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As the speaker closed his remarks, a distinguished layman of wealth and education, who had two sons in the foreign missionary field, made the following reply.
I have attended closely to the arguments just advanced, and must say, that to my apprehension they are specious rather than solid. My great surprise is, that the principle of charity should be so perverted, as apparently to favour what from its
very nature it must oppose. I do not see how the oft-repeated adage, “charity begins at home,” can be made to subserve the purpose of this argument.
Our friend who has just spoken believes that they to whom the gospel has been committed, are under primary obligations to communicate its blessings to their friends and countries. Now to this order of operation, there can be no objection. As there must be a commencement somewhere, it is proper that we should begin with those to whom we are united by the strongest ties of kindred and affection.
Other things being equal, it is right that we should attend first to those in our vicinity - afterwards to our more remote brethren. But his adage does not govern his practice. He not simply begins at home, but he continues where he began. He violates the spirit of his own maxim no less than if he entirely neglected his friends, and devoted his whole attention to strangers.
He defeats too his own end. The gospel as we have seen is not like malleable metals, which lose their value by expansion. It is more like the seed which yields but little when poured in one spot; but produces the most abundantly when scattered in due and equal proportions over the largest space. There is no possibility of exhausting its quantity, for it has this peculiarity: the more widely and profusely it is disseminated the more it multiplies itself in the hands of the sower. 6. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower, both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness” or benificence.
Charity begins at home,” though often quoted, is not found in God's word.
That which approaches the nearest to it in meaning, and especially in its present application, is the command given to the Apostles in regard to their first efforts to dispense the gospel, “ beginning at Jerusalem." What reason for gratitude every Christian and the world at large have, that they did not interpret this command according to the unwarranted limitation which has been affixed to the adage we have quoted. “The joyful sound” would still have been echoing among the hills of Judea, if indeed its echoes had not died away from earth. But I object, for other reasons, to the views of privilege and duty which were expressed by him who last addressed us. What liberty have we to appropriate “ the glorious gospel of the blessed God” to our private purposes? To whom was it ever committed in fee simple, to be distributed at pleasure? I thought there was but one upon earth the professed Vicegerent of God, — who presumed to claim it as a personal prerogative, and he is too wise to confine it to any particular home, or rather he considers the world its aproppriate home.
No; the gospel is the munificent gift of “ the King of kings,” not to any individual or nation, but to all his fallen creatures, to a perishing world. It is committed to us, with express stipulations and for an explicit object. It is to be employed not for our friends alone, but for all God's creatures, not simply to enrich the few whom we love, but to save those for whom Christ died. Had men not considered themselves proprietors of the gosped instead of stewards, its saving influences would probably have blessed the world long before this late period.
Eighteen centuries since, it was declared, that in the eyes of God, and with a reference to the circulation of the gospel, “there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call
him." “The grace of God which bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.”
So long ago as that, the Apostles, after letting their charity begin at home, after fairly and fully proffering God's mercy and grace to their countrymen, “turned to the Gentiles.”
There was one topic of remark, upon which the speaker to whom I am replying laid the greatest emphasis. He referred to heathen at home in as pitiable a condition, as those in the unevangelized parts of the earth. He says the cry from thousands of lips is, there are heathen enough at home: why go to strange countries in search of others ? I am at a loss to know his precise meaning By heathen, does he intend idolaters? Those who are taught systems of paganism ? who have never heard of a Saviour ? who are so situated that they could not hear of Christ ? Can this be true? And are there such heathen in America, where there are ten or twelve thousand ministers to fourteen or fifteen millions of souls; besides a great number of laymen engaged in teaching and disseminating "the good seed ?" Is this the condition of souls in Great Britain, where the proportion of ministers is still greater, and many hundreds, for want of parishes, are obliged to engage in secular business for a livelihood ? Shame upon the ministry! shame upon professed Christians if such be the case !
But in what sense can this be true ? How many could be found in those countries who have never heard the gospel ? — how many who might not have heard it, if they had been disposed ? how many who, if they took their position in the nearest highway, and inquired about religion, would not hear of a Saviour from, probably, the first traveller whom they accosted ? Heathen, living in countries where the knowledge of Christianity is so widely diffused, must be heathen by choice, not by necessity — self-constituted heathen; men who deliberately prefer heathenism to Christianity.
If there should be those who have never had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the gospel, how grievously does it reflect upon the thousands who might have instructed them. And if they have not been instructed up to this late date, are they ever to be taught? To convert a