Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

oon

attention of his auditors, and to engrave before them the features of whatever cause he undertook to advocate. I speak, however, with a special reference to his pleadings on behalf of the British and Foreign Bible Society,--an institution which he fondly cherished, and never more fondly than when he saw it assailed with reckless violence.”

We can only find room for the following specimen of his public pleadings in this cause. It is a speech delivered at the formation of an auxiliary society in that part of the town where he resided and for which he afterwards acted as secretary until his death ; and may serve to shew in what manner he felt and co-operated with other good men in their exertions to promote the great object of a universal diffusion of the Word of God.

“In rising to second the motion for the formation of a North - west London Auxiliary Bible Society, I beg leave to state, from my own personal knowledge, (for I have spent the best part of my life in the district), that I am aware there may be places in London in a more calamitous condition as to ignorance and want of the Holy Scriptures; — for this district possesses privileges in this respect, principally owing, under God, to the pious and benevolent efforts of my excellent brother (the Rev. Basil Wood), whose zeal in spreading the knowledge of Christ all around his neighbourhood, especially on young and untutored minds, has produced the most salutary effects ; but it was found, notwithstanding, in the visit we made throughout the district, that, on the average,

there is but one Bible among nine persons; and that, in one particular place, the destitution was such that we did not find the whole of God's word, but only a single copy of the New Testament, in a population of one hundred and forty persons.

“ The object of the society now to be formed is not, however, limited to our own particular district. The institution is intended, like a small stream silently falling into a great river, to impart to the parent society whatever measure of strength and vigour it may possess, in order that the wilderness and the solitary place in distant lands may be made glad, and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose. The boon which the British and Foreign Bible Society holds out, she holds out not to the inhabitants of this island only, nor even of Europe, but of the world, — to the great family of man.

“ The blessing she offers is of boundless magnitude and worth. Christianity evinces her celestial origin by her adaptation to the present state of man. She finds the human mind in every place enveloped in deepest darkness ; in ignorance of those objects which it greatly behoves the mind to know; in ignorance of the nature and character of the Creator and Governor of the world, of the laws by which human conduct should be regulated, and of those high hopes of the future grandeur and felicity of our being, which it was reserved for the Son of God to create, to authorise, and to cherish in our bosoms. Christianity brings to them who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, the light that comes from heaven and leads to future blessedness. Its influence on the understanding hath been such, that the poorest peasant in the land, who reads the Holy Bible, and forms his sentiments on its instructions, bath more just ideas of God and of man, of sin and of duty, of life and of immortality, than the greatest men of Athens, whether they taught in the Lyceum, the Portico, or the Academic Grove. Christianity finds man every where groaning under conscious guilt, and seeking peace in the oblation of flocks and herds, in the severest bodily austerities, and, in some instances, offering the first-born for the father's transgression, the fruit of his body for the sin of his soul. In this distress of the mind, she directs his anxious and exploring eye to an atonement,-an atonement which Heaven itself provided and has accepted, -an atonement the efficacy of which reaches back to the first offence, and is powerful to cancel the last transgression of our fallen nature. Christianity finds the human heart every where degraded and diseased, the passions off their poise, the flame of heavenly affection gone out, and a strange fire of hell enkindled, burning on the altar; and she makes provision for the recovery of moral order in the soul, of purity, and of health. Man needs consolation, and Christianity presents the cup. She reveals a Father, whose bosom is the dwellingplace of pity : she reveals a Providence, universal as to its objects, infinitely gracious in its operațions, wise beyond the possibility of error in its arrangements, and sustained by the energies of Omnipotence. The rich promises of that Bible

which my honoured friend in such an impressive manner held up to you, (and to which, were the homage allowed to any thing but its Author, we would have bowed the knee), the exceeding great and precious promises of that book, — these contain the consolations which the Gospel presents in the time of sickness and in the hour of death. You have this morning heard that truth from the chair; and it came with dignified propriety, because he who gave expression to it has lately felt its power on his own heart. Ah, my honoured fellow-Christians! there is (and well we know it), in the humble walks of life especially, many an honest heart, bereft of friends, struggling with adversity, pining under sickness; a father surrounded with little children who look up to him for the bread he has not to give, — whom nothing could preserve from the agonies of despair, from foul and dark deeds, but the promises of this book. But not to this life are the benefits which the Bible brings to us to be confined. They extend their influence in preparing us for that high state of being, of action, and of blessedness, to which we are destined,- that state in which our faculties shall evolve, and all the hidden stores of the immortal mind be disclosed, — that state in which the redeemed shall make approaches nearer and nearer to the infinite Author of light and goodness, without the possibility of ever becoming like him,

– that state in which the powers of our exalted nature, prepared by the discipline of religion, shall brighten through all eternity!

“ Were I able at this hour to open the springs of health, and to restore to a debilitated constitution all its former strength and vigour, — were I able to measure the distance of stars, and to inform this august assembly when the late celestial visitant should again return to our sphere,— were I able to weigh is the balance of political discernment the fate of kingdoms, and tell you whether this land, where liberty has found refuge from the tyranny of thrones and the madness of the people, be destined to remain her impregnable fortress,such knowledge, under the guidance of a good heart, might be eminently useful in this world. But this knowledge, for aught we can perceive, might die with its possessors ; while the knowledge which the Bible imparts to the mind will extend its usefulness to eternal ages.

Your Royal Highness, the nobles of the land, this most respectable assembly, enjoying as we do such benefits, how shall we justify the high claim we make to the meltings of Christian sensibility, if, without emotion, and determination of heart to relieve, we can look around on so large a portion of our race, on whose minds the light of revelation hath not yet arisen? Of nine hundred millions, how small the proportion of those who have heard the joyful sound of pardon, and health, and of life beyond the grave! We, who live in a country where law rules, and on the manners of whose inhabitants Christianity hath produced the most blessed effects, can ill conceive the darkness and the excess of wickedness which prevail in heathen lands. In this melancholy state they seem to turn their eyes to us, and looking wistfully on us, to say: 'Your

« ZurückWeiter »