« הקודםהמשך »
Address at the formation of an Associa
tion for LIVERPOOL and West LANCASHIRE in aid of the Church MISSIONARY SOCIETY FOR AFRICA AND THE EAST, 18:20.
HAVING, Sir, been requested by the Committee of this Institution to second the motion which has just been offered to the attention of this Meeting, I may, perhaps, be expected to offer a few remarks connected with the general purposes of the Institution.
The details which my friend, Mr. Bickersteth, offered early on this day, chiefly related to one scene of our operations--the shores of Western Africa. But I may venture to say, that in all the various stations where we are labouring amongst the heathen, though there is, of course, a considerable diversity in the measure of sucçess, yet the prospect is, on the whole, most inviting; and that, above all, the general aspect of our cause, and the state of public sentiment with respect to it, is cheering and animating.
I speak in the knowledge of many gentlemen before me, that in the last ten years the progress of public opinion in favour of missions, and of the importance of affording to heathen nations that divine revelation which has raised and dignified our own country, has been so rapid, the steps it has taken have been so ample, that no person could have predicted, with the least show of probability, that public sentiment would have so soon overcome the errors or mistakes which were prevalent on the subject. We can all recollect the time when it was made a question, whether we could, with safety to our Indian Empire, extend the Gospel to the Hindoos; when we were told that the Hindoo was so wedded to his superstition, that his religious doctrine was so sublime and his morality so pure, that it was, at all events, scarcely worth the experiment. It is now admitted that, on the one hand, there was no danger in communicating to them the doctrines of salvation; and, on the other hand, that the true character of the superstition by which the Hindoo is' degraded, is a character so base in all its parts, founded on notions so removed from all the principles of true religion, and so allied with the most cruel and licentious usages, that there was no people which required more the elevat
ing principles of Christianity, with all its civilizing tendencies, than the Hindoos. Almost the first declaration which a distinguished individual was understood to make on his arrival in India (I speak not from official statements, but from private communication) was, that he found he had been deceived when in Europe with respect to the danger of propagating the Gospel in India; that there was a preparation in the native mind for receiving the Gospel ; that the minds of the Hindoos were no longer bound with impenetrable fetters; and that, if England did not give them the Gospel, there would be an outburst through the country, which would, in all probability, endanger the existence of our Empire.
To have begun, then, an infant society like ours, in the moments of fear and apprehension and ignorance of the future, and to have witnessed the steps of that Society, till it has stood on the firm ground of successful experiment, is at least one subject of congratulation for the past, and of animating encouragement for the future.
But, indeed, with regard to the state of mankind, and the duty of communicating to them the Gospel, the case has been made out so strongly, that we stand in no other relation to them than that in which the man who has been saved from a shipwreck stands towards his fellow-sailors who are still buffeting the waves,
and unable to discern or reach the shore. And I cannot understand any argument that can be addressed to the sound understanding of an Englishman more conclusive than this, that if God has given to me a blessing, and given it to me that I might propagate it to others, it is my duty to employ every means in my power of fulfilling that command.
And if in every thing else but religion the spirit of benevolence leads men to diffuse their discoveries, and if on the memory of the great benefactors of mankind the blessings and the praises of grateful nations repose, I would ask you, whether we are not to use every method for disseminating to the distant nations of the world the greatest discovery that God ever made to men?-the discovery of his own inercy—the discovery that God is not the object of terror, the author of misery and cruelty, as he is depicted in all idolatrous worship, but the Father of mercy and of love. I call that man a benefactor to the human race who can be the means of communicating, not the mere arts and luxuries of life, but the hopes of eternity; not the mere civilizing properties of human policy, but the ennobling, the sanctifying truths that raise prostrate man to his God, and implant in biin the seeds of eternal life.
Every thing else will fade away; time slips from us; the works of art moulder into dust;
earth shakes to its foundation ; an eternal state is pressing on us: and that which will remain will be, not the quibbles and the errors by which a fallen world is disturbed, but those mighty realities and truths by which as sinners we may obtain pardon and life. In the language of our native poet, Cowper
"Marble and recording brass decay,
There is another sentiment which I wish to press upon your attention ; namely, that enlarged efforts of Christian mercy ought to keep pace with the enlarged grandeur and character of our own country. I need not remind
in this vast town, so intimately connected with the greatness of our empire, that the British dominions extend over one tenth part of the population of the globe; that for about 270 degrees of longitude by 94 degrees of latitude, that is, nearly twenty thousand miles by six or seven thousand, there are but very short intervals between the separate colonies and posses