Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Since the declaration of independence, a new world has opened upon us, a new empire has risen up beside the old thirteen states. The cheapness and fertility of the soil, the increasing density of population on the Atlantic slope, combined with the native enterprise of our people, are rapidly giving to that broad valley a population which, like its majestic rivers, is yet to wield the sceptre of universal supremacy over our continent. This fact imposes upon us a twofold obligation. The Gospel and its institutions are to be sustained and extended to meet the increasing wants of our eastern population. Our own cities are enlarging, and the thronging multitudes should find churches rising to receive them. This is of itself a great work; a work, however, which selfdenial and Christian zeal can fully accomplish. While, in addition to this labor, we are to assist in planting new churches in every important spot throughout the vast West.

Why it will not evangelize itself.

Were all who migrate thither like the men who first settled New-England, the same enterprise that levels the forest and subdues the soil, and rears their private dwellings, would also plant a church in every town, and a school-house in every neighborhood. But this is not their character. The few are men of

* "Our Country, its position, obligation and power; a sermon delivered in the Fourth Presbyterian Church, Albany, as a plea for Home Missions, June 23, 1844. By Rev. SAMUEL W. FISHER," pp. 29. We have selected a few paragraphs from this eloquent discourse, and wish it were in our power to give the whole as wide a diffusion as it deserves.

[blocks in formation]

piety; the mass split up into sects, with no common bond of unity, in a majority of cases indifferent, if not hostile to religion, and uncompacted by time and education, are not the men to build up at once strong religious and literary institutions. Yet this is the infancy of their settlement; this the time for moulding their character, and the institutions of the millions that are soon to swarm on those broad, rich lands. A few years pass away; time puts its impress upon them, and they have received a character which an age of Christian toil may not be able fully to change. There is in them the elements-the energy, the intellect, the soul-of a character which will be the noblest or the vilest, as they are educated under right influences, or left subject to ignorance and the spontaneous growth of evil passions. They dwell on the chosen field of papal ambition and papal conquest; to which are turned the longing eyes of foreign monarchs; where prodigious impostures meet with prodigious success; where error and fanaticism in their wildest forms love to congregate, and celebrate their riotous jubilees over the hourly birth of some new invention of the prolific genius of evil. On that soil, amidst such influences, the real empire of the new world is struggling into being.

"Westward the star of empire takes its way," is as true now as when Berkley first penned that immortal line. The people who are to give the most lasting impress to our civil and religious institutions; who are to determine the nature of our future influence upon other nations; who are to bear the grandest part in the world's regeneration, or the darkest part in creating and perpetuating her wo, are now suddenly rising into being. It is of no consequence according to what calculation you estimate their increase. The past twenty years-the past enterprise and origin of our people are sufficient guaranties of the gigantic growth of that western world.

Consequences of a failure to bring our country under the Gospel.

If our land should ever experience a famine of the Word, the world at large would suffer deeply, while here at home there would be exhibited a fearful picture of depravity. The terror of such a scene imagination can scarcely conceive, or the pen portray. When that famine shall come in its fullness, should the neglect of the Church ever provoke God to send it upon us, it will distance in horror all the anguish and desolation of physical starvation. Then the pulpit will be stricken dumb, or the voice that shall issue from it will be that of a lying spirit. Then our churches will be tenantless of worshippers, or crowded only with those who bow before a polluted deity of the imagination. Then the Word of God will be a book for the study of the antiquarian. Then Venus will be a goddess, and brothel temples to her honor will open their gates to a crowd of worshippers. Then Bacchus will be a god; the smouldering fires upon his altars will blaze out on every hill and every wall; the smoke of his distilleries will cloud the heavens; the streets will again resound with his infernal orgies, while youth, and manhood, and age, will celebrate his worship in free libations of the sparkling goblet. For when once the truth is cast down, and the voice of God is unheard, your resolutions and pledges will prove straws in the whirlwind, Then side by side Infidelity and Popery may rear their halls of reason and their

proud cathedrals; for a religion that lives in forms is a natural and tolerant ally of that infidelity which seeks to exterminate not the outward show, but the inward life of true piety. The mummery of the priest will hide the heart of the infidel, and the corruption of hypocrisy strike hands with the corruption of the bold blasphemer. Then the State will be the synonyme of anarchy-Law the refuge and charter of violence-Justice the incarnation of partiality and revenge. Then stations of power will be the prizes of an ambition instinct with outrage and crime. Then the domestic altar will be overturned, the fireside will become a polluted place, and home will speak only of hell.

Your schools, if they still live amidst such a storm, will educate men to villany, and stimulate children to crime. Revivals will cease; the Sabbath bell will be heard no more, or heard only as the dirge of all that is holy and lovely. The most sacred truths and ordinances of religion will become the sport of ribald tongues. Then the theatre, ever living with greatest vigor in times of greatest corruption, will be the crowded resort of the multitudes, who seek to drown their terrible present ills in its fictitious scenes and baseless excitements; while by its side will be seen the hall of the gambler-the steaming fountains of the drunkard-the temple of the courtesan. Then nightly merriment will issue in nightly broils, and frivolous amusements will consume the time that labor claims for her own. Then war will become the sport of the nation, and her heartless myriads will rush like blinded insects into the flame of that all-consuming fireglory.

In such a sea of terror, crime and wo, our national institutions will go down; while energetic men, bold in their aims and strong in their purposes, will rise to the surface, and on the wreck of all that is excellent, rear the fabric of their despotic ambition. And to consummate the scene, the curse of Jehovah resting on the people, will consume their spirits, and send them in unregenerate crowds and premature age, down to the abode of the lost.

Such is a faint description of what our nation will be, should the time come when in our land there shall be a famine of hearing the word of God. We are not ignorant serfs, accustomed implicitly to obey a superior. Then, like cattle, force might school us into decency. But with our intelligence, enterprise, and principles of independence, we are prepared, in such a case, to be the most abandoned, most debased, and most horribly wicked of all the nations that have ever trod the footstool. In proportion to the intelligence, the freedom, and the enterprise common to the masses of our countrymen, is their ability for ascending the loftiest heights of virtue, or descending to the lowest depths of vice.

Who is responsible?

On the Christians of this land, and of this generation, rests the responsibility of educating for a nobler destiny the minds that by scores of millions are soon to cover our plains and ascend our mountains. It is delightful to anticipate the results of a generous and self-denying action on the part of our churches, in the effort to provide for their own land, and for their own household, whose destiny is identified with that of the country in which they are to well. Your sons and your daughters, for generations to come, are to share in the predominant character

and destiny of this nation. In acting well for our country, you are only providing generously for your own. Let our churches open their eyes to the responsibilities of their position and come up to this great work with the same strong purpose that distinguishes their pursuit of temporal blessings, and a scene of moral grandeur surpassing the brightest pages of history is opening upon us. Statesmen exult in the prospective development of our vast physical resources-in the multiplication of our queen cities and lovely villages-in our iron roads and the broad pathways of intercommunication afforded by our noble rivers-in our navy and wide spread commerce. Let them do so; it is a legitimate and patriotic pride. But we know that this is not the highest point of national greatness, and that there is a national economy far above the soarings of the mere political economist. We anticipate a race of men, of noble-men, of men great in intelligence, vigorous in enterprise, sublime in virtue, a race more elevated, and more deeply imbued with the spirit that pants to place the cross of Jesus on every pagan temple-on every mosque and every proud fortress of Satan, than the world has ever seen. Surely before this world is fully brought in subjection to Immanuel, there must arise a new order of mind, apostolic in fervor, confessors in self-denial, Christ-like in love for a dying race. Before such a generation of Christians the hoary idols of the pagan will fall, the sceptre of Muhammed will pass away, and the great anti-Christ of a baptized heathenism, who now sits as God in the temple of God, will retire to the darkest caverns of the earth.

Correspondence of the A. H. M. S.

ARKANSAS.

From the Missionary in Benton Co.

In our Sabbath school effort we meet with obstacles arising from the sparseness of the population and the want of books. Four schools are in operation in the county. That at Bentonville is quite numerous and interesting. If we had books it would be much more so. There is a want of Bibles and Testaments, and there are but two copies of the Union Questions (vol. 1) for the whole school. We have tried to raise a fund for a small library, but such is the scarcity of money that we have obtained but five dollars. The Bible class and Sabbath school at my house are about the same. The white children are quite regular, but the colored pupils are often away to hear other preaching in the neighborhood. The Sabbath

school and Bible class at Fayetteville are constantly increasing in number and interest.

Temperance and its opponents.

The temperance cause is steadily on the increase in this county. We had a temperance celebration on the 6th July of considerable interest. We had processions, and marching, and appropriate music, and four addresses. A good impulse was given to the cause. Thirtythree signatures were added to the pledge, making in all over four hundred members in the county. The congre gation present was about 250. At the close there were not more than ten who had not taken the pledge, and all of these but one publicly signified their friendship to the cause. Our efforts are waking up a strenuous opposition among some, (called here, by them

selves, as well as others, "Hard-shelled and his church. Should the Catholics Baptists.") They are opposed to all in earnest attempt to establish themsocieties, and especially to the tempe- selves, and their system of formalism, rance society. They will excommuni- fanaticism, idolatry, superstition and cate from the church, and depose from self-righteousness, I know of no part of the ministry, any member who joins a our whole country more favorable to Sunday school, Bible, tract, missionary their designs than Arkansas. There or temperance society. They are now are but few Protestant ministers among holding anti-temperance meetings, giv- us who are in any degree prepared ing addresses, and challenging debate for the Catholic controversy. It is on this subject. The result doubtless a controversy of no little difficulty, will be favorable to the temperance and requires such an acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, and with the writings of the "fathers," as very few possess.

cause.

A Seminary founded.

On the fourth we laid the cornerstone of the "Far West Seminary," with appropriate exercises and ceremonies. A large assembly was convened, and testified a deep interest in the exercises of the day. A good impression was made. The edifice, fifty-two and a half by twenty-three feet, two stories high, of brick, on a good stone foundation, is to be completed by Christmas. This building is designed ultimately for a preparatory school, but will be used as a college building till others can be erected. This will indeed be the Far West Seminary. We commend it to the prayers and patronage of Christians in the eastern and middle states. Above all, we commend it to God, and pray and trust, by his blessing, it will be built up and become a valuable maid to his glorious Gospel.

Catholic wakefulness.

Papal policy-the way to meet it.

A favorite agency with them in the U. S. is the establishment of schools, so conducted as to disarm prejudice, and thus make the most favorable opening to inculcate the peculiarities of their faith. Quite a number of youth, and these from Protestant families, have been sent out of the state to Catholic schools. All these became Catholics. If the Romanists establish such schools extensively in this state, (three are already in operation,) they will be patronized by great multitudes, especially of the wealthy planters in the South and East. If it be asked now what ought to be done to provide for the hand-dangers thus threatening us, the answer is obvious. First, we must labor and pray, and pray and labor for a revival of religion, and continue to do so till the blessing is obtained; and then continue to do so that the blessing may be continued. The revival must be one which shall bring Christians together and bind them together. The pure fire of love must be kindled up in their hearts to consume sectarian strife and selfishness, and lead to a whole-hearted consecration to God and his service. Then sinners will be converted, and error, and formalism, and idolatry, and false religion will flee away. Second; pious, prayerful, faithful, and wellqualified ministers, must be brought into this field, and sustained here to preach the pure Gospel, and to watch over and feed this whole people. Third; schools, seminaries or colleges, must be established for the education of all the people. The schools must be of a cha

The new Catholic bishop of the diocese of Arkansas, accompanied by one of his priests, is now on a visit to Fayetteville. His object, as is publicly stated, is to select a suitable site for a literary institution. What the result will be it is impossible to predict now. There are not more than four Catholics at present in Washington county. I do not think he will be favored by good people, but the wicked may be disposed to countenance his enterprise. He will doubtless be able to avail himself of funds from Europe, and if he shall put a literary institution of high character into operation, the wealthy wicked will patronize it. But we know that God can, and I trust he will, bring to nought every counsel devised against his truth

« PreviousContinue »