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useful, if we adopt the standard of the apostle-that is ' good to the use of edifying, which ministers grace to the hearer.' Theological speculation and doctrinal extravagance have free scope, and whether they appear in concord or in opposition, the land is filled with the sound of their voices. Belief and unbelief are heard urging their respective their respective opinions, and sometimes encountering one another in open warfare. There is here no timidity, no fear of man, no dread of consequences, no unwillingness to speak lest the community should be disturbed. Sentiment is avowed,
whatever be its character.
Nor can we trace the evil which we lament to a state of the public mind, which renders it impolitic to avow a strong interest in religion. A man does not lose his influence by exerting himself for the cause of holiness. A serious, spiritually minded woman is not regarded with displeasure. No; public sentiment rather sustains a person in the practical expression of a regard for piety and strict morality, if he be consistent, and do not seem to have made a compromise with conscience, by which he accepts from himself the rigid performance of certain duties as a substitute for a goodness that should pervade his whole character.— We must look elsewhere for the cause of that defect which, if I do not mistake, urgently demands a remedy. We may indeed want more books containing pure doctrine in union with lofty sentiment; we may want the benefits of religious discussion without the evils of heated controversy; we may want a more direct encour
agement of religious principle and feeling by the public favor; but the radical evil lies deeper than these wants, which, if they do not originate in what we consider the essential fault of the times,are at least perpetuated by it. The great want of the present period is not knowledge, nor excitement, but moral improvement under the advantages enjoyed and acknowledged. That which is most needed is, a sober employment of the general mind on the subject of religion.
That we may be understood, and that our readers may also be brought to sympathy with us on this subject, we ask them again to look into the christian world; or, confining ourselves within more definite limits, since we are most interested in the state of things at home, to which these remarks have special application, let us survey the condition of society in this country. Take the people in mass, or in the several classes, into which business or property or literary advantages have divided them, and what are the strong features of character that are presented to view? Industry, enterprise, a devotion to freedom and a respect for religion-it is quite possible or even probable will be the reply, and no one can doubt the correctness of the answer. But to what end are industry and enterprise directed? How does the passion for liberty exhibit itself? How deep is the respect for religion, or how effective is it? These are the questions that try the essential truth of the case. Are not property and politics the great interests which the people have at heart? Is not wealth or distinction or victory the object of supreme desire? does not the
respect for religion exhaust itself in an attendance on the weekly services of public worship, and in a negative silence during the six other days? There are many and bright exceptions. But if we were to speak our honest, deliberate convictions, could we declare it to be our belief that one tenth part of this people fulfill the two commandments, to love God with all the heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves? Is there one person in ten, who we have reason to think is supremely and habitually governed by christian principle? It may be said, we have no reason to think otherwise, and it is not for us to judge our fellow-men. Be it so; but we may form an opinion of society from its appearances, and if it be fact that all the proof which we can discern of an active moral sentiment is the want of evidence against it, we have but little reason to believe in its existence. We can however apply some of the rules by which a judgement may be formed. How large a majority of the people are not worshippers in the church, how many are there who never, or but occasionally, read the Bible, how many families in which the immortality and accountableness of man are themes never introduced into conversation, nor domestic love hallowed by the visible influence of piety? How much of profaneness, of passion, of falsehood, of injustice, is there? We will not swell the list. Here are some positive proofs that men are not governed by christian principle, or are not moved by christian feeling.
We enter among the different classes of the community, and what do we see? Farmers, artisans, day-labor
ers, toiling from morning to night, to gain a subsistence for themselves and their families; merchants, devoting almost every waking hour to the concerns of traffic; scholars, pressing their researches into the treasures of human wisdom with a zeal that almost consumes the energies which it enkindles; professional men, studying for knowledge and for fame, with an ardor that no discouragement can chill; men of leisure, occupying themselves in the cultivation of their minds and manners; men of pleasure, pursuing the various allurements that are offered to their appetites or their vanity; the female mind improved by study, the female heart consecrated to domestic attachments, or both mind and heart given to the world, the fashions, follies, and society of the time. Now suppose all this to be right and well. We ask, and we ask with a solemn anxiety that the question may receive a proper answer,―ought there not to be something more? Ought not mechanics, agriculturists, merchants, scholars, and professional men, to be thorough Christians? Certainly; all must reply. Then we ask, are they so? generally, we mean-are they fervent lovers of God and man, earnest disciples of Jesus Christ, practical believers in the gospel?
Again; ought not they who have leisure or wealth, and wish to enjoy life, to seek that enjoyment in religion? Will they not be disappointed if they seek it elsewhere? Unquestionably. But do they go thither for happiness? Do they feel and act as men who cherish the spirit of heaven in their hearts?
Once more; ought not they who possess such immense power over the other sex, who form the char
acter when it is pliant, who are the guardians of public
'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.' This lesson should be imprinted on our memories, and pressed into our hearts. Then it would be as if the spirit of God should descend into our souls, and transform them into his own image. The divine spirit would be received by us through the gospel of Christ, and we should resemble him whose meat and drink it was to do his Father's will. Then would a change be wrought such as the world has not seen since the age of miracles—a change which will be needed, so long as men virtually prefer other things to the righteousness of God. Let Christians not simply acknowledge, or occasionally feel the supreme importance of religion, but let it be their habitual conviction that it is the one thing needful. Let the immortal welfare of the soul supplant the desire for riches and the temper of worldliness. Let men regard this life in its only momentous relations, those which connect it with eternity. Let them maintain a steadfast sense of their accountableness to an Omniscient Judge. Let them embrace the revelations of the gospel with a living faith, and their chief labor,anxiety, and hope will not be fastened to this world.