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Who does not believe that if the negroes understood, as a little intele ligence would make them understand, their own imbecility and the colossal vastness of the power which is pledged to hold them in subjection, the frequency and the danger of conspiracies and insurrections, would be greatly diminished? Who does not believe that if the negroes, instead of being abandoned to the influence of such preachers as rise up among themselves, with a pretended inspiration, were thoroughly instructed in the principles of the gospel by competent christian teachers, they would be far less dangerous than they now are? Besides, the question whether the negroes shall have knowledge, is no longer submitted to your choice or to the choice of your fellow citizens. Many of them are learning self-taught, or by mutual instruction, learning every day, learning to read and to write, learning every thing which your legislators think they ought not to learn. No laws, no police, no standing army can utterly hinder them from learning. You may still decide however, whether they shall all be taught, or whether here and there an individual acquiring knowledge by his own efforts shall, in that way, acquire a dangerous power over his degraded brethren. And it is still for you to say, whether they shall learn in spite of you, and as they learn, curse you for having taken away from them the key of knowledge; or whether the tie of gratitude and veneration that binds the learner to his teacher, shall bind them to you. We leave the question then with your sense of duty to yourselves and to the wretched beings among whom, and over whom, God has placed you, Ought you not to insist on the instruction of the colored population, bond and free?
On the answer which is given to such questions as these, great interests are depending. Danger there may be in agitating the subject of reform and abolition ; but there is more danger, infinitely more, in sitting still, and saying, Peace, peace, while the bondage and ignorance and innumerable wrongs of two millions of human beings are becoming the bondage, the ignorance, the innumerable wrongs
of three millions, and of four, and of millions accumulating upon millions, in successive generations. Danger there may be in every attempt to remedy such evils; but in the evils themselves there is a deadlier danger, and is it not the height of cowardice to incur the greater for the sake of avoiding the less ?
VOLUME V.-NUMBER II.
ART. I.-HOW CAN THE SINNER BE MADE TO FEEL his Guilt ?*
The question, “How can the sinner be made to feel his guilt," is one of the most momentous, in many respects, that can be presented to the human mind. On a correct answer, depends the success of the gospel, in every nation and every age. Unless men are made to feel that they are guilty, in vain do we offer them
pardon, and in vain is the standard of the cross lifted up in their view. At the present day especially, this question is invested with a deeper interest, by the revivals of religion with which the church is favored; and which we have reason to believe will extend from land to land, as the great means of ushering in the millenial glory. The reign of Christ on earth, must obviously be introduced by great excitement; by profound and anxious inquiry ; by a movement throughout all christendom, and reaching into heathen lands; by the application of some power that shall unclench the grasp of men from the world, alarm their fears, awaken their hopes, and lift their thoughts to God. But in any great religious movement, the depth, genuineness, and lasting efficacy of the change produced, must depend on men's views of their guilt, and their need of pardon. As a mere question, then, in the advance of christianity, the subject before us has an interest commensurate with the value of christian truth. No preacher can be successful, who is not able, with the divine blessing, to lay open the sources, and the hiding places of guilt; to bring the transgressor out to light, and to hold him there, while eternal truth, with a full and overpowering blaze, shall do its work; and justice shall shake his frame, and conscience shall make him pale, and mercy shall find out the place of grief, and
This article was prepared at the request of the Revival Asso by the Rev. ALBERT BARNES, of Philadelphia. Vol. V.
the memory of crime shall wring tears from eyes unused to weep. The question is often put to ministers, by the awakened sinner, “how may I FEEL my guilt, and be brought to repentance?” The inquiry is made with deep emotion : there is some honesty and sincerity about it, though much less than the inquirer supposes; but we need hardly add, there is nothing holy in the feelings from which it springs. Yet a condition in which a man will ask the question, is far more promising than the leaden sleep in which most men lie. It is the business of the ministry to answer this question, and happy will it be if even in a single case, the answer shall give light to a benighted and anxious mind. I shall attempt to do it, by showing what obstacles prevent men from feeling their guilt; that christianity contemplates the removal of these obstacles; that it has power to demolish them; and that when they are removed, the gospel is fitted to meet the state of the soul, and to overwhelm it with the consciousness of guilt.
1. The first obstacle to conviction of sin, is the instinctive reluctance which all men feel to the consciousness of guilt. The dread of this, indeed, is one of those deep and immoveable safeguards, which God has laid in human nature itself
, for the welfare of society. So painful and terrific is this consciousness of guilt, that many men avoid it by refraining from open transgression, when there is no better principle to guard them. The certainty, that if they commit iniquity they must yet feel it; that conscience has an evergoading sting, and a whip of scorpions; that there is an unseen hand to reach a fugitive; a finger that can write his crime on every wall; and a voice of blood that can cry from the earth beneath his feet, may deter a man from guilt, when no higher principle restrains him.
This same fear however may be turned to the most pernicious uses. There
There may be such a determined purpose of wickedness, such a rush of passion, and headlong indulgence; such a propensity to evil that none of the safeguards of virtue will restrain the man. Then, when the crime is committed, it becomes a question how he may avoid the consciousness of it? How he may put back the hand of justice? How silence the voice of blood ? How still the thunders of conscience and of law? How go on still in crime, and yet not be harrowed with remorse? Here originates the desire for all those arts of evasion, those subterfuges of guilt, those self-delusions which are made to set in upon the soul, like a mist from the ocean, to shut out the sun of truth, and to elude the eye of justice. Here is the source of all the superstition of misguided men, of all the arts of the pagan and the Jesuit, to ward off the convictions of a man's own guilt; and of all the false systems of morality and theology; and here too originates the accelerated love of pleasure and amusement; the plunging into deeper schemes of
gain or ambition, that a man may escape from the memory of his crimes, and live at ease, while he violates the laws of man and of God.
Such, too, is the case with a sinner, when God commands him to repent. He fears the consciousness of guilt. He dreads the alarms of conscience. He starts back from the process of repentance and of a return to God. That instinctive dread of this consciousness which was one of the safeguards, by which God would have deterred him from the commission of crime, he now perverts to a hindrance to his return. He looks upon this return, upon a state of conviction for sin, as a dark and starless way; a condition of gloom and sadness; a course of terror where no light shines on the path, but the flashes of the lightning of justice, leaving the darkness deeper and more dreadful. The spirit of a man, says Solomon, can sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? He anticipates a protracted process in the work of convictionwhat he has learned in the books of an older theology, but not in the sacred scriptures, to dread as a long and perilous “law-work” on the soul; a dark and dismal journey for weeks or months or years, across a barren waste, till he emerges at last in the region of light and peace. The necessity of feeling guilty even for a few moments, would deter and frighten him. How much more so, when he has been led to suppose, that he must go bowed down with this consciousness, for months or years, before he can find peace of conscience or reconciliation with God.
Now it is clear that with this apprehension, no man will go through the process of repentance, if he can help it. It is clear, too, that in the workings of human wickedness for six thousand years, more than one way will be found out to avoid it. Hence every man has a shield to throw before himself, to ward off the consciousness of guilt. And hence we are compelled to make our way to the conscience, against this barrier which the sinner has raised; in the face of the mighty determination not to be lashed with a whip of scorpions; and to follow the man through a thousand hiding places, and in a labyrinth of evasion, before the arrows of truth reach the victim, and the quiver is fixed in the panting heart.
One part of the sinner's apprehension is true, the other is not. It is true, that we seek and desire to overwhelm him with the consciousness of guilt; and that we wish to inflict pangs in the soul that shall start him from his seat of ease, and teach the tear of penitence to flow down the cheek of guilt. But it is not true, that religion seeks to throw him into a land of storms, and gloom, for weeks and years. Religion comes with pardons in her hand and peace in her train. The sunshine of mercy beams through the storm, and even while the tempest pours, and the thunder rolls, it has already, though
unseen, painted the bow of hope in the distant sky. The idea that men must suffer pangs and gloom for years, that they must go through the tremendous and protracted process of what, in old theology, is called “the law-work,” is what a false philosophy has added to the sacred scriptures. Nothing there forbids the thought, that they may at once exercise repentance and be pardoned. One emotion of genuine sorrow for sin, one act of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will secure pardon and eternal life. Nor will the soul be better fitted for the change by long rebellion in a state of anxiety and gloom; by stern and stubborn resistance, when sinners know their duty; by a war against the Holy Ghost protracted for months and years, than by a frank and ingenuous acknowledgment of guilt at once, and a rushing to the arms of Christ's outstretched mercy. We speak much of the improvements of theology, in modern times
. Perhaps the greatest practical advance, consists in removing this cumbersome burden from the gospel of Christ; and in the grand truth now beginning to be felt, that the gospel may convey the balm of consolation to a wounded spirit at once; and that the Great Physician of souls needs not that the gangrene of sin should prey on the vitals for years; that the leprosy should spread and rage, and torment the soul, through many dark and gloomy months, before the healing hand can be stretched out to restore
The sinner may be relieved at once. The first terrific view of guilt, may be followed by the tender voice of pardon, and the sight of a merciful Redeemer speaking peace.
2. Closely allied to this, is the second obstacle which I shall mention, viz. An unwillingness to avow and confess guilt
, even when the mind is conscious of it. This also is an instinctive feeling, and is another of the safeguards thrown around the human heart; but capable also of great perversion. The fact that guilt must be avowed if felt, that others must know it, and that the condition of the world is such as to extort the confession of it, is one of the many means which God has employed to prevent its commission. Every man knows that if he is guilty and is conscious of it, it must be revealed. The burning cheek, even when he wishes to drive the blood to the heart, will betray him. The eye, when he would have it fixed and calm, will be distracted and turn away. The brow that he would have smooth and calm, will be clouded. The thoughts, which he would drive down into his soul,” will start up with living power, and shed a trembling influence over the whole frame. He will be betrayed. God has guarded this matter too well to suffer him to escape. Society is organized to bring him out. Laws, and jurors, and judges; the injured man or society, become spies upon his movements, and have an interest in bringing guilt from its hiding place; and all the array of witnesses, and all the terrors of conscience, and the pro