Extract from the Minutes of the Board of Missions, at a Meeting held September 8th, 1838.
"Resolved, That the thanks of the Board be tendered to the Rt. Rev. Bishop Otey, for the sermon preached before it on Thursday evening last; and that he be requested to furnish a copy to be published immediately, under the direction of the Secretaries of the Domestic and Foreign Committees."
"And I am sure, that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."--Romans xv. 29.
THE grandeur of the gospel in its design, is surpassed only by the benevolence of its spirit. It offers eternal life and immortal happiness to all who will accept its merciful overtures, and submit their hearts to its gracious influences. Love planned and executed the scheme of redemption, and under the influence of the same divine principle, its benefits are still made known and applied to men. It animates the Christian to forego personal ease, to sacrifice worldly interest, and to face every danger, that he may proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ to dying sinners. Of this we have an illustrious example in the conduct of that eminent apostle, whose words we have selected as the theme of our discourse. Having heard of the faith of the Roman Christians, he immediately felt in his heart the promptings of a desire to impart to them "some spiritual gift," to the end that they might be fully established. He therefore informs them, by letter, of his intention to visit them when a suitable opportunity should occur; and, realizing in all its extent the blessedness of that religion, which he was engaged in propagating, he tells them, "I am sure, that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." We understand him by these words, as intimating a willingness to supply any thing that was defective in their understanding and knowledge of the Christian system, and his ability to impart to them all those spiritual gifts necessary to their comfort and edification.
 These words then seem naturally to suggest topics of remark, altogether appropriate to the present occasion; when I am expected to speak a word of encouragement to that body which has been constituted by the authority of the Church, and especially appointed to direct the efforts of Christian benevolence for the extension of the gospel. And may the spirit of all grace, so influence our understandings and our hearts, at this and all other times, " that the comfortable gospel of Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed in all places to the breaking down the kingdom of sin, Satan, and death," until the reign of "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" be established in every nation, in every family, and in every heart.
We propose to consider, briefly, the gospel in its asserted character of a blessing.
1. It is a blessing, as having revealed to men the knowledge of the true God. Certain it is, that the true God was known to the Jews, previous to the introduction of the gospel. But these made up but a small portion of the human family, and all testimony goes to establish the fact, that apart from the favoured posterity of Jacob, the vast majority of mankind had very crude and inadequate conceptions of the Deity, and were by no means ascertained with certainty of his existence. To us, upon whom the full blaze of the light of revelation shines, it is perhaps an impossible thing, adequately to conceive the misery of ignorance upon this one fundamental article of true religion. The harrowing spectacles of wretchedness and degradation which are still presented to observation in pagan lands, and the recorded facts of history can alone acquaint us with the extent and degree of that fearful darkness, in which men groped and stumbled, and fell, for four thousand years, in their search after a Deity upon whose good ness they might rely for protection, and whose mercy they might supplicate for the pardon of their guilt. Reason, guided by observation of the skill and contrivance apparent in the arrangements of the material universe, led the understanding to the conclusion that there must have been a maker of all this visible frame, and that that maker was infinitely vise and powerful. But how or where to approach him, with what [4/5] offering to come before this high God with evidence of acceptance they had no knowledge, they could get no information that would ease the conscience of the burden of guilt. Reason had no line to fathom the awful profound in which the invisible God dwelt, she possessed no materials with which to bridge that "great gulf," which sin had fixed between man and his offended Maker; and however an anxious thought might wander beyond the boundaries of sensible things, even into that eternity in which the. Deity dwelt surrounded by all the glories of uncontrolled dominion, and matchless power, still it brought back no cheering discoveries to soothe the deep anxieties of the human bosom. It returned from the search terrified with images and spectres of the dead, throwing a still darker mantle of gloom over the future, and leading man under the influence of a vain imagination, to "change the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts and creeping things." The heavens were explored, the land swept, and the depths of the ocean sounded to find objects of religious worship, and man prostrated body and soul to these in shameful and infamous adoration, and called on the works of his own hands for protection and help!
Deification of the passions followed in the train of this stupifying ignorance, and man became, in the indulgence of his appetites, more degraded than the brutes that perish. Perverting his reason and spurning the dictates of conscience, he taxed his ingenuity in devising methods to inflame his passions and do violence to nature. Monsters in crime were exalted to the honour and dignity of gods, and temples and shrines were dedicated to the worship of those whose worthlessness was inscribed in indelible characters upon the recorded crimes and remembered vileness of their living actions. Think of beings endowed with reason, bowing down to stocks and stones--worshipping the calf, the dog, the crocodile, the frog, the fly--every thing unclean, vile and abominable--erecting splendid temples for their inhabitation--consecrating a priesthood for their service, and bringing their oblations to these dumb idols, and in the face of Heaven, in the light of day, and in the [5/6] presence of men, offering to them the homage of the heart! Can aught be conceived of, as more humiliating--more infamously degrading? Yet even these views, revolting as they may be, present but the lighter shades of this picture of moral degradation. We must enter within, the precincts of the idolatrous fanes of the heathen, and witness the foul and corrupting rites there practised in order to form a correct estimate of that moral depravity which deformed the character of those ignorant of God. We must see them encouraging licentiousness and practising crime in their most hideous shapes, under the solemn and sacred sanctions of religion--parents yielding their children to pollution--altars drenched with the blood of human victims--infants immolated in the fire or drowned in the flood to propitiate their merciless deities--and every impiety abhorrent to God and disgraceful to rational creatures, not only allowed, but enjoined by the precepts of Paganism, if we would realize, in any adequate degree, the monstrous and shocking absurdities which deform the worship and debase the character of the heathen. To enter into more minute details would offend the ear of modesty! To fill up the outlines of the dark picture we have sketched, would mantle the cheek of innocence with the blush of honest shame and virtuous indignation!
The light of revelation was poured upon the world by the rising of the sun of righteousness, in the proclaimed doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the darkness, which centuries of ignorance and superstition had been accumulating, was scattered. At the coming of Christ idolatry was confounded--philosophy surrendered her lofty pretensions--the blood of impure victims ceased to flow--the pagan altar was overturned--the shrines of impiety and lust crumbled before him--the vain idols of a debasing superstition were reduced to vile dust, and gorgeous temples, once the receptacle of every abomination and foul with pollution, were changed into houses of adoration and prayer, of praise and thanksgiving to the ever-living and blessed God! The fetters in which the human mind was bound and lay helpless and powerless, were knocked off, and man rose to a knowledge of his origin, destiny and character, and looked upon God as his [6/7] father and friend in the revelation of Jesus Christ! Let it be remembered as we go along, that the ignorance, superstition and wretchedness to which we have now adverted, still brood over much the larger portion of the human family. Surely a more influential consideration need not be sought or named to enforce upon Christians the duty and obligation of extending the knowledge of Christ's religion.
2. The gospel is a blessing, as having taught man his destiny. Without the revelation of Jesus Christ, the grave is the entrance into a world, full of darkness, hung around with terrors, and from which no beam of hope, or ray of light issues to cheer the heart, or hush the voice of nature's disquietude. The vast field of conjecture stretches in boundless prospect before us, and whether annihilation, or some modified form of spiritual existence animating the body of a beast, a fowl, or reptile, becomes the portion of the rational, sentient part of man, the utmost efforts of reason can neither demonstrate nor determine. Futurity to the pagan, is a great deep over the face of which the blackness of darkness broods continually. He stands at the mouth of the open tomb, and sees a parent, a child, or the partner of his affections, sink into the cold and silent vault of corruption, and turns away in sadness with the overwhelming conviction, that "it shall never be morn in the grave to bid the slumberer awake" ....... that the most tender and endearing connexions he has known are dissolved for ever, and that love and conscious being in them are utterly perished. I would ask you, ye Christians, to realize the horrors of such a condition, if you could. But you cannot. It is impossible. In vain would you attempt to gain a practical conception of the misery, of the unmitigated misery of, him who looks to the grave as the only final resting-place of a weary life, and in the agonies and throes of the departing hour, is pressed with the conviction that consciousness is to be eternally annihilated, that destruction of body and soul is the fearful close which consummates the struggle of death. From this state of unqualified wretchedness the information of the gospel has delivered man. For Christ "hath [7/8] abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
In this simple annunciation is contained more to remove doubt, inspire hope, and nerve the soul to virtue's high resolve, than is to be found in all the reasonings of sages and in all the conclusions 'of Philosophy. Reject the truth proclaimed upon the authority of this holy volume, and where will you find its equivalent or its substitute? Extinguish the light which beams so brightly and cheeringly from its pages, and you spread a mantle of despair over the moral and religious world. You take away the foundation of hope, remove from fear its sanction, from piety its motive, from virtue its reward, and yield up man the helpless victim of his passions and the prey of the most dismal apprehensions. Visible nature contains no record of the soul's immortality. The light of the sun reveals it not--the winds of heaven whisper it not--the thunder does not proclaim it, nor is it uttered by the deep voice of the earthquake. "The deep says the information is not in me, and the sea says it is not in me." In the gospel alone is the solemn and awakening truth announced, that immortality enters into the future destiny of man!
3. The gospel is a blessing because it reveals God's method for the pardon of sinners. If the history of human kind establishes any one truth beyond the reach of doubt or cavil, it is that a sense of guilt--of demerit--has been found uniformly attaching to the conscience amidst all the varieties and complexions of our race. Unearthly, unnatural fears--the genuine offspring of guilt--dark and gloomy presages of the future, embodying themselves in hideous shapes and phantoms, terrified the imaginations of men, and led them universally to the offering of propitiatory sacrifices.
Nothing was held too dear and valuable to purchase peace of conscience. It was this which contributed to raise those splendid temples of the "olden time," whose ruins even now excite the astonishment of the traveller, and, in the midst of surrounding desolation, remain the imperishable monuments of man's folly, and testify of his sin. The most precious fruits of all [8/9] bounteous nature, and whole hecatombs of animals were consumed upon the altars of Grecian and Roman idolatry, while the stern warriors of the northern nations presented in the slaughter of human victims, a more acceptable oblation, as they conceived, to the cruel deities whom they worshipped. Yet "it was not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats"--nor were more costly sacrifices efficacious "to take away sins." Men, after all their efforts thus to appease conscience, still groaned in bondage to the fear of death, and dreaded with agonizing apprehensions the approach of that hour which consigned them to the dark bosom of nonentity, or delivered them up to a power of whose attributes they had no knowledge, and of whom they formed only vague and terrifying conjectures. From this dismal state of apprehension from this more than Egyptian bondage, the gospel proposes an effectual deliverance. It sets forth an arrangement by which the holiness of the divine character is vindicated, while favour and pardon, through the atonement of Christ, is extended to the guilty and condemned, upon the terms of repentance and faith. It disarms death of his sting, by having provided satisfaction for the demands of a violated law, and gives peace of conscience in the assurance that "mercy rejoices against judgment," and that "God can be just and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." The single announcement that "Christ died, the just for the unjust, to bring us near unto God"--"that his blood cleanseth from all sin," conveys import of richer blessings to the penitent, believing soul, than is contained in all the records of this world's wisdom. It fills up exactly the void in the penitent sinner's heart, and meets him with that very provision which the necessities of his case demanded. "Thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil," and oceans of human blood shed in religious sacrifice, and offered in religious worship, would not assure the peace--would not impart the solid comfort which does that one declaration, that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The missionary of the cross may take up this message and bear it to all the families of a ruined [9/10] and undone race, and it will spread the light of consolation and joy, and kindle the torch of hope in all the habitations of man
4. The gospel is a blessing because it delivers from the dominion of sin. Man is every where and every way a guilty and polluted sinner before God! It is deliverance from the condemnation of guilt, and cleansing from his pollution, which he longs for, with all the desire of a soul swelling with the hope of immortality. Had the gospel contained no provision to remedy this, his actual condition, all its other discoveries, however transcendant the displays which they make of. the divine character and glory, had been to no purpose. Without strength to do works pleasing and acceptable to God, the knowledge of the perfections of Deity, would have rendered man but the more miserable, in the view thus afforded him of the happiness (possible to pure beings) of communion with God, but to him unattainable. He had beheld holiness, justice, unerring rectitude, almighty power, stamped as prominent lineaments upon the face of Deity, but all of them pledged to execute vengeance upon him, a wretched and helpless offender. But very different from this is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Jesus Christ!" While the gospel uncovers to man the guilt of his own character, it reveals to him the provision of mercy, through which he may escape condemnation. It addresses him in tones soothing and gentle as the whispers of an angel, saying, "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit"--that being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." While it discloses to him the knowledge of his weakness, that of and by himself he- can do nothing but sin, it at the same time, tells him where he may find strength and "grace to help in every time of need"--such strength and grace as will deliver him from the bondage of corruption into the "glorious liberty of the sons of God." It directs him to apply to God, who "giveth to all who ask liberally, and upbraideth not"--to seek by fervent, humble prayer the aid and influences of that holy spirit who is able to form his nature pure within--to free him from the dominion of sin--so [10/11] to subdue his will, into conformity with the will of Christ, as to enable him to say at all times, "thy will and not mine be done"--so to inspire him with confidence as that he may repose, without the intrusion of a single fear, upon the favour and protection of Heaven--so to fill him with "perfect peace," that he rejoices in the darkest hours of his probation and pilgrimage, and so to pour love into his heart, that he feels contented and happy at the foot of the cross, and can cry, whatever events betide, "Abba, Father!"
Would any man estimate truly the value of this blessing, let him realize the difference in his feelings, when the sentence of condemnation stared him in the face, and he sought and found peace in the justifying righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; let him remember how he loathed the pollutions of sin, and saw it defiling his every act and thought, and how through the punishing influences of the spirit of holiness he was translated into a state of purity and peace; how he was thus enabled to gain the mastery over his corrupt affections, to walk in newness of life and "rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
If any of you, my dear hearers, have not so apprehended Christ--if you have not yet attained to this liberty, and experienced the power of divine grace in the renewal of your hearts and in the sanctification of your purposes, desires, hopes and pursuits, let me entreat you to labour earnestly for this blessing, without which all your other advantages and privileges will prove of no worth.
We see then in these few particulars to which we have referred, how the gospel is a blessing to man. To undertake to detail in how many respects it is so, would lead us into a field, the boundaries of which are limited only by the capacities of a soul formed for immortality, and looking to eternity as the appropriate sphere of its enlargement and enjoyment. It is, in a word, the immediate source of all the real happiness enjoyed in this world, and the sure foundation of whatever comfortable hope we are permitted to cherish in reference to the future. The events which have marked its progress through our world, triumphantly vindicate the truth of its lofty pretensions, [11/12] announced in the song of the angels to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem; and they are impressive enough in character to furnish the argument to every one who has partaken of its blessings, to consecrate his best talents and all that he has, to the work of extending its saving provisions to every spot of earth marked by the footsteps of sinful man. Wherever its messengers have travelled, they have scattered blessings with a liberal hand, converting the barren and unfruitful wilderness of this world, into fields teeming with the precious fruits of righteousness piety and peace. The stupid Greenlander in his icebound coasts--the filthy and degraded African in his burning clime--the effeminate Asiatic in his luxuriant shades--the polished European in the walks of civilized life--and the voracious cannibal in his sea-girt island have alike been partakers of its purifying and sanctifying influences; and in the submission of their hearts to its spirit--in the conformity of their lives to its precepts, they have found peace of conscience, and realized by happy experience that it is the "power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth." The minister of Jesus has gone "in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ," to the most miserable and degraded of an undone race, and light has beamed along his pathway, and the voice of praise and thanksgiving from redeemed men, cheered his spirit and strengthened his hands in his "work and labour of love."
But, brethren, there are but few, comparatively speaking, engaged in this noblest of all enterprises--the recovery of a world from a state of rebellion against Heaven, and the introduction of the human family to a full participation of the privileges and benefits of Christ's religion. The beacon lights of the missionary enterprise, which point the erring and lost to the haven of safety, are scattered over an immense extent, and are far too distant from each other, to direct all, who are straying, into the way that leads to eternal life. In our own country--to say nothing of the foul idolatry and brutish ignorance of pagan lands, wrapped up in darkness thicker than that which hovered over the civilized heathens of ancient times--in our own country and among brethren bound to us by all the ties which unite [12/13] men in the social state, and endeared to us by all the warm sympathies arid kindling associations of a common faith and hope, there are thousands whose eyes and hearts are turned to us with all the interest and hope of children, hungry and asking food at a parent's hands. There are hundreds of thousands of others, of the same blood with ourselves, who, intent upon the gain of ungodliness, and immersed in worldly pleasures are giving up soul and body to the dominion of sin and the devil, and making rapid strides to the dismal gulf of perdition, and there are none to arrest them in their onward career and remind them of the fearful hour of death, and of the solemn awards of judgment.
Never since the world began, we may safely say, has there been furnished such a theatre for the dissemination of truth or of error, as is presented in the actual condition of the American people: Every man among us can gain some influence, and through the tremendous power of the press, speaking with its thousand tongues, can propagate his opinions, and spread them, in a few days, from the lakes of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico; from the shores of the Atlantic, to the base of the Rocky Mountains. The institutions of the Republic assure freedom and protection to men of all nations, and offer a guarantee of safety to all, in the entertainment and diffusion of every shade of religious belief. Nor can we forbear to state the fact, that there are men standing upon our own coasts, the determined and uncompromising enemies of the cross, with hands stretched out and inviting those who fraternize with them, to come and aid them in the unholy cause of opposition to piety, virtue and religion. They would, under the pretence of making men free, demolish the fair fabric of our civil and religions freedom; lay in ruins its beautiful proportions by removing every restraint to unbridled licentiousness, and triumph in the prevalence of anarchy, impiety and crime.
Our very condition thee, and the value we set upon our privileges, both civil and religious, impose upon us strong obligations to do what God shall enable us, for the spread of his saving counsel and truth among men. Interests of priceless [13/14] value to our souls, and to the souls of unborn millions are staked upon the fidelity we manifest in this contest There is a bond of union in Christian sympathy, tending to draw together and keep united the people of these States, stronger and more enduring than the triple cord of worldly interest, earthly honour and national glory. Pardon me, for dwelling upon the subject; but I cannot suppress the remark, that, in my deliberate conviction, there is a practical tendency to civil union in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church, which in her daily service enjoins the duty of leading godly, quiet and peaceable lives; in the prayers for all in authority; in the instruction given to honour and obey "the powers that be, as the ordinance of God," which is well calculated to counteract all efforts to dismember the republic, which tells silently and effectually upon the great mass of the community, and which infidelity will in vain arrogate to itself, in its professed but ill-shown friendship to free and liberal institutions. Show me a good Christian, and I will show you in him, a good citizen, a firm and ardent lover of his country, and one who will not refuse, if need be, to die for her liberty. In seeking then to enlarge the missionary work in our land, we seek the promotion of every thing that is calculated to advance the well-being and happiness of our countrymen. A churchman in Maine, and a churchman in Louisiana, uniting in the same prayers, in the same thanksgivings; recognizing the same bond of ecclesiastical union in the General Convention, and acknowledging the obligations which a common faith and hope impose, feel an identity of interest in the preservation of their civil privileges. Any attempt to divide them, would be the setting up of Jeroboam's calves at Bethel, to draw away the Israelites from the worship of the true God at Jerusalem.
But the divine charity of the gospel is not confined in its operations to any boundaries which convenience may establish in the arrangements of civil government. In its outgoings it reaches all the tribes and families of a ruined race, and like its gracious Author, it would have all men to come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved. It was this spirit which led the Church at the last General Convention, with so much unanimity, to take [14/15] the position she now occupies in the acknowledgment then made, that she felt herself charged with the high and solemn duty of making known the unsearchable riches of Christ to all the sinful race of men; to go forward as if moved by the mind of one man and "preach the gospel to every creature," I doubt whether there was a single member of that body present, who did not feel inspired with some portion of the holy impulse of divine charity that animated the breast of Paul, when he said, "I am sure, that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ." We all then felt that it was good for us to be here; we rejoiced with one another and said, "the God of Heaven will prosper us;" and we returned to our widely distant homes, firmly purposed in God's help and strength, to do what we could to make "his Ways known upon earth, his saving health among all nations." And has not God prospered us, my brethren? Indeed he has. The dew of his heavenly blessing has not been withheld; yea, in some places it has been poured down in copious and enriching showers, causing the "wilderness and the solitary place to be glad," and the moral "desert to bud and blossom as the rose;" so that more than once we have been constrained to cry out, the "Lord hath done great things for us: yea, the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad." Look at Indiana! Three years ago, some in despair, were ready to say she is lost to the Church! if lost, she has been found again. Found! yes! and established on " the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone;" and under the active superintendence of the missionary Bishop, the Church in her borders is lengthening her cords, and strengthening her stakes, and making increase of the, body, unto the edifying of itself in love." Look at Missouri Her case was almost as hopeless as that of Indiana. Heralds of the cross are now lifting up their voices in the bosom of her stately forests, and along the margins of her majestic rivers, and proclaiming the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; and the "dead in trespasses and sins" hear the sound, and, quickened into spiritual life by the power of God, are raised from the [15/16] death of sin unto a life of righteousness and are "filled with joy and hope, and peace in believing." The anthem of praise to the God of redemption is now chanted in valleys which, a few years since, had their silence broken by the war-whoop of the savage, and their soil stained and polluted by the bloody rites of paganism! Look at Illinois--at Michigan!--the light of gospel truth and gospel order, a few years ago so dim as scarcely to twinkle in the surrounding darkness, begins to brighten and spread, and in its dawning to give cheering promise of a glorious day. Look at the South-West with its bright and sunny skies, its wide and fertile plains. Thousands are crowding in to occupy a soil that may vie with the land of Egypt for fatness and productiveness. Our missionary Bishop has lately returned from that interesting region, and pronounces the "fields as white unto the harvest," and especially so to the reapers, whom it is our privilege, no less than our bounden duty, to send out to labour in the land of the Lord's husbandry!
But alas! brethren, the first emotions of gladness which the notices of his progress in the South awakened in our breasts, had hardly subsided into the tranquillity of a patient waiting in hope--hope that our Zion would soon put on her beautiful garments, and become a praise in that distant region-i--before we were called to mourn in sadness over the untimely fate of a lamented and beloved brother in the ministry, upon whom hope fastened its goodliest expectations, and pay the tribute of our sympathy and our tears in condolence with his bereaved and sorrowing flock. The faithful and talented Woart slumbers in death beneath the Atlantic wave! Gracious God! mysterious and inscrutable are thy ways! thy path is indeed in the great waters! but thy faithfulness also is as the mighty deep and thy mercy as the waves of the sea! Thanks be to thy holy name, for the grace given to thy servant in his hour of sore distress; in that his faith failed not, that his confidence in thee was steadfast to the end, and that his example is left to cheer us who remain onward in the path of duty, and in the work of patience that never tires--of charity that never fails! Who will take up the mantle of our brother, and, animated by a double portion of his [16/17] spirit and zeal, will go forth calling upon the Lord God of Elijah, and light again the lamp of divine truth and break the bread of life for that distant and sorrow-stricken flock? May the Lord strengthen their faith that it fail not "through over-much sorrow," and may he put it into the heart of some faithful minister to go to their help, who will appropriate as his own the sentiment so beautifully illustrated in practice by our deceased brother and friend in his last hours of trial! "Lord lead me where thou wilt, and how thou wilt, only let me feel that I am led by thee!"
Still we must say, in reviewing the past, "the God of Heaven has prospered us," and assuredly he will continue to bless us, if we but prove faithful to him, to our duty and to our privileges. But we must not forget that "the work is great and large," the bearers of burdens few and separated far from one another. Our diligence and exertions must increase in a corresponding ratio to the success which attends our efforts. To relax in our labours is to go backwards; not to occupy the ground that is vacant, is to yield it to the possession of adversaries who will never give back an inch of it without a violent struggle.
If we cast our eyes to the Foreign field of missionary enterprise, the same grounds of encouragement seem to be held out, in the success which has attended the labours of our missionaries. Whether God's truth be proclaimed on the classic soil of Greece, or on the coasts of benighted Africa, it vindicates its heavenly origin and power, by rescuing from the thraldom of sin, and inspiring a "faith which works by love, purifies the heart and overcomes the world." Under such circumstances can any one who has "named the name of Christ," and subscribed himself servant to the God of Jacob, refuse his aid to carry forward this work? Can the Church with every reason of encouragement, with every motive of commanded and acknowledged duty, and with every omen of final success, now stop short in the career which she began so gloriously? God forbid! May the honour of our holy religion, gratitude to the Saviour of men, charity to our fellow-sinners, and the love of [17/18] our own souls forbid! No one can mistake our position, as no one can misunderstand the duty, which the Church in her assembled wisdom has recognized as peculiarly her own. As "a witness and keeper of holy writ," through which faith in Christ is preached to man, as the condition of his salvation, she is bound in obedience to the orders of her ever-living head, to send out the ministry of reconciliation, that a perishing and condemned world may hear, believe and be saved. She has constituted the Board of Missions her special agent to give direction to her efforts, to concentrate her means upon points where their use will be most effective, to devise plans for the most speedy and successful accomplishment of the great objects in view, and to secure the services of those who are willing and qualified for the work.
No body in the Church is invested with more interesting powers, or charged with a work more transcendently important. To me it seems a primary object, to secure the service of men qualified by their learning, piety, talents and experience to become missionaries; men who shall go expecting to labour hard and perseveringly; men who shall possess a zeal according to knowledge, not an enthusiasm quickened by the spirit of romance. I am aware that there are some points of exceeding difficulty in the proper adjustment of this matter. In the ministry, as in every other profession, the greatest abilities are usually at the command of the highest pecuniary compensation. Hence in the newly settled portions of our country where the members of the church are few in number and weak in resources, it is often difficult to provide for the respectable maintenance of a clergyman, with the addition of the small stipend usually allowed from the missionary fund. To compete with congregations in the older dioceses, where the Church has become measurably strong by age, and where houses of worship are provided, is entirely useless. It cannot be done with the slightest probability of success, neither is any such competition in any way, or for any reason, desirable. Nevertheless, it must be obvious to even slight reflection, that men of fair abilities, and it least of considerable experience, are indispensably [18/19] requisite in places where the Church is almost unknown--where few persons are found to join in the responses of her liturgy, and where the combined influence of other denominations, is generally brought to bear against her interests and success. We must have men, able to measure qualifications for usefulness in every respect with the ministers of other and dissenting bodies of Christians, if we expect the Church to keep pace with the increasing population and rapidly developing resources and strength of the new States. Now this, for the reasons already hinted at, and the great demand for Episcopal clergymen, is next to an impossible thing. Sound discretion, however, should teach us the propriety of approximating as near as may be to this result, by employing only such men, as are confessedly well qualified for usefulness. To this end it seems to me an object next in importance, that the salaries of missionaries should be such as to relieve them for a few years from all apprehension of want. They should be so well supported, as not to be compelled to depend upon the people whom they serve, until these are able to maintain the services of religion among themselves, without feeling it to be burdensome. I am convinced that the support given to our missionaries is inadequate. I am intimately acquainted with many of them--with their trials, wants and difficulties; and justice requires me to declare, that with hardly an exception, I do not know a more zealous, self-denying and laborious body of men upon earth. I could present to you a picture upon this subject, my brethren, the outlines and shades all true to real life, the contemplation of which would stir in every on here "the sacred source of sympathetic tears;" but that I apprehend your own favoured circumstances would hardly permit you to realize its fidelity. I could take you to more than one little village in the Far West, where you should see an humble and faithful minister of the gospel, toiling day after day through years of weariness and patient endurance in the school-house, to eke out a scanty but outwardly decent support for himself and family; the marrow drying up, the meanwhile, in his bones; the flesh wasting from his body; and the spirit breaking and dying in his heart, under the pressure of [19/20] incessant toil, and under the withering blight of neglect and contempt. You should see him at nightfall, wending his heavy way to his comfortless home, to seek in the privacy of his lonely retirement, communion with his God, as a balm to heal the wounds of an anxious heart. You should see him on Sunday walking with downcast eyes and bent form, to some deserted store-house or abandoned tenement, to meet a few persons for worship, and to preach to them the riches of redeeming love. The next day finds him again engaged in the drudgery of the school-room; his only solace, the consciousness that he is faith full striving to do his duty--the hope that the set time to bless his humble labours will presently come--that his brethren will sympathize with him and will help him with a liberal hand and a praying heart, and at least that others will enter upon his labours when he is gone and received to his reward in heaven. Thus he lives through years, over the dreary hours of which no ray of light is shed, save that which beams dimly from distant and often deferred hope, till disgust and weariness insupportable come over his spirit, and he flies froth the scene of his mortifications and trials, to find in some other spot a resting-place, where he may again begin to sow in hope and water with his tears. Believe me, brethren, I speak the words of truth and soberness, when I declare to you, that this is no over-wrought picture, and that fancy has borrowed nothing from her stores to give strength to its colours I deny not that this result is sometimes consequent in no small degree from the want of suitable qualifications in the ministry to meet precisely the wants of the people among whom some of our missionaries have gone. There is a certain degree of "the wisdom of the serpent"--a tact for accommodating one's self to the manners, tastes and feelings of a community, without any compromise of religious principle or duty, the result of experience and a knowledge of human nature, which in these cases becomes an indispensable condition of success. Still, after making all due allowances on this score, I cannot but be persuaded that one chief cause of ill-success in many instances, is the want of adequate support. There are very few men who have the heart to labour [20/21] in the ministry and maintain that equanimity and tranquillity of spirit so necessary to insure success in their work, when the mind is everlastingly tortured by apprehensions of impending want. To send out a missionary without ample guarantees of support, is in fact exposing him to the temptation of neglecting the duties of his peculiar calling, to a degree that is most unjustifiable. Our missionaries should be liberally--they deserve to be generously supported.
I cannot forbear remarking here, that there is a feature in the plan of Foreign missionary proceedings, which has struck me as exceedingly wise and judicious, and which might, I think, be profitably adopted in the measures of the Domestic department. I have reference to the employment of teachers, to be associated with, and to act in conjunction with the missionary. Wherever we send a clergyman, let us despatch to his aid, a schoolmaster also, if he can be engaged, who shall be the catechist of the congregation, to instruct the children and others in the doctrines and duties of Christianity. In many parts of the country such an agency is as desirable as it can be in foreign lands, and certainly has greater promise of success. The plan, if feasible and reduced to practice, will likewise restore to us a class of men, well known for their efficiency and usefulness in the primitive church.
But what can the Board of Missions or its Committees do without means? It is an easy thing to suggest plans of operation; but what does it all avail, when appeal after appeal has been made to the members, of the Church for aid, and still the treasury of Missions remains empty? Empty, did I say! is actually in debt!! [It is understood by the writer, that the Domestic Treasury, though not actually empty, has not the means to meet its liabilities on the 1st of the ensuing October.] Now in this we are utterly at fault! It ought not so to be, my brethren, and so it would not be if Churchmen understood and appreciated properly their privileges. Can no plan be devised that shall effectually remove this reproach froth us? None better in my judgment than that which has been so [21/22] frequently suggested, and which, when faithfully adhered to, has been so eminently successful among other bodies of Christians!
Let the members of the Church then, one and all, in the first place, betake themselves to prayer right earnestly, and in the spirit of the prophet's supplication let them say, "O Lord! revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known!" If this be done in faith, can any one doubt the result? Has not Christ said, "Ask and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Why, my brethren heaven and earth shall pass away, before one jot or tittle of this promise shall fail! It affords to us a guarantee of success, more certain than if we had all the gold and silver of the world laid at our feet! For the work is the Lord's; the power is his, and the souls of the people are his also. If we can but engage HIM on our side; if he will but make bare his arm mighty to save, we shall see such wonderful results wrought in the conversion of sinners; in the extension of the Church; in the free-will offerings of the people; in the reign of righteousness and peace upon earth, that every tongue shall be unlocked in praise, and every voice shall exclaim, "this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes!" Now is it not wonderful that this instrument is not more resorted to, when its almost omnipotent energy is so universally acknowledged. It is the lever which moves heaven and earth, and it is placed in the hands of the humblest Christian. He has not to say with the Syracusan philosopher, "doV pou stw,"--"give me a place where I may stand, and I will move the world." No, blessed be God! Christ has told very one of his followers to stand upon the rock of his unfailing promise, and, planted upon that sure foundation, to ask what he would, and it should be given him. "Ask and it shall be given to you." "Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession!" I could heartily wish that the House of Bishops, would prepare and propose, for adoption, a form of prayer, to be used on all occasions of public worship, by the congregations of our Church, having a special reference to the missionary work, and commending it to the favour and blessing [22/23] of Almighty God. It would at least remind Churchmen of their duties in more particulars than one, and if offered "in spirit and in truth," would doubtless draw down such a blessing from Heaven, that there would scarcely be room for its overflowing abundance. [The above suggestion presented itself to the author's mind under the impulse of hasty composition, in reflecting upon the importance of prayer, to the success of the missionary work. Upon reviewing what he had written, he was led to think that the suggestion, if acted on, might be useful in another respect, viz: a prescribed form of prayer, for the purpose designated, would relieve some clergymen from a necessity, sometimes pleaded, under which they conceive themselves now placed, of introducing extempore prayer, at missionary meetings and lectures. The introduction of such prayers, is deemed by the author altogether unwarranted by the canons, rubrics and general usage of the Church. The main object had in view, in retaining the passage, will be effected, if the Bishops will set forth forms of prayer, in their respective dioceses, to be used on occasions of missionary meetings, under the authority of the 47th canon of the General Convention of 1832.]
I have spoken of the temporal and pecuniary wants of our missionaries; but pressing as these are, I am sure I give utterance to the sentiments of their hearts, when .1 say, that they would feel more strengthened and animated in their work, by the assurance that prayer was made with one accord by the whole Church for their success, than to be informed that they might check without limit upon an overflowing and inexhaustible treasury. They would feel then, that they were not alone in their toils--that the eyes of the faithful were directed with intense interest to their labours--that the aspirations of thousands of pious hearts were breathed for their success; that wishes of "good luck in the name of the Lord," clustered around their goings, and as they went their way through the lonely prairies, or tangled forests, or miry swamps of distant lands, far from the loved scenes, and inspiring associations of their youthful days, they would realize that God was near them--that his protecting hand was over them, and that his grace and blessing would crown their humble efforts in his cause; and they would go to seek the lost--reclaim the erring--instruct the ignorant, and comfort the sorrowful; assured that they went "in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."
 If any man upon earth pre-eminently needs an interest in the prayers of God's people, it is the missionary. He is oftentimes placed in circumstances of difficulty and trial unknown to other men. No description can do justice to his situation. It must be realized by personal experience before it can be fully known and appreciated. The preparation of sermons and the conducting of public worship, are the least onerous of his duties. His own heart must be established by grace--his own soul baptized in the fountain of divine love, that the power and light of the gospel may be manifest in all that he says and does. The workings of error in a thousand forms, he has to meet and oppose. He is under continued temptation to lower the standard of Christian attainment, by receiving as members of the Church those who with the form of godliness have never experienced its divine power in the renewing of the heart unto holiness. He has to lift the standard of the blood-stained cross and proclaim in the solemn and thrilling tones of the gospel trumpet, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." He has to rebuke open profligacy and warn against secret sin, under the lively sense of his own responsibility, that if those to whom he is sent die in their iniquity, without warning, their blood will be required at his hands! He has to encounter the sneer of infidelity--to endure the lash of ridicule--to face the scorner with his infamous jests and gibes--to have his ear offended with the blasphemy of the profane, and to vindicate the heavenly origin of his religion by meekness--by gentleness--by patience--by faithfulness--"by pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." He has to stand by the couch of the dying, to point the trembling and penitent sinner to the blood of Christ as the only propitiation for sin, and to assist the struggling soul in its last, desperate conflict. Who that has realized all this in the discharge of the ministerial trust, but must ask with the apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" Who that understands their difficulty, and feels the [24/25] value of immortal souls, but must acknowledge that missionaries especially need the prayers of the church? Wonder not then that I place this as foremost, most necessary and most effective among the instruments of the missionary work, and that I ask, in behalf of my fellow-labourers in the gospel at home and abroad, the fervent, effectual prayers of the whole Church.
But this is not all to be asked. We came to you in the name of the Lord, and ask you to give of your worldly substance for this work. It has pleased God to make you his debtors, not only by giving you all that you have, but also by making known to you the power of his grace and the strength of his love, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. You are then under countless obligations of gratitude and love to the Saviour, and ought surely to be glad to manifest your thankfulness, by every method in your power. God could, it is true, convert the world without ever calling upon one of you to share at all in the honour and glory of such a work: and so also he could easily sustain us in life without the intervention of rain and sunshine in their seasons, to bless the labours of man in preparing "food convenient for us." But he has not chosen, in his infinite wisdom, to do so. He would have men to labour for their daily bread, both in the natural and spiritual world. He has instructed us to pray, "give us this day, our daily bread"--and no man can offer the prayer in faith, in sincerity and in truth, without recognizing such dependence upon God, as ought to constrain him to give of his ability cheerfully to spread abroad the knowledge of the gospel. This duty is itself so plain and obvious, has been so frequently and forcibly inculcated, that I need say the less upon it Only one consideration will I name and urge upon the attention of Christians. The reproach has been too frequently cast upon the benevolent enterprises of the Christian Church, that they are money-making schemes. The position taken by our communion, that baptized members are under obligations to aid the missionary work, will relieve us effectually from the opprobrium of mercenary motives, if churchmen will only do their duty. We ask no man to give, unless he does so from Christian principle. His gift, unsanctified [25/26] by this motive, is unacceptable to God, and will bring no blessing to his own soul. It will perhaps be said, that such a rule, in its practical operation, will greatly diminish the receipts into the missionary treasury. I do believe it is a groundless apprehension. Let the Church do her duty, and God will defend the right. Let her resume the wound upon which she was originally placed by her Divine Founder, making no compromise with worldly principles. Let her members rely upon their own means as God prospers them, and in estimating what they can give, let them not diminish their own contributions, on the presumption that offerings from "those without" will make up their deficiency.
The estimated numerical strength of the Protestant Episcopal Church of this country is 650,000. Brethren, we are able to do all that God requires of us, if "there was first a willing mind," and we had faith to attempt what God has commanded. Eleven apostles and five hundred brethren set about conquering the world, and recovering it from the dominion of sin and idolatry; and shall we, with a host almost equal to the armies of Israel when they came out of Egypt, falter and hesitate to enter upon that goodly inheritance which the Lord has promised in the triumphant establishment of his kingdom upon earth?
Consider what is proposed to be done l Nothing less than to deliver a world from the dominion of sin--to impart to men a knowledge of their high destiny--to point out the way that leads to present happiness and eternal, glory--to cause all the sacred influences of piety, truth and justice to be felt throughout all the habitations of men, and to carry the gospel in the fulness of its blessing to all the dark corners and benighted portions of a world that lieth prostrate and helpless in wickedness and misery.
Consider the motives to engage in this work. God has commanded it. "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." Who calls for higher authority? Who asks for a more constraining motive, and who demands better security for success than he has in obeying the divine word?
Personal and relative interests urge us onward. Our [26/27] children, our friends, our country, as well as ourselves, will reap the blessed fruits of labour, in this cause. There is doubtless some Christian parent in this assembly, whose son or daughter will in a few years seek a home in the great western valley--perhaps be found seated in some lonely cabin in one of the deep jungles of the Mississippi--perhaps musing in sadness over the remembrance of by-gone days, when the church-going bell summoned a then undivided family to one of the stately temples that adorn and beautify this city, to "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." Think, oh think of the dangers of that solitary child, deprived of spiritual privileges, in the dreariness and solitude of its distant home, and say, will you refuse to send out messengers of salvation, who may bear to it the light and comfort of the gospel of peace in its hour of sorest need? Ah! my friends and hearers, this is not all that should enter into our contemplations, as it is not all that flings a shadow over the emigrant's home. There is an hour of darkness and dismay in which it is mournful and terrifying to be left without the consolations and counsel, which it is the peculiar office of the ministry to furnish. I remember, as though it were but yesterday, so deeply was my heart impressed, I remember, that I was requested once to visit a sick stranger, in a little village on the banks of the Mississippi, where I was waiting the arrival of a steamboat I was ushered into a small room of the public inn, where lay upon a pallet of straw, a young man, sinking rapidly under the ravages of disease. He had not even a friend to watch by his bed of pain, and smooth the passage to the tomb by the soothing attentions which affection loves to bestow. I will not detain you with a detail of all that passed between us, during the intervals of composure and ease from pain, through the hours of that long and comfortless night. I spoke to him of Jesus--of his power and willingness to save--and then came the struggle of weak faith and feeble hope with the terrors of an accusing conscience, as memory called up in review opportunities neglected--warnings despised--mercies abused, while dread of the future spread its mantle of black despair over the vast and cheerless field of an unprovided for eternity. Yet he [27/28] could not forget the home of his childhood, and the big tear gathered in his restless eye, when he told how his parents used to take him to church with them in one of our large cities in the East, and sought to imbue his tender mind with lessons of piety, and to possess his young and budding affections with the love of God. He died, and, so far as I know, without the support of faith--without the comfort of hope. Who would not feel sick at heart at the thought that his child should thus descend to the narrow house of silence? And who would not, if he could, provide against an issue so terrible to a parent's heart? If you would provide effectually for its prevention, be sure that your children be early taught to remember and love their Creator; spare no pains to make them experimentally acquainted with the truths of redemption, and then do what you can to send out, through the ministry, the light of truth and salvation to every corner of the land.
But above all, the example of Christ furnishes the master argument, and constraining motive to the whole of what has been said, imposing an obligation upon every Christian to do what in him lies, to spread abroad the knowledge of his grace and salvation. "For our sakes he became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be made rich." "While we were yet sinners, lie died for us." We have no terms to express, and no measures to apply to such condescension and benevolence as this. It is love that might well lead angels to wonder and adore, as it ought to inspire gratitude, and kindle a flame of devotion in the heart of every man, and awaken a song of rapture from every tongue. Had he come to our world at the head of hosts of righteousness, to bind in chains of darkness for ever, the rebels who had braved his Father's power, by trampling upon his goodness and violating his law, it had been but the rendering of a righteous and deserved doom. He might have waked the sword of vengeance and swept the earth of its polluted millions, and replenished it with purer and more exalted beings, who would have rejoiced in his love, and yielded a ready and cheerful obedience to his will, and this perhaps had met the measure of man's conceptions of the divine justice. But he had thoughts [28/29] of mercy and compassion that entered not into the comprehension or imaginings of angels or men. He himself stooped to suffering--took upon him our nature, travelled about homeless, houseless, almost friendless--a man of sorrows, weeping as he went, over the miseries and sins of a ruined and fallen race--every where the sick, the afflicted, the dying and the dead were laid at his feet, and health came from the touch of his hands, and life from the words of his lips, and bread was multiplied for the hungry by his blessing, and Judah's hills, and Hermon's vales became vocal with the praises of rejoicing thousands. He instructed man in his duty--taught him the knowledge of God, the worship he required, the high destiny that awaited him beyond the grave, and at last yielded up his life upon the cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the world. His goodness ended not here: he founded his Church, and committed to it the ministry of reconciliation, and bade his messengers go forth in his name, and bear the proclamation of his grace, mercy and salvation, to all the nations, and kindreds, and families of the whole earth. And lives there the man, who has been made partaker of this grace--who has shared in this mercy--and who rejoices in hope of this salvation, that feels not in his heart a desire to communicate to others the blessing of Christ's gospel? Lives there the man who has experienced the power of God's spirit in the renewal of his heart, and in his deliverance from the slavery of sin, that enjoys peace of conscience, peace with God, and peace with the world, who can yet clutch his gold and refuse to give of God's bounty to him, that which would send, the ministers of the gospel of peace, to his brethren perishing for lack of knowledge? Alas! I fear that the spirit of worldliness will stand its ground in this case, as in all others, and conscience may warn, and the love of Christ may plead, and his Church may intreat, and yet your missionaries still be left to struggle with want, and your stations remain unoccupied, and your brethren, sheep of the same pasture, members of the same household of faith, be abandoned a prey to wolves, or suffered to stray into strange folds, or perish under the blighting influences of practical infidelity, or fall victims to the more [29/30] alluring charms of worldly pleasure. Let the ministers of the gospel lift up their voice like a trumpet, and warn the members of the Church, of their duty in this behalf, throughout the length and breadth of the land. And let those who feel the love of God in their hearts, step forward and give such an example of self-dedication and consecration of their talents and worldly substance to the cause of Christ, as may effectually rouse the careless, the lukewarm and the indifferent to a sense of their inestimable privileges, their solemn and fearful responsibilities.
Consider finally as a motive of encouragement to renewed exertion, what is comprehended, "in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ."
The prophets, looking forward to the period of the Messiah's reign, seem to be transported with rapture at the view of its transcendent glory. Their thoughts seem to swell with a divine energy, and they labour to give expression to the glowing conceptions of their minds, in language which borrows its power of illustration from the most striking and magnificent scenes of visible nature. Contemplating the grandeur of his theme, one says, "the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the channel of the sea." Another, "that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established upon the hills, and exalted above the mountains, and all people shall flow unto it." Would we know its peacefulness--"Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Would we learn its power over the passions of men?--"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them." Would we hear of its fruitfulness and beauty?--"The wilderness and solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice ever with joy and singing." Now imagine the universal prevalence of the gospel, and you have by anticipation the descriptions of the prophets realized. The aspect of the world is then changed; the discords and contentions of men are hushed; the united influences of peace, truth and charity shed their richest blessings upon the children of men, [30/31] "the mystery of God is finished," and the angels tune their harps to a louder note of rapture and swell the song of universal praise. "Alleluia! Alleluia! for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!" Here then is a prospect inspiring enough to rouse every energy of the soul and lead us to consecrate ourselves and all that we have unreservedly to the God of redemption!
O MERCIFUL GOD, who hast made all men; and hatest nothing that thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics; and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and he made one fold under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.