« PrécédentContinuer »
It might have been expected, indeed, that, with the progress of superstition in the dark
pure flame of Christian charity should decline; and that the church, either inculcating a corrupted doctrine, or employing unballowed means, should fail more and more in her efforts to disseminate the Christian Faith.
But why had not the reformed churches rekindled the sacred fire? Why had they allowed three centuries to pass away, before they attempted any thing considerable for the salvation of the world? Why had not the holy zeal of their Missionaries marked the revival of that pure doctrine of Christ, which they received in order that they might disseminate it to the ends of the earth?
The painful truth is, that the Reformation has never transfused into its communities the spirit of Missions. The Roman Catholics, with all the gross corruptions which we charge upon them, have outstripped us in this race. At the very time when Protestant Germany and England were utterly indolent, Rome was pushing her Missionaries into the most remote and apparently impenetrable regions of the earth. It is with a sort of triumph that Muratori observes, “ That, amongst all the marks that serve to distinguish the Catholic Church from sects delivered over to error, the ardent zeal she has ever shown for the propagation of the Gospel, is one that
strikes us most?." Undoubtedly, the wealth and power of that church, together with its absolute dominion over its priesthood, facilitated its Missionary designs; whilst the uncertain condition of the early Protestant communities, and the domestic habits of their clergy, proportionably impeded them in such exertions. It is to be considered also, that much is to be deducted from the apparent effects of the Romish Missions, on the score of the superstition, duplicity, and force, which too much disgraced their later measures : but still the humiliating acknowledgment must be made, that the reformed churches have been lamentably defective in these high and ennobling duties. Surely, as they acquired stability and influence, they should have laboured to equal the efforts of the Catholic Missionaries in extent of labour, whilst they surpassed them in purity of doctrine and simplicity of proceeding.
We must not, indeed, undervalue the actual attempts of the different Protestant communities in their various Missions. The patience and faith of Ziegenbalg, Grundler, Swartz, and Gerické, of Eliot, Brainerd, and others, will never be forgotten. But what proportion do the labours of these, and a few othor holy men,
· Muratori's Relation of Missions to Paraguay, Lond. 1759.
bear to the immense extent of the heathen world? The population of the globe is estimated, at the lowest, at 800 millions, of whom not more than 175 millions are professedly Christian-that is, in the nineteenth century from the birth of the Saviour of the world, threefourths of that world never heard, to any effect, of his name; never heard of the God who made nor of the Saviour who redeemed them; were never told of their immortal destiny, of their duty and their danger, of the way of repentance or the foundation of hope. Surely this single fact is sufficient to afflict every considerate, every humane mind. And yet, time stops not in its course.
Thousands of our fellow-creatures are bastening into eternity every year, every inonth, every day, who might have been enlightened and blessed with the truths of revelation, if we had possessed inore zeal and charity in consulting their everlasting welfare. Indeed, were the temporal well-being of mankind alone in question, they who rightly estimate the astonishing effects of Christianity, in mitigating the evils of war and abolishing the cruelties of heathen superstition, as well as in communicating innumerable other benefits, would ardently wish to diffuse it with a view to the present happiness of their fellow-men, as well as to their eternal felicity.
It is painful to reflect, that amongst all the
nations professing the Protestant faith, our own country has had, till within these very few years, the largest share in the guilt of this inactivity. It is truly alarming to consider the rank and commerce and glory of this great empire, and yet the little that she has done in the noblest cause which can animate man. She stretches her dominion over an immense portion of the world : her ships cover every ocean: her territories border on most of the considerable heathen and Mohammedan states: her fame for wealth, and liberty, and valour, and good faith, has filled the earth : and yet what has she effected for the highest interests of mankind? what, worthy of the blessings bestowed on her? what at all answerable to the facilities which she possesses, and the correspondent obligations under which she lies?' Especially, since the vast extent of her possessions in India has added sixty or seventy millions to her population-an event of incalculable moment, and bringing with it a deep responsibilitywhat has she attempted, to meet the great occasion which is presented to her, of extending the Christian faith?
If we except the laudable efforts of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in the South of India, where a few clergymen, and those of the Lutheran church, have long been supported, nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done, till these late years, by our church, for the instruction of the heathen.
And yet what is there so holy, what so elevated, what so arduous, 'as the work of disseminating the most stupendous blessings among nations debased by vice and superstition, nations lost to heaven and to themselves, without hope and without God in the world? We boast of our benevolence and humanity; but what exercise of benevolence or humanity can be compared to that of rescuing our fellow-men from ignorance, and cruelty, and lust, and misery; of conveying to them the knowledge of a crucified Redeemer, and telling them that GOD IS LOVE? We talk of heroism; but what is so heroic as to quit the comforts of our native land, and cheerfully to encounter the dangers of a foreign clime, and all the labours and sufferings incidental to missionary undertakings ? Surely there treads not on this earth a man so truly magnanimous as the faithful missionary! To be engaged in inviting such men into the field of exertion, and of aiding and animating them in their toils, can only, therefore, be second in importance to the becoming missionaries ourselves.
And yet England was for a long period, as a nation, utterly unmoved by these considerations. With a cold selfishness she monopolised the gifts of grace, which were confided to her for the benefit of mankind. She was contented with