« AnteriorContinuar »
They,who embrace it now, have the same temper and general traits of character, as those to whom the apostolic ministry was made “the power of God unto salvation.” The same remark may be applied to all pious Christians who have lived during the intermediate ages. To use the language of the New Testament: They have all drunk of the same Spirit. Now, could we bring into one view, all the vices which Christianity has either suppressed or exterminated, and all the private, social, and public virtues, to which it has given rise in the various nations to which its light has extended, and during the eighteen centuries of its existence on earth, how great would be the mass of evidence hence arising to support its claims to a divine origin! This evidence is perpetually increasing. It is a broad river which widens and deepens in its progress.
We conclude by a few remarks by way of inference and improvement.
1. We perceive the impropriety, not to use severer language, of representing reason and religion, as standing in a hostile attitude in reference to each other. No man lives rationally, we have shown, who does not live piously. Reason and a well instructed conscience, will acquit no person whom religion condemns. The sentence, pronounced at one of these tribunals, is never reversed at the other. At both the sinner meets precisely the same reception. For the truth of this, I might appeal to every person in this assembly, whether saint or sinner. When the Christian finds that the language of Scripture is that of remonstrance, reprehension and terror, in relation to his spiritual sloth, his unchristian feelings, or his undeniable apostasies, does he obtain relief by appealing from her decision, to that of reason and conscience? Does reason approve ingratitude, in one who has been redeemed by the Son of God? Does she approve inaction, insensibility, and a careless deportment, in one who is urged to “fight the good fight of faith,” and thus to lay hold on eternal life ;-in one, of whom it is said : To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father, on his throne? When, from the loud remonstrances both of the law and the gospel, the sinner retires in solitude, there to examine his character and life by the standard of reason, are his fears allayed ? Are confidence and self-approbation restored? Does his understanding ever take part with him against the oracles of God? The more accurately and profoundly he examines the nature and tendency of a sinful life, in view of the divine law and character-in view of his own dependence-in view of that immeasurable field, which immortality lays open both to his fears and his hopes—in view, both of what he knows as to the frailty of this life, and of what he is taught in religion, as to the duration of anotherdoes the sinner ever feel himself acquitted for his neglect of Christ, and salvation? Does he feel himself justified, as a man—as a rational being ? Does he ever come to this conclusion, from a dispassionate view of his powers, relations, and prospects, that whatever be the language of his Creator, in regard to him, it ought to be that of approbation ? Recollect the day, or the month, or the year, when, after having been somewhat disquieted by this passage of Scripture: What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul; or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul-upon deliberate examination, you found your mind tranquillized by perceiving, that habitual neglect of God and obedience to your passions, are, in no measure, inconsistent with the reason, dignity, and interest of man. No; a day, when reason condemned religion, or assented to the claims of sensuality, impiety, and unbelief, has not been found in the long era of six thousand years; it will not be found in all the unceasing revolutions of eternity!
2. From the preceding discourse it appears, that they, who are employed in diffusing the light of Christianity, are prosecuting the most noble object. If Christian worship and Christian obedience constitute a reasonable service,-if, in proportion as men become Christians, they return thereby to a state of intel. lectual and moral soundness, how honorable,-how rational, how benevolent is that desire, which is now so extensively felt and warmly cherished by the church of God, that the darkness, which broods over the pagan nations, may be dispelled, and that light may become resplendent, where it now shines but with tremulous and glimmering ray? Whether we always prosecute this object with right motives, or by the best means, may fairly enough be made a question ; but let no man doubt whether the object itself is entitled to human attention—let no man doubt, that it would justify, nay, that it imperiously demands far greater exertions, than those which the Christian world is now making to accomplish it. It is the same object for which the Son of God became incarnate-and for which his apostles encountered all the labors and perils of their arduous ministration !
3. If the truth of Christianity is shown by its legitimate nioral effects, we perceive how much the interests of religion are affected by the character of those who profess themselves its votaries. In no unimportant sense, my brethren, every Christian is placed on missionary ground. Within the sphere of his influence are many, who live “ without hope, and without God in the world.” If, in his disposition and habits the temper of Christ is rendered conspicuous, it will be likely to produce alarm and conviction, in those who are conscious of irreligion. Here is a kind of missionary service, to which we are bound, permit me to say, even more strongly than to any other. To send preachers among the destitute, whether at home or abroad, becomes a duty only in reference to the end to be accomplished; whereas the general virtues of a Christian life, besides being conducive to a similar end, possess inherent excellence, and are of eternal and immutable obligation. It was, therefore, with good reason that our Saviour said : Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in heaven.
ADDRESS ON INTEMPERANCE.*
Gentlemen of the Massachusetts Society for suppressing In
temperance, STRONGLY impressed with the conviction, that a deep interest ought to be excited on the present occasion, I rise under the disheartening consciousness of being able to say nothing, which has not been already presented to your reflections.
On the subject of intemperance, obvious facts first excited alarm; alarm produced inquiry ; and inquiry served but to increase the alarm. These facts, together with calculations founded upon them, have been, in various ways, laid before the public, that the excitement, so justly produced, might not only be maintained, but lead to such counsels and systematical efforts, as the occasion demands. All mention of these facts, notwithstanding their present notoriety, I know not how to avoid. Like the great disclosures made by revelation, they must be perpetually displayed, as motives to action and perseverance. They are among the reasons, which led to the establishment of this society. They are of such a kind, as to justify us in what we have done; and to condemn us, I fear, for what we have neglected. Facts are of a nature, imperishable and immutable; they can neither be annihilated nor changed. Whatever inferences fairly result from them, may, under like circumstances, be a thousand times drawn, and will forever be entitled to the same regard.
* This Address was delivered before the Mass. Society for suppressing Intemperance, at their Annual Meeting, May, 1816.
The extent to which intemperance prevails in our country, can scarcely now be considered a subject of conjecture; it having been ascertained, with sufficient exactness, from well authenticated documents. From such documents it has been made to appear that, unless a reformation has been effected within a few years, by coalitions for the suppression of vice, or by the circumstances of the nation, the yearly expenditure for ardent spirits in our country, will, at a moderate estimate, amount to thirty-three millions of dollars. Should it be granted that eight millions of this sum are necessarily expended, there will still be a yearly waste of twenty-five millions. The resources of that nation must indeed be ample, in whose finances so enormous a loss would not be sepsibly felt. Regarding the subject then merely in relation to political economy, the suppression of intemperance imperiously claims the attention of the statesman and patriot.
But this diminution of wealth, vast as it really is, may be regarded, perhaps, as among the most moderate even of the political evils, resulting from the vice, whose suppression we are attempting. If we estimate this enormous sum merely as a loss, our calculation will be materially incorrect. That mass of ardent spirits for which it is paid, becomes a subtle and powerful agent in relaxing the morals, and prostrating the physical strength of its consumers ; in which number are many, from whom the country might expect useful labors in peace, and honorable services in war.
Again, it must be considered that the strength of a nation does not consist merely in sinews, bones, and muscles. The same quantity of physical power, will be more or less efficient in proportion to the confidence, union, and wisdom, with which it is exerted. A small number, well united, will accomplish more, than a much greater number under the influence of mutual jealousy. But union and confidence can be supported on no other foundation, than that of moral principle. This is the potent ligature, by which the various parts are reduced to the most advantageous and beautiful order, and preserved in their