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theless, these are the high-minded and daring spirits, who deem it degrading to acknowledge subjection to the Majesty of heaven!
Again, others are so under the dominion of their passions, that they cannot be considered as freemen. Pride, ambition, avarice, sensuality, each has its votaries, who bow before a favorite altar with profound and untiring adoration. So common and notorious is this fact, the usual and expressive manner of speaking of such men is, that they are the slaves of ambition, of avarice, of sensuality. They are so absorbed in one overpowering feeling, that no motives except such as touch their favorite passion can excite them to action. Look at the miser, toiling day and night, denying himself the ordinary comforts of life, deaf to every call of humanity, and callous to every benevolent and generous emotion, enduring a drudgery as severe, and feeling a solicitude far greater than the slave who performs his daily task, and once a week receives his measured allowance of the coarsest food. Look at the drunkard, destroying his health, wasting his property, beggaring his family, hastening with rapid steps to a premature grave, regardless of every motive except the cravings of his depraved appetite. If there be any case in which a man is under a physical necessity to go on to perdition, contrary to his best purposes and strongest resolutions, it is that of the confirmed, habitual drunkard. He sees the consequences of his conduct. He knows the issue. He feels the poverty, the disease, the disgrace, the wretchedness, which surround him, and the dismal pit before him is not concealed from his view. He resolves and re-resolves to reform, and again and again he is drawn, by his inextinguishable and maddening thirst, to the fatal cup. What folly! what madness! to approach the verge of that awful precipice down which the descent, when once commenced, is inevitably certain! The drunkard is a slave, whose emancipation is hardly possible. But to establish our position, we need not select extreme cases. In whatever heart sin is predominant, the man is a slave. His nature is debased, his noble faculties perverted, and all his powers laid under bondage. The ethereal spirit, which like the eagle should soar towards heaven, breathe the pure atmosphere of the upper regions, and from the commanding elevation, contemplate the glories of creation, is drawn and bound down to earth, by gross and sensual attractions. And the most deplorable circumstance, in this degraded condition is, that the bondage is voluntary. The slave loves his chains, sings and dances, and imagines himself to be free, while the fetters which confine him are sinking deeper and deeper,--gradually paralyzing the powers of moral action, and producing stupor and spiritual death.
And to what power shall we look for deliverance from this bondage? The means so long and so extensively used in superstitious ages, have had no tendency to release the soul from spiritual bondage. The lacerations and various severities inflicted on the body, have left the heart estranged from God, and under the dominion of sin.
Mere intellectual culture, the advancement of science and the arts, the improvements in civil government, have no necessary connection with the emancipation of the soul from sin. The polish of civilization may remove or conceal the grossness of vice, but it leaves the radical principles and the moral character of the individual essentially the same. Of this truth, no other proof is necessary than the fact, that many men of highly cultivated intellect are pre-eminently corrupt in their moral habits, and destitute of the least semblance of piety.
Our only hope of deliverance from the dominion, as well as from the guilt of sin, is in the Lord Jesus Christ. The great end of his mission from heaven to earth, was “to destroy the works of the devil;” not merely to save from the punishment which sin deserved, but to save from sin itself; to deliver men from spiritual thraldom, and to bring them into the liberty of the sons of God.
This blessed and glorious emancipation, the Son of God accomplishes in two ways. First, by motives addressed to the understanding and the heart; and secondly, by the operations of the Holy Spirit.
We assert an unquestionable truth, when we say that the motives to piety and holiness, contained in the holy scriptures, are stronger and more efficacious than are to be found elsewhere. Before the coming of Christ, the belief of a future state existed in many nations yet the apostle does not exaggerate, when he says that Jesus Christ“ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” An occasional star had cast a feeble glimmering on the world enveloped in general darkness: now the rising Sun poured his bright effulgence on the astonished nations. Conjecture was exchanged for demonstration, doubt for certainty.
A future state of happiness or misery, according to the character of each individual, is not the only truth presented in the gospel with a clearness which commands the assent of the understanding, and awakens the sleeping energies of the conscience. The perfections of God, his justice, his purity, his love, his mercy, are displayed in such a manner as to bring God very near to us; especially when viewed in connection with our relation to him as accountable agents, and above all, as sinners who have incurred his displeasure. The turpitude and malignity, as well as the guilt of sin, are exhibited in the wonderful sacrifice required for its expiation, and in the awful destiny of those who die impenitent.
The power of motive contained in the bible is evinced by the effect which its truths have on the heart and conscience. It is the means employed to awaken men to a sense of their guilt, and to excite them to seek deliverance from the dominion of sin. The power of the gospel is also proved by the fact, that where it is not known, there barrenness, and desolation, and death, universally prevail; and on the other hand, wherever a few spots of verdure appear in the wide moral waste extending over our globe, there this sacred stream flows. “ Sanctify them,” said our Lord, " through thy truth; thy word is truth.” And ever since this prayer was uttered, a purifying influence has attended the reading and the hearing of the sacred scriptures.
Secondly, Jesus Christ gives freedom from the dominion of sin by the special operations of the Holy Spirit, which attend the exhibition of his truth. The word of God is called the sword of the Spirit; because it is the instrument employed in the conviction and conversion of sinners, and in the sanctification of believers. This blessed influence usually attends the truths of the gospel: and the proud and rebellious sinner is humbled and made
willing in a day of God's power:" willing to renounce his sins; willing to submit to the authority of God; willing to be saved by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
In subduing the rebellious to the obedience of the truth, no violence is offered to the free and regular operations of the soul. The regenerated man acts freely in the view of motives. Indeed he may now, with more propriety than ever, be called a free agent, because he acts under the guidance of reason and conscience-powers which ought to rule; and he keeps in subjection his appetites and passions, which were heretofore predominant.
Thus those whom the Son of God makes free, are free indeed: free from the curse of the divine law, free from the dominion of sin, restored to the liberty of the sons of God. This is a glorious freedom, of which all the powers of earth and hell cannot deprive the believer. Men may enslave the body, may load it with chains, confine it in prison, bind it to the stake; but the soul is still free. The curse of God does not rest upon it. Sin has no dominion over its renewed and disenthralled
powers. II. We said, also, that the prevalence of the principles and spirit of the gospel, is the only certain means of securing and perpetuating NATIONAL FREEDOM. Our remarks on this part of the subject, must necessarily be brief.
It is a truth, established by the experience of all nations, and of all ages, that an unenlightened and corrupt people cannot enjoy freedom; because they are destitute of the intelligence and virtue necessary to understand and maintain their rights. Igno
rance and vice can be ruled only by the strong hand of despotism. When an uninstructed and vicious people attempt to exercise the high functions of self-government, anarchy and violence, the insecurity of property and life, are the inevitable consequences Hence the unsuccessful attempts that have recently been made to establish free governments in the southern portions of our Continent, and in various parts of Europe. After a few mighty and successful efforts to throw off the yoke of their oppressors, they have turned their arms against each other, and oceans of human blood have flowed in the contest, who should rule and who should obey. It is honorable to the intelligence and virtue of the people of the United States, that they succeeded in establishing their independence; and that they have maintained free institutions more than half a century. But whether this shall be our condition for half a century to come, will depend, we venture to affirm, on the prevalence of the genuine principles of the gospel
, more than on any
other It may be doubted, whether the general diffusion of knowledge unconnected with moral and religious principle, would have any tendency to perpetuate the liberties of a nation. Were all educated, a greater number of aspirants to office would be created; and in the general contest for power, the public good would be sacrificed to local interests, and to the ambitious views of party leaders.
It is, then, in vain to depend on the general intelligence of the people alone, as an effectual barrier against the violence of anarchy and the encroachments of arbitrary power. Intelligence must be connected with moral principle to be of any avail. Pure morals, at least among the great body of the people, cannot exist without the sanctions of religion. We say, cannot exist: because such has been the fact in the experience of all nations.
We need not attempt to prove, that Christianity has claims superior to every other religion; and that it exercises a more benign and beneficial influence than any other on the character and happiness of men in this life. We speak of the pure and unadulterated principles of the gospel, derived from the oracles of truth, and not handed out, by oral communication, in such portions and with such additions as may suit the avarice of priests and the ambition of tyrants. Experience justifies us in affirming, that wherever the sacred scriptures have been freely circulated and generally read, men have performed the various duties arising from their social relations, with more fidelity than in any other circumstances.
If the tendency of the gospel be, as we have shown in the preceding part of this discourse, to purify the heart, to restrain from vice, and to present the most powerful motives to virtuous
actions, it must, from the very nature of things, exert a salutary influence on the order of civil society. If parents and the heads
of families be pious, they will endeavor to bring up their children a and others under their care, in the nurture and admonition of the # Lord. And each individual, whatever be his station, will exert
a salutary influence on those with whom he associates. In this a silent and imperceptible manner, crimes will be prevented, and then the charities of social life cherished much more effectually, than
by the authority of the civil magistrate, or by the bayonets of hired soldiery.
It is freely admitted, that men must be intelligent in order to appreciate and preserve the blessings of freedom. And what more efficacious means than the bible can be devised to promote general education, and to diffuse intelligence among all classes of the community? The weekly addresses from the pulpit, and the catechetical instructions given to the young, are calculated to awaken the attention, and to create a desire of knowledge on subjects not immediately connected with religion. The oldest and most efficient colleges and universities in Europe, and in į the United States, had their origin in a desire to prepare young
men to preach the gospel. What would have been the condition - of our country, if our pious forefathers had waited until states
men, from mere secular motives, had founded and endowed institutions of learning? What has been and what is the prevailing inducement, in our country, to establish and maintain common schools?
The farmer can plough his grounds and feed his cattle without consulting his almanac, and the mechanic can handle his tools and acquire wealth without a knowledge of arithmetic; but the Christian cannot consent that his children should grow up without being able to read the bible. What
prompted the benevolent and noble effort to establish and mainstain Sunday schools in every part of our country? Would the
desire to make the rising generation more competent to manage
their secular concerns, induce so many thousands of both sexes - to devote one day in seven to the instruction of the ignorant? $ In these self-denying and gratuitous labors, the enlightened states
man will see the brightest presage of the perfection and permanence of our free institutions; yet it is certain, that, in these benevolent labors, the love of country is not the primary and chief motive.
It is true, there are men, loud in their professions of patriotism, who imagine they see, in these efforts to instruct the rising generation, a scheme to subvert the liberties of their country. Wonderful discovery! To see that to teach a child to read and to know that he is an accountable agent, is the way to make him a slave! To teach him to learn his duty immediately from