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revelation, do but foster a species of religious delusion, which, sooner or later, must terminate in disappointment.
That this hope is destitute of such a foundation, we are prepared to assert. We deny not indeed, that the Spirit speaketh expressly of a glorious period, when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea ;"a when the stone cut out of the mountain without hands shall become a great mountain and fill the whole earth;b-and when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christc but we cannot think, when we come carefully to consider the context of Scripture, that these events are to take place under the present dispensation. day," according to Isaiah xi, the Lord shall set his hand the second time to recover his ancient people from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath and the islands of the sea;-then shall he utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea, with his mighty wind smiting the river in the seven streams, that men may go over dryshod; at the same period THE BRANCH from the root of Jesse shall be Judge over his people, reproving with equity for the meek of the earth and smiting the earth with the rod of his mouth;-the ferocity of the beasts also shall be converted, the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, and the lion eating straw like the ox ;—all which is introductory to the millennial dispensation. According to Daniel, at the time when the stone smites the image and becomes the mountain, the remains of the four great gentile
monarchies shall have disappeared, and " no place shall be found for them." And finally, that period, according to St. John, is ushered in with a resurrection, at which the Lord gives rewards to his servants the prophets, and to them that fear his name, both small and great; and takes to him his great power and reigns.
We are quite persuaded of the legitimacy of those exertions which are now making; and that the result of them (which we shall presently notice) may likewise be gathered from the Word of God: but then the incidental circumstances, which accompany them are so different from those which shall characterize the operations of the great calling of the Gentiles, that we are again forced to the conclusion, that believers have generally confounded two events. We shall point out some of those circum
First, in regard to the agents employed; the conversion of the heathen is to be chiefly, if not entirely, brought about through the instrumentality of the Israelitish nation. This may be gathered from Isaiah lxvi, 19, Zechariah ii, 11, Rom. xi, 15, and other places.* But the present efforts are conducted by Gentiles, who are preaching to the Jews among others, instead of receiving the Gospel from them.
Secondly, as regards the number of agents employed; it is written of that time, The Lord gave the word-great was the company of those that published it."d But it was a complaint repeatedly made by the public agents of missionary societies, that it was difficult to
a Isaiah xi, 9. b Dan. ii, 34, 35, 44, 45. c Rev. xi, 15. d Psalm lxviii, 11.
* See a Sermon on this subject by the Rev. G. S. Faber, preached before the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, April 18, 1822.
meet with suitable individuals, who were ready to go forth to the work; and that they had been compelled to engage ministers chiefly from the Lutheran church, on account of the backwardness and indisposition which prevailed in our own land. And though the spirit of the rising generation of ministers in this country is greatly ameliorated of late years; still, when we compare the millions of unconverted souls with the comparative handful of missionaries, we cannot say, 'great is the company of the preachers.'
A third circumstance is the effect which shall immediately follow the final call of the Gentiles. As soon as they shall hear of me, they shall obey me; the strangers shall submit themselves unto me." e How opposite this to the notorious discouragements and difficulties, which our ministers have to encounter. Instead of submitting as soon they hear of Christ, the heathen generally oppose and gainsay, or turn away with apathy. Even where the Gospel has been blessed to the conversion of many, it has nevertheless been after a long series of patient labouring and endurance on the part of the missionaries.
A fourth circumstance, but intimately connected with the former, is the measure of success in the two cases. According to the uniform interpretation of missionary advocates, their success shall one day be such, that a nation shall be born in a day." f This is certainly consonant with the promise just adduced—“ as soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me :" but where have we witnessed any thing of this kind in the whole history of missionary exertions? Excepting some of the South Sea Islands, there has been nothing which can with any
propriety be called a national conversion; and if we concede that character to the present condition of some of those islands, (which however is questionable,) we cannot forget the long dreary night, which the labourers there had to encounter, before they witnessed any fruit; nor the fluctuations in the spiritual state of that people which have immediately followed.
We only notice further, that the context of Isaiah lv, 12, seems to fix that passage to the same glorious period; and if so, the messengers of peace are then to "go out with joy:" whereas those who now bear the precious seed, though they shall doubtless rejoice hereafter, do at present, on account of their discouragements, rather go forth wceping;" g it being the characteristic of God's witnesses, during the present dispensation, that they prophesy in sackcloth. h
Now we would humbly ask of the friends of missionary exertions, whether their hopes and arguments have been in unison with these facts. They rather seem to anticipate, (and indeed have plainly expressed themselves to that effect,) that the success of the Gospel is to be in a geometrical progression ;— the preacher converting his seven or ten, each of these ten converting ten more, and that hundred made instrumental in awakening a thousand, and that thousand a myriad;and thus the work is gradually to ramify and extend itself, till all the ends of the earth remember and turn to the Lord, and a present be prepared for him, at his coming, of a world universally leavened with holiness: contrary to the scripture declarations, which describe the world at that period immersed in sin and secularity, taken by surprise, and visited with indignation.
e Psalm xviii, 44. f Isaiah lxvi, 8. g Psalm cxxvi, 6. h Rev. xi, 3.
What is still more remarkable, many of the more sanguine friends of missionary exertions look forward to the conversion of the world as an event rapidly approaching; and that through the instrumentality of existing means, quickened perhaps by some additional degree of energy. One would suppose, that the little success hitherto experienced might have convinced them long ago, that their anticipations were fallacious. The number of communicants, compared with the world's population, are still but as drops in the ocean; and the missionaries themselves do for the most part confess, that their chief hope is from the rising generation. In spots which have for a few years appeared the most promising, the work has been checked and has retrograded: we have scarcely rejoiced over a blessed awakening, when another communication has led us to mourn over melancholy declensions. The very fact, that so much is continually made of individual cases, evince that conversion on a large scale has not yet been witnessed. There must indeed be a great quickening of existing means, to effect the conversion of the world, within anything like the period of time ordinarily calculated upon. The conversion of three thousand souls on the day of Pentecost has by most christians been considered, as the fruit of a miraculous effusion i but were there daily to be added to the church an equal number of converts, it has been accurately observed, that it would still require 350 years to convert the world!
Now, we would not have a less emphasis laid upon the importance of individual conversion; since we are well assured, that, if angels deem the repentance of a single sin
ner a sufficient occasion to fill the
It may seem paradoxical to some
i Acts ii, 41.
The student of prophecy no sooner discovers, that the world is not to be converted until the fourth empire is overthrown, the Jews restored, and the glorious kingdom of Christ manifested, than so much of his zeal, as was stimulated by the expectation of such a result under the present dispensation, collapses; and his subsequent depression of energy will appear greater or less, according to the previous vivacity of his hopes. The same consequences ensue in numerous other instances-not from a more correct discovery of the purposes of God; but simply from the reaction which takes place, when that enthusiastic impulse has subsided, which was superinduced by delusive expectations. They look at results, and comparing what is done with the magnificent promises so frequently held out, their confidence in the prophetic word is diminished: and some also, pointing to these deficient and (as they assume) inadequate effects, raise from them an argument against missions altogether. What we therefore are led to conclude is, that such would not be the case, were the hopes of Christians of a more sober character in the first instance. The present measure of success would be found commensurate with a scriptural expectation: and if something must necessarily be abated from the splendid results which they propose to themselves; yet will it appear, that there are still most powerful motives to a zealous advocacy of this holy cause; that all our exertions, and sacrifices, and prayers, fall lamentably below the mark of what they ought to be, even under existing circumstances; and that a far more abundant harvest of souls might be anticipated, if the friends of missions were generally
more imbued with a conviction of duty, with spirituality of mind, with self-denial, and with confidence in God.
II. The principal object, which appears to us to be accomplishing by the present extended preaching of the Gospel is, the calling out the election of grace. Every thing else we consider only subordinate. This work is clearly symbolised in the Book of Revelation. It is admitted by most commentators, that the hour is rapidly approaching, when the mystic Babylon, the papacy, shall be destroyed: but in the fourteenth chapter of Revelation this judgment is evidently preceded by a missionary work. The Apostle
j vv. 6 and 7.
saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every 'nation and kindred and tongue and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgement 'is come." j In the eighteenth chapter the same thing is as plainly intimated : an angel with great power is introduced, whose glory enlightens the earth, and who declares the fall of Babylon to be immediately at hand; but another ' voice is heard from heaven at the same time, saying, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye ' receive not of her plagues." k The Lord is now (as we conceive) thus sending "his angels with a great 'sound of a trumpet, and they shall
gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." 1
Intimately connected with this subject is the preaching of the Gospel of condemnation to the reprobate. For the same blessed
1 Matt. xxiv, 31.
k vv. 1-4.
word, which is "a savour of life unto life in them that are saved, is a savour of death unto death in them that perish.”m God will be ' justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges;"n and this will be the condemnation of those who are lost that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness
rather than light, because their deeds were evil." o It is interestIt is interesting to observe the connection of these subjects (viz. the calling out of the elect and condemnation of the ungodly) in the two chapters already noticed in the Book of Revelation. In chapter xiv, the angel who has the everlasting Gospel is followed by another angel, declaring-not the conversion of the world, but the judgement on Babylon; and a third angel follows declaring the torments prepared for those, who continue nevertheless to worship the beast and his image. P Then follow a harvest and a vintage. One like the Son of Man is seen sitting on a white cloud, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle ; and another angel came out of the temple, crying
with a loud voice to him that sat
on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle
and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat ' on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth, and the earth was 'reaped." We apprehend the Reader will already have been reminded of the parable of the good seed passing through its several stages, till it has brought forth “the
full corn in the ear; but when the 'fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because
m 2 Cor. ii, 15, 16.
the harvest is come."q Likewise of the good seed as distinguished from the tares, which both grow together till the " harvest; and in the time of harvest the tares are gathered in bundles to be burnt, ' and the wheat is gathered into the barn." And all these, we presume, represent the ingathering of God's elect prior to the end of this dispensation or age.* The judgement on apostate Christendom is represented by the vintage in Rev.xiv. For immediately following the harvest already considered, the Apostle sees another angel, also having a sharp sickle, And another angel came out of the altar which had power over fire; (the symbol of wrath or judgement;) and he cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe. And the angel thrust in his sickle into the ' earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God, and the wine press was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the wine press even unto the horse bridles by the space of 1600 furlongs. 1600 furlongs." This also forcibly reminds us of an awful passage in Joel. "Let the heathen be wakened
We shall only notice further, (in regard to the objects, which the christian may propose to himself in
n Ps. li, 4. • John iii, 19. P vv. 8-10. q Mark iv, 26—29,
*Compare ator, which is the word translated world in Matt. xiii, 39, with rooμos, also translated world in verse 38.