Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. III: Colonial Literature, 16071764
A Picture of the Millennium
By Joseph Bellamy (17191790)
[An Election Sermon. 1762.]
LET us stop here, a few minutes, and think what the consequences would be, should righteousness, which is the glory of the Deity, and the very beauty of heaven, should that holy and divine temper, which reigns there in perfection, descend on crowned heads, and fill the courts of princes, and spread down through every rank, even down to the meanest cottager, and to the poorest beggar; what would the consequences be? Heaven would soon begin on earth.
Princes, even the most haughty monarchs of the earth, who, to gratify their pride and ambition, do often now, in the present state of things, summon mighty armies, spread war, devastation, and ruin through whole countries, would be at once turned into other men, be converted and become as little children, as harmless as doves, as meek as lambs. Such would be their humility, their self-abhorrence, their penitence, their reverence toward the Deity, and love to the human kind, that they would speedily, and with the utmost sincerity, begin to concert measures for a universal, perpetual peace. Ambassadors for that end would be sent from, and to every monarch, prince, and court; and orders be soon dispatched to fleets and armies to stop the effusion of human blood. The thundering cannons would cease to roar; peace, universal peace, be soon proclaimed; for every monarch, from the heart, would soon begin to say to each other, Take your right, my brother, and let me have mine, and let us live in love and peace, and seek the true happiness of our subjects, and, no longer go on sacrificing thousands of precious lives in quarrels which honest men might settle with the utmost ease. And so now the nations would beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks, neither would they learn war any more.
And should righteousness, should all right affections, should supreme love to God and Jesus Christ, love to our holy religion, brotherly love, meekness, gentleness, fidelity, temperance, chastity, and all the Christian graces, not only take possession of the hearts of kings, but spread through all their royal families, among their privy counsellors, through their parliaments, and to all their courts of justice, and should the sacred flame fly from city to city, from town to town, through all their dominions, and into all their distant colonies, into what a glorious and happy state would things be immediately brought! Look round upon all ranks and orders of men, and behold the glorious change. Go to the clergy, and view them in their studies, or in their pulpits: behold, they are clothed with righteousness; they are inflamed with every holy, pious, benevolent, heavenly affection; they love their master, they love their people, they love their work; they delight in the law of the Lord, and in his law do they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by the rivers of water, whose leaf never falls, and which bring forth fruit in their season; and out of their treasure from time to time they bring forth things new and old; while their public prayers and their sermons are animated with the humblest, purest, warmest devotion. And, O, behold, how they love one another! Look through a province; they are united in the same faith, and love and live as brethren. Yea, look through a kingdom, yea, look from kingdom to kingdom; there are no sects, no parties, no divisions. They all, ministers and people, make up one great family, united in faith and love; united in one and the same belief, and in the most cordial affection to one another. And ministers, of choice, give themselves wholly to their work; and their people, from their own inclination, unite as one to give them an honorable support, not as their burden, but as their delight; they even take pleasure in it.
Go to the merchants shop, and you will find not only just weights and just measures, but also piety toward God and love to the human kind, diligence and industry, prudence in their calling, frugality in their expenses, generosity to the poor, charmingly mingled in their characters. And while wealth flows in upon them from every quarter, they are clothed with humility; and they, their children, and all they have, bear this inscription in great capitals, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.
Go to the house, the happy house, of the industrious farmer. In early morning he and all his arise, and assemble to worship the Great Eternal. Devoutly they read Gods holy word, and offer up prayer and praises, in the name of Jesus Christ, with penitent, humble, and grateful hearts. With alacrity and joy they go forth to their labors, and enjoy the delights of heaven in their fields; love and harmony reign within doors; the parents happy in God, in one another, and in their offspring; while their children grow up in piety toward God, reverence toward their parents, and in the most cordial affection to one another. And hearken, and hear the wise maxims of the household where righteousness reigns: Let us be industrious and frugal, that we may be able to render to all men their dues; tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom; yea, let us be industrious and frugal, that we may have wherewith to give to the poor, and to make the widows heart sing for joy. And let all we have be consecrated to God; and while we live upon his bounty, let us live to his glory, and prepare for his heavenly kingdom.
Go into neighborhoods. Malice and envy are gone; tattling and backbiting are no more heard. Love, undissembled love, and good-will, reign. Go to courts of justice, and, behold, they are unfrequented; for the people are become righteous, and live in love. And, while they do as they would be done by, there seldom happens any affair that needs to be disputed at the bar.
Go to the house of the governor, who, as he was advanced to his high station merely on account of his merit, so he is the wisest man in the province, and a father to all his subjects. Every morning and evening he makes King Solomons prayer for a wise and understanding heart; for it is his great concern to fill his station well. He is loved, revered, and obeyed by all his people, who live under him as one united, happy family conscientiously concerned, by their good behaviour, to render his government as easy and happy to him as possible. All the influence his high station, superior wisdom, and goodness give him over their hearts, is wholly consecrated to make them a still holier and happier people. For he feels toward them all the good-will and tenderness which are wont to reside in the heart of a nursing father or nursing mother toward an infant child.
Go to the taverns, and even they are houses of piety and good order. No rioting or drunkenness, no chambering or wantonness to be found there; no town dwellers assembled for drinking and debauchery. No; for there are no such people to be found in towns where righteousness universally prevails. At these houses the stranger and the traveller may call, refresh themselves in quiet, or take lodging in peace, and in the morning go their ways, rejoicing to see good order and religion reign everywhere.
Go to the cottages of the poor, if you can find them, for their number will be but small in such a state of things; none rendered poor by a course of excessive drinking, or by gay dressing, or by high living, or by idleness, or by any dishonest practices. A few, perhaps, you may find rendered poor through some natural infirmity of body or mind, or by some adversity which it was not in their power to foresee and prevent, and these are as humble as they are poor. They quietly submit to Providence, they are thankful for the little they have, they are industrious and prudent according to their abilities; and instead of envying their neighbors, they rejoice in their prosperity. They are beloved by every one; and their neighbors feel a peculiar pleasure in granting them relief from time to time; so that, in the midst of their poverty, they are really happy, and want none of the necessaries of life, and enjoy many of its conveniences.
Go to the schools of the prophets, to the seminaries of learning, and see a little picture of heaven. The whole society in perfect love and harmony, making swift advances in all knowledge divine and human, growing up in love to God and to the human kind, and ripening for public service, under the indefatigable labors of their wise and learned instructors, whom they love and honor as dutiful children do their parents. Meanwhile, peace and plenty, universal love and harmony, reign from town to town, through all the province, through all the kingdom, yea, through all the kingdoms of the earth where righteousness thus prevails, and heaven looks down propitious, and declares, Blessed shalt thou be in thy basket and in thy store, blessed shalt thou be in the house and in the field. Nor let any think this a description of a fictitious state of things; rather let every one know, that all this, and more than all this, shall be accomplished, when once that petition, so often put up by the true followers of Jesus, by his special direction,Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,is answered, and his holy religion comes to take place among mankind, when once the stone cut out without hands becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth.