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losophy herself will at last show the principles of the religion of Jesus Christ, so legibly written on every thing else which the Creator's hand has formed, that it will be as impossible to deny the truth of the Scriptures as the law of gravitation.
Besides, not only does the present state of society promise that vastly more of these laws will be known, and their moral connexions traced-it is also rendered evident that the knowledge of them will be more widely disseminated. Improvement in wealth, and in the science of education, will render what is now considered erudition, common to the humblest member of the community. Thus the facts, on which may be constructed the most incontestible arguments in favor of religion, will be found in abundance in the mind of every man. Thus the media of proof are multiplied without number. Though ignorance be the mother of superstition, knowledge is the parent of devotion. Take any man whose soul has neither been brutalized by animal indulgence, nor his judgment radically distorted by incurable prejudice ; open his eyes upon the universe as it actually is, with all its discovered and undiscovered variety of contrivances, and tell me, could he ever afterward be made an atheist ? Or let bim remark, through the history of ages, the consequences resulting to individuals and nations, from different courses of moral conduct; and could he ever afterward be persuaded that the Deity neither bad made nor would maintain the distinction between virtue and vice? Or let him ask himself upon what principle it is necessary to act, if he would secure to himself any valuable result for the life that now is, and he will come to the conclusion, that in the things of this world, as well as of the other, success can only be expected from the exercise of faith and obedience. Nor is this all. A well-regulated mind not only knows that it is so, but is at every moment reminded of it. Every thing speaks to such a man of God, and God speaks to him in every thing.
Nor is this all. Not only does improved development of the human faculties furnish new proofs of lhe truth of revelation—it also renders the mind more susceptible of their influence. It is the business of education to deliver us from the tyranny of prejudice and passion, and subject us to the government of reason. Mind thus becomes a more delicate, a more powerful, and a more certain instrument. It yields to nothing but evidence; before this it bows down in reverential homage. Thus, effect upon mind will at last be calculated upon with almost scientific precision. Now it is to this very training of the intellectual faculties that the progress of improvement in education promises to conduct mankind; so much more favorable is the mind of the hearer or reader becoming, to the production of moral effect.
But we hope that this system of changes is not to be limited here. We believe that improvement in intellectual ence, but above all, more elevated piety, and more ardent devotion, will yet confer some new powers of suasion on the Christian teacher. Every one must be sensible, that the Gospel is an instrument which has never been wielded with its legitimate effect, since the time of the Apostles. May we not hope that there are forms of illustration at present untried, that there are modes of appeal as yet unattempted, which, with an efficacy morc certain than we any where now witness, will awaken the slumbering conscience, and, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead the awakened sinner to the cross of Christ.
Christian brethren, estimate, if you can, the importance of these facts. We have seen that every law of matter and of mind presents a separate argument in favor of religion; that the providence of God is multiplying, with a rapidity beyond precedent, both the number and the power of such arguments, that all classes of men are becoming more deeply imbued with a knowledge of them, and that this knowledge, from the improved discipline of the faculties, must produce a more certain and more salutary effect: consider, too, how the press is enabling every man to exert his whole moral and intellectual power upon the thoughts and opinions of mankind, and you will surely say, that never have there been presented so many or so great encouragements for a universal effort to bring the world into cordial subjection to Jesus Christ. The prediction seems already fulfilled, "The sons of strangers shall come bending unto thee.” Following in the train of every art, and every science, infidel philosophy herself is seen presenting her offering at the feet of the Redeemer. Every thing encourages us to move forward, and take possession of the inheritance which Messiah has purchased with his own most precious blood.
There are, however, a few circumstances of encouragement peculiar to the condition of this country, to which I may be permitted for a moment to advert.
1. The proportion of truly religious persons is greater with us than in any other country. Perhaps it would not be too much to assert that their intelligence and opportunity of leisure are greater than fall to the lot of Chistians in any other nation. I hope that it may also with truth be added, that, notwithstanding the muitiplicity of sects, a much greater degree of good-fellowship, in promoting the eternal welfare of men, is found here, than has been commonly witnessed, at least in the latter ages of the Christian church.
2. We enjoy perfect civil and religious freedom. Every man may originate as powerful trains of thought as he is able, may give them as wide a circulation as he will, and may use all other suitable means for giving them influence over the minds of others.
3. Public opinion is here, more than it has been in other countries, friendly to religion. This land was first peopled by men who came here that they might enjoy “ freedom to worship God;" and thus they proved themselves worthy of being the Fathers of an Empire. Our institutions, at their very commencement, received the impress of Christianity. The name and the example of the Puritans are yet held in hallowed recollection. We are enjoying the rich blessings purchased by their labors and their prayers. nation, wicked though it be, is not yet cursed with the sin of having deliberately rejected the Gospel. Our soil is unstained with the blood of the saints. We may hope, then, that our eyes have not yet been smitten with avenging blindness. And, in carrying forward her conquests, we may hope, that the church of God will have less opposition to encounter here, than she has met with elsewhere.
4. But it deserves specially to be remarked, that God has blessed, in a peculiar manner, the efforts that have been made in this country to check the
increase of vice, and promote the diffusion of piety. In illustration of this remark, I will not at present refer to the astonishing success which has attended the Bible, Sabbath School, and Tract Societies. I will mention only two facts, which, though not more important than some I omit, allow of being presented with greater brevity. The first is the effect which has been produced by the union of good men, for the promotion of temperance. But about four years have elapsed since this benevolent effort commenced. And already has it saved from worse than mere destruction several millions of the national capital; it has saved thousands of families from ruin; it has taught hundreds of thousands successful resistance to perilous temptation; it is purifying the atmosphere, which so soon must have poisoned the rising generation; its powerful influence is felt in every state, and, perhaps I may add, in every town and village, throughout the union; and is beginning to be felt in other lands. Travellers from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, tell us that the reform is strikingly manifest. The records of various religious denominations bear testimony to the same en
encouraging fact. We ourselves have witnessed, that in stage coaches, and in stea viboats, in public houses and in parlours, temperance is becoming more and more the habit of the people. The very traffic in ardent spirit is far from being reputable ; and there is reason to hope that, in a few years more, this detestable leprosy may be banished from the land.
More especially, however, would I refer to the fact, that those seasons of extraordinary attention to the salvation of the soul, denominated revivals of religion, and produced, as we believe, by the special influences of the Holy Spirit, have been multiplied among us to a far greater degree than has before been known in any age or country. Almost every denomination professing Christianity has of late years been greatly augmented in numbers, and strongly excited to religious effort, in consequence of such revivals. Specially have these effects been visible among the young. Sabbath Schools and Bible Classes have, in a peculiar manner, been filled with that solemnity, which, turning the soul from the eager pursuit of pleasure and of sin, leads it to serious reflection, to unfeigned repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to permanent and universal reformation. Now, it matters not what theory we may adopt in respect to this subject. We are all willing to be influenced by facts. The fact, then, we think, cannot be questioned, that events called revivals of religion are becoming very common among us, and that where they occur most frequently, a larger portion of the people become active and zealous Christians; and if this be granted, it is sufficient for our argument.
Behold, then, Christian brethren, the encouragement before us. citizens of a country whose uncultivated soil was moistened by the tears, and consecrated by the prayers, of persecuted saints ; whose earliest institutions were formed under the auspices of the Bible; where every man may pray as much, and live as holily, as he will ; where every man may circulate as widely as he pleases the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, as eloquently as he is able, urge his fellow-citizens to obey it; and where God has been pleased to honor with his special benediction, every effort which has been made to arrest the progress of vice, and increase the influence of religion. What can we aşk
for more? Why stand we here all the day idle? We see how glorious a success has attended our feeble and imperfect efforts. They have as yet been almost nothing, in comparison with the ability of the Christian church in this country. How few of us have even approached the point of self-denial in effort ! And surely it is only at this point that real benevolence begins. Let us ponder what is our solemn and unquestionable duty: let us look at the wonderful blessing with which God has crowned our exertions ; and I think we shall arrive at the conclusion, that with a corresponding degree of success upon such efforts, for the promotion of religion, as are palpably within our power, a revival of piety may be witnessed in every neighborhood throughout the land; the principles of the Gospel may be made to regulate the detail of individual and national intercourse; the high praises of God may be heard from every habitation; and, perhaps, before the youth of this generation be gathered to their fathers, there may burst forth upon these highly-favored States the light of the Millennial Giory. What is to prevent it? Let any man
the subject, and then answer. My brethren, I speak deliberately. I do believe, that the option is put into our hands. It is for us, in reliance on the divine blessing, to say, whether the present religious movement shall be onward, until it terminate in the universal triumph of Messiah, or whether all shall go back again, and the generations to come after us suffer for ages the divine indignation for our neglect of the Gospel of the grace of God. The church has for two thousand years been praying, “ Thy kingdom come.” Jesus Christ is saying unto us, “ It shall come if you desire it.”
Such, then, are some of the encouragements which the providence of God presents for attempting the universal promulgation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Motives equally strong may also be drawn from the fearful results which must ensue, if we prove unworthy of the high destiny which is now set before us. To these, however, time will only allow me very briefly to allude,
In no case does God array himself in more avenging majesty, than when he resents the misimprovement of unusual blessings, or the neglect of signal opportunities for usefulness. “ Curse ye Meroz," saith the angel of the Lord, “ curse ye bitterly the inliabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” “ And when Jesus was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace—but now they are hidden from thine eyes-for the days come in which thine enemies shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee, and shall not leave thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
The spirit of these warnings applies with great emphasis to the church at the present day. With regard to society at large, it is evident that the changes which have commenced must either result in the universal diffusion of the principles of religious knowledge and civil liberty, or in the establishment of a more firmly riveted system of slavery than the world has yet beheld. The philosophy of Christianity is now generally well understood. Her points of contact with the human heart are discovered. The secret of her great
strength is revealed. Her enemies are rallying, and mean to regain the ground which they lost at the Reformation. Their resources are immense, and their wisdom has been gained in the most effectual of all schools, the school of
Combining all their forces, and, with skill worthy of a better cause, adapting their weapons to the present state of society, they are preparing for one mighty, one universal onset. Christianity cannot safely remain in her present condition. Delay will be defeat.
Delay will be defeat. She must instantly seize the vantage ground, and march onwards, universally triumphant, or be driven again for ages to the dens and caves of the earth. Which shall she do? This question it is for the present generation to answer.
The period within which this question must be decided, may, in other countries, be prolonged ; not so, however, in this country. Other governments may be kept stable amid political commotion, by balancing the interests and passions of one class of the community against those of another. With us, there is but one class—the people. Hence, our institutions can only be supported while the people are restrained by moral principle. We have provided no checks to the turbulence of passion : we have raised no barriers against the encroachments of a tyrannical majority. Hence, the very forms which we so much admire are at any moment liable to become an intolerable nuisance, the instruments of ultimate and remediless oppression. Now, I do not know that history furnishes us with reason to believe that man can be made the happy subject of moral government, in any other way than by the inculcation of principles such as are contained in the New Testament. You see, then, that the church of Christ is the only hope of our country.
I will not here ask, whether any thing has ever transpired within your recollection, in the history of our republic, at which a thoughtful man may tremble. I will not ask whether, when the most momentous questions are at stake, it be customary to address the passions or the reason and conscience of our fellow-citizens. I will neither ask, whether he would not be considered a novice, who was credulous enough to believe a mere politician honest, nor whether an utter disregard of truth be not avowed without a blush, as the principle on which are conducted many of the presses which politicians support. I will not ask, whether the most infamous want of principle bas always obstructed the advancement of him, who has made his imposing voice heard amid the clamor of electioneering strife. Nor will I ask, whether there be not men deeply learned in the history of human affairs, who, overlooking the moral power that resides in the religion of Jesus Christ, have not already doubted whether such institutions as ours can long be perpetuated. I refer to these things, Christian brethren, to remind you how inevitable is the fatal result, if it be not arrested by the influences of Christianity. Good men should be aware of the fact, that even now not a moment is to be lost. When the statesman trembles, then it is time for the Christian to act. Unless prevented by the diffusion of religious principle, the wreck of our civil liberties is inevitable. But in the present state of society, civil and religious liberty must perish together. Then must ensue ages of darkness, more appalling than aught which this world in the gloomiest periods of her history has yet recorded. What form of misery will brood over