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SOME dissatisfaction having been expressed at the sentiment avowed in our last number, when reviewing Mrs. Winslow's Memoir, that we could not rejoice when Irish Christians devote themselves to the work of foreign missions, we have reconsidered the matter, and now submit to our readers our deliberate opinion.
The sphere and the object of missionary labours are thus explained by our Lord, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” a sphere as unlimited as the object is clearly defined. Yet the order in which the work was to be performed was also stated, “ That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” And, when on the point of being taken from their sight into heaven, the very last words spoken by our blessed Lord to these appointed teachers, were, “ And ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
Now, whether this be taken geographically or nationally, it will bear us out in the inference that we desire to draw. If the former, we behold the same beautiful order and regularity pervading the spread of the gospel, which marks all those operations in the kingdom of nature that are used to typify it. FEBRUARY, 1838.
The knowledge of the glory of the Lord is to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. What can be more steadily progressive than the encroachments of the liquid element, covering, yea transforming into sea, large tracks of land : or, if it be applied to the influx of tides, what more uniform than its march? The vegetating of a germ, the growth of a tree, the spreading of morning upon the mountains, all convey the same image. The nearest surrounding space is first occupied; the tent being once pitched, the cords are lengthened and the stakes strengthened, to embrace within that central space them that are nigh, and them that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
It is our firm belief that, in the old world at least, England is as much the fortress of Christianity, the depository of the gospel, and the appointed minister for carrying it out through the lands, as were the apostles of old. So far as her means go, she has acted upon this principle: she has planted a national church in every district of her domestic territory : she has begun at her Jerusalem : she has spread the light, to the utmost limits of human agency, throughout it: and as the field is so wide, she has given abundant facility for other labourers, who may not fully accord with the prescribed rules of her national church, to proclaim Christ and his gospel in whatsoever mode their consciences, nay, or their prejudices,
The people of England may be ungodly, may be vicious, profligate, infidel : but it is not for lack of instruction, if they had the heart to profit by it. The drunkard who, on a Sabbath morning, reels to the dram-shop, though he turn away his foot from the door of God's house, cannot close
his ears to the sweet invitation of the church-going bell; or avoid crossing what he knows to be the track to some less conspicuous edifice, where the word of life is read, the gospel of salvation preached, and the name of the Most High invoked, in a meeting that is as open to him as to any other man. Well may England send forth her missionaries to the uttermost parts of the earth, for she has liberally provided for them of her own household.
With regard to Ireland, England, when popish, did the work of her then master, Antichrist, most effectually. She inoculated with that virulent disease those who had so far escaped it, and nursed into deadly maturity the cases of previous infection. England, become Protestant, wrought with a lukewarm spirit, when she should have redoubled her zeal, inasmuch as the plague to be eradicated was so especially of her own introduction. However, she extended the privileges of her reformed church to her poor sister; and left it in the hands of such as she sent to minister there, to carry out the plan of spiritual reformation. One mighty and indispensable work she had achieved within her own coasts, that of translating not only the scriptures, but the order for public worship into the language of her people. Imagine what reception a man would have experienced at the hands of a Protestant English bishop for ordination, with no knowledge of the English tongue! The bare idea of any thing so monstrous could not be entertained. England guarded her own congregations from such an insulting mockery; and recommended to her Irish delegates the same careshe ought to have enforced it. The consequence of this omission, wheresoever the principal guilt of it
may lie, is, that in Ireland the native race, to a very large extent, remain totally ignorant of the ONLY language in which the gospel is preached among them: in other words, the church of Ireland does not preach the gospel to the people in the ONLY tongue that can inform their understandings, and touch their hearts. Paganism in its worst form (that is, under the mask of nominal Christianity), barbarism in its most fearful manifestations, and an active exterminating hatred of those wbo uphold the real Christian faith, are the results. Who will say that Ireland is not a field most loudly calling for missionary effort ?-a field which must be geographically crossed, and left behind, by those of its own inhabitants who betake themselves to other regions.
But view it nationally, and the parallel becomes much stronger. “It was necessary,” said St. Paul, addressing the Jews, “ that to you the gospel should first be preached.” This necessity was laid on the apostles by our Lord's commandment; and the reason of it is clearly set forth in very many parts of scripture. The Jews were those whom God had planted in that land, as a peculiar people, chosen from among all nations, to be his church, to hold the deposit of his sacred oracles, and to glorify him in the sight of the Gentiles. They had received the law by the dispensation of angels; but had not kept it. They acknowledged the obligations of God's commandments, but made them vain through their traditions. They professed to hold the only true doctrine; but taught for doctrine the commandments of men-of men who held the key of knowledge, but would not enter themselves, and hindered those who would have entered. They loudly proclaimed themselves “the temple of the Lord,” the true and the only true worshippers of Jehovah, while they killed his prophets, and stoned the messengers whom he sent unto them. What Gentile nation was in such an awful case as this? What darkness was so great as theirs, to whom light bad been given, but was, by their desperate wickedness, turned into darkness? To them, therefore, was the gospel first sent--or rather restored; for they had the gospel in the Old Testament, as our Lord frequently reminded them, and bad, by obscuring it, turned their glory into a lie. To this once privileged nation, now so lost, so hardened, so polluted in their own doings, were the apostles, their fellow-countrymen, commanded first to make known the revelation of Jesus Christ. No doubt, in the estimation of the eleven, they should have been the last : for, dwelling among them, and beholding their evil deeds, even the recent crowning sin of crucifying the Lord of glory, they, of all men, must have felt least encouragement to preach to the Jews salvation through his blood. But the command was peremptory: not even one was spared, to commence in Samaria, or the distant nations. The original number was to be completed, a twelfth elected to supply the place of Judas; and the whole company were detained, until the wonderful powers conferred on them had been altogether, with one accord, and with one earnest effort, devoted to the strange, the perilous, the seemingly hopeless task of declaring Christ crucified as the only and all-sufficient Saviour of their souls, to those who were lying under the fearfal load of the blood of his crucifixion !