« AnteriorContinuar »
When we object to the word affluent, as connected with $5 a year, it is not a mere verbal criticisin, which we have in view. We have serious fears that inany rich men will be induced to make a piggardly estiimate of what they ought to do in charity, when they hear intelligent persons talk about $10 and $5 a year for the wealthy and the affuent.
We cannot express our own views on this subject better, than by making a new classification. Taking it for granted, that there are 400,000 persons in the United States, who belong to churches, and who artually celebrate the dying love of the Savior at bis table; and adopting this estimate as in a high degree probable; we proceed as follows.
In the first place, we strike off 100,000 on account of their poverty. of these a small number are paupers; and though we are persuaded, that the greater part might easily do something in cbarity, and that they ought to do something, we set :liem aside, that there may be no objection to our calculation, in consequence of alleged poverty. Among the remaining 500,000 are many married women, and minors, who have not the control of money. I i will be proper, therefore, to speak of heads of families, (who give nearly or quite all that is given by their respective families,) as thougli they were individuals merely. We may therefore suppose, that of the 500,000 professors of religion, who are to take part in religious charities, hall the number are either beads of families, or single persons having the management of property. We divide the number, thus reduced to 150,000, into 12 classes. 1. 100 of the most wealthy professors of religion in
the United States, who ought not to think
give several thousand dollars a year; and
their property rapidly increasing.)
$500-100,000 3. 300 Do. Do. Do.
250–75,000 400 Do, Do, Do.
150—60,000 5. 1,000 persons in flourishing circumstances who
would not be called wealthy in our cities,
100-100,000 (We have known persons, who would fall
into this class, give from 1000, to 2,000 dol-
sometimes go as high as $3,000 a year.]
country, and in thriving circumstances in
7. 5,000 persons who have a competent income for
every necessary purpose, it managed with
20-100,000 [We have known persons, who would fall
into this class, give from $100 to $200 an-
banks, and in various other public offices.] 8. 5,000 persons in circumstances, which leave less money at their disposal,
10—50,000 9. 25,000 persons in comfortable circumstances, by the aid of constant labor and econoiny,
5-125,000 10. 25,000
3–75,000 11. 50,000 Do. Do. Do.
2-100,000 12. 33,000 in straitened circumstances; but yet able to do something for the cause of Christ,
A vast pro
Total annual revenue, $1,168,000 This revenue might be paid with the most perfect ease; and it would be sufficient, at least the first year, for all the religious charities now in operation. If all American Christians could be brought to act up, to this standard, in the first instance, they would perinit the standard to be raised as their duty should require. But it is perfectly visionary to hope, that all professed Christians should thus act. portion of them will die, before they know any thing respecting the charities of the day. Another vast proportion will shut their ears against argument, and steel their hearts against conviction. They will go down to the grave, it is to be feared, huggi:g their money, and exclaiming with the English miser, (if they speak the language of their conduct,) "Oh, my property; what will become of my property.” Another considerable proportion will give something; but yet on so contracted a scale, that it would make a truly liberal man grieve to see the narrowness of their thoughts and feelings. Another class still will evince Christian liberality, and will give what would be their full proportion, if all professed friends of Christ did their duty. But as all will not do their duty, it is incumbent on the man, who feels the value of spiritual things, to do a great deal more than would fall to his allotment, in an equal division of labors. Accordingly some persons actually give a hundred times as much to charitable objects, as others give who possess equal property, and who yet do not entirely reVOL. XV.
fuse to do any thing in the way of charity. If all professed Christians in this country were to imitate some examples, which might be selectod, it would become our iminediate duty to urge them to withhold a part of their offerings. More money would be collected, than could be wisely and judiciously applied; especially in the early stages of so exuberant a display of liberal:ty. It is the business of a truly devoted servant of the Lord Jesus to examine the claims upon bis noney, to hear the voice of his Savior, and cheerfully to obey it. If others are remiss in discharging their obligations, the more reason is there, that lie should be faithful and punctual in fulfilling his own. If others are deficient, his sacrifices should exceed whai would otherwise be their proper measure. If others sow sparingly, or not at all, he should sow bountifully; always remembering that he will then reap bountifully.
Considering the want of information, the slowness of heart to perceive and obey the truth, and the pressing wants of mankind, we think that every Christian, who is awake and alive to his duty, should do twice, thrice, or five times, as much as would fall to his share, according to the schedule which we have given. In this way only can the Christian community discharge its obligations; in this way only can the dark places of the earth be enlightened, the vicious reclaimed, and the many millions of superstitious and debased idolaters be converted to God.
Does any one say, this is a hard requisition? Does any one feel, that he cannot make so great a sacrifice? A little offering he might make'to silence importunity, or to appease his own conscience; but to think of laboring for the benefit of the ignorant, the vicious, and the degraded, as a serious part of the business of life is too much. Let such a man pause and consider well what he determines to do, or not to do. If he looks upon those, who already comply with all the demands here made upon bimself, he will not, he dare not, say that they are the less happy on that account. Even the infidel or the sceptic, if he will exercise any candor, will admit, that the man, who really believes he is promoting the eternal happiness of his fellowcreatures, and that his sincere and disinterested services will be graciously acknowledged and gloriously rewarded by his Savior and his God, cannot be made unhappy by any sacrifices in such a cause. Infidelity cannot refuse to allow, that the doctrine of immortality is grand and awful to him, who really believes it. The salvation of the soul is an object, which cannot be lightly regarded.
We are not writing, however, for infidels, but for Christians; for those, who profess themselves to be strangers and pilgrims on earth; to b. anxious for treasure in heaven; to love all men; and to pray for the universal establishment of Christ's kingilom upon earth. Is it unreasonable to ask of persons professing all this, that they should prove themselves in earnest; that the world should see them to be in earnest; that God should be witness to their sincerity.
It will probably be thought by some, that objects of religious charity must be pretty well provided for, as we have described some examples of great liberality. This conclusion would be too sanguine. The fact is, that little is done for these objects compared with what ought to be done, and what ·might easily be done, if all professed
Christians were hearty and unanimous in the work. But there is no good reason to believe that so many, as one professor of religion in a hundred, are firmly set upon charitable exertions, in a manner corresponding with a just and proper standard, and with some noble examples which are exhibited.
Before closing this article, we have a few words to say on several misceilaneous topics.
Great caution need be used not to publish too gloomy and sombre accounts of the present state and future prospects of our new settlements. The progress of melioration is very materially hindered by such accounts. For ourselves, we believe that God bas many good things in store for our country; that he has already given earnests of his love to our people, which ought to make a grateful impression on their bearts, and to prompt them forward in every work of beneficence; and that they ought to be much more animated by encouragements from what is actually taking place, than terrified by what might take place in the worst state of things. Look, for instance, at the progress of religion in Vermont. A few years since, profaneness and dissoluteness of manners were frightfully prevalent in all the principal towns. More recently a great and salutary change has taken place, and we believe that the cause of religion and good morals is supported with ability and effect in every one of these towns; and that infidelity and immorality have few open advocates, but skulk away in disgrace.
We have the assurance, from credible authority, that good morals have been advanced more in the state of Ohio, during the last five years, than would have been thought probable in fifty years. The people are becoming more desirous of having a settled ministry, reg. ular schools, and well endowed colleges. The universal testimony, is, that not one half as much ardent spirits is 'consumed now as six or eight years ago. In the south-western states generally, the gross vices are becoming more and more disreputable. There is an evident change for the better in every part, from which authentic information has been obtained. The legislature of Tennessee, for the year 1817, deserve the thanks of all good men, for their well directed attempts to repress immorality; particularly gaming and duelling: Gamino received a more effectual blow by a single energetic law of that legislature, than we remember to have seen paralleled in the history of civil government. The energy and salutary effect of this Jaw have certainly never been paralleled in New-England, in relation to the same subject. Duelling is unquestionably sinking under the weight of public odium, and legislative enactments, notwithstanding the atrocious instances which now and then occur. Indeed these atrocious instances stimulate the people and the governments to more efficient measures of prevention. The legislature of Georgia have ainost entirely suppressed personal assaults, by a single rigorous law, which shewed that the community was in earnest. The same legisJature made a very successful attack upon gaming. If the victory is followed by a vigorous pursuit, that enemy of society will be trodden down as the mire of the streets. We close this hasty detail of en
couraging appearances, by referring our readers to the extract of à letter from Olio, which ihey will find on page 235 of this number,
We will not pay our readers so ill a complainent as to suppose, ibat they will, from these circumstances, conclude no exertions in behalf of our new settlements to be necessary, Far otherwise; they will consider every symptom of melioration, as a pledge of future success, and a most gratifying reward for past exertions. Da:k and gloomy indeed would be the prosperi, if the progress were aliogether downward to ignorance and barbarisin, and if no blessing of the Almighty attended beneficent endeavors. That such is not the case we have abundant cause to acknowledge with gratitude.
The effect of too sombre accounts of the moral and religious condition of our western and southern people, is pernicious in all its bearings. It discourages beneficent sacrificis among ourselves, as though they were useless. It gives foreigners a false and very disadvantageous opinion of our country generally. It provokes and irri.. tates the people of the new settlements; and they view the printed accounts, which reach them from the east, as mali, nant caricatures in some instances, and as very ill-advised publications in others. So totally do some of our eastern, misionary societies mistake the real state of things among the people to whom they send missionaries, that the commissions, ubich they give, will not bear to be read in public, (as was the intention,) lest the minds of the hearers should be so disgusted, that the way of access to their hearts should be closed.
We utterly protest against intimating, that the people of the new settlements are to be classed with beathens. It is not true, that they are to be so classed. Admit, if you please, that individuals may be found in the western parts of Pennsylvania, who never heard a sernon, and never saw a vible. The last report of a missionary, employed to visit and preach to the poor in Boston, describes individuals in this town, who never saw a Bible and never heard a serinon. Beyond' doubt there are many thousands of adults in London, some of them born there, of whom the same may truly be said. Does ibis prove that Boston, or London, is in the heart of a heathen country? There are neighborhoods in Massachusetts Proper and Connecticut, which may be called heathen with as much propriaty, as any settlements in the western or southern country. Let any man become acquainted with the darkness, which envelopes the minds of the American Indians, the south-sea islanders, the Hindoos, and the Burmans, and he will not think of placing them in the same class with the emigrants from a Christian country into the wilderness. True it is, that some straggiers are as unprincipled as a y heathens can be; and of course they are the more guilty. It is a melancholy truth, also, that the careless and stupid part of every Christian community;-that part, which comprises persons negligent of God and of salvation; whether in old or new settlemenis, on this side of the Atlantic or the the other, possess little accurate knowledge of the Gospel. It is notoriously the case, that men of great intelligence and acumen, learned judges, accomplished lawyers, eminent physicians, sagacious statesmen, indefatigable travellers and naturalists, profound mathematicians, many of whom have had great opportunitoes to become ac