Page images
PDF
EPUB

mortals, four out of five should be not only destitute of religion, but living in such a manner as to obstruct its progress, and limit its influence ?

LESSON XXXII.

Same Subject continued.

[ocr errors]

We have proceeded thus far upon the principle, that the relative power of religion is to remain the same as at present. This, however, though a plausible supposition, is far from being probable. There is no example of the kind in the history of the church. There have been, indeed, many alternations of success and defeat; but no instance of religion and irreligion advancing side by side, in regular proportions, for a period so long as one hundred and seventy years. If Christians in the United States have not strength enough to advance, they will not have strength enough to hold their own; and they must expect to be overwhelmed by floods of ungodliness. The church will then be driven into a corner, so that the world will suppose a final victory has been achieved. There will probably be some forms of religion remaining, gradually losing even the miserable efficacy of forms, and falling down to the level of the lowest superstition. But the general aspect will be that of a community living without God in the world.

Pride, ambition, luxury, sensuality, profaneness, blasphemy, frightfully intermingled with poverty, crime, debase ment, guilt and shame, will lash with scorpions the enslaved and abject population. Even from this land of the pilgrims will arise the cry of millions, suffering under the torments which their own guilty passions will have brought upon them.

It is obvious, that, if religious restraints be withdrawn,

[ocr errors]

the number of inhabitants will not increase so fast, as according to the preceding calculation. Still the history of the world has shown, that it requires long-continued, as well as almost universal profligacy, to arrest the increase of population altogether. With the great advantages of soil and climate which this country enjoys, it may be expected, judging from God's government of the world hitherto, that our population will advance with rapidity, even though it should be checked by licentiousness. We

may

estimate that, in such circumstances, our numbers will be forty-five instead of fifty millions, at the end of fifty years; a hundred and fifty instead of two hundred millions, in fifty years more ; and five hundred instead of one thousand millions, in one hundred and seventy years from the present time. The wickedness of the people, left almost without restraint from counteracting example, would increase at such a fearful rate, that, by the period last mentioned, it would greatly have retarded the progress of population; and much beyond that period, any increase of numbers would be slow and doubtful.

Here, then, we have 500,000,000 of human beings, all living (with exceptions too small to be taken into the account) according to the maxim, Let us eat and drink ; for to-morrow we die.

What would be the number of theatres and other receptacles of vice to amuse and gratify such a population ? what the number of jails and penitentiaries, of police officers and armed guards, to coerce and restrain so vast a multitude, who would have no restraining principle in their own bosoms ? Atheists may talk about liberty; but we know, that there can never be a truly free government without an intelligent and conscientious subjection to

and where there is no sense of accountability to God, there can be no respect for the order of society, or the rights of men.

Populous heathen nations, and nominally Christian nations that have sunk nearly to the level of heathenism,

law;

are, indeed, without any restraining influence of true religion ; and they are able, by means of racks, dungeons, and armies of spies, guards and officers, to preserve some kind of public order. The people are prepared for this, having been transformed into beasts of burden by the long influence of superstition, and the domination of privileged orders. But if the people of America, speaking the English language, should lose nearly all the religious restraint, which now exerts so salutary an influence in our land, they will be a very different sort of men from the Chinese, or the inhabitants of Turkey or Spain. All determined to gratify themselves, and none willing to submit to others;—all having arms in their hands, and refusing to surrender them ;-wickedness and violence will reign with tremendous and indomitable energy.

The sabbath will have ceased to shed its benign and holy radiance upon the land; for when the number of religious persons shall have dwindled to a very small fraction of the community, it will be impossible to preserve the sabbath, except as a day of thoughtless festivity, and noisy mirth, and preëminently a day of sin. Then God will hide his face from an erring and self-destroyed people; and dense and angry clouds, the precursors of his vengeance, will gather from every quarter of the horizon. One cry of violence and blasphemy will ascend, like the cry of Sodom, from all the dwellers between the two oceans, and between the gulf of Mexico and the northern

No extraordinary instruments of divine wrath need be furnished. The remorseless cravings of unsatisfied desire, the aggressions and resistance, the insults and revenge, the cruelty and perfidy, the fraud and malice pervading all ranks and classes of men, will supply more than a sufficient number of public executioners.

Who that has not a heart of adamant can, without shuddering, regard such a day as probable? Who that really expects such a day, but must wish to leave no posterity of his own to mingle in the horrid strife-to

sea.

become either tyrants or slaves, oppressors or victims ?all victims, indeed, to their own follies and crimes.

Yet this is the very state of things, which multitudes among us are laboring to produce. They do not see the whole effect of what they would gladly accomplish ; but they most heartily desire that the time should arrive when the sabbath shall be universally regarded as an exploded superstition, and when there shall be no concentrated public opinion to pass censure even upon the most odious vices.

Not only is such a state of things desired and aimed at by multitudes, but it is precisely such an issue as the unresisted depravity of man will speedily terminate in. It is altogether a practical matter, and will be the sad history of this country, unless the good, and the public-spirited, and the pious, of the present and succeeding generations, acting under the great Captain of salvation, avert so awful a calamity.

The remaining supposition is, that the relative power of religion will increase, till, before the expiration of the longest period here mentioned, opposition shall gradually have died away, and all the happy millions of this continent shall live together as brethren, adoring their Creator and Redeemer, and lending a cheerful influence to every good design. Then will be a day of glory, such as the world has never yet witnessed. As the sun rises, on a sabbath morning, and travels westward from Newfoundland to the Oregon, he will behold the countless millions assembling, as if by a common impulse, in the temples with which every valley, mountain and plain will be adorned. The morning psalm and evening anthem will commence with the multitudes on the Atlantic coast, be sustained by the loud chorus of ten thousand times ten thousand in the valley of the Mississippi, and prolonged by the thousands of thousands on the shores of the Pacific. Throughout this wide expanse, not a dissonant voice will be heard. If, unhappily, there should be here and there an individual, whose heart is not in unison with this divine employment, he will choose to be silent. Then the tabernacle of God will be with men. Then will it be seen and known to the universe, what the religion of the Bible' can do, even on this side the grave, for a penitent, restored and rejoicing world. But while contemplating such a display of glory and happiness on earth, we are not to forget, that this illustrious exhibition of divine power and love would derive nearly all its interest from the fact, that these countless millions were in a process of rapid transmission from earth to heaven.

LESSON XXXIII.

Same Subject concluded.

These considerations are not to be set aside as a theoretical discussion. We, and our associates and friends throughout the country, are to have an agency in fixing the destiny of the generations to come; and in fixing their destiny by what we shall do, or neglect to do, in this very matter of sending the gospel to the heathen. Christians in the United States have a character to sustain, or to lose. They are to receive the approbation of posterity for perseverance in well-doing, or to be sentenced to public reprobation as betrayers of high trusts. They are to be rewarded as benefactors of their race, or to share the doom of the servant who hid his lord's money in a napkin. There is no avoiding this responsibility. They cannot hide themselves in dishonorable graves, in such a manner as to escape reproach, if they now raise the craven cry of surrender, instead of anticipating the shout of victory and triumph.

When John Carver and his associates landed at Plymouth, and afterwards John Winthrop and his associates arrived at Charlestown, they might have doubted, on some

« PreviousContinue »