Our fathers have made one more trial, knowing that past failures were from want of Christian principle, and that they had settled these shores expressly in obedience to Christian principle, and therefore they might hope. In faith and prayer they struggled; for they felt, that with God all things are possible in the cause of righteousness, and they hoped their children would feel this too. From the first, they set out with the idea of making this community that happy people, whose God is the Lord, – a Christian nation, – what the world had never yet seen, but what all its experience concurred in testifying it must seem or it would never see the amount of prosperity man is capable of attaining on earth. A Christian people! Not merely a sober, industrious people, without religion, if such could be expected, but distinctively a Christian people. Bright and glorious idea, far-seeing wisdom, true friends, and see its kingdoms prospering at this time just in proportion as they come near realizing this idea, other elements of their greatness being the same . . . But, if there were not fear of hypocrisy, verily and indeed happy would be that people, with whom God was effectively their Lord through the strict observances of such a rule. Then might we see such a phenomenon as a Christian people.
As it is, let us, – and it seems more incumbent on us than on any nation that lives in the sun’s more expressive, than as a mere geographical term. When we are called a Christian nation, let us allow more the meant, than that we are not savages or barbarians, or only semi-civilized, as all those nations are in which Christianity is unknown. Christian should be more than European or American, as distinguished from Asiatic or African. It should be more than latitude and longitude; more than eastern or western, northern or southern; more than tropics and zones, equator and ecliptic, arctic or Antarctic.
And how can we make a Christian nation? To become so, must be an individual, not a collective act. Legislation cannot do it, if legislation would. Resolves of majorities, in caucus or in Congress, in towns or by states, or even unanimous votes, is not the way to affect it. The simple and sole process is for each person privately to resolve, for his single part, no influence in legislative deliberations, no political name or fame whatever, – nay, the shrinking woman and child, whose deliberations look not beyond the homestead, or who can legislate only over their own hearts, – these can add a stone, as truly as the mightiest statesman or the loudest demagogue, to build up the national temple to the Lord. Public opinion is the life-breath of our own government, and therefore to Christianize that, we have but to Christianize ourselves. O what it is ye may achieve! No such power as this is possessed by the subjects of any government but yours. They cannot regenerate their sovereign. They cannot even pray for his conversion with hope, the assurance, of the prayer being granted if sincere, which may warm your breasts.
And is there a consideration of earth or heaven that is not present and potent to move us to this prayer? Pour it out to God, if righteousness would have but the promise of the life that now is. If a majority of the citizens were sincere followers of Jesus Christ, is it not evident, the councils of this nation would be wiser and mightier, its progress more glorious, its dominion even more potent than any the world has ever seen? The day when it shall be resolved, that the same evangelical principles shall govern states that govern churches and gospel professors in their private relations, would be the true jubilee of freedom. That will be the mind’s and the soul’s declaration of independence. That will be breaking every yoke at length from body, and heart, and spirit. Thenceforth slavery, in any form, would be but a tradition and a name; whereas now it is the commonest of conditions, and to the mass liberty is but a name; for he that serveth any sin is the slave of sin. That day will come, when the people choose.
Choose it, resolve it, O my brethren, as the first of civil duties. Whatever your party predilections, sacrifice them all for the party of righteous men. Support no administration, and oppose none, but on the ground of moral principle. Go with them as far as Jesus Christ would go, and no further. Read the constitution by the light of the Gospel. The Savior be your paramount leader. (Rev. Mellish Irving Motte, Sermon, 1840)