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of the Almighty. It is one thing to believe that there is an agency of the Spirit, and gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, to render christianity beneficial to men; and quite another thing to have a deep and practical persuasion of it, and to regulate all our feelings and expectations on the momentous subject of converting the world, by a continual reference to this most interesting truth.
Here, then, permit me, for a few moments, to point out what appears to be the proper practical improvement of the truth, that the success of missions depends on the agency of the Divine Spirit. If this be a fact, my brethren, it necessarily teaches us our entire dependence on God, and, consequently, it ought to engage us to attempt the work of evangelizing the heathen, with the greatest humility, and the most profound annihilation of self; with a perfect renunciation of our own strength and of our
These are absolute prerequisites to a true dependence on God. While we use our own resources, we must, in a measure, distrust them, and pray to God that we may use them aright. We can do nothing towards putting in motion the only agency from which any permanent result of the right kind can flow. I say, nothing, absolutely nothing: and yet we must exert our instrumentality ; for mere instruments are nothing apart from the divine agency included in the promise. Separate from the hand which wields us,-from the volition of the Divine Being, -and from the agency of that Spirit which is included in this promise,we are, I repeat it, absolutely nothing. Any false
confidence, therefore, such as suggests itself probably to men who have been teachers of other sciences,
any of that elation of mind, or confidence in our own strength, which has given, perhaps, nerve and elevation to human courage,-is out of place here. The apostle was the greatest of all men in this matter: but how was he affected ? He tells the Corinthians, that he was with them “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling;" his work was watered with tears and with prayers; he felt himself a worm in the presence of the great Agent: and hence it was that he was enabled to “ thresh mountains." There was always in his mind a deep sentiment of humility, and a powerful conviction of the presence of the Divine Being.
The rain is not more necessary to raise the seed, the sun is not more necessary to bring it to maturity, than this work of the Spirit. Hence, I would observe, prayer appears to be of the utmost importance in connexion with every attempt for the conversion of the heathen nations. Prayer appears, indeed, to be the appropriate duty of such as desire their conversion : prayer in the closet; prayer on those seasons on which they are consulting as to their plans of operation. It was while the church at Antioch were waiting on the Lord, and fasting, that the Holy Ghost said, Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” It was by prayer they were commended to the work for which they were designed. If the Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, it was when they were “all with one accord in one
place.” It appears that, in every period of the world, prayer, a spirit of prayer for this great object, has been the precursor of real success. More than sixty years ago, as several of you are, I doubt not, aware, a union among real christians for extraordinary prayer began to manifest itself. It first appeared in America, and was most warmly recommended by President Edwards: thence it was transferred to Scotland, by the instrumentality of the venerable Dr. Erskine; and from thence into England, by our valuable friend, Dr. Ryland, at the commencement of the baptist mission; and the excellent practice was soon adopted by pious men of other persuasions. Never is a mission more likely to prosper, than when it is begun in the spirit of ardent prayer and supplication. And if ever this spirit departs from us, “the glory is departed” from this mission : if ever we cease to mingle the spirit of devotion with these services, we may succeed in outward means, we may multiply and extend them, but we shall never see the conversion of the heathen. Prayer touches the only spring that can possibly ensure success. By speaking we move man; but by prayer we move God. It is through the medium of prayer that the littleness and meanness of man prevail with Omnipotence. “ The prayer of faith” is the only power in the universe to which the great Jehovah yields : he looks upon every other power as more or less opposed to him; but he looks upon this as a confession of man's dependence, as an appropriate homage to his greatness, as an attraction which brings down his divine agency to the earth.
Here every one may assist missions : and every tear in the closet, every pang in the heart over the miseries of those who are dead in their sins, every prayer lifted up in that retirement where no eye sees but the eye of Him “which seeth in secret,” affords a most important benefit. These are the elements of success; these the pledges of final triumph. You know it has been customary for a considerable time, for a special season of prayer to be set apart in our society, and among christians of other denominations, for the conversion of the heathen. On the fervour of these supplications, through the intercession of the great Mediator, will, I have no doubt, depend the final realisation of our hopes in the conversion of the nations to the faith of Christ.
It necessarily results from the doctrine of the text, that we ought to be exceedingly careful not to “grieve the Spirit of God.”
He is the great Agent; and we must expect to succeed in proportion only as we shall gratify that Holy Spirit. You know the tempers which grieve that Spirit ; you know that “all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envyings, and evil speaking, and bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour,” are directly opposed to His nature,—that they are an element in which He never moves; but that meekness, and gentleness, and forgiveness of injuries, and love, and joy, and peace, and long-suffering, and goodness, and faith, and temperance,—that the lamblike virtues of Jesus Christ, are those in which He delights. You know the graces of the Spirit of God, which he imparted to Jesus Christ, are still the object of his predilection, and that he cannot dwell amongst us any farther than he nourishes those dispositions in us; that He who first gave the Spirit, still gives the same Spirit and no other Spirit; and we can expect no triumphant success of his gospel, or his kingdom, but in proportion as we are “anointed by the Spirit :" for, as “the oil ran down to the skirts of Aaron's garment,” so his holy influences anoint the heart of every true disciple. Let us take care, then, that in the management of this mission there be nothing in our conduct or temper opposed to the simplicity and purity of the christian dispensation. Let us take care, as individuals and as churches, that we walk in the fear of the Lord; and that we look thus to have the consolations of the Holy Ghost, to be edified and multiplied.
There does not appear to me to be a more important maxim than that contained in Luke xvii. 20,—“ The kingdom of God cometh not with observation ;" or, as Doctor Campbell renders it, “is not ushered in with pomp and parade.” If this mission is made the instrument of ostentation and gratification, or of amusing the public by a display of gaudy eloquence,-if it is conducted on such a plan as comports rather with the maxims of this world than with “the mind of Christ,”—the usefulness of the society is in that measure destroyed. If it is conducted without prayer, which I am sorry