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and refinement. But notwithstanding the warrant thus afforded for expecting from him measures equally characterized by equity and benevolence, he put aside without examination a question involving the personal security of one entitled to his protection. He contemptuously described a matter affecting the worship of God, and the identity of Christ and the Messiah, as, "a question of words and names.” After professing readiness to investigate officially any transaction marked by wrong or lewdness, he permitted the chief of the synagogue to be beaten before his tribunal, without resenting the violation of the laws, the indignity to himself, or the injustice to a subject. And it was after enumerating these matters, that the historian emphatically remarks upon them, “And Gallio cared for none of these things.”
The spirit of the world is in all ages the same; and we have in the conduct of the Roman Governor, an apt example of the estimation in which many hold the truths of religion, and of the indifference with which even the intelligent and the amiable may suffer its interests to be sacrificed, while they avow the most glowing zeal for matters of secular importance. The earth is a vast field upon which the Almighty is carrying on bis purposes of mercy to mankind. Every age previous to the Christian, had merely contributed to prepare them for the disclosure of those purposes, and for an active agency in their accomplishment. And when at length the whole was developed, and God, by bis Son, sent forth a commission, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” it was addressed primarily to the twelve, as the individuals selected to bring out into action the whole vast instrumentality, but was by no means designed to stop there. But, sending an impulse through all the grades and avenues of society, the great enterprise of redeeming the lost and perishing world, became thenceforth the proper concern, the paramount business, of "every creature,” and of every succeeding generation. And I have been led to attach importance to the conduct and spirit of the proconsul of Achaia, because it seems to present comprehensively, the reply which practical unbelief everywhere utters to the appeal of the Gospel calling for protection and support. " If it were a matter of wrong or lewdness, reason would that I should attend to it. But if it be a question of words, and names, and of your law, touching the worship of God, I will be no judge of such matters.” Brethren, the sacred writer has put the true comment upon such sentiments. “ Gallio careth for none of these things.” What do they involve? The worship of the true God, the propagation of his religion, the defence of his altars, the necessary influence of the whole upon public inorals, the salvation of never-dying souls. What does the world esteem the legitimate and worthy objects of their care and zeal ? Personal security, which, notwithstanding, it is often thought creditable ferociously to violate at the very foot of the tribunal ; and fraudulent transactions, or excessive voluptuousness and lewdness, the very penalty for the last of which, in the higher ranks of society, is sometimes deemed rather a matter of triumph than of dishonor. Every thing else it is common to speak of as “questions of words and names."
To promote the objects of the Association now. holding its annual meeting, and at the desire of whose executive the present preacher addresses you, your contributions will be asked this evening. You are liable to this description of appeal continually, and could attach yourselves to no Christian denomination, or congregation, where you would be exempt from it. Indeed at no period since the Gospel was promulgated, and the Church organized, has the Christian community been without such appeals. In the Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes to this effect. “As concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye, that is, upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay somewhat by itself in the treasury, as God has prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come.” With the wider extension of the field of the Gospel, and the multiplied means for its dissemination, the necessity for those gatherings was increased. But the nature and force of the obligation are not every where perceived. If it be a duty to sustain such institutions as the present, it should be done both
effectually and cheerfully, for the LORD “loveth a cheerful giver.” It will be equally in correspondence with the view taken of the text, and with the object, and presumed expectation of the Society at this time convened, to show the grounds of our duty, to care for the promulgation of the Gospel, and the salvation of souls ; and to act, according as God has prospered us, in correspondence with such sympathy.
The brief statement of a few positions in their natural sequence and dependence, will I trust suffice for this purpose.
1st. There is a great amount of moral evil existing in the world, detracting from the glory of God, and the welfare of man. And this, together with the sympathy which it claims, will be inferred from the most basty reference to the condition, at this moment, of several great branches of the human family.
The curse which man's transgression invoked upon the earth, seems to have fallen with least force upon the abode of his innocence; and the delights of an earthly paradise are seen still to linger about the spot where he once enjoyed the communion of his Maker. But it is not so there with his moral and religious privileges. And vast regions, in which those elder brothers of the human family planted settlements, and built eities, and founded nations, are now enveloped in the gloom of an enslaving and polluting idolatry. The land of prophets and patriarchs; the scene of the victories of God's people, and of the mysterious workings of his providence; the territory which was honored by the footsteps of the Author of our redemption, is a land of unholy domínion, of moral darkness, of spiritual captivity. How can these millions be restored to the purity and dignity which are the prerogatives of their being ? Descendants of a people whose history is identified with every event in the gradual development of the plan of redemption ; the very region which they inhabit, and much more their moral condition, is invested with a controlling power over the feelings.
But to some, the claim seems obsolete, our sympathy morbid, and the scheme of evangelizing them visionary and impracticable. And yet what is the topic, which perhaps more than any other, has lately combined in one impulse the sensibilities
of every civilized nation ! Was it not for the descendants of the patriarchs in the cause of freedom, for the posterity of the elder brothers in literature, eloquence, and poetry; for a nation sprung from lawgivers, and heroes and patriarchs, that the hearts of every enlightened people have been vibrating, now, with tenderness and compassion for their sufferings, and again with indignation against their oppressors; - sometimes throbbing with elation at their triumphs, and again trembling into despondency at the story of their protracted wrongs ? And does not Greece owe this mighty impulse of sympathy, ennobling alike to her and to ourselves, to the tenderness which her earliest history inspires, to the sacred charm shed over her land, by the valor and the learning of ages long gone by ? And shall we discover no fascination in the history of the ancient nations among whom Jehovah wrought his wonderful works, to move our hearts toward their descendants also, bound in the fetters of a dark, idolatrous, superstition?
There is another great branch of the human family whose captive bleeding condition I know not how justly to depict. For such terms do not present its most pitiable attributes. It is captive to its own horrible lusts, bleeding at the altar of its own dark idolatries. Claiming as some of the empires of Africa do, the most remote antiquity, the fountains from which Greece derived her stores of literature and science; celebrated for the splendor of their courts, for the magnificence of their libraries, for the perfection of their acquaintance with the arts, we read in the present abject condition of the native tribes, an unanswerable proof of man's dependence, for moral and intellectual dignity and pleasure, upon the influence of revealed religion. There idolatry, with all its stupid and polluting rites; a system of continual warfare between jealous, petty principalities; the entire absence of every thing like intellectual occupation, or refinement; and a social character, marked, as that of unrenovated man always must be, with the influence of our most ignoble, and violent propensities; combine to render their condition universally and almost hopelessly degenerate. The night of their suffering has been a long one. Its periods
are marked only by renewed violations - more desolating captivities. In this season of impenetrable darkness, does not
Ethiopia stretch forth her hands unto God ?”
The present condition of the aborigines of our own country is deeply and justly affecting. For ages had their tribes enjoyed in security the possession of this continent, from sea to sea. Finding the supply of their few and simple wants in its vast forests; reposing by its calm rivers and lakes, or roaming through its boundless solitudes; their habits and taste rendered them independent of the comforts which we could afford them by civilization. They were devoid also of many of those vices, which, like tares scattered among the good seed of the husbandman, fail not to spring up as luxuriantly as the happier fruits of refinement. Little more than three centuries have elapsed since they first beheld our forefathers invading their repose ; and what is at this moment, the whole population of all their tribes, once spread over these two millions of miles ? Driven by perpetually renewed encroachments to a mere skirt of territory, it does not amount to half a million. During the same period we have planted in their stead a population of perhaps twelve millions; and have bestowed upon them, in return for their boundless continent, and rude independence, the knowledge and the inextinguishable love of intoxicating liquors; the diseases of Europe, one of which, in particular — the small pox - has swept off in some cases two-thirds of a whole tribe in a single year; and we have inspired them more frequently with abhorrence of our refinement, and contempt of our moral principle, than with admiration of that Gospel which, as Christians, it should be our endeavor to promulgate, and recommend. Subtle in their transactions, eloquent in debate, tremendous in war, reading the open volume of nature, with a lively perception of its truths, what do we see, notwithstanding, to be the moral character and condition, of the native savage of this country? It is exactly that to which the heart of every child of Adam is prone, without the direct or indirect influence of revealed religion. It is what the religion of nature produces. It is superstitious, lustful, sanguinary, vindictive.