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66 EVIL SURMISINGS" IN RESPECT TO MISSIONS EXPOSED AND REFUTED.
1 Timothy vi. 4. ....." evil surmisings."..
AMONG the bitter fruits and properties of a proud and sinful heart, the Apostle enumerates in the verse with the text, "envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings.” By "evil surmisings" we are to understa unwarrantable jealousies, or sinful and uncha able suspicions. Such a disposition is the opposite of that holy charity, which is so highly commended in the sacred volume. Charity "believeth all things," and "hopeth all things." Charity will incline its possessor to put the best construction possible on the words, actions, and characters of his fellow men. But those who give way to "evil surmisings" will put the worst construction possible upon the actions of others. Such, instead of being disposed to "cover a multitude of sins," will pretend to see sins where there are none; and will be surmising and imagining evil, where none is intended, and none exists.
We all know how troublesome such a disposition is in families and neighbourhoods. How much alienation and bitterness, how many hard feelings, ma
* Delivered at West Boylston (Mass.) Sept. 18, 1822, before the Religious Charitable Society of Worcester County.
licious whispers, and slanderous speeches, are the result of "evil surmisings ?”
We have reason to know too, how troublesome this same temper is in Churches. Probably, evil surmisings" have produced more difficulties in Churches, more scandals to religion, and more wounds to the Saviour in the house of his friends, than any other cause.
The evil of such a spirit might also be traced, in its influence upon communities and nations. It is this which prompts persons, not to observe the conduct of their rulers, and guard against encroachments from them, but to be unreasonably jealous, and to censure and abuse them when perhaps they deserve praise. This same disposition has often involved nations in war, and strewed the earth with slain.-It might be interesting, were it convenient, to enlarge on the effect of "evil surmisings”—of an unreasonably jealous, suspicious temper, in relation to each of these particulars. This however is not my present design.
We live, it is often said, in a wonderful age-an age when great things are attempted, and great things accomplished, in a way of spreading the gospel among the destitute. True Christians of all denominations are embarking in one vast moral enterprise, the object of which is confessedly no other than "the conversion of the world.” In forwarding this most noble object, not only are great exertions made, but large sums of money are necessarily collected and expended.
Till within a few years, this work advanced with but little avowed opposition. If secret hostility was felt, it was not prominently exhibited, and the vast system of means which had been put in motion for the enlightening and reclaiming of benighted men, was
permitted to operate undisturbed. But things, in this respect, have latterly assumed a new aspect. Individuals, in different parts of the country, have risen up, with an open determination to oppose the Lord's work, to hinder the fulfilment of his precious promises, to arrest the progress of light and truth, and prevent the universal spread of the religion and kingdom of Christ.
As the opposers of Missionary operations have few or no facts on which to rely, they place their chief dependence on what the Apostle denominates "evil surmisings." They abound in jealousies and suspicions, which are expressed, perhaps in hints and whispers, though not unfrequently in the most palpable misrepresentations.
Sometimes the motives of those who engage in the Missionary work are suspected and impeached. Their apparent self-denials, labors, and sufferings are attributed to pride, avarice, indolence, or a love of fame.
Sometimes the truth of the accounts furnished by them, as to the ignorance and wretchedness of the heathen among whom they dwell, and the success attending their endeavours to enlighten and reclaim them, is called in question and denied. The whole is represented as an exaggerated statement, intended to further their sinister and selfish designs.
But the more common suspicion relating to the subject is, that the funds contributed for the benefit of Missions are misapplied. “They never reach their destined object. They are squandered away on unworthy agents-wasted, in promoting the gratification of those to whom they are entrusted."
It would be easy to shew in regard to all these surmises, that they are not only unfounded, but ma
As it is the last of most is made and on placed, my attention
ficious, and even ridiculous. them, however, of which the which the greatest reliance is will be directed to that alone.
If there is sufficient evidence, that the funds contributed in religious charity are misapplied and wasted; with all my heart, I say let it be known. Let those who have done it be exposed, that they may be execrated. Let no considerations of prudence be allowed to screen them from the merited indignation of a defrauded world. But if there is no evidence that this is the case, but evidence the most complete and satisfactory to the contrary; then the mildest lan-. guage which can be used in respect to their accusers is, that they are chargeable with "evil surmisings." They have given way to jealousies and suspicions, which are as wicked, as they are unreasonable. They have treated, and continue to treat, those benevolent and distinguished persons who are entrusted with the concerns of Missions, not with uncharitableness, not with injustice, but with palpable cruelty.
The pretence here proposed to be examined, whether it be founded in truth or not, is obviously one of very serious influence. It is one exactly suited to the feelings of sordid, selfish hearts. Many have long wished for such a plea, to justify their covetousness, and their secret opposition to the cause of Christ. It is harbored I have no doubt by many, who from a regard to character would not avow it; and means are in operation to make it still more general. The influence of it, wherever it is harbored, cannot but be perceived. It must paralize the lifted hand of charity, and put a stop to all exertions and contributions for the spread of the gospel. No man will contribute to increase those funds which he
suspects are wickedly misapplied. No person will put his property into the hands of those, who he really believes will squander it on unworthy objects.
In the ensuing remarks I shall endeavour to shew, that the pretence under consideration is totally unfounded. I shall endeavour to satisfy every candid inquirer, that the monies contributed in religious charity have been disposed of, not only with strict integrity, but with great prudence and economy.-In order to this, let it be observed,
1. That the contrary has never been proved, nor has any credible proof of it been so much as attempted. Obviously no body of men are holden to establish their own innocence. They will be deemed innocent by the eye of reason and of charity-by all laws human and divine, till their guilt is proved. If then the directors of our religious charitable concerns are chargeable with fraud or mismanagement, why is not this shown? Why is not the proof of it furnished? Till it is furnished, no one has any reason or right to indulge suspicions; and, till it is furnished, if suspicions are indulged and thrown out, they ought to be frowned upon and disregarded. But not only has no proof been exhibited against those who are entrusted with the concerns of Missions, I add,
2. That the manner, in which the charges to be proved are brought forward, affords presumptive evidence of their falsity. These charges are always made indefinitely, and in general terms. If fraud has actually been discovered in the management of these concerns, we have a right to know who has done it. "Where does he live? What is his name? At what time, and to what amount, has he enriched himself from the treasury of the Lord"? When charges are