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had passed but a brief period only, before the exigencies of state required as formal a restoration of the form at least of religion, to give force to law, safety to life, and security to property, without which society itself cannot subsist. Had it happened that any one of these principal causes had not been united to the combination, that event would probably never have taken place. Had the scriptures, for example, in place of being confined to the hands of a few ecclesiastics, been generally diffused for a series of ages, numerous individuals and families would have been found in every department, city, and village, familiar with their truths, believers of their doctrines, and joyful expectants of their promised blessings; and the leaven of their influence would thus have been transfused through the whole community. The existence and action of these causes would as certainly have given rise to competent and devoted teachers of the gospel, the organization of pure churches, and the multiplication and active use of all the usual instruments of diffusing and enforcing the influence of christianity; and had all these been wrought into the structure of society, exerted their appropriate agency, and shed their redeeming influence over the people, they would as infallibly have prevented the existence, or counteracted the action of all those to which the general atheism of the nation owed its existence, reformed the church, softened and refined the government, diffused and heightened the social and domestic virtues ; and thus precluded from being the provocations and means which
gave excitement and power to the malignant efforts of Voltaire, Rousseau, and their coadjutors, in their onset on christianity. Those individuals themselves, indeed, enlightened by her truths, transformed by her power, imbued with her rectitude and benevolence, and inspired by her hopes
in place of plotting and fiercely struggling to accomplish her extinction-might then have knelt at her altars among the holiest and most fervid of her disciples, and consecrated the lofty energies of intellect and passion with which they were gifted, to the vindication of her rights, and diffusion of her blessings.
No such analogy, therefore, exists between the character and condition of the two nations, as to make the frightful catastrophe of the one, any ground of anticipating a similar career of the other. On the contrary, the general causes which are determining the moral destiny of this nation authorize the expectation of precisely opposite results. Our government, in place of being devoted to the aggrandizement of the rulers, at the expense of general misery and oppression, is instituted for the sole purpose of enforcing right, and diffusing and maintaining the blessings of liberty. We enjoy a full freedom of opinion, an unfettered press, and extraordinary facilities of acquiring and disseminating knowledge. The population at large is intelligent beyond any other nation, and possessed of juster views of the legitimate objects of government, the means and value of national happiness, the rights of conscience, and the relations of religion to civil institutions. Immense numbers of churches are firmly established throughout almost every section of the country, eminently pure in doctrine and practice, and gifted with a ministry distinguished for a knowledge of their prosession, and skill and fidelity in discharging its duties, and standing in that relation to the church and society at large, which presents the highest excitements to diligence, faithfulness and success. A wide and almost universal dissemination of the Scriptures is enjoyed, and numerous institutions, founded and liberally endowed for the purpose of supplying
whatever wants may still exist of the sacred word, and
perpetuating the universal possession of that blessing. A multitude of schools and classes are instituted in the church, which carry the knowledge of the gospel, with an energy and success hitherto unknown, to the great body of the young, and which, from the general sentiment in favor of education, and the favorable moral influence which these institutions are seen to exert, have conciliated the approval and engaged the co-operation of the friends of knowledge and good order at large, as well as of religion, and given certainty to their continued support. Societies are formed and extensive provisions made for the aid of youth in preparation for the ministry, and theological seminaries established where means of education for the sacred office are furnished, that insure the distinguished competence and dignity of the profession. Here is thus a combination of causes interwoven with the very fabric of our social and civil existence, which, by all the laws of human events, assure to this people, as a body, beyond the possibility of disappointment, the continued knowledge of the gospel, and its free action on their minds, and consequently the perpetuity and perpetual progress of its influence over their principles and manners. It is then the sober dictate of reason, and no extravagance to believe, that none of the causes which have hitherto had a determining sway over the affairs of men, can ever intervene to intercept these anticipated blessings, and plunge the nation back into a night of atheism or infidelity.
With all these causes are still to be conjoined the mighty, and till the present period, almost unknown influences of the great institutions, which, in sending forth the gospel to foreign lands, and diffusing its blessings through the destitute regions of our own, are developing to the world new
features and proofs of the power and benevolence of christianity, and giving birth to incidents of sublime and overpowering interest, that spread their fame through every gradation of society, and carry attraction to every class of intellect; and finally, to all these are to be superadded, what is of infinitely greater moment than all other considerations, the extraordinary and almost miraculous effusions of the Almighty Spirit that characterize the age, whose approaches no hostile eye can foresee, and whose agency no art can elude nor skill successfully contravene, and who, like a bolt from heaven, instantaneously attracting universal attention to the great themes of religion, imparts to its friends a new and supernatural impulse, and with an invisible hand beats down its haughty enemies, and converts them into approvers and co-operators. When all these causes, together with the certain promises of continued and larger gifts of this divine agency, are united in the account, it becomes not only the dictate of sound reason, and the part of christian faith and hope, to anticipate with confidence the continuance, more extensive diffusion, and triumphant influence of these infinite blessings; but to doubt respecting it, is scarcely less than infidelity itself—a flagrant distrust in heaven against all the natural and supernatural assurances that can give certainty to our expectations of future events.
It were grateful to pursue this theme and sustain these conclusions, by the numerous considerations which lend them confirmation from the history of the past, the favourable contrast of the present activity, strength, and efficiency of the church, with its want of combination, its feebleness, and inaction at the commencement of the century, the character of that part of the population which furnishes the
chief portion of emigrants to the new regions of the country', and various other topics ; but they will naturally suggest themselves, and I turn rather to the duties and responsibilities that arise from the relations of the present to future generations.
An almost boundless moral influence is lodged by the Ruler of the universe in the hands of the present generation, both of real and nominal christians, for weal or woe, to their descendants; and every step they take in reference to their interests, is fruitful of destiny to unborn millions. No individual can possibly stand neuter, nor escape the responsibility of contributing either to the advancement or obstruction of these important concerns. Not those only who take an open and resolute part in the efforts that are making for the support and perpetuation of christianity, or who deliberately oppose its sway, but all of every other class lend a direct or indirect influence to those ends, by educating their families or neglecting to instruct them, by contributing to the general dissemination of knowledge, or obstructing its diffusion ; by lending or denying their agency and countenance to the support of good order, and the suppression of whatever endangers personal safety or interrupts the secure enjoyment of domestic and social blessings; by acting the part of enlightened friends to rational liberty, or its enemies, and labouring to give stability and perpetuity to our useful civil institutions, or to subvert them,--all lend a real and palpable influence, whether such is their intention or not, to the cause of christianity, or throw obstructions in its way; as all those agencies of the one class, by giving the gospel access to the general mind and room for action on the great principles of human natare, are so many instruments of its diffusion, perpetua