Ҿ˹˹ѧ
PDF
ePub

does not indeed ensure salvation to all, who read it: but it does render their salvation more probable, than it otherwise would be. It brings to their knowledge a series of events, and a system of doctrines, in the highest possible degree, calculated to exercise the understanding, to rouse the imagination, and affect the heart. It describes our ruin, and offers a remedy.

Whether we contemplate christian religion in regard to its influence on the present character and happiness of men, or in relation to that boundless scene, which it opens to our fears and our hopes, the propriety of combining efforts for the purpose of extending its influence is strikingly apparent. In prosecuting this object, we know, that we are engaged in a good work. It is the same work, which has employed the attention of apostles, prophets, martyrs, of Jesus Christ, and of God the Father. So far, therefore, as we are engag ed in it, we are workers together with God. If the contents of the sacred volume were worthy of being communicated from God to men by a series of miracles, are they not wor thy of being conveyed from us to others, when it can be done by ordinary means, and with little labor? It is not the design of God, that his word should be confined to any one nation, or to any particular section of the earth. Wherever there are sufferings to be alleviated, vices to be reformed, or hearts to be renewed, his purpose is, that the doctrines of revealed religion shall be proclaimed. "Go," saith Jesus Christ," into all the world, and preach the gos pel to every creature." One way of complying with this command is, by sending among the ignorant, whether in heathen or christian countries, the discourses of Christ, and the writings of his inspired disciples.

We are to notice likewise, that this purpose of God in regard to the propagation of revealed truth, will be accom. plished, "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord." They, therefore, who, impelled by an ardent desire, that all nations should be refreshed by streams issuing from the fountain of life, unite, for that object, their

prayers and their labors, cannot be accused of indulging a vain hope.

But, if such an event shall ever occur, you imagine, perhaps, that it will be produced by miraculous interposition, and, of course, that human exertions will be superseded.

A few moments reflection on well known facts, will, it is believed, be sufficient to diminish your confidence in this conclusion. At the time, when christianity originated, far the greater part of Europe was inhabited by idolatrous barbarians. All Europe has now received christianity. Yet this change was not effected by new miracles. That, within one century from the present time, the Gospel should be preached among all nations, is not more improbable, than ten years before their occurrence, were some of those events, which have taken place in our own age. The time is within the recollection of almost all present, when the spirit of infidelity was widely spreading throughout all christendom. In our own country, publications, traducing revealed religion, were read with avidity, and, consequently, not without effect. The current against it was rapid and boisterous: and those, who did not consider, that "the foundation of God standeth sure," scarcely resisted the impression, that they saw a trembling in the edifice, which presaged speedy ruin. The scriptures were falling into disuse, and were treated with disrespect. But," when the enemy was coming in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord raised up a standard against him." Societies for sending forth missionaries, for distributing the scriptures, and for translating them into languages in which they had never appeared, have been multiplied to a degree, exciting general astonishment, though less, than might justly be produced by an event of such very extraordinary a character. These same scriptures, which were attacked with wit, derision, and a kind of malignant triumph, are now, distributed in the four quarters of the globe, at the expense of many hundred thousands a year. That, which was spoken by the prophet, is now confirmed. "They shall see, to whom He was not spoken of; and they, that have

not heard, shall understand." If such has been the result of christian effort, continued but for twenty years, the way being so far prepared, what may we not expect for a century to come; and that too without any thing, but a usual blessing on human exertions! In this connexion, and on this occasion, I cannot forbear to mention, that splendid and august combination of rank, wealth, talents, and religion, The British and Foreign Bible Society. Of such an institution I know not how to speak in language, more appropriate, than that, which the scriptures afford. "I saw and behold a tree in the midst of the earth; and the height thereof was great. The tree grew and was strong; and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth. The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much." Those leaves are, by the auspicious gales of heav en, wafted to distant islands and continents, and are scattered around for the healing of the nations. The roots have struck deep: they have extended to remote lands, germinating in every congenial soil, producing trees of inferior size, but of the same fruit and foilage, as the parent stock.

When the nature and tendency of revelation are considered, no christian can reflect, without a mixture of surprise and delight, that Bible Societies, in vigorous activity, now exist, not only in England and Scotland, but in Holland, Germany, Prussia, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and Russia, in Europe. At Calcutta and Bombay in Asia.-At the Isle of France, St. Helena, and at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. -At Jamaica, among the American Islands, and in various parts of the United States.

When the millenium will commence, or what in particular will be the state of things, during that happy period, I know not. But, when we contemplate the simultaneous and powerful efforts, which in various ways, are now making in so many christian nations, and reflect on the natural influence of revealed truth on the condition of man, whether considered as a social or an immortal being, it is impossible to avoid the belief, that a broad foundation is laid for human happi

ness and virtue; and that these great measures will eventually issue in "peace on earth, and good will towards men."

The interest, taken by so many among our own countrymen, in this great enterprise of benevolence and piety, justifies animating hopes, as to the condition of posterity. When we shall have "fallen asleep, not being permitted to continue by reason of death," our children will not be left to pass their probation in a nation of infidels. They will not, we confidently hope, be taught that death is everlasting sleep; nor to deny, that "God, who, at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake to the Jewish nation by the prophets, hath in these last ages, spoken to the world by his Son." They will find objects and institutions, at once indicating, and promoting reverence for God and revealed religion. That spirit, which now moves the whole christian world, will, it is believed, in their day, be more active and widely diffused. They will witness the removal of some of those obstacles, which yet impede the propagation of christianity. Much will be done in their day, and more in the days of their posterity, that "valleys may be filled, and mountains and hills be brought low." "My spirit, that is upon thee, and my words, which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from hence forth and forever."

My fathers and brethren of the Maine Bible Society,

If the value and tendency of the holy scriptures have been fairly represented, men seldom meet together for a purpose more important, than that, for which we are now assembled. Is our social, moral, or religious state so perfect, as to need no improvement? Has it not been shown, that there is no method better calculated to effect such improvement, than the propagation of that system of truth, which is contained in the oracles of God? Have our endeavors been commensurate, either with the objects of the institution, or with our own ability? When I speak of ability, I mean to comprehend that patronage, which we might obtain, were

greater interest excited, and corresponding endeavors used. Compared with other societies of a similar nature, can it be said, that we have performed our contingent of labor, or have offered our proportion of sacrifice? If others have not done too much, we have unquestionably done too little. With no greater ardor, than we have displayed, to instruct the ignorant, and reclaim the vicious in our own district, would the sacred writings have been, in the course of a few years, diffused in sixty different languages or dialects?— Would they have been sent to China, India, Persia, and the regions bordering on the Caspian Sea? When there are about forty Bible Societies in the United States, is it too much, that one should be liberally supported in the District of Maine? Whatever duties we owe, either to religion, or the public, admit no delay. The king of terrors is every years making new inroads, & returns, loaded with fresh spoils, to his abode of darkness and silence. Since our last anniversary, the late venerable president of this Society,* has closed his earthly labors. "What thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for in the grave, there is no work, knowledge, or device."

1

To the subject, now before us, I beg leave to call the attention of this whole assembly.

We solicit your charity for no exceptionable, or doubtful object. We are not asking you to favor one denomination of christians in exclusion of another; but to put into the hands of the ignorant poor that word, by which they may judge of christian truth; and by which they must themselves be judged at the last day.

Can you, in any way, more suitable than this, testify gratitude for your present security from that hostile attack, and perhaps wanton conflagration, which a few months since, you so justly apprehended, and which, but for the return of peace, you might, before the present time, have actually witnessed? The benefactions now solicited are for enlarg ing and confirming the empire of the Prince of Peace. Let

The Rev. Samuel Deane, D. D.

« ͹˹Թõ
 »