« PreviousContinue »
the aids of the Spirit, has produced those wondrous efforts that constitute the glory of the present era.
Our Bible and education societies have contributed greatly to break down those barriers, that have so long and so mischicvously separated the followers of the Lord Jesus. How consoling to see Christians while yet they are firm in advocating what they conceive to be the doctrines of truth, lay aside the rigidness of their sect, and unite their efforts to advance the interests of a common cause, and the honors of a common Master. The Foreign Missionary Society, which gives high promise of cultivating vast tracts of the moral wilderness, have set the Christian world an example, and are acting with a wisdom and an energy for which every believer in the Churches should give thanks. And that union which begins to exist at home, on heathen ground is perfect. There, we are told, the communion of each Church is open to the fellowship of others. The concert of prayer, if no other existing fact could be named, is an instance of united effort which distinguishes the present era from all that have gone by. Here is united the whole Christian Church in offering to the God of grace, the same prayer and the same intercessions. Dear brethren, whether you have or have not been happy on these occasions, you may rest assured that no feature of the present epoch yields a higher hope that the latter-day glory is nigh. God will hear the entreaty which is poured into his ear at the same moment, from ten thousand lips. He will regard those petitions, which, as that sun encircles the earth, is sent into the court of heaven from every isle and continent where dwells a heaven-born, mind. The enemies of the Lord Jesus and his Church, had never such just occasion to fear the total ruin of their cause as at the present moment. They have hitherto been able to divide, and have hoped by this means to destroy, but they now see formed against them an impenetrable phalanx by whose firmness all their boasted prowess is covered with the utmost contempt. Hence infidelity has quit the field, the Pope is palsied in his chair, Dagon prostrate before the ark, the bands of Mahomet are beginning to be weakened, the Turk is beginning to perish by the sword, and his slaves are demanding emancipation.
3. The present era is marked by that general diffusion of knowledge with which no former age has been blessed. I refer now to that kind of knowledge which moves the springs of action, a knowledge of the present state of the world. The groans of the wretched have been unheeded, because they have not been heard. We had no conception a few years since, that six or seven hun
dred millions of our fellow-creatures had never heard of a Savior. We had not explored the vast tracts of moral desolation, nor had taken the gauge and dimension of human misery, depression and contempt. The prince of this world hid the extent of his dominions, and concealed the immensity of their unnumbered population, in the mists that issued from the bottomless pit. No encroachments were made upon his kingdom, because the great mass of the Christian community had never known the magnitude of his empire. Believers had long prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven," but they had never conceived to what narrow limits that kingdom was confined, and of how little a portion of his promised inheritance the Prince of peace had taken actual possession.
But on these subjects there is now poured in upon the Christian community a beam of light. The vehicles of religious intelligence visit now the humblest cottage, and awaken prayer and charity, wherever the Bible, through the Divine blessing, has produced a heavenly temper. We are becoming as familiar with India, and with the isles of the Pacific, as if they had floated into our vici. nity, and were in the circle of our neighborhood. The unread servant-boy peruses the records of Christian research, reads, learns the list of charity, and weeps at the funeral of the missionary. Thus is beginning to be touched every spring of charity, thus is brought upon his knees every believer that has the smallest interest at the court of heaven. And the happy result is, that the Christian world is organizing. There is making a simultaneous attack upon the various outposts of the kingdom of darkness. The widow's mite mingles with the charities of the wealthy, and hastens to constitute that river, which carries fertilization and life to the famishing population of a world.
4. The present is an era of self-devotion. In the ages past, if any section of the Church waked to their duty, and would have sent the bread of life to the hungry, they found it almost impossible to procure an agent who would go and dispense their charity. He must know, before he could be employed, that he should be well supported, and might soon return ; that he should be under the protection of human law, and that his life should not be exposed to the paw of the lion, and the mouth of the crocodile. But God, at the juncture when they are needed, has raised up men for the service, whose minds are subjected to none of these cowardly misgivings. They offer themselves, with all their wealth, and their children. They ask nothing but their raiment and their bread, wish never to return, have no anxiety for human protection, brave the terrors of a trackless wilderness, and can sleep sweetly in the society of beasts and savages. If thirty families, farmers and mechanics, are needed for some distant and hazardous mission, one hundred are ready. It is true that there is a lack of able and well-educated ministers, even yet, but this arises from a distressing deficiency of the number, and not from a want of a spirit of self-devotion. Thousands are wishing for a share in this work, if they can but be fitted for the service. They will pledge themselves to serve you in any country, to traverse any desert, or cross any sea, or surmount any dangers, if you will give them opportunities for preparation ; and will refund your charities if their hearts faint at the service.
If the occasion would permit, I could mention, as distinguishing the present era, a number of other particulars equally interesting. God prospers, remarkably, the enterprises of his people. There is a vast increase of general knowledge, and general happiness. The bonds of slavery are breaking. The terrors of despotism are softening. The rights of conscience are beginning to be better understood. The art of war is slowly coming into disuse. The unhappy begin to know their condition. The ignorant invite instruction. The heathen are contributing to furnish themselves the means of science, and the bread of life. Infidelity is ashamed of its tenets. The governments of the earth are beginning to aid in raising the degraded and the lost to happiness and heaven. And much as the philanthropist may still find to weep over, he will descry in the present movements of the world many things that give promise of a happier age at hand, when he may wipe away his tears.
II. It is important that our children be educated for the period in which they are to live. If the text contains a promise, then it also points out a duty. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” That parent has forgotten the first dictate of affection, who does not wish that his children may be wise, useful, and happy, and who does not, by every means in his power, prepare them to act well their part in the generation with which they must mingle.
1. The rising generation should be well instructed in science and religion, that they may act well their part in the age that is opening. Else they can neither be useful, respectable, nor happy. The time has been, when men could have been respectable, without any knowledge of books or of science, but those dark ages know you
have gone by. The Bible and the tract, and the vehicle of religious intelligence, and even the voluminous commentary, are to be put into the hands of every child throughout Christendom. And he must be able to read and understand their contents, or he will wish that his father had been a Turk, or a Hindoo, and that his mother had borne him on the banks of the Caspian, or at the source of the Ganges. He will be interested in the excursions of the missionary, and must be able to trace his track on the chart, and feel the perils of his station. He must lead in the operations of charity, and must know how to minute and express his thoughts. Perhaps he must become an ambassador of the Lord Jesus, and must have his mind enlarged in the pursuit of general science. I
intend to select his employ, he must follow the track you have chosen. No. He will choose for himself, or rather God will choose for him. When you are laid in your grave, he will hear the voice of the Lord, will be afraid to disobey, and will enter and labor in his vineyard. He will leave his .plow, his trade, or his clerkship, and will go at the call of some benighted community, to carry them the Book of the covenant, and the message of mercy. And when he shall wish to be useful, if he find himself ignorant and disqualified, he will blame that father, whose memory he loves to revere, but who unkindly introduced him into an enlightened age, with an uncultivated mind.
And our daughters, as well as our sons, must be equipped for the peculiar duties of the age. The gospel has always raised the female sex to an importance which, in lands not blessed with its light, they cannot reach. It was to be expected that an age like the present would bring them into a still more important station. And they have shown their wisdom by their exertions to disseminate that gospel which has rendered them free, enlightened, happy. And they will be, hereafter, the guardians of their sex.
And they must then be equipped for the service to which they will assuredly be called, and will be ashamed of their parents, if, when we are in our graves, they shall find themselves too illiterate to take an interest, and act a high and holy part, in the scenes of this illus
A parent can hardly be more unkind to his children than to neglect their improvement, at a period like the present. It would be cruel to leave them in the midst of enlightened society with minds suited to the taste of a Turk, or a Tartar. I should be afraid, in such a case, that they would hate my memory, and trample with contempt upon my ashes.
2. We must not merely attend to their mental improvement, we must teach them charity. The suffrages of Christendom have been taken, and it is resolved that the miseries of the world must be relieved. But this relief will cost us something more than “Be ye warmed, and be ye filled.” We are pained, and so will be our children, if we or they must know of miseries which we may not alleviate. While the eye is pouring forth its tears, the hand will distribute its bounty. But in this matter much will depend on habit. We could give you the names of men who have prayed, " Thy kingdom come,” with great fervency this half century, but have never, perhaps, given the price of a Bible to aid the increase of that kingdom. And now, when the claims of the perishing millions are understood, every such prayer they offer is their disgrace. Our children must be taught to be consistent. If they will need mental improvement, because they are to live in an enlightened age, they will no less need a spirit of Christian benevolence, because they are to live in a liberal age. Hence, while they are mere children they should be taught to cast their little mites into the treasury of the Lord. When they read the pathetic story of a burning widow, or an immolated babe, or a suffering missionary, tell them, while the tears are flowing, that they must send those heathen a Bible, and contribute to the support of that missionary. Carry them with you to the monthly concert, and enrol their little names upon the list of charity: thus will you prepare them to fill some distinguished station among their enlightened and liberal contemporaries. They will be pillars and polished stones in the house of the Lord, and will do you honor when the weeds shall be growing upon your sepulchres.
But if our children should carry into manhood the opposite character; should they be ignorant, and covetous, and infidel; should they set themselves to oppose the work of the Lord, and dam up the streams of charity, and exhibit a dark, and contracted, and illiberal spirit; as sure as God is true there is nothing before them but disappointment and shame. They will cover our graves with reproach, and attach a stigma to our name which will adhere to it till it has perished. In the conduct of the child the world will read the character of the parents, and the dead will be arraigned and condemned at the tribunal of the living.
The means of avoiding this doom are in our hands. Let us make our children acquainted with what God is doing, let us put into their hand and pour into their ears the weekly intelligence, and water the advice with prayer, and then, whether we live to