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Chinese written language is read by a much larger proportion of mankind, than that of any other people. Its oral dialects are very numerous, and so widely different from each other, that persons of neighboring provinces, (as the writer has often witnessed) are frequently unable to carry on a conversation of any length, without having recourse to writing. The written language possesses a uniform identity unknown to some others. *** Throughout the whole of that empire, as well as in most of its tributary, and several of its neighboring countries, the written character and idiom are, with a very few trifling exceptions, the same. Retrospect,
The oral preaching of the gospel is indeed, by divine appointment, the principal means of salvation. And all evangelical arrangements should have an ultimate reference to this, and be subordinate to it. But where this is impracticable, tracts should be a substitute. “Who can tell whether these little ministers of peace, which are neither affected by climate, nor afraid of persecution,
prepare the way of the Lord, and make ready a people for him?"
Books and tracts are not only read and understood, but they can be circulated. The missionaries say that with reasonable caution they can be poured into China. The very regulation of the government, which confines all foreign trade to Canton, brings merchants from every province in the empire, to the same spot. There is the focus of moral illumination. Soon every one of these merchants may return, bearing with him a written message from God, capable of making both him and his neighbors, "wise unto salvation." This shows the extreme importance of having our merchants and factors there become men of decided piety, deeply devoted to the evangelization of China. Additional interest is therefore given to the provision, by which a young countryman of our own, has been sent to labor particularly among the nominally christian visitants, and residents, of Canton. The facilities which a zealous merchant might have for the dissemination of christian writings, must be very considerable. Besides, an influence may be hoped for, by establishing the public worship of God, in scriptural simplicity; by the stated observance of the sabbath, now lamentably neglected in all those eastern countries; by the establishment of modes of business, and principles of commercial integrity, consonant with the purity and strictness of scriptural rules; and more than all, by the example of inen who walk by faith, and live above the world, and look for a portion beyond the grave.
The circumstance also, that the churches of America have now, at length, begun to take a part in the work, will strengthen the hands of the brethren, particularly of Dr. Morrison, who from the favorable impression made on his mind during his brief visit to this country at the commencement of his mission, has all along
been looking this way for aid. On this account we greatly rejoice, that the venerated AMERICAN Board have established a mission to China. We hope that they and their friends, will take effectual measures to keep this great concern before the minds of the benevolent public, and produce an increasing interest in behalf of a work, which looks directly to the conversion of onefourth of the human race. Our principal motive, indeed, for calling the attention of our readers to the present state of China, has been the hope of doing something in this way, to awaken sympathy, and call forth prayer, and excite inquiry, and thus prepare the churches for more extended efforts, as soon as God shall open to them the door of entrance.
That by all these means, so much light can be thrown into China, and the dormant powers of the people be so far roused to thought and action, and that such a favorable impression towards the christian religion can be produced, as to create a public opinion more powerful than oppressive laws and persecuting rulers; and this too antecedently to any extensive effect in the conversion of the people to
a saving belief in Christ, is much more than we should dare to predict. But we can easily see, that by the diligent application of such means as are now practicable, the trains may be laid and the combustibles prepared, so that the moment when the word of the Lord shall begin to take effect, the fire shall catch and spread with such rapidity and power, that the blood of a thousand martyrs shall only speed its happy progress; and the greatest nation on earth thus“ be born in a day.”
ART. VII.-REVIEW ON THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE CONGRE
GATIONAL CHURCHES OF New-ENGLAND. History of New-England. By JEDIDIAA Morse, D. D. Charlestown:
1804. The causes which led to the establishment of the congregational churches of New-England, were not more remarkable than the wisdom and piety of their early founders. Very many of those excellent men, had ranked among the first scholars of England, both in native talent and literary attainments; and never probably, was there so large a community, in which so great a proportion of its members were unquestionably pious. Their religion had stood the test of bitter persecution in their native land ; and had led them to encounter the dangers of the ocean, together with the hardships of a severe climate, a sterile soil, and savage warfare. We have neither space nor inclination for the mournful and yet splendid embellishment, of which the recital of their sufferings and valor is susceptible. Vol. II.
It is enough to say, that he who had sanctified them by his Spirit also sustained them by his providence; and constituted them the founders of the numerous institutions, which minister to our unexampled civil and religious freedom. As to their religion, we wonder not that it should be denounced as blind, excessive, or even enthusiastic, by multitudes of their thankless descendants, who, from their more eligible external circumstances, and especially from their moral degeneracy, are scarcely capable of forming a just estimate of the exalted worth and the ultimate intentions of their persecuted fathers. As to their doctrinal principles, we would only observe, that they were common to the church of England, and all the other reformed churches at that period. Of their practical godliness, we need only say, that prayer was maintained in nearly all their families; that their children were early taught the principles of the christian religion and carefully restrained from vice; that the most equitable laws were framed and carried into effect; that their dealings with the savages were marked by integrity and tenderness; and that a distinguished character from England who had resided with them seven years, had not during that period “heard a profane oath, or seen a person drunk.” If truth is not so “ fallen in our streets that equity cannot enter,” let these facts be told whenever the customary invective is poured forth against the religious principles of our fathers, as made up of stern abstractions and speculative dogmas.
We have spoken chiefly of the first generation of the pilgrims. In a few years, causes began to operate, which rendered the infant community less pure. Not long after their arrival, “they were dead that sought the young child's life,”—Laud and Charles were no more. The colonists, therefore, enjoying peculiar favor during the protectorate of Cromwell, made such advances in subduing the wilderness and the savages, and such preparations generally for the comforts of life, as presented a lure to others of less intellect and less religious principle, to leave England and reside with them, from motives wholly secular. The example and counsels of parents did not result in the conversion of all their children. Hence the second generation was more indifferent to religion than the first; and by the time that the fourth came upon the stage, the period immediately preceding the great revival-christians had become cold and formal, and the conduct of those out of the church was extensively marked by various kinds of profligacy. Nor, considering how needful chastisement is to the people of God, can it be thought strange, that religion should have greatly declined, in the absence of those numerous and peculiar trials which kept alive in the earlier settlers a sense of dependence, and a spirit of prayer. The generation of which we are speaking, were not, however,
wholly exempt from the rebukes of heaven. But what with general prosperity on the one hand, and a rapidly increasing population on the other; together with the uniform tendency of moral corruption to diffuse itself throughout the mass of every community into which it is introduced, the judgments which they occasionally experienced had frequently, we fear, little other effect, than that of inducing them to multiply their public fasts, without correspondent humiliation of soul.
From this general picture of the early declension in our settlements, we shall now pass to consider some of the prevailing evils in our churches, at the memorable period from the close of the seventeenth century, to the termination of the great REVIVAL OF Religion in 1742. Our object in presenting this sketch, is to prepare the way for an examination, on a suture occasion, of the writings of some of those great men, and especially of Dr. Bellamy, by whose labors the evils in question, were either checked or removed. The history of that period is full of instructive lessons, which may serve as a warning against serious errors, and as an incentive to christian affection and unity in our churches.
The evils to which we have alluded were of three kinds; errors in doctrine, improper ecclesiastical usages, and disorderly conduct. The two former, as we shall show, had been of long standing in the churches, and the last was, in part, the unnatural result of the most powerful revival that has gladdened the people of God, since the first arrival of the pilgrims. The doctrines to which we allude belonged to three schools, the Arminian, the Arian, and the Antinomian.
The first class of erroneous doctrines, being peculiarly congenial to the feelings of the unsanctified heart, had been cherished, to some extent, from the time when the power of godliness in the churches, first began materially to decline. But so great was the ascendency which the established formularies had over the public mind, and so powerful was the enlightening influence of the pulpit, as well as of catechetical instruction very generally dispensed, that two or three of the first generations passed away, without any extensive containination from the tenets of the Remonstrants. One powerful cause which has since operated to diffuse the infection very generally through a large portion of the protestant world, had then scarcely begun to exert its unhappy influence in these colonies. The church of England, herself established on the same doctrinal basis as the churches of our fathers, had as yet, brought into the field few of her Arminian champions, to demolish the foundation on which she professedly stood. Whitby had indeed written, and he was great in plausibility and sophistry; but his writings had not long been circulated on this side of the Atlantic. Nor was the dissenting Taylor of Norwich known here to
have had a being, till the corruption of which we speak had, for that period, nearly reached its maximum. Yet, owing to some peculiar causes, though chiefly, we think, to the long increasing decline of vital piety in the churches generally, and to the unballowed feelings called into exercise by the religious excitement now commencing in many of them, the leading errors pertaining to what now passes under the name of Arminianism,-errors, many of which Arminius himself would blush to own,—were extensively embraced and zealously propagated. The doctrines in question had awakened but little controversy, until within a few years before the commencement of the revival. “ About this time (1734) began," says President Edwards, “the great noise that was in this part of the country, about Arminianism, which seemed to appear with a very threatening aspect upon the interest of religion here. The friends of vital piety trembled for fear of the issue; but it seemed, contrary to their fear, strongly to be overruled for the promoting of religion.” As might have been expected, considerable opposition was raised, both by the abettors of those false doctrines and by the timid among the orthodox, against those preachers who publicly exposed and refuted them. But Edwards, with a heart devoted to truth, and an intellect peculiarly fitted to investigate and defend it, made a public attack upon this systein of error, which resulted in the almost total extinction of it among his people, and in the advancement of the revival. Nor was he alone in his laborious exertions to resist the spreading corruptions. Bellamy and many others were engaged in the same cause, and their efforts were followed in various places, by similar results,
But on the whole, great mischief was produced by these errors. For, while at this time they spread throughout New-England with almost electrical rapidity, a large proportion of the ministers, instead of faithfully exhibiting their destructive tendency, were secretly inclined to favor them, and openly did many things which led directly or indirectly to the further propagation of them. Their divergency from the orthodox creed, and their consequent agency in promoting, whether insidiously or otherwise, the currency of Arminian tenets, is undoubtedly to be accounted for mainly, on the ground of their strong aversion to the prevailing religious excitement, and the peculiarly pungent truths of the gospel by which, under God, it was produced and diffused. As one striking evidence of the degree to which the dissatisfaction of many with evangelical doctrines arose, we would observe that in New-Hampshire, about lifteen years after the revival began, the Assembly's Catechism, which had been adopted by all the New England churches, was published in a grossly mutilated form. From it were expunged the doctrine of decrees, effectual calling, justifica