« VorigeDoorgaan »
through the country in every hamlet, and is the theme of eulogy in every Gazette. But who is this friend of the Bible? A man perhaps who suffers it to stand as an ornament to his library, in all the elegance which art can give to its exterior ; while he loves not its doctrines, and fears not its threatenings, and has -scarcely read a page of it in his life. A man whose morals not only are in fact, but are commonly known to be at open variance with the spirit and requisitions of this holy book.
Now, while such gross perversion of sentiment is wrought into systems of public charity, and receives the sanction of Christians and ministers, what must be its iúfluence on the multitude of thoughtless men, who wish to embrace any views of the gospel, rather than those which alarm and humble them as sinners ? What must be its influence on the man himself, whose fatal ignorance of his own spiritual state is thus strengthened by the undistinguishing testimonies of respect which he receives from Christians, while he secretly rejects and perhaps reviles Christianity itself. 0, with what dismay must he hear from the mouth of his enthroned Judge ; « These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee.”
Do I mean to say then, that it were better if worldly great men were open opposers of Christian
institutions ? No:--but it were better if they were real and consistent Christians. Nor do I mean that all such men, who promote these institutions, are included in the description which the poet gives of one,
"who for the bane of thousands born, Built God a church, and laugh'd his word to scorn." Our age furnishes examples of illustrious rank united with eminent piety. And where it is otherwise, there is often an inherent antidote to its own mischief, connected with a profligate character.
But in respect to the numerous class of decent, sober, respectable men, who yet“ love not our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,” there is much danger that they will substitute an approbation of Bible societies, and other evangelical charities, for vital religion.
It has been so common for men to indulge an immoderate, selfish love of money, that the use of it for any benevolent purpose, is, in itself, laudable, and draws after it the approbation of every ingenuous mind. The danger of deception here, lies in the fact that the motive, which prompts the charity, is supposed to correspond in nature with the object to be promoted. If this were a road, a canal, or a commercial enterprise, mistake would hardly be possible. But it is religion that is aided, and this, whatever be the state of the heart, is presumed to sanctify the motive of the agent.
The child claims no merit for buying his baubles ;
while he gives his little contributions to missions, perhaps with the heart of a little Pharisee. Shall he be discouraged then from his charities ? God forbid. Let him be stimulated to increase them; but let him also be instructed in the spirit of the gospel.
Take an illustration of my meaning from a letter, addressed by a missionary in Bengal, to some children in this country. “Pray,” says he, “ for the poor Hindoo children. O could you see the little creatures placing their lighted lamps at the water side, in honor of their imaginary gods !—could you see them making idols of mud, and offering to them, at the river side ; above all, could you see their dead bodies floating down the river, or torn by the frightful birds of prey, and mangled by dogs and jackalls, you would pray for them, you would pity them; nay more, give your cents and your silver for their instruction. Let me know what you will give, and then I shall know how much you love Jesus.”
That these facts are stated with the purest motives, and that they ought to awaken emotions of pity in every bosom, cannot be questioned. But what is pity towards objects of wrétchednesss? Is it the same as love to Jesus? In itself, it is an instinct, found in every man, good or bad, who is not a monster. It is found in many animals towards the suffering of their own species. And shall the exercise of this instinct be identified with holy love? Shall such senti
ments be uttered by Christian missionaries, and be repeated with approbation in the periodical publications of a Christian country ? " Let me know what you will give, and then I shall know how much you love Jesus.” Would Jesus himself have said this ? : There is another source of mistake. A man whose heart is a stranger to the power of religion, perhaps commiserates the heathen. I ask him to lend assistance in sending them the gospel. In complying with this request, he indulges the secret persuasion, that it would be enough to raise those heathen to a state as good as his own ; while in truth he. may be tenfold more guilty than any heathen on the globe. But if I am called to preach on the subject of missions, in the hearing of this man, and if I press on his conscience the aggravated guilt of those who live without personal holiness, under the light of the gospel, and lead him to draw such a comparison as the truth demands, between his own moral condition, and that of an unsanctified heathen, I may offend his pride, and frustrate the end of my solicitation. What then ? That I may gain a dollar to the treasury of Christ, shall I hide the truth of Christ, and become accessory to the delusion that may ruin a soul ?*
Having suggested some of the dangers connected * I do not say that whenever we ask the aid of an individual to any religious charity, it is indispensable to instruct him in the principles of the gospel. Religion pays due respect to proprieties of time and circumstances, and fidelity needs the guidance of dis
with our systems of benevolent efforts, as they respect men without piety ; let us consider these dangers,
II. As they respect real Christians, and the interests of the church. The substantial prosperity of the church is just in proportion to the measure of trúe piety among its members. And perhaps no maxim of Christian experience is better established than that piety acquires strength by struggling with difficulties. Accordingly it is a remarkable fact, that the most shining individual Christians, and the best devotional books have been produced in periods of persecution.
The dangers which I am to suggest under this head, all result perhaps, from this one source, the tendency there is among pious men to adapt their religion to public sentiment.
We ought to rejoice in that ascendancy of the church, which not only exempts it from persecution, but makes it the object of respect, even to those who love not the truth. We have seen many circumstances conspire to promote the Christian societies of the day. “ Their rapid and overwhelming progress has swept along with it a vast variety of names, interests
cretion. But as this difficult task devolves chiefly on Christian preachers, it behoves us in our efforts to swell a subscription list, not merely to avoid expedients which the gospel condemns, but to take care that the dignity and sanctity of our office does not suffer, and that the gospel itself does not by our means fail of its proper influence on those whose assistance we solicit in sending it to others.