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II. The second thing proposed in this discourse is, to take a brief survey of the grounds furnished, by the course of events, in regard to missions, for thanksgiving to God, and for encouragement with respect to the future. When the apostles and brethren, at Jerusalem, heard Peter's narrative of the circumstances of the first entrance of the gospel among the gentiles, “they glorified God” for his goodness in granting “repentance unto life,” to those whom they had before considered as abandoned to hopeless perdition. As to numbers, there was, indeed, as yet, but little to boast of; one family only had been gathered into the church; but they viewed this as the first fruits of a glorious harvest. Their eyes were now opened on a new field of labor. Their commission, they now perceived, instead of being confined to the small nation of the Jews, was co-extensive with the world. By this interesting fact, their views of their future work and success must have been exceedingly enlarged. It is not wonderful, therefore, that with one voice, and with one accord, they gave praise unto God, whose goodness and grace appeared so glorious, in granting repentance unto life to the gentiles. And here, I would observe, that the situation of the Christian church now is, in some respects, analagous to that of the infant apostolic church, at the time when this event took place. It will therefore be worth our while to spend a few moments in surveying more particularly, some of the reasons which demand the servent gratitude of every Christian and of every philanthropist, arising out of the recent missionary operations of the church.
And first, it is a solid ground for thanksgiving, that the friends of Zion have been awaked from their long slumber on this subject; and have been, in some measure, made to feel their obligation to send the gospel to the heathen. It is truly astonishing, that among so many men of eminent piety, as have flourished since the Reformation, so few should have been impressed with the duty of bringing the heathen to the knowledge of the truth. The great reformers themselves seem not to have turned their attention seriously to the perishing condition of the world: but it may be plead in apology for them. that they had work enough at home;—that the obstacles which they met, and the persecutions with which they were pursued, rendered it impossible to concert a plan, or to acquire the necessary resources for such a work. But their successors cannot be so easily justified; many of whom lived at ease, and enjoyed favorable opportunities of commencing the good work of sending missionaries to the heathen : and, especially, it strikes us with surprise, that none were found among the Puritans, a people eminent for piety, willing to carry the glad tidings of salvation to their perishing fellow-men in heathen lands. When two thousand godly ministers were at once ejected from their charges, by the ruthless hand of tyranny, why did not some of them—yea, many of them—turn their faces to lands covered with Pagan darkness' Numbers of them, it is true, sought an asylum in this wide continent, and brought with them the gospel in its purity, the light of which we now enjoy; but although surrounded by Pagans, few seem to have felt the importance of com municating to then the words of everlasting life. Such men as Eliot and the Mayhews will indeed be remembered by the friends of missions as long as the world stands; but in the midst of a pious people, and surrounded by faithful pastors, they stood almost alone in their generation, as the advocates for the heathen of this country. And, at a later period, the Brainerds, without the hope of an earthly reward, or even the expectation of being noticed in their self-denying work, wore out their lives in fatiguing and arduous labors for the conversion of the savages of America. And although the name of David Brainerd is now known and honored by many, in the four quarters of the world; yet, perhaps, during his life, no minister in this land pursued his course in greater obscurity, or with less sympathy and encouragement from his brethren. But let God have all the glory; the scene is now happily changed. The United Brethren set the example of missionary zeal, patience, and perseverance. The church of God in Great Britain next felt the sacred inpulse; and the most distant shores now see her sons coming to the heathen, “in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Churchmen and dissenters vie with each other, in holy emulation, to be foremost in extending the knowledge of a Saviour. Other European Christians have not been backward to engage in the glorious work; and none have laboured in this field with more wisdom and success, than the little band of Danish missionaries. America, also, has caught the heaven-enkindled flame; and hereafter, her missionary exertions will form the brightest pages in her eventful history. The spirit of evangelical missions has, for years, been expanding, and diffusing gradually its benign influence through our churches. Every year witnesses an increase of zeal on this subject, manifested by a more enlarged and active benevolence. May this leaven still continue to ferment until the whole lump is leavened: A very small portion of the church are yet aroused to the proper tone of feeling on this subject; but, for what God has done for us, we ought to feel glad, and are bound with grateful hearts this day to glorify his name. Another reason why we should gratefully acknowledge the goodness of God, in the review of the missionary events of the last few years, is the increasing ardor with which a large number of Christians have been inspired. Their pious and benevolent affections have not only been increased in intensity, but have been elevated and enlarged, so as to comprehend in their embrace, a much nobler and wider field than before. Formerly, the minds of Christians were occupied altogether with the concerns of their own salvation, and of those immediately around them ; and no one seemed to have his heart expanded with a benevolence which took in the whole world; but now, the fact is far otherwise. Many have been impressed with a feeling of tender solicitude for the salvation of their brethren of all nations; and these ieelings have gone on increasing in depth and expansion, until they have prompted sone to acts of noble munificence, and others to still more glorious acts of self-denial; so that we now begin to come to some just understanding of the spirit which actuated the disciples of Christ in primitive times. Another ground of rejoicing which we have, in the retrospect of missionary transactions, is. that men of a suitable character have been provided to carry on this enterprise. When foreign missions were first spoken of in this country, so low and contracted were the views of some of us, that we could scarcely be induced to believe, that any persons would be found willing to leave all, to take their lives in their hand, and commit themselves to the mercy of a heathen population. I can well remember the emotions of surprise excited in the minds of many serious people, when it was announced that the Baptist missionaries (Carey and his company,) had actually sailed for India; and also, afterward, when so many missionaries left England for the South Sea islands. But the impression became deeper, when it was known that a number of young men, in our own land, had devoted their lives to the service of God among the heathen. Now, such facts have become so common, that they produce little surprise; but then, it was like a new idea, which, while it startled, enlarged and elevated the mind. But the point to which our attention should now be turned is, the excellent character, appropriate talents, and devoted spirit of the persons who have undertaken this arduous work. Call into review the missionaries employed by every society, and you will not easily find a brighter constellation of worthies. Some of them have been adorned with very excellent gifts, as well as endued with large measures of grace; and have made acquisitions in literature, which place them on a level with the most learned men of the age : and when we take into consideration the motives by which they were induced to make these attainments, they deserve a rank far more elevated than that to which mere literary men can ascend. The character of the missionaries of the present day has not yet been justly appreciated : by future generations, they will be more highly honored, both on account of their learning, and their benevolent labors. The missionary enterprise is in itself so noble and benevolent, that when the mind of any man is fully occupied with it, it elevates not only his moral, but intellectual character, many degrees above the point to which it could have arisen in any other pursuit. Is it not a fact, that some of our missionaries, who, if they had remained at home, would never have risen above mediocrity, have manifested a wisdom and energy in their character, which may be justly termed extraordinary 7 In composition, few writers of the present day excel some of them, in those qualities which are characteristic of a truly good style. But it should not be thought strange, that the prosecution of an enterprise so great and benevolent, should elevate the character and impart unusual vigor to the intellectual faculties; for it is a principle of our constitution, that the mind receives its cast and complexion from the objects with which it is conversant, and from the pursuits in which it is engaged. It also affords good ground for joy and thanksgiving, that there has arisen no discord among the friends of foreign missions, to distract their counsels and paralyze their efforts. Both in Europe and America, the utmost harmony has prevailed among those, however different in denomination,--who have been engaged in the missionary operations of the day. The little, narrow feeling of party and sect. which has. on other occasions, operated so balefully. has had no influence here. The missionaries, attached to different societies, and belonging to different denominations, meet in foreign lands, as brethren of the same family. They feel that they are laboring in the same cause, and serving the same glorious Master. With hearty good-will and mutual confidence, they are accustomed to counsel and assist one another, in the prosecution of their arduous work. No where upon earth does the genuine spirit of catholicism more prevail, than among missionaries, and theardent friends of missions. While it is convenient for the several ecclesiastical bodies, respectively, to devise their own missionary plans, and superintend their operation, there is no ground for jealousy or suspicion; and there should be no provocation of one another, except to “love and good works.” The field is wide enough, and the work ample enough for all; and, under existing circumstances, they can bring forth their resources more effectually, than if they were all united in one body. And it should be felt, and I trust is felt, that the success of one society is the success of all. For the same reasons, there should exist no feeling of rivalry between home and foreign missions. The cause of both is the same, and the love of Christ and his kingdom, is the impelling motive of both, in their various operations. Let then this brotherly love continue, and this harmony ever prevail. In that moment, in which missionary societies begin to contend with each other for influence and pre-eminence, in that same moment, it will be manifest, that the true spirit of missions has departed. And whoever shall have any agency in enkindling discord among the friends of this blessed work, will be guilty of a great offence; and wo to him by whom such an offence shall come. But it cannot, it must not be, that the progress of this work of God should be retarded or hindered, by the petty jealousies of its professed friends. A better spirit prevails; and will, I trust, more and more prevail, until all our sectarian distinctions shall be melted into the complete “unity of the spirit:”—when all the servants of God, “shall see eye to eye;” and the bond of union shall be TRUTH, peace, and charity. The only other cause of praise to God, which I shall mention at this time, is, that so many benighted heathen have already been enlightened with the rays of divine truth; and that there is a cheering prospect, that the light which has been enkindled in heathen lands will be diffusive ; and that the knowledge of Christ, now received by many, will be handed down to their posterity, to the most distant ages. The success of the gospel among the heathen in our day, considering the small number of missionaries employed, and the formidable obstacles which stood in the way, is truly wonderful. In the islands of the great sea, the word of the Lord has indeed had free ceurse, and is glorified: in Africa, Hindostan, Ceylon, and even among the Burmese, there are new converts to Christianity; in opening, softening, and sanctifying whose savage hearts, the power of God has been manifested, as remarkably as in the days of the apostles. Nor should we overlook the numerous instances of sound conversion, evidenced by a holy life, which have occurred among the wandering tribes of our own forests. Of these, some have already finished their earthly course, and, in dving, as well as living. have proved the efficacy of gospel grace, to support and comfort the soul in the most trying circumstances. Who, that knows the value of one immortal being, will not rejoice and glorify God for his unspeakable mercy, in granting repentance unto life, to so many perishing heathen These fruits are the product of the humble and painful labors of your missionaries: but they are not the harvest, they are merely the first fruits. The precious seed which has been sown shall not be lost: it will hereafter spring up abundantly, and gladden the hearts of all who love Zion, and pray for her prosperity. The success of missionary labors ought not to be estimated so much by the actual number of converts, as by the preparation which has been made for future and more extended operations. The Holy Scriptures have, by the diligence and learning of missionaries, been translated into many different languages; and are now in the progress of wide and rapid circulation. Tribes, destitute of a written language, before they were visited by your missionaries, have been taught to read, and already begin to peruse the wonderful works of God, recorded in the Bible, in their respective tongues. Thousands of heathen children are now collected in schools, through the assiduous labors of missionaries, and are daily taught lessons out of the lively oracles. Native teachers have been raised up in many places, and are now engaged in proclaiming a crucified Saviour to their deluded countrymen. Surely, these are not the effects of mere human exertion; but God has been with his faithful servants. He has, in much mercy, bowed his heavens and come down, to aid and bless their labors; and has, through their instrumentality, “granted repentance unto life to the gentiles.” They have received the same spirit of faith and obedience which is given unto us; and now rejoice in the name of Jesus, as we do ; and place all their confidence in his atoning blood. Have we not reason, then, to exult 2 and ought we not, without ceasing, to praise and glorify the name of God, the maker of heaven and earth?
III. In conclusion, I would say, that having so much cause of thanksgiving from a retrospect of the past, it behooves us to be animated with renewed zeal and courage, in the further prosecution of this great work. The way of the Lord is made ready, even a high way for our God. The most appalling difficulties have been encountered and overcome; Jordan is already passed, and the land of promise lies before us; while behind, there is nothing but a barren wilderness. The Macedonian cry, CoME over AND HELP Us, is heard from a thousand tongues. Your missionaries most earnestly beseech you to send them aid : not because they are weary of their work, but because the harvest is too great for them to reap. Their most painful feelings arise from their inability to satisfy all the importunate demands made upon them for instruction. Only cast your eyes on the Sandwich islands—behold the ardor with which knowledge is there sought, by the high and low, by princes and people, by the old and the young. Methinks I see the withered hands of the aged, stretched out to us, in earnest entreaties that we should send some to teach them the way of salvation before they sink in the grave, shrouded in all the darkness of heathenism. The multitudes of dear children, who are pressing into your schools. and the half of whom cannot be accommodated, seem to send across