« PreviousContinue »
ries will educate their hundreds and their thousands for a life of profligacy, and a hopeless end. Where one jail now raises its horrid and cheerless front, four will vex the eyes of the political economist, and chill the heart of every friend of man.
Where a penitentiary now admits a regiment of disarmed malefactors, and confines them in degrading servitude and chains, its walls must be so extended as to receive a little army of felons, who will be prevented by physical force alone from seizing the property, or attacking the lives of peaceable inhabitants. For one printed vehicle of slander and falsehood, of ribaldry and blasphemy, which now dishonors the press, four of these pestiferous agents will pervade the community ; and all sorts of mischievous influences will be increased in the same proportion.
Is this a prospect at which a good man can look with composure ? The appeal is made to Christians,—to men who believe that the gospel is the great remedy for human suffering, -and that where the gospel is rejected, all is lost.
Looking forward only fifty years further (when some of our grandchildren will hardly be men of gray hairs), and we must multiply every theatre, and every jail, by sixteen; and in seventy years from that time, every receptacle of evil which now annoys us, must be multiplied by eighty. In one hundred and seventy years from the present day (a period forty years shorter than that which has elapsed since the landing at Plymouth), the people of the world, in distinction from the church, then inhabiting America, and speaking the English language, will amount to 320,000,000 of men and women, and 480,000,000 of children and youth; while the church will contain but one fourth of that number. It is true that, on this supposition, there will be numerically a large multitude arranged on the side of the church, a goodly proportion of whom may be charitably considered as on their way to heaven. But who can bear the thought, that, in such a vast congregated mass of im
mortals, four out of five should be not only destitute of religion, but living in such a manner as to obstruct its progress, and limit its influence ?
Same Subject continued.
We have proceeded thus far upon the principle, that the relative power of religion is to remain the same as at present. This, however, though a plausible supposition, is far from being probable. There is no example of the kind in the history of the church. There have been, indeed, many alternations of success and defeat; but no instance of religion and irreligion advancing side by side, in regular proportions, for a period so long as one hundred and seventy years. If Christians in the United States have not strength enough to advance, they will not have strength enough to hold their own ; and they must expect to be overwhelmed by floods of ungodliness. The church will then be driven into a corner, so that the world will suppose a final victory has been achieved. There will probably be some forms of religion remaining, gradually losing even the miserable efficacy of forms, and falling down to the level of the lowest superstition. But the general aspect will be that of a community living without God in the world.
Pride, ambition, luxury, sensuality, profaneness, blasphemy, frightfully intermingled with poverty, crime, debase ment, guilt and shame, will lash with scorpions the enslaved and abject population. Even from this land of the pilgrims will arise the cry of millions, suffering under the torments which their own guilty passions will have brought upon them.
It is obvious, that, if religious restraints be withdrawn,
the number of inhabitants will not increase so fast, as according to the preceding calculation. Still the history of the world has shown, that it requires long-continued, as well as almost universal profligacy, to arrest the increase of population altogether. With the great advantages of soil and climate which this country enjoys, it may be expected, judging from God's government of the world hitherto,that our population will advance with rapidity, even though it should be checked by licentiousness. We
may estimate that, in such circumstances, our numbers will be forty-five instead of fifty millions, at the end of fifty years; a hundred and fifty instead of two hundred millions, in fifty years more ; and five hundred instead of one thousand millions, in one hundred and seventy years from the present time. The wickedness of the people, left almost without restraint from counteracting example, would increase at such a fearful rate, that, by the period last mentioned, it would greatly have retarded the progress of population; and much be- ' yond that period, any increase of numbers would be slow and doubtful.
Here, then, we have 500,000,000 of human beings, all living (with exceptions too small to be taken into the account) according to the maxim, Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.
What would be the number of theatres and other receptacles of vice amuse and gratify such a population ? what the number of jails and penitentiaries, of police officers and armed guards, to coerce and restrain so vast a multitude, who would have no restraining principle in their own bosoms ? Atheists may talk about liberty; but we know, that there can never be a truly free government without an intelligent and conscientious subjection to law; and where there is no sense of accountability to God, there can be no respect for the order of society, or the rights of men.
Populous heathen nations, and nominally Christian nations that have sunk nearly to the level of heathenism,
are, indeed, without any restraining influence of true religion; and they are able, by means of racks, dungeons, and armies of spies, guards and officers, to preserve some kind of public order. The people are prepared for this, having been transformed into beasts of burden by the long influence of superstition, and the domination of privileged orders. But if the people of America, speaking the English language, should lose nearly all the religious restraint, which now exerts so salutary an influence in our land, they will be a very different sort of men from the Chinese, or the inhabitants of Turkey or Spain. All determined to gratify themselves, and none willing to submit to others ;—all having arms in their hands, and refusing to surrender them ;—wickedness and violence will reign with tremendous and indomitable energy.
The sabbath will have ceased to shed its benign and holy radiance upon the land; for when the number of religious persons shall have dwindled to a very small fraction of the community, it will be impossible to preserve the sabbath, except as a day of thoughtless festivity, and noisy mirth, and preëminently a day of sin. Then God will hide his face from an erring and self-destroyed people; and dense and angry clouds, the precursors of his vengeance, will gather from every quarter of the horizon. One cry of violence and blasphemy will ascend, like the cry of Sodom, from all the dwellers between the two oceans, and between the gulf of Mexico and the northern
No extraordinary instruments of divine wrath need be furnished. The remorseless cravings of unsatisfied desire, the aggressions and resistance, the insults and revenge, the cruelty and perfidy, the fraud and malice pervading all ranks and classes of men, will supply more than a sufficient number of public executioners. Who that has not a heart of adamant
without shuddering, regard such a day as probable? Who that really expects such a day, but must wish to leave no posterity of his own to mingle in the horrid strife-to
become either tyrants or slaves, oppressors or victims ?all victims, indeed, to their own follies and crimes.
Yet this is the very state of things, which multitudes among us are laboring to produce. They do not see the whole effect of what they would gladly accomplish ; but they most heartily desire that the time should arrive when the sabbath shall be universally regarded as an exploded superstition, and when there shall be no concentrated public opinion to pass censure even upon the most odious vices.
Not only is such a state of things desired and aimed at by multitudes, but it is precisely such an issue as the unresisted depravity of man will speedily terminate in. It is altogether a practical matter, and will be the sad history of this country, unless the good, and the public-spirited, and the pious, of the present and succeeding generations, acting under the great Captain of salvation, avert so awful a calamity.
The remaining supposition is, that the relative power of religion will increase, till, before the expiration of the longest period here mentioned, opposition shall gradually have died away, and all the happy millions of this continent shall live together as brethren, adoring their Creator and Redeemer, and lending a cheerful influence to every good design. Then will be a day of glory, such as the world has never yet witnessed. As the sun rises, on a sabbath morning, and travels westward from Newfoundland to the Oregon, he will behold the countless millions assembling, as if by a common impulse, in the temples with which every valley, mountain and plain will be adorned. The morning psalm and evening anthem will commence with the multitudes on the Atlantic coast, be sustained by the loud chorus of ten thousand times ten thousand in the valley of the Mississippi, and prolonged by the thousands of thousands on the shores of the Pacific. Throughout this wide expanse, not a dissonant voice will be heard. If, unhappily, there should be here and there an individual, whose heart is not in unison with this di