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which may grow out, at once, from unprecedented abundance of means and unprecedented freedom of action, to choke and blight all private virtue and all public prosperity.
What is to help us in this perilous conflict? Not arms nor armies, not guns nor battlements, but intelligence, sobriety, modesty, moderation, and obedience. And I say now, moderation and obedience.
Moderation, I mean, in our political and social controversies. Men do not truly see and fairly judge their opponents. Radicalism and Conservatism do not; for these are the reigning elements in all popular questions, - Democrat and Federalist, Whig and Tory, Republican and Monarchist, Antislavery and Proslavery, stand precisely upon those grounds. The former stand upon natural right; the latter, upon vested right or established usage. I do not deny that the opposition is serious and important; but I say that it need not be prejudiced, passionate, and abusive. When it is so, then follows unhealthy agitation, electioneering intrigue, bribery and corruption, mutual hate, or bloody war.
Radicalism and Conservatism, pushed to bloody arbitrament, this was the awful war that we have just gone through: with regard to political principles, Radicalism at the South, and Conservatism at the North; with regard to slavery, Conservatism at the South, and Radicalism at the North. This was at the bottom of the horrible war of the French Revolution. This may bring on wars of opinion, scarcely less horrible, in England, and all over Europe. Is civilization to find out no better way to discuss and settle such questions, than by violence and blood?
Let it not disturb any of my hearers, that I bring these unusual terms into the pulpit. They must be heard - they or their equivalents in the pulpit. We cannot stand upon pulpit etiquette when such vital matters are at stake; and there are no words more vital to human welfare and duty than these words, "Radical" and "Conservative;" written often in mutual hate and scorn, steeped in the sweat and tears and blood of men, pronounced over desolate homes and desolated countries. Behold all the accumulated woes and
horrors of a French revolution or of an American rebellion ! No tongue can tell what they have been. And, when it is asked what it all means, the answer is, The fight of opinions,yes, of radical and conservative opinions, hath done this! The question between Radicalism and Conservatism is a wedge that is to be driven deeper into the solid mass of human interests, both in the present and the coming time, than any other that I know. This nation is now entering upon debates to adjust the claims between natural justice to the African man, and the laws affecting his civic and social position; between the functions of the States, and of the General Government; between the just punishment of treason, and the conservative wisdom that will not let it go too far. Is it not possible to bring something of moderation into these debates, to avoid opprobrious and scurrilous personalities, to avoid appeals to passion and violence?
Is civilization, I repeat, never to find out any better way? Cannot something of thoughtful sobriety moderate our old party animosities? If both sides, in all such questions, have claims to be considered; if both sides do actually exist, and patiently reason together in the same man, and must, if he be a wise man, why may they not in different minds? Why may they not in different countries, in different sects, in different systems of education or social science? Why not, in the nat ural controversy between Europe and America; between Monarchy and Republic; between Churchman and Dissenter; between Romanist and Protestant; between the right wing and the left wing, in every debate? I welcome, if I am not a prejudiced and unreasonable person, I welcome a fair and friendly antagonist. I welcome an honest and candid reasoner, who takes side against me, in an argument. I can meet with no man that can do me so much good. I desire truly to make up the issue with him, and thoroughly to try it. Counsel do so with counsel, in a case at law. Why may not nations, communities, sects, and political parties do so?
One word more I must say, and that is upon obedience,— the great conservative principle that lies at the foundation of States. In inquiring and determining what shall be obeyed,
let the radical principle have place and free play; let there be full and free investigation into the grounds and reasons of all political institutions. But when they are established, unless they are consolidated into an intolerable despotism; when a people has framed the best institutions that it can, then let there be a devoted obedience to the Law, to the Constitution, to the Government. Especially in a Republic like ours, it is a matter of the most pressing necessity, that every man determine honestly to serve the State, in every function of citizenship, as elector, juror, sheriff, magistrate, judge, and governor, yes, and soldier.
I know that saying all this may seem to be to very little purpose; that it may seem like throwing a dart into the air. But I will throw that dart. I think we should all begin to do this work, each one in his own sphere, however small; that all thoughtful men, and especially all public men, should begin, from this time forth, to speak and reiterate words of wholesome counsel and warning, upon the duties and dangers that press upon us; and, above all, that all preachers should do it. What might not the whole body of clergy in this country do, if, getting rid of the notion that preaching has nothing to do but with doctrine and church-going, or with the religious life in its common rounds, they would press upon the people, from time to time, the specific duties they owe to one another, and to the common weal, in watching, guarding, and building up the great and holy State?
And surely I need not say, that, in the terrible crisis of the last four years, we have most solemn admonition.
In the Southern rebellion, we have witnessed the most awful explosion of disobedient self-will that the world ever saw. This self-will, I think, was nurtured by the slave system. I am certain, that it never could have reared its monstrous head among the intelligent and law-abiding people of the North.
But we have still enough to learn of this great fidelity to the Law and Constitution, this great fidelity to our country. For citizenship in this country, let it be emphatically said, must be a different thing from what it is in any other country. We have a new lesson to learn, a new part to act. It is
not fidelity to the law alone, but fidelity in every way to the common weal, that is required of us. This is the special point, I think, that is to be pressed upon our people. We are living a new civic life. Under despotic forms, the people have little to do with the Government: here, we have every thing to do. There, obedience is compelled; here it must be voluntary and devoted: and it must be obedience to duty, in every function imposed upon us by the State.
And when was any people ever more fearfully taught the lesson? Disobedience has covered the land with all these horrors! Lawless passion, infuriated by resistance to its will, pushed to madness because denied the spread of that hateful system of slavery which had nursed it, has struck at the nation's heart; levied war; launched pirate ships upon the sea; instigated robber raids upon our borders; desolated fair regions with fire and blood; and, with yet more horrible atrocity, starved prisoners to death by tens of thousands; plotted the burning of our Northern cities, or the spread of pestilence in them; and, at length, as the end and consummation of its fell hate, has struck down, with the assassin's blow, the noblest man of us all.
O Lincoln martyred for fidelity to thy country; entombed in a nation's tears: O spirits of our sons and brothers, who have been slain on a hundred battle-fields ! - from your bloody shrouds, from your sleeping dust, let the great adjuration come to this people, to be a united, loyal, and obedient people! In the homes to which a victorious soldiery is returning, many of them, too, shattered in health or maimed for life; and in the homes, alas! to which none shall ever return,- let the solemn resolve sink down, never to treat lightly, never to abuse, never to neglect the heritage so dearly bought.
Gentlemen of the Graduating Class,- If it were proper for me to address any words to you directly, in close, I think the subject of this discourse would furnish me with sufficient occa sion. But the way in which it applies, especially to thinking whose professional business it will be to think and teach, is so obvious, that it can scarcely be necessary to dwell upon it.
Radical, in the sense in which I have defined the word, you must be. There is nothing so fatal in this vocation as to take a stereotyped religion, and mechanically to preach it. It must be the religion of a man's inmost life that he preaches, or he had better preach nothing. There is a spiritual radicalism, if I may so call it, which, as a habit of thought and feeling, is the only defence against our greatest peril, the spirit of routine. I do not like to call that a defence, which is the very life of religion in us. But so I am sure it is, that, if ever the preacher finds reiteration threatening to bring dulness into his religious themes, then he should pause, and settle himself anew upon the very foundations of his deepest life; then, instead of rushing to meetings, or running after liturgies, or betaking himself to books of devotion, or even to prayers first, let him sink into the bosom of his own experience; let him resolve the matters of spiritual concernment, the greatest or the least of them, in the depth of his soul; and from thence will spring prayer and life and power,- eloquence and joy and gladness in his work. And conservative also must you be, if you are to be wise men, or safe and sound teachers of the people; conservative of the original principles of truth in human nature; conservative of the everlasting sanctities of religion and virtue; conservative of the spirit and law and love of Jesus Christ; conservative of all the institutions and usages that support the welfare and prosperity of the Republic and the Church.
To this field of thought and action,- of thought and action so inspired and guarded, — I hid you, young gentlemen, heartily welcome. I welcome you to its studies and to its cares, to its prayer and labor. I welcome you to the brotherhood of Christian teachers, to the communion of the churches, to the sacred and tender relations that await you as preachers and pastors. I welcome you to the fulfillment of the ardent hopes with which you have been studying these many years. May they be more than fulfilled to you! And I trust they will be. One who is about retiring from the work, and who, with whatever short-comings, has found it the most intense and delightful employment of all his faculties, gives you this welcome and greeting, and heartily bids you "God speed."