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faithfully bestowed, no man of sound judgement can affirm that he is satisfied with the influence which Christianity exerts. When one considers the character of the religion of the New Testament; when he examines its truths, its purposes, its sanctions; and when he views it in connexion with human capacities and wants, he may think that he beholds an instrument which must convert every mind that it touches into the abode of angelic virtue. And then, when he surveys our own country, and sees the worldliness that prevails in all classes, the selfishness that everywhere discovers itself, here thoughtless or desperate extravagance and there miserable parsimoniousness, bold crime and mean vice, irreligion and false religion, religion that is meant to deceive others, and religion that tries to deceive itself; when he sees fashion and folly, error and sin, sharing the spoils of intellect and heart which they gather in their walks through the land, he must perceive that Christianity is hindered and thwarted by causes, which, if he be a lover of his country or his fellowmen, he will be anxious to penetrate. True, he will be delighted with examples of high worth, he will find many in whom divine Truth is a living principle of power and beauty; he will meet with noble institutions, and be continually reminded of the fruits of the gospel, which have sprung up in the paths of domestic and social life. But he will expect and require something
There are souls in whom the fire of liberty burns intensely in Spain, and there are free institutions in South America; but they who understand the nature and operation of rational liberty ask for other proofs that its spirit pervades the mass of the people. It is by the general condition of the land, and not by the state in which we find a portion of its inhabitants, who, though they be scattered over the whole country, and positively constitute a large number, are yet comparatively few, that we must estimate the power of any one of the springs of improvement.
We might arrive at the same result by a comparison of our times with those which have been gathered into the bosom of the past. Great progress has been made in many of the pursuits in which the human faculties should be occupied, and the religious character of the age has felt the impulse of improvement. But how great has been the advance made in this, by far the most important department of human interests? Does it not fall vastly behind that which has been secured in other respects? Have we realized the benefits which might be expected to follow the increase of light? Is there probably very much more of earnest, sincere, practical religion in the world now, than in ages on which we look back with wonder or pity? Do you believe that there is
much more of inflexible principle, of devout sentiment, of christian love, in action or in being on earth now, than existed a century ago? Without doubt, we repeat, there is more now than formerly. But with present advantages, or if moral keep pace with intellectual progress, there should be very
much more. Admitting the fact which is the occasion of these
remarks, if we investigate its causes, what shall we find them to be? We have hinted at advantages possessed by the present over other periods. Many of the circumstances, against which Christianity has been compelled to struggle, no longer exist, at least among us. Ignorance does not weigh down the mind; the chains of authority have been thrown off: men think and speak as they please. The civilized world is not sunk in intellectual or moral slumber. It is full of excitement and effort. Men are searching for truth wherever there is a glimpse of its existence; they are pressing after utility wherever there is a hope that it may be found. Probably more mind is at work at this moment in the world than ever before. It is not then from indifference or fear of change that the people do not secure the full blessing of religion.
Neither is it because the means of improvement are not within their reach. They need not even stretch forth their hands to lay hold on them; for they are already in their possession. Never were so great facilities for acquiring a knowledge of duty, or for performing its offices, enjoyed by the multitude. Books, of every size and every price, abound; those who cannot buy, may have them without money, and those who will not read them must hear of their contents, for the conversation and the writing of the age reflect each other,
If there be less genuine religion than we could wish to see, the cause cannot be an absence of religious discussion; for there is more perhaps of this than is 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 encouragement 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