« PreviousContinue »
My Brethren, we are placed in a station which, like every other eminence, has in it something very awful and dangerous, as well as pleasant and honourable. We shall be no common, but most eminent, blessings or curses, both to our flocks and our own souls. Woe to us, if we possess not eminent personal religion! Let us see that, as we make a more public profession, we may have more secret devotion. If the tree which towers on high, strikes not its roots proportionably deep, it will be surely overthrown by the blast. We watch over the flock of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood, and sound the alarm if we see a soul declining ; but we ourselves must go to the Shepherd and Bishop of Souls in secret, that he may watch over our souls, and preach much to us by his Spirit and his word. By more secret religion we must supply the want of those privileges which other Christians enjoy. When religion is our element, when we breathe the atmosphere of Heaven, and live only for our Lord and his work, we shall bless him for it: we shall pity princes, and scarcely envy angels. But, when we lose this, which ought to be our spirit, we shall be lashed into the pulpit as to the pillory. Be assured, our flocks know better than we think, whether our religion flourishes or droops. I have been overwhelmed with confusion to see a heavenly-minded Christian sigh over the deadness and carnality of his minister, whom he yet struggles to love as well as he can, and to screen from shame as far as truth would allow. But, oh! how opposite the sensations I have felt when the beloved 'flock has triumphed and gloried to say, “Our pastor is a man of God; he has a right to teach us, for he knows more of God and religion than we !"
Your Study will sympathize with your Closet. When it goes well with our own souls, we find too much work cut out for us, to have any time to lose in idle gossip; we shall study to approve ourselves to God workmen that need not be ashamed:"-" we shall give ourselves wholly to these things.” To our dying day we shall feel abundant need to study the theology of the Bible. A thousand schemes of usefulness will arise, which will need to be digested with study: if we are men of the right stamp, we shall wear out many a pen in our Master's service. My dear brethren, how disgraceful it is to us to be lounging about, as if we had nothing to do! hindering our people who are hard at work to support us in our idleness, when we lave inore reason to be industrious than they can have! The Lord, who ordained that they who preach the gospel should live by it, ncver intended we should have a lazy moment; but he will bless the industrious use of our time and talents; and the church, v:hose bolily labours afford us opportunity to give ourselves to mental and spiritual employments, will be edified and delighted by the evidence of a laborious life, consecrated to God.
From the closet and the study you will find an casy step to
the pulpit. You will not dread Black Sunday as the children do Black Monday, nor be dragged to the assembly “ as a tool to the stocks," if the preceding week has been properly employed. Innumerable edifying views, reflections, sentences, and anecdotes will have occurred to our mind, to enrich our public services. In prayer, borne by the Spirit's impulse to the very throne of God, we shall, by a spiritual attraction, draw our congregation with us. Instead of a dull sameness, which makes them suspect we have learned a form, they will perceive the rich, though unstudied, variety of a soul embosoming its most secret thoughts and emotions before its Father. Such prayers will make them pray. Instead of this, I bleed to think how some of us have extinguished our people's gifts and graces by the coldness of our own !
But our preaching, that most awful, delightful, part of our work, demands our most solemn regard. When we are light and trifling, our choice of subjects will be like ourselves : but, when right-minded, our texts will be serious as our own souls, and evangelical as our views. Oh! what care shall we then bestow, rightly to understand the mind of the Spirit in the Scriptures, to present the pure truth of God before the minds of the hearers, with all the clearness of light, so that the simplest may not be able to misunderstand, except blinded by a carnal mind! Our own souls, filled with the infinite, eternal importance of the truth, will not suffer us to be contented with a cold statement, however clear; but we shall pour forth burning words from a heart all on fire with redeeming love. Then we shall and may venture to be faithful, and the hearers will be bound to receive it,-feeling that it is not the mere man indulging a censorious spirit, and venting his own passions ; but a something divine in him, labouring for their souls at the hazard of their frowns.
Our visits, my honoured brethren, will then be like those of Jesus, or of Paul, who taught not only publicly, but from house to house. Our charge will not then say (woe to us if they do!) • Here is our minister : we must get a pipe and something to drink, and prepare for a good laugh, or a dish of politics ;' but they will say in their hearts, ' Now I hope for a time of refreshing to my soul; for a list from earth, which draws me up towards the Heaven to which I aspire. My soul has wept in secret to hear Christians complain, 'Our minister seems to have had religion enough in the pulpit, for he takes care never to introduce it into the parlour. All his piety consists in preaching, and yet he tells us we must have more than lies in hearing.' My dearly beloved brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, I entreat you, by the blood of the Saviour shed for the church, by the value of ihe souls for whom he bled, by the Holy Ghost, who hath made us overseers of rouse our souls, and call upon our Lord, that, from his fulness, He may shed on us the grace to devote the ensuing year to his service, as those who must give an account. Oh ! let not the churches of the living God be scattered, and dying, as, alas ! they too often have been, through our ignorance, sloth, pride, impurity, covetousness, and passion! Tremble, my brethren, at the dreadful re-action of your own follies and sins, when you shall feel you have to do with a miserable people, destitute of the spirit of true religion! Tremble, oh my soul ! lest thy negligence, unfaithfulness, and sins, in thy Lord's work, should provoke him to leave thee to the commission of some sins, which would cause the enemy to blaspheme, and disqualify thee for the office of a bishop, who must be blameless." Then what anguish would rend the soul! Then the most laborious life, in the meanest part of the Lord's vineyard, would seem to thee a privilege of inestimable worth. This year may be the last of our ministry! Oh! let it be spent in watching for souls as those that must give account ! Our Master has called to his reward, one whose life and labours are a pattern to us all : he finished his work before evening; but he lived much in little time. Hearken to this loud call to encreased diligence, that we may supply his lack of service. Oh! that, having laboured like him, we may hear the chief Shepherd say, “ Well done, thou good and faithful servant, receive a crown of life which fadeth mot away.”
* Brother Moody, of Warwick.-Several others will be found among our Recent Deaths.
THE CIVILIZATION OF THE HEATHEN NOT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY BEFORE THEIR CONVERSION.
Several writers, not very friendly to the exertions of the Missionary Society
and other Christians to evangelize the Heathen, have not been sparing of abuse, when they have referred to the praiseworthy efforts made at Otaheite and other places, the inhabitants of which have not been in a state of civilization. Many excellent sentiments have been advanced by various authors in their sermons and other publications, to prove that the rudest as well as the most polished nations, have gladly received the word of life when it has been offered to them. But as some of your readers may not have received full satisfaction on this head, I beg leave to introduce to their attention the following Remarks, taken from a note to a Missionary Sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Mason, before the New York Missionary Society.
“ An objection,” says he, “ to missions among the Indians, or other savages, which many view as unanswerable, is, “ That some considerable progress in civilization is previously necessary to prepare a people for the reception of Christianity. You must first make them men,' say the patrons of this opinion, before you make them Christians. You must teach them to live in fixed habitations, to associate in villages, to cultivate the soil,
and then you may hope that they will hicar and understand when you unfold the sublime principles of the Gospel *.'
“ Plausible and popular as this objection is, it is equally unsupported by reason, by Scripture, or by fact.
“ If the gospel cannot succeed among the Indians, for example, the obstacle must be either in their understandings, or in their manner of life.
“ The former opinion supposes a wider difference between the understanding of the man of the woods and the man of the city than what does, in fact, take place. The human mind is not, in any country, below the reach of discipline and religious instruction. The American Indian, the Pacific Islander, and the African Negro, are shrewd men, whose intellectual capacity will not suffer in comparison with the uneducated classes of people on the continent of Europe t. Why should it, since it is culture, and that alone, which destroys the level of abilities naturally cqual ? Surely the Indian, whose necessities compe! bim not only to hunt and fish for his subsistence, but to be, in a great measure, his own artificer, as well as the guardian of his private and public right, must be superior, in point of general understanding, to those vast bodies of Europeans whose intelligence the division of labour has contined to a detached article of manufacture, or to the merely servile operations of agriculture. Indeed, all the national transactions with the Indians shew them to possess great acuteness, and no small share of what learning cannot bestow,
How seldom will you find (I do not say among the vulgar, but among the polished orders of society) better specimens of well-formed ideas, and of genuine eloquence, than are frequent in the Indian talks!
" If, on the other hand, their manner of life be considered as presenting the decisive obstacle, this opinion supposes it much more difficult to alter outward habits than inward principles, Christians will not dispute that the gospel can and does transform both the heart and the character; yet it is thought unable to overcome a propension to wandering from place to place. The plain meaning of the objection, therefore, is this : That some means, more powerful than the gospel, must be applied to civilize the Indians, and prepare them for its reception; for if it be admitted that the gospel can civilize as well as save, the objection falls at once to the ground. But if its power to civilize be denied, whilst its power to save is admitted, it becomes the objectors to shew the reason of this distinction; and also what those more effectual means of civilization are. Be they what they may, since the gospel is excluded, they must be merely human ; and then the principle of the objection turns out to be this:- That the wisdom of man is better adapted to civilize the Indians than the wisdom of God!
* Dr. Hardy's (of Edinburgh) Sermon before the Society, in Scotland, for Propagating Religious Knowledge, p. 14.
't Ibid. p. 15.
“ Further : The objection supposes that savages are to be civilized without any religious aid ; - for whatever arguments prove the utility, in this matter, of religion at all, conclude, with tenfold energy, in favour of the religion of Christ. But to neglect the religious principle, would be to neglect the most potent auxiliary which can be employed in managing human nature, and to act in the spirit of that wise philosophy which would erect Civil Society upon the basis of Atheism.
“ It would swell this note into a dissertation, to state the various considerations which militate against the idea of civilizing the Indians before we attempt to christianize them. But granting this for a moment to be necessary, Who shall effect it? Philosophers ? Merchants? Politicians? If we wait for them, the sun will expend his last light, and the business be unfinished. The Indians have had intercourse with the whites, in the concerns of trade and policy, nearly two hundred years, and most of them are as wild as ever. To put off evangelical missions to them, till, in the ordinary course of things, they become civilized, is, therefore, equivalent to putting them off for ever.
“2. If the opinion, That the gospel can succeed only among civilized people, receives little countenance from reason, it receives less from Scripture.
“ No such restriction of its influence is contemplated in prophecy. Its universal reception is the subject of numbertess predictions ; but they contain not a hint that the want of civi. ization shall be such a bar to its progress as is commonly imagined. On the contrary, it is expressly declared, that the most roving and untutored tribes shall rejoice in Messiah's salvation, even while they retain their unpolished characters and
“Sing unto the Lord a new song! Let the wilderness and the cities therefore lift up their voice, - the villages that Kedar doth inhabit! Let the inhabitants of the rock sing ! Let them shout from the tops of the mountains + !" Beyond all controversy, the general sense of the prophet, in the words of that elegant scholar Bishop Lowth, is, ihat the most uncultivated countries, and the most rude and uncivilized people, shall confess and celebrate, with thanksgiving, the blessing of the knowledge of God, graciously imparted to them ř.' And he particularizes, as an example, those wild Arabs, who, in every point of comparison, were as inaccessible to the gospel as the American Indians.
“No such restriction was thought of by the apostle Paul : he was a debtor not more to the Greeks than to the barbarians $. He maintains that, in the body of Christ, “there is neither Greek nor Jew, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free:'-a position which evidently assumes, that barbarians or Scythians might be Chris tians no less than Jews or Greeks, bondmen or free.
* Or tents.
+ Isaiah xlii. 10, 11. Translation of Isaiah, Notes, p. 198, 4o. 5 Rom. i. 14. Col. iii. Il,