Page images
PDF
EPUB

of heathen in different parts of the world, as far as ascertained, amount to about six hundred and fifty. They are in some cases aided by assistants and native teachers. Still how emphatically is the harvest great, and the laborers few ;'while some parts of the field are already white for the harvest.

4. The harvest is great, in view of the means and prospects furnished by Providence. God, in advancing his kingdom on earth, prepares the way, in arranging the events of his providence. He raises up instruments qualified for his work; and often opens the way before them, as they go forth crying, " Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” When the disciples were assembled, on the day of Pentecost, waiting for the promise of the Spirit, they were endued with Power from on high, and the gift of tongues rested upon them. They went forth, working miracles as a proof of their divine commission, at the introduction of the new dispensation; and with the gift of tongues fulfilling the Savior's injunction when ascending on high, “Go ye and preach the Gospel to every creature.” How well was this adapted to the times and circumstances in which the apostles were placed. When, in subsequent ages, the fine gold had become dim, and the glory had departed—when religion had become united with the power and policy of state, and converted into ap engine of despotism--when the Bible was confined to a few, and the maxim was enforced, “ Ignorance is the mother of devotion”— when thick darkness had for centuries brooded over the nations; it pleased God signally to prepare the way for the Reformation. The art of printing had been invented; the mariner's compass was in use; the revival of letters had commenced. Luther translated the Bible into German, saying, “ Let there be light;" and the press multiplied its copies. The struggle of the Reformation was in a great measure to recover Christianity from human usurpation, and to restore it to its rightful Lord. The revival of letters furnished means for elucidating the word of God, and clearing it from corruptians. In succeeding times the reformed churches fell into a deep slumber, While they “slept, the enemy sowed tares.” We well remember how plenteously they sprang up. Infidelity presented a bold front, and threatened to destroy every thing sacred. In such troublous times the true people of God were revived in spirit ; and, as they trembled for the ark, mourned over the sins and woes of Zion, poured forth their intercessions, and said to each other, “ Let us rise and build,” the pool which had become stagnant, was stirred by the Angel of the covenant, and afforded a refreshing and vivifying influence. When reviewing the last forty years, we acknowledge with admiring gratitude the various institutions of Christian benevolence, which are now in harmonious operation, exerting a mighty moral influence, and furnishing facilities and means to missionaries before unknown, The Bible Society multiplies copies of the Scriptures in the varia ous languages of the world, and supplies the place of the gift of tongues.It is needless to specify the various forms of Christian charity, which, commencing with infancy, lays the basis of a scriptural and religious education, and follows man in every course and state of life; and seeks to apply the best relief of sin, and want, and wo.

The efforts of the present day for arresting and turning back that fell destroyer, intemperance, which has annually slain its thousands and tens of thousands, and which has interposed such formidable obstacles to the success of the Gospel, are of incalculable worth.

The spirit of missions, which characterizes the present period, commenced vith the revival of religion in the churches. Domestic and foreign missions

have grown and strengthened in connection with the power of religion. The era of foreign efforts is identified with the prosperity of religion at home

The events which have recently transpired mark the present as an interesting crisis in the history of the world. The Christian will with care study the page of prophecy, and the movements of Providence, and mark the light which they mutually shed on each other. Though humbly con scious that it is not for him “to know the times and the seasons, which are in the Father's hand," he will carefully watch the signs of the times, and discharge the duties to which Providence invites. By common consent it is universally admitted that the prophetic period of twelve hundred and sixty years is drawing to its close, preceding the universal prevalence of Christ's kingdom in the world. Meanwhile, momentous and interesting events must transpire in the civil and ecclesiastical world; and far mightier efforts must be employed by the church. Do we not now perceive the high and holy One “shaking not the earth only, but also heaven; that by the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, those things that cannot be shaken may remain ?" The Mohammedan power * declining, and “the waters of the Euphrates are drying up.” The Chrisi tian colonies on the coast of Africa furnish a presage of the entire extinction of one of the foulest blots on Christendom, the slave trade; -and the regeniet ration of long-afflicted and degraded Africa. Papal institutions and govern ments, which have pressed heavily upon the interests of civil and religious liberty, are also shaken. Literature, science, and true religion are extend? ing their benign influence. The angel is flying in the midst of heaven, with the everlasting Gospel. God is giving proof that his word “shall ·not return void.” The voice of Providence, then, is, “ Arise,'shinc, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” Such is the harvest, great in the extent of its field, in the blessings it conveys, in the instrumentality it requires, and in the means and prospects furnished by Providence.

II. The text urges our duty in relation to missionary efforts : “ Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest."

The spirit of the Christian is that of love to Christ and to Zion; his life is in sincere and unreserved devotion to his Savior’s glory and Zion's progperity. Prayer is his vital breath. In proportion as his own soul prospers will intercession constitute a leading part in his addresses to the throne of grace. It should never escape our remembrance, that of the six petitions in the summary of prayer furnished us by our Savior, three respect the display of his glory and the extension of his kingdom on for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” The discharge of the duty enjoined by our Savior supposes, 1. That we cherish a deep and constant sense of our dependance upon

grace. The private Christian, in the divine life, “is clothed with humility,” lives a life of faith in the Son of God, and seeks continued supplies of the grace and help of the Spirit. So the Christian church should always be found in the attitude of leaning on her Beloved; and should realize that “all her springs are in God.” “ The treasure is in earthen vessels : the excellency of the power is of God.” When this sense of dependence has been lost, and yielded to self-compiacency and self-confidence, how often has it proved that the very instrumentality which should have promoted the purity and growth of religion has tended to its corruption and decline. How many places once beautiful are now desolate. They said they were enriched with goods; and they were poor." As we contemplate the spiritual

u Pray

divine grace.

[ocr errors]

building rhodo bnco in

hands

hobb

heavens, and look forward to the time when the top stone shall be laid, with shouting, Grace, grace unto it; and at the same time consider the difficulties that attend the work, the weakness of the instruments employed, and the malice and power of opposing foes, we are ready to ask, How can this be? A voice from heaven speaks, “ Who art thou, O great mountain ! before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain. Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Is there not danger lest, in the midst of action, the church should forget the proper spring of action? Where will be the glory and value of the tabernacle, if the ark of the covenant is removed ?

2. This duty requires habitual and fervent remembrance in our private devotions. Love to the Redeemer's cause is not a transient emotion in the Christian heart; but it is a fixed principle and growing habit of soul. "He prefers Jerusalem above his chief joy." He should then be frequent, fervent, importunate, and persevering in his intercession. Do we not greatly fail in this point? How often is Zion forgotten, or remembered only with coldness! In this we may find a test of our spiritual state. In asking for personal blessings, our deceitful hearts may betray us. · When, in freeness and enlargement of spirit, we seek the good of Zion, we have the best proof that we are born from above. Oh, that from the closets and habitations of the righteous the smoke of incense, in fervent, effectual prayer, may continually ascend before the mercy seat, as a sweet-smelling savor unto the Lord.

3. This duty requires union in Christians.Addressing his assembled disciples, Jesus said, Pray ye. The true disciples of Jesus are united in spirit and service. The words of our Savior's prayer are memorable; “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." What Christian can be reluctant to engage in a service so delightful and animating, as united prayer for the coming of Christ's kingdom on earth? Who will not say, I will go also ? The monthly concert observed by various evangelical denominations, is greatly to be valued. Were it to inspire a deeper interest, and meet with a more general, punctual, and appropriate attendance, the fruits thereof would be manifest in our own bosom, and be seen spread around us. The first suggestion of a concert similar to this, was made to the American churches by one (President Edwards) who, "being dead yet speaketh," in the fruit of his labors, and in his writings transmitted to us, and who possessed the rare combination of the acutest and most vigorous intellect, with the most simple and tender piety. His treatise on this subject deserves most careful perusal. “On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were with one accord in one place, continuing in prayer and supplication.” It was there that the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and they went forth and preached the Gospel of the kingdom. The same truth which they preached is committed to us ;—the same Spirit which descended on them, and crowned their labors, is promised. Fervent prayer will lead to corresponding effort;—united prayer will lead to united effort. Among those who embrace the same fundamental truths which humble the sinner, exalt the Savior, and promote holiness, there exists a diversity in smaller points which properly leads to distinct organization. Here harmony is best promoted, and strength gained, by each cherishing a sacred regard to the rights and interests of others, and rejoicing in their prosperity. It is remarked by Montgomery, that the efforts of distinct denominations in promoting the cause of religion, are like the light of the sun reflected in the rainbow, a token of peace and salvation to a lost world, while their common exertions are like the ravs blended in light. While faithful in im

proving their particular spheres, there is a common cause in which all the servants of Christ should join :—the cause of truth and righteousness, against error and sin. When tempted by the pride of opinion, in matters comparatively unimportant, or by the clashing of selfish interests, let us, found laboring with the host of Israel, say, “I cannot come down, I am doing a great work.”

4. This duty requires the use of all proper means for suitably training laborers for the missionary field. A suggestion has been advanced, as to the expediency of instituting a seminary or a distinct department especially designed for this object. It is worthy of serious consideration. It is believed, that such a seminary would not only furnish greater advantages to its members, but that it would more directly, and distinctly bring the cause of foreign missions before the Christian public, and inspire a deeper interest in its favor. In our favored churches, where the Spirit's influence is enjoyed, let the subject of foreign missions be presented in just prominence. In our theological seminaries, let a careful inquiry and deep interest be cultivated and cherished among their members, who shall soon go forth to preside in the churches of our own land, to give a tone to their sentiments and feelings, or else to enter themselves upon the glorious work.

5. This duty requires that all the churches of Christ should systematically and efficiently aid in the promotion of the cause of missions. It cannot be necessary to argue the duty of professed Christians to give their prayers, their property, and labors to this cause.

The Christian judgment needs not be convinced, but the Christian conscience needs to be awaked, and the heart affected. Christians should learn to give, not from the impulse of momentary excitement, but from the deliberate conviction of duty, in the discharge of which the heart seeks its highest joy. Systematically, I say, because it is 10 be regretted, that so many churches so readily relax their efforts, until some new impulse be given, which again soon spends itself. These are like the mountain streams, fed by sudden showers, which soon pass away. The efforts and contributions made by the enlightened judgment and disciplined heart, are like the majestic river, fed by living springs ; which heeds not the drought of summer, but passes on, widening and deepening. It is the genuine spirit of religion, to prize and promote foreign Missions; and every proper effort to promote them advances religion at home. It is here true, as in other things,-“ There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth.” “ He that watereth shall be watered himself.” And, on the other hand," TI is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty.” Where the churches are blessed with the Spirit's influence, cherishing the graces of the pious, and converting sinners to Christ, there will be found free will offerings brought liberally, cheerfully, and continually, in behalf of this cause.—Look, on the other hand, to the churches indifferent to this cause, and neglectful of duty : there mildew and blasting spread, and spiritual barrenness reigns. When the churches of Christ shall harmoniously exert their energies, wliat, under the Divine blessing, may not be accomplished ?

We have reason to acknowledge, at this returning anniversary, the continued favor of Providence toward this board of foreign missions. Twenty years have elapsed since its organization. The circumstance of a few pious youths devoting themselves to missions among the heathen, led to its formation. It has exerted a most salutary influence on the internal state of our churches; and its continued prosperity stands identified with the glory of the church and the welfare of our nation. If there be a nation on earth

more indebted to the Gospel than all others, it is ours; and shall we not testify our gratitude by contributing to extend its blessings to other nations? Every thing in our history and circumstances, reminds us of the invaluable privileges and mercies handed down by our ancestors, the puritan pilgrims and others, and the responsibility resting upon us.

One theme of regret, however, presents itself, in the very considerable deficiency in the revenue of this year, compared with that of last year, while new missionary fields are opening. The march of Christian charity and munificence should be ever onward.

Let every pastor present the claims of this cause prominently before the people, and feel that its prosperity is identified with the success of his labors at home. Let information be generally extended, and every means to excite interest and combine effort be employed. While in opposing the march of truth, various errors and conflicting interests combine, let the church of God arise in her strength, and in unbroken columns march onward under the banners of the great Captain, from victory to victory. While the enemy opposes and rages, we remember, “ More are they that are for us, than they that are against us.” God's truth is great, and must finally triumph.

SERMON XCIV.

By Rev. JOSHUA LEAVITT.

NEW-YORK.

THE LIVING EPISTLE. 2 Cor. iii. 2. Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read

of all men. In writing this letter to the Corinthians, one object the apostle had in view was the vindication of his own authority as an apostle. The false professors, who had crept into that church, and caused so much evil, had been rebuked so severely in the former epistle, that they had now no refuge but in denying his authority. This question, therefore, became the turning point in the debate with the false teachers. As one voucher of his authority, Paul appeals to the effect of his preaching on the Corinthians themselves : Ye are our epistle.

In the preceding verse he asks, “Need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you ?" By this forin of expression he declares emphatically, and appeals to themselves, that he did not need any testimonials to his character as an apostle, either when he came among them, or when he went from them to other churches.

The reason why he did not is also given. “ Ye are our epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”

When he came among them, their mutual affection and confidence was a testimonial which could be felt in their hearts. When he went to other places he could point to the Corinthian church as a monument of the divine efficacy of his doctrine.

The way these Christians became thus a proof of the divinity of the L Gospel is stated in verse 3: “ Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to

« PreviousContinue »