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« art thou cut down to the ground, that didst weaken “ the nations? That made the world as a wilderness, “ destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the “ house of the prisoners? All kings of the nations,
[meaning just and merciful kings] even all of “ them, lie in glory, every one in his own house
(or sepulchre); but thou art cast out of thy grave, “ like an abominable branch;—thou shalt not be
joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people*.”
But although the reward of heroes, in the Chris. tian's heaven, be our proper theme on this solemn day; yet the passing view which we have taken of the perdition decrced to the traitors of their country, in the Poet's bell, confirmed also by the voice of scripture, is not foreign to our main purpose.
I know your bosoms glow with so strong an aversion to all the foes of liberty in this life, that you will surely avoid every thought and action, which might doom you to their company in the life to come; and therefore, bidding adieu--and may it be an eternal adieu-to those dreary regions and their miserable inhabitants, let us now exalt our joyous view to those celestial mansions, where the benefactors of mankind reap immortal triumphs!
“ Lo! the blest train advance along the meads, “ And snowy wreaths adorn their glorious heads “ Patriots who perish'd for their country's right, “ Or nobly triumph'd in the field of fightu Worthies who life by useful arts refin'd, 6 With those who leave a deathless name behind, * Friends of the world, and patrons of mankind," &c.
• Isaiah, xiv.
But here, ye Pagan poets, and thou prince of their choir, we leave you far behind; for your sublimest flights are now infinitely short of the theme ! Your gloomy theology gave you tolerable aid in forming a bell, but the utmost efforts of natural genius could not make a beaven, worthy of a rational and immortal soul! The glory of giving some animating description of that bliss “ which eye hath not seen, nor ear “ before heard, nor could the unenlightened heart of
man otherwise conceive,” was left for a more divine teacher. From him we learn, that a heart pure and detached from sordid pleasures, a' soul panting after perfection, striving to imitate the goodness of heaven, anticipating its approving sentence, and devoted to the service of mankind, shall at last rise and mix in eternal fellowship with the beatified family of God* !
* A poet now, as may appear from the following lines of Tbomson, can give us descriptions of elysian bliss, far superior to those of Virgil; "whose “ ideas on this subject (as Mr. SPENCE observes) although preferable to “ those of Homer and all the other ancient poets, are still so very low, that “they seem little more than borrowed from holiday-sports on the banks of “ Tiber"
“ In those bright regions of celestial day,
Having now, my respected countrymen—and I hope I do not weary you—laid a wide foundation upon the practice of the wisest nations in support of the present solemnity; I shall add but little more concerning the public utility of the thing itself.
Circumstanced as we now are, and perhaps shall long be, in building up a fabric for future ages, it would be a wise institution, if, in imitation of the Genoese feast of union, we should make at least an annual pause, for a review of past incidents, and of the characters of those who have borne an illustrious share in them; thereby animating our virtue, and uniting ourselves more closely in the bonds of mutual friendship.
The world, in general, is more willing to imitate, than to be taught; and examples of eminent characters have a stronger influence than written precepts. Men's actions are a more faithful mirror of their lives than their words. The former seldom deceive; but the latter often. The Deeds of Old, contract a venerable authority over us, when sanctified by the voice of applauding ages; and, even in our own day, our hearts take an immediate part with those who have nobly triumphed, or greatly suffered, in our behalf.
But the more useful the display of such characters may be to the world, the more difficult is the work. And I am not to learn, that of all kinds of writing, panegyric requires the most delicate hand. Men seldom endure the praise of any actions, but those which their self-love represents as possible to themselves. Whatever is held up as an example, if placed beyond the common reach of humanity, duly exalted by public spirit, will excite no emulation; and whatever is placed within the vulgar walks of life, will attract no attention.
There is a further difficulty, peculiar to certain times; particularly those of civil dissension, when the tempers of men are worked into ferment. Whence it happens, that they who have been the subjects of obloquy in one age, or in one state of party, have become the theme of praise in another. Such was Hampden-in the days of passive obedience, branded as a seditious disturber of his country's peace; and, at the blessed æra of the revolution, exalted into the first rank of patriots. Such was Sidney—condemned to a scaffold in the former period; and, in the latter, immortalized by the delegated voice of the nation!
What judgment posterity will form of the pre. .sent mighty contest, in which these United Colonies are engaged, I am at no loss to determine in my own mind. But, while the same actions are, by one part of a great empire, pronounced the most criminal resistance, and by another, the most laudable efforts of self-preservation; no public character can be drawn alike acceptable to all. Nevertheless, as the faithful historian is the best panegyrist of true merit, he will not fashion himself to times and seasons, but exalt himself above them; and, conscious of his dignity, as responsible to succeeding ages, will take eternal truth as his support, which can alone bear the impartial test of future examination. He knows that the divine colours of virtue, although they may give a
temporary glare, will not blend or mellow into a ground-work of vice.
Whatever events, disastrous or happy, may lie before us; yet some degree of applause, even from an enemy, is certainly due to those illustrious men; who, led by conscience and a clear persuasion of duty, sacrifice their ease, their lives and fortunes to the public; and, from their friends and country, they are entitled to a deathless renown.
Perish that narrow pride, which will suffer men to acknowledge no virtue, but among their own party. In this direful contest, the chief concern of a liberal mind, will be, that so much personal virtue as may be found on both sides, instead of being united in some great national object for the common good, should be dreadfully employed to the purpose of mutual destruction. And a man can as soon divest himself of his humanity, as refuse the tribute of veneration due to actions truly magnanimous.
When once it becomes criminal to plead the cause of a suffering people; when their virtues can no longer be safely recorded—then tyranny has put the last hand to its barbarous work. All the valuable purposes of society are frustrated; and whatever other human fate remains will be wholly indifferent to the wise and good.
There are also many whose minds are so little, that they can conceive nothing great, which does not court the eye in all the trappings of dress, titles, and external splendor. An American-Patriot! a BlanketHero! a General from the plough! all these are terms of ridicule and reproach among many. Yet such