Page images

if the world should be converted—if the Jews should be brought in with the fulness of the gentile nations, these incredulous, or rather, uncandid persons, would not believe that any thing was yet effected. With such prejudices we do not contend: they are too inveterate and deep-rooted to be shaken by argument. The facts are before the world ; let every one judge of them as he pleases ; but, in the mean time, the great and glorious work is advancing and spreading, in spite of the prejudice and envy of men. And what is doing in the missionary cause, I doubt not, will, in the eyes of posterity, be viewed as far more important and glorious, than the most considerable political events of our times. Then it will be admitted, that Hall, and Newell, and Mills, and Judson, and Parsons, and Fisk, and Kingsbury, and Stewart, and King, and Bingham, with their faithful coadjutors, did not labor altogether in vain. No; when the envy and prejudice of the present generation shall have died, the

memory of these men will be blessed; and the simple narrative of their indefatigable labors and patient sufferings, will be read with interest and gratitude, in the four quarters of the world, and in the most distant corners of the earth ; and that, too, when the names of the enemies of missions shall rot in complete oblivion.

The next objection to combined and vigorous missionary efforts, which I shall notice, is, that the time is not yet come—the time for the conversion of the nations unto God; and that, until God's appointed time shall arrive, although some partial effects may be produced, yet no general or great success will attend missionary efforts, however wisely they may be planned, or vigorously executed. If we were certain that this objection rested on the ground of truth, it would indeed discourage our hearts; but would not alter our duty, or remove the obligation of the Saviour's command, to “preach the gospel to every creature;" for, neither the purposes of God, nor his predictions, are made the rule by which we are bound to regulate our conduct. What God requires of us is, to obey his commandments; the effects which may be produced by our exertions, belong to him, and he will regulate them according to his own good pleasure, and according to his faithful promises.

But this objection may be founded, either on the prophecies, or on the present aspects of Providence. Now, in regard to the first, it may be observed, that the church will probably wait long before she begins her efforts, if she suspend them until an agreement shall take place among expositors, respecting the times and seasons predicted in Scripture. Prophecies are seldom capable of a precise interpretation until they are fulfilled. We also know, that learned men, who have devoted themselves to the study of prophecy, have been egregiously deceived in their most confident predictions of the course of future events. And for ourselves, we believe, " that secret things belong to God, but those which are revealed to us and our children ;” and that the “ times and the seasons” are among the things which “ the Father hath kept in his own power.

But considering the objection, as it relates to the present aspects of Providence, we are disposed to maintain that it is destitute of a shadow of foundation. On the contrary, we are persuaded. that almost every thing in the

existing state of the world, proclaims aloud to Christians, in a voice not to be misunderstood, that the door of access to the gentiles is now opened, and that they are required to enter into the fields, which are already white, to the harvest. The facilities of propagating the gospel in foreign countries, are multiplied far beyond any conception which our forefathers could have entertained on the subject. Formerly, by reason of the imperfection of naval architecture, the want of astronomical instruments, and the defect of skill in navi. gation, it was considered a prodigious thing for any one to circumnavigate our globe ;-an event, in our days, of the most common occurrence.

Not many centuries ago, the art of printing did not exist ; all books were produced by the alow process of writing every letter with the hand; and, long since this wonderful art was invented, the ability to multiply copies of the Scriptures, and other books, was extremely limited; but recently, by the improvements of the press, and the application of steam, and other mechanical powers, books can be multiplied almost at will; and at prices far below those at which they could be afforded, previous to the commencement of the present century.

The facility of acquiring foreign languages is also greatly increased in our times. More literary men travel in lands once little visited, and a greater number of those who remain at home, apply themselves to the study of various languages; by which means, teachers of foreign tongues are greatly multiplied as well as the necessary apparatus of grammars and lexicons.

To all which, it may be added, that the intercourse between parts of the earth widely separated, is much more frequent and intimate, than in preceding ages ; so that now, there is scarcely an inhabited country or island on the globe, which is not visited by our hardy and enterprising seamen. Missionaries, at present, find no difficulty in reaching the place of their destination. A voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, or Cape Horn, is not, in our day, considered too arduous for tender females.

But there is another weighty consideration which shows that the time for nissionary exertion is come; and that is, the fact, that scarcely an effort has been made, by any society, in our day, which has proved abortive. Almost

ll denominations of Protestants have engaged in this good work, and all appear o be successful. But I have already had occasion to refer to the success of missionary exertions, and will not now dwell upon the subject.

The only other objection to foreign missions which I think it necessary to notice, is, that by the prosecution of this enterprise, we injure the churches at home, and neglect to supply with the means of grace, the vast and increasing population in our new settlements ; and that, by our exertions to send the sospel to the heathen, we exhaust those funds, which are requisite for the sucessful operation of our benevolent institutions; and, also, take away fronı jur destitute churches, some of our best men, whose services at home can ery illy be dispensed with. More prominence is given to this objection in he statement, than to the others; because, while they spoke the language of nfidelity, or prejudice, or at best, philosophy, this speaks the language of pious eal; and, no doubt, has often proceeded from the mouths of those who were incerely attached to the cause of God. And if the effects of foreign mis.

sions were, indeed, such as is here supposed, it would behoove us to pause, and consider our ways, if not to retrace our steps. But I appeal again to facts, and on these we are willing to rest our cause. We say, then, that if the prosecution of foreign missions has actually lessened the resources, or diminished the zeal and vigor of our churches at home, we will cease to urge the subject any longer upon your attention. But how stands the fact ? I appeal, now, especially to those who, like myself, are advanced in years. My brethren, has any thing occurred within your remembrance which has given so great a spring to vital piety, in the churches, as the enterprise of sending missionaries to the heathen? Has it not been the means of enlarging the views, and elevating the aims of Christians, in regard to the duty of promoting pious and benevolent objects of every kind? When, before, has so much been done to diffuse religious knowledge, and to extend the means of instruction to the poor and destitute ? And who are they who most abound in acts of beneficence towards these objects ? Are they not those very persons who are most zealous and liberal in the support of foreign missions ? The fact is, that a new and holy impulse has been given to the Christian church, in consequence of this enterprise ; and already the churches have been more than repaid for all their sacrifices and contributions for this cause. The waves which have by this means been put in motion, still go forward, with increasing swell, and we cannot anticipate what will be the full effect.

And as to the loss of men, I say, they are not lost—not lost to the American churches. The disinterested and noble act of forsaking their native land and all their affectionate friends for ever, does more good to the church than a lifetime of common labor. It teaches the whole religious community, that Christianity has not lost its original power by the lapse of ages. It casts a dark shade upon the groveling pursuits of this world, and has a mighty tendency to lift the soul up to God. The departure of a few devoted missionaries does not diminish the number of faithful pastors, or laborers, in the home mission ;-it increases them manyfold. Many a pious youth is led to devote himself to the service of the Lord, in the gospel of his Son, in imitation of the foreign missionaries; and many a youthful heart has received its first permanent religious impressions, from perusing the accounts of the labours of these faithful men. And for myself, I cannot doubt, that the published journals of the missionaries have done us more good, than the labours of their lives would have done, had they continued at home. I hope none will think that I disparage the labors of pastors and home missionaries: this is far from my purpose. They too are engaged in a good work—in the same work ;but their labors are rendered more useful by the existence of foreign missions. The standard of their motives, in entering on and prosecuting their work, has been elevated, by the self-denial of the foreign missionary; so that, they all begin to feel more and more, that they are called to forsake all for Christ; to consecrate every faculty to Christ ; and to determine to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified; and to glory in nothing but the cross of Christ.

II. The second thing proposed in this discourse is, to take a brief survey of the grounds furnished, by the course of events, in regard to missions, for thanksgiving to God, and for encouragement with respect to the future. When the apostles and brethren, at Jerusalem, heard Peter's narrative of the circumstances of the first entrance of the gospel among the gentiles, “ they glorified God" for his goodness in granting “repentance unto life," to those whom they had before considered as abandoned to hopeless perdition. As to numbers, there was, indeed, as yet, but little to boast of; one family only had been gathered into the church; but they viewed this as the first fruits of a glorious harvest. Their eyes were now opened on a new field of labor. Their commission, they now perceived, instead of being confined to the small nation of the Jews, was co-extensive with the world. By this interesting fact, their views of their future work and success must have been exceedingly enlarged. It is not wonderful, therefore, that with one voice, and with one accord, they gave praise unto God, whose goodness and grace appeared so glorious, in granting repentance unto life to the gentiles. And here, I would observe, that the situation of the Christian church now is, in some respects, analagous to that of the infant apostolic church, at the time when this event took place. It will therefore be worth our while to spend a few moments in surveying more particularly, some of the reasons which demand the fervent gratitude of every Christian and of every philanthropist, arising out of the recent missionary operations of the church.

And first, it is a solid ground for thanksgiving, that the friends of Zion have been awaked from their long slumber on this subject; and have been, in some measure, made to feel their obligation to send the gospel to the heathen. It is truly astonishing, that among so many men of eminent piety, as have flourished since the Reformation, so few should have been impressed with the duty of bringing the heathen to the knowledge of the truth. The great reformers themselves seem not to have turned their attention seriously to the perishing condition of the world : but it may be plead in apology for them. that they had work enough at home ;-that the obstacles which they met, and the persecutions with which they were pursued, rendered it impossible to concert a plan, or to acquire the necessary resources for such a work. But their successors cannot be so easily justified; many of whom lived at ease, and enjoyed favorable opportunities of commencing the good work of sending missionaries to the heathen: and, especially, it strikes us with surprise, that none were found among the Puritans, a people eminent for piety, willing to carry the glad tidings of salvation to their perishing fellow-men in heathen lands. When two thousand godly ministers were at once ejected from their charges, by the ruthless band of tyranny, why did not some of them--yea, many of thein-turn their faces to lands covered with Pagan darkness ? Numbers of them, it is true, sought an asylum in this wide continent, and brought with them the gospel in its pririty, the light of which we now enjoy; but although surrounded by Pagans, few seem to have felt the importance of com municating to thein the words of everlasting life. Such men as Eliot and the Mavhews will indeed be remeinbered by the friends of missions

as long as the world stands; but in the midst of a pious people, and surrounded by faithful pastors, they stood almost alone in their generation, as the advocates for the heathen of this country. And, at a later period, the Brainerds, without the hope of an earthly reward, or even the expectation of being noticed in their self-denying work, wore out their lives in fatiguing and arduous labors for the conversion of the savages of America. And although the name of David Brainerd is now known and honored by many, in the four quarters of the world ; yet, perhaps, during his life, no minister in this land pursued his course in greater obscurity, or with less sympathy and encouragement from his brethren.

But let God have all the glory; the scene is now happily changed. The United Brethren set the example of missionary zeal, patience, and perseverance. The church of God in Great Britain next felt the sacred inpulse ; and the most distant shores now see her sons coming to the heathen, “ in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Churchmen and dissenters vie with each other, in holy emulation, to be foremost in extending the knowledge of a Saviour. Other European Christians have not been backward to engage in the glorious work; and none have laboured in this field with more wisdom and success, than the little band of Danish missionaries. America, also, has caught the heaven-enkindled flame; and hereafter, her missionary exertions will form the brightest pages in her eventful history. The spirit of evangelical missions has, for years, been expanding, and diffusing gradually its benign influence through our churches. Every year witnesses an increase of zeal on this subject, manifested by a more enlarged and active benevolence.

May this leaven still continue to ferment until the whole lump is leavened! A very small portion of the church are yet aroused to the proper tone of feeling on this subject; but, for what God has done for us, we ought to feel glad, and are bound with grateful hearts this day to glorify his name.

Another reason why we should gratefully acknowledge the goodness of God, in the review of the missionary events of the last few years, is the increasing ardor with which a large number of Christians have been inspired. Their pious and benevolent affections have not only been increased in intensity, but have been elevated and enlarged, so as to comprehend in their embrace, a much nobler and wider field than before. Formerly, the minds of Christians were occupied altogether with the concerns of their own salvation, and of those immediately around them; and no one seemed to have his heart expanded with a benevolence which took in the whole world ; but show, the fact is far otherwise. Many have been impressed with a feeling of tender solicitude for the salvation of their brethren of all nations; and these ieelings have gone on increasing in depth and expansion, until they have prompted some to acts of noble munificence, and others to still more glorious acts of self-denial; so that we now begin to come to some just understanding of the spirit which actuated the disciples of Christ in primitive times.

Another ground of rejoicing which we have, in the retrospect of missionary transactions, is. that men of a suitable character have been provided 10 carri

« PreviousContinue »