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who had contemplated the missionary work from worldly, selfish motives. But would it intimidate the true soldiers of the cross ? Would it turn back those whom God has called by his grace to go forth in his name? Do you not speak of the courage of the warrior, who meets undaunted the opposing army, and faces the cannon's mouth? But the courage of the Christian missionary is of a higher order. It springs from nobler principles. It is sublime and heavenly. Nothing can subdue it. It is in close alliance with the omnipotence of God, and can no more be overcome, than Omnipotence itself. The prospect of persecution and suffering, instead of disheartening those who have the true spirit of ministers and missionaries, would quickly rouse them to new fervor of prayer, to new zeal, resolution, and effort. And such a prospect would exert a most happy influence also upon many private Christians. It would cure their worldly spirit. It would strengthen their faith, and raise their love to a higher, purer flame; and thus would induce them to come forth, and join the host of missionaries and martyrs. The only loss then, which would be likely to result from persecution, would be the loss (if loss it would be) of those who never loved the cause of Christ, and were not worthy to be intrusted with the treasure of the gospel ; while there would be great gain from the increase of holy zeal and resolution in those already devoted to the work; and gain too from the awakening of that purer and stronger affection in private Christians, which would induce many of them to make a free-will offering of themselves to be the messengers of Christ to the heathen.
Had I time, I would recite to you what the Apostle says to the Hebrews of the sufferings of the people of God in still earlier periods; how they were tortured, not accepting deliverance; had trial of mockings, and scourgings, and imprisonment; were stoned, were sawn asunder, were slain with the sword; wandered in deserts, in mountains, and in caves; being destitute, afflicted, tormented. Those sufferings were repeated in the apostles' days, and afterwards; and Christians patiently endured them. And is not Christianity the same now as it was formerly? Is not faith the same? Is not love to God and to the souls of men the same? Nay, rather,-is not the power and grace of Christ the same? Do you think, then, that the prospect of danger, and even the most violent storm of persecution raised against ministers and missionaries, would prevail to turn them back from the service of Christ? No, through the grace of God, severe sufferings would produce the contrary effect. Is not this the very thing that is needed to break us off from our vain worldly hopes, and to bring us up to the measure of primitive faith and devotion ? And if missionaries, and all the friends of the missionary cause, were only brought up to the proper measure of piety; they would do more to advance the real, spiritual interests of the church in one year, than has been done for many years past, amid all the zeal which has shown itself in the cause of human salvation.
Again : Permit me to say, that the recent events of divine Providence contain lessons of serious moment for our Missionary Board and its Officers, and for all the friends of missions in our community. God never administers chastisement without a reason. The various trials allotted to individual Christians, are unquestionably such as they need, and such as will, in the end, conduce to their spiritual good. And does not the church and the religious community, and every society of Christians, as obviously need correction from God in their associate capacity, as Christians do in their individual capacity ? Having long been connected with the BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR Foreign Missions and its Executive Officers, and having been intimately associated with them in their efforts to evangelize the heathen, I may be allowed to say, that I never knew a body of Christians who exhibited more of the upright and disinterested spirit of our religion, or deserved more of the public confidence. But yet that same Missionary Board, and its Officers, and the religious community which they represent, are all, in the sight of God, very far from perfection, and all need chastisement from his hand. They certainly need it, or God would not administer it. What then are some of the wrong tendencies which appear among the particular friends and promoters of our Foreign Missions, and which the late mournful events are suited to correct? and what are the ways in which these events may be rendered profitable to them?
First : These events should teach us and our fellow-Christians to be humble, and to acknowledge our dependence on God. The friends and patrons of the Missionary cause are, like other good men, exposed to pride and self-confidence. Who does not know the effect of prosperity upon the human heart? Those divine favors, those manifestations of the love and grace of God, which ought to excite the purest, warmest gratitude, are frequently turned into occasions of self-complacency and vain boasting. This is the case, more or less, with all Christians, and even with ministers of the gospel. Let any one of them be distinguished a little for his gifts or his services; let him have a little more success than others in doing good; or let him see more than others of the glory of divine power and grace in the conversion of sinners; and in all probability, his heart will soon begin to swell with feelings of self-importance and vanity; and by and by he will make it manifest, that he thinks highly of himself
, and expects to be esteemed and honored above his brethren. Those commendations from man, and those favors from God, which should make him feel that he is nothing, inflate him with pride. It is not in man, even when sanctified in part, to enjoy continued prosperity, or to possess any thing which is excellent, without danger of being lifted up. How was it with the Apostle Paul, when he was caught up to paradise, and saw and heard unutterable things? We might suppose, that so eminent a saint, after having been favored with such privileges, would always maintain the most exalted views of God; and that after having seen himself brought before the glorious Majesty of heaven, he would ever
little and vile in his own eyes, and would exercise a more profound humility than ever before, and be in no danger of pride. But he frankly tells us that, lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of revelation, there was given him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan, to buffet him, lest he should be eralted above measure. He must have something to keep down pride. Brethren, let us bring the matter home to ourselves. When we read, or think, that the Foreign Mission from America commenced here; that this Seminary has been distinguished for a Missionary spirit,(though alas! we have really had but a small portion of that spirit, when we think that the greater part of the missionaries have been educated here, and that some of them have been eminent for their talents, piety, and usefulness; and when we are told to what an extent the dependence of the Board for Missionaries is still upon this Institution; have
not some feelings of sinful self-complacency stolen into our hearts ? We ought to render thanks to God for his goodness in giving us an opportunity to do any thing for the spread of the gospel ; and, at the same time, to be penitent and humble that we have done so small a part of what we ought to have done. But, instead of this, have we not at times been disposed inwardly to congratulate ourselves, and to lift our heads high, as though we were entitled to special honor ? Has not God's all-searching eye beheld more or less of this sin in our hearts? And has he not seen it necessary, on this account, to visit us with severe chastisement ?
Farther: When the Missionary Board, and the religious community that have sustained their operations, have seen the great work going on from year to year with increasing success; when they have heard of the hundreds of thousands contributed to this object, of the hundreds of missionaries employed, the great number of stations occupied, and the high estimation in which our missionaries and our labors are held in other countries ; have they not been conscious of some stirrings of heart contrary to the lowliness of Christian piety; some of that arrogancy which God's soul hateth? And has not God, in the recent dispensations of his providence, been doing just what was necessary to correct this sin, and to make his people feel that they are nothing, and that he is all in all? Is it not for this purpose, that so many of our missionaries have been left to sicken and die ? that in some of our missionary stations there has been so little success in converting the heathen ; and that some of our missionaries have failed to exhibit that zeal, and self-denial, and persevering diligence, which we expected of them? Is it not for this purpose also, that in less than fourteen years God has taken away three Secretaries of our Missionary Board,-a WORCESTER, an Evarts, and a CORNELIUS,-names that will ever be precious in the annals of the church ?* And is it not for the same holy purpose, that the late heart-rending stroke,-the violent death of our missionaries,—has come upon us?
And is it indeed so, that our vanity and self-confidence, and our unmindfulness of the grace of God, have rendered it necessary that we should be visited with these severe and awful chastisements,--the death of so many missionaries, and of so many chief agents in the missionary cause, and the disappointment of so many hopes as to the success of the gospel in pagan lands? Let the thought of this fill us with shame and penitence, and bring us upon our faces before God. And henceforth may we, and all the friends of missions, be clothed with humility, the only garment which it will ever become us to wear.
The events which have occurred are eminently suited to withdraw our confidence from every arm of flesh,—to check undue reliance upon human instruments and human efforts, and to bring us to look to God alone, and to put all our trust in him.
If we could look to no higher power for the conversion of the heathen, than the power of missionaries; what would become of our hopes, when missionaries die ? Far from our minds then be the thought, that the salvation of those who are lost, depends ultimately on these feeble, frail instruments. God could, if he pleased, work without any instruments whatever; or if he employed instruments,
+ Had this sermon been delivered a fortnight later, it would have been the painful duty of the preacher to add the name of our respected and beloved WINNER to the list of deceased Secretaries. Three have now been taken from us in four years.
he might employ those of far higher qualifications, than imperfect, dying men possess. Why then has God chosen to make use of imperfect, dying men, as agents in carrying on his work of grace? Is it because he has not sufficient resources in himself, and stands in need of our help? Why, really, it seems to me, brethren, that for God to take such poor, weak, sickly things as we are, and make us in any measure fit for his service, and then sustain us in it, costs him, (if I may so speak,) costs him far more, than it would to do the work himself, without any agency of ours. Certainly the infinite God, if he pleased, could at once, by a special revelation, communicate the knowledge of the gospel to the minds of the heathen, and by his Holy Spirit could effectually induce them to accept it, and so give them eternal life, without making any use of the labors of gospel ministers. Let him only speak the word, and all this would instantly be done : just as he said, “Let there be light, and there was light."--For God to take human beings, so ignorant, so sinful, so unfit for his service, and to prepare them for the work of the ministry; to bear with their pride and unfaithfulness, with their mistakes, and all the faults of their character; to support them in their labors; to call them back from their wanderings; to watch over them and guard them every moment, and by the exertion of his own omnipotence, to render their poor services successful ;-all this is surely a great work. Yes, I repeat it,—for God to make use of such feeble, imperfect instruments in saving souls, requires more agency on his part, than to save them without any instruments whatever. Evidently, then, bis employing such instruments cannot be designed to diminish his own agency. It does in fact greatly increase it. For now, according to the plan which he has adopted, he does himself, by his own special agency, convert and save perishing men,-(which he might casily do at will, without any instrument,)--and in addition to this, he takes us, who are "but dust and ashes," into his service, and by his great power and mercy helps us along, constantly working in us to prepare us to act for him, and then working in the souls of sinners by us, -and that, too, when our miserable labors are frequently nothing but a hinderance to his own gracious designs. No, brethren, God does not call us into his service to supersede or diminish his own agency. He does it for exactly the opposite purpose. It is the very nature of God, and the pleasure of God, to act. And to act as he does, is his glory. It costs him no effort, like what we call effort, to put forth his almighty agency. It is easy for God to create millions of worlds, and to sustain them by his arm, and move them in their orbits for ages of ages, without any cessation. It is perfectly easy for him to do all this, and to do it for ever, if he pleases. Most surely then, the infinite God, in accomplishing the work of redemption, does not bring the power of men or angels into action, to prevent the necessity of exercising his own power; but for the very purpose of exercising it on the largest scale, --for the purpose of putting forth his own wise and benevolent agency to the most glorious extent. For God to act thus is to act like himself. According to this exalted principle, so different from the narrow, scanty principle which governs man, God did not choose that plan which would require the least of his agency, but that which would require the most. The whole complicated machinery of the natural world, in great things and in little things, is such, as constantly to call forth and display the infinite power of God. He loves to exert his infinite power; and he loves to display it too,--not indeed for his own benefit, but for ours. Accordingly, if God is pleased to make use of instruments in saving sinners, we are not to imagine that he will choose those of the highest order---those indued with perfections the nearest to divine; because, if such exalted agents should come out between God and us,—small and feeble as we are,—the grandeur of their character, and the dazzling splendor of their operations, might completely fill the narrow field of our vision, and hide the glory of God from our view. We are rather to conclude, so far, at least, as the benefit of human beings is concerned, that God will choose instruments which have no overpowering grandeur of character, -instruments stamped with insignificancy, (such as we are,)--instruments altogether inadequate, of themselves, to accomplish the work designed, --instrue" ments so imbecile, and so manifestly insufficient, that the whole world shall be compelled to look through them, and above them, to a divine agency, and to give glory to him who worketh all in all."
It is nothing against these views, that the angels are “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation.” They are indeed ministering spirits. But their agency is all concealed from our view. For what reason? Why are we not permitted to behold those benevolent beings who are this active in doing is good, that we may love and honor them, as we do the ministers of the gospel ? May not the reason of this be found in the imbecility of our nature, and in our danger of being overawed by the majesty of angelic appearances, and of being drawn into idolatry? Who of us could guard against agitation and terror, and maintain composure of mind, if, like some saints of old, we should have a vision of angelic beings? Angels can behold angels, without danger. They have stronger minds than we. When the most resplendent instruments come out clearly to their view, they can see God through them, and in them,—and can see more of God, because the instruments he employs are more glorious. But is it not otherwise with us? Are we not always in danger of looking even upon a mortal like ourselves, if a little distinguished by the lustre of his character, with an excessive and idolatrous veneration ?
'The principle above stated is exactly the one which the apostle brings out, when, speaking of the gospel ministry, he says, that “God has committed this treasure," not to creatures of exalted rank, as he might have done, but “to earthen vessels,"---for this very purpose, "that the excellence of the power may be of God, and not of us." The weakness and frailty of the instruments are to turn off the eyes of all men from them to God, and to make it manifest, that he does the work, and deserves all the praise.
Such is the view which the scriptures give of the agents that God employs, and the reasons why he employs them, in the work of saving sinners. Such, also, is the view inculcated upon us by the events of divine providence, particularly by those which have recently taken place. The missionaries whoin we send forth are "earthen vessels ;" the most healthy and vigorous of them are frail as the grass. They may be quickly wasted away by sickness, or still more quickly cut off by the violence of men.
And those of them who are most conspicuous for their piety, are subject to many weaknesses and imperfections. Let us, then, never place our reliance upon feeble human agents, but upon God, the Almighty Agent, "of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things."
But let not the events which have come to pass, however painful and humbling, have any effect to discourage the devoted friends of