« הקודםהמשך »
It was expedient for our blessed Saviour ta go away ; but he departed not from this world until he had secured the operation of two most powerful instruments to accomplish the object which had induced him to tabernacle among men: the aid of the Divine Spirit to animate and direct his church; and the zeal, the eloquence, and stedfastness of the twelve Apostles whom he commissioned to preach his Gospel, Part of the service committed to the hands of those holy disciples has descended to us in these latter days; and we, too, are commanded by the sameauthority to make the ways of Christ known upon earth, his saving health to all nations. We, indeed, possess not the power and the irresistible demonstration which were bestowed upon the first ministers of our religion, when they were sent forth to teach and to baptizę the heathen world ; but, through the grace of God, we can imitate them in their much patience, in their labours, and in their watchings ; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the armour of righteousness on the right-hand and on the left, by being poor yet making rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things,
But the main point connected with the assurance of the text, is the determination on the part of Almighty God, that the knowledge of salvation shall be extended to man through the instrumentality of man, and not by such supernatural means as would interfere with the regular course of his providence; and hence, my brethren, our duty to the poor, in respect of religious instruction, is placed on the very same footing as the obligation to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked. As it is no longer expedient that the destitute should be supplied with bread created by a miracle, or that the sick should be healed by an immediate exercise of divine power,
neither is it consistent with the laws of the moral government under which we are placed, that the ignorant should be instructed by a direct communication from heaven.
As, then, we are all satisfied that, unless exertions were made to procure food for those in whose hands the staff of life is broken, to supply garments to those who have no covering, and to give medicine to heal the sickness of such as have no friend or kinsman to minister to their necessities, many of our fellow creatures must sink under the pressure of hunger, nakedness, and disease: so, on the very same grounds, ought we to be convinced that, unless the means of instruction be afforded to our poor brethren, they must continue ignorant, depraved, and hopeless; and that thousands of those for whom Christ died may, through our fault, perish for lack of knowledge. In proportion, therefore, as the soul is more precious than the body, and as eternity is more momentous than time, so the charity of enabling men to become acquainted with the things which belong to their everlasting peace, before they be for ever hid from their eyes, is not only more important in itself, but even more incumbent upon us, than the duty of providing for their natural wants.
I urge this consideration the more strongly, because it is well known that, in this Christian land, there are many humane individuals who contribute freely of their substance to assist the indigent and the unfortunate, who yet profess an avowed indifference in regard to the benefits of religious knowledge; being wil ling, as they choose to express it, to leave the care of souls and the interests of eternity in the hands of the Almighty Father of Spirits. But such persons, it is obvious, view this important matter in a wrong light; for it has pleased the Redeemer of the world to confide to the care of his faithful servants, to their charity and their zeal, the administration not only of the meat and drink which perish in the using, but also of that bread of which whosoever eateth shall ne
ver die, and of that water which becometh in the soul of man a well of salvation, and springeth up into everlasting life. In both cases the principle of duty is the same: in both cases man is called upon to act as a mediator between the great God and the poor, the afflicted, and the ignorant; for when our Saviour said it was expedient that he should go away, he left this labour of love to his disciples in all ages ; declaring, at the same time, that inasmuch as they should do it unto the least of his brethren they should do it unto himself.
Allow, me, then, to remind you, that the venerable Society which you represent here this day, has for its benevolent object the promotion of Christian knowledge in all parts of the British dominions, from the place where the sun riseth to where he hath his going down. In India a Christian church is forming under its auspices; a Christian university is raising its head; schools are planted and provided with books and teachers ; and the natives of that extensive country are beginning to open their ears to the voice of the everlasting Gospel. But the poor of ouri own land constitute its principal care. For more than a hundred and thirty years have the members laboured faithfully and assiduously among the ignorant of their own people; and at
this moment several thousand seminaries of religious instruction derive benefit from their funds, in the form of bibles, prayer-books, and other works of piety and useful knowledge. In the course of last year, they expended more than L.55,000 in spreading amongst our countrymen the means of learning the will of God, and their own truest interests both in time and in eternity; in rooting out the baneful plants of infidelity which occasionally spring up to deform our land; and in confirming those principles which strengthen the foundations of morality, of social order, of peace, of prosperity, and of happiness. During the same period they have exerted themselves to give a version of the Holy Scriptures to those parts of Ireland which are still unacquainted with the English language; and they have succeeded in conferring a similar benefaction on the principality of Wales.
But to no branch of the reformed Episcopal Church have the Directors shewn greater regard than to that ancient Communion of which we ourselves are members. They have bound us to them by much good-will, and by many actual kindnesses. The poor Episcopalians, in the remoter parts of Scotland, have, on several Occasions, had reason to bless the ever-active zeal of the Society for Promoting Christian