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I shall not confine myself to the more glaring faults of individuals, or to the inconsistencies and sins which have come to light in our own little community, but taking an enlarged and comprehensive view of facts, circumstances, and characters, within the field of observation just defined, endeavor to turn your thoughts to those hidden springs of action, from which all our mistakes and follies proceed, and which we may consequently regard as those roots of bitterness which Infinite Wisdom means to extract by the instrumentality of affliction, accompanied by the living energies of his own Spirit. And,
1. I would notice the want of holiness of heart. By holiness is meant universal purity. In God, this is absolute; in his people here, at least, it is only comparative, though if they live the religion they profess, however it may sometimes fail in practice, it will be perfect in principle, in purpose, and in effort. It implies then the hearty renunciation of all sin, a sincere aversion to it in every perceptible form, and a living, active, and ardent desire to avoid it in ourselves, and discountenance and oppose it in all around us. It supposes our motives to be simple, disinterested, and spiritual, and all our conduct to be governed by a supreme regard for the glory of God, and the good of his creatures. Thus it raises the soul above the contagion of earthliness, and assimilates it to the atmosphere of heaven. But while it elevates the affections, it softens the feelings, and humbles the carriage. It exerts a mellowing influence on all the features of the character. Indeed, it draws out, heightens, and brightens, every christian grace and accomplishment. Hence, you will readily perceive it fits its subjects for every good word and work, and that without the savor of this salt we are actually good for nothing. How then does the state of our hearts and the conduct of our lives harmonize with this grand requisite of duty, devotion, and usefulness? If weighed in the balance, shall we not be found wanting? O let us be honest with ourselves, let us look into our hearts, let us scrutinize our motives, let us bring our thoughts, our feelings, our words, our actions, to the test of truth, to the touchstone of spiritual purity, of genuine holiness. Without holiness no man can see the Lord. Nor can we expect, without holiness, to lead others to the contemplation of his glory. The idea is as absurd as the end will be fruitless. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. This is the divine injunction. Be it then our constant care to perfect holiness in the fear of God. If we do not, there will remain naught but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. Then He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and though we ourselves should be saved, all our works performed in worldliness, and stained with sin, will assuredly be burned up.
2. Out of this defect, supposing it to exist, will naturally spring a feeling of self-importance and self-complacency, than which no thing can be more displeasing to God, exert a more withering influence upon the soul, or more surely blight every prospect of spiritual use
fulness. And, unhappily, if the needful safeguard is thus lacking, the very nature of our work is calculated to foster the development and growth of this deadly poison.
The conversion of the world is the noblest enterprise which can engage the powers of man. Nor has its moral grandeur been hidden from the discerning mind or left to spend its force upon the more wise and pious few, who could be quickened by its heavenly glory without being dazzled by its unearthly splendor. It has been made the theme of the pious orator, and the effulgence of its praises has blazoned from the sacred desk. Placed in proud contrast with all that is magnificent in nature, and all that is sublime in sentiment, its high and commanding superiority, has challenged the admiration of the good and great of every name. It is, in fact, so far as our knowledge extends, the great work of the great God. What an honor then for any mortal to co-operate in its execution! Whose bosom would not heave with conscious elevation at the thought of being associated with it even in the humblest way? This is natural, but, O, how dangerous. Great grace is needed to maintain our balance at such a giddy height. And to increase the peril, especially of the youthful missionary, a quite needless, and altogether unwarranted, line of distinction has sometimes been drawn between him and the pastors of the churches at home, as if they were not really engaged in the same work, and provided they are in their proper sphere, and perform their duties with humility, diligence, and zeal, occupying a post as honorable, and achieving results as glorious as the most distinguished ambassadors of Christ to the heathen. Hence it becomes so easy to substitute our connection with the missionary enterprise for fidelity in its prosecution, and imagine it is enough to have enlisted under the banner of the cross, though we should never fight the battles of the Lord. Nay, we may even flatter ourselves with the idea that the zeal we have shown, and the sacrifices we have made in giving ourselves to this work, cannot be more than compensated by any measure of self-indulgence accessible in the field, or any degree of arrogance in our conduct towards our fellow-laborers. Thus a wide door is opened for the admission of anger, discord, dissension, and all uncharitableness. Only let one person think of himself more highly than he ought to think, and consequently love to have the pre-eminence, and what a fire may be kindled even amongst the least combustible materials!
Another no less baneful consequence of the same spirit, is a disposition to look more at the splendor of plans, and the grandeur of undertakings, than at the power of carrying them into execution, or the particular indications of Providence, and other circumstances which ought to govern our decisions and direct the employment of our energies. Am I venting suspicions without the bounds of probability? Alas, I have heard things in this connection which make me blush for the motives of missionaries.
It is well for us to do great things when God puts it in the power of our hands to do them; but wo to us if we vainly attempt great things simply because they are great, without regard to our peculiar situation and the calls of duty from other quarters. Far better were it for us to remain contented in an humbler sphere than thus to provoke the wrath of heaven, by seeking our own instead of the things which are Jesus Christ's. Seekest thou great things for thyself, seek them not. Our real glory is to annihilate self. Our highest interest is to be willing to be any thing, in order to glorify God, to honor Christ, and save immortal souls.
3. Closely allied to the preceding point is the entertainment of romantic notions of the missionary work. The enterprise of converting this revolted world to God, is a sober reality. It is no quixotic undertaking, inspired by a heated imagination, and urged forward by the day dreams of a disordered fancy. Nor can it be carried on by any principle of a visionary enthusiasm, or a whimsical philosophy. There is far too much of stubborn fact in the difficulties, the dangers, and the discouragements to be encountered. It may even be questioned whether the best impulses of such a motive are capable of conducting its subjects through the most distant outworks of the citadel we have to storm-through the woods and marshes, the bogs and quagmires which are often to be passed in order to see the enemy in his strong holds, and find out the most important points of assault. How then can it be expected to carry them through the long, tedious, spirit-trying warfare with all that is perverse and wicked in the human heart, and all that is wily and daring in the devices of Satan?
It is to be hoped, however, that the halo of romance is, at last, too much dissipated for any considerate person to enter the field merely on such unsubstantial grounds as these. Some correct idea of the work, some sense of its importance and difficulty, we may reasonably suppose is entertained by most, if not all, who now offer their services to God and the church. Yet we greatly fear that not a few still allow their imaginations far more play, in contemplating this subject, than is consistent with truth, or conducive to usefulness. A sort of enchantment is spread over the missionary field, which makes it appear, after all, something like a fairy-land. Difficulties, dangers, discouragements, present themselves in such a romantic air that they wane into insignificance, and are treated as unreal; or the charm of suffering and toiling in a good cause, appears so fascinating in the distance, that the power of endurance is entirely over-rated in anticipation. On the other hand, all that is beautiful, and all that is grand in high enterprise and noble-daring, all that is good and amiable, and praise-worthy in virtuous conduct and holy effort, shines out with such overpowering lustre as quite to entrance the soul which, lost in the glare of apparent results, forgets or disregards the toils and conflicts through which they have been gained.
These views and feelings most completely prepare the missionary candidate for disappointment, and such disappointment as will be apt to overwhelm him with despondency, and unnerve his energies for any vigorous exertion. When he comes to stand upon the ground all such airy fancies will be found to vanish, and unless he has something more substantial to support him, with broken spirits and a quailing heart, he will shrink from difficulty, and flee from danger, as if aught of this kind had never entered into his estimates of the missionary life. Yea, he will be frightened at the rustling of a leaf, and flee when no man pursueth. Thus, ere long, his own security and his own comfort become the grand objects of his care, and he is so taken up with his health, his comfort, or his personal gratification, that his work, if ever he commenced it, is neglected; he is removed as far as possible from the sphere in which he could best discharge the duties of his commission, and wrapped up in the mantle of supreme selfishness. And will God, think you, smile upon such a missionary, or bless the interest with which he is connected ?-No; should nature, all around him, thrive and bid him, too, to flourish, that man will wither beneath the frown of heaven. Nor is it likely that he will perish alone in his iniquity. The cause in which he is engaged will assuredly suffer, and God alone can tell where the consequences of his folly will end.
For out of this, you will readily perceive, may, nay, I had almost said certainly will grow another evil of the most fearful magnitude, that is to say :
4. Carelessness and unfaithfulness in using means of support. These are a most sacred trust, and we cannot possibly guard their employment with too jealous an eye. They come not unfrequently from the poor, the widow, and the fatherless, and are therefore the fruits of their self-denial and devotion. What unthankfulness to squander the gifts, the very living of the destitute! They are from the treasury of the Lord. What sacrilege to divert them from their appropriate channel, and employ them for luxurious gratification or needless profusion! I have no reference to the slander that missionaries live in palaces and live like princes. All who know the truth, know the contrary, and those who will not believe upon the most abundant testimony, probably would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
But there are other ways in which missionaries may err in this matter. If, for instance, they choose a location more on account of its pleasantness, and the comforts with which it is surrounded, than for the sphere of usefulness it affords, or if they choose a more costly in preference to a more economical dwelling, merely because the site is more agreeable and fashionable, or the building more elegant and tasteful, though the difference may seem trifling and the object allowable, and though they may persuade themselves the time is not come for them to build the Lord's house, may not God justly demand of
them, "is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?"-But this is only a single illustration of the point in hand, and one perhaps, after all, not likely often to occur in fact. Yet it shows how easy it is to go astray, and when once astray all know how difficult it is to return into the path of duty. Perhaps we have all something to lament in this respect. At any rate those providences which have most signally afflicted the cause to which we are devoted, seem significantly to point to a great evil of this kind in one quarter or another. If we have not done the deed, we may have winked at those who did it. It is an awful thing thus to kick at the sacrifices of Jehovah, and make ourselves fat with the chiefest of the offerings of his people. For this sin, the sons of Eli were cut off, and even their father brought the judgment of heaven upon his house forever for the iniquity he knew, because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
But there is a species of error, coming under this general description, to which missionaries in certain situations are peculiarly liable, and which, therefore, deserves a separate and more particular consideration. I mean :
5. Turning aside from our great business to any other object of pursuit. This is certainly nothing less than unfaithfulness in the application of missionary funds. These we know are given for one specific purpose the support of missionaries in the performance of missionary labor, that is, labor bearing as directly as may be on the conversion of benighted souls, and the moral and spiritual illumination of this dark world. If, therefore, we allow ourselves to be diverted in any measure from this simple and definite end, it matters not how good or important the object which draws our attention, we are unfaithful to our trust, and cannot expect the blessing of our King and Savior.
These remarks, of course, do not touch such subordinate work as is needful or important to the successful prosecution of our grand design. All literary labors and systems of instruction which bear directly on this point are not merely proper, but in a sense actually binding upon us.
It is easy to see, however, that this is a very perilous position. Especially if we have hard materials to work upon-men who have strong and unyielding prejudices, and these fortified by a show of science, falsely so called, it is extremely natural for our worldly minds to slip into the conclusion that these bulwarks of error and superstition must be swept away by the force of real learning, before we can expect to find an entrance for the truth as it is in Jesus. Thus literature comes to be substituted for the Bible, as if the Word of God was not more quick and powerful than the word of man, and even sharper than any two-edged sword. But such a perversion of our high calling has still more hurtful consequences. It may produce much unhappy feeling, and many painful conflicts between brethren whose