that their conduct in relation to things spiritual, may be reg. ulated by one rule, and in things civil by another. The Gospel furnishes Christians with rules for their entire direction, in all things. In this respect, as well as others, the law of the Lord is perfect, and every man of God, is, by his Bible, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.

Let christians, then, not under the influence of party zeal, but in the fear of God, as those who must give an account; withhold their suffrages from men whose known opinions destroy the practical influence of an oath; whose open hostility to all religion, renders it unsafe and sinful to confide in them; whose immoral habits would contaminate the public morality; or whose sectarian zeal, would incapacitate them for a liberal and impartial legislation on the subject of religion: and when this is done, let them no longer know “any man after the flesh:” but without reference to political party, or doctrinal creed, vote for those who are in other respects worthy of their confidence. Every community needs in its bosom, men of cool and uncommitted feeling, to allay the fierceness of party strife, and to come forth for the salvation of the nation, on emergencies of danger: and why should not an host of such men, lovers of their country and their God, be found in the church, instituted by heaven, to promote peace on earth and good will to men The interest of science and literature, are regarded as too important to be identified with political parties; and are permitted to enjoy the retreat of the groves, far from the noise of strife and war: and why should not the interests of religion, be allowed to stand aloof from the conflicts of ambition, and the din of controversy? As political animosities rage, in free governments, and competitions for office and power are conducted, and ever will be, till the world is far better than it now is; every christian may say of political partizans as Jacob said of Simeon and Levi. “Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations: 0, my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly mine honor, be not thou united.”

The effect of such a retreat, by Christians, from the annual details of party strife, and of the silent exertion of

evangelical influence in the exercise of the right of suffrage, would be attended with the happiest effects.

The political alienation of Christians would cease, and be followed by the increase of brotherly love. Their diversion from religious enterprise would cease, and they would have more time and more zeal for the service of Christ. The prejudice against religion, occasioned by their political officiousness, would be avoided; and that influence, which, before, was worse than lost in the turmoils of party, would be sanctified and devoted to the cause of Christ.

In all the competitions for political elevation, of which there will always be many in free governments; the suffrage of a Christian community, held in reserve, to be exercised under the influence of conscience, and a cool uncommitted discretion, would have an influence highly salutary to the state, and to the interests of piety and morality. As long as Christians are divided, and will vote blindly, under the influence of a political mania; no individual fears the consequence of irreligion, or immorality; and no party, fears the consequence in their candidates for office.

But if Christians retire from unhallowed competitions, to bestow their suffrage by the dictation of an enlightened conscience, they will hold an amount of suffrage, not to be lightly regarded or despised on either side. In this, there is no electioneering, no officious meddling, and no violence. Christians exercise their own civil rights, under the guidance of their own consciences, enlightened by the word of God; and in doing it, allay the violence of party, elevate the standard of morality, and secure to religion, all the protection that it needs, and to their country, so far as their influence can avail, an administration of the government, devoted to the public good, and not to the interests of a party. Experience has evinced the vanity of all hopes of religious and moral purity from the influence of civil governments directly: government itself, needs to be brought under the influence of Christian principle, and to be embued with Christian feeling: an event, which can be accomplished, only, as the public opinion shall be purified and regulated by religious and

moral principle. But, this silent leaven of the mass, can be the result only, of a general increase of religion and the proper exercise by Christians of their civil influence. I would say therefore in the language of Wilberforce "Let true Christians then, with becoming earnestness, strive in all things to recommend their profession, and to put to silence the vain scoffs of ignorant objectors. Let them boldly assert the cause of Christ in an age when so many, who bear the name of Christians, are ashamed of Him; and let them consider as devolved on them the important duty of suspending for a while the fall of their country, and, perhaps, of performing a still more extensive service to society at large; not by busy interference in politics, in which it cannot but be confessed there is much uncertainty; but rather by that sure and radical benefit of restoring the influence of religion, and of raising the standard of morality. Let them cultivate a catholic spirit of universal good will, and of amicable fellowship towards all those, of whatever sect or denomination, who, differing from them in non-essentials, agree with them in the grand fundamentals of religion. Let them countenance men of real piety wherever they are found; and encourage in others every attempt to repress the progress of vice, and to revive and diffuse the influence of religion and ...virtue. Let their earnest prayers be constantly offered, that such endeavors may be successful, and that the abused longsuffering of God may still continue to us the invaluable privilege of vital Christianity.”

2. The churches of our Lord are to maintain the faith delivered to the saints by inculcating it early, and earnestly upon children.

Catechetical instruction was adopted universally, by the primitive Christians; was practised by the Waldenses as their safeguard against the seductions of the Papists; was resorted to by the churches of the Reformation, and continued by the churches of New England; and has uniformly been followed by the revival or decline of religion, as it has been persisted in or neglected. It is pre-eminently important that there be in the church, symbols of evangelical doctrine, associated with the earliest recollections of her children.

The objection that children cannot understand the doctrines of the Bible, is unfounded. They can understand them, in their order, as early as they can understand any thing. The being and character of God, the doctrines of accountability, depravity and the necessity of a moral change, are comprehended by children early, and with great ease. But even, if they do not, at the time, understand the words, they commit to memory, will they never understand them, or derive benefit from them? Would any parent be willing to risk the commitment by his children of obscene songs, because, at the time, their import was not understood? Would not the words be a leaven of impurity in the memory, to contaminate the mind as it opened to the comprehension of their meaning? So the doctrines of the Bible, though deposited as a dead letter, may become a fountain of life to the soul, when it shall open the eye of its understanding upon them.

The plan of leaving children uninstructed in religion that they may come with an unbiassed mind to the subject, is impracticable. An evil heart, is, itself, a powerful bias against the truth. And if the servants neglect to sow good seed, the enemy will certainly sow tares. The sure consequence of leaving children to grow up without religious instruction, will be irreligion, and prejudice against the truth.

Whenever, therefore, our doctrinal catechisms are laid aside, a breach wide as the sea is opened for the enemy to come in.

3. The faith delivered to the saints must be maintained by means of literary institutions regulated and controlled by its sanctifying power.

It is evident, that the youth of our colleges cannot be governed, without efficient moral influence. In our free country neither military coersion, nor civil power, nor ambition will, alone, avail to subdue the vicious propensities and direct the principles and habits of the young. Moral influence must be employed; and the most powerful moral influence is that exerted by evangelical religion. This system of faith imposes a stricter rule of duty, and enforces its requisitions by more powerful sanctions, attended, when faithfully exhibited, by the influences of the Spirit giving them effect on the heart. The salutary influence of revivals, and of the beneficiaries of the churches in our colleges, in promoting among the young men generally, purity of morals, and increasing the facilities of government, are manifest and great.

Another proof of the necessity of such an influence is found in the destructive consequences of a perverted literature. Talents and learning are moral power; and cannot be arrayed against religion without disastrous effects. If these, then, are beheld chiefly in alliance with error, and the truth associated chiefly with uncultivated intellect, how great and powerful will be the prepossession in favor of error, and against the truth? We may as well expect the application of all the mechanical powers in the natural world, without effect, as of the energies of talent and literature in the moral world, without effect. A reliance on the power of God, in such circumstances, is presumption; for it supposes, in opposition to the declarations of his word and his providences, that he will protect by miracle without the use of means.

The opinion that God has dispensed with learning and talents as auxiliaries in the work of defending and propagating the faith, has been adopted hastily and without reason. The foolishness of preaching by which he saves, is not foolish preaching; and the weak things which he employs to confound the mighty are not uncultivated intellect and ignorance. The principal defenders of the faith in the Primitive Church were men of vigorous minds and extensive knowledge. The apostles could speak in every tongue; and, besides having been instructed by Christ, were, by the Holy Ghost, reminded of his words, and taught what to say. Augustine was, in his day, a host. Luther and Calvin were men of might. And the Reformers generally had the advantage of their antagonists in literature and science. That none should preach the gospel who have not had the advantages of a liberal education, we do not assert nor believe. But that such should be the

« VorigeDoorgaan »