« ForrigeFortsæt »
and all-wise God be neglected and disobeyed, till a creature but of yesterday, and who knows nothing, shall be satisfied concerning their fitness.
The societies or churches of those who have themselves accepted Heaven's pardon, are bound, by the Saviour's command, to proclaim it to every human being to whom they can obtain access. It does not remain with them to reason about the probability of other guilty rebels receiving it. For that they are not answerable; but they are answerable for the presumption of repressing it, or for neglecting to promulgate it, because there are difficulties attending the performance of their duty.
And what shall we think of their tender mercies, if it were left to their pleasure, whether to tell of Heaven's pardon to a dying fellow-criminal or not, when it shall be known that they could do it and would not? However, I appeal not to the compassion of Christians, in reference to the rest of the nations, but ground my appeal on its being an indispensable duty to send forth heralds of salvation. throughout the earth, a duty which no church can innocently omit.
As it would be an absurd proposal for every Christian man or woman, or every family, to quit their country and their home, and go forth to distant parts of our own empire, or to foreign nations, to preach Christ's Gospel; the circumstances of the case suggest the necessity of cooperation, and of an organized system for carrying into effect the duty binding on the churches. A few must give their personal services, and if they have fortunes, devote these also, and go forth, making the Gospel without charge, either to the heathen or to the churches. Some have done so, would that there were many more. And others have pursued their lawful secular callings, and thereby have been enabled to do the work of evangelists gratuitously; but there are faithful men and women, who neither have property nor occupation, by which they can maintain themselves whilst engaged in the Missionary work, and to supply the wants of these, the churches at home are bound to contribute, according as the Almighty, in the course of his
gracious and righteous Providence, may have enabled them. And each Christian must determine for him or herself in the sight of God, to what extent they shall contribute; I know of no earthly authority that has any right to interfere, or to dictate on this subject. God loveth a cheerful giver to his cause, and I may add, without presumption, that no gift proceeding from vanity, or ostentation, or obtained by importunity or flattery, or that does not proceed from a principle of obedience, and gratitude, and love to God is likely to be acceptable. Who is it that giveth strength to the strong, and wealth to the rich? They that serve God, and they that contribute to his cause in the world, do but give to him of his own, and we dare not praise them and flatter them, if they did give a hundred fold more than they commonly do. And in as much as the sacrifice of those Christians, who remain at home and contribute of their property, is so small, compared with those who give their personal services in foreign parts, the Christians at home ought to lend their aid without solicitation, and rejoice to find opportunities of co-operating with those who actually labour abroad. As the duty is not laid on any individual, by express revelation from Heaven, but falls on the churches in their collective capacity, all ought to feel it; for we are all equally related to our fellow men in remote parts, and are all under equal obligations to our Divine Redeemer. The idea of obligation between Missionaries and Christian contributors, I put entirely out of the case; for they should all serve the Lord Christ, and be anxious to fulfil their duty to their neighbour; but if I were to admit the notion of reciprocal obligation, I would be inclined to say, that there is most on the side of Christian contributors, who are indebted to the men who enable them, by personal services, to aid Christ's cause in the world. However, I will not dwell on such a theme as this.
The nations which have not yet received the religion of Jesus, are very numerous, and their state and circumstances very various; and therefore, the means employed to convey to them divine truth, should be appropriate, and accommodated to their particular circumstances.
The great object of Christian Missions, is to proclaim the mercy of God to guilty creatures-i. e. to preach Christ's Gospel, and with it, the whole of revealed religion:-it is to convey divine truth, as revealed in the Sacred Scriptures, to the human mind. Now, the means of doing this are not all equally applicable in all cases; but yet some means may be used in every case.
In the united kingdom, where Christianity has long been introduced, and where the people generally receive the fundamental truths of the existence of one great Supreme God, the creator, preserver, and final judge of men, and where Christian teachers can convey instruction in their mother tongue, public preaching is a very efficient means of conveying divine truth to the human mind.
But, in a newly occupied region, where Christianity is unknown, and where there are no admitted truths on which to build a superstructure of reproof, advice, or consolation; and where the teacher is a foreign Missionary, and speaks but imperfectly the language of the people to be instructed; this practice of public preaching does not apply so well. Schools and conversations are more appropriate means; or some institution of a collegiate nature, where native students may be kept for years together, and receive daily instruction in Christian principles, that they may subsequently go forth and teach their own people, whose opinions and prejudices, and errors, and vices, they are more familiarly acquainted with, and can speak more pointedly to, than most foreign missionaries ever can. And there are some nations in which the governments will not allow the public preaching of foreigners, and where more private means of conveying the Gospel to men's understandings and hearts must be employed.
Further, in countries where letters are known and books abound, and where there exists a taste for reading, the press is a most efficient means of proclaiming the Gospel; but it is one which does not apply to unlettered and ignorant tribes of men. To China, Japan, Corea, Loo-choo, and Cochinchina, in all of which places the Chinese language is read, translations of the Sacred Scriptures, and the
multiplication of appropriate Christian books, afford facilities of conveying divine truth to men, which cannot be employed amongst many of the people of Africa and other regions where letters are not known.
Thus it will appear, that male and female schools, catechists, collegiate institutions, preachers, translators, the writers of good books, may all, under different circumstances, be employed and co-operate in evangelizing the world. In this great harvest there are, as yet, but few labourers; and it is incumbent on the churches, to pray the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth labourers into the harvest; and, with their prayers, to join their efforts to qualify fit agents, to afford them the means of going to distant regions, and assist them when there, till in each country the inhabitants themselves shall be able to teach each other, and not require foreign supplies: when the period which prophecy authorizes us to hope for shall have arrived, when it shall be no longer necessary to say to each other, Know the Lord, for all shall know him from the least even to the greatest.
Of those who desire the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom, a much larger proportion should devote themselves to those regions of the world which are, as yet, so ill supplied, both amongst the uncivilized and the cultivated nations of men; and this will require proportionably greater effort amongst the Christians who remain at home; not only in contributing of their property, but also in associating for direct encouragement of the several missions, as circumstances may lead their attention to one or another of them. But this will not be done till Christians see it to be a more serious duty than they do at present-a duty, for the performance or omission of which they must be accountable at the great day of judgment. At present, Christians view it more as matter of taste than of duty. If they take a fancy to assist missions, well; if they do not feel so inclined, they think it also well.
But seeing all mankind are related to each other, not only neighbours, but brethren; may the divine precept, to love our neighbour and our brother, be violated and disre
garded without guilt? Is it an innocent thing to render void the commandments of God? or attend to them, or neglect them, as may suit our taste and fancy? Let us endeavour to view affairs of duty, with that seriousness of mind that we shall see to be right, when we endeavour to realize our appearance before the judgment seat of Christ. The present life is a period of labour and of service; and if our duties be slurred over now in a spirit of carelessness and indifference, instead of being honestly and faithfully performed to our fellow creatures, how can we expect that the Omniscient Judge will say to us-Well done good and faithful servant? Many persons, who seem very pious people, spend too much on the comforts and elegancies of life, and too little on their Saviour's cause. I am not endeavouring to inculcate any thing extravagant and outrageous; but a plain, palpable, common-sense Christian duty, manifestly deduced from all our Christian principles, and the generally acknowledged truths of our holy religion. I inculcate universal philanthropy, not existing as a merely visionary sentiment, but embodied in real acts of substantial good; and the good to which we now allude, as you Christians know, is above all price, for the redemption of the soul is infinitely precious; and if a soul die in its iniquity, through the neglect of Christian churches, it, indeed, because of its iniquity, suffers death justly; but still, in another respect, its blood is chargeable on them.
These, my brethren, are awful considerations, arising out of the scriptural doctrine of the kindredship, or consanguinity of mankind, and other collateral truths of divine revelation. A flippant spirit of selfishness, or laboured dissertations about the locality of Christian effort, may deride doctrines which impose duties that bear upon all mankind; but with the Bible in our hands, and sound ratiocination founded on the Bible, I see no ground for derision, when the welfare of mankind is the subject of conference, or of expostulation. Some good people like not the generality of our views, and would confine us at home entirely; not only to the British dominions, but almost to the very street in which we happen to dwell. Now, if there were Chris