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usual efforts to spread the Bible ; unusual efforts to evangelize the heathen ; unusual efforts to give religious instruction to the rising generation ; unusual efforts to increase the number of pious and able ministers.
These grand movements in the kingdom of grace, are rapidly acquiring an ascendency over the minds of men. In one form or another, they are becoming the general subject of interest, and of conversation. Christians are roused. The long slumber of the church is succeeded by a zeal that "attempts great things, expects great things ;" a zeal, which kindles to a brighter flame as it burns, and rises, amidst discouragements, to higher hopes, and bolder achievements. The majestic river, that swells with the accession of tributary streams, rolls onward, bearing away every thing that falls in with its current. So the great objects of Christian benevolence, at this day, seem destined to swallow up the thousand minor objects of regard, to harmonize the views of hostile sects, and to combine by a common impulse, the efforts of princes, statesmen, and peasants, to promote the interests of the church. . .
It would give me pleasure to pursue this train of reflection, and to present in a distinct review those signs of the times, which are adapted to encourage the faith and hope of Christians. It can hardly be necessary, however, to repeat what has been already
so often and ably done, from the pulpit and the press. But as connected with the circumstances of prosperity to which I have alluded, and as growing out of them, there are other characteristics of the present day, which seem to have attracted less notice than they deserve. The history of a few past years furnishes lessons of instruction and caution, as well as of animation. The sober observer of events must perceive that there are dangers to be guarded against, in our great systems of benevolent operation; and it is to these signs of the times, that I purpose especially to call your attention in this discourse.
Let me not be understood, however, in any remarks which follow, to express an apprehension, that we are in danger of indulging excessive zeal for the cause of religion. When I recollect that after a lapse of eighteen hundred years since the Saviour died to redeem lost men, three fourths of our race have not so much as heard of his name; when I see the nations of modern Christendom lavish more expense on one military campaign, than they bestow on the church in a century; when I hear Christians acknowledge that all the luxuries of the world ought promptly to be sacrificed, if that were the price of bringing a single heathen to embrace the truth; and when I lay by the side of this acknowledgment another fact, that very few Christians are to be found, who have come to regard it as their serious duty to retrench any per
sonal comfort or even embellishment for the sake of sending the gospel to hundreds of millions, who are ignorant of its blessings ; I can see no reason to think that immoderate zeal in behalf of religion is now, or is likely to be hereafter, a fault of the church. On the contrary, the work of converting the world cannot be consummated without calling into action zeal a hundred times more fervent than we have hitherto witnessed. If I could suppose that any sentence of this discourse would tend to damp the ardor, or paralyse the efforts of a single pious soul, I would blot it out forever. But surely it is not a blind zeal that is to carry forward the great enterprises of this age. It is a zeal guided by wisdom, and one that can perceive the dangers attendant on its own operations..
Let us proceed then to consider these dangers, as they respect men without personal religion ; and as they respect real Christians, and the interests of the church.
1. As they respect men who are destitute of personal religion. in
Any tendency which there may be in the system of things at this day, to sink the grand requisitions of the gospel out of sight, and to cherish in men the hope of acceptance with God, while destitute of the temper which he requires, must seriously endanger their eternal interests.
If I mistake not, there is such a tendency. The church and the world are becoming accustomed to
meet on the same common ground, and to act in concert respecting the general interests of religion, without keeping distinctly in view those principles, which stamp the character of actions in the sight of heaven. To be more specific. The simple act of giving money to a religious object may be regarded as a truly religious act, while the motive may be such as God cannot approve, and as the giver himself would be unwil. ling to avow before his fellow men. I am aware that the prerogative of searching hearts is not committed to us. I am aware too that for certain purposes, and to a certain extent, the motives of actions, apparently good, are of little importance. The beggar's hunger may be as effectually relieved by bread given from ostentation, as from Christian benevolence. If I contribute to send the preaching of the gospel to a heathen, the value of the benefit to him depends not at all on the temper in me, which prompted the contribution. A Bible, given by an infidel, is as precious in its contents, and may be as useful as though given by an apostle. But in respect to the spiritual state of the giver, the motive is of infinite importance; because on this absolutely, and this only, the moral worth of the action depends. And shall we undervalue and dishonor the Bible at home, in the very act of sending it abroad? Shall the man by whose liberality we are enabled to bestow this treasure on others, be tempted to forget the claims which this holy book
asserts over his own heart, and the terms upon which it offers bim salvation ?
In our efforts to spread the light of the Gospel.in remote countries, we must take care not to extinguish nor obscure its light in our own. Now this danger consists in a want of practical discrimination as to the motive of our actions. It results from a kind of implied and indefinite understanding, that whatever has the appearance of respect for religion, is religion. And the course of things in regard to our public charities, I fear is too much adapted to cherish this mistake.
Worldly men may aid these charities from the impulse of conscience, from social sympathies, or from regard to personal reputation. He who hates the truth, may promote benevolent institutions, to appease that disquietude which the absolute neglect of all religion must produce in his own bosom; or to exhibit his generosity to a public object, or his compassion to those whose condition and privileges are far inferior to his own. Yet the most equivocal expressions of respect for Christianity, in a man or woman of elevated station, is easily construed into demonstration of personal religion. The Prince is a patron of the Bible Society ; his name is blazoned in capitals on its subscription list ; his presence at its anniversary is hailed with acclamations; his speech in favour of the Bible is interrupted with bursts of applause, is echoed