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The discussion of this day was uncommonly animating. The subject proposed at the last meeting was fraught with indescribable interest, especially to the recent converts to Christianity. They had attended with new and conflicting emotions to the strange facts disclosed in the preceding meetings. Their solicitude to know what could be said and what would be adopted respecting the rules of evangelization, which they hoped would in future govern the church of Christ, was too powerful to be suppressed. Without dwelling upon the formalities of the discussion, we can only advert to the prominent principles of operation, which were adopted by a large majority of the assembly, with some of the arguments by which they were sustained.
I. The first position which was unanimously admitted is, “the gospel was designed by its Author equally for all nations.”
This truth, so important in the eyes of the reclaimed heathen, and one which they feared would be disputed with unyielding pertinacity, scarcely provoked a word of discussion. It appeared so evidently to grow out of the command of Christ, and to harmonize with his revealed purposes, that it passed at its first announcement as a scriptural axiom. While many looked upon it as a triumph, none who had spoken regarded it as militating in the least, against the views they had advocated.
II. The second truth adopted by the assembly as a scriptural rule of action, is similar to the first" that the ministry of reconciliation was established for the equal benefit of the whole world, and that no order of administration is recognised in favour of any nation excepting the Jews." The following texts, among others, were regarded as conclusive:
Mark xvi. 15.--"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Matthew xiii. 38.-" The field is the world."
2 Corinthians v. 18, 19.—“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."
Though at first some were disposed to controvert this position, yet it was so clearly shown to be only a different statement of the previous one, that their fears were soon allayed.
After the voice of the assembly had been taken, a heathen, whose nation had been greatly neglected, inquired why the young men who entered the ministry so generally made a distinction between their own country and other parts of the worldwhy so small a proportion became foreign missionaries? He judged that there must be some peculiarity of circumstances in the case of those who devote themselves to the heathen, and he wished to know what there was in the general condition of the ministry which gave this limitation to their numbers. These questions caused great animation, and called up numerous speakers. Several young ministers were present, and as the inquiries involved a direct address to them, they individually assigned the reasons for which they believed it their duty to decline engaging in foreign missions.
Many of these reasons have been anticipated in the previous discussion, and yet they were repeated with as much confidence as though nothing had been said or could be said to disprove their conclusiveness, or even to depreciate their power.
Some were deterred by the prominence and the destitution of their own country, and others by their obliga ions to their friends and connexions. The talents of one were better adapted to civilization than barbarism; the health of another was
106 REASONS FOR NOT BECOMING A MISSIONARY.
an insuperable barrier.
Some could not easily acquire difficult languages; others had bestowed too much toil upon the cultivation of their own, to abandon its use.
One said he was willing to go, but he objected to any determination on the subject until he saw more clearly a providential direction to this sphere of labour; while several had never received an internal call, and could not believe it their duty to act without some such unequivocal impulse. The parents of some were unwilling to let them go, and dependent relatives kept others at home.
Many believed that they might be the means of saving more souls in their own country. It would demand a long time to acquire the languages, during which period they might be preaching the gospel, and through the divine blessing, increasing the subjects of the Saviour's kingdom. Besides, they saw that human life was shorter in heathen lands than at home, and consequently there was more hope of extensive usefulness in remaining where they were.
A MISSIONARY who had spent several years among the heathen, after attending to all the arguments against a personal enlistment in this work, begged to be heard, while he presented his own observations and experience on the subject. From personal intercourse and extensive correspondence, he believed he had obtained correct impressions on this very important point. He had visited many seminaries, and conversed with a large number of young men.
He had addressed others who had been recently admitted to the sacred office, and were still without a charge. He well remembered the early impressions and subsequent history of several who had just spoken, and what is more conclusive, said he, to my mind, I have not forgotten my own views, before I seriously contemplated this duty; nor my struggle at the time; nor the change in my convictions from that period. That I might not rely too far upon my own experience, I consulted many of my missionary brethren, and found, with the fewest exceptions, a striking correspondence of sentiments and feelings on this subject.