It is plain, then, not only that Christians come far short of doing what they can to save the heathen, but that if they would come up to the measure of their duty they might, under God, rescue the dying nations from their impending doom. If they would engage in earnest, pray with fervency and faith, and prove their zeal by giving and by going, then the providence of God would not leave a bolt or a bar in their way, except what might be necessary to test their perseverance. Let every ambassador of Christ, and every Christian too, possess the unreserved consecration of Paul, and manifest that burning zeal which carried him, as on the wings of an angel, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; let every redeemed sinner, minister or layman, stand ready, not merely to contribute of his substance, but to traverse with cheerful step the burning plains of Africa or the icy mountains of Greenland: then the darkness that now envelopes the earth would soon be dispelled, the torch of Revelation be carried to the most distant lands, and its light be made to penetrate the most gloomy abodes of men; the radiance of heavenly truth would be poured around the dying bed of every pagan, intelligence now in to us from every quarter, not only of individuals, but of nations converted to God, and the shout of triumph would soon be heard, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord."
It seems to be true, therefore, that the heathen are sinking to perdition; and true, also, that we might, under God, be the means of saving them. Shall we not then be found accountable for their eternal agonies? O Christian, pause and look at this thought! Look at it deliberately, for we shall be obliged to do so at the judgment day. No one can plead exemption from it, unless he does what he can to save the heathen. O my soul, how much blood, how much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, will stand at thy account in the day of judgment!
I appeal to each one of you, examine yourselves in the light of this truth. Call up your prayers, your contributions, and your personal efforts. Compare what you have done with what Jesus did for you. I entreat you, open your ears, and hearts too, to the groans of a dying world. Listen to the notes which, like the noise of seven thunders, peal after peal, are rolling in upon your shores.
"Hark! what mean those lamentations, Rolling sadly through the sky? 'Tis the cry of heathen nations, 'Come and help us, or we die!'
"Hear the heathen's sad complaining, Christians! hear their dying cry; And, the love of Christ constraining, Haste to help them, ere they die!"
Yes, reader, haste to help them. Confer not with flesh and blood. Meet all vain excuses with a deaf ear and a determined spirit. Let pity move you, the love of Christ constrain you, and a sense of responsibility urge you, to take that precious Gospel on which your hopes rely, and to carry it, without delay, to the perishing nations.
THE SAVIOUR'S LAST COMMAND.
Let us suppose that all kindreds and people of the earth are assembled, and that the inhabitants of Africa, Asia, the Isles of the Pacific and the wilds of America, are called upon to speak, and to give in their testimony how far the Saviour's last command has been obeyed.
The inquiry is first put to Africa:
"Africa, to what extent and for what purpose have people from Christian lands visited thee, and thine adjacent islands? What have they carried to thy shores? And what is the treatment thou hast received from them? Tell the whole truth: let it be known to what extent the Saviour's last command has been obeyed in respect to thee."
To this inquiry Africa replies:
"The truth I can tell, but the whole truth cannot be told. I have indeed been visited by people from Christian lands. Thousands and hundreds of thousands from those lands have visited my shores. Some have come to measure the pyramids, and to gather relics of ancient literature and decayed magnificence; some to search out the sources of the Nile and the course of the Niger; some to possess the best of the soil; and a vast multitude have come, with a cruelty that knows no mercy, to tear the husband from his wife and the wife from her husband, parents from their children and children from their parents, brother from sister and sister from brother—to crowd them together without distinction of age or sex in the suffocating holds of their ships, where a large proportion of them die, and to convey the remainder far away to spend their lives in degrading servitude. They have brought beads and trinkets; they have brought instruments of death, such as muskets, powder, knives and swords; and they have brought, too, full cargoes of liquid poison. The navies of Christian, lands have fought in my harbors, and their armies upon my shores. Their money by millions has been lavished, and their blood has run in torrents.
"A few individuals, however, of a different character, have found their way hither. They have come in the spirit of benevolence and of peace, and have brought in their hands the precious treasure of the Gospel of Christ. But their number is so small as to be almost lost among the multitude. For one who has taught righteousness, purity, truth and mercy, thousands have taught, by their example, rapacity, drunkenness, lewdness and cruelty. For one who has led us in the path of life, thousands have led us in the paths of destruction. For one who has brought the Bible, thousands have brought rum. For one whose example has been salutary, the intercourse of thousands has left a loathsome disease, which with sure and rapid progress is depopulating the land. Such is the sum of my testimony. Days and nights would be required to give the detail."
This testimony of Africa being finished, the same inquiry is put to Asia:
"Asia, to what extent have the nations of Christendom visited thee, and thy numerous islands? What have they carried to thy shores? and what has been their deportment towards thee?"
To which Asia replies:
"The vast number, either of men or of ships from Christian lands, that have visited my shores, cannot be told. I know full well the enterprise, the energy, and the perseverance of Christian lands; yes, verily, and traits too of less honorable name. Large portions of my territory acknowledge the control of their armies. Their thundering navies lie in my harbors and sail along my coasts. Ships without number—mighty ships whose masts pierce the clouds, have come for my teas, my crapes, my silks, my spices and other precious merchandise. Their consuls, superintendents, officers of various kinds, and merchants in great numbers, dwell in almost every port, and have erected in those ports stores, shops, offices and sumptuous dwellings. Many things pleasant and useful have been brought hither, but many things also that are ruinous: full cargoes of ardent spirits; and immense quantities of opium too, a means of destruction no less sure.
"Among the multitudes who have come to my shores, some few, indeed, have brought the Gospel of Christ, made known its truths and exemplified its spirit; but the thousands and tens of thousands have inculcated by their example, worldliness, drunkenness, lewdness, war, violence and treachery. If needful, a volume of details might be given; but this is the sum."
Next, the inquiry is put to the Isles of the Ocean:
"Great Pacific, to what extent has the last command of Christ been obeyed by Christian lands, in respect to thy numerous islands?"
The reply is as follows:
"Thousands of ships from Christian lands continually cruise upon my wide waters, and visit my numerous groups of islands. They have exchanged with my ignorant and destitute inhabitants, beads, trinkets, and a few inches of rusty iron hoop, for the best produce of the islands. They have sold to them guns, powder and rum. Many of their ships have been floating grog-shops—floating exhibitions too of Sodom and Gomorrah. From some, on slight provocation, broadsides of cannon have been fired on my heedless inhabitants, strewing the deep with the dead and the dying. Rum and disease have been introduced. The one has slain its thousands, and the other has slain, and is still slaying its tens of thousands. Many useful things indeed have been introduced, but in connection with a host of evils! A few individuals too, bearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have visited some of my numerous islands; but what are they among the multitude?"
After this testimony of the Isles of the Ocean, the inquiry is last addressed to America:
"America, what is thy testimony? From Bhering's Straits to Cape Horn, what treatment have thy native inhabitants received from Christian nations?"
"Alas! scarcely enough remain of my miserable inhabitants to return an answer. They have been swept away by the same causes which are now sweeping away the inhabitants of the Pacific. The rapacity of those called Christians, which has not scrupled at any means of conquest and extirpation, and the rum and diseases introduced, have laid my numerous population in the grave. Have I been visited by those who bear the Christian name? Yes, verily, they now possess the best portions of my territory, and have grown into vast nations on my soil. Even my veriest wilds have been repeatedly traversed by them in search of furs; and the tracks they have made been too often marked with drunkenness, lewdness, and treachery. Few, very few indeed of all that have come to this vast continent, have come to instruct my ignorant inhabitants in the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and lead them in the paths of righteousness and peace. Few who explore my wilds, explore them for this purpose. Alas! a far different object prompts their enterprise, their energy, and their perseverance. This is the sum of my testimony."
Now, reader, let us look well at this testimony of Africa, of Asia, of the Isles of the Ocean, and of America. Is it not overwhelming? Take, the Encyclopedia of Geography, or McCulloch's Dictionary of Commerce, or Howitt's Colonization and Christianity, and carefully examine the facts. Are they not enough to strike us dumb? To what a vast extent heathen nations have been visited by those who bear the Christian name. What obscure island, or what obscure nook or corner of the earth has not been visited? What immense multitudes have gone forth. AND, ALAS! FOR WHAT PURPOSES. How few, how very few have gone forth to make known the Gospel! What a powerful motive among men is the love of earthly gain, and how weak a motive is love to Christ and regard to his last command. The command reads, "GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE." Christian nations, ye have not failed in great multitudes to "GO INTO ALL THE WORLD;" scarcely have ye failed to visit "EVERY CREATURE;" but for what purpose have ye gone forth? Has it been mainly to make known the precious name of Jesus? Be entreated to look at the case as it is, for a day of impartial retribution is at hand.
Many of you indeed, who go forth to heathen shores, do not profess to be the disciples of Jesus; but imagine not, that on that account your guilt is diminished. Ye who reject the Saviour, and disobey his commands—who throw away your own souls as worthless, and are reckless of the souls of your fellow men, what can you say in the day of Christ's appearing? If ye had only destroyed your own souls, then your case would be more tolerable; but since you withhold from the millions of ignorant heathen the knowledge of salvation, which has been imparted to you—not only refusing to enter the kingdom of heaven yourselves, but denying the key to those who might be disposed to enter;—and not only do this, but in your intercourse with the heathen, which has been very abundant, confirm them in their evil practices by a pernicious example, and hurry them by thousands to the grave by means of deadly poison and deadly disease—Oh! how will you endure the keen remorse and fearful looking for of judgment, which may ere long overtake you? When the impartial Judge shall appear, and your eyes shall meet his eye, what agonies must rend your souls!
But some of you have the vows of God upon you. To such I would say, Be entreated to look at the case as it is. As ye have gone forth on voyages of just and honorable traffic, and on voyages of discovery, have you manifested in all the heathen ports where you touched, that to make known the Saviour was the great and absorbing desire of your hearts? Alas! are there not some among you who, either as owners, masters or agents, are connected with ships that sail from port on the Sabbath, or do other unnecessary work on that day, and who thereby teach the heathen, wherever those ships go, to disobey God when their gain or convenience require it? Are there not also some among you, who, in one way or another, are connected with ships whose outfits are wholly or in part, beads, trinkets, guns, powder, rum and opium? and who thereby teach the heathen injustice, cheating, drunkenness, lewdness, and recklessness of life? Why is it that ye bear the name of the peaceful disciples of the benevolent Jesus, whilst ye are concerned in scattering among the heathen "fire-brands, arrows and death"—in teaching them every species of iniquity, and in rearing a wall of prejudice strong and high to the progress of the Gospel?
* * * * *
But most of my readers stand pure from all this crime; and of such I simply inquire, with deep concern and affectionate earnestness, Why, dear brethren, have ye not obeyed the Saviour's last command? Why have ye not made known the Gospel of Christ to every creature? Each one of you has doubtless some excuse at hand, or he could not escape the goadings of conscience. Let us then, in the spirit of candor and honesty, look at some EXCUSES.
Perhaps some one may be inclined to say, "The work enjoined by the Saviour's last command is a very great work, and there has not been time enough to perform it."
True, I reply, the work is great; but how does it appear that there has not been sufficient time to accomplish it? Not sufficient time! What has been accomplished in the pursuit of wealth and honor during the same period of time? What has been done at home in railroads, canals, steamboats, manufactures, and in other departments of enterprise and industry? What has been done abroad? Look at the testimony of Africa, Asia, the Isles of the Pacific, and the wilds of America. There has been time to carry rum to every shore. There has been time to introduce diseases among every barbarous people, which are hurrying them to the grave by thousands. There has been time to kidnap thousands and hundreds of thousands of the degraded Africans. There has been time to extirpate most of the native population of North and South America. There has been time to wage war, till the blood of human beings has flowed in torrents. And then, in regard to just and honorable traffic, compute, if human arithmetic be competent to the task, the amount of merchandise brought from India, and from other distant lands. There has been time for all this. Now I ask with great plainness, for it is a solemn and practical subject, Had you exhibited the same enterprise, energy and perseverance, in making known the Gospel to all nations, as has been exhibited in worldly pursuits, would not every human being, long ere this, have heard the word of life? Will you not, Christian reader, look at this question, weigh it well, and deal honestly with your own soul?
Here, I am suspicious that some may be inclined to excuse themselves with a vague thought secretly entertained, which, if expressed, would be somewhat as follows:
"True, we have not exhibited as much zeal in teaching all nations as has been exhibited by the worldly, and by many of ourselves even, in the pursuit of wealth. But we claim not the praise of a holy, self-denying and apostolic life. We are content with an humble walk in the Christian course, and a low seat in heaven. Entire consecration, in the sense urged, is what we never professed."
Your standard, then, it appears is very low—too low, it may be, to admit you even to that humble seat in the courts above which you anticipate. You claim not the praise of an apostolic life, and I seriously fear that you will not obtain even the testimony of being a true Christian. But how does it appear, that you never professed an entire consecration to Christ of all your powers of body and soul? It is true, the conduct of some would seem to say, that they put on a form of religion to silence their fears, to cheat themselves with a delusive hope, and to enjoy a comfortable state of mind on earth. But what, really, are the vows that rest upon you? What else than to seek by prayer and effort, as your supreme aim, chief desire, and all-engrossing object, the promotion of Christ's kingdom—the salvation of souls for whom he died?
Besides, what is the great purpose for which the church was instituted? Certainly, not to promote in its members a delusive comfort and quietude of mind; neither mainly nor chiefly to secure their own ultimate salvation; but to take advantage of union of strength to convert the world. The church—the whole church, without the exception of any of its members, is by profession, not merely a missionary society, but a missionary band: the minute-men of the Lord Jesus, ready to do his will, at home or abroad, with singleness of aim, and with a spirit of entire devotion.
"But," you say, "were we thus to live, the world would verily believe we were deranged."
Deranged! it would be the right kind of derangement. Were not the apostles thought to be deranged? And the Reformers—Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, Knox and others—were not they thought to be enthusiasts and zealots? Why? Because they were somewhat in earnest in the cause of Christ. Worldly men toil and strive night and day, in collecting together a little of the pelf and dust of the earth, and think themselves wise in doing so; but if the disciples of Christ show zeal or earnestness, in pursuits as much higher than theirs as heaven is higher than the earth, and as much more important as the immortal soul is more valuable than corruption and vanity, they call them enthusiasts and fanatics! But, alas! how few of us who profess to be the disciples of Christ, have manifested such zeal in his service as to be called by such epithets. Such persons alone God calls wise; and those worldly men, who are mad in the pursuit of wealth, God calls "fools." The wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world are utterly at variance. O that all who profess to love Christ, manifested such zeal in obeying him as to be strange and singular men! How soon would every human being hear his Gospel! But since such zeal is not manifested, the heathen are left to perish; and where, I ask affectionately and solemnly, where rests the guilt?
But, here it may perhaps be replied, "Our sin is a sin of ignorance. We have not been acquainted with the full import of the Saviour's last command, nor with the extent of our obligations to Christ. Neither have we been acquainted with the wretched and guilty condition of the heathen world, nor with the exertions necessary to turn it from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God. God will wink at our sin, if we be indeed guilty, for we have not been enlightened on this subject."
I answer. Does ignorance of the laws of any nation excuse those who transgress those laws; or is it not considered to be the duty of all subjects to inform themselves in respect to the laws of their country? And should it not be so in the kingdom of Christ? The requirements of Christ in their full extent are contained in the New Testament, and are expressed in language that need not be misunderstood. If any one has mistaken their import, is it not on account of a self-seeking, money-getting, or slothful disposition? Let such a one search his own heart, and inquire with concern, "Did I desire to know my duty? Was not my blindness a matter of choice; no infirmity, no misfortune, but my guilt? If there had been a desire, nay, even a willingness to be instructed, could I have mistaken such plain and unequivocal precepts of the Gospel?"
The condition too of the heathen, their guilty and wretched condition, is fully made known in the New Testament, especially in the first chapter of Paul's epistle to the Romans. Besides, accounts of their guilt and wretchedness have been presented before the Christian community in Heralds, Chronicles, reports and newspapers, till they have become too familiar to make an impression. Can ignorance at this day be any other than a criminal ignorance—an ignorance of fearful responsibility?
And, I ask again, Can it be an excuse to many Christians that they are laymen and not preachers of the Gospel? Can they make it appear that many of their number were not called to the office of preaching the Gospel? Did they take the proper means to ascertain that point? How, I anxiously inquire, did such persons determine so readily, when a world was sinking to perdition for want of preachers of the Gospel, that they were called to be lawyers, physicians, statesmen, merchants, farmers and manufacturers? Can it be fairly shown that hundreds of laymen have not rejected an office to which they were called—SOLEMNLY CALLED, by the woes and dying groans of six hundred millions of their fellow men? Is there not reason to fear, that it was from a carnal choice and selfish inclination, rather than a sense of duty, that so great a majority slid so easily into their present occupations?
Besides, how does it appear that only preachers of the Gospel are required to labor directly for the destitute at home, and to go forth to the heathen abroad? It was far otherwise in the days of the apostles. Then the whole church—driven out, indeed, by persecution—went everywhere making known the Saviour. And at the present hour, not only are ministers needed in propagating the Gospel in destitute places at home, and in raising up heathen nations from their deep degradation, but there are needed also, in their appropriate spheres, teachers, physicians, mechanics, farmers—in short, men of every useful profession and employment.
Besides, much is to be done at home in sustaining those who go abroad. Has there been no lack in this part of the work? Alas! there are facts to meet such an inquiry, facts too well known to be named: disbanded schools, detained missionaries, and deserted monthly concerts: facts that stand registered on a book that shall hereafter be opened. Dear brethren, I speak earnestly and boldly of your obligations, not forgetting my own; and I would entreat you, by all that is affecting in the death of souls, and by all that is constraining in the love of Christ, to admit freely to your hearts, without subterfuge or excuse, the full import of the Saviour's last command, and to commence at once a life of sincere obedience. O! let us deal honestly with ourselves, in a matter of such immense moment.
LAYMEN CALLED TO THE FIELD OF MISSIONS.
In Acts, 8:4, it is said, Therefore they that were scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the word. And from the previous verses it seems that these persons, who were scattered abroad, were lay members of the church. The history is instructive.
After the day of Pentecost, the number of converts to Christianity amounted to several thousands. They were Jews, and had strong feelings of attachment to the city of Jerusalem, to the temple, and to the land of their fathers. They therefore clung to Jerusalem, and seemed inclined to remain together as one large church. But it was the design of the Lord Jesus, that the Gospel should be preached everywhere: such was his last and most solemn command. As, therefore, the disciples seemed in a measure unmindful of this command, the Saviour permitted a persecution to rage, which scattered them abroad, and they went "everywhere preaching the word." The term preaching, in this place, means simply announcing or making known the news of salvation. This must be the meaning, for they that were scattered abroad were laymen. As they went, they told everywhere of Jesus Christ, and of the life and immortality which he had brought to light. This subject engrossed their thoughts; their hearts were full of it, and out of the abundance of their hearts their mouths spake. It is clear from this history, that in early times lay members of the church, in great numbers, were led, in the providence of God, to go forth and engage personally in the work of propagating the Gospel. And the more closely we look at the history, the more we shall be impressed with this fact.
Notice the time chosen by God for the first remarkable outpouring of his Holy Spirit. It was on the day of Pentecost, when multitudes were present, not only from all parts of Palestine, but from the surrounding nations. There were present, "Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians." Upon this multitude, assembled from all the nations round about, the Holy Ghost was poured out with such power, that three thousand souls were converted in one day; and on succeeding days many were added to the church. Many of these converts would naturally return to the different nations and places from which they came, and make known the Saviour far and wide. It was by the return of these converts to their places of residence, that the Gospel was early introduced into many places quite remote from Jerusalem, among which may be reckoned, in all probability, the distant city of Rome. The first propagation of the Gospel in that metropolis of the world, can be traced to no other source with so much probability, as to the strangers from Rome who were present at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. It seems evident, therefore, that in the time chosen by God for this remarkable outpouring of his Spirit, he had an eye to an extensive and rapid propagation of the Gospel by lay members of the church.
Again, as hinted before, when the great body of the first converts chose to remain at Jerusalem, God saw best to drive them thence by persecution. This persecution began with the stoning of Stephen, and raged with such violence, that it is said that all the church at Jerusalem were scattered abroad, except the apostles. They were not only a few individuals who were driven out, but so many as to justify the expression, "all the church." By thus dispersing the great body of the church, the Saviour propagated rapidly and extensively his precious Gospel. For this multitude of lay members—and there were several thousands of them—went everywhere preaching the word; announcing in all places, in a way appropriate to their station, the news of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. They propagated the Gospel throughout Judea and Samaria; and some of them travelled as far as Phoenice and Cyprus, and laid the foundation of the church at Antioch. It was not till the apostles had heard of the success of these lay members at Antioch, that they sent thither Barnabas to help in the work. It appears, then, that the rapid and extensive propagation of the Gospel, in early times, was accomplished in a great measure by the spreading abroad of the great body of the church; by an actual going forth and personal engagement of a great multitude of lay members.
Again, the treasurer of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, seems to have been converted on his return home, not simply out of regard to his own personal salvation, but as a means of making known the Gospel in the distant place of his residence; for soon after, we find in that region a flourishing church of Christ.
Again, look at the example of Aquila and Priscilla, who labored zealously at Corinth and at Ephesus. Look, too, at the whole list of Paul's fellow travellers, and those whom he salutes in his letters as helpers in the Gospel.
From all these facts it is evident, that in early times God made use of common Christians in propagating the Gospel. Did he not so overrule events in his providence, as to show it to be his design that lay members of the church should go forth in great numbers, and engage personally, in ways appropriate and proper for them, in the work of making known Christ? We have then the force of primitive example—of primitive example, too, brought about by the manifest overrulings of God's providence. This example is not equivalent, indeed, to a "Thus saith the Lord;" yet does it not strongly favor the sentiment, that lay members of the church in great numbers are called to go forth and assist in evangelizing the heathen?
To elevate all nations requires a great variety of laborers. In illustrating this point, I cannot expect to present it with all the clearness and force which are due to it. To appreciate fully its truth and its weighty import, it is necessary to live in the midst of a heathen people, and actually to witness the great variety and amount of labor which must be put forth, in order to elevate and improve them. The work of raising up a people from barbarism to Christianity is not only an immense work, but emphatically a various work—a work which requires a great diversity both of means and of laborers. The minister of the Gospel must perform a prominent part, but he must not be expected to labor alone. His unaided efforts are altogether insufficient for the task.
There is special need of other laborers, since the number of ministers among the heathen is likely to be so small; but the need would exist, even though the number of ministers were very much increased. Labors analogous, both in respect to measure and variety, to those bestowed upon a Christian congregation, must be expended on a congregation of heathen. In Christian countries, a thousand important labors are performed by intelligent and praying men and women in the church, as direct aid to the minister in his arduous work; and a thousand offices are performed by schoolmasters, physicians, lawyers, merchants, farmers, mechanics and artisans, which, though in most cases not aimed directly at the salvation of men, are, notwithstanding, most intimately connected with the world's improvement and renovation. But while ministers at home are assisted in their work, shall the missionary abroad receive little or no help in his direct labors? And in respect to all improvements in society indirectly connected with his main work, must the task of introducing them and of urging them on, devolve entirely on him alone? Why should not the various means of civilizing and improving society at home, be brought to exert their influence upon the heathen abroad? Why should not the aid enjoyed by the minister in Christian lands, from intelligent members of his church, be afforded to the missionary among the heathen? How, indeed, shall the world be converted, unless there be a going forth to heathen lands from among all classes of Christians?
But I fear that these remarks are too general to be distinctly understood. To make my meaning, then, a little more clear, I will suppose a case.
A missionary goes forth to a barbarous nation, and locates himself in a village of four thousand souls. He learns the language of the people, and soon succeeds in giving them a superficial knowledge of the great truths of the Gospel. God blesses his labors. The people throw away their idols; many sincerely embrace the Lord Jesus; and the community at large acknowledge Christianity as the religion of the land.
Now, a superficial thinker might imagine that the work of elevating the people was almost done; but, in truth, it is but just commenced. The missionary looks upon his people, and wishes them not only to be Christians in name, but to exhibit also intelligence and good order, purity and loveliness, industry and enterprise; in a word, a deportment in all respects consistent with the religion of Jesus. But what is their state? The government is despotic, and the principles of its administration at variance with Scripture and reason. This takes away all motives to industry and thrift. Then again, the people are ignorant; have no mental discipline, no store of useful knowledge, but their minds are marked with torpor, imbecility, and poverty of thought: while at the same time they are full of grovelling ideas, false opinions, and superstitious notions, imbibed in childhood and confirmed by age. The children, too, are growing up in ignorance of all that is useful and praiseworthy. Entirely uninstructed and ungoverned by their parents; they range at large like the wild goats of the field. The people know not the simple business of making cloth, of working iron, or of framing wood; and have but a very imperfect knowledge of agriculture.
Of course, men, women and children, are almost houseless and naked—destitute of everything but the rudest structures, the rudest fabrications, and the rudest tools and implements of husbandry. A large family herd together, of all ages and both sexes, in one little hut, sleep on one mat, and eat from one dish. From irregularity of habits and frequent exposure, they are often sick; and with the aid of a superstitious quackery, sink rapidly and in great numbers to the grave.
The missionary looks upon his four thousand villagers, though nominally Christian perhaps, yet still in this state of destitution, degradation and ignorance. He sees, that to elevate them requires the labors not only of a preacher of the Gospel, but the labors of the civilian, the physician, the teacher, the agriculturist, the manufacturer, the mechanic and the artist. Can all these professions and employments be united in one man? Can one missionary sustain all this variety of labor? Yet all these departments of labor are absolutely indispensable to the improvement and elevation of society. They are necessary in a land already Christian. Still more indispensable are they in the work of raising up a people from barbarism.
Teachers are needed. To raise a people from barbarism, the simple but efficient means of common schools must be everywhere diffused; and higher schools too must be established, and vigorously conducted. To teach the hundreds of millions of adult heathen in week-day schools and in Sabbath-schools, and more especially to instruct and train the hundreds of millions of heathen children and youth, cannot be done by a few hands. We forbear to make a numerical estimate: any one may estimate for himself. The number must be great, even though we look upon them rather as a commencing capital than as an adequate supply, and expect that by far the greater part of laborers are to be trained up from among the heathen themselves. It is preposterous to think of imposing all this labor on a few ministers of the Gospel.
Physicians are needed. They are needed to benefit the bodies of the heathen; for disease, the fruit of sin, is depopulating with amazing speed a large portion of the heathen world. The nations, many of them at least, are melting away. Let physicians go forth, and while they seek to stay the tide of desolation which is sweeping away the bodies of the heathen, let them improve the numerous and very favorable opportunities afforded them of benefiting their souls. The benevolent, sympathizing, and compassionate spirit of Christ, led him to relieve the temporal sufferings of men, while his main aim was to secure their eternal salvation. Unless we show, by our exertions, a desire to mitigate the present woes and miseries of men, how shall we convince them that we truly seek their eternal welfare? Physicians must throw their skill in the healing art at the feet of the Saviour, and be ready to use it when and where he shall direct. The number who should go to the heathen cannot, and need not, be named.
It is unnecessary to remark that printers, book-binders, and book-distributers are needed to carry on the work of the world's conversion.
Civilians too are needed: men skilled in laying the foundation of nations and guiding their political economy. Should such men go forth, and evince by a prayerful, godly, and disinterested deportment and course of procedure, that their sole aim was to promote the happiness of the people, both temporal and eternal; there are many barbarous countries where they would readily acquire much influence, and be able in a gradual manner, by friendly and prudent suggestions to the rulers, and in other ways, to effect changes that would be productive of incalculable good. Many changes, with pains-taking and care, could be made to appear to the rulers to be really for their interest, as well as for the interest of the people; and more light and knowledge, without the intervention of any new motive, would soon introduce them.
A few years since, the king and chiefs of the Sandwich Islands sent a united appeal to the United States for such an instructor, to guide them in the government of their kingdom, and offered him a competent support. While the nation had improved in religion and morals, the government had remained much as it was—keeping the people in the condition of serfs. The system was wrong throughout: of the very worst kind, both for the interests of the rulers and of the subjects. The chiefs began to see this, and asked for an instructor. Such an instructor was not obtained; and one of the missionaries was constrained, by the urgent necessity, to leave the service of the mission board, and to become a political teacher to the king and chiefs. His efforts have been crowned with great success.
Civilians might do good also, not only in the way of their profession, but by a Christian example, and by instructing the people, as opportunity should offer, in the knowledge of Christ.
Commercial men also, actuated by the same benevolent and disinterested spirit, might develope the resources of heathen lands, and apply them in a wise manner for the benefit of those lands; promote industry, and afford the means of civilized habits; increase knowledge, by expediting communication; and in this way, indirectly, though efficiently, aid the progress of the Gospel. By exhibiting also in their dealings an example of honesty, uprightness, and a conscientious regard to justice and truth; by showing practically the only proper use of wealth, the good of men and the glory of God; by conversing daily with individuals, as did Harlan Page and Normand Smith, at their houses and by the wayside, on the great subject of the soul's salvation; and by presenting in themselves and in their families examples of a prayerful and godly life, they might exert a powerful influence, and perform a very important part in Christianizing the world.
There is also much need of farmers, mechanics, manufacturers and artisans. They should go forth like other laborers in the field, not with the selfish design of enriching themselves, but with the disinterested intention of benefiting the nations. Private gain must be kept strictly, carefully, and absolutely subordinate, or immense evil will be wrought and no good be done. They should be men who cheerfully throw themselves and their property on the altar of entire consecration, and go forth to labor and toil so long as the Saviour pleases to employ them, with the lofty design of doing good to the bodies and souls of their perishing fellow men. Going forth with such a spirit, and with emphasis I repeat, allowing no other to intrude, they could do much in raising up the nations from their deep degradation. In the first place, they could do much good by communicating a knowledge of their several employments. Not only is a reform in government necessary, but an introduction of the useful arts also, to raise up the people from their indolence and filthy habits, and to promote thrift, order, neatness and consistency. Look at a heathen family as above described. How can you expect from them refinement or elevation of soul? How can you expect from them the proprieties and consistencies of a Christian life? Even though they may attend the sanctuary, and be instructed in schools; and even though the government be reformed, and hold out motives to industry; yet will not something else be wanting? Unless the various useful arts and occupations be introduced, how is the land to be filled with fruitful fields, pleasant dwellings, and neatly clad inhabitants? And to introduce these improvements, men must go forth for the purpose. Such men too might do good, by exhibiting in themselves and in their families habits of industry, domestic peace and strict economy; by holding up the hands of Christ's ministers, and by scattering the word of life in their appropriate spheres.
That laymen of every useful occupation are needed in heathen lands, is by no means the opinion of one alone. In looking over the periodicals and papers of the last few years, I find that such is the sober and deliberate opinion of many foreign laborers. I find urgent appeals for such helpers from at least five important missionary fields. Would such appeals be made if the enterprise were not a feasible one?
Look too at the fact, that there is scarcely a nation on the globe where men do not go, and permanently reside for the purpose of making money. It is absolutely amazing to what an extent this is the truth. Why then cannot men go forth, and while they obtain a livelihood, make it their ultimate and chief aim to do good?
But the inquiry arises, In what way should laymen go forth? It may not be desirable that they should go forth, to any great extent, under the care of missionary boards at present existing, lest the objects of those boards should become too numerous and complicated. And it may not perhaps be desirable, or necessary, to have any other organization for the purpose. I am not wise enough to give an opinion; but would suggest, that men of some pecuniary means take those means, and emigrate to heathen lands, just as some good men have gone to the far West. May there not also be small combinations of men, not to help others, but each other into the field, just as there is in worldly enterprise? When once established in the field, it is supposed that their trades and occupations will afford them, with trials, hardships and reverses, an adequate subsistence, and open before them a wide door of usefulness.
Some have suggested, that ministers of the Gospel should go forth and sustain themselves abroad. That is a far different question. If ministers of the Gospel ought not to sustain themselves in Christian countries by laboring with their hands, still less should they attempt such a course in foreign fields. They have other work to do—enough to occupy all their time.
But for laymen to go forth, and sustain themselves in this way, is it not both proper and appropriate? and have not such enterprises, to some extent, been already entered upon with success? Different fields, of course, present greater or less obstacles; but what undertaking is without its difficulties? Perplexities, embarrassments and sufferings, would be a matter of course; but no greater and perhaps far less than those Christians endured, who, being scattered abroad from their beloved Jerusalem, went everywhere preaching the word.
It may perhaps be objected, that should many from all classes of Christians thus go forth, to live and labor abroad, they would soon possess the land, while the heathen would melt away before them. Let us look at this point. And first, where is the evidence of such a result? When and where has the experiment been tried to justify such a supposition? When and where have individuals or companies gone forth with the sole design of benefiting the heathen, and yet proved their extermination? The settlers of New England are not an example in point, for the improvement and salvation of the heathen was not their main aim. It was indeed an idea in mind, but not fully and prominently carried out. It is yet to be proved that a company of persons, however numerous, of disinterested views, aiming solely to save the nations, and directing all their energies of body and of mind to that end, would prove the extermination of the heathen, instead of their salvation.
Neither can it be presumed that the descendants of such persons, trained, as ought to be supposed, with faith and prayer, would possess a spirit so selfish and different from that of their fathers, as to prove the extermination of the heathen. And if such is the necessary event, what is the conclusion at which we must arrive? It seems certain, that a mere handful of missionaries cannot put forth the instrumentality which, according to God's usual providence, is necessary to save them: that a great number and variety of laborers are needed to do the work. Let us be slow, therefore, to trust in the objection; for if it must be admitted, the lawful inference will not necessarily be, that Christians of all classes and in great numbers should not go forth to the heathen; but the inquiry will arise, whether heathen nations as nations must not cease to exist, and remnants of them only be saved—a painful and dread alternative, from which every benevolent heart must instinctively recoil.
There are other reasons why laymen should engage in the work of missions. The work of the world's conversion is too great, too momentous and too pressing, to admit of exemption simply on the ground of profession or employment. When the liberties of a people are at stake, how few are excused from the field of battle? But now the question is not one of temporal liberty: it is whether six hundred millions of the human race shall be won to the company of the redeemed on high, or left to sink in the untold agonies of the world of woe. In this unparalleled emergency, when the question is, whether the destiny of a world shall be heaven or hell, who can be excused on so slight a ground as that of profession or employment? A few ministers cannot do the work. It is too great. It is presumptuous to expect, that a speedy and complete triumph is to be effected by a few missionaries of the right stamp going through the length and breadth of Satan's extensive and dark empire, and sounding as they go the trumpet of the Gospel around his strong fortifications and deep intrenchments. Such an expectation places an immeasurable disparity between the means and the end. It supposes it to be so easy to effect a transformation of heathen society, heathen habits, heathen minds, and heathen character, and to raise them up from a degradation many ages deep, that a few sounds only from the herald of salvation, as he passes on his way, are sufficient. "Leviathan is not thus tamed." The prince of the power of the air is not thus vanquished.
Neither can the work be effected by a small number of preachers, stationed at different posts, in the midst of the wide domains of darkness and death. Like specks of light, few and far between, how can they illumine the broad canopy of darkness? To commit the work of the world's conversion to a few missionaries is, in effect, to leave the heathen to perish. A large company of preachers must go forth, and a large company too of other laborers. There must be among the whole body of Christians, not only an interest in the work, but to a greater extent than is imagined, a personal enlistment—an actual going forth to foreign lands.
Again, laymen must go abroad; for no less a movement than this will convince them that the work of saving the heathen presses upon them individually, and with all its weight and responsibility. Mere giving does not seem to answer the purpose. Very few laymen at home seem to imagine that they, individually, are as responsible for the life and death of the heathen, as the laborers abroad. Many seem to act only as they are acted upon. This passive state will not answer: there must be a more general feeling of personal responsibility. And how is such a feeling of equal and individual responsibility to be induced, till laymen in great numbers begin to go abroad? Till then, there will be a spirit of luxury in the church; a spirit of worldly-mindedness, and a spirit of committing the world's conversion to other hands. To destroy this spirit, which is evidently eating out the piety of the churches, laymen must be urged to arise; to break off their luxuries, to bury their covetousness—to make an entire devotement of body, soul and spirit, to the direct and arduous work of saving the heathen.
Once, I remember, after urging laymen to go forth, and to assist in evangelizing the heathen, a father in the church said to me, "Your reasons are just and weighty, but it is of no use to present them before the churches: they have not piety enough to act upon them. If you can clearly show that men can accumulate wealth, that they can really make fortunes by going to heathen lands, then your appeals will succeed. Bring this selfish principle to operate, and colonies will quickly scatter over the world. But to go forth with a spirit of self-denial, running the risk of trials and straitened circumstances, and with merely the prospect at best of obtaining a comfortable livelihood and doing good, is a measure not adapted to the present standard of piety in the churches. Until the spirit of devotedness shall rise many degrees in the churches, the course you urge will be looked upon as entirely visionary."
Alas! can the church be so low in grace? If it be a fact, it is painful and humiliating. If it be true, then the church is lacking in the most essential qualification required of it—is unfitted for the main design of its organization; and is there not reason to fear that God may cast it away, as he has the Roman church, and raise up another after his own heart, that shall do all his pleasure? Christian reader, can you calmly entertain the thought of being set aside by the Lord as unworthy of his employment—of being rejected on the ground of not fulfilling the purpose for which you were called?
CLAIM OF MISSIONS ON MINISTERS OF INFLUENCE.
In early days, ministers of the greatest influence were called to the work of missions. To prove this assertion, let us read the first verse of the 13th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch, certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them." Paul had been at Antioch a whole year, and Barnabas a still longer time. Their labors there had been blessed. The word had been attended with the demonstration of the Spirit and with power, and many people had turned to the Lord, so that a large church had been gathered in that great and opulent city. Believers there became so conspicuous for their numbers, as to be designated by a particular name: "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
There were laboring in that city, besides Paul and Barnabas, three other ministers; "Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch." The Holy Ghost saw that this city, though very important for its numbers, wealth and enterprise, could not claim the labors of five ministers, while the world at large was entirely destitute of the Gospel. Therefore, on a certain occasion, when the church were worshipping before the Lord and fasting, the Holy Ghost said, "Separate me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them."
The Holy Ghost did not say, "Separate me Simeon, and Lucius, and Manaen," but, "Separate me BARNABAS and SAUL"—the spiritual fathers, and main pillars of the church. Had the church been allowed to vote, it doubtless would have spared its sons, rather than its fathers: they would have stated their fond attachment to their first instructors; would have plead the great influence of these two fathers in the church, and the irreparable injury which would be sustained by their leaving it; and would have said, If we must part with some of our teachers, take Simeon, and Lucius, and Manaen, but bereave us not of our spiritual fathers. The question however was not left to their decision. The demand is stern and solemn from the Holy Spirit, with whom there is no selfish bias, "Separate me BARNABAS and SAUL."
In reflecting on this narration, do we not come to the conclusion, that MEN OF TALENTS AND INFLUENCE ARE CALLED TO THE WORK OF MISSIONS?
If this sentiment be true, it is one of immense and practical importance; one that not only ministers, but churches also ought fully to understand. Let us, then, dwell a moment longer on the practice of early times.
The instance to which we have alluded is a striking one; it contains, distinctly and impressively uttered, the mind of the Holy Spirit. It is infallible authority that speaks, and what does it declare? The paramount claim of missions to the ablest, holiest, and most experienced men. If Antioch was required to spare her two ablest men, what may not be required of such cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore? And judging too from this case of Antioch, what is the mind of the Holy Ghost in regard to the twelve thousand or more evangelical ministers in the United States? Can it be his will that they should all quietly remain where they are?
Again, God in early times made known his mind on this point, not only by the express admonition of the Holy Ghost, but also by the overrulings of his Providence. Take the account of the first dispersion. The Saviour ascended from the Mount of Olives, and the disciples returned to Jerusalem. The day of Pentecost arrived, and three thousand converts were added to their number. This multitude of believers was daily and rapidly increased. Here, then, was a very large city, the capital and pride of the nation, and a place of immense resort from all the nations round about. And in this city were many thousands of Christians, who were in peculiar need of constant care and faithful instruction, and had they been divided out to the pastoral care of the twelve apostles, would have made perhaps as large churches as any twelve in the city of New-York. Jerusalem then presented to the apostles a vast amount of pastoral care, and a field of labor unequalled perhaps in religious influence, considering the world as it then was, by any city that can be named within the limits of Christendom. The apostles were inclined to remain in Jerusalem, and considering the call for labor there, it is not wonderful that they were thus inclined. They seemed for a time to have forgotten the last command of their ascended Lord, and to have chosen a work more resembling that of settled pastors. But the Saviour allowed a persecution to rage in the city, till first the great body of the church, and afterwards all the apostles, except James, were scattered abroad. So the great Jerusalem was left with but one apostle. Eleven of the twelve, who had become in a measure settled there, were driven abroad; and not from Jerusalem only, but without the limits of Palestine. Such is evidently the fact. Let every one draw from it the instruction it affords. To my mind it clashes irreconcilably with the present distribution of ministers.
Take another case. Paul had been laboring at Ephesus two whole years, and had collected a very large church in that city. This city was the emporium of Asia Minor; a place of much resort, and greatly celebrated throughout the known world. The large number of disciples there, who needed a pastor to warn them day and night with tears, and the wide door which was there opened for preaching the Gospel, presented such strong claims to the mind of Paul, as seemed likely to fix there his permanent abode. What pastor of the present day can urge stronger reasons for continuing his charge, than Paul might have urged for continuing his relation to the large church at Ephesus? For in addition to a large city and a large church, the converts had been but lately gathered from heathenism—were but babes in Christ—and needed constant instruction and unwearied care. Yet God was pleased to allow Demetrius to excite an uproar, and thus to sever Paul from his church and congregation, and send him abroad into Macedonia. This is another fact—a STUBBORN FACT, which we ought to bear in mind, and weigh well. If God saw best thus to break tender ties, separate Paul from a large city and a large body of such converts as, above all others, needed special care, and to leave the important post almost destitute, can it be his will that all the pastors of the present day should stay in their places, and that none of them should go forth to the heathen? If the city had been Boston, with its thousand means of grace, the case would have been comparatively weak; but it was Ephesus, a heathen city, and depending almost entirely on the living voice of Paul, and yet this one preacher must become a missionary. Let us look at this fact, and each one for himself draw conclusions; not those that are wild and extravagant, but such as are true and sober.
We have here a commentary on the last command of Jesus. It was commented upon by the providence of God, separating the apostles from Jerusalem, Antioch, and Ephesus. It was commented upon by the direct admonition of the Holy Ghost in a particular case. It was commented upon by the practice of the apostles. Let us beware that we substitute not, for this correct commentary, any worldly-wise interpretation of our own. Let us admit it just as it comes to us from early days, fresh and unmodified, and allow it to govern our lives.
There are but few who do not admit, that the present distribution of ministers is anti-apostolic—that many, who are now pastors, ought to have become missionaries before they were settled. And can the mere fact of being settled have produced such a vast change in the question of duty, as to place it forever at rest? If the clustering together of twelve thousand ministers within the bounds of the United States, where a thousand means of grace and improvement exist besides the voice of the living teacher, is a very different thing from going into all the world, and preaching the Gospel to every creature—an egregious disproportion to the wants of the world—must we stifle all emotion and all inquiry, in taking it for granted that it is now too late for change? And yet there seems to be a tacit understanding, that any other distribution than that now existing, of the present generation of ministers, is a point not to be agitated. At least, many a pastor quiets himself with the thought, that no change is to be contemplated in his particular case, for the care of a church is on his hands. Almost by common consent, pastors are excused; and missionaries are looked for from the young men and the children; and the hope of the heathen amounts to this, that some young men may be kept from imitating the example of their fathers and elder brethren, and be prevailed upon to enter the missionary work before they become pastors. For if the mere fact of being a pastor places the question at rest, young men will feel themselves relieved as soon as they enter that office.
I have known young men whose minds were goaded on the question of going to the heathen, like the conscience of a convicted sinner, till a call was presented to some important church; and then they succeeded in laying the subject at once and entirely aside. Like the pursued ostrich, who thrusts her head into the sand, and vainly imagines that she is concealed from her pursuers, so, I fear, some endeavor to elude the convictions of conscience. I put the question to your own good sense, your candor, and your pious feelings: Can the mere fact of being a pastor excuse a man from going to the heathen, when perhaps he became a pastor in violation of the Saviour's command?
It is acknowledged, that many pastors ought to have become missionaries before they were settled—that the present amazing disproportion between settled ministers at home, and missionaries abroad, ought never to have existed. To argue so plain a case would be a waste of breath. How then can the fact of having wandered from duty excuse one from the performance of it? To-day, it is the duty of Jonah to go to Nineveh. To-morrow, he has engaged his passage to Tarshish, has paid his fare, has gone down into the sides of the ship, and is quietly at rest. Is he therefore excused? To-day, the command of Christ presses upon me the obligation to go to the heathen. To-morrow, leaving out of mind this command, which still applies in all its force, I enter into an obligation with a particular church to take upon me its pastoral care: which obligation is binding? The last, do you say? Can I then thus easily thrust aside the Saviour's last and most impressive command? Can I, by such a course, shield myself effectually from its further application? I have yet to learn, that by any change of place or circumstances we can free ourselves from the weight of the Saviour's injunction. I mean not to assert, that all who ought to have become missionaries before they were settled, ought to become so now. Some have entirely hedged up their way; and though they may have been disobedient in doing so, yet deep regret and sincere repentance is all the reparation they can now make. But those who ought to have gone to the heathen, and before whom the door is still open for going, such should still become missionaries, and on the obvious principle, that it is better to do our duty late than not to do it all. The mere plea of being a pastor is not a sufficient excuse; and it is losing too, continually, more and more of its force. It is a wonder that it should be relied upon so much as a quietus, since, in the present age, the residence of a pastor is very transient and uncertain.
Again let me say, it is a great thing, a good thing, and a rare thing, to be entirely honest in the sight of God. Let us endeavor to be so. It is to be feared, that there may be some who exempt themselves from becoming missionaries on the ground of being pastors, who are not altogether honest in their excuse. Are there not some individuals, who make it, who would manifest but little hesitation in leaving the pastoral office to take the oversight of a college, to become a professor in a theological seminary, or to take charge of some prominent religious periodical? When urged to become a missionary, the pastor pleads his attachment to his people; their affection for him, which gives him great influence; and his acquaintance with their prejudices, opinions, habits, and whole character, so as to adapt his instructions to their particular case. He mentions these, and the like considerations, and concludes very readily that he can be more useful in his present situation than in any other. But when a presidency, a professorship, or a more influential church is offered, the reasons before urged seem to lose something of their force; and through the intervention of some new light, which I shall not account for, the conclusion is formed that another situation would be more useful. The motive for a change is a good one; but it is to be remembered that this same motive, that of being more useful, could not prevail upon them to become missionaries.
Facts of this kind could be collected, I think to a considerable extent; and they lead me, however unwilling, to suspect that, in some cases, the honest reason why ministers do not become missionaries is not that they are pastors, but something quite different.
Another fact, too, makes me suspicious that there is some lack of entire honesty. A pastor says he cannot become a missionary, for he has the care of a church. In a few months, for some cause or other, he is dismissed from his church and people. What does he do? become a missionary? I have one in my eye who was a pastor of a church in a large city. He told me, that nothing but his relation as pastor in that city could keep him a moment from the missionary work. Soon after, he was dismissed from his church and people; and think you he became a missionary? You would betray a very limited knowledge of human nature to think so.
"But," says one, "I am opposed to fickleness and change." Ah! indeed; does it betray fickleness to leave a church to become a missionary? Did God favor fickleness and change when he prevented the permanent location of the apostles in Palestine, by a voice from heaven, and by violent persecutions? Did the Saviour favor fickleness in his last command? When a presidency, a professorship, or a more prominent and influential church is offered you, then speak of fickleness—the excuse may possibly be in place; but never, never in place, while untold millions of our race are dying for lack of vision, and our commission reads, "GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD, AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE."
* * * * *
One pastor excuses himself, by saying, "The attachment between me and my people is very dear, and this attachment gives me great influence with them." I reply, Was not the attachment very dear between the apostles and the disciples at Jerusalem, and also between Paul and the converts at Antioch, and at Ephesus? What language of affection and solicitude can equal that of Paul for his converts? He calls them his "joy and crown"—the "little children for whom he travails in birth, till Christ be formed in them." He says to them, "I live, if ye stand fast in the Lord."
And had not the apostles great influence in the churches in which they labored? Had not Paul and Barnabas great influence in the church at Antioch? Did not the church love and respect them, and hang in breathless silence upon their lips, and look upon their departure as an irreparable loss? Yet, though entwined into the hearts of the people, and possessing every advantage to instruct them which intimate acquaintance and unbounded influence could give, the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding, said, "Separate me BARNABAS and SAUL."
Attachment is your plea; but the spirit of the Gospel is a spirit of self-denial, and requires us not only to forsake church and people, but also father and mother, brother and sister, son and daughter, and to hold our own lives loosely. Those persons to whom attachment is strongest, and who can't be spared on that account, are the best fitted for missions.
You plead the influence which you possess with your church and people. This, instead of being a reason for remaining at home, is a powerful argument for going abroad. In that very influence you possess an advantage and qualification for the missionary work, which very few missionaries enjoy. It is greatly to be lamented that the church has but little acquaintance with her missionaries. It was not so in primitive times. On this account there is room for the question to arise, Whether there ought not to be less of the home minister for life, and the exile for life; a narrower gulf between the two, and more passing and repassing, as the apostles were wont to do; a breaking up of caste, grade and condition among ministers, as regards various fields—a more literal compliance with the precept of "going into all the world, and preaching the Gospel to every creature." Be this however as it may—for there is much that can be said on either side of the question—it is most certainly true, that the pastor possesses one very great advantage: that by going to the heathen he can wake up, in one church at least, the spirit of doing good—the enterprising and benevolent spirit of Christ and his apostles. He may take with him, as helpers, some of its most intelligent and active members, and call forth the contributions and enlist the prayers of those who may remain.
It seems, that nothing less than such means as the separation of pastors for the work of missions, can avail to awake the slumbering churches, and to lead them to begin in earnest to seek the salvation of the heathen; to feel that the work presses upon them individually, and demands all their energies and their personal enlistment. For it is a sober and humiliating fact, as I have had some opportunity of judging, that there are few churches comparatively, in our land, who seem to have drunk deeply into the missionary spirit. There is need, therefore, of a movement on the part of pastors, to arouse the churches from their guilty slumbers.
A pastor possesses much influence with his church and congregation. The Lord then has given him five talents, and he can easily make them ten: by going abroad he can benefit his church perhaps as much as by remaining their pastor, and, at the same time, be the instrument of saving many heathen souls. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth;" and "he that watereth shall be watered also himself." God's blessing distils upon the liberal soul, and the liberal church. The performance of duty is attended with the Saviour's smiles and a rich reward. Who does not see, that a pastor could in no way so effectually awaken in his church a spirit of benevolent feeling and action, as by exhibiting it in his own person; by rising up, and going forth to the heathen, urging a part of his flock to accompany him, and the rest to sustain him in the field? Who doubts, that by such a course he would do more to arouse the pure and active religion of Jesus Christ and his apostles, than he could possibly do in any other way; that he would give an impulse to his church in favor of primitive piety and practice, that should add vastly to its strength, its glory and its numbers, and be felt in all time to come. Let not the pastor, then, excuse himself from the missionary work, because he has acquired influence in his church and congregation; for that very fact is a powerful argument for going abroad.
For the same reason, no one can excuse himself because he fills a post of vast importance. He is the pastor of an influential church, a president of a college, a professor in a theological seminary, the editor of a religious paper of immense circulation, or the secretary of some society: his station is one of vast responsibility, and he imagines that he is therefore excused from becoming a missionary. But was not Jerusalem an important place? more prominent, compared with other cities of that time, than any city in the United States? And yet all the apostles, except one, were required not only to leave that city, but to go without the limits of Palestine. Was not Antioch as important as Boston or Philadelphia? Yet Paul and Barnabas were not suffered to remain there.
Besides, is not the work of a missionary a difficult, important, and responsible work? The Holy Spirit thought so in apostolic times. When a man was needed to preach to Cornelius and his household, a man of no less ability and influence than Peter was chosen. When a man was called to go to Antioch, Barnabas was sent, a man of great piety and influence. And when two of the five preachers at Antioch were called to go to the heathen, the Holy Ghost did not choose Simeon, or Lucius, or Manaen, but said, "Separate me BARNABAS and SAUL;" the men of the greatest ability, experience, piety and wisdom. Thus the Holy Spirit seemed to declare that the work of a missionary required greater talents, more mature wisdom, and deeper piety, than the work of a pastor in the largest and most influential churches.
And is not this doctrine, while it accords with the instructions of the Holy Ghost and the practice of primitive times, also a dictate of common sense? Would you choose weak men to penetrate into the very midst of the enemy, and to grapple with the Anaks of the land, and keep those who are strong in a garrison at home? Would you select indifferent statesmen to settle the affairs of revolutionary France, or to reduce to order the chaotic mass of the South American states; and employ the able, the wise and talented, in governing a country already quiet and peaceful? Did it require less wisdom to lay the foundation and form the constitution of our good government, than it requires to manage the state on principles already established? Does it require less skill to draft the plan of a capitol, than to work at the building when the plan is mature? Does it require less wisdom to govern a camp in a state of mutiny, than when in subjection and at peace? Look, then, at the work of missions. Does it require less talent to deal with minds clouded by ignorance, perverted by superstition, and barred by arrogance, bigotry, and pride, than to instruct the unbiassed, the willing, and intelligent? Does it require less wisdom to tear up the foundations of heathen society, and lay it anew on the principles of the Gospel—to change society morally, religiously, and socially, than to preserve in a good condition a people already intelligent, industrious, and Christian? Surely, if talent is needed anywhere in the kingdom of Christ, it is in the missionary work. That minister, whose talents and piety make him so useful at home that he cannot be spared, that is the minister who is needed abroad. The foreign field calls for no laborers who can be conveniently spared.
Then, is the church of a pastor wealthy and influential? It is the very church that needs to be aroused by his leaving it. Or is he connected with a literary, or theological institution? Some thus connected are needed to go, to produce the best impression on the young men who are in training. The more important and influential then one's place is, the more like a rushing flood do reasons crowd upon him to arise and go.
It is very common for men to excuse themselves from the work of missions, on the ground, that they are somewhat advanced in years. There is weight in this excuse. That person would exhibit the want of a proper balance of mind, who should urge all indiscriminately, whatever their age and however circumstanced in life, to go forth to the heathen. But still the excuse of age ought to be looked at cautiously.
Age implies experience, authority, dignity, and wisdom—the very qualities most wanted in the difficult work of missions. The work of tearing up and laying anew the foundations of society, moral, religious, and social, is a task that ought by no means to be committed to the young and inexperienced. It is preposterous to commit altogether to novices in the ministry a work so new, so complicated, so beset with difficulties, on the right hand and on the left, and so momentous, too, in its responsibilities. Can Satan be driven so easily from his own territory, that none but raw troops are needed for the contest? Can the broad and deep intrenchments of Paganism, Mohammedism, and Romanism be so easily taken, as not to need men of age, experience and skill, to direct the assault? Can the snares in which the heathen are held; which are laid with all the subtlety of the arch-fiend, be so easily divested of their specious character, and traced into their thousand windings, as not to require the wisdom and experience of age? A minister has age: he has then one great qualification for the work. "Paul the aged" had none too much experience, dignity and wisdom, for the work of a missionary to heathen lands.
But age, it is said, is a great barrier in acquiring a foreign language. There is force in this remark; but let us be cautious, that we do not trust too much to it. A great amount of labor may be performed on heathen ground without a knowledge of the language. Much can be done in the English language, and much, too, can be done through interpreters. All that David Brainerd accomplished was in this way.
But how certain is it, that persons somewhat advanced cannot acquire a foreign language? This plea is not peculiar to those who have been some time in the ministry. No excuse is more frequently offered, and with more appearance of honesty, even in the college and the theological seminary. It is difficult to place the mark of age where this excuse may be properly offered, and where it may not. Shall we place it at thirty-five? Some missionaries now in the field entered on the work at that age, and acquired the language without much difficulty. It may be remarked, too, that men of traffic abroad, from youth to gray hairs, usually learn so much of a foreign language as to answer their purpose. Let us beware, then, how much we depend on the excuse of age; and be cautious, too, how far up the scale of years we place the mark.
Another excuse which has some weight is this: "I must remain at home to take care of my aged parents." So said one to Christ: "Lord, I will follow thee, but suffer me first to go and bury my father." Jesus answered, "Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the Gospel." I leave to the reader to determine the precise meaning and force of this reply of our Saviour. This much it certainly means, that some may excuse themselves from preaching to take care of their parents, when the excuse is not valid. I will not say, that the excuse is not sufficient in some cases; but I am inclined to think that such cases are rare. A parent must be very dependent upon a son, to be liable to such inconvenience and suffering from his absence, as can reasonably weigh in the balance against the claims of the hundreds of millions of dying heathen.
But the excuse which seems to be the most valid, is this: "My going to the heathen is out of the question, for I have a family of children." This is indeed a tender point. God has given me some experience on this subject, and I know how to appreciate the excuse. But the Saviour says, "He that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me." This declaration means nothing, unless it requires us to make great sacrifices in regard to our children. So far as we can at present see, the world cannot be converted without great self-denial on this point. Precisely what sacrifices are to be made in regard to children, is a question which is not, as yet, fully determined.
But let us look at the excuse. If a minister may stay at home because he has children, may not the missionary who has children return home? A pastor has one child, and cannot go. Then may not the missionary who has one child, come back? A pastor has six children, and cannot go. Many missionaries have six children, shall not they return? The mere circumstance of being already abroad cannot have much weight; and the sacrifice of a voyage in such a question, and among a multitude of other weighty reasons, is scarcely worth being named. If children then are an excuse, let missionaries return. No, you say; missionaries who have children must not return on that account. What then shall they do with their children? Keep them, and train them up to be helpers in the work? Let pastors then take their children into the field, and train them up for that purpose. You certainly have hearts too noble to impose a burden on the shoulders of others which you would not bear yourselves. Your children would have the advantage of the children of missionaries, having been thus far trained in a Christian land. As to future advantages of education, they will have the same with the children now abroad. You certainly cannot complain of equality.
But, you say, let missionaries send their children home. Then let pastors leave their children at home and go abroad. Ah, you say, pastors cannot endure the thought; it would be a shock to their parental feelings that they cannot sustain. But, I ask, have missionaries no feelings? have their hearts become hard, like blocks of wood and pieces of rock? Does love to Christ, and compassion for the heathen, tend to make men and women obtuse in their feelings, so that a father or mother on heathen ground does not feel as intensely for the present and eternal welfare of a child, as a parent who has never gone to the heathen? Ah! had you seen what my eyes have witnessed, facts then should speak and I would be silent. Missionaries, indeed, are trained to cast their care upon God; their feelings are chastened and disciplined, but at the same time deep and intense. To a thousand dangers, toils and hardships, they may be inured; but when the separation of children is thought of, they show full well that they are no proof against an agony of feeling. Certainly, then, you will not plead for exemption. You would not place upon others this burden, and pull away your own shoulders from it. You have souls too generous and benevolent to do that. You cannot find it in your hearts to offer to the lips of others a cup more bitter than you would drink yourselves. You can choose guardians for your children far better than the missionaries can who are abroad, and your children shall have the same provision for their support and education as theirs have.
We have glanced at some excuses. Many others there are in this excuse-making age. Be entreated to look at them with the command of Christ, a sinking world and a coming judgment, in your eye, and as far as they have weight and no farther be influenced by them. Where exemption cannot honestly be pleaded, the command in all its force is binding.
That some pastors of influence and talent should become missionaries, seems necessary; for how otherwise can the means be raised to sustain missions abroad, and to send forth young men who may offer themselves? It is well known, that operations abroad have been and are still exceedingly crippled. It is well known, too, that quite a company of young men have at different times been waiting, for want of requisite funds to send them forth to the heathen.
Now this is the state of things, not because there is not money enough in the hands of Christians—no one imagines that such is the fact—but because Christians, as a body, are not aroused to duty. What means shall be taken to arouse them? I, for one, am inclined to think that there would be hope, if some influential and prominent pastors would enter the missionary work. In such a case, I should indeed have strong hope that the impulse, falling in with the spirit of primitive practice and the will of the Holy Ghost, would be such as to bring forth the funds needed to sustain the operations now begun, send forth waiting young men, and carry themselves also into the field. I feel quite confident, that the measure would soon clear the seaboard of all who might be detained, and place their joyful feet on foreign soil.
The great body of professed Christians are becoming luxurious in their modes of life. One cannot go through the churches, after the absence of several years, without being forcibly impressed with this fact. They press forward after wealth, and profess to be accumulating it for Christ; but in the end, spend it on themselves and on their children. Now what, under God, shall break up this covetousness, and luxurious manner of life? What shall bring them back to the pure and unadulterated principles of the Gospel—to live, labor, and die for Christ, as did the primitive disciples? Let pastors, like the apostles, go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. There is reason to hope that the church members would likewise imbibe the right spirit, and act on right principles. Then we should hear no more of schools disbanded and missionaries detained, but troops of heralds would be carrying out the news of salvation and sending back tidings of success. There is much philosophical and Bible truth in the proverb, "Like people like priest." O, what responsibility rests on the ministers of Christ!
Again, if all settled ministers of talent and influence remain at home, how can such a number of missionaries be secured as seem needed for the world's conversion? If many of those already in the sacred office do not go, it is absolutely certain, that the present generation of heathen must die without the Gospel. The angel of death continues hovering over the dying nations, mowing down his twenty millions a year; and before ministers can be raised up from among the youth and children, will be drawing a stroke at the last man of all that are now heathen. The present generation of ministers must preach the Gospel to the present generation of mankind. It will be the duty of the next generation of ministers to preach to the inhabitants that shall be then on the globe. To look for missionaries from among the young alone, is making no provision for the present generation of heathen. If the heathen are to be left till missionaries can be trained up, they are to be left—the soul shudders at the thought—till they shall be in hell! By making this postponement, the churches, in effect, though certainly without intending it, sign the death warrant of a great portion of the present six hundred millions of perishing heathen; relinquish all effort for this vast multitude, and only dream of saving the next generation—of whom it would be a mercy never to be born, unless there shall be more hope of their salvation than can be seen at present—dream, I say, of saving the next generation; for to think much of raising up the young to be missionaries, without going ourselves, is little better than dreaming.
To induce young men, to any great extent, to become missionaries, when their fathers and elder brethren do not, is hopeless. Precept must become more powerful than example, before such a result can take place. How can you so blindfold the young, stop their ears, and wall them off from surrounding influences, as to expect such a result? If their eyes are left open, what do they see? They see their fathers and elder brethren settled at home, and some of them in quiet, comfort and honor. If their ears are left open, what do they hear? They hear various excuses for remaining at home, and among others, the specious idea of training up children to be missionaries. And what will they do? They will dream of training your grandchildren for missions, and your grandchildren dream of training the next generation, and so on, as the sixty generations past have done, from the time of the Saviour down. But the fire of God's Spirit shall burn up this chaff. The world shall not be cheated out of its millenium. The judgment trumpet shall not sound before the arrival of the latter day glory.
To become a missionary, in the present state of things, is sailing against wind and tide; so that those who find their way to the heathen, compared with the number who ought to go, are very few indeed. To urge a large number into the field is hopeless. Bonaparte might as well have urged his soldiers over the Alps without leading them. We cannot expect the nature of things to change, and precept to become more powerful than example. A portion of the more talented of the settled ministry must lead the way. Then there shall be found a resuscitating principle; our eyes shall beam with joy, and we shall fondly cherish a rational hope of the world's renovation.
Again, many pastors should become missionaries, for all things await their personal enlistment in the service. God, in his providence, is causing a state of preparation in the world which calls for some mighty movement on the part of the church. A door is opened into almost every nation on the earth, and ships are ready to carry us to almost every port. Now is the time for a great effort. All the elements are ready for action, and need only to be brought to bear on the glorious cause of the world's conversion. To effect this, there must be a high stand of prayerful enterprise on the part of the present generation of ministers. The Lord has brought us to the ministry for such a time as this; and surely my brethren will not prove themselves unworthy of so vast a responsibility, but come up joyfully to the work, and reap the harvest of the world.
And here let me say, that the millions of souls already lost are immense; and it would be awfully presumptuous in Christians to neglect the millions and hundreds of millions of the present generation. Century after century has rolled along, ingulfing generation after generation, till one would think that Satan himself would be satisfied with the enormous havoc. Eighteen centuries have passed away, and sixty generations, five hundred millions each—thirty billions of immortal souls left to perish since Christ gave command to evangelize them. Are not thirty billions enough? Shall we, by any guilty neglect, suffer the present generation, six hundred millions more, to be added? O, let the billions of souls already lost suffice. O, let us arise, and go and preach the Gospel to the nations, that the generations that remain between this and the judgment may be saved.
Let me suggest, too, that nothing would so readily produce union among ministers at home, as to divert all their powers of body and mind into some all-absorbing and self-denying enterprise. Now, what angel of heaven has not wept over the contentions and jealousies that cloud the glory of the American churches. How has the heart of Jesus bled over the dissensions and strife of his own ministers! And is there no remedy? Let pastors become so engrossed in fulfilling their commission as to obey its literal import, and arise and go; and I mistake much, if the movement would not make a material impression on their contentions and jealousies. They would feel that they were doing a great work, and could not come down. For contention they would find neither time nor inclination. It would be difficult to state, in a foreign tongue, their metaphysical distinctions, so as to make a difference. Higher and nobler objects would engross the soul. Be entreated to try this course. Then the recording angel shall not be compelled, with aching heart and streaming eyes, to inscribe "ICHABOD" on our American Zion; but, with willing soul and ready hands, shall write in fairer lines, "BEAUTIFUL FOR SITUATION, THE JOY OF THE WHOLE EARTH."
* * * * *
But it is often said, "I never felt it to be my duty to go to the heathen: I never had any such impression."
No such impression! Did then the command of our ascended Lord, his last command, delivered under the most solemn circumstances, make no impression upon you? Did the temporal and eternal miseries of six hundred millions of your fellow men make no impression upon you? Did their groans and sighs, which came over the waters like the voice of seven thunders, peal after peal, make no impression upon you? And could you remain at home with comfort and peace of mind, with the weeping and wailing of millions of dying souls in your ears, backed up with the command of Christ to go and seek their salvation? While Jesus plead, "Lo, I died for them, go, preach my Gospel to them, that they may live;" could you remain unimpressed and unmoved? And have all these considerations, and a hundred more, been urged upon you for years, and yet failed to make an impression? Alas! of what is your heart made, that it does not feel? Look for no supernatural impression. Missionaries have none. There is no need of any. He that can live and not be impressed, may well tremble for his own salvation. It appears that you are easily impressed that it is your duty to remain at home. The motives, I fear, that come before your mind are well suited to make an impression. You quickly perceive a call, when country, home, friends, the endearments of society, and the like considerations crowd upon your mind. O, dear brethren, let us be entirely honest, as we expect soon to meet the Saviour and the world of perishing souls for whom he died.
Another similar excuse is often made: "Did I possess the requisite attainments in holiness, I should delight to go abroad. But as the case is, I cannot become a missionary: I have not piety enough."
Not piety enough! Then be entreated to become more pious without delay. As you value the souls of dying men, defer not to become more holy. Through your want of piety the heathen may be left to perish. But what is holiness? Is it not obedience to the commands of Christ? Obey, then, his last command: that will be becoming more holy. Go forth to the heathen from love to Christ: that will be becoming more pious. "NOT PIETY ENOUGH!" Will you presume to offer that excuse to the Lord Jesus, when you shall stand before him to render account for the blood of the heathen? And when you shall see multitudes of the heathen sinking into hell, whom, under the blessing of the Spirit, you might have saved; and hear their weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth; will it ease your mind, and quiet your conscience, that you had not piety enough to go and make known to them the way of life? This is a solemn subject. Let us try, dear brethren, to look at it as we ought.
Allied to this excuse is the following: "I have never thought myself qualified for the work of missions. It is a work which in my view requires rare endowments. Did I possess the requisite qualifications, I should delight to engage in so glorious a work."
To this excuse I would say, There is room in the wide field of missions for every grade and variety of talent. Such is the universal testimony of those who have gone forth. Neither could it be otherwise in so various and vast a work as that of converting all nations, many of whom need to be instructed in the simplest arts of civilized life, and in the very alphabet of knowledge. But the excuse you render is entirely at variance with the facts in the case. If the work of missions be deemed worthy of the greatest talents, why is it that a large number do not go forth from among the more prominent and influential in the sacred office? The plea of disqualification is a popular one. There is in it much appearance of humility and self-depreciation. But facts testify, that many who plead their want of talent do not hesitate, if invited, to take upon them the care of a college, or of a large and opulent church. If the conduct of men is to be regarded as a just interpreter of their sentiments, then the great body of the Christian ministry, instead of regarding themselves unfit for the work of missions, consider themselves too well qualified to enter it. They really think, that those of inferior qualifications will do for missions; while those of superior minds and brilliant talents must be reserved for important stations at home.
It is said again, "All cannot go abroad."
I reply, Do not use the word "all" till there shall be some need of it. There is no danger yet that the home company will be comparatively too small.
There is another excuse which is worthy of more notice. One says, "My own country claims my first attention. It presents a field of vast extent, and demands a vast amount of labor. Its schools, colleges and seminaries, must be sustained. Its religious periodicals must be edited. The churches must be watched over, and brought up to a higher standard of piety. Revivals must be promoted. But passing by these claims for labor, look at the wide-spreading desolations of the West, where ignorance, infidelity, and Romanism prevail, and threaten, at no very future day, to be the overthrow of our government—the extinguishment of our dearly-bought and precious inheritance. All our exertions must be put forth to save our country; for the progress of light and knowledge throughout the world depends on its existence. The overthrow of our government would put back the dial of the moral world ten centuries. Our own nation lost, and what would become of the heathen? when would the millenium arrive? Our present attention must be directed to the salvation of our own country, and our missionary exertions must be concentrated on the West."
The excuse does not stop here; but a citizen from Great Britain would say, "I too must speak in behalf of my country—a country whose possessions encircle the globe. The existence and religious prosperity of a nation whose commerce is so great, and whose dominions embrace a large portion of the heathen world, cannot but be intimately connected with the universal prevalence of light and peace. It is of the first importance, that the heart of such a nation should beat with a healthy pulse; that much effort should be made to promote a high standard of vital godliness in the universities and churches at home. But more than this, look at the vast body of laboring men in England and Ireland, who are living in ignorance and in sin. They call loudly for teachers and for preachers of the Gospel, and ought to receive, for the present at least, all we can educate and all we can support."