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THOUGHTS ON MISSIONS.
To the Editor of the New Evangelical Magaiine.
Sir, ... . . ■
Your labours, as the Editor of an impartial Journal, have procured for you here and there an enemy, but as it is solely because they have been told the truth, you doubtless can say, "I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." A part of the following paper, as you will perceive, wears some*hat of a vituperative cast, and will, perhaps, be unpalatable to some of your readers, (that is, .provided you think it worth inserting,) but to such, and to all who may think an apology necessary, I would merely say in the language of David to.hishrother Eliab, "Is there not a cause?''.
The Holy Spirit in recording the entrance of moral evil into our world, introduces Satan as the agent, who by subtilty and falsehood "beguiled Eve;" prevailed on her to eat of the forbidden tree, and to give unto Adam, that he also may eat thereof; by which act of disobedience "sin entered into the world, and death by sin." On that woeful occasion, Satan gained an influence over man that soon grew up into a kind of sovereignty, and on account of which he is emphatically styled in the Scriptures, " the god of this world." We cannot, it is true, determine the manner how, or the extent to which he exercises this influence over the fallen race of Adam; but observation and experience concur with the "Oracles of Truth" to prove, that he is wisely permitted to tempt and annoy the saints of the Most High, and that the wicked are "ledxaptive by him at his will;" that he goes "to and fro through the earth,
and walks up and down in it," to excite the " heathen to rage, and the people to imagine a vain thing; to set the kings of the earth, and the rulers thereof, to take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed." As a valiant and skilful general, when about to engage an enemy, animates his army, by depicting before their eyes, in glowing colours* the glory awaiting them, if victorious, and the shame consequent On a defeat; so Satan in an inexplicable, yet efficient manner, urges on his vassals to the unequal war—
\ ■ '. . '..' ' w
'"He through the armed files
Darts his experienced eye, and soon traverse
■ ' "And instead of rage
Deliberate valour breathes, firm and unmoved. With dread of death to flight or foul retreat."
Nor are his endeavours, alas, without success; as is abundantly demonstrated by the opposition that has lately been manifested to Missions. Who, thathas read the miserable work of the "Abb6 Dubois," of various Clergymen, of West Indian Planters, of Antmomians, and various others, but must have recognized therein the lineaments of him, who works with "all deceivableness and lying wonders." Our blessed' Redeemer commissioned his apostles to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," which commission they zealously executed, "the Lord working with them, so that a great number were obedient to the faith;" and although their successors, the soldiers of the cross, have made repeated incursions on
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the territories uf Satan, and now and then borne away a few captives, yet the great mass of mankind are still" wholly given to idolatry,"—" enemies to God by wicked works, having changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever." So true it is, that " the world lieth in the wicked one." Now, if this be the case, is it to be expected, is it likely, that he who has for so many ages ruled with his iron rod such a vast multitude of the human race, will tamely submit to see the subjects of his kingdom desert to the ranks of Immannel without resistance? No, he and his emissaries will dispute every inch of ground, and maintain the conflict, until Jesus, who is "stronger than he," shall arise and plead his own cause, and vanquish all liis and our enemies.
It will be recollected by many of your readers, that when Missionaries first went to the South Sea Islands, where "Satan's seat was," the scheme was by many considered Utopian, and that the projectors of it came in for no small share of opprobrium; and the disastrous circumstances that followed that noble undertaking, seemed to justify its enemies in their opposition, and induced them exultingly to exclaim, "Aha! aha! so would we have it." Many and severe were the conflicts those Missionaries had with the united powers of earth and hell in those beautiful Islands, and often were they compelled to retreat apparently "in every combat foiled." Never surely was that Scripture more strikingly exemplified, where it is said, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us." But the work was of God, and when the set time came, He "who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working," subdued their enemies under them; set before them an open door which none shall be able to shut; made the people willing in the day of his power, and constrained them "to cast their idols to the moles and to the bats." "Sing unto the Lord, for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth."
It is, nevertheless, a lamentable truth that this work, so "wondrous in our eyes," is considerably tarnished by some things, which its most sanguine and
ingenious friends must find very difficult to ground on the commission of Christ, or reconcile with the " Acts of the Apostles ;" and on which one of your correspondents very properly animadverts in your number for February. In adverting to this again, it may indeed appear to some invidious; but I ask, who is there that has any concern for the stability and prosperity of Missions, the honour of religion, and the glory of God, that would not rather see these anomalous proceedings pointed out, in order that they may be remedied, than connive at them, and see them increase, till it shall be said, "the glory is departed?" We all know that many of the diseases incident to our bodies, if suffered to remain, eventually prove fatal; whereas, if taken in their incipient state, may be arrested in their progress, and their "hurt healed." So it is in moral and spiritual concerns. How accurately does Dr. Campbell trace the origin of Popery to some few and trifling (as they no doubt mere then thought) departures from " the good old way," by the introduction of a rite or ceremony not commanded; or the giving to a bishop a little more than ordinary respect, to which he may have been entitled by virtue of age, talent, or wisdom, until at length, that which was conceded from respect, was demanded as a right; innovations and error gained the ascendency, and, like a mighty torrent, devastated every part of Zion, and "laid her pleasant things waste." "Now these things were our examples; to the end we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted." Heaven forbid that I should say any thing that may be construed into a wish to depreciate thatwork in the least; I have all along given my mite to the London Missionary Society, and have been wont, with a feeling of delight, to point to the astonishing change wrought in the Islands in question, as without a parallel in history since the days of the apostles, and as an irrefragable proof of the wonder-working power of God; and those devoted and indefatigable men, whose labours God has at length so signally crowned with his blessing, will, doubtless, "shine as the stars for ever and ever." But as every thing human is liable to degenerate, it is necessary that we should continually have before our eyes some settled rules, some fixed standard to which we may recur, and by
which we may direct our steps, and examine our conduct. Now tltese rules, and that standard, we have in the Bible: by it we are taught how "to walk so as to please God," and we are anxious that our Missionaries abroad, and churches at home, should "take heed unto it, as unto.a light shining in a dark place." "In vain," says our Saviour, "do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He has also said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and if we confound them, may we not conclude, that sooner or later, he will "visit us for these things," and answer our prayers "by terrible things in righteousness," for "what is the chart" to the wheat, saith the Lord." In proportion, therefore, to the deference we pay to his will, who is "King in Zion," and our desire to " obey from the heart that form of doctrine delivered unto us," will be our endeavours to prevent individuals and churches from going astray, and our fidelity in sounding an alarm in the ears of those who have already erred. "Then shall I be satisfied when I have respect unto all thy, commands." Let our Missionaries then, study to " do the work of Evangelists," and henceforth determine with Paul, "to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ, and him crucified;" be theirs the blessed work, to "point to his redeeming blood, and say, Behold the way to God."
We are not insensible to the comforts and advantages of civilized life, but civilization should ever be considered as of secondary importance, and its advancement rather incidentally touched upon in letters and journals, instead of appearing the most prominent. To evangelize the heathen it is that we subscribe our money; and for this we " bow 'he knee before the God and Father of uur Lord Jesus Christ, with whom the residue of the Spirit is." What will it signify if the poor heathens have not chairs to sit on, if they can but be brought to sit at the feet of Jesus, and learn of him—or if they have not sofas to recline on, if they do but recline on his bosom, and lean on his arm, who is " our beloved and our friend"—or if they have not bedsteads to repose on, if they are out enabled to repose on the Rock of Ages," the everlasting love of God, and his unchangeable promises—or if they have not elegant houses to dwell in, if they do but dwell in God and God in them, and are
preparing to dwell with him, in " a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
But these aberrations sink into comparative insignificance, when compared with the supposition, that a great majority of the baptized are unbelievers; for if believers why are they not communicants f The order of old was, "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them (or the church, as the context proves') about three thousand souls." The two ordinances are equally binding on believers, and the novitiate are surely as capable of understanding the import of the one as the other; not more difficult is it to comprehend our Redeemer when he says, "Do this in remembrance of me," than when he declares, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Should the remarks of your correspondent above alluded to, or should these imperfect hints meet the eye of a Director or Missionary, I hope they will be received in the spirit of that charity, that" hopeth all things, and endureth all things."
But to return from this long digression. If we advert to the accounts of other Missions, we shall find that they also have been exercised with similar trials. For instance, that of the Moravians in Greenland, and of the Baptists at Serampore. ■ No solid footing could be obtained, until God was pleased to "give them favour in trie sight of the people;" and even then obstacles, to human apprehension, insurmountable presented themselves, so that not one was "translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son," till he was pleased to open their hearts. Nor was any progress made in translating the Bible, till God was pleased to pour out from on high a / portion of his influences, by which "holy men of old spake as they were moved." He it was that caused the most untoward circumstances, and the most direful calamities-to fulfil his gracious purposes, and "work together for good;" thus teaching us our dependance on himself, " who is mighty to save:" that no flesh should glory in his presence, but devou tly say, " Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the glory."
Seeing then that they, the Missionaries, have, in a peculiar sense, to wrestle, "not with flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and against spiritual wickedness in high places,"~it may well be enquired, " Who is sufficient for these things;" and we may be at times, ready to despond, and "tremble for the ark of God." But "let.no man's heart fail him because of fear," for " greater is he that is for us, than all they that can be against us." Let us then "seek unto God, and unto him commit our cause, who only doeth great things, and unsearchable, marvellous things without number." And as it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God, that the world is to be renovated, let us beseech him to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh, that all the ends of the earth may remember and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations may worship before him. Let us pray, that he would "send out his light and his truth," and give " him no rest till he make Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth;" and, methinks, if ever our prayers acquire more than an ordinary fervour, it must be when we say, "Thy kingdom come—thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Let us pray, that none may be sent forth, but such as God has called to, and qualified for the work. Piety is indispensable. It is not, indeed, denied, but that God has sometimes accomplished his purposes by instruments who "meant not so, neither in their hearts did they think so;" but we are not warranted to commit the trust to any but "faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also,"— men who can say, "we believe, and therefore speak." "Unto the wicked God saith, what hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee." Nor can it be expected that any but those, who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious," and know that " the redemption of the soul is precious," should " watch for souls as those that must give an account," and "having done all to stand." We should pray that they may be endowed with wisdom and meekness. "Beyewiseas serpents, and harmless as doves," said he, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," to the first missionaries: that if brought before kings and rulers, they may have a "mouth and wisdom which all their adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist." And that they may be men of zeal and courage, being
"strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might;" that as there is "very much land yet to be possessed, they may be enabled to go up and possess it." Prudence and patience are eminently needed by a Missionary. Their difficulties will be many, their hardships in some cases great, and their privations numerous; let us pray then, that if they are " troubled they may not be distressed; if perplexed, they may not be in despair; if persecuted, they may not be forsaken; if cast down they may not be destroyed,"—that God would not try them above what they are able to bear, "lest the spirit should fail before him, and the souls which he has made." That they may be men of perseverance. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." And that to all these mental qualifications, God would be pleased to add healthful and vigorous constitutions. We all know, that even in our temperate climate, when the body is languid exertion becomes doubly irksome; how much more must it be beneath a vertical sun, or in the inhospitable regions of Greenland or Siberia.
That I may not further trespass on your pages, I will conclude, by exhorting all who are waiting for the coming of that period, when the "kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and his Christ," to improve the talent or talents entrusted to their care—the rich to contribute of their abundance—remembering that they are not proprietors but only stewards, and that ere long it will be said "give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward;" and the poor to use their interest in the court of heaven, by praying that all who cannot be prevailed on to aid in this blessed work, may at least argue with rational Gamaliel of old, "Refrain from these men, and let them alone, for if this counsel or this work be of men it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found to fight against God." Let'us all anticipate the accomplishment of those yet more "glorious things," that are predicted of Zion the city of our God, "provoking one another unto love and good works, and exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching."
lei. 1*. 1824.