PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY
RECTOR OF ST. THOMAS' CHURCH, NEW-YORK.
PRINTED BY T. AND J. SWORDS;
No. 99 Pearl-street.
New-York, January 19, 1826.
AT a Meeting of the Board of Directors of the NEW-YORK PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY SOCIETY, held this evening, it was RESOLVED, that the thanks of the Board be presented to the Rev. CORNELIUS R. DUFFIE, for his Discourse delivered in St. Paul's Chapel, on Sunday evening, the 15th instant, on occasion of the Ninth Anniversary celebration of the Society.
RESOLVED, that Thomas N. Stanford, Henry M'Farlan, and Hubert Van Wagenen, be a Committee to communicate the foregoing Resolution to the Rev. Mr. DUFFIE, and to solicit a copy of the Discourse for publication.
HERE are three inquiries, my brethren, which, being stated and answered, will bring before us our duty on the present occasion.
First, What is it from which it hath pleased God to save them that believe?
Secondly, What is the mode which He has seen fit to adopt and sanction for that end?
Thirdly, What are the means upon which He relies for carrying it into effect?
To the question, What it is FROM which it hath pleased God to save them that believe? the answer would then only be complete, when we had enumerated all the anomalies and disorders which pervade the world--all the imperfections which belong to our nature--all the evils which oppress our lives.
 That these are not less opposed to the original intention of our Creator, than they are to our happiness and peace, we might most confidently argue from the perfection of His character; even though we had not His word to assure us, that we were created in His image--placed in a far different and fairer scene, and destined by Him for happiness and immortality.
It was sin which thwarted His intentions and overcast OUR prospects. Sin
"Brought death into the world and all our woe."
And because the sentence which lighted upon "man's first disobedience" was extended to every thing around him, the earth was cursed for his sake, and from that day forward "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now."
Widely, however, as are spread the consequences of the fall; signal as has been the punishment of transgression; ruined as has been the happiness, and blasted as are the hopes of man; calamitous as is his present state, and dark as is the destiny which threatens him; for all these evils it hath pleased God to provide a remedy, and FROM all He would have him to be saved.
Whatever mischief has been wrought by the folly, by the pride, or by the passions of men--whatever ignorance of God, of themselves, and of their duty, [8/9] there is exhibited among them--whatever misery there is experienced in this short and uncertain life--whatever fears are suspended over the awful hour of dissolution--whatever punishment there is denounced beyond it, in the untried scenes of a long hereafter; these are all but the fruit of sin; the guilt, and the dominion, and the consequences of which, God, in the mission of His Son, has interposed to do away.
From those vain and distracting pursuits which divert the views of men from the true end of their being; from the sorrows under which they groan, the cares by which they are oppressed, the crimes which deface their character: from that sense of guilt which drives them to cruel offerings, to senseless superstitions, to absurd and impious rites, to propitiate the favour of an offended Deity; from the apprehensions which overwhelm the bosom of the penitent, and the darkness which shuts out God, and represses the aspirations of the spiritual mind; from the awful forebodings of despair, from the sentence of condemnation and of wrath, from the dreariness of eternal death; from these it hath "pleased God to save them that believe."
"Light is come into the world." The Sun of Righteousness, the promise of whose appearing had gladdened the chosen nation, and sustained before his coming the hopes of the faithful, has risen with healing in his [9/10] wings. Life and immortality are brought to light in the Gospel.
It is to the blessed Gospel that we are indebted for those assurances which dispel the mists of the present, and irradiate our future path; it is the Gospel which makes certain that this earth is not the home of man; that this scene, so full of disappointment and weariness, comprises not the whole of his existence; that death is not the extinction of the immortal spirit; that the grave, the dark and dreary grave, bounds not the visions, the bright and ethereal visions, of human hope.
In the Gospel of Christ those fears which no earthly consolations could allay, are soothed by the promise of pardon and forgiveness; those desires which no earthly good could satisfy, are there directed to a state of happiness which shall for ever endure; and the creature of corruption, of frailty, and of dust, whose unjoyous career here below so quickly terminates, awakened to perceive the high destiny and the glorious hopes which are unfolded to his view in the heavens above, walks, abroad in unwonted majesty--the reclaimed child of the Creator--the heir of God--the candidate for immortal blessedness.
That the disclosures of the Gospel are intended for all mankind, their equal need of its benefits, and the disinterested goodness of Him who is the equal [10/11] Father of all His children, may alike convince us. The common birthright of a world of sinners--the Gospel, the knowledge of salvation, is therefore directed to be communicated to all. "The end of the word of God is to save; and the way for all men to be saved, is by the knowledge of that truth which the word hath taught." Without this knowledge the Gospel cannot be believed; and wherever it is not believed, it cannot be perfectly effectual to its end.
Think not, my brethren, that I would advocate the idea, that God requires of His creatures an impossible faith. But though, from those to whom the Gospel has not been proclaimed, He demands not the knowledge or the belief of it, yet are the knowledge and belief of it not the less needful and important to them. For, notwithstanding the merits of Christ's oblation and satisfaction--full, perfect, and sufficient for the sins of the whole world--shall be available to countless numbers who never heard of a Saviour's name; and notwithstanding we are assured, that in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him; yet, among those who are destitute of the Gospel, ignorant of its disclosures, unconscious of its motives to holiness, and surrounded by circumstances hostile to the influence of religion, how inadequate must be the light of nature, how ineffectual [11/12] the power of conscience, how weak the suggestions of reason to influence the conduct, and how few comparatively must they be, who attain to that fear of God and that righteous obedience which He requires, and which it is the direct tendency of the Gospel to produce.
It is that knowledge of the true God, and of our duty, which revelation imparts--it is those views of His holiness which it inculcates; it is its representations of His mercy in Jesus Christ, as pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; it is the certainty of a future judgment which it denounces; it is the glorious hope of life everlasting which it proclaims: it is these alone which can effectually transform the character, and make the Gospel "the power of God unto salvation."
2. And if now, my brethren, we advance to the second question connected with this subject, How this Gospel may best be communicated to men, or impressed upon them? the text will furnish an authoritative answer. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." This is the mode suggested by the wisdom, and sanctioned by the will of God; and though human wisdom would perhaps have devised some other way, and though human policy may seek to effect this end by other [12/13] means, yet we can have no hesitation in asserting with St. Paul, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men."
It was the commission of our Saviour to His Apostles, and in them to their successors, "Go YE, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." And again, according to St. Mark, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned."
In every part of this commission the personal agency of the ministry which He instituted is contemplated and kept in view--in going--in making disciples--in preaching--in baptizing--in teaching: and to this ministry, thus personally acting, offering to all men the Gospel and its ordinances, and receiving from all their adhesion or their refusal, to be registered on high against the judgment of the last day--to this ministry, addressing men in this responsible character as ambassadors for Christ, and to it alone, is the promise given of His perpetual presence to the end of time.
That the practice of the first preachers corresponded [13/14] with their commission, and their success with the promise, is abundantly evident. St. Mark records, that "they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following."
My brethren, this is the best, because the divinely appointed mode of extending our religion and of saving our fellow-men. All besides are merely helps, and as such are to be considered, and as such to be employed. And it were sincerely to be regretted, if, losing sight of this, or giving to it but a small portion of their resources and of their regard, Christians should bestow all their praise, and accumulate all their wealth upon any other mode; giving to that an actual, though not perhaps an acknowledged preference over the one which Christ has appointed. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe:" that which He preferred, we ought also to prefer: and because "the foolishness of God is wiser than men," and because the plan which He has appointed has the promise of success, we should ever give to the promotion of this our chief solicitude, our largest bounty, our most assiduous and persevering exertions.
The Bible is indeed the storehouse of celestial knowledge, the treasure of religion, the armoury of faith, the golden depository of truth. To give the Bible to [14/15] all is our bounden duty; but when we send it among men, unaccompanied by the appointed teacher, what might have been foreseen from the natural indifference or aversion of the human mind to the things of God, will too often be found to happen. Almost universally it will be disregarded--unstudied--unopened! And even if here and there we find some one of a better spirit, poring intently over its pages, and put to him the question, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" we should often hear the answer, "How can I except some man should guide me?" On the contrary, the living messenger comes with authority, and speaks with effect; we send him to the person whom we have described, and when he opens his mouth, and begins at the same Scripture, and preaches unto him Jesus, immediately he believes--he is baptized--he goes on his way rejoicing!
To the living messenger then we are to look--upon the appointed ministry we are to depend for evangelizing the world. The message of the Gospel is short and easy of comprehension. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This was the mode, and this the message by which our Saviour directed His salvation to be made known: and thus was the Gospel published over a great part of the world before any record [15/16] of it was made; for the Gospel, and not the record of it, was that in which men were concerned.
Yes! it is by the foolishness of preaching, in preference to any other mode, that it hath pleased God to save them that believe: He who came from Heaven to redeem mankind, commissioned His ministers to go--personally to go and herald the good news. And because He would have His religion take a visible form, and its influence be steadily maintained, and its advantages be felt and perpetuated, He resolved to gather into one fold all that embraced the truth. He gave directions, therefore, that whosoever believed should be baptized, and that they who thus acknowledged Him for their Lord, should be taught to do all things whatsoever He had commanded. And it is in this continual explanation and enforcement of the truth--in this assiduous nurture of those who believe, to fit them for His heavenly kingdom, that we discern the wisdom of God in appointing the ministry of the word.
He knew the frailty of those, even the best, who inherit our fallen and corrupted nature--their exposedness in a world lying in wickedness--their proneness to depart from the paths of duty, and the unceasing efforts of the adversary to effect their destruction; and, therefore, He established His Church--that Church against which the gates of hell shall never prevail--[16/17] that Church, which is like a city set on an hill to enlighten and to gladden the face of the world; and in the bosom of which, they who believed should have all needful means and helps to enable them to persevere in the saving of their souls.
For all these purposes it was, that He saw fit to send forth the living teacher: He chose and set apart men to be ambassadors in His name to all mankind, and He committed unto them the ministry of reconciliation: and we, if we would diffuse the Gospel with effect, will send it forth by the ministry to whom it has been committed; agreeably to the command--sanctioned by the example--accompanied with the promise of Him who gave it. By this authorized ministry we will tender to our fellow-men the sacraments--we will establish among them the worship--we will impress upon them the truths of the Gospel. The word preached being mixed with faith in them that hear it, will take root in their hearts, and bring forth in their lives the fruit of good works--in the appointed ordinances that faith shall be nourished, and in the stated services of the sanctuary continually strengthened and increased, until they who are planted in the Church on earth, being ripened for glory, shall in God's own time be transplanted from these lower courts to flourish for ever in the courts of the Church above.
 3. If it be granted that the preaching of the Gospel is that mode by which it has pleased God to save them that believe, our last question will be, What means He has provided, or upon what resources He relies, in order to carry it into effect?
When our Saviour sent forth His chosen Apostles and first disciples, He not only furnished them with supernatural proofs of the truth of His religion, but He Himself undertook the charge of their sustenance, of their raiment, and of their defence. It was therefore his direction to them, upon setting out on their mission--"Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor yet staves."
These miraculous proofs in favour of the religion, and this miraculous superintendance of its missionaries, were continued until the religion obtained a solid footing and establishment in the world. Then miraculous agency ceased. It was then no longer necessary, nor indeed could it by reason of its nature be long continued, much less permanently exerted without counteracting its own object. Miracles repeated from the foundation of Christianity to this time, would have come to be regarded as ordinary occurrences;--not deviations from the law of nature, but regular and consistent parts of it:--in one word, they would have ceased to be miracles, and would be no more valued [18/19] in attestation of any revealed truth, than the phenomena of gravitation, the regular changes of the seasons, or the daily rising and setting of the sun. A limit was therefore necessary to miraculous interference; and when the strong prejudices of Judaism and of Paganism against Christianity were overcome, when once it was so established as to be able to maintain itself against opposition, supernatural helps were withdrawn; and the ordinary aids of the Spirit which were promised to its ministers being continued, it was left to make its way by virtue of its necessity to man--by virtue of its own intrinsic excellence--and by virtue of the proofs, both external and internal, which it had accumulated in its progress.
With the ceasing of miraculous agency in favour of Christianity, there must also have ceased the extraordinary provision for its ministry; and from that time forth, the religion which had prevailed against the assaults of its enemies, was left to be carried forward by the faithfulness of its friends.
To this day, my brethren, the case is not altered. The promulgation of God's truth still depends, under Providence, upon the agency of man. The command is on record to the Apostles and their successors, and is unrepealed--"Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." It is for Christians to speed them on their course; it is for Christians to [19/20] enable them to execute their exalted embassy; and that they may be inclined to do so, they are admonished that the labourer is worthy of his meat; that to receive him, is to receive Christ, and the Father that sent Him; and that to succour the faint and feeble disciple, though it were only with a cup of cold water, is to be certain of obtaining a reward.
Such is the command, such the admonition, such the promise, which set forth our obligation to spread and to prosper the Gospel: and one thing there is which it imports us most seriously to consider, that if these be disregarded and neglected, there is now no supernatural provision to extend it.
Hence then are deduced our duty, and the part which it is incumbent upon us to take in carrying on the Gospel message: and this duty, my brethren, you will perceive to be of two-fold character:--the first, that which arises from our relation to God--the second, that which arises from our relation to our fellow man:--the former, a matter of stern, and strict, and requirable obedience: the latter, one which is enforced by all the gentler motives of sympathy, of kindness, and of Christian charity.
These are the grounds upon which I rest the claim which is this evening presented in behalf of the Missionary cause. The Gospel, as I have already said, is [20/21] the common birth-right of man--the knowledge of it, his most invaluable possession--and the belief of it, that which will exert the most powerful influence upon his happiness both here and hereafter.
But multitudes are ignorant or unmindful of its salutary truths. The foolishness of preaching is that mode by which it has pleased God to save them that believe. The promise is given, that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;" but "how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?"--Upon YOU rests the obligation--to YOU has been given the command--with YOU is the ability to extend to them the message.
Upon this fair and honest argument, my brethren, we might ask of you to contribute to send the Gospel to every region upon which it has not yet beamed--to every individual who has not yet been gladdened by its sound of salvation. But there are waste places in our own land: and as the Apostles were commanded to preach the Gospel, "beginning at Jerusalem," so we deem that they who dwell in our own borders possess a claim to the first appropriation of that bounty which is, alas! so very inadequate to distant operation.
Besides, our Church in her collective capacity has [21/22] not been forgetful of her obligation to spread the blessings of religion in foreign lands: and happy, thrice happy would we be, if the kindling flame of charity should warm your bosoms to aid her in that noble work.
But now our appeal is in behalf of those who are more immediately your brethren; connected with you by a thousand ties, dependent upon you for the due enforcement of Christian truth, or for the continuance of their religious ministrations.
Will you object that it is sufficient that the message of the Gospel has been already heard by those for whom we plead?--If you reflect for a moment, I am sure you will not. Let me ask, Do not they who have heard the Gospel, require to have it continually impressed upon their minds? Do not we ourselves perceive the necessity of having it statedly enforced, "line upon line, precept upon precept?" Can WE be forgetful, that besides laying the "first foundation" of religion, there is also needed "a long continuance of nursing care and protection," in order that they who have received the Gospel, may be "built up in their most holy faith."
Are you then prepared to abandon the Churches which your care has planted, and which without your aid must fall to the ground? Will you turn a deaf ear to the calls for the services of religion which are [22/23] heard from the new settlements which are daily springing up in our diocese? And shall the generation which is rising into life, far distant from the sanctuaries of their fathers, be uninstructed in religion and grow up ignorant of the duties and consolations of the Gospel in this Christian land?
In the name then of Him whose obligation rests upon you, and to whom you must render an account--in the name of those who are your brethren, and for whose ignorance of their highest duty you may be made accountable--in the name of God and of man, I make this appeal.
Am I addressing a congregation of Christian people? Do I see before me those who have learned the value of the Christian faith, and who have also been taught to know the obligation which it imposes? Are there any here present who love their Church--who have found in her communion those consolations which have sustained them in adversity--comforted them in sickness--supported them in despondency--animated them in the view of death, and lifted up their hearts with the promise of immortality? My brethren, it is to you I appeal! Estimate the value, the necessity, the advantage of these privileges, and think what they are deprived of who have them not. Ask yourselves whether they can be appreciated by money? Can money purchase them from YOU; and shall the [23/24] want of money be the reason for withholding them from others?
Reflect then, that to you God has committed the welfare of your brethren: to you, and to your sense of duty, and to your feelings of mercy. Again, reflect that if you neglect your trust, no supernatural means will supply to them the deficiency: and then consider, I beseech you, how vast is your responsibility. Will you hazard the consequences of disregarding the will of God, in a matter so important as the spiritual good of your brethren? or can you believe that He will hold you guiltless if you neglect this His known, His positive command?
He who will call you to answer whether you have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, sheltered the outcast, sustained the orphan; He who has warned you that He careth even for the temporal wants of His children, and who requireth you to give them those things which "perish in the using,"--will He not much more call you to answer whether you have fed with the bread of life, and nurtured for His kingdom the souls which he came down to earth to redeem--His people whom He hath purchased with His most precious blood?
That Gospel then which you have freely received, freely impart. That hope which you possess of eternal life, cheerfully, solicitously extend. Having the [24/25] command of God to do so, your duty is imperative--having His blessing promised, its success is sure.
Extend it as Christ your Saviour has commanded. Proclaim it to every creature. Let none die unwarned in his sin, who by the foolishness of preaching might be saved. From the living voice of those whom God has consecrated to His service, let the call to repentance and faith go forth: let the sound of salvation penetrate our remotest borders: let it be heard in every village: let it visit the inmate of every cottage: let it solace every bed of sickness, and spread consolation and triumph around every bed of death: and think not that you have done enough for those in whose behalf I plead, until "the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them and the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose."
Most gladly would I hope that this would be your decision! most earnestly would I rejoice if your contribution on this occasion should effectively speak this language--"Preach the Gospel to every creature."
But must I break in upon these fond anticipations? Must I tell you what cause I have to fear that they will not be realized? Bear with me then, my brethren, when I say that from the past there is too much reason to wonder at the indifference--too much reason to lament over the apathy of the members of our [25/26] Church. The Report of this Society for the last year gives evidence how little anxiety there is felt to extend her borders; how little interest exerted to forward her cause. There is there exhibited a deficiency even from the receipts of the preceding year, which the ordinary amount of contribution on these occasions will not make good.
That deficiency must be felt--felt in the narrowed field of missionary exertion--felt in the diminished stipend of the faithful missionary, (of whose privations--of whose toil--of whose ill-requited care I will not trust myself to speak:) felt ESPECIALLY in its disheartening influence upon the members and managers of this Society! Need I tell you, my brethren, how much you are indebted to THEM, and how much for their sake alone, even if there were no other cause, this apathy should be deplored?
In the managers of this, and its sister institutions, the Church has a few--a determined and faithful few, to whom belongs the praise that they are seen to be ever and ardently interested in her cause. Few, but faithful, they have long laboured with diligence to extend the blessings of her communion, and to do away the reproach which has fastened upon your neglect. Often have they come hither in anxious expectation, to know whether Episcopalians would awake from their lethargy!--whether at length they would aid them with [26/27] their wealth! whether they would cheer them with their countenance! whether they would respond to their solicitude for the spiritual welfare of their brethren, and for the character of their Church!
Withering--cold--uncheering, has often been the boon! Cold--uncheering--withering, has been the response!
Shall I appeal to your pride, and ask whether the gift has not often been unworthy, (I say not of the cause,) but of yourselves! Think of the wealth and of the numbers of those who on these occasions are assembled here--think of their lavish expenditure upon other objects--think of the sums which are raised for the purposes of religion in the Christian world around us, and I am confident you will allow that it has! Individuals doubtless there are who have done their duty; for of such among us we can boast; but considered as the united offering of the members of our Church, has it not been most unworthy!
I know that they for whom I plead have felt--in their inmost conscience they have felt that it has. But the thought has slumbered in their silent bosom. It has not even been whispered in reproach.
But, if a holy principle of charity did not animate their hearts--if a sense of duty did not give impulse to their efforts--if the love of Christ did not constrain them, they would have withdrawn--so often frowned [27/28] upon, they would have withdrawn; and their efforts ceasing, let me ask, Where are they who would be encouraged to stand up to take their place, and remove from Churchmen the shame of their supineness?
But, my brethren, it is time that this supineness should cease: and, therefore, I call upon all who hear me, to arouse to a sense of their obligation, and to reflect upon what they owe to their privileges--to their wealth--to their Christian profession--to the command of God--and to the wants of their brethren!
Let the beginning of a spirit which shall be felt in all the languishing institutions of our Church, be manifested this evening in a liberal contribution to this holy cause. Weigh then, I beseech you, its importance. Think again of the case of those who far from these favoured seats, hear seldom the voice of prayer--for many of whom no sanctuary opens its doors--no sacrament presents its pledges--no Christian ministry holds out the offers of life and the consolations of the Gospel. Think of the multitudes in this Christian land, who are living without God--dying without hope. The foolishness of preaching is that mode which Christ has appointed to save them from present wretchedness and from future despair. You have now an opportunity of being co-workers with God in their salvation. You have now an opportunity to set forward the salvation of your own [28/29] souls, by setting forward the salvation of your fellowmen. You have now an opportunity to impart peace to many a fellow-being borne down by the cares, and depressed by the sorrows of life: and it may be yours to chase away the fears and gild with the consolations of an immortal hope, their hour of death.
Let none permit the opportunity to pass by unimproved. I call upon all to open liberally their hearts and widely their hands. I ask from the wealthy of our Church a generous, a manly, and a Christian offering. From the many whom God has prospered in the world I look, in His name, for a grateful acknowledgment of His bounty, and a thankful return for His goodness. From the poorest, I ask that mite which God in Heaven will least of all overlook, or suffer to be unrewarded and forgotten. From all, I solicit somewhat for the cause of Christ. "He that hath much, let him give plenteously, and he that hath little, let him do his diligence to give gladly of that little."
And if, my brethren, animated by the love of God and charity for your fellow-men, you now give freely, worthily, and cheerfully to the service of your Lord, be assured it shall never, never repent you--not when, retiring to your repose, you shall offer to Him, on bended knee, your evening prayer, "Thy Kingdom come"--not in the time when sorrows and adversities shall [29/30] oppress you--not in the recollections of a dying hour--not in the disclosures and decisions of that last great day, when sentence shall be pronounced upon all the actions of your life; and when "he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy."