Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Yet again.

You find remaining hardly two hundred millions who are Christian even in name. And, alas ! our process of subtracting is not at an end. The old eastern churches are not very considerable ; but the Greek numbers tens—the Romislı, many scores — of millions. For our argument, all these may be put out of view. Then, again, be it observed, the fruit of sixty years' labour may be taken as represented by a million and a quarter of converts in Protestant Missionary churches.* But what are these among so many? To look at another side of the question :--The free annual income of the British Isles was estimated, long years ago, at £300,000,000 sterling. But half a century has seen few millions indeed laid, by all Christendom, on this sacred altar.

At the same time there are rival systems, (especially some of those which have long prevailed in the lands of the morning) still holding on, with show of most conservative vigour. Islamism, too, is not gone, though there are signs of its speedy decay. Nor is the vail taken away from the Jewish heart. It is still more painful to reflect, that the once flourishing churches of Western Asia, and of Northern Africa, have no surviving representative. There is hardly a lamp to glimmer in their sepulchral crypts. Darkness is where light was.

Many of our nominal Christians are like those Jews who were slow to bear any part in building the holy house. On every side the complaint is heard,--How little of the primitive spirituality, of the ancient zeal for the Lord of hosts! How much of apathy, of balting between competing attractions, of the love of the world, and of covetousness, which is idolatry!

And yet once again. The builders themselves are at variance. There are endless disputes about the scaffolding; and thus our modicum of energy is drawn off from the main work. But to be divided is to be weak, and to be weak is to be miserable. That which is wanted is not a dull, constrained, profitless uniformity, but a true unity,--a concert of faith, and of holy charity, such as will convince the world that the Father hath sent Christ from above. (John xvii. 21.)

2. Like Zerubbabel and his compatriots, our few and feeble labourers have to endure all the sharpness of opposition. Sanballat and his fellows are but too closely the types of innumerable enemies, seen and unseen; of all the powers of hell, and of the perverted powers of earth. What is most remarkable is, that, however at variance among themselves, each against another, or against all the rest, they are at one as against the Christian builders. In the day of mustering against Jesus and His church, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, all combine in strange alliance ; Pilate and Herod are made friends ; the man who believes nothing hastens to fight side by side with the man who believes everything. The disciple of the Koran, who vchemently tells you, " There is no God but God,” and, in undiscerning zeal for the essential Unity, blasphemes the Trinity, now gives the right hand of fellowsbip to the Pagan, who bows down to graven images.

The dulness of ignorance makes common cause with the pride of reason ; the tyranny * This is the calculation of the Rev. J. B. Whiting, of the Church Missionary

Society,

of the despot, with the license of the ferocious mob. Enough, if "the Galilean " is to be crucified afresh, and the rising sanctuary to be brought down to the dust!

3. As exiles, wasted with a long captivity, and with “hope deferred," seem little likely to rear a magnificent shrine, and to fence a city with walls and bulwarks ; so, let it be granted, the instrumentality employed in building the spiritual temple is one which appears altogether unpromising. Christian nations may boast their fleets and armies, the wisdom of senates, and the pomp of kings. But these are not the means of achieving a moral conquest. It is “by manifestation of the truth,” “ by the foolishness of preaching," that God will save them that believe. Not, indeed, by foolish preaching; but by a method which the wisdom of this world, and of the princes of this world, counts no better than sounding brass, or a tinkling cynbal. It were easý, nevertheless, to trace in this very method the proof of wisdom and goodness far above our thought. For, the ordinance of preaching fixes ten thousand intellects, from age to nge, on the study of the Bible ; and establishes a bond, most dear and sacred, between the pastor and the flock; (a bond to which we know of nothing parallel, in earth or in heaven;)while, by its very simplicity, it tends to exclude all creaturely boasting, “that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” So we find, in many a remarkable instance, that “things which are despised bath God chosen, yea, and things which are not.” The Missionary of the Cross is no giant, no warrior, and, it may be, no statesman. He may lack the flame of genius, and all the charms of eloquence. He may not be the agent we would have chosen. He may be sent alone to some remote field. He has to go forth in the might of weakness. To the eye of sense, everything is against him. His timid friends are apprehensive of a complete failure ; many of the half-hearted drav back from an enterprise which requires so much self-sacrifice, while it offers so faint a hope of sublunary reward. Fools count his life madness, and his death without honour.

So enormous is the disproportion between the means and the end. But we expect no other means ; having a calm assurance that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Our hope is not in any new dispensation, in any new doctrine, or discipline, or programme of ordinances; but in “the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, por by power, but by my Spirit.” When heaven can send a greater Messenger than the Second Person of the Trinity, and a greater Comforter than the Third, then, and not till then, will we blot the “ Yet once more” of Haggai from our Bibles, and surrender our confidence in “ those things which cannot be shaken”_in the kingdom which cannot be moved.” (Heb. xii. 27, 28.) We ask for nothing but more of the Holy Ghost. If He descend, no blessing will be denied

. “Awake, 0 north wind; and come, thou south ; blow upon” tbis “ garden,” which wants only the vernal gales that renew the face of the earth, " that the spices thereof may flow out.” (Song iv. 16.)

the churches of the Reformation. There has been no renewal of miraculous gifts, because these are no longer needed, and the splen

II. The state of the church is to be regarded, in view of its great duty, with the most devout interest. They may be said to "despise the day of small things,” who treat the matter with indifference, or, at best, give it a languid attention ; reserving all their enthusiasm for commerce, arts, arms, science, travel, hospitality, the national weal, or the fashion of this world, which passeth away. Such have not learned to make the cause of Christ their own. They share not its sacred burden, and weep not over its desolation ; neither shall they swell the music of its triumph. The soul that patriotism never warmed is despised by heroes ; and the soul that never glowed with the pure fire of love to Zion is an object of deeper pity. What sympathy has Meroz with saints, or with angels? “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that Thou bearest unto Thy people : 0 visit me with Thy salvation ; that I may see the good of Thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation, that I may glory with Thine inheritance." (Ps. cvi. 4, 5.) “ There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke xv. 10.)

They also “despise the day of small things,” who say that the work will never be accomplished ; that our Zerubbabel will fail ; that the resources of the enemy cannot be exhausted. Despair cuts the nerve of effort, and these pusillanimous ones have lost all motive to activity. While others find a plea for indolence in the Divine promise that the headstone shall be brought forth with shoutings, these abandon faith and works together. In a delirium of thoughtlessness, or in all the profanity of unbelief, they talk as if they had weighed omnipotence, and found it possible for God to lie. Yet that word of His, which is “ for ever settled in heaven,” not only challenges our trust by marks of most sublime authority, but allures it in every condescending way. Thus, it sheds light on the manner in which God brings His designs to pass ; on the reasons for His choice of an humble instrumentality; and on the secret of its power. The promises, on which our hope is fixed, are sustained by the experience of every believer, and by all ecclesiastical records. “Who hath despised the day of small things,” while he called to mind the beginning of religion in himself ?-the "rapturous infancy of grace," and the voice of newborn gratitude, crying, that the mercy which had not passed by him could pass by none? Who, while he traced the origin of institutions which now adorn our land, and make history ? Time was, indeed, when an upper room at Jerusalem contained the whole of Christ's militant church. Eight years later, its gate was opened to a Roman soldier—forerunner of Gentile multitudes that no man can number. Thus a new conception flashed on the Jewish mind, which had been hitherto immured in hereditary prejudice ; and the design of spreading the truth to the ends of the known earth was well-nigh accomplished by the energies of twelve men.

Was Christianity, then, brighter and stronger at its dawn than in its poonday? Let the answer be found in the rise and progress of

dour of their first evidence would grow paler by their repetition. But all the spiritual power remains. Like eternity, this Divine religion has no wrinkle on its brow. We talk of its revival ; but, in truth, it has never died. Its “ witnesses” may have been, at times, extremely few; yea, they may have been slain, but unburied, as the two lay exposed to view “in the street of the great city,”-no city, in the literal sense ; for it mystically answers to “Sodom, and Egypt,” and Jerusalem, “where our Lord was crucified.” Of these two it is testified, that "after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.” (Rev. xi. 3, 8, 11.) Now, it appears

, in striking accord with the vision of St. John, that the miner of Eisleben, in Prussian Saxony, posted up his theses at Wittenberg just three years and a half after the public orator proclaimed, at the Lateran Council, that every voice of opposition to Rome had ceased, that every " witness” was slain or put to silence. Jam nemo reclamat," he cried, “nullus obsistit !“Here,” too, “is wisdom;" a matter for “ him that hath understanding” to ponder.-In later times, also, the same principle is expressed in facts. From a students' prayermeeting in Oxford came forth Whitefield and the Wesleys. To the com. bined plans of Charles and Ilughes, (the former thinking of his native Principality, the latter of the world, and both guided by a wisdom higher than their own,) we owe the British and Foreign Bible Society, which now reckons its annual circulation by millions of copies. Nor is this all: for the impetus has been felt on every side; and the issue of Bibles every year, from Great Britain alone, exceeds in nonber all the copies in existence at the close of the eighteenth century. The first subscription in aid of the Baptist Missionary Society came from Kettering in the year 1792, amounting but to £13. 2s.6d., "the harbinger of the millions which have since been laid on the altar of this sacred cause." * Carey, having fought his way to India, and being

* John Clark Marshman.-In evidence of the anti-Missionary sentiment which prevailed at the close of the last century, and through the first decade of the present one, it is not needful to magnify the wretched joke about “a nest of consecrated cobblers,” which once blurred the pages of our oldest Quarterly. The humiliation is, that the trifler who perpetrated it could ever become, to the scandal of serious religian, and of all common sense, a dignitary of the Church of England. But there were men of a different school, who viewed the subject adversely, from a theological point

. Being far too good predestinarians, they speculated about " the Lord's time," and shrank from a duty which their more enlightened successors feel to be binding. “Mr. Carey met with little encouragement,” says the writer just now quoted, “ in his endeavours to press the subject of Missions on his ministerial brethren. At a meeting of ministers held about this time (A.D. 1789] at Northampton, Mr. Ryland, sen., called on the young men around to propose some topic for discussion ; es which Mr. Carey rose and proposed for consideration, ‘The duty of Christians to attempt the spread of the Gospel among heathen nations. The renerable divine received the proposal with astonishment, and, springing on his feet, denounced the proposition with a frown, and thundered out, · Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the

heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine. Mt. Falo

there denied the shadow of his nation's flag, sought refuge at the little Danish town of Serampore, on the right bank of the Hooghly, sixteen miles above Calcutta ; whence he wrote letters that inflamed David Bogue, and afterward the younger Venn, with new Missionary zeal. But who knows not something of the great result which came of thoughts and purposes awakened in these noble souls ? Of the Methodist Con. ference it shall suffice to say, that, eighteen years before the spark was kindled in Carey's bosom, that assembly unanimously resolved to send preachers over the Atlantic ; and, as early as A.D. 1784, Coke and others are duly appointed, in the “Stations," to the wide western field,—where Philip Embury had raised a banner for the truth in 1766.* Eighteen times did the prince of that lowly band cross the ocean, in the service of the souls of men. Afterwards, (to quote from his monumental tablet,) “his unwearied spirit was stirred within him to take a part in the noble enterprise of evangelizing British India ; and he sailed from England, A.D. 1813, as the leader of the first Methodist Missionaries sent to Ceylon. But this burning and shining light,' which in the western world bad guided thousands into the paths of peace, had now fulfilled its course ; and suddenly, yet rich in evening splendour, sunk into the shadows of mortality. He died on the voyage ; and his remains were committed to the great deep, until the sea shall give up her dead. His days were past, but his purposes were not broken off : the work which he had planned has been made to prosper." + ler himself, who, in after years, built up the Mission at home, while Mr. Carey was employed in establishing it in India, was startled by the boldness and novelty of the proposal, and described his feelings as resembling those of the unbelieving courtier in Israel: “ If the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be ? ?" (Life and Times of Carey, Marshman, and Ward, vol. i., chap. i. Longmans. 1859.)

* See “ Minutes," vol. i., pages 86, 168 ; edition of 1862.-The foriner reference is too interesting to be lost. It shows that the very first free-will offering in behalf of Methodist Missions came from the Conference. All are aware how readily, and with what self-denying zeal, the laity copied this example.

Q. 13. We have a pressing call from our brethren at New-York, (who have built a preaching house,) to come over and help them. Who is willing to go ?

A. Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor.
" Q. 14. What can we do further, in token of our brotherly love ?

“A. Let us now make a collection among ourselves. (This was immediately done; and out of it £50 were allotted towards the payment of their debt, and about £20 given to our brethren for their passage.)”

+ It may be of some use to set down, in one paragraph, a few chronological notes. The Propagation Society for New England dates from the year 1649 ; the Christian Knowledge Society, from 1698 ; the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, from 1701. John Wesley went to Georgia, at that time a new colony, in 1735; two years and a half before he knew the saving grace of God. The Moravians were in Greenland as early as 1741. Brainerd appears in Massachusetts and New Jersey a very little later. A Methodist preacher's voice was heard in Newfoundland in 1765; and Embury spoke a word at New-York in 1766. The memorable Conference which sent out Boardman and Pilmoor sat, in the old chapel

« AnteriorContinuar »