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trophies of Miltiades would not suffer Themistocles to sleep.
As for us, whose homes are on the soil of New England, we need not go far. from our birthplace, to find the most illustrious examples to be studied and copied. Since the days of the apostles, there have been no worthier patterns of Christian character and primitive piety than the Puritans, to whom we are indebted for all that gives our people any superiority in any respect over other nations of the earth. Not that we are to practice an indiscriminate and idolatrous veneration. " There are no errors which are so likely to be drawn into precedent, and therefore none which it is so necessary to expose, as the errors of persons who have a just title to the gratitude and admiration of posterity. In politics, as in religion, there are devotees who show their reverence for a departed saint, by converting his tomb into a sanctuary for crime." But though the Puritans had their faults and failings, what sort of moral appetite must that be which fastens upon and devours these unsavory scraps, and neglects all that is pure and wholesome in their character? If there be any sore spot in their example, these fleshflies detect it with unerring instinct, and dart upon it with a ravenous delight. He who can see nothing in the sun but its spots must be worse than blind ; for while his eye gazes with morbid intensity on darkness, he has no vision for that which is bright and fair.
Luther has said that “ evil comes of good :” which remark accords with the Rabbinical proverb, “ Vinegar is the son of wine.” And we find that even some
of the descendants of the Puritans have proved so degenerate as, with filial impiety, to blacken and revile the memory of their sires. Foul and unnatural deed! How doth it react to the degradation and infamy of its base perpetrators! “ There is no readier way,” says Tillotson, “ for a man to bring his own worth into question, than by endeavoring to detract from the worth of other men." And this is especially the case when the slanderer is vilifying his own progenitors. What can be more odious than to see the child defacing and polluting the sepulchre of his fathers? The only disgrace he can fix upon them, is that of having generated a monster so contemptible as himself. Such recreant and apostate natures usually exceed all others in the avidity and malignity with which they traduce the sainted dead. They do this for the reason Dryden gives, and he must have known as being one himself,
“For renegadoes, who ne'er turn by halves,
The mists which obscure the sun are exhaled by his own fervent beams. Envy and detraction are the shadows which ever follow shining merit. The calumniators of the Puritans serve as the shades in the picture, which render the lights more distinct and vivid. The fair fame of the Puritans shines the more luminous, when contrasted with the dark dispositions of their slanderers.
It is but justice to the pious dead to vindicate their good name, which, as Cicero says, is the appropriate possession of the departed. And justice to ourselves
requires, that we should preserve untarnished the reputation of our fathers, so that we may feel its full influence to quicken our own virtues, and to stimulate them to greater activity and fruitfulness. Certain it is, that they will be the most likely to partake of the excellencies of the Puritans, who most deeply revere them.
In different ages there have arisen men, too great or too good for the times in which they lived :
1 :—men, like Israel's martyred prophets, of whom the world was not worthy. They have strode so far in advance of their cotemporaries, that as Coleridge said of Milton, they dwarfed themselves in the distance. Bitter scorn and bitterer wrath was their portion while they lived.
And after they are gone, other generations sweep by, till the same venerable worthies are again almost lost from view in the dim perspective of the past. Then are their names again decried, because they stopped where they did. The most distinguished of living British essayists has said with a just severity;— “ It is too much that the benefactors of mankind, after having been reviled by the dunces of their own generation for going too far, are to be reviled by the dunces of the next generation for not going far enough.”
The world shows its unworthiness of these good men, either by forgetting their virtues as soon as possible: or else by remembering their names only to traduce them. Thus thanklessly and harshly has it dealt with our pilgrim fathers. But, blessed be the Lord! there are not wanting those, who, like “ Old
Mortality'' among the graves of the Covenanters, with chisel in hand, revisit the resting-place of our Puritan sires, raising up the fallen monuments; removing the encroaching mosses; and, with pious care, retouching the fading inscriptions which the ceaseless stream of time is wearing away.
Such a pleasing task of filial piety and reverent love is before us in the present undertaking. Nor doubt we, that the work is well pleasing unto God, who is himself, in his providence, the Vindicator of their wisdom and zeal; and whose Word has taught us, that the memory of the just is blessed, and that the righteous must be had in everlasting remembrance.
These considerations have induced the Publishing Committee of the Massachusetts Sabbath School Society to prepare a series of biographical sketches of some of the distinguished men, who were God's instruments in making this country what it is. These volumes will collect, and present in one view, every
ng which relates to them that can be recovered from scattered confusion and from oblivion. It is intended that this exhibition shall bring out the characters, actions, sufferings and principles of these remarkable men, in such form as may interest and profit the general reader, and not be unuseful to such as may be studious of the early history of our country.
The Committee have observed with pain, that there is, in some quarters, a disposition to subject the memory of the Puritans to what is sometimes significantly called “ cavalier treatment." The best defence which can be made of these worthies is to show them as
they were. Could such an exhibition be made to the life, it is certain that it would have the same dispersing effect upon their detractors, as the appearance of Cromwell's unconquered “ Ironsides” had upon the runaways of Naseby, of Preston, and of Worcester.
It is hoped that these volumes will not only find a place in all our Sabbath school libraries, but
obtain a general circulation among the young men and young women of our land. It is believed that the contemplations of these noble examples will be found among the best means of strengthening the minds, enriching the memories, and settling the principles, of the young. The moral beauty of the character of the Puritans consist chiefly in this,-they were men of principle. This made them deliberate in resolving, and inflexible in performing. The “noble grace of decision” shone conspicuously in their lives; they were decided for truth, for conscience, for God. It was a rich gift of the Holy Ghost, and enabled them for a work in which all other adventurers must have failed.
May God bless this undertaking, so that it may help to revive in power and purity the remnants of the piety and spirit of the pilgrims which yet linger among us. May it help to increase the multitudes which, like the Puritans of old, have gone up, through much tribulation, from the footstool to the throne !