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Full text of "The moral power of the sacred scriptures : sermon I"

THE MORAL POWER OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURES 

Meredith 

Southern Baptist Pulpit, v. I, no.l 
November 1339 




STEPHEN Bo WEEKS 

CLASS OF 1886; PUD. THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY 



OF THE 



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I 

T H E 

SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 



Vol. I.] FAYETTEVILLE, (N. C.) NOVEMBER, 1839. [No. 



SERMON I.* 
By T. MEREDITH, 

OF RALEIGH, N. C. 

THE MORAL POWER OF THE SACRED SCRIPTURES. 

Jeremiah xxiii. 29. — Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord; and 
like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? 

That the oracles of Divine truth are invested with a power, sufficient 
to subdue the most stubborn dispositions of men, and, eventually, to re- 
novate the moral elements of States, Empires, and the world — is a pro- 
position capable of the most direct and conclusive proof. Whether this 
property is to be ascribed to the inherent energy of the simple word, or 
to the accompanying action of the Holy Spirit, or to both these agencies 
together, it is no part of my present business to inquire- My sole object, 
on this occasion, shall be to enlarge upon the doctrine above stated; and 
particularly to show the evidence of its truth, and its practical bearing 
on the interests of society. 

That the Word of God should possess an energy, such as here ascribed 
to it, is precisely what might be presumed from the character of its Au- 
thor, and the obvious design of its transmission. To suppose the Ruler 
of the world to assume the fask of making a special revelation of himself 
to man, without having in view the attainment of an object proportion- 
ate to the magnitude of the undertaking, is to suppose him chargeable 
with a weakness entirely discreditable to a limited and imperfect being- 
To suppose the object, in the case proposed, to be any thing short of a 
radical amendment in the moral condition of man, would be to suppose 
a case of the most extraordinary incongruity between the end and the 
means — between the object contemplated, and the instrumentality de- 

* Delivered before the North Carolina Bible Society, at its annual meeting, in Novem- 
ber, 1836. [Printed from the manuscript.] 



2 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

vised for its accomplishment. And to suppose, under such circum- 
stances, the appointment of an instrumentality, unattended by the re- 
quisite efficiency for the attainment of its ends, would be to charge the 
Deity with the most surprising dullness and imbecility. In short, to 
suppose that the all-wise Jehovah, who can never lack either the intelli- 
gence to devise, or the strength to execute, would convict himself of 
the indiscretion of giving to the world a system of truth, which must, 
in the nature of the case, prove a dead letter — which has no moral en- 
ergy, either inherent or collateral, and which is destined to exert no 
valuable influence on the lives and condition of men — would be to sup- 
pose, as it seems to me, what is contradicted by the plainest principles 
of reason and common sense. If these remarks be correct, — and that 
they are, will be denied, I presume, by no one, — then it must follow, 
that there is a clear and strong presumption, arising from the origin of 
the sacred record itself, in favor of the doctrine of the text — in favor of 
the doctrine, that the Bible is attended by a moral power appertaining 
to no other agency on earth, and making it competent to moral results 
of the most surprising and stupendous magnitude. 

What is clearly deducible from the presumption of the case, is made 
a matter of special and express revelation. God has not left us to con- 
jecture respecting the designs of his word, nor respecting its fitness for 
the ends contemplated. He has told us expressly, both in the language 
of prophecy and in that of history, not only what his purpose is, but 
also that this purpose shall be accomplished by the agency appointed. 
No part of the inspired page is more express or unequivocal, than the 
following passage from the Prophet Isaiah: — "For as the rain cometh 
down, and the snow from Heaven, and returneth not thither, but water- 
eth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed 
to the sower and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth 
forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall 
accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing where- 
to I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with 
peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into 
singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead 
of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall 
come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an 
everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." — Is. lv. 10 — 13. With this 
prediction I have now no further concern than to observe the fact an- 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. S 

nounced, that the word of the Lord shall certainly accomplish its endj 
and that that end is nothing short of a thorough amendment in the moral 
condition of man. 

What is presented in the Old Testament, in the form ot prophecy, 
and arrayed in the richest imagery of poetical conception, is set forth, 
though with less beauty, yet not with less clearness, in the New. "For 
the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged 
sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of 
the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of 
the heart.'' — Heb. iv. 12. If, in the former case, we have an illustra- 
tion of the general influence of Divine truth, spreading itself gradually 
over entire communities, mollifying the moral condition of mankind, fer- 
tilizing the mountains and valleys of Zion, and multiplying and extend- 
ing its fruitful ness to succeeding generations — we have, in the latter, 
an illustration of the same principle, operating directly on individu- 
als — awakening the conscience, purifying the fountains of thought, and 
new-modelling the entire elements of the inner man. In the latter case,, 
the effect ascribed to the inspired word is more direct and exclusive; in 
the former, more general and protracted. In both, however, we have a 
recognition, as well as an illustration, of the principle disclosed in the 
text — that the oracles of truth are as a hammer and a fire in breaking 
to pieces and in melting down the flinty dispositions of men — of forming 
anew the moral elements of individuals, of communities, and of the 
whole world. 

What is taught by reason, and by the inspired record itself, is shown 
perhaps still more conclusively by facts — by the history of revelation and 
the history of the world. A few cases only can be mentioned, which 
must be recieved as examples of the rest. But these few will be found 
to be decisive; and, if I mistake not, will place the truth of the proposi- 
tion beyond the reach of a possible doubt. 

When the apostles of Christ received their commission on the summit 
of Olivet, the whole world was sunk in crime. "Darkness covered the 
earth and gross darkness the people." "With the exception of the small 
province of Judea, the entire world were idolaters; the degraded and pol- 
luted worshipers of images, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping 
things. And even in this trifling remnant not wholly given to idols, 
there was a moral darkness not less dense, and inveterate, and degrading, 
than in the other portions of the earth. Indeed all nations of men, all 



4 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

States of society, and all ranks in life, were about equally depraved, and 
equally debased. The vilest lusts, the most malignant passions, the 
most polluted and polluting principles, and the most odious and iniquitous 
practices, were everywhere tolerated, commended, and honored. Even 
the philosophers, the lights of the world, the pride and boast of the age, 
whatever their attainments in science and the aits, were about equally 
removed from virtue, and equally sunk in crime. As for the true God, 
he was neither worshipped, nor respected, nor known. If the name of 
virtue was used at all, it was only to be perverted and insulted. And 
there was scarcely a vice practised or known among men, which had not 
been constituted a divinity and presented with divine honors. Such was 
the moral condition of the world — of Jews as well as Gentiles — of the 
learned and polite as well as the unlearned and the rude — when Jesus 
of Nazareth commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the 
world. These men obeyed the injunction of their ascended Lord. They 
commenced at Jerusalem and went forth among the nations. Without 
wealth, or friends, or personal influence; without the support of secular 
power; without any thing to recommend them but the purity of their 
lives and the demonstration of the truth, they prosecuted the duties of 
their commission. And although opposed by popular opinion and popular 
prejudice, by the pride and enmity of the human heart, and by the com- 
bined terrors of civil and ecclesiastical authority, yet mark the result! 
In less than a century the christian system had made its way over every 
part of the known world; and in little more than three hundred years 
Christianity was seated on the throne of the Caesars, giving laws to the 
nations, and holding her sceptre over a converted world. 

That this change constituted the most thorough, extensive, and deci- 
sive revolution that the nations of the earth had experienced or known, 
will be denied by no one at all qualified to judge in the case. Revolu- 
tions there had certainly been; but they had been wrought by the hand 
of violence, and had been confined to limited portions of territory. — 
Cities had been built, and had been demolished; empires had arisen, 
and had fallen; nations had been founded and exterminated — 
but all these changes were to be ascribed to the action of human force, 
and were as limited in the duration of their existence, as in the extent 
of territory to which they belonged. But the revolution of which I 
speak was totally diiferent in its kind, its extent, its duration. It was 
not so much a change in government and laws, and in the outward 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 5 

forms and institutions of society, as in morals and religion — in the dis- 
positions, the habits, the characters of men. It was not restricted to a 
tribe, a nation, or an empire; but was eventually commensurate with 
the known population of the earth. Nor was it the ephemeral product 
of a few months, or a few years. It was the enduring growth of centu- 
ries, and only took deeper root as the progress of ages advanced. 

That the aforesaid revolution was the effect of revealed truth on the 
hearts and consciences of men, is equally beyond the reach of a ques- 
tion. For the express purpose of evincing this fact, God had wisely 
disconnected the administration of his word with all facilities and in- 
strumentalities which could possibly arrogate to themselves the credit 
of the natural effects which followed. Had Christ selected his minis- 
ters out of the rich, and noble, and powerful of the earth — had they gone 
forth armed with secular or ecclesiastical authority — or had they carried 
with them the influence which rank and fortune never fail to impart, — 
the inference might have been otherwise. But when it is recollected 
that never was undertaking prosecuted with less of human sufficiency 
about it; when it is considered that the persons chosen — whether their 
number, their natural qualifications, or their standing in society, be 
contemplated — were, of all others, the least calculated to secure the re- 
sult that ensued; and more especially, when it is borne in mind that it 
was plainly beyond the power of such agents to produce such effects, 
the conclusion is inevitable that the revolution in question is to be im- 
puted to the triumphant energies of revealed truth. Surely if there was 
ever a case in which the effect was clearly traceable to its appropriate 
cause, the case in hand is one. And if there has ever been a revolu- 
tion produced among men, whether important or unimportant, that could 
be positively referred to the action of a given agent, then may the revo- 
lution in view be ascribed to the action of Divine truth. 

As another example of the unparralleled efficiency of God's word, I 
would mention the reformation of Luther. The age of the apostles had 
passed away; the men of primitive times had been long in their graves; 
Christianity had been received into the halls of the great, and into the 
schools of the learned; church and State had been united, and the au- 
thority of the latter had been employed to sustain and aggrandise the 
former; the door of admission to the temple and to the altar, had been 
opened to all, and the strongest inducements had been offered to enter. 
Corruption had thus come in like a Hood. The spirit of primitive chris- 



6 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

tianity had fled, and the "Man of Sin" had swayed his iron sceptre over 
the world. 

In those days of darkness, superstition, and crime, when the spirit of 
primitive godliness was departed, and the lamp of revealed truth was 
well nigh extinct; when an endless variety of forms had usurped the 
seat of the former, and the traditions of men had supplied the place of 
the latter; then it was that Martin Luther arose in Germany; and, soar- 
ing above the region of early prejudice, bursting loose from the fetters 
of long cherished habit, and defying the terrors of papal and secular 
domination, he dared to proclaim and defend the truth as first announced 
by the apostles. The effect was no less splendid than sudden and un- 
expected. The light of truth spread with the rapidity of the morning 
dawn; the consciences of men asserted their freedom; the powers 
of darkness were shaken; the empire of spiritual despotism was con- 
vulsed and overturned; and another revolution, but little inferior to 
the preceding, speedily burst upon Europe. That this revolution was 
vast in extent, deep and effectual in its nature, and unspeakably mo- 
mentous in its consequences, will be questioned by no one. And that 
it owes its existence not to the wisdom, nor the will, nor the might of 
man; but to the unparralleled energies of primitive truth, freed from 
the restrictions of papal enactments, and rescued from the oblivion of 
papal corruption, is not less clear and undeniable. 

Another convincing proof of the moral power of revelation is found in 
the effect of modern missions. Let the simple-hearted, unsophisticated 
missionary leave his home, and erect the standard of the cross on for- 
eign shores; let him approach the untaught native in the spirit of the 
Gospel — in the attitude and manner of a christian disciple; let him car- 
ry with him neither wealth, nor arms, nor national consequence, nor any 
tiling else except the simple Word of Life, and the temper and disposi- 
tion of its Author; let him present the heathen with the Scriptures in 
their native dialect, and with the doctrines of the cross in his daily min- 
istrations — and mark the result. lie may indeed incur the reproach and 
displeasure of those whom he has gone to rescue; the pure and prying- 
doctrines of the Gospel may stir up the dormant enmities of the natural 
heart; the arm of persecution may be raised, and the sword of personal 
violence may be drawn; but the seed sown will not be lost, nor will it 
rot in the ground; sooner or later it will take root and grow; the wild 
and unsubdued savage will presently begin to feci an influence, to him 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 7 

before unknown; one after another will throw away his idols, and joy- 
fully embrace the christian faith; the Word of the Lord will run and be 
glorified; opposition will gradually give way before the march of truth; 
the sword will eventually be returned to the scabbard, and the hand ot 
friendship and of gratitude will be extended in its stead; "the church 
will arise and spread in the wilderness; the mountain of the Lord's 
house will be exalted above the hills, and all the trees of the valley will 
clap their hands together." 

Let me not be told that all this is conjecture — that it is a mere matter 
of calculation, made without data and without truth. On the contrary, it 
is nothing short of absolute fact. It is only that which has occurred 
agrain and again since the era of modern missions, and which is even 
now taking place on the right hand and the left. Look, for example, 
at the islands of the Pacific, the Indian, and Southern oceans. Look 
at the coasts and the interior of the African Continent. Look at the 
missions established in the different parts of Southern and Eastern India. 
Look at Greenland, and Iceland, and Lapland. And look at the forests 
and dark places of our own country. What, I ask, has produced these 
changes — these unprecedented revolutions in the moral, the civil, and 
the social condition of these people? What has weaned them from their 
idols, and brought them to worship the only true God? What has in- 
duced them to exchange the instruments of savage and sanguinary war- 
fare* for those of the peaceful and useful arts? — In a word, what has 
taught them to relinquish the habits and practices of uncivilized life, for 
the sensible forms of a rational religion, and the quiet institutions of en- 
lightened society? What, I ask, has been the means of doing all this? 
The question admits of but one answer. The missionary of the cross 
has been there; the gospel has been translated into their mother tongue; 
they have learned the doctrines of the christian faith; they have felt 
the mysterious and transforming influence of revealed truth; and it is 
this, and this only, that can accountTor the revolution wrought in both 
their civil and religious condition. 

In an argument on this point, the history of the French revolution 
should never be passed over in silence. Near the close of the last century, 
the corruptions and abuses of popery in France, had arisen to a point of 
extreme aggravation. In a state of society, enlightened as was a large 
proportion of the French people, a religious system, such as that which 
then prevailed in that country, could not fail to excite general disgust 



8 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

and abhorrence. Failing, however, to discriminate between the funda- 
mental principles of the christian faith, and the corruptions which popery 
had engrafted upon it; and thus taking it for granted that Christianity 
and popery were one and the same thing, the French nation, instead of 
discarding the corruptions of their religion, unwisely resolved to dis- 
card the religion itself. The consequence was a sudden and violent 
transition from one extreme to the other — from the utmost limits of su- 
perstition and religious slavery, to all the excesses of the most licentious 
scepticism. Christianity was assailed on every hand as a system of 
imposture, fanaticism, and priestcraft; the Bible was condemned and 
execrated as the most detestable of impositions; the churches were 
closed; the institutions of religion were abolished; and the influence of 
revelation was suppressed, throughout the land. And now observe the 
consequence. To give the details of this dark and dreadful period, I 
have now neither the time nor the inclination. Suffice it to say, that 
principles of the most odious nature sprang up with the rankness and 
luxuriance of noxious plants; moral corruption spread over the land with 
the impetuosity of an overwhelming torrent; the landmarks of social or- 
der were demolished, and the feelings of humanity and of natural affec- 
tion were extinguished; anarchy, in its most frightful form, usurped the 
seats of justice, and took possession of the altars of religion; the will of 
the mob was made the law of the land; and the nation was drenched in 
the blood of her most virtuous citizens. 

Now the question to be asked here, is this: Had the Bible been given 
to the people — had the volume of inspired wisdom, rescued from the 
traditions by which it had been caricatured, been put into the hands of 
the entire population — had it been permitted to retain its appropriate 
elevation and influence as the revealed will of the Most High — and, in 
addition to this, had the churches been kept open, and the forms of the 
Gospel been observed, and the institution of the Sabbath been respect- 
ed, and the obligations of a pure Christianity been enforced — would 
these consequences have followed? Would the enormities of the French 
revolution have ever disgraced the history of nations? — or would the 
sanguinary proceedings of the National Convention have ever scourged 
the French people? Beyond a doubt, if we can be permitted to reason 
from analogy — and this is the only way in which we can reason at all 
on the subject — this question must be answered in the negative. Most 
unquestionably, if the enormities of that fearful period are attributable to 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 9 

any known cause, that cause is to be found in the rejection of the 
Bible. 

If the doctrine of the text has now been established — if it has been 
shown and received as true, that the Scriptures of the Old and New 
Testaments are invested with a moral influence sufficient to renovate 
the elements of human society — and if it be admitted, moreover, that 
the said Scriptures constitute the only known instrumentality possess- 
ing this influence, then, it must follow, undeniably, that the Bible is 
the great safeguard of nations; the main preservation from corruption, 
anarchy, and ruin; and the primary conductor to the highest attain- 
ments in social virtue, and in all the blessings of civil and religious 
freedom. And more especially must it follow that the Bible is the 
great palladium of our own government — which is essentially popular 
in its form, and in which every thing depends on the purity of the popu- 
lar mass. 

With a view of illustrating the importance of this conclusion, and 
particularly under the existing circumstances of this country, I shall 
take the liberty to descend somewhat into detail. 

What then, I ask, are the dangers to which, as a nation, we are at 
present exposed, and which threaten, to some extent, the destruction 
of our civil and religious institutions? 

I answer, in the first place, we are threatened with the invasion 
of the "Man of Sin" — with the usurpations of papal tyranny and op- 
pression. I am by no means prepared to admit that the danger on this 
point is as great as many people imagine; nor do I credit half the 
alarming statements that are abroad in the land. There are several 
things, however, touching this matter, which can be neither denied nor 
disguised. It is not to be doubted, for example, that European Catho- 
lics, the Roman Pontiff at their head, are making lofty calculations on 
the triumphs of their cause in this country. With this view, their pop- 
ulation is pouring in upon us like an overwhelming and inexhaustible 
torrent. Their priests are crowding our seaports, and spreading them 
selves through the interior; and their treasures are employed, with a 
vastly increased profusion, in the erection of churches, the establish- 
ment of nunneries, and the support of the priesthood. These facts, 
added to the open avowals, and the bold and presumptuous measures, 
occasionally witnessed in this country, leave no room for a doubt with 
regard to the existing schemes of the papal hierarchy. And when to 
vol. 1, no. 1 2 



10 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

these considerations are added the zeal which has ever distinguished 
the partisans of the Romish church, on the one hand, and the excessive 
apathy and unbelief of nominal Protestants, on the other, it is not to 
be questioned that the forces of the former are destined to be vastly 
augmented on this side of the Atlantic. And when it is recollected 
that Popery is the same thing now that it was eight centuries ago — that 
it combines the same principles of civil and religious despotism that 
have hurled monarchs from their thrones and even bound empires in 
chains, it is easy to see that if this country does not become enslaved, 
it will not be for the want of an effort to accomplish that object. In 
short, there is evidently a conflict at hand — a conflict in which the ad- 
herents of Popery, and the advocates of civil and religious freedom, 
will be brought into fearful collision, and in which the liberties of this 
land will be the price of contention. 

If this view of the case be correct, and that it is I can see no cause 
for a doubt, then the question to be asked, is this: What shall be the 
mode of defence, and what the means of deliverance? Shall we resort 
to the sword; to exclusive and oppressive enactments; or to any of the 
forms of religious persecution? Shall we serve the Catholics as Catho- 
lics have been wont to serve Protestants, and repay upon the present 
generation the long arrears of bloody and vindictive measures? By no 
means. The voice of religion says, no; the voice of humanity says, no; 
the voice of wisdom and of good policy says, no. "What then should 
be done? 

The answer to this question is obvious. Give the Bible to the peo- 
ple. Let Protestants carry out their principles. Let the ordinances 
of religion be sustained. Let the public administration of the Gospel 
be supported. Let the rising generation be taught to read and to re- 
vere the oracles of inspired wisdom. But above all, let the copies of 
the Scriptures be multiplied. Let every house have the Bible — and 
there is nothing to be feared. The purifying influence of the inspired 
page will be spread throughout all the avenues and secret recesses of 
the social mass. And when that influence is felt in an entire commu- 
nity, enlightening the understanding, elevating the desires, liberating 
the thoughts, and stimulating the moral energies of the population, pa- 
pal domination will contend in vain. 

Another enemy to the civil and religious institutions of this country, 
is to be found in the various forms of infidelity. It is well known that 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 11 

there are now organised combinations in several of our cities, insti- 
tuted for the express purpose of sapping the foundation of revealed re- 
ligion. With this view the Bible is discarded and stigmatized as a vo- 
lume of fables; its Author is derided as the foulest of impostors; the 
forms of religion are ridiculed and despised as the fruit of fanaticism; 
the Sabbath is habitually and systematically desecrated; and in addi- 
tion to all the rest, doctrines are boldly propagated, which strike at the 
root not of Christianity only, but of many of the virtues indispensable 
to the existence of society. And all this is done in the open face of 
day, and in the very centres of social and commercial influence. It is 
upheld and patronised by men of talents, of learning, and of elevated 
standing in society. And the deleterious influence of sucirdoctrines 
and such measures, is transmitted through the length and breadth of 
the nation, by the well known power of the periodical press. 

In view of these facts I would say, only let the present system of 
operations proceed: let such popular teachers as Robert Owen, and Ab- 
ner Kneeland, and Fanny Wright, have their sway; let such papers as 
the "Boston Investigator" be circulated and read; let the Bible be set 
aside, and the institutions of religion be abolished, and the Sabbath be 
made as other days of the week — and let all th?s be continued for a 
succession of years, and let it become general in the nation — and I 
ask, What will our institutions be worth? — where will be the landmarks 
of social order? — and where the ensigns of civil freedom? 

To answer these questions I happen to have a case in point. I mean 
the French Revolution. I have already had occasion to allude to this 
dark point in the history of nations. I have already shown how Roman- 
ism gave rise to infidelity, and how infidelity, like a mighty inundation, 
bursting over its natural barriers, carried moral desolation over the 
land — sweeping away the tribunals of public and private justice — pros- 
trating all law and social and civil order, and producing the most' 
frightful state of anarchy and ruin that terrified nations ever beheld. 

With the horrors witnessed in France in the last century, and the 
well known cause or causes which produced them, before his eyes, — 
let no one presume to persuade himself that this nation has nothing to 
apprehend from the scepticism which is already rife and rampant in the 
land. Be assured, this system of disorganization and of demoraliza- 
tion must be checked, and in due season too, or succeeding generations 



1£ SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

will have cause to mourn over the apathy and neglect of their faithless 
predecessors. 

The question arises here as before — What is the remedy? As before, 
I answer, the Bible. Only let Christians do their duty by keeping 
pure the fountains of knowledge, and supporting the regular adminis- 
tration of religious instruction; let the pulpit be supplied with able and 
faithful ministers, and the Sunday schools with zealous and competent 
teachers; and above every thing else, let every member of society have 
his Bible; and the nation can have but little to fear. That Word of Life 
and consolation which has so often dispelled the clouds of popular de- 
lusion; which has so often curbed and subdued the headlong passions 
of men; which has so often stayed the tide of licentious freedom; and 
rescued nations from the dominion of Anti-Christ, is the same now that 
it has ever been. Be assured, my hearers, so long as the people of 
this nation shall have the Bible — so long as this invaluable volume shall 
be duly read and respected throughout the country, infidelity will ex- 
ert its strength in vain. 

Another source of danger inseparably connected with the preceding, 
and not improbably growing out of it, is popular excitement. That the 
authority of law, in many portions of the nation, has, of late years, 
been greatly reduced, no one can doubt who is at all acquainted with 
the present state of the country. Instances of popular violence, in 
which the majesty of the law has been trampled under foot, and the 
secular arm has been resisted, and personal rights have been invaded, 
and the peace and order of society have been violated, have become al- 
most matters of every day occurrence. Of the general correctness of 
this statement, no one can doubt who has the least familiarity with the 
history of the times. To what cause or causes these disorders are to 
be ascribed, it is no part of my present business to determine. Of this, 
however, we may be assured: — if the evil be not arrested — if the arm of 
the law, and of the civil magistrate, be not strengthened — if the princi- 
ple of popular insubordination continue to be tolerated, and the law of 
mobs be permitted to become the law of the land, then, we may bid 
farewell to every thing dear in popular rights, in social harmony, and 
in civil and religious freedom. The nation will become the prey of 
popular commotion; and the land, the theatre of violence, anarchy, and 
bloodshed. 

Again the question occurs — Where shall wc look for the remedy? — 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 13 

And again I must point to the "Bible. I am aware that it may be said, 
that the immediate remedy is to be found in maintaining the majesty 
of the laws, and in visiting every offence with its appropriate penalty. 
Granted. But I ask, how is the secular arm to be strengthened, 
especially in a Government like this, without a corresponding change 
in the popular will? And how shall such change be wrought in the 
popular will, but by first purifying the popular mass? And where is 
the agent, the Bible excepted, that can produce the requisite renova- 
tion in the popular mass? 

I must be allowed to say, then, as before, let every man stand at his 
post; let the copies of the Scriptures be doubled, trebled, and quadru- 
pled, - let them be dispersed through the entire length and breadth of 
the land; let the united weight of Christian influence be brought to 
bear upon this point; — and the most salutary result maybe anticipated. 
If indeed this mode of operation shall fail — if there be no way by which 
the public mind can be brought to acknowledge and to feel the power 
of revealed truth, then, indeed, it is time to despair of the nation. If 
this remedy shall not succeed, then there is none other to which we 
can look with the faintest hope of success. If the Word of God shall 
prove insufficient to stay the torrent of popular violence, which is even 
now ready to overflow the country, then this fearful torrent must flow 
on — carrying away with it all that is lovely in social order, and all that 
is valuable in civil freedom. 

Once more — there are those among us, who speak much of their fears 
from our own clergy. They profess to believe that all the benevolent 
institutions of the age, Bible societies not excepted, are cunningly de- 
vised schemes, contrived by the existing priesthood, for the purpose of 
enslaving the nation. Without stopping to inquire into the correct- 
ness or incorrectness of this view of the case; and granting, for argu- 
ment's sake, that it is even as stated — granting that the Protestant 
priesthood of this country, have actually laid their heads together, with 
the view of enslaving first, the church, and then, the nation — where, it 
is important to inquire, is the appropriate remedy? Beyond a possible 
doubt, that remedy is to be found in the Bible. Most unquestionably, 
if the Bible, as has been all along supposed, and as I must think has 
been proved, is the great bulwark of civil and religious liberty — the 
grand engine for neutralizing superstition, and papal domination, and 
infidel corruption, and political disorder and disorganization, — then 



14 SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 

the Bible is the only sure and effectual agency for casting down the supposed loftiness 
of our own priesthood, and rescuing the nation from its apprehended domination. It is 
true, agreeably to this view of the subject, that the priests act very absurdly in patronising 
the circulation of the Scriptures, an agency so well calculated to defeat their alleged in- 
tentions; — but this is no concern of ours. The Bible is the certain and effectual anti- 
dote against all that threaten the tafetj' of our institutions, from whatever quarter the 
danger may be supposed to arise; and as such, challenges the support of ail who are 
friends to their country, and their country's good. 

Should I happen to be addressing any who are in dread of Bible societies, Sunday 
schools, &c, to such I would say — My friends, these institutions are the very things 
you need to prevent the mischief which you profess to apprehend. Let Bible societies 
be multiplied and sustained — lei, the Scriptures be ciieulated and read — let the influ- 
ence of revealed truth be known and felt throughout the body of the people, and, my 
word for it, you have nothing to fear from the priesthood, eithsr Catholic or Protestant, 
either foreign or domestic. 

If it be now granted, as it undoubtedly must be, that the Bible is the principal de- 
fence of the civil and religious freedom of this nation, then it immediately becomes a 
matter of the first importance to determine by what means this agency can be brought 
to exert its full force on the popular mass — so that its renovating influence may be pro- 
pogated, and its redeeming efficacy may be secured, to the greatest possible extent. 

In view of this inquiry, and with a design to give it a proper and satisfactory answer, 
there are a few particulars which I consider worthy of special attention. They are the 
following: — 

In the first place, the copies of the Scriptures should be multiplied and distributed 
until every member of society shall have access to the sacred page. I very well know 
that even this will not secure the object contemplated to its uttermost extent. I know 
that men may have the Scriptures at hand, and still know but little of their meaning, 
and even less of their influence; but I also know that, where the Bible is not to be had, 
it cannot be read — and that where it is not read, it is not apt to be either understood or 
regarded. I am aware that there may be, and no doubt are some exceptions to this last 
remark; but I am sure that, as a general rule, the remark is correct; and I am sure, 
moreover, that as the copies of the Scriptures are multiplied in any given community, 
in that same proportion their truth will be received, and their influence will be felt. — 
This conclusion is so obvious, and so well sustained by observation and experience, 
that I am persuaded it will be neither denied nor doubted by any one at all compe- 
tent to judge in the case. 

To effect this result, if I understand the matter correctly, is the object of the instihuion, 
in behalf of which I have now the honor to address you. To cany the word of life to 
every fireside in the State, and as far as practicable, to secure the reading and under- 
standing of the same, is the principal end for which this Society was formed, and to which 
its efforts have since been directed. How far its operations have been successful* I have 
not now the means of knowing; but I know that its object is one of the first importance 
to the cause of religion, of morals, of humanity, and of national security ; that its services 



\ 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 15 

were never more needed than they are at present ; and that it deserves the willing patron- 
age of every friend to his country, and of every friend to civil and religious liberty. 

I am not unmindful that one serious impediment to the end in view, is to he found in 
the number of our population who are unqualified to read. This remark leads to another 
consideration, intimately connected with the preceding, which is worthy of the most so- 
lemn attention. He who cannot read, can never be well informed on any subject, either 
sacred or Secular. The Word of God can, therefore, never produce its full and legitimate 
effect on any coi.unuaity, until the members of that community shall have been qualified 
to read its pages. And just in the ratio hi which the population of this State are unable 
to read, in that same ratio will the word of inspired wisdom come short of its full and pro- 
per results. Ah this 'is too obvious to admit of a moment's hesitation. 

Where, then, I ask, is the proper remedy? Beyond a possible doubt, the only reme- 
dy that the case will admit, is to be found in the education of the people. Let the cause 
of education be promoted — let the advantages of rudimental learning be afforded to every 
family — let our entire population be qualified to read the Scriptures — and one serious ob- 
stacle to the moral culture of society will be taken away ; one of the strong holds of cor- 
ruption will be broken up ; and one important step will be taken towards the preservation 
of our civil and religious institutions. 

It is no part of my duty, on the present occasion, to point out the means of accomplish- 
ing tins end. Tins is more properly the work of our philosophers and statesmen. But I 
consider it my duty to insist on the importance of the thing itself; and I am confident 
that it is a point on which I am in no danger of insisting too much. The cause of com- 
mon school education is a cause which demands the earnest and immediate attention of 
every friend of his country ; and a cause which cannot be neglected much longer without 
the most painful, if not the most disastrous consequences. As has been already observed, 
even the Bible can avail but little, when men are not competent to read and understand 
its lessons. You may therefore be assured, my hearers, that, as Christians and as patriots, 
it behooves you to give instant attention to the matter proposed; and, while benevolently 
occupied in imparting the Word of Life to all the families of our State, neglect not, I be- 
seech you, the means necessary to secure a more general ability to read and appreciate its 
precepts. 

Another method by which the influence of the Scriptures on the popular mind, might 
be vastly increased, is the employment of the Bible as a school book. Were the present 
a suitable occasion, it could be easily shown, that the Bible, considered merely as a litera- 
ry production, setting aside entirely its peculiar claims as a work of inspiration, is entitled 
to a conspicuous place hi every seminary of learning. This, however, is not the time nor 
the place for such discussion ; nor is it at all necessary to my present object. It is all-suf- 
ficient to remark — what must be obvious to every one on reflection — that the practice of 
employing the Bible as a school book, would give it a powerful ascendency over the popu- 
lar rnhid, and would tend directly and vastly to promote the object which we have now 
in view. To say nothing of the all-important lessons of wisdom, which would be leameSd 
by such use of the Scriptures, the minds of the young would thereby conceive a venera- 
tion for the revealed will of God, which would rarely fail to be retained through life, and 
which, under existing circumstances, is very apt to be superseded by neglect and disre- 
spect. 



16 



SOUTHERN BAPTIST PULPIT. 



What has led to the exclusion of God's Word from our colleges, academies, and com- 
mon schools, it is a matter of no importance now to inquire. This much, however, I 
will say — and it deserves to be duly and solemnly considered — that no method would 
have been adopted, better calculated to injure the credit of the Sacred Record, and to 
prejudice the public mind against its utility, than that of which I now speak. How, I 
ask, could the doctrine have been more scientifically or more successfully inculcated, that 
the Word of God is unfit for common use — for the contemplation and practice of mankind 
in general, than by excluding it from our places of learning, and virtually restricting it to 
the service of the sanctuary? 

I have only to add, on this point, that this is an error which greatly needs correction. 
The claims of the Bible, and the interests of religion, of morals, of social order, and of 
national prosperity, all, all demand that the word of God should be reinstated in our 
seats of learning-^that it should receive the pre-eminent and universal respect to which 
it is entitled — and that its moral precepts, its lessons of virtue, and its holy and sublime 
principles of religion, should be impressed with unsparing attention upon the minds of 
the rising generation. 

Finally, of all others, perhaps the most efficacious means of spreading abroad the in- 
fluence of inspired truth, is the appropriate use of the pulpit. An enlightened, faithful, 
devoted ministry, has ever been regarded as the bulwark of the church, and the great 
instrumentality, second only to the Bible itself, of diffusing the influence of moral and 
religious truth. All this is so well understood, especially by those whom I now ad- 
dress, that to insist on it further would only be to incur a waste of time. 

Then, let every one who admits the value of biblical instruction and biblical influ- 
ence, use his personal exertions to secure the attainment of an able and faithful minis- 
try, and to sustain the regular administration of the Word of Life; that the public mind 
may be thoroughly enlightened; and that the moral and religious influence of revealed 
truth, may be made to operate on every part of the social system. 

Such, then, are the means, the more general and efficacious means, of spreading 
abroad the remedial influence of the Sacred Scriptures. Touching each of these, I have 
aimed at nothing more than a brief suggestion. More than this, my time did not allow; 
and more, I presume, the occasion did not demand. The value of an abundant supply 
of the Book of Life — of common education among the people — of the use of the Bible 
as a school book — and of an enlightened and efficient ministry, are positions which need 
only to be stated, to be understood and acknowledged. 

It only remains, then, to sum up the argument, and leave it with the audience for 
their present and future contemplation. My hearers, my appeal is to you, as Christians 
and as patriots — as the friends of religion, of virtue, of social order, and of civil and re- 
ligious freedom. Of the present condition of the country, you can be no longer igno- 
rant. That popery, infidelity, political strife, and popular commotion and violence, 
have already united their energies, and are even now threatening the subversion of our 
free institutions, can no longer admit of a question. That there is a surprising degree 
of apathy and insensibility to the dangers which threaten the nation, is no less certain 
and alarming. Is it not plain, then, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that it becomes 
every man to awake and stand at his post] Is it not plain that it behooves you, and 
me, and all of us — every one who loves his country and his country's cause — to gird 
himself for the onset, and promptly co-operate for the general good! 



UNIVERSITY OF N.C. AT CHAPEL HILL 



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THE NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION 



Form No. A-368, Rev. 8/95