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THE PAST HISTORY OF MISSIONS.
The beneficial effects which will result from an acquaintance with the past history of missions will first be noticed. This history is no other than the history of the propagation of the Gospel. In tracing the history of the spread of the Gospel over countries now called Christian, the inquiry, By what means has this been effected ? will be an object of attention. What, then, do we learn are the means that have been employed? Has God, in any instance since the days of the apostles, interposed by a miracle? Has there been at every step "a wonder wrought upon the earth to make her children listen” to the heavenly message? Has the announcement of this message been attended with terrific thunderings, as of Sinai ?, Or has a loud voice from the Invisible proclaimed to dark and pagan tribes the way of salvation? The page of history answers, No.
True it is, that when God condescended to reveal his will, he gave signs to convince incredulous meu of its divine origin; and at the communication of each successive portion, he endowed his messengers with the power of working miracles to confirm the truth of their message. But after the inspired volume was completed, and truth was indelibly enstamped upon its pages by a supernatural hand; it was left to be disseminated without the same direct interference of divine power. Carrying on its face the impress of divinity, its precepts and its doctrines were to be enforced upon the minds of men by an agency which in its external character is no more than human. “Go, and teach all nations," is the simple command by a compliance with which, without miraculous aid, the Gospel, since the apostolic age, has been spread over the countries which now enjoy its blessings. And just in proportion to the zeal, and wisdom, and simplicity of aim, with which the followers of Christ have put forth their efforts in obedience to this command, has been the efficacy of their exertions. What has been, will be. So the constitution of our minds compels us to believe.
With such a lesson thus drawn from the page of history, how can the feeling which has till recently so long possessed the minds of Christians, and of which they are not yet entirely divested, the feeling that they have nothing to do in order to pour light upon the nations, be any longer cherished? And with the conviction which such a lesson must fasten upon the mind, that the Redeemer's empire must be extended by the faithful exertions of his friends, how can they daily utter the petition, “thy kingdom come,” and yet stand aloof from every plan in operation to advance its interests ?
THE PRESENT STATE OF MISSIONS.
We next notice the effect of our acquaintance with the present state of Missions. Here our attention will naturally be turned to take a survey of the different posts on heathen ground where the standard of the cross has been planted. We may number the faith
ful soldiers who rally around each, and take account of the zealous en.
At this view, there will be forced upon the mind a comparative
And will not such reflections arouse all hearty advocates of uncorrupted Christianity to assume an attitude worthy of their character; and to act with a zeal, an energy, a decision, and a perseverance which shall sink into comparative littleness all the efforts made by those who corrupt, degrade, and turn to selfish purposes the high and holy principles of the gospel ?
But the attainment of full information respecting the present state of missionary operations, whether we wish to ascertain the extent of the power which is applied, or the degree of commendation due to those who apply it, will require something more than a survey of what is doing on foreign ground. We must return from this survey back to the sources where they originated, -to the churches at
home which direct and sustain the several missions abroad. We must observe the wisdom with which measures are planned for the accomplishment of the great object; mark the promptness with which each single Christian, or church, or connexion of churches, comes forward to assist in promoting it; and number the associa: tions here and there formed, in which the combined strength of the members is brought to bear on the missionary cause. We must look, too, at the monthly assemblies, where humble and fervent prayers are wont to be offered op, and proofs of their sincerity contributed for the success of missions; and follow hence each of those who thus assemble, to his closet, and listen but no; into this sanctuary we are not permitted to enter. The secret intercourse of the pious soul with his God we cannot witness. We know, indeed, for the Scriptures teach, that his closet is the Christian's strong tower; and that here he applies a power, without which all his other efforts would be in vain—a power, the full efficacy of which can never be estimated, till the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be brought to light.
Only that part of the Christian's conduct, therefore, which is exhibited before men can be estimated, and can influence us by by its example. Now the simple fact, when exhibited before us, that others are engaged in any course of action, will, of itself, excite us to act with them. The same principle of our nature which causes us to weep with those who weep, will prompt us to co-operate in the promotion of any cause in which we see others engaged. But immeasurably more powerful will be the influence of seeing others active, when we consider the paramount value of the object; and reflect that the promotion of this object is identified with the success of that cause which is dearest to our hearts. The report of their doings comes to us as a monitory voice reminding us that as we are servants of the same master, we too have an interest in the success of every enterprise designed for his honor. joice that we are thus put in remembrance, and hasten to give proof of our faithfulness.
There is yet another way in which an acquaintance with what others are doing will be beneficial. The example of Christ we acknowledge indeed to be a pattern for our imitation. The entire devotedness of the apostles, and early Christians, too, we confess to be a recorded illustration of the power of the Gospel on the hearts and lives of men. But we reason with ourselves, it is not in frail humanity to follow with equal steps the example of our sinless Redeemer; and the apostles and early Christians had extraordina. ry measures of grace and miraculous aid given to enable them to act according to the exigencies of the times. And we are skilful enough in framing arguments to convince ourselves that we cannot do as they did. But when we observe our fellow Christians whom we have seen and known, and who possess no advantages superior to our own, some of them laboring with all the zeal and ardor of apostles, and others like the primitive saints, liberally bestowing their property for purposes of benevolence, our ingenious arguments are at once demolished, our excuses are no longer satisfac
tory, even to ourselves. We are constrained to give them up, and to act with the energy with which the example of others has taught us we can act, to promote the cause of the Redeemer.
But still further, a knowledge of what others are doing, will excite among Christians a spirit of emulation. It will provoke them to vie with each other in good works. Though the demands of mere duty may be unheeded, a regard to character may yet arouse to action. And when it is considered that benevolent efforts operate not only directly in promoting the objects in view, but exert an influence not less powerful and salutary, by exhibiting proof of the disinterested motives of those who make them, no genuine Christian surely, whether he regards his own individual good name, or that of those with whom he is asso. ciated, will quietly suffer himself to linger in the career of noble enterprise in which he sees others moving onward. Let then this motive be urged with all its force; nor let the objection be made that it will produce a spirit of unhallowed competition. No such fears were entertained by the Apostle Paul, when he urged upon the Corinthians not to fall behind other churches in the abundance of their liberality. Would that the example of the noble few who stand preeminent for their faithful exertions in the cause of their divine Master, might awaken all the followers of Christ on earth to afull discharge of their duty; might excite them all to put forth their whole energies to promote the interests of his kingdom. Then would Zion arise and shine, her light being come. The glory of God would rest upon her; and she would shed forth a radiance before which the darkness now brooding over the earth would soon be chased away.
THE STATE OF HEATHEN COUNTRIES.
The effects of a particular knowledge of the state of heathen countries are now to be considered.
The bare declaration that a large portion of our race is yet sitting in the region and shadow of death, destitute of the light of the gospel, may indeed awaken some faint desires, and excite to some feeble efforts for their benefit. But the impressions produced on the mind by general statements are easily erased, and the feelings of sympathy thus excited will be transient. The mind soon returns to its former indifference. But let the Christian have spread before him the map of the heathen world, let him fix his eye' upon the poor pagan groping his way in moral darkness, attend him to his places of Worship, and witness the cruelties to which he subjects himself to appease the wrath of his imaginary gods ; let him further accompany him to his dwelling, and see the effects of a debasing superstition entering into every act of daily life, and blighting every object of domestic enjoyment; let him examine, one by one, the thousand forms of wretchedness, to which Paganism dooms her votaries-Such a view, leading him also to form a more vivid conception of the woes which await the ungodly in the unseen world, will stir emotions of compassion within him, that will not cease till
the pulse of life shall cease to beat. It will kindle an ardor of aca tion that will not expend itself in idle wishes, nor in visionary schemes of relief. Such a view, too, when contrasted with his own happy estate, and the blissful abodes to which he looks forward with tranquil hope, will give an intenser glow to the gratitude yet felt for what he enjoys, and will add new life and energy to the efforts which his compassion would prompt him to make.
Does he meet with here and there a brighter spot to relieve the eye; does he spy some source of human happiness less corrupted? This, so far from retarding his progress, will furnish an additional motive to action. It will present to him a favorable point where he can begin the work of improvement. Does he sometimes find one amidst the thronging multitude, in whom are discoverable some sparks of moral sensibility, some indications of generous sentiment, in whose life there appears something of what is pure and lovely? These discoveries amidst the general desolation spread around, suggest to him from what a height human nature has descended thus low; just as a broken fragment or a fallen column on the site of a ruined city, brings to the mind of the curious traveller its former splendor and inagnificence. These indications are to him a token that the soil thus overrun with a luxuriant wildness, only needs the liand of cultivation to beautify and adorn it; and he feels spontaneously rise within him, the resolution, that, as far as in him lies, the seed of divine truth shall be disseminated, trusting with implicit confidence in Him who alone can give the increase, for the success of the future harvest. But the Christian, in the survey he is now taking, will turn with instinctive delight to examine the place which the humble and devoted missionary has made the scene of his labors. And what does he here witness?
The frost-bound fetters of a cruel superstition are fast dissolving by the mild influence of the Sun of righteousness; and the blind idolater or the reckless savage is seen to walk abroad, exulting in his freedom. His mind, from which before had sprung nought but the barren weeds of vice, is now adorned with the fruits of christian virtue. The relentless fury of the savage is changed into mild,
The fearful anxieties which brooded over the idolater's brow, have given place to a countenance serene and lighted up with joyful hope. Intelligence, cheerful industry, purity, now reign where all before was sottish stupidity, sloth, brutish depravity.
And with these results presented vividly before him, with the proof thus afforded that men of every tribe are endowed with the same susceptibilities, capable of feeling the same sympathies, of being inspired with the same motives to virtue, and of being raised to indulge hopes of the same glorious immortality; it is no longer a mere assent which the Christian gives to the divine declaration that God “ hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.” The arguments against the unity of our species, drawn by the infidel from the varieties in human character, he sees to be at once disarmed of their force. He yields heartily to the conviction that all men are his brethren, and are entitled to MARCH, 1829.