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ou this enterprise. When foreign missions. were first spoken of in this country, so low and contracted were the views of some of us, that we could scarcely be induced to believe, that any persons would be found willing to leave all, to take their lives in their hand, and commit themselves to the mercy of a heathen population. I can well remeinber the emotions of surprise excited in the minds of many serious people, when it was announced that the Baptist missionaries (Carey and his company,) had actually sailed for India ; and also, afterward, when so many missionaries left England for the South Sea islands. But the impression became deeper, when it was known that a number of young men, in our own land, had devoted their lives to the service of God among the heathen. Now, such facts have become so common, that they produce little surprise ; but then, it was like a new idea, which, while it startled, enlarged and elevated the mind.
But the point to which our attention should now be turned is, the excellent character, appropriate talents, and devoted spirit of the persons who have undertaken this arduous work. Call into review the missionaries employed by every society, and you will not easily find a brighter constellation of worthies. Some of them have been adorned with very excellent gifts, as well as endued with large measures of grace; and have made acquisitions in literature, which place them on a level with the most learned men of the age : and when we take into consideration the motives by which they were induced to make these attainments, they deserve a rank far more elevated than that to which mere literary men can ascend. The character of the missionaries of the present day has not yet been justly appreciated : by future generations, they will be more highly honored, both on account of their learning, and their benevolent labors.
The missionary enterprise is in itself so noble and benevolent, that when the mind of any man is fully occupied with it, it elevates not only his moral, but intellectual character, many degrees above the point to which it could have arisen in any other pursuit. Is it not a fact, that some of our missionaries, who, if they had remained at home, would never have risen above mediocrity, have manifested a wisdom and energy in their character, which may be justly termed extraordinary? In composition, few writers of the present day excel some of them, in those qualities which are characteristic of a truly good style. But it should not be thought strange, that the prosecution of an enterprise so great and benevolent, should elevate the character and impart unusual vigor to the intellectual faculties; for it is a principle of our constitution, that the mind receives its cast and complexion from the objects with which it is conversant, and from the pursuits in which it is engaged.
It also affords good ground for joy and thanksgiving, that there has arisen no discord among the friends of foreign missions, to distract their counsels and paralyze their efforts. Both in Europe and America, the utmost harmony has prevailed among those – however different in denomination, who have been engaged in the missionary operations of the day. The little, narrow feeling of party and sect. which has, on other occasions, operated so balefully, has
had no influence here. The missionaries, attached to different societies, and belonging to different denominations, meet in foreign lands, as brethren of the same family. They feel that they are laboring in the same cause, and serving the same glorious Master. With hearty good-will and mutual confidence, they are accustomed to counsel and assist one another, in the prosecution of their arduous work. No where upon earth does the genuine spirit of catholicism more prevail, than among missionaries, and the ardent friends of missions.
While it is convenient for the several ecclesiastical bodies, respectively, to devise their own missionary plans, and superintend their operation, there is no ground for jealousy or suspicion ; and there should be no provocation of one another, except to “love and good works.” The field is wide enough, and the work ample enough for all; and, under existing circumstances, they can bring forth their resources more effectually, than if they were all united in one body. And it should be felt, and I trust is felt, that the success of one society is the success of all. For the same reasons, there should exist no feeling of rivalry between home and foreign missions. The cause of both is the same, and the love of Christ and his kingdom, is the impelling motive of both, in their various operations. Let then this brotherly love continue, and this harmony ever prevail. lu that moment, in which missionary societies begin to contend with each other for influence and pre-eminence, in that same moment, it will be manifest, that the true spirit of missions has departed. And whoever shall have any agency in enkindling discord among the friends of this blessed work, will be guilty of a great offence; and wo to him by whom such an offence shall come. But it cannot, it must not be, that the progress of this work of God should be retarded or hindered, by the petty jealousies of its professed friends. A better spirit prevails ; and will, I trust, more and more prevail, until all our sectarian distinctions shall be melted into the complete “unity of the spirit :"-when all the servants of God, “shall see eye to eye ;' and the bond of union shall be TRUTH, PEACE, and CHARITY.
The only other cause of praise to God, which I shall mention at this time, is, that so many benighted heathen have already been enlightened with the rays of divine truth; and that there is a cheering prospect, that the light which has been enkindled in heathen lands will be diffusive ; and that the knowledge of Christ, now received by many, will be handed down to their posterity, to the most distant ages. The success of the gospel among the heathen in our day, considering the small number of missionaries employed, and the formidable obstacles which stood in the way, is truly wonderful. In the islands of the great sea, the word of the Lord has indeed had free course, and is glorified : in Africa, Hindostan, Ceylon, and even among the Burmese, there are new converts to Christianity ; in opening, softening, and sanctifying whose savage bearts, the power of God has been manifested, as remarkably as in the days of the apostles. Nor should we overlook the numerous instances of sound conversion, evidenced by a holy life, which have occurred among the wandering tribes of our own forests. Of these, some have already finished :heir earthly course, and, in dving, as well as living, have proved the efficacy
of gospel grace, to support and comfort the soul in the most trying circumstances. Who, that knows the value of one immortal being, will not rejoice and glorify God for his unspeakable mercy, in granting repentance unto life, to so many perishing heathen? These fruits are the product of the humble and painful labors of your missionaries : but they are not the harvest, they are merely the first fruits. The precious seed which has been sown shall not be lost: it will hereafter spring up abundantly, and gladden the hearts of all who love Zion, and pray for her prosperity.
The success of missionary labors ought not to be estimated so much by the actual number of converts, as by the preparation which has been made for future and more extended operations. The Holy Scriptures have, by the diligence and learning of missionaries, been translated into many different languages; and are now in the progress of wide and rapid circulation. Tribes, destitute of a written language, before they were visited by your missionaries, have been taught to read, and already begin to peruse the wonderful works of God, recorded in the Bible, in their respective tongues. Thousands of heathen children are now collected in schools, through the assiduous labors of missionaries, and are daily taught lessons out of the lively oracles. Native teachers have been raised up in many places, and are now engaged in proclaiming a crucified Saviour to their deluded countrymen. Surely, these are not the effects of mere human esertion; but God has been with his faithful servants. He has, in much mercy, bowed his heavens and come down, to aid and bless their labors ; and has, through their instrumentality, “granted repentance unto life to the gentiles.” They have received the same spirit of faith and obedience which is given unto us; and now rejoice in the name of Jesus, as we do ; and place all their confidence in his atoning blood. Have we not reason, then, to exult? and ought we not, without ceasing, to praise and glorify the name of God, the maker of heaven and earth?
III. In conclusion, I would say, that having so much cause of thanksgiving from a retrospect of the past, it behooves us to be animated with renewed zeal and courage, in the further prosecution of this great work. The way of the Lord is made ready, even a high way for our God. The most appalling difficulties have been encountered and overcome; Jordan is already passed, and the land of promise lies before us; while behind, there is nothing but a barren wilderness. The Macedonian cry, COME OVER AND HELP US, is heard from a thousand tongues. Your missionaries most earnestly beseech you to send them aid : not because they are weary of their work, but because the harvest is too great for them to reap. Their most painful feelings arise from their inability to satisfy all the importunate demands made upon them for instruction. Only cast your eyes on the Sandwich islands—behold the ardor with which knowledge is there sought, by the high and low, by princes and people, by the
Methinks I see the withered hands of the aged, stretched out to us, in earnest entreaties that we should send some to teach them the way of salvation before they sink in the grave, shrouded in all the darkness of heathenism. The multitudes of dear children, who are pressing into your schools, and the half of whom cannot be accommodated, seem to send across
old and the young.
the wide waves of the ocean, a piercing cry for more missionaries more teachers-more books. And while this is the condition of a part of the heathen world, of which we, as a society, have taken solemn charge as our own peculiar field of labor, shall we be contented with what has already been done ? How can we be at ease, or suffer this subject of powerful interest to pass away from our thoughts, for a single hour ? An individual cannot do much, but the combined efforts of many can accomplish all that is wanted, so far as relates to funds. Now is the time for the wealthy to invest their money to the best advantage. Now, they have a precious opportunity of making to themselves friends, by means of the unrighteous mammon. Now, the man whose heart deviseth liberal things, may make such an appropriation of his riches as will produce a blessed gain to many and to himself through eternity. Why have we not at least a hundred missionaries in the Sandwich islands ? Are they not needed ? No one can dispute it. Are there no more pious men and women, who are willing to devote themselves to this service? Doubtless there are hundreds, willing to go, who might be useful in that field; if not as public preachers, yet as teachers of youth. What then is the obstacle? I am ashamed to mention it. It is the want of adequate funds.
Will future generations credit the account? Will it be believed that one thousandth part of the sum spent by serious Christians in acknowledged superfluities, was sufficient to support all the missions in the world : and yet that it was found impossible to induce them to conseerate this small portion of the goods which God gave them, to the honor of his name, for the advancement of the Redeemer's kingdom, and for the salvation of immortal souls ! How they who owe themselves to the Lord Jesus, and who have been bought with the price of bis invaluable blood, can withhold any thing which his cause needs, we cannot understand. Dear brethern, if you ever mean lo act with zeal and energy in this work, now is your time. The night is far spent, the day is at hand; it is, therefore, high time to awake out of sleep. Some of us will soon have made an end to all our earthly labors. Perhaps before another meeting of this Board, some of its present members will have been called to give up the account of their stewardship. If we have any remaining duty to perform, in aid of foreign missions, let us address ourselve to the work without delay. Since our last annual meeting, this Board has been deprived by death of three of its venerated members ;* one of whom was among the youngest of our number; and it deserves to be remembered, that we are now met in the house in which our amiable, enterprising, and accomplished brother, was wont to lift up his voice in the compassionate warning of sinners, and in preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. May each of us who survive, be ready to welcome our summons to another world, if we should be called away before the expiration of another year.
But, my beloved brethren, while we live, let us be found diligently and faithfully engaged in our Master's work. Let us gird up our loins, and be found watching and laboring, when our Lord shall come.
And those of you who have wealth to account for when you stand before the judgment-seat of
The Hon. John Jav, Hon. John Hooker, and the Rev, John Chester, D.D).
Jesus Christ, make, I beseech you, that disposal of it, which you have reason to believe to be pleasing in his sight. If any of you are meditating in your hearts; to offer something to the Lord, in a way in which it may be beneficial to the cause of Christ, remember, 1 entreat you, the hundreds of millions of heathen, who are perishing for want of the bread of life. Defer not the execution of your pious and benevolent purpose, until you shall be under the necessity of resigning every thing into other hands. Testamentary charities are useful; but they are often suspicious as to their motive. It is giving when we can enjoy our property no longer, and when it can scarcely be called
What proportion of their property or their income Christians should devote to the peculiar service of God, we presume not to prescribe. Let every one consult the suggestions and promptings of his own benevolent feelings, "and as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; for the Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” The temple of God was reared of old, only by free-will offerings, and the spiritual temple must now rise in the same way. We present to you no motives to provoke you to liberality, but such as are truly Christian. But we will say, that they will be blessed, indeed, to whom shall be granted such love to Christ, and such benevolence to men, that they will cheerfully offer, not merely a part, but THE WHOLE of what they possess, for the furtherance of the Redeemer's kingdom, and the conversion of the world. And this would not be a new thing under the sun; for, in primitive times, many, out of love to Christ, gave up all their possessions, that they might serve him more entirely. And let those of us who have neither silver nor gold to give, be careful to bestow such things as we have ; and which may be much more precious than worldly treasure. Especially, let us be mindful to pray for the prosperity of Zion and the peace of Jerusalem ; and give no rest to our covenant-keeping God, until he has fully given to his Son, the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. The fervent, inwrought, united, persevering prayers of the true Israel of God, shall at last be the effectual means of accomplishing the great object which we seek to promote, and which Jehovah has so repeatedly promised to his church in the latter days.