THOUGHTS ON MISSIONS.
by the Late
REV. SHELDON DIBBLE,
Missionary in the Sandwich Islands.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.—MARK 16:15.
Go—teach all nations.—MATT. 28:19.
Prove all things—hold fast that which is good.—1 THES. 5:21.
Published by the American Tract Society, 150 Nassau-Street, New-York.
THE TRUE SPIRIT OF MISSIONS. PAGE.
Lowliness and condescension, like our Saviour's, essential to missionary character, 18
The true Missionary is ready, like Christ, to endure suffering for the good of others, 21
The true Missionary, like his Master, waits not to be urged and entreated, 24
The true Missionary, like the Saviour, feels no less compassion and love to the heathen on account of their ingratitude and enmity towards him, 26
All we have belongs to God, 32
To occupy all our powers for God, we must equal the engagedness and enterprise of worldly men, 34
How much faithful stewards may consume on themselves and children, 40
The best use of a large capital, 46
Money not the main thing needed, 50
The luxury and honor of being God's stewards, 56
GUILT OF NEGLECTING THE HEATHEN.
Prospects of the heathen for eternity, 64
Peculiar advantages of the American churches to carry abroad the Gospel of Christ, 69
Do we pray for the heathen as much as we ought? 73
Do we give as much as we ought to evangelize the heathen? 75
Do we go and instruct the heathen as we ought? 81
Why are the heathen lost? 85
THE SAVIOUR'S LAST COMMAND.
Excuses of Christians for not doing more to evangelize the heathen, 102
LAYMEN CALLED TO THE FIELD OF MISSIONS.
Labors of the first disciples, dispersed from Jerusalem by persecution, 111
To elevate all nations requires a great variety of laborers, 116
Reasons why laymen should engage in the work of Missions, 130
CLAIMS OF MISSIONS ON MINISTERS OF INFLUENCE.
Separation of Barnabas and Saul for the Missionary work, 134
The present distribution of ministers anti-apostolic, 141
Insufficient excuses of pastors for remaining at home, 147
Other excuses of pastors that have weight, but are not sufficient, 155
Necessity that some pastors of influence and talent should become Missionaries, 161
Some excuses common to pastors and to candidates for the ministry, 169
IMPORT OF THE GREAT COMMISSION.
Responsibility not peculiar to Missionaries, 178
The fallacy of endeavoring to convert the world by proxy, 181
No cheap or easy way of converting the world, 191
Some rules that may be of use in agitating the question of becoming Missionaries, 194
TRIALS TO BE MET.
Difficulties in the way of training children on heathen ground, 201
Reasons in the minds of Missionaries for not sending their children home, 210
Other thoughts about Missionaries' children, 218
Entire consecration of children, not a duty peculiar to Missionaries, 222
TO MY CLASSMATES IN THEOLOGY.
DEAR BRETHREN IN CHRIST:—Few periods of our lives can be called to mind with so much ease and distinctness, as the years which we spent together in theological studies. The events of that short season, and the sentiments we then indulged, are clothed with a freshness and interest which the lapse of time cannot efface.
Among the questions that occupied our thoughts, no one perhaps was so absorbing, or attended with such deep and anxious feeling, as that which respected the field of labor to which each should devote his life. And many of us then, I remember, made a mutual engagement, that if spared and permitted for years to labor in different portions of the vineyard of the Lord, we would communicate to each other our mature views in regard to the claims of different fields.
Thirteen years have elapsed; and I propose to fulfil my engagement, by expressing, in the form of the present little volume, the views which I now entertain in regard to the claims of foreign lands. To you, my beloved classmates, the book is specially addressed; and if I use a frankness and freedom, which might possibly be construed into presumption, if I were addressing strangers and elder brethren, I am sure that I shall fall under no such imputation when communicating my thoughts to you. I wish to express my thoughts familiarly, as we used to do to each other, and at the same time with the earnestness and solemnity which one ought always to feel when pleading for the perishing heathen.
A free, full, and earnest discussion of such sentiments as those contained in this book, had no small influence, under God, in preparing the way for that extensive work of grace at these islands, which has been denominated the Great Revival. At the General meetings of the mission in the month of May of 1836 and 1837, the main doctrines of this volume were thoroughly canvassed, and with deep effect upon every member present. Our feelings were enlisted, our hearts were warmed, and our thoughts were absorbed by the great topic of the world's conversion. The theme, in all its amazing import and solemn aspects, was allowed to take possession of our souls. It gave importunity to prayer, earnestness and unction to our conversation and sermons, and zeal, energy, and perseverance to every department of our work; and the result was soon apparent in the wide-spread and glorious revival.
It can almost be said, therefore, that the main sentiments of this volume have received the impress of the Divine approbation.
In the fall of 1837, I was constrained by family afflictions and the failure of my own health, to embark for the United States. As I began to breathe the bracing air of Cape Horn, my strength in a measure revived, and having no other employment on board ship, I sketched the outlines of most of the chapters of this little volume. My heart was full of the theme in the discussion of which I had taken part before my embarkation, and I penned my thoughts freely, amidst the tossings of the ship and the care of two motherless children.
On my arrival in the United States, I revised and filled up the outlines I had sketched, and delivered them, in connection with various historical lectures, at several places, as Providence gave me opportunity. Now, having returned to these islands, I have thought best to give the chapters a second revision, to dedicate the whole to you, and with the help of the press to send you each a copy, accompanying it with my prayers and my most affectionate salutations. And may I not expect, beloved classmates, that you will read the book with candor, weigh well its arguments, admit its entreaties to your hearts, as those of your former associate, and act in accordance with the convictions of duty?
Among the considerations that have prompted me to the train of thought contained in this book, as well as to the views interwoven in my history of the Sandwich Islands, I may mention, as not the least weighty and prominent, a dutiful respect and filial obedience to the instructions delivered to me, in connection with others, by the wise and devoted EVARTS, on the eve of our embarkation for the foreign field. The delivery of those instructions was his last effort of the kind, and they may therefore be regarded as the parental accents of his departing spirit. On that occasion of interest, to which memory can never be treacherous, a part of the charge to us was in the following words:
"From the very commencement of your missionary life, cultivate a spirit of enterprise. Without such a spirit, nothing great will be achieved in any human pursuit; and this is an age of enterprise, to a remarkable and unprecedented extent. In manufactures, in the mechanic arts, in agriculture, in education, in the science of government, men are awake and active; their minds are all on the alert; their ingenuity is tasked; and they are making improvements with the greatest zeal. Shall not the same enterprise be seen in moral and religious things? Shall not missionaries, especially, aim at making discoveries and improvements in the noblest of all practical sciences—that of applying the means which God has provided, for the moral renovation of the world?
"There are many problems yet to be solved before it can be said, that the best mode of administering missionary concerns has been discovered. What degree of expense shall be incurred in the support of missionary families, so as to secure the greatest possible efficiency with a given amount of money; how to dispose of the children of missionaries, in a manner most grateful to their parents, and most creditable to the cause; in what proportion to spend money and time upon the education of the heathen, as a distinct thing from preaching the Gospel; how far the press should be employed; by what means the attention of the heathen can be best gained at the beginning; how their wayward practices and habits can be best restrained and corrected; how the intercourse between missionaries and the Christian world can be conducted in the best manner, so as to secure the highest responsibility, and the most entire confidence; and how the suitable proportion between ministers of the Gospel retained at home, and missionaries sent abroad, is to be fixed in practice, as well as in principle: all these things present questions yet to be solved. There is room for boundless enterprise, therefore, in the great missionary field, which is the world."
I have not attempted to discuss all the topics here named, but have endeavored to cultivate in some degree, as enjoined in the paragraph, a spirit of enterprising inquiry.
If this book shall impart any light on the interesting topic of Christian duty to the heathen, and be owned by the Saviour, in the great day, as having contributed, though but in a small degree, towards that glorious consummation of which the prophets speak, and to which we all look forward, I shall be richly rewarded.
Your affectionate classmate,
LAHAINALUNA, Feb. 17, 1844.
THOUGHTS ON MISSIONS.
THE TRUE SPIRIT OF MISSIONS.
The apostles, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, uniformly enforce their exhortations by tender appeals to the example, sufferings, and death of their ascended Lord. Is humility inculcated? the argument is, Christ "humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Is purity of life enjoined? the plea is, Christ "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people." Is liberality required? we are pointed to Christ, who, "though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich." Is entire consecration to Christ enjoined? the appeal is, "he died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them and rose again."
In like manner, in gaining a true idea of the spirit of missions, the proper course evidently is, to look at once at the missionary character of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was indeed a missionary. He came to save the lost. He was a missionary to us. He came to save us.
We had wandered and were lost. We were guilty and condemned. We were in a state of despair. Nothing within the compass of human means could avail in the least to avert the impending wrath of God. All wisdom became foolishness. All resource was futile. Not a ray of hope remained—not the least flickering gleam. Whichever way the eye turned, there was darkness—horror—despair. But Christ came, and hope again visited the earth. It was when we were helpless—hopeless—justly exposed to the horrors and agonies of the world of woe, that Jesus undertook his mission, and appeared for our relief.
This truth cannot be too deeply impressed upon us, here, at the very threshold of our inquiries in regard to the spirit of missions; and to spread it out distinctly before our minds, let us take a simple illustration.
You are a captive in a foreign land, and have long been immured in a deep, damp, and gloomy dungeon. Sorrow, sighing, and tears have been your meat day and night. Anguish, gloom, and a fearful looking for of death, combined with hunger, cold, and a bed of straw, have induced disease, wasted your flesh, destroyed every energy, and entirely drank up your spirits. Sentence of death is pronounced against you, and the day fixed for your execution. The massive walls and iron grating look down sternly upon you, and rebuke at once all hope of escape. Entreaties, tears, and the offer of gold and silver have been tried, but in vain. Effort and means have given place to horror and despair. The prospect before you is the scaffold, the block, a yawning grave, and a dread eternity. In this extremity a friend appears, and offers to be substituted in your place. The offer is accepted. You, pale, emaciated, and horror-stricken, are brought from your dungeon to behold once more the light of day. The irons are knocked off from your hands and feet—your tattered garments exchanged for cleanly apparel—and a ship is in readiness to convey you to the land of your birth and the bosom of your friends. The vital current of your soul, so long chilled and wasted, now flows again with warmth and vigor; your eyes are lighted up, and tears of joy burst forth like a flood. But, in the midst of your joy, you are told of your deliverer. You turn, and behold! the irons that were upon you are fastened upon him—he is clothed in your tattered garments—is about to be led to your gloomy dungeon—lie on your bed of straw, and thence to be taken in your stead to the scaffold or the block. You throw yourself at his feet, and entreat him to desist; but when you find his purpose fixed, you finally wish you had a thousand hearts to feel the gratitude you owe, and ten thousand tongues to give it utterance.
The Lord Jesus Christ has done for us all this, and unspeakably more. We were under condemnation. The sentence of God's righteous law was against us. The flaming sword of Divine vengeance was unsheathed. All above and around us were the dark frowns of the Almighty and the red lightnings of his wrath. Beneath us was not merely a damp dungeon, but the bottomless pit yawning to receive us, and its flames ascending to envelope our guilty souls. There was no escape. The prospect was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth—the agony of Jehovah's frown forever. In this extremity the Saviour appeared—substituted himself in our stead—bare our sins in his own body on the tree—received upon his own agonized soul what was our due, and thus delivered us from the untold horrors of eternal death, and opened before us the gate of heaven.
To save the lost, then, was the spirit of Christ. The apostles imbibed this spirit. It is the spirit of missions. The heathen are in a lost condition. If we have the spirit of Christ we shall do what we can to save them. The spirit of missions is not something different from, or superadded to, the Christian spirit, but is simply, essentially, and emphatically the spirit of Christ. It is compassion for the perishing; and such compassion as leads the possessor to put forth strenuous efforts, and to undergo, if need be, the severest sufferings.
As we shall look somewhat in detail at the manifestations of the spirit of Christ, we shall see very evidently the great outlines of what alone is worthy to be called the true spirit of missions.
Look at the condescension of Christ, and learn a lesson of duty towards the destitute and degraded of our race. The Son of God, by whom were all things created that are in heaven and that are in earth, whether they be thrones or dominions, principalities or powers; who upholdeth all things by the word of his power; before whom ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands prostrate themselves, ascribing power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing; of whom it is said, "Every knee shall bow to him, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth"—the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God: this Infinite Being empties himself of his glory, and comes down to toil, suffer and die—and for whom? For us worms of the dust, insects that are crushed before the moth.
If the Saviour had come to our relief, clothed with the glory of heaven and surrounded by his holy angels, even that would have been a stoop of amazing condescension. But look at the babe of Bethlehem, born in a stable, and cradled in a manger; follow him to Egypt, and then back to Nazareth. What humility, lowliness, and condescension! Look at the Saviour in his public ministry. You find him oftenest among the poor, and always so demeaning himself as to be the one that was "meek and lowly in heart." His chosen walk was such, that it could be said with emphasis, "to the poor the Gospel is preached."
Such was the spirit of Christ and such his condescension! Such was the spirit of the apostles. They took much notice of the poor, and charged Paul and Barnabas, when going forth on their mission, especially to remember them. What else, I ask, is a missionary spirit, but to be willing to labor with self-denial and perseverance to elevate and save the low and the vile? Natural men, in the pride of their hearts, are inclined to look down upon the wretched—to regard them with that kind of loathing and disgust which disinclines them to make sacrifices in their behalf. This dislike is such that I have often thought it to be a favor to the heathen, that they are far off and out of sight; for if they were near and directly around many professed Christians, with all their defilement and ugliness in full view, much of the apparent sympathy for them which now exists, would be turned into contempt and cold neglect. But if such had been the superficial and ill-founded character of Christ's compassion, where should we have been at this present hour? There is not a wretch now wallowing in the deepest mire of sin, who is so vile and low in our eyes, as we all were in the eyes of infinite purity. Yet the more wretched we were, the more deeply did Christ feel for us. This spirit of Christ is the only true spirit of missions—the only spirit that will make self-denying, continued, and persevering efforts to save the heathen.
There is no romance in the practical and every-day duties of a missionary. The work is of a humble form, and emphatically toilsome. There is but little true missionary spirit in the world. It is not the sympathy of an hour, nor an enthusiasm awakened by romance, but the pure love of Christ in the soul, constraining the possessor to pray earnestly, and to labor cheerfully without notice or applause, for the lowest human objects; and which finds a rich and sufficient reward for a life of toil in leading one ignorant slave, one degraded outcast, or one vile heathen, to accept the offers of salvation. My observation in the field for thirteen years testifies to the fact, that no sympathy or enthusiasm will come down to the arduous details of missionary work, and persevere in it for years, that does not flow from such genuine and permanent love as our Saviour manifested when here upon earth. The more we become like Christ, the more shall we possess of the true missionary character.
How slow we are to make real sacrifices for the good of others! It was not so with Christ. He chose, for our good, to become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief—to be rejected, despised and hated—to become a mark for the bitterest rage and the finger of scorn.
Go to the garden of Gethsemane. There behold, what even the pencil of the angel Gabriel cannot fully portray. There, in the stillness of the night, the Saviour retires to give vent to the bursting emotions of his soul. Deep sorrow, keen anguish, and excruciating agony roll in, like continuous surges, upon his tender spirit. His strength fails. Low he lies on the cold earth, and the drops from his pale and agonized features, like the clammy sweat of death—no, "like drops of blood"—fall to the ground.
But the agony of his spirit does not perturb the submission of his soul, nor shake the steadfastness of his purpose. The furious mob arrive, and he calmly yields himself to their disposal. See him in the judgment-hall —meek under insults, forgiving under buffetings and abuse, submissive and quiet under the agonizing scourge. Then behold him, as faint from his gashes and his pains, and sinking under a heavy cross, he slowly moves towards Calvary. Look on, if your eyes can bear the sight. The rough spikes are driven through his feet and his hands—the cross is erected—the Lord of glory hangs between two thieves:—there, his torn, bleeding, writhing and excruciated body is to wear out its vitality in protracted agony. But all this suffering was as a drop in his cup of anguish. O the deep—fathomless, untold agony of his soul, when under the hidings of his Father's face he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!"
All this suffering and agony the Infinite Son of God endured, that we might be saved. He had a vivid and perfect view of all this, and yet voluntarily assumed it that we might live.
In view of such an example, what shall we say? If the Lord of glory shrunk not from ignominy and scorn, untold agony, exquisite torture and the most cruel death, can any one possess much of his spirit, and yet consider it too much to forego some of the comforts and delights of this fleeting life, and to labor and toil with perseverance and self-denial on a foreign shore, to instruct the destitute and the dying—to enlighten the millions and hundreds of millions of heathen, who have never heard the precious name of Jesus, and are entirely ignorant of the consolations of his grace? Is it too much, even to expose one's self to an early grave in a sultry clime, if necessary, that some ray of hope may break in upon the gloom of the benighted and perishing nations? God be praised, that the prospect of death did not daunt the spirit of the self-denying Jesus!
O, how has a feeling of shame and deep humiliation come over my spirit, as I have heard the objection, that "Missionaries and missionaries' wives especially go forth to die!" Thanks to the continued grace of God, that some of this spirit of Jesus—the self-sacrificing spirit, the spirit of devotement, even unto death—still exists on earth. Let the objector inquire seriously, whether much of it reigns in his own bosom; and whether in proportion as he is destitute of it, he be not lacking not only in the spirit of missions, but in the spirit of Christ, without which it is impossible to be a disciple. For it is true not only of missionaries, but equally of all Christians, that they are not their own—that they are bought with a price; and are under obligations of entire consecration, each in his appropriate sphere, that are as high as heaven and as affecting as the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary. And we are bound, equally with the early disciples, to count it not only a duty, but "all joy" to labor, suffer and die, if necessary, for Christ's sake, and in the good work which he has given us to do.
Did we become sensible of our lost condition? Did we with one accord lift up our penitent and broken-hearted cries to the God of mercy, that he would provide a way for our salvation? Did the angels intercede in our behalf that the Saviour would come? No: self-moved he appeared for our relief. He beheld us wedded to our sinful courses; unwilling to be taken from the pit into which we had plunged ourselves, and clinging with unyielding grasp to the very instruments of our ruin—strangely enamored with the very vampires that were preying upon our souls. The more disinclined we were to sue for mercy, the more the Saviour pitied us; for our very unwillingness to supplicate showed the depth of our ruin.
In like manner, the more indisposed any heathen nation may be to receive us to their shores, admit the light of the Gospel and partake of its blessings, the more deeply should we feel for them, and the more zealously labor for their salvation. That a nation has not called for our aid, but is resolutely determined to keep us at a distance, is a strong argument for being deeply interested in their behalf. Their very blindness and maniac disposition should call forth the deep commiseration of our souls. Such was the spirit of Christ. Such is the true spirit of missions. It is but a small measure of compassion to aid those who supplicate our assistance. The very blindness, guilt, madness and vile degradation of a people, should be to us a sufficient voice of entreaty. They were so to the heart of the precious Saviour, or he never would have undertaken the work of our redemption. O, when shall it be, that Christians and ministers of the Gospel shall arise self-moved, or rather moved by the spirit of Christ within them, and exert all their powers for the good of the perishing? when they shall not need appeal upon appeal, entreaty upon entreaty, and the visit of one agent after another, to remind them of duty, and to persuade them to do it?
It was not a world of penitents that the Saviour pitied, but a world of rebels—proud and stubborn rebels, ready to spurn every offer of reconciliation. He saw us, not on our knees pleading for mercy, but scorning the humble attitude of suppliants, and raising our puny arms against the authority of Heaven. He beheld us, not as the Ninevites once were, in sackcloth and ashes, but recklessly violating all his holy laws. It was in view of all the deformity, bitterness, rage and heaven-daring impiety of our naked hearts, that Christ left his throne of glory and died on the cross. It was for such beings that he voluntarily endured humiliation, toil, self-denial and death. He toiled and died for the ungodly. He came, though men despised his aid. He died even for his crucifiers.
Are the heathen guilty—covered with blood and black with crime? Do they exhibit many traits that are repulsive and horrid? Would our visit to them fill them with rage and bitterness, and tempt them to crucify us? What then? are we to relax our efforts for them, because they are ungodly? So did not Jesus Christ. Let us learn from his example, and imbibe his spirit. That man, who may be called a missionary, and yet is capable of being alienated in his feelings by ill-treatment, contempt, abuse and rage from the heathen, is not worthy of the name. That professed Christian, in whatever land he may reside, who loves a sinner less on account of the personal abuse he may suffer from him, has not the true missionary spirit, or, in other words, the spirit of Christ.
And here I would repeat the remark with emphasis, in accordance with all that I have said, that there is nothing peculiar in the spirit of missions, except what peculiarity there may be in the spirit of Christ—that it is what all must possess to be disciples, and without which no one can enter heaven. It is a spirit humble yet elevating, self-sacrificing yet joyful, intensely fervent yet reasonable, meek and yet resolute. It is all this indeed, but yet nothing more than what is required of every Christian; and therefore no excuse can be more absurd and contradictory in terms, than that sometimes made, "It is not my duty to go to the heathen, for I never had a missionary spirit;" for one professes to be a Christian, and yet excuses himself, on the ground of not having a missionary spirit, or in other words, of not being a Christian—of not being in possession of a fair title to heaven. O, remember, Christian reader, that the least desire to be excused shows a deplorable lack of the spirit of Christ.
On account of heavy domestic afflictions, and the failure of my own health, I was induced, a few years since, to visit the United States. Full well I remember my feelings when returning to my native land. I had been laboring among a heathen people, and impressions by the eye are deep and affecting. I had seen degradation and vileness, destitution and woe. I had a vivid impression of the urgent claim of the destitute and the dying; and I had formed some conception of the greatness of the work, if we would put forth the instrumentality needed to elevate and save them. And during a long voyage, I had time, not only to think of the Sandwich Islanders, but to cast my thoughts abroad over the wide world. The millions and hundreds of millions of our race often came up fresh before me, sunk in untold vileness, covered with abominations, and dropping one after another, as fast as the beating of my pulse—twenty millions a year—into the world of woe. Painful as it was, I could not avoid the deep and certain conviction, that such was their end.
Then I thought of the greatness of the task, if we would be the means, under God, of saving them from perdition: that we have idol gods without number to destroy—a veil of superstition forty centuries thick to rend—a horrible darkness to dispel—hearts of stone to break—a gulf of pollution to purify—nations, in God's strength, to reform and regenerate. With such thoughts the conviction forced itself upon me, that the work could not be done without an immense amount of means, and a host of laborers.
Think, then, how chilling and soul-sickening the intelligence that met me as I landed on my native shores, (in the spring of 1838,) that Christians were disheartened by the pressure of the times, and were receding from ground already taken: that the bread of life must not issue from the press, though millions were famishing for lack of it; that thirty heralds of salvation then standing on our shores must not embark, though the woes and agonies of dying souls were coming peal after peal on every wave of the ocean; that they must be turned aside from the perilous yet fond enterprise to which the love of Christ had constrained them, and that future applicants must be thereby discouraged—that missionaries abroad must be trammelled in their operations for want of means; and that multitudes of children and youth, the hope of the missions, gathered with much care, and partially instructed and trained with much expense of time, strength and money; the centre of solicitude, love, and interest; the adopted sons and daughters of the missionaries, must be sent back—in Ceylon three thousand in a day—to wallow again in pollution, bow down to gods of wood and stone, and wander, stumble and fall on the dark mountains of heathen superstition; a prey to the prowling monsters that lie thick and ready to devour in all the territory of Satan. Surely, thought I, (and had I not grounds for the thought?) Christians in America must be destitute of the common comforts of life: nothing but the direst necessity can induce them thus to surrender back to Satan the ground already taken and the trophies already gathered, and to put far off the hope of the latter day glory.
I looked abroad and made inquiries. I found indeed a derangement of currency and a stagnation of business. But did I find, think you, that Christians were destitute of the ordinary comforts of life? that they were in a distressing emergency for food and clothing? that their retrenchments had been made first in personal expenditures, and last in efforts to save souls? Alas! it was evident that the principal cause of the retraced movement was not found in the reverse of the times. It was found to lie deeper; and to consist in wrong views and wrong practice on the great subject of Christian stewardship. To this subject, then, my thoughts for a time were much directed, and I tried to look at it in view of a dying world, and a coming judgment. The subject, I perceived, lay at the foundation of all missionary effort; and my position and circumstances were perhaps advantageous for contemplating it in a just and proper light. Be entreated, therefore, Christian reader, to look at the subject in the spirit of candor and self-application.
* * * * *
A little heathen child was inquired of by her teacher, if there was anything which she could call her own. She hesitated a moment, and looking up, very humbly replied, "I think there is." "What is it?" asked the teacher. "I think," said she, "that my sins are my own."
Yes, we may claim our sins—they are our own; but everything else belongs to God. We are stewards; and a steward is one who is employed to manage the concerns of another—his household, money or estate. We are God's stewards. God has intrusted to each one of us a charge of greater or less importance. To some he has intrusted five talents, to others two, and to others one. The talents are physical strength, property, intellect, learning, influence—all the means in our possession for doing good and glorifying God. We can lay claim to nothing as strictly our own. Even the angel Gabriel cannot claim the smallest particle of dust as strictly his own. The rightful owner of all things, great and small, is God.
To be faithful stewards, then, we must fully occupy for God all the talents in our possession. A surrender, however, of all to God—of time, strength, mind and property, does not imply a neglect of our own real wants. A proper care of ourselves and families enters into God's arrangement. This is not only allowed, it is required of us; and if done properly and with a right spirit, it is a service acceptable to God. This is understood then, when we say, that all our talents must be occupied for God. With this understanding, there must be no reserve. Reserve is robbery. No less than all the heart and all our powers can be required of us—no less can be required of angels.
It is our reasonable service. We require the same of the agents we employ. Suppose a steward, agent or clerk, in the management of your money, your estate or your goods, devotes only a part to your benefit and uses the rest for himself, how long would you retain him in your employment? Let us beware, then, that we rob not God. Let us be faithful in his business, and fully occupy for him the talents intrusted to us. God has an indisputable right to everything in our possession; to all our strength, all our influence, every moment of our time, and demands that everything be held loosely by us, in perfect obedience to him. For us or for angels to deny this right, would be downright rebellion. For God to require anything less, would be admitting a principle that would demolish his throne.
No less engagedness certainly can be required of God's stewards, than worldly men exhibit in the pursuit of wealth and honor. Let us, then, look at their conduct and learn a lesson. They are intent upon their object. They rise early and sit up late. Constant toil and vigorous exertion fill up the day, and on their beds at night they meditate plans for the morrow. Their hearts are set on their object, and entirely engrossed in it. They show a determination to attain it, if it be within the compass of human means. Enter a Merchants' Exchange, and see with what fixed application they study the best plans of conducting their business. They keep their eyes and ears open, and their thoughts active. Such, too, must be the wakefulness of an agent, or they will not employ him. Notice also the physician who aspires to eminence. He tries the utmost of his skill. Look in, too, upon the ambitious attorney. He applies his mind closely to his cause that he may manage it in the best possible way.
Now, I ask, shall not the same intense and active state of mind be required of us, as God's agents or stewards? Can we be faithful stewards, and not contrive, study, and devise the best ways of using the talents that God has intrusted to us, so that they may turn to the greatest account in his service? Is not the glory of God and the eternal salvation of our ruined race, an object worthy of as much engagedness, as much engrossment of soul and determination of purpose, as a little property which must soon be wrapped in flames, or the flickering breath of empty fame? Be assured, we cannot satisfy our Maker by offering a sluggish service, or by putting forth a little effort, and pretending that it is the extent of our ability. We have shown what we are capable of doing, by our engagedness in seeking wealth and honor. God has seen, angels have seen, and we ourselves know, that our ability is not small, when brought fully into exercise. It is now too late to indulge the thought of deceiving either our Maker or our fellow men on this point. We can lay claim to the character of faithful stewards, only as we embark all our powers in serving God, as worldly men do in seeking riches, or a name.
Then, too, to be faithful, we must be as enterprising in the work that God has given us to do, as worldly men are in their affairs. By enterprising, I mean, bold, adventurous, resolute to undertake. Worldly men exhibit enterprise in their readiness to engage in large projects—in digging canals, in laying railroads, and in sending their ships around the globe. No port seems too distant, no depth too deep, no height too high, no difficulty too great, and no obstacle too formidable. They scarcely shrink from any business on account of its magnitude, its arduousness, or its hazard. A man is no longer famous for circumnavigating the globe. To sail round the world is a common trading voyage, and ships now visit almost every port of the whole earth. A business is no longer called great, where merely thousands of dollars are adventured; but in great undertakings, money is counted by millions. Such is the spirit of enterprise in worldly matters.
Now, I ask, are we not capable of as much enterprise in using the means ordained by Christ for rescuing souls from eternal burnings, and raising them to a seat at his right hand? Had the same enterprise been required of men in some former century, they might have plead incapacity. But it is too late now to plead incapacity. Unless we choose to keep back from God a very important talent, we must put forth this enterprise to its full extent in the great work of the world's conversion.
Such enterprise is needed. If the latter day glory is to take place through human instrumentality, can it be expected without some mighty movement on the part of the church? Can a work of such inconceivable magnitude be effected, till every redeemed sinner shall lay himself out in the enterprise, as worldly men do in their projects? If the promises of God are to be fulfilled through the efforts of men, what hope can there be of the glorious day, till men are resolute to undertake great things—not for themselves merely, but for God, their Maker and Redeemer.
Is it not a fact that will strike us dumb in the judgment, that it is the love of money, and not zeal for God, that digs canals, lays railroads, runs steamboats and packets, and, in short, is the main spring of every great undertaking? The love of money has explored the land and the seas, traced rivers in all their windings, found an entrance to almost every port, Christian or heathen, studied the character of almost every people, ascertained the products of every clime and the treasures of the deep, stationed agents in all the principal places, and in not a few ports, a hemisphere distant, erected shops, factories, and even sumptuous palaces.
Men exhibit no such enterprise in serving God. How many ships sail the ocean to carry the Gospel of Christ? And in ports where one magnificent Exchange after another is reared, stretching out its capacious arms, and towering towards heaven, how difficult it is to sustain a few humble boarding-houses for wandering seamen. Worldly enterprise is bold and active, and presses onward with railroad speed. Shall, then, Christian enterprise be dull and sluggish, deal in cents and mills, and move along at a very slow pace? The thought is too humiliating to be endured.
Suppose angels to be placed in our stead, would they, think you, be outdone by the seekers of wealth in deeds of enterprise? No: their cars would be the first in motion, and their ships the first on the wing. They would be the first to announce new islands, and the first to project improvements, and for what? that the Gospel might have free course and be glorified. Enterprise and action would then be exhibited, worthy of our gaze and admiration. "O! if the ransom of those who fell from heaven like stars to eternal night, could only be paid, and the inquiry of the Lord were heard among the unfallen, 'Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?' hold they back? No: they fly like lightning to every province of hell; the echo of salvation rolls in the outskirts as in the centre; a light shines in the darkest dungeon; the heaviest chains are knocked off, and they rest not till all is done that angels can do, to restore them to their former vacated seats in the realms of the blest."
But if angels would act thus, we too, as the stewards of God, ought to be the first in enterprise. God's work is infinitely more important than wealth or honor. And how shall we, in the judgment, be found faithful, if the seekers of wealth or the aspirants for renown are suffered to outstrip us on every side.
It is not faithfulness for any one to consume on himself or his children more of God's property than he really needs. Suppose you hold in your hand an amount of property. It is not yours you remember, for you are merely a steward. God requires that it be used to produce the greatest possible good. The greatest possible good, is the promotion of holiness in yourself and in others. Luxury, pride and vanity can lay no claim. Speculative knowledge, taste, and refinement must receive a due share of attention, but be kept in their place. Our real wants, of course, must be supplied. But what are our real wants—our wants, not our desires—our real wants, not those that are artificial and imaginary?
We really need for ourselves and families what is necessary to preserve life and health; we need a mental cultivation answerable to our profession or employment; need the means of maintaining a neat, sober and just taste; and we need too, proper advantages of spiritual improvement. Things of mere habit, fashion, and fancy may be dispensed with. Luxuries may be denied. Many things, which are called conveniences, we do not really need. If provision is to be made for all things that are convenient and pleasant, what room will remain for self-denial? Things deemed comfortable and convenient may be multiplied without limit—consume all of God's wealth, and leave the world in ruins. If the world were not in ruins, then it might be proper to seek not only the comforts, but even the elegancies of life.
Take a simple illustration: In the midst of the wide ocean I fall in with a crew floating on the few shattered planks of a hopeless wreck. I have a supply of water and a cask of bread, but the poor wrecked mariners are entirely destitute. Shall I keep my provisions for my own comfort, and leave these sufferers to pine away with hunger and thirst? But suppose I have not only bread and water, but many luxuries, while the men on the wreck are perishing for the want of a morsel of bread and a drop of water? And then, suppose I have casks of bread and other provisions to dispose of, and intend with the proceeds to furnish myself with certain of the conveniences and elegancies of life; and my mind is so fixed upon obtaining them, that I refuse to relieve the poor tenants of the wreck, and leave them to the lingering death of hunger and thirst. O, who of you would not shudder at the hardness of my heart and the blackness of my crime!
But the world dead in sin is surely a wreck. Millions upon millions are famishing for the bread and water of life. Their cry—their dying cry has come to our ears. Shall we then take that which might relieve them, and expend it in procuring conveniences, elegancies, and luxuries for ourselves? Can we do it, and be guiltless of blood?
But, perhaps here, some one may have the coolness to thrust in the common objection, that a man's style of living must correspond with his station in society. It is wonderful to what an extent this principle is applied. A man, it is said, cannot be a governor of a state, a mayor of a city, a member of Congress, or hold any high office, unless his house, his equipage, his dress and his table, exhibit some appearance of elegance and wealth; and if a man live in a large and opulent city, he must be somewhat expensive in his style of living, that he may exert an influence in the higher walks of society. Then, country towns, and small villages, take pattern of the large cities, and the plea goes down through every rank and every grade. Scarcely a Christian can be found, who is not familiar with the doctrine. It is a very convenient doctrine. In a qualified sense it may be true, but in its unlimited interpretation it may be made to justify almost every article of luxury and extravagance.
It seems to be conformity to the world, and the world has always been wrong. The principles of the Gospel have always been at variance with the maxims and customs of the world. Conformity is always suspicious.
Again, the doctrine cannot be applied to all places. Suppose a missionary conform to the society around him. Instead of raising up the heathen from their degradation, he would become a heathen himself. The descent to heathenism is easy. The influence of comparing ourselves with ourselves, and measuring ourselves by ourselves, is felt by those living among barbarians as well as at home, though the insidious influence leads in another direction. If there is a man on earth, who, more than any other, needs to cultivate neatness, taste and refinement, both in his mind and in his whole style of living, it is the man who is surrounded by a heathen population. Here, then, the rule contended for fails. Travel round the world, and how often will it fail?
Let us turn away, then, from this fickle standard, and look to reason enlightened by the Word of God. Shall we not then find, that substantially the same style of living that is proper in one latitude and longitude, is proper in another; substantially the same, paying only so much regard to the eyes of the world, as to avoid unnecessary singularity and remark; and that this rule, founded on the principles of the Gospel, makes a proper provision for health, mental cultivation, and a neat, sober and just taste? Are not these the real wants of men allowed by the Gospel, whether they live in London or in Ethiopia?
But the ground on which I choose to rest this inquiry more than any other, is the perishing condition of our dying race. Is fashion, splendor and parade, appropriate in a grave-yard, or in the chamber of the dead and dying? But the whole world is a grave-yard. Countless millions lie beneath our feet. Most of our earth, too, is at this moment a chamber of dying souls. Can we have any relish for luxuries, folly and needless expense, amidst the teeming millions commencing the agonies of eternal death?
I erect a splendid mansion; extend about it a beautiful enclosure; furnish it with every elegance; make sumptuous entertainments, and live in luxury and ease. In the midst of it, the woes and miseries of my ruined race are brought vividly before me—their present wretchedness and eternal agonies. And it is whispered in my ear, that these woes might have been relieved by the expense I have so profusely lavished. O! how like Belshazzar must I feel, and almost imagine that the groans of lost souls are echoed in every chamber of my mansion, and their blood seen on every ornament!
Let us have the love of Christ in our hearts, and then spread distinctly before us the world as it is—calculate the sum total of its present wretchedness and eternal woes. In such a world and as God's stewards, who can be at a loss in regard to the course of duty? When twenty millions of men every year are entering upon the untold horrors of the second death, and we are stewards to employ all means in our power for their salvation, O, away with that coldness that can suggest the necessity of conforming to the expensive customs of the world. May we, in heaven, find one of these souls saved through our instrumentality, and we can afford to forego all we shall lose by a want of conformity. There is a nobleness in taking an independent stand on the side of economy, and saving something to benefit dying souls. There is a heavenly dignity in such a course, infinitely superior to the slavish conformity so much contended for. It is an independence induced by the sublimest motives; a stand which even the world must respect, and which God will not fail to honor.
But how shall those possessing large capitals best employ them as stewards of God? I speak not of the hoarding of the miser; that would be a waste of breath. I speak not of property invested in stock that habitually violates the Sabbath. No remark is necessary in so plain a case. But I speak of large capitals, professedly kept to bring in an income for the service of the Redeemer. The subject is involved in many practical difficulties; and they who are business men have some advantages of judging in the case which I have not. I will therefore merely make one or two inquiries.
Is not the practice in many cases an unwise investment of God's funds? Is there not a reasonable prospect that one dollar used now, in doing good, will turn to more account than twenty dollars ten years hence? A Bible given now may be the means of a soul's conversion; and this convert may be instrumental in converting other souls, and may consecrate all his powers and property to God; so that when years shall have passed away, the one dollar given to buy the Bible may have become hundreds of dollars, and, with God's blessing, saved many precious souls. One pious young man trained for the ministry now, may be instrumental, before ten years shall expire, in bringing into the Lord's kingdom many immortal souls, with all their wealth and influence; and so the small sum expended now, become ten years hence entirely inestimable. The same may be said of a minister sent now to the heathen, instead of ten years hence; and the same, too, may be said of every department of doing good. It would appear then, that, in all ordinary cases, to make an immediate use of funds in doing good is to lay them out to the greatest possible interest; that by such a course we can be the means of peopling heaven faster than in any other way. We can hardly appreciate how much we save by saving time, and how much we lose by losing it. Worldly men, in their railroad and steam-packet spirit of the present day, seem to have caught some just sense of the importance of time, and we, in our enterprises to do good, must not be unmindful of it.
Again, is not the expenditure of property in the work of doing good, not only the most advantageous, but also the safest possible investment of God's funds? Whilst kept in capital, it is always exposed to greater or less risk. Fire may consume it. Floods may sweep it away. Dishonest men may purloin it. A gale at sea may bury it. A reverse of times may ingulf it. But when used in doing good, it is sent up to the safe-keeping of the bank of God; it is commuted into the precious currency of heaven; it is exchanged for souls made happy, and harps and crowns of gold.
Again, A. keeps a large property in capital, and therefore B. resolves to accumulate a large property, and then give the income. But whilst accumulating it, he not only leaves the world to perish, but also runs the risk of ruining his own soul—the awful hazard which always attends the project of becoming rich. And the result is, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, that the summons of death arrives before the promised beneficence is paid in.
In view of such considerations, would it not be wiser, safer, and very much better, in most instances at least, that the greater part of large capitals should be made use of at once in the service of the Redeemer?
It is said of Normand Smith, that "he dared not be rich;" and that "it became an established rule with him, to use for benevolent distribution all the means which he could take from his business, and still prosecute it successfully;" and that he charged a brother on his dying bed, to do good with his substance while living, and not suffer it to accumulate to be disposed of, at the last extremity, by will. Sound advice. A few other such men there have been in the world, and they are the SHINING LIGHTS. Their example is brilliant all over with true wisdom.
It is not acting always as faithful stewards, merely to accumulate wealth to promote the cause of Christ; for there may be more need of our personal service in disseminating the Gospel, than of any pecuniary means we can contribute. Christians are not faithful stewards, merely when they labor for Christ, but when they do that by which they may most promote the cause of Christ. The dissemination of Gospel truth is the great end to be aimed at, either directly or indirectly. Now, it is evident that many must further this object by accumulating the pecuniary means; but the danger is, that too many, far too many prefer this course. Many conclude, with perfect safety and justness, that in practising law or medicine, or in selling goods, in tilling a farm, or in laboring in a shop, they are doing as much to further the object as in any other way; but some, it is believed, come to such a conclusion either from mistaken views or mistaken motives. The fact that so large a proportion of God's stewards resort to the notion of operating by proxy, and that so few choose to engage in the direct work, shows that there is danger existing. Not only the fathers, but a vast majority of the middle aged and the young, prefer to advance the cause of Christ by accumulating the pecuniary means. Now, why is there such a rushing after this department of the great work?
The Saviour calls for a great army of preachers, to carry his Gospel everywhere, and to proclaim it to all nations, kindreds and people. In truth, you need not go beyond the limits of the United States to feel the force of this remark. Look at the destitutions in the more newly settled states and territories, and see if there is not need of men to preach the Gospel. But notwithstanding this need, only a small number, comparatively, offer themselves to the work. Almost all young men, even the professedly pious, slide easily into lucrative occupations; but to bring them into the direct work of making known Christ, they must be urged and persuaded by a score of arguments.
It is needed, too, of lay members of the church, to do much in searching out the destitute and the dying, who exist in multitudes, even about their own dwellings; to give here a word of warning, and there a word of consolation; to add here a helping hand, and impart there the restoring effect of sympathy and kindness; in short, to employ some hours in the day in going everywhere, as the early disciples did, from house to house and street to street, and in communicating, in an appropriate way, the simple truths of Jesus. Laymen, too, are needed in great numbers in the foreign service. There are reasons numerous and urgent, which I cannot here name, why lay members in the church should go abroad.
But notwithstanding this call for personal effort, it is too often that we meet with church members who are completely engrossed, from early dawn to the close of day, in accumulating wealth; and who deny themselves the luxury of spending either hour of the twenty-four, in conversing with souls, and leading them to Jesus. Such persons will give somewhat of their substance, when called upon; and press on, almost out of breath apparently, in the cares of the world, not thinking to say to this man or that, on the right hand and the left, that there is a heaven above and a hell beneath, and death is at the door. You would almost imagine, from the conduct of some, that they would like to commit to proxy even their own faith and repentance. Now this entire engrossment in worldly cares, even though professedly for Christ's sake, will never illumine the dark recesses of the earth—will never usher in the millenial day.
It is not so much, after all, an accumulation of wealth that is needed, as the personal engagement of Christians in making known everywhere, at home and abroad, the precious news of Jesus. The disposition to go everywhere, regardless of wealth, and with Jesus on our lips, must be the spirit of the church, before we can expect much good either at home or abroad. The world will not be covered with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, till men to make known that word are scattered like rain on all the earth—not only in heathen lands, but in the streets and lanes of large cities, and throughout the Western desolations. "So long as we remain together, like water in a lake, so long the moral world will be desolate. We must go everywhere, and if the expansive warmth of benevolence will not separate us, so that we arise and go on the wings of the wind, God, be assured, will break up the fountains of the great deep of society, and dashing the parts together, like ocean in his turmoil or Niagara in its fall, cover the heavens with showers, and set the bow of hope for the nations, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. God is too good to suffer either Amazon or Superior to lie still, and become corrupt, and the heavens in consequence to be brass and the earth iron." God is too benevolent also, in the arrangements of the moral world, to allow his people to be inactive—to have here a continuing city, and be immersed in the cares of the world as though here were their treasure, while thousands about them are dying for lack of instruction, and the heathen abroad are going down to death in one unbroken phalanx. The church must take more exercise, and the proper kind, too, or she will become frail and sickly, too weak in prayer, and too ignorant in effort to usher in the millenial day.
It is a possible thing to seek wealth honestly for God; but he that is called to such a work, has more occasion to mourn than to rejoice: he has occasion to tremble, watch, and pray; for to be a faithful steward of God's property, requires perhaps more grace than to be a faithful steward of God's truth. We find many a faithful preacher of the Gospel where we find one Normand Smith, or Nathaniel R. Cobb, or one firm of Homes & Homer. The grace needed is so great, and the temptations to err so many, that almost all prove defaulters, and therefore it is that the world lies in ruins: not because the church has not wealth enough, but because God's stewards claim to be owners.
How small the sum appropriated by a million and a half of God's stewards to save a sinking world! The price of earthly ambition, convenience and pleasure, is counted by millions. Navies and armies have their millions; railroads and canals have their millions; colleges and schools have their millions; silks, carpets and mirrors, have their millions; parties of pleasure and licentiousness in high life and in low life have their millions; and what has the treasury of God and the Lamb, to redeem a world of souls from the pains of eternal damnation, and to fill them with joys unspeakable? The sum is so small in comparison that one's tongue refuses to utter it.
There must be a different scale of giving; and the only way to effect it is, to induce a different style of personal consecration. Let a man give himself, or rather let him have a heart that cannot refrain from telling of Jesus to those who are near, or from going to those who are more remote, and the mere item of property you will find appended, as a matter of course, and on the plain principle that the greater always includes the less. We must learn to devote, according to our vows, time, talents, body, soul and spirit. Bodies and minds are wanted; the bones and sinews of men are required: these more substantial things are needed, as well as property, in arduous services at home and still more self-denying labor abroad; and no redeemed sinner can refuse either the one or the other, and continue to be regarded as a faithful steward of Jesus. Money, though needed, is by no means all that is required of us.
Though God has devolved upon us, as stewards, a responsible work, the weight of which is fearful, and sufficient to crush us unless aided from on high, yet the employment is one of indescribable delight. It is a pleasant work. Angels would rejoice to be so employed.
Is there any professed Christian who does not relish the idea? To such an one I would say, Your condition is by no means enviable. You deny yourself all true happiness. If you do not delight in the thought of being God's steward; of holding not only property, but body, soul and spirit at God's control, then you know not what true luxury is. There is pleasure in doing good; there is a luxury in entire consecration to God. The pleasures of this earth are empty, vain and fleeting; but the pleasure of doing good is real, substantial and enduring. The pleasure of doing good is the joy of angels; it is the thrill of delight which pervades the soul of Jesus; it is the happiness of the eternal God. In not wishing to be God's steward, you deny yourself this luxury; you refuse angels' food and feed on husks. O, there is a richness of holy joy in yielding up all to God, and holding ourselves as waiting servants to do his will. This fullness of bliss you foolishly spurn from you, and turn away to the "beggarly elements of the world." Do you feel that the principles of stewardship contained in the Bible are too strict—that too entire a devotement is required of you? Angels do not think so. Redeemed saints do not think so. The more entire the consecration, the more perfect the bliss. In heaven devotement is perfect, and joy of course unalloyed. Blot out this spirit of consecration, you blot out all true happiness on earth; you annihilate heaven.
But it is not only a luxury, but an honor to be the stewards of God. What honor greater than that of continuing the work which Jesus commenced; of being employed in the immense business of saving a ruined race? What work more glorious than that of being the instruments of peopling heaven? What employment more noble than to rescue immortal souls from endless agonies, and to raise them to eternal joys; to take their feet from the sides of the burning lake, and to plant them on the firm pavement of heaven; to rescue victims from eternal burnings, and to place them as gems in the diadem of God? Would not Gabriel feel himself honored with a work so noble and glorious? Were a presidency or a kingdom offered you, spurn it and be wise; but contemn not the glory of being God's stewards.
Remember, too, whether these are your views or not, the work of God will go on. The world will be converted. The glorious event is promised. Almighty power and infinite wisdom are engaged to accomplish it: all the resources of heaven are pledged. The God of heaven, he will prosper his true servants, and they shall arise and build; but those who do not relish the idea of being God's stewards, can have no portion, nor right, nor memorial in Jerusalem. The wheels of God's providence are rolling onward: those wheels are high and dreadful. Will you, being a professed Christian, dare to oppose the march of God? "Ah! we do not oppose," say you. But I reply, There can be no neutrality; you must either help onward his car of victory, or you do really stand in the way—will be crushed by his power, and ground into the earth by the weight of his chariot. Take then, I entreat you, this warning, which is given you in earnestness, but in the spirit of love.
Joy, glory and immortality, to all who will cordially assent to be co-workers with Jesus. They shall ride with him in his chariot from conquering to conquer, and shall sit with him on his throne in the day of triumph.
Be entreated, then, professed Christian, first to give your own soul to the Lord, and with your soul all you have, all you are, and all you hope to be. Make an entire consecration. You will never regret having done so, in time or in eternity.
May God give us all grace to imbibe wholly the true principles of stewardship. Not the principles popular in the world, but the principles of the Bible; those principles which hold out the only hope of the latter day glory—of means commensurate with so great an end.
GUILT OF NEGLECTING THE HEATHEN.
During all the years that I have been allowed to labor for the heathen, my mind has been led to contemplate, constantly and intensely, the obligations of Christian nations towards those who sit in darkness; obligations arising from the command of Christ, and the principles of the Gospel. And I shall, therefore, in this chapter, freely, fully, and solemnly express the sentiments which have been maturing in my mind, on the great guilt which Christians incur in neglecting the heathen.
The heathen world, as a mass, has been left to perish. And by whom? Not by the Father of mercies; he gave his Son to redeem it: not by the Saviour of sinners; look at Calvary: not by the Holy Spirit; his influences have been ever ready: not by angels; their wings have never tired when sent on errands of mercy. All that Heaven could do has been done, consistently with the all-wise arrangement of committing an important agency to the church. The church has been slothful and negligent. Each generation of Christians has in turn received the vast responsibility, neglected it in a great measure, and transmitted it to the next. The guilt of this neglect who can estimate?
That such neglect is highly criminal, the Bible everywhere testifies. It says, "If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it?" And shall not he "render to every man according to his works?" This solemn interrogation needs no comment. The obvious import is, If our fellow men are perishing, and we neglect to do what we can to save them, we are guilty of their blood. But this testimony does not stand alone. What does God say to the prophet, who should see the peril of the wicked, and neglect to save him by giving him warning? "His blood will I require at thy hand." What does God say of the watchman of a city who should see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet? "If the sword come and take any person from among them, his blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
But this is not only the sentiment of the Bible, but the voice of common sense.
A neighbor of mine is drowning in the river. With a little exertion I can save his life, but neglect to do it. Shall I escape the goadings of conscience and the charge of blood-guiltiness?
A house is in flames. The perishing occupants, looking from a window, implore of me to reach them a ladder. I have some little affairs of my own to attend to, and turn a deaf ear to their cry. The flames gather around them: they throw themselves from the window, and are dashed in pieces on the pavement. Who will not charge me with the loss of those lives?
To-day, a raging malady is spreading through the streets of a large city. The people are dying by hundreds. I know the cause; the fountains of the city are poisoned. From indolence, or some other cause, I neglect to give the information, and merely attend to my own safety. Who would not load me with the deepest guilt, and stamp me as the basest of murderers?
Both Scripture and common sense, then, concur in establishing the sentiment, that if our fellow men are perishing, and we neglect to do what we can to save them, we are guilty of their blood. But if this doctrine be true, its application to Christians, in the relation which they sustain to the heathen world, is irresistibly conclusive and awfully momentous. The soul shudders, and shrinks back from the fearful thought: If six hundred millions of our race are sinking to perdition, and we neglect to do what we can to save them, we shall be found accountable for their eternal agonies.
If such a charge is standing against us, we shall soon meet it. The day of judgment will soon burst upon us. Let us look, then, at the subject candidly, prayerfully, and with a desire to do our duty.
The conditions on which the charge impends are simply two: that the heathen world are sinking to perdition, and that we are neglecting to do what we can to save them. If these two points are substantiated, the overwhelming conclusion is inevitable. It becomes us, then, to look well at these points—to examine them with faithfulness and with honesty.
* * * * *
Is it true, that the heathen world are sinking to perdition? As fast as the beating of my pulse, they are passing into the world of retribution, and the inquiry is, What is the doom they meet? Do they rise to unite with angels in the songs of heaven? or sink in ceaseless and untold misery?
Certain it is, that they are not saved through faith in Christ; for "how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" It is also clear that God, in his usual method, does not bestow the gift of repentance and eternal life where a Saviour is not known. "It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Those who are saved, are said to be "begotten by the word of truth"—"born of the word of God." As the heathen nations, therefore, are not furnished with the appointed means of salvation, it follows inevitably that, as a mass at least, they are sinking to perdition. They are the "nations which have forgotten God," and "shall be turned into hell."
It is unnecessary to enter into the inquiry, whether it is possible, in the nature of the case, for a heathen unacquainted with the Gospel to be saved. It is sufficient to know the FACT, that God has ordained the preaching of the Gospel as the means of saving the nations; and that there is probably no instance on record, which may not be called in question, of a heathen being converted without a knowledge of the true God and of his Son Jesus Christ.
But the consideration, solemn and conclusive, which needs no other to corroborate it or render it overwhelming, is the character of the heathen. Look at their character, as portrayed by the Apostle Paul in the first chapter to the Romans. Read the whole chapter, but especially the conclusion, where he describes the heathen as "being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, back-biters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." This description is not understood in Christian lands, neither can it be; but missionaries to the heathen, who are eye-witnesses of what is here described, place an emphasis on every epithet, and would clothe every word in capitals.
The character of the heathen is no better now than in the days of Paul. It is worse. It is impossible that such a state of society should remain stationary. A mortal disease becomes more and more malignant, till a remedy is applied; a sinking weight hastens downwards with continually accumulating force; and mind, thrown from its balance, wanders farther and farther from reason. It is thus with the disease of sin, the downward propensities of a depraved nature, and a soul revolted from God. Besides, Satan has not been inactive in heathen lands. He has been aware that efforts would be made to save them. And night and day, year after year, and age after age, he has sought, with ceaseless toil and consummate skill, to perfect the heathen in every species of iniquity, harden their hearts to every deed of cruelty, sink them to the lowest depths of pollution and degradation, and place them at the farthest remove from the possibility of salvation. It is impossible to describe the state of degradation and unblushing sin to which the nations, for ages sinking, have sunk, and to which Satan in his undisturbed exertions for centuries has succeeded in reducing them. It is impossible to give a representation of their unrestrained passions, the abominations connected with their idol worship, or the scenes of discord, cruelty and blood, which everywhere abound. I speak of those lands where the Gospel has not been extended. Truly darkness covers such lands, and gross darkness the people. Deceit, oppression and cruelty fill every hut with woe; and impurity deluges the land like an overflowing stream. Neither can it be said, that the conduct of the heathen becomes sinless through ignorance. From observation for many years, I can assert that they have consciences—that they feel accountable for what they do.
Will, then, God transplant the vine of Sodom, unchanged in its nature, to overrun his paradise above? Will he open the gates of his holy city, and expose the streets of its peaceful inhabitants to those whose heart is cruelty, whose visage is scarred with fightings, and whose hands are red with blood? "KNOW YE NOT, THAT THE UNRIGHTEOUS SHALL NOT ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?" Where, then, is the hope of the unconverted heathen? If there were innocent heathen, as some men are ready to imagine in the face of God's word, and in the face of a flood of facts, then indeed they might be saved without the Gospel. But this mass of pollution, under which the earth groans, must disgorge itself into the pit of woe. We cannot evade the conclusion, painful as it is, that the millions of this world of sin are sinking to perdition.
The American churches have peculiar advantages to carry abroad the Gospel of Christ; and ability in such an enterprise is the measure of our duty. "If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." "To whom much is given of him will much be required." And to determine whether Christians in the United States are doing what they can to save the heathen from their awful doom, the second point of inquiry proposed, it is necessary to look at their unparalleled advantages.
It may be said then, that Christians in America are not trammeled in their efforts to do good by any governmental restrictions, or ecclesiastical establishment. The remark is trite, but no less true, that the genius of our free constitution is eminently propitious to call forth energy and enterprise. And the remark applies with no more force to worldly matters, than to the business of doing good. The religion of Christ courts no extraneous influence, and is dependent for its power on no earthly aid. Under our free government, uncontrolled, unrestrained and unsupported, it is left to exert its own free and native energy. We can plead, therefore, no arbitrary hindrance of any kind in the work of propagating the Gospel. And we can carry the Gospel, too, disconnected from any prejudicial alliance with political interests. This is the free, disencumbered, and unshackled condition in which the Gospel is permitted to have free course in our beloved land; and it is a talent put into our hands to be improved.
Again, no country possesses such advantages of education as the United States. In no land is knowledge so generally diffused throughout the different grades of society, and in no land do such facilities exist for acquiring a thorough education. Schools, colleges and seminaries, are open equally to the high and to the low, to the rich and to the poor; and only a good share of energy is required, to rise from any grade or condition of society, to eminence in general learning or professional study. The general intelligence of the community is such, that nothing but disinclination can prevent men from being acquainted with the wants of the world, and their duty to evangelize it; and the facilities for fitting themselves for the work are such, that nothing but criminal delinquency can hold back a very large army from entering the field. This is an immense advantage committed to the American churches, for propagating the religion of Christ. It is another very precious talent committed to their trust, which if they fail to improve, they treasure up guilt.
Again, the American churches possess a great advantage in the facilities so generally enjoyed for accumulating wealth. The road to comfort and to affluence is open to all; and notwithstanding all reverses, the remark, as a general one, is still true, that the prosperity of the United States—of the whole mass of the people—is altogether unexampled, and that enterprise is vigorous and successful. In the greatest strait, how much retrenchment has there been in the style of living? And as we look into the future we see, (God's providence favoring,) that wealth is destined to flow in upon the land like a broad and deep river. Look at the extent of territory, bounded only by two rolling oceans; and at the resources which from year to year are developed—varied, unnumbered, and inexhaustible. If then unto whom much is given, of them will much be required, what may not God justly demand of American Christians?
Another advantage which the American church possesses, is the Spirit which has been poured out upon her from on high. God has been pleased to bless her with precious revivals. The Holy Ghost has come down frequently and with power, and gathered in multitudes of souls. What God has wrought for the American Zion has been told in all lands, and every one applies the Saviour's injunction, "Freely ye have received—freely give." One great reason, perhaps, why the blessings of the Spirit are not now more richly enjoyed, is the neglect of Christians to make this return, and to labor gratefully for the destitute and the dying. It was expected, and justly too, that the land of apostolic revivals would be the first to imitate the apostles in the work of saving the heathen. A failure to do this may bring a blight upon the churches, if it has not brought it upon them already.
Surely, if there is a nation on earth to whom are intrusted many talents, ours is that nation. Our ability is not small. We must come up to a high measure of Christian action, before it can be said with truth, that we are doing what we can to save our ruined race. The United States, a nation planted by God, enriched by his providence, nourished by his Holy Spirit, and brought to the strength of manhood in this solemnly momentous time of the nineteenth century, seems to have committed to her in a special manner the work of the world's conversion. Who knoweth but that she is brought to her preeminent advantages for such a time as this—for the interesting period preceding the latter day glory; and now if she prove herself unworthy of so lofty and responsible a trust, and neglect to put forth her strength to usher in the glorious day, deliverance will break out from some other quarter, but she, like a third Babylon, may sink in the bottomless abyss. An immense responsibility rests upon us. O that God would give us grace to act worthy of our trust—to do what we can for a dying world!
Let us inquire, then, Do we pray for the heathen as much as we ought? Were one duly impressed with the condition of perishing millions, certainly no less could be expected of him, than to fall on his knees many times a day, and to lift up his cry of earnest entreaty on their behalf. Filled with the love of Christ, and having distinctly and constantly before his mind the image of millions of immortal souls dropping into perdition, surely he could not refrain from an agony of prayer. Under such a sense of the wants and woes of our perishing race, a sense true to facts, he would have no rest.
But what prayer has actually been offered to the Lord for benighted nations? Is it not a fact, that many professed Christians do not remember the heathen once a day, and some not even once a month? Let the closet, the family altar, and the monthly concert testify. Prayer-meetings for the heathen—how thinly attended! what spectacles of grief to Jesus, and to angels! And if that prayer only is honest which is proved to be so by a readiness to labor, give, and go, there is reason to fear that few prayers for the heathen have been such that Christ could accept them, place them in his golden censer, and present them before the throne.
Since such is the case, what wonder is it that a million and a half of Christians in the United States should be so inefficient? Inefficient, I say, for what do this million and a half of professed Christians accomplish? By their vows they are bound to be as self-denying, as spiritual and devoted, as though they were missionaries to foreign lands. If we should send abroad a million and a half of missionaries, we should expect that, under God, they would soon be the instruments of converting all nations. But what, in fact, does this vast number of professed Christians—or in other words, of the professedly missionary band of Jesus Christ, accomplish in the narrow limits of the United States? O, there is a deplorable lack in the churches, of the deep devotion and missionary character of our ascended Saviour.
Again, Do we give as much as we ought to evangelize the heathen? It would perhaps be a liberal estimate to say, that a million and a half of professed Christians in the United States give, on an average, year by year, to save the heathen, about twenty-four cents each, or two cents a month. There are other objects, it is true, that call for contributions; but put all contributions together, and how small the amount?
The Jews were required to give to religious objects at least one-fifth of their income. One-fifth of the income of a million and a half of Christians at seven per cent., supposing them to be worth on an average five hundred dollars each, would be ten and a half millions of dollars. This is merely the income of capital of which we now speak. A fifth of the income from trade and industry would probably double the amount, and make it twenty-one millions. Is anything like this sum given by American Christians to support and propagate the religion of Jesus? What Christians have done, therefore, is by no means a measure of their ability.
To see what men can do, it is necessary to look away from Christians, to those whose ruling principle is a thirst for pleasure, for honor, and for gain. How vast a sum is expended at theatres—on fashionable amusements and splendid decorations—not to mention the hundreds of millions sunk by intemperance, and swallowed up in the deep dark vortex of infamous dissipation! Men are lavish of money on objects on which their hearts are set. And if the hearts of Christians were set on saving the heathen, as much as wicked men are set on their pleasures, would they, think you, be content with the present measure of their contributions?
Look, too, at what men can do who are eager in the pursuit of wealth. Under the influence of such an incentive, railroads, canals, and fortresses spring into being, and fleets bedeck the seas like the stars of the firmament. Money is not wanting when lucrative investment is the end in view. Even professed Christians can collect together heavy sums, when some great enterprise promises a profitable income. They profess, perhaps, to be accumulating money for Christ; but, alas, to what a painful extent does it fail of reaching the benevolent end proposed! Worldly men accomplish much, for their hearts are enlisted. Professed Christians, too, accomplish much in worldly projects, for their minds become engrossed. What then could they not accomplish for Christ, if their feelings were equally enlisted in his cause? They might have, in serving Christ, intellects as vigorous, muscles as strong, and this advantage in addition, a God on high who has vouchsafed to help them.
Take another view of the case. The child that is now sitting by your side in perfect health, is suddenly taken sick. Its blooming cheeks turn pale, and it lifts its languid and imploring eyes for help. You call a physician, the most skillful one you can obtain. Do you think of expense? A protracted illness swells the bill of the physician and apothecary to a heavy amount. Do you dismiss the physician, or withhold any comfort for fear of expense?
Your child recovers, and becomes a promising youth. He takes a voyage to a foreign country. The ship is driven from her course, and wrecked on some barbarous coast. Your son becomes a captive, and after long anxiety you hear that he is alive, and learn his suffering condition; and you are told that fifty dollars will procure his ransom. I will suppose you are poor, have not a dollar at command, and that the sum can be raised in no other way than by your own industry and toil. Now, I ask, how many months would expire before you would save the sum from your hard earnings, and liberate your son? But what is an Algerine dungeon? It is a heaven, compared with the condition of the heathen. In the one case, there are bodily sufferings; in the other, present wretchedness and eternal agonies.
I once fell in company with a man of moderate circumstances, with whom I used the above argument. He promptly replied, "It is true. Three years ago I thought I could barely support my family by my utmost exertions. Two years since, my darling son became deranged, and the support of him at the asylum costs me four hundred dollars a year. I find that with strict economy and vigorous exertion I can meet the expense. But if any one had said to me three years ago, that I could raise four hundred dollars a year to save a lost world, I should have regarded the remark as the height of extravagance."
Now, I ask, ought not men to feel as much in view of the eternal and unspeakable agony of a world of souls, as a parent feels for a suffering child? God felt MORE. He loved his only Son with a most tender affection—inconceivably more tender than any earthly parent can exercise towards a beloved child. And yet, when the Father placed before him, on the one hand the eternal ruin of men, and on the other the sufferings and death of his beloved Son, which did he choose? Let Gethsemane and Calvary answer. Can Christians then have much of the spirit of God, and not feel for the eternal agonies of untold millions, more than for the temporal sufferings of a beloved child? But if Christians felt thus, what exertion would they make—how immense the sum they would cheerfully raise, this present year, to evangelize the heathen! Feeling thus, a few of the wealthy churches might sustain the present expenditures of all foreign operations. Yet all the American churches combined, feeling as they do now, fail to send forth a few waiting missionaries, and suffer the schools abroad to be disbanded. The truth is, in the scale of giving, the church as a body (I say nothing of individuals or of particular churches) has scarcely risen in its feeling above the freezing point. What they now contribute is a mere fraction compared with their ability.
Millions are squandered by professed Christians on a pampered appetite, in obedience to fashion, a taste for expensive building, a love of parade, and on newly-invented comforts and conveniences, of which the hardy soldiers of Jesus Christ ought ever to be ignorant.
Then, again, some who are economical in their expenditures, have little conception of what is meant by total consecration to God. There must be an entire reform in this matter. Every Christian must feel that his employment, whether it be agriculture, merchandise, medicine, law, or anything else, is of no value any farther than it is connected with the Redeemer's kingdom; that wealth is trash, and life a trifle, except as they may be used to advance the cause of Christ; and that so far as they may be used for this purpose, they are of immense value. Let every Christian feel this sentiment—let it be deeply engraven on his heart, and how long, think you, would pecuniary means be wanting in the work of the world's salvation?
And do we go and instruct the heathen as we ought? This is indeed the main point. To pray, formally at least, is quite easy; to give, is a little more difficult; but to go, in the minds of most persons, is entirely out of the question. Satan understood human nature when he said, "All that a man hath will he give for his life." Speak of going, and you touch the man, his skin and his bones. To go, requires that a man have such feelings as to begin to act in earnest, as men do in other matters. Men act in person, when they are deeply in earnest. In the case supposed of a sick child, does the mother simply express a desire that the child may recover? does she merely give money, and hire a nurse to take little or no care of it? No: in her own person she anticipates its every want, with the utmost attention and watchfulness. When a son is in bondage on a barbarous coast, does the father merely pray that his son may be redeemed? does he merely send money for his ransom? No: he chooses, if possible, to go in person and carry the sum, that no means may be left untried to accomplish the object he has so much at heart. Men who are deeply interested in an important matter, where there is much at stake, cannot be satisfied with sending; they choose to go themselves. This remark is true in all the enterprises and transactions of life the world over.
If then, after all, the measure of going is the true measure of interest, to what extent, I inquire, have Christians of America gone to the heathen? Alas! the number is few, very few.
Look at the proportion of ministers who go abroad. In the United States the number of preachers, of all denominations, is perhaps not far from one to a thousand souls. This is in a land already intelligent and Christian; in a land of universities, colleges, and schools; in a land of enterprise, of industry, and of free institutions, where the arts flourish, and where improvements are various and unnumbered; and more than all, in a land where more than a million and a half of the people are professed Christians, and ready to aid the ministers of Christ in various ways. On the other hand, even if missionaries from all Christendom be taken into the account, there is not more than one minister to a million of pagan souls, with almost no intelligent Christians to assist as teachers, elders, catechists, and tract distributers; no physicians, artists, and judicious legislators, to improve society and afford the means of civilized habits; no literature worthy of the name; no colleges, or even common schools of any value; no industry and enterprise, and every motive for it crushed by arbitrary and tyrannical institutions: the mind degraded and besotted, inconceivably so, and preoccupied also with the vilest superstition, the most inveterate prejudices, and the most arrogant bigotry. Who can measure the vast disproportion? What mind sufficient to balance extremes so inconceivably immense? On the one hand a minister to a thousand souls, with many helpers and a thousand auxiliary influences in his favor; on the other, one minister to a million of souls, with no helpers and no auxiliary influences, finding out an untrodden track amidst unnumbered obstacles, and penetrating with his single lamp into the dark and boundless chaos of heathenism. This is the manner in which Christendom shows that she loves her neighbor as herself; and in view of it, judge ye, whether American Christians go as much as they ought to instruct and save the benighted nations.
We said, that the number of missionaries to the heathen population is about one to a million of souls; but let not the conclusion be drawn, that every million of heathen souls has a missionary. By no means. The few hundred missionaries preach to a few hundred thousand souls. The millions and hundreds of millions of heathen, are as destitute of preaching as though a missionary had never sailed, as destitute of the Scriptures as though a Bible were never printed, and as far from salvation, I was about to say, as though Jesus Christ had never died. Men speak of operating upon the world. Such language is delusive. The present style of effort, or anything like it, can only operate on some small portions of the earth. To influence materially the wide world, Christians must awake to a style of praying, giving, and going too, of which they have as yet scarcely dreamed. The work of going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature, has scarcely been undertaken in earnest. And how vain it would be to expect to make any material impression on the world, as a whole, when so small a company from all the ministers in the United States go abroad, and a less number even of lay members from the vast body of a million and a half.
The heathen are not lost because a Saviour is not provided for them. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." The preaching of the cross is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" both to the Jew and the Greek. Facts show, that in every nation, however barbarous and degraded, the Gospel of Jesus has power to convert, purify, elevate and save. These facts are irresistible.
Neither are the heathen lost, because the ocean separating them is rarely passed. For the sake of gain, men can visit the most distant and sultry climes. To solve a question of science or merely to gratify curiosity, they can circumnavigate the globe, or penetrate far into the icy regions of the poles. The improvements in navigation and the extension of commerce have united the two continents in one. The Atlantic ocean no longer separates you from Africa, nor the Pacific from China. The amount of intercourse between the seekers of wealth from Christian lands and almost every heathen country, is absolutely immense.
Why then are the heathen left to perish? There is a lack of earnestness in the church in the work of the world's conversion. What does the present earnestness of the church amount to? They contribute on an average two cents a month each, and they find that the pittance of money will more than suffice for the small number of men: and then the cry is "More money than men." A few men are obtained and then the pittance of money fails, and "More men than money" is the cry. A year or two afterwards the supply of men is gone, and the cry again is reversed. As if, in repairing the wastes of the New-York fire, the citizens collect together a small quantity of brick, and then find they have more brick than workmen. So they employ a few more men, and then find they have more men than brick. Was this the rate at which the ravages of the great fire were so soon repaired? Was this the measure of their engagedness in rebuilding the city?
Some derangement takes place in the Erie Canal: a lock fails, an aqueduct gives way, or a bank caves in. Is business stopped on the canal till the next season, because the times are hard, and it is difficult to obtain money to make repairs? Some derangement takes place in a railroad: is travelling postponed till next year? But in the work of doing good, the reverse of times is regarded as a sufficient excuse to detain missionaries, disband schools, and take other retrograde steps. We coolly block our wheels, lie still, and postpone our efforts for the world's conversion till more favorable times. Men are earnest in worldly matters: in digging a canal, in laying a railroad, or in repairing a city; but in God's work—the work of saving the nations—their efforts are so weak that one is at loss to know which is most prominent, the folly, or the enormous guilt.
Is it not a fact, that in our efforts for the heathen we come so far short of our ability, that God cannot consistently add his blessing. Can it be that the service rendered by the church as a body is acceptable to God? It is not according to that she hath—it forms an immense and inconceivable contrast to that measure of effort which lies fully within her power. Is it not, then, as though an imperfect sacrifice were offered to the Lord—a lamb full of blemish? If the church were weak, and it were really beyond her ability to do more than she does at present, then God would accomplish great victories by the feeble means. He can save by few as well as by many. He would make the "worm Jacob to thresh mountains." But since God has blessed the American church with numbers, and with great and peculiar advantages, he requires of her efforts that accord with her ability. The poor widow's mites accomplish much; but the wealthy man's mites, or the wealthy nation's thousands, when she is fully able to give millions; and her very few sons, when it would even benefit her to spare a host of her ablest men; what shall we say of such an offering? The reason why God blesses the efforts of the American church may be, that there are some widows, and some others too who do what they can—who honestly come up to the measure of their ability. For the sake of these God may add his blessing, just as for the sake of ten righteous men he would have spared Sodom. But no very great and conspicuous blessing can be expected to attend the labors of missionaries, such as the conversion of China, or of Africa, till the church begins to pray, give and go, according to her ability; till she begins to come up to the extent of her powers in her efforts to save the heathen. Then, when she renders according to that she hath, her service will be accepted; it will be a sweet savor before God; his throne of love will come near the tabernacle of his saints, and the noise of his chariot soon be heard among the ranks of the enemy. The church then, with Christ at their head, shall go on rapidly from conquering to conquer, till all nations, tongues and people, shall bow the knee before him. As soon as the church shall put forth all her strength so as to render an acceptable service to God, it is of little consequence whether she be weak or strong, few or many, the blessing will descend; the mountains will break forth into singing, and the trees shall clap their hands for joy; God will come, take up his abode with the saints, and verify all that is expressed by "the latter day glory."