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done, till these late years, by our church, for the instruction of the heathen.
And yet what is there so holy, what so elevated, what so arduous, as the work of disseminating the most stupendous blessings among nations debased by vice and superstition, nations lost to heaven and to themselves, without hope and without God in the world? We boast of our benevolence and humanity; but what exercise of benevolence or humanity can be compared to that of rescuing our fellow-men from ignorance, and cruelty, and lust, and misery; of conveying to them the knowledge of a crucified Redeemer, and telling them that GOD IS LOVE? We talk of heroism; but what is so heroic as to quit the comforts of our native land, and cheerfully to encounter the dangers of a foreign clime, and all the labours and sufferings incidental to missionary undertakings? Surely there treads not on this earth a man so truly magnanimous as the faithful missionary! To be engaged in inviting such men into the field of exertion, and of aiding and animating them in their toils, can only, therefore, be second in importance to the becoming missionaries ourselves.
And yet England was for a long period, as a nation, utterly unmoved by these considerations. With a cold selfishness she monopolised the gifts of grace, which were confided to her for the benefit of mankind. She was contented with
languid wishes for the good of others; and, by her indifference, seemed to pour contempt on the ardour of those who were willing to enter on the high service of enlightening mankind.
But, blessed be God, these reproaches on the British name are, in their full force, no longer applicable. Within these few years, a zealous desire to promote these efforts of love has begun to appear; and it will depend very much on the British nation at large, to determine whether this spirit shall or shall not be nourished and augmented. Benevolent individuals, of various religious confessions in this country, began about twenty years back to form several missionary societies for propagating the Gospel in different parts of the world. The proposals were received with attention. The blessing of Almighty God appeared to rest upon these undertakings. It then occurred to a few pious and conscientious members of our church, that some success might attend a modest and prudent attempt to form a missionary society in our own body. The moment seemed inviting. Our immense Indian empire, our efforts to open Africa to freedom and the blessings of civilization, our increasing commerce, the apparent revival of Christian piety in many quarters, the example and success of other religious communities, the warning hand of Divine Providence in the commotions of the European
states, the long reproach which had rested on the church for her remissness in this labour, the comparatively small exertions of the only two societies within her pale which had any concern with missions, the circumstance that not one English clergyman was acting as a missionary among heathens, the duty at any rate of making an attempt though it should fail, and the possibility of its being crowned with success-these considerations loudly and irresistibly called on them to propose a new Society, exclusively devoted to the objects of missions.
The Church Missionary Society for Africa and the East was accordingly formed. Its measures were, in the first instance, submitted to the notice of the then Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. For the first few years it was chiefly engaged in making inquiries, circulating information, collecting subscriptions, and instituting preparatory measures. It proceeded with all due caution. It had to contend with various difficulties in its first attempts to send out missionaries. Its chief impediments, however, arose at home, from that want of a lively interest in the members of our church for the salvation of the pagan nations which, we must acknowledge with concern, had too long prevailed amongst Still its conductors bore up, though in
weakness, and fear, and much trembling. They fixed on Africa, injured Africa, as the first scene of their labours. The efforts of the
friends of humanity for accomplishing the abolition of the slave trade encouraged them to this attempt. In a few years they addressed themselves to the work in various parts of India; and, afterward, as the Providence of God opened their way, to the large and populous islands of New Zealand, and to the extensive shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
After seventeen years of patient labour, they have been blessed with a measure of success which calls for their unfeigned gratitude, and animates them to further exertions. The stations which the society occupies, including the schools of the Tranquebar Mission, now amount to about forty-five. In these stations there are upward of eighty Christian teachers, of the various descriptions of missionaries, readers of the Scriptures, schoolmasters, and settlers, of the English and Lutheran churches. More than 3000 children are receiving Christian education, according to the principles of the Church of England; and, of these, at least 400 are wholly supported at the expense of the society. Besides these children, there are many adult scholars. The Gospel is constantly preached to thousands of the heathen, and has been blessed to the conversion of many who are now living;
whilst, in all the chief scenes of the Society's labours, some have died in the faith and hope of Christ.
Such is the present state of this infant Institution-the only one in the Church of England, which has for its exclusive object the conversion of the heathen world.
It is impossible, one would think, for any Christian to read this statement, without being filled with gratitude to God for being permitted to assist in such a holy and heavenly undertaking. It is impossible not to look with affection on these extensive blessings, diffused by members of our church. Every considerate, every humane person, would surely treat with forbearance any marks of human infirmity which he might imagine that he saw; and more especially as to those great efforts which must have been required to excite and preserve that spirit of zeal and love in the breasts of Christians, from which the whole, under the blessing of God, has proceeded.
Among their first and most necessary measures was that of endeavouring to engage the members of the Church of England, in different parts of the kingdom, to aid them with their subscriptions. This plan was accordingly adopted, in proportion as the sphere of the Society's operations enlarged, and the demand for increasing funds became more importunate.