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to fourteen or fifteen millions of souls; besides a great number of laymen engaged in teaching and disseminating “the good seed ?" Is this the condition of souls in Great Britain, where the proportion of ministers is still greater, and many hundreds, for want of parishes, are obliged to engage in secular business for a livelihood ? Shame upon the ministry! shame upon professed Christians if such be the case !
But in what sense can this be true ? How many could be found in those countries who have never heard the gospel ? — how many who might not have heard it, if they had been disposed ? how many who, if they took their position in the nearest highway, and inquired about religion, would not hear of a Saviour from, probably, the first traveller whom they accosted? Heathen, living in countries where the knowledge of Christianity is so widely diffused, must be heathen by choice, not by necessity — self-constituted heathen; men who deliberately prefer heathenism to Christianity.
If there should be those who have never had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the gospel, how grievously does it reflect upon
the thousands who might have instructed them. And if they have not been instructed up to this late date, are they ever to be taught? To convert a criminal omission of duty to such persons into an argument for neglecting to send the gospel to the heathen, is pleading one sin as an apology for another.
“ Heathen enough at home !" — Many are no doubt included who have heard the gospel times without number; whose cities, and villages, and neighbourhoods, contain numerous churches; who turn away in disgust from the house of God, contemn its ministers, ridicule its solemnities, and array themselves in open hostility against their Maker. And is the world to be kept in ignorance, because there are those at home who whate instruction and despise reproof?”
But admitting there is force in this plea, what does it prove? Does it not mean that there are souls at home in as deplorable a condition as the very heathen? Now how many are there of this description ? Will the number bear any proportion to those who are at least equally miserable in other lands? If then a few at home, in no worse condition than millions in pagan countries, are sufficient to call forth so much sympathy, and enlist so much energy, what compassion ought not those millions to awaken?
The next speaker represented a class of respectable and wealthy professors of religion, none of whom attended the anniversaries of benevolent societies, or contributed more than a pittance toward their funds, or were ever present at the concert of prayer for the extension of the Saviour's kingdom.
There is one reason, said he, which myself and many others consider quite sufficient to satisfy any candid mind, respecting the limitation of the gospel to Christian countries. We do not regard this restriction as at all connected with human obligation, and consequently we cannot look
upon it as the result of criminal negligence. We assume far higher and more tenable grounds. We believe it to be the effect of divine purpose - the fruit of that all-pervading agency, which reigns in the kingdom of providence, and controls the volitions of men. Who does not see the hand of of Deity in those arrangements by which the gospel is carried to some countries and not to others ? who does not recognise the same overruling
power in confining it so long to those countries? Has the all-wise God no purposes in reference to nations and individuals ? or is there no ability with the Almighty to accomplish his decretive will ? Could he not speak, and by a word summon into being all the instrumentality his plans may require ? Has he not ever created and adapted agents to the grand purposes of his mercy and his justice? Where men have refused to be the voluntary messengers of his love, he has driven them by the scourge of persecution. Where the gospel has been abused, he has quenched its light, or removed its candlestick.
How signal have been all his interpositions in the kingdom of his Son! What so near his heart as the interests of that kingdom? And think you, that he will suffer the grand scheme of redemption, to the advancement of which all the intelligent and material agents of the universe are subordinated, to be defeated, merely because men refuse to do their duty ? Can he not of stones raise up children unto Abraham? As long as all hearts are in his hands, and he can turn them whithersoever he will, so long does it appear presumption to attach such importance, or rather independence, to mere second causes.
When the gospel is to be preached in a place, it will be preached. We need not take God's
work out of his hands, nor trouble ourselves about the supposed defeat of its execution. We cannot hasten his plans. As well attempt to remove continents or drain oceans! Nay, as well attempt to shake the pillars of the eternal throne. "I will make waste mountains and hills, saith Jehovah, and dry up all their herbs, and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools: and I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known ; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight." Yea, before the day was, I am He, and there is none that can deliver out of my hand : I will work, and who shall let it ?".
I cannot close without expressing my surprise at the misguided judgement and intemperate zeal, which many Christians exhibit on this subject. I would certify those who busy themselves about these matters, that they are too high for them; and especially would I admonish young men, in their rage for foreign missions, to reconsider their opinions, “ lest haply they be found to fight against God."