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indeed is the value of that benevolence, which sheds the tear of sympathy over the tale of imaginary sorrow, and gazes listless, and unmoved, upon the realities of human wretchedness. How truly christian, how salutary is the work of the sabbath-school teacher, how bright the glory encircling his path in this life, how great his reward in the kingdom of heaven!
Such, then, being the salutary effects of sabbath-schools on the Individuals, more immediately connected with them; is it possible, that they can exert a different influence on the Community at large?
Reason would expect, that, as nations are but an aggregate mass composed of individuals, the elements of national and individual prosperity and decline, must be the same. To this position, history bears unwavering testimony. Nations have their rise and fall, as well as individuals; and the causes which accelerate the one produce the other. Vice is the grand high-way to national, no less than individual, ruin. Many are the nations, which have travelled this downward road; and why should we expect, that the great King of nations, will arrest the wheels of revolving empire in our behalf, and not regulate our rise or fall by the same laws, which determine the destinies of other nations? On the contrary, no truth is more clearly established by history, than that nations in general are prosperous and happy, in proportion as they are virtuous. What then are the effects of sabbath-schools upon a nation?
They tend to diminish the number of criminals in our land, by closing the avenues, from which our prisons and penitentiaries are filled. Enter one of these abodes of guilt, and converse with its miserable inmates about the important truths of religion. Their ignorance will soon teach you, that neglect of religious education, is the fruitful mother of, by far the greater portion of penal misery, endured in our land. Finding food enough in this degenerate world, these habits grew with their growth and strengthened with their strength, until breaking forth in overt violation of the civil law, they conducted their victims to these abodes of wretchedness. And, as they trod with heedless foot their downward course, no warning voice recalled them, no parental instructions recurred to their memory, no sabbath-school lesson of God's anger at transgressors, filled them with alarm, or arrested them in their way to ruin! Sabbath-schools, by removing the cause of this evil, must tend to remedy the effect. The solemn sanctions of religion, impressed on the mind in early years, exert a powerful influence in restraining men from sin. This belief is not mere theory. The experiment has been tried, and actual calculations proves, that comparatively very few of those, who enjoyed this instruction, are ever arraigned at the bar of their coun-try for the transgressions of her laws; and the Recorder of London states, that, among a class of population peculiarly degraded, out of two thousand children taught in sabbath-schools, only fourteen had ever been brought before him for crime.
Again, sabbath schools tend to preserve the purity and stability of our political institutions. Man by the very structure of his mental nature is a religious being, and must have some religion. Few men
have ever been for any length of time, unwavering atheists. Even the farfamed Voltaire, when he felt his heart-strings breaking, and when he saw the hideous form of death before him, applied for consolation to the minister of that Jesus, whom he had so virulently persecuted, so blasphemously vilified! No nation has ever been found, which had not some kind of religion; and, consequently, no organized government has ever existed without it. Even the skeptical Polybius, the celebrated Greek historian, who flourished about a century before the Christian era, and as the relick of his Universal History proves, had carefully studied the governments of different nations, pronounces the religion of the Romans in the earlier ages of the Republic, the most useful feature of their government, the strongest pillar which sustained their liberties. How much more benign and efficient an influence must the pure, the holy precepts of Christianity exert on the nation sincerely embracing them? What stronger barrier could be presented against intrigue and corruption, than the dread of a righteous judgement, an endless retribution. What more powerful motive to fidelity amid the storms of political animosity and conflicting interests, than the belief that all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do? Nor is it at all remarkable, that moral principle should be esential to the faithful administration of a good government. What is government but a civil compact between the rulers and the ruled, by which each party is obligated to certain duties, under the sanction of an oath, expressed or implied? But what binding power has moral obligation on him, who has no fear of God before his eyes, no sense of future retribution on his mind? However just the laws, however virtuous the higher rulers may be, if a nation be generally corrupt, what power can ensure the just administration of the government in its minor ramifications? Can a virtuous emperor, or king, or president, or cabinet, exert an omnipresent influence throughout the nation, deterring the unprincipled magistrate from the oppressing the poor, the widow and the orphan? especially when public sentiment in the surrounding community is not such as to restrain him? In a republican government, moreover, there are many and strong temptations to a corrupt exercise of the elective franchise in the citizen, to corrupt, self-interested, partial legislation in the representative; which no power in existence can resist, save a vigorous, uncompromising moral feeling pervading the community. In short, moral or religious principle is to the body politic what constitutional vigour is to the animal frame; it not only diffuses habitual energy through all its members, but tends also to heal the wounds from time to time inflicted on it. What then, could exert a more salutary influence on our civil institutions, than the general introduction of sabbathschools; which, beginning in the early years of docility, impress the fear of God, the love of moral integrity, of peace, of justice on the future citizens, and legislators and executives of our land? What could more effectually tend to regulate that tendency to inequality in all governments, which the agrarian laws of Judea, of Sparta, and of Greece, failed eventually to restrain, than sabbath
schools; which, by making us a nation of intelligent virtuous politicians and statesmen, would give a moral stability to our institutions, against which the aristocracy of wealth and family influence would beat in vain? And, at some future day, when the storms of party spirit and local jealousies rage over our political ocean, when wave rises high upon wave and all political cords are rent asunder, what would be a safer ballast for us, than that love for one another which is inculcated on christians, in their earliest years in sabbathschools?
Sabbath-schools tend to preserve our country from any improper inAuence of the clergy. That influence which Christian ministers, according to the will of the Saviour, were designed to exert, is justly entitled to the high and noble appellation of co-operation with God bimself. Its design is to lead men to holiness and happiness in time and eternity. This influence, from its very nature, is most desirable, and too much of it can never be diffused over a country. By the saviour's own appointment, it is connected with the progress of his kingdom. As the glorious gospel of the Son of God goes forth in its power, to elevate and bless a ruined world; "the beautiful feet" of those who bear the glad tidings of peace, will be seen clambering over mountain after mountain, and traversing nation after nation, until Satan shall be driven from his last entrenchment on earth, and the whole footstool of God, in all its length and breadth, have been reclaimed to his Son for an inheritance and a possession. Powerful and conclusive is the argument of Paul: "how shall the heathen believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher ?" The clamour of those therefore in our land, who cry, "down with all ministers," is the voice of infidelity, and its real meaning is, down with all religion Yet history teaches us, that, as there was a Judas among the twelve, so some of the Iscariot band, have in all ages, thrust themselves into the ministry, and that, at some periods, the ministerial body in general, sunk with the surrounding population into a state of deplorable degeneracy. The men of this character, whom the Saviour styles wolves in sheep's clothing, would be actuated by the same principles in this office, which governed them out of it; that their influence could not serve as the channel for those blessings, which God designed, through them, to pour out upon the world, is obvious. Of this we have living examples before our eyes in the degraded state of Italy, Spain and other Catholic countries, once distinguished above others for literature and science, or for commercial enterprize and activity; but whose poor, oppressed inhabitants are now shut out from the intellectual and moral light which has beamed upon the Protestant world which is teaching subjects to feel, that they have civil and religious rights which even their rulers may not invade: and forcing home upon the minds of kings and emperors, the unwelcome truth, that a decent regard for these rights, is essential to the stability of the thrones on which they repose. And although we believe the present generation of ministers in our happy land, taken as a whole, to be as pure and sincere, as the same number of ministers ever was.
since the days of the apostles; yet as christians and as patriots, it is our duty to guard against the possibility of evil. This is the more proper on the present occasion, as sabbath-schools have been charged with a tendency to produce these very evils!
When we inquire, how did a ministry, which had become corrupt, fail to lose its influence over the community, we find, that, either ignorance and superstition among the people, or an unholy union of civil and ecclesiastical power was their chief support. That a corrupt ministry could, independently of these auxiliaries, exert but little influence over an enlightened, virtuous people, is almost a selfevident truth. But the experiment could never be made. Such is the reciprocal influence, which the clergy and laity exert upon one another that within certain limits, their characters run parallel to each other; and even when changing for better or worse, they will as a whole, never be found occupying contrary extremes. Piety among the members of the church, tends to preserve and elevate the piety of their minister. Their prayers strengthen him, their admonitions stimulate him, their high expectations prevent his standard of duty from sinking low. Amid a wordly people, the whole current of influence is reversed. In his intercourse with them, the servant of God finds nothing to warm his heart. The desire of pleasing them, tempts him to relax a little the requisitions of the gospel, and the fear of losing his subsistence, sometimes prevents him from preaching against fashionable vices. The students taken from such a lukewarm people to fill the future ranks of the ministry, will generally be very different from those, brought forth and matured amid the fire and heat of religious revivals. Yet, without the two causes above specified, a ministry by becoming corrupt would necessarily lose its influence.
It was when ignorance prevailed among the people, and was extolled as the mother of devotion, when the bible was concealed beneath the impenetrable veil of an unknown tongue, and men could not imitate the Berean example of searching the Scriptures to see whether these things were so, that a corrupt priesthood made them believe the greatest absurdities. Did an intelligent nation, enlightened by the rays of bible truth, ever believe that the priest could forgive sins? or tolerate the abominable traffic in papal indulgences? or believe, that a tooth, or a bone of a martyr, or a chip of his coffin, could heal diseases? It was the general ignorance and superstition of the people, which enabled Peter, the hermit, together with the popes and cardinals, to engage a large part of Europe in the memorable crusades. It was owing to the ignorance and superstition of the people, that the papal hierarchy grew to its enormous dimensions; that the pope became the Juggernaut of Christendom, before whose bloody car the monarchs of Europe reverently bowed and did homage! On the other hand, the most powerful engine ever arrayed against papacy, and that by which the glorious Reformation was chiefly effected, and its doctrines perpetuated, was the general diffusion of bible truth, by the translation of the sacred volume into the vernacular tongues of Europe, and the general in
culcation of its doctrines on the old and the young. Of all this, his holiness is well aware. Else why evince such sensibility at the stroke of the spear? Why hurl, in the nineteeth century, the thunders of the Vatican at the Bible societies of Europe? Why keep in constant operation the infernal inquisition, by which all free inquiry is suppressed, and the human mind kept bound in chains of ignorance and superstition? Why, in our own country, do his Jesuitic emissaires, search up the copies of the book of God, distributed among Catholics by Bible societies, as though they were charged with latent poison?
Do not these symptoms of the disease clearly point out the remedy? In our own happy land, we have, at present, nothing to fear. from the civil authorities. Should the ministry become corrupt, and yet retain any influence over the minds of the people, it must be through popular ignorance & superstition. Against these, therefore, the efforts of the christian and the patriot ought to be directed. But how can we better dispel ignorance among the future citizens of our land, than by the general introduction of sabbath-schools, into which all of every rank and condition are admitted, and especially the poor, whose want of means would otherwise condemn them to ignorance for life? How can we better guard them against the gloomy reign of superstition, than by sabbath-schools, in which they are early made acquainted with the bible, the unadulterated fountain of truth. Thus they become qualified in afterlife to judge, whether the doctrines taught by their ministers are correct. Thus they learn to see that their salvation depends, not on the absolution of the priest or the favour of a minister, but on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. They learn that the power assigned by the Saviour to the ministers of his gospel, is altogether a moral influence; and are able to detect the very first attempts to transcend those bounds, should any be made. They learn from the sacred volume, what are the specific duties prescribed to ministers, and can decide how long their pastor deserves their confidence and support, and when he should be abandoned as unfaithful. We rightly judge, that the best method of dedefending our liberties against the encroachment and rapacity of civil rulers, is to have our Constitution and the laws defining their powers generally circulated, and our citizens taught to read them. Thus they learn what these officers may, and what they may not require of them. But is it not equally evident, that our best defence against any future corruption of the ministerial body, must be sought in the same remedy? in the effort to teach all the future citizens of our land to read that holy volume, in which the duties of ministers are clearly diffued, in which they are declared to be as fallible as other men, and are warned against unfaithfulness by all the joys of heaven and all the terrors of hell?
Yet still, if sabbath-schools were generally introduced, and the whole rising generation taught the doctrines of the bible, would there not, as has been alleged by the enemy, be some danger of thus producing the very event, before specified as the second cause of an im proper influence of the clergy, namely a union of church and state?