Page images

Here let it be observed, is a public testimony, a declaration to the world, of the sincerity of our faith. While we call upon these walls to rise, which will ere long dilapidate and disappear, we look to that "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Our hopes are not built upon a temple of human structure, but upon the immutable promises of God. It is therefore, on this spot, as from Pisgah's top, we shall meet to view the land of promise, and to contemplate the glory of that celestial city, "whose maker and builder is God."

But it is said by some that we have departed from the platform upon which our fathers built-that we have deserted the religion of our ancestors. It is true, my friends, that we have dissented from, and forever abjured their partial creeds and systems. But is this a crime? Because our fathers have eaten sour grapes, shall their children's teeth be set on edge? Ye descendants of the pilgrim band, to you we appeal. When your Fathers fled from the rage of transatlantic bigots, and committing their lives and their all to the friendship of Heaven, preferred a trackless ocean, tossed with conflicting waves, to their own native firesides. When after having encountered the perils of the sea for months, they arrived in yonder Bay, exposed to the bleak winds of December and the wintry storms-when slowly bounding over the billows, they approached and placed their exiled feet on yonder Rock, and amidst the roaring of furious waters and the whistling of the tempest, breathed forth their devout aspirations in thanksgivings to indulgent Heaven, under whose guidance and protection they had been conducted to this wilderness world.—What were they? They were dissenters, flying from the rage of bigots, whose holy cry from that day to this has been, orthodoxy and the church, and whose mad zeal has led them to condemn and persecute all who have dared to think differently from themselves.

We repeat it again; that our fathers were dissenters. They preferred the simplicity of the gospel, to the impure worship of the established church; the pious and devout emotions of the heart, and the simple and mild influences of the spirit, to a round of dull formalities, and unprofitable ceremonies. They departed from the worship of their fathers; and we, their descendants, have departed from them.

But we ask, was this innocent dissent, a crime? Who is there but applauds their magnanimous spirit, and heroic virtues. But if dissent be a crime, then instead of making our boast as the offspring of a virtuous and pious band of patriotic Pilgrims, let us honestly confess ourselves the progeny of a company of criminals, who fled from their native country to escape the demands of justice. But where is the son of a Pilgrim, who would not repel with indignity, any attempt to brand the characters and the virtues of these christian dissenters!

All who love religious freedom praise their virtues and applaud their resolution. They call them a glorious and holy company; men who dared to vindicate the rights of conscience, and to follow the dictates of their reason. They admire their candor in avowing their sentiments, and that magnanimity of spirit which they evinced, in dissenting from the prevailing errors and corruptions of the church, and pride themselves in being the descendants of men, whose noble souls dared to be religiously free! If, then, it were virtuous and praiseworthy in our fathers thus to act, shall it be called dishonorable and degrading in us their children, to follow their examples ?

While we glory in their virtues, and reverence their characters, and spread over their foibles the increasing mantle of charity-while we justify them in asserting and maintaining their religious opinions, we claim for ourselves the right to follow their example; and we

claim no more than they have granted. If we have left their partial platform, and embraced more enlarged and honorable views of the character of God, and the kingdom of his Son-if we have seen, and acknowledge, and teach the final complete salvation of all men, while they saw and taught a partial salvation, then our only crime is, in seeing more than they saw, and in believing farther than they believed. And who censures us for this? Is it the fathers? No, my friends, they are their descendants, who have never seen what their fathers saw in vision.

Listen now, my friends, to the sentiments, contained in the charge of the pious Robinson to his flock, on the eve of their embarkation for America. "Brethren," says this holy man, "we are now quickly to part from one another and whether I may live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of heaven only knows: but whether the Lord have appointed that or no, I charge you before God and his blessed angels, follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ." A more noble and worthy valediction never fell from the lips of a mortal man. He spake the sentiments of his devout heart, and this charge of his should be indelibly impressed upon every mind-"Follow me no further than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ." Incomparable man! He sought the virtue and happiness of his flock, rather than their applause! "He loved the praise of God more than the praise of men." To follow Christ is to imbibe his doctrine, and imitate his examples-to follow him in theory and in practice. Hence this servant of Christ, sensible, as we shall presently see, that greater light than he had been able, clearly, to discover, should at some future period dawn upon the world, exhorts his followers to be ready to receive it; to be ready, to advance from the feebler light of the morn, into the noon-tide splendor of the sun

of righteousness. "If," he continues, "God reveal any thing by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it, as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am persuaded, I am very confident, that the Lord has more truth yet to break out of his holy word." When he spake these words, he believed it a truth, that a part of the human creation would be redeemed through the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection. But he was confident that the Lord had more truth to be revealed. We have seen the fulfilment of this prediction. Columbus argued that there must be a western to balance the eastern continent. He was not able to stretch his optic across the wide Atlantic, and survey this immense continent, tho it absolutely existed as much before, as after its discovery. Robinson had not seen clearly the important truth which he was persuaded was in reserve, and which should be revealed. His local situation in a moral sense was like that of Columbus in a natural-a wide ocean interposed to keep the one in suspense, and the dark curtains of tradition and the clouds of error the other. Robinson saw the first mild rays of the sun of righteousness, and in this light recognized the salvation. of half the world. But he was persuaded that his meridian splendor would illuminate the whole world, and that all flesh should yet see the salvation of God. In no light but this, could the language of the prophet be interpreted-"He shall be a light to the Gentiles," &c. The truth which he saw in vision, and of which he spake, has poured its enlivening rays upon us. We followed him upon his partial platform until we saw its unbounded blaze. But when our enraptured souls beheld more truth breaking out of God's holy word, we received it gladly-exclaiming, we have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write; and we have seen that which the venerable Robinson foretold and enjoined us to receive!

If departed spirits are acquainted with the concerns of this world, (a speculation which some indulge,) how must the spirit of this saint, in realms of glory, rejoice in the scenes of this day! What seraphic joy must he feel, looking as it were, through the crystalline floor of heaven, to behold on this spot of earth, upon which his followers have trod, the rising walls of a temple erecting to commemorate and display the glory of that truth, which he was confident would yet break forth! If there be "joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth," is it not reasonable to suppose, there is joy over many who have been brought from darkness to light?

The clouds of error, and the mists of superstition, which have for ages darkened the pathway of the understanding, are fast receding from the mental horizon, and truth, like a mighty conqueror, will ere long consign these tyrants of the human mind, to the everlasting shades of oblivion! Truly, more truth has poured upon us its celestial light. The venerable Robinson and our fathers knew only that Christ died for the elect, and testified that this favored portion would be saved. Behold! we have discovered, that "he tasted death for every man. We have seen and do testify, that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” Abraham saw this day, and was glad. God hath spoken this truth by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began, and confirmed it everlastingly by his Son ; "Heaven and earth may pass away, but his words shall not pass away." Yes, the structure which shall rise upon these walls, shall crumble beneath time's wasting hand, and these bodies of ours shall be dissolved and again commingle with their native elements-but this word of "our God abideth forever!"

You have discovered, my friends, that if we have dissented from our ancestors, it has been from conviction and necessity. We trust we have received more light

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »