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our eyes, when the children of the church should become wise and happy. “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.”
That God has cast our lot in a favoured period of the church, there can be no doubt. And the man who is not thankful to see opening before himself and his children, a prospect so rich, must have a mind which none will covet, and a heart which is the seat of very sordid and grovelling affections. It will be my wish, in what will now be said, to awake your attention to those objects which Isaiah saw, and in which he exulted some twentyfive hundred years since. I would then remark,
I. The present is a period of great interest. This is a truth which must impress the mind of every thinking man. In addition to what our fathers have told us, we have learned by our own experience, that the world is undergoing a vast moral change. So rapid are the movements of providence that we can scarcely keep pace with its present history.
1. This is an age prominent in its benevolent exertions. Our fathers, with all their piety, made almost no exertion to better the condition of a miserable world. They held in their hands the charter of eternal life, but made few inquiries respecting the extent to which this blessing was enjoyed. They often read the command, “Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” but had no idea that it was a precept binding them to disseminate that gospel on which they hung their own hopes of everlasting life. Few of us that have lived fifty years have received from our parents any lesson on this subject. They taught us those branches of duty with which they were acquainted, and put into our hands that book from which, through the
teachings of the Holy Ghost, the present generation has learned one new lesson: that those who have the gospel must give it to the world.
Hence the Christian world has waked to the subject, and the benevolent heart has learned to expand, and spread its sympathies over all the miseries of the apostacy. Nor have the advocates of that charity which regards only the body, and terminates its toils at the sepulchre, any cause to mourn at the change. Since the Bible has been making its way to the habitations of poverty, it has not diminished their wonted supply of bread. He that pities the body may have no compassion for the soul, but 'he who aims to save the soul from death, will feel for the miseries of the body. The charity of the gospel is generous and impartial.
Nor yet have the advocates of that charity which begins at home, the least occasion to regret the exertions made in the more distant field. It was since we cast our eye upon India, and heard the moans of Africa, and saw and wept over the desolation of Palestine, that we have pitied strongly the wandering tribes of our own America, and have attempted to build up the waste places in our immediate vicinity. We had begun to translate the Scriptures into other languages, that we might export them to other nations, before we had made the inquiry whether there were not families within ten minutes' walk of home who had no Bible. The poor in our land, and under the eaves of our sanctuaries, have reason to bless the day, when the Christian world began to pity the distant heathen.
I said the Christian world had waked, I should have said they had begun to wake: for many who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, are yet as profoundly asleep as though nothing new had transpired,
Still to some extent exertions are made to carry into effect the system of the gospel. The Bible is going into every language, and missionaries into every country, and the hope and the promise is, that soon the angel, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, will publish it to every kindred, and nation, and tongue, and people. The rich are casting of their abundance, and the poor their mite, into the treasury of the Lord. More is done now in a single year to lessen the miseries of the apostacy, than had been done perhaps in ages previously to the commencement of the present
And no part of Christendom is yet impoverished. Too little has been done to be esteemed a sacrifice. We have distributed to the hungry nothing but the crumbs of our plenteous board. We have done so little that scarcely a conscience in Christendom is satisfied; so little that if our children should hereafter learn the amount of our charities, they would burn the record that they might conceal our shame. Philanthropy must yet ten-fold its sacrifices, or the present generation of the heathen must almost all share the destiny of their unpitied predecessors. But when all this is said, and said truly, the present is comparatively an age of charity. There begins to be opened an avenue to the conscience and the heart. There is some pity where there has been none, there is some interest felt where recently there was an indifference the most profound.
2. The present age is distinguished by a union of interest and effort among the friends of the gospel. Most that was done till recently was the effect of individual exertion. The pious heart was always benevolent. I should offend my readers and myself, if I should deny to our dear parents who are resting in their graves all the sympathy and the charity which they entailed to their offspring. But benevolent exertions during most of the ages that have gone by was personal and insulated. The Christian church had not learned that union of effort would augment her strength, and multiply the resources of her charity. This discovery under the aids of the Spirit, has produced those wondrous efforts that constitute the glory of the present era. Our Bible and education societies have contributed greatly to break down those barriers, that have so long and so mischievously separated the followers of the Lord Jesus. How consoling to see Christians while yet they are firm in advocating what they conceive to be the doctrines of truth, lay aside the rigidness of their sect, and unite their efforts to advance the interests of a common cause, and the honours of a common Master. The Foreign Missionary Society, which gives high promise of cultivating vast tracts of the moral wilderness, have set the Christian world an example, and are acting with a wisdom and an energy for which every believer in the churches should give thanks. And that union which begins to exist at home, on heathen ground is perfect. There, we are told, the communion of each church is open to the fellowship of others. The concert of prayer, if no other existing fact could be named, is an instance of united effort which distinguishes the present era from all that have gone by. Here is united the whole Christian church in offering to the God of grace, the same prayer and the same intercessions. Dear brethren, whether you have or have not been happy on these occasions, you may rest assured that no feature of the present epoch yields a higher hope that the latter-day glory is nigh. God will hear the entreaty which is poured into his ear at the same moment, from ten thousand lips. He will regard those petitions, which, as that sun encircles the earth, is sent into the court of heaven, from every isle and continent where dwells a heaven-born mind. The enemies of the Lord Jesus and his church, had never such just occasion to fear the total ruin of their cause as at the present moment. They have hitherto been able to divide, and have hoped by this means to destroy, but they now see formed against them an impenetrable phalanx by whose firmness all their boasted prowess is covered with the utterest contempt. Hence infidelity has quit the field, the Pope is palsied in his chair, Dagon is prostrate before the ark, the bands of Mahomet are beginning to be weakened, the Turk is beginning to perish by the sword, and his slaves are demanding emancipation.
3. The present era is marked by that general diffusion of knowledge with which no former age has been blessed. I refer now to that kind of knowledge which moves the springs of action, a knowledge of the present state of the world. The groans of the wretched have been unheeded, because they have not been heard. We had no conception a few years since, that six or seven hundred millions of our fellow-creatures had never heard of a Saviour. We had not explored the vast tracts of moral desolation, nor had taken the gauge and dimension of human misery, depression and contempt. The prince of this world hid the extent of his dominions, and concealed the immensity of their unnumbered population, in the mists that issued from the bottomless pit. No encroachments were made upon his kingdom, because the great mass of the Christian community had never known the magnitude of his empire. Believers had long prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven," but they had never conceived