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than this. Now when it is considered how much valuable matter these works contain, how much time and thought and care their publication calls for, how their usefulness depends on the extent of their circulation, and how easy it would be for the intelligent friends of religion to promote their circulation, by each doing a little in his own neighbourhood, we cannot help deploring the negligence which sets so narrow bounds to this most efficient instrument of good. I confine myself to these brief hints on general coöperation, social and religious meetings, and the press. It is obvious that they do not cover the whole ground of our subject; — for the question still occurs, – Grant that by these methods the laity may be incited, who is to put in operation these methods I have all along taken for granted, that Christians will act up to their obligations, when they fully perceive them, and are truly under the influence of their religion. To whom does it belong to make them sensible of their obligations and truly subject to their faith ? to whom, but to those, who are placed “over them in the Lord to admonish them ’? the men who are expressly “set for the defence of the Gospel’? Hence, my brethren, the unspeakable interest of this inquiry to us. It is the question of our duty and responsibility even more than of that of our private brethren;– since undoubtedly it mainly depends on us, whether the impulse shall be given or not. Such is the relation of the people to the minister, and such the inevitable influence of that relation, that, as a general rule, the fidelity of the one party is a measure of the fidelity of the other. The tone of the church corresponds to the tone of the pulpit. The standard of duty and effort in society will be what the public preaching makes it. If we have reason, then, to be dissatisfied in any particular with the religious condition of the community, we have so far a presumptive ground for being dissatisfied with the condition of the pulpit. Not that this remark will hold true in its fullest extent, or that the whole deficiency of religion is to be attributed to deficiencies in its preaching; — but thus much I mean, – it becomes the ministers of religion, as humble, self-distrusting, responsible men, to suspect themselves and reexamine their principles and methods of operation, whenever they observe a falling short in the public of that character which a religious public ought to sustain. Christian truth is adequate to its ends. The chief action of Christian truth is vol. XIX. — 3D s. vol. 1. No. 1. 14
through the ministry. If those ends, then, be not brought about, since it cannot be owing to the inefficiency of the truth, it may be to that of its agents. This inefficiency on their part, may arise from want of talent, want of industry, want of zeal, or want of courage. When it is asked, therefore, how the public shall be excited to its full duty in regard to Christian truths, (the question now before us,) however others may answer it, the clergy must begin their answer by inquiring whether it be not in part from their own imbecility, indolence, luke-warmness, or cowardice, — whether they have not yielded to the love of ease, or of the world,—whether the pulpit is not incapable, or asleep, or afraid : As regards ourselves, brethren, when I take that view of our situation and relations which I have been presenting to you, it seems to me that the main thing requisite in us in order to the desired result, is, -that we be willing to use our influence. A vast influence resides with the clergy. So it has always been in all ages and countries. So, from the nature of the case, it always must be. So it is now, in the most intelligent and cultivated communities. We are slow to realize it in our own case, as individuals;—and I suppose that there never was a body of ministers more unpresumptuous in the use of it, more scrupulous lest they abuse it, more reluctant to appear to assume any thing because of their office ; or of whom it could be more truly said, that, while their indirect influence is so great, their direct eacertion of it is so insignificant. Doubtless discretion should be exercised, that so delicate a power be not thrown into jeopardy. But our danger lies on the side of too great discretion; and, if we design to bring up our congregations to the mark of which we have been speaking, we must be willing to use our influence,—nay, to venture something in regard to it. We must not fear to commit ourselves. We must be willing to take the responsibility of opinions and of measures, of directly advising, of earnestly recommending, of importunately urging. While we do not this, there remains dead in our hands a certain amount of power, we know not how great, for the advancement of the world, which we decline using,-a talent which we bury, a light which we hide,-for lack of which the churches may suffer darkness and decay, and we be found unprofitable servants. Our situation is too prominent, the charge of the times to us too momentous, the power in our hands for good or ill, to promote or hinder the progress of light, too great, the crisis of the world at which we stand too tremendous, –to admit of our hesitating or holding back, from any considerations of diffidence or self-distrust, or personal inconvenience. He best comes up to the summons of this hour of the Church, who takes a bold place and wields manfully his arm, though it be but a child's. In the onward press of the host, even men of small stature have their place, from which they must not shrink, and the victory may after all be won by the stone from a stripling's hand. The consciousness of our position, brethren, should quell the consciousness of our personal insignificance. It is not the many wise, many noble, many mighty, that are sent to call the world to Christ; the trumpet is trusted to the hands of the weak and the foolish ; and if they will but put it boldly to their mouths, even they can call out notes that may awake the slumbers of the dead. The consciousmess of our position 1 — Alas, how little do we habitually regard it ! If we go across the water, and stand on the shore of our father-land, we find our brethren there stretching their eyes towards us with anxiety and high expectation;– they think that they perceive in our position a bright hope for the world,—an opportunity to reform the reformation, to emancipate a continent from spiritual bondage;— standing, as we seem to be, at the birth-place of a new stream of time, with power to turn its course whither we will, ere its waters have swollen in their onward passage to an unmanageable river. Those who thus see us from a distance may undoubtedly exaggerate our powers and responsibility; but we that look on ourselves where we are, are as certainly liable to underrate them. Who will assure us that their estimate is not more nearly the truth than our own We do stand at a new era, with an unparalleled opportunity. Who can say that on the right ordering of it as much does not depend, in this country, as depended in Europe on the efforts of the Apostles and Reformers ? And yet, what are we comparatively doing? Where are our Paul and our Luther ? And what would Paul and Luther have effected, had they been as chary about their influence, and as backward to volunteer for the truth, as we are 2
If we would be true to our place, and bring up the great community of laymen to be also true, – we must not forget that the grand secret, the single and sufficient thing, is, to make them individually CHRISTIANs. It is because men know religion only as a speculation, an abstraction, a form, a habit of education, and not as the main interest of the heart, the first and favorite concern, that they are so backward in the support of its institutions, and so dead to the demands of the age. It is the want of personal religion, which more than all other things, creates the want of personal action. We talk but to the deaf, when we discourse of effort and sacrifice for glorious truth, to those who have not yet perceived its glory; we expostulate with the blind, when we urge them to look abroad on the beauty of a Christianized world, and they have never yet opened their eyes so as to perceive that beauty. We must begin with their own souls; we must persuade them to study themselves, to sound the depths of their own spiritual nature, to fathom their own infinite wants, – to acquaint themselves with God, and test the peace and joy of believing, and KNow from experience, that Christianity is the chief blessing, the only satisfaction, the immortal treasure of man.
When we have done this, our work is done. They who feel and believe thus, will be ready for every good work, and will sacrifice any other blessing before they will allow the means of religious advancement to fail.
The object of the ministry is the promotion of personal religion. Strive as we may, we do nothing soundly or permanently, unless we begin here. When we begin here, and effect this, we have effected every thing; and that man does most toward the spread of Christianity and the perpetuity of its institutions, who most effectively operates on individual hearts, and binds them to the love of the truth. This is the only thorough power of the ministry. Let us earnestly wield it. Let us be ambitious to excel in it. May God give u wisdom in its exercise; to Him be the glory ! •
H. W. Jr.
ART. VI. — Lectures on the Doctrines of Christianity, in Controversy between Unitarians and other Denominations of Christians. Delivered in the First Independent Church of Baltimore. By GEORGE W. BurnAP. Baltimore. 1835. 12mo. pp. viii. and 394.
THE peculiar state of our religious community has called forth, during the last twenty years, a singular amount of critical, doctrinal, and controversial theology. It may be doubted if in any period of the church, at least within so limited a space of time and country, the contested points of faith and fact belonging to our religion, have been subjected to more constant and various, if not thorough, investigation. We qualify the application of the word thorough, because very much that has been so called deserves a different epithet. But much there has been, which is undeniably of that character, — patient, discriminating, candid, and thorough inquiry into the foundations, on which the different denominations profess to build their different systems of faith and form. Whether this has been well for the faith and forms of Christianity as a whole, whether it has hastened or hindered the advance of truth, whether that which we hold as truth, has gained or lost disciples, has removed or multiplied obstacles to its progress by this state of controversy, is a question often asked, and seldom satisfactorily, or indeed very definitely answered. Nor can it be definitely answered. Its very nature precludes it. It is always an unsatisfactory labor, to compare what has been with what might have been in the opposite circumstances, in matters of this kind. It would be a wiser use of time, and a far worthier object of solicitude, to discern between the good and evil of that which we have experienced, to be thankful for the one, and take lessons from the other. All seasons of religious agitation are fraught with danger; but not more so than seasons of religious stagnation. For ourselves, if we could doubt that controversy is better than apathy, we should doubt whether the human mind had been wisely framed, or religion and man designed to be free and progressive.
But freedom from controversy need not be apathy, we are told; nor was it, before the period just noticed. There has been, there always may be, strong interest in religion, — discussion, action, energy, - without controversy. Much may be written and read upon the great practical truths of Christianity;