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THE FIELD IS THE WORLD.-Matt. xiii. 38.
PHILOSOPHERS have speculated much concerning a process of sensation, which has commonly been denominated the emotion of sublimity. Aware that, like any other simple feeling, it must be incapable of definition, they have seldom attempted to define it; but, content with remarking the occasions on which it is excited, have told us that it arises, in general, from the contemplation of whatever is vast in nature, splendid in intellect, or lofty in morals. Or, to express the same idea somewhat varied, in the language of a critic of antiquity, "that alone is truly sublime, of which the conception is vast, the effect irresistible, and the remembrance scarcely, if ever, to be erased."
It is cheering to observe that, amidst so much that is debasing, there is still something that is ennobling in the character of man. But whilst the general assertion is true, that he is awake to all that is sublime in nature, and much that is sublime in morals, there is reason to believe that there is a single class of objects, whose contemplation thrills all heaven with rapture, at which he can gaze unmelted and unmoved. The pen of inspiration has recorded, that the cross of Christ, whose mysteries the angels desire to look into, was, to the tasteful and erudite Greek, foolishness. And we fear that cases very analogous to this may be witnessed at the present day. But why should it be so? Why should so vast a dissimilarity of moral taste exist between seraphs who bow before the throne, and men who dwell upon the footstool? Why is it that the man, whose soul swells with ecstacy whilst viewing the innumerable suns of midnight, feels no emotion of sublimity when thinking of their Creator? Why is it that an enterprise of patriotism presents itself to his imagination beaming with celestial beauty, whilst the
MORAL DIGNITY OF THE MISSIONARY ENTERPRISE.
enterprise of redeeming love is without form or comeliness? Why should the noblest undertaking of mercy, if it only combine among its essential elements the distinctive principles of the Gospel, become at once stale, flat, and unprofitable? When there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, why is it that the enterprise of proclaiming peace on earth and good-will to man, fraught, as it would seem. with more than angelic benignity, should, to many of our fellow-men, appear worthy of nothing better than neglect or obloquy?
The reason for all this we shall not now attempt to assign; but shall proceed to show, that this very Missionary cause combines within itself the elements of all that is sublime in human purpose; nay, combines them in a loftier perfection than any other enterprise which was ever linked with the destinies of man; and in prosecuting it, we shall direct your attention to the grandeur of the object, the arduousness of its execution, and the nature of the means on which we rely for success.
I. THE GRANDEUR OF THE OBJECT.
In the most enlarged sense of terms, The Field is the World. Our design is radically to affect the temporal and eternal interests of the whole race of man. We have sur
veyed this field statistically, and find, that of the eight hundred millions who inhabit our globe, but two hundred millions have any knowledge of the religion of Jesus Christ. Of these, allowing that one-half are his real disciples, there still remain seven of the eight hundred millions to whom the Gospel must be sent.
We have considered these beings as immortal, and candidates for an eternity of happiness or misery. And we cannot avoid the belief that they are exposed to eternal misery. Here, you will observe, the question with us is not, whether a heathen, unlearned in the Gospel, can be saved. If he be saved, he must possess holiness of heart; for without holiness no man shall see the Lord. And where shall we find holy heathen? Where is there the vestige of purity of heart among unevangelized nations? It is in vain to talk about the innocence of these children of nature. It is in vain to tell us of their graceful mythology. Their gods are such as lust makes welcome. Of their very religious services it is a shame to speak. To settle the question concerning their future destiny, it would only seem necessary to ask. What would be the character of that future state, in
which those principles of heart, which the whole history of the heathen world developes, were suffered to operate in their unrestrained malignity?
No! solemn as is the thought, we do believe, that, dying in their present state, they will be exposed to all that is awful in the wrath of Almighty God. And we do believe that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Our object is to convey to those who are perishing, the news of this salvation. It is to furnish every family on the face of the whole earth with the word of God, written in its own language; and to send to every neighbourhood a preacher of the cross of Christ. design will not be completed until
"One song employs all nations, and all cry,
II. THE MISSIONARY UNDERTAKING IS ARDUOUS ENOUGH TO CALL INTO ACTION THE NOBLEST ENERGIES OF MAN. Its arduousness is explained in one word, our field is the World. Our object is to effect an entire moral revolution in the whole human race. Its arduousness then results of necessity from its magnitude.
I need not say to those acquainted with the nature of the human mind, that a large moral mass is not easily and permanently affected. A little leaven does not soon leaven the whole lump. To produce a change even of speculative opinion upon a single nation, is an undertaking not easily accomplished. In the case before us, not a nation, but a world, is to be regenerated: therefore, the change which we would effect is far from being merely speculative. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Nothing short of this new creation will answer our purpose. We go forth, not to persuade men to turn from one idol to another, but to turn universally from idols, to serve the living God. We call upon those who are earthly, sensual, and devilish, to set their affections on things above. We go forth exhorting men to forsake every cherished lust, and present themselves a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. And this mighty moral revolution is to be effected not in a
family, a tribe, or a nation; but in a world which lieth in wickedness.
We have to operate upon a race, divided into different nations, speaking a thousand different languages, under every different form of government, from absolute inertness to unbridled tyranny, and inhabiting every district of country, salubrious or deadly, from the equator to the poles. To all these nations must the Gospel be sent; into all these languages must the Bible be translated; to all these climes, salubrious or deadly, must the missionary penetrate; and under all these forms of government, mild or despotic, must he preach Christ, and him crucified."
Besides, we shall frequently interfere with the more sordid interests of men; and we expect them to increase the difficulties of our undertaking. If we can turn the heathen to
God, many a source of unholy traffic will be dried up, and many a convenience of unhallowed gratification taken away. And hence we may expect, that the traffickers in human flesh, the disciples of mammon, and the devotees of pleasure, will be against us. From the heathen themselves we have the blackest darkness of ignorance to dispel. We have to assault systems venerable for their antiquity, and interwoven with every thing that is proud in a nation's history. Above all, we have to oppose the depravity of the human heart, grown still more inveterate by ages of continuance in unrestrained iniquity. In a word, we go forth to urge upon a world dead in trespasses and sins, a thorough renewal of heart, and a universal reformation of practice.
Brief as is this view of the difficulties which surround us, and our limits will not allow us to state them more in detail, you see that our undertaking is, as we said, arduous enough to task, to the uttermost, the noblest energies of man. Let us consider
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THIS MORAL REVOLUTION IS TO BE EFFECTED.
It is, in a word, by the preaching of Jesus Christ, and him crucified. It is by going forth, and telling the lost children of men, that God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son to die for them; and by all the eloquence of such an appeal, to entreat them, for Christ's sake, to be reconciled unto God. This is the lever by which, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the moral universe is to be raised, and a sinful world regenerated.
And consider the commanding simplicity of this means,