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tist, is wholly unacquainted with the business of teaching. Few will doubt that a man, who, with a knowledge of a mechanical art, should devote himself exclusively to teaching it, might, in a few months, communicate as much skill as is now acquired in as many years. The result would be, in the end, far greater excellency of workmanship; and, what is still better, much more time for obtaining an education might be allowed to young men before they devoted themselves to the employments of life.
From these facts, the tendency of the present movements of society is obvious. It is, to furnish more leisure than formerly to the operative classes of society, to furnish them more extensively with the means of education, and to render that education better. They must, from the very nature of things, become, both positively and relatively, far richer, and much better informed, than they have ever been before. Now, as social power is in the ratio of intelligence and wealth; the astonishing progress of the more numerous classes, in both these respects, must be producing more radical changes in the fabric of society than were witnessed even at the period of the Protestant Reformation.
But these changes are going forward with accelerated rapidity in our own country. With profuse liberality, a bountiful Providence has scattered over our territory all the means of a rapid accumulation of wealth. Land, rich and unexhausted, adapted to the production of every article of luxury and conveniencc, stretches through every variety of climate. To peculiar natural advantages of internal communication, we add still greater capabilities of artificial improvement. The amount of our unappropriated water-power is incalculable; and in regions where this is less abundant, inexhaustible beds of fuel offer every facility for the employment of that incomparable laborer, steam.
This country also presents peculiar facilities for intellectual development. The political institutions of other countries rather retard than accelerate the progress of mental cultivation. With us, the absence of all legalized hereditary barriers between the different classes of society, presents to every man a powerful inducement to improve himself, but especially his children, to the uttermost. In other countries, the forms of government, being unyielding, do not readily accommodate themselves to a change in the relations of society. Ours are constructed with the express design of being modified, whenever a change in the relation of the social elements shall require it. The history of our country, since the adoption of the federal constitution, has furnished abundant proof of the truth of these remarks. Every change in the state governments has been from a less to a more popular form. This at least shows, first, that the power is passing from the hands of the less numerous, to those of the more numerous classes of society; and, secondly, that there is nothing in the nature of our institutions to prevent its thus passing. It is our duty to provide that it be wielded by intelligence and virtue.
I hope sufficient has been said, to show that the period is rapidly advancing, when all, but especially the more numerous classes of society, will enjoy much more leisure for reflection, will be furnished with a vastly greater amount of knowledge, both of facts and of principles, and will be educated to use those facts and principles with far greater accuracy, and with far better success.
We will now briefly consider the encouragements which these facts present, to an effort for the universal diffusion of Christianity.
First: The increase of wealth, and especially the subsequent increase of leisure, among the more numerous classes, is in many respects greatly favorable to the progress of religion. Moderate labor invigorates, excessive labor enfeebles, the intellectual faculties. He whose existence is measured by unbroken periods of either slavish toil or profound sleep, soon sinks in passive subjection to the laws of his animal nature. Lighten his load, and his intellect regains its elasticity, he rises to the region of thought, breathes the atmosphere of reason, rejoices in the discovery of truth, and feels himself a denizen of the universe of mind.
Again : The progress of education is rendering the human understanding a more successful instrument for the investigation of the laws of nature, both in matter and in mind. Hence has the progress of discovery been so rapid during the last half century—and we believe that the work has but barely commenced. We apprehend that the boldest imagination has never yet conceived of the exactitude and the extent of that knowledge which we shall acquire of the qualities and relations of the universe around us; and of the skill to which we shall yet attain, in subjecting them all to the gratification of human want, and the alleviation of human wo. Now, we believe that God made this universe; that he created every particle of matter, and impressed upon it its various attributes. We believe that this same Being also created mind and inspired it with its moral and intellectual capacities; and we believe that the attributes of matter and the capacities of mind, are all formed to harmonize with the moral laws contained in his holy oracles ; so that in the end there shall not be found, throughout the wide universe, a floating atom which does not give testimony to the truth of revelation. Thus, to use the words of Foster, “Religion, standing up in grand parallel with an infinite variety of things, receives from all their testimony and homage, and speaks a voice which is echoed by creation."
Thus far, every discovery of science and every invention in the arts, has uttered its voice in favor of the Bible. Who can contemplate the relation of the various forces which move a steam engine, and the laws by which they operate, without seeing that all was devised by Infinite Wisdom, for just such a being, physical and intellectual, as man, to accomplish just such purposes as Infinite Goodness had intended? Who can contemplate the social circumstances under which man enjoys the greatest amount of happiness, without being convinced that the very constitution of man requires obedience to precisely such precepts as are contained in the Bible; that man is rewarded and punished on the principles which are there delineated; in other words, that the moral system of the Bible is the moral system of the universe ? A striking illustration of the truth of the general principle to which I refer, may be found in the history of political economy. This science has been, to say the least, very successfully cultivated by men who had no belief in the Christian religion. And yet, reasoning from unquestionable facts in the history of man, they have incontrovertibly proved that the precepts of Jesus Christ, in all their simplicity, are the only rules of conduct, in obedience to which, either nations or individuals can become either rich or happy. So far as science has gone, then, every new truth in physics
or in morals has furnished a new argument for the authenticity of revelation. Thus will it be to the end. Philosophy herself will at last show the principles of the religion of Jesus Christ
, so legibly written on every thing else which the Creator's hand has formed, that it will be as impossible to deny the truth of the Scriptures as the law of gravitation.
Besides, not only does the present state of society promise that vastly more of these laws will be known, and their moral connexions traced it is also rendered evident that the knowledge of them will be more widely disseminated. Improvement in wealth and in the science of education, will render what is now considered erudition, common to the humblest member of the community. Thus the facts, on which may
be constructed the most incontestible arguments in favor of religion, will be found in abundance in the mind of every man. Thus the media of proof are multiplied without number. Though ignorance be the mother of superstition, knowledge is the parent of devotion. Take any man whose soul has neither been brutalized by animal indulgence, nor his judgment radically distorted by incurable prejudice; open his eyes upon the universe as it actually is, with all its discovered and undiscovered variety of contrivances, and tell me, could he ever afterwards be made an atheist ? Or let him remark, through the history of ages, the consequences resulting to individuals and nations, from different courses of moral conduct; and could he ever afterward be persuaded that the Deity neither had made nor would maintain the distinction between virtue and vice? Or let him ask himself upon what principle it is necessary to act, if he would secure to himself any valuable result for the life that now is, and he will come to the conclusion, that in the things of this world, as well as of the other, success can only be expected from the exercise of faith and obedience. Nor is this all. A well-regulated mind not only knows that it is so, but is at every moment reminded of it. Every thing speaks to such a man of God, and God speaks to him in every thing
Nor is this all. Not only does improved development of the human faculties furnish new proofs of the truth of revelation-it also renders the mind more susceptible of their influence. It is the business of education to deliver us from the tyranny of prejudice and passion, and subject us to the government of reason. Mind thus becomes a more delicate, a more powerful, and a more certain instrument. It yields to nothing but evidence; before this it bows down in reverential homage. Thus, effect upon mind will at last be calculated upon with almost scientific precision. Now it is to this very training of the intellectual faculties that the progress of improvement in education promises to conduct mankind; so much more favorable is the mind of the hearer or reader becoming, to the production of moral effect.
But we hope that this system of changes is not to be limited here. We believe that improvement in intellectual science, but above all, more elevated piety, and more ardent devotion, will yet confer some new powers of suasion on the Christian teacher. Every one must be sensible, that the Gospel is an instrument which has never been wielded with its legitimate effect, since the time of the Apostles. May we not hope that there are forms of illustration at present untried, that there are modes of appeal as yet unattempted, which, with an efficacy more cer.
tain than we any where now witness, will awaken the slumbering conscience, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, lead the awakened sinner to the cross of Christ.
Christian brethren, estimate, if you can, the importance of these facts. We have seen that every law of matter and of mind presents a separate argument in favor of religion; that the providence of God is multiplying, with a rapidity beyond precedent, both the number and the power of such arguments, that all classes of men are becoming more deeply imbued with a knowledge of them, and that this knowledge, from the improved discipline of the faculties, must produce a more certain and more salutary effect: consider, too, how the press is enabling every man to exert his whole moral and intellectual power upon the thoughts and opinions of mankind, and you will surely say, that never have there been presented so many or so great encouragements for a universal effort to bring the world into cordial subjection to Jesus Christ. The prediction seems already fulfilled, The sons of strangers shall come bending unto thee.” Following in the train of every art, and every science, infidel philosophy herself is seen presenting her offering at the feet of the Redeemer. Every thing encourages us to move forward, and take possession of the inheritance which Messiah has purchased with his own most precious blood.
There are, however, a few circumstances of encouragement peculiar to the condition of this country, to which I may be permitted for a moment to advert.
1. The proportion of truly religious persons is greater with us than in any other country. Perhaps it would not be too much to assert that their intelligence and opportunity of leisure are greater than fall to the lot of Christians in any other nation. I hope that it may also with truth be added, that, notwithstanding the multiplicity of sects, a much greater degree of good-fellowship, in promoting the eternal welfare of men, is found here, than has been commonly witnessed, at least in the latter ages of the Christian church.
2. We enjoy perfect civil and religious freedom. Every man may originate as powerful trains of thought as he is able, may give them as wide a circulation as he will, and may use all other suitable means for giving them influence over the minds of others.
3. Public opinion is here, more than it has been in other countries, friendly to religion. This land was first peopled by men who came here that they might enjoy "freedom to worship God;" and thus they proved themselves worthy of being the Fathers of an Empire. Our institutions, at their very commencement, received the impress of Christianity. The name and the example of the Puritans are yet held in hallowed recollection. We are enjoying the rich blessings purchased by their labors and their prayers. Our nation, wicked though it be, is not yet cursed with the sin of having deliberately rejected the Gospel. Our soil is unstained with the blood of the saints. We may hope, then, that our eyes have not yet been smitten with avenging blindness. And, in carrying forward her conquests, we may hope that the church of God will have less opposition to encounter here, than she has met with elsewhere.
4. But it deserves specially to be remarked, that God has blessed, in a peculiar manner, the efforts that have been made in this country to check the increase of vice, and promote the diffusion of piety. In illustration of this remark, I will not at present refer to the astonishing success which has attended the Bible, Sabbath School, and Tract Societies. I will mention only two facts, which, though not more important than some I omit, allow of being presented with greater brevity. The first is the effect which has been produced by the union of good men, for the promotion of temperance. But about four years have elapsed since this benevolent effort commenced. And already has it saved from worse than mere destruction several millions of the national capital; it has saved thousands of families from ruin; it has taught hundreds of thousands successful resistance to perilous temptation; it is purifying the atmosphere, which so soon must have poisoned the rising generation; its powerful influence is felt in every state, and, perhaps I may add, in every town and village, throughout the union; and is beginning to be felt in other lands. Travellers from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, tell us that the reform is strikingly manifest. The records of various religious denominations bear testimony to the same encouraging fact. We ourselves have witnessed, that in stagecoaches, and in steamboats, in public houses and in parlors, temperance is becoming more and more the habit of the people. The very traffic in ardent spirit is far from being reputable; and there is reason to hope that, in a few years more, this detestable leprosy may be banished from the land.
More especially, however, would I refer to the fact, that those seasons of extraordinary attention to the salvation of the soul, denominated revivals of religion, and produced, as we believe, by the special influences of the Holy Spirit, have been multiplied among us to a far greater degree than has before been known in any age or country. Almost every denomination professing Christianity has of late years been greatly aug. mented in numbers, and strongly excited to religious effort, in consequence of such revivals. Specially have these effects been visible among the young. Sabbath Schools and Bible Classes have, in a peculiar manner, been filled with that solemnity, which, turning the soul from the eager pursuit of pleasure and of sin, leads it to serious reflection, to unfeigned repentance, to faith in Jesus Christ, and to permanent and universal reformation. Now, it matters not what theory we may adopt in respect to this subject. We are all willing to be influenced by facts. The fact, then, we think, cannot be questioned, that events called revi. vals of religion are becoming very common among us, and that where they occur most frequently, a larger portion of the people become active and zealous Christians; and if this be granted, it is sufficient for our argument.
Behold, then, Christian brethren, the encouragement before us. We are citizens of a country whose uncultivated soil was moistened by the tears, and consecrated by the prayers, of persecuted saints; whose earliest institutions were formed under the auspices of the Bible; where every man may pray as much, and live as holily, as he will; where every man may circulate as widely as he pleases the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and, as eloquently as he is able, urge his fellow.citizens to obey it; and where God has been pleased to honor with his special benediction, every effort which has been made to arrest the
progress of vice,