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ARTICLE VII.—THE LESSONS OF OUR NATIONAL
It is, perhaps, the most remarkable characteristic of our present national adversity that it has overtaken us unawares. The public mind did not anticipate it and was not prepared for it. We have enjoyed unexampled national prosperity, and we were taking it for granted that we should enjoy it forever. Wars, commotions, and revolutions, we thought were for other and less favored lands, but for us an uninterrupted future of peaceful growth. These were but the delusive daydreams of our national childhood, like all the pleasing delusions of childhood to be rudely dissolved by the stern, sad realities of experience. That national infancy in which we had only to grow and enjoy our pleasing anticipations of a cloudless future is past. We are now called to learn the lessons of adversity: we must now find strength for an hour of conflict ; fortitude to endure and hope to sustain and cheer us in darkness and gloom. It is fit that we remember that all the nations that have ever achieved anything worthy of the grateful remembrance of mankind, have passed through their seasons of national adversity, and that the lessons of those seasons have been even more important to their development, their education, and their greatness, than those derived from seasons of prosperity. It is in adversity, in conflict, in the times of national trial and calamity, that a nation's fallowground is broken up, and the seeds of future greatness are sown and rooted in the soil. Its times of prosperity are only harvest seasons, which would yield nothing worthy of the reaper's sickle without previous “ sowing in tears." What would Greece have been without her Persian wars, her Marathon,
* The substance of this Article was delivered as an Address to the Alumni of Yale College, at their Annual Meeting, July 24th, 1861, by Rev. President J. M. Sturtevant, of Illinois College.
Thermopylae, and Plataea? What would England have been without her wars of the Roses, and the troubles and terrible conflicts of her great Revolution ? Without these the English nation, English character, English freedom could never have been. While they lasted, how deep the gloom in which they shrouded the nation! It was with our fathers in those struggles as it is with us to-day. Peace and prosperity seemed to them a bright and sunny dream of the past; and as they peered into the thick mists which overhung them, they could no where discern any sure promise of their restoration to an afflicted nation. And yet how bright, how glorious a future was before them! How full of freedom and happiness to their children and their children's children, and of blessings untold to the human race!
It becomes us, then, to take courage and hope. We are not the first nation that has seen an hour of darkness and gloom. We have no reason to suppose or to hope that we, more than other nations, can fulfill a great destiny without passing, like them, through a baptism of suffering. And if a great destiny is before us, as we have fondly hoped, we ought to expect to be prepared to enter on that promised land, by passing through the Red Sea, the wilderness, and the Jordan. It ill becomes us, then, as soon as the shadow of a great calamity begins to fall upon us, to lose our courage and abandon our hope. This is an hour rather in which we need all our manhood—a hand to do with unfaltering energy all its duties, and an eye to discern all its lessons.
It is therefore, at this time, incumbent on every American citizen, cooly and religiously to survey the passing scene, that he may
learn all those lessons which the Providence of God is so forcibly teaching, and gather up those suggestions of encouragement, warning and wisdom, which may give us strength for the present and manly preparation for the future.
There are four vices which have been rapidly growing upon our American character, which our present adversity is obviously fitted, and we hope intended by a merciful Providence, to correct and eradicate. They are a morbid philanthropy; an ostentatious and costly self-indulgence; a great lack of the
spirit of loyal admiration and reverence for a strong and energetic government; and a disposition in our notions of national policy to substitute the will of majorities, instead of justice and the will of God. Either of these vices would be a source of great weakness and deformity to any nation; and, all together, if allowed to grow unchecked and uncorrected, they could not fail to produce national disaster, debasement, degradation, and ruin. We propose, then, in this Article, to call attention to the relation of our present national adversity to each of them.
1. Much of our philanthropy is sickly, and the experiences through which we are passing will render it again vigorous and robust.
We have a notion widely prevalent, and arrogating to itself the claim that it is the only true development of the teachings of the law of God, that even defensive war is criminal, condemned by the morality of the New Testament; that a Christian people has no defense against the exactions and oppressions of men of violence and blood, but argument and persuasion. We have a popular text-book on moral philosophy from the pen of one of the most venerated divines and distinguished educators of our country, which teaches and defends this doctrine. A distinguished philanthropist of our country, known in this and foreign lands, alike for the extent and variety of his linguistic lore, and the fervor of his philanthropy, has proposed to put an end to war in Christendom, by obtaining from every man a solemn pledge never to bear arms, just as it is proposed to banish the vice of drunkenness from human society by obtaining from every individual a pledge never to drink any thing which has an intoxicating quality. Such a pledge of universal brotherhood has been signed by thousands of women, and some men. Many of us have been invited to sign it; perhaps some of us have signed it. If we have not, we hardly think it probable we shall do so, just at the present tiine.
Many persons carry the same notion with them to the reading of the Bible. Many a tender-hearted enthusiast is quite shocked at the Psalms of David, and cannot understand how a good man can have been so vindictive. There are not a few
of our reformers who are hurried into the conclusion, that the Old Testament cannot have been inspired of God because of its warlike spirit. They judge of the utterances of those glorious old warriors and prophets of the Lord in the light of the modern doctrines of non-resistance, and condemn them as vindictive and revengeful in spirit.
This same notion is extended not only to war, but to the punishment of crime. Paul, in his good old robust view of things, spoke of the civil magistrate as "he that beareth the sword.” But these modern interpreters of the morality of Paul's adored Master, would take away the sword from the magistrate, and represent the taking of human life as exceeding the powers which governments are competent to confer on their agents. They do not seem to perceive that such a denial underinines government itself, that it is a denial of its right to be; for no government can sustain its own existence for a twelve month, when deprived of the power of life and death over its subjects. This morbid sympathy for the wicked is undermining the foundations of society itself; it is affecting disasterously the decisions of judges and the verdicts of jurors ; it is disqualifying the minds of millions to receive those doctrines of retributive justice, which lie at the foundation of all government, human and divine, of all social virtue, and of that very Christian religion, from which men profess to derive a morality from which the idea of retribution and penalty is excluded.
It is not to be denied, that such green-sickness as this is becoming quite seriously prevalent among the American people. It is the result of living too long and too much in the cool shade of prosperity, and will require no other treatment than exposure for a time to the hot sunshine of national adversity. From such a change of regimen we expect robust, vigorous health to ensue, except in a few cases, in which the constitution has been already fatally impaired.
It is difficult to conceive of circumstances better fitted than our present to affect a cure of such a morbid condition of the national mind. What will these amiable philanthropists have us do in our present national trial? What for our dear country? VOL. XIX.
What for social order, for freedom, for justice, for humanity, for mercy? What can we do but defend all which is precious in the cherished free institutions of our country by force of arms? In times like these it is easy to relearn a lesson, which has been taught again and again in the history of our mother England and her colonial offshoots, that no people can long enjoy freedom, unless they are willing to defend it with their blood. The whole history of liberty in the world teaches the same lesson. To refuse to bear arms in defense of a free and just government, to neglect to exert force for the defence of the innocent, the restraint of the disorderly, and the condign punishment of crime, is for society to abdicate its highest function, and give over this world to the rule of anarchists and despots.
We have not forgotten the blessed prophecies of the divine Word. There is to be a long reign of peace on earth. But it is not to be ushered in by leaving crime unpunished, and unoffending virtue unprotected, and giving up this present world to men of violence and blood, to tyrannize over it to their heart's content; but by effecting such changes in the social, political and moral condition of the world, through the dissemination of freedom, instruction, and a pure Christian faith, as shall render a long reign of peace and justice possible. In the present state of the world it is not possible. Nor are we to expect those peaceful ages to be ushered in, till such a morbid philanthropy, as we have been remarking on, has been effectually exploded; till men shall have so learned in the school of hard and bloody national experience the relations of retributive justice and penalty to all order, to all freedom, and to all government, that they can enjoy long peace and freedom without reproaching as blood-thirsty cut-throats, those ancestors by whose bravery and prowess on the field of battle these blessings were purchased. God will never usher in that golden age of the future, till he has prepared mankind to honor and revere the men by whose labors and sacrifices it shall have been achieved; till men shall be wise and strong enough, while in the full enjoyment of its holy tranquility, to read the Old Testament, the narratives of its glorious old heroes, the denunciations of its prophets, and the songs of its royal Psalmist,