Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER III.

THE PROFESSEDLY INFIDEL POPULATION.

Prevalence of various forms of infidelity-Rebuke from an

Ojibbeway chief-Statements of sceptics--Objections of an omnibus cad-Neglect of employers to further the GospelPleasing instance of conversion-Infidel violence-Affecting details---Hopeful case of a sceptical Gipsey--His pursuit of knowledge under difficulties--His labours on behalf of Christianity--Infidels immoral persons—The Scriptural definition of the atheist as "nabal-Atheistic admission of something not to be identified with matter—A note on atheism-Painstaking to infuse infidelity-Victoria Park— The writer's agent puzzled-A plausible objection--The reply---A. sceptical sweep-A daring and immoral atheist -Specious geological objection---Reply-Importance of studying Biblical criticism-Remark of Dr. MorisonBest mode of arguing with infidels-Discussion with an atheistic and socialist lecturer—The argument from the Jews---Hopeful conversion of an infidel, and general useful. ness to the whole family—“My speech shall distil as the

dew." It is very affecting to contemplate the undeniable extent to which professed infidelity prevails among the working orders. And as also we cannot consistently regard that person as a believer who is unable, when questioned, to give any good grounds for belief in Christianity, I am reluctantly compelled to conclude, from years of observation, that the majority of persons on my late district were infidels.

Very little credit for sincerity can be given, I apprehend--and I speak from actual observation—to such infidels as, possessing secular knowledge, have really inquired into the evidences of Christianity. I believe such professed infidelity to be generally a mask-but this mask, this iron mask, we remember, may be worn until the features are moulded into its form. The fearful denunciation is then fulfilled : “Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved, and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie," 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11. The vulture forms of error and sin, wait but the departure of the striving Spirit of God, and then they sail down upon the understanding and heart, as carrion patent to their use. They "arise and devour much flesh.”

The profession of intellectual infidelity is, however, in general a mask, and at all times but as “sounding brass and tinkling cymbal," as hollow, as empty, and as vain.

But there is very much infidelity amongst the working classes that does not sound at all; it lurks in the human heart, “a canker worm," that pursues noiselessly the destruction of all right principles and virtue.

The plan of this work does not admit of extended dissertation, and it is difficult to make cursory remarks upon great subjects; but a few inquiries may be well, as to how far the Church of Christ is chargeable with this state of things, or whether the Church is blameless.

Surely but one answer can be given to this question, when we remember that Home Missionary Societies are mainly the offspring of the present century, and that even now there are to be found in the churches of several denominations, some pastors and people who repudiate Missionary efforts altogether, and in their ministrations and private efforts do not even invite sinners.

The Gospel seems long to have been, in one sense, as a rusty sword in the hands of the Church, and when at last the condition of our home population had become so eminently perilous, as to awaken the Church to a sense of the necessity for some effort, the rust of apathy and of sectarianism was found so to have accumulated around it, that almost desperate efforts were necessary to band together sufficient hands, from different denominations, to expose it, even partially, by a united effort, to an error-stricken and perishing multitude.

When the Ojibbeway Indians were lately in London, some pious men endeavoured to convert them to Christianity-efforts which their chief declined thus :

“Now, my friends, I will tell you that when we first came over to this country, we thought we should find the white people all good and sober people; but as we travel about we find this was all a mistake. When we first came over, we thought the white man's religion would make all people good, and we then would have been glad to talk with

you, but now we cannot say that we like to do it any more. My friends, I am willing to talk with you, if it can do any good to the hundreds and thousands of poor and hungry people that we see in your streets every day when we ride out. We see hundreds of little children with their naked feet in the snow, and we pity them, for we know that they are hungry, and we give them money every time we pass by them. In four days, we have given twenty dollars to hungry children-we give our money only to children. We are told that the fathers of these children are in ale-houses where they sell fire-water, and are drunk, and in their words they every moment abuse and insult the Great Spirit. You talk about sending black

[ocr errors]

coats among the Indians; now we have no such poor children among us; we have no such drunkards, or people who abuse the Great Spirit. Indians dare not do so. They pray to the Great Spirit, and he is kind to them. Now we think it would be better for you teachers all to stay at home, and go to work right here in your own streets, where all your good work is wanted. This is my advice. I would rather not say any more.”

The correctness of this North Western chief's statement, respecting the condition of the Ojibbeway nation, cannot be admitted, as the Annual Report of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for 1848m-the very period that they were in this country--will testify; but the reproof has much force. The importance of Foreign Missions, and of their extension, is unspeakable, but sad neglect has prevailed respecting the immense mass of heathenism in our midst.

One favourite argument of infidels and others, I have found to be to the following effect :

“Religion,” it has been said to me, “is all a sham. It's all very well to go to church and chapel, and very genteel, but I'll never believe these people consider

my

soul will burn in hell for ever and ever. If they do, they must be brutes indeed. Why, if I saw a poor creature under a cart-wheel, I'd try to pull him out, but hell you say is worse still. If they believed it, we should hear more about it than we do.” Then would frequently follow some such

« PreviousContinue »