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the reader's attention has already been invited. The increasing demand of the great christian public is for excitement-for something that will produce strong feeling, and gratify an over-craving curiosity. Thinkinglooking into the principles and relations of things, is nearly out of the question. They have no time for theological investigations, and very little, it is to be feared, for reading the Bible. Like the Athenians and strangers which were there,' how many would apparently be glad, to
spend their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or hear something newer.' Hence the religious dissipation of large towns—the eagerness of inquiry after new preachers, and the running from one place of worship to another, for the mere gratification of a vain curiosity. Hence the growing aversion to every thing didactic and argumentative in the pulpit, and the increasing demand for what are called popular discourses, so that unless the preacher makes some strong appeal to the sympathies and passions of his hearers ; unless he takes them often out into the grave-yard; or carries them to the abode of recent widowhood and supperless orphanage ; or transports them to Juggernaut or the Ganges; he is dry and heartless, or plodding and metaphysical and of course, scarcely lo be tolerated. To sit as our fathers of the last century used to do, sabbath after sabbath, under sound doctrinal discussion, and to see the hour glass turned, before the improvement of the sermon, who could now endure ?
Time was, when the church thought herself deeply indebted to those devoted men of God, who grew pale and and gray in their studies. When plain unlettered christians were familiar with quartos and octavos ; and when Owen, and Baxter, and Leighton, and Howe, and Watts, and Bates, and Hall, and Edwards, stood upon conspicu
ous shelves in the book-store, or lay still nearer at hand upon the counter. But where are these burning and shining lights, these venerable fathers now? Who, out of the tribe of Levi, and I had almost said in it, has time or inclination to do them reverence? What are the most popular religious publications now on sale ? A little attention to catalogues, advertisements, and subscription papers, will furnish a fair answer to this question. How strange would it be to find a serious friend or neighbor, late at night, pouring over a treatise on the Attributes, or the Law of God, or the freedom of the Will, or the work of the Spirit, or human depravily, or the great doctrine of Atonement, or indwelling sin. Who now thinks of purchasing anything religious, but tracts, memoirs, diaries, missionary monthlies, and weekly news-papers ? Individuals there may be in most of our churches, who possess, and what is more, who read some of the ablest theological works of the authors I have already mentioned: but I am speaking of the prevailing taste of the age. Something that is new and moving--something that may be read without much thought, is what the great body of christian readers now call for, and what they are determined to have.
That this demand arises from some of the best and most philanthropic feelings of the heart, and that the cheap and universal diffusion of religious intelligence, has a tendency to increase benevolent exertion, in behalf of perishing nations, does not adrnit of a rational doubt. The prosperity of the missionary causes is inseparably connected, with the interest which missionary news is calculated to excite; and the religious publications of the day, have contributed essentially to rouse the dormant energies of the church, and have done much to excite a
spirit of inquiry, of liberality and of prayer, , among thousands who might otherwise bave still slumbered on.' Jo these things I do rejoice, yea, and I will rejoice.' And who, let me ask, that cares for the dark places of the earth,' who that has any bowels and mercies for unnumbered millions of immortal beings hastening to the judgment without the knowledge of a Saviour, would be willing to see those greater and lesser lights extinguished, which make the darkness visible ? Who that ever prayed • Thy kingdom come,' would be willing to remain ignorant of the labors, the perils, the discouragements, and the successes of those devoted servants of Christ, who at every bazard, are at so many different points penetrating the empire of pagan darkness, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound ?' What Christian would, if it were in his power, shut out the Macedonian cry from a single christian habitation, or close up those channels which have been recently opened for the conveyance of religious intelligence, through every part of the land ? Rather let new channels still be opened. There is even now, in some places, a great want of information respecting the signs of the times,' and the miseries of men. Thousands more of the Missionary Herald, and other kindred publications, ought to be circulated and read in this country. - But if there is still a deficiency upon the whole, I am persuaded that in some sections of the American church, both the demand and the supply have become excessive : so that while christian zeal and benevolence are gaining ground, christian knowledge is declining. It is the character of our countrymen, especially in this northern section, to overdo, even where things in themselves are
highly useful and praise-worthy. Thus, we have too many banks; too inany counties and towns; too many parishes; and within some given limits, too many missionary magazines and religious newspapers. They interfere with each other. They come too often. Many of the accounts which are published are too diffuse ; and to fill out the sheet and save the trouble of selecting and condensing, many things are inserted which ought not to appear, at least in their original forms. It often happens, too, that the same intelligence must be purchased over and over again in the same periodical publication. First, we have it in a joint communication from the missionaries to some officer of the board—then, with some additions, in their journal-then, in various private letters to their friends; and lastly, it may be, in extracts of letters from gentlemen who have visited the station. Thus after marching and counter-marching over the same field till we are quite exhausted, we hardly know where we are, but find that we have made but very little progress.
It is not my design here to blame the missionaries. I honor them as the devoted servants of Jesus. It is right that they should send home letters and journals; and that in their correspondence with the societies which sent them forth, they should descend to particulars on all the topics immediately connected with their labors, prospects and responsibilities.
The great thing now is, not to suppress missionary information ; but to guard against its exclusive and enervating tendency. Let the whole ground be occupied by it, but so as to leave room for our standard works in divinity, and for the circulation and encouragement of well conducted theological Magazines. Let the whole christian land be refreshed, but not inundated, by the streams
which should gladden every town and make it permanently fruitful.
An exclusive or prevailing taste for religious news, wherever it may be found, will be followed by some of the lamentable effects which result from the reading of novels and romances. The mind will in both cases be gradually unfitted for deep and patient investigation. All that lies a little below the surface, will be passed over ; and simply because it requires labor. In both cases the unceasing demand for something newer, will increase the appetite and dissipate more and more some of the best and noblest energies of the mind. Surely, effects like these are to be seriously deprecated; and in concluding this paper, I would earnestly invite all the enlightened friends of literature and religion to consider, how far the remarks which have been made are entitled to their particular attention, and how far their example and influence may help to counteract every threatening tendency on the one hand, and to encourage all that is safe and good on the other.