« PreviousContinue »
in our belief; and that at least they will think better of as than they have hitherto done, and endeavour to prevent that mischief which has been effected within these few years, and, more especially within a short time back, by the practice of making Catholic doctrines and Catholic principles the objects of every species of invective; and thus, at least, we shall be united, as far as possible, in the bonds of charity-a blessing, which I pray God to grant you all.
THE SUCCESS OF PROTESTANT MISSIONS.
MARK xvi, 15.
“ Goye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This, my bretbren, was an important commission delivered by our Saviour to his Apostles. It stands in close connection with that other command in which on a former occasion I expatiated at great length, whereby be commanded his Apostles to teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them, and promised that he would be with them always, even unto the end of the world.
On that occasion I endeavoured to shew you, by the construction of the very text, that there was annexed a promise of success to the commission given; so that, what was here enjoined to the Apostles and their successors in the church of Christ, he himself would for ever enable them to put it in execution. It must, therefore, be an important criterion of the true religion of Christ, or in other words, of the rule whereupon he intends the faith to be built, to see where the blessing or promise of successful assistance is annexed, and where, by its actually taking effect, it can be shewn to be entailed by the words of our blessed Redeemer. For if we can find that the Apostles, in virtue of this promise, went forth and not only preached to the nations, but actually converted them; and that it was in virtue of this same promise, that their successors, age after age, continued the same duties of announcing Christ and him crucified to the nations that had never heard his name, there can be no doubt that their success was due to their haying been in possession of the promise here given ; and, consequently, to their baving built the gospel upon that foundation to which the promise was annexed. In other words, it must be a very important criterion of the true rule of faith delivered by our blessed Redeemer to bis church, whether the preaching according to any given rule has received the success promised in this engagement on his part; or
whether its total failure proves it not to have satisfied the conditions which he required.
Such, my brethren, is in some respects the subject upon which I am now going to enter. I wish to lay before you in this, and in my next discourse, a view of the success which has attended the preaching of the gospel of Christ according to the two different rules of faith which I have endeavoured to explain ; and I will begin in the first place—and that will occupy me this evening-with examining the history of those different institutions formed in this and in other Protestant countries for the purpose of diffusing the light of the gospel among the nations that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
For this purpose it is my intention to make use, as much as possible, of authorities which no one will impugn. I intend—perhaps with one or two exceptions, perhaps even with none--not to quote a single author except the very persons interested personally in some way or other in the different institutions and different establishments which have taken upon themselves this important duty.
The progress of conversion bas gone forward from age to age ever since the time of the Apostles; there is not a century, and particularly among those which are commonly designated as dark and superstitious times there is not a half century in which some nation or another was not converted to the faith of Christ: and by conversion I do not simply mean, their being kept in a missionary state under the direction and tutelage of persons sent from another country, but so established in the course of a very few years as to be able to exist independently—though always, of course, in connection with the mother-church whence the faith bad originally come to them-so as to have their own native hier. archy, to have sufficient congregations that they could be considered churches every way organized and perfectly established, and of such a character, that wherever the doctrines of Christ had once been preached, the errors which had been rooted up never again appeared, and the whole population, in the course of a very short time, became members of the Christian church.
This is naturally the most simple and obvious idea which we form of conversion; and during these ages-as I shall endeavour to shew you in its proper place when I come to speak of those Missions which have been established under the direction and authority of the See of Romeit was in this way that all the Missions were conducted, and these were the results which they uniformly gave.
Now from the moment of the Reformation, I may say, a new field had been opened, and one which was cultivated with success among the Natives of America. When, therefore, the Reformation, or the Protestant religion, took possession of this and other neighbouring countries, it very soon struck those who were the founders of the new churches, that
it was an important duty incumbent upon them to shew themselves the inheritors of those promises which our blessed Saviour had made; and not content with having themselves received what they considered a superior light for their own conduct, they endeavoured to diffuse its rays also among those who had not enjoyed the same happiness. And hence it was as early as the year 1536 that the church of Geneva first undertook a commission for the conversion of Heathens-for those who had not received Christianity in any form ; and of the history of this Mission I can say nothing, because it is acknowledged on all hands that it proved perfectly abortive: it was very soon, indeed, discontinued in consequence of its ill success. We may therefore date the Missionary labours of Protestants from the beginning of the last century. In 1706 the King of Denmark established a Mission which still enjoys considerable celebrity, and of which afterwards I will give you some details. It flourished particularly about the middle of the last century, under the direction of Schwartz, Ziegenbelg, and several others. Such is the first Mission which seems to bave been attended with any complete success. In this country, in the year 1701, the first society was formed and incorporated by royal charter-that is, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; and within a year or two of the same period, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was also completely organ. ized and in activity. From that period until towards the end of the last century there was nothing particularly striking done in this department. It was in the year 1792 that the Anabaptist Missionary Society which has since become so celebrated by its many versions of the Scriptures into Eastern languages at its head quarters at Serampore, was first united and consolidated. In 1795 the London Missionary Society, which belongs to the Independent congregations, was also formed; and I believe in the following year the Scotch Missionary Society likewise. Since that time there have been a great number of subsidiary societies; there have been a great number also formed by members of different religions in this country, as the Wesleyan and others, which it is not necessary to enumerate. Besides these societies in our own couutry, there are also similar ones in America ; there are some in Germany and in France, all directing their labours to the same important purpose. In other words, we may say that the most enlightened nations of the North bave laid themselves out with extraordinary zeal and diligence to compass this important end of bringing Heathen nations to the knowledge of Christianity.
Now what are the means which these societies have had in their hands ? Means, I will say, such as never since the time of the Apostles have been brought to bear, I will not say upon the work of conversion, but upon the attainment of any great moral object.
I have not had the convenience of consulting documents down to the