not reach the present promise, and our nation be drawn to God under the present appeals of his providence?
What peril to the foundations of the government, when the masses trained by the arts of the seducer, are ever ready to move at his will.
Many of them are base enough to allow themselves to be penned over night, around a barrel of whisky, by a file of men who prevent their escape and march them up to the polls in the morning in a body, because the demagogue is too cunning to expose their unreliableness for one moment to the counter-bribery of his adversary. You are perfectly aware that the standing crimes of a community are but the natural out-cropping of its moral character--the mere standard of its moral tone.
That nation, animated by an overleaping ambition for military glory, was first reduced to a state of provincial subjection and ultimately lost its identity.
In a word, are you an upright nation, breathing that spirit, walking by that rule, and seeking those ends which God requires at your hands? Are we seriously considering whether man may not still justifiably spend his chiefest strength in planting cotton, selling goods, pleading law, seeking office, or serving self--until, through lack of his help, his perishing brother shall sink to perdition by his side, and the exhausted patience of God consign his own sordid soul to a darker doom? And, finally, what a humiliating outrage, that for this atrocious demoralization of the people, this man should be allowed to stand up before heaven and earth and receive all his dignity, influence, and emolument from the very country which he bleeds to death.
They place their noses between the fingers of the demagogue to be screwed up and wheeled about at his will. Crush the crime, and the spared character will be sure to express itself in similar developments. You object to my proposal, that our country should seize this favorable juncture and struggle up to a higher standard of christian virtue. Try your political foundations and defences faithfully, and see whether they are laid down so as to uphold the security, prosperity and exaltation of a righteous people. For, though it takes a Trinity to deliver man from the cursing power of the world, the kingdom provides the salvation perfectly, by restoring man to the blessings of his first estate--gloriously.
Doubtless occasional instances of religious devotion presented themselves to his view in every community, but the eye of the apostle seems to discover that individually, socially, and nationally in all the earth, the vast majority of men loved the things of the world, set their affections on things on the earth, and labored for the meat that perisheth. That the governing claims of the word of God are positively awful--one moments candid thought will convince you.
Never 'till our momentous destinies are committed to his experienced, unerring direction." Oh! In the beginning it comes to us as loud and clear as the voice of Jesus can give it utterance. All attempts, therefore, to correct the vicious practices of society, without reforming its vicious principles, without elevating its moral tone, are simply preposterous. I put it to the history of man, the constitution of things, the word of God, and your own intelligence and candor, do you not shelter all the causes of our national calamities?
All life long, it is echoed in the working of every constituent element of that holy church the hand of Jesus has thrown up around us. He who works with God, discharges duty, uses means, and looks up with prayer and hope for the good of his country; or the man who works against God, discards all thoughts of duty, scorns all use of means, and dismisses divine assurances of good with an infidel scout?
These men mistake the process for the power, the means for the mind, the instrument for the agent. Permit not our country to follow the example of every bygone family of Adam, and in her infancy doom herself to destruction by commencing her new career in practical defiance of all the reason of heaven and earth.
Yet a little while and that love of money shall pierce thee through with many sorrows and drown thy soul in perdition and destruction!
Suffrage belongs only to patriotism and should be employed only to call out and combine the strength of the country for good; by these men suffrage is sold to corruption, and works only popular distraction and national weakness. Do you not accurse your native land by dooming her to the eternal endurance of the degradations and distresses which she feels she has already borne too long? These nations, all-absorbed in objects of their own, did not come up to the help of God in his one great enterprize on earth. If we will not permit God himself to guide us--what directory shall we set up in his place?
Such men surely have not the very slightest shadow of a right to shape government for themselves or others. Were the apostle to address our country, at this important juncture, he would probably say to us--"Overlook mankind around you. You have observed, doubtless, that the power of the demagogue lies in the intellectual and moral incompetency of these two classes of population; nor can his power be destroyed, nor indeed can the experiment of self government by the people be fairly made, until some just and proper limit be affixed to the right of suffrage.
An immutable God is just as singly engaged now in his great purpose of converting the world as he ever was. But, sir; dare you rise up in any community in our country and make a proposal to limit this so-called right? Rest assured of this--every practice, principle and people that will not work into a saved world, God, in due time, will work out of the world he means to save.
Prove thus your national rectitude--and the prosperities of a gracious and a faithful providence shall assuredly follow you.
Do you not know, in the present state of society, that every such attempt will not only be perfectly abortive, but the indignant demagogue and his dupes would forthwith bury you in a political grave that shall never know a resurrection? If, like yourself, this nation, literally or practically, objects to the doctrine I preach--and shall refuse to come up and co-operate in the world's conversion, God will give her her day, and then dismiss her from that theatre which he has determined to overspread thoroughly with the triumphs of his kingdom. Your old man rested upon the world, your new man must rest upon the church--your first mind was earthly, your changed mind must be holy.

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