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THE SOCIAL INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.

MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS,

It is not my habit, on addressing an audience, to offer an apology for appearing before them. Such remarks are generally distasteful, and often savour of affectation. But I do feel this evening that I occupy a post of honour, and of responsibility, to which I was not entitled, and the duties of which I can most inadequately perform. A person who, like myself, can pretend neither to scientific research nor literary attainment, naturally finds the choice of a subject quite as difficult a matter as the composition of a lecture. When one has made any particular branch of knowledge his special study, he, indeed, may be at no loss in this respect; but the case is otherwise when one has to fall back on some topic suggested by multifarious reading, a topic of which, perchance, several of his hearers may be much more competent to treat than he. The consciousness of this obstacle of itself renders me at all times disinclined to accede to invitations of this sort; and when asked to appear before such a meeting, to open a Series of so great importance, believe me it was only the flattering urgency of the Committee which induced me to entertain the proposi. tion at all. I am deeply conscious of my inability to justify their selection, and of the responsibility which attaches to

any one venturing to address his fellow-beings on serious themes; but I trust to your kind consideration for my own deficiencies, and to your respectful attention to statements which, however feebly expressed, affect the happiness of one and all of us, not only in this present life, but in that which is to come. The subject which I have chosen may appear to you rather trite and commonplace; but events now occurring in the world seem to me to invest it, if possible, with new interest; and, as nothing is further from my intention than to usurp the functions of the preacher, or assume the armour of the polemic, perhaps the remarks which I now respectfully submit to you, as the result of some little thought and attention, may suggest profitable fields of inquiry to the minds of some of my audience.

You will find my observations necessarily condensed and fragmentary. To discuss a subject of such magnitude within the limits of a lecture is, of course, out of the qucstion; my aim is to be suggestive, as I cannot be exharstive; and if anything which you may hear to-night should send away some anxious, thoughtful, earnest mind to investigate more closely one single branch of the great question at issue, it will be a source of lifelong satisfaction to me.

It has sometimes occurred to me of late that we are on the eve of important changes in the religious state of the world; that the missionary enterprise begins to assume a new phase, and that a kind of awakening is taking place among all classes in this country, especially those who have legislative or executive functions to perform, as to the true position occupied by Great Britain in the providence of God. If such be the case, the time is opportune for reconsidering the basis of the social edifice, for ascertaining, with some degree of certainty, the real foundation of a power which exercises such a mighty influence in every region inhabited by man. How few amongst us have thought seriously on the subject! At present, however, what has recently taken place forces it on the consideration of every citizen and statesman in this empire.

In one sense, there is no country under the sun less favourably situated for realizing the effects of Christianity than our own. For more than a hundred years Great Britain has been blessed with freedom and internal peace; under liberal institutions she has risen to be wealthier and more powerful than any preceding or contemporary monarchy; no civil warfare bas desolated her borders ; no foreign foe has succeeded in diminishing the prestige of her name; her material and moral progress has been rapid and uninterrupted; incipient empires, at the antipodes, have adopted her language, customs, and laws. Yet how seldom does it occur to us that, but for the religious element in the body politic, this island might still have been as barbarous as Madagascar,—as unknown as Thibet or Japan. The height of the edifice renders us oblivious of the foundation on which it rests. The stream of blessings which our religion has brought to us in its train is so valuable, so enriching, and so constantly flowing, that we are apt to overlook its fountain-head. For so long a period, and from such untold calamities, has Christianity delivered us, that our minds can scarcely grasp its real influence upon our national greatness.

The South Sea islander whom the teaching of the missionaries has rescued from the dominion of a cruel, bloodthirsty, and demoralizing idolatry; the Hindoo widow, saved, by the silent spread of a milder faith, from the flames of the funeral pile; the negro, clothed, instructed, and made to feel his dignity as a man by the truths of the Bible, are in a better position to appreciate the amazing potency of the true religion than one who has had no opportunity of personally witnessing the mental, moral, and special transformation which its reception im. plies. For many years, especially before the full development of the missionary enterprise, it was the practice to represent savage nations as innocent in their lives, simple in their manners, and more likely to be contaminated than improved by contact with Europeans. It is quite surprising how long this continued the current popular notion in civilized countries. I believe we should be able to find Englishmen in the year 1857 still professing to consider the above description true. A single day's residence, however, among heathens is quite sufficient to dissipate such daydreams. Their indolence, impurity, cruelty, and wretchedness are too evident not to strike even the most cursory observer. When a learned friend of Dr. Johnson's expatiated on the happiness of savage life, and instanced the enjoyment experienced by a North American Indian walking through the woods with his squaw and his gun, the gruff old philosopher thus replied: "Do not allow yourself to be imposed upon by such gross absurdity. It is sad stuff-it is brutish. If a bull could speak, he might as well exclaim, 'Here am I with this cow and this grass-what being can enjoy greater felicity ?" The learned doctor was right, and he was far ahead of his age; for the wickedness existing in “the dark places of the earth was then but imperfectly apprehended, even by well-informed men. Every succeeding explorer and missionary pioneer bring out into more dreadful relief the social vices of nations not illumined by light from above—the desertion of parents, the murder of infants, the sacrifice of human victims, and cannibalism in its most repulsive forms. These practices were not confined to any one or two nations, but were more or less common to all the races inhabiting the South Sea islands, the Indian Archipelago, New Zealand, and Madagascar. African travellers have told us of their having seen human flesh exposed for sale in shambles. Roman writers accused

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