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We avail ourselves of a season, which fixes a durable mark in the course of our labors, and is regarded with interest by almost ev. ery one, to offer some observations to the serious consideration of our readers. In doing this we would wish to avoid, as much as possible, the formality of an annual ceremony, and to enter directly apon such topics as may be presumed to deserve some attention.
It may well be supposed, that those, who statedly peruse a religious magazine, will be influenced, in some measure at least, by such views of Christian duty, as their own consciences shall sanction
We take this opportunity, therefore, to remind all our readers, (and especially all of them, who have professed faith in Christ,) of the duties which press upon them with peculiar force, at the present day.
The first duty is to obtain correct and enlarged views, both of Christian doctrine, and a corresponding practice. That pains are to be employed in acquiring doctrinal knowledge will be admitted by many, who imagine that a knowledge of practical duties may be obtained without care or inquiry. Such an opinion is altogether in correct. The most noble of the sciences, the science of doing good, is too little studied. If it were better understood, and made thie subject of daily contemplation, the way would be prepared for a grander display of benevolence on a large scale, than the world has ever yet seen. The ultimato ubject aimed at would indeed be the same, which has been pursued by the truly virtuous in every age; but a peculiar sublimity would mark the enterprises, in which Cliristians of every nation and every language should engage with enlightened minds and united efforts; and a peculiar glory would crown these enterprises. The employment of doing good,-of airing directly by prompt and vigorous action to promote the permawent good of others should be made a part of the regular business of every Christian. It should be reduced to a system, and should have a large share of time and property assigned to it. This time and property should be sacredly devoted to God, and employed in the best practicable way; not squandered on doubtful or useless projects, nor hoarded up for future occasions, which may never arrive; but wisely apportioned to purposes of unquestionable utility,of great
importance, and pressing urgency. How can all this be done, unJess the great body of Christians are formed and disciplined to the great work in which it should be their honor and their happiness to bear a part? How shall they be brought to feel, to plan, to act in unison? Manifestly in no other way than by obtaining, each one for himself, a correct understanding of their duties, and possessing a heart to discharge them. But let us descend to particulars.
When the Christian sets himself in earnest about the great business of doing good; when he solemnly proposes to himseif the question, “How can I most successfully promote the happiness of iny fellow creatures?" the first requisite to exertion is to know the wants of munkind. In this indispensable requisite Christians have generally been deficient; and though the deficiency may have been less culpable heretofore than at present, it has never been justifiable. In estunating the wants of men, a principal regard should be Lad to their moral wants, as these have respect to the vast concerns of eternity, and as the wants of the body are more visible to a cursory observer, and more readily relieved by the world in general, than those which concern the immortal part.
Let the truly benevolent inquire, then, What do my fellow creatures need? What can they receive, what ought they to receive, at my band?" The more the inquiry is prosecuted the more interesting will it become; and though it will soon furnish motives enough for prompt exertion, a larger and still larger field will present itself to be explored. Many, indeed, and pressing are the wants of men, which it is in the power of Christians to relieve; many, which if once relieved would be succeeded by lasting supplies, by "durable riches and righteousness."
Should the proposed inquiry begin at home, as seems most natural; let the inquirer, after considering the case of his own family and immediate connexions, turn luis thoughts to the town in which he resides, and to the vicinity. Are there no destitute neighborboods within his knowledge, where the people need to be awakened to tlic duty of possessing and reading the Bible, of giving their children a good common education, and of observing divine institutions? Are there no individuals destitute of the Bible; no prayerless families, no sabbath-breakers, no profane and intemperate persons, who peed to be admonished and reclaimed? Are there no afflicted and desponding souls, who need to be comforted and encouraged? none defenceless and oppressed, who need protection and vindication? none becoming cuslaved to bad habits, who need to be aroused to a contemplation of their danger, and rescued from the fangs of the great adversary just fastening upon them? none falling a prey to infidelity and skepticism, but still not entirely callous and destitute of feeling? none relapsing into heathenism, within sight of the sanctuary, and in the midst of a Christian country? Are there no professors of religion, who need to be instructed in their plainest duties, stimulated to a vigorous activity, and disenthralled from the bondage of avarice, ignorance, or prejudice? none, who seem nev. er to have doubted whether a supreme regard to their private inter
est, so far as concerns their intercourse in society, is not the most laudable of principles? none, who have never yet conceived, that they were born for any other purpose, than to pass through life with reputation, provide for their families, and seek their own salvation: none, who are mere babes in Christ, almost totally regardless of their exalted privileges and their higli destination, though intelligent, judicious, and persevering in the attainment of mere worldly objects? none, whose example and influence are adverse to the cause of truth, and discreditable to the Christian profession?
When he takes a wider range, and looks upon the evils, which exist in the best regulated civil communities, how many does he find, which demand speedy correction, and firm, united, unyielding counteraction? In whichever state of the American union the illquirer may reside, how many vices does he discover which need to be restrained by penal laws? How many wise and salutary laws need to be enforced; bow many defective ones amended; how many, that oppose the wishes of the corrupt part of the community, need to be sustained by the united approbation and cooperation of all the friends of human happiness. How many waste places may be found even in the most favored portions of our couutry? places which should immediately be reclaimed from the usurped dominion of briers and thorns, and subjected to a moral culture, which would soon make them a part of the garden of the Lord? How faint and feeble is the resistance now opposed to great public evils, compared with that bold, assured countenance, and that unhesitating voice, with which a Christian people ought to express their decided testimony against whatever is injurious to the souls of men.
If the view be extended over the United States, there are several great classes of his countrymen, who urgently require attention. What shall be done, whatneeds to be done, for the benefit of the people of the new settlements, a vast proportion of whom are without schools, without the regular observance of the Sabbath, without the preaching of the Gospel? The necessity becomes more imperious, when it is considered, that the increase of population is vastly greater than the increase of the means of providing effectually for the moral wants of the inhabitants. How deplorable is the condition of the people, where the Sabbath is not regarded, where the Bible is not read, and the rising generation are not taught to think of God, of Christ, and of salvation. How distressing the thought, that such a state of things should continue, (as it will continue unless human agency shall remove the evil,) from generation to generation. How imperative the call upon every generous and philanthropic principle, especially upon every pious feeling, to reach out the hand of Chris tian charity to these our suffering brethren; many of whom, indeed, are not sensible of their condition, which is the more lamentable for that very reason.
Another great class of our countrymen are truly deserving of compassion: we refer to the slave population of the United States. When shall this million of immortal beings enjoy a more favored
lot? We enter not here into any schemes of emancipation from the control of their masters; but when shall they be emancipated from the slavery of Satan? When shall they be taught to read the Bible? When shall they rise to the proper dignity of man; and have secured to them the inestimable blessings of early education and Christian instruction? When shall they be prepared to form cheerful and happy communities, to constitute regular and well-taught churches, to understand and enjoy the sublime truths of Christianity, and to practise all its relative duties?
Within our own borders, also, are to be found numerous small tribes of Indians, remaining, for the most part, as our ancestors found them two hundred years ago; in the same beatlienish darkness and delusion, the same idleness and stupidity, the same ignorance and barbarism, Surrounded by men of the most dissolute and abandoned character, the greater part of these tribes bave nade progress in vive, and in that only, from their connexion with the whites. How low is their present degradation; how arduous the process of improvement, and yet how necessary. Who that bears the name of a Christian can be willing, that this much abused race of men shall never be raised from their present condition? Who can think without pain of their continuing to be the victims of fraud and vice, the slaves of prejudice and superstition, unenlightened by a single ray from the Sun of righteousness, uninvited to partake of the blessings of the Gospel?
When the inquirer casts his eyes beyond the limits of his own country, be sees a world lying in wickedness; he beholds in every nation, most deplorable evidences of sin and misery; he is ready to exclaim, "How can these enormous evils be removed? How can the world be renewed?"
It may be well to direct our attention, for a few moments, to those unhappy portions of the world, which seem capable of deriving benefit from the benevolence of Christians in this country. Look at the wandering tribes, which inhabit the interior of America. Tauglit only to hunt and to make war, they sink into torpid indolence unless roused by the calls of appetite, or by the malignant and vindictive passions. How many are their privations, bow few their comforts, how uncultivated their minds, how hopeless their spiritual condition. Look at the mixed population of provinces set. tled by Europeans, both in North and South America. See the mass of the people enveloped in superstitious ignorance bordering on heathenism; without the Bible, without any proper means of instruction, and without any prospect of improvement, unless by assistance from abroad. Look at the Jews, till very recently outcasts in every country where they dwell, persecuted, oppressed, despised, sordid in their habits, bard-hearted, and obstinately wedded to their infidelity and their crimes. How great has been the guilt of nations called Christian, in reference to this ancient people. How Jong bave arrears been accumulating; and how vigorous must the exertions of Christians become to wipe off these frightful arrears. Look at the tribes of Africa, and the populous realmıs of Asia,
weigled to the earth by Mahometan oppression and ignorance, overrun with an endless variety of false religions, with superstitions the most debasing, with vices the most gross and abominable. To many of these nations commerce has furnished our countrymen, with the means of access. Though removed thousands of miles, the improvements of civilized society have made them our neighbors, and it is as easy for the people of America to do them good, as it is for the people of different states and communities to do good to each other.
After such a survey of the wants of mankind, it is natural to suppose, that many will ask, "Is it possible for any thing to be done to relieve these wants? Is not the undertaking so arduous aş to discourage even the attempt? Can we do any thing? or must we not rather sigh in despair over the wretched condition of the world, and forget the miseries of our fellow-creatures as quick as we can, that our feelings may not be pained with the sight of distresses which we cannot remove?" The proper answer to such inquiries will force itself upon the mind, when the following topics shall have been well considered.
Let every man, who is seriously inclined to do what he can for the benefit of others, sit down and make a deliberate estimate of what he is able to do. It is to be taken for granted, that every man is able to do something, if le bas property, time, or influence. Let each one, then ask himself, if he cannot spare property for the benefit of his fellow men? By strict economy in expenses, and industrious attention to his business, can be not spare more than he at first supposed? By a rigorous self-denial can he not spare a great deal more than he had ever imagined? We could relate some facts relative to the sums given in charity by persons in moderate circumstances, which would astonish the rich worldling, and which ought to cover with shame the avaricious professor of religion. But not to digress from the train of inquiries. Has the person, wbose case we are considering, no time at his disposal? If he answers in the affirmative, let him seek opportunities of using it to the best advantage. Instead of wasting it in idleness, in unprofitable reading, in visits of ceremony, in politics, in schemes of personal aggrandizement, let him spend it in devising liberal things, in consulting on the best means of promoting the prosperity of Zion, in offering as he may be able, instruction to the ignorant, confort to the afflicted, and relief to the poor and the sick. Has he influence? Can he not induce others to engage with him in the various works of mercy which have been enumerated? Can die not awaken the attention of his friends and neighbors to things of great importance to mankind, and withdraw their thoughts from subjects light and trifling, er corrupting and mischievous?
After he has duly considered these topics, let him ponder on the stupendous works which can be accomplished by united exertion. What wonders are union and perseverance, joined with vigorous enterprise, continually effecting ina the important concerns of this world;-in commerce, politics, and war. Let him, who is inclined