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A CONSIDERABLE number of missionaries, from the recently instituted societies, have died soon after they had entered on their labours. This is certainly in itself a mysterious and disheartening event; but, I apprehend, one that is at the same time replete with instruction. Yet I do not know that any sermon or publication on the subject has been brought forward, to, counteract the discouragement, or to improve the mysterious dispensation.
The deceased Mr. Barneth, having been for a considerable time placed under my care, and being a most amiable character, the tidings of his, as we should think it, premature death, excited a deep sensation, both in me, and in others who knew him, To avail myself of this, I gave notice that I should preach a sermon on the occasion; without the least thought of doing more than instructing my little flock : but meditation on the subject brought many things to my mind, which I could not but hope, were suited to do good, if they could attain greater publicity; and therefore I determined to print the substance of my sermon.
It seems, in my view, wrong that “the righteous “ should perish, and that no man should lay it to VOL. VI.
“ heart;" or that such persons should be removed, and little public notice be taken of the event. But how far what I have ventured to suggest on the subject is indeed suited to excite a proper “laying “ to heart” of this and similar dispensations, must be left to the judgment of an impartial public.-I trust my Judge will say, “ He did what he could.”
ACTS XX. 24.
But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
You well know, my brethren, that these words form a part of the apostle Paul's most interesting and affecting charge to the elders of Ephesus; the pastors of the church in that city whom he had called to Miletus to meet him for the last time on earth. The context also is worthy of our special attention. “Behold I go bound in the spirit to “ Jerusalem, not knowing the things which shall “ befal me there.” Jesus, our divine Redeemer, knew perfectly what should befal him at Jerusalem ; and, though the sufferings which awaited him were beyond comparison more dreadful than all that any of his followers have endured, he 6 stedfastly set his face to go” thither, and did not in the smallest degree decline the awful conflict. The apostle, however, while he followed Christ as far as human imperfection can imitate divine perfection, did not know what should befal him at Jerusalem,“ save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth “ in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions “abide me. But none of these things move me, “ neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that “ I might finish my course, with joy, and the min“ istry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, “ to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”
You see in this passage, my brethren, a man all in earnest in the pursuit of one favourite object; an enthusiast in the cause ; decided to venture, and part with and suffer, every thing, in order to accomplish it; and disregarding even life itself, if the preservation of it should interfere with this grand concern.
This is the very spirit of a hero. No man was ever celebrated as a hero, who had any reserves, as to the nature or measure of his privations, risks, or hardships, in pursuit of his grand object; who could coolly say, 'I will go so far, and venture so much, but no more;' who could not say, “neither “ count I my life dear to myself," so that I may attain my object.
Were the end proposed by those who are celebrated as heroes truly great and noble ; were the means employed by them unexceptionable : could they say, 'My eternal salvation is secure, and my present enterprize will not hinder but promote it;' we might applaud and congratulate them. Behold here then a hero, in whom all these things completely meet.! It is little to applaud and congratulate such a character; let us imitate and emulate him.
Having made these previous remarks, I proceed more particularly to call your attention to the words of my text, while I endeavour to shew,
I. The state of St. Paul's judgment and affections, or the views and principles which led him to speak in this manner; and to evince, by his persevering conduct, that he spoke the genuine language of his inmost soul :
. II. To explain, in this view, the words of the text, as spoken from the abundance of the apostle's heart: And,
III. To apply these considerations to the special occasion of our present assembling :-to improve the mysterious providence, of one, out of the small number who can be induced by zeal for the Saviour's glory, and love to the souls of perishing sinners, to“ put their lives in their hands” by devoting themselves to the service of missionaries, being removed by death just at the time when he was entering on his benevolent and zealous labours.
I. I shall attempt to delineate the state of the apostle's judgment and affections, or the views and principles which led him to speak in the words of the text; and to shew the sincerity of his language by his uniform and persevering conduct. And here we must have recourse to other passages in his own writings, and to such observations as unavoidably present themselves while we carefully consider them. ,
The grand principle, or primary view, was no doubt that which he states in these words : “ We, “ having the same spirit of faith, according as it “ is written, I believed, and therefore have I spo