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those who are disposed, do nothing? If men of a missionary spirit belonging to the church of England, and those belonging to the church of Scotland, and if men of such a spirit among the Dissenters in Great Britain, and in 'New England, had acted on this principle, where would have been all those benevolent institutions which have been originated there and here, and which have not only been successful in accomplishing the object directly aimed at, but have awakened the spirit of Christian compassion and love in the minds of multitudes who stood aloof, and induced them to enlist heartily in the same work? From the beginning of these benevolent operations, it has been constantly affirned and demonstrated to be the duty of the whole Christian church, and of all particular, local churches, and of all denominations and classes of Christians, to send the Gospel to the heathen. But nominal Christians generally have been lamentably remiss in regard to this duty; and there has been only a comparatively small number in different parts of Christendom who have cordially given themselves to the work. This small number of faithful ministers and Christians have not been able to do what they would ; but they have done what they could. They would have rejoiced to see all Christians on earth, of all denominations united in this work, and laboring as subjects of the same glorious Lord and King, to extend his peaceful reign over the whole world. But as this could not be, they had no alternative left, but to abandon the work altogether, or to bring as many as they found like-minded, to shake off their slumbers, and in good earnest to join with them in beginning this longneglected work. Thanks to God that they determined upon this course ; and with what wisdom, zeal and success they have pursued it, the world knows.
Now let it be remembered, that the Congregationalists could not, to this day, have done any thing, as an ecclesiastical body; for they have not been formed in such a body. And we know too that the majority of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church have not till recently undertaken the work of Foreign Missions; and probably would not have done it now, had not smaller portions of that church commenced it before. And even now, the church of England at large is very far from being prepared to engage in the missionary enterprise.
I must therefore proceed to say, that it is evidently expedient, and of great importance, to leave the door open for different modes of action in promoting the objects of benevolence. To maintain, that every thing which is to be done for reforming and saving the world, must be done in one and the same way, and to regard whatever is done in any other way, with dissatisfaction or indifference, would in my view betray a very narrow way of thinking, and a disposition to oppose the manifest leadings of divine providence. The great Apostle showed himself to be of a very different mind from this, when, looking at the preaching of Christ by men of different characters, and some of them very unfriendly to himself, he expressed the feelings of bis heart in these remarkable words: “Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached ; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice.” Noble spirit! worthy to be imitated by all who preach the same gospel, and serve the same divine Master! To attempt to bring Christians of every denomination, and in all circumstances, to think and act in the same way in regard to the objects of benevolence, would be as fruitless, as to attempt to bring them all to think alike respecting church government, and the outward forms of worship. The state of Christendom is far from what it should be ; and many evils exist which cannot at present be remedied. Let us employ our talents upon objects which are of the greatest importance, and which we may have some prospect of accomplishing. Let us do all the good we can in present circumstances. And as we cannot induce all Christians to do good in the way which we prefer, let us be willing they should do good in their own way. And though we may imagine that more good would be done, if they should all adopt our way; still let us rejoice that they do a less degree of good, rather than none. We may think it best that all efforts in the cause of benevolence should be made by an ecclesiastical organization; or we may think they should be made by voluntary associations. But whether we prefer the one, or the other, many Christians will differ from us, and will act, if they act at all, in another way. Why should we oppose them? Why be disquieted, provided they allow us the same liberty which they ask for themselves ? Why not say in the spirit of the Apostle : Notwithstanding, every way, whether by an ecclesiastical or a voluntary organization, the glad tidings are proclaimed to the perishing; and we therein do rejoice, yea, and we will rejoice. We cannot govern the world. We cannot control the judg. ments and wills of our fellow Christians. And God has not called us to do it. Let us give it up, and that cheerfully and kindly. Far away from us be all contracted views, all jealousy, envy, unholy emulation, and party-spirit. Let us look with candor and forbearance, and with sincere, expansive benevolence, upon all who differ from us. Let our desire for the conversion of the heathen and the increase of the church be so strong, that we shall heartily rejoice in it, whether accomplished by our own labors, or the labors of others. When those of one denomination make report of the good which, through the blessing of God, they have accomplished; let them, with equal gratitude, mention the good which other denominations have accomplished. When those who prefer voluntary movements, make report of their success; let them be sure to notice also the success of those who prefer to act in an ecclesiastical way. And let those who prefer this way, never forget to notice what is done by those who prefer the other way: Oh! it is enough to make our hearts swell with joy, to think of the full exercise of this spirit of mutual candor, and mutual justice, and hearty good-will, among the different classes of Christians ! This excellent spirit has begun to show itself in our country. May its happy influence pervade all our hearts, and all our public and private transactions. If we would conform to the precepts of our religion-if we would prevent bitterness and strife and envy and evil speaking—if we would shine as lights in the world, and be successful in promoting the welfare of Christ's kingdom; let us cherish this candid, impartial, kind, generous disposition, and endeavor to diffuse it among our fellow Christians. And if the case requires, let some portion of the zeal, which we have laid out in opposing those good men who differ from us, be henceforth laid out in correcting our own faults, and in cultivating this benevolent, Christlike spirit towards the followers of Christ of every name and every party.
To those who are advocates for one mode of doing good in preference to other modes, let me say ;-Brethren, why should there be any strife ? Ought we not to grant to others the same rights, as we claim for ourselves,-the rights of conscience, and free agency? We may think it strange that our arguments do not convince our brethren; and they may think it equally strange, that their arguments do not convince us. Perhaps we may charge them with prejudice. And is it not possible that we may be chargeable with the same? Are we not liable to some improper bias? Have we never erred in judgment? And may we not hereafter discover some error in our present views ?
There are not a few men of sincere benevolence and integrity, wlio are afraid to admit the principle of Voluntary Associations, because indiscreet, extravagant, or ambitious men have made use of it to sanction disorderly and pernicious measures. The principle, 1 allow, may be abused, and be made the occasion of great evil
. And so may the principle of ecclesiastical organization. If the argument is valid against one, it is so against the other. Let all the error, superstition, despotism, persecution, and cruelty, which have been found in ecclesiastical bodies, and have been promoted and acted out by them, and by their authorized ministers, be fairly set forth; and would not the amount of the evil be fearfully great? Would it not far esceed that which has resulted from Voluntary Associations ? What then? Is the abuse or perversion of a thing any argument against the thing itself? By no means. It is indeed true, that the experience we have had of the evils resulting from the abuse of any just and important principle, should excite us to exercise all possible diligence and care in order to guard against such abuse in future; but it is no reason for abandoning the principle itself. As to the subject now before us; instead of setting ourselves in opposition to the principle of Voluntary Associations,-a principle which is in itself blameless, and which has been productive of immense good, and is, in some circumstances, indispensable to the welfare of the church instead of setting ourselves in opposition to this principle, let us employ all the wisdom we have acquired to give it a right direction, and to prevent its being turned to a bad use by heated, reckless, or unprincipled men. This is our proper business at the present day. And in this important business it is hoped that ministers and Christians will act with more and more union and zeal. A little more of this union and zeal, added to a disposition to profit by experience, and the great end is secured,—ihe order of the church and the interests of pure religion are safe, without breaking in upon a principle, which has been and still may be productive of so much good.
But here one caution is required. We have seen and deplored the abuse of the “ Voluntary Principle,” in some instances, and the disorder and desolation which have followed in its train. In consequence of this, are we not in danger of disre
garding the immeasurable benefits which the principle has produced? The good which has been accomplished by Voluntary Societies in the various departments of Christian benevolence, ought to be remembered with the most devout gratitude. The events which have given distinction and glory to the last fifty years, and for which continual thanks are offered up to God, by innumerable multitudes in the four quarters of the globe—these blessed events have, for the most part, been brought about by the agency of Voluntary Societies. Now would it not betray an unbecoming state of inind in us, if we should be so absorbed with the contemplation of the evils which, in some instances, have been occasioned by the perversion of the Voluntary Principle, as to lose sight of the great amount of good which has been effected by its legitimate action? Better err on the other side ;-better be so absorbed with the contemplation of the immeasurable good, as to lose sight of the evil which has come in. But it is best of all to avoid error on both sides ;-on one side to notice the whole extent of good, and duly to estimate its value ; and on the other side, to keep a watchful eye upon the evils which have stolen in upon us through the folly or rashness of men, and to adopt the most wise and energetic measures to remove them, and to shut the door against their occurrence in future. But at the present day are there not faults apparent on both sides ? Do we not find men who celebrate the happy results of Voluntary Societies, with incessant raptures,—who speak of them as though they were in no case mingled with any portion of evil, and who seem to see nothing but unqualified and unbounded good ? On the other hand, do we not find those, who keep so vigilant and jealous an eye upon the evils resulting from the occasional perversion of what is in itself right, and who are so alarmed at the appearance of danger, that they do really lose sight of the vast amount of good which has been done ; or, if they see it at all, see it as though they saw it not ? Unquestionably, there is something true and something false, something useful and something hurtful on both sides. Happy they, who hold fast what is true and useful, and rid themselves of what is false and hurtful.
Finally : Let none who love the cause of Christ, be in haste to innovate upon the common methods of benevolent action. I urge it as a reason for this caution, that the evils of sudden innovation, even when the change proposed is in itself important, frequently prove more than an overbalance for all the benefits VOL. XII. No. 32.