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the man, whose power threatened to In our social state, on the score of establish itself on the overthrow of civil and religious liberty, there has the European family of nations, might been a considerable advancement dur. be overcome. This event was finally ing the past period. In its earlier accomplished at the battle of Waterloo, part but little progress was made. and the disturber of Europe and of the During the French war, those perworld was sent to a distant island to sons whose respect for the will of end his days in ignominious seclusion. Christ as their spiritual King led
During this fearful struggle, Erige them to dissent from the Established land, often threatened by the common Church, were permitted to remain foe, was never made the seat of con- subject to laws which branded them, flict. His armies desolated and de- in effect, as disloyal and untrustwormoralized almost every other Euro. thy persons. They were shut out pean state, but England, his most from all public offices and employresolute enemy, was preserved from ments; and more than one attempt his presence. This should be remem. was made to abridge the liberty albered with gratitude, for no lan- ready possessed. These, however, guage can describe the evils which proved abortive. In process of time were thus averted from our land. the true principles of freedom so far The fearful expenses of the long prevailed that the test and corporawar, which have entailed a debt tion acts' were repealed, and the on this nation, unparalleled in the British dissenter attained the full annals of the world, have also hap- rights of citizenship. pily tended to teach our govern- Again, there was an extension of ers to avoid war as much as may the political rights and liberties of the be, and to promote peace and tran- people at large, which was effected quility among the nations.
by a reform in the representation in Great, however, as have been the parliament. This, though it must be sacrifices this nation has made, through admitted to be defective and partial, the good providence of God, it has gave to the opinions and wishes of been preserved, and now at the end the inhabitants of this great country of the period before us, England oc- greater force and influence than they cupies a most exalted place among had formerly possessed. Then folthe nations. Her population is in- lowed a reform in the constitution and creased. Her power is established election of the corporate bodies in our in India, Africa, and Canada. She cities and boroughs, so that there is a holds the keys and citadel of the closer, and a kindlier, and a more Mediterranean. Her colonies are beneficial relation between the local multiplying at the antipodes. China authorities and the people than forshe has opened to commerce and re- merly existed. ligion. The commerce of our mer- We have further to mark an event chants extends to every land, the most honourable to this nation, and produce of all climes is in our mar- one without parallel in any other, kets, and our influence is felt by all viz., the emancipation of the negroes people. The aspect of England in of our colonies from slavery. Efforts 1851, when all nations are invited to against this curse and disgrace to visit our metropolis to exhibit their man had been made previously, but various productions, and to vie with the first part of the past half century each other in the arts of peace, when witnessed the abolition of the slave compared with that presented fifty trade among British subjects, and the years ago, should awaken our grati. latter, the emancipation of the slaves tude to him 'who changes the times themselves. This noble deed was and the seasons.'
effected at a sacrifice of twenty mil.
lions of our money, given to the legal | the benefits, which, during this peproprietors of the negroes; and thus riod, science and art, and the spirit of eight hundred thousand persons were improvement have secured for the set free, and slavery became illegal generality of our people. How beauin the British dominions.
tiful is the gas light we now enjoy The march of freedom has also in this place. It also enlightens our abolished some of the most formid- streets and enables us to walk safely able monopolies which ever existed, in the darkest night! This is a reand thus liberated our commerce, and sult of science. How swiftly we now afforded the opportunity for the full travel by rail from place to place, so interchange of our products with those that distance seems to be destroyed ! of all other nations.
How interesting is the fact that by a These, and various other changes steam propelling power a voyage in our social state, which have tended across the Atlantic is not so formidato promote the general welfare, and ble as formerly was a journey from to remove the voice of discontent, are London to Edinburgh! How conveamong the marks of progress during nient is the arrangement that for a the last fifty years. They are a kind small coin we may hold corresponof homage paid to the principles of dence with the most distant parts of truth and righteousness. They are Britain, whither our letters are carried in harmony with that prediction, 'I with more than racehorse speed ! will make thy officers peace, and How wonderful the application of scithy exactors righteousness. Violence ence and art which enables us to tele. shall no more be heard in thy land, graph intelligence hundreds of miles wasting nor destruction within thy in a single instant ! We obtain light borders; but thou shalt call thy walls by a touch, we paint by a sunbeam, salvation, and thy gates praise.' and give signals by lightning. These,
The beneficial effects of these and other appliances of science and changes may be appreciated in some of art, conduce to the general good. measure, if we compare the tranquillity The increased attention paid by all and security of England with the con classes to education ; our numerous fusion which prevailed among the and efficient Sabbath schools, our kingdoms of Europe some two years multiplied day schools, our reading ago. The establishment of civil and rooms and mechanics' institutes ; the religious liberty, and the abolition regard exercised toward the working of unjust monopolies, give security classes ; the sanitary regulations of to the nation, and call for our grati. the government; the careful perioditude to the King of kings.'
cal registration of the people, their The period now under our notice ages and occupations; and the prevahas witnessed important progress in lence of the sentiment that it is the science, in literature, and art, all of great end of governments, and essenwhich contribute to the elevation or tial to their stability, to promote the comfort of man. Not to mention the public good : all these are marks of discoveries in Astronomy, Geology, advancement. In short, there is Chemistry, and the various and in- scarcely any view that can be taken teresting researches in natural his- of our external condition that does tory; to pass by the improvement not indicate improvement. Our towns and marvellous extension of our and cities are increasing in size, in manufactures, and the wonderful in- wealth, and splendor, and the dwelcrease of our commerce; not even to lings of the humblest classes, in conname the men who have shone in venience and comfort. Our highevery department of literature; let us ways, and our by-ways are improved. contemplate for a moment some of A man need not be fifty years old to
have marked these things'; and could vaded all classes, and which was in. some of our great-grandfathers again corporated into the sports of the appear in our land, they would scarce- very children? It has given way to ly recognize their native region. It more peaceful sentiments. How lithas been recently published that the tle in comparison with former times term of human life, as estimated by does gross intemperance prevail ! It insurance officers, has averaged an is disreputable in the higher classes, increase of fifteen years during the and forsaken by nearly all but the past half century. If so, it must be most abandoned of the lowest. How owing to some general causes. What greatly has the once almost universal are these other than the improve- habit of profane swearing abated! ments in agriculture and drainage, What was once not dishonourable in increased attention to sanitary mean the gentleman, is now a disgrace to sures, and the improved condition and a gipsy. Though we are sometimes habits of the people ?
shocked with the tale of a highway I am aware that it may be said, robbery, how greatly is that crime these things are true, but they are diminished ! How evident is it that not religion, but the reply is simple : an improved moral tone characterizes the prevalence of true religion is the conduct of the public press. The favourable to the advancement of newspapers now profess to be all on science and civilization, and tends to the side of virtue, equity, truth, and give a permanency to all which be. order, and most of them on that of friends and blesses the family of map. religion too. This indicates a higher It is God who giveth wisdom to the standard of moral feeling and senti. wise, and knowledge to them that ment amongst their readers. It must, know understanding.'
however, be admitted that there are If we contemplate the people of many low publications, which are mere this country in relation to the tone of panderers to vice. their moral sentiments and feelings, How much more general is the we apprehend there has also been respect paid to the decencies of life, some considerable advancement dur. and to the extended duties of reli. ing the past half century. There is, gion ! An apology was offered by it is true, amongst our population Lord Eldon's biographer for his Lordmuch to deplore. The selfishness, ship's habitual inattention to external the cupidity, the sensuality, the un- worship; viz., that a regular attend. truthfulness, and the depravity of ance at Church was not at all comman, still awaken in the mind of the mon when he was a young man ! reflective many sorrowful emotions. Even infidelity itself in its last form But if we compare the general state has come to us clothed in the garb of of society now, with what it was respect for religion, that it may not some fifty years ago, we shall con- at first sight be at once discarded by clude that there is great improvement. our people. What has become of the brutal sports Whether we contemplate these which formerly were openly pursued, things, or whether we consider the and often on the Lord's-day, in every extended support that the various part of this country; the bulla societies obtain, which are established baitings, cockpits, the wrestlings, the for the relief of the friendless and affightings, and the ferocious conflicts flicted, or for the promotion of the between neighbouring townships and interests of humanity, we shall conparishes? They are nearly all aban- clude that the general state of the doned, or are compelled to hide them- public morals has advanced. selves from public view. Where is Lastly, the past half century has the war-feeling which formerly per- witnessed remarkable activity and
progress in reserence to the religious religion at home. The educational and interests of mankind. Let us glance collegiate institutions for the training of at the increase of religion at home. the ministry; the home missions, the There has been, we apprehend, very town and city missions; and societies for great addition to every christian de the Sailor, the Soldier, and the Hebrew. nomination amongst us.
If we take Nor has the Church of England been the increase of our own small body as inactive. During the greater part of in any way a fair representation of this period she has had her Sabbaththe progress of others, and I should schools, her charity-schools, her tract, think it is, our pumber has been mul- and Bible and Prayer Book associations; tiplied nearly sixfold during that pe- she has erected and endowed hunriod. The Wesleyans of all kinds dreds of new buildings, partly by the have some half a million communi- grants of the state and partly by volcants : fourteen hundred travelling, untary contributions ; and though and twenty-four thousand local preach- many of her ministers have of late
The Congregationalists have been tending toward Rome, (for been rather shy with their statistics ; which they have, we trust, received but they have more than sixty asso- an effectual rebuke from the Pope ciations of churches, and some two himself,) a goodly number are pious thousand ministers. The Baptists of and devoted men. Indeed it
be every order have more than one thou. doubted whether there was ever more sand churches, and upwards of one piety and respect for religion in the hundred thousand members. Other Church of England than at the prebodies we shall not stay to mention, sent time. but they, both in England and Scot- These glances should suffice to land, have had a proportional increase. teach us, that, whatever infidelity may If we add to these at least as many think or say, the belief and love of Sabbath scholars as members : and the christian religion has taken a then take about the double of them deep and general hold on the English for hearers, regular and occasional, mind; and that spite of French, or we shall make out a list for England English, or German infidelity, it has of more than four millions.
spread, and will extend among all Consider again the numerous ac. ranks of our people. As far as dotive agencies connected with all the mestic piety is concerned, the end of churches and congregations, scatter- this half century is far in advance of ed through the land, which are the beginning. employed for good; the tract socie- Let us now turn for a moment to ties, the benevolent societies, the the efforts made here for the diffusion dorcas societies, and the Bible and of the religion of Christ in the world. missionary associations, and you will It would be inpossible even to name perceive a vast amount of benevolent every society that contemplates this and useful effort.
object. From a glance at one or two, Reflect on the improvement and the we must infer the rest. enlargement of our places of worship. The first perhaps in order is the What a change in the recollection of Baptist Missionary Society, formevery man who is fifty years of age! ed in 1792. The successes of this What house of prayer of the thou- society chiefly belong to the period sands in this land has not been built, under review. Its labours in India rebuilt, or enlarged during this pe- have been signaliy honoured. Its riod ! You
church translations have been very numerscarcely without some proof of this. ous; and only last year it reported
Consider the societies which exist the publication of seventy thousand for the establishment and diffusion of copies of the Scriptures. It has au
merous stations and schools in the numerous as are the multiplied bodies East. It also has achieved wonders of christian professors. in the West India Islands, where nu. We hasten to glance at the Relimerous churches are now self-sustain. gious Tract Society, formed in 1799, ing and independent.
whose operations extend to the whole The London Missionary Society world, affording help to all missionwas formed in 1795, but its chief aries, and using them as its almoners. successes, in South India, South Af- Its total issues last year were nearly rica, the Polinesian Islands, and else- twenty millions of publications. Its where, belong to this period. It has total circulation of tracts and books, four hundred and sixty stations, one in one hundred and ten languages, hundred and seventy missionaries, and has been about five hundred and seven hundred native assistants. twenty-four millions.
The Wesleyan Missionary Society The British and Foreign Bible Sowas organized in 1816, but pro. ciety, formed in 1804, reported last perly it begun in the colonies with May that its circulation for the previDr. Coke and Mr. Wesley, some ous year had been above a million, seventy years ago. It has stations in and that the total issues were more India and Ceylon, and Australia, than twenty-three millions ! South and Western Africa, the West I do not stay to mention other Indies and North America. Its chief Bible and religious book societies,' nor strength is in the latter places. It even a multitude of other associations reports some four hundred mission of a missionary and religious characaries and one hundred thousand mem- ter, but I merely add that this very bers.
cursory glance at the activities of the Though our own Missionary So. church of God, which have been ciety is small it should here be men- awakened and brought into action tioned. The society was formed in during the past half century, render 1816, but the operations actually it the most remarkable period since the commenced in 1821. We have, if apostolic age, for efforts to diffuse the we reckon the wives of our mission gospel. aries, some nineteen missionaries and And when we contemplate the about twenty native preachers. In good that has already been effected, India we have five or six prosperous in the conversion of innumerable Hinchurches, several schools, and al doos, and the abolition of infanticide printing press. Very great good has and suttee: the civilization of several been done, Our hearts have often savage tribes; the emancipation and been refreshed with reports of the christianization of the negro; and labours and successes of our mission the glorious conquests of the truth of ary brethren.
We have also two God over error, idolatry, and sin, we missionaries in China.
have reason to thank God, and take I should not omit to notice the courage. Church of England Missionary So- The word of God is compared to a ciety, formed in 1797, which has in leaven which works silently, till it India and Ceylon, West Africa, and leavens the whole mass ; to a seed Australasia, and the West Indies, which germinates in the earth before some sixty missionaries, and as many it brings forth visible fruit; to the catechists, and some four hundred light which gradually chases away the teachers for its schools.
darkness, and at length ushers in the Time would fail to tell of all the day: and surely, when we consider missionary operations of England and the labours of the missionaries in every America, employed for the conversion heathen land, the schools they estabof the world. They are almost as lish, the scriptures they publish and