« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
In all countries the tone of piety and evangelical morality corresponds exactly with the number, and purity, and energy of the churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. The want of this organized moral power in many parts of our land is appalling. Our population multiplies, and the ratio of moral influence declines, and ignorance and crime are coming in like a flood. All that has been done by Tract Societies, by Sabbath Schools, by Education Societies, and by the National Society for Domestic Missions, is as the drop of the bucket to the ocean. A new and mighty effort is demanded, to send light through the territories of darkness—to repress crime, and perpetuate our civil and religious institutions. In our large cities, especially, is the increase of ignorance and licentiousness lamentable and ominous. Here wealth and temptation concentrate their power upon masses of mind, whose influence cannot fail to affect deeply the destiny of the nation. If they send out a vigorous current of healthful life-blood, the whole nation will feel the renovating influence : but if, with every pulsation, they send out iniquity and death, no power on earth can avert our doom.
A moral power is the only influence that can save our cities. Mere coercion, in a land of freemen, will not avail. Nor will a lax nominal Christianity suffice ; where offenders may find access to the table of Christ, and protection by the horns of the altar. The new churches, to succeed, should be composed of persons of real piety, of kindred sentiment, and of decided character ; and, from the beginning, consist of so many members, and be blessed with such talent and devoted piety in the ministry, and be so countenanced and sustained by other churches, as that their attraction shall not fail to bring under the sacred influence of the gospel the surrounding community. Until our cities shall thus be made to feel, in every part, the purifying power of the gospel, the whole land will continue to send to them, as it has done, hecatoinbs of youthful victims, to be repaid by disappointed hopes and moral contamination.
6. Special effort is required, to secure to the rising generation an education free from the influence of bad example, and more decidedly evangelical.
The atmosphere which our children breathe, from the cradle upward, should be pure. Instead of this, it would not be difficult to find common schools in which ignorance and irreligion predominate. Even where the intellect is cultivated, the heart not unfrequently is corrupted, and the child made wise only to do evil. In a great proportion of the higher schools, to which Christians send their children, little exists of a decidedly religious tendency; while in some a powerful influence is exerted against evangelical sentiments and piety.
And though in many of our Colleges there is a salutary religious influence, and repeated revivals of religion are enjoyed, in none is the influence of religion so decisive as it might be ; while in some, to which pious parents send their children, the influence is directly and powerfully hostile to religion.
I am aware, that not a few regard religious influence in our Colleges as already too great, and that an effort is making to separate religion from science, during the progress of a collegiate education. And those who choose to rear Colleges, and send their offspring where the power of the gospel shall be excluded, bave, doubtless, a right to do so-answerable for
their conduct only to God. But no Christian can do this without violating
There is no period in life when the heart may be more successfully assailed, than that which is passed in a College. And there is no class of human beings, among whom revivals may be promoted, by proper pastoral attention, with greater certainty, or with greater power and glory. Nor can it be expected, that the Church will ever look forth fair as the morning, until effectual care is taken, that in her higher schools and Colleges, her children shall be induced to consecrate to God the dew of their youth.
7. The vigour of charitable effort must be greatly increased.
As long as rich men shail trust more in uncertain riches than in the living God, and the covetous shall dare to heap up treasures to themselves, con. secrating to God scarcely the crumbs that fall from their table, and the ambitious shall insist that they will roll in splendour, and give only the pittance which can be spared from the expense of a wanton ostentation-as long as professors shall consume, in extra gratifications of sense, to the injury of health, sums that, if consecrated to Christ, might suffice to extend the word of life and the institutions of the gospel all over the world—as long as avaricious Christians shall so extend their plans of business, with the increase of their capital, as always to be straitened in the midst of their gains—and as long as parents shall labour to amass wealth for their offspring, only to paralyze their enterprise, and corrupt their morals, and ensure their ruin, -solong the cause of God on earth must move slowly. But the blame must rest on us. There is at this moment, in the hands of Christians, capital enough to evangelize the world in a short period of time, and without the retrenchment of a single comfort, and only by the consecration to Christ of substance, the possession of which would be useless, and often injurious. It is not required of Christian nations to sustain the entire work of preaching the gospel to all the unevangelized population of the earth. Nothing is needed but to erect the standard in pagan lands—to plant the seed—to deposit the leaven, in schools and in churches, until each nation shall support gospel institutions. This is the work to which God in his providence is calling the churches. Now, and for fifty years to come, the substance and enterprise of good men is imperiously demanded. Within that period, it is not improbable, that every nation may be so far evangelized, as that the work may move onward to its consummation, without extraneous aid.
3. The jealousies of Christians who are united substantially in their views of evangelical doctrine and religion, and who are divided only by localities, and rites, and forms, must yield, and give place to the glorious exigencies of the present day. The analgamation of denominations is not required. The division of labour may greatly augment the amount; and the provocation to love and good works may be real and salutary, and still be conducted without invidious collision. Like the tribes of Israel, we may all encamp about the tabernacle of God-each under his own standard and when the ark advances, may all move onward, terrible only to the powers of darkness. And if the enemies of righteousness are not sufficient to rebuke our selfishness, and force us into a coalition of love and good works; then verily it inay be expected-and even be hoped--that God, by the fire of persecution, will purge away our dross, and take away our tin, until we shall love him, and his cause, and one another, with a pure heart, fervently.
9. Let me add, that we must guard against the dangers peculiar to a state of religious prosperity.
There is no condition in which an individual, or the church at large, can be exeinpted from temptations. And especially as the church shall become formidable, and bring upon the great enemy of God the pressure of a des. perate extremity, we are to expect, that his rage will increase, and his wiles be multiplied. For he will leave the world only when forced ; and will fight upon the retreat-giving many a desperate battle, when it shall seem as if the necessity was past of watching against bis devices. Never, therefore, has the necessity of vigilance and prayer been more imperious than now. Let all the churches, then, with their pastors, feel deeply their dependence on God; and when their alms come up before him, and his Spirit shall descend in new and glorious showers, let them watch and pray that they enter not into temptation, and experience an overthrow in the moment of victory.
To fear revivals, because attended by some indications of human imper fection, would be weak and wicked : and far from the church of God be the presumptuous confidence, that nothing deeply injurious to the general interests of religion can be blended with a real work of the Spirit. But though I am not without solicitude on this head, I do trust and expect, that God will preserve his churches, and cause pure religion and undefiled to prosper, and not permit the adversary to turn our glory into share. O, could he do it, how would bis minions scream out their joy! and how would Zion be confounded, and in this day of rejoicing, be compelled to hang her harp upon the willow, and sit down to weep in sackcloth and ashes! To conclude,
Will any of you, my hearers, in this glorious day, take side against the cause of Christ! It will be a fearful experiment. What the mind and counsel of God have purposed to do for the melioration of man is now hastening to its consummation, with the intenseness of infinite benevolence, under the guidance of unerring wisdom, and by the impulse of Almighty power. And wo unto him who contendeth with his Maker.-The lines are now drawing, and preparation is fast making for the battle of the great day of God Almighty
And who is on the Lord's side? Who ! Will of you, in this sublimely interesting moment, stand on neutral ground !
Remember, that neutrality is treason: and if persisted in, is as fatal as the unpardonable sin. Jesus Christ will have the decided services of his people. Already has he denounced as enemies, all who will not labour and suffer for him. He that is not for me, is against me: and whosoeder shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven, Think not that I came to send peace on earth ; (that is, that the progress of truth will be without resistance and persecution ;) I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come, (that is, the effect of my coming will be, as the gospel prevails,) to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother; and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it. These statutes are not repealed. And if the laws of Christian discipleship could bind men to give up every relative, and even life itself, for Christ and his gospel, no excuse, surely, will screen from condemnation those who flinch and temporize, where the sacrifices required are comparatively trivial. If such as would not lay down their life for Christ, can not be accepted—what will become of those, in Christian lands, who will not lay down their substance, nor risk their reputation, nor lift a finger to advance his cause ?
Is there a Christian here, who cannot, for the year to come, double the amount of his charities ? Is there one who will not now purpose in his heart to do it? Brethren, the time is short in which we here have opportunity to express our boundless obligations to the Saviour. The fashion of the world passeth away. Next year, our tongue may be employed in celestial praises ; and our substance be in other hands. What remains then, but that this day we dedicate ourselves, and our all, anew, to Him, who washed us in his blood ? The tone of feeling which we cherish to-day, may, by a holy sympathy, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, be propagated through this great city--through this powerful nation--and through the world. The augmented religious enterprise, to which we pledge ourselves this day, may tell quickly in the very heart of Satan's empire; and cause light to spring up in retreats of deepest darkness.
If any man, however, is smitten with fear, let him retreat. If any man is faint-hearted, let him draw back. If any man tremble at his proportion of the charges for evangelizing the whole world, let him depart. If any man is alarmed at the noise which precedes the last conflict, let him hide himself, with his talent, in the earth! But let all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and wait for his appearing and glory--give themselves anew to his service; and break the earthen vessel ; and lift up their light ; and shout, The sword of the Lord and of Gideon: and the victory, and more than the victory, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High God. And a great voice out of heaven shall be heard, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.