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and reason condensed, and reflected from a polished mind, may penetrate even the shades and mists of ******* prejudice. Remember, that, when good is to be promoted, or evil opposed, it is the duty of every individual to conduct as if the whole success of the enterprise depended on himself. Remember, too, that there is no individual so insignificant, that he cannot afford some assistance in the struggle for liberty and order.
"But let us be careful, my friends, to engage in this struggle, in a manner, and with arms, worthy of the cause we profess to support. Why should we disgrace that and ourselves, by contending for the most important interests of our country in language fit only for a tenant of Billingsgate, disputing about the property of a shrimp or an oyster? Why should we quit the high ground of reason and argument, on which we stand, to wrestle with our antagonists in the kennel of scurrility and abuse? ***** Why should we exchange weapons, with which we are certain of victory, for those which our adversaries can wield with equal, and, perhaps, superior dexterity?
"It ought never to be forgotten, that, except in some few instances, where they are inseparable even in idea, it is not men, but principles, we are to attack. Experience has at length, in some measure, taught us, what we ought long since to have learned from reason, that, though ridicule can irritate, it cannot convince. On the contrary, it rouses to opposition some of the strongest passions in the human breast; and he must be something different from man, who can be scourged out of any opinion by the lash of personal satire.
"But all our exertions, however animated by zeal, nerved by energy, and guided by prudence, will be insufficient to restore us to the height from which we have fallen, unless we restore those moral and religious principles, which were formerly our glory, our ornament, and defence. Would you know, my friends, the real source of the calamities we suffer, and the dangers we fear? It is here; we have forsaken the God of our fathers, and therefore all this evil has come upon us. We once gloried in styling ourselves his American Israel, and a simi
larity of character and situation, gives us a claim to the title. Like them, we have often been delivered by his uplifted hand and his outstretched arm; like them, we have experienced his munificence in temporal and spiritual blessings; and, like them, we have repaid his goodness with ingratitude and rebellion. Like them, we have bowed down to the idols of luxury, of ambition, of pleas ure, and avarice; and as we have copied their idolatry, so, unless heaven in undeserved mercy prevent, we shall soon resemble them in their destruction. It is an immutable truth, that sin is the ruin of any people; and wo to that nation who will not believe it without making the experiment. This experiment, fatal as it must prove, we seem resolved to make. Among us God's laws are disobeyed, his institutions are despised, his Sabbaths are profaned, and his name is blasphemed. And shall he not visit for these things? will he not be avenged on such a nation as this? *****
"Will any reply, with a sneer, that these observations have been often repeated, and that they have now become trite and old? **** They are so; and though this were the ten thousandth repetition, still, if we have not yet reduced them to practice, it is necessary to hear them again and again. Remember, that it is in vain to boast of our patriotism, and make high pretensions to love for our country, while by our private vices we are adding to the national debt of iniquity under which she groans, and which must soon plunge her in the gulf of irretrievable ruin. Hear, and remember-that if, in defiance of reason, gratitude, and religion, we still madly persist to follow that path, in which we have already made such rapid advances, and to imitate the vices of those nations who have gone before us, as certain as there is a God in heaven, so certainly we shall share their fate.
"If then you would display true love for your country, and lengthen out the span of her existence, endeavor by precept, but especially by example, to inculcate the principles of order, morality, and religion. Exert your influence to check the progress of luxury, that first, second, and third cause of the ruin of republics; that vampyre, which soothes us into a fatal slumber, while it sucks the life-blood from our veins. Above all, be attentive to the
morals of the rising generation, and do not, by neglect and indulgence, nourish the native seeds of vice and faction in their hearts. Let not these counsels be despised, because they are the words of youth and inexperience. When your habitation is in flames, a child may give the alarm, as well as a philosopher."
The extracts from this oration have been the more copious, as it is the only considerable production of Dr. Payson, that survives him, whose object was not professedly religious; and because this performance is thought to have had influence in fixing his ultimate destination. This was the commencement of his career, as a public speaker, and probably the only occasion on which he addressed a popular assembly, till he stood forth as the ambassador of Christ. In selecting the passages to be preserved, regard was had not so much to originality, nor to brilliancy of imagery, as to the permanent value of the sentiments, and their suitableness to the design of this work.
His religious history during the period embraced in the preceding chapter.
"WHEN did Dr. Payson become religious?"—and "what was the character of his religious experience at the time he embraced the hope of the gospel?”— questions which have been frequently proposed, but never satisfactorily answered. With respect to them he invariably maintained a reserve, which, to good people who were over-curious to know, appeared wholly unaccountable. If he ever fully communicated those inward feelings and exercises, which issued in a confirmed hope, it must have been to his parents and sister, who are no longer inhabitants of earth. No solicitations by others could draw from him a particular history of that process through which he was carried, before he could appropriate the comforting language, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The compiler of these pages studied his religious history in an inverted order, and, being first made acquainted with that part of his experience which belonged to a subsequent period of his life, was ready to account for his reserve on the supposition, that the exercises attending his conversion were of an extraordinary kind; and, if adopted as a standard of religious experience, which, considering the character and station of their subject and that sort of oracular authority which was connected in many minds with whatever he sanctioned, they could hardly fail to be, to some extent-would occasion much discomfort to real believers, and be far from recommending religion to such as have never yielded themselves to its influence.
A different supposition, however, is more credible, and has something like evidence to support it. It has already been seen, that his mother, who doubtless watched and pondered in her heart" every indication of the state of
his feelings on this subject, was not without a partial belief, that he was converted in childhood. His room-mate, since a minister of the gospel, thinks that 'he experienced religion before entering college, but, owing to his peculiar situation while there, became a backslider.' Another classmate, one of the literary associates mentioned in the preceding chapter, whose speculative views of religion are supposed to differ from those of his departed friend, but who has the power to discern, and a heart to appreciate worth, wherever found, has thus expressed himself in relation to these questions :- "His theological opinions, during his early consideration of subjects of that nature, were essentially Calvinistic; but his views of the operative power of religious faith upon the heart and life, were materially altered, previous to entering upon the great work which occupied the remainder of his days. The important change took place gradually, not from any sudden or overpowering impressions."
With such an origin correspond the earlier fruits and operations of his religion, so far as they can be gathered from writings which he has left behind him. His religion was of a comparatively gentle, unobtrusive, amiable, yet progressive character, less marked by the extremes of agonizing and triumphant feelings, than it was at a subsequent period-a difference, for which the reader will, in the sequel, be at no loss to account. From the early part of 1804, religion seems to have been his all-engrossing concern; his attention was then arrested, and fixed so as never afterwards to be diverted, for any length of time, from the subject. Whether he were in an unconverted, or backslidden state, he was then roused, as from sleep, to take a solemn view of his relations as an accountable and immortal being. The occasion of this new or revived concern for his soul, was the death of a beloved brother. A letter to his parents, in answer to one which announced the sorrowful tidings, is the earliest production of his pen which has escaped oblivion, and on this account alone will be read with interest. But it has a higher value, as it enables us to date the commencement of his attention to his