Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Benjamin Lincoln, Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; The Honourable The Council, Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 27, 1789. Being the Day of General Election. By Josiah Bridge, A.M. Pastor of the Church in East-Sudbury. Boston: Printed by Adams & Nourse, Printers to The Honourable General Court, M,DCC,LXXXIX. 
PSALM LXXXII. VERSE I.
GOD standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty; He judgeth among the GODS.
THIS passage of scripture may well possess the minds of this mumerous and respectable audience, with reverence and a sacred awe, before him, who is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and who will be sactified in all them that come nigh to him: It is particularly adapted to arrest the most serious attention of our honoured Rulers; at whose invitation we are assembled in the House of God on this auspicious anniversay, –to supplicate the Divine Presence with them, and his smiles and blessing upon the special business of the day; and their admiration of government the ensuing year; and to enquire of him from his word, agreeable to the laudable practice of our pious Progenitors, from the first settlement of the country, to the present period.
Our text has a primary reference to the Rulers of God’s ancient covenant people. But as this passage of scripture is of no private interpretation, it will as fitly apply to our civil fathers now before God, as the the Jewish Sanhedrim of old.
The words before us, will naturally lead us —“To make some brief and general observations on government.” —The propriety and usefulness of an assembly, for conducting the important affairs of it. —The sublime characters rulers sustain. —The Surpeme Ruler present with them, as an observer, and judge; ready for their assistance and support, when acting up to their character; and carefully noticing whenever they lose sight of the great end of their appointment: And the powerful influence, the consideration of his presence and inspection must have, to engage them in a conscientious discharge of the duties of their exalted stations. May I be indulged your serious and candid attention, while I attempt to dilate a little, upon these several particulars; all obviously contained in, or easily deducible from our text. God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.
That our text applies to the supreme government of a community, and involves the various departments of it, is readily seen by looking into the Psalm before us; where we find this congregation of the mighty, reproved for the improper use of their power, and a different mode of conduct enjoined upon them. “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy: Deliver the poor and needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”
Civil government is both a dictate of nature, and revelation; and is accordingly indifferently denominated, the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man. Man was originally formed for society, and furnished with faculties adapted thereto: Faculties for the improvement of which social intercourse is indispensably necessary. Some of the most important duties, and refined delights of human life are of the social kind.
In order to obtain the benefits of society, civil rule is essentially requisite. Those lusts of men, from whence come wars and fightings, are so prevalent in this apostate world, that they are obliged to form compacts and combinations, for mutual assistance and support. And there is perhaps no people no [sic] earth, however uncultivated and barbarous, but who have adopted some kind of civil polity.
The light and law of nature, which uniformly urges to this mode of procedure, may well be accepted, as an expression of the divine will: For God addresses the human mind in divers manners; and he does it by the voice of reason, as well as revelation.
The providence of God is particularly concerned, in elevating man to post of honour and dignity; and giving them a seat among the congregation of the mighty. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and fitteth up another.” “By me (says wisdom, or that glorious Being who is the wisdom of God) by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And in the New-Testament, we have the same idea held up, in terms equally express. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Again, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as supreme, or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the pinishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God.”
These declarations apply to civil government in general, which is indispensably necessary to social felicity and safety. But they are by no means to be extended to every mode of government that has obtained among mankind: Not certainly to despotic and lawless domination. This is not the ordinance of God. Nor indeed any other government, but such a sprotects the subjects in the peaceable possession of their just rights, properties and priviledges.
. . . Power is an intoxicating quality; and for a single individual to be vested with sovereign rule, is subjecting him to a temptation too strong for human virtue. A desire of pre-eminence is a natural passion, and when properly restrained, may prove highly beneficial to society. But when it has a full free course, and attains the summit of its wish, and feels itself without controul; the subject of this undue elevation, is apt to be puffed up with pride, to become intolerably supercilious and tyrannical; and to trample upon those rights of the community, and individuals, which it is the prime design of government to protect.
Wherever the will of a despot is the supreme law, the great end of government is usually perverted. This is sufficently attested by facts: And it is no other than what might justly be expected from the nature of man. . . .
Item of the Day: A Discourse Delivered on The Day of General Election (1809)
Full Title: A Discourse, Delivered Before the Lieutenant-Governor, The Council, and the Two Houses Composing the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 31, 1809. Being the Day of General Election. By David Osgood, D.D.
. . . No arts however vile, no intrigues however base and wicked, are scrupled or declined by unprincipled men when circumstances are such as to give them any hope of success. For the honors and emoluments of office, their thirst is insatiable, and they hurry on to their attainment per fas & nefas. Though in themselves, weak and worthless, and, from their want of abilities or from their want of integrity, totally incompetent to the duties of a high station; yet, these are the men whose souls are devoured by ambition, in whom it reigns predominant. They are always aspiring to the chief dignities, always on the watch to burst the doors of public confidence and thrust themselves forward to the chair of State; while, on the other part, the truly wise and good are too modest and diffident thus to obtrude themselves upon the notice of the public. Instead of placing their happiness in the exercise of dominion over others, they are content with the due government of themselves, and prize the ease and freedom of private life. It is with no small reluctance, that such men are drawn from their beloved retirement. The olive tree, the fig tree, the vine, and every good and useful tree, are afraid to turn aside from that course of beneficence allotted them by nature and the author of nature. Aware of the responsibility annexed to a high station, they dread its snares and temptations. Doubting of their own capacity to serve the Publick in the best manner, they dread lest by some mistake in their administration, the peace, safety or prosperity of the State should be endangered. They therefore wish to decline a province to which they fear their talents are not equal. Nothing but a conviction of duty, of a call in providence will enable them to surmount these scruples. On the other part, unprincipled men have no difficulties of this kind. The bramble, whose very nature unfits it to be useful in any place or condition, boldly comes forward, self-assured and self-confident, to be made the head of the whole vegetative creation. . . .
In free governments, during the excitements and tumultuous scenes of popular election while the partisans of rival candidates are discussing the merits and exerting their in behalf of their respective favorites; unpleasant things are unavoidable. But no truth in the bible is more certain than this, that great and good minds, upright and enlightened statesmen, possessed of a true patriotism, will retain no remembrance of these irritations afterward. Placed at the helm, from that moment they will cease to know, and from every wish to know, who voted for or against them. It will be their most studious concern throughout their administration, to show themselves alike blind to, and ignorant of, all parties; bearing an equal relation to, and an equal affection for, each individual and each class and description of the people; entertaining no other thought or design but by an equal, universal, most strenuous and impartial beneficence, to dissolve and melt down into one common mass, all party distinctions. The will consider themselves as sustaining the representative sovereignty of the country for the good of the whole and of every part; and in the execution of their high office, will regard nothing but the general weal, peace, and prosperity. . . .
Legislators of the commonwealth, as the representatives of the people, chosen and deputed to make their laws, guard their liberties and take care of their concerns; it is natural to suppose that men thus selected and for such purposes, rank among the wisest and most upright of the community. We have seen however, that a free people, on some occasions, confide these trust to hands unworthy of them. They are in special danger of committing this folly at a time when the spirits of party is prevalent. Under the influence of this spirit, the electors consider, not the talents and virtues of good rulers; but whether the candidates to be the bone and flesh of their party — having capacity and zeal to serve its interests. Their inquiry is, whether he be a brother of the faction to which themselves are attached. Thus circumstanced, the most violent partisan often obtains the vote. Could we suppose a legislative assembly, composed of such characters, thus chosen and coming together with such views and dispositions; what would they be but a copse of brambles, the best of them a brier, the most upright sharper than a thorn hedge?
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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Federalists, Massachusetts, Political Commentary, Posted by Rebecca Dresser