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“ Behold,” said the servant of Elijah, when he had been sent seven times to look from the top of Carmel, “there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand.” Erelong, we know, all the sky was black, and floods of rain descended on the burning land. It is for us, mindful of small beginnings, to say of Jacob and of Israel, “What hath God wrought !” O, how many converts from heathenism, still blessing the solitary ray that first dawned on their blindness and misery, will spring to answer us, “Who bath despised the day of small things ?” All-hail to these, the redeemed of the Lord! Here is the representative Greenlander, who, amid the crowd of his countrymen gathered at a “sun-feast,” in honour of the great luminary's return after a night of two months, cries aloud, “I have now another kind of joy; because another Suu, even Jesus, has arisen in my heart." There, in the woods of North America, is the Indian wife and mother, at last happy, for she has welcomed the coming of Eliot as that of “an angel.” Yonder are groups of Africa's daughters, who have given to William Shaw a name which literally means, “The shield of women." In Madagascar, the Christians already mark a new epoch, by reckoning from the date when “the land became light.” The Tonguese joyfully testify, “ The love is come!”
“ The love is come !” The strong men of New Zealand, fresh from seasons of gracious influence, rush to their forest-tracks, and inscribe “ JESUS” in the bark of many a tree, that the wanderer may read that Name which is above every name!
Shall we pause, just one moment, to allude to the bearing of this work on commerce, on learning, on civilization, on all that is dear to bumanity? Let us be forgiven, though we may hesitate. It is not that we dispute the affirmation ; not that we value these things the less, though we value spiritual results the more. “The glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.” Yet, all these rays blend, and, like the prismatic bues, form a colourless light. Christianity of old found the pagan world without a single house of mercy; and the modern traveller looks in vain, beyond the Missionary's track, for the school, the life-boat, the infirmary, or the orpbanasylum.* Along that track, nevertheless, rise monuments of charity, as well as those of devotion. Warriors learn to relent. The herald of a peaceful Gospel appears, inviolable, between hostile armies. His message constrains men to “beat their swords into ploughshares." His open Bible is the signal of reconciliation. The Missionary station is a city of refuge. The rail of the pulpit is composed of spears, no longer in demand. A church is found to be a fortress too. All social refinement advances. Villages smile, and fields whiten with corn, Leeds, in 1769. The same work spread to the West Indies in 1785. Tbe Bible Society was formed in 1804. Of Missionary Societies, the Baptist is of the year 1792 ; the London, of 1795 ; the Edinburgh, of 1796 ; the Church, of 1799; the American Board, of 1810.
* This statement is not confuted by what has been reported of temporary arrangements made among the Chinese, in war-time, for the relief of their sick and wounded Example has great power. It does not appear, however, that the " Celestials " bare deigned to found a single hospital.
“Where once the panther lapp'd a lonely stream." Freedom obtains the guard of law. The chain of slavery is melted. An incipient commerce appears at some of the remotest points that Christianity has reached. A currency is established. The seed of the first cotton grown at Natal is obtained from a tree in the Missiongarden at Morley. Rude languages are reduced to grammar. From the descendants of the most abject of mankind there is already elicited the light of intellect, latent in their fathers. And thus, by ever-multiplying proofs, “godliness” is shown to be “profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. iv. 8.)
When we speak of the “ Jubilee" of one Missionary Society, and mark the dates of other modern organizations, it is not conceded that the work itself is of yesterday. Far otherwise. Not now to go back to the Old Testament, (which, however, would marvellously serve our argument,) it may be affirmed, that Missions are as old as Christianity, and that Missions to the beathen were undertaken in the very of the church. Antioch has been often named, and with reason, as the early home of this enterprise. They who had freely received of the heavenly treasure, were not unwilling freely to give. Nor was their example lost on those who came after. Chrysostom, descanting in his cathedral at Constantinople, nearly fifteen centuries ago, on the spread of the Gospel from the shores of the Ægean to those of the German Sea, attained his climax when he affirmed, “Even Britain has heard the word of life!” Jerome, of like antiquity, cites in one of bis Epistles instances of the softening power of grace, which might seem like the rhetorical embellishment of a Missionary Report in these later days. “The Armenian,” says he, “lays down his quiver ; the Hung learn to sing the praises of God; the coldness of Scythia is warmed by the glow of faith; and the armies of the Goths carry
about tents for churches." In the seventh century, Nestorian Christianity ran far and wide. Religious agencies of the Chaldaic name are said to have extended from the ices of Scythia to Cape Comorin. Nearly a thousand years later, John Calvin devised means of sending fourteen preachers to instruct the savages of South America, then newly
It must be granted, however, that the age of the Reformation wns not propitious to such a design. Nor, as we trace the stream of years downward, can we fail to remark how little in this direction is to be gathered from the writings of eminent divines, whether conformist or nonconformist. Archbishop Tillotson doubts whether the world will ever see a zeal adequate to the design of carrying the Gospel to the South Sea Islands ; but is of opinion, that, in such case, the gift of tongues
Of Howe, and Baxter, and Owen, and all the galaxy in which they shone brightest, you can obtain but a few glimpses of allusion to the world-wide duty. Herein, certainly, “ the former days”
will be restored.
were not "better than these."
Two things, at least, are plain :-1. That, of all ages, the present one is the most favourable to Missionary effort. 2. That, of all people, the Wesleyan Methodists are bound to be zealous in this good work. If you have not now the signal powers which “made straight in the desert a highway" for the apostles of old time, yet you see the world's amplest fields opening, and are greeted with the homage of the world's ripest mind. If you lack the gift of tongues, you have the Bible, more or less, in one hundred and sixty dialects. If the miracle of healing is gone, the medical science of the age is in Christian hands. Moreover, as you hear every day, distance is now annihilated, and thought is conveyed with lightning-speed from the tropic to the pole. There is not a sea on which your sails are not swelling; not a coast on which the name of your country will not serve alike for strength and ornament.
If the Methodists in any evil hour run back from this standard, they will be inconsistent indeed. Their theology, their church-polity, their hymns, their early vows, their labours in a thousand stations far from the land of their birth, will all be cast into shade. A voice from the sepulchre of the fathers will rebuke the degenerate children.* But, our hope is in God, such a day is remote. Hitherto, at least,
* “ The world is my parish," said the man, in his meridian, whose earnest vish to convert the Indians on the banks of the Savannah had prompted him to leave Europe in his morning freshness, before he was himself converted. John Wesley was before his times, both in grasping the principle of a world-wide benevolence, and in devising ways and means. He was “the first man,” as a living Presbyterian bas said, with Irish sharpness, “ to find out that twelve pence are more than e shilling." But he was not content with collecting from rich and poor. It is computed, that, in a long life, he gave to religion and charity, from his own purse, £30,000 at least. A pattern of rare unselfishness was he ; and in his great heart the Missionary fire never went out. It was still burning, yea, flaming to its origin in beaven, when the earthly shrine was dropping into decay. Among the stanzas he sang on his death-bed, when heart and flesh already failed, were several from the fine hymn numbered 220 in the “ Collection :"
“ All glory to God in the sky,
And peace upon earth be restored :
Appear our omnipotent Lord !
Didst stoop to redeem a lost race,
And reign in Thy kingdom of grace !
Again in Thy Spirit descend,
A kingdom that never shall end !
And inake the glad nations obey,
And bow the whole world to Thy sway.”
Methodism is a Missionary system. Who would quench its light, either at home or abroad? Surely, no well-taught member of the church by law established, or of any other church that claims to be evangelical. Our friends on one side of the line have advantages of a material sort, which others cannot affect ; and, as they are naturally drawn (that is, according to the old nature, not the new) to think themselves therefore wiser than the rest, or holier, or, by some accident of their investiture, clothed with a higher power, it is not surprising that some of them yield to the pleasing delusion. But the more thoughtful calculate the heavy tax that must be paid. They trace, with untold grief, the many-coloured teaching which countervails all the Liturgy, and would sap thrice thirty-nine Articles. They mark, in the silence of disappointment, the many doings in provincial Church-courts, the few decisions of the Dean of Arches, and the rare appeal-slow, costly, and uncertain-to the Judicial Committee of the Lords. On the other band, they, like the wisest of the Dissenters themselves, are aware of the perils to which isolated and congregational bodies are liable. But why say these things ? Not to indulge a temper of bigotry,—which can gain an entrance among us only in spite of our maxims and professions; not to wound or dishearten any among the thousands of exemplary men on either hand; but to affirm the need of another communion, holding its place between its neighbours in the safe middle; friendly to each, independent of both ; loving all men, and fearing none. Can the British Isles, or the scores of our colonies, or the States of America, or the regions beyond, dispense with any one of the Christian influences now at work ?—or, in particular, with a Society which looks to inward religion as the muniment of sound doctrine, and sends out no man to preach the word, until he has offered evidence that he knows, in himself, its life-giving virtue?
III. It remains, finally, to glance at certain practical lessons. If these be noted but briefly, let the reader, by pondering them, supply the want of amplification in this page.
1. The vision, and its interpretation, show the importance of cul. tivating that frame which prepares us to take part in building the temple of the Lord. It is a frame of humility, arising from a view of the magnitude of the work, and of the weakness of the instrumentality ;-a frame of obedience to the heavenly call ;—and of trust in the sure word of promise. The lowly will repair to the source of strength; will stoop to the self-denial which is required; will hail the success of fellow-labourers, and gladly unite with the meanest of them; will give back all the praise to the great Architect,-glad to “ decrease,” if He do but increase.” Their one ambition will be, to "fulfil His pleasure ;” to “ do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” That voice may be small and still; it may be but suggestive of duty. But the gentlest whispers of this Master suffice. “O righteous Father,” He still says, “the world hath not known Thee : but I have known Thee, and these have known
that Thou hast bent me:” (John xvii. 25 :) q.d., Let these diffuse the light they have received, and the world shall know both the Father and the Son. Nothing, in the course of plain duty, shall be impossible to them. Self-renouncing faith will make them strong in the might which removes mountains.
2. Let each one apply the doctrine of personal responsibility. Zerubbabel is called to take a most prominent part ; but the task cannot be executed without the hewer of wood, and the drawer of water, In a word, every one of us is bound to do what he can; not wbat he would choose, nor what bis more gifted neighbour may with reason attempt. Power is the measure of duty. But few are aware how great is the power with which they are intrusted. It is rare to find an example of the motto, " This one thing I do." Yet all experience confirms the word of an ancient sage, “That man is terrible who minds one thing."
3. It is well that we be forewarned of things that may arise to dispirit us. Though the joy of success is assured, it may tarry.* Meanwhile there will be, to the weary eye, many an instance of failure. Samaria may exult against Jerusalem. It may consist with the wisdom which is unsearchable, and which aims at a greater good in the long run, to let the cause of truth be put for a season to disadvantage. Let none wonder if the faint-hearted now retire. But rise with new vigour, ye builders! "Be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord ; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest ; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work : for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts : according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, 80 my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.” (Haggai ii. 4, 5.)
4. When signs of prosperity and of triumph are multiplying, let us often pause to review “the day of small things," and to repeat our early vows. In times of “revival,” o, how needful to wait still on God, and to abide under His shadow, in humble confession of our sin, and the sin of our people! A word, this, for successful builders. How seasonable, on the part of the suppliant church, to cherish a special regard to the final cause, the honour of the Most High! Let her think nothing of her own fame and aggrandisement; nothing of the popularity of her services; and little even of the happiness of her converts, in comparison of the glorious result that excelleth. still,” says He, of whom, and through whom, and to whom, are all things, "Be still, and know that I am God : I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” Let us all sink in dast before Him, and acknowledge His sovereign claim. “Be Thou exalted, O God, above the beavens !” “Let the people praise Thee, O God; let all the people praise Thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase ; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us ; and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him.” (Psalm xlvi. 10; lvü. 11; lxvii. 5, 6, 7.)
* Sixteen years the Church Missionary Society laboured, before it could point to a single native communicant. In its seventeenth year, it dumbered six.