Page images


A PROFESSOR of theology, whose excellent spirit and valuable services greatly endeared him to the Christian church, arose as the last speaker finished his concluding sentence.

I am happy, said he, to have this opportunity to express my views on the subject under discussion. The efforts which have been recently made by Protestant Christendom to evangelize the world have infused fresh vitality into my own soul, and laid me under increased obligations to the God of missions. It is my earnest desire that the whole Christian world might understand and appreciate this sublime undertaking. The views of our missionary friend will no doubt be thought by some chimerical ; by others uncharitable. From both of these opinions I must beg leave to dissent. I believe the principles he has advanced are authorized by the word of God and the condition of the world; and that, as he has justly hinted, the conclusions they involve lose all of their apparent absurdity the moment you pass the limits of Christendom. If his reasoning proves it the duty of a very large proportion of those who enter the ministry to leave their native country, I do not believe that it proves too much. Nay, I go farther. Such results by no means alarm me. If all the young men now in preparation for the highest offices of the church were to conclude, as by one impulse, to go forth to the rescue of the heathen, I should regard it as the greatest triumph Christianity has achieved, and the happiest omen the church has enjoyed since apostolic times. What exalted piety it would demonstrate and what an increase of devotion it would produce! How would it enlarge the ranks of the ministry and call forth the dormant talents of the laity! Young men would be turned from secular pursuits to the service of God; and old men would lose their spiritual decrepitude and renew their youth. ' Indeed nothing short of such a high degree of holiness would admit of this universal action on missions; and could the church at home suffer when such was the vigour of piety within her borders ? Only secure the unreserved consecration of the tithe of those who have assumed the external garb of Christianity, and you would multiply, I had almost said, in a tenfold ratio, all the blessings which now attend the sluggish efforts of the whole body of Christians. The ministry would be so much increased, both in numerical and spiritual force, that the proportion who would find it obligatory to remain at home would far surpass in efficiency, if not in number, the entire sum now engaged.

Besides, the relative circumstances of the different nations of the earth would be changed. The inequality of spiritual advantages which now exists in the world would be diminished. A native ministry would soon aid in supplying their respective countries. The experiment, too, would point out the most advantageous distribution of the servants of Christ and of the means of

grace, and no station of prominence in Christian or in heathen lands would be neglected.

When I hear our young brethren excusing themselves from the toils and perils of foreign service, I think they entirely disregard the abstract rights of the heathen. They forget that it is a matter of justice to send them the gospel — that on this condition and for this purpose, as well as for our own personal benefit, this gospel was committed to us. Only let us exchange situations with these neglected idolaters, and we shall learn how to reason on the duty of equalizing the blessings of Christianity. We should then perceive how criminal in their eyes our conduct must appear. It would require principles which nothing but this blessed religion can impart, to make us listen with patience to the futile reasons generally assigned for defrauding the destitute of their just dues. Some of these reasons, it is true, have the air of plausibility ; but hold them up to the light and see how unsubstantial they are.

The one which is advanced with the most confidence, and which bears the aspect of the greatest kindness to the heathen, I have not heard canvassed. It is the necessity of remaining at home to keep the fountain of benevolence full and overflowing. If so many go, they inquire, who will support them?-- who will enable them to carry on their work? — by what means can their numbers be increased? These questions are asked with as much gravity and frequency as if all Christian lands were still dependent upon Jerusalem for ministers and their support ; or as though the gospel could not do for other countries what it has accomplished for our own.

The missionaries inform us, that in many pagan regions immense sums are lavished upon their vain superstitions. Let Christianity consecrate these habits to Christian purposes, and the revenue to the funds of benevolence would very far exceed all which is now given in Christendom. Thousands of young men in some countries are devoted to the priesthood. In the kingdom of Siam, for instance, with a population of four or five millions, - besides a great number of splendid and costly pagodas, there are at least twenty thousand priests and students supported by the voluntary contributions of the people. In Burmah, India, and many Mahometan countries, we find the same lavish expenditure of talents and money in honour of their objects of adoration. Now let these men be enlisted, and these resources appropriated in the extension of the Saviour's kingdom, and unless the streams of our benevolence swell and flow with far greater rapidity than ever, theirs will come in upon us, and help to fertilize whatever arid waste may exist within our own territory.

Since we came together in this holy convocation, one truth has been impressed upon my mind with unusual power, and that is the great honour of a personal participation in the work of missions. I am certain my young brethren do not understand their highest dignity and happiness. God does not solicit their assistance as necessary to the work. The removal of thousands, just prepared for labour, testifies to this humiliating truth. He proposes the engagement to them as a privilege, as a discriminating privilege, and by those who are inclined to accept it, such it is esteemed. They regard it as the fruits of wonder-working grace, and each exclaims with the inspired missionary of the Gentiles, "Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."

Oh, if the spirit of God were poured out with

« PreviousContinue »