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Connected with these general considerations there are others of a peculiar kind that render your situation peculiarly interesting and responsible. You are among the first who have completed a theological course at this Institution.
Many, alas ! most of our churches are yet to be convinced of its being best for us to have such an Institution. Many are waiting to see what will be the result of the experiment; and they are willing to judge of the tree by its fruit. Thousands have in their minds great and plausible objections, -objections which will never be removed, but by a practical demonstration that the fruit is good; and not merely that it is good, but that it is excellent.
The men who proceed from this Institution must be not merely as good ministers as they would have been if they had not resided here: They must be decidedly better. They must be really and manifestly, more devoted, more exemplary, more skilful, more efficient,-in one word, more useful. Else it will naturally be asked, What the benefit of spending so much time and so much money? Is it not a pity, or rather, is it not a sin for a young man, designed of God for the ministry, to waste so many of his best years in studies that may make him conceited and pedantic, but will never do him nor others any real good? We have seen enough. If the Institution die, let it die. God will send us better ministers.
Such will be the feeling extensively cherished, if they who go forth from this Institution be not eminently good ministers of Jesus Christ. We may reason profoundly on the subject. We may satisfy ourselves and a few others that the fault is in the perversity of the young men themselves, and not in the tendency of the Institution. But while we reason and expostulate, we shall be told, as a sufficient reply, The tree is known by its fruit.
Thus the cause of education among us, in its various stages, and especially of an extended theological education, may be greatly injured, and hundreds that are to be Pastors of our churches may remain destitute of the mental discipline and acquisitions which might have been an incalculable benefit to them, and, through them, to unnumbered multitudes.
You perceive, dear brethren, the bearing of these remarks. You do yourselves deeply feel their force. And yet you will permit me on this occasion, to stir up your pure minds.
You are a portion of our first fruits. You are our arguments, our living epistles to the churches. It remains to be determined whether the standard which in the name of the Lord has been erected high on yonder hill, shall be vigorously sustained, or be depressed, and abandoned. You well know the importance of its being vigorously sustained. We owe it to ourselves as a Denomination. We owe it to Christendom, and the human family. We owe it to Christ our Lord. Long enough have most of the ministers in our four thousand churches, suffered all the discouragements and inconveniences of being destitute of the literary advantages which others have enjoyed; and long enough have the churches thus suffered a tremendous loss. If we have any light, we ought to let it shine on all Christendom. And if, as a portion of the Christian commu
nity, we have the gospel of our salvation, we ought to do our part towards proclaiming and commending it to every creature. Lord has intrusted us with the vindicating of one of his institutes, we must not let it be brought into disrepute, nor our good be evil spoken of,' through our own fault. And if the state of the ministry in our churches be intimately connected with the religious state and the eternal prospects of a great part of the population in these United States, how strong the motive to endeavor constantly to exert an influence that shall have a salutary effect on the state of the rising ministry !-an influence that shall encourage, by an argument stronger than words, the due preparation of your brethren, who, unless such an argument be exhibited, will, in all parts of our land, be either flattered or constrained to enter the pastoral office amidst serious disadvantages, manifest to others, if not to them. selves.
Go, then, to the interior of this Commonwealth; go to the distant South; go to the North; go to the great Western valley; and whererer you go, let your profiting appear to all.
Give away yourselves anew and constantly to Him whose you are, and whom you have desired to serve. Look to him for guidance and strength. If his presence go with you, all will be well. Trials severe, and perils unlooked for, may await you; but all will be well. You will cultivate a more intimate cominunion with our blessed Saviour. You will not forget his gracious promises, Lo I am with you alway; and, My grace shall be sufficient for thee. You will ask wisdom from above; and wisdom shall be given. You will frequently peruse those portions of the Holy Scriptures that treat of the character and duties of Christian ministers. You will think of the apostles and martyrs. You will think of the trials and sacrifices of Paul; his unwearied labors, his gentleness united with firmness, his faithful perseverance through good report and through evil report, and the triumphant finishing of his course. You will often seem to see him in prison and in chains at Rome, awaiting the sentence of death from the persecuting Nero, and worn down with toil and care, yet sustained with the sweetest consolation, and writing to a young minister, one of his dearest friends, Watch thou in all things; endure affliction; do the work of an evangelist; make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at land. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith : Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. *
Ah! how do the most splendid objects of worldly ambition shrink into comparative nothingness, when we contemplate the reward of the faithful minister of Christ. Let nothing, then, dishearten you, nor turn you aside from the path of duty. Let it be manifest to all that you are sincerely and supremely devoted to your high and holy work.
Ever keep aloof from the strife of party politics. The example of your Christian candor and moderation, may be of immense value amidst the storms that are beginning to shake this wide Republic. You cannot evince your patriotism better than by employing all your energy and zeal to increase the number of honest, intelligent, devout, and active Christians.
Beware of a controversial temper on religious subjects. Maintain the truth; but maintain it in love; in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves. Call no man master ; but present to all the truth as it is in Jesus, letting your theology be the theology of the Bible. Forget not that you have now only laid the foundation; and that you must henceforth build on it diligentły, and, as far as possible, systematically. Persevere, then, in the effort to unite habits of study with habits of activity. I need not say, cherish an affectionate remembrance of each other. Occasionally, at least, encourage each other by free epistolary correspondence; and often let your prayers for each other meet before the throne of grace. Your own good sense and Christian feeling will dictate to you the propriety of treating with profound respect those humble and laborious ministers who have not had your literary advantages; for in practical wisdom, and in various other matters, they may be greatly your superiors.
While your devotedness and discretion shall thus lead you safely onward, we will rejoice in the confidence that a signal blessing will attend you. Yes; and we who have been your instructers, will thank God, and take courage. Even though we may be found unworthy to see the prosperity which we have desired for this Institution, and for the cause of suitable and sacred learning here and elsewhere, yet we will not despair of its being ultimately bestowed. We will endeavor to stand in our lot, and to send forth others to join you in the extensive field of your labors. Perhaps, when our faith and patience shall be sufficiently tried, or when we shall retire to the house appointed for all living, the way will have been prepared for the complete accomplishment of that for which we and others have prayed and toiled.
There are circumstances in reference to the members of your class that give a special interest to this occasion.
It is well that one of you is expected to labor in this Commonwealth; ‘for a great door and effectual is opened—and there are many adversaries.' And it is well that one of you is expected to repair to a station beyond the Alleghany mountains; for the piercing cry, Come over and help us, is heard. It is no theatrical shriek, and no false alarm. Some of us have been eyewitnesses of the distressing need of help. And deep will be our ingratitude to God, and most inexcusable our apathy towards our Western brethren and the cause of Christ, if we fail of doing for them what we can at the present crisis.
It is peculiarly gratifying to reflect that one of you is to return to the South, and labor in the very region from which this Institution has received an invaluable treasure, an officer whom you will always love and respect.
Nor is it to my feelings less gratifying to know that one of you is to repair to my native state, and to the town where the days of my childhood and early youth were passed. There you will be the spiritual guide of my nearest kindred. There you will observe the declining sun of my aged parents. And there, it is probable, you will ere long visit their chamber, when flesh and heart are failing -O may they ripen for heaven under your ministry. May you watch for souls as they that must give account. May you strive to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. And what I say to one of you, I would say to you all. For it is really to our kindred, to different branches of the same great family, that you are all going forth.
One who had expected to stand here with you to-day, is missing. Sickness has prevented him. Man cometh forth like a flower. and is cut down.
Another, too, is missing.' Events beyond his control forced him away. You have bidden him adieu. You saw the departing ship that has now borne him far on the mighty waters towards the land of his destination. You expect to see his face no more—till you meet him, on the day of final account, conducting into the presence of our common Lord, a joyful throng of converted Burmans.
Dear Brethren! looking for and hastening unto' that day, we bid you an affectionate farewell.
THE SECRET OF BRITISH CHRISTIAN MUNIFICENCE.
CONSIDERABLE surprise is very frequently expressed, how our transatlantic brethren contrive to contribute so nubly as they do to the various benevolent objects of the day, burdened as they are with taxes on every thing, and forced to contribute their full quota toward the support of an expensive religious establishment. Religion certainly cannot be another principle in England, than it is in America; and we are unwilling to acknowledge that the difference in its effects in inspiring a willingness to contribute of our substance to religious objects, arises from the fact that there is, among us, a smaller measure of religious principle in operation than among them; or that our national characteristic is penurious, and therefore the same amount of religious principle in operation in our hearts, has to encounter and overcome more powerful obstacles than in theirs. How then shall we account for the fact, that with means less ample, burthens more onerous, and numbers, (at least in the Baptist denomination,) much smaller, they so far exceed us in the amount of their contributions? I shall content myself with assigning two causes for this fact: one arising from the value of their currency, and the other, from the system of their operations.
The value of their currency operates to augment the amount of their contributions. Their currency is pounds, shillings and pence; and ours is dollars and cents. Now when a man in wealthy or even in easy circumstances, is applied to for aid in some benevolent object, whether in England or America, he regulates his gift by the highest denomination in the currency; i. e. in England he gives by pounds, in America by dollars; and feels that he has aided the object according to the number of these which stand opposite to his name, and not according to the comparative value of the two terms. This will be evident to any one who reflects whether, when he has given five dollars to some benerolent object, he ever babitually turns them into rupees. No; and in like manner an English Christian never turns his pounds into dollars. He estimates his liberality by the number as one, two, ten, or twenty of these pounds which he has given to the object. Now the American does the same, and labors under the practical illusion, that if one, or two, or ten, or twenty dollars stand opposite to his name, he has done as much as the British Christian who has given pounds. Again, there is a prevalent practice among them as among us, of advancing by certain-strides in the numerical scale, in the amount contributed. If I give more than one, I give two; if more than two, generally five; if more than five, ten, &c. Now observe how this illusion keeps us in the rear of British Christians in the amount we contribute. We advance thus-one, two, five, ten, twenty dollars. He begins with four dollars fifty cents nearly, and advances to nine dollars, twenty-two dollars fifty cents, fortyfive dollars, and ninety dollars : i. e. he begins not very far from our third step, and feels that if he give any thing, he cannot give less than nearly five times what is our minimum; and is it wonderful if their contributions are five times as large? In this country the subscription to constitute a membership of a Bible or Missionary Society is one dollar a year; in England, it is one guinea; and I am acquainted with a case of an English lady, who on joining a missionary society in this country, put down her name for five dollars, as being nearly what she had been accustomed to give in England. She was regarded by a few with admiration as a prodigy of liberality,(her husband being only a poor Baptist minister) and by others with jealousy, as having a design upon the government of said society by so unprecedented a subscription !
The system with which their benevolent operations are conducted is another means of augmenting their contributions. This system consists in "gathering up the fragments, that nothing be lost ;” and it accomplishes its object by employing the agency of those who can do but little ; but that little it gives them to do.“ The ants are a people not strong; but they prepare their food in the summer." They accomplish, by united labor, what excites our astonishment; yet the amount performed by each is inconsidcrable. Missionary and Bible societies in England are principally supported by the poorer classes; but an American is ready to ask, how? I will endeavor to reply to this inquiry.