« AnteriorContinuar »
had never learned to read. It was read to her daily. Her mind soon became deeply impressed-her sins appeared too great to be forgiven - her heart was broken-she believed in Jesus— she died in triumph. A friend, who witnessed her distress of mind, was awakened by it, and now gives satisfactory evidence of being a new creature. Suppose that some will make either no use at all, or a bad use of the Bibles which are given them; shall this prevent the distribution? Who will venture to assert, that Bibles ought not to be given to such people, provided even one out of a hundred prove a blessing? In answer to these objections, permit me to state another fact, which is, that we have found apparently devoted, heavenly-minded Christians, who have wept, and some times cried aloud, and praised God, when we have informed them of the existence, and pointed out the object, of the Bible Society.
“ Secondly, It may be observed, that if millions of Bibles were provided, and information given to the destitute, that they could be obtained by simply applying for them, the work of distributing the Bible, to that extent to which it is our duty to carry it, would not be accomplished. Many of these people do not know what the Bible is. 'It is no uncommon thing for persons, in answer to our inquiries, to assure us that they have a Bible; and, to prove the truth of the declaration, present us with some other book. Sometimes they will stare, and wonder what you mean. They never heard of such a thing as the Bible. Many who know what it is, and have been accustomed in early life to read it, have almost forgotten its contents, and are wholly unacquainted with its value. They see, indeed, that many people are intelligent, moral, respectable, pious, and happy; while others are of a totally different character—that the darkness of heathenism does not rest upon us as a people--that we are not, in every sense, idolators and savages; but never imagine that the Bible has made the difference. Such has been their education, and such are their habits, that many of them have no inclination to read any book whatever; and if they had, the Bible is not the one which they would naturally choose. Shall they be left in this state? Shall we make no effort to show them the importance, the value of the Bible, or to induce them to read? Shall we not so much as carry them the Bible, and ask them to read it? Nay, shall we not go to them again and again, and urge and entreat them to read that blessed book, in which alone life and immortality are brought to light? Shall we not study day and night to invent arguments to persuade them to read? Shall we not pourtray, in lively colours, the misery of hell, and the happiness of heaven? Shall we not endeavour to give them some idea of the value of the soul, of the solemnities of eternity; if, by any means, we may induce them to read that book, which is able to save them from hell, and fit them for heaven, to make that soul happy, that eternity blessed? Upon the principle which some maintain, viz. that it will do no good to
give the Bible to those who are not sufficiently interested to make application for it, we should effectually bar from that sacred treasure the whole Heathen world; we should leave those millions to grope for ever in darkness. Suppose there were a newspaper, which circulated throughout China, and which was read by all its inhabitants; and that it should be published, that all who wished might have the Bible by applying for it, what effect would it have? How many would be supplied ? The value of the Bible is discovered by experiment. We have made this discovery; and if we neglect to make it known to our fellow-men, · how dwelleth the love of God in us?' Let it be remembered, that where the Bible is known and believed to be the word of God, it is often, and if its humbling truths come home with power to the conscience, is always, hated. It is the sun of the moral world. It is that light to which natural man will not come, lest their deeds should be reproved.' We must carry it to them; we must cause it to shine in their dark abodes. If they fee from it into a cavern more dark, we must follow them; till there shall be no place in the city, or in the world, to which they can retreat. When this is done, we shall have performed our duty, in relation to distributing Bibles; and we may then hope that God, by his Spirit, will open the eyes of the understanding, and purify the heart, so that men shall not only see but love that light, and rejoice in it*:
“The same reasons may be urged for the distribution of religious tracts. Their light is a borrowed and fainter light, but, generally, it is the true light, reflected from the word of God. By the distribution of such tracts, many sermons have been, and may still be, preached in places inaccessible to a minister of the Gospel. They may be thrown into haunts of vice, and produce the most happy effects. They have been thus distributed in New York, and the vilest persons have been seen reading them with the most fixed attention.
“ It is not to be supposed, that the Bible, in the present state of society, is to be given to all indiscriminately, and without any evidence that a proper use will be made of it. The following is substantially the mode, which I have thought it my duty to adopt. I bave, generally in company with some Christian friend, visited all the families adjoining each other in a particular neighbourhood - have endeavoured to discover what families were destitute, and to ascertain, by conversing with them, and inquiring of others con
• “ The managers and members of the Female Bible Society, we rejoice to state, have actually commenced the work. Not satisfied with aiding, by their funds and approbation, the parent and other Bible institutions, nor with purchasing Bibles, and depositing them in the usual manner, they have entered the habitations of the poor-have sought out the destitute, and, with their own hands, have given them the word of life. We trust their truly Christian example will be extensively followed, not only in this, but in other places."
cerning them, whether they would make a good use of the Bible, if put into their hands. Those to whom it was thought best to give Bibles, have been noted, and informed, that we should call again and supply them. By this means, their minds have, in some measure, been prepared for the sacred deposit. Opportunity has been given, also, to address the other families on the subject of religion, and leave tracts in their possession. Soon after this the Bibles have been given, accompanied with such instructions and admonitions as the nature of the subject naturally suggested. They have been directed to keep them, frequently and prayerfully to peruse them, and to instruct their children in them. They have been reminded, that, receiving the Bible in this manner, they were under increased obligations to love, reverence, and obey its instructions; that it was the word of the living God, and would prove
either a savour of life unto life, or of death unto death that it was the rule by which they would be tried at the last day, and that, if it did not prove a blessing, it would be a swift witness against them. Their names and places of residence have been recorded, and they have been informed, that our anxiety would probably lead us to call at a future time, that we might know whether the Bible had proved a blessing or not.
“ In addition to giving Bibles and tracts in this manner, and forming Bible associations, which, we hope, will soon be done, many may be circulated, by exposing them for sale in parts of the city in which they are most needed. There are Christians who wift esteem it a privilege to take charge of them, and sell them at the first cost. A show-bill should be hung out to give the information to those who pass. This plan has been suggested by finding many people destitute of the Bible, apparently because it had not come in their way. It has also had the test of experience. Bibles and tracts have been thus deposited, and several thousands of the latter, and a considerable number of the former, have actually been sold. Christians who are able and disposed to give them to their poor or vicious neighbours, may, by this means, be conveniently supplied. Bibles and tracts may be circulated, also, by employing suitable persons to go from house to house, for the express purpose of selling them, allowing a reasonable advance on what they dispose of. Several thousands of tracts have recently been circulated, in this way, in the destitute parts of the city. Pedlars about the markets and streets may be furnished with such books, instead of those of a corrupting nature, which they too often carry, and of which they too easily dispose.
“ 3. The Gospel must be preached. After the holy Spirit has testified, that it is through the foolishness of preaching,' that God is pleased to save them that believe,' it will not be questioned that the preaching of the Gospel is among the means by which the souls of men are to be redeemed from sin and death – that it is one of the great pillars by which the church is supported - that it
is an institution of God. But it is said, that you cannot preach the Gospel to these people; they will not attend public worship, provided they have the opportunity. In answer to this assertion, which has been reiterated till it is threadbare, we observe, that it cannot be known to be true till the attempt has been made. After labourers have been sent into the vineyard, houses of worship erected, the Gospel preached, and other appointed means employed, and after all have failed of success, this objection will be in point. It is the opinion of persons who are best acquainted with the character and condition of these people, that, if they had the opportunity, many of them would regularly attend upon the preaching of the Gospel. In the course of my visits, I have found many who have testified, that the only reason why they did not go to church was, that they had no seats, and were unable to procure them. On this account, many families, that have formerly been accustomed to attend public worship, have been absent so much that the desire and the habit of attending are lost. Will it be said, that the churches of some denominations are free, and, therefore, that such people could hear the Gospel if they were disposed ? It is true that the Methodist churches are free, and I rejoice that it is in my power to state that they are not only free, but full. The Presbyterian, the Baptist, and the Episcopal churches, in that part of the city to which I refer, are also full. It is said, also, that in some of the churches, in the lower part of the city, there is room for hundreds of poor people, were they disposed to come. This objection has already been answered. It has been shown, that should there be pews which are unoccupied, the poor can neither purchase ncr hire them. The objection, however, respects those pews which are owned by the more wealthy; and which, on account of the smallness of the family, or for a worse reason, are either empty, or but partially filled on the Sabbath. Should the poor be so much engaged as to come from the upper to the lower part of the city to hear the Gospel; should they so far overcome their natural diffidence, or, as some would say, be so impudent, as to enter these churches, clad in the manner in which they usually are, and necessarily must be, would the occupants of these pews rise and give them seats? Some who have made this objection, and to whom this question has been put, have already answered, so far as it respected themselves, in the negative. We are persuaded, that poor people might go into churches, might go through them, and go out again, before this class of objectors would give them a seat. Besides, the question is not concerning a few hundreds or a sew thousands, but tens of thousands. It is said further, that if these people were properly interested, they would go and stand in the aisles, rather than not hear the Gospel. It is undoubtedly true that they would; and it is equally true, that they would climb up at the windows, and that the great inquiry about our streets would be, . What must I do to be saved ? "Were this
the case, there would be little need of further efforts ; but who does not know, that one great object of preaching the Gospel is to arouse men from their stupidity, and to excite them to attend to their spiritual concerns ? The fact that men are not properly interested in the subject of religion, proves the necessity of more vigorous efforts.
“ It is not enough, however, that we erect houses of worship, that we open the doors and proclaim, or cause to be proclaimed, the glad tidings of salvation. We must do more. As in distributing the Bible, so in preaching the Gospel, if people will not come to us, we must go to them, we must enter their dwellingswe must preach from house to house. For this mode of preaching we have the express command of Christ—Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature;' Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.' God has in mercy adapted the means of grace to the character and condition of his creatures. Having wandered from the sheep-fold, having forsaken the · fountain of living waters,' he has appointed the means to follow them and bring them back. The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' In addition to the command, we have the example of Christ. Though the Jews, among whom he laboured, were religiously educated, and accustomed to attend public worship, he did not think it sufficient to preach to them in their synagogues. He went from place to place; he entered their dwellings; he met them in the street, in the garden, in the field, by the sea, on the mountain—wherever he found lost men, there was a pulpit, a sanctuary, a preacher. When he sent out his disciples, he intimated to them, that they were to preach in the same manner. They followed his instructions, they imitated his example. Even while among the Jews, • daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach ard to preach Jesus Christ.' Paul declares, that he taught not only publicly, but from house to house. We know, also, that this mode of preaching is often most effectual in our established congregations; that it is always practised in times of revival. In hardly any other situation is it possible to preach so directly to the conscience, to say with such effect, Thou art the man.' If the Gospel is not to be preached to any except those who are disposed to hear it and to seek after it, when will it be preached to the thousands who are perishing in the destitute parts of our country? When will it be preached to the Heathen nations - 'to every creature? If the people are visited and instructed in their own dwellings; if, in addition to this, they are assembled together in little circles for social worship; if they are followed from day to day, and week to week; if all is done in a manner so kind, so affectionate, so faithful, that they shall be convinced that you have no object in view but the glory of God, and their own best good, we cannot doubt that a powerful effect will be produced ; that numbers will