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BY REV. DANIEL P. NOYES,
BROOKLYN, N. Y.
CHRISTIANITY AND THE GROG-SHOP.
Till the whole was leavened.-MATT. xiii. 33.
THESE are the words of Him who saw the end in the beginning. Looking to that end he lived, and died to live again. We, looking to the same end, shall travel in his footsteps; and whether living or dying, we shall be his, and like him.-"Till the whole is leavened!" It should be the motto of every individual Christian in his efforts to conquer the sin that rules in his own soul: and the maxim of every Christian community in its warfare of love against the evil infesting that community; and the watchword of the Church universal militant against the world of iniquity. It becomes us to act in view of that which is the real and true object of all our labor; not in view of false or even of partial ones. These may lead us astray-but that one, never. The sailor in northern seas who guides himself altogether by the floating ice-islands, or the temporary channels between them, will miss his way. He must pursue the pole star. So the Christian must hold his eye upon the one great object of his striving, and this is that "the whole be leavened."
The child in his thoughtlessness, loiters on his path; gathers flowers, stops to listen to the babbling brooks, pauses to pluck berries here, and there goes chasing after a singing bird, or a butterfly. Thus the child: but the man, more wise, pushes straight on toward his object. A diversity of little transitory motives coming in succession, enfeebles and distracts the soul. One great motive makes it strong and self-accordant. These narrower objects but partially rouse a part of our energies. A single great one, blending the forces of all in one glorious and thrilling unity, penetrates the centre of the soul with its fiery magnetism, and stirs the depths, the home of the harmonies, and we act with all the forces of our being, all awake and all accordant.
Let no one, then, propose to himself his own salvation, merely, and nothing more: "He that saveth his life shall lose it." Nor let this church propose to itself merely to be a prosperous church. We are not "to seek our own" exclusively; and if we do, we seek in vain. Nor is it enough that as individuals and as a church we aim to become instrumental in Divine hands, for the conversion of those immediately about us, and suffer our minds to dwell on that object alone. Our word should be, not till these and those be leavened, but "till the whole is leavened."
And what, my brethren, is to man, the whole? Are we to say the whole town or city?-the whole country ?-the whole continent? No!--but the whole WORLD! The day shall come when all nations shall be united together in one great realm, the kingdom of God: when his pure laws shall be honored in all decrees and systems of legislation; when the principles upon which our Lord Jesus Christ founded his divine life, shall be the ruling principles at once of all individual, and of all national life; when the spirit of Jesus shall find a home in all the families of the earth, and the morning light as it falls upon meridian after meridian, and advances from region to region of continent or island-sprinkled ocean, shall
awaken amid the incense-breathing fields, and the song of many happy creatures, the voice also of human praise, and the incense of prayer from household altars: evening, too, shall renew the same in softer voices, and all things that have breath shall thank the Lord. We are coming to that day! This is not poetry-it is prophecy. The time is coming! We can see it on its way. The hills have many of them-already been made low, and the vallies filled. He is coming who "shall rule the world in righteousness, and the people with his truth." We may indeed not live here to see it but we shall see it! And we may labor for it now, may hold it in our eye, may drink in the strength which the vision gives, and, filled with the glory of it, may walk in its light. There is no night to them to whom the Lamb giveth light.
Fastening our eyes therefore upon this great object, drawing deep breaths of determination and of quiet joy-permitting soul and body to fill with the sacred warmth, and the new energy which run throughout our being as we gaze-thus may we wisely judge of our present course, and decide upon particular duties: only thus. For we must act in view of a great object, of the whole object, of the true object.
Let us reason a little in view of this. Our purpose is to Christianize the world. We have already begun to labor specifically for that high end. The world is open before us Our laborers have gone forth to their toil. But how? Is it not needful that we christianize our own people, while seeking to subject other nations to the truth? Is it possible to carry that great work to perfection while this at home lingers tardily? Will not re sources fail-cease to be adequate to the ever growing emergency? Or may not even the spirit of Christian enthusiasm in our own community, be secretly perverted by slow unbelief? Must we not go on from conquering to conquer here, if we would hope to extend, or even maintain our conquests abroad? There can be but one answer to this momentous question. Looking to the christianization of the world, every heart replies, Our own people must be thoroughly pervaded, in all ranks, classes, sects, parties, divisions, with the sacred element of the Christian spirit, and of Christian truth.
Now, therefore, there is another great object which we must propose to ourselves, lesser than the first, indeed, and preparative to it, its forerunner," yet great. It is the Christianization of this entire American people; not of its best educated, and most refined portion, but of its great masses. Yes, that must be done. It can be done. It can be done soon if Christians will but faithfully try. We may, possibly, within a few years, hear something from Ireland, which shall make plain to us the ease with which a nation may be subjected to christian influences, when Christians are in earnest. And we need not look beyond the sea, if we will only look beyond death and time-to God; for when we do that, do we not know, in our heart of hearts, my brethren, that this thing can be done? The truth is, it has never yet been tried. Denominations, indeed, have been pushing themselves, and often with great energy, and sometimes with shameful differences, and in a spirit of rivalry, or vulgar arrogance, such as makes good men blush. A noble society, likewise, now grown to be an object of reverent love to all our hearts, has these many days been casting its bread upon the waters, and sowing wide its seeds of light. But notwithstanding all this, never yet, as I believe, have the American churches, or any considerable portion of them, engaged, with an adequate appreciation at once of the greatness-of the necessity-and of the feasibility of the work, in the enterprise of making this nation a thoroughly Christian people in all its ranks, and through all its mass. In every large town, through sparsely settled regions of the country, and most of all, in the garrets and cellars of our crowded cities, there are hundreds and thousands unaffected, and almost untouched by any worthy religious influence.
Here then, is a work which must be done; and it will be done. God knoweth how; and he will teach us how, so soon as we are sincerely ready to learn and to do.
The time is coming, when this mighty nation stretching from sea to
sea, and from polar snows to torrid heats, looking eastward upon Europe, mother of arts and of arms, and westward, over the thousand islands of the peaceful sea to those eldest empires whose history almost antedates the age of fable-motionless beneath the weight of their thronging millions enfolding a third part of earth's sons, and torpid as the reptile that has slept a thousand years within the stone-this nation, the mediator, thus between two worlds, and awakening both with its youthful shout and song -gathering with its two hands the commerce of the earth, cherishing within its own affluent bosom, its hundreds of millions, free, intelligent, and happy-this mightiest and noblest people that time hath known, shall be the people of the Lord. Just laws within and a generous policy toward all without, private probity and public honor, the splendors of honest wealth, the dignities of noble worth and station, the graceful accomplishments of refined society, consummate victories of intellect and soul in the wonders of art, in scientific triumphs, and the glorious achievements of literature, the magnificence of national power, the thrilling glow of great me mories, and of sublime hopes, the grateful homage of living and of departed worth, the exaltation of spirit with which the soul grasps mighty truths, and appropriates grand purposes, the delights of benevolence, the domestic bliss of pious homes, the sweet intercourse of love and friendship,-all the wide-spread and peaceful glories, and victories, and bounties and beauties, and benevolences that make the wonderful charm of the Christian spirit in all the domain of human action and experience-the Faith that conquers death, the Hope that hath the foretaste of heaven, the Charity that is the "greatest of these"-in one word-the broad sunlight of God shed upon the heart, and flooding all its chambers-these blessings shall unite here, and in them all shall man rejoice, and God be glorified.
To the final achievement of this grand result, then, as subordinated to one grander still, are we called upon to live and work. All motives of patriotism, of philanthropy, and of religion, combine to establish us in this high aim, and to awaken our profoundest enthusiasm in the great resolve -That the American People, in all its classes, and throughout its whole mass, shall become in the subtilest essence of its spirit, in the predominant qualities of its character, and in the outgoings of its life, a truly Christian people. Holding still in view the two great objects already mentioned, and in the light of our purpose, judging-let us further inquire whether We, the Christians, (or persons who ought to be Christians,) in this communitywhether we, in particular, have not a third great object to gain, lesser than the other two indeed, yet great and conducive to their attainment. We propose to ourselves that the masses of the American people be permeated with the Christian spirit-do we not? But where are we? and where is our influence most powerful? Where may our labors be made to tell most directly and effectively? Where is our work-field? Where, but here at home, in our own community, among our own churches, in our own streets, with our own neighbors, through our own local government, and the social agencies which exist or may be created here? And do we not know that the example of our large cities is potent throughout the land? and that what one does, others are likely to imitate? and that a a noble stand for righteousness taken in any of these is felt in all? The influence flashes with lightning speed, from one great center to another, travels like a tidal wave along the shores and up navigable streams, rushes on iron roads outstripping the wind-touches soon the mighty national heart, which though you cannot find the place of it, quivers, yet, with each vibration throughout the whole body, and sends its vital magnetism to the remotest fibre, and the minutest particle.
Is there not then a third great object before us? What is it? I am sure that I interpret your own thoughts when I say-It is thoroughly to christianize this city. This, indeed, is a more difficult work, than to halfaccomplish the same result in a community many times as large: but it is also a nobler work, and would prove in the end a more significant and important achievement. For there are thousands of communities in histondam that have been partially subjected to religious influences;
but nowhere in any land, can a city of a hundred thousand, or even of fifty thousand inhabitants be found, where all classes and ranks are in the main controlled by the Christian spirit. In all the world there is not one! And now, our nation suffers for want of such an example. A world buried in sin cries out for it: and we may be sure, my fellow-citizens, and my fellow-Christians, that its cry is heard of him who giveth recompense both to the faithful and to the unfaithful. O for one large city, where vice is ashamed and hides its head, and is pining in secret and dying out! where criminal poverty is unknown, and idleness is a stranger, and profanity does not taint the public air, and drunken shouts and ribaldry are never heard! where rich and poor dwell together in mutual charity; and where personal honor, and a high probity are the rule, and not the exception; where demagogues can find no fools to flatter, and politicians do not stoop that they may conquer, and Christians love one another without jealousy, and unite always in bearing each others' burthens, and fulfilling the law of Christ, and doing the Master's work! O for a city overshadowed by righteousness, and honor, and purity, and peace, filled with high enterprize, and religious courage, with magnanimous sympathies and instincts, with the manifold impulses of a humane and godly enthusiasm, with the invincible strength of Christian faith, with the divine light of love! O for one such city in the wide earth! Let there be one such, and it shall fill the world with its leaven! That will be a happy day, not for ourselves alone, but for all nations, tongues, and languages, for every wild tribe upon mountain, or sandy waste, for every decaying realm enervated by corruption, a day of glad tidings and of great joy to universal human kind, when one such city shall let its light shine. Be it ours to labor and to endure, that, by the grace of God, our city may become that blessed one. Thankfully we take the purpose to our hearts, to make this, our home, a fountain of gladness to the whole earth. Wherever our lot may hereafter be cast, whether in the great metropolis or in some secluded hamlet of the country, let the same religious aim inspire our efforts and dictate our plans.
But let us see what is practicable. We do not wish to be the dupes of imagination. We would present to our minds a definite, and a feasible object. What plan and what endeavor does our duty now force upon us?
I claim, my hearers, THAT WE OUGHT TO SET BEFORE OURSELVES, AS AN IMMEDIATE, ATTAINABLE END, THE SUBSTANTIAL CHRISTIANIZATION OF THE MASSES OF THIS COMMUNITY.
But how much is involved in this? A few words will explain. Obviously, we do not mean to affirm the probability of the immediate conversion of the whole community to living and practical godliness. In what sense, then, do we presume to declare that the mass of this community can very soon be substantially christianized."
In this sense: 1. That the great practical principles of the Christian religion may be made and ought to be made clearly and strongly predominant here; so that they should be respected even by those who hate them; outwardly observed by those who have no inward love for them, and universally recognized as obligatory, even by such as refuse obedience; the prominent, clear, acknowledged rules of all public, as of all private life among all classes of the people. At present, religious principle must succumb, it would seem, to everything! Does political expediency mark out a line of policy that is inconsistent with the Christian law? our politicians -not indeed without an awkward bow before the majesty of religion-do yet, for that once, turn from her and walk in the way that "seemeth good" to them. Does the merchant find that a temporary interest demands a degree of deceit, and cunning management? the "eternal principle," must, for that once, be compromised, or ignored: the emergency must be yielded to. Are any follies fashionable, are any sins profitable to the purse, countenanced by social, by commercial, or political influence? then the preacher may not mention these-stiil, for this once, the majesty of religion must be decently veiled! Real wrongs, particular crimes, are not to be dealt with; but only sin in the abstract, and transgression in general:
-and so, again and again and again, the clear demands of the law of God, the will of the Eternal must defer to, so called, expediency, to in terest, and even to mere personal and factitious respectability-must stand one side, with meek brow uncovered, and let these great ones pass! I do not say that this is universally the fact; and would fain believe that it is not generally so: but certainly, we meet with, and we hear of such things very often.
Now, I maintain that all this should cease: should cease soon. Religion should be enthroned, the one only supreme-the universal authority. In this sense of the phrase, then, ought we to labor for the immediate christianization of the mass of the community.
2. In this further sense, also: viz: that all classes be brought under stated religious influences.
Now, there are thousands going wide, unaffected by any regular means of spiritual instruction. That religious influences may be efficient, they must be frequent, and must recur at fixed seasons. A tract, now and then, an occasional word of counsel, a sermon heard, by chance, once in a month, or in six months-very little dependence can be placed upon instrumentalities so desultory as these! We have no right, my brethrenbefore God, and before our fellow-man-no right to leave any class of our population so grossly uncared for. It is clearly our duty, immediately to provide stated religious privileges that shall reach the unbelieving, the untaught, the falsely taught, and every degraded, every desolate, despairing soul among us. If the people will not come to the gospel, the gospel must be carried to the people.
This, then, is a second step to be taken toward the substantial christianization of the people.
3. The schools of vice should be closed, and all open, gross profligacy should be repressed.
This would, evidently, be but a necessary concomitant of the full acknowledgment of the supremacy of religion. For such things are permitted, and can be permitted, only, where almost anything takes precedence of the law of God. No Christian community can allow them without deserting its principles and betraying its Lord. We allow them, my brethren; and in this we are false to our own souls, false to our neighbor, and to God.
4. Christians should be more scrupulously faithful in specific Christian labors, and in all duty. Let them insist upon the Divine Authority, the dignity and expediency of their principles; plant their feet immovably upon the basis of right,-and wisely dividing amongst themselves the labor to be done, let them immediately proceed to occupy the whole field, and let them hold it, till the time of harvest and of rest.
5. As a consequence of all these things, larger and better accessions would be made to the number of the professed disciples of Christ.
By the christianization of the mass of the community is meant then, the accomplishment of these five things-the enthronement of Christian principle as the highest law-the extension of stated religious influences to all the shutting up of the public schools of vice, and the repression of open, gross profligacy-an increased and more systematic industry of good men in Christian labors-and as a consequence, a corresponding increase in their numbers.
This is the object which we ought to set before ourselves as immediately attainable. But what is meant by immediately? This-that we ought at once to enter systematically upon this work, with a sure faith in its speedy accomplishment; resolved that by the grace of God, any obstacles to the contrary notwithstanding, it shall be done.
But is this feasible? Is there any practicable method of bringing it about? We have no right to represent a serious enterprise, even to our own minds, in unreal and extravagant coloring; but must, in all things, hold fast upon truth and reality. Is this undertaking feasible, in our own day, or must it be left to future generations?
Upon this question of practicability, I remark