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LOVE OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
In November, 1820, a convention of delegates elected by the people of this Commonwealth for the purpose of revising the Constitution thereof, assembled in Boston. It consisted of eminent men from every section of the state, of almost all occupations and professions. Among the amendments attempted and lost, was the one in regard to religious liberty, leaving it optional with every man whether he would support religion, and compelling none. Under the old form, a man was obliged to belong to some religious society; and, if he did not elect voluntarily to which he would be attached, he should be held to be a member of the regular territorial parish of the town, and should be taxed accordingly. There were many in the convention of 1820 who held that the whole matter should be left to the free will and consciences of the people. Mr. Ballou was not a member of the convention, but he expressed his opinion through his popular little journal in these words:
"The question whether the Christian religion must be supported by law, or whether it may prosper as well, and do as much good in society, without the aid of legislation, seems now to engage the attention of the great council of the state.
"Those who are in favor of assisting religion by legislation contend that without religion society would become immediately corrupted; that there would be no Sabbaths, no meetings for public worship, no piety, &c. Thus they labor in vain, and their work is for naught; for the question is not whether religion is good and profitable to society, but whether it may not flourish as well without the aid of the civil arm as with it. Again, they
advance, in their protracted arguments, that, if it be granted that religion is a good thing, it ought of course to be incorporated into our state constitution, so that our legislators may give it all the support it needs. Thus, again, they reason in violation of common sense; for it does not follow, of course, that because a thing is right, good or necessary for the benefit of society, that it must therefore be urged by law. The shining of the sun, the falling of the rain, the distilling of the dew, the flowing of the rivers, the blowing of the wind, the springing up and the growing of vegetation, are all of indispensable importance to man's existence and happiness; but none of these good things can be promoted by legislation. What a wretched state would society be in if the covenant of marriage should no more be entered into; but, because this is of indispensable importance, is it therefore necessary to compel young men to marry, whether they will or not? Are not the laws of nature, which are of God, paramount to any law that could be enacted by our legislators? What distress would the people all be in, in a short time, if every individual of society should say, I will do no more labor, and abide by the resolution? Is it, therefore, necessary to make laws to compel the husbandman to labor in the field? No, because the expected profit is a motive quite sufficient to induce them to cultivate their farms. What would become of our popular towns, if the merchants should all say they would do no more business, would send no more ships abroad, would bring no more merchandise into the country, nor carry any more out? It would be disastrous, indeed; is it, therefore, necessary to compel the merchant by law to see and attend to his business? No, for his hopes of gain are a sufficient motive, without any such law."
Daniel Webster, then a young man of about thirty-six years, was a member of this convention. He was in favor of a provision for the legal support of religion. Mr. Ballou said:
"Mr. Webster did not, like Mr. Saltonstall, of Salem, advance the superstitious notion, that the decision of the question was likely
to affect the eternal state of our citizens in a future world, but contended that the policy of the state required the support of this religion and the public worship of God. When the learned gentleman had thus defined the subject, a hope was entertained that he would have been consistent with himself, and laid open a system of state policy connected with and embracing the Christian religion and its support; but this he was far from attempting; and what was regretted more than this was, that there was no one, on the opposite side of the question, to take the advantage of his arguments, to show that nothing short of a definite state religion could be the creation to which the gentleman's arguments would lead. There is nothing more evident than that, if it be a necessary policy of the state to support, by law, the Christian religion, it is equally necessary that either the state constitution, or legislation on that constitution, should particularly define the doctrine of Christianity. This might be done in thirty-nine articles, more or less, as the constituted authority should see fit to determine; but, for the great council of our state to say that the Christian religion must be supported by law, and that provisions therefor must be incorporated into our bill of rights, and after all give no definite description of this religion, nor make any provisions by which it shall be defined, is certainly doing nothing."
Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Channing came out, during the debate in the convention, with a sermon entitled "Religion a Social Principle," the object of which was to show the propriety of establishing the Christian religion, and its support by law. This sermon Mr. Ballou reviewed, in a pamphlet, published immediately after he read the
*The title was "Strictures on a Sermon entitled 'Religion a Social Principle, delivered in the Church in Federal-street, Boston, Dec. 10, 1820; by Wm. Ellery Channing, Minister of the Congregational Church in Federal-street.' By Hosea Ballou, &c. &c. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1820."
SECTION VIII. OTHER PUBLISHED SERMONS.
After the close of the series of lecture-sermons, which we have described in a former section, Mr. Ballou was solicited to preach from certain texts, not embraced in that series, which gave occasion to the continued publication of his discourses. We may make mention of his famous "Fox Sermon," so called, preached in November, 1819, showing the marks of similarity between the false teachers and foxes, from the words, "O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the desert."- Ezek. 13: 4.* Many editions of this have been published. In the following month came out the sermon on the source of a happy life,-1 Peter 3: 10, 11; † and also one on "judgment beginning at the house of God,"-1 Peter 4: 17, 18. In January, 1820, he preached and published his sermon on the "New Birth," from John 3: 3,§ several editions of which appeared; and immediately afterward came out the sermon on God sending men
* "A Sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meeting-house, in Boston, on the morning of the third Sabbath in November, 1819. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Second edition. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1821."
t "A Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meetinghouse, in Boston, on the evening of the first Sabbath in December, 1819. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1819."
"A Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meetinghouse, in Boston, on the evening of the third Sabbath in December, 1819. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Second edition. Boston, 1821. §"The New Birth; a Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meeting-house, in Boston, on the evening of the third Sabbath in January, 1820. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Second edition. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1821."
strong delusions, from 2 helped to do a great work. this year, he published his World," from Matt. 13: 47-50,† and in March a sermon on the Church of Christ, from Eph. 5: 25-27.‡ We must be content with this mere reference to these very valuable discourses, which were read by thousands. All these sermons were preached in addition to the regular exercises of the sanctuary, on the forenoon and afternoon of the Lord's day.
Thess. 2: 11, 12.* These At the close of February in sermon on the "End of the
SECTION IX.- TRAVELS AND PREACHING ABROAD.
But, notwithstanding these numerous duties at home, Mr. Ballou did not neglect to comply, so far as he could, with the calls to preach the word in other places. He had commenced, in the year 1819, to preach a course of sermons at the Town Hall, in Roxbury, in which town a society had been formed, and a house of worship was being erected [July, 1820]. To these lectures he devoted, for a year or more, one Sabbath evening in a fortnight.
*God shall send them Strong Delusions; a Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meeting-house, in Boston, on the evening of the second Sabbath in February, 1820. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1820."
"The End of the World; a Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meeting-house, in Boston, on the evening of the fourth Sabbath in February, 1820. By Hosea Ballou, pastor, Boston: Henry Bowen. 1820."
"Husbands, love your Wives; a Lecture-sermon, delivered in the Second Universalist Meeting-house, in Boston, on the evening of the second Sabbath in March, 1820. By Hosea Ballou, pastor. Boston: Henry Bowen. 1820."