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The Bible and Tract Societies have not yet thought it their duty, to encourage, in any direct way, the acquisition of the living languages of mankind, into which the sacred Scriptures and religious Tracts are to be put. At least we are not aware of any particular attention having been paid to this object by the several benevolent societies in our land. We think it competent to the Christians of this great metropolis and the British Empire to organize associated effort for the cultivation of all the living languages of men. The knowledge of all living languages is a necessary means towards filling the earth with the knowledge of the Lord; and this 'means we think practicable, without miraculous aid.
Further, we believe that all the means which might be employed are not yet in operation for providing intended publishers of the gospel, in foreign nations, with appropriate knowledge of the people they have to teach. We acknowledge that, in both these cases, much must be done by the Missionary after he arrives at the scene of his labour; but it is also true that much may be done before he quits his native land; and his fitness for leaving it at all, on his proposed service, will be more satisfactorily ascertained, by commencing his appropriate studies here.
Again-Although there is a good deal doing to qualify native Teachers in various heathen countries; we apprehend that the importance of this means is not sufficiently recognized. We think that the benefit of Christian instruction should be thrown open to heathen youths whenever willing to receive it; even before they profess themselves Christians-that Christian knowledge may be by them received, and diffused amongst their kindred and countrymen.
And of similar importance do we reckon the providing means of Christian instruction for heathen females; who may convey the knowledge they receive to the bosom of their families-to their parents, or their husbands, or their children; or their brothers and sisters. "Go and teach all nations;" convey the knowledge of Christ to the human understanding through every practicable channel.
For the reading population of mankind let the PRESS
be extensively employed. Knowledge thus conveyed can be scattered more widely than by living teachers. It can penetrate the palaces of kings and governors, as well as the studies of the learned, and the hamlets of the poor; to whom in some lands no foreigner is permitted admission. Knowledge conveyed in this way is more durable than that communicated by the living voice, and is more certain than that of tradition.
And it remains as a witness for God, like the book of the law which Moses wrote, and king Josiah found 800 years after, and by which he was induced to cast down the idols of the land. Fill the earth with the Bible and Christian books, in all the languages of all the nations, and you will fill the world with the knowledge of Christ. And then the Holy Spirit's influences will have that on which to operate, and to carry conviction to the hearts of men; and will say, as the voice which spake to St. Augustine did, "Take up and read;" and light will break in on the understanding, doubts will vanish, and decision of character to be on the Lord's side will take place." The great medium of deliverance from sin (says the pious ecclesiastical historian Milner,) always is, the written word of God, testifying of Jesus and of salvation, by putting him on through faith."
Luther you know, a year after he entered the monastery at Erfurt (1506) accidentally (or rather providentially) met with a Latin Bible, and it proved a treasure to him, for the Scriptures were at that time (says the historian) very little known in the world. Yes! fifteen hundred years after the last portion of the sacred Scriptures was given to man, that holy book was very little known in the world. Tell us not therefore that the Bible and Christian books have not illumined the nations with Christian knowledge; the experiment has never been tried. It is now but being attempted. And nearly thirty years labour of the Bible Christians has but supplied seven millions of copies for ten hundred millions of human beings. And it is not enough to print the Bibles, they must be distributed and put into men's hands; and if the Bible Societies do not effect this, they do but
perform but one half of their work. I preach this day for a Missionary Society: but let not Missionary Societies say, it is ours only to send preachers, we are not a book society. I thought it had been the object of Missionary Societies to send the knowledge of Christ abroad among the nations; to fill the earth with that knowledge; and if that end be gained, the end of Missionary Societies is gained, and to gain that end, to carry the knowledge of Christ to the human mind, it is the duty of Missionary Societies to employ every channel of conveyance. Books, and schools, and colleges, as well as Preachers—at least so I take it.
Now there are hundreds of millions in eastern Asia, spread over divers countries, who read one and the same language. But they have little other than pagan books to read. Oh what a field of labour is there among the Chinese language nations for the Christian Literati of Europe and of America! Oh when will these literate Christian men exchange their cry-What can I get-for, what can I give! a speech much more befitting the responsible disciples and servants of the Giver of every good. It is we believe practicable for the men of literature and leisure in this country, without quitting their homes, to compose books, for the instruction of those who inhabit Corea or Japan; and to qualify agents to go forth to distribute and to explain them.
I have deferred till the last, the mention of that means of conveying Christian knowledge which is, in the modern. sense, called preaching; because I do not think it the fittest means for foreign Missionaries to employ at first, unless they had the miraculous gift of tongues, as the apostles
Preaching is admitted to be one of the most efficient modes of instructing the multitude in countries nominally Christianized, where the people recognize attendance on public worship as a duty, or when employed by native teachers, who can attract the attention of their countrymen, by public discourses, delivered wherever they can; but it is not the most efficient and most generally applicable means by which a foreign teacher can communicate the knowledge of Christ: at least this is my opi
nion, and I mention it without disrespect to those who esteem it so highly, as to despise all other modes of filling the earth with Christian knowledge. And I think the opposite opinion to that which I have approved, has operated perniciously, by causing despondency and remissness in the use of many means of conveying knowledge, because the favourite one of public preaching has been in some places inapplicable.
I set not up one means against another, but assert that filling the world with the excellent knowledge of Christ, by any means, is obedience to the Saviour's precept, to proclaim or preach the gospel among all nations. It is the gospel ;—the knowledge communicated by Christ, and the knowledge of Christ's mediatorial work, which constitutes the grand instrument of converting and blessing the nations; but the means of conveying that knowledge, or the channel through which the waters of life flow, is a mere circumstance.
Amongst ancient nations public criers, or heralds, or preachers were employed by sovereigns to signify their will or pleasure to their subjects; the work of the herald was to go into all parts of the king's dominions, and solemnly, with a loud voice, and sometimes with the sound of a trumpet, to publish his edicts, and cause the people to know their prince's commands. In this way the year of jubilee was proclaimed, and the phraseology of the New Testament, in reference to preaching or proclaiming the gospel, is in allusion to such usages. But that mode of communicating the sovereign will was a mere circumstance. The sovereign's will is still communicated in modern nations, but not in that way. The herald and the trumpet are not essential to effect the end. In civil matters it is now better done in another way; and in religious affairs, if Christ's gospel can be conveyed to man's mind, it is not essential that it be done by a public herald or preacher; it may be done by a written proclamation of divine mercy. However, let preaching, and teaching, and the press be all employed, to fill the earth with the knowledge of Christ.
And, as all innocent means must be used, so endea
vours must be made to convey this blessed knowledge to every place, to all parts of the habitable globe, whatever difficulties may present themselves. No part should be neglected because difficulties exist, or as it is often said, "The door is shut." Difficulties are always found to give way to pious persevering efforts, and doors now shut must be knocked at that they may be thrown open. A spirit of negligence, and the love of ease always magnifies difficulties, and that has for ages been the case in respect of foreign missions. In the diffusion of light and knowledge there is an active going forth and assailing the empire of darkness and ignoranee. They wait not for invitations and openings. The slaves to passion, under the tyranny of vicious habits, ask not for emancipation. In these cases voluntary efforts, however thankless, must be made.
But by whom? Who are the communities or individuals on whom it is incumbent to employ the means of which we have spoken? Is it binding on individuals in the first instance? Must they volunteer and apply to the churches; or must the churches listen to the Holy Spirit, saying Separate me men to go forth to the heathen? I incline to the latter view of the case; and think that the churches ought to call upon some of their most esteemed and best qualified men to go forth to the heathen. At present I fear the churches cast obstacles in the way of ministers engaging in this work; and I have heard that some blame the Directors for unsettling the minds of ministers, with notions of limited service in pagan lands. Alas! how unlike the first mission to Europe from Asia. Then Paul and Barnabas, two of the first men in the church of Antioch, were deputed to the work, with Mark for their minister; but in modern days, (in the Protestant churches at least) our Pauls and Barnabases have remained at home, and have sent young men, like Mark, quite alone, to the high places of the field.
I really would not mention this, were I not convinced that on this topic there are still erroneous opinions prevailing, which prevent a few of the ablest servants of God engaging in missionary work. Look at the existing practice. The