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trust, “the consolations of God have not been small with me." This however has not invariably been the case. At times my light is obscured by clouds which throw a deep shade over the peace and prospects of my soul. Some of these clouds I know are sin, others I believe to be ignorance. I am a novice on many points ; but never do I feel more confounded than on the subjects involved in the texts which have been read. Here I find the immutable purpose of Jehovah to convert all nations. I understand the means by which this purpose is to be accomplished,
- the preaching of the gospel. I read the solemn duty imposed upon those who have received the blessings of revelation, to communicate them to others.
From this purpose of infinite wisdom, and these provisions for its accomplishment, I turn my eyes to the nations of men. I look with cheering expectation to see what has been effected. Alas, I look in vain! Instead of finding one extended Eden covering the face of the earth, and blooming in celestial beauty, I perceive on almost every side an unbroken wilderness - a dreary desert. 56 The rulers of the darkness of this world ” still hold their empire over the largest and fairest portions of the globe. How can these things be reconciled? Often have I made this inquiry ; but up to the present hour no satisfactory reply has been given.
I desire to be instructed especially in relation to the Saviour's commission to his Apostles and their successors. Do we find its signification in the obvious import of its terms? or are we to pry beneath its surface for some occult meaning? The missionaries whom I have consulted have told me, without a dissenting voice, that it will admit only of a literal interpretation. Now if this be so, why has not the gospel been preached to every creature? They reply, the command has been disobeyed – the church is guilty. But this only increases my difficulty. How is it possible the Saviour would have allowed a command to be overlooked, upon the execution or neglect of which his kingdom must stand or fall, and myriads of souls so precious in his eyes, either live or die forever. How could he permit this command to be practically forgotten; not by a few Christians, but by the church universal ; not for a short period, but for centuries at a time?
Has our holy religion no controlling power? “ Then,” say my idolatrous countrymen, certainly do not need it. It is not what you have represented it to be. It is more spiritless than those forms of paganism which you condemn. Paganism has made wider and more signal conquests than Christianity. Paganism has overspread more than one-third of the inhabited world. From a small beginning it has extended until it has subjugated a much greater number of minds than your boasted and obtrusive religion.”
I know that the Apostles and their coadjutors laboured to fulfil the literal import of the command, and that the gospel was preached by them in almost all the principal countries of the world. But where is the spirit, which actuated these early Christians, and where, too, are the conquests they gained ? Have not the very countries they conquered in the name and by the power of their Saviour, been retaken by the enemy? And where Christianity has since extended, at least up to the close of the last century, has it not almost as frequently been driven by persecution, as carried by love?
I am aware that the church appears to be awakening to new energy in her duty ;- but how is it possible that she could ever have slumbered so long? How can such a state of death be consistent with a religion of life and power? - a religion whose demands are so binding, whose rewards are so glorious - which provides for obedience not by the coercion of external law, but through “ the love of Christ constraining us ?"
This, then, is the source of my perplexity
the seeming inconsistency between the revealed design of the gospel and its known results ; -between the quickening influences of Christianity and the death-like torpor of those who profess it. Such are the difficulties which occur to
my mind, and such the objections urged by others, that I am at times almost confounded. I am tempted to disbelieve — to reject the whole system of Christianity, as inconsistent with itself. And nothing but a consciousness of the marvellous light it has infused into my own soul, and the wonderful change it has wrought there, reconciles me to its mysteries, and allays my troubled feelings.
Those who live where the gospel has been long and faithfully preached cannot comprehend our emotions on this subject. Oh if they knew the results of this neglect of Christian duty upon us, their sympathies would be powerfully awakened ! Nearly two thousand years have rolled away since the world was thrown open to the benevolent efforts of Christians. What dense crowds have been passing through the long intervening centuries into the world of retribution - ignorant of the Saviour - unprepared for heaven. Many of my best friends and dearest relatives have died in this hopeless condition. I have lost my aged parents poor unpitied idolaters! Several of my children have been called into eternity. But the saddest štroke of all, which leaves my affections bleeding, especially since I have known the necessity of the gospel, is the death of her to whom I was most nearly related, and who went to her changeless destiny, only a year before the missionary visited my nation.
What hope can I possibly entertain of their happiness ? I have not forgotten our deep ignorance, and most painfully do I remember our deeper guilt. Oh they must have perished !* The mind of the old man began to labour, and his tongue to falter beneath the oppressive weight of his feelings. He hesitated for a moment, and resumed his seat.
* This appears to be the unanimous opinion of the converted heathen, respecting those who died before the gospel was proclaimed to them, So that they are without excuse."