THE EVIL AND DANGERS OF POPULAR IGNORANCE. BY THE REV. JAMES DIXON.
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." — Prov. xxix. 18.
The invitation to address you this evening, which I received from the respected secretary of the Sunday-school Union, requires me to address myself especially to the teachers of Sundayschools ; and, as our time must necessarily be siiort and limited, I shall enter, without detaining you by way of preface, upon the subject of this service.
Let me, however, be permitted to make one preliminary remark — that sensible men, who engage in any enterprise whatever, must be influenced in their exertions by the importance of the end to be accomplished, and the prospective probabilities of success — deriving their main stimulating motives from the nature of the
institution to which they attach themselves. It will not, therefore, be necessary for me, in recommending to you the cause of Sunday-schools, to enter into much detail, but rather to take up one or two of the great leading principles of such institutions, and bring them as clearly before your attention as I can. And allow me to say, that I wish to be influenced by these feelings and motives myself. I should not attach myself to any institution whose principles I did not approve of, and I could not approve of them if I did not think they imbodied the leading features of Christianity; for 1 can only expect success just as they incorporate and exhibit the great essential principles of revealed truth.
Now, I believe that Sunday-school institutions do this in an especial manner, and that they are highly calculated to
eflTect great good in the world, because, I observe,
First, That Christian education,
COMMUNICATED TO A PEOPLE, MAY BE CONSIDERED AS A PREVENTIVE OF EVIL,
and is to be taken up and prosecuted under this view with every legitimate prospect of success. If, my brethren, there be in human nature a disorder of the mental faculties, it must be of infinite consequence to attempt to correct it by introducing, as early as possible, the seeds of divine truth into the mind. It is by such efforts, for instance, that the evils of ignorance are alone to be met and mastered ; and let me tell you, that the ignorance, the error, the darkness, and the bewildered judgment observable in man, are not accidents of nature, but are general, innate, and universal.
The cause of this disorder of the human mind is to be found in man's fall from a state of rectitude and holiness into a state of sin and evil. The soul, my dear brethren, has been involved in a state of midnight darkness, as the fruit and consequence of original sin ; and you have, therefore, in human nature, under all its different exterior formations, and classes, and situations, and modes of happiness, and sources of misery, two things — a spiritual and intellectual nature 2 A 277
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remaining entire and unimpaired in its essential properties, while its faculties lie in a state of entire disorganization and ruin. In the very lowest form of humanity — in the negro, the Hottentot, the Esquimaux, as well as the lowest and most debased of our own population — you have a spiritual and noble nature remaining in its nature entire, capable of improvement, capable of wisdom, capable of religion, capable of contemplating and enjoying God, and formed for immortality ; but you have, at the same time, a nature wholly disordered and involved in utter ignorance of its own faculties, notwithstanding. The soul of man, in its present degraded state, is something like an existence, if you could find such in the universe, surrounded by i bjects of sensation, but without any capacity to enjoy those sensations. If you could find such a nature as this, you would have something analogous to the state of the human soul ; for every person that is
born into the world is surrounded by all that is fitted to draw forth the noblest faculties of his nature — the works of God, the noble footsteps of the divinity, the words of salvation, the privileges and blessings of true religion — but he has no eye to behold this scenery of moral and spiritual beauty, he has no ear to be charmed by the sounds of this salvation. If so, then, brethren, is he not like that personification of misery to which I have just adverted — a being whom the light of every morning invites to praise and to the richest enjoyment] But no — that light he never saw — that enjoyment he never felt! Every sound in the universe pouring its chorusses of sweet music on his ear : but no — he is insensible to the charming melody; the fragrance of every flower casting its perfume upon his senses to revive and cheer him : but no — he cannot enjoy it; the rich fruits of every clime thrown into his lap to extend and increase his happiness : but no — he can
neither appreciate nor enjoy them. Most truly, then, is the soul of man a mass of evil — a mass of misery — an unsightly and unseemly immortal existence, until it pleases God to impart unto it true wisdom, the quickening and elevating
influence of heavenly grace, and the joys and privileges of the great salvation.
But, although in man's mental and moral condition there is an entire incapacity for good and spiritual enjoyment, I wish you to understand that there is no incapacity to evil, to darkness, and error. Indeed, there is that in his nature which propels him into scenes of darkness, and mischief, and misery, incessantly. The ignorance and errors of his state are laid deeply in a vigorous and lively nature; and if he does not move on in the path of wisdom and piety, he progresses with
fearful rapidity in the path of error and evil. Since we have fallen from God — since we have lost our primitive and innate rectitude and innocence — departed from our paradisaical perfection, and lost the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, we necessarily go astray, directly, straight forward, heedlessly, in the ways of evil, until arrested by the interposition of God, by the power of his Spirit, the grace of the gospel, and made to appreciate the great and glorious privileges of the Christian revelation, through the saving influence of true faith.
Such, then, is man's real state; and do you not instantly discover the great value and importance, in such a case, of early instruction in the knowledge of religion? What so highly calculated to give vigour and strength to the prostrate intellect of man, as the truth of God early communicated to the mind ? What so well calculated to disperse that cloud of midnight
darkness which has thrown its shadows over the soul, as the communication, in early life, of a knowledge of the word of God, and the great principles of true religion? What so calculated to check man's eccentric career in error and folly, as a regulating principle of truth deeply rooted in his mind as a counteracting power? And what so calculated to remove from the soul those vicious principles by which it is governed, as the influence of that truth and grace which a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures is adapted to communicate ? And although we know very well that efl!'orts of this description are not invariably successful, yet the seed sown early in the
THE EVIL AND DANGERS OF POPULAR IGNORANCE.
youthful mind must, in innumerable instances, by removing or destroying the influence of darkness, check the mind in its career of folly, and prove thus a preventive of evil.
Our Sunday-school method of instruction has this invaluable advantage especially connected with it, that it takes advantage of and accommodates itself to the mind in its youthful state, when most susceptible of impression. It is a well known fact, that continuance in ignorance and vice darkens more fully the intellect, increasingly hardens the heart, benumbs the feelings, and produces a more inveterate obstinacy in the ways of folly, which must give way with proportionately greater difficulty at more advanced periods of life. As the oak strikes its roots deeper, and
gains more firm and inflexible fibres by its continued exposure to the rudeness of the storm, so the human spirit, continuing in a state of darkness, must increase in the obstinacy of indurate vice. It is of great consequence, then, my brethren, to take up the youthful mind as early as possible — to plant in the darkened nature the elements of truth, the principles of true religion, which can alone remove the darkness and overturn and destroy the dominion of evil.
But in our present state there is not only a disorder of the mental faculties; there is something worse than that — there is an entire depravity of the human heart; and that entire depravity is not an accident, but is innate, and belongs to our state. If so, it must be of great consequence to meet the exigencies of the case, and endeavour to correct this evil also, by the counteracting influence of religious instruction and the grace of
God. The depravity of human nature, brethren, seems to consist in three things — the complete depravation of the heart; the deep-planted existence of every evil principle; together with a powerful propension to sensual indulgence. Without at all entering into the very difficult questions respecting the mode of man's corruption — whether it originated in the deprivation of our first parents of the gift and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, according to the opinion of some, or in
the direct and formal imputation of sin, . which is the opinion of others — I shall ; only remark, that every child born into the world is evidently born an alien from I God ; his powers entirely perverted from good, determined to evil, and the sensual nature fully and entirely predominating over the intellectual and moral. This is [ evident. A spiritual nature would, of
' course, necessarily delight, as in its own I native element, in spiritual employments, in converse with God, in the dischargo j of spiritual duties, a relish for the beauties and excellencies of true religion, in the fine play and development of holy ' affections, and the devout contemplation I of the animating prospects of eternal life. But no — you find nothing of this in man ; till changed and renewed by the Spirit of God, he lies prostrate, grovelling in the dust, delighting in sensuality and sin; and although seen to possess great dignity sometimes, his heart nevertheless is defiled and degraded by the inherence of passion and unholy principle.
If he was under a law of holiness, it would lead him to a life of usefulness and devotedness to the will of God ; but no — he is not under the law of holiness, he is under the influence of an opposite law — a law of sin and deatli, which reigns predominant in his nature. If he possessed
truly the life of God, it would appear in the emancipation of his noble nature from the thraldom of evil — his cheerfulness in devoting himself to holy service — in the fine flow of sanctified affections, and in the constant tendency of his heart towards God and spiritual things. But no — death hath enthroned itself in his moral constitution, and spread its dark and dismal dominion and influence throughout all his nature, and there is in him no spiritual emotion till produced by the life-giving influence of the Spirit of God.
This, my brethren, is man's state ; and although it is not necessary to assums that every principle of evil actually appears in the life and habits of every individual — which I do not assume — yet we must maintain, that however calm, placid, beautiful, and unruffled the exterior, in the case of children, and however engaging and cheerful the politeness and
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courtesy of maturer years, there lies every principle of evil infolded in every heart. We do not admit the doctrine which appears to be a favourite in some modern schools, that human nature is raised, in some instances, to great moral excellency and virtue, independent of the influence of the gospel, and the correcting and controlling providence of God. We believe that man is entirely fallen, and owes every excellency of mind or character not to himself, but either to the controlling providence of God, or the illuminating influence of divine grace — that every man, in
fact, is the world in miniature ; and that all its evils, its pride, its ungodliness, its various passions, its avarice, its selfishness, all lie hid in every heart; so that, if you could, brethren, by some great and astonishing revolution, reduce the world's teeming population to a single individual, if appointed by the Creator to repeople the earth from his own nature, the world, in the course of a few years, would be just as corrupt as it is at present.
We adopt this principle because it has existed, in fact, already; for the seed of all the evil of the world actually once existed in the heart of one solitary individual, who has impressed his dark evil image upon his numerous progeny, the whole human race, just as the seeds and leaves of the oak bear, season after season, the image and impress of the leaves and seeds that precede them. This is the state of every man.
But there is another fact on which I may dwell for a moment — that there is in man a powerful propensity also to ungodliness and evil. Human nature is not as it has been supposed by some, a negative piece of depravity and evil ; active, powerful principles dwell in his heart, prompting him to constant rebellion — principles which cannot be controlled by any mere resolution or tuition. How very often do they swell the heart with passion, propel our youth to rebellion against God and the practice of immorality — against all the advices that can be given to them, swaying their dark sceptre in the soul, spite of every good purpose and resolution?
And, my brethren, this power of evil
in man, to which I am inviting your attention, is peculiarly mischievous, be17
cause it is found to belong to ourselves. If we were merely exposed to some external foe, some evil influence from society or the world, we might then guard ourselves against it; but the awful truth is, that our worst enemies are in our own hearts. And here we see the great value of a Christian instruction being conveyed to our youth, as it meets the case not only of the intellectual but moral nature of man. Let the law of God in its divinity and authority be powerfully impressed on the youthful mind, and it is at least probable that its authority, force, and divinity will arrest the course and current of evil within. Let the true nature and obligations of Christianity be deeply impressed, in lessons of plain instruction, on the youthful mind, and it is at least probable that those lessons of instruction will arm the youth against his temptations to folly and sin. Let the true nature, dignity, value, and immortality of the soul, be taught in your elementary lessons of in18
struction to your youth — let especially the doctrines and precepts of our divine Christianity, the love of the Deity, the death of the Saviour, the promised influence of the Spirit of grace, the way and method by which sinners are accepted in Jesus Christ, the necessity of repentance and pardon — be pointed out and aflTectionately pressed upon their attention, and it is to be hoped, at least, those lessons, taught by the Spirit of God, will influence their hearts, stop them in their career of folly, and lead them to repentance and Jesus Christ.
And why, my brethren, should not our youth be taught to turn their reflections to religious truth as soon as they are capable of reflecting on truth at all ? Why should they not be taught to understand the lessons of Christianity as soon as they are capable of understanding any lessons whatever ] Why should not our youth be taught to breathe the praise of
God as soon as they are capable of uttering any sentiments or feelings whatever? Why should they not be conducted to the throne of the heavenly grace, where Christ is seated as the Saviour, as soon
THE EVIL AND DANGERS OF POPULAR IGNORANCE.
as they can contemplate any subject whatever 1 I see no reason why that should not be the case ; and if you would meet the exigencies and moral wants of society, you must descend to the very lowest state in which humanity is to be found, and take up the human mind at its lowest state of sentiment, and lead it thus
to the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
There is another remark which I would make upon this subject — that, in human nature, as seen on the great theatre of the world at present, you will easily perceive the sentient feelings greatly preponderating over the rational and moral. And it must be of great consequence, I think, to meet this fault of our nature, endeavour to curb and correct man's passions, and elevate him as a thinking and rational being. The evil to which I am now directing your notice, is open and obvious to every man's attention. Man is infinitely more a creature of feeling than of reflection ; he follows, in an infinitely greater number of cases, the promptings of passion rather than the deductions of his reason and judgment, and has left impressed in society and on the world a great many more marks of his passion than of his wisdom. Indeed, my brethren, this very circumstance of passion preponderating
over reason, is one of the greatest weaknesses of our nature ; and a greater quantum of misery and misfortune arises out of it than from any other source whatever. They who pander to human taste, you must know, judge correctly on this subject; and hence you find that, by genius and industry, and the exercise of every other inventive and creative faculty, they endeavour to accommodate themselves to this state of the passions. I am sure you will feel impressed with this sentiment. Witness your sons and your daughters : as soon as ever they go into business, into society, or pleasure, they are instantly met by a race of men in a state of frenzy and (if we allow the great principles of Scripture and true religion) madness. In this world in which we live scarcely any thing is judged of as it is; that which is essential is considered a mere accident, and that which is a mere accident is considered essential; that
Vol. II.— 36
which is really good is considered evil, and that which is a real evil is considered good ; that which is great, and noble, and dignified is considered little and mean, and that which is really little and mean is considered dignified and great; that which is a source of real glory and honour is considered, in the estimate and opinion of this foolish world, as a source of shame, and that which is a source of real shame is considered as a source of real honour.
Now, just so far as this principle of judging becomes universal, just so far as passion predominates over reason, and becomes the law of society, you may depend upon it that society is put in constant jeopardy. It matters not what the frenzy or passion may be — the danger
arises from the passion itself: the passion may be for wealth, for luxury, for pomp or grandeur, for pleasure or amusement, or light trifling reading; the dominion of passion still exists, the moral sense becomes entirely blunted, man is rendered incapable of embracing religion and developing or manifesting its various graces and fruits. Yet your children are born into such a state of society, and it belongs to you, my brethren, to give them the corrective ; — it belongs to you to place a book in their hands, to communicate instruction to their understandings and principles to their minds, by which the passions shall be brought into a state of control and subjection to more noble principles ; — it belongs to you to give them a book which teaches, " All flesh is grass, and the glory of man is as the flower of grass : the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, but the word of the Lord endureth for ever I" This is the great lesson that must be corrective of the ebullition of
passion, and bring mankind to sobriety and reason, and subjection to religion.
Your time will not permit me to show how that which is preventive of evil in individual cases, must be preventive of evil in the body politic ; and that, therefore, the efforts of our Sunday-schools must be infinitely valuable to society on that principle. They must communicate, for instance, to the public mind a very powerful impetus of good principle, and 2 a2
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elevate considerably the standard of pure I where the fruits of wisdom and religion
morality. On these topics, however, our i appear to grow.
time will not tiiis evening allow me to It is held, I know, by some, that we
dwell ; and, therefore, I pass on to re- | have less of genius now than in former
Stcondly, That religious or Christian INSTRUCTION MUST BE CONSIDERED VERY VALUABLE, AS IT COMMUNICATES KNOWLEDGE, AND GIVES THE MEANS OF EXERCISING A SOUND JUDGMENT.
It appears very evident that Christian
times. The truth is this, brethren, we have less to discover now than in former
times. Astronomy and the system of the universe could only be discovered once ; the use of the compass and the art of navigation could only be discovered once ; many mechanical and chemical powers, instruction possesses a power such as is I with their application to different objects, furnished by no other means, to rouse our i could only be discovered once: so that dormant energies from their slumber, and , you have fewer discoveries only because to raise man to a nobler capacity for men- j there is less to discover. But supposing tal exercise. And let me just remind you you had less of genius now than in former that, in our own times, during the course : times, you have now an infinitely greater
of one single generation, by inducting a people to the knowledge of teitors, and, through that, to the knowledge of Christianity itself, you have seen entire nations
number of persons than before who are walking in the light of tested and demonstiated truth ; so that the whole surface of mind, if I may be allowed such a
shake themselves from their barbarous representation, has, since the introduction
practices, and emerge, as if by enchantment, into a slate of civilization, intelligence, and Christianity. In the South Sea islands, no sooner were the people taught the knowledge of Christianity — the art of reading, connected, of course.
of general education, been elevated a great number of degrees. And if this be
true as it respects general knowledge, it it is especially so as to religious knowledge; -for, since the introduction of Sunday-schools, and the dissemination
with the use of the means of grace and the i of the Scriptures, you have an infinitely
Christian ministry — than, as if through the influence of magic, they instantly threw off the barbarous practices of their ancestors, demolished their bloody idolatry, adopted simple principles of proper conventional government, and built for themselves Christian edifices — rising from the deepest degradation and superstition to the dignity of knowledge, civilization, and, what is of greater importance still, to the happiness of true religion. And I think it is not going too far to say,
that, in our own country, since we have had a system of education, if not strictly national, at least bordering upon it, its moral influence has been felt throughout every class of society ; and Sunday-school
greater number of minds than formerly, who, at least, possess the elementary truths of Christianity, whatever use they may make of their knowledge — whether or not it leads to salvation, it shines in their hearts, and they may thus be brought personally to enjoy it. We have attributed all this to the influence of religious instruction ; and there appears to be a clear reason for tliis, inasmuch as it elevates the individual who is the subject of it, and keeps the sensual nature of man under control, as we have already illustrated.
You may remark another principle —
that knowledge is creative, or communi cative, if you prefer the phrase. But for
instruction, connected with other modes I this quality, knowledge would be of very of education, have acted on the public ^ insignificant value indeed; and this is a
mind like a lever, and raised it from that chaotic state of darkness, in which seas of error and ignorance had rolled over it for many generations, to a platform, I was going to say, of elevated happiness, such as never before was witnessed, and
hopeful circumstance for the full illumination of the world. There is at present a great mass of intelligence in our own
communitjr and in other parts of the world ; and, therefore, upon the principle to which I have alluded, one may hope
THE EVIL AND DANGERS OF POPULAR IGNORANCE.
that the sphere of light and salvation will be constantly enlarging itselt"; for the mind, which, by the blessing of God, has already received the light of truth, will not rest in itself, but bear out the truth in every direction throughout the
And let me remind you that religious education or instruction affords the materials for forming the mind on all the great subjects brought befjre the mind of our youth, and is, on that account, of great value. Every man who attains to greatness or usefulness, must judge and think for himself; and, if he is to judge and think for himself, it is of infinite moment that he should possess correct rules by which he is to judge. In communicating education to your youth, therefore, you confer a double benefit; you confer positive knowledge of the great truths and facts of religion, and then, secondly, you give a new power or faculty to the soul itself. And while uneducated persons, altogether ignorant of Christianity, are wholly incapable of forming an opinion on any great question that is submitted to them, and in which their eternal welfare is involved, the instructed mind,
possessing the great principles of religious knowledge, will, if he properly uses his privileges, find his way safely through all the difficulties of this life to the glories of a better.
And let me tell you, that the quantum of Christian education and of religious knowledge possessed by a community will, under some aspects and circumstances of that community, be of infinite consequence and value. When the state of society is made to depend a great deal more on the modifications of public opinion than written codes of law, this will be found to be especially the case. When any society or kingdom is governed by mere codes of law — by arbitrary enactments, then, as there is no scope or room for the exercise of private judgment, the quantum or degree of religious knowledge or education possessed by the community will be of very little importance indeed. When governed by military law, the law
of the sword, there is of necessity no kind of scope for the exercise of private judg-
ment; and the people will, in that state of rudeness and ignorance, offer their idolatries to the throne of power, without discovering or feeling their degradation. And hence you know that all tyrants, both civil and ecclesiastical, have attempted constantly to keep the population in a state of ignorance, who, in their turn, willingly submit to it. But the community nmst either be governed by power, or the interests of the community must rest upon knowledge. Now, it is assumed that the population of this empire are not to be governed by mere power; and if not to be governed by mere pow. r, it must be by knowledge; so that the quantity of true wisdom and light possessed by such a community must, under such circumstances, be of great consequence.
Every man who elevates his own character, elevates the community with it, and adds to the general stock of good. And hence the real amount of national wisdom will not depend at all on her codes of laws, or her written literature, mouldering in our museums or public libraries, but in the number of minds brought under the influence of Christian saving knowledge. Egypt has possessed her pyramids and her monuments in the midst of her ignorance and darkness ; Greece had_her poets, orators, and philosophers, in the midst of her degrading subjection to Turkey ; Italy, the remains of her sciences and her arts, in the midst of her comparative bondage and barbarism ; and it may happen that England, too, may possess, at some future period, the remains of her wisdom by the side of barbarism, decay, and ruin. I hope it may not be so — God forbid it should. At all events, the amount of knowledge possessed will be of great moment to
society, in times, for instance, of great agitation ; when first principles are to be debated, it is of consequence that we should understand those principles, and attain to an elevated state of wisdom.
Whether such be the signs of the times in which we live, I leave you to judge; but one fact appears obvious to me, that the time has passed by when the human mind and human institutions can remain stationary. Those institutions that have
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been surrounded by a venerable antiquity;
institutions which our forefathers have planted with an expectation, perhaps, that they would stand like pyramids, and descend unaltered to their remotest posterity, are found to contain the seeds of decay. The public mind is borne from established institutions to first principles, and every man is asking, not what exists, but what is right. I say, then, that those who are giving our youth a good judgment, and rules for its legitimate exercise, are conferring a public benefit also.
And if we happen to exist in times of great religious excitement and agitation, then we have another case in which the amount of true knowledge possessed by the community must be of great importance. If zealous efforts are making to extend the Messiah's empire, and convert the world to God, there must necessarily be difficulties, hazards, and dangers associated with this work; so that these difficulties can only be met successfully
by a great deal of well-principled wisdom. If there be much enthusiasm and fanciful dreaming notions entertained in the times in which we happen to live, supported by powerful minds and great eloquence, it is of much consequence that the community should possess the grand principles of true wisdom and scriptural knowledge, in order that they may resist and reject those wrong ideas. And if infidelity has become audacious enough to step beyond its enclosures, for the purpose of extending its pestilential influence and to ruin the minds and prospects of our youth, it will then also be of much consequence that they possess the knowledge and principles that alone can defend and guide them. And if the old waymarks of truth are lost; if creeds and confessions and the folios of olden times no longer exert their former influence on men's minds, when they are led back to discuss first principles in religion as well as in politics, it is then, too, that we
should have a well-instructed population.
You will see, then, the nature and extent of the blessing conferred on our youth by Sunday-schools, embracing not only the individual but the general benefit of the community at large. But our time
will not permit me to extend my illustration of the advantages of a religious education to the length to w^hich I had intended to carry it, and I must therefore be content with simply sketching the outline of what otherwise might have been largely insisted upon.
Thirdly, The next position which I intended to have taken is, That, as the
MEANS OF COMMUNICATING HAPPINESS AND ENJOYMENT, INSTRUCTION IS OF GREAT VALUE AND IMPORTANCE.
This world, you must be reminded, brethren, is in a state of misery, because it is under the curse of God. There are anxieties, too, peculiar to human nature, but not peculiar to any class of men. There is much of equality in this respect. The merchant embarks in a foreign enterprise, and all his anxieties are swallowed up; thousands, perhaps, depend on its success, and the happy and honourable existence of his own family. The fisherman embarks his trading vessel to earn a scanty maintenance, and he is just as anxious about his little concerns. Even the poor man who begs at your door for bread, watches your looks and waits for your determination with equal anxiety, because his home, his well-being, and even his life may depend on your casual resolution. The poor, however, have afflictions peculiar to themselves, from their dependence, the nature of their employments, and the casualties to which
they are subjected. Now, it may be said by some, that to communicate light and knowledge into the dismal abodes of the poor, is only to illuminate misery and show them their pitiable state of wretchedness. But instruction and knowledge will afford, at least to some of the poor, the means of advancement in life; and although they cannot give to all the means of success and happiness — for there is not perhaps scope for that — yet, if success follows only in a few instances, your exertions shall have been greatly rewarded.
But knowledge will also arm the mind with power, by which the ills of life may be better sustained. And I cannot but think that to the instructions received at Sunday-schools and elsew here, not a little
THE EVIL AND DANGERS OF POPULAR IGNORANCE.
of the courage, and fortitude, and magnanimity displayed by many of our poor countrymen under depression, misery, and dark and grinding poverty, scarcely ever, perhaps, to be paralleled, is to be chiefly attributed. It was the blessed book they were there taught to read — the grace of the blessed God they were there taught to adore and confide in — the salvation of the Redeemer in whom they were taught to believe the supports of the Holy Spirit — the comforts of true religion they were then taught to seek and to cherish, and the blessed hopes of eternal life : these sustained them in the dark and cloudy day ; so that the slanderer who says there is something antipatriotic in the communi43
cation of knowledge to the poor, receives in this practically his own refutation.
Besides, knowledge, coupled with true religion, enables the poor to support their afflictions by giving them consolation and support here, and the hope of heaven in a future state. Some evils can only be overcome by being endured ; but, as certainly as the sun rises, as certainly as the tide ebbs and flows, and one season follows another, so certainly shall evil, and calamity, and suffering rest upon our world. The storm and the thunder may fall from different parts of the heaven on different portions of the earth ; but descend most certainly the storm will, so long as we are under the curse of sin and alienation from God. Those, then, who do their fellow creatures most good, will lead them to expect true comfort only in religion, in communion with God, and in the blessed hope of a glorious immortality.
Fourthly, Considered as the introductory MEANS OF LEADING MEN INTO THE FAITH AND EXPERIENCE OF THE GOSPEL, EARLY RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IS OF INFINITE VALUE.
It is a principle of the gospel that the faith of true Christians should rest upon a written system of doctrine, and that their experience shall be moulded accordingly ; that faith which does not rest on the written Scriptures is not faith ; and a religious experience which does not derive its character from the same source is not Christian experience. Then how import-
ant is it that our youth should possess a knowledge of that book in which they are to believe for salvation ! How important that they should early be instructed in the doctrines of Jesus Christ — his atoning
death, his perfect righteousness, his intercession, the fulness of his grace, the indwelling of the Spirit in the human heart, and all the great principles of holiness that emanate from his teaching, since faith is to rest on, and experience to take the form of, these doctrines I
I am addressing myself, I presume, chiefly to Sunday-school teachers. I have given you my own thoughts on the importance of such institutions. Need I add any thing as a stinmlus to your zeal ? Then think of your suffering fellow countrymen, and the dangers to which our youth would be exposed, without such institutions and your continued efforts and zeal. They are too important in their nature to be abandoned. They cannot be abandoned. Then consider your work in connexion with the grand design of the Saviour's appearing among men : think of this ; you are co-operators with him in effecting the redemption of the world, not
meritoriously — the Saviour hath no partner in the work of his sufferings — but in bearing out, so to speak, the doctrines of the cross, and endeavouring to impress them on the minds of the rising generation.
Consider your efforts, too, in connexion with the extension of the church. You are performing the most interesting ofllce of a minister of Christ, in communicating knowledge to the rising race, and extending the triumphs of the church. Consider your efforts in connexion with the general happiness of man. If the world is ever to be illuminated and emancipated from the reign of darkness, the word of God declares, that " it shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of God." If it is ever to be the blessed abode of peace and amity, and brotherly affection and love, the word of God declares, that " the lamb and the lion shall lie down together." If
j it is to be the dwelling-place of God our Saviour, not corporeally, but spiritually and individually, then it declares, that
1 " unto him every knee shall bow, and
THE BRITISH PULPIT.
every tongue confess that he is Lord." his love are both engaged to do all in the Let me remind you that this great work best manner for them. Their trials do cannot be accomplished without your con- not come at random; the very hairs ot tinued and most zealous exertions. Go their head are all numbered. As the lady on, then, undismayed by difficulties — | was returning to tell her friends
what she unappalled by the opposition of inte- had heard, just as she turned from the rested men, undaunted by the desertion shop door the silversmith called her back, of pretended friends — ever look up to [ and said that he had forgot to mention one God for the assistance and grace you, thing; and that was, that he only knew require : and may the Lord go with you ; i that the process of purifying was complete may his blessing rest increasingly upon [ by seeing his own image in the silver, your labours; and may the light of his | When Christ sees his image in his people, countenance shine upon you and give his work of purifying is accomplished, you abundant peace ! Amen.
1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000