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nature, and observing carefully the structure of the hills and plains just about him; he would thus become virtual master of the laws which explain the geography of the globe. The saying is not inapplicable to the course of Providence. He who marks well the manner in which God governs the world for a single year, will have little difficulty in understanding the general principles, upon which he has governed it from the beginning, and will continue to govern it to the end of time. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." There is no caprice, no vacillation in Providence. It is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Although as free as it is almighty, both its freedom and its power are immutable. Its methods may and do differ; some of them being plain to every eye, while others are exceedingly involved and obscure, baffling human insight; but its principles and end never change; and they are always most wise, just, beneficent, and true. Like the roots of the everlasting bills, a part of God's designs may be deep out of sight; but like the summit and massive sides of those same hills, seen under a clear sky, bow distinct, grand and substantial are oftentimes the visible parts! As we contemplate them, how they seem to lift us to the very heavens and to inspire us with the consciousness of a strength and repose immovable like their own!
Let us spend a few moments, then, in looking back over the year on whose outermost verge we now stand, and gathering up some of the lessons which it so impressively teaches us. I say us; for although its events, I do not doubt, are intended for the ultimate instruction of mankind, we are the party principally concerned with them at present. Foreigners and foreign nations may be prepared to understand their import by and by; we see that they are not at all prepared now.' It is a domestic, American trouble; we are the chief actors and the chief sufferers; and whatever the issue, whether good or bad, ours will be the immediate gain or loss. What the next year may bring forth, we can not tell; the circle of trouble may be so widened as to reach the Old World and involve other nations; but even should that occur, which may it please Heaven to forbid! the stress of conflict will still be here; and we shall still be the foremost actors and sufferers. God is plainly executing in the United States one of those great historic movements which notch the centuries; and he is not likely to be diverted from his foreördained plan by any foreign interference whatever. The strategy of Providence is exceedingly sagacious, comprehensive, and far-reaching; and is very apt to be successful, let who will attempt to thwart it.
What, then, are some of the more obvious lessons taught us by the momentous events of 1861 ?
1. I reply, first of all, that God really governs the world. I
know we all professed to believe this in 1860, and never remember the day, perhaps, when it was not a leading article of our creed. Providence itself, as well as the Bible, had often impressed it upon us. But who is not ready to confess that the course of events during the past year has taught this truth, especially as it regards our national life and affairs, with an emphasis altogether extraordinary! How dimly the most of us had been wont to perceive God's hand in sustaining our republican institutions and government! We had almost come to feel that the Union and Constitution and liberties of our country needed no divine support; that they were as incapable of being overthrown as the Allegha. nies or the Rocky Mountains ; yea, as the great globe itself. But we have been rudely awakened out of this delusive dream. We have seen our idolized ship of state going upon those fearful breakers, which we knew had proved the grave of many a power. ful and renowned government; we have listened through long, long months of agony to the creaking of her timbers, the dreadful sound of the rocks and the fury of the raging sea, until at length it became clear to us as noonday, that only one Pilot was wise enough or strong enough to weather the storm and save her from utter, hopeless wreck; and that was the Almighty Pilot, who planned and built the ship! And how well He has thus far justified our confidence! “If it had not been the Lord, who was on our side, now may Israel say: If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us; then the waters had overwhelmed us; . . then the proud waters had gone over our soul." I bave recently called your attention to the many irresistible proofs that we owe our deliverance to the special favor and interposition of Providence; and I need not repeat them now. You will
, I am sure, agree with me in the feeling that they ought to excite within us mingled awe, astonishment, and thanks. giving. If as a people we ever forget to praise the God of our fathers for the manner in which he hurried to our rescue in this appalling crisis, our tongues should forever cleave to the roof of our mouths!
But it is not merely in reference to what he has done for the salvation of the republic, that the past year teaches us how real is God's government of the world. This whole civil convulsion, in all its aspects, proclaims, trumpet-tongued, the same truth ; it does 80, at least, to every thoughtful and devout observer.
You recollect the opening words of the famous French preacher at the funeral of the Grand Monarch, “God only is great!" In a similar strain we might well exclaim, as we recall the strange scenes of the vanishing year, and bid them a final adieu : “God alone rules among the inhabitants of the earth !" In the presence of such awful troubles and desolation - in the presence of such vast changes, coming home to the very bosoms and involving the dearest interests, the happiness and the national existence even of thirty millions of human beings - it seems a kind of impiety to recognize any hand but that which made the world. Some, I know, deem it an easy thing to show exactly how this storm arose; who and what were the agents in producing it; and how it might have been avoided. They can see in it nothing but the natural effects of obvious human causes. For myself, I can not assent at all to this view. It is only half the truth. Of course, I do not deny that this trouble has real and deep-seated human causes. It is no bare miracle, nor has it sprung up out of the dust. Never was there a great civil convulsion, whose historical grounds and motives were more distinctly traceable, or more worthy to be studied. But when we have gone as far in this direction as it is possible to go; when we have philosophized upon the matter to the extent of our ability, we shall still find ourselves confronted with difficulties whose only solution is the decree of Omnipotence. Both reason and religion will compel us to cry out with the psalmist : “Come, behold the works of the Lord! what desolations he hath made in the earth! He is terri. ble in his doings toward the children of men." If there be a chapter in American history crowded with providential events and judgments, it is certainly that which contains the records of 1861. The very insignificance of most of the human agents only serves to bring all the more clearly into the foreground of the tremendous scene that mysterious Power, which led the hosts of Israel through the wilderness, which stood by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the burning fiery furnace, which St. John, in his vision of heaven, saw riding forth in righteousness to judge and to make war, ruling the nations with a rod of iron and tread. ing the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty Godthat august Power before the breath of whose nostrils kings and statesmen and mighty men are as chaff driven by the wbirlwind. The first great lesson, then, taught us by the events of the past year is the reality and beneficence of the divine government.
2. The next lesson which we have been learning from the same events, is the inestimable worth and sanctity of rightfal human government. What loose and false notions used to prevail among us on this subject! How imperfectly we were imbued with the sentiment that civil society is a divine institution; that rulers are ordained of God for the terror of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well; and that they are responsible to him for the faithful performance of their duties! Not that we directly denied this truth; on the contrary, it was not unfrequently incul. cated from both the pulpit and the press; but we had only the faintest conception of its fundamental position in the moral order of the world; we hardly dreamed of its immense practical meaning and importance. We bad been in the habit of regarding
government so exclusively on its mere earthly side; of considering and treating it as the creature of our own will and of flattering ourselves for the skill with which we and our fathers had framed and carried it on; political power, too, had been so prostituted to evil purposes, so divorced from the nobler influences, intelligence, and character of the nation, that there was a natural repugnance to mixing up what seemed so utterly worldly, with the thought of God, and giving it the sanction of his authority. There is nothing more antagonistic to the sentiment of reverence than honest contempt; and this is the very feeling which had for years been growing stronger and more intense among the best portion of the American people towards mere politics and politicians. The two terms were fast becoming synonymous for whatever is most groveling, mercenary, and unprincipled in human conduct. How, under such circumstances, could government itself retain any deep hold upon the respect and veneration of the people? The effect was exactly analogous to that which follows in the sentiments of a community toward the Church, when religion and its professors become widely infected with formalism, low morals, and hypocrisy. At such a time it is of little use to talk about the Church as an institution of God; men are in no mood to receive the doctrine. They are rather disposed to wish there were no church in the world. And thus thousands of the most intelligent and virtuous people in this country had grown so heart-sick of the political degeneracy, meanness, and corruption of the times; so filled with indignant shame and disgust at the manner in which power was prostituted to selfish and wicked ends, that, instead of looking up to government as an ordinance of God, they were rather inclined to wish there were no such thing in existence to stimulate men's bad passions with its huge temptations!
But the experience of the past year has taught us new and more scriptural lessons on this subject. It has taught us that if there were no such thing as government in the world, human society would be changed into a hell upon earth. It has taught us that
can no more dispense with law, order, and civil authority than we can dispense with light and air and daily bread, in the sphere of our physical, or with property, marriage, and the family, in the sphere of our moral being. We have found out that God has placed us under government for the largest and most robust discipline of our nature; for developing in us the manliest virtues, loyalty, honor, fidelity, obedience, self-sacrifiing courage, and public spirit; and that the proper way to show our discontent with its abuses is to labor with religious zeal for their correction, and to fulfill all the duties of a good citizen. We have, in a word, been taught deeper lessons respecting the true nature, the necessity, the just claims, and the boundless beneficence of rightful government
during the past year than during all the previous three-score years of the century. And alas! for us, if we do not mark, learn, and inwardly digest them! What solemn lessons, too, have been given us respecting the real character and fruits of a government founded in lawlessness and treason! The grandest and best things are the most fearful when converted into instruments of unrighteousness. No sort of impiety equals that which comes of turning the grace of God into licentiousness. What form of social pollution is like that of an adulterous marriage? It was an "arch. angel ruined who led on the rebel host of heaven. And so when the majesty of government is made the cloak and shield of unnatural rebellion, we have one of the most terrific spectacles ever witnessed among men. Such a monstrous spectacle has suddenly presented itself to the astonished gaze of heaven and earth, in the midst of this Christian land-in this second half of the nineteenth century. Mankind never looked upon one more strange or impressive. I firmly believe it is designed by divine wisdom to teach the unhappy people of the South and the whole nation lessons, which neither they nor their children after them will ever forget. When we emerge out of this dark night of trouble, as with God's blessing I believe we shall, it will be with such a sense and sueh memories of the power and benignity of rightful free government on the one hand, and of the cruelty and terrors of a Jawless, tyrannical government on the other hand, as shall compensate, in no small degree, for all our sacrifices. We are a youthful people yet; and we shall still be assailed by gigantic temptations to break asunder those bands of righteous law and restraint which, with such pious wisdom, our fathers wrought into the whole framework of our national life, and which no people can long set at paught but at the risk of being dashed in pieces, like a potter's vessel. May it not prove to us, in times of future trial, a bulwark of moral strength that thus, in the early manbood of our career, we had borne the yoke and learned obedience by the things which we suffered ?
3. Another weighty lesson, vividly taught us by the events of the past year, is the extreme weakness of good men, and their liability to be carried away by popular frenzy. I know of nothing connected with this great rebellion more unspeakably sad than the hearty approval it has received from thousands of the best men and women in the South-persons of unquestionable virtue, intelligence, and Christian principle. Instead of regarding it as a colossal crime, they profess to regard it as one of the holiest wars ever waged. No Crusader ever fought for the recovery of the holy sepulcher with a fiercer zeal than many of them have displayed in this assault upon the life of their country. And if we had lived in the South, who can say how few of us would not bave followed their example? I do not allude to this subject