Page images

most desirable could the whole population of the city have been admitted to join in the solemn services of the day? Do you not think that they are precisely such services as would have spread a loyal and patriotic influence among them? Is it not experimentally the case, that, over the untimely grave of our fair Princess, the meanest of the people would have shed as warm and plentiful a tribute of honest sensibility as the most refined and delicate among us? And, I ask, is it not unfortunate, that, on the day of such an affecting, and, if I may so style it, such a national exercise, there should not have been twenty more churches, with twenty more ministers, to have contained the

for neither of them, is the only independent man; and to him only belongs the privilege of crossing and re-crossing their factious line of demarcation, just as he feels himself impelled by the high paramount and subordinating principles of the Christianity which he professes. In the exercise of this privilege, I here take the opportunity of saying, that if the chastisement of public scorn should fall on those who, under the disguise of public principle, have found personal aggrandisement for themselves, it should fall with equal severity on those who, under the same disguise, are seeking precisely the same object-that if there be some men in the country who care not for the extent of profaneness and profligacy that is among the people, provided they can only keep them quiet, there are also some men who care not for their profaneness or their profligacy, provided they can only keep them unquiet-who bear no other regard to the people than merely as an instrument of annoyance against an existing administration-who can shed their serpent tears over their distresses, and yet be inwardly grieved, should either a favourable season or reviving trade disappoint their boding speculation-who, in the face of undeniable common sense, can ascribe to political causes, such calamities as are altogether due to what is essential and uncontrollable in the circumstances of the country—and who, if on the strength of misrepresentation and artifice they could only sroceed in effecting the great object of their own instalment into office, and dispossession of their antagonists, would prove themselves, then, to be as is librent to the comfort, as they show themselves now to be utterly indiffert to the religion and the virtue of the country's population.

But turning away from the beggarly elements of such a competition as this, let us remark, that on the one hand, a religious administration will never take offence at a minister who renders a pertinent reproof to any set of men, even though they should happen to be their own agents or their own underlings; and that, on the other hand, a minister who is actuated by the true spirit of his office, will never so pervert or


whole crowd of eager and interested listeners? A man of mere loyalty, without one other accomplishment, will, I am sure, participate in a regret so natural; but couple this regret with the principle, that the only way in which the loyalty of the people can effectually be maintained, is on the basis of their Christianity, and then the regret in question embraces an object still more general-and well were it for us, if, amid the insecurity of families, and the various fluctuations of fortune and of arrangement that are taking place in the highest walks of society, the country were led, by the judgment with which it has now been visited, to deepen the foundation of all its order and of all its interests, in the moral education of its people. Then indeed the text would have its literal fulfilment. When the judgments of God are in the earth, the rulers of the world would lead the inhabitants thereof to learn righteousness.

In our own city, much in this respect remains to be accomplished; and I speak of the great mass of our city and suburb popu.

so prostitute his functions, as to descend to the humble arena of partisanship. He is the faithful steward of such things as are profitable for reproof, and for doctrine, and for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. His single object with the men who are within reach of his hearing, is, that they should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. In the fulfilment of this object, he is not the servant of any administration-though he certainly renders such a service to the state as will facilitate the work of governing to all administrations-as will bring a mighty train of civil and temporal blessings along with it-and in particular, as will diffuse over the whole sphere of his influence, a loyalty as steadfast as the friends of order, and as free from every taint of political severity, as the most genuine friends of freedom can desire.

There is only one case in which it is conceived that this partisanship of a christian minister is at all justifiable. Should the government of our country ever fall into the hands of an infidel or demi-infidel administration-should the men at the helm of affairs be the patrons of all that is unchristian in the sentiment and literature of the country-should they offer a violence, to its religious establishments-and thus attempt what we honestly believe would reach a blow to the piety and the character of our population-then I trust that the language of partisanship will resound from many of the pulpits of the land-and that it will be turned in one stream of pointed invective against such a ministry as this -till, by the force of public opinion, it be swept away as an intolerable nuisance, from the face of our kingdom.

lation, when I say, that through the week they lie open to every rude and random exposure-and when Sabbath comes, no solemn appeal to the conscience, no stirring recollections of the past, no urgent calls to resolve against the temptations of the future, come along with it. It is undeniable, that within the compass of a few square miles, the daily walk of the vast majo rity of our people is beset with a thousand contaminations; and whether it be on the way to the market, or on the way to the workshop, or on the way to the crowded manufactory, or on the way to any one resort of industry that you choose to conde. scend upon, or on the way to the evening home, where the la. bours of a virtuous day should be closed by the holy thankfulness of a pious and affectionate family; be it in passing 'from one place to another; or be it amid all the throng of sedentary occupations: there is not one day of the six, and not one hour of one of these days, when frail and unsheltered man is not plied by the many allurements of a world lying in wickedness-when evil communications are not assailing him with their corruptions-when the full tide of example does not bear down upon his purposes, and threaten to sweep all his purity and all his principle away from him. And when the seventh day comes, where, I would ask, are the efficient securities that ought to be provided against all those inundations of profligacy which rage without control through the week, and spread such a desolating influence among the morals of the existing generation ?—Oh ! tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon—this seventh day, on which it would require a whole army of labourers to give every energy which belongs to them, to the plenteous harvest of so mighty a population, witnesses more than one half of the people precluded from attending the house of God, and wandering every man after the counsel of his own heart, and in the sight of his own eyes-on this day, the ear of heaven is assailed with a more audacious cry of rebellion than on any other, and the open door of invitation plies with its welcome, the hundreds and the thousands who have found their habitual way to the haunts of depravity. And is there no room, then, to wish for twenty more churches, and twenty more ministers for men of zeal and of strength, who might go

forth among these wanderers, and compel them to come in--for men of holy fervour, who might set the terrors of hell and the free offer of salvation before them-for men of affection, who might visit the sick, the dying, and the afflicted, and cause the irresistible influence of kindness to circulate at large among their families—for men, who, while they fastened their most intense aim on the great object of preparing sinners for eternity, would scatter along the path of their exertions alì the blessings of order, and contentment, and sobriety, and at length make it manifest as day, that the righteousness of the people is the only effectual antidote to a country's ruin-the only path to a country's glory?

My next remark shall be founded on a principle to which I have already alluded—the desireableness of a more frequent intercourse between the higher and the lower orders of society; and what more likely to accomplish this, than a larger ecclesiastical accommodation ?--not the scanty provision of the present day, by which the poor are excluded from the church altogether, but such a wide and generous system of accommodation, as that the rich and the poor might set in company together in the house of God. It is this christian fellowship, which more than any other tie, links so intimately together, the high and the low in country parishes. There is, however, another particular to which I would advert, and though I cannot do so without magnifying my office, yet I know not a single circumstance which so upholds the golden line of life among our agricultural population, as the manner in which the gap between the pinnacle of the community and its base is filled up by the week-day duties of the clergyman-by that man, of whom it has been well said, that he belongs to no rank, because he associates with all ranks —by that man, whose presence may dignify the palace, but whose peculiar glory it is to carry the influences of friendship and piety into cottages.

This is the age of moral experiment, and much has been devised in our day for promoting the virtue, and the improvement, and the economical habits of the lower orders of society. in all these attempts to raise a barrier against the growing profligacy of our towns, one important element seems to have pass

ed unheeded, and to have been altogether omitted in the calculation. In all the comparative estimates of the character of a town and the character of a country population, it has been little attended to, that the former are distinguished from the latter by the dreary, hopeless, and almost impassible distance at which they stand from their parish minister. Now, though it be at the hazard of again magnifying my office, I must avow, in the hearing of you all, that there is a moral charm in his personal attentions and his affectionate civilities, and the everrecurring influence of his visits and his prayers, which, if restored to the people, would impart a new moral aspect, and eradicate much of the licentiousness and the dishonesty that abound in our cities. On this day of national calamity, if ever the subject should be adverted to from the pulpit, we may be allowed to express our riveted convictions on the close alliance that obtains between the political interests and the religious character of a country. And I am surely not out of place, when, on looking at the mighty mass of a city population, I state my apprehension, that if something be not done to bring this enormous physical strength under the control of Christian and humanized principle, the day may yet come, when it may lift against the authorities of the land, its brawny vigour, and discharge upon them all the turbulence of its rude and volcanic energy.

Apart altogether from the essential character of the gospel, and keeping out of view the solemn representations of Christianity, by which we are told that each individual of these countless myriads carries an undenying principle in his bosom, and that it is the duty of the minister to cherish it, and to watch over it, as one who must render, at the judgment-seat, an account of the charge which has been committed to him-apart from this consideration entirely, which I do not now insist upon, though I blush not to avow its paramount importance over all that can be alleged on the inferior ground of political expediency, yet, on that ground alone, I can gather argument enough for the mighty importance of such men, devoted to the labours of their own separate and peculiar employments-giv. ing an unbewildered attention to the office of dealing with the

« PreviousContinue »