The Principles which Enter into the Inquiry of the Christian Student, Respecting His Field of Labor: An Address Delivered before the Missionary Fraternity in Phillips Academy.
By Horatio Southgate.
Andover: The Society, 1834.
WE sometimes distinguish men by their employments, and give them appellations accordingly. The Christian, thus regarded, may be denominated,—one engaged in the work of converting the world. This is his proper business. However humble or limited may be his sphere of action as a disciple of Christ, if he has entered upon it with any other spirit than that Of universal love, or with reference to any other end than that of the world's renovation, he is not performing the appropriate duties of his calling—he is not following the instructions of his employer.
The last command of Christ declares the proper end and object of all Christian effort. It determines the sphere of labor for his disciples. It is their grand rule of action. It is the sum and substance of all the Savior's instructions to them, respecting their work.
So far, then, as Christians are regarded as laborers in the service of Christ, so far they must be regarded as laborers in the cause of evangelizing the world. It is his only work, and, therefore, their only work.
I have said, that the conversion of the world is the proper business and employment of Christians. But it is, in a peculiar sense, the business of those Christians who devote their lives to the ministry of the gospel. The command of [3/4] Christ, binding upon all, is pre-eminently binding upon them. From them is expected the literal fulfillment of it. Not by their contributions, their prayers, and their indirect efforts alone, but in their own persons, are they to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. The execution of the work was, at first, committed particularly to the twelve apostles, as ministers of Christ, and, in like manner, is it transferred from them, to all their successors in office. They must bear the standard in the foremost ranks, and endure the burden and heat of the conflict. They must devise the plans of operation, and lead on, to their holy warfare, the Sacramental Host of God's Elect. To them, as to the Angel of the Apocalyptic vision, is committed the everlasting gospel, to preach unto all who dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people. They are to be, in the hands of God, mighty to the pulling down of strong holds, and the overthrow of every thing which opposeth, and exalteth itself. It is theirs, above others, to carry on to its consummation, the work of God in Christian lands; and much more is it theirs, to introduce the gospel into foreign nations, to give the law unto the islands—to cause the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose—to supplant every form of paganism, superstition, and heathenish cruelty, by the pure and peaceful religion of the cross, and to breathe spiritual life and energy, into the inert mass of corrupt Christianity.
If this be true—that it is the business of Christians in general, and of Christian ministers in particular, to regenerate the world—it becomes, to every disciple of the Savior, and especially to him who has in view the ministry of the gospel, an all-important question, what part of this work belongs to him. Where, over the whole surface of the vast field, is the point upon which he may stand, as the centre of [4/5] his influence, and bring the means which he may possess, to bear most effectually upon the conversion of the world?
I know that it has been argued, and with some good degree of plausibility, that the Christian cannot fall upon a place, where an abundant field for labor will not be presented to him, and where he may not task, to the utmost, his abilities and energies;—and hence it has been inferred, that it is unimportant to search out any particular sphere of exertion, provided he carry into whatsoever field he may enter, the spirit of his Master.
I cannot give time to the refutation of this notion. I may say, however, in brief, that the diversity of gifts and endowments which exists in the Church, plainly evinces, that they, were designed by God for different spheres of effort in his cause—that every man possesses peculiarities of character and of qualification, by which he is better fitted for some particular line of action than for any other—that he is thus placed under obligation, to search for his appropriate sphere by diligent and prayerful inquiry, and that he has no reason to expect the blessing of God in any other sphere.--I say, farther, that the duty of a Christian is often determined by circumstances without himself,; such as, the condition of the world—the comparative wants of different portions of it--the unexpected and providential openings of new fields of labor, no less than by the peculiar traits of his character; and, that these circumstances cannot be known, without a careful investigation.
But, in truth, the time is well nigh past, when this matter had need to be argued. It is now become the general conviction of Christian students, that a serious inquiry respecting their fields of labor, is indispensable. They begin; not to fear to view the question of duty near at hand, to hold it up before their eyes, and to fix their attention prayerfully and candidly upon it. They do not come to it with the [5/6] faltering step of one urged to the consideration by the strong voice of conscience, yet fearful lest that consideration may result in a conviction of duty contrary to inclination. They are prepared to deem it not strange, if, as the disciples of Christ, they should be called to endure privations, trials, and sufferings; and, for his sake, they are ready to endure them. No anticipated evil—they are resolved—shall deter them from the path of duty, when clearly made known to them; and this knowledge they ardently desire.
This moral courage speaks well for the Church, and for the world. It speaks well for the church—for it is the manifestation of that spirit which is Christianity's most lovely trait—the spirit of submission, whose lesson is, that we are not our own.—It speaks well too for the world—for it is that spirit of holy enterprize which gives strength and freedom to benevolent action—which enlarges the mental vision, and frees it from the specks and motes of selfishness.—What other qualities of mind are needed for the renovation of the world, than this same moral courage, impelled by holy benevolence, and guided by the spirit of wisdom?
I have been accustomed to consider the question of duty as very simple, and, generally, easy of decision, when conducted in the spirit of which I have just spoken. I am convinced, that the embarrassments and perplexities, which, sometimes, seem to envelope it, do, for the most part, spring from a want of that manly honesty—that submissive and teachable temper—that cheerful willingness to know duty, which, at all times and in all matters, most become a Christian. Nor, can I resist the conviction, that the question is often decided upon worldly principles, and by the cunning sophistry of a spirit which minds earthly things.—I shall, therefore, attempt to set forth the principles, upon which, I think, the examination should be conducted; assuming, as [6/7] granted, that it is the duty of every Christian student at least, to institute such examination'.
The inquiry is twofold. It has relation, on the one hand, to the world, and on the other, to the character and qualifications of the individual.
I shall remark upon them in order.
I. OF THE WORLD.
Under this head, I observe, in the first place, that the inquirer should look at the whole world. This is absolutely requisite to a fair and impartial examination.—The world is the field. Its boundaries are the' only limits of the sphere of' Christian effort. This is plainly taught by what we know of the designs of God in the mission of his Son—by the announcement of the forerunner of the Savior—by his own repeated declaration—by his parting instructions—by the precepts and example of the Apostles. The inquirer for duty will, then, remember,. that the cause of Christ is the cause of the world's conversion, and, that, therefore, as he may be called to labor in any department of that cause, so he may be called to labor in any part of the world. He will bear in mind, that there is no portion of it, which should lie beyond the circle of his sympathies—none, of which he can, with certainty, affirm, before inquiry, that it is not his duty to go thither, and, therefore, none, which can be excluded from his inquiry. He must bring, and keep, before his mind, the whole work and the whole sphere of action; for how, otherwise, can he determine his own part of the work, or his own place in the sphere? If any portion, however small, be, from the first, shut out from his investigation, how shall he assure himself, of a certainty, that he has not, also, shut out the very province which belongs to him?
In the second place, the inquirer should not only look [7/8] over the whole world, but he should regard it as one. It is plain that Christ so regarded it when he declared it to be the field, and when he instructed his disciples respecting their labors after his ascension. He did, indeed, command them to begin at Jerusalem. But what were they to begin there? The universal promulgation of the gospel. Jerusalem was only the starting-point of their mission. " Teach all nations," was the command, “beginning at Jerusalem." It is also true, that they did not, at first, comprehend the full import of this injunction, nor the true nature of the new dispensation. Imbued as they were, with the prejudices peculiar to their nation, they supposed, that the Jews, as the favored people of God, were preferred before others in the Covenant of Redemption, as they had been, in the covenant of works. This error of education was not, however, of long continuance. Under the teachings of the Holy Ghost, they soon came to discern the universality and equalness of the gospel;—and then, with a spirit which should put to shame the backwardness of modern Christians, they went every where preaching the word.
It is only in their unity—as the world—that the Bible considers mankind, in their relation to the Gospel. Divine love to the world, originated the Covenant of .Grace. Christ appeared on earth in the form of humanity, suffered, died, rose, and ascended to heaven, as the Savior of the world. Nothing can be more explicit than the representation of Scripture. Whenever it speaks of the Atonement as a provision of grace, it is a provision for the world—simply, and without limitation or distinction of parts. So the Apostles preached--Christ crucified, the Savior of the world. But, if of the world, then of the whole world, and if of the whole world, without any distinction expressed, then of the whole world equally.
The disciples of Christ, therefore, should regard his cause, as one—extending unbroken throughout the earth—the [8/9] same in all nations under the sun. It should seem to have no division or parts, so far as regards its extent and equalness. It brings into one, all tribes, and kindreds, and tongues. It makes of one family, all who dwell upon the face of the earth. It knows no difference, and does not distinguish between them. The love of the Christian, so far as it springs from, and is conformed to, the love of the Savior, will fix itself with equal intensity, upon all. It will bind him with cords of holy compassion, to the most remote and the most degraded of the human race. In Christ all are one. The Godless Hottentot—the superstitious Hindoo—the image-worshiping Chinese—the savage cannibal of New-Zealand—the rude son of the forest—the haughty follower of the false prophet—the deluded and besotted children of the Mother of Abominations—and the blessed inhabitant of Christian lands, are all bound together and undistinguished, in the regard of holy philanthropy. She sits above the earth, and looks down; with tender compassion, upon all its sinful children. She is elevated, far, far, beyond the influence of its arbitrary divisions. She does not feel them. From her lofty height, she cannot discern those natural or conventional limits, which separate between nation and nation, and, too often, make enemies of men. To her, earth bears upon its face, one people—one, as the creatures of God—one, as the objects of a Redeemer's love.
In such a spirit as this, will the candid inquirer come to the question of duty. He will spread out the world before him, as a chart, upon which, the boundaries of nations are not marked, but which presents the moral condition of its different portions, by darker and lighter shades. He will survey it, with the eye of Christian philanthropy. He will rejoice over those parts, which appear, upon the chart, illuminated, as if with the light of eternal truth, without the knowledge, that they are his own country. He will bend, with the [9/10] compassion of holy love, over those portions, upon which thick shadows rest—the emblem of moral degradation; with compassion, no less deep, because they are remote from that spot which he calls home.
The one great enterprise of converting the world, embraces various departments of labor. These, by an unfortunate application of terms, are often made to-appear as in opposition. Thus, we speak of the two grand divisions of the work, under the appellation of Home and Foreign. Perhaps no more appropriate terms than these, could be found. But it is to be remembered, that they are used, to distinguish between different departments of the same cause, and not, to mark two separate, and, as some seem to consider them, opposing causes. Home and Foreign! to the eye of the Christian they are one and the same. They cannot be separated, and when, as is too often the fact, they are set in opposition, we are ready to ask, with the Apostle, “Is Christ divided?" Foreign! and is any spot upon the earth, foreign land to the Christian? Home! and is not the world, the Christian's home? Is not the cause of Christ on earth one? And shall it be divided in the affections of his disciples?
Out of the practice of contradistinguishing the two great departments of Christian labor, has arisen a frequent misjudgment respecting the question of duty. It is generally made to lie between our own country and all other countries. The two sides are, Home and Foreign.--But this mode of stating it, cannot be defended by the principles which have been laid down. Permit me to recur to them again. The world is the only proper field of Christian effort. It is one, and must, all and equally, be included in the survey of the inquirer for duty. As he cannot occupy the whole, or labor directly for the whole, so the only inquiry is, ‘What part shall he occupy and cultivate?' This is the true question. It is necessary, indeed, in order to a decision, [10/11] to compare different portions of the world with each other. But these comparisons are various, and all subordinate to the main question, and co-ordinate among themselves. Other countries than our own, are to be compared with, and, as it were, set against, the rest of the world. Each of these comparisons may become, for the time, the only question before the mind; but none of them can be substituted for the main question. And, if this might be, to which should the preference be given? For myself, I know not, why the question may not as properly be made to turn between any other country, e. g. England, and the rest of the world, as between this country and the rest of the world.
Let the inquirer for duty, I say then, view the work as one, and, in its unity, co-extensive with the world. Let him forget his country, and, in the spirit of a Christian, ask, ‘Where, in the whole field, shall I labor?' Let him be honest with himself, and fear not to take those views, which an enlarged, comprehensive, and universal love may suggest.
I proceed to a third point.—The question usually presents itself to the mind of the inquirer in a form somewhat like the following—"Is it my duty to go abroad?"—or, "Ought I not, to remain at home?"—This form, (for the two are, in truth, but one,) besides involving the erroneous notion of opposition, which I have just noticed, seems to imply, that it is the business of the inquirer, to find reasons for remaining at home, or for not going abroad. This arises from a presumption in favor of this country, by which his mind is pre-occupied. The effect of it is, that the question presents itself in a different form, and the whole investigation takes a different turn, from that which they would, otherwise, assume. Nor is this all. The mind is still farther brought, by the very statement of the question, into a leaning posture, and inclines itself towards a decision, before it has commenced its inquiry.
 I do not object to this, provided the presumption itself is well-founded. In every inquiry, the question should assume that form, and the mind should receive that inclination, which the presumption favors. A previous question may, however, arise upon the reasonableness of the presumption.
In every case of investigation or inquiry, the presumption, if there be any, must be drawn from general principles, already acknowledged and practised upon. The justness of the presumption will depend upon the truth of the principles; for a true and proper presumption cannot spring from false principles. To test the validity of any presumption,. therefore, we must trace it to its origin.
Whence, then, I ask, arises the presumption under consideration?—Does it spring out of those fundamental principles of "practical religion, upon which the great work of evangelizing the world, is based? They are, pre-eminently, Faith and Love—the most enlarged and comprehensive Faith, the most extended and universal Love. The enterprise of converting the world, is distinguished from every other enterprise of Benevolence, in that it is not a scheme of man's devising. Nor does it rise merely from the absolute command of God. It flows, naturally and necessarily, out of those elementary principles of the Christian character, to which I have just alluded. It rests upon them, as upon a broad and sure foundation. They enter into it intimately, constituting its principle of life, and infusing energy and vigor into every part. Do, then, these two great principles—of far-reaching Faith, which does not belong to earth, follows not the feeble light of human reasoning, but conforms itself to the eternal realities discerned by the spiritual vision; and. of universal Love—love, wide as the empire of God—love, whose gracious influences are free as the dew, descending upon and fertilizing the wilderness where no man dwells, and are scattered, like precious seed, broad-cast over the [12/13] earth—do these great principles of Christian feeling and Christian action, give birth to, or recognize such a presumption? No! No! It is not theirs, to circumscribe and limit, but to expand and enlarge. It is not theirs, to gather the affections of the Christian into a narrow and contracted compass, but to send them, like the light of day, fresh, free, and far, over the face of the earth. It is not theirs, to fill the sphere of the soul's vision with a mote, but to extend it till it encircles the world.
I ask again—Is this presumption drawn from any acknowledged principles, respecting the field of Christian effort? I know of none which recognize it. The field is the world. This is the language of the Savior, correspondent with his command, and with the whole tone and spirit of Christianity. It is the design of the Bible, and the tendency of religious feeling, in its genuine and unperverted influences, to make the work one, and not to divide it—to extend, and not to limit. We cannot look at it in the abstract, in the light of the Bible, of religion, or of reason, without, at once, discerning its singleness and universality. It admits no distinctions nor preferences. It does not, in any respect, set one part before another; so that the Christian inquirer must begin with a presumption in favor of that part. Christian lands do no more belong to it, and do not hold a higher rank in it, than heathen lands, and, therefore, do not, in themselves, present any ground for such preference. The work is, in theory, a simple unit, and in practice also, it should be essentially one. For, the only divisions which it allows, are divisions of labor, and correspond with like divisions in any department of secular industry. Here, as there, they should all have relation to the great end, and should be established, solely, for its more speedy accomplishment. But these divisions are, by no means, to be confounded with those arbitrary distinctions between different portions of the field, which spring [13/14] from violent prejudices, and which, while they have no reference to the whole, are, also, in opposition to the general principles of the work, as they are laid down in the Word of God. Nothing, indeed, can be more unscriptural, more diverse from the precepts of Christ, and the practice of the Apostles, or more repugnant to the genius of Christianity, than to suppose, that the work of converting the world, contains in itself ranks and orders—one nation or people rising above another in their claims upon Christian labors. I speak the simple language of Christ's command, and of his declaration, which I have just now repeated, when I say, that no country can possess, in itself, a prior claim to Christian effort—but only in its relation to the world. The work is, properly and singly, to convert the world, and all plans should be devised and executed, and every country should take that place which belongs to it, in view of the whole work. The only prior claim, then, which any country can present, is, that its immediate conversion would bear most effectually upon the conversion of the world. But this can, by no means, be presumed by the inquirer, respecting his own land. If, as some profess to believe, the entire evangelization of this country is pre-requisite to the conversion of the world, and, therefore, it demands, at present, the main efforts of its Christian inhabitants, the inquirer cannot know this, for himself, except by diligent examination, and of course, cannot honestly take it for granted, on any such grounds, that himself is to remain here.
What, then, the question again returns, is the origin of this presumption? It springs, I reply, from feeling rather than from reason. It grows out of those prepossessions and prejudices, which are founded in the natural affection for country. It is his own country, as such, which seems to demand the first efforts of the inquirer for duty. But how, I ask, are these natural feelings, which belong to him merely as a man, in any wise to [14/15] determine his duty as a Christian. It is not the voice of the Bible.—I do not however mean to affirm, that religion always contradicts the impulses of natural affection, or that she is even regardless of them. On the contrary, she guides, elevates, and purifies them. But I do say, that the holy benevolence, whose spontaneous promptings are the surest indices of Christian duty, differs widely from the affection of our common nature. It differs in origin, in character, and in degree. The one belongs to all men alike—the other belongs only to the sons of God. The one is innate—the other is the product of a second birth. The one is concerned with earthly things alone—the other springs from, and is like to, the love of God. The one is sensuous—the other, spiritual. The one is limited in its objects and range—the other is universal in both. The one, in fine, is the benevolent principle of the natural man—the other is the benevolent principle of the Christian. As a man, and in circumstances where religious obligation is not involved, he is at liberty to, follow the guidings of natural affection. But he has higher and holier principles, by which to determine his duty as a Christian. Where does the Bible, the great text-book of Christian principles, point to natural affection, as the determiner of Christian duty? How constantly, upon the contrary, does it teach, that the true disciple will often be called to act in opposition to the feelings of his human nature. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." As, then, the word of God does not bestow upon natural affection, the holy office of spiritual guide to the Christian, so that cannot be religious principle, which, sometimes, even in the imagination of the renewed man, raises the same earth-born pretender so far above its proper sphere.—The business of the inquirer is, to learn his duty as a Christian. The inquiry is, therefore, to be conducted, [15/16] throughout, in strict accordance with Christian principles. Mere natural affection is as truly foreign from the question, as are those secular maxims, which constitute the principles of conduct, among men of the world.
I am now prepared to advance another step. I affirm, then, that the presumption, so far from being in favor of our own country, is in favor of foreign lands. In other words, the inquirer should take it for granted, at the commencement of his inquiry, that he is to labor among the heathen.
This is the presumption of holy love.—Imagine that one of those pure and blessed spirits, that ever bow in adoration before the throne of God, and lift the thrilling harmony of their harps amidst the beatitudes of heaven, is permitted to visit this world, to proclaim in some portion of it, the offers of Redeeming Grace. As he approaches the earth, he abates the speed with which he issued from the portals of heaven, upon his glad errand of love. He hovers over the world, as it revolves in its diurnal course, and fixes upon it his keen, inquiring gaze. England first meets his view. He sees, thick scattered over her surface, temples consecrated to the worship of the only living and true God. The humble tunes of prayer, and the triumphant songs of praise, meet him, in their quick ascent to heaven. He rejoices to behold, in every place, the sons of God, and he longs to be in their society, and to unite with them in those holy services which formed his constant employment, in the company of the Redeemed above.—The world rolls on. The shores of America open to his view. Our own happy land bursts upon his rejoicing sight. Gladness fills his heart. His eye rests every where upon the temples of the living God. Again he hears the voice of prayer. The sweet incense of praise is wafted to him upon the breeze. He calls to mind the blessed society of his own eternal home.—The world rolls on. The light becomes dim. Shade deepens upon shade. Thick gloom [16/17] covers the land. He beholds the red man, wandering in the gross darkness of his spiritual night. He listens to his prayer. It does not rise to the God of heaven. It is offered to the Great Spirit, the creature of a sensual imagination, who delights in war and carnage, and glories in the miseries of man. He hears him speak of his Heaven. It is not the abode of the blessed, from which he has come. It is a material paradise, where the red man hopes to renew the pleasures of the chase, in deep forests, far from the home of the white man. Sorrow and pity move the heart of the celestial visitor.—The world rolls on. At length the shores of Asia break upon his sight—China, with her benighted millions, bowing to senseless images. No voice of prayer, no song of praise, is heard in all her habitations. The spire of the temple points to heaven, not to direct thitherward the aspirations of the worshiper, but to bring down the lightnings of an avenging God.—The world rolls on. Burmah opens to his view. Here and there a dim light flares upon the surrounding darkness.—He looks upon Hindoostan. He sees the whole land given to idolatry He beholds the horrid rites of Juggernaut, and the gross impurities of her licentious festivals. The unnatural mother casts her child to the crocodile of the Ganges. The religious mendicant gains his livelihood, from the superstitious reverence of a deluded people. The light of God's image is darkened in the soul. Superstition, error, and vice have alienated them from the knowledge of their Maker. They have no fear of God before their eyes. What mingled emotions of pity and love swell the breast of the heavenly messenger.—The world rolls on. Nation after nation rises to view. He surveys all the dark homes of Superstition and Cruelty. He looks upon regions dimly enlightened with the morning or evening twilight of Christianity. He rejoices over those blessed lands upon which the broad, full Sun of Righteousness shines, with the brightness of his midday [17/18] glory.—Whither, now, does his heart move him, to bear the glad tidings of salvation? Is it to that land, beaming with religious institutions, and filled with devout worshipers of the true God? Is it to that land, where Christianity has just been introduced, and is struggling against the combined powers of the Prince of darkness? Or is it rather to that land, where the Sun of Righteousness has never risento the regions of spiritual night and spiritual death? An inhabitant of Heaven, his love is not meted by the narrow limits of earthly affection. It knows no other bounds than those of rational, intelligent, and immortal being. What are the first promptings of this heaven-born compassion? Were he to yield to its spontaneous impulses, whither would they lead him? Does he not most deeply feel the wants and woes of those who are most deeply degraded by sin, and farthest removed from the influences of the Gospel? Does not their appeal seem to him the strongest? Does it not affect his heart above all others? Do not holy love and compassion impel him thither?
This example may serve to illustrate the principle for which I contend. It shows, in what direction tend the impulses of simple Christian love. He who has most of that tender compassion which brought the Savior down to earth, will feel most deeply for the spiritual wants of his fellowmen. The degree of his compassion will be measured only by the degree of misery in its different objects. Inspired with the true spirit of Christianity, which teaches him to regard as one, the whole family of man, and annihilates those natural and arbitrary divisions which mark the reach of human affections, lie is led to commiserate the spiritual miseries of one portion of his fellow-men, above those of another, upon the simple principle, that those of the former are greater. His heart weeps over all the desolations of earth, but it is moved to the deepest sorrow, in view of those desolations which [18/19] are most complete. Does he mourn for the destitutions of his own land? How is his mourning converted into anguish of soul, when he casts his eyes abroad, over the moral wastes of heathenism.
Such was the spirit of Christ. Doubtless, his love to mankind was impartial; and, from this very impartiality must have resulted a compassion, deep in proportion to the moral degradation of its objects. In this, as in every thing else, is it the duty of his disciples, to have the same mind which was also in him.
Here, then, I may safely rest my plea. Whoever should follow the first natural moving of holy love, or of that godlike compassion which is only a specific form of it, would go forth, as by a divine impulse, to labor in the most destitute spot upon the face of the earth. This, I say, is the presumption of holy love, which is itself the elementary principle of the Christian life, the cardinal of Christian graces, the corner stone of Christian principles.
Nor is it less the presumption of common reason. Take a simple illustration. Suppose that it should fall to you, to carry relief to the starving poor of a city distressed by famine, and that you should find among them some families ready to perish with hunger, while others had ample supplies for a day, a week, or a month. Would it enter your mind to imagine, that you were to bestow your bounties first upon the less needy, and then upon the famishing? Would you inquire for reasons why you should hasten to the immediate relief of the destitute, or rather, if there could be any question in the natter, would you not ask, what reasons there were for pursuing a different course? Where would be the presumption in this case? Where, but on the side of those dying of hunger?—And so it is in the work of converting the world? The Gospel is a sacred trust, committed by Christ to his disciples to be published to all men. [19/20] It is sight for the blind, liberty for the captive, bread for the hungry. What is the presumption as to the order of distribution? Is it, that you bestow first upon the full, or upon those who are already perishing of spiritual starvation? It is no less the voice of reason than the voice of love, ‘Carry the bread of life first to the destitute.' The greatest wants present the strongest claim—a claim which cannot be set aside, except for peculiar and extraordinary reasons. It becomes the general rule. It reduces the question of duty to the simple inquiry, whether, in each case, there are opposing circumstances of sufficient force to require a departure from the general rule. ‘Ask me not,' the missionary of the Cross may say, ‘ask me not, why I go to the heathen, but tell me, if you can, why I should not.' There, brethren, are the spiritual wastes of earth. There is its most desolate spot. It is not in the midst of us. It is not near us. It is not within the borders of our own land. It is afar off. Cast your eyes over the world and see. Lo there, where Superstition, Idolatry, and Error, with her thousand faces, reign. Is that our own country, our native land? No, no; it lies far away over the waters. Do I underrate the wants at home? By no means. Let your hearts be burdened with pious grief, when you behold the waste places of your Zion. But let them not hide from your view the wide-spread desolations away from you. Let deeper woes affect your hearts more deeply. As Christians, we are citizens of the world, The interests of Christ's kingdom everywhere, are ours. All, all, are our brethren. The world, the world, is our field.
Whether, then, the appeal be made to that which is most excellent in religion, and which should also be the ruling principle of all Christian action, or to the design of the Gospel as a provision for the spiritual wants of men, the [20/21] presumption is equally clear in favor of those lands most remote from the blessed influences of Christianity.
Particular circumstances—never, general principles—may require a departure from the presumed course. But all such cases must stand upon the same level with exceptions to general rules. This is the only ground which (if any) can be retained by those who argue against Foreign Missions, from the wants at home. An exigency, they must show, demands at present, extraordinary effort in behalf of this country. The presumption lies in a contrary direction. The exigency must be of sufficient weight to counterbalance the presumption, and to create a preponderance in its own favor. It must also be—ultimately at least—an exigency of the world. The objector must show, that the peculiar wants which he urges, need to be supplied for the world's sake. No exigency of this country, in itself, can fairly claim for her the main efforts of the Church, so long as there is, in the earth, another more destitute than she. But if it can be made to appear, that the speediest conversion of the world requires, that present exertions be, for the most part, confined to our own land, the contrary presumption can, no longer, avail.
It is a question of deep and vital interest to the cause of Christ throughout the world, how large a proportion of Christian effort may be justly claimed for this country. We cannot enter into it here. It is obvious, however, that any reasoning upon this subject will be radically affected by the principles upon which it proceeds. The man of the world and the man of God would arrive at conclusions very dissimilar. The decisions, also, of the worldly-minded Christian and of the spiritually-minded Christian would be hardly less opposite. Let Faith and Love make the estimate, and we have nothing to fear. The enterprise of converting the world would, then, he regarded, not as of men, but of God. It would be distinctly remembered, that his truth is pledged for [21/22] its gradual success and its final triumph. His Omnipotence would be recognized as the Executive Power. Plans of action which might otherwise appear to be the offspring of spurious feeling and intemperate zeal, would now seem, from their very narrowness, to imply a distrust of his ability or willingness. The prejudices of natural affection would fade away, or be merged in the ocean of universal love. Home and country would appear as minute points in a widely-extended landscape.—How different from this, would be the judgment of a man of the world, or of a worldly Christian! He would view the work rather as a human undertaking than as the enterprise of Heaven. He would dwell much on the agency of man; and while he acknowledged the necessity of the influences of the Holy Spirit to the renovation of the heart, he would judge of the efficiency of human instrumentality by the measure of unaided human strength. His scheme of action and his expectation of success would be as diminutive as his own puny love, and narrow as his own contracted faith.
In this particular the Church is undergoing a mighty change. She is learning the practical influences of holy love, —without doubt it is because her own is increasing. She understands better than formerly the economy of God's moral government, especially that fundamental principle of it, springing out of his own benevolence, He that watereth shall be watered also himself. She is devising and executing plans of retrenchment. She has already learned the pleasures and benefits of self-denial; but she has not yet found, that true benevolence has any limit, or that its exercise may become the cause of self-detriment. On the contrary, her own experience has abundantly taught her, that
'it is twice blessed;'
'It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.'
We cannot doubt, that a still greater change remains to be [22/23] wrought in the views and policy of the Church respecting this matter. She has not yet arrived at the full measure of the faith and practice of Apostolic times. As the glory of her latter day approaches, she will exhibit more and more of the spirit of generous self-denial—love will become her supreme principle of action—she will covet the luxury of doing good—and she will count no sacrifice too dear, by which she can make known the Savior to perishing men, and extend his kingdom in the world.
If this is the spirit of the inquirer, I cheerfully leave it to be determined by him, how large a proportion of Christian effort is demanded for this country. Let him remember, however, that it is just that proportion which is necessary in order to procure the most speedy conversion of the world. And, then, let him say, whether she has not already more than is required for this end, and whether the universal extension of the Gospel would not be effected in the shortest time, by increasing the proportion of those who go to the unevangelized nations, and diminishing the proportion of those who remain to labor in this part of the Lord's vineyard.
Whatever may be his opinion concerning this matter, his own duty will still remain to be determined. ‘Am I of the number of those who should remain?'—is the question. This must be decided, mainly, by an impartial view of his qualifications.
II. OF PERSONAL QUALIFICATIONS.
Upon this point there is great need of guarding against self-deception. It is not enough that the inquirer is as well fitted for home as for foreign service. In such a case, the presumption in favor of heathen lands, makes it plainly his duty to go abroad. In order to justify an opposite course, his qualifications for home service must be so pre-eminent as to outweigh the presumption.
 1. Moral qualifications.—It is a common remark, that the missionary needs peculiar qualifications. It is doubtless true. But these peculiar qualifications are, for the most part, of a moral kind, and, therefore, such as every Christian ought to possess. The same holy energy, the same strong and clear-sighted faith, the same deep, ardent, and enlarged love, which constitute the grand elements of the true missionary character, are, also, the rudimental principles of the spiritual life of the Christian. Every disciple of the Savior should therefore hold them to such a degree, that he shall be fitted, in all moral respects, for any service to which he may be called. And here comes in an all-important truth, a truth which, if the inquirer will carry it along with him and faithfully apply it, will do more to relieve him from difficulties upon this subject, than all other things beside. It is this—No Christian can be excused from pursuing that course which might, otherwise, appear the path of duty, on account of any unnecessary want of the proper qualifications. This proposition is self-evident. The voluntary inability to perform duty, so far from being a sufficient apology for its non-performance, is itself criminal. Let the inquirer, then, while he is questioning with himself, whether his peculiarities of character require a departure from the presumed course, apply this simple test to every reason which may suggest itself for such a departure. Is it necessary, or voluntary? Is it constitutional, or superinduced upon nature? Must it be permanent, or may it be removed?
Look now, in the light of this principle, at the common objections to the missionary life, founded upon a want of the requisite qualifications. How many of them are substantial? Take, as an example, that one—most frequent of all—a deficiency of personal piety. ‘I have not piety enough to be a missionary.' Not piety enough to be a missionary! The very confession is a confession of guilt. Not piety enough to [24/25] be a missionary! Then you have not piety enough to be a Christian. Not piety enough to be a missionary! But can you not have it? Is it beyond your reach? Is it unattainable? What! a Christian—a servant of Christ—without piety enough to serve his Master any where! a Christian--devoted to the cause of Christ—without piety enough to labor in any department of that cause! a Christian—engaged in the work of converting the world—with only piety enough to slink away into some corner of it, where he will not be compelled to let his light shine! ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.' `I have not piety enough. I pray thee have me excused.' Alas, for the salt of the earth! Alas, for the light of the world!—Let shame, and confusion of face cover us, when we find it in our hearts, to excuse ourselves from duty, by such a plea as this.
But would you send a man to the heathen who is morally unfit for the missionary service; who has not faith, love, and zeal enough, to sustain him amidst the trials and discouragements of such a life; whose temper is, perhaps, capricious; who is haughty, morose, or pertinacious; quarrelsome, revengeful, or proud? By no means; and yet, these, or any other like defects cannot excuse him from pursuing that course, if, aside from them, it appears to be the path of duty. Let him so decide, and then let him enter, with the help of God, upon a process of self-discipline by which they may be subdued and eradicated.
Upon the whole subject of moral qualifications, then, this general principle may be laid down—that, as the want of them is never necessary, so it can never change the path of duty.
2. Intellectual Qualifications.—It bespeaks, in terms which demand our highest admiration and praise, the wisdom and benevolence of God, that while he has bestowed upon his [25/26] intelligent creatures, so unlimited a diversity of mental endowments, he has also opened to them subjects of knowledge and objects of pursuit no less various, yet, at the same time, each of them adapted to some one of the different forms of mind. Who can say, that, in all the wide range, no place is assigned to him? The world of mind affords no such anomaly—unless, indeed, we must except a certain class hereafter to be mentioned. The missionary enterprise, in itself, offers an appropriate sphere of action to almost every variety of intellectual character. The field which it occupies is so extensive, embracing by far the larger portion of the world, and the orders of mind upon which it operates, are so numerous and diverse, including also. the greater part of the human race, that few, it may be safely affirmed, can look through the whole, and find every centre of influence unsuited to themselves. I may say, then, that, even on the score of intellectual qualifications, the presumption, in the case of each inquirer, is in favor of foreign lands.
To the general rule which would seem to rise from this presumption, there are, however, some distinguished exceptions. They may, perhaps, be reduced to three classes.1. Those singular individuals who do not belong to any of the various orders of mind. They are nature's anomalies. They move in no regular orbit; they hold no place in the great intellectual system. They are like the meteors of the natural world. Their motions are irregular, freakish, and unaccountable. They are distinguished by some monstrous deformity, or some perverse eccentricity. They may be of service at home, where their peculiarities will be harmless, because they are understood, and where they will be restrained and regulated by external influences; while, among an unevangelized people, these same peculiarities (no allowance being made for them) would exert all their deleterious [26/27] influence, to inflame the prejudices of the ignorant multitude, and to thwart every effort, however faithful and sincere.
The second class consists of those, whose characters are marked by a striking deficiency of that practical wisdom which passes by the name of common sense. I need not stay to enumerate reasons in proof of their unfitness for the missionary work. If we may rely upon the united testimony of those, whose acquaintance with the condition and character of the unevangelized, has been most extensive and thorough, no intellectual qualification is so requisite for a missionary, as a sound and practical judgment. Deprived, as he often is, of the benefits of human counsel, and left to the guidance of his own reason—placed also in a situation where every act of indiscretion must produce its pernicious consequences unchecked, how necessary is it, that he be wise as a serpent, while he is harmless as a dove. A single imprudent action may blast forever his prospects of usefulness; while, in another sphere, where such errors in judgment would be easily remedied, and in the midst also of intelligent advisers, he might prosecute his Master's work with honor and success.—Want of prudence is often nothing more than a moral defect, and, in such a case, it cannot change the line of duty.
The third class comprises those, whose talents are peculiarly adapted to the work of the ministry at home, or to those important labors in the various departments of education and benevolence, which, as collateral parts of the great work, properly belong to ministers of the Gospel. On this point, however, there is need of great caution. Let me not be misunderstood; I speak only of those, whose peculiar adaptation is as clear to others as to themselves. It is an easy thing to establish ourselves in any conviction which is favored by the secret inclination of our hearts. Prepossessions and prejudices, though unseen, are often the heaviest [27/28] weights in the scale. They may, even of themselves, carry it against reason, and, with their aid, who cannot make out for himself a singular fitness for staying at home? The airy visions of the imagination, when laid in the balance, are heavy as lead. Fancy, with consummate skill, sketches delightful pictures of prospective usefulness, and fills them out with light and delicate touches. In our quiet retreat, we lead forth our gentle flock to green pastures and still waters; or we dwell upon the mountains of Zion, where the refreshing influences of the Spirit descend, like the dew of Hermon. Who has not felt the power of such delicious visions? How many have found in them the index of duty? These are they, of whom it has been well said, in reference to the command of Christ, they have no quarrel with the preach, but they have a mortal antipathy to the go.
There is, sometimes, a singular incongruity in the processes by which different minds arrive at the same conclusion. One, on account of some mental superiority which he possesses, or imagines himself to possess, finds it to be his duty to remain at home. Another, on the score of some supposed inferiority, finds it to be his duty—to remain at home.—We utterly repudiate the notion, that the missionary work does not require, at least in some of its departments, the highest orders of mind. To reduce unwritten languages to system--to translate the word of God into new tongues—to overthrow a religion which has intertwined itself with all the civil and social relations of a people—to mould, with plastic hand, the elements of society, rising upon the ruins of superstition and' idolatry—to give form and tone to the social habits and the literature of a nation—to introduce the arts and sciences of civilized life—in a word, to lead back the human mind from the deepest mazes of superstition and error, step by step, into the light and liberty of truth,—surely, this is not the work of inferior minds.-And yet, on the Other hand, the extensive [28/29] field of missionary effort presents numerous spheres of usefulness to men of ordinary talents.
It is a remark of Buchanan, than whom few are better fitted by the extent and accuracy of their observations to speak as oracles in this matter—that no labors among the Heathen, are more useful and necessary, during the first years of Christian instruction, than those of the humble teacher and catechist. It was the opinion of the venerable Schwartz, that the best qualifications of a Christian missionary, next to deep and ardent piety, were a sound judgment, combined with an accurate knowledge of the Bible and a general knowledge of the History of the world. Are there not many, who, from a modest sense of inferiority, shrink from the responsibilities of the ministry at home, that might find their proper place among the heathen? The inquirer, who has entered only upon the preliminary question—whether it is his duty to preach the Gospel—may have in his mind nothing more than the home ministry. There have, indeed, been instances where such a one has esteemed it his duty to enter another profession, but has afterwards revolted his decision upon its being suggested to him, that his objections applied to the home ministry, but not to the work of a missionary.
I have not included in the exceptions which have been made, those who possess little aptness for the study of languages. The reason is seldom, if ever, valid. A distinguished missionary has remarked, that there are few, who, when thrown into the midst of a strange people, will not soon acquire a readiness in the use of the native tongue, sufficient at least, for all purposes of oral instruction.
The peculiar situation and relations of an individual, aside from his personal qualifications, may often require a deviation from that course in favor of which I have endeavored to establish a presumption. The circumstances to which I [29/30] refer, are too numerous to mention in detail. Bodily infirmities, the dependency of friends upon him for support, social or domestic relations into which he may have previously entered, the encumbrances of debt, may be mentioned as examples. In these, and such like cases, the inquirer must be left to his own candid and prayerful judgment. One caution, however, may be interposed; and that is, that he do not give to them more weight than they deserve. They cannot change the path of duty, unless they are necessary obstacles, or such as cannot be obviated, without doing violence to conscience or Christian honor.
It was my design to say something upon the manner in which the inquiry should be conducted. But I must forbear.—The whole question is a most solemn and momentous one. Let it not be approached with levity or indifference; nor in a worldly temper of mind. Let not the inquirer enter upon it till he finds in himself a sincere desire to know his duty, his whole duty, and nothing but his duty. Let him shun the maxims of carnal prudence, and the sophistry of an earthly spirit. Away with all softenings, evasions, and subterfuges! Let him be honest with himself, honest with the world, honest with his God. Let his heart be warm with love, and let his spiritual vision reach into Eternity. Let compassion for the miseries of his fellow-men, fill his soul, and let his faith be strong and clear. Let him inquire, in the spirit of submission and trust, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?'—Without this spirit, conjoined with the spirit of prayer, there is no security. The deceitful heart will pervert reason and deaden conscience. The mind will run into sophistries, to shun the light of truth. Many things will be presumed upon worldly principles. The soul will lie open to the full influence of all those earthly passions, affections, and feelings, which oppose themselves to a life of self-denial. Sensual ease, the [30/31] delights of society, the pleasures of literary pursuits, will operate with wonderful power upon a mind predisposed to listen to such counsellors.—In these various ways truth will be perverted. The whole matter will be weighed in uneven balances, which are an abomination in the sight of God.