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opposed, and its preachers persecuted, are the same which had influence in the days of the apostles ; and that its converts are inspired with something of the same spirit of constancy and inextinguishable zeal which characterized the primitive disciples. There is, moreover, a resemblance in the manner in which the gospel is introduced, and obtains footing. The success of the apostles, on their first visit to a town or city, was commonly small: a single family, or one or two individuals, were often the first fruits of the preaching of Paul or Peter : but these formed the germ, from which a flourishing church
“ The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard-seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; which indeed the least of all seeds; but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof."
The commission which our Lord gave to his disciples was universal in its extent, and couched in terms as perspicuous as could have been selected ; and yet so inveterate were their national prejudices, that they confined their ministry to the Jews and Samaritans. The idea that the church was still to be limited to their own nation, bad taken such complete possession of their minds, that even the plenary inspiration of Pentecost did not remove the
It became requisite, therefore, that a special revelation should be given to the church on this subject; which was communicated, by a vision, to the apostle Peter, while he was sojourning at Joppa. An angel was, in the first place, sent from God to a Roman centurion by the name of Cornelius, a devout and charitable man, who had his dwelling at Cesarea ; directing him to send to Joppa for Simon, whose surname was Peter ; " and he,” said the angel, “ will tell thee what thou oughtest to do." The angel himself could have readily informed this man of every thing which he could learn from Peter; but God chooses that the gospel should be preached by men of like passions with ourselves; and having instituted the ministry of reconciliation, he has resolved to honor that, as the means of bringing the heathen to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation ; and, although they deliver short messages to the saints, they have received no cominission to preach the gospel. Cornelius was, therefore, directed to send to Joppa for Peter, who should tell him what he ought to do. But what would Peter think of such a message from a gentile, with whom he had always been accustomed to believe it was unlawful to hold any intercourse? The same God who had sent his angel to Cornelius, had taken care to prepare the mind of the apostle for this extraordinary communication; for, while he was engaged in fasting and prayer, in the retirement of the house top, he saw a vision, the import of which was, that all national distinction between Jews and gentiles was done away, and that the middle wall of partition was broken down. But doubting, at first, what the meaning of this vision might be, he was relieved from all suspense by the suggestion of the Iloly Spirit, who said to him, “ Behold, three men seek thee ; arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing, for I have sent them.” Peter, in obedience to the divine command, went with the men, and preached the gospel to Cornelius and to all that were in his house : and the Holy Ghost faring manifestly come upon them. lie proceeded to receive them by baptism
into the Christian church. These were the first fruits of that glorious harvest of converts, who were, in a short time, gathered into the garner of the Lord from among the gentiles.
Tidings of this extraordinary event soon reached the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem, and produced no small surprise and agitation among them; and as soon as Peter was come up, they who were zealous for the Mosaic rites and distinctions, contended with him, and said, “ Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it in order unto them;" and concluded his defence, by saying, “ Forasmuch then as God gave unto them the like gift as he did unto us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I, that I should withstand God?” “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, then hath God also to the gentiles granted repentance unto life.”
It is pleasing to observe, how ready these good men were to yield to the truth ; and how sincerely they rejoiced, that God had granted repentance unto life, to the gentiles as well as to the Jews.
In accommodating these words to our present circumstances, I will, from them, take occasion to show,
That the manner in which God, by his providence and grace, has prospered the efforts of his church, to extend repentance unto life to the heathen, in our day, ought to silence all the objections which have been made to this benevolent enterprise.
That the success which has attended the labors of missionaries among the heathen, should induce all Christians to glorify God for his great goodness;-and,
That hence it may be inferred, that they should go forward in the great work, with increasing vigor, zeal, and confidence.
I. When it was first proposed to propagate Christianity in Hindostan. a great clamor was raised against the design, by interested men, who pretended that any attempt to change the religion of that people would be attended with civil commotion of the most alarming kind; and that the consequence, in all probability, would be the subversion of the British empire in the East. This objection to missionaries was founded on principles merely political, and, if it had been true, ought to have had no weight with Christians, to prevent them from propagating the gospel for the salvation of men. But when the experiment was made, what was the result ? Were the predictions of those wise politicians verified ? So far from it, that in no single instance has the attempt by missionaries, to propagate the gospel in foreign India, been followed by the least tumult or civil commotion ; and it is a notorious fact, that the immense population of that country has never remained so tranquil and submissive, as since the period of the introduction of missionaries.
But another objection was made, which could have no other basis than indifference to all religion. It was alleged, and strongly urged, that the heathen were contented and liappy in the possession of a religion of their own, to which they had been long accustomed, and which was adapted to their genius and climate ; and, therefore, that it was not only impolitic, but
inhuman, to disturb their minds with a new religion. The amount of this objection is, that all religions are equally good, and equally safe; and that Christianity possesses no such transcendent excellency as would make it a rich blessing to any and every people. Now, who does not perceive, that this bjection, though coming from the mouths of nominal Christians, is replete yith the spirit of infidelity? But even on mere principles of humanity, and n relation to temporal happiness, it is capable of the clearest demonstration, rom undoubted facts, that Christianity would confer on the heathen more inportant benefits than can be derived from any other source. :yes to the horrid system of idolatry which prevails in India, and other heathen Countries ; ---contemplate the multitudes whose lives are sacrificed to the gods of their cruel superstition ;-consider the slavish and desolating effects of hese false religions upon the minds of all their votaries ; not only in eradicating every virtuous and generous principle, but also in withering every kind and amiable affection of our nature : and having contemplated this scene, turn your attention to the benign influence of the Christian religion, in its tendency to control and mitigate the fierce passions of man; o civilize and refine society ; and to cause the obligations of justice and ruth to be felt :—and then, without any regard to its divine origin, or its necessity to secure future happiness, ask yourselves, whether benevolence loes not require that we should make every exertion to rescue our fellownen from the horrors of superstition, by inducing them to adopt the religion of Jesus? There exists not upon earth a greater foe to human happiness han Pagan superstition. While the body simply is ensla , the mind nay be tranquil and free, and may enjoy consolations which no external iolence can interrupt or destroy : but when the soul is held in cruel bondage, all sources of rational pleasure are cut off. And even as it elates to the sufferings of the body, no severer tortures have ever been invented or endured, than those inflicted by conscience, misguided and terrified by superstition. There can, therefore, be no work of greater benevolence, than o rescue our fellow-creatures from this wretched thraldom, by the diffusion of knowledge, and the propagation of just ideas respecting the character f God, and the true nature and extent of human duty. And if we admire the philanthropy of Howard, who devoted his life to the alleviation of the miseries of those unhappy men whose bodies were immured in loathsome dungeons, low can we withhold our cordial approbation of the faithful missionary, who abors in the midst of appalling dangers and difficulties, to deliver men from he intolerable bondage of superstition?
As the apostle Peter silenced all objections to his entrance among the gentiles, by a simple statement of facts, in humble imitation of his example,
would refer to the well-known facts which have occurred in our times, rela. ive to the happy change produced by the gospel in the temporal condition of ome of the most wretched of our race. Let the objector impartially consider the melioration of condition in degraded Africans, rescued from slavehips :let him ponder the wonderful progress of civilization and good moral
hits among the Hottentots. the Caffres, the inhabitants of the Society and
Sandwich Islands, and also among our Cherokees and Choctaws; and he will never be disposed again to bring forward this objection.
But this leads me to the consideration of one of the most plausible objections ever made against Christian missions : which is, that it is impossible to communicate the sublime truths of our holy religion to men in a savage state, or to bring them under the influence of its moral precepts. It was confidently asserted by philosophers, and reiterated by reverend theological professors, that civilization must precede Christianity. These opinions, during the last century, were so often inculcated, and so confidently repeated, that many persons well-disposed to the diffusion of the light of the gospel, received them as undoubted axioms. But how civilization was to commence and be carried on, no one undertook to explain. None appeared to possess zeal enough to go among the savage tribes to civilize them ; and thus, as far as these sentiments prevailed, all missionary effort was paralyzed, and a cloud of discouragement cast over every prospect of seeing the heathen brought into a better condition. It was well, however, that all Christians did not fall under the influence of this philosophical delusion : some continued to believe, that the only effectual means of civilizing barbarous nations was, to send them the gospel ; and, acting on this principle, they braved the ridicule and contempt of the wise men of this world, and zealously engaged in the glorious work of evangelizing the nations ;-a work which, we believe, will never be arrested, until the desired end is fully accomplished.
By mere reasoning, this class of objections could never have been so answered, as to convince those by whom they were made : but God, in his providence, has, by a series of facts, as gratifying as they are wonderful, silenced for ever, as we would humbly hope, these philosophical dogmas, which stood in the way of the progress of the gospel. And it was so ordered, as if on purpose to refute these prevalent opinions, that the first remarkable success in Protestant missions should take place among the most savage and degraded tribes of the human family. The Greenlanders, the African negroes, the Caffres, the Hottentots, the Boshmen, and the wandering aborigines of America, furnished the first trophies of missionary exertion. And to these were soon added, the inhabitants of the islands of the South Sea, and of the Pacific. Certainly, no people more remote from civilization existed in the world, than some of those who have, by missionary labours, been converted to Chris. tianity. And, however uncandid men may depreciate the work, and affect to believe that nothing has been done ; yet, in the view of the wonderful reformation wrought, and the extraordinary exaltation of the character, not of a few individuals, but of whole tribes and nations, the friends of missions have just grounds for mutual congratulation and triuinph. The problem is now solved, and it is by incontrovertible facts decided, that the gospel is capable of producing its genuine effects on the most barbarous, as well as the most refined, of the human species ; and that it possesses the power of civilizing men the most savage. Indeed, if it were not so, the heathen never could be converted to Christianity without a miracle ; for we know of no other means than the gospel by which savage ferocity can be subdued. and Pagon igno
rance enlightened. And if we could communicate the arts and refinements of civilized life to savages, it is not evident that this would at all prepare and dispose them for the reception of the gospel. When the most refined and civilized nations throw away all regard for religion, they become, as the history of our own age attests, the most ferocious of all mankind. Genuine civilization must commence with reformation of heart ; and nothing but true religion is capable of producing this effect.
Another objection, nearly allied to the above, and proceeding from the same quarter, was, that the enterprise was impracticable, by reason of the obstacles which stand in the way of success. The idea of converting the world to Christianity, has been ridiculed as weak and fanatical. To the philosophic eye of men of reason, there seemed to be no proportion between the means and the end proposed to be accomplished. That a few zealots, unsupported by civil authority, and unpatronised by the learned and the powerful, should think of revolutionizing the religion of the nations of the earth, all of whom are wedded to their own systems of worship, and many of whom by reason of their caste and prejudices are almost inaccessible, was viewed with ineffable contempt, by men who looked no farther than to second causes. And, indeed, if the missionary enterprise be contemplated, merely on the principles on which human calculations of success are usually made, the opinions of such objectors do not appear so very unreasonable. If the special aid of Almighty God might not be hoped for, then the prospect of accomplishing so great an object, by means so feeble and inadequate, would be discouraging enough. But if there be truth in Holy Writ, the conversion of the world is an event decreed in the counsels of heaven; and there is every reason to believe, that it will be brought about by human instrumentality. And it accords with the known methods of divine administration, in the establishment and advancement of the church, that instruments and means are often selected which ap. pear contemptible in the eyes of the world : and frequently, from small beginnings, the most glorious events are made to follow. Of the truth of this remark, the original propagation of the gospel is a sufficient illustration. But the best answer which can be given to this objection, is, as before, to point to the facts, and to say, SCE WAAT GOD HATA WRO
Behold the wonderful progress of the gospel, in a short time; and where the obstacles were as great as any that exist elsewhere. Contemplate the strange spectacle of whole nations casting away their idols, and princes and people, the aged and the young, sitting down at the feet of the missionaries, to be instructed in the things which relate to their salvation. I am aware, indeed, that some persons in our country have been pleased publicly to represent the missionary enterprise to be a failure. They have gloried, as if the wisdom of their predictions was now verified; and as if, indeed, nothing had been accomplished. Now, I know not what these men would consider a successful missionary operation ; but, if the effects produced by the exertions of missionaries in South Africa, in Tahiti and the neighbouring isles, in the Sandwich Islands, in many parts of India, and among the tribes of our own continent, can be believed to be events of no importance, then it mav he supposed. that