Abbildungen der Seite

prosecutions for crime—losses sustained by fires, which have been ascertained to have been kindled by incendiaries, and the sum total of the estimate is nine millions of dollars. “So that the honest part of this nation pay more for the support of crime than is paid for all our naval and land forces, forts, arsenals, navy-yards, ordnance, armories, Indian pensions, and internal improvements put together!"-proof this, that human laws, however severe, can never prevent the commission of crime. But the sanctified influence of the Pulpit can do it; for, so great is its power of prevention, that criminals, and those who intend to become such, are seldom seen in the house of God. Indeed, the conscience, which is educated in the sanctuary, brings the day of judgment and final retribution too near to allow men to become aggressive on the rights and happiness of their fellow-men. That certain fearful looking for of judgment for human guilt, which is here constantly held up before the intellectual vision, and especially that renewal of the heart to holiness by divine influence, which so frequently follows the faithful preaching of the gospel, constitute the only adequate remedy for the wrong doings of this wicked world. What then would be the effect, if all the costs of crime in this land were consecrated to the diffusion and maintenance of the institutions of the gospel throughout the length and breadth of our country? Would not the nation be a gainer by it even in a pecuniary point of view, to say nothing of the improvement in morals and mental elevation—the certain consequence of obeying the truth?

You are all familiar with the fact, that pauperism, as the direct fruit of vice, is one of the public burdens; that England literally groans under the weight of this burden; that the property of the people is absorbed by taxation for the support of the poor ; and that in this country, we have reason for the most fearful apprehensions from this source, unless we can bring a redeeming influence to bear upon it. To have seven eighths of all the pauperism in the State of New York brought upon it by the single vice of intemperance, is enough to satisfy every sober man not only that something must be done to arrest the evil, but that the expense of this vice is greater than the means of prevention. Let all the children and youth in the land be brought under the appropriate influence of the Pulpit, and this vice will soon cease to exist, and the heavy burden which it

now imposes on the nation will be removed. In this event, your prisons and penitentiaries will henceforth stand empty monuments of the depravity of a past age. For it is a well known fact, that those who attend regularly on the public worship of God, seldom, if ever, become drunkards or criminals. And the reason is as obvious as the fact. It is, because men are here brought near to God, and the conviction of their personal responsibility to his law is constantly deepening. You feel a moral certainty, that men like Joseph and Daniel-Paul and Cornelius-Wilberforce and Howard—men who uphold the institutions of religion, and whose hearts are controlled by the fear and love of God, will never become vicious and a burden to the community; while you are equally confident, that men like Ahab and Haman, Judas and Simon Magus,-men who hate the light and restraints of true religion, will be the sport of passion, and the prey of lust.

We say, then, that the vices and crimes which the Pulpit restrains, cost more than the restraining influence. This fact is indeed but little thought of by those who have been long accustomed to the ministrations of the Pulpit, because its conservative, health-giving influence, is as noiseless as that of the dew—the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. But wherever the experiment has been tried of living without the institutions of the gospel, there, in the immorality and crime which abound, it is seen and felt how much men are indebted for their highest temporal prosperity to the religion of Jesus Christ.

III. Again. The Pulpit is worth more than it costs, because it is the prerequisite and support of civilization.

It is indeed true, that several nations, such as ancient Greece and Rome, attained to great elevation and refinement without the aid of the gospel, but not to such a civilization as it is in the power of Christianity alone to impart and perpetuate.

The barbarous, or savage state, is that in which passion habitually predominates over reason--lust over conscience ;--in which the animal, rather than the intellectual and moral, nature of man, is gratified. Now when this order is reversed ; where a people are governed by the decisions of an enlightened conscience, there civilization in its best form exists; and what we affirm is, that such a condition is never reached and maintained without the gospel of Jesus Christ. The history of the Greenlanders presents an illustration in Point. The missionaries to that country spent the first ten years after their arrival in attempting to elevate and civilize the people by the aid of literature and science alone, but the attempt was an utter failure. They then exhibited, with all the eloquence of fervid feeling, the doctrine of a Savior, crucified for the sins of men--suffering, and dying to atone for the guilt of his enemies, with an effect, which more than realized their most sanguine expectations. The attention of the people was arrested, and the transformation of heart, which followed, laid the foundation for a permanent elevation. Will any one doubt whether the introduction of the gospel into Greenland, and the blessings which have followed in its train, are less valuable to the people, than the expense incurred by the enterprise? Who, that properly understands the cruelties, the degredation, and the expense, attending the rites of Pagan superstition, can doubt? No. The civilization of the Greenlander, and his consequent redemption from the brutal ignorance and barbarism of his former state, are worth more to him for this life, than all the gold in the universe. Thus also schools among the Indians have failed to reclaim them from the savage state, except as they have been made subordinate to the instrumentality of the gospel. Such is the testimony of the missionaries themselves—such the result of actual experiment; and such a result we should be led to anticipate from the very nature of the case ; for how can man rise to true refinement, so long as his heart is “the hold of every foul spirit, and the cage of every unclean and hateful bird ?" How can sweetness of manners mark the intercourse of society, so long as ferocious passion is permitted to rage, and brutify the human mind, and put out the light, and hush the voice of reason and conscience ?

But the Pulpit is not only the prerequisite of civilization, it is also indispensable for its support. Civilization cannot be maintained without the same influence in which it originated. The proof of this is seen in almost every town in Christendom; in men who have withdrawn, as far as possible, from the influence and support of the gospel; and the evidence in such cases is as palpable as it is painful, that they are rapidly reverting to the savage state.

The roughness and vulgarity of their manners—the obtuseness of their moral perceptions and sensibilities and the habitual predominance of appetite and lust over reason and conscience, proclaim with a loud voice, that the light of civilization in them is nearly extinguishad; and that, but for surrounding restraints, arising from those who maintain the institutions of the gospel, they would soon become downright barbarians. Such is the testimony of stubborn facts, known and read of all men, in regard to the necessity of the gospel in maintaining civilization, wherever it has gained a foothold in our world. By as much then as civilization is worth more than barbarism, by so much does the Christian Pulpit repay what it costs for its support.

IV. Assuming that mankind will have some kind of religion, (an assumption which the history of our race justifies,) we say, fourthly, That the Protestant, evangelical Pulpit, is worth more than it costs, because it prevents the introduction of a more expensive, as well as a false religion.

A nation of Atheists, having no religion whatever, has never existed; nor can it exist, so long as man is in possession of his present faculties of moral agency. Some kind of religion is indispensable in order to meet the demands of his moral nature. And hence the question submitted to men is, not whether they shall have no religion at all, but whether it shall be true or falseMahommedan or Jeroish-Pagan or Christian. And here it is, that the religion of the gospel has the advantage over every other, not only on the ground of its truth and excellence, but as a matter of economy. For ministers enough of some order there will be; and the number will be in exact ratio to the ignorance of the people, and the corruption of religion. Infidelity has its priest in every man, who is sworn, by his talents and influence, to propagate the scheme. Paganism has its thousands of altars, and its array of priests to attend on every altar. In France, under the Roman Catholic Church, four hundred thousand, or one to every sixty-two of the inhabitants, are ecclesiastics. In Spain, one hundred and eighty thousand, or one to every sixtyone of the population, are supported by the church, while the Protestant religion deems one minister sufficient for every thousand souls. It is thus seen to be a matter of economy to maintain the evangelical Pulpit, not merely because it exhibits the only true religion, but because it is the cheapest,-demanding fewer ministers for its inculcation, and a far less expensive apparatus for worship. If men will have some kind of religion, as the entire history of the world demonstrates, it is better, on every account, to possess the religion of a regenerated heart--the religion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

For these several reasons, therefore, are we not authorized to say, THAT THE PULPIT IS WORTH MORE THAN IT costs ?

If, then, such be the legitimate fruits of a preached gospel, it is obvious to remark,

1. That the Pulpit is not in debt to the people.

By this I mean, that it pays back more than it costs in the increased value which it gives to every kind of useful property ;-in the restraints which it imposes on vice and crime ;-in the enterprise which it imparts, by introducing and perpetuating the purest form of civilization ;-and in its preventing the introduction of a spurious, as well as a more expensive religion.

To say nothing of its connection with the eternal welfare of the soul, it is worth more than it costs for the good which it does for the expense which it saves in the present life. Who can estimate the expense of time and treasure, devoted to the gratification of licentious passion--to that which is not bread to that which satisfieth not? Who can tell the amount of money worse than wasted by Sabbath-breakers, drawing largely on the strength of the physical system, and cutting short a multitude of lives? Is it too much to say, that the money wasted in these ways is more than is now expended to supply the land with religious instruction--a waste occasioned altogether by breaking away from the salutary restraints of the gospel ? And “to what purpose is this waste ?" Are those, who expend money for sinful gratifications, happier, or more useful, than those who love the gospel, and, like David, regard one day spent in the courts of the Lord as better than a thousand in the tents of sin ? No. For after tasting all the pleasures which sin can bestow, they are obliged at last to pronounce them vanity and vexation of spirit.

The influence of the Pulpit, then, on the temporal prosperity of men, is in the highest degree benign and salutary.

The only losers, if any, in a pecuniary point of view, are the ministers themselves. Seldom, if ever, do they regain by preaching what their

« ZurückWeiter »