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Preached in New York, October 3, 1832, before the American Board of Foreign Missions.
BY WILLIAM ALLEN, D.D.
President of Bowdoin College, Maine.
FREEDOM CONFERRED ONLY BY THE GOSPEL.
John viii. 36.-If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
In this world truth and error are struggling for victory. The field of contest is the human intellect. The prize contended for is man, immortal man; and it is his destiny either to be bound for ever in the chains of error, or to be led forth in eternal freedom and glory by the hand of truth. From the earliest times, this conflict has been going on; the war is still waging ; nor will it cease, until delusion shall loose its hold of the human mind, and the kingdom of truth and righteousness be established throughout the earth. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coming from heaven, brought the truth to men in order to liberate them from the miserable bondage of sin. It is implied in his instructions, connected with the text, that all other supposed methods of freeing men from the servitude of error and iniquity are ineffectual. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. The point here set before us is, that THE GOSPEL IS THE ONLY POWER WHICH CAN DISINTHRALL ENSLAVED MAN, AND BESTOW UPON HIM
THE FREEDOM OF HOLINESS AND JOY.
I. In attempting to establish this position, I shall first consider the inadequacy of the other influences which have been supposed to have an important bearing on the welfare of the world.
1. The power of civilization is feeble in the contest with moral and natural evil. Although the contrast is very striking between a barbarous and civilized state, and although the descriptions which have been given of the Arcadian simplicity and innocence of the children of nature, have been found to be mere romance; yet the blessings of civilization are often very limited, and fail to remove the evils by which the family of man are afflicted. In the result of civilization, we may see the deep spirit of revenge and the secret blow of retaliation yielding to the power of law. Many domestic and social virtues
may spring up. Many conveniences and luxuries, before untasted, may be enjoyed. But civilization has not the effect of removing the most cruel superstition and degrading idolatry. The most refined of the nations of antiquity were worshippers of gods of every name and form, often with rites of indescribable turpitude. The very governments themselves, which had been established, supported idolatry, and bound the people to it by chains which could be broken only by the power of God. Even now there are nations highly civilized where yet the people are the wretched thralls of superstition and the most deplorable idolatry.
Besides this, there have prevailed and still prevail among civilized states very gross and flagrant vices, and sometimes enormous crimes are tolerated. The government established is perhaps a grinding tyranny, and although the subject may be shielded against injuries from a fellow-subject, yet all may be in the power of a proud master, accustomed to indulge his passions without restraint and without fear. What can be more wonderful than to see civilized nations punishing with merited death the midnight assassin or solitary murderer, and yet eagerly and for slight occasions arraying themselves for battle,—rushing upon each other with hideous shouts, with the serocity of wild beasts and the malignily of devils, and in the shock falling together by thousands in miserable death? What can be more astonishing than this, excepting that the civilized survivors agree to obliterate from their minds the thought of murder, and speak only of noble bearing, and heroic resistance, and glorious victory? Yet such has been the custom of civilized nations in all ages.
2. The progress of mechanical ingenuity is incompetent to secure the happiness of the human family. Never has the power of mind over matter been so wonderfully displayed as in the present age. The elements are now made to perform, with the greatest rapidity, the work which was formerly done by the slow and tedious labor of human hands. The superintendence of one, with the aid of water and fire, now brings out results which formerly required the toil of thousands. Millions of little wheels, apparently self-moved, are spinning the threads, which by shuttles, seemingly thrown by invisible hands, are woven into the finest webs. The old method of travelling by the fleetness of horses is going out of repute, and three or four times the former speed is now gained by the power of steam. Whether the same power will unyoke our oxen from the plough, we are not yet able to determine. · Many, however, are cherishing high hopes of the improvement of the human race, from the progress of mechanical philosophy. It has been thought, that human hands will be so freed from the necessity of labor, that ample leisure will be furnished to the great mass of mankind for intellectual culture, and thus that a new aspect will be given to the condition of the world. Will these hopes be realized ?
The accumulation and general diffusion of wealth in the community will indeed release many hands from labor ; but the leisure enjoyed may be abused
purposes of luxurious and criminal indulgence, and will be, without the restraint of moral and religious principle. Besides, there are very obvious limits to this anticipated release from manual industry. Almost all the hundreds of millions, who are nourished on the earth, are dependent for their food on the careful, toiling hand of agriculture. The ground must be cultivated ; the seeds cast into the furrow; the fruits of harvest gathered. Mechanical improvements will not repeal the sentence passed upon man,--Cursed is the ground for thy sake : in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also