« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
perity around him, and reflect, that they are, in an important sense, the result of an instrumentality employed by him, in common with bois brethren ; while out of it all, his own share is a miserable pittance,-a portion too small to furnish him with the means of fully achieving the work nearest to his heart. The competence which would give him ease, is all that is wanting to enable him to live entirely for others.
Such instances are occasionally found in the clerical calling among us. But the unhappy case is not known to be worse, or more frequent, than it is under the English establishment, where the state is virtually the trustee of the fund destived to the support of the ministry. The condition of inany of the curates, the working-men of the establishment, has often called forth the commiseration of those who feel an interest in the christian ministry and in its objects. The prototype of the description above adventured, is, indeed, oftener found in that wealthy institution, so unequally is its wealth distributed, than among the pastors of our churches. As a general remark, it is true, that the clergymen of our country, especially of New-England, are nearer than is the case with the clerical order of other christian countries, to that mean between affluence and poverty which is the most favorable to virtue, and to the diligent and faithful execution of their sacred trust. They are, perhaps, less removed from want than from wealth; still, their lack of abundance has not been without its benefits on their own character, and on the character of the community. A more generous provision for their support, would be of no disservice to them, and would enlarge the sphere of their usefulness; but with the bare competence which is now their own, and with the self-denying virtues which it generates, are connected the enjoyment of many blessings, and the opportunity and means of doing much good. Certainly, the condition and the character of the ministry in New-England, is a proof of any thing rather than of the infelicities and inferiority of Congregationalism. Exempt cases of want and suffering will occur under any form of ecclesiastical finance, whether it springs from the dictates of the government, or from the volitions of individuals. No human administration of these sacred interests is perfect, or will insure absolute equity of appointment. But the advantage on this point, is evidently not on the side of establishments, taking the whole number of the clerical body, or the desirable medium state between wealth and poverty.
We intended to notice two or three other principles, connected with the opposing systems which have been here brought into view; as for instance, the animosities supposed to be engendered by the constitution of churches after the Congregational mode, and also the fanaticism, and what are rather sneeringly called the
" bursts of revivalism,” produced or countenanced by the American mode of ecclesiastical administration and support, together with the alledged superiority of establishments, in regard to the harmony and sober piety which they foster among their communsons; but these, and some direct considerations showing the injustice and evils of the compulsory principle in religion, must be omitted, as our remarks have already been extended far beyond the space we originally designed to occupy in these pages.
Art. VII.-BEECHER'S PLEA FOR THE WEST. A Plea for the West. By Lyman Beecher, D. D. Cincinnati : Truman & Smith.
To any one, who, from his own quiet retreat and in the hour of of calm reflection, looks out on the agitated world, a spectacle of no ordinary interest is presented. The forms, customs and faces of society, are every where undergoing a radical change. With scarcely an exception, systems of government and modes of life are,—some indeed more, some less rapidly, yet both surely,-verging to a revolution. Long-cherished dogmas, which by proscription have gained such a sway, that it is deemed heresy to deny them, are re-examined and tested; sentiments that have held undisputed control, are brought to the standard of common-sense; and the claim of authority is boldly set aside when opposed to reason. In this conflict of opinions, this breaking up of former things to re-compound and re-cast them in a mold better fitted for the coming latter-day, what shall be the fate of our own country ? Extensive as it is, covered with a rapidly increasing and heterogeneous population, and subject to influences so varied, will it continue prosperous and happy, and in the enjoyment of the name and privileges of a republic? This question is yet to be decided,—decided too, doubtless, in the lifetime of the present generation. We are not fond of boding ill; still, we must confess our fears: and but for our trust in God, that he has destined these United States to aid his own great design of reclaiming a lost world to himself, we should be tempted to despair. Many are the causes at work, seeming to prognosticate, that this our experiment, vaunted with such confidence for half a century, may end in a failure. The stability of our constitution and frame of government, is, to say the least, more problematical now than formerly. Guarded as it was by the wise architects who planned and reared the noble fabric, experience has shown it to need additional guards, in essential points, to protect it from assaults, which the prophetic minds of those keen-sighted men scarcely anticipated. The influx of foreign immigration, the reckless partisanship of political aspirants, the general spirit of ultraism, the agitating nature of various subjects enVol. VII.
gaging public attention, with the growing corruptions of all classes ; the outcry against the wealthy and educated, and the bitter hostility to morals, worth and religion, which breathes out from so many bosoms, and stamps itself on countless productions of the press; these and similar ibings are among the painful indications, that a harder struggle is before us. A leaven of iniquity is fast diffusing itself, and powerfully, though in some cases almost imperceptibly, converting the elements of our national prosperity into materials of disorganization, and for the subversion of our hopes and prospects. If any proof of this is needed, compare for a moment the growing disregard for the institutions of God, the laxity of conscience as to the sabbath and religious obligation, with the reverent seelings once cherished on these subjects.
In this state of our country, the christian patriot anxiously looks around and inquires, How, and by what means, under God, may our impending ruin be averted? One voice of reply is re-echoed from every quarter, -Moral and religious improvement; more strenuous efforts to render intelligent and virtuous the entire mass of the community who have the power of fixing our destiny as a nation.
The bearing of the West on the ultimate condition of our whole country, has been often urged; and the fact is too clear to adınit of question. Trite as are the arguments by which a "plea for the West” may be sustained, yet until they are realized and acted on with far greater unanimity and zeal ihan is now the case, such reasonings, and the facts on which they are grounded, must be repeated; and repeated, if need be, for the thousandth or ten thousandth time. We mean not, however, to imply, that such is the character of the work before us. Its author's name, on the contrary, is a sufficient warrant for its originality and strength of argument, as well as vigor of conception and power of delineation. No one need fear, that in giving himself to its pages he will only be tracking the beaten path of former and inferior writers. Dr. Beecher has ever been a man sui generis. The subject 100, is one well adapted to a mind like bis. For a long time conversant with the institutions and affairs of New-England; accustomed to take enlarged views of topics most closely related to sound political economy, and in a style of peculiar eloquence to urge truth on the conscience; he now occupies a station of commanding influence, as president of a rising seminary, to which the West, especially, looks for its future pastors and religious teachers. He has, therefore, rare opportunities of comparing and estimating the characteristics and mutual relations of the eastern and western States; and his judgments, on this subject, are unquestionably entitled to serious consideration.
The present volume comprises, as many of our readers will re
cognize from their own recollections, “ a discourse delivered by the author in several of the Atlantic States, last season, while on an agency for the Cincinnati Lane Seminary.” To the appeal then made, a hearty response was given, in the contributions of benevolent individuals and churches; and funds were secured for the establishment of a new professorship, the erection of a chapel, and the enlargement of the library. The seminary, notwithstanding a temporary embarrassment from the secession of some of its former students, is flourishing, and bids fair to exceed the most sanguine expectations of its friends. Its importance can hardly be appreciated, by those whose attention has not been directed to a particular consideration of the wants and future abilities of the West. The main portion of the "plea” is occupied in exbibiting the alarming influence of popery on the rising states of the great western valley; and in enforcing the immediate necessity of counteracting, by all practicable moral influence, the efforts of its emissaries. In noticing the volume, we shall pursue the author's own train of thought, adding any suggestions which may occur to us at the time.
Dr. Beecher believes, with Edwards, that the Millenium is to commence in America. The grounds of this opinion are, the experimental knowledge of free institutions, and the unbounded facilities and resources of communication bere possessed; and that “there is not a nation on earth, which in fifty years can, by all possible reformations, place itself in circumstances so favorable as our own, for the free and unembarrassed application of physical effort and pecuniary and moral power to evangelize the world." From this he comes to the position, that the religious and political destiny of this republic is to be decided in the West; "a young empire of mind, and power, and wealth, rushing up to giant inanhood with a rapidity and a power never before witnessed below the sun." No one can doubt this fact, who will ponder, even for a short time, the extent, resources and numerical superiority of the West, compared with the older states ; and the balance of power
which the states in the Mississippi valley already hold in the halls of congress. The eastern states can expect but little increase, if any, in their representation; the western states and territories will be constantly gaining.
The first inquiry, therefore, which Dr. B. proposes is, “What is required to secure the civil and religious prosperity of the West ?” His answer is as follows:
"The thing required for the civil and religious prosperity of the West, is universal education, and moral culture, by institutions commensurate to that result, the all-pervading influence of schools, and colleges, and seminaries, and pastors, and churches. When the West is well supplied in this respect, though there may be great relative defects, there will
be, as we believe, the stamina and the vitality of a perpetual civil and religious prosperity.' pp. 12, 13.
Io reply to the question, “By whom shall the work of rearing the literary institutions of the West be done?” Dr. B. aims to show, that the concurrence and aid of the East is indispensable. He amply vindicates the ability and willingness of the West, in time, to accomplish the desired reformation; affirming, that no where is the subject of education more appreciated. Why then, it may be asked, cannot they do all that is needed for themselves in this matter? The reason is obvious, on a moment's reflection. Educated mind and literary matériel are wanted. No people ever did or could, at once, turn a wilderness into a nursery of the sciences and arts. Such things are of slower growth, and betoken the advance of society, in the means for supplying the necessities and comforts of life. New-England, privileged as she was with a homogeneous population, strongly linked together by common hopes and common perils, and reached as she might be by immediate legislation, yet had to be indebted, in part, to foreign aid, and to seek, for a time, from the mother country, pastors for her churches; thus allowing her newly established institutions to grow and strengthen. In these respects, the West labors under far greater disadvantages. With every variety of population, mostly uneducated; with no uniform public sentiment to control and direct the action of minds, not a few of whom were never before unshackled, and hence are liable to run, riot and plunge into wild and wanton misrule ; her towns, villages and cities springing up with a rapidity which almost realizes the fables of ancient song; it would be miraculous, and not human power, which could at once, in a single generation, have completed the work of rearing up a people so circumstanced, to the full enjoyment of the privileges of education and religion. Let not then the West be blamed, that she has not done it. Miracles are not now to be expected. The age of such wonders is past. But the period has come, when, through proper means, the desired result may be confidenily anticipated. The population of that country, in many portions, are assimilating more and more, and acquiring consistency of purpose and action. A train of causes is in operation, which, with right direction, will contribute to hasten its accomplishment; but which, neglected or misapplied, will, with a tremendous energy, defeat or paralize every subsequent attempt to effect so desirable a change. Spread over that extensive country, there is an immense mass of mind, possessing all the characteristics of development usually found in new-born states and territories, and stamped with the manifold peculiarities of their situation and circumstances. By whom now shall this mental power be trained and guided ? at what object aim