Page images
PDF
EPUB

falling tides, the currents and counter currents, than a thoughtless and passionless uniformity, which means stagnation with all its penalties resulting in universal death. Believe, brethren, that it is not in this direction that we are to seek for the true unity of the Church ; but in the spirit of Christian love abounding in the hearts of all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, in respecting each other's convictions of truth as conscientious, though differing from their own; in rejoicing wherever and by whomsoever Christ is faithfully preached; in praising God as heartily for the successes of others in advancing His kingdom, as though the blessing had been granted to ourselves; and by rerouncing as sinful every thought and feeling that would by their indulgence tend to alienate our affections from any who are entitled to be esteemed as brethren. In short, the true unity of the Church is neither uniformity of doctrine nor oneness of organization, but union of hearts. From Him to whom we are all by faith united, so as to form one body of which he is the life, whose divine soul is all on fire with that infinite love that moved him to our redemption ; from Him I say that vital heat is derived to all His members, so that they are all one in Christ Jesus, while to each of them He is all in all. For this oneness our Lord prays, and as it should seem for the very end contemplated in our text--" That they all may be one as Thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, and that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me."

Thus, having endeavoured to place before you the chief elements of spiritual prosperity, let me now call your attention to some of the ways in which it may be expected to tell upon the success of missionary operations in foreign lands. Not to tax your time and attention beyond due measure, we will confine ourselves to three particulars.

1. In such a state of things as we have attempted to describe when the Church is full of life, vigour, zeal, and activity, increasing in numbers and advancing in holiness, -abounding in gifts and graces—it will be inevitable that those who then offer them. selves for this great important and holy service, will be men of a higher Christian character--more free from glaring imperfections and far better qualified in every way, for the work of the Lord, a work which more than any other even now demands, not Christians of an ordinary stamp, but men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost-who count not their lives dear unto themselves—who can bear toil, privation, and suffering —and who would be contented to die for their love (if by dying they could promote the salvation) of immortal souls. Even now a Missionary needs to be a man of very superior mould, nor are the Apostles of Christ themselves too great a model for his imitation. Indeed it is difficult to see wherein his work differs from that of Apostles, or in what particular it can dispense with their qualifications. Like them-he bas to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ—and since he has to do this without their miraculous gifts, he needs all the more their moral and spiritual power. A Missionary must be a man of strong faith to be firmly persuaded in the face of all past discouragements that the Gospel of Christ shall fill the whole earth. He must have more than ordinary self-denial, since he gives up all that is most dear to men, for the prosecution of his object. He must have a determined and unconquerable zeal which nothing but Christianity can inspire. He will need great spirituality of mind and a sensitiveness of moral feeling-acute and permanent—that he may not by familiarity with the abominations of heathenism grow to look upon them with indifference or perhaps oven with toleration, He must not be a man of limited ideas, and while he justly considers that his main office is to preach the word, he must not be unmindful of the temporal well-being of those whose eternal interests he seeks to advance. The lower, indeed, may be the most ready means to the higher usefulness. When I think of the soundness and healthfulness of bodily constitution which must be joined with mental force and spiritual activity and vigour-of the close communion with God which must be maintained and yet united with untiring engagement in public life—it seems to me that a true Missionary needs to be of the highest style of man and of Christian. If men are really moved by the Holy Ghost to aspire to this office, and take it upon them, they are as truly Apostles as any other, that ever lived. Such men are the peculiar product of Christianity. Heathenism never dreamt of the Divine enthusiasm which sends men forth as by a sublime and inspired impuleo to instruct the ignorant barbarian and win back the refined and philosophical idolator to the fear and worship of God. It was left for the disciples of Christ, to sacrifice the most sacred ties of kindred affection upon the altar of his service, to dare the perils and privations of travel, to brave the pestilential breath of tropical climates, to risk persecutions and undergo labours almost without aid, not to get themselves a name, not to set themselves up among the nations of the earth as the heads of schools of wisdom and science; but simply to save the souls of the common multitudes of mankind. Such were the Apostles of our Lord, and such in their humbler measure are the Missionaries that we seek. It is true that there are other men who from sufficient motives consent to the same separations, encounter the like dangers, and suffer similar privations; but mark the difference-they do it in the prospect of advancement in the world, they look for a few years of service, and then an honourable competence, and it is possible for them to return laden with wealth and honours. No such prospect lies before the Missionary of the Cross. He can expect from the Churches at home no more than is sufficient for his bare support, and if he returns, it is as a disabled soldier without provision, with a shattered constitution and a comparatively useless life. This service is no lottery in which adventurous spirits may put in for a prize. There is no crown even to kindle ambition. Our Missionaries know that success in their object will never bring them any earthly renown, but they also kuow that in the great day when the book of God is opened and each man's service approved and rewarded, Heaven will be found also to have its heroes and its scroll of honour, and that they that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars, for ever and ever.

If anything, my Brethren, could prove our work to be Apostolic in its character, it would be the fact that, already our Missionary annals are dignified with names not inferior to any that have ever been immortalised for benefits rendered to mankind. The production of great characters, often, out of the most unpretending materials has distinguished our enterprise to an extent not surpassed since the days when a childlike zeal and singleness of purpose transformed fishermen and tentmakers into powers that moved the world. When India becomes Christianised as we are sure that it will be, the triumvirate of Serampore, and especially the first translator of the Scriptures, cannot fail to be held in everlasting honour. When slavery is dead and buried, and men review its shameful history, can the Missionaries be forgotten who were the main cause of its extinction in the British colonies-who in their escape from its bitter persecutions passed within a stone's cast of martyrdom—and are now revered in the islands of the West as at once the authors of their liberties and the Apostles of their Christianity ? Yes, there have been already some Missionaries for whom we have cause to glorify God; but then they have been the exceptions, not the rule. We cannot measure by them what Missionaries ought to be, for if we did our agents would be but few. Yet, such as we have, they are the growth and product of our churches, and to complain of them is to complain against ourselves. The result is this, they are neither better nor worse than we are, and as a better soil will produce better harvests both for quality and abundance, as a better tree will bring forth better fruits and be more prolific—so if we ourselves were more richly replenished with the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, so also will be the men who spring up from among us and go forth to the heathen as the messengers of the Churches and the glory of Christ. It is not difficult to see the connexion between this and a more extended success, and therefore, we may well pray "God to be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us; That Thy way may be known upon earth, Thy saving health among all nations."

2. It is evident that a state of things, such as we have attempted to describe, would evince itself in the exercise of a Christian liberality hitherto unexampled, and render the contributions and efforts of the Church more commensurate with her resources. For the advancement of religion in ourselves, implies the increase of our love to Christ -of our devotion to his cause-of our zeal for his glory-and of our love for the souls which he died to redeem. The consecration of ourselves to him, and of all that we possess, when fully carried out will, doubtless, put to shame the slender girings which now come out of our superfluity and abundance and involve no sacrifice or self-denial. The truth is that the law of Christian liberality is as yet but imperfectly understood, and consequently what the Church can do is only now beginning to be developed. As rare as they are beautiful are the instances in which anything is given up except what can be parted with without regret or inconvenience for the Saviour's cause; and these instances are chiefly found among those who are too poor in this world's good to augment in any considerable degree the treasury of the Lord. Yet, every other consideration apart, the act of giving performed under the influence of right motives, is a means of grace which returns to the giver a hundred fold in spiritual blessings. I have, therefore, no sympathy with the feeling that whenever we turn to speak of a collection, we descend from the heights of Christian teaching and enter into an inferior region. What! is . there not a divinity in that action which in some measure likens us to God himself, whose blessedness consists not only in its infiniie fulness, but in that freedom, constancy, and abundance of communication which fills the universe of his creatures with gladness, and teaches us by the highest of all examples, how much more blessed it is to give than to receive ? Have we not moreover, for our commanding motive, the patteru of God's own Eternal Son, who, though he thought it it no robbery to be equal with God, yet made himself of no reputation, and though he was rich, for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might be made rich ? Principles and motives like these are sufficient to fill the heart of every Christian, to dignify the most common duty, and invest the silver and the gold with a consecrated glory not unworthy of the altar of our highest devotion. In proportion as our godliness is increased and the blessing of our text realised, their influence will be more powerfully and generally felt until that selfishness shall entirely disappear which appropriates and consumes what we should rather scatter abroad as freely as we have received, and the last vestiges of that mammon-worship which has too much infected even the servants of the

living God. And for what objects should Christians rather open their hearts, unclose their hands, and set free their imprisoned treasure, than that for which their Divine master was willing to endure the bloody sweat of the garden and the shameful agonies of the cross ? Our labour is not to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to instruct the ignorant in the things of this world and raise the social condition of our fellowmen. These duties are not indeed superseded, but here they are surpassed in importance by as much as the soul exceeds the body, and as a blissful immortality is better than the highest earthly well-being which must be closed by death. Our work is to provide the nations with the bread of life, to open for them fountains of living water, to purge their eyesight from blinding superstition, and to break the chains of false religion, that the dark idolator may find his way to the fountain that cleanses from all sin—and into the gracious presence of a known and reconciled God. For this work we may well pray to be better qualified that we may have more success.

“ God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations."

3. Once more in proportion, as spiritual prosperity is enjoyed by the Church, it may be confidently expected that the spirit of prayer will not only be more fervent, but more generally prevalent among those who love the Saviour. We all believe that the end of our labour can never be achieved merely by the force of human reasoninghowever animated by zeal, persuasiveness, and affection. Though God has condescended to employ the agency of man, He has not given it power to succeed without the immcdiate and supernatural operation of His Holy Spirit. It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord. While he has promised this in answer to prayer, He has as distinctly assured us that it must be sought in order to be obtained. Thus, we are taught to place our ultimate reliance not upon the fitness of the means, nor upon the qualifications of the men, but upon God alone, whose prerogative only it is to change the heart, and who must have all the glory; and thus, also, He has taught us that there is a certain, though secret, and by us untraceable connexion, not between effort and success, but between prayer and the outpouring of the Spirit. Who knows then what power the humblest believer may have with God, or to whose prayers the Church may, under these sovereign arrangements, owe the last blessing that makes effort successful. Societies like ours, which ainı at the overthrow of mighty systems, the strong-holds of Satan, do no more than lay the train ; but who shall bring down the spark from heaven that kindles it, and give effect to the long and laborious preparation. It may be some poor saint whose prayers shall never be heard of in this world, though Eternity shall be filled with their blessed results. Bu: although this may be so, it seems more reasonable and more agreeable to the oraclos of God that not a few merely, but the whole body of the Church shall be roused to the exercise of prayer and supplication, determined like the Apostles of old to continue in the same until the spirit be poured out from high, and to give him no rest until he arise and make his Jerusalem a praise in the earth. Whenever that time hall come –when all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity shall have set their hearts as the hoart of one man upon this object—when it is the burden of their petitions in private and in public—when it becomes a groan expressive of an insatiable longing, then we aro not to be told that anything will be denied to their supplications. We have great faith in the efficacy of prayer, and if ever we can begin to prove Goa therewith, wo may be satisfied that He will at length pour out a blessing so that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

More particulars might be added, but we forbear. Enough has been said to illustrate the connexion between the measure of our spiritual prosperity, and the degree of our success, and therefore enough to justify the conclusion to which we are naturally and inevitably drawn-viz., that for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the world, setting aside all other motives, it becomes us to aspire after more eminent holiness in our own persons, and to set up a higher standard of godliness in our churches at home. By all the love that we profess for the souls of perishing men,-by the zeal which our efforts appear to embody for the glory of our Redeeming Lord,-by all our compassion for the blindness, superstition, and spiritual bondage that even yet prevail over the greatest part of the earth, and by all our trust in those Divine promises which teach us to ex. pect that all flesh shall see the salvation of our God ;-oh, let us diligently investigate the state of religion in our own hearts, and among ourselves, that whatever may have been amiss, whatever defective in us we may acknowledge before God with penitential tears and humbly seek those higher measures of grace that can purge us from these imperfections, and endue us with power from on high.

The Church cannot continue in an unsatisfactory condition, and yet incur no other consequences than the loss of her own comfort and edification. There is lying upon her all the while the responsibility and guilt of neglected functions, for the performance of which she was established in the earth. If, by the neglect or partial neglect of those duties millions have been left to perish, how can she say with the Apostle “I am clear from the blood of all men ?" Must there not be found that deep crimson stain upon the skirts of those garments that ought to be all beautiful, glorious, and undefiled ?

And let us not forget that when we speak of the Church, we do not speak of some abstraction separate from ourselves, but of a body to which we individually belong and the character of which we contribute to form. That body is neither better nor worse than the persons of whom it is composed. Such as are the parts such will be the whole. So that the subject, when honestly pursued, comes at last to be one of personal application. Arise, for this matter belongeth unto thee.

Brethren, the duty to which we are called admits of no delay. While we are speaking there are at least 750 millions of human beings who are not even nominally Christians, steadily advancing like some broad and mighty river towards the past ocean of an unblest Eternity. Without knowledge of God, or of themselves, or of the world to come, they are yet thronging into that solemn presence the thought of which sometimes fills even our own hearts with fear. How the judge of all the earth is dealing with them we cannot know; but whatever the judgment of the heathen may be, as long as we are weak in faith, languid in zeal, deficient in liberality, prayer, and endeavour, for how much of this may we not be held responsible ?

The opportunities and facilities which God has given us will be found to deepen the solemnity of these reflexions. When vast countries and teeming populations were sealed against us, forbidding all access; when a jealous rule, even in our own possessions, cramped our exertions and prejudiced our cause in the eyes of the heathen, we might have pleaded some shadow of excuse for lack of enterprise, or for indifferent success. But now that Providence has removed all these impediments out of our

to thee.

« EelmineJätka »