Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.” Jesus now sees of the travail of his soul in the victories of his grace among men; and the full fruit of that travail will be enjoyed when the earth shall be rendered tributary to his glory, and filled with his salvation. For this

purpose, exalted as Mediator, he has authority in heaven and on earth, and rules in the kingdom of providence, as well as grace, rendering all events subservient to the fulfilment of his counsels, and to the final and universal diffusion of his kingdom, which is “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The ministry of the Gospel is the great instrument for accomplishing these results. “'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." * The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion ; rule thou in the midst of thine enemies." * When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.” In organizing his church, he has committed (if we may so speak) into her own bosom the principle of her perpetuity and universal triumph. From the faithful discharge of the trust committed to her, under the blessing of God, stability and enlargement will assuredly result. The words of our text were spoken by Jesus to his disciples as he contemplated the multitudes destitute of the means of religious instruction. “ He was moved with compassion on them because they fainted, and were as sheep without a shepherd.” The compassion that dwelt in the heart of Jesus is not foreign to the hearts of his people, for they are of one spirit with him. The text,

I. PRESENTS AN ARGUMENT FOR MISSIONARY EFFORTS. 66 The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few."

II. URGES A DUTY IN REFERENCE TO THEM. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”

I. An argument for missionary efforts. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” This harvest will be gathered when the Christian religion shall universally prevail. It is well denominated great in view of,

1. The field which it will cover.
2. The blessings it conveys.
3. The instrumentality it requires.
4. The means and prospects now furnished by Providence.

1. It is GREAT in view of the field which it will cover. “ The field is the world.” As yet Christianity has extended its influence to but a small part of the earth; and where that influence has been found, it has been partial in its character. Here and there a spot has appeared in some degree verdant, amid a surrounding, wide-spread, arid desert. But this desert in all its extent will be cultivated and rendered fruitful. All obstacles will be overcome,

and the whole earth exhibit the triumphs of truth. Benighted, degraded, and oppressed Africa shall become enlightened, elevated, and disenthralled ;-the wall of China (like that of Jericho) shall fall at the sound of the Gospel ;—the castes of the Hindoos shall be broken, and one bond in the faith and service of Christ shall unite them ;—the Heathen

where cast their idols to the moles and to the bats, and worship the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent ;—the worship of the false prophet shall cease, and the pure light and peaceful influence of Christianity shall spread over the regions where now Mohammedism exerts its sway ;-—the isles shall receive the law of the Lord ;-all the perversions of the religion of Jesus shall be removed, and the truth shall be received in love, and exhibit its fruits wherever professed! Then shall be realized

“ Scenes surpassing fable,
Yet true!--scenes of accomplish'd bliss !"

shall every

come.

2. The harvest is GREAT in view of its many blessings. The religion of Christ blesses the life which now is, and prepares for happiness in the life to

It exalts the intellectual character of man. It restores that balance and harmony in the intellectual and moral powers of man, which are so important in the proper cultivation of both. It corrects those prejudices, and subdues those corruptions which prevent the investigation and reception of truth. Its truths, when rightly viewed, come home to the duty, interest, and affections of all; and claim among the many proofs of their divine orie gin, their wonderful adaptation to the character and wants of men. It was at first a peculiar distinction of the Gospel that it was “preached to the poor," and it will ever remain so; while it is the only source of spiritual instruction, and can alone instil that influence which will lead to mental cultivation in the mass of the people. Where the Gospel is not known or embraced, whatever intellectual culture may exist among a privileged few, the multitude will be found in ignorance and degradation. The spirit of Christianity has wrought itself into the frame of civil government, and in connection with the diffusion of its light and power, we trace the existence, growth, and stability of civil and religious liberty. The religion of the Gospel refines and purifies the social affections, hallows the domestic scene, and while it dries up the sources of defilement and bitterness, it opens springs of pure and refreshing peace and joy in the various relations of life. Take the map of the world, and select those countries where Paganism, Mohammedism, and Popery bear sway, and let the following inquiries receive an answer. Are knowledge and intellectual cultivation generally diffused? Are civil and religious liberty enjoyed ? Is the female character elevated and respected ? Are the duties of domestic life discharged, and its delights mutually participated ? Do purity and peace pervade the community? The negative to these inquiries appears in full view. As we take the contrast, and mark the countries where the Bible has shed its influence, we discover the blessings adverted to all following in the train.

But the religion of Christ sustains its distinguishing and commanding value as a revelation of truth and grace, and as the great instrument of our deliverance from everlasting death. The truths peculiar to it respect man's fallen and ruined state; redemption through the atoning merits of the divine Savior; the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit in restoring to that holiness “ without which no man shall see the Lord.” These trut!ıs, and others immediately connected with them, constitute the vitality of the religion of the Gospel. Without them its glory departs, its influence ceases, and spiritual death continues to prevail. Under their influence the sinner, awakened and renewed, returns in penitence to his God; gratefully embraces the salvation which is in Christ Jesus ; takes up feebly yet sweetly the song of redeeming love ; cultivates purity of heart and life, and devotes himself, in reliance upon divine strength, to active exertions for the promotion of the divine glory, anid the best interests of his fellow-men. These are the truths which give life to benevolent effort in seeking the spiritual and eternal welfare of men. When they are not cordially embraced, the wants of men as sinners, and the value of the remedy provided, cannot be duly estimated, and an awakened interest and cordial and efficient co-operation in the cause of missions cannot be expected. The history of the church clearly shows, that whenever they have been denied or kept out of sight, there has been an indifference to the spiritual wants and interests of men, and the cause of missions has languished or died. In the first age of Christianity, the doctrine of Jesus Christ and him

crucified, “ to the Jew a stumblingblock, and to the Greek foolishness," proved the wisdom of God and the power of God to salvation to every one that believed ; and so it has proved in every age. In recent missions we find the value and efficacy of these truths witnessed by their success in elevating character, promoting order and happiness, and preparing sinners for heaven. The lapse of a few years has exhibited in the South Sea Islands, the seat of British and American foreign missions, a very signal and convincing contrast in the state of knowledge, social and civil order, domestic purity and happiness, and true religion. The wisdom of the world reiterates the assertion, that it is vain to attempt to Christianize, unless we first civilize Pagan nations that it is vain to expect their religious improvement, unless some steps are previously gained in the process of mental culture. Facts refute this theory of infidel wisdom, and evince that Christianity, while it inspires the only pure and abiding principle of benevolent effort, at the same time alone furnishes the truths which come home to the hearts and consciences of men in all ages, ranks, circumstances, and characters of life. Divine truth, imparted by Christian missions, has proved the great instrument of mental and moral as well as spiritual culture. The Moravian brethren, as if studious to select a field most fitted to test this point, chose nations most debased in ignorance, superstition, and pollution, and the result of their labors has furnished decisive evidence in this matter. This lovely band of believers have furnished an example worthy of imitation by the whole Christian world. In the smallness of their number and the feebleness of their resources, they have gone forth in the love of Christ, disregarding toils and sacrifices, and in unwearied devotion to their work, delivering the Gospel message in all its simplicity and purity. In every place fruit has sprung up, honoring God and blessing man. Had a similar spirit prevailed throughout the Christian church, and a correspondent amount of contributions and efforts been furnished, a far different aspect would have been presented. Many a field now desolate would have blossomed as the rose; and many a place now solitary would have been made glad. The spirit of the world, whether directed in the form of commercial enterprise, literary research, or projects of ambition, can never furnish the proper stimulus to benevolent effort. Commerce and science can never supply the proper means for curing the moral diseases and woes of men dwelling in darkness and sin. Philosophy ministers her lessons in vain, and employs her efforts without effect. She may irritate, but cannot cure the wound. “ Leviathan is not so tamed.”

When the truth of God comes with power from on high, it proves cerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;" sets men free from the bondage of error and corruption, and places them in the liberty of truth and holiness. To learn the greatness of the harvest in the value of its blessings, we should contemplate its temporal gain in the contrast of the ignorance, error, pollution, vice, and misery, which it removes, with the knowledge, purity, peace, and happiness, which it introduces through all the relations and conditions of life. And we should contemplate its eternal gain in the contrast of the everlasting loss of the soul in ever-enduring corruption and wo under the wrath of God, with its everlasting life to the pardoned, sanctified, and saved. When the whole earth becomes filled with divine truth, great will be the harvest in the magnitude of the blessings thus secured.

3. The harvest must appear great, in view of the instrumentality it requires. The great result is to be accomplished by the faithful use of those means which God has in his wisdom and goodness appointed. As in the natural

a dis

world, means must be used in preparation for harvest; and, as ordinarily, the product will correspond to the skill and diligence with which the means are employed; so, also, in the spiritual world, means are equally necessary; and a like correspondence in the product will exist." It pleases God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” “ How shall they hear without a preacher; and how shall they preach except they be sent ?" God will, indeed, as the latter day glory advances, open more numerous avenues, and multiply facilities for missionary labors; and will more abundantly bless them in the outpouring of his Spirit. But, at the same time, he will shed forth his Spirit into the bosom of his church, and arouse her energies for promoting the work of the Lord, by all the rueans within her province. Zion strengthens her stakes, and lengthens her chords at the same time. When the glory of the Lord rises upon her, she arises out of the dust, puts on her beautiful garments, and goes forth in his strength, and receives abundant increase. The necessity of a ministry well qualified in mental, literary, and spiritual endowments, thoroughly trained to become teachers and guides to the flock of Christ, and to resist the assaults of every foe, whether secret or open, is evident. The character of the ministry, in the combination of the requisite qualifications for the skilful, successful, and devoted discharge of their work, should be equally the subject of anxious prayer and diligent attention with the increase of their number. A weak, undisciplined ministry may do injury, as well as an unsanctified one. The opinion may sometimes have been entertained and expressed, that the same qualifications are not required in the missionary going among the ignorant and degraded heathen, as in the pastor of a Christian flock intelligent and refined. The opinion is very erroneous. If, indeed, a distinction is allowed, surely the higher requirements are in the case of the missionary. Unaided by the associations and advantages which the minister enjoys in Christian society, he goes forth to build, not upon another man's foundation, but as a master-builder, to lay the foundation. What a combination of qualities are requisite for such laborers ; sound, disciplined intellect, various knowledge, elevated piety, and much acquaintance with human nature ; uniform meekness, unwavering courage, and unremitted devotion to his labors of love.

In advancing the kingdom of Christ, the prejudices, interests, and policy of the world rise in opposition. In what various forms, and with what power, have they hitherto appeared! What is not required in those who go forth to meet the foe, and fight for the cause of truth and holiness, with weapons which " are not carnal, but mighty through God.” How plainly do we behold verified, in the condition of the world, our Savior's declaration, “ The laborers are few.” In our own favored country, while, as we hope, a new spirit and new efforts are appearing in the church, still what exertions are needed to provide and train a supply of ministers adequate to meet the wants of our waste places, our weak and destitute churches, and our rapidly extending population. We cordially greet the efforts employed for increasing the number and qualifications of ministers. And we call upon the churches for redoubled zeal and activity ; for the harvest is still great, but the laborers are few.” We look over the regions of Christendom, and mark its many and extended wastes and wants. The laborers are manifestly “few.” As we look farther, through the heathen world, how large and waste is the field; while, in parts remote from each other, a solitary laborer is found. The regularly ordained missionaries from the different Christian denominations, among the six bundred millions of heathen in different parts of the world, as far as ascertained, amount to about six hundred and fifty. They are in some cases aided by assistants and native teachers. Still how emphatically is the harvest great, and the laborers few : while some parts of the field are already white for the harvest,

4. The harvest is great, in view of the means and prospects furnished by Providence. God, in advancing his kingdom on earth, prepares the way, in arranging the events of his providence. He raises up instruments qualified for his work; and often opens the way before them, as they go forth crying, “ Prepare ye the way of the Lord ; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” When the disciples were assembled, on the day of Pentecost, waiting for the promise of the Spirit, they were endued with power from on high, and the gift of tongues rested upon them. They went forth, working miracles as a proof of their divine commission, at the introduction of the new dispensation ; and with the gift of tongues fulfilling the Savior's injunction when ascending on high, “Go ye and preach the Gospel to every creature.” How well was this adapted to the times and circumstances in which the apostles were placed. When, in subsequent ages, the fine gold had become dim, and the glory had departed—when religion had become united with the power and policy of state, and converted into an engine of despotism-when the Bible was confined to a few, and the maxim was enforced, “Ignorance is the mother of devotion”. when thick darkness had for centuries brooded over the nations; it pleased God signally to prepare the way for the Reformation. The art of printing had been invented; the mariner's compass was in use; the revival of letters had commenced. Luther translated the Bible into German, saying, “ Let there be light;" and the press multiplied its copies. The struggle of the Reformation was in a great measure to recover Christianity from human usurpation, and to restore it to its rightful Lord. The revival of letters furnished means for elucidating the word of God, and clearing it from corruptions. In succeeding times the reformed churches fell into a deep sluma ber. While they “slept, the enemy sowed tares.” We well remember how plenteously they sprang up. Infidelity presented a bold front, and threatened to destroy every thing sacred. In such troublous times the true people of God were revived in spirit ; and, as they trembled for the ark, mourned over the sins and woes of Zion, poured forth their intercessions, and said to each other, “ Let us rise and build," the pool which had become stagnant, was stirred by the Angel of the covenant, and afforded a refreshing and vivifying influence. When reviewing the last forty years, we acknowledge with admiring gratitude the various institutions of Christian benevolence, which are now in harmonious operation, exerting a mighty moral influence, and furnishing facilities and means to missionaries before unknown, The Bible Society multiplies copies of the Scriptures in the vari. ous languages of the world, and supplies the place of the gift of tongues.It is needless to specify the various forms of Christian charity, which, commencing with infancy, lays the basis of a scriptural and religious educaa tion, and follows man in every course and state of life; and seeks to apply the best relief of sin, and want, and wo.

The efforts of the present day for arresting and turning back that fell destroyer, intemperance, which has annually slain its thousands and tens of thousands, and which has interposed such formidable obstacles to the success of the Gospel, are of incalculable worth.

The spirit of missions, which characterizes the present period, commenced with the revival of religion in the churches. Domestic and foreign missions

« VorigeDoorgaan »