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xo benign an impression upon this dark and miserable world. Commencing in the ministry of a single individual, and sustained by the enterprise of twelve disciples, it urged its silent career, amid flames, and tortures, and death, until, at the close of the third century, it triumphed.
The effect produced upon the laws and '18titutions of the Roman empire by Christianity is the greatest which was ever effected without violence. Partial as was the spread of Christianity-imperfect as was the knowledge of it—and limited as was its efficacy upon the heart—and transient as was its lustre—so soon eclipsed by superstition and the return of barbarian ignorance, yet, to this day, is the difference great and manifest between the worst portions of Christendom and the total darkness that rests on all the earth beside. The hideous spectacles of Pagan impurity and cruelty have given place to monuments of Christian love. And if thi partial, momentary experiment produced such changes, what may not be expected when the religion of the Gospel shall pervade every palace, and cottage, and heart on the globe ?
We have another evidence of the life-giving power of the Gospel at the Reformation. Gradually it had been sequestered, until, under the abused name of Christianity, a system of idolatry had been reared up, as impure almost and as fierce and cruel as Paganism itself. But no sooner did the Bible reappear, in the translations made and scattered by the reformers, and the system of evangelical instruction, so long suspended, go into operation, than half Europe burst her chains, and experienced a moral resurrection.
Other instances are now multiplying upon us of the civilizing and purifying power of the Gospel, among heathen nations, and those too the most debased. In South Africa, among the Hotentots, the purities and charities of civilized life are rising up under evangelical culture. At Sierra Leone, also, orderly, decent, and happy settlements are formed, and churches too are established, giving evidence of elevated piety-composed of beings rescued a few years since from the chains, and darkness, and moral corruption of slave-ships.
The change at the Sandwich Islands, also, is as unquestionable as it is wonderful and joyful. A nation has been born in a day. A reverse of secular and moral condition has been achieved, greater, and more entire and benign, on the whole population, than was ever before witnessed on earth in so short a time.
But we need not go abroad for monuments of the benign influence of the Gospel upon the temporal condition of man. Our pilgrim fathers came hither that they might enjoy religious liberty, and make a fair experiment of what the Gospel could do to bless mankind. And the religious, civil, and social prosperity of New England is the result. The poor we have ever with us--but among them who are the virtuous poor? Precisely those who venerate the Sabbath, and attend statedly upon the worship of God. While the vicious poor will be found, among those whose religious education has been neglected, and upon whom the Bible, and the Sabbath, and the Gospel have exerted little influence : and if you traverse the whole land, those portions most distinguished for Bibles and a devout attention upon Gospel ordinances, will be found proportionably distinguished by whatsoever things are pure, and lovely, and of good report.
The reforming influence of the Gospel, as developed in Sabbath Schools, also gives triumphant testimony to its power. The Recorder of London stated, at a public meeting, that of two thousand children educated in Sao.
bath Schools, only seven who had been in them over fourteen days had ever been brought before him for crime ; and that too among a class of citizens peculiarly degraded.
These fruits of the Bible are in perfect accordance with its predictions. I need not repeat them at large. They are many and express. It is predicted that God will destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil spread over all nations—that his knowledge shall cover the earth as the waters the sea—that all shall know him from the greatest to the least
and the people be all righteous—that wars shall cease—that benevolence shall supplant selfishness and ferocity—and that the earth, exuberant in its supplies, shall nevertheless be filled with purity and joy.
I have only to add, that all other systems of moral influence depend simply upon their own unaided strength; while the Gospel is attended by the special presence of God and the power of his Holy Spirit-giving to it an efficacy infinitely beyond that of simple argument or eloquence. Thus attended, the Gospel wrought its wonders of mercy on the day of Pentecost, and during the first ages of Christianity. Thus attended, it has, in these latter days and these ends of the earth, often, in the course of a few weeks or months, changed the entire aspect of a neighborhood or town-introducing a moral elevation that gladdens angels. And thus attended, this same Gospel is capable of breaking every chain of oppression, and renovating a ruined world. Who then, that loves his country—that loves mankind—would, by example or otherwise, hinder the progress of this Gospel ? and not rejoice rather in every effort made for extending its blessed influence ?
TROPRIETY AND IMPORTANCE OF EFFORTS TO EVANGELIZE THE NATION.
JEREMIAH, ix. 23, 24.
Ir, as has been shown in the preceding discourse, the Gospel only is able to conduct nations to abiding prosperity,—then,
NOTHING IS TO BE FEARED, BUT MUCH IS TO BE HOPED FOR, FROM THE EFFORTS OB PATRIOTS AND CHRISTJANS TO EVANGELIZE THE NATION.
Infidels and profligate men affect great trepidation, lest the efforts made to spread the Gospel should lead to combinations dangerous to our liberties, and rear up another hierarchy, and bring back priestcraft and the dark ages. But do they really believe any such thing? Do they fear any such thing? Do they not know, that wherever the Gospel and its institutions bave been most revered, men have been most intelligent, most free from superstition, and most incapable of ecclesiastical domination? Do they not know, that superstition and priestcraft have in all climes and ages increased, just in proportion as the moral energy of the Gospel has declined ? It is the testimony of history, that principles of civil and religious liberty have always accompanied evangelical religion, and made their most desperate resistance to arbitrary power and achieved their most glorious victories under its auspices. And it is equally true, that there never was a religion
but that of the Gospel, which did not darken and debase the mind, and lend its influence to despotism and to a corrupt and abominable priesthood.
. The ascendancy of that terrible form of nominal Christianity, which arose in the dark ages, and whose persecutions have kept the heavens gleaming with their fires, and the earth flowing with blood, was the result of a long declension of evangelical light, and has held, and still holds, indissoluble alliance with ignorance of the pure Gospel, and passive obedience to despotic power.
But are those among us, who affect so much apprehension of danger from clerical influence, aware of the invidious imputation which they thus cast upon their countrymen ? Are they as ignorant as the people of the dark ages? Do they need conservators to prevent their giving up their money, and their civil and religious rights, into the hands of the clergy? Are our citizens so far gone, that they have no guardians between them and destruction, but the volunteer aid of those keen-sighted, kindhearted gentlemen, who have discovered that the Bible is a cunningly devised fable, and that after death it shall be as well with the wicked as with the righteous ? What possible danger to liberty can arise from clerical influence, exerted by enlightened men upon a virtuous community? There is an influence inseparable from talent, piety, and fidelity in the pastoral office, which none but wicked men fear, and which can never be prevented, but by such general ignorance and profligacy as will render good men odious, and ruin the nation. A new kind of conspiracy, indeed, against civil liberty must that be, which proposes, by the dissemination of Bibles, and the preaching of the Gospel, to enslave the country!--The very means by which the Reformers emancipated half Europe, and by which to this day all the civil liberty which exists in the world has been preserved! An unparalleled deliverance, too, from priestcraft and popery must that be, which shall be achieved by undermining the public confidence in evangelical ministers, stopping the circulation of Bibles and tracts, and abolishing missionary societies and sabbath schools !-thus leaving the land in darkness, and open to the invasion of Papal missionaries, and the influence of those ample revenues which“ his Holiness” so unsparingly consecrates to the establishment of his dominion in North America. *
Are those enemies of revelation who clamour so loudly against the means which achieved the reformation, and which alone can prevent the spread of popery in our country, in the pay of his Holiness? Has the secret servicemoney reached ito destination, and does the mystery of iniquity already begin to work? We make no pretensions to prophecy, and we do not need that gift to foresee, that if Popery shall ever gain in this land an ascendancy dangerous to our liberties, it will be accomplished only through the aid of infidels, and the virulent haters of evangelical religion, and those multitudes to whom evangelical instruction is not extended.
Already has the loud tone of execration against popery been turned from “his Holiness” and his American emissaries, to that class of Protestants who in Europe broke down his dominion, and in this country are raising the only effectual barriers against his usurpation.
Is it darkness, then, or is it light, which they so much fear, who cry out against charities which are destined to evangelize the nation and the world ? Have they any objection to the dark ages who oppose the propagation of that Gospel-the extinction of which produced them, and the restoration of which has kindled the only light and restored the only civil and religious liberty which now cheers the world ? Do not the infidel and profligate know, that the general prevalence of the Gospel would create an atmosphere of light and purity that would pour shame on the wicked ? And is not this the real ground of their alarmn?
* It is understood that "his Holiness" has sent over at least twenty-seven Missionaries, and one hundred thousand dollars to aid in this good work the past year.
But our countrymen are too intelligent to be the dupes of a feigned alarm. They understand the motives of those who make the outcry-in many instances men who for a mess of pottage would sell their countrymen who, should a tyrant ever rule the nation, will, by their bad example, prepare the way, and be the first to hail the usurper, and to become the ministers of his despotism. For, those who blush not to practise treason against the government of God who acknowledge the obligation of Divine institutions only to insult Heaven and a Christian community by violating them, have no conscience and no patriotism, and can give no security that they would not, in times of temptation, sell their country.
But will the future Cæsar of our country, should one arise, be able, think you, to call to his standard the patriotic band, who, amid obloquy and self-denial, are laboring to transinit to future millions our colleges and schools, and sabbaths and sanctuaries? Were such means and such men ever employed to subvert the liberties of a nation ? Preposterous ! The Gospel, instead of degrading, is the only power which elevates the people above the influence of demagogues, and diffuses intelligence, independence, and a vigorous morality among the middle classes in society. It is the only power which detects imposture, supplants idolatry, and pours a hated day-light on superstition and the works of darkness. It is the only power which can keep down the plethora of a luxuriant prosperity, and restrain the paroxysms of mad ambition.
As to the outcry, then, if sincere, of a national religion, to be reared by clerical intrigue and pecuniary influence, it is the most chimerical and laughable imagination that ever danced in the brain of a lunatic. The permanent funds held by charitable institutions are but a drop of the bucket, compared with those which are allowed to be held by companies associated for secular purposes, and their annual accounts, rendered to the public, of receipts and expenditures, are more minute, and such as more en: tirely preclude the possibility of perversion, than those rendered by any secular institutions in the land. No man who pays taxes for the support of government, has any thing like the same evidence that the public income is not perverted. And it is this open, honest course, which satisfies a virtuous community, whose charities will no longer be continued than this eonfidence in their wise appropriation is sustained.
The Christian population of the United States is divided chiefly between four or five large denominations; each sustained and protected by its own religious Magazines, Newspapers, Theological Seminaries, Education and Missionary Societies, and Sabbath Schools-neither of which could supplant the others, or be supplanted, without a moral miracle. Nor could they be amalgamated into one denomination for ambitious purposes, without a still greater miracle. And though, in regard to objects in which all Christians and all patriots are agreed, it may be amiable, and very proper, that these denominations should cheerfully unite and co-operate, yet their amalgamation into one denomination, even for religious purposes,
would not indeed be desirable. In their emulation they banish sloth and covetousness, and provoke one another to love aud good works; and thus with increased zeal they put forth those etforts which are needed to evangelize the land. The funds raised by them for charitable and religious purposes are under the management of boards of trust, composed of ministers of approved character, and laymen possessing the highest confidence of the denominations to which they belong, and of the candid and virtuous of every name.
Instead of threatening the liberties of our country, then, if our liberties are to be preserved, it is eminently by the instruinentality of such associations that the work must be done. Government cannot superiutend the religious and moral interests of the country. And the churches, though adequate to the purposes of a stated iinistry, are not, as such, sufficiently embued with zeal and harmony of character to act, as churches, with the activity and vigor demanded for the general diffusion of the Gospel. But these volunteer associations concentrate the best hearts, the most willing hands, and the most vigorous and untiring enterprise. And being united by affinities of character, they move with less impediment and more vigor than any other bodies can move, and constitute, no doubt, that form of the sacramental host by which Jesus Christ intends to give freedom to the world.
So far from being dangerous to our liberties, these benevolent associations constitute just that kind of attraction which our circumstances demand. Our national compact is a compromise of local interests, exposing us to sectional jealousies and competitions, as well as to the feverish agitations of passion and ambition. Religion is the only principle of universal benevolence, whose eye pervades, and whose heart feels for the entire nation. And Christians are those members of the nation whose views and hearts are most in unison, and who act for ends, and under the influence of prin ciples, which constitute the cement by which the nation may be held together.
It is by means of these associations, to spread the Bible and distribute Tracts, and educate ministers, and establish schools universally, that Christian friendships are formed, and a national influence exerted, and that charity extended which is the bond of perfectness, and which, if any thing can do it, will save the nation froin civil war and commotion. And should we be ever driven by mad ambition to the perilous edge of destruction, it will be found, that the love of Christians for one another, and for the cause of God and their country, will afford a powerful tranquilizing influence, and will probably be the cause without which the nation had not been saved.
A peculiar motive to effort now, is found in the consideration that we are fast becoming a manufacturing, as well as an agricultural people, and, with the increase of temptation, need that augmented preserving influence of the Gospel, which experience has shown to be able to avert the evils which have attended the manufacturing establishments of Europe, and to render this class of citizens as intelligent, industrious, respectable, and pious, as any whose labors bless the land.
Indeed our Republic is becoming too prosperous, too powerful, too extended, too numerous, to be governed by any power without the blessed inAuence of the Gospel. The bayonet, in despotic governments, may for a time be a substitute ; but ours must be self-government, or anarchy first, and then despotism. The prevalence of Christian philosophy may save us, as certainly as that of infidel philosophy would be our ruin.