Page images
PDF
EPUB

The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. And even Now, amidst the darkness and misery which brood over the greater part of the earth, there are appearances, every where, which promise the approach of better days. It is but a short time since a large part of the inhabited globe was absolutely closed against the missionaries of the cross.

Ten or fifteen years ago, Egypt, Arabia, Persia, China, the Burman Empire, and a large part of Africa and her islands ;-in short, by far the greater portion of the Pagan and Mohammedan world, were rigorously shut against the Gospel. Missionaries could not so much as enter those countries, without incurring either certain death, or the most immediate risk of it. But now it may be said, without exaggeration, that the whole world is opened wide to the bearers of the Gospel message. I know not that there is, at this hour, a single portion of the globe, to which the enlightened and prudent missionary may not obtain some degree of access, unless it be some portions which bear the Christian name, but are under the spiritual despotism of “the man of sin, the son of perdition, who exalteth himself against all that is called God." He who “sits as Governor among the nations," seems to be spreading a natural preparation, if I may so express it, around the world, for the preaching of the Gospel among all nations.

He seems to be slowly and silently laying a train for mighty movements in time

He seems to be showing us how easy it is for him to incline the hearts even of his enemiesfrom worldly motives—not merely to permit the Gospel to enter their territories, but to invite its ministers

come in and proclaim their message. Never before was so large a portion of mankind accessible

to come.

to

to the evangelical laborer. Never before was there so much evidence that the most massive fabrics of superstition are crumbling to the dust, and ready to give place to a more pure and rational system. Never before were there so many appearances which promise the fulfilment of that prediction, that “nations shall be born in a day.” It is believed by some that there are at this moment, in the city of Calcutta, several thousands of young Hindoos, who are disposed seriously to inquire on the subject of salvation, and by no means indisposed to exchange their miserable superstition for a better form of religion. Only suppose such a body of young men prepared by the grace of God, and going forth in the spirit and power of Christ into every part of Hindoostan, and how might that deplorable moral wilderness be transformed into a fertile and delightful garden of the Lord! How might a thousand Asiatic deserts be made speedily to “ rejoice and blossom as the rose !” What say you, my Christian friends, to appearances and opportunities such as these? O ye who profess to know something of the sweetness of redeeming love, and the preciousness of Christian hopes, shall we be blind to these wonderful openings of Providence ? Shall we be deaf to these importunate invitations to enlighten and save perishing men ?

Contemplate, further, the singular progress of various forms of improvement throughout the civilized world ; all of which may be considered as bearing on the great promise contained in our text. Behold the intercourse between distant portions of the globe increasing every day with a rapidity, and to an extent, beyond all former precedent! Think of the endless improvements in the means of conveyance from one

part of the world to another; thereby investing missionary enterprises with facilities for carrying on their operations unknown to our fathers. Consider the wonderful improvements in the art of printing, and indeed in all the mechanic arts, rendering the multiplication of bibles, and other pious writings, for the benefit of the world, practicable and easy to an extent formerly thought incredible. Contemplate the extension of commercial enterprise, which late years have produced, presenting the means of benefiting mankind to an amount altogether new and extraordinary. Think of the enlargement of our acquaintance with the different languages of the globe ; it being probable that ten persons, if not twenty, now understand other living languages than their own, where one had this knowledge fifty years ago. Think of the Bible having been translated into more than one hundred and fifty languages at this hour spoken among men; and of the process of preparing the Scriptures for circulation in every part of the globe, still going on with increasing rapidity. And dwell, for a moment, on what is no less remarkable—the progress of public sentiment in regard to the conversion of the world to God. What, ten years ago, would have been thought the extravagance of visionary dreaming, in regard to this great enterprise, is now looked at, and talked about, with a grave familiarity and confidence which it is delightful to contemplate.' It is less than ten years since a proposal from a warm-hearted Christian in the State of New York, to supply the destitute of one populous county with Bibles, was regarded as a bold attempt, and received with thrilling interest. Not many months afterwards, the young men of the college at Princeton, resolved,

with a moral daring which was then almost ridiculed as presumptuous, to attempt to supply the destitute of the whole State of New Jersey with Bibles in two years. Yet bold, and almost hopeless as this pledge appeared at the time of its adoption, it was, substantially, and with wonderfully apparent ease, redeemed. Hardly was this accomplished, before a resolution was adopted to attempt the supply of the destitute in the whole United States with Bibles within a specified time. For this resolution, when adopted, inany even of the warmest friends of the Bible cause, were not prepared ; but feared it would prove a presumptuous and abortive undertaking. Yet, as far as any thing of the kind is practicable in such a country as this, it was faithfully and happily accomplished. But scarcely was this done, when the enlarged spirit of public benevolence—still augmenting in a geometrical ratio, called for a still wider and nobler field of pious effort. To supply all the accessible portions of the whole world with the word of life, within a specified time, was the sublime enterprise proposed to the American Bible Society, and to other Bible Societies in our own and foreign lands. A like rapid increase has been observable in the means furnished by public liberality, for carrying on the great enterprises of Christian benevolence which distinguish and adorn our age. They are, in all, from thirty to fifty fold, and in some more than a hundred fold, beyond what they were a quarter of a century ago. Now, in regard to all these, and other striking analogous facts, I ask, my friends, how shall we account for this astonishing progress of public sentiment in regard to plans for the conversion of the world to God? Can we possibly consider it as merely accidental, and

withoúť meaning ? - Surely such a conclusion would be as much opposed to reason as to piety. May we not rather consider it as a precious omen, that the great work which it contemplates is happily drawing near, and will, before long, be gloriously realized ?

And to me, it appears worthy of special notice, that there are so many indications that the English language,-the language of those parts of the world which are most favored with Gospel light, will probably, ere long, become the prevailing language of the whole world. The extensive and rapid progress of this language on the American continent ; in all the British possessions and dependencies in the Eastern world; in the continent of New Holland; in many of the Islands of the Sea ; and, in short, in every part of the earth where American or British missionaries are permitted to lift up their voice for Christ, is truly one of the most striking and interesting spectacles now passing before the contemplative mind. If the time should ever again recur, when the “ whole earth shall be of one language and one speech,” the English, I am persuaded, is more likely to be that language than any other. And may we not consider its gradual and remarkable extension as one of the means by which the “earth is to be filled with the glory of the Lord ? "

While we contemplate some of those prominent features in the aspect of the present day, which seem to portend an unexampled spread of the Gospel ;-we ought not to overlook some shades in the picture which certainly wear a very different appearance. Infidelity and heresy were, probably, never more busy in circulating their virulent poison, than at the present

« PreviousContinue »