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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 admit 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.' In 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 hazard, 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.
We cannot yet bring our hearts to sympathise with those literary seers of the age, who have begun to chant the funeral dirge of poetry—and the reason is, we think these obsequies quite premature. That poetry should always retain the gushing and sparkling joyousness of early youth, it were indeed unreasonable to expect. That some of her vernal charms have actually faded ; that the loveliest freshness of her ·May day' is over; that her fancy is less rich, and her imagination less creative and daring than in the olden time,' we are not disposed to deny. Nor do we think it
the whole strange, that certain classes of her intimates and admirers, should be startled at those hectical flashes, which have recently been more frequent and threatening than usual.
But still we can perceive no serious cause of alarm. For, debilitating, and even poisonous as a great deal of the aliment of poetry is and has been, we feel an assurance that she will survive its deleterious effects. We are persuaded her brightest and best days are still in prospect. Her loftiest darings are reserved for better ages.
Her sweetest melody will gladden a distant futurity, She will yet feel a holier inspiration than has glowed in her breast, since the days of the Prophets : and thus, while she sits here upon the footstool, sweeping the strings of her lyre, she will be wrapt in the visions of brighter worlds.