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do you ask what special benefits it confers on the world -or why you should be urged to aid in sending it to the destitute?
I shall not attempt to point out all the benefits which the Bible has conferred upon our world, or which it is calculated to bestow. It would be impracticable to do this, within the limits of an ordinary address, even were I competent to the task. To candid well-informed men, who have carefully studied the history of mankind, nothing need be urged in the way of contrast between the general character and condition of Heathen and Christian nations. The distance of the one from the other, in a political, civil, religious and social point of view, is so immense, that no representation of ours could render it more obvious or more striking. It is as the cheering light of perpetual day opposed to the gloom and horror of endless night.
But all Christendom is not Christian. Only a small number of any Christian land live and act up to the standard of Bible principles : while the great mass of nominal Christians are still strangers to its purifying and transforming influence. We must therefore recur to the sacred volume itself, to ascertain the genuine nature and tendency of its doctrines and precepts: and how these ought to operate on the life and practice of
The question is not, what men, calling themselves Christians and professing to believe the Bible, actually are; but what they ought to be, and would be, were they sincere in their professions. A Judas was found even in the original little band of our Lord's apparently devoted and disinterested disciples, when scarcely a motive for hypocrisy or treachery could have been imagined. That the fires of persecution were not sufficient, even in the apostolic age, to repress that spirit of worldly avarice and ambition which is so natural to mankind, the cases of Ananias and Sapphira, of Simon Magus and many others, will abundantly testify. How much more then may we expect hypocrites and knaves in the bosom of the Christian Church, when so many sinister ends may be compassed by the mere assumption of the Christian name? But does the Bible countenance hypocrisy or fraud or deception in any form ? Does the Bible sanction false, empty, vain, selfish, ostentatious parade or profession of religion in any degree? If not, then the Bible is not chargeable with the errors or crimes or delusions of any of its pretended friends. Are Christians irascible, revengeful, implacable, illiberal, intolerant, avaricious, proud, vain-glorious, ambitious, envious, cruel, haughty, overbearing, unjust, sensual, luxurious? Does the Bible inculcate or permit, or in any wise excuse or justify anger, revenge, unkindness, intolerance, covetousness, pride, envy, ambition, cruelty, injustice, sensuality, or any unhallowed passion or practice?
But what does the Bible reveal and teach? It reveals the whole truth concerning the origin, character, condition and destiny of man; and the whole truth, so far as is adapted to mortal capacity, respecting the glorious perfections, laws and purposes of the one living and true God. It teaches man how to become holy and happyhow to escape deserved punishment-how to conquer sin and death and hell-how to triumph over all the enemies of his peace--and how to enter the gates of the New Jerusalem with songs of victory upon his lips and the joys of salvation in his heart. All this the Bible has done, is doing, and will do, to the end of time. It is specially calculated-purposely designed—to make men better, wiser and happier, than they could otherwise
possibly become. Were it perfectly obeyed by all mankind, our world would be a universal Eden - a paradise of angels and peace, purity and happiness would be the inheritance of every individual of our race.
If the Bible should have free course and be duly honoured, the great work of improvement and reformationthe plans and systems for ameliorating the moral, intellectual and physical condition of the people, about which statesmen and philanthropists are so much busied at the present day, would be speedily brought to a successful issue. We should hear no more of prisons, and jails, and penitentiaries, and houses of refuge and correction; or of
any other clumsy contrivances for the punishment of crime or the suppression of vice. Nor should we hear of any visionary schemes for the reformation of hardened veteran offenders, which oppress an innocent community by their enormous expensiveness, without the slightest tendency to benefit the criminal,- for no unprincipled convict was ever yet reformed by any course of prison discipline which has hitherto been devised; nor will such a result ever be witnessed while human nature remains unchanged. The Bible—the religion of the Bible-has, indeed, transformed a thief upon the cross, and it has reclaimed the tenant of a dungeon; and the same heavenly religion might have prevented the ignominious death of the one and the incarceration of the other. The Bible is the only effective instrument of radical reformation in prisons—as all the superintendents even of the most highly approved Eastern penitentiaries, of the newest construction, will testify, and have testified. How much easier and more humane would it not be to imbue the youthful mind with Bible principles, and thus save the rising generation from crime—from servitude—from stripes—from the severest corporal and mental agonies-- as well as from the indelible disgrace of imprisonment?
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Here is a divine command, and a divine promise,-constituting a part of that heavenly truth which we are required to disseminate among all people. Train up a child in the way he should go—that is, in the right way-in wisdom's ways --in the way of truth and righteousness :-do this honestly, faithfully, prayerfully, perseveringly—and Jehovah has declared, that he will not depart from it when he is old—or that his riper, maturer years, and old age will be spent aright, or in obedience to the divine will. The command and the promise are universal and absolute: and the world cannot exhibit one instance of a failure. What a lesson is here for parents to learn! What a debt do they not owe their precious charge! The present and the everlasting welfare of their offspring depends on their fidelity. But, without the Bible, they can neither perform nor understand their duty, in this or in any other respect. It is not for us to speculate about the probabilities or chances of eventual success, even should the Bible be placed in every family in our land or in the world. It is sufficient for us to know that those who have not the Bible cannot possibly train up their children in the right way, or pursue the right way themselves. They must live in darkness, error, ignorance and vice—and thus must live their children, and their children's children- until some future more generous and more charitable generation shall supply them with the word of life.
How vain and impotent and visionary would be all human schemes and laws in restraining the wicked passions and propensities of mankind, were the fears and sanctions, the rewards and penalties of religion banished or obliterated from our country? In what nation upon earth have merely human institutions sufficed to maintain a peaceful, orderly, tranquil state of society, independently of the aid of religion? What could our own much lauded and most Christian system of jurisprudence
our common and statute law -our excellent constitutions—our legislative assemblies—our juridical and executive authorities-effect for the peace, virtue, prosperity and happiness of this people, were the Bible forthwith annihilated, or were its doctrines and principles universally disregarded — were its moral and religious influence no longer felt throughout the community?
The firm popular belief in the one scriptural doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishment, is more