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so often and ably done, from the pulpit and the press.
attention in this discourse.
sonal comfort or even embellishment for the sake of sending the gospel to hundreds of millions, who are ignorant of its blessings ; I can see no reason to think that immoderate zeal in behalf of religion is now, or is likely to be hereafter, a fault of the church. On the contrary, the work of converting the world cannot be consummated without calling into action zeal a hundred times more fervent than we have hitherto witnessed. If I could suppose that any sentence of this discourse would tend to damp the ardor, or paralyse the efforts of a single pious soul, I would blot it out forever. But surely it is not a blind zeal that is to carry forward the great enterprises of this age.
It is a zeal guided by wisdom, and one that can perceive the dangers attendant on its own operations.
Let us proceed then to consider these dangers, as they respect men without personal religion ; and as they respect real Christians, and the interests of the church. 1. As they respect men who are destitute of
Any tendency which there may be in the system of things at this day, to sink the grand requisitions of the gospel out of sight, and to cherish in men the hope of acceptance with God, while destitute of the temper
which he requires, must seriously endanger their eternal interests.
If I mistake not, there is such a tendency. The church and the world are becoming accustomed to
meet on the same common ground, and to act in concert respecting the general interests of religion, without keeping distinctly in view those principles, which stamp the character of actions in the sight of heaven. To be more specific. The simple act of giving money to a religious object may be regarded as a truly religious act, while the motive may be such as God cannot approve, and as the giver himself would be unwilling to avow before his fellow men. I am aware that the prerogative of searching hearts is not committed
I am aware too that for certain purposes, and to a certain extent, the motives of actions, apparently good, are of little importance. The beggar's hunger may be as effectually relieved by bread given from ostentation, as from Christian benevolence. If I contribute to send the preaching of the gospel to a heathen, the value of the benefit to him depends not at all on the temper in me, which prompted the contribution. A Bible, given by an infidel, is as precious in its contents, and may be as useful as though given by an apostle. But in respect to the spiritual state of the giver, the motive is of infinite importance; because on this absolutely, and this only, the moral worth of the action depends. And shall we undervalue and dishonor the Bible at home, in the very act of sending it abroad? Shall the man by whose liberality we are enabled to bestow this treasure on others, be tempted to forget the claims which this holy book
asserts over his own heart, and the terms upon which it offers him salvation ?
In our efforts to spread the light of the Gospel in remote countries, we must take care not to extinguish nor obscure its light in our own. Now this danger consists in a want of practical discrimination as to the motive of our actions. It results from a kind of implied and indefinite understanding, that whatever has the appearance of respect for religion, is religion. And the course of things in regard to our public charities, I fear is too much adapted to cherish this mistake.
Worldly men may aid these charities from the impulse of conscience, from social sympathies, or from regard to personal reputation. He who hates the truth, may promote benevolent institutions, to appease that disquietude which the absolute neglect of all religion must produce in his own bosom ; or to exhibit his generosity to a public object, or his compassion to those whose condition and privileges are far inferior to his own. Yet the most equivocal expressions of respect for Christianity, in a man or woman of elevated station, is easily construed into demonstration of personal religion. The Prince is a patron of the Bible Society ; his name is blazoned in capitals on its subscription list ; his presence at its anniversary is hailed with acclamations ; his speech in favour of the Bible is interrupted with bursts of applause, is echoed
through the country in every hamlet, and is the theme of eulogy in every Gazette. But who is this friend of the Bible ? A man perhaps who suffers it to stand as an ornament to his library, in all the elegance which art can give to its exterior; while he loves not its doctrines, and fears 'not its threatenings, and has scarcely read a page of it in his life.
of it in his life. A man whose morals not only are in fact, but are commonly known to be at open
variance with the spirit and requisitions of this holy book.
Now, while such gross perversion of sentiment is wrought into systems of public charity, and receives the sanction of Christians and ministers, what must be its influence on the multitude of thoughtless men, who wish to embrace any views of the gospel, rather than those which alarm and humble them as sinners ? What must be its influence on the man himself, whose fatal ignorance of his own spiritual state is thus strengthened by the undistinguishing testimonies of respect which he receives from Christians, while he secretly rejects and perhaps reviles Christianity itself. O, with what dismay must he hear from the mouth of his enthroned Judge ; “ These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will re
Do I mean to say then, that it were better if worldly great men were open opposers of Christian