Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Mr. Horne asked the churches what monies they had subscribed, what associations they had formed, what prayers they had offered, what exhortations pastors had given to their flocks, and to each other. To all this the answer was—silence! He next bewailed the extinction of the spirit of missions in the Church of England; insisting, however, at the same time, that the Dissenters had no reason to rejoice over her, since, with the exception of Carey and Thomas, none of them had then engaged in the work of missions. He gave due and just praise to Dr. Coke, for the missions that he established, which Mr. Horne correctly affirms to have been rather the missions of that individual, than of the Methodists as a body, for they had not then taken that noble stand in the field which they have since assumed.

At this dark hour, the whole earth was quiet and at rest. The churches of Christ, in Britain, had no proper sense of their obligation to go to the Gentiles. Their knowledge regarding the subject was as defective as their feeling. It is very instructive now to read the missionary meditations of grave and holy men in that and the former age. One of these, an excellent minister of the word, thus delivered his views on a public occasion :-“ To a dark and benighted world at large, our efforts cannot extend ; new arrangements of Providence alone can pave the way for its conversion. Let us plead with him his own truth and faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, that, by methods known to his infinite wisdom, he would enlighten the dark places of the earth with the pure light of evangelical truth, and hasten the happy time foretold, when the dominion of Christ shall extend from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." How strange such language now sounds! The command of Christ, the practice of the apostles, and the history of gospel diffusion, seem to have been things quite foreign to the speaker's mind. The worthy gentleman assured his hearers that they could do nothing, and that the world could be converted only by some inscrutable “methods” in the economy of Providence, with which methods man had no instrumental concern beyond prayer. Our fathers, however, happily did not believe him. They found from the Bible that God had but one “ method of enlightening the dark places of the earth,”-a method which involved the agency of man ; and that there was really no mystery about the matter. They saw that they had simply to do as they were bid, to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Under this impression they began to labour for the illumination of mankind; and this labour has been carried on to the present time. What has has been the result? Many deem it small. According to the opinion of an acute writer, and a Christian, it has been very insignificant. “It cannot,” says he, “but be a question to every mind-why is it that with such large and varied means our success is so trifling? Why is it, that, while so many societies are at work, and so much money expended, the results bear no adequate proportion to the cost and labour? The fact is notorious, both at home and abroad. We labour in vain, and spend our strength almost for nought; at least, all are ready to acknowledge that our success is not commensurate to our means, and that a vast machinery is employed to produce an insignificant result.”—The writer, preferring assumption to argument, declares that “all are ready to acknowledge this." Is it so? When, how, was this ascertained ? Has it ever been acknowledged in the reports of any society ? Has any missionary ever affirmed it? I know of none, except infidel travellers and profligate voyagers, who every where find the Missionary a check to their plunder and their profligacy, that " are ready to acknowledge” it! Churches of Christ! are you thus ready?

The writer, I repeat, confidently assumes, instead of attempting to prove the fact alleged, and he likewise conveniently assumes the concurrence of Christians in his opinion! This plan is popular, and therefore mischievous. To my simple understanding, however, it appears that the work, already accomplished, is incredibly, I had almost said, inconceivably great. Let us just look at facts. Was it a light thing to arouse the dormant spirit of the general church, up even to its present lukewarm state? Was ever the mind of nations brought over to a merely secular question of magnitude and deep dislike in so brief a period ? Let us think of its history. If we glance at Scotland, what meets our eye? The mass of an intellectual country, which was then generally indifferent, is now awakened, through all its borders, to a sense of the claims of Christian missions! The Independents, the Baptists, the United Secession Church, the Relief Presbytery, and the Establishment,—all, all are now boldly standing forth in this cause ;-all, all have their sons and daughters labouring in the foreign field. Again, if we look at England, we see the whole of the evangelical denominations of that teeming country animated by the same spirit, and embarked in the same cause. The English Established Church, it is true, does not, like her northern sister, stand forth as a church, in the work ; but a multitude of her best people, and the flower of her bishops and

clergy, have all given in their adhesion; and the Church Missionary Society claims as hers, some of the most devoted and excellent missionaries now to be found among the Gentiles. Would any man, conversant with human nature and its tendencies, judging of this subject beforehand, have anticipated the accomplishment of so great a work in so short a space, in spite of habit and apathy, pride and prejudice, ignorance and banter ?

The wondrous change which has been thus effected in the human mind, is not limited to churches and communities of believers ; it extends to all ranks, and al classes. The first and most hurtful adversaries to the cause were men of letters, authors, and conductors of the periodical press. Bitter was the spirit of these parties ;-violent were their assaults,—and great was the evil which they inflicted on the rising cause. Their tone, by degrees, however, was lowered; and at length, their voice has either been silenced, or changed into eloquent advocacy. One literary organ, whose power was equalled only by its malice and mendacity towards the promoters of the infant movement, has honourably changed its course, and done good service to an undertaking which it had laboured to destroy. Nor is this all; while the hostility of literature has been subdurd, a new literature, both in prose and poetry, in behalf of missions, has been created; and the missionaries themselves, in addition to their specific toils, have done much, by the productions of their own pens, to shame their learned adversaries. The works of Milne, of Morrison, of Medhurst, of Philip, of Ellis, of Williams, of Campbell, of Buyers, of Swan, of Moffat, and of others, are before the world. These volumes speak at once to the mind and the morals of their authors, to the

object of their mission, and the tendencies of their labours. It would require more than common courage, in any scribe, now-a-days, to denounce, even anonymously, the men who wrote these books, as “ignorant clowns”—“ enthusiasts”—and “maniacs;" or to deny that they are wise, humane, and virtuous !

But not merely is the harmlessness, and even the propriety of Christian missions now conceded; their matchless importance is fairly allowed in the high places of the earth. Their claims, in this respect, may now be asserted without provoking laughter and ridicule, ever in the British Parliament. Yes, even in that place, where no excess of sympathy has ever been shown with Christian men or with spiritual enterprises, the merits of missions, and the claims of the missionary character, are now respected. It is no longer safe, even in that privileged place, to pour contempt on this heavenly undertaking. The high value of missionary labours has been frequently recognized in recent acts of legislation. Nor is this respect for Christian missionaries confined to England; America, as well becomes her, is not ashamed to confess her missionary citizens. Her Secretary of State recently declared that she will extend her protection to those noble men in every part of the world. It will not be prudent for France again, -or for any other power,—to repeat her outrages upon American evangelists, either at the Sandwich Isles, or in any other portion of the globe. Brethren, are these small considerations? But the missionary principle has gained another triumph, perhaps even greater than any of those which I have mentioned. It has fairly subdued, and to some extent, made the friendship of the proud genius that presides amid the academic bowers of Britain,

« НазадПродовжити »