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valuable aid they furnish, and the sound principles they urge, for the efficient development of the resources of the country, are practically undervalued and disbelieved ; and that, notwithstanding the history of nations is one perpetual confirmation and illustration of the great principles of political economy recognised and taught in them. A thousand
expedients may be adopted for the public weal, but all will prove abortive, or fail to secure permanent prosperity, where the religious character of a people is not prized and fostered. There can be no guaranty for public tranquillity, whatever may be a people's confidence in their fleets or armies, their legislation and judiciary, the policy and efficiency of their administration, if the laws and providence of God are disrespected. An attentive observer cannot fail to discover indications of evil, among the population of this land. The fears of many are awake for the future. The spirit of lawlessness and violence, the practical disrespect of God's law, and of the institutions of Christianity, which mark the signs of the times, cannot but excite solicitude. Under the influence of such solicitude the following attempt is made to prove that the religious character of a people is the true clement of their prosperity, and to trace some of the more striking indications
of deterioration, in this respect, in the United States.
By the religious character of a people is meant the practical influence of true Christianity. Other religions have obtained credit in the world, and shaped the character of nations; but none possess equal power to promote the real and permanent improvement of a people :--the remark is made in reference to their temporal condition. Christianity commends itself to every class in society, and is the only effectual means of securing those healthful developments in which true social prosperity consists.
We propose not to enter at large upon the arguments in proof of this position, aiming more directly at the application ;- but there are two considerations, which every candid reader will acknowledge to be conclusive. If we can show that religion elevates the condition, and augments the happiness of society, beyond every thing else, we have done all that can be demanded of us. In what then, we ask, consists the elevation and happiness of a nation ? Not in the splendor of its government ? Not in the grandeur and superior
refinement of its rulers ? Not in the wealth and luxury of a privileged and noble class ? Not in the security and efficient control of a pampered aristocracy? Not in the strength and glory of its armies and navy? These may all be had, as history has proved, and yet the great mass of the people be oppressed, degraded, corrupt, and little of domestic peace and tranquillity be known.
The elevation and happiness of society can only be secured by the elevation and happiness of the different families and members composing that society. Nothing can be effectual for this end, which does not enter the household and the heart, and contribute to produce and promote intelligence, order, contentment and industry. These form the main elements of national prosperity. Wherever they exist diffusely among the mass, there must be both national happiness and national aggrandisement. We say nothing of the tendency of Christianity to elevate and bless, as it makes the subject of its influence aspire to the society of God, of the spirits of just men made perfect, of the angels who kept their first estate, the loftiest intelligences—the best society in the universe, -as it thus, of necessity, expands and strengthens the mind, and as it throws in the radiance of hope and joy, by unfolding the prospect of future scenes, of high and ennobling immortality; but we speak only of its improvement of men's temporal condition.
Let the appropriate influence of religion find its way into the different families that compose a community, and there you will see the most effectual restraints imposed on discord and strife, and the most powerful incentives to promote order, intelligence, contentment and industry. For he that is actuated by religion is affected by the fear of God, and the fear of God is a much more powerful principle than the fear of human laws, or of the authorities intrusted with the execution of those laws. The ignorant and impoverished are apt to feel, that the laws and the government are their enemies, or at any rate, that, while society owes them a subsistence, it does by these means throw obstacles in the way of their receiving it. So far from having respect to the general order and happiness of society, they are willing to sacrifice all to their selfishness, and to prevent confusion and mischief, rapaciousness and crime, the strong hand of power, with all the accompaniments of courts and jails, penitentiaries and military force, must inspire terror.
This fear is not effectual; the fear of God, however, is. It accompanies the man affected by it into all the intercourse of life, and sheds its controlling influence over all his conduct. When true religion enters the cottage of the thief or drunkard, or the palace of the proud oppressor, it brings its own peculiar energies to bear upon their inmates. It starts no philosophical discussions about public morals, the comforts of sobriety, the advantages to be derived from holding sacred the rights of property, or the necessity of civil government for the general weal. It takes a much more direct method to accomplish its ends. It asserts and exalts the law of God, which requires, “As ye would that others do to you, do ye even so to them.” It requires that each man regard and love his neighbor and his brother, as himself. It pours out the denunciation of Heaven, and threatens with eternal damnation every one, both high and low, who dares to violate its high behests. It imparts a few simple and salutary principles, and engraves them on the tablets of the heart, so that its subject can never plead ignorance, but carries with him, through all the varieties of human condition, and complicated human relations, his guide and instructer in the path of duty ; “ teaching us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present evil world;" "to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates," to render unto all men their dues,“ tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor, to owe no man, but to love one another;" "to put away all anger and malice," envy and revenge, those stormy passions, which keep society agitated and unsettled, and to abstain from all lying and backbiting and reviling. It is obvious that nothing possesses half so much intrinsic power,or is so admirably and universally adapted to diffuse throughout the community a love of order, a respect for the laws, the spirit of contentment and good-will
, and the diligent efforts of a healthful industry,—the very elements of public prosperity.
Did space permit, we could show how religion meets man in the lowest depths of his degradation and misery, and, speaking in the soft tones of heavenly mercy, words of peace and encouragement, inspires him with hope, and prompts him to commence a thorough renovation of his life ;-how it meets, him in his helplessness, and when through conscious weakness, and fear of temptation, he scarcely dares to form a resolution to change, it proffers its aid, directs him to the "treasures of wisdom, and of strength laid up for him in Jesus Christ, and persuades him to hope and believe there is salvation for him ;-how it meets him in his ignorance, and when he knows not where to look, what to do, in whom to trust, or from whom to take counsel, presents, as the friend and companion of his steps, the mighty Son of God, on whom to lean, and through whom to escape from every fear and foe; how it meets him in his different relations, as parent, husband child, brother, friend, neighbor and subject, and vouchsafing its counsel and safe conduct through all the different and difficult circumstances of his condition, assists him in the discharge of every duty, and moulds his character after the graces of the Spirit of God," against which there is no law; and how it meets him in his different trials and afflictions; the difficult passes through life, and administers courage and consolation, wiping away the tears of his sorrow, dissipating his anxiety about his own and his family's welfare, soothing him on the bed of sickness, comforting him in his afflictions, supporting him in his trials, fortifying him for disappointments, lifting him up in his despondency, exciting him with the hope of future good, dispelling the fear of death, throwing around him in his dying moments the arms of everlasting love, and pressing his spirit beloved to the bosom of his Heavenly Father.
There is nothing which lends such a mighty helping power to the suffering and oppressed, who with weary spirits and decaying energies, begin to lose their patience and their hope, while grappling with the hardships of life. There is nothing which can light up the humble abode of poverty with the bright sunshine of peace and hope, and dignify the privations, toils and sufferings incident to penury, and brace, with the firmness of heroic fortitude, the man who sees his scanty fare becoming more and more precarious, his children wasting with disease, and the partner of his cares sinking under the pressure of their trials. There is nothing which can so soften the rugged, polish the rude, enlighten the ignorant, sustain under heavy pressure, and direct under circumstances fraught with perplexity. Where was there ever such a magic power brought to bear upon a people to improve the condition of the poor? to expel discontent and
gloom ? to substitute peace for anxiety, confidence for fear, hope for despondency, joy for sorrow, purity for pollution ? Nothing can equal it, nothing compensate it. It is this, and this alone that can equalize the allotments of Providence, and place every man in a condition to rise to respectability and happiness.
Talk not of agrarian laws, or the equal distribution of property, to improve the condition of society! Suppose you could fill the land with fa nilies of opulence, you could not fill those families with happiness, not even with contentment. Wealth has no power to relieve from care, and fill the home and heart of its possessor with bliss. But introduce the religion of Jesus Christ among the people,– let it enter the households of the poor, and inspire the tenants of the humble cottage, with the hope of that inheritance which is "incorruptible, undefiled, and which fadeth not away;" and teach them how their trials, which are comparatively but for a moment, work out for them “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” yea, that their very poverty is proof of His favor, who hath chosen them “rich in faith and beirs of the kingdom," and you do more than all the legislation, wisdom and philosophy of man, and the resources of governments, can accomplish, to fill the land with contented and happy families, and ensure the greatest amount of happiness consistent with a state of moral discipline.
Let the records of history be consulted. Contrast the most refined and brilliant nations of antiquity, with those that Christianity has moulded, and civilized by its influence, and tell the result. The splendid monarchies and despotisms of Egypt, Nineveh and Babylon, of Persia, Greece and Roine, did indeed ennoble and exalt the crown and aristocracy, and dazzle the earth with the glory of their armies, the costliness of their palaces, the wonders of their architecture, and the richness, delicacy and extravagance of their luxuries; but they held the mass of the people oppressed, degraded, brutalized, with little or no knowledge of the bliss of domestic life. Nor did the proud republics of Greece and Rome accomplish more. They merged indeed the family in the state, and extinguishing the feeling of individuality in the paramount and absorbing claims of the body politic, afforded but little opportunity to indulge and cultivate the domestic virtues, or ply the means, or know the sources of domestic happiSECOND SERIES, VOL. III. NO. 11.