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`view to my own private entertainment and edification, I have not failed to be a hearer of every missionary discourse, which, since its first appointment, has been delivered in this city. The last, by the Rev. Dr. Nott, and on which some very just observations were made in your last number, I heard, I can truly say, with singular pleasure. It was, in my opinion, a very distinguished specimen of christian eloquence. There is, however, one remark, which I cannot help making in the way of disapprobation; not indeed in reference to that discourse only, but to all the discourses, which have been addressed to us on the like occasion.
It is well known, I believe, that the most extensive and most important field of missionary labour, is in the frontier regions of the United States, and in several interior departments, which for more than a century past, have been occupied either by native Americans, or by emigrants from other civilized christian countries. Of these latter, the inhabitants, from a concurrence of causes which need not here be detailed, have been, for a series of years, to a very great degree, if not entirely, destitute of the means of religion, and particularly of the advantages of public worship and instruction. Though bordering so much more nearly on the populous and most improved districts of our country, they are, nevertheless, in a religious view, in no wise more advantageously circumstanced than the former. And such, and so interesting in this view, is the predicament of both, that I cannot but think it ought, in every such appointed address to the christian public, to be a subject of the most pointed and diffusive description.
The design of these discourses, if my apprehensions are right, is, partly to inform the minds and enlarge the conceptions of our fellow-christians, on the nature, the tendency, and proper operation of the christian spirit; and partly to convince them of, and persuade them to, the duty of liberal contribution for the encouragement and support of missionary labours amongst their brethren, who otherwise are wholly, or in a great measure, deprived of the ordinances and benefits of christianity, which they, through the grace of heaven, so abundantly enjoy. In this contribution, the main question is not, whether those our brethren are of native or foreign extraction; whether they are of this or that religious denomination; or whether they are savages of the wilderness, of no christian denomination at all. To minds possessing truly christian benevolence, the principal consideration is, whether they are creatures of the human species; endowed with rational and immortal souls; whom the Saviour of the world gave VOL. II. Tt
his life to redeem; and who are to be happy or miserable in a future state of existence. Nevertheless, there is a certain distinction, which, I conceive, ought to be made. I do not mean such distinction, as shall affect the question simply considered, whether we shall contribute or not? but such as shall determine the amount of the contribution respectively; that is, how much we shall give to the support of the gospel amongst our brethren on the frontier, and other destitute settlements? and how much for christianizing the aboriginal natives of the American continent?
On the question so stated, I apprehend, a considerable difference is to be made in our judgment of the immediate and interesting exigency of the respective cases, and of the immediate urgency and force of the respective calls of obligation; and, of course, in our ideas of the amount of contribution respectively incumbent or proper.
It is doubtless highly incumbent on every christian, whom providence has favoured with the power, to lend his pecuniary aid for the spiritual benefit of his distant, savage neighbours of the continent, and for the consequent melioration of their present miserable habits. But is it not yet more highly incumbent upon us to consider in this way our nearer christian neighbours, who, from necessity, or other urgent calls of providence, have emigrated into those extended and uncultured regions, which lie beyond, or within, the western or northern boundaries of our states. These unhappily circumstanced people were formerly, at least by far the greater part of them, inhabitants of the interior country. Here they enjoyed, not only the common advantages of social and civilized life, but the more important blessing of regular public worship, and religious instruction. Here they enjoyed the advantages of christian education, of christian examples, and christian intercourse. But now, scattered at the distance of many miles, and perhaps many deserts from each other; without any regular or qualified instructors in the important duties and doctrines of religion; without houses of worship; and multitudes of them, under the pressure of poverty, or other imperious circumstances, unprovided, and unable to provide themselves with books of holy scripture, or other printed religious helps. Think, how deplorable their situation must be! And, particularly, how distressful must be the feelings of those of them, who have any remaining sense of the importance of religious concerns; and who reflect on the benefits which they have foregone, and in which they once so competently abounded; and, at the same time, on the superior
happiness of us who are still so redundantly favoured with every thing" needful, both for life and godliness."
Add to these considerations, that, in their present situation, so widely separated from each other; seldom, if ever, meeting in the way of social and family intercourse, or for public religious purposes; and withal, partly for subsistence, and partly in compliance with a contracted wandering inclination, they are in danger of adopting, at length, the manners and habits of the savage state, and of gradually degenerating into downright barbarism, and a kind of heathenish irreligion. This is indeed most obviously the case of those who have emigrated to the greatest distances; but the same tendencies will naturally take place, and the same causes will operate in proportion to their seclusion from the associations, customs, comforts, and manners of more accommodated life.
Now, such being the case, I would ask, whether their condition is not even more affecting and interesting to the christian view, than that of those originally savage inhabitants, who have never known the sweets of the civilized state? And whether it is not more pressingly and immediately incumbent on the disciples of christianity to render their seasonable aid to prevent so great a portion of their christian brethren from relapsing into moral darkness and disorder; darkness and disorder, more fatal in its issue, than even greater degrees of it can be reasonably supposed to be to those who have never apostatized from the light, or renounced the allegiance of the christian administration?
And here it may not be improper to add, though it be not a consideration entirely of a religious nature, that a missionary discourse in which the condition of these frontier inhabitants is properly described, would more efficaciously tend to procure the charitable aid desired, on account of the civil and political advantages which would result from the melioration effected through the influence of religion and religious intercourse. Besides the prevention of licentious conduct incompatible with civil and political order, this influence would, in all probability, so far and so variously extend as to render the settlements, on the whole, much more valuable and desirable. The objections to a removal into them would be considerably diminished in the view of the more peaceable and orderly, and especially of the religious descriptions of the people; and the lands, of course, would become more profitable both to the original proprietor and to the purchaser. The missionary society are doubtless sensible of the propriety of availing themselves of this consideration. In the prosecution of their laudable design, if
of any, they are not only allowed, but expressly directed, to "make to themselves friends even of the mammon of unrighteousness;" and they are well able to explain, and to apply to their purpose, that prophetical representation of " the earth helping the woman," 12th Rev. 16.
It is, however, with pleasure I have received certain information that the society, through the agency of their standing committee, so far from overlooking the missionary ground, of which I speak, have given very proper, and indeed their principal attention to it, and that, by far the greater part of their precious fund is annually expended for the propagation and support of the gospel in those quarters. This is very well. They deserve the gratitude of every class of their fellow-citizens. And, I doubt not, they will be finally and amply remunerated by their Lord, in whose most glorious cause they have so wisely and faithfully laboured. Yet, withal, I do most sincerely wish, that, in order to the augmentation of their pecuniary powers, the reverend gentlemen, who are annually appointed to address us to this purpose, would more expressly and largely expatiate on the necessitous and deplorable condition of our fellow-christians on the frontier and other settlements, as well as of those more remote brethren of humanity, who are " satisfied with a hope of the country beyond the hills."
Having offered to the society these hints, imperfect as they are, may I not presume, sir, through the medium of your magazine, to ask them a question, to which it may, perhaps, be adviseable to pay a little attention? And that is, Why the other populous cities of the United States, in which there are churches connected with the general assembly, are not favoured with the privilege of being annually addressed in reference to the great missionary object, as well as the city of Philadelphia? The cause is a common christian cause. And the motive of the society, I firmly believe, is a desire of the conversion of their fellow-men to the christian religion. And though the presbyterian congregations in communion with the general assembly do annually, as such, contribute something to this purpose amongst others; yet, were such addresses appointed for the several cities above referred to, not only would persons of other professions, as in Philadelphia, attend with the liberal view of imparting their aid, but many of those who give at the stated congregational collections, would with pleasure encourage the design by a generous addition on that more public and ostensible occasion.
DR. Doddridge preached and published a sermon on the death of the Rev. James Shepherd, who died May 19, 1746, ætatis 22. In the course of the sermon the doctor terms Mr. Shepherd his ❝ dear pupil, who but the very last sacrament day was at the table of the Lord, and who, but a few days before, had been speaking to the assembly in his name. He had just been unanimously chosen to preside over a numerous and important congregation, and was within a few weeks to have taken up his stated residence among them."
He retired to rest one evening tolerably well. In the morning he was found in his bed "speechless and senseless, continuing without perception, and in a great measure without motion, till he expired."
The following circumstance deserves to be remarked, as it serves to show how babes may perfect the praises of Jehovah, while employed in directing the views of the most eminent of his servants to the path of duty, consolation and honour.
"Let us," says the doctor," lay down this as a foundation that it is the hand of Christ. He has taken away his young servant whom he raised up here, whom he called so early by his grace, whom he taught to pray when he was but a child, and to pray in such a manner that I will take the liberty publicly to tell you, that, the account I had of a prayer of his, overheard, when he little thought of it, by a dear friend, almost seventeen years ago, that is, when he was but five years oLD, had its influence in engaging me 0. to come and settle in this place."
TO THE EDITOR,
THE life of the Rev. William Tennent published in your magazine, has excited so much interest, that I presume the following characteristic anecdotes of him will not be unacceptable.
He was crossing the bay from New-York to Elizabethtown, in company with two gentlemen, who had no great fondness for clergymen, and who cautiously avoided him for some time after getting on board the boat. As he usually spoke loudly, they overheard what he said, and finding him a cheerful companion, who could converse upon other subjects besides religion, they ventured