Page images

appropriations : by encouraging the formation of auxiliary societies at home, and assisting similar institutions abroad. Already has the British and Foreign Bible Society, become the wonder and glory of the nineteenth century ; and it may be confidently predicted, that should it proceed, as it has begun, nothing will be restrained from it, which it has imagined to do.'

I shall only add, that the comeliness and strength of the Church militant, greatly consist in its unity. Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together.' "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.' It is in virtue of this spiritual union, that the Church in its purest and most prosperous state, on this side of beaven, will look forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with bapners'

Having taken this general view of the mighty effects of combined and 'persevering action, it is time, now, to give an appropriate turn to the subject, by pointing out,

II. The necessity and admirable use of united, active, and persevering efforts, for the promotion of good morals. It is no more to be expected, that those who are accustomed to do evil,' will, of their own accord, learn to do well,' than, that the Ethiopian will change his skin or the leopard his spots. Every course of sin is a downward course. To wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, is natural. To leave the broad way,' is extremely difficult. Thousands of sober persons, have imperceptibly to themselves, first become tipplers and then drunkards; but not one drunkardi a thousand, has ever had the resolution to forsake his cups and become a sober man. So if a person swears

profanely to day, we are not to expect, that being left to bimself, he will reform; but that he will swear more profanely to-morrow. One sabbath-breaker, or gambler, or seducer, may corrupt and ruin many, but most certainly will reform none. A single • follower of strong drink, may lead an hundred neighbors, and companions, down to perdition with him, but will never persuade an individual to return, and take hold on the paths of life.'

A general reformation, then, if there is ever to be one, must be brought about, by the blessing of God, upon the exertions of the virtuous and pious. Nor must they expect to do much, in the present state of things, without concert. They must unite. They must deliberate. They must encourage, counsel, and support each other. They must meet opposition and bear reproaches, with firmness. They must organize themselves in such a manner, as to be able, in any emergency, to bring a part, or the whole, of their combined strength to bear upon a single point. Every inch of ground that is gained, must be held. Every strong hold of vice that is taken, must be dismantled. Reformers must not fold their arms today, because they were active yesterday, but must continue to act, as long as anything remains to be done.

It is infinitely better to prevent crimes, than to wait till the deed is done and then punish the transgressor. Surely, nothing can be plainer, for example, than that he, who is the happy instrument of saving twenty persons from contracting vicious habits, does more good, than if he could reclaim twenty or even forty, who are already nearly burnt up with strong drink, or worn out by other brutal indulgences; and so would be worth almost nothing to the community, if they could be reformed. And yet, it has been made a strong objection, against doing

anything, that the vicious cannot be reformed—that do wbat you can, the sot will be a sot, till he dies.

Now, it is obvious, that if this objection has any force, it lies in the supposition, that he never will die, that the wheels of time will stop where they are—that death will cease to destroy—that all the immoral who are now on the stage, will forever remain, and that better men will never find room to come forward. For, if the wicked should continue to die, (and prematurely too, as they generally have done,) they will soon be out of the way, whether reformed or not; and so far as those who come after, can be dissuaded, or restrained from sinful courses, a reformation will gradually be effected.

With these things in view, the inquiry naturally arises, what are the main points, to which the combined and persevering labors of reformers, should be directed? The main points, then, if I mistake not, are, the education of childrenthe support of moral and religious institutions - the framing of good penal lawsand the prompt execution of these laws.

1. The education of children. Here a field opens, much too wide, to be even hastily explored, on the present occasion. The utmost that the time will allow, is a rapid glance at its extent, and a few passing remarks upon its general outline.

The anxious hopes and fears of wise and good men, are ever turned towards the rising generation. They see, in the families and schools around them, many who are to be parents and guardians of the next generation-some, who will be instructors in colleges and other seminaries, --some, who will one day, be legislators, judges and executive officers. When they extend their view, they consider, that within a few years, all who are now active,

both in church and state, will be gone: and that all the concerns of civil goverument, all the interests of religion and morality, so far as human agency is concerned, all the business of education, and all the other valuable interests of society, will pass into the hands of those, who are now just entering upon the threshold of life.

What an interesting consideration ! How momentous the inquiry-What can be done to prepare them for the stations which they will occupy :—to preserve them from the contagion of immorality :-0 form them to good habits :—10 inspire them with the love of truth, justice, and benevolence ?

The answer of Scripture is, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' The answer of reason, founded on experience is, If you would have good fruit, you must plant good seed. If you would erect a stable edifice, you must lay a deep and firm foundation. If you would build up the best interests of society, you must begin, where the atheists of France and Germany began to pull them down. If you wish your

children to be wise and good, you must diligently teach them to walk in 'wisdom's ways.'

It is certain, that much may be done by individuals, without any direct co-operation, or particular concert, But in order to manage this great concern, in the surest and best way, every state ought, in effect, to be a great moral, or rather, religious society; while each of the subordinate divisions, such as towns, parishes, and school districts, should be an auxiliary society, of the same character. All ranks and classes of the community, should cordially co-operate, in a work so imperiously demanded by every consideration of duty and affection; so necessary for their own happiness, and so essentil, to the tem

poral and eternal well-being, of their children and their children's children.

Legislative bodies, as the public guardians of the young should always keep an eye upon those, who have the more immediate care of their education; and should cheerfully lend all the aid in their power, by making wise and efficient laws for the regulation and encouragement of schools. Our grateful acknowledgements are due, to the Giver of all good, in the first place, and then to those, as instruments, who from the council-board, and the hall of legislation, have froin tiine to time, extended a fostering hand to the rising hopes of our state.

Ministers of the gospel should direct their particular attention to the young of their respective congregationssparing no pains to win their love and confidence-catechising them publicly and from house to house'-kindly reproving their faults-warning them against the seductions of evil companions--tenderly inviting them to the Savior, and leading them on, by a holy example, to another and a better world.

But the most weighty and important duties, in the business of education, devolve upon parents. Families are emphatically, the nurseries of the church and the state. It is in the family, that reason first dawns. It is there, that the conscience is most tremblingly alive. It is there, that the propensities of an evil heart,' first show themselves, and may be most successfully counteracted. It is there, that 'good seed’ may be sown, with the best prospects, of its taking root downward, and bearing fruit upward. It is to their parents, that children naturally look for protection, instruction, and advice : and on whose opinions, they for many years implicitly rely. Parents therefore, should feel all the weight of their responsibility

« PreviousContinue »