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Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.-JAMES. i. 22.
You will all admit, my friends, that Christianity is the greatest blessing, which our heavenly Father has ever conferred on the human family. You will also acknowledge the vast superiority, which christian communities
possess over those that are under the influence of false religions, in civil liberty, in social and domestic enjoyment, in mental cultivation and moral purity. You must likewise be sensible, that the inhabitants of this commonwealth are more signally blessed with religious privileges, than any other portion of the christian world. For almost every village is provided with a convenient church and an ordained pastor; almost every family is favored with a Bible, and the ability to peruse its sacred page; and to every individual is secured perfect freedom of conscience. And when we observe the respectable numbers who usually attend upon the christian institutions in most
of our houses of public worship, we are ready to conclude that these privileges are properly appreciated and improved. And our conclusion is in a degree confirmed when we witness the cheerful obedience to civil authority, the social intercourse, the domestic comfort, and the correct morals which generally prevail. But, upon a more intimate survey of society, we have reason to doubt the correctness of this conclusion, For the distinguishing traits already mentioned, are not the peculiar fruits of the gospel. And our doubts are confirmed, when we learn that some who attend upon the weekly religious instructions, still continue to live immoral lives; that many more disclaim all pretensions to real piety; and that comparatively few, in an explicit manner, and in the prescribed way, confess Christ before men.
It, therefore, becomes a serious inquiry-Why Christianity, a religion from heaven, admirably adapted to our condition and wants, in a land so congenial to its free spirit, produces no more and no better Christians? I do not deny that it confers invaluable blessings on our community. I grant that all our virtues, our kind feelings, our benevolent dispositions, our civil, and social, and literary, and domestic institutions, draw more or less of their nourishment from its fountain; and that conscience is kept so awakened by its repeated admonitions, as to prevent the rapid increase of avarice, sensuality, and the baser crimes. These, indeed, are blessings of great,of incalculable importance. But these alone do not constitute real Christians; do not imply that holiness of heart and life; that christian spirit and conduct; that love for God and man, which are required of the disciples of Jesus.
Where then rests the blame of the partial and limited influence of the gospel? On Christianity itself? Certainly not. For in this system of faith and morals, there is no fault; no want of evidence to establish its truth and divine origin; no want of precepts for the regulation of every thought, word and deed; and living witnesses may be produced to testify to its purifying influence on heart and character. It is such a revelation as God saw proper to bestow upon his dependent children; and any objections urged against the religion, will apply with equal force against its divine Author.
Does the blame rest on the public teachers of the gospel? In some degree, no doubt, it does. For they are frail, prejudiced mortals, like others. And with all their superior advantages for the acquisition of wisdom and goodness, they are still liable to errors, imperfections, and sins. But, were their plain, practical instructions more implicity and universally followed, there would be less vice, and more of the blessed fruits of the gospel. And there can be no doubt that every preacher gives to his hearers manifold more rules for the regulation of every affection and action, than are ever followed by the best of Christians.
If then the blame be not in Christianity itself, nor peculiarly in its public teachers, that so few of its genuine fruits are seen, will it not be found to rest in a great de gree on those who hear the gospel preached? Are there not many in all our religious societies, who are hearers only, and not doers of the word? Is it not a fact, that a portion of almost every christian assembly, may be properly denominated-inattentive hearers ?-hearers,
who are almost wholly inattentive to the religious exercises of the sanctuary. They may exhibit a correct behaviour while at church, but their minds, for the most part, are employed on vain and frivolous and earthly subjects; recalling past transactions, conversing with distant acquaintances, and imagining scenes of future interest and enjoyment;-wandering through creation, any where and everywhere, except on those instructions, so essential to their souls' best welfare, and on that Being for whose worship they have assembled. And if questioned respecting the religious exercises, though they may be able to tell you, how many interesting fictitious scenes were recalled; how many past conversations were remembered; how many hours of mirth and gaiety were lived over again'; how many plans were invented for securing earthly happiness, increasing wealth, and obtaining influence and distinction;-yet they can give but a very imperfect account of the topics of devotion, or the sentiments of the discourse, or the instructions of scripture. And thus inattentive do they often continue, sabbath after sabbath, and even year after year, until some calamity disturbs their spiritual slumbers, and arouses their attention to the all-important concerns of religion.
Is it not also a fact, that another part of many congregations, may justly be called inconsiderate hearers? hearers, who do not give the subject of religion a serious consideration? They may give proper attention to the duties of the church; and remember much of the instructions. They may delight in commending and communicating the excellences of the performances; and