The Excellence of the Christian Religion and the Reasons behind the Social Ills of American Society: by Noah Webster (Father of American Education) Published in 1834
See also: The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason people of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity and freedom of worship here!” — Patrick Henry
Reflections. — The histories written by the evangelists, and the Acts of the Apostles by Luke, contain narrations of events by far the most important that ever occurred on earth. The birth of the Savior, the doctrines he preached, the purity of his life, and his final sufferings and death, are themes on which angels may dwell with rapturous joy. Well then may men rejoice, when we consider that his appearance, his teachings, his obedience, and his sufferings were designed to redeem an apostate world ; to disclose the way by which mankind can be restored to the favor of God, which by their sins they had forfeited; and by which, the penalty of everlasting destruction which they had incurred, may be avoided.
The Christian religion has already changed the aspect of a large part of the world. It has banished idolatry and pagan superstition from many countries; it has civilized and softened the manners of nations; it has mitigated the cruelties of war; it has inspired a spirit of peace; it has raised the female part of our species from degradation and slavery; it has founded charitable institutions to alleviate the sufferings of the poor; it has introduced the true principles of civil liberty; it has begun to arrest the barbarous practice of enslaving our fellow men; it has changed or is changing the character of the whole world. After a lapse of eighteen hundred years, men have learned that they are bound to labor for the furtherance of the gospel; that this is the great, the principal duty of all Christian nations, to which all other schemes of improvement are subordinate; and the work will prosper; the gospel will triumph, till all men living shall bow to the scepter of Jesus Christ.
Superior excellence of the Christian religion, — The first and most essential advantage of the religion of the Bible, is, that it proceeds from God himself by revelation. It has God for its author, and truth for its basis. No other system of religion has even a plausible claim to a divine origin. Men without revelation wander in darkness; they have no just notions of the creator of all things; they know not who made the world and themselves, nor why they were made; they know not any divine will or law, nor any authoritative rules which are to govern their actions; they have some crude notions of a superior power, but where he is, or what his character, they are utterly ignorant; hence they frame deities in their imaginations, and worship them; they pay homage to the sun and moon; or to animals on the earth; and making images of their deities, they worship stocks and stones, of any and every monstrous form. Thus they live without a knowledge of God, in ignorance and beastly vices, and die without hope, like the brutes. Such has been the condition of most nations from the earliest ages.
Advantages of revelation, — It was in accordance with the character of a benevolent Creator, that when he made a rational being, he should make known to him the author of his being, the purposes for which he was made, and the laws by which his reason should be regulated. God therefore revealed to man his character and will. He informs men that his essence is purely spiritual, and of course invisible to human eyes; that his attributes are almighty power and wisdom; perfect holiness, and pure benevolence; that he is sovereign of the world, and enjoins on all his rational creatures entire obedience to his will; that sin or disobedience to his law’s will certainly be punished with eternal banishment from his presence; but that his obedient subjects will be rewarded with endless happiness. Hence, although men must all die, yet there will be a resurrection from the grave, and all men will be judged according to their works; the good will be separated from the wicked; and the destiny of both classes will be irrevocably fixed.
First duties of men, — The first and most important duty of men, or rational beings, is to make themselves acquainted with the author of their existence, his character and attributes, his will and laws, and what he enjoins us to do or forbear. Of God’s character, we may obtain some imperfect notions from his works, from the world in which we live, its structure, its productions, the arrangement of its parts, and the adaptation of each part and every production to its proper use. Our views of the Creator may be still further extended by surveying the heavens, and the harmony of the whole system of worlds. These give us exalted ideas of the Creator. But we must resort to revelation for the more accurate knowledge of God; his attributes; and especially of his moral government, in which we are most essentially concerned. In the scriptures only can we obtain a knowledge of God’s spiritual essence, his purity, holiness, truth, justice and benevolence. In the scriptures only can we learn for what purposes we were made, what God requires us to be and to do, to obtain his favor and protection in this life, and what is to be our fate after death.
Obedience to God, — As God is a being of perfect holiness himself; he requires his rational creatures to be holy, that is, like himself, as the only condition of his favor. It is incompatible with God’s nature and attributes to approve any thing that is unholy or sinful; his nature repels from himself whatever is in opposition to it; and an unholy being could not be happy in his immediate presence, a single moment. Holiness or purity of heart implies an entire conformity to God’s will in principle, accompanied with a perfect obedience of life; or a constant desire and aim at such obedience.
Sin, — Sin is any voluntary transgression of God’s laws; or any voluntary neglect of the duties which he requires. Sins may be either sins of commission, that is, active violations of God’s law; or they may be sins of omission, that is, passive neglect of duty. The will and commands of God are revealed in the scriptures, with so much clearness, that every person of common understanding may learn from them what he is to perform, and what he is to forbear doing. Hence the first business of men is to read the scriptures, and learn the character and will of God and their own duties.
Moral law, — The law by which the conduct of men in their several relations to God and their brethren of the human race, is to be regulated, is called the moral law. This proceeds from the will of God, is ordained by his authority, and adapted to promote his glory, and the happiness of mankind. It is sometimes stated in theories, that an action is right because it is useful; and that it would be right on account of its fitness, independent of a divine command. But we can know nothing respecting fitness or unfitness, except as they exist in the works of God; and as he originated whatever exists, his will or purpose must have preceded all created things, and all the relations of things to each other. Whatever is right and useful therefore, must be so because God has ordained it to be the means of promoting his designs in the general system of things; and whatever is evil and mischievous must be so, because God has ordained it to be subversive of his designs.
The glory of God and happiness of his creatures, — We are told by the apostle Paul, that in whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God. The whole system of created things, and their relations to God and to each other, are so adjusted by the Creator, that the actions of his rational creatures, which are essentially right and best adapted to promote their interest and happiness, are in accordance with God’s will, and tend to his glory. In a perfect system of things, a God of infinite power, directed by infinite benevolence, would not suffer to exist any discordance, or discrepancy, between moral actions which affect his own character, and those which affect the interest and happiness of men. Such disagreement would imply imperfection in the Creator, which we cannot suppose to be possible.
Supreme love to God, — The first and great commandment, Christ has informed us, is, to love the Lord our God, with all the heart and soul and strength and mind. And why? For this obvious reason: that God is the greatest and best being, indeed the only perfectly good being in the universe. This command then is in accordance with our reason, for that which is the best is most desirable, and tends most to our happiness. But in addition to this fitness, gratitude to God, our creator and constant benefactor, demands our warmest affections, for having made us what we are; for giving us all we have; and for offering us all we can desire, in a future life. Besides, supreme love to God leads or inclines us to love his works, his laws and his intelligent creatures. In short, it is the source of all good motives and principles in the human heart; and the exercise of this supreme love is a perpetual source of happiness to us in this life. In demanding this love then from men, God has consulted our happiness no less than his own glory. Here the two things are in perfect harmony.
Love to our fellow-men, — Christ informs US that the second command is like the first, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” The reasons are obvious; men are all one family, the children of the same father, formed with like capacities for improvement and enjoyment, and destined to the same end. The individuals of this great family are more or less dependent on each other; and while each is bound to take care of himself and his connections, he is bound so to conduct his own affairs, as not to injure or annoy his neighbors; on the other hand he is bound by the law of kindness, and the command of God, to do them good, whenever he can do it without injury to himself; and further, he is bound to relieve them in want and distress, even when such relief requires a sacrifice of time, labor or property. And the performance of these duties is accompanied with a reward, even in this life; for it gives us pain to see others in distress; we are always happier for making or seeing others happy. In this we observe that God’s command tends to advance our own happiness.
In the two commandments above mentioned, Christ has comprised the substance of the moral law, or the whole of religion. It is love to God and love to man.
Idolatry — In the second commandment delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, the worship of images, pictures, statues, or the likeness of any created thing, is strictly prohibited. But a large portion of mankind has never known this prohibition, and they constantly worship images. This is idolatry, that abominable sin which God hates; the sin which often brought most terrible judgments upon the Israelites. And if any persons professing to belong to the denomination of Christians, adore images or pictures, or pay homage or divine honors to any created being, they violate the express command of God. “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve,” is the express command of God. Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20, Matthew 4:10.
The adoration of images, whether made of wood, stone, silver or gold; and of pictures on wood or canvas, is a mark of extreme stupidity; and shows the degraded state of human reason. Nor is it much less stupid to pray to saints or departed spirits. What can they do for men on earth? They cannot know who prays to them, nor what they pray for. They are not present with the worshiper: they are not omnipresent; and if they were, they could not help him. How degraded, how blind, and wretchedly ignorant, must be the persons who believe that pictures, or images, or departed souls, can afford them any assistance!
Profaneness, — Among the sins prohibited by God, is profaneness. “ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” This forbids all oaths and vain swearing, in which the name of the Supreme Being is used with levity and irreverence. Such use of God’s name implies, in the guilty person, a want of due regard to the majesty of God; and it tends to bring his sacred name and attributes into contempt with others. Then, a contempt of God leads to a disregard of his word, and an open violation of his laws. Nothing can be more pernicious than such contempt; for “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom;” it is the spring, the source of all religion and piety; it is this fear which operates as the most powerful restraint on all the evil propensities of mankind; it is that without which there can be no effectual restraint of human passions, of lust, ambition, anger, and revenge. To weaken that fear in the human mind, is a great evil; to banish it, is to destroy the foundation of all religion and morals.
And of what use is profanity? Was any man ever wiser or happier for an irreverent use of God’s name? Did any man ever gain respect, or pleasure, or property, by profane swearing? Not at all; it is the most foolish and useless, as well as one of the most low, vulgar vices, that a man can commit. And in females, how shocking, how detestable! In this prohibition then, God, who requires from us supreme reverence, forbids nothing that is for our interest, our honor, or our happiness; but that only which is useless, and degrading to ourselves. Here again is a perfect coincidence of God’s will with our own interest and reputation.
The Sabbath. — “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy,” is the express command of God. The Sabbath was instituted in commemoration of God’s finishing the work of creation. It was enjoined upon men for other important purposes, particularly for giving rest and refreshment to man and beast, when weary by labor; and to give man one day in seven, to be consecrated to the immediate service of God. This service of God is the means prescribed for improvement in divine knowledge; in religious and moral instruction; which is necessary to guide us in the way of truth and duty in this life, and to prepare us for the enjoyment of heavenly bliss in a future world. In all respects, the Sabbath is a most important institution so important, that where it is not observed, men degenerate not only in religion, but in morals and manners; and become a kind of half savages. What can be more offensive to the author of all our blessings, than a habitual neglect of this institution? How reproachful is it to men, who are every moment dependent on the sustaining power of the Almighty, to refuse a portion of their time to learn his will, to praise his goodness, and supplicate his favors, and the forgiveness of their offenses? The rest of the Sabbath is very useful in recruiting the strength of the body, and necessary in the formation of the moral and religious character. In both respects, the command of God tends to the interest and happiness of men, as well as to his glory.
Obedience to Parents, — “Honor thy father and thy mother,” is another express command of God. This duty has a special reference to the good order of society. Parents are the natural guardians and governors of their children, during their infancy and childhood. It is made the duty of parents to provide for them food, clothing and instruction; and a sense of this duty is strongly fortified by the affection of parents for their children. In return children are commanded to obey their parents. Ephesians, 6:1. No duties of men in society are more important to peace and good order than those of parents and children. Families are the origin of nations; the principles instilled into youth in families, and the habits there formed are the germs of the principles and habits of society and nations. If children are left without restraint and culture in early life, many or most of them will be rude in manners, and turbulent members of society. On the other hand, the subordination of children in families tends to favor subordination in citizens; respect for parents generates respect for rulers and laws; at the same time, it cherishes and invigorates all the kindly affections, which are essential to domestic happiness. In this command then we see the entire coincidence between the will of God and our own interest and happiness.
Homicide, — Homicide, or the killing of one man by another is expressly forbid by God’s law, “Thou shalt not kill.” This prohibition extends to murder, manslaughter and other species of intentional killing. This is one of the most aggravated crimes, which can be perpetrated by men; so enormous is it, that the punishment of it, both by divine and human laws, is death, “Whoever sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Genesis 9:6. Life is the gift of God; and neither has one man a right to take another’s life without a legal judgment for that purpose, nor has a man a right to put an end to his own life. Suicide as well as murder is a foul crime. If one man were permitted to kill another, what a horrible world would this be! No man would be safe a single day; we should be in terror by day and terror by night.
But we are not only prohibited from killing others by violence; we are forbidden to do anything knowingly which will destroy life. We are required to avoid any act which, in its consequences, may impair health. Thus we may not sell or give to others unwholesome food or drugs: we may not furnish food or drinks which tend to shorten life; we may not injure our own health, by excess in eating or drinking, or labor; nor can we innocently require such excess of labor in our servants, or demand of them such an exposure, as to put their lives in peril. In this prohibition we see the goodness of God in guarding our safety.
Lewdness, — All carnal intercourse between the sexes, except in lawful marriage is forbidden. The evils that proceed from a violation of God’s law on this subject, are unspeakably great. The injuries to health, the dissipation of property, the ruin of female character, the destruction of family happiness, and the abandonment of all moral and religious principle, with the final loss of the soul, are among the woeful consequences of this wickedness. The institution of marriage was intended to prevent a promiscuous intercourse of sexes, which sinks men to brutes ; also to preserve chastity, and to foster all the kind and tender affections that contribute to bind society together, prevent broils jealousy and hatred, and unite mankind in harmony and peace. The man that disturbs the peace of a family by leading astray one of its members, incurs guilt next to that of murder. The restraints laid upon mankind by the law of God, in this particular, are essential to human happiness.
Theft,— “Thou shalt not steal,” is the brief command of God, which comprises the prohibition of taking property from others unjustly, in any manner whatever. In a strict legal sense theft is only the taking of property from another privately and fraudulently, or with a felonious intent; but in a scriptural sense, it includes robbery and piracy. And why is theft immoral? Because God has forbidden it. But it is immoral also for reasons arising from our own rights. Our right to property proceeds from our personal labor in acquiring it, from purchase or from gift. If a man earns a hundred dollars by his labor, that labor is a personal sacrifice, of which the money is the reward. If another man steals that hundred dollars, he takes the value of his services; that is, he has the use of the other man’s limbs without a consideration. This would be unjust; hence it is the law of God and of man that every man shall enjoy safely and quietly what he earns, what he buys with his earnings, and what is given or bequeathed to him, as the earnings of others.
Fraud and cheating, — Every species of fraud and cheating is forbidden in the command not to steal. The methods employed by men to gain property without giving an equivalent for it are literally innumerable. One man defrauds by concealing the defects of an article which he sells, and obtaining for it more than it’s worth; another defrauds by substituting one article for another which appears to be like it; another defrauds by selling a less quantity than the purchaser believes to be contained in the vessel or package; another mixes articles together which are of different values, or puts with a valuable article something which is of no value, as in adulterating liquors, drugs, powders and the like. Others defraud in contracts or in labor, performing less than is stipulated. All such frauds are species of stealing, within the meaning of God’s prohibition. These and many others are all sinful; highly displeasing to God and injurious to our fellow men. And of what advantage is stealing and fraud? The man who steals or defrauds always feels uneasy, guilt torments him and especially the sight of the man whom he has defrauded, and, if detected, he is doomed to be infamous. If stealing and robbery were permitted the world would be a continued scene of strife and bloodshed. In this prohibition of theft therefore, God’s law is as really for our interest and happiness as for his glory.
Falsehood, — The command of God on this subject is “Thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbor!” In other words, thou shalt not utter anything false to the prejudice of thy neighbor. This command forbids all lying, as well as false testimony in a court. Lying consists not only in affirming what one knows to be false; but in any action that is intended to deceive. This may be by a nod of the head or a motion of the finger. But the prohibition has an especial reference to slander or defamation. This is one of the most common, as well as most mischievous vices. A person’s reputation is his most valuable possession; indeed without a good name, a man of sensibility cannot enjoy any possession. Slander may be by direct falsehood or lying respecting another; or by propagating evil reports from others, knowing them to be false. Whatever is said with a view to lessen the reputation of others, must proceed from a malignant heart. That which is false ought never to be reported; and in many cases, truth to the prejudice of another, ought not to be told.
Lying and perjury, — Whenever a man communicates to another that which is false making him to believe what is not true, with the intention to mislead him, he is guilty of lying. Truth is all important in the intercourse of men. We are connected in society by a thousand relations in business, which are necessary to our welfare; and which cannot be disturbed without serious injury. Falsehood destroys confidence in neighborhoods, fills men with distrust and jealousy; interrupts the harmonious transaction of business; often occasions loss of property, quarrels, lawsuits and endless broils.
Perjury or swearing falsely in courts of law and equity is the more criminal, as it may produce immense injustice and even destroy life.
Punishment of falsehood, — What advantage is gained by defamation, lying or perjury? Suppose a person to gain a little property or transient gratification by deception, what is the consequence? If he is not detected, he must be forever tortured by a guilty conscience, for guilt never leaves a man at ease; and, if detected, he is universally despised and shunned: he forfeits the esteem and confidence of all others, and especially of all good men whose esteem is most valuable; he is distrusted in all his declarations; he is degraded. Such is his punishment in this life. But God is a God of truth; he requires truth in men, and he has declared that “all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” Revelations 21:8. In forbidding slander, falsehood and perjury therefore God has established a rule of action for our benefit, no less than for the glory of his character, and the consistency of his moral government.
Coveting, — The prohibitions in this command restrain us from coveting the goods of our neighbors. We are then not only forbidden to obtain by theft or fraud what belongs to others; but we may not even desire their possessions, which providence has withheld from us. This desire often or generally proceeds from envy, inordinate ambition, or from discontent with the allotments of providence. This prohibition extends to render sinful all gaming, lotteries and rash enterprises for the sake of gain. We are bound to rest contented with the portion of property which we gain by honest industry and other lawful means. What loads of guilt are incurred by men whose inordinate desire of riches leads them to the use of every species of unlawful means? What detestable and criminal schemes do men devise and practice to gain office and superiority of station! With what envy do the poor often behold the rich, and perhaps when the rich man has gained by laborious industry a condition which the idle and the vicious will not labor to obtain! But all repining at the affluence of others is forbidden by God; and this prohibition is for our good; for without contentment there can be little or no happiness in life.
Ephesians 4:31, Corinthians 3:8, Matthew 5:22, 39, 44.
Anger, — Anger is a passion excited by an injury or supposed injury done by another. It is a passion easily provoked, and too often indulged without restraint. But however difficult it may be to suppress it, in cases of willful injury; yet the divine commands and our own peace require that we restrain it. A moderate degree of resentment or feeling of dislike will usually be felt, when we receive an insult or willful injury. But it is of great importance to accustom ourselves to restrain this passion. We should ever be silent, when insulted rather than to utter an angry retort. If a man insults us or treats us contemptuously, it is better to remain silent and leave him to his own reflections for a time; for he will generally relent, and regret that he has offended. It is a magnanimous act, to overlook an injury, and it never fails to soften the offender and command his respect. Besides anger is a passion that makes a person unhappy, while it lasts; and if indulged to excess, often ends in further provocation and outrage. The prohibition of anger is therefore for our own happiness, as well as for the peace of society and the glory of God.
Romans 1:29, 13:13, Titus 3:3, Proverbs 3:31, 1 Peter 2:1.
Envy, — Envy is the uneasy feeling which is excited by seeing the prosperity, exaltation or superior good of another. It is a passion that torments its possessor and thus inflicts its own punishment. It implies also discontent with the portion of good which God has assigned to the envious person; and this discontent can never be justified. To overcome this passion or feeling is indispensable to our comfort in life. A repining at the good of others often impairs the health, and always the happiness of men; and it is sure to destroy friendship, alienate those who ought to love each other, and produce hatred and rivalries that interrupt the courtesies of life. In prohibiting this passion, God consults the happiness of men, as in all his other prohibitions.
Jealousy is another passion which torments its possessor; and this, like other evils, proves that whatever is wrong tends more or less to disturb or destroy the comfort and happiness of men.
Revenge, — Revenge is the infliction of evil on a person in return for a wrong or injury received. This is one of the most detestable practices; it is a heinous sin, and implies a temper extremely malignant. Yet nothing is more natural than a disposition to revenge. It is predominant among savages and the source of endless hostilities and war. In no one particular is the gospel more singular and superior to all human schemes of morality, than in the doctrine of forgiveness of injuries. This doctrine is a distinguishing trait in the preaching and instructions of Christ and his apostles. Says Christ, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them who curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44. The excellence of such precepts shows them to be from heaven; for men, without such precepts, have ever returned evil for evil, injury for injury, blood for blood. The practice of men has tilled the world with violence, cruelty, war and devastation; the precepts of Christ tend to soften and allay the malignant passions, restrain persecution, war and plunder, heal the wounds inflicted by injuries; preserve peace between friends and nations, and cherish all the kind and benevolent affections. In short, the restraints imposed on our passions by the commands of God, all tend to our own peace and happiness.
Intemperance, — By intemperance is to be understood all excessive indulgence of appetites and passions; but more generally it signifies excessive eating or gluttony, and the excessive drinking of intoxicating liquors. Excess in eating or drinking is a beastly vice; a vice by which a man is degraded almost to a brute. Indeed in many cases, the drunkard is in a condition below the brutes, for he destroys the use of his powers and faculties, which the brute does not. All excess in eating and drinking impairs the health, and a habit of this kind often wastes the property, and destroys reputation and usefulness. Many a life is shortened by intemperate drinking; many a crime is committed in a state of intoxication, which the person, when sober, would shrink from with horror; many a wife and family is rendered wretched by the use of spirituous liquors; and the greatest part of the tenants of the alms house and state prisons are those who have been habitual drinkers of spirit.
Effects of intemperance, — Temperance in eating and drinking insures health, and generally lengthens life. In the days of the patriarchs, there was probably no such thing as distilled spirit, and wine was the juice of the grape unadulterated. To the temperate habits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is probable we may ascribe their longevity. It is more than probable that intemperance in eating and drinking, and the luxuries of the modern tables of the rich, have greatly shortened the usual period of human life. If men should drink water only, and eat no high-seasoned provision, using more vegetable and less animal food, there would be fewer diseases among men, and an increase in the length of life. In the indulgence of the appetites to excess and in cookery, men often gratify the taste at the expense of more permanent good, their freedom from dispepsy and other diseases, which annoy, if they do not destroy life. All excess in eating and drinking is forbidden by the laws of God, and this prohibition tends to secure us in the enjoyment of substantial good.
War, — War is a state of hostility between nations; a contest for superiority, sometimes undertaken for plunder, as among savages; sometimes for conquest of territory; sometimes for a throne; sometimes to avenge an injury or insult to national honor; and sometimes for defense against an invading foe. The only war that can be justified is a defensive war; the resistance of an enemy, that attempts to take our lives or property. We have a right to defend our persons, our houses, goods and lands against an assailing foe. But almost all wars have been undertaken for plunder or conquest; millions and millions of the human race have been slaughtered in fighting to gratify the ambition of monarchs, or the lust of dominion in republics. Men, who are all of one family, are separated into tribes or nations under different governments; rival interests excite hatred; and when such interests rouse the passion for war, men become blood-thirsty and ferocious as tigers. What a heart-rending sight must be a field of battle, when thousands and tens of thousands of men, who ought to live as brethren, are engaged in the horrible work of shedding each other’s blood! When will nations lay aside the detestable practice of fighting for their rights? When will they constitute civil tribunals to decide national controversies, as suits between individuals are now decided? When will men shake off the remains of savage and barbarous customs, and assume the dignity of Christians?
Slavery, — One of the consequences of war is slavery. In early ages, before men were civilized, tribes of barbarians made war on other tribes for plunder and for prisoners. Prisoners were made slaves, as they still are by some nations. Christianity has abolished this practice among most European nations; but until within a few years, these same nations have permitted the practice of purchasing prisoners of war in Africa, to be transported to America and enslaved. War is still carried on in Africa, among the barbarous tribes, to take captives to be sold and conveyed to America for slaves. England, France and the United States have restrained their subjects from this inhuman trade; but it is still carried on by other nations. This barbarous practice is one of the most alarming evils of the world; and the consequences of it no mortal can foresee.
Causes of human misery, — The two general causes of the sufferings of men, are physical and moral evils. Physical events, such as diseases, storms, famine and earthquakes, are often unavoidable, and in that case are to be borne with resignation to the divine will. Many diseases however and other natural evils proceed from the ignorance, negligence or vices of men, and may be avoided. But moral evils constitute or produce most of the miseries of mankind and these may be prevented or avoided. Be it remembered then that disobedience to God’s law, or sin is the procuring cause of almost all the sufferings of mankind. God has so formed the moral system of this world, that conformity to his will by men produces peace, prosperity and happiness; and disobedience to his will or laws inevitably produces misery. If men are wretched, it is because they reject the government of God, and seek temporary good in that which certainly produces evil.
Folly and absurdities of men, — God has commanded men to be temperate in the use of his bounties; but men abuse his goodness, riot in gluttony and drunkenness and destroy their health. God has furnished water in abundance, which man may have with little labor or none at all; and water used only when necessary, never produces disease; but men extract spirit from vegetable substances, and drink to excite lively feelings, which soon subside and leave the body in languor, and the practice, if continued ends in weakening, trembling, decay and death.
God has enjoined benevolence, kindness, charity, forgiveness of injuries, and justice in dealings; but men naturally follow the dictates of selfishness they withhold charities, revenge injuries, defraud their neighbors, and thus excite angry passions, enmities, hatred, lawsuits. Hence instead of social peace and happiness, they are harassed with quarrels and losses.
God has enjoined labor as the means of subsistence and health; but men avoid labor, if they can; they indulge in idleness and resort to vicious pastimes, and waste their time, their money, and impair their health. Men are often their own worst enemies.
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