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AMERICAN LITERATURE AND
REJOICING in the opportunity afforded us, by a temporary suspension of the pressure of intelligence requiring immediate attention, we gladly finish the admirable address of the Rev. Ward Stafford to the Female Missionary Society of New York, commenced so long since as in the first Number of our Work. This interesting document is thus continued :
“We have now given some account of this new missionary field, and pointed out some of the ways in which it is to be cultivated. Many considerations present themselves as motives to urge us to great and persevering efforts.
“.1. The command of God. The parable, usually styled the Gospel Supper, represents the great plan of redeeming mercy. When those who were first bidden refused to come, the servants were commanded by Christ, the master of the feast, to go out into the highways and hedyes, and compel those who were found there to come in. The servants, doubtless, represent those who are employed in extending the blessings of the Gospel to the destitute; and the destitute, especially the poor, are represented by those who are in the highways and hedges. Go out quickly into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.' Here we have a plain absolute command of Christ, addressed directly to his people. Obedience is a test of Christian character. • If ye love me,' says Christ, keep my commandments. That man deceives himself with a name to live while he is dead, who does not esteem it his duty, his privilege, his glory, to obey. We might here show how that other command of Christ, · Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,' bears directly on this subject, and can never be obeyed till the Gospel is preached to the poor. We might mention other commands of the same import; but with Christians one command is sufficient: a • thus saith the Lord,' cannot fail to bow the will, to reach the heart, and call into action the energies of every child of God.
" Intimately connected with this, preaching the Gospel to the poor is an essential part of the Christian religion. When John sent his disciples to Christ, that they might be convinced that he was the true Messiah, he points them to certain parts of his system, as evidences that it was divine. After informing them, • that the blind receive their sight; the lame walk; the iepers are cleansed; the deaf hear; the dead are raised up: he completes the climax by adding, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.' Glorious system, worthy of its divine Author! Those VOL. IV.NO. 7.
systems of pride and self-aggrandizement of the Scribes and Pharisees, and of the heathen, are shrouded in darkness, while this is surrounded with the splendour of heaven.
“ If the account here given of the religion of Jesus is correct, then that religion, which does not provide means for the salvation of the poor, is not the religion of Christ. These two evidences, the working of miracles, and the preaching of the Gospel to the poor, were at that time sufficient to satisfy men of serious inquiry, that the religion of Christ was divine. These evidences were given by our Saviour himself. Miracles have ceased; but as we always have the poor with us, we may always be able to convince the inquiring, and stop the mouths of gain-sayers, by showing them that the poor have the Gospel preached to them. The religion of the Gospel is designed for the world. It is, therefore, designed for the poor; for a great portion of the world are poor. · It is the religion of the soul, and the souls of the poor are as valuable as those of the rich. Do we need any thing to give greater authority and glory to this system ? we have the example of our blessed Redeemer. His life was a comment on his system, which sheds about it a divine lustre. It was among the poor that he delighted to labour, - it was to them that he continually preached the Gospel. Their wants he delighted to supply - their diseases to heal their souls to save. On reviewing the commands, the precepts, and the example of our Saviour, in relation to the poor, will it not appear that they have been too much neglected by Chris. tians? Is not this a stain on our religion? Are not the evidences of its divinity obscured? When, from some distant part of our country, and of the world, our fellow.men shall come to inquire concerning our religion, can we say, that the poor generally bave the Gospel preached to them? Have we been into the highways and hedges? Have we, in this respect, followed the example of our Redeemer? Has not God placed the poor of this city particularly under our care, -and does not a regard to our Christian character-do not our covenant vows require, that we should share with them the rich, the heavenly treasures, which we have so freely and so abundantly received.
“ 2. The Christian's own happiness and growth in grace. The spirit of God has testified, that it is more blessed to give than to receive,' to do good to others than to gain it at their hands. There is a pleasure in doing good, which can be known only to him by whom it is felt. To enjoy religion in their own souls, Christians must do the will of God; they must find their pleasure in the same way in which He found it, whom they profess to follow, whose meat and drink it was to do the will of his Father. So far as we are employed in doing good from right motives, so far we resemble Christ, and no further so much do we possess of the spirit of the Gospel, and so much may we expect of its consolations, and
It is the consciousness of doing good to the bodies and
souls of men, from a desire to glorify God, that fills and swells the soul. Compared with this, what are the pleasures of sense? All the titles and honours which men can bestow, nay the praise, the admiration of the world, is poor, when compared with the God bless you!' that vibrates upon the ear, and penetrates the heart, as you retire from the abodes of poverty and wretchedness, conscious that no one with whom you are acquainted sees you, but your God, and that what you have done will be unknown till the great day of account. It is a glorious principle of our religion, that the more the possessor imparts to others, the more his own stock is increased. • Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt find it after many days. He that watereth, shall himself be watered.' • Sell what thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' Go, Christians, spread abroad those treasures which God has given you; convert them into Bibles and tracts, and other means of grace; convey them, with your own hands, to your neighbours, who are perishing for them, and let your prayers ascend to the throne of grace for the influences of the Spirit; and those treasures, like the widow's oil and flour, will increase; those influences will, like the gentle dew, descend upon your own soul; the Sun of righteousness will shine in all his quickening power; the seeds of grace will spring up and flourish, and blossom and bear fruit more abundantly to the glory of God. Accordingly, all who have been eminent for piety, have been eminent for doing good, for active benevolence; or have manifested the spirit which would have prompted them to act, if circumstances had permitted. A narrow, contracted, selfish spirit, is not the spirit of the Gospel; and, wherever it exists, it blights the Christian graces.
“ Wealth and influence ought not to prove, as they often do, the means of lukewarmness and declension; but, on the contrary, the means of growth in grace, of the increase of holiness and happiness; both in this world, and in the world to come. These things will enable the Christian more extensively to imitate the example of his Saviour. Though he cannot create bread, he can feed the hungry — though he cannot cause the wool and the flax to grow, he can clothe the naked—though he cannot heal the sick, he can contribute to their comfort - can, by his sympathy, and his kind offices, diminish their sufferings -- can point them to the great Physician, and to the • balm of Gilead ;'--though he cannot snatch from the jaws of death, he may be the instrument of smoothing • the passage to the tomb' - may bend over the dying body - may whisper the consolations of the Gospel — may commend the departing spirit to the Saviour of sinners. What is all the happiness which this world can afford, compared with one heavenly smile from that poor departing soul, who feels, and blesses God, that you have been the instrument of converting him from the error of his ways' — of supporting him under his trials—of directing him to the blood of Jesus of opening to his view the bright prospects of
immortal glory! Visiting the poor, the ignorant, the vicious, the afflicted, and the dying, will make the Christian contented with the allotments of providence in respect of himself — will afford him striking evidence of the depravity of the human heart; and cause him to exclaim, with his soul glowing with gratitude to God, • Who maketh' me
to differ? By the grace of God, I am what I am. How many Christians, when casting their eyes over some Pagan field, whitened with the bones of devoted victims — when reading the history of some self-denying missionary--when tracing the footsteps of a Brainerd, a Buchanan, a Newell, have desired to share with them the trials, the joy, and the glory of their work! But Providence has so ordered their circumstances, that they
They need not go. They are already in a field which is · white to the harvest. They may engage in the same glorious work, and still enjoy all the sweets of home.
“ 3. The interests of civil society require that these efforts should be made. We trust that it is not to be determined, at this day, whether good morals, and the best interests of society, are inseparably connected; or whether good morals are the genuine, the cermin fruit of the Christian religion, and of that only. We will then suppose, that according to the influence exerted by the Gospel, sound morals will exist; and, consequently, the best interests of civil society be promoted. Almost all the sufferings of the poor in this, and other cities, are the immediate effect of ignorance or vice. Of the truth of this assertion any one may be satisfied, by becoming acquainted with the state of the poor, as they reside among other people; or by visiting hospitals, prisons, and alms houses. An alms-house, in ariother city, was sometime since visited; and, from a particular inquiry into the former circumstances and character of its inhabitants, it was ascertained, that not less than nine-tenths of them came to that place in consequence of their own ignorance or vice; and of the remaining tenth, the greater part, in consequence of the wickedness of others. The same is, probably, true of this city.
“ It is not an opinion hastily formed, nor is it altogether singular, that many charitable institutions, or institutions for affording pecuniary or other equivalent aid to the indigent, exert, on the whole, an unhappy influence on society. Is it not true, that, by these institutions, designed for the best of purposes, provision is, in fact, made for idleness, and other vices? If people believe that they shall be relieved when in distress, they will not, generally, make exertions--will not labour when they are able, and have the opportunity. According to their views of things, they have no inducement to labour, or make provision for a time of need. This induces idleness, and idleness is the parent of vice. In Scotland there are no alms houses, no poor-rates. The consequence is, the poor are a hardy, industrious, and, generally, a moral class of people. Man is naturally idle. It is by making continual efforts, that industry becomes habitual and pleasant. It is certain, that it would be better for many of those who are relieved by charity, if no provision were made for them. Let it be known, that death, or extreme suffering, will be the consequence of idleness, or profligacy, and the number of the idie and the profligate will soon be diminished. Will it be said, that there are many of the poor who are excellent characters, and who have been reduced to a state of want by mis-, fortune? That there are many such, there is no doubt; and it is equally clear, that they ought to be relieved; still it will be found, that most of them are in that state in consequence of the immorality of their connexions, or of the general immoral state of society. Make society such as it should be, and such as it may be, with the use of those means which God has appointed; and the relatives of respectable persons in distress would be able and disposed, in most cases, to afford them all the assistance which they would need. Let me not be understood to speak against charitable institutions of this nature, or to intimate that the afflicted, of whatever character they may be, ought not to be relieved. Many such institutions are noble monuments of Christian benevolence. It is only necessary that they should be so managed, that they shall not be made the occasion of sin, and of greater misery.
“ It is not in the power of man to change the heart, but it is in his power to use those means which, with the ordinary blessing of God, will change the state of society; which will make people, in general, so intelligent, so industrious, so moral, that they will have but little need of the hand of charity to relieve them, or of the arm of the civil law to restrain or protect them. It is not a little surprising, that civil rulers, after witnessing the effects of the Gospel, have not discovered, that the most economical, as well as the most effectual, mode of providing for the wants of a community, is to supply its members with those institutions, the object of which is to make men intelligent, moral, and pious. There are but few who have not sufficient physical strength, and natural abilities, to enable them to support themselves in this country, provided that strength, and those abilities, were properly directed. The following calculations will place the subject in a clearer light. The poor rates, in Philadelphia, will annount this year, it is said, to 150,000 dollars. If we take into the account the fact, that there are between 12 and 13 hundred more persons licensed to sell ardent spirits by the small quantity, in this city, than in Philadelphia; and, also, that the population is probably greater, it is not unreasonable to suppose, that the poor rates of New-York will amount to 200,000 dollars. Allowing a minister of the Gospel a salary of 1000 dollars, and a teacher a salary of 500 dollars, this sum would support 200 ers, and 400 teachers. But what are styled the poor-rates, is but a small part of the expense supporting the poor. The committee appointed to supply the wants of the poor, during the late inclement season, estimated that there