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Other virtues and displays of religious principle may sometimes be construed into superstition or fanaticism; but a perseverance in the path of Christian liberality, and a visible exhibition to the world of its benignant and extensive effects, can scarcely be imputed to such causes, but to the influence of higher principles which have been impressed with powerful conviction upon the mind. And I am strongly convinced, that Christianity will never make a powerful and universal impression upon the inhabitants of any land, till its beneficent effects be thus visibly displayed in the conduct of those who profess an adherence to its cause. So long as selfishness and worldly-mindedness are displayed by the majority of its professors, so long as many of its ministers are beheld aspiring after its wealth and emoluments more than aster the performance of its duties, it will continue to be despised by those whose hearts have never been brought under its influence.
In order to induce Christians to come forward and display their liberality on a larger scale than they have ever yet done, I shall lay before them a few recent instances of generosity in promoting the cause of learning and religion, which, I trust, will prove a stimulus to those on whom God has bestowed riches and affluence, to “go and do likewise.” Some of the following statements are taken from Drs. Reed and Mattheson's “ Narrative of a visit to the American Churches."
Grenville is a small town which is considered as wholly religious. The settlement was formed by a party of ninety persons from New-England. On arriving at this spot, they gave themselves to prayer that they might be directed in choosing their resting place in the wilderness, and enjoy the blessing of God. At first they rested with their little ones in their wagons, and the first permanent building they erected was a church for Divine worship. The people retain the simple and pious manners of their fathers. They all go to church; and there are 400 in a state of communion. They give a thousand dollars a year to religious institutions. One plain man, who has never allowed himself the luxury of a set of fire-irons, besides what he does at home, gives a hundred dollars a year to religious objects. In this settlement, the drunkard, the fornicator, and the sabbath-breaker, are not found ; and, what is yet better, in the last report, there was only one family that had not domestic worship."* In this instance we behold a select band of Christian men, voluntarily devoting their wealth to the cause of God; and as an evidence of the effect of such a principle, almost the whole community is distinguished for the practice of Christian virtues.
The Theological Seminary at Andover, which contains a chapel, a set of elegant and commodious buildings, a philosophical apparatus, a library of 11,000 volumes, and embracing a portion of land of 150 acres, was founded not many years ago, at the suggestion of the Rev. Dr. Spring, father of the Rev. Dr. Spring of New York, in concert with Messrs. Bartlett and Brown. When they met to engage in free conversation on the subject, and had considered the nature of the object to be accomplished, “Well," said Mr. Brown, “I will give 10,000 dollars." Why,” said Mr. Bartlett,“ did you not say 20,000, and I would too." Dr. Spring went to Salem, and saw his friend Mr. Norris there, told him what it was proposed to do, and obtained another ten thousand dol. lars, and thus the work proceeded. Mr. Bartlett, in addi. tion to his first gift, built the chapel connected with the institution, which cost 50,000 dollars, afterwards one of the wings, and several houses for the professors, as well as endowed several professorships. It is thought, that in several ways he has given to this object not less than 200,000 dollars, (about £45,000), and there is reason to believe, that all his benevolent intentions are not yet fulfilled.”+ Here is an example of truly Christian liberality, which deserves to be imitated by our wealthy professors of religion. Had we only a thousand Christian men such as Mr. Bartlett among us, we might raise fifty millions of pounds from them in the course of a few years; and what immense benefits might thus bé conferred on mankind! Mr. Bartlett, however, did not receive this wealth by inheritance, but by his own energies. He was first a shoemaker in Newbury, and became, in the end, for talents and success, a first-rate merchant. He occupies a good house, but lives in a very plain style, and has evidently more pleasure in bestowing than in consuming his property."* And is it reasonable to suppose, that this gentleman is less happy than others, because he has parted with so great a proportion of his wealth for the good of mankind? On the contrary, I am certain, he enjoys a serenity of mind, and a satisfaction infinitely superior to the grovelling mortals, who either hoard their wealth for no useful purpose, or who waste it in gratifying a taste for worldly splendour and extravagance.
* Narrative, vol. i. pp. 168, 169.
+ Ibid. vol. i. pp. 425-6.
After a revival in a church in Geneva, State of New York, in 1830, it is remarked that the appropriations of religious charity were nearly doubled the succeeding year. That church sustains one foreign missionary, at an expense of 666 dollars—thirteen home missionaries, at one hundred dollars each—nine scholarships of the American Education Society, at 75 dollars each; which, in addition to the appropriations for the Bible, Tract, Sabbath school, and other objects of benevolence, amounts to more than 4500 dollars during the first year. This fact demonstrates, what we have already alluded to, that wherever the principles of true religion and sterling piety take a thorough possession of the mind, they lead to acts of noble generosity; and that a perseverance in such conduct, is one of the strongest proofs of the power of religion upon the heart.
At Dorchester, a village six miles from Boston, Dr. Reed observes, “ there are Sabbath schools and an Academy for superior education. The ignorant are taught, the sick find medicine and sympathy, and the poor are promoted to adopt methods of domestic thrift and decency. The whole village presents an example * Reed's Narrative, vol. i. p. 488. | Ibid. vol. ii. p. 19. ,
of the effect of religion so administered. No children are left to grow up in ignorance; few persons abstain from a place of worship, and here, where every thing else is on a small scale, the schools and churches assume an imposing character.” How many villages of this description can be pointed out in Great Britain and Ireland ? and is it not owing to our apathy and avarice, that so few scenes of this description should meet our eye?
“I know of no country," says Dr. Reed, “ where there are more examples of beneficence and magnificence, [than in America.] The rich will act nobly out of their abundance, and the poor will act nobly out of their penury. There are refreshing instances of individuals sustaining schools, professorships, missionaries, and evangelists. Ministers are repeatedly making movements, in which it was evident that every thing was to be sacrificed to usefulness. I have seen the pastor, at sixty, beloved and happy in his people, give up all to go
forth into the wilderness, because he thought that his example more than his labours, might bless the West,—while the church has been as ready to relinquish him, though with tears, when she has been satisfied that it was for the good of the church Catholic. I have seen a band of students, careless of ease and reputation at home, forsake the college at which they had passed with honour, and covenant to go forth together, some 2000 miles, to rear a kindred institution in the desert. And I have seen the aged man kindle at their enthusiasm, and support them with his purse, when unable to be their companion.*
*“Narrative," &c. vol. ii. p. 282. While returning thanks to Drs. Reed and Mattheson for the entertainment and the valuable information which their “Narrative" affords—the writer of this cannot but express his regret that their work was not published in a more economical style. Had it been published, as it might have been, at half its present price, and comprised in two neat 12mo volumes, it would have been purchased by three times the number, and have been read by ten times the number of individuals who will be likely to peruse it in its present state. The price of such books
As an evidence of the liberality displayed in the Northern States of America, there are no less than twenty-one Theological colleges, all of which have been instituted since the year 1808; they contain 853 students, and have accumulated 57,000 volumes. There are seventy-five colleges for general education, most of them with pro
onal departments; and they have 8136 students; and forty of these have been erected since 1814. Altogether there are ninety-six colleges and 9032 students. In the state of New York alone, besides all the private seminaries, there are 9600 schools, sustained at a yearly expense of 1,126,482 dollars! Most of the above-mentioned seminaries, with the stately edifices connected with them, have been reared and established by voluntary donations. The “ American Sunday School Union” is likewise a noble example of Christian activity and beneficence. In 1832, the eighth year of its existence, it had 790 auxiliaries; 9187 schools were in connection, having 542,420 scholars and 80,913 teachers. The expenditure for that year was 117,703 dollars :—for 1833, it was 136,855. The most vigorous efforts of this society have been directed to the valley of the Mississippi. In 1830, it was resolved unanimously,—“That in reliance upon Divine aid, they would endeavour within two years to establish a Sunday School in every destitute place where it is practicable, throughout the valley of the Mississippi,” that is, over a country which is 1200 miles wide, and 2400 in length. There are thirty-six agents wholly employed in this service; and, during 1833, they established 500 schools and revived a thousand.
The following examples of covetousness and liberality are extracted from an American periodical, entitled "The Missionary," for May 2, 1835; published at the Missionary Press, Burlington, New Jersey, by members of the American Episcopal Church.
prevents their being generally read by the mass of Christian society, and consequently forms a barrier to the general diffusion of knowledge. Has covetousness, on the part of the publishers, any share in this matter?