ページの画像
PDF
ePub

But there is another, as I have said, and a larger class of men, who, while they neither oppose us with the malignity of hatred, nor assail us with the virulence of slander, do yet regard our object with coldness, and our operations with contempt. Many of these are men with whom we would not willingly contend, and whose indifference we would lament men of refined and noble sentiments, who adorn the spheres in which they move, who are alive to the interests of the community, who reverence and support the institutions of religion, and whose habitual enterprise, and public spirit, deserve our respect, and gain for them the confidence of all who know them. We love these men, and we would fain enlist them in a work so noble; but we find that they are unmoved by the motives which are so prevalent with the Christian;—we find that the affections to which our cause would make its strongest appeal, are dead within them ;-we find that with all their reverence for religion, they are dismayed and disgusted with the thoroughly religious aspect of our undertaking; and that, however we may lament their apathy, or deprecate their opposition, yet, if we would bring them over from the side of our adversaries, to co-operate, or even to sympathize with us, we must address them with motives of which they acknowledge the influence, and in a language of which they apprehend the import.

With these men would I plead our cause this evening. And while I would not compromise or conceal for a moment the Christian character of our purpose, and of all our efforts, I would bring our

PVC

CI

cause before them in its claims on their feelings of native generosity, and their principles of worldly enterprise. I would show them that, when they laugh us to scorn, and despise us, and ask us, “ What is this thing that ye do ?” we can give them an answer, predicated on their own principles, and addressed to their own feelingsman answer which should persuade them, if not to yield us their assistance, at least to suspend their contempt. In other words, while I tell them that our purpose is, to fill this whole land

and the world toom--with the able and faithful ministrations of the gospel, I would appeal to them as lovers of their country, by setting forth,

THE SOCIAL AND CIVIL INFLUENCE OF A WELL INSTRUCTED CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.

I know there are patriots-calculators on national happiness, in whose estimates virtue, intelligence, and public sentiment, are valued as nothing—pure economists, who measure the growth of a country simply by the numerical increase of its population, who regard the progress of intellect only as it promotes the invention of labour-saving machines, and whose sole standard of a people's character is found in the extent of its manufactures, and the productiveness of its commerce. But with such men I hold no argument. I speak to those who believe that 6 men are to be weighed, not counted ;" who know that the highest happiness of a people depends on their virtuous habits, their intellectual character, their noble and honourable sentiments; and who need only to be reminded of what it is which Christian ministers are doing in our land, for the improvement of public virtue and gene

Oce

ral morality, for the advancement of public intelligence, for the elevation of public sentiment, and the growth of all those finer and nobler feelings which can give dignity or strength to national char

acter.

What is it then, which ministers of the gospel are doing for these objects ? Look at them in their official character as teachers of Christianity, and tell me. Go through our cities, and see the ministers of Jesus there, who array themselves like champions against all immorality of practice and impurity of sentiment, who devote themselves to the work, and wear their lives out in the warfare, perishing, it inay be, in the very dawn of their usefulness; and tell me, do not the people who attend the Sabbath ministrations of these preachers, become more intellectual in their habits, more virtuous in their deportment, more elevated in their feelings? Or pass through our towns and villages, and see the thousand pastors, who are guiding their flocks on the mountains and plains ; the thousand preachers of salvation, who are imparting to their hearers, not only lessons in morality, but the principles of the profoundest and most intellectual of sciences; and this in the form of lectures on a book which embodies the most wonderful history and the sublimest poetry, the most pathetic narrative and the most powerful eloquence, that the world has ever seen :--and then tell me if these men are not elevating the moral and intellectual character of our nation. Or look over the town where there is a minister, and a Sabbath, and a church-going bell;

d when you have compared it with the town

m

e

C

where there is no minister, no sanctuary, and where the smiles of the Sabbath are disregarded, tell me which is the happiest community. Or follow the missionary as he passes through the wilderness from one rude settlement to another-O could you follow him, and see, as I have seen, the thinly scattered population gathering at his summons; could you hear, as I have heard, the voice of Christian worship ascending to God from the recesses of the eternal forest; could you see, as I have seen, the eyes of his hearers kindling as they listened to his words, and thought on the Sabbaths and the sanctuaries of their own New England; could you see him distributing his bibles and tracts, and organizing, in that rising community, the churches that are to establish there, and to perpetuate the institutions of religion; you would be able, in some measure, to estimate the influence which such men are exerting, on our national character, and our national happiness.

Be it not forgotten, in this estimate, that the influence and labours of the minister are not confined to the Sabbath, or to the house of God. He does in deed inculcate on his hearers the high and stern morality of the gospel; and he enlarges and elevates their minds by teaching them its momentous truths ; but this is not all. He is pastor as well as teacher ; and his official duties carry him, from time to time, into every family of his flock. Here you see him, today, in the cottage of the poor; and there, to-morrow, in the mansion of the rich --a man of intelligence, and distinguished by the official sanctity of his character, mingling with all the classes of his people, and

[ocr errors]

ve

accommodating himself to all, for the improvement of all. And does he accomplish nothing for their improvement ? Is he doing nothing to bring them under salutary moral restraints, nothing to raise them in the scale of thinking beings,-nothing to soften the asperities or to ennoble the infirmity of human character? He goes round among his people, and they all love him because he is their minister. Observe the influence of his intercourse with them. See how kind are the affections which gather around him; how cordial the welcome with which they greet him wherever he comes; how interesting, and often how touching, the occasions on which he appears before them. There is not a chamber of sickness, but he is there; not a couch of death, but he bends over it to pray; not an open grave, but he stands by it, with the mourners, to tell them of the resurrection and the life.” You know how many affectionate thoughts,

otions are called up by that simple appellation, our minister.

But when you have estimated the influence which ministers are exerting directly, in their official character, you have taken into account only a part of what they are doing for our country. You must look also at the efforts which they make, as members of society, for the benefit of their fellow-citizens. It is true, you will not find them projecting or executing schemes that shall immediately open to our republic new sources of wealth ;-and there is a reason for this. Their professional pursuits bring them into contact, mainly, with the intellectual and moral wants of the community; and their professional habits

VI

m

[ocr errors]
« 前へ次へ »