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But, my brethren, if the diffusion of the gospel needs the utmost efforts of your zeal, I may farther notice that it is worthy of them. It is a work indeed, in which you can never exceed. It conduces to the most important ends. The gospel brings glory to God. It is to him that you stand in the nearest and most interesting relations. Do
you feel their force ? you will regard his glory as the chief business of your lives; and in the promoting of it, you will be ready to put forth all your energies.
Infidels and nominal Christians may talk of the harmless superstitions of heathenism; but as for you, you will hold such language in abhorrence. Can that superstition, you will ask, be harmless which “ changes the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things?” Can that superstition, you will ask, be harmless which defrauds the Creator of the homage which justly belongs to him, and which he expressly demands, and gives it to the creature? Can that superstition, you will ask, be harmless which inculcates a worship, consisting in “obscenity and blood ?” In the contemplation of heathen idolatry, your heart, like that of Paul of old, will be stirred within you at the dishonour which is done to your heavenly Father. And how can this dishonour be wiped away? This can be done only by introducing among them the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It instructs us in the knowledge of God, in the doctrine of his providence, the way in which we are to approach him, and the obedience which he requires. In the cross of Christ, the sum and substance of the gospel, we have the most affecting and impressive view of all the Divine perfections. It is the rod of his great strength, by which he rules in the midst of his enemies, and from rebels, converts them, into loyal subjects. In our own times we have had the most convincing proofs of its efficacy. By the preaching of it, nations have been induced to cast their idols to the moles and to the bats, and to turn to the living and true God. And when the day-star of the gospel not only shines upon a land, but arises in the hearts of its inhabitants, instantly they cast off the yoke of sin; they become the servants of God, and bring forth the fruits of righteousness, which are to his praise and glory.
The gospel brings good to men, even the highest good. We may justly apply to it the words of John in the book of Revelation: “ It is a tree of life to every one that layeth hold upon it, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." How benign is the change which it produces upon society, wherever it finds its way! it restores woman to her natural rank,—from being the slave of man, it elevates her to be his equal and friend, and thus greatly increases his happiness; it is the parent of civilization; it invigorates the understanding; it puts a restraint upon the malignant passions; it cherishes the kindly affections, and sweetens all the relations of life. But I do not follow out these remarks. Volumes have been filled with the temporal benefits which are derived from the gospel. Alas! how many are there among us, who, though they enjoy these, pour contempt on the source from which they flow.
It is on higher grounds that I address you at present, and call upon you to strive for the faith of the gospel-the spiritual blessings it confers. It reveals the only name given among men, whereby they must be saved—the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Are you, my brethren, in possession of a remedy for that spiritual malady, with which all the children of men are infected; and under which, thousands are daily perishing, a remedy so efficacious for imparting life, and health, and vigour to the soul; and does not charity call upon you to strain every nerve, to impart it to them. May we not say of the man who is cold and indifferent upon this subject, How dwelleth the love of God in him ?
The gospel brings honour to your Redeemer, and its success is to him a source of sacred pleasure. It makes known his essential glory and mediatorial qualifications; it delineates his character, a character of untainted purity, of unrivalled excellence, absolutely perfect; it proclaims the wonders of his love in dying for us—the great means by which he declares he will draw all men unto him ; it opens to us the gates of heaven, and discovers him to us sitting at the right hand of God, clothed with glory and honour, and making intercession for us. Every sinner that embraces the gospel, is a proof of the efficacy of his atonement, and of the power of his grace, and an additional gem in his crown: in his emancipation from the thraldom of iniquity, and adoption into the family of God, Jesus sees of the travail of his soul, and is satisfied. Do you, my brethren, believe these things? Then you must allow that the propagation of his gospel, deserves your most vigorous and persevering exertions. Consistency-gratitude will constrain you to confess this. Remember the blessings for which you are indebted to him, and the price at which they were obtained. Remember the stable and the manger. Remember Gethsemane, and especially remember Calvary, and the doleful exclamation, “ My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” Indeed, my brethren, if you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ--not speculatively only, but experimentallyif the love of the Saviour has been shed abroad in your hearts, by the power of the Holy Ghost, I shall have no occasion to urge you to diligence and fervour in his work. Instead of grudging to come forward in his cause, and doing and giving just as much as may be sufficient to pacify the conscience, and to maintain fair appearances with the world, it will be the grief of your heart that you can serve him so little, who has done so much for you—whose love to you passeth knowledge.—These are some of the important ends with which the diffusion of the gospel is essentially connected. Do they not fully establish the truth of the proposition, that it is worthy of the utmost efforts of your zeal ?
To stimulate your zeal in disseminating the faith of the gospel, I observe, once more, that your labour will not be in vain in the Lord. I have already acknowledged the arduousness of the enterprize; but though arduous, it is not impracticable. Of this, indeed, we have ample evidence in our own days, and in the annals of this very society; and to these I shall at present confine myself. In southern Africa several churches have been formed among a people—the Hottentots—whose very name was long considered as expressive of what was most rude and barbarous. Superstition and idolatry pervade the whole frame-work of society in the East Indies; they are incorporated with all the transactions of every-day life, and are strongly fenced round by the institution of caste; yet even among the native inhabitants of India, the gospel has numerous votaries, who are multiplying from year to year. But, unquestionably, the most remarkable scene of the success of Christianity in modern times, has been the South Sea Islands. I do not enter into the particulars of the change which has been effected there, they are familiar to yousuffice it to observe in general, that, viewed in all its bearings, it is, perhaps, the greatest which the history of the church records since the day of Pentecost. Can we reflect upon these facts without exclaiming, “What hath God wrought?". May they not be regarded as pledges of future, and still greater, triumphs of the gospel ; and should they not animate Christians to persevere in their pious labours? Who will now venture to call the conversion of the heathen a visionary project? “ What art thou, O great mountain ? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”
The statements of the missionaries as to the change in the South Sea Islands, I am aware, have been controverted; nay, it has been asserted that the character and condition of their inhabitants, so far from being improved, have been greatly corrupted and deteriorated by the introduction of the gospel. This is a heavy charge. Does it surprise you? It ought not. In it, we have only an instance of
what has been the practice of the enemies of vital religion, in every age since the days of the Apostles. Review the history of the church ; and wherever the gospel has obtained any signal victory, you will uniformly find them “contradicting and blaspheming.” The charge must appear, to every person who is acquainted with the gospel, improbable in the extr ne. The gospel of purity and peace the cause of corruption and misery! With as much plausibility might it be affirmed, that the sun was the cause of darkness. But we are not left to presumptive evidence, we have direct and positive proof of its falsehood. Numerous witnesses, of high character, of different nations, and altogether unconnected with missionary institutions, have borne testimony to the inestimable advantages which the inhabitants of these islands have derived from the labours of the missionaries, and the preaching of the gospel. But I must not follow out these remarks.
I go on to observe that there are many circumstances at present in the situation of our own country, of the other kingdoms of Europe, and of heathen nations, which are highly favourable to the missionary enterprize, and hold out the greatest encouragement to its friends. In particular, it has been alleged, that in most of the systems of superstition in the different parts of the earth, we may clearly discern the marks of old age and decay. “No such singular conjuncture of symptoms throughout the world," it is maintained," has ever before invited the activity and zeal of Christians; and if the pressure of responsibility is at all times great upon them, it has acquired now a treble weight, inasmuch as it seems as if the antagonist powers were just drawing off from the field.” “This, this, then," continues the eloquent author, whose words I have been quoting, “is the hour for the hosts of the Lord to snatch their
weapons Whatever may be thought of these remarks on the decrepitude of the different systems of superstition, the issue of the contest, Christians, in which you are engaged is not doubtful, you do not fight uncertainly. It is declared in holy Scripture, that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the
The Amen, the faithful and the true witness, has assured us, that the gospel of the kingdom shall be preached for a testimony to all nations, before the end shall come. On these predictions you may rely with unwavering confidence: their accomplishment is secured by Almighty power. We, perhaps, may not live to witness the final and universal triumph of the gospel; it is not for us to know the
and be up.
times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power; but though we should not, we shall not lose our reward. Our exertions will be the means of contributing to this happy consummation ; we shall thus participate in its glory, and, in the heavenly state, enjoy the peculiar honours and blessedness, allotted to those who have been the instruments of saving souls from death, and of turning many to righteousness.
Thus, my brethren, have I shortly commented on the words of the Apostle, "Striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In my remarks I have not always been very careful to distinguish betwixt the success of Christianity at home and its communication to the heathen, on account of the intimate connexion of the two objects. It has been justly observed, “ so mutual is their progress that it is difficult to separate them even in thought; and the action and reaction of their common movements not only conjoined, but mutually accelerating and augmenting."*
Permit me, in the conclusion of the sermon, to commend the Society, of which I am the unworthy advocate, to your Christian regards. Let it have a place in your morning and evening devotions. Beseech God that his Spirit may rest upon the Directors, as the spirit of wisdom and power, of love and of a sound mind. Beseech him to augment its resources, to bless its missionaries, and to prosper their exertion. Endeavour by your individual and united efforts, in your different stations and according to your influence, to promote its interests. And, in addition to your prayers and exertions in your different spheres of life, let me solicit at present your pecuniary liberality. The claims which it has to your support, and the support of all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, are many and strong. Among its recommendations, none of the least, in my eyes, and I am persuaded in yours also, are its catholic fundamental principles. Its object is not to propagate the faith of a party, but the faith of the gospel ; the common salvation, in which all the friends of the Redeemer, notwithstanding their differences on minor points, are cordially agreed. Need I further remind you of the magnitude, extent, and variety of its operations. At its stations, sixty-eight in number, in the several quarters of the globe, it has more than six hundred agents, Europeans and natives; nearly four hundred schools, and twenty-one thousand scholars. The blessing of God is obviously resting upon the labours of its agents ; and new scenes and opportunities of