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tain, much less expand and exalt, the intellectual energies of a free people. Some of the more immediate causes of this lamentable depreciation of literary taste, as I shall venture to call it, are obvious. Certain wris ters (some of whose names have already been mentioned,) of lofty genius and surprising powers of invention, have devoted themselves too much to the amusement, and too little to the instruction of their adınirers. With the sway which such minds must always bear in the empire of literature, what might they not have accomplished, for the enduring benefit of their species? By making their great talents, directly subservient to the permanent interests of virtue and religion, what a high claim might they have left, to be enrolled among the distinguished benefactors of the age. As it is, however, I am convinced that after generations will not be able, with a clear conscience, to award them this enviable distinction :- - for even the far-famed Waverly novels will, I fear, be found in the end, to have done incomparably more harm than good. Not so much perhaps by flagrant moral blemishes, or other positive demerits, as by their number; by the taste which they create for this kind of fiction ; and by paving the way, for a multitude of bankrupt adventurers, in the same line, who, but for the unparalleled success of this author, would never have gained the public ear. A few such volumes as Waverly, and the Tales of my Landlord, might have been a valuable addition upon the whole, to the stock of English literature. A moderate indulgence at such an intellectual banquet, might help to enrich the fancy and give tone to the mind, but here is a surfeit, which must inevitably impair the appetite for solid nutriment, and gradually undermine the most vigorous constitution. I am well aware of the scorn that may
be excited by such speculations, among the worshippers of the great divinities, who now sit enthroned in the empire of song and of fiction ; and I should not, in this place, have touched upon these topics, but for their intimate connection with others, of paramount interest and importance. As it is, I have thought it right to speak freely; and I feel a strong confidence, that my fears and deprecations will prove in the end, to be much better founded than even many of the pious are willing to believe.
But I must hasten to the other part of my subject, which directly embraces the religious character and taste of the times in which we live. And here, there is certainly a great deal to excite the gratitude, encourage the efforts, and strengthen the faith of every friend of the Redeemer. Blessed be God, for those mighty wrestlings and yearnings of christian benevolence, which are now spreading dismay over the kingdom of darkness, and which cannot be unavailing before the throne of infinite mercy. It is not the character of this age, to exhaust its energies in fruitless wishes that something might be done to save the heathen: nor to comfort itself with the assurance that God in his own time will convert them, whether his people engage heartily in the enterprise or
No. The church feels that she has a 'great work to do,' and that unbelief has slumbered over it too long. Never, certainly since the Apostolic age, were her song and daughters more busily engaged in behalf of a perishing world, than at the present moment.
Never were more hearts and hands opened; and never was there a greater number of faithful heralds on the march to summon the strong holds of the enemy, and to blow the gospel trumpet in every land. At what former period, did
the river of life flow so copiously from beneath the sanctuary, and deepen,so fast, and spread its healing waters so wide, over the parched places of the wilderness ?' When was there so holy an emulation in doing good, among christians of every name and nation ? When were the signs of the times so bright, and so rich in ripening and clustering promises ? When did every gale from the far-off pagan continents and savage isles, wast such glad intelligence to the christian's ear? When were so many eyes turned, and when did so many prayers of faith go forth, to meet the rising glories of the millennial day? These are some of the heart-cheering reflections, which offer themselves spontaneously to every mind, that is alive to the interests of Zion. And truly, it is good for the church, thus to stand on her favored eminences, to watch the preparations and to anticipate the triumphs of her King
But it is not permitted us to look with unmingled satisfaction, upon even the holiest enterprises of human benevolence. As the best of men engaged in the best of causes are still imperfect, it would be a miracle, if there were no errors in judgment, no failure in prudence, no alloy of unsanctified motive or feeling, among the thousands who manage the prudential concerns, and go forth as the accredited agents of Missionary, Bible, and other kindred societies. Equally in vain would it be, to expect a perfect balance of judgment and feeling, in the most enlightened christian community taken together : so difficult is it to find and to preserve the golden mean-to keep the mind always at the right temperature--to adjust every thing as it should be, between the understanding and the heart. Even the best of men, are liable to fall into opposite extremes. In bearing away from Charyb
dis, they are driven upon Scylla, and in avoiding the rocks, they are ingulphed by the whirlpool. This vacillancy seems to be a kind of secondary law of our nature. I call it a law, on account of its extensive and controlling influence; and a secondary law, because it was not implanted in man at his first creation. It was superinduced by that great apostacy, which gave the throne of his heart to another than his Maker, and destroyed the primeval equilibrium of his moral faculties. It holds true in religion, as well as in politics and philosophy, that the mind often pushes its speculations so far upon some favorite topic, as to throw every thing else into the back ground, and encroach upon those essential relations, which things bear to one another, in the divine economy.
There is what may be called fashion and taste, in religious opinions and feelings, as well as in dress, or architecture, or music. Thus, at one time, christian doctrines are regarded as comparatively unimportant; and all stress is laid upon a good moral life. At another time, deep and bold theological speculation is exalted far above christian experience and practice. And then, again, clear and discriminating views of divine truth, are contemptuously discarded as mere head knowledge,' while nervous agitations, animal affections, and enthusiastical excitement, are hailed as the true and joyful evidences of saving conversion. The legalists and the antinomians have each repeatedly had their day. Men at one time, have been bigots, and at another, fierce for liberality.
The religious taste, (as I use the term,) of the present age, differs in some important respects, from any thing that has extensively prevailed in the church, at any former period; and remarkably corresponds, in its leading characteristics, with the literary taste of the day, to which
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 Jemand 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 to 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.
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