Imágenes de páginas

withal, and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous, and in that day thy cattle shall feed in large pastures. The seed shall be prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; the evil beasts shall cease out of the land ; and they shall sit every man under his vine and fig tree, and none shall make him afraid; for behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.” The same thing may be intimated in the following passages which refer to the same period : Let the fields be joyful, and all that is therein, let the hills be joyful together; then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth.”* “I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the vallies, I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness, the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil-tree. I will set in the desert the fir tree and the box together ; that they may see and know, and consider that the hand of the Lord hath done this.”+ ." I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."

Sing, Ő heavens, and be joyful, 0 earth, and break forth into singing, O mountains, ye forests, and every tree therein." “Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace ; the mountains and hills shall break' forth, before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and, instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree." I " And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations."

Although several of the last quoted passages may be considered as having a reference to the spiritual renovation of the world, yet the literal meaning is not to be altogether excluded. For the external comforts of mankind and the natural' embellishments of the

* Psalm xcvi.

+ Isaiah-xli. 18.

Isaiah lv. 12.

earth go hand in hand with the reception of Divine truth, and the manifestation of Christian virtues. Wherever the gospel comes in its power and renewing influence upon the heart, it sooner or later, brings along with it the blessings of civilization, and leads to the abandonment of rude and savage practices to the improvement of the soil, and to the rearing of clearly villages and comfortable habitations. This may be seen in the progress of Christianity in Southern Africą, where the narrow and filthy kraals of the Hottentots have been changed into substantial and commodious dwellings; and in the Society Isles, where gardens, villages, spacious churches, seminaries, and stately mansions, now beautify and adorn that once savage territory, so lately the seat of idolatry and " the habitations of cruelty." In these respects, “ the fields" may be said to " be joyful,” and “the mountains and the hills to break forth into singing, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose. Such predictions, too, seem to intimate, that the extensive deserts and tracts of barren sand now.lying waste and uncultivated, and seldom trodden by the foot of man, will be brought under cultivation, and changed into a scene of delightful verdure; and that, upon the hideous wilds where Nineveh, Babylon, and other famous cities once stood, other splendid cities will be reared, congenial to the holy and elevated views of a renovated population. The following and similar passages may be fairly interpreted in this sense. “ I will make the dry land springs of water, and I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle. They shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations."

How, then, are such glorious transformations to be effected? Are we to suppose, that God, by a direct act of his Almighty power, as at the first creation, is to sweep the dense forests from the earth, level the mountains, prepare high ways for its inhabitants, and plant with his own hand " in the wilderness, the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle ?" Or are we te suppose,

that angelic beings are to be 'sent down from heaven to perform such material operations? If not, then, they must be effected by the genius and energy of man. For, whatever man is enabled to perform, under the arrangements of the Divine government, is 'uniformly ascribed to God'as the Supreme mover and director of every operation; and a miracle was never performed, when human agents, by the ordinary laws of nature were able to accomplish the object intended.

And how is man to accomplish such improvements, but by employing his treasures, and his physical and mental energies in such beneficent operations ? Hitherto, covetousness has prevented such desirable im. provements from being effected. When requested to embark in any undertaking which has for its object the melioration of the social state, its uniform language is, “will it pay ?” “ will it pay?” “ will it produce a proper per centage for the outlay of money?" implying that the acquisition of more money, is the grand stimulus which should excite us to embark in any undertaking. It is stated, for example, that certain marshes, mosses, and heath-clad hills, can never be cultivated, because " the expense of cultivating them would outrun the profit.” This is an argument which may be allowed to a man who worships mammón as his God, and who has his portion only in the present life; but such an argument ought never to proceed from the mouth of a Christian. The grand question to be determined is, is it expedient and requisite that such improvements should be attempted, and is it consistent with the will and purpose of God, that they should be accomplished ?"" If such questions can be answered in the affirmative, then all other considerations ought to be laid aside, and it ought to be deliberately considered, and laid down as a maxim, that money was bestowed by God just for such purposes, and not to be put in a bag, or “ laid up in a napkin.” Weré such views generally recognised, and acted upon, a new impulse would be given to human activity, and a new aspect would begin to appear throughout the scene of nature, and of general society,

How many thousands are to be found in our cities and populous towns, and even in our hamlets and villages, who are living in the midst of filth and wretchedness, either altogether unemployed, or-eking oat a scanty pittance, scarcely. sufficient to keep soul and body together, or employed in pilfering, or other criminal pursuits, who would rejoice in the prospect of being employed in rural improvements!

Now, were some hundreds of such persons distributed, under proper superintendents, in different parts of the country, to drain a marsh, to cultivate a desert, to form new roads, to drive soil to sandy or rocky wastes, and to direct rivulets and streams of water to flow through .such places; were small towns and villages, on spacious plans, to be reared in such places, and comfortable habitations for the industrious laborers ; were schools established forthe instruction of the young; and churches, and lecture-rooms for the instruction of adults in religion, and in every branch of useful knowledge, what an amount of enjoyment might be communicated to thousands of miserable creatures, now in a state of penury and degradation ? and what a beautiful transformation would appear on the aspect of "the wilderness, and the solitary place," now covered with briars and thorns, and untrodden by the foot of man! Nothing prevents such scenes from being realized, but the principle of avarice; and it becomes Christians to whom God has granted riches, and property, seriously to consider, whether they be not called upon by the word and providence of God, to embark in such undertakings, although, instead of making five per cent. for their money, they should lose twice that sum; in accomplishing such designs, The question with a Christian, ought not to be, what is the per centage of money to be acquired; but what is the per centage of happiness that will be gained to mankind, and of improvement on the face of nature. Let such consider what I say, and “may the Lord give them understanding in all

things ?

3. Were covetousness undermined, we might soon have institutions established for the intellectual and religious instruction of persons of all ranks and ages.

This is a most important consideration—a subject the most momentous of any


can engage the attention of the Christian, or of members of general society. It is a subject, however, which has been most unaccountably overlooked by all ranks, and even by professed- Christians and philanthropists. Innumerable facts which have lately come to light, in our own land, abundantly prove, that ignorance and crime are almost inseparably connected; and the same position is confirmed by the experience of almost every other country. Notwithstanding the severity and the multiplicity of our penal statutes, and the new enactments which are issued, year after year, against crimes, they have multiplied almost in proportion to the increase of our criminal statutes. It has been calculated, that in and about London alone, there are above fifty thousand thieves and pick-pockets. And no wonder, when we learn from the Report of the “British and Foreign School Society" for 1833, that “in the Metropolis alone, there are above 150,000 children growing up to manhood without education." In Nottingham, it is found that more than a thousand children, of an age suitable for school, are growing up in total ignorance; and, in Herefordshire, out of 41,000 individuals, only about 24,000, or little more than one half, were able to , read. Instead of one out of every four attending instruction, it is estimated, that throughout Great Britain and Ireland, there is not above one out of twelve or fourteen of the population, at an average, enjoying the means of regular instruction; paltry, and inefficient, as they generally are. Without a thorough intellectual and religious education, universally extended, commencing at a very early period of life, and continued till manhood, the root of crime will never be extirpated; and although its branches may be occasionally lopped off by the sword of the law, they will always be ready to break out in fresh luxuriance. So long as the prin

« AnteriorContinuar »