Civil Government The Foundation of Social Happiness

If the Foundations be destroyed, what can the Righteous do?


Noah Hobart (1706-1773) was Congregational minister in Fairfield, Connecticut. He was born at Hingham, Massachusetts in 1706 and graduated Harvard College in 1724, immediately entering the ministry thereafter. He seems to have had some affiliation with Yale College as well after his graduation from Harvard. In 1751, Hobart was invited to deliver the annual election sermon to the Connecticut legislature, a great honor received only by a handful of prominent ministers. Other than his 1748 publication, Serious Address to the Episcopal Separation, and several other of his published sermons, little else is known about Hobart’s life other than that he was considered by his contemporaries to be a superb intellect and faithful pastor. 

The sermon text was Psalm 11:3, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”


It is evidently agreeable to the will of God, the Sovereign Ruler of the World, that men whom He has made sociable Creatures, should live in Communities, and enjoy the Benefits and Advantages that are peculiar to the Social Life. This cannot possibly be effected without erecting and supporting Civil Government: For men in a State of Anarchy, such a State wherein every One does that which is right in his own Eyes; or rather that which gratifies his irregular Appetites without considering whether it be Right, or Wrong, or regarding how much it infringes the Right, or affects the Happiness of others, are so far from enjoying the proper Advantages of Society, that a wise man would choose the most retired Solitude rather than such Company.

The Nature of Government requires that there be men of different Orders, some vested with Authority to command and others under Obligations to obey; or that there be Rulers and Subjects in every Community. Different Forms of Civil Government have all along obtained in the World, and probably will do so to the End of Time. And after all the Disputes which particular Species of it is in itself most perfect and excellent, it must be owned that there is that Difference, perhaps in the very Constitution and Genius of different Nations, or certainly in their Condition and Circumstances as renders one Form of Government most suitable to one Nation, and best adapted to promote it’s Happiness; while another Form shall best answer the great Ends of Government with a different People. 

It has not pleased God to interpose in this Case, by instituting one Form of Civil Government and obliging all Nations to submit to it; and therefore though Government in general must be owned as a Divine Institution, yet no one particular Species of it as opposed to another, can justly claim the Honour of subsisting by a strictly Divine Right. Whether we consult the Light of Nature or Revelation; we shall find Reason to conclude that all regular Forms of Civil Administration, so far as they answer the Intentions of Government, are equally agreeable to the Will of God. And perhaps, if our Views were sufficiently extended, we should see that the Good of the whole World is best promoted, and the Grand Scheme of Divine Providence in the Government of it, most effectually carried on, while diverse Nations are under different Forms of Civil Government.

Public Happiness is the original Design and great End of Civil Government. The magistrate under all Forms of Government, is according to the Intention of his Office, God’s minister attending continually upon this very Thing. If we consider the magistrate’s Authority as derived from God; we cannot Doubt that this is the End for which it is given. A man must certainly have very absurd Notions of the Divine Being, if he can persuade himself that God, in appointing Civil Government, aimed at nothing higher than aggrandizing Rulers; and it would be blasphemous to suppose that his Intention was, to give some men a Right to gratify their Pride and Ambition, their Cruelty, Lust, or Revenge at the Expense of the public Happiness of a whole Nation. It is evidently much more agreeable to our natural Conceptions of God, as well as to the express Revelations He has made of Himself, to suppose Him, as the indulgent Parent of mankind, aiming at and providing for their public Welfare in appointing Civil Government, than to consider Him as the Patron of Tyranny, Cruelty and Oppression, and of their genuine Consequences, Public Desolation and universal misery. And it requires but a little Reflection to be convinced that Civil Government is wisely suited to promote its great Design in securing the public Happiness of Human Society.

GOD will forever have the Glory of all his wise and gracious Appointments for the Welfare of his Creatures; but men through their own Folly and Wickedness may miss of the Advantage designed them. Civil Government may, and too often does fail of answering its End; and public Happiness is not effectually secured even by this excellent method which infinite wisdom has provided for that Purpose. This sometimes happens through the weakness or wickedness of Rulers, and sometimes through the Folly and madness of Subjects, And whoever are the blameable Causes of unhinging a Government, and preventing its answering its Design, the effect will be very pernicious, and men of all Sorts will sooner or later suffer under it; tho’ the Righteous, men of honest Intentions and peaceable Dispositions, will ordinarily be the first and deepest Sufferers.

This is beautifully expressed in the words I have chosen for the Subject of our present meditations, If the Foundations be destroyed, what can the Righteous do? In which words Civil Government is spoken of as the Foundation of the Safety, Security and Happiness of men considered as formed into Society, the Case of these Foundation’s being destroyed is supposed, and upon this Supposition the Question is put, What can the Righteous do? [Psalm 11:3]. That this is the Sense of the words seems plain from the Context. The Psalmist here flies to God and trusts in Him for Protection in a Time of Danger. In the Lord put I my Trust; how say ye to my Soul, Flee as a Bird to your mountain? [Psalm 11:1]. The Danger he was in is thus expressed, for lo, the wicked bend their Bow, they make ready their Arrow upon the String; that they may privily shoot at the upright in Heart. [Psalm 11:2]. In this Case it was the Duty, and it ought to have the Care of the Civil Magistrate to restrain the wicked and protect the upright: But the Government was too weak to do this; or else they who had the Administration of it, were negligent of the Duty of their Office, and would not interpose in the Case; or perhaps the Magistrate himself who ought to have defended the innocent, was the very man who in this Case attempted to destroy him. King Saul, who sought David’s Life as when one doth hunt a Partridge in the Mountains [1 Samuel 26:20], may be intended by the wicked man who had bent his Bow, and made ready his Arrow upon the String to shoot at the upright in Heart. 

Thus the Power of the magistrate, which was originally designed for the Protection of the innocent, was so perverted as to be used as the means of his Destruction; or at least was not so exerted as to afford him Safety and Protection. This State of Things the Psalmist describes by the Expression of the Foundations being destroyed, and in these Circumstances he demands, what can the Righteous do? which Question plainly represents men of this Character as exposed to peculiar Difficulties in such a State of Things as is here mentioned.

In discoursing from these words on the present Occasion, my Design is, to consider some of the principal Things on the Account of which Civil Government is styled the Foundation of Social Security and Happiness; and under each of these Heads, I shall mention some of the most obvious Ways in which this Foundation may be destroyed, and point out the special Difficulties of the righteous in the several Cases that will come under Consideration. 

Section I


Civil Government is the Foundation of Social Happiness as it is designed and suited to render men safe, easy and secure in their Persons.

There are many Things relating to men’s Persons, of such a Nature and Importance that they cannot be happy, nor indeed so much as comfortable without having some Security for the quiet Possession, and Enjoyment of them.

Of this kind are Life, Liberty, Reputation, Ease and the like: He that enjoys these has a Value for them; and in Proportion to his Esteem of them, will be his uneasiness when he finds himself insecure in the Possession of them, or in Danger of losing them. Social Happiness cannot be enjoyed unless men have some reasonable Security with Regard to these personal Things; nor are there any advantages arising from Society that can balance a Want of Security with respect to some of them. What reasonable man would not choose to be destitute of all the Benefits of the Social Life, rather than to live among a Company of lawless Banditti, Robbers or Pirates; any one of which might on the least Provocation, or even without any Provocation at all, insult and abuse, beat, wound, or torture him, or even take away his Life? What Advantage resulting from Society can be named, that would make amends for this constant and imminent Danger of being ill-treated and abused put to the most excruciating Tortures, or deprived of Limbs and even of Life itself?

Liberty, or a Freedom from unnecessary and burthensome Confinements, Restraints or Imprisonment, is what men are naturally, and indeed very justly desirous of. The Possession of it gives a sweet and pleasant Relish to Life and the Enjoyments of it, and the want of this renders them all tasteless if not nauseous. 

A wise and good man, one who does not desire to use Liberty for a Cloak of maliciousness [1 Peter 2:16], will readily consent to all reasonable Restraints, that is, to all such as are necessary to the Peace and welfare of the Community of which he is a member: But unnecessary and unreasonable Abridgments of Liberty are very grievous; and the total Loss of it, or absolute Slavery is to a generous Mind next to, (if not worse than) the Loss of Life itself.

A Good Name is what men in general are with very good Reason fond of, for it really is better than precious Ointment [Ecclesiastes 7:1] But those who have the best Right to it are usually the most tender of it, while profligate Persons are sometimes so abandoned as to have no sense of Shame, no Fear of Infamy, nor any Regard to their Reputation in the world. A good Conscience, a Sense of Innocence, an Expectation of being acquitted and approved in the Day when God shall judge the Secrets of men, will do a great deal towards supporting and comforting the upright under a Load of calumny and Defamation: But even this inward Satisfaction, though so greatly desirable, is not sufficient to Social Happiness. A man who is possessed of this, though he has Peace in his own mind, yet considered as a member of Society, is by obloquy [i.e., public criticism or verbal abuse] and Defamation, laid under many Disadvantages, and rendered less happy as well as less useful than he would otherwise be.

Government is designed and suited to defend men in the Enjoyment of these personal Rights, which are so essential to Social Happiness. Laws are made to curb the unruly Passions of men, and prevent their wounding the Persons or Reputations of their Neighbors, their depriving them of Life, Ease or Liberty. The Magistrate has just Authority, to punish the Transgressors of these wholesome Laws, and to proportion the Punishment to the Injury done, and to the necessary Intention of deterring others from doing the like. A strict and impartial Administration of Justice in these Cases, is the greatest Political Security against the Perpetration and Increase of Crimes of this Kind; and consequently tends to render every Member of the Community secure and safe in the Possession of Life and Liberty, Reputation and Ease. And Civil Government, considered as intended and adapted to protect men in these Respects, deserves to be called the Foundation of Social Happiness; and, when duly administered, it is a very firm and solid Foundation.

But this Foundation, solid as it is, may yet be destroyed; and all the Confidence and Security built upon it, may end in Disappointment and Ruin. A particular Government may perhaps be essentially wrong, in its very Formation, by being built upon such Maxims as are diametrically opposite to the Nature, and subversive of the original Design, of Society, or inconsistent with public and Social Happiness. Or a Government originally well formed, may by a gradual and perhaps an imperceptible Departure from its original Principles, in Length of Time, become quite the Reverse of what it at first was. Magistrates may degenerate into Tyrants; a mild and Legal Government may corrupt and turn into mere Arbitrariness and Despotism: or, on the other Hand, the Administration may become weak, and so incapable of answering its Intention; the Magistrate may lose his Influence and Authority, and the Laws may become contemptible in the Eyes of the People. 

This may arise from a general Remissness in the Execution of them, which if continued for any Length of Time, seldom fails of producing this fatal Effect: Or it may proceed from the Prevalence of a discontented, factious and mutinous spirit in the People, which sometimes rises to such an Height that the Magistrate has not Strength to repel and subdue it. In these Cases it is evident that the Foundation of Social Happiness is destroyed; for in such Circumstances no Man has a proper Security for his Ease or Liberty, his Reputation or even his Life.

Tyranny, whether natural to the Constitution of a Government or owing to Corruption in the Administration, is utterly inconsistent with Social Happiness. The Subjects in an arbitrary Government have indeed some Security against being assaulted, abused, defamed or murdered by their Fellow-Subjects; but even this is not so strong as public Happiness requires it should be, because arbitrary Rulers suspend the Execution of the Laws at their Pleasure, and that even of those Laws the regular Execution of which is most essentially necessary to the Security even of the Lives of their Subjects. And then Subjects in such Governments, have no Security at all, even of Life itself, against their Rulers. 

Every man has a Right to his own Life by the Law of Nature; and when men enter into Society they are so far from giving up this Right, that it must be supposed the securing it to them was one of the principal Reasons of men’s forming themselves into Communities. If any man doubts this, he need only ask himself whether he would, on any Consideration, join with a Society in which it should be a fundamental Article, that any one man, or any Number of men should have a Right to take away his Life when they pleased? A man may forfeit his Life, and when he has done so the magistrate may justly take it away: But without such Forfeiture made, the magistrate has no more Right to take away the Life of a Subject, than one private Person has to take away the Life of another. Murther committed with all the Solemnities of a legal Trial and Execution, is the worst Kind of murder; The innocent man suffers most in this way, as his Reputation is murthered as well as his Person: and those who in this method shed innocent Blood, contract an aggravated Guilt as they make the Authority of the magistrate which was given on Purpose to protect the innocent, the very means of his Destruction. This I take to be the meaning of that Speech of Christ to Pilate, Thou couldst have no Power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: Therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater Sin. [John 24:11]. and so Confinement or an Abridgment of that Liberty which the Intentions and Laws of Society allow to men in general; Infamy, and the Infliction of Corporal Pain are to be considered as Punishments; and as such they suppose Guilt in the Subjects of them: And when these are inflicted on any Man not convicted of a Crime that deserves them, he has an Injury done [to] him. And when Magistrates without regarding the Rules of distributive Justice, act in an arbitrary, Tyrannical Manner, and treat the innocents as if they were guilty, the Distinction between Right and Wrong, and so the Foundation of Society and public Happiness and Security is destroyed.

The Case is much the same when the Magistrate wants Power, as when he wants the Will to protect the Innocent, and punish the Guilty. Tyranny and Anarchy, like Fire and Frost, though contrary in their Natures, are in many Instances much alike in their Effects. A factious, ungovernable Disposition in the People does as effectually destroy the Foundations of public Happiness, as Tyranny in the Rulers: And a man has no more security of his Life or any of the Enjoyments of it, when the Execution of the Laws is prevented by the mutinous Temper of the People, than he would have if the Laws were Suspended by the arbitrary Will of tyrannical Governors.

If the Foundations be destroyed in either of these Ways, What can the Righteous do? While the authority of the Magistrate is rightly directed, duly exercised, and properly reverenced and submitted to, every Member of the Community has the highest Political Security against personal Injuries and Abuses: But when the Administration of Justice is perverted, and the Ends of Government rendered impractical, either by Corruption and Tyranny in the Rulers or by Obstinacy and Ungovernableness in the People, no man proper Security in these Respects; but is liable to the greatest of personal Injuries, even to that of having his life violently taken away. 

In these Circumstances wicked Men may for a while preserve themselves; they can cringe and fawn; they have no Restraints of Conscience to prevent their flatterring a Tyrant, or sacrificing the Liberties of their Country, and the Happiness of their Fellow Subjects to his lawless Will; or even their yielding themselves to him, and becoming the criminal Instruments in his Hands of entailing Misery on Generations yet unborn. Or, if the Tyde sets the other Way, and popular Discontent and Faction prevail against the just Authority of the Magistrate, yet such men can still swim with the Stream. They will join with the factious, and be some of the loudest in popular Clamors against Rulers; and under a Pretense of Patriotism and Zeal for the Liberties of the People, such men will revile the Persons, and contemn the Authority of the Magistrate, weaken the Administration of Government, and enervate the Laws, and so destroy the Foundations of public Happiness to secure their own private Interest. 

But now the Righteous whose Consciences restrain them from using such wicked Arts, they who religiously adhere to the Constitution and Interests of their Country, and will neither sacrifice the just Liberties of the People to Rulers of an arbitrary Disposition, nor give up the legal Authority of Rulers to a prevailing Faction, these honest upright men are most exposed; they are not likely to the Favourites of an ambitious Tyrant, nor the Darlings of a lawless Mob, but are generally looked on with a jealous Eye, and marked out for Ruin by them both.

Section II

Civil Government is the Foundation of Social Happiness as it is designed and suited to secure Men in their Rights and Properties, by a due administration of Justice in all Civil Causes.

Social Happiness requires that men be secured in their civil Rights and Properties, as well as in their Persons; and this is one great Design of Government. Property is prior to all Humane Laws and Constitutions. God has given the Earth to the Children of men; and if by the original Grant every one of them has an equal Right to every particular Thing, while it continues merely in the State wherein Nature produced it, yet when any one man has by his own Labour rendered it better, more suitable to the Uses of Human Life and therefore more valuable, he has now a better Right to it, than any other man has; and being in Possession, he cannot justly be turned out by one who has not so good a Title as he himself has. 

But Properties and Possessions would be very precarious Things in a State of Nature, they need the Sanctions of Government and Laws to render them in any measure secure and safe; and the obtaining this Security was no doubt one great Reason that induced men to combine in regular Societies, and establish Government. For in a State of Nature, though no man had a Right to disturb the Happiness, or take away the Property of another, yet the stronger would prey upon and devour the weaker: And when any Disputes arose concerning Property, there being no Persons authorized to judge and determine between the Parties, every man was Judge in his own Cause; and would put his Judgment in Execution in such a manner as would best answer his End, either by Force or Fraud. A State of Nature is a State of War; and in all the Controversies that might arise in it, there was no Appeal but to the Sword.

Government is excellently suited to remedy this Evil, and to secure and defend men in the quiet Possession of their Rights and Properties. This can no[t] otherwise be done but by a due Administration of Justice in Civil Causes; and therefore it is essential to Society that Judges be appointed, and that they have sufficient Authority to carry their Judgments into Execution, by obliging even the most stubborn and refractory to submit to it. And as the whole Force of the Community is to be applied, when necessary, to execute Legal Judgments, every man in a well constituted Government, has the highest Political Security for the Enjoyment of his Property, for all his Fellow Subjects are engaged to defend him therein, with their united Force and Strength.

In this View of the Case the Foundations may be destroyed several ways, as, when good Laws are not provided, or Judges not appointed to execute them; when Corruption and Bribery prevail, and Judgment is bought and sold; or when through the weakness of the Administration, or the Strength of Factions, a righteous Judgment cannot be carried into Execution, and so Justice cannot be done. ‘Tis possible for some of these Things to arise to such an Height as absolutely to dissolve a Government, and reduce a People to a mere State of Nature, and so to deprive them wholly of the Advantages that arise from Society: and every Degree of them affects the Foundation of public Happiness, as it weakens the Security which every Man in Social Life ought to have, for the quiet Possession of his Property or Estate.

The Righteous will be exposed to peculiar Difficulties in this Case as well as the former. For such being under the Restraints of Religion and Conscience, cannot bribe a Judge, nor corrupt a Jury, nor suborn an Evidence; nor on the other Hand can they join with the mutinous, promote Riots, or raise a Mob to protect them. But they who are under no such Restraints will readily use these and such like wicked Arts; and by them, when the Foundations are thus destroyed, they too often not only Defend themselves, but oppress and ruin their innocent Neighbors.

Section III

Civil Government is the Foundation of Social Happiness, as it is appointed and suited to promote the Practice of all those Virtues which conduce to render a Community safe, flourishing and happy; and to suppress those Vices which tend to destroy or hurt it.

‘Tis a very just Observation, that Righteousness exalteth a Nation, and Sin is a Reproach to any People [Proverbs 14:34]. Sin of any Kind when connived at and encouraged, brings public Guilt; public Guilt deserves public Judgments; and it may reasonably be expected, that the Sovereign Ruler of the World will manifest the Holiness of his Nature, and discover the Righteousness of his moral Government, by rendering a wicked and debauched Community a miserable one. Indeed it can hardly be otherwise, in the Nature of Things, where some particular Sorts of Vice prevail, and become general. Some Vices are in their own Nature destructive of public Happiness; such, for Instance, are Idleness, Extravagance, Intemperance, and the Neglect of proper Care for the Education and Instruction of the rising Generation.

Every Member of a Community is obliged to contribute, in his Station, to the good of the whole, and every industrious, frugal Man does so; he serves himself, and he serves the Public at the same Time. Whatever any man gains by honest Labour, is just so much gained to the Society of which he is a Member: And on the contrary Idleness in particular Persons is prejudicial to the Public; there is at least the Loss of what the Community might have been benefited by their Labour. And then as he that is slothful in his work is Brother to him that is a great Waster [Proverbs 18:9], and Laziness is the Parent of Poverty and Want, Idleness tends to hurt the Public by increasing the Number of Beggars, or that of Thieves and Robbers.

Extravagance as it tends to impoverish particular Persons and Families, has the same evil Aspect upon public Happiness as Idleness has; and besides this, it impoverishes a Community as it turns the Balance of Trade against them, and so obliges them to send to other Countries what ought to serve as a Medium of Trade among themselves, and reduces them to the miserable Expedient of a base Currency which nobody will take off their Hands. The Difficulties which this brings on and continues, are at present so publicly known, and so generally felt, that I need not spend Time in describing them. There is no one Kind of Extravagance so pernicious in its Nature and Consequences as an intemperate use of strong Drink. 

This produces the same fatal Effects with Idleness, and the other sorts of Extravagance, besides many others, as destructive to social Happiness, which are peculiar to itself. It debauches the Mind, and enfeebles the Body, it ruins the Constitutions and destroys the Health of such as practice it; and degrades a man, who was made for noble and useful Purposes, into one of the meanest, most insignificant and useless of all Creatures. Not only so, but it is productive of Brawls, Riots and Quarrels, which too often produce Fighting, and issue in wounds and Blood, Who hath Wo? Who hath Sorrow? Who hath Contentions? Who hath Babblings? Who hath Wounds? They that tarry long at the Wine, they that go to seek mixt Wine [Proverbs 23:29-30].

These Vices tend to the present and immediate Destruction of Social Happiness, and the Neglect of proper Care for the Instruction and Education of Youth, does as certainly tend to entail public Misery on Posterity. Ignorance and Wickedness are prejudicial to Society, while Learning and Virtue greatly promote the Happiness of it. The Psalmist’s Observation that the dark Places of the Earth are full of the Habitations of Cruelty [Psalm 74:20], or that Ignorance and Misery accompany one another, is verified in the History of all Ages and Nations. 

The proper Design of Schools and Colleges, is, that Youth may be trained up in useful Learning and strict Virtue or Religion: And there is nothing more necessary to the maintaining Social Happiness, and rendering it a durable Thing, such an one as shall continue from Generation to Generation, than that these be set up and supported, and so regulated as effectually to answer their End.

Government is the Foundation of Social Happiness as it is designed to prevent such Things as are detrimental to it, and to promote those Things which tend to advance and perpetuate it. That this is one Design of Magistracy, is plain from the Apostle’s describing Rulers as being a Terror not to good Works, but to the evil [Romans 13:3]; for whatever tends to prevent or destroy public Happiness, is evil both in a moral and in a political Sense. Government is well adapted to answer this it’s Intention: The Magistrate has the Power of the Sword committed to him, that he may be the Minister of God, a Revenger to execute Wrath upon him that doth evil

The Authority he is vested with enables him to punish and suppress Idleness, Extravagance and Intemperance; to lay such Duties upon the Means of Luxury and Drunkenness as shall at least prevent the general Practise of them; and to give proper and needful Encouragement to useful Arts and Manufactures. The Magistrate’s Authority capacitates him for erecting and supporting Schools and Colleges, and for ordering and regulating them, and the Circumstances relating to them so as effectually to promote the good Designs of their Institution.

The Foundations may be destroyed by Carelessness and Indifference with Regard to these Things. When no Encouragement is given to Learning, Ingenuity, Frugality and Diligence, nor any Thing done to discountenance and prevent Idleness, Extravagance and Intemperance; when Laws are not provided, or, if made, not executed to prevent those vicious Practices which directly tend to procure public Misery, or to encourage those virtuous, amiable and useful Things which promote the Happiness of Human Society, then are the Foundation, in this View of Things destroyed.

In this Case vicious Persons, such especially as are addicted to the particular Vices that have been now mentioned, will think themselves happy. They may be as idle, extravagant and intemperate as they please; they may gratify their Corruptions, at the Expense of their Estates, their Health and their Lives; they may bring their Families to Poverty, and leave them a Burthen to the Public; they may indulge themselves in Drunkenness and Rioting, to the Disturbance of the Quiet and Peace of the Neighbourhood, and to the Prejudice of the public Happiness of Society; they may do all this without any one to punish them, or make them ashamed: And this these miserable Creatures call Freedom, Liberty and Happiness. 

But What can the Righteous now do? The most valuable members of Society must, in such Circumstances, bear a very heavy Burden: The Public must be supported by laying severe Taxes on useful Arts and painful Labour, that the luxurious and intemperate, useless and even hurtful Members of the Community, may gratify their Corruptions at the cheaper Rate. He that has been endeavoring by honest Labour, to make Provision for his own Family, shall find himself oppressed by being obliged to support the Children of his Neighbour, reduced to Nakedness Starving by the Idleness, Extravagance, or Drunkenness of their Parents. I will add but one Thing more.

Section IV

Civil Government is the Foundation of Social Happiness as it is designed and adapted to encourage and promote Religion, and to protect and secure Men in the Exercise of their Spiritual or Ecclesiastical Rights and Privileges.

Natural Religion is essential to Society; Morality is as indispensably necessary to the Political Happiness of Communities as it is to the Eternal Happiness of particular Persons. Were the Practice of the strictest and most exalted Morality, such an one as the Gospel prescribes and requires, universally to prevail in any Community, it would constitute a sort of Heaven upon Earth: And on the contrary, where it is wholly disregarded, where Vice and Wickedness of every Kind maintain an unrestrained Dominion, there is properly an Hell upon Earth. In the intermediate States between the universal Practice of Virtue and the uncontrolled Prevalence of Vice, a Society is happy or miserable in Proportion as it approaches to one or the other of these Conditions.

If the Matter be considered in this Light, I suppose no reasonable Man will deny that Religion is an especial Object of the Civil Magistrate’s Concern. ‘Tis necessary to the Happiness of Society, and to the Security of every Member of it, that the Belief of the Being, and Perfections, and Providence of God should be kept up; that men should be acquainted with the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul, and of a future and eternal State of Happiness or Misery; that men should look upon themselves as accountable Creatures, and expect the great and awful Day when they must stand before the Tribunal of God, the Sovereign and universal Judge, to give account of the Actions done in the Flesh, whether they have been good, or whether they have been evil. 

The firm Belief of such Things as these is so essentially necessary to Social Happiness, that he deserves to be esteemed an Enemy to mankind, who endeavors to weaken the Evidence, or lessen the Importance of them. For without a Belief of these Things, what shall restrain men from injuring, oppressing, or even destroying one another, when they have, as they frequently will have, opportunity of doing so without any great Danger of being detected and punished by the Magistrate? 

And if a sense of these Things be taken away, or much weakened, what Security can we possibly have for the Truth of what men declare under the most solemn Oaths? It must therefore be allowed, that whatever is necessary to keep up the Belief and Practice of natural Religion, belongs properly to the Province of the Civil Magistrate; and that his Authority cannot be exerted in a way more agreeable to the Will of God, from whom all Authority proceeds, or indeed more conducive to the Design of Magistracy, which is Social Happiness, than when used to promote and encourage these Things, and to punish and suppress whatever is contrary to them. 

The Christian Institution considered as such, or as distinguished from natural Religion, is not absolutely necessary to the Subsistence of Civil Society. This is evident since there were Governments in the World, and some of them so wisely formed and so justly administered, that Social Happiness was tolerably provided for, before men were favored with the Christian Revelation. Yet it must be owned that Morality is incomparably better explained, carried to a vastly higher Degree of Perfection, and enforced on the Minds of men be infinitely stronger Motives in the Gospel, ever was before, or than it possibly can be on any other Hypothesis. And the Gospel in all these Views does greatly conduce to Social Happiness; and therefore ought to be supported, countenanced and encouraged by the Civil Magistrate.

But then though the Gospel Revelation is wisely suited to promote temporal Prosperity, or the Social Happiness of mankind; yet this is not the principal Design of it. Future and Eternal Happiness as it is in it self of infinitely greater Importance than anything that is confined to the present mean, short and uncertain State of Existence, so it is the Thing principally aimed at in the Christian Religion: The Salvation of the Soul is the End of that Faith which the Gospel requires, and is designed to produce. 

The securing this ought to be the first Concern and principal Business of every particular Person; and to use the Christian Religion as a Political Instrument of promoting Social Happiness, in such a manner as shall prevent its proving the Power of God to eternal Salvation to any who enjoy it, is to pervert the Gospel it self, by making the most important and ultimate Design of it give way to that which is of little or no Consequence any further than it tends to promote it; or making the means instead of being subservient to the End, instrumental in preventing the End’s being attained.

The Gospel discovers the Provision God has made, in his unsearchable Wisdom and unbounded Grace, for our being recovered to his Favour, renewed after his Image, and trained up to an actual Meetness for the everlasting Enjoyment of Himself. Jesus Christ is in it set forth as the Propitiation for Sin [Romans 3:25], and revealed as that Glorious Person in whom it hath pleased the Father that all Fulness should dwell [Colossians 1:19], that so He might be the Fountain of Holiness and Comfort to his People. He that has a proper Sense of the wonderful Love of God his Savior, will find himself powerfully but sweetly constrained to make all possible Returns of Homage, Worship and Obedience to him: His greatest Delight will be in honoring and glorifying Him by a Life of universal Holiness and persevering Obedience; and in enjoying Communion with Him in the instituted Acts or Ordinances of Divine Worship. And it is impossible men should have a well grounded Hope of being finally Accepted of God, or a regular Expectation of everlasting Life without the Testimony of their own Consciences to their Sincerity in these Things.

Now, if it be the Duty of every Man to work out his own Salvation, and to give Diligence to make his Calling and Election sure; if Men are strictly obliged to make if their great Care to secure an Interest in the Favour of God, and obtain the Evidences of it; and if this cannot be done without having the Testimony of their own Hearts that they worship Him in Sincerity and Truth; it must be allowed that every Man has a just Right to worship God in such a manner as he, after making due Inquiry, judges most agreeable to the Nature and Will of God, and so most likely to obtain Acceptance with Him: Otherwise men will be obliged, under the severest of all Penalties to do that which at the same time they have no Right to do. The Right of Private Judgment in matters merely Religious in their Nature, and of acting upon this Judgment by worshiping God in such a Manner as a man, with the best Light he can obtain, judges agreeable to God’s revealed Will, does therefore stand upon as firm a Foundation as the Duty of endeavoring to secure the Favour and Enjoyment of God. For no man can expect this by worshiping God in such a Way as he himself believes disagreeable to Him, nor even in the Neglect of such Worship as his own Conscience, after suitable Endeavors to inform it, tells him God does require of him.

The Civil Magistrate, if he would answer the Design of his Office, instead of denying men this Right, or inflicting any Punishment on them for using it in a quiet, peaceable manner, ought to protect and defend them in it: Otherwise Government it self, which certainly was appointed for the Good of men, will on the whole be a Disadvantage to them. For if the Exercise of this Right be necessary to the eternal Happiness of men, it is certain that none of the Advantages men derive from Civil Government, can balance the Disadvantage of being deprived of it. 

The free allowance of this Right, is so far from disturbing the Peace of Civil Society, that it is undoubtedly one of the best Means of preserving and securing it. If the Magistrate countenances and supports one Party in oppressing and persecuting another, the Consequence will be, that they arrive at a greater and more irreconcilable Distance from each other; Animosities and Quarrels may be expected; and, when the Parties are near equal in Numbers and Strength, a Civil War is too often the Effect. But when the Magistrate protects all peaceable Subjects in their Religious as well as Civil Rights, and suffers no one to oppress or disturb another, they are most likely to act the Part of good Subjects toward their Rulers, and that of good Neighbours toward one another: And this is the most probable Way to bring men to unite in Judgment as well as Affection.

‘Tis indeed possible for men to use this Liberty as a Cloak of Maliciousness; they may in Preaching or even in Prayer use seditious or treasonable Expressions, they may revile the Rulers of their People, contemn [i.e., regard with contempt] and disparage the good Laws of their Country, or slander and abuse their Neighbors. Whenever they do so, they are beyond all doubt justly punishable by the Civil Magistrate, and the Peace and Happiness of Human Society do sometimes make it necessary that they should be punished with severity. There is nothing in this at all inconsistent with Liberty of Conscience; for my Right to worship God according to the Dictates of my own Conscience does by no means include a Right to destroy the public Happiness of Civil Society, by subverting the Government of it; nor does it in the least Degree authorize me to revile my Superiors, or to defame and abuse any Man. 

Let then Treason and Sedition, Slander and Defamation, and every Thing that destroys Social Happiness be punished as they deserve; let no Pretense of Conscience excuse any Person in the Commission of these Crimes; let their being committed under the Notion of Praying, or of performing any other act of Divine Worship be esteemed (as it really is) a great Aggravation of the criminal Action, and all the Intentions of Civil Government will be answered without at all infringing Liberty of Conscience, or taking from quiet and peaceable Men the invaluable Right of worshiping God in such a Manner as they believe He requires and will accept.

Principles and Practices which don’t affect Civil Society, and so cannot be said to have any Political Evil in them, may yet be evil in a Religious or Ecclesiastical Sense, and so may justly expose Men to Church Censures: But then these Censures ought not to have Civil Punishments annexed to them; because it is only Political Evil that deserves Political Punishment. The Apostolic Directions relating to withdrawing from a Brother that walketh disorderly [2 Thessalonians 3:6], and having no Company with one that is under Censure that he may be ashamed [2 Thessalonians 3:14], and the like, do no doubt concern all Christians, and therefore the Person vested with Magistracy, if he be a Christian; and the caressing, encouraging and promoting a man under Ecclesiastical Censure, cannot, I think, be reconciled to these Precepts. But neither these nor any other Texts of Scripture that I know of require the Civil Magistrate to annex temporal Pains and Penalties to Ecclesiastical Censures.

While the Civil Magistrate continued Heathen, the Church had as much Right to censure its own members as it has now; and while its Censures were administered agreeable to the Will and Command of Christ, and with a Dependence on Him to succeed them, they best answered the Intentions for which they were instituted. But when the Roman Empire became Christian, ’twas pretended that it belonged to the Magistrate to strengthen the Hands of the Church by annexing Civil Punishments to her Censures. When this Point was once gained, the Party that could by any means ingratiate itself with the Emperor, was sure to persecute all the Rest. They all had their Turns of Suffering, and they that thus took the Sword did many of them perish by the Sword: Constantine the first Christian Emperor, banished the Arians, and his Son did the same by the Orthodox.

It was at first pretended that this belonged to the Civil Magistrate by virtue of his being a nursing Father to the Church; and ’twas said that mild and moderate Punishments were all that were desired, or proper to be used in this Case: But in Process of Time the Magistrate was degraded rom the honorable Character of a nursing Father into the mean and ignoble one of a mere Executioner. In some Countries which call themselves Christian, the Civil Magistrate is at this Day obliged, under the Penalty of Excommunication, which with them includes a Forfeiture of his Temporal Dominion, to inflict Capital Punishments of the most cruel and barbarous Kind, upon all that are condemned by the Church for Heresy. And tho’ the Person be one of his own Subjects, one whom he is obliged by his Office to protect and Defend, yet he is not allowed to look into the Process against him, or at all to inquire whether the Sentence he executes be just or unjust [Philippus van Limborch, The History of the Inquisition (1731)]. 

When the Foundations are destroyed by the Civil Magistrate’s neglecting to countenance and encourage Religion, or to protect men in the peaceable Exercise of their Religious Rights; and especially when he joins with one Party to persecute and destroy all that dissent from them, ’tis easy to see that the Righteous will be bro’t under peculiar Difficulties, and be the greatest Sufferers. A man of no Religion can comply with the established Religion, how corrupt soever it be; He that believes nothing can profess any Thing; he that makes Conscience of nothing can conform to anything; and he that cares not whether he worships God at all, will not be very solicitous about the manner or modes of Worship. 

Thus the irreligious Part of mankind can easily escape Persecution in these Cases: But the Righteous, they who make Conscience of what they do, cannot subscribe Articles of Faith which they esteem false or unfound, nor profess what they do not believe; they cannot conform to what they judge corrupt and sinful, though established by the highest Human Authority; nor dare they neglect to attend such Worship and Ordinances as they find God has instituted, even though the Laws of their Country should make it penal to attend them. Thus Men of Honesty and Sincerity, such as really endeavor to serve and please God, and to obtain his Favor to eternal Life, are the Men that will suffer when the Foundations of common Security and Safety are thus destroyed.

I come now to the Improvement of this Subject. 

Section V

[Editor’s note: Here, Hobart makes a note addressing his audience, the governor and general court directly, the formal introduction of which we have cut out.]

There is nothing of greater Importance to Men in any Office, than frequently calling to Mind the original Design and great End of the Office they sustain. This naturally suggests to their Thoughts what are the peculiar Duties incumbent on them, what the great God expects and requires of them, and how they must conduct themselves at present, if they would at last be able to give their Accounts with Joy. In this View the Practice of preaching on this Occasion which I suppose has been continued from the very Beginning of this Government, appears very reasonable and proper. For though it will frequently happen (as I am very sensible it does this Day in particular) that the Preacher shall have less acquaintance with the Nature and Methods of Government than a great Part of his Hearers, yet being obliged to apply his mind with some close Attention to the Subject he discourses upon, he may perhaps suggest some Things, which though known, would not otherwise have been so distinctly thought of, and so one who cannot Pretend to instruct you, may yet stir up your minds by way of Remembrance.

Government is the Foundation of the Peace and Happiness of men considered as formed into Civil Society; it is so in the gracious Design of God, and it will be so in the Event, at least in all ordinary Cases, if it be suitably Conducted and Administered. The two great Things necessary to this Purpose, are, the enacting wise and righteous Laws, and the administering Justice according to them, both in Civil and Criminal Causes, with a steady and impartial Hand. These both belong to your Province, as you are assembled this Day not only in your Legislative Capacity, but also to appoint such executive Officers to whom the Administration of Law and Justice is to be committed. Allow me to say that both God and man expect that in both these important Branches of your Authority you keep the great and original Design of Government in a near View, and sincerely aim at promoting the Public Welfare of His Majesty’s Subject under your immediate Government.

The happy Constitution of this Government is such, that I cannot think it needful to caution you against carrying the Civil Authority of the Magistrate too high, or fixing a Tyrannical Administration upon us: Since you are Members of the same Society with us, and hold your Seats in the Administration over us by the annual Choice of the Community. I wish I could say there was as little Danger of having the Foundations of our Public Peace and Social Happiness destroyed, or even shaken, by Popular Discontent and Uneasiness. This I take to be the peculiar Danger in Elective Governments. It will frequently happen that such Measures as are necessary, or highly conducive to Public Good, shall be very unpopular. 

People in general cannot be thought sufficiently skilled in the Nature of Government, or enough acquainted with public Affairs to know what Measures are proper to be taken in a great variety of Cases that frequently happen. And though, if let alone, they will not ordinarily be desirous of a Change of Government, so long as the Administration is steady, uniform, and impartial, and the good Ends of Government are in a comfortable Degree answered; Yet it must be owned that it is too easy for crafty designing Men to work upon them, to propagate a spirit of Uneasiness and Disaffection, and so to lead a Society into Parties. In this Case the Magistrate who

espouses an unpopular Measure, tho’ it be in itself ever so just and reasonable, and even necessary, incurs the Danger of being left out at the next Election. In such Circumstances the Security of this Colony depends very much upon the Resolution and Virtue of its Magistrates. Should such a Case happen, we trust that you, our Political Fathers, will approve yourselves the firm and immovable Foundations of our Happiness, by steadily pursuing what in your Wisdom you judge our true Interest, even though it should happen to be against the prevailing Opinion of the People. For it certainly becomes you as Fathers of your Country, not to humor and indulge us to our Hurt, but by a wise, righteous, and mild Administration to promote our Good.

The Things that have been mentioned as necessary to Social Happiness, such as the Securing men in their Persons and Properties, the promoting such Things as tend to the Public Good, and suppressing whatever is contrary thereto, the countenancing and encouraging Religion and protecting men in the quiet Enjoyment of Religious Rights and Privileges, deserve your serious Consideration and constant Attention. For without these Things the Intentions of Government cannot be answered, and a slight Attention or Indifference with regard to any one of them will greatly endanger, if not certainly destroy the Foundations of Public Peace and Social Happiness.

Permit me to recommend it as a Thing worthy of your most serious Consideration, whether nothing further can be done to reform mens Morals, and to put a stop to the Growth of Injustice and Profaneness, Idleness and Extravagance, Intemperance, and Uncleanness, which are so visibly increasing upon us, and do so awfully threaten to be our Ruin. We have good Laws against such Vices as these; but it deserves to be considered whether there is not some further Provision wanting to carry them into such a vigorous and steady Execution, as the present state of Things seems plainly to require. Penal Laws are designed to procure Public Safety; Offenders are to be punished that others may hear and fear, and so be restrained from such Practices as are inconsistent with the Safety and Happiness of Human Society. If therefore the Laws against Theft and Burglary (for Instance) serve no higher Purpose than to help the Owner in recovering Goods Stolen from him, which ’tis generally known is too often the Case; though it cannot be said that these Laws do no Good at all, yet it is plain that they do not answer the proper Intention of Penal Laws, nor afford that Security to the Public which Social Happiness evidently requires. And indeed Penal Laws in general, if they are not put in Execution, do rather hinder than promote the Good of the Public, as they inure [i.e., to grow accustomed to something] People to a Disregard to the Law, and a Contempt of the Authority of Rulers.

If the Reason of so general a Remissness in the Execution of Penal Laws be inquired into, perhaps it will be found very much owing to our Executive Officers acting so much Singly, and not meeting in a Body as is practiced in other Governments. It is not to be wonder’d at if a single Grand Juryman, or a single Justice of the Peace, should in many Cases be ignorant of the Duty of his Office, or at a Loss with Regard to the Method and Forms in which he ought to proceed: Nor even, if in some Cases he should be intimidated, and afraid to proceed against some particular Offenders. Whereas if they were regularly to meet in a Body, and act conjunctly, one would instruct and encourage another; they would thus be under much greater Advantages for suppressing vicious and destructive Practices, and there would be much less Danger of encouraging Wickedness by suffering Offenders to go unpunished. If I am rightly informed this is the only Government within the British Dominions; in which the Justices and Grand-Jury of a County do not statedly meet in their Sessions of the Peace: And perhaps if they did so with us, it would be as uncommon to see an open Transgressor of the Laws of his Country escape with Impunity, as it now is to see such an one prosecuted to Effect.

‘Tis part of the magistrate’s Office to encourage and promote Religion, and to defend the Subject in the peaceable Exercise of his Religious Rights. And this, you will suffer me to say, is in an especial manner incumbent on you, my honored Fathers; since Divine Providence has placed you at the Head of a Government originally settled on a Religious Design, and by an excellent Set of men who thought themselves obliged to bear Testimony against Human Institutions in Religion, and Impositions on the Consciences of men; and who freely left all the Delights of their native Country, and retired into this then howling wilderness, that they might, without Offense or Disturbance to others, enjoy the inestimable Privilege of worshiping God agreeable to the Directions of his Word, without any Additions or Impositions of men; and that they might leave this Privilege as an invaluable Inheritance to their Posterity after them.

The Churches planted by these noble Confessors and sufferers for the Cause of pure Religion and Ecclesiastical Liberty, think themselves to have some Title to the peculiar Protection and Favour of their Civil Rulers. And I hope they will never abuse it by desiring anything inconsistent with an extensive Toleration of such as conscientiously and peaceably dissent from them: I hope a Spirit of Ambition, Tyranny and Domination, so unbecoming the Disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus, will never possess these Churches or their Ministers: I trust they will always be far from asking you to pass Acts of Uniformity, to oblige all men by Civil Penalties to conform or submit to them; or from desiring you to inflict temporal Punishments on such as they censure for Faults that are merely Ecclesiastical in their Nature, and do not affect the Peace and Happiness of Civil Society. And while they act thus, I make no doubt of your approving Yourselves nursing Fathers to them, by protecting them in all the Rights and Privileges which belong to them as the Establishment of this Colony, by countenancing and encouraging their Ministry, and affording them such Assistance as they may at any Time need in raising a proper Support, and decent Maintenance for them.

Could I think, my honored Fathers, you needed a strong Motive to excite you to the Discharge of these Duties of your exalted Station, I need not depart from my Text to find such an one. If the Foundation be destroyed, what can the Righteous do? God the Sovereign Ruler and Judge of Magistrates and People, is Himself a most righteous Being, and He loves his own Image in his Creatures; His Countenance beholdeth the upright. Now these Persons who are so dear to God, are the very men that will immediately suffer by the Destruction of the Foundations, or by your acting contrary to, or neglecting to promote the great Intentions of Government. 

Were it only the pernicious Part of Mankind, those voracious Persons that, like Beasts of Prey, support themselves by devouring other men, and so may justly be esteemed Enemies to their own Species, that suffered by the Foundation’s being destroyed; or indeed were it only the useless and insignificant Members of Society, that were brought into Difficulties thereby, Negligence in Magistrates would be in some Degree excusable: 

But since it is the Righteous, the man that is more excellent than his Neighbour [Proverbs 12:26], that is the chief Sufferer; since the Difficulty in this Case, falls upon the most useful and valuable Part of the Human Species; since those will be most injured for whom God has the greatest Love, and whose Cause He will sooner or later appear to plead and avenge, it is a matter of vast Importance that you exert the Authority with which you are clothed, in constant Endeavors to promote the great and original Design of Civil Government. In this Way you will approve your selves the Foundations of Peace, Security and Happiness to the People of this Community; and be the dignified and happy Instruments of accomplishing the Purposes of Divine Wisdom and Benevolence towards them: Thus shall you resemble the Sovereign Ruler of the World, while Righteousness clothes you, and Judgment is as a Robe and a Diadem to you. This is the Way to have the Time of your Administration over us, shine in future Annals as the Reign of King Solomon does in the Prophetic Psalm, He shall judge the poor of the People, he shall save the Children of the needy, and shall break in Pieces the Oppressor. In his Days shall the Righteous flourish, and there shall be abundance of Peace [Psalm 72:4-7] And finally, thus your Memories shall be honored, and your Names shall be mentioned with Praise in future Generations, on the account of the many worthy Deeds done by you for the People of this Colony, (perhaps even for some that were not in the Time of them accepted with becoming Thankfulness; while you yourselves shall with ineffable Delight, cast your Crowns at the Foot of Him that sitteth on the Throne, and ascribe to the rich and sovereign Grace of God the entire and undivided Glory of all the great and good Things done by you as well as for you. 

Section VI

This Discourse is to be addressed to the Ministers of the Gospel. My Reverend Fathers and Brethren, the Subject I have now been discoursing of suggests many Things worthy of your serious Consideration, more indeed than the Time will allow me distinctly to mention. Suffer me however briefly to apply some of them to you, as well as to myself.

The great Design of that sacred Office we sustain, is to promote the Glory of God, by advancing the Intentions of redeeming Wisdom and Grace in the eternal Salvation of men. It is of infinite Consequence that we keep this in our View, and that our Conduct in Public and Private, be directed and influenced by a steady and constant Regard to it. The Foundations we are principally concerned with, are those of Repentance from dead Works, and of Faith towards God. That these may be laid deep and firm in the Hearts of men, and so as to bear the Superstructure of a holy and religious Life, we must endeavor to awaken careless and stupid Sinners, who are sleeping on the Brink of eternal Ruin, and to warn them to flee from the wrath to come; and we must direct the weary and heavy laden Sinner to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and but by whom no man cometh unto the Father. 

Having led our Hearers to Christ both for Righteousness to justify their Persons, and for Grace to renew and sanctify their Natures, and to furnish their Souls with the Principles of Evangelical and acceptable Obedience; we are on this Foundation to build all the Virtues and Duties of the Christian Life. We must explain all the Duties of the Moral Law, in that Latitude and Extent wherein they are inculcated in the Gospel; and we must enforce the Observation of them by setting those exalted and powerful Obligations to Holiness and practical Religion which are peculiarly Evangelical, in the strongest and most affecting Light we are capable of.

‘Tis no small or inconsiderable Part of our Work to explain and inforce Relative Duties, or the Virtues which are peculiarly necessary and conducive to Social Happiness. Religion never appears in a more amiable Light than when it disposes men to a ready and cheerful Performance of relative and social Duties. When they that before were stubborn and disobedient to their Superiors in Civil, Sacred, or Domestic Relations, and continually ready to join with the turbulent and factious, in fomenting Uneasiness and promoting Contentions, become submissive and obedient, ready to pay all proper Regards to those who are set over them, and studious to promote the same Temper in all they converse with; when they that once were proud, haughty and insolent to their Inferiors, become humble, affable and gentle; when such as formerly were cruel, malicious, revengeful and implacable, become kind, meek, charitable and forgiving; when, I say, such a Change as this appears in a man’s Temper and Conduct, upon his professing himself a Christian, ’tis hardly possible for an Infidel to doubt the Divine Original of the Gospel. 

But when nothing like this appears on Men’s making the highest Profession of Religion, and even boasting of their Experiences of a work of Grace on their own Souls; and especially when the visible Change is the very Reverse of this, what can be expected but that the sacred Name of God should be blasphemed, and the Minds of many filled with unconquerable Prejudices against all serious Religion? And when a righteous GOD maketh Inquisition for Blood, He will remember and take vengeance of Persons of this Character, for in their Skirts will be found Blood, even the Blood of Religion itself.

‘Tis our Duty, my Fathers and Brethren, to engage our Hearers to adorn the Doctrine of God their Savior by the Discharge of Social Duties, and in a particular Manner of those they owe to their Civil Rulers, the Discharge of which is, as we have heard, so very necessary to render Government a solid and durable Foundation of Public Peace and Happiness. The inspired Apostles thought this a matter of so great Importance that they frequently mention it, and insist upon it in their Epistles: Nor did they think it enough [to] insert it in their Epistles to the Churches, they left it in Charge to Ministers to preach upon these Duties. Put them in mind (says St. Paul to Titus) to be subject to Principalities and Powers, to obey Magistrates, to be ready to every good work; to speak Evil of no man, to be no Brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness to all men [Titus 3:1-2]. By observing these and such like Apostolic Directions we shall contribute in our Station, to strengthen the Foundations of public Peace, and to promote the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind.

Our Lord and Master, whose we are and whom it ought to be our highest Ambition to imitate and serve, discovered the greatest Love to Mankind that the World ever heard of; such Love as is the object of the Admiration and Astonishment of the Angelic World, and the delightful Subject of those Praises which are sung in Seraphic Strains in the Temple above. This led Him to pity and relieve them under the Miseries of the present Life, as well as to provide for their future and eternal Happiness. The Prophet elegantly describes Him as bearing our Griefs, and carrying away our Sorrows [Isaiah 53:4] and tho’ this ultimately refers to his Sufferings for our Salvation, yet the Evangelist speaks of this Prophecy as being in some sense fulfilled when Jesus cast out evil Spirits, and healed all that were Sick [Matthew 8:16-17]. In Proportion as we have the Spirit and Temper of Christ, we shall be influenced by a tender Concern, both for the temporal and eternal Welfare of Men. And we take the direct Method to promote both, when we sincerely endeavor to bring our Hearers to practice Social Virtues from truly Christian Principles; teaching them to render to all their Dues; Tribute to whom Tribute is due; Custom to whom Custom; Fear to whom Fear; Honour to whom Honour; to Owe no man anything, but to Love one another [Romans 13:7-8]. 

Section VII

But it is more than Time that I should, in the last Place, apply what has been said in an Address to this numerous Assembly. And this I must do in a few Words.

You see, my Brethren, what abundant Reason we have to be thankful to God for the Appointment of Civil Government, and for casting our Lot under so equitable a Constitution and so righteous and mild an Administration; that we enjoy such distinguishing Privileges, and that the Foundations of our public Peace and Happiness do as yet stand so firm and secure. It becomes us at all times to maintain and express a thankful Sense of these distinguishing Favors of Heaven, and especially should we do so, when as at this Day, we are favored with the Return of an Anniversary Election. It is a Time of Joy with us, and it becomes us to rejoice in the Lord, and triumph in the God of our Salvation. Thankfulness to God for these Favors, if it be sincere, will produce in us great Carefulness that we do not by any means abuse and forfeit our Privileges; and it will prevent those Uneasinesses, Discontents and Divisions, which, if indulged, may justly provoke a holy God to deprive us of them, and to turn this, which has for so long a Time been a Day of Gladness and Rejoicing, into a Day of Lamentation and Mourning.

Though Government is designed and suited to secure Public Happiness, and though Magistrates wisely and faithfully endeavor to promote the great design of their Office, and continually attend to this very Thing; yet it will be in the Power of the People to defeat the Design, and render themselves and their Posterity miserable after all. They take the direct way to Ruin, when they indulge groundless Jealousies of their Rulers, and spread idle Reports to the Disadvantage of their Characters, when they join with the Discontented and Uneasy, and by their Clamors, Animosities and Divisions dishearten their Rulers, weaken the Administration of Government, and render it less capable of producing its salutary Effects. People contribute to their own Misery when they indulge themselves in Idleness, Extravagance, Intemperance and the like vicious Practices, which as we have seen tend to destroy the public Peace and Happiness of Human Society.

I must add, that People really help to destroy the Foundations of their own Happiness, when from a restless and uneasy Spirit, they are continually and without any just Reason endeavoring a Change of the principal Persons in the Administration of Government. I know the Freemen of this Colony have the Right of choosing their own Rulers annually, and I acknowledge it is a great Privilege, such an one as if wisely improved, will greatly conduce to the perpetuating our Prosperity and Happiness. But then it must be granted, on the other Hand, that it is capable of being abused to the great Detriment of Public Happiness. If the Freemen of this Colony should ever admit it as a Principle, or make it the Rule in giving their Votes, that a Magistrate of known Ability and approved Faithfulness is to be laid aside, merely because he cannot be brought to consent to such Measures as he esteems prejudicial to his Country, though they happen to be popular, what is this but in Effect saying that neither Wisdom nor Fidelity are of any use in a Magistrate? For he that has neither of them, can Vote according to the Humour or Prejudices of the People, and in many Cases is more likely to do so than he that has them both. And surely a Principle which would render the most necessary Qualifications in a Magistrate useless, must tend to destroy the Foundations of public Happiness, and therefore ought not to be admitted, or acted upon.

To conclude, Let us all endeavor, in our several Stations, faithfully to Discharge the Duties incumbent on us, and wisely to improve the advantages put into our Hands for promoting the Glory of Divine goodness both in the temporal and eternal Happiness of men. To quicken us to the greater Activity and Diligence in serving our Generation according to the will of God, let us consider that all our abilities and opportunities for usefulness are Talents committed to our Trust by our Great Lord, and Master, and that the Improvement of them must at last be accounted for to Him. Let us call to mind that neither the highest pitch of Grandeur and Authority nor the lowest State of Meanness and Obscurity will exempt any Person from being called to a strict Account. 

Let us think beforehand of the great and awful Day, when the dead both small and great shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and remember that we who this Day appear before God in his House, as men of such different Orders and Degrees as are suited to the present State of Things, shall probably never meet again in one Assembly, till that important and decisive Day when all these Distinctions shall vanish, and we shall all stand upon a Level at the Bar of a righteous Judge that every one may receive the Things done in his Body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

And now, the Lord grant unto us all that we may find mercy of the Lord in that Day. Amen.

The End.

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Noah Hobart

One thought on “Civil Government The Foundation of Social Happiness

  1. Thank you for editing and publishing. Second to last paragraph is excellent:

    “To conclude, Let us all endeavor, in our several Stations, faithfully to Discharge the Duties incumbent on us, and wisely to improve the advantages put into our Hands for promoting the Glory of Divine goodness both in the temporal and eternal Happiness of men. To quicken us to the greater Activity and Diligence in serving our Generation according to the will of God, let us consider that all our abilities and opportunities for usefulness are Talents committed to our Trust by our Great Lord, and Master, and that the Improvement of them must at last be accounted for to Him. Let us call to mind that neither the highest pitch of Grandeur and Authority nor the lowest State of Meanness and Obscurity will exempt any Person from being called to a strict Account.”

    Looking forward to the next installment of Resources.

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