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Tartar hordes the unknown and snow-concealed inhabitants of the north the tribes of Europe-and all the islands of the sea; he saw them flocking into his kingdom-his grace the theme of every tongue-his glory the object of every eye. He saw of the travail of his soul, and was satisfied; his soul was satisfied! Glorious intimation! Even in the hour of its travail it was satisfied. What an unlimited vision of human happiness must it have been! Happiness not bounded by time, but filling the expanse of eternity! His prophetic eye caught even then a view of the infinite result in heaven! His ear caught the far, far-distant shout of his redeemed and glorified church, singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" Brethren, if we would do justice to our office as witnesses for Godif we would catch the true inspiration of our work-we, too, must often cross, as he did, the threshold of eternity-transport ourselves ten thousand ages hence into the blessedness of heaven, and behold the fruits of our instrumentality there, still adding new joy to angels, new crowns to Jesus, new tides of glory around the throne of God. Realizing that scene, we should gird up our loins afresh, as if a new command had come down from heaven, calling us by name to be witnesses for God.
IV. We have now seen that the Christian church is, in its very constitution and design, a missionary church-that its history illustrates this truth-and that all the original motives for enforcing it still exist, and exist in ever-accumulating force. What, then, can be more appropriate for us, fourthly, than to survey our condition, and estimate our wants, in relation to that design, to profit by that history, and to yield obedience to those motives.
1. Now it must be obvious that whatever else may be necessary, a vivid and all-pervading apprehension of the original design of the church is of the first importance. "But do not our various aggressive efforts show that we have already recovered that apprehension?" To a very limited extent. Until recently, the Christian church was well nigh as local and stationary as the Jewish. And, as might be expected, considering the state of its piety, its movements, since it began to awake, have been fitful and uncertain, rather than healthy and regular. Are not its members, still, too content, generally speaking, with supporting a ministry for themselves alone; and thus resembling the local character of the Jewish church? Is not the clear apprehension of its missionary design confined still to a small minority? Or, if felt by the many, felt only as a passing impulse-the result of an annual appeal, rather than as a personal obligation, and a universal principle? Or, if felt as a claim, felt as a duty to be easily devolved, and discharged by proxy?
Brethren, according to the theory of the Christian church, every one of its members is a witness for Christ. In making you, Christian, a partaker of his grace, he not only intended your own salvation--he intended the salvation of others by your instrumentality-he intended that you should go forth from his presence as a witness, conveying to the world the cheering intelligence that he is still pardoning and saving sinners-sitting on his throne of mercy, waiting to be gracious to them, as he has been to you. He says to you, in effect, "You have given yourselves to me, and I give you to
the world-give you as my witnesses: look on yourselves as dedicated to this office-dedicated from eternity." Brethren, your very business, as Christians, your calling, is to propagate your religion. Is the gospel-cause warfare? Every Christian present is to regard himself as drawn to serve. Is there a great cause at issue between God and the world? Every Christian present is subpenaed as a witness for God. Look on yourself in this light, and you will not, on the ground of disqualification, dismiss the subject from your mind. You will not think that a mere annual subscription buys you off from that great duty for which God has made you a Christian. "I cannot speak for Christ," said a martyr, on his way to the flames, "but I can die for him." And, in the same martyr spirit, you will say, "I cannot speak for Christ-would that I could the world should hear of him; my lips cannot speak for him, but my life shall; my tongue cannot witness, but others can; and, if property can aid, and prayers prevail, they shall." Brethren, this is simply the sentiment of Scripture; this was the spirit of the primitive saints. They looked on themselves individually as born to be witnesses for Christ-ordained to the office of diffusing the gospel. Wherever they went, the language of Christ was still sounding in their ears,—" Ye are my witnesses-go into all the world." Is it true that he has said this to us? To the ear of piety he is saying it still-to the eye of piety he is here this day to repeat it-do you not behold him? Do you not hear him saying it to you -and to you? Never till Christians feel themselves thus individually addressed, will the church fulfil its lofty design as a missionary witness for Christ to the world.
2. A second requisite for this end is wisdom--wisdom to mark the characteristic features of the age, and the movements of the world,--to appreciate the peculiar position of the church in relation to them, and to apprehend and obey the indications of God concerning them. Never was there an age when the wide field of human misery was so accurately measured, and so fully explored, as the present; and, consequently, there never was a time when the obligation of the Christian church to bring out all its divine resources and remedies, was so binding and so great. Never was there an age when science attempted so much, and promised so largely--challenging the gospel, in effect, to run with it a race of philanthropy; and, consequently, never was there a time when it so much concerned the church to vindicate her character as the true angel of mercy to the world; and to show that not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, the wounds of the world must be healed. Never was there a time when the elements of universal society exhibited so much restlessness and change-when the ancient superstitions exhibited so many signs of dotage and approaching death,-when the field of the world was so extensively broken up, and ready for cultivation; broken up, not by the ordinary ploughshare of human instrumentality, but by strange convulsions from beneath, and by bolts from an invisible hand above; and, consequently, never was there a time which so loudly called on the Christian sower to go forth and sow. And never was there a land blessed with such peculiar facilities as Britain, for acting as a witness for Christ to the world. Why is it that the gospel is at this time in trust with a people whose ships cover the seas,-who
VOL. IX-April, 1838.
are the merchants of the world? Has He who drew the boundaries of Judea with his own finger,-who selected the precise spot for the temple, who did every thing for the Jewish church with design, abandoned the Christian church to accident? And, if not, if he has placed the gospel here with design, what can the nature of that design be, but that it should be borne to the world on the wings of every wind that blows? Say, why is it that Britain, and her religious ally, America, should divide the seas,--should hold the keys of the world? O, were we but awake to the designs of God, and to our own responsibility, we should hear him say, "I have put you in possession of the seas; put the world in possession of my gospel." And every ship we sent out would be a missionary church,-like the ark of the deluge, a floating testimony for God, and bearing in its bosom the seeds of a new creation. Christians, ours is, indeed, a post of responsibility and of honor! On us have accumulated all the advantages of the past; and on us lies the great stress of the present. The world is waiting, breathless, on our movements; the voice of all heaven is urging us on. O, for celestial wisdom, to act in harmony with the high appointments of Providence—to seize the crisis which has come for blessing the world!
3. A third requisite is Christian union. It is in vain to talk of the beneficial rivalry of sects. This only shows that we are so much accustomed to our divisions, that we are beginning to see beauty in that which forms our deformity and disgrace. It is in vain to say that good is done notwithstanding our want of union. Is not the good which is effected abroad, effected by merging the disputes of home-in fact, by uniting? And would not a knowledge of our differences there be fatal to our usefulness? But the doctrine of Christ on the subject is decisive-" that they all may be one, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." In other words, the visible union of Christians is essential to the conversion of the world. It is in vain to say that but little disagreement exists as yet among the Christian witnesses abroad; the seeds of discord only ask for time, and they will not fail to bear their proper fruit. But why have not the witnesses abroad differed? If they are right, must we not be wrong? And how is it that even we, on occasions like the present, can quit our denominational camps, and proclaim the truce of God? Both owing to the same means-by paying greater deference to the will of Christ than to the claims of party-by looking out on a world perishing-by erecting the cross for its salvation, and rallying around it,-in a word, by reverting practically to the design of the church. O! who is not ready to say, at such times, "Would that the whole church could be converted into a Christian Missionary Society, and meet in that capacity alone." The union wanted is not the union of one day in a year, but the union of every day-not merely a oneness of purpose, but, as far as practicable, a union of means for the attainment of that purpose. Here is one society calling aloud for agents, and pledging itself to raise the funds for their support; while another proclaims that it has agents ready, if it did but possess the means of sending them forth. Now the spirit we need is that which, on the first hearing of a statement like this, should induce the parties to sympathize in each other's wants, and, by uniting their respective means, to supply them.
Brethren, the same obligation which binds the church to act as a witness for God at all, binds it to do so in the best manner, and to the full amount of its resources. While division is making that which is already little, still less-not only would a spirit of union, by combining our resources, economize and increase them, but by evincing a greater concern for the will of Christ than for the success of party, it would invite it-it would humbly challenge his blessing, for it would be a substantial fulfilment of his prayer.
4. And is not greater liberality wanted?* Not that which waits for public excitement,-that which gives, not a little from much, but much from a little, that which brightens into cheerfulness, and rises into prayer, as it casts its gift into the treasury, saying, "May this be a witness for Christ." The liberality wanted is that which shall induce the wealthy Christian parent to offer up his pious son on the missionary altar, and to lay beside him, at the same time,
* Appropriateness required that the remarks which immediately followed this inquiry on the two distinct occasions specified, should materially differ. In preaching before the Wesleyan Missionary Society, it was added, To this fact [the need for increased liberality] I should not have alluded on the present occasion as a distinct topic, did I not read in the report of this society, a statement to the effect, that it has missionary agents to send, did it only possess the pecuniary means for employing them. Christians of property, shall this statement become an accusation? Can you think of all that is implied in it, without feeling as if a burning truth had fallen upon your naked heart? Can you know-as some of you must--that you are at this moment holding in your possession that which would send some of those agents to the ends of the earth?--can you know this, without hearing that property cry out and give witness against you?" On the second occasion referred to, the well-known liberality of Manchester Christians at the anniversaries of their auxiliaries to the London Missionary Society, naturally called forth a wish that "every town were, in this respect, a Manchester!" but accompanied with an intimation that "even then the question would not be irrelevant."
If the difference in the tone of these remarks on the two occasions should convey to the mind of the reader an impression that in the one class of Christians there is a want of that liberality which is commended in the other, it is only neces sary to state that the comparative want of "pecuniary means," complained of by the Wesleyan Society arises, not from a greater deficiency of liberality in its members than in the members of other societies, but from causes rather which redound to their honor--from their possessing a greater number of agents ready for missionary service than some other societies possess--and, also, from their Christian activity and zeal expending so nearly the whole of their annual income, that they are left in a state of honorable and exemplary poverty.
I have remarked that the liberality of Manchester Christians on missionary anniversaries is the subject of praise in all the churches. In the amount of their collections at their late anniversary, they have "gone beyond" themselves; not, indeed, so much in the actual excess of the sums collected compared with former years, as from the peculiar circumstances under which that excess has taken place. The earthquake-shock which trade and commerce lately sustained, was felt especially at Manchester. So that, had the contributions at this anniversary exceeded those of the preceding by only a single farthing, it would have been more than could have been expected, and must have been hailed as a great triumph of the missionary spirit, and of Christian benevolence, over that selfish contraction of the heart which naturally arises from a depressed state of trade, and the attendant apprehensions of personal exigence. The collections approached very nearly to 3000%. And thus Manchester, long since denominated, by Howe, the Capernaum of religious privileges, has proved itself the Macedonia of Christian liberality; for "their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality." But though Manchester is, in this respect, far in advance of many, of most other places, it knows and proclaims that it is not yet at the goal. Its liberality, accompanied by a spirit of fervent supplication for the promised presence of the Holy Spirit, cannot fail greatly to augment, and to exhibit, to the glory of God, still "greater things than these." May its "zeal provoke very many."
whatever may be necessary to make the oblation complete. The liberality wanted is that which shall constrain the wealthy Christian to ascend that altar himself, taking with him all he has, and offering the whole as a missionary oblation to God. Talk not of sacrifice; do you forget that the world has been redeemed by sacrifice,-do you remember the nature of that sacrifice? O, if you really know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, let the church but sympathize with Christ in the travail of his soul; such acts of self-devotion would become of frequent occurrence, and new songs would burst forth in heaven.
5. The history of the church would justify, and its present position demands, an increase of energy and zeal. I say this, not so much in relation to our missionaries as to our churches. He must be ignorant, indeed, who does not know that rashness often passes for zeal, and that the path of wisdom lies between a blind impetuosity on the one hand, and a cold calculating policy on the other. But blind must he be, also, not to perceive that much in the Christian church, at present, which assumes the name of prudence, is timidity and unbelief in disguise; that, as missionary witnesses, we treat with God too much in the commercial spirit; that we do not trust him to any large amount; that we look too much at funds in reserve, and too little at promises in reserve. "Prove me, now," saith God, "whether I will not open the windows of heaven to bless you." But who thinks of accepting the generous challenge? Does not our conduct, in effect, reproach the first witnesses, and charge the confessors and reformers of later days with guilty rashness? If we are only prudent, what were they? Imprudent men, to venture life so recklessly as you did! Imprudent witnesses for God, to calculate present consequences so little, and to think so much of the future! And how insensible must you have been to say, when all the engines of martyrdom were brought out, that none of these things moved you! And how presumptuous to affirm that the promises of God warranted such zeal! How would you have stood corrected now! How much more cheaply might you have purchased distinction in the church now! But if distinction was your aim, well is it for your present fame that your zeal burned so long ago; for, though your names are now on every lip, and we boast that God raised you up, you could not now repeat your noble deeds without endangering your fame. Yours is zeal to be admired at
And yet, brethren, theirs, in truth, is the energy we want; the zeal of a Paul, and the first disciples; of a Luther, and the early reformers; of a Brainerd, and our first missionaries; a zeal that that would startle the church; aye, and be stigmatized by thousands of its members, as what zeal has not been? zeal that would be content to be appreciated a century hence. The zeal wanted is that which, while it invites prudence to be of its council, would not allow her to reign; which, while it would economize its means, would be too frequent in its demands on the funds of Christian benevolence to allow them to lie long at interest--anniversary zeal made perpetual. The energy we want is that which springs from sympathy with the grandeur of our theme, the dignity of our office, and the magnificence of the missionary enterprise. O, where is the spiritual perception that looks forth on the world as the great