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work upon your gratitude. And know ye not that ye are not your own? God requires your services on earth, this is your reasonable service, your duty.
And what is your life? It is but for a moment! And what are ye on earth? Strangers and pilgrims! And what is before you? Death and judgment and an awful eternity; bliss everlasting, or, oh terrible reverse! expulsion from the gates of Paradise, and an eternal dwelling in darkness with demons and hypocrites.
Oh let fear and hope, and gratitude and duty, and common-sense, all conspire to induce, in families and in churches, a ceaseless spirit of devotedness and personal sacrifice for the promotion of Zion's kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
Ye fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, love King Jesus; give him your hearts! cheerfully obey him! in your families sing his praises, devote to him your dearest relatives, your fortunes, and your lives.
If there be any truth in the Bible, if our Christianity be not all selfishness and hypocrisy, this devotedness were a chivalry at once rational and glorious. Away with those shameful complainings, which insinuate that too much is done for the King's cause. Away with those unbelieving anxieties, which belie the divine promises, and which virtually deny that those who honour God he will honour; and which assert that the seed of them who serve Him may be neglected by Providence.
O spirit of God, that convincest of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, convince the families and the churches of this land of their past neglect; and breathe into their souls a spirit of holy zeal and entire devotion to the Saviour's cause among men !
sensuality and impiety, that prevail in the dark places of the earth. And in our own land how much pride and selfishness, avarice and covetousness, earthly-mindedness and ungodliness exist. Hence it is that some false brethren laugh to scorn our feeble efforts, and just the reverse of the former objectors, argue, that so much is to be done that we can effect nothing. But none of these things need move us, whilst we act in obedience to Him who has all power in heaven and on earth, and who bids us go and proclaim the Gospel. There are not wanting those who admit the premises, in this instance, viz. that our Lord has all power in heaven and on earth, but who draw an inference different from that which our Saviour has stated; they say 'the Divine Being must work a miracle to convert the nations, and Christians need not go and preach the Gospel.' And from this cause it is, that the divinely appointed means, the dissemination of Gospel truth, has been so much neglected.
In none of the churches of this country, whether those established and endowed by Government in England and in Scotland, or those who Secede or Dissent from them, is there, in their Constitution or collective capacity, any provision made, either of men or of means, to obey the exalted Saviour's command. Three hundred years have elapsed since the Reformation in Europe, and not more than three tens have elapsed since this precept was materially attended to. We have indeed heard much of a venerable Society of longer standing, for Promoting Christian Knowledge; but neither its existence, nor the novel Missionary Societies, invalidate what has now been said; that neither the National churches, nor the Congregational churches, have, in their Constitution, made any provision, either of men or of means, for obeying the Saviour's injunction, to disciple all nations, and teach them whatsoever he commanded. Their provisions, so far as we can understand them, are only for the farther instruction of those already discipled in their own country; nothing is contemplated by the Hierarchy of the English church, nor by the Assembled Ministers of the Scotch church, nor by the Independent Pastors of Congregational churches, for going and discipling other nations.
about the vanity and the shortness of life. Ancient and modern Pagans, Jews, Turks, and Infidels, as well as Christians, have uttered such lamentations. But there is no reason to believe that these bewailings indicate a spirit of piety; for they may exist where there is no knowledge of God, no desire to be acquainted with his ways, no submission, no resignation, no repentance, no obedience, no worship; they do indeed more frequently indicate obduracy of heart, impenitence, and discontentedness. I shall not then merely moralize about the hardships attendant on man in his journey through life, the uncertainty of prosperous circumstances, the inevitable ills to which he is liable, and the manifold difficulties and disgusts which he must often experience in his passage to the grave. These topics are true and important, but they come not up to the Scriptural and Christian view of the case. We will then at once advert to the meaning of our text. There is a passage in the Book of Leviticus, (xxv. 23.) which throws much light on the phrase "strangers and sojourners.” It is there said of the possessions of the several Jewish tribes, "The land shall not be sold for ever, for the land is mine, (saith Jehovah.) Ye are strangers and sojourners with me." Here the allusion is not to the difficulties of a journey, or to the discomfort of a lodging, but to the right of possession. The whole earth belongs to Jehovah; man is a stranger and a sojourner on it, and resident but for a short period, and has no just cause to assign why he should be allowed to remain. This is the sense which best suits the scope of the paragraph in which the words of our text are found.
The connexion is this. King David, having attained "a good old age," chose to settle two very important affairs before his death-the succession to the throne, and the erection of a temple to Jehovah. For these purposes the Jewish Monarch "assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies, and the captains over thousands and over hundreds; and the officers and mighty men, and valiant men at Jerusalem."
In the presence of this large assembly of the chiefs and
And there are some pastors of churches, who reason in a way on this subject, which would for ever prevent
mind in a foreign land, among enemies to the cross, and without friends on the spot, and who, perhaps, left home ere he had formed friends, or lived long enough to survive them; finally turned over to an official Secretary, whose face he never saw, and to a new race of Directors and Committee-men, who are individually irresponsible; and who, notwithstanding their personal piety, are liable to all the headlessness, and heartlessness, and inconstancy of popular Assemblies, or Meetings of Voluntary Societies; where the services being gratuitous, attention to affairs is more matter of convenience than of conscience, and a neglect of duty involves neither pecuniary loss nor personal disgrace. If every member of a Committee or Board were charged with neglect or misrule, every member would throw the blame from himself, by saying, "It was not I who did it; it was the Committee, or the Board;" which is just as satisfactory to the aggrieved, as the child's excuse, that nobody did it. And in these evasions every man is safe, since the meetings are private or secret. Ministers of experience who know mankind, since they have no special and individual call from heaven, will not relinquish a certain degree of usefulness and support for themselves and families among friends and at home, for probable usefulness, with probable destitution in a foreign land. It is true, that their faith and zeal cannot be highly praised; but since there is some reason on their side, and ordinary means only can be employed by Christian churches for the propagation of the Gospel; it is, perhaps, too much to expect the indifference to personal and domestic consequences, which many still look for in Missionaries; and whether or not the " pence of the poor," and the guineas of the rich, are not estimated at too high a value, when they are thought more of than the usefulness, and health, and life, of a pious minister abroad. The illiberal system, both in resources and treatment, procures only inexperienced men. Some of these men turn out ill, and disgust the Direction, and destroy confidence in the home management; and the illiberality increases. And so one evil engenders another. A more liberal system, and lower expectations as to "super-human" qualifications, would procure higher degrees of experience and talent; these would increase confidence, and confidence would increase affection and energy, both at home and abroad; and the churches would acquit themselves, having used the means which God put into their power.
In the history of the church, it is notorious that affluence and power have generally been abused, instead of being employed usefully by Ecclesiastics; and in consequence of this, there are opulent disciples, possessing pious minds, who think that poverty the only security for the principles of the ministers of religion. And there are both ministers and laymen, who think that a "voluntary poverty" is essential to the character of a Missionary. Now it is admitted, that he who serves at
King David closed his prayer by interceding for his son; and desiring that these sentiments might be kept for ever fixed on the imaginations of the thoughts of the hearts of his people.
From this analysis of the context, it appears to me, that God's people being called "strangers and sojourners," has not, in this instance, a reference to trials or difficulties by the way; but is intended to intimate, that man in this life has no right to assume a lordship over what is granted, nor any ground to hope for a permanent possession. Our dwelling on earth, with all its accommodations or comforts, whether many or few, are held by the merciful grant of a higher authority, and we have no just cause to claim here a lasting inheritance; for we are "strangers and sojourners, as all our fathers were." In this acknowledgment there is religion and piety, and a feeling totally different from the cynical murmurings and infidel complainings of a discontented rebellious mind. This Scriptural view of the subject brings us into contact with the Divine Being as a great, and glorious, and rightful sovereign; and leads us onward to the awfully sublime realities of the eternity which lies beyond this shadowy fleeting life. As the sun moves onward in his daily course, the dark shadow of intervening opaque bodies flung across the plain also moves -constantly, although imperceptibly, till the cause of sunshine and of shadow is lost in the undistinguishing blackness of night. The Jewish Commentators say, "Man's life resembles the shadow of a bird flying." But, perhaps, the allusion is not so much to denote the rapidity with which our days flee away, as their certain, although slow progression, gliding onward irresistibly to a close. Man's sojourn on earth is not by right, but by permission; and only for a limited period, which no earthly power can protract, any more than it could arrest the sun in its course, or stop the constantly-moving shadow, caused by the light's rays being intercepted.
In prosecuting this discourse, I shall assert two general principles, and draw some practical inferences from them as we proceed.