Page images
PDF
EPUB

honoured, the tone of morals more high, the spirit of benevolence more extensive, and general integrity of character more maintained. It possesses unparalleled commerce, influence, and dominion,' extended almost over the habitable globe; and, wherever it goes, something (though, alas! far too little, and with many drawbacks as it respects men, who dishonour their name as Christians) of the ameliorating spirit of its religion, and its laws, and its institutions, is also imparted to the various couatries under its sway. We would not undervalue any secondary cause that may have contributed to this, such as the wisdom of our statesmen, the valour of our armies and our fleets, the skill of our artificers, the enterprize of our merchants, and the energy of our character; but all these come from the blessing of God, and under some influence of that religion, proclaimed so freely among us, which elevates man above little, mean, selfish, and personal interests, to those considerations which affect the general good of the whole country. The connection of spiritual and temporal prosperity in England is obvious. At the time when the gospel of Christ is very fully preached at home, and the greatest efforts are made to send it abroad; at this very time our country is blessed with great national happiness and prosperity.* The general diffusion of the spirit of the gospel has carried us safely through many a trying crisis, and has made many a storm only instrumental to our good. Other countries have gone through similar events; but for want of our spiritual privileges, the people had not that moral elevation of character, which would have made them sacrifice pride, ambition, personal aggrandizement, and every selfish and carnal project for the general good. France and Spain have had their storms and revoluttions; but they had not the ameliorating spirit of the gospel diffused through the whole community, and they have received little good. It is the gospel, and the gospel alone, accompanied by the efficacy of divine grace, which has made England the envy and the admiration of the world; which led us, in the most bitter wars, to the most kindly acts, even to the enemies with whom we contended; and which still leads us, wherever we hear of distress, there to feel a brother's sympathy, and to stretch forth the band of glad and liberal relief. The gospel makes England the Benefactor of the human race, the Storehouse of means and blessings for mankind, and the Missionary of the world.

* The beavy commercial difficulties, with the consequent extensive dist:ess which came upon our country in the close of 1825, and the beginning of 1826, do not materially affect the general view above given, and suggest important practical lessons. When we look at our national sins; when we remember how much God has been forgotten, and public credit has been idolized; when we remember our extravagant spirit of almost unbounded speculation, and how much the cause and kingdom of Christ have been disregarded by many among the great men of our country, and by many among our merchants;- need we be surprised that God should shew us the emptiness of that in

The same efficacy of the gospel is seen, wherever it is fully proclaimed. In those heathen countries where the missionaries have been able publicly and extensively to preach the word of God in the respective tongues of

which the world confides, and punish us by the failure of that in which we boasted? O may the skirts of the storm which has fallen upon us, shew those who were forgetting him, how entirely they are in his hands, and lead us as a nation to a much higher degree of religion. May all who have power and influence hear the solemn and suitable admonition of the Psalmist-Be wise now therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, ye judges of the curth! serve the Lord with fcar, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.

We see

each nation, there has the divine blessing been abundantly bestowed. We undervalue not other means, especially schools, and the printing press; but the preached gospel is the great means, and the great blessing is where that means is in full operation.* this in Polynesia, in West Africa, and in the West Indies. In other stations where missionaries have been more recently established, and the languages had to be acquired, and the heathen have not therefore been able to say, We hear every man in our own tongue, wherein ue were born, the wonderful works of God, there has been comparatively little progress; so that we may say, “Tell us how far the word of God is diffused and received, and we will tell you how far true religion with all its beneficial effects succeeds. The first gift of the Holy Spirit, was to enable the first teachers to speak in other tongues; and the first use of that gift was to preach the Gospel.

We would however fully, again and again, allow and assert that whatever moral and civilizing benefits

may arise, little or nothing, and in some cases worse than

A Missionary who has laboared for several years aniong the Heathen, observes, " The kingdom of Satan, I am convinced, will never be shaken to the ground, till Missionaries become preachers of the word : till they place their hope of success on the public preaching of the Gospel, knowing ihat the word is mighty throngh God to the pulling down of all the strongest holds of the Devil. Had I a son going forth as a missionary to the heathen, my advice to him should be - My Son, meditate on the word ; pray and preach; shew all kindness to all men for their benefit; but let nothing divert you from the one work of preaching the Gospel.”” He observes, that education of children, translation of Scriptures, circulation of tracts, &c. are blessed works; but if the missionary engages deeply in them, his heart will be turned from his main office, and though he may occasionally preach, he will cease to view it as the great appointed means of saving sinners.

nothing, as it regards spiritual benefit, results from the words of men who occupy the pulpit without declaring, or without feeling themselves, the great truths of Christianity.* It is ONLY the divinely-appointed, the grand and unadulterated, the pure and sublime doctrine of free salvation by a crucified Redeemer, wisely and faithfully preached by men who feel its power, and live under its influence, that is made fully efficacious, through the divine blessing, to the results which have been stated.

History then fully confirms the general principles of this chapter, and the word of God is clear on the subject. Let one passage suffice. As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, and for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. Isa. lv, 10-13.

* The Reformers felt the importance of this distinction : Tindal, one of the first translators of the Scriptures into our own language, says, “ Where the word of God is preached purely, and received in the heart, there is faith, the Spirit of God, and there are also good works of necessity, wheresoever occasion is given. Where God's word is not purely preached, but men's dreams, traditions, tions, inventions, ceremonies, and superstition, there is no faith, and consequently no spirit that cometh from God; and where God's spirit is not, there can be no good works, even as where an apple tree is not, there can grow no apples, but there is unbelief, the Devil's spirit, and evil works." See Fathers of the Church, vol. i, page 59.

This subject is of great practical importance. We may

learn from it one of the inost valuable means of benefiting our fellow-creatures. Here is the moral lever which removes the load that oppresses the world. Here is the secret spring that sets the whole machinery of national prosperity in regular and beneficial motion. Do we wish to advance our country yet higher in the scale of moral excellence? Do we wish to benefit our sister Island ? let us aid every wise plan for promoting the preaching of the gospel; let us throw our whole influence to increase religious instruction, to circulate religious works, to multiply faithful ministers, and to advance the building of churches, and look in fervent prayer to the Lord of the barvest, who invites and commands us to pray to him to send forth labourers. Do we wish to promote the welfare of the whole earth ? let us aid, as widely as we can, the diffusion of divine truth. It will be a blessed leaven that will spread itself with a powerful and penetrating, with a pervading and beneficial influence in every land, every city, every village, and every family, till the whole earth be leavened.

But there is a yet higher and more important benefit, not merely affecting us as creatures of a day, or as members of nations, which must all end with this world; but affecting our state through eternity. We will contsider this in the following chapter.

« EelmineJätka »