Page images
PDF
EPUB

for that purpose; and the strenuous and persevering efforts with which he sought their achievement. He proceeded in his plans and exertions, on the conviction that there are remedies for all the evils that exist; and that it is the business of the philanthropist and christian, in reliance on God, to seek and apply them, in the expectation of success.

VI. His views were equally just of our obligations to labour for the welfare and salvation of our fellow men.

[ocr errors]

There are many who seem to regard every sacrifice and exertion for that end, especially such as involve a deviation from the usual habits of society, as little less than a gratuitous and supererogatory effort of benevolence. They accordingly seldom venture on labours of that nature, except under the impulse of great occasions, and with extreme caution and reluctance; and never dream of making the diffusion of good a business of life, or regarding it as a duty, imposed by the high sanctions of reason, humanity and revelation.

Those, however, who look at the great fact that it is the decree of God, that the appointed remedies of the sin and misery which fill our world, are to be applied by human instrumentality, and that he has provided and placed an infinite store of those remedies within our reach, and enjoined us to employ ourselves in their application, will form a very different estimate of our obligations respecting this subject. What, if all these considerations do not, cau ever constitute it our imperious duty to labour in this great work? What, if all this does not, can ever render us responsible for the ruin of those who may perish in consequence of our neglect? The Most High, in making these provisions for removing and remedying the sin and suffering which ravage the world, in appointing us his instruments in applying

them, in commanding us to devote ourselves to the work, and in crowning all our obedient exertions to fulfil it with success, has, in an important sense, constituted us stewards, of all the high interests with which our agency is thus connected, and made us amenable for all the ill consequences of our negligence. He has deposited with us, as it were, the destinies themselves of our fellow men, in thus making it possible to us to convey to them the knowledge and exert on them the influence, which by the established laws of his administration, will prove the instrument in a multitude of instances of their present and everlating well-being; and he will, indubitably, therefore, exact of us, a rigid responsibility for our agency. It is not to be believed that no obligations are imposed on us, by this affecting appointment of his wisdom; and that no account will be required of the manner in which we fulfil or neglect this high trust.

Had no specific direction been given to that effect, it were obviously the part of wise and benevolent beings spontaneously to avail themselves of such a proffered instrumentality, and gladly to carry their efforts in it to the utmost extent of their powers. Actuated by such a spirit, the promptings of authority, it might be expected, could hardly be necessary to excite them to it. God has, however, by the injunctions of his word, as well as the arrangements of his providence, made it an essential business of our lives to labour for the happiness and salvation of our fellow men.

Such were, in an eminent degree, the views with which this subject was regarded by Mr. Evarts. He felt that a wide and momentous influence over his fellow men was lodged in his hands by the appointment of Providence; a possibility, vast and almost illimitable, of contributing to their present and everlasting well-being; that he was entrusted,

in a sense, with their character, their happiness, and their destiny; and he acknowledged and responded to the call of duty, yielded to it the interest of his heart, and made its fulfilment the great business of his life. Instead of imagining that a few occasional exertions carried him to the limits of his obligations, and absolved him from all necessity for further efforts, he rather made the wants and necessities of his fellow men, and the possibilities of his remedying them, the measure of his wishes and aims; and had he lived, would have continued to feel the pressure of responsibility, and the excitement of benevolent motives, as long as any of the miserable remained to be relieved, or any of the guilty con tinued to need salvation.

[ocr errors]

VII. His views of divine things and sense of his relations to God, were such as to secure to them a predominating influence over him, and impart to his religious affections an unusual degree of energy and uniformity.

The nature and vigour of the affections which are cherished toward God, are obviously very intimately dependent on the apprehensions that are entertained of his character and government, and our relations to him. They must manifestly, as far as they extend, be essentially just, in order that he may in reality be the object of regard; and the ardour of the affection which they excite, must correspond essentially to their extent and clearness. The farther they are enlarged and the higher they are raised in vividness and energy, the deeper and more efficacious are the impressions which they occasion. Views of divine things that are feeble, indistinct, and extended only to a few truths, produce but slight emotion, and are inadequate to withstand the stronger influences of the exciting objects of sense, which it is their chief office to counteract. It is by the communication of

just apprehensions of the great truths relating to God, his government and ourselves, with such vividness and energy, as to overbear and annihilate, as it were, all other influences, and make a permanent and resistless impression on the moral sensibilities, that the great change in regeneration is wrought. And the nature, extent, and intenseness of the views imparted at that crisis by the Almighty Spirit, determine essentially the distinctness of that change, and are the measure of the ardor of the new affections which they excite.

The effect of these new and overpowering conceptions is, to change the whole current of the mind's associations. The highest place in its regard being given to God, and an intimate sense of his presence infixed in it, self and all other objects sink down into their proper subordination, come habitually to be viewed chiefly in their relations to him, and thence become the means perpetually of recalling the thoughts to him, by the manifestations which they present of his power, wisdom and benevolence. The habit of thus contemplating objects and events in their relations to God, and being transported by them to him, is one of the most peculiar characteristics of the renewed mind, and the quickness, vigour and uniformity of these associations, are in a large degree, a measure of its piety. As the ardour of the affections corresponds to the accuracy and extent of the views of divine things, by which they are excited, so the frequency of their recurrence, and the length of their continuance, depends much on the vigour and vivacity of the associating power, by which they are suggested to the notice from their connexions with the current objects and events of life. But little progress can be made in religion, except where this susceptibility is raised to vigour and habitual activity. Where God is but seldom the object of thought through

the day or week, and his works and providence contemplated in their relations to him, there obviously at best can be but little piety. It is the characteristic of the wicked, that God is not in all his thoughts; and one of the most distinguishing peculiarities of his children, that he is habitually present to them, and seen and recognised in all his works. The most indissoluble of the connexions that subsist between any of their views, are those which unite their perceptions of the objects and events around them with him, and the quickest and most resistless of their associations, those by which they are incessantly transported from earth to heaven.

The alacrity and vigour of this associating power, is doubtless in a great degree the result of cultivation. Like all other mental susceptibilities, it is greatly cherished and strengthened by habit, and often instantaneously receives a powerful excitement and confirmation from those events of providence, which revive a sense of dependence on God, and evince the uncertainty and insufficiency of all enjoyments but those of religion. The task, however, of maintaining it in its freshness and superiority, and overpowering through its instrumentality those associations to which they had been accustomed antecedently to regeneration, is one of the most difficult which the recently renewed, are called to perform. Severe struggles are often required to recall those apprehensions of divine things, which disarm temptation, and to fasten the eye on them in such fixedness, as to call up the obedient affections which they are accustomed to excite, and with sufficient energy to counteract the influence of opposing objects. To those however who have been longer addicted to this warfare, and whose views have been enlarged, and associations fixed, it is comparatively a

« PreviousContinue »