As the host of heaven can not be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured; so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.--Jeremiah xxxiii. 22.
A THOUSAND well-armed men once passed beneath my windows, bearing the flag of our country, and hastening to the defence of the capital. The sight was an unusual one at that time. I was dwelling in the good old State of Maryland, and its soil was soon afterward made the highway of heroes, who passed on by thousands and by hundreds of thousands. But the regiment to which I now specially refer was made up of the sons of Rhode Island--sons and brothers perhaps of many whom I now address. No one would be unwilling to own such men for kindred. They were men of muscle and of bone; but I saw in them also the clear eye and the intelligent brow--tokens of a condition and breeding not ordinarily associated with the common soldier. I saw at a glance that Rhode Island had sent her best blood to the war, and the old Roman fable occurred to me with new force and meaning. It would seem that a yawning gulf in a great republic can never be closed, till the flower of its youth throws itself, in complete armour, a willing sacrifice, into the chasm.
 That band of heroes was but a small part of the devoted men whom the least of our States has sent into the field to sustain the laws and the integrity of the nation. So, in old times, little Benjamin was made a ruler; so Bethlehem-Ephrata, though small among the thousands of Israel, gave its David to meet Goliath; and so it is written by the wisest of men: "There be things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise."
As a diocese, Rhode Island has been noted of late for its rapid development; but it reported, at our last General Convention, only six candidates for Orders. How many of the soldiers of Rhode Island, who were also members of our Church, have gone to the war? No doubt they are counted by hundreds; and they went, devoted by weeping mothers, and blest for the sacrifice by fathers, and sisters, and brothers. See what sacrifices Christians are ready to make for their country! Yet here we have no continuing city, and we profess to seek a better country, even an heavenly. Can any man explain why it is that so few of our noble youth are encouraged to live for Christ and for his kingdom, when they are so freely given up to die for a cause which, after all, is part of the perishing interests of time? How very strange! The Moloch of war is fed by thousands of your children, and no man wonders; but how the world would stare should even one in every twelve of the families of our communion undertake to furnish a recruit for the benevolent warfare of the Prince of Peace!
Still I maintain that nothing less is what Christ [4/5] demands. And why not, when the heathen, to be evangelized, are counted by hundreds of millions? Men talk of the increase of the ministry, as if it were a matter to be estimated by the number of vacant parishes in our own American Church! Why, the Saviour bids you look over a world of perishing souls as one mighty harvest-field, and to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into his harvest. I will take it for granted you obey this command, and that you do pray for this blessed result. Who, then, are to be sent of the Lord, if he answers your prayers? Who but your own children? And is it not mockery to ask for this blessing with your lips, if at the same moment you withhold it with both hands?
The whole Mosaic economy was designed to teach us many practical lessons in Gospel days. The text is Mosaic in language, but its principle is evangelical. We live in bad days, when a Christian bishop has pronounced the Pentateuch a fable; but our blessed Lord declared that it is full of himself, and I suppose, so long as we are Christians, we shall prefer to be disciples of Christ. The New Testament asserts that "whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning;" and St. Paul declares that a precept designed for the Christian Church was delivered by Moses in the words: "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn." The school of interpreters, of whom the Bishop of Natal is an example, would pronounce this a mere maxim for farmers; but what says the great disciple of Gamaliel? "Doth God care for oxen," says St. Paul, "or saith he it [5/6] altogether for our sakes?" He asserts that the law was never designed to bear on agriculture at all, but was put there ages beforehand, altogether for the sake of the Apostles! So long beforehand did the Holy Spirit take care for the ministers of Christ, that they should have a proper support when they should labour in his harvest. But if such an obscure precept was designed to provide for their maintenance, can I possibly be mistaken in supposing that the law of their supply and call into the ministry is to be found illustrated in the principle which regulated the supply of the Levitical priesthood? If the very oxen of the Hebrews were pressed into this service, can it be possible that we are taught nothing by the very remarkable provisions which laid on every Hebrew family a sense of responsibility for the supply of the sacred ministry? The text is a prediction of the Christian ages, and of the vast increase of ministers which the new dispensation has a right to expect, for the carrying on of its great work. I maintain that its very phraseology turns us back to inquire as to the numbers of the Levitical priests, and as to the principle of their call to the ministry. If the Christian priesthood is to be supplied by a great multiplication of the numbers of those who were required for the law, then let us learn in what proportion the ministers of the law were supplied, and on what principle they were called. In the text, David means the son of David, and the Levites are the tribe of Levi, in its spiritual form, the Christian ministry. Elsewhere it is said of the Gentiles: "I will take of them for priests and for [6/7] Levites." On the last Sunday in the Christian year a somewhat similar prophecy is used, because the Church understands it to contain the promise of Christ, although the language is Mosaic. And on the same principle I expound the text, which may, it is true, include the idea of the conversion of the Jews and the reception of many Levites after the flesh, such as was St. Barnabas, into the Christian ministry. But the promise clearly teaches us that, as the great work of converting the world can only be accomplished by a vast augmentation of means and instruments, so God has taken care and forethought to provide them. The Hebrew priesthood ministered only to a single people, but the apostolic priests are to go into all lands and preach the Gospel, and serve as stewards of the divine mysteries. Do we not see, then, a proof of the divine forecast in the somewhat startling promise of the text? Obviously the work of the Church must require a much greater number of ministers than ever the law required, if all the world is to be evangelized. Now the text says that so it shall be. God is pledged to multiply his servants in the Christian ministry, as the sand and as the stars.
We shall do well, then, to see what principles are common to both dispensations, as bearing on this promise. The foundation principle is the same; we are a nation of priests, and so were they. Every Christian is a king and a priest, and so was every Hebrew. But, as all these could not exercise their priesthood in the same way, so there was a division among the Hebrews, as with us, and some were called [7/8] laity and others the priesthood; for "if the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing?" Yet it is an important point, that they who did the clergy duty were so chosen as to represent the whole body. Every lay Israelite was made to feel that the priest that ministered was a substitute for all that did not minister. For we must remember the tribe of Levi were not simply chosen to this office of ministration by a single edict. The Lord chose, by a very elaborate and circuitous process, to reach this result, so that the whole of Israel might clearly understand that the ministry was not simply the concern of a single tribe, but had a claim on every tribe and on every man. For observe: He first claimed the first-born son out of every family, to be his minister, and thus brought home the principle to every household. Afterward, he consented to take the whole tribe of Levi as substitutes for these first-born sons, so making the priesthood a representative system in some degree, and rooting the principle of their own service-duty in all the families of Israel.
Nor was Israel permitted to forget, in process of time, that the original principle was such as I have shown. Every Hebrew mother was bound to bring her first-born son to the temple, to offer him to the Lord, and then to redeem him from the service of the priesthood by the turtle-doves or pigeons. So our dear Lord was redeemed from being a Levitical priest by his blessed mother; and so he was reserved to establish his own more glorious priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, and to exercise it by the [8/9] Christian ministers, whom he should multiply as the sand and as the stars.
In the carrying out of this substitution, another remarkable fact is to be noted. The number of the Levites fell short of the number of the first-born by about three hundred. But the Lord would not relax his claim. For the number that fell short he exacted a commutation in money. He made perfect the system by which every family should feel itself represented in the priesthood. It is written: "Moses took the redemption-money of them that were over and above them that were redeemed by the Levites."
Thus, by a process complex and elaborate, every Israelite was made to feel his personal duty, if the father of sons, to furnish a recruit to the Mosaic ministry; and that this might be the more closely brought home to the consciences of the young, the Hebrew mother was obliged to recognize the Lord's claim on her first-born--that is, for the heir, the pride and the strength of the family. Now, if the Christian Church be, in a nobler sense, a nation of priests, I argue that the substitution of a particular tribe being done away, the original claim revives, and every Christian family that has sons is bound to send a son or a substitute to the service of the ministry. Can any one suggest any other principle on which the promise of the text can be accomplished? By all analogy we are led to the conclusion that the son, or the substitute, or the commutation in money, should still be offered by every household that calls itself Christian and is able to perform this service.
 Why not? Such ideas are not obsolete; the Government is even now enforcing a draft on a similar principle, and nobody imagines that its work can go on without it. I ask, has the Lord, who made us and redeemed us with his blood, a less absolute claim on our services than our native land? Yet thousands are given to the National army to be slain, where one is offered to Christ, to live for his glory. In money, too, we pay tribute to Caesar in millions, and offer to God our hundreds or our tens. How many Christian fathers have brought up families without a single thought that they were bound, if possible, to give one son to the great work of saving souls and regenerating mankind through the Gospel! The same sad evidence of want of faith and of zeal for Christ is seen in every thing that is designed for God's glory, as contrasted with whatever is of the earth, earthy. Look at our educational institutions. All that aim to be distinctly Christian are suffered to languish; but colleges and schools, and every kind of public foundation that throws off the Christian likeness, and impresses the young with no fear of God--these flourish and receive large endowments. I ask now, and I shall ask the question again, is it any wonder that God brings war upon us, and draws off, to perish by the sword, multitudes of our young men, whom we have utterly failed, in any way, to devote and educate for his service and glory?
But in order to provide for the conversion of the world, God has promised to multiply the Christian Levites. What, then, was the proportion under the [10/11] law which is to be multiplied under the Gospel? It seems that one tribe in twelve of the Hebrews was required for the Lord's immediate service, or a son out of every family. By this rule they had twenty-five thousand men to begin with, though for three hundred of these the Lord accepted the commutation money. Such was the proportion for the little Church and nation of Israel; what must be the requisite number for the Church that is to illuminate all parts of the earth and the isles of the sea?
The seed left on the Mount of Olives was only a handful, it is true; but the fruit thereof was to "shake like Lebanon." So the Lord gave the Word, on the day of Pentecost, to eleven Galileans; but the promise was, that "great should be the company of the preachers." The little stone cut out of the mountain without hands was to "become a great mountain and to fill the whole earth." These promises should enlarge our thoughts, and lead us to anxious inquiries as to the principle on which the Lord is going to supply the means and instruments of fulfilling his promises. Look at the black moral chart of the world! As yet only a little part illuminated; only here and there a bright spot; only here and there a little tempering of the dark shadows; the world still lies, for the most part, in darkness and the shadow of death. Or take our own country only. How many are its moral wildernesses! The whole land cries out for the Gospel; and if it did not, that would be even stronger evidence of the immensity of its moral poverty. Yet, when we speak of the necessity of an increase of the [11/12] ministry, it is not uncommon to hear the reply, that we have about as many ministers as can get parishes already. The text certainly proceeds on a very different basis in estimating for the preaching of the Gospel to every creature.
And this leads me to remark on the narrowness of all our ideas on this subject. When we think of devoting young men to the ministry, the one only thought seems to be to supply the pulpits of well-established churches, in pleasant towns and villages. The Jewish Church had divers ministries for its Levites. Some were priests, and others deacons for life. Some were prophets or preachers, and others taught in the synagogues, or offered the prayers of their service. Some were singers and some almoners. Some were scribes and custodians of the law, and others appear to have presided in "schools of the prophets." Now, the world-wide work of the Gospel calls for a similar variety of gifts and ministries. The gifts and qualities which make a complete and well-furnished parish-priest and preacher, are comparatively rare; but many who might not answer for such a work may be greatly useful as preachers from house to house, as criers in the wilderness, as seekers for the lost in highways and among the hedges. Sadly do we need a reinforcement of our ordinary parochial ministry. Very soon the voices of your present pastors must be heard no more; and who shall take our places and carry on our work, unless your sons are more freely offered? But do not imagine that the whole work of the ministry is to be done by priests in [12/13] the line linen of our city churches. The Gospel seed has never been scattered exclusively from cushioned pulpits. We need itinerants; we need more men of heroic enterprise--yes, hundreds of them--like those who founded Nashotah. We ought to choose strong centres, and there build up and fortify our schools and colleges, centralizing and radiating. We may learn wisdom from "a people not strong"--the excellent Moravians--who "go forth in bands." Feeble as they may be, they are even now prosecuting the work of missions on a scale which puts us, with our great resources, to the blush. Let us be emulous of their holy enterprise, and so let us fight fire with fire; for the missions of the papists are as active and as efficient as those of the Pharisees of old, who compassed sea and land to make one proselyte; and unless we can meet them in their own way, the world will be filled with their superstition, instead of the Gospel.
And how is it in our own land, I ask again? Behold the activity and mischief-making of political Romanism. The Jesuits are upon us, like wolves, hungry and ravenous, driven out of Europe, and greedy of the prey that we offer in America. Look at Mexico and the South-American nations! They whose teachings have been the leprosy of Christianity, burning to the bone, and eating out the moral life of every people that has given them a dominant influence--these have come hither also. Do we mean to give up to them this fair heritage of our fathers? Are their colleges to receive our youth? Are our daughters to be poisoned in their schools? Unless we can [13/14] raise up man for man to neutralize them, and to spread light where they are making darkness, the certainty of triumph is theirs. I ask, is this to be permitted? Are we pouring out blood and treasure for our dear country, only to turn it over to the tender mercies of Jesuits and Liguorians? If this is to be the result, let us know it, and let every wise man emigrate without delay. Who would breathe the air of a country polluted by predominant Popery, like Spain or Mexico, or call it his home? Yet, what reason have we to doubt that the restless efforts of the papists to become our masters will succeed, if things go on as they have done for the last five and twenty years? Give us your sons for a moral warfare with this enemy, and the land may be saved. "Like priest, like people." If intelligent, well-educated, and thoroughly pious and devoted men, are not supplied in numbers equal to the task of evangelizing our immigrant hordes, and enlightening the length and breadth of the land, it is idle to fight for the republic. There is no other provision for giving us an intelligent and virtuous democracy; and with a vicious and degraded population the nation must perish. We have civil war already; and social wars are a very possible consequence of the popular irreligion, which even now is so portentous and so justly alarming.
Now, if among the Jews every family was required to furnish one minister of God, when the wants of a single people only were respected, I ask, can we hope to supply our own country, and the whole world besides, by a smaller proportion of youth devoted to the [14/15] Christian ministry? And if not, how long ought we to tolerate the apathy which provides six candidates for Orders in Rhode Island, and no greater number, proportionably, elsewhere? Do we not see that, unless this drowsy indifference can be overcome, our country is ruined, and the conversion of the world, so far as we are concerned, indefinitely postponed?
The text cheers us, however, with hopes of a better day. "I will multiply the seed of David, my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me." Now this promise, I suppose, is to be fulfilled by means and instrumentalities. The Society in whose service I am making this appeal is endeavouring to wake up the consciences of our people, with respect to the duties they owe to the Lord of the harvest, if indeed they would have him send forth labourers into his harvest.
Who, then, are called into the sacred ministry? Observe, we are all priests unto God--a peeidiar people, called to show forth his praise. Every baptized person is sworn to fight manfully under Christ's banner, and to love him and serve him with all his mind and heart, and soul. If this be so, let me ask how any Christian man dares to turn to farm, or merchandise, or any such pursuit, until he is sure that it is none of his business to "go and preach the Gospel "? We may be sure there will always be enough left to carry on the work of this world; but every Christian youth, who has no decided evidence of the contrary, should begin by solemnly suspecting that God made him for the ministry. Not till he is satisfied, after prayer and the taking of pastoral and parental [15/16] advice, that he can serve God better as a layman than as a Levite, ought he to give himself to some other way of life. If he has the gifts to offer to the Lord, the presumption is, that God, who created them for his own glory, has use for them in the noblest work to which he has ever called any man, and to which ho gave up his own only-begotten Son. And let us be sure that it is no young man's interest to be any thing else than that for which the Lord made him. A blight and a curse follows sacrilege; and it is nothing short of sacrilege when a young Christian, who has all the natural gifts and the means for acquiring knowledge, and whom pastors and teachers claim for the sacred ministry, resolutely refuses to observe the indications of Providence, and steals himself from the altar. Such a man may receive the curse of God, which he has tempted, in the form of a fatal worldly prosperity. The young man in the Gospel, who turned away from following Christ because he had "great possessions," made a terrible mistake. Had ho done otherwise he might have been a Timothy, a Barnabas, or a Paul. But he made his choice, and where is he now? Where are those "great possessions"? One hopes the young man may have been saved even "so as by fire;" but, in eternity, how has he looked back for eighteen centuries upon his fatal mistake! O my dear young brother! if there be any such that hear me, do not imitate his wretched example. Ask God often, on your knees, as did the young man Saul of Tarsus: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Consult your parents, your pastor, [16/17] your bishop, and, still more carefully, your own conscience, in the light of God's Word. Be afraid to choose any pursuit in life till you are sure it is the one God has chosen for you. Ask yourself very often: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
But the subject as I have expounded it comes home to every father and to every mother in the Church. There is an awful sin somewhere, as I have endeavoured to show, when Christian parents are so much more ready to recognize a duty to their country than to their God. Every family sends a son to the war--only here and there a family gives a son to Christ's warfare. Moloch is suffered to put in his horrid claim, perhaps, because the call of the Holy Ghost was not heeded. Thousands of our youth are mouldering under the thinly covered graves of the battle-field, who would never have been called for, had even hundreds been devoted, heretofore, to make our countrymen a better people. What has made this rebellion? What but our national degradation? Even rulers have had no fear of God before their eyes. They have had no regard for the sanctity of an oath. Thousands of our countrymen have become semi-civilized. They have no reverence for human life. For want of the Gospel the land has brought forth "a generation of vipers:" and these are the men who have poisoned our legislation and filled the country with a moral pestilence of which peculation and corruption and rebellion are the natural results. Surely, if we had raised ministers of the Gospel, even by hundreds, we should not have [17/18] been called to send forth soldiers by millions. Surely, if we had spent our thousands for the evangelizing of our country, we should not have been forced to raise millions to save ourselves from national extinction! Who can doubt that the Lord has a controversy with us, as a people? He taught us that "it is better to save men's lives than to destroy," but we have chosen to believe the reverse, and he has given us destruction enough. Let no man misunderstand me. Now that our folly has borne its fruits, it is too late to choose, and we must take what is forced upon us. It is right, but oh! it is dreadful, that our goodliest young men should go forth to the defence of all that is most sacred and most dear! No man honours more than I do those noble youth who fell before Vicksburg and Port Hudson, or those who hurled back the hordes that threatened us with every horrour, at Antietam and Gettysburgh. Only I wish their lives had been spared and devoted to other purposes; and I cannot but think that if Christian parents, Northern and Southern, had done their duty to Christ and to their children, this common curse would never have come. Ah! why have our youth been nurtured to admire epaulettes and swords, and to think so little of the white ephod and the vessels of the altar? Why have they learned so little of soldiership for Christ, of missionary conquests, and of moral heroes? Why does the young man's heart beat with emotion when he thinks of Napoleon's career, and give no quicker pulsation when he is reminded of St. Paul? Why do we never see our young men fired [18/19] with holy ambition to pierce the darkness of heathenism, to scale the Chinese wall, or to throw down the pagodas of Japan, not indeed by shot and shell, but by the power of the Spirit? Sure I am the lives of Henry Martyn and of Bishop Heber ought to kindle a young man's enthusiasm and breed in him a holy emulation to "go and do likewise." But even when, here and there, a young man is found to respond to such exalted motives and to give up all for Christ, it is painful to see how little is made of his example. Such a young man was one whom I rejoice to call my kinsman, Cleveland Keith. Millions have heard the name of a volunteer who was shot on the staircase of a hotel at Alexandria, and it is right it should be so; but of this young hero of the cross who went forth from Alexandria, to teach and toil for Christ among the heathen, how little has been told! After devoting his patrimony and his life to his work in China, death met him on a blazing deck, amid the waves of the Pacific; and there, preaching the Gospel to his perishing fellow-sufferers, struggling to save them, and soothing their frantic terrors, he exhibited the power of the Gospel to make a soldier indeed; yea, a conqueror, and more than a conqueror through Christ. Now, I ask, why has there been nobody to take his place in the China mission? Is there nothing glorious in such a life and death? Christian parents, what have you taught your sons, if there is nothing in them that responds to a call like this? Marvel not, if in God's providence, you are made to ask yourselves this question with sighs and tears. You are not Spartans; you [19/20] have a right to weep, and when the young man comes home, not with his shield, but borne upon it, God may be reminding you that he was made for even a nobler warfare than that in which "his sun went down while it was yet day."
But I have shown how the Hebrew mother was made specially to feel her part and duty in this matter of supplying the Church with its soldiers. I argue that Christian mothers are not less called upon to think of the significance of the "turtle-doves and the two young pigeons." Of the clergy who have done most for Christ and for the world, a vast proportion, like St. Augustine, have owed themselves to pious mothers, and have been given to a mother's prayers. But where now are the Monicas who persevere in their supplications till their sons are given to them of God? The mother of Augustine would not give him up. He was a man of the world; he filled a professor's chair at Milan; he had chosen his place and post. But even there she pursued him; she still claimed him for God, and the Lord granted her request. He became the star of Western Europe; the shining light of Africa. Alas! why are there no Timothys in our days, if not because there are so few like Lois and Eunice? If the world has no Samuels, is it not because the Church has no Hannahs? Christian mothers, this is a question which ought to be full of import and of interest for you.
There remains the matter of the redemption money. If you do not send your sons, if you have kept back your own selves, then "how much owest thou to my [20/21] Lord?" Send your substitute or give your redemption money, and the Lord will find the substitute, plucking it, perhaps, out of the hedge or the thicket, like the ram caught by his horns, that was taken for Isaac. Our Society comes in, just here, and goes out to find your substitute, in just such places. The Gospel can not recruit its ministry, like Jeroboam's, from among the vilest of the people, but yet it is independent of the rich and of their fashions and caprices. He who was the carpenter's son, and whose apostles were fishermen and publicans, can take His choicest servants out of your humblest Sunday-schools, and choose the sons of poor mechanics and labourers to be princes of the Church, and to shine as lights in their generation. "Hearken, my beloved brethren," says St. James; "hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith?" Your riches may be of another kind, but not exclusively so, I trust. Then show your faith by your works, and help our Society to find your representative among the poor, and to send him in your stead. Ah! if you are a rich man, why not choose such a portion for your own son? You who can enrich him with such advantages, and adorn him with such means of usefulness, why not make your son, by God's help, all that a man can be, and then give him to the Lord? We want the sons of the wealthy--men of culture, men of travel, men of taste. No gifts are too precious for the sacred ministry. In no walk or pursuit in life is there a call for such varied accomplishments, such splendid endowments, such varied talents and graces. Give your sons, and rejoice to [21/22] make them all that your care and love can make them, before you offer them to the Lord; but if you can not do this, be sure you find their substitutes, and send these in their stead. "Supply their lack of service" by the redemption money. Perhaps you feel, as life advances, that it was a great mistake that you did not give yourself to the ministry. Perhaps you now regret that your best days were given to hoarding this world's wealth, instead of gathering jewels for Christ's crown, raking diamonds for him out of the earth's rubbish, and saving priceless souls from the pollutions of sin. If so, let others do, in your stead, what you should have done yourself. Let others preach because you forbore to do so; make them your feet, your hands, your voice, when you shall lie silent in the grave. This is one way of "redeeming the time" and of "covering a multitude of sins." Perhaps, in this way, it is not too late for you to have a constructive share in the prophet's reward. Perhaps yours, too, will be the blessed realization of the promise which so beautifully corresponds with the text, "They that be wise shall shine as the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever!"