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wo THE MISSIONARY HERALD. VOL. XXIII. January, 1827. No. 1.
BRIEF VIEW OF THE MISSIONS
AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS. *
Our first and principal object in this Survey, will be, to present a brief summary of the more important facts relating to the missions under the care of the Board. We may afterwards exhibit the promiment features of other Protestant missions. A concise and rapid view, however, is all we shall attempt.—It is apprehended, that the survey will properly be introduced, by the remarks of the Prudential Committee of the Board, which conclude their last Annual Report. To these remarks we invite the serious attention of all our readers.
It is frequently said, that we live in a peculiarly favored age of the world; and this declaration is assented to, sometimes with little attention to its meaning, and sometimes with a more intelligent and lively apprehension of its bearing on our duties and our destiny. But it may fairly be doubted, whether Christians generally, and even those who are accounted leaders in the church, do not greatly err, by forming too low an estimate of the moral changes which the world is experiencing, and of the moral influence which is placed at their disposal. The present times are distinguished not only by large and comprehensive plans of beneficent action, but by new and more compendious means of execution. Not only is the multitude of laborers increasing, but the power of each is augmenting; and the combined effect of the whole, must be great to an extent hitherto unparalleled. The full ef. fect, indeed, does not yet appear; nor can it be exactly anticipated; but enough is seen to warm the heart with joyful expectation, and inspire the soul with high and exulting praises. It would seem, that if a man were permitted to choose the epoch of his short residence on earth, with a sole view to his greatest usefulness to the church of Christ, it would be difficult for him to prefer any other time to the present. In former ages, the faithful were obliged to look forward through a long succession of gloomy years, till the domination of the man of sin, and of the false prophet, should be completed; but now we are able to see under the borders of that black and baleful curtain, which the god of this world has drawn over its guilty surface, and is now struggling in vain to hold to its original fastenings. The light shines not only in Goshen; but the Egyptian darkness of six thousand years begins to break away; and glimpses of the Sun of Righteousness are beheld from many a mountain and plain never visited by his beams before; sure presage of that effluence of light, which shall cast an air of splendor and beauty over the habitations of men, penetrate the darkest cavern to
which guilt has retreated, and melt the massy bars of the dampest dungeon in which either innocence or guilt has been immured. Two or three centuries hence, and the battle will have been fought, the victory achieved, and the opportunity for gaining laurels in this warfare will have passed away. But now is the time for vigorous action, for holy enterprise, for exploits which shall become the theme of grateful recollection and lofty cel
ebration forever. Where is the inan emulous of a distinction which God will
approve, and panting after a renown which shali never mock the possessor? Let him put on his armor, and gird himself for the pending controversy. Has he the faculty of speaking in public, and of pleading the cause of millions, groaning under the tyranny of sin, and exposed to its penalty? Let him fill his mouth with arguments, and pour for h from a warm heart such a flood of eloquence, as shall sweep away the defences of a varice, and the objections of covert infidelity. Let him raise his voice to such a pitch of vehement expostulation, as shall awaken the half slumbering churches, and excite the friends of the Redeemer to deeds worthy of their high calling. Does he hold the pen of a ready writer? He may address himself to the reason and consciences of men,-call into action their dormant energies, and thus generate an influence which shall extend itself beyond the powers of human calculation. Can he relate facts, and deliver a consistent testimony to the honor of his God? Then let him recount, in the social and domestic circle, the great events, which are transpiring, and the greater and more glorious ones, which are foretold. Is he called to the high office of a Christian missionary? He may immediately erect the banner of the cross upon the ruins of some of Satan's demolished fortresses. Can he teach even a little school of heathen children, in a retired glen among the mountains? He may lay the foundation for Christian institutions, that shall shed around them a healing power, and remain an expression of the divine beneficence to the end of time. No man is so highly gifted, as not to find the amplest scope for his talents, were they a thousand times greater than they are; and no man is so feeble, as to forbid his aspiring after the honor of furnishing material aid to a cause, which needs and ill receive the voluntary serviees of countless multitudes. We live not only in the most favored age, but in a part of the world where peculiar advantages for benevolent exertion are presented. Far be the thought of boasting, on this sacred occasion, either of our temporal or spiritual privileges. What have we, that we have not received? What have we, that we have not forfeited by our negligence and ingratitude: Yet we are not, under the pretence of humility, to remain ignorant of the amazing power, which American Christians may now exert upon the destinies of men; nor unmindful of the account to be rendered of our distinguished opportunities. In a new and growing country, already containing great reSources, and making rapid progress in the acquisition of greater;-a country, in which a singular impulse has been given to the human faculties by the great events in our political history, and by the prospect of improving his condition, which is held out to every individual;-a country maintaining a constant intercourse with all parts of the world, and exhibiting a commercial enterprise never surpassed; and, above all, a country upon which spiritual influences, in the form of revivals of religion, have descended with most benign efficacy for the last thirty years:--in such a country, with such resources and such prospects, what may not be accomplished for Christ? How shall we limit or restrain our capabilities of receiving and diffusing moral good? Though Christians in many other lands might plead their narrow o of action, and the barriers which enclose them on all sides; though they might dwell upon their almost universal poverty, and the oppressive burdens which they are compelled to bear;--no such plea will avail in our
case. At a great will be our condemnation, and great our shame, if, while we applaud magnificent plans and gigantic efforts, in relation to other subjects, we content ourselves with puny calculations and pigmy enterprises for the glory of God and the salvation of men.
We shall be the more inexcusable, as we see more living and demonstrative proof, than probably was ever seen before, that we may certainly calculate upon a good moral effect from a persevering application of good moral power. Every genuine believer in Christianity, and every other person who is willing to see things as they are, may easily be convinced, that the circulation of the Bible, the estableshment of schools in which the true religion is taught, and the faithful preaching of the Gospel, will as certainly change the moral condition and prospects of a community, as the introduction of true systems of geography and astronomy into seminaries of learning, will banish the absurdities of Hindoo philosophy. Doubtless no human instrumentality is adequate to effect the conversion of a single soul; but wherever human instrumentality is cogently applied to this object, for a series of years, it is so universally attended by a higher influence, that this united effect of human labor and divine energy seems a part of the settled plan of God's administration. It is not more certain that industry tends to the accumulation of property, or that study and observation enrich the mind with knowledge, than that the preaching of the Gospel, in whatever country, is made the means of preparing souls for heaven. And to bring the matter home to the boson of each individual, a man may just as reasonably expend his property in large sums, and in pursuance of a settled plan of action, in the expectation of being the voluntary, and happy instrument of saving souls from death and bringing them to giory, as he may sow his field in expectation of a harvest, or lay the foundation of his house in hope of completing it, or send his ship to sea in hope of a return. He may as reasonably expect to succeed in the first object, as in the others; and, if his motive be right, he cannot fail of his reward. The man who sends a missionary to Africa or Asia, though his missionary should die on the passage, will have it remembered to his honor, when this world shall have passed away, that he stretched out his hand to raise his distant fellow creatures from degradation and sin; that he made a serious effort, at a personal sacrifice, to impart to the sufferers on another continent the blessings, which he valued in his own case; and that he set an example of benevolence and public spirit, which, if followed by all who entertain similar hopes, would soon change the condition of the world, and fill it with righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. The man, who sends forth in different languages a great number of Bibles and tracts, may, after pursuing this course for several years, come to the firm persuasion, that he has aided many souls in their escape from death, and probably conveyed the light of life to some minds, that would otherwise have remained in utter darkness forever. It should be deeply impressed upon the heart of every Christian, especially in these days, that sinners are as truly saved, by human instrumentality, from sinking into the gulf of perdition, as the shipwrecked mariner is rescued from a watery grave by the adventurous interposition of spectators, who hasten to his relief in a life-boat. Why is it then, that any man should think himself a consistent Christian, without laboring as strenuously to exert some agency in bringing immortal souls to glory, as the most enterprising merchant, or the most laborious farmer, presses forward in the pursuit of wealth? Both these classes of objects are sought voluntarily, and both with hopes of success. But how amazing the disparity in their value; and with how much alacrity the least valuable are sought, while those which are of more intrinsic worth than the material universe, are neglected.
Great and noble as these objects are, and imperious as the claims are which have been described, there are still serious obstacles in the way of calling forth the full energies of the professed friends of God—those who have consecrated themselves and all that they possess to the service of their Lord. Among these obstacles must be mentioned the embarrassments arising from obstructed commerce and disappointed plans of acquiring or employing property. . There are those, who seem to imagine, that if all their expectations of worldly prosperity are not answered, they are
excused from doing any thing for the relief of sorrow and suffering; or if
God has taken away part of their property, even if it be a small part, they are to be justified in applying the remainder to their own use, without any sense of responsibility to Him. But in coming to these conclusions, they err against the plainest principles of the divine law, and do great injury to their own souls. The simple question is, when distant nations call to us for the Gospel, Are we able to send it? Not whether we can send it with little self-denial, with a small effort, which shall not interfere with any of our favorite plans of ease and personal gratification? But can we impart the means of salvation to our fellow sinners by a great and long continued effort, by the most strenuous exertions, and by such an agonizing struggle, as a drowning man would make for the preservation of his life, or as the votary of human applause would make for the vindication of his character. Is money wanted? It must be provided, if it is at the disposal of the church and its friends. Are laborers needed? They must be inquired for and diligently sought, and suitably furnished for the work, and sent forth to it, at the earliest moment possible. The time and the occasion would not allow the Committee to dwell upon the too prevalent disposition to defer great personal sacrifices to some future day; and the proneness of many individuals to undervalue the importance of their own faithful exertions. Procrastination is equally the enemy of private improvement, and of public-spirited effort; and the opinion that what each man can do is of so little consequence, that it may almost as well be omitted as performed, is a palsy which, if suffered to extend itself, would soon prove fatal to the whole system of operations for the moral renovation of the world. While God is to be reverently acknowledged as the only efficient cause of good; and all means and instruments will be worthless and useless without his superintending care and his superadded blessing; and the best services of the holiest men have in them nothing, which can operate as an atonement for sin, or present a claim to the divine favor:-and while the beneficent agency of the Holy Spirit is earnestly sought for the conversion of the heathen, as the crowning act of grace, without which all the overtures of mercy would prove unavailing:—still there is much for the human mind to devise and for human hands to execute. It is not modesty;it is not humility;-it is more like rebellion;–to refuse, under the plea of our weakness, to do what God commands us to do, and what He has shown himself determined to accomplish by the voluntary services of his sinful and erring creatures. - One consideration more must not be omitted. It is the instant and amazing urgency of the case. When the ancient people of God, at a critical period of their history, had provoked the displeasure of Jehovah, and were falling before his wrath. the inspired Lawgiver, with the greatest possible earnestness, urged forward his consecrated brother to perform a hasty propitiatory ceremony, by the heart-thrilling exclamation—The plague is begun. The ceremony was performed, under circumstances indicating, that the preservation or extinction of the Hebrew race depended upon the instant application of the suggested remedy. The plague was stayed; and Aaron was seen in the awfully