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or governed more by fancy than by reason, they may have imagined that a few years of effort and a few thousand dollars expended, would suffice to demolish the strong holds of heathenism and convert the world to God. But no intelligent Christian can have entertained such a view as this of the work of missions. It is a great work, far the greatest and most difficult ever undertaken by man. Instead of wondering that so little has been done towards its accomplishment, we have reason rather to be surprised, in view of the scantiness and feebleness of the means used, that so much has been done. If we review the past, in the exercise of a sober, Christian judgment, we cannot but feel that God has done exceeding abundantly above all that we had it in our hearts to ask, or even think. He has been beforehand with us in all our labors to advance this cause, preparing the way, and crowning effort with unexpected success. And in view of the numerous interpositions of his providence and grace in favor of the cause, which we, with our fellow Christians, have humbly endeavored to promote, it becomes us to be deeply and continually grateful.
Nor should any be unbelieving or backward to see and acknowledge the helping hand of God, which has been so signally manifested in the past history of the Board. It were easy to point out failures in particular instances, or to charge individual missions with mismanagement, and even the measures of the Board as not having been in all cases the wisest and best possible. But surely, such things, even should they be true, incidental as they are to all the undertakings of imperfect men,
should not blind our eyes to the many tokens of God's favor vouchsafed to the Board, nor prevent our rendering to him our tribute of thanksgiving for the great good which he has been pleased to accomplish through its instrumentality.
I cannot think it either right or Christian to maintain the posture of complaint and fault-finding in relation to a great and good cause, which is manifestly owned and blessed of God, simply for the reason that it is not, in all respects, conducted in what we deem the best manner. I could not take such a posture, without being reminded, and that too with no very easy or pleasant feelings, of the counsel of Gamaliel, given to his friends on a certain occasion, “And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone ; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found to fight against God.”
The warmest friends of the Board do not claim for it exemption from all mistake and error; this were to suppose its affairs to be conducted by angels and not by men. Nor do we, by any means, wish its proceedings to be screened from the watchful eye and the kind supervision of its friends and patrons. The safety and efficiency of the Board greatly depend upon such friendly inspection of its doings; and those who conduct its immediate concerns, far from shunning such inspection, earnestly invite it, and are thankful for it. It is a great fellowship of labor and responsibility in which we are engaged ; and if God helps us in this work, notwithstanding the imperfections of our poor services,
let us thank him for his help, and unitedly go forward in his work, striving to make what we do in promoting it more perfect in time to come.
It were certainly much more in unison with the spirit of the gospel, as it would doubtless tend much more to our own edification and comfort, to acknowledge God's hand in helping forward the cause in which we are engaged, and to thank and praise his name for the good he is doing by it, than to dwell upon alleged imperfections, or maintain a posture of unbelief, of fault-finding and crimination. If, in our view, there are imperfections and errors in the policy and management of this great and good cause, far from deserting the cause itself, or making war against it on that account, we should bear and forbear, and patiently and kindly wait, and use the proper means for their correction. Good men have here no interest to serve but that of the common cause of missions, the cause of God and human salvation; and while it may be expected of good men, that they will candidly listen to the suggestions of those who are professedly engaged in the same cause with themselves, it may be expected of them, at least, with equal confidence, that they will not be diverted from a course in relation to this cause, which they believe to be right, and which they see is manifestly approved of God.
2. Let us learn from our subject a lesson of duty. A great work is going forward in our day, the work of evangelizing the world. This work has upon it the high seal of heaven. It is in fulfilment of the great design of our Savior's mediation ; it is in obedience to his last command, and it involves the eternal destiny of earth's unevangelized millions. This work- I mean the portion of it committed to this Board--was commenced by our fathers, who now rest from their labors. It has passed into our hands, and we are called to carry it forward, to the utmost extent of our power, during our brief day of responsibility and toil; and then, in our turn, committing it to those who survive us, go with our fathers to the rewards which they enjoy in heaven.
The very help which God has hitherto afforded in the prosecution of this work, devolves upon us new and more pressing duties. The seed, which for many long years was being sown, with wearisome toil and much prayer, has began to spring up, and the fields are white unto the harvest. It is ours to enter in and reap the harvest, and gather fruit unto eternal life; that so it may be fulfilled in us, as in the apostles of old, that they who sowed, and we who
reap, shall rejoice together. If we fail to do this; in other words, if we fail to sustain and strengthen our missions by the increased help which is demanded, by the fact that God has so greatly prospered them, then shall we lose the fruits of past labors ; and fields placed under hopeful cultivation and beginning to smile with moral verdure and beauty must be abandoned, and turned back to barrenness and desolation.
The missionary work, it should ever be borne in mind, is necessarily a cumulative work. The success of one year creates a demand for more work to be done the next year.
And surely, because God helps us in our work, blesses our missions, and so
increases our labors and responsibilities, we may not ask him to stay his hand, or lighten the burdens which he thus lays upon us.
Rather let us thank him for placing us under the blessed necessity of going forward in this work; and if, at any time, it seem to press too heavily upon us, let us take it up with new courage in his strength, casting our burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain us.
Our duty in respect to the cause of inissions is not indeed to be ascertained or to be measured by the degree of success which may presently attend our endeavors. That duty comes to us under the sanction of a higher authority. It lies in two things,first, it is the will of our ascended and reigning Lord, expressed in a plain command of his word, that we, his disciples, bear a part in causing his gospel to be preached to every creature; and, secondly, we have the means of affording essential aid in the accomplishment of this great work, and where there is a knowledge of duty and the means of doing it, there the obligation is perfect, and we are held responsible to the great Lord and Judge of all.
Our privilege, too, in this respect, lies in two things. First, the cause itself is essentially good, and in seeking to promote it we become co-workers with God, in God's most noble work, call into exercise the purest and best feelings of the heart, and adopt the most effectual way of securing growth in grace, and a high measure of present Christian enjoyment. And, secondly, all we do in this cause, from love to Christ and our fellow-men, Christ regards as done to himself, and he will remember it to our everlasting joy in the kingdom of glory.