Project Canterbury



Annual Sermon,











Wednesday Evening, June 20, 1838.





98 William-street.



Transcribed by the Reverend Donne E. Puckle 2006


MARK xiii. 10.


THE arrangement of Divine Wisdom and Grace to remedy the ruin induced by sin, and to provide for the restoration of man to the favor of God here, and for his admission to his presence and glory hereafter, constitutes the Gospel. In whatever estimation it may be held on earth, we know that in its developments and operation, it is regarded with intense interest and admiration, by the celestial intelligences who circle the throne, and do the will of God. They are represented as bending, with concentrated attention, over the evolving wonders of redemption. In its progress it serves to enlarge and elevate their views of the excellency of Him whom they delight to worship and serve; for it is written, that "by the church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known unto the principalities and powers. If their capacity to comprehend the display of Divine intelligence, and to appreciate the riches of Divine grace which this scheme furnishes, exceed those of men, it nevertheless comes to us with a peculiar interest, which it is impossible for them to feel. It is the Gospel of [3/4] our salvation. It reveals the grand expedient of God to deliver us from the corruption and curse of sin, and to raise us to the purity and privileges of his presence in heaven. Apart from this result, so wretched would be our condition now, and so horrid its issue, that it would be better for us never to have been born. For, crowd the life that now is with all the possible variety and accumulation of its peculiar enjoyments, and extend its continuance to its most protracted term, arid he must be a fool or a madman, or worse than both, who would take it at the expense of the vengeance, with which a righteous God will ultimately visit unredeemed and unsanctified men. To man therefore the Gospel is of paramount, incomparable interest, as it proposes a remedy for the fearful consequences of sin. I say to man, without restriction; for wherever the human race is found we discover the dreadful evidences of the spread of the corruption of human nature, and the decided symptoms of the coming, second, eternal death, in which, unless arrested, it must end. For these evils there is no other correction, than that which the Gospel unfolds. People who are strangers to its provisions, may be sensible of the wretched derangement and deep pollution of their moral nature. They may feel to oppressiveness, and groan and stagger under the burden of their guilt--they may hear and tremble at the indistinct mutterings of wrath to come; but they know no fountain for their uncleanness, no ransom for their guilt, no refuge [4/5] from the gathering storm. Nothing but the blood of sprinkling can heal and purify their defiling disease; there is no other sacrifice for sin but "the Lamb slain;" there is no other shelter for the soul, than that which was raised by the Son of God, and is set forth in the Gospel. To every human being, therefore, this provision is as important, as it is to escape from hell, and enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Under these circumstances it is most grateful to be assured, that this gracious provision is adequate to the relief of all, and that it is intended to be published to all, for their acceptance and benefit.

From the very nature of the arrangement, its salutary efficacy is infinite and inexhaustible. Its remedial power is not only competent to correct the most aggravated cases of corruption and guilt; it is ample for the whole world, and if there were need, for ten thousand worlds. No duration, no virulence of sin, are proof against its renovating energy, and by no multitude of applicants, how ever great, can it be expended.

But what is the purpose of the Great Author of this salvation? That it is needed by all, we know; that it is adequate for all, we are assured. But does he design that an interest in its efficacy shall be offered to all? On this point we are furnished with a clear revelation of the will of God. Nothing, I conceive, can be more evident than that this arrangement of God's grace, in the mission of his Son and the benefits to result from it, looks to mankind without respect to latitude or language, [5/6] clime or color, and contemplates its own universal spread. From the beginning it was so designed, as must be obvious to all who are familiar with the Sacred Scriptures. In "the promised seed," it was revealed that not only the descendants of Abraham, but "all the nations of the earth were to be blessed." The gathering to the Shiloh, as predicted by the venerable Jacob, was to consist not merely of the patriarchs, the descendants, but of the people, the nations of the earth. To Him the heathen were to be given for "an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession." "The ends of the earth," were "to look unto him and be saved." "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, incense" was to be offered unto Him, "and a pure offering," for his name was to "be great among the Gentiles." Such was certainly the view of the angel of the Lord, who announced to the shepherds, the advent of this Saviour. "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to you and to all people." And so sounded the anthem of the heavenly hosts, "good will towards men." Very evidently therefore he came, "a light to lighten the Gentiles," as well as a "glory to the people Israel." We need not then be surprised to find Jesus, by whose mediation and reign this gracious arrangement was to be effected, excluding all local limitations from the commission which he gave to his disciples, and directing them to go into all the world and preach his Gospel to every creature. [6/7] Jerusalem was to be the central point, from which their ministrations were to radiate: the circumference was to be the world.

It is most surprising, my brethren, to find that, among the followers, especially the primitive followers of the Lord Jesus, there should ever have been a moment's doubt or hesitancy on this point. It would seem only to have been necessary for them to have looked into the language of their instructions--they would have sought there in vain for any restriction of place or people. As we have seen, they were commissioned for the world. Their embassy was to every creature. In their official character, they belonged to THE WORLD, and each and every living soul had an interest, and a divine right in their office and ministrations; of which they could be divested by no human power. The only authority of the apostles and their successors to labor in the cause of their Master, explicitly required them to publish his Gospel "among all nations." To lose sight of this important feature, is to modify and circumscribe the only commission under which there is any authority to publish this salvation at all.

If then, the world was in perishing need of the provision set forth in the Gospel--if the provision was suited to the world, and sufficient for its relief--and if it was in the purpose of God that the Gospel should go to the world, how was this gracious purpose to be effected? When God designs an end, it is his manner of procedure to [7/8] appoint the means for its accomplishment. The ordained instrumentality for sending this needful blessing to the nations, is easily ascertained. Various measures might have been adopted. The heavens might have been opened over every human habitation, and the voice from "the excellent glory" have proclaimed in every ear, "this is my beloved Son, hear ye him"--The angels who "excel in strength," might have been employed to perpetuate the incarnation Anthem, and to circle the earth with their glad tidings, till all people should have heard and recognised the celestial message.

But it has been otherwise ordered. It has pleased God to commit this treasure to earthen vessels--to employ as the instruments of its distribution, sinners who have themselves become sensible of its preciousness; and by the foolishness of their preaching, to save those who believe. Hence, the formal organization of a body of men to publish the Gospel, and to perpetuate their office and ministry by investing others with like authority. "As my father hath sent me," said the Lord Jesus to his chosen apostles, "so send I you." And again, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." To this organization, as the grand means for publishing the Gospel, we find from the sacred Scriptures that the strictest adherence was maintained, and that, during a period, when, if ever, the continuance of miraculous dispensation, would have [8/9] led us to suppose, that from the ordinary mode there would have been frequent departures. So far however was this from having been the fact, that the miraculous powers which distinguished the primitive ages of the Church, were not intended to supersede, but to be subservient to the ordained ministry. "They went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following." If the mind of the Ethiopian Lord, as he was returning to his own country anxious and perplexed on the subject of religion, was to be relieved by the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, that object is not attained by the imposing mission of an angel of heaven, but by the Spirit's supernatural agency, in transferring Philip to the distant spot, to join him in his chariot and "preach Jesus unto him." If the prayers of the devout Cornelius were to be answered, an angel might be employed, but only to direct him where to apply for the instructions which he needed. An apostle must be sent for. It is reserved for Peter "to tell him words by which he and all his house might be saved." If the Gospel is to be given to Macedonia, the vision in the night, of a man habited in the costume of that country, might be used to lead to the result, but his appeal must be to an apostle "to come over and help them." Indeed this same apostle knew no other instrumentality; the extension of the influence of religion, in his view, was restricted to this. Hence he asks, "how shall they believe on [9/10] him of whom they have not heard, and how shalt they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach except they be sent?" The Christian ministry constitutes the grand means ordained by God for publishing the Gospel to the nations of the world. Other expedients may be subsidiary to this, but if the Gospel is to go to the world, it must go by the ministry; these are the, divinely appointed laborers, by whom the harvest is to be gathered,--the heralds of the King, through whose mission the Gospel of the kingdom is to be made known to every creature.

As a part of that church which enjoys the advantage of an organization in accordance with the primitive institution, we come in for a share, I will not say of the responsibility, but of the privilege of publishing the Gospel to all nations.

Honorable as this work is, it is not to be expected that it would be accomplished without effort and sacrifice on the part of those to whom it is intrusted. If so, it would form no test of character--no expression of principle. But then there are considerations of sufficient power to vanquish those difficulties, and to secure the progress of this noble undertaking. These considerations are to be found in the command of Christ, and in the constraining love of Christ. His command is clear and conclusive; there is no misunderstanding its import--no escaping its bearing. His last solemn injunction to his Church was, "Go ye unto all the world and preach the Gospel to every [10/11] creature." How the neglect of this injunction can be reconciled with true respect for his authority, I am utterly at a loss to conceive; and yet constituted and circumstanced as we are, I question if the discovery of this obligation, and an acknowledgment of the mere authority on which it rests, would be sufficient to command the service which it requires. I therefore, regard the great impulse to Missionary effort, as arising from unfeigned, ardent love to the Saviour gratitude for his grace, and sincere attachment to his person and cause. I think we shall find this to have been the simple, strong, steady influence under which the apostles moved; which carried them resolutely through the dangers of their ministry, and determined them to count not even their life dear unto them, so they might finish their course with joy, to testify of the Gospel of the grace of God." Meet the great apostle of the Gentiles where you please, on his mission of mercy--see him laboring with a zeal and devotion which filled men with astonishment, and led them to suppose he was beside himself--find him in watchings, in fastings, in stripes, in imprisonment, in perils by land, in perils by sea--ask him what animated him in all this labor, and sustained him under all these trials, his answer is, "the love of Christ constraineth us." Yes, my brethren, this is the grand motive, the life and soul of the Missionary cause. Other influences may produce a sudden and a spirited, but it will be an irregular and transient effort in this work.

[12] Nothing can command steady and untiring action in advancing the cause of the Gospel, but the con straining love of Christ. So the Saviour himself has taught us, in his address to Peter. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Feed my sheep." As this affection strengthens, zeal will kindle and burn in the bosom, and it will be found light and delightful to serve the Lord. As this abates, interest in his cause will decline, and languor and inaction will ensue. I care not where the faithful minister of the Gospel is located, or what the peculiar character of his labors; upon this point, I willingly take his experience and abide his testimony. Ask the pastor, settled over an established congregation, what refreshes and stimulates him in the weariness of his intellectual labors, bears him up and carries him onward in the midst of his many discouragements, and makes him willing to spend and be spent in the work of his ministry? He will tell you, "the constraining love of Christ." Visit the lonely herald, whom we send forth to proclaim the Gospel in the new and destitute settlements on our frontier, inquire of him why and how he endures the discomforts and opposition, which attend his efforts? You will receive the same reply, "the love of Christ constraineth us." Address yourself to those devoted brethren who have forsaken all--all the endearments of country and kindred, have taken their life in their hands, and have nobly thrown themselves into the midst of the many dangers of the foreign department of [12/13] the Missionary field; how they could sunder the strong ties of civilized life and dwell in the abominations, and dare the perils of heathenism? Again you will hear "the love of Christ constraineth us."

Nor, my brethren, is it any other than this same influence, which awakens the interest of the private Christian, engages his sympathies and his prayers, and commands his resources in support of the great work of evangelizing the world. Let but a sinner realize the ruin in which he is involved, perceive and embrace the remedy which divine grace has provided, and experience the gratitude and affection which flow from such faith, and he will be alive to the honour of Christ. His first earnest inquiry will be, Lord Jesus, what wilt thou have me to do? How shall I testify my sense of what I owe thee?

Nor will one thus exercised be long in learning that the glory of Jesus is intimately connected with the great work of evangelizing the world--and that the benevolent heart of the Redeemer is set on its accomplishment. It is written of him, "he shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." O what a train of thought does this statement start in the mind of an affectionate believer, and what a power of motive does it supply for Missionary effort--that travail of the Redeemer's soul It was tremendous! but he is satisfied by its fruit in the conversion and salvation of men. When he covenanted to bear it, he knew what he was to endure, but it did not deter him. He has since [13/14] learned it all by personal experience. His mind has undergone no change. He does not complain as if more had been required of him than the end deserved. No, he is contented, satisfied. He thinks of all it cost him--of what he left, of what he encountered--of his humiliation and penury--of the contempt and violence--he thinks of the cup and of the crown--of the scourge and of the cross. He reviews, step by step, the wine press of Divine wrath which he trod. It was awful indeed But when he contemplates the fruit, he feels no regret for what he has done: he judges it worth all he suffered--lie is satisfied. But there is more in the expression; it means something beyond mere contentment with the transaction in which he engaged, and in its fruit. It denotes gratification, and to such a degree that nothing more is sought. Is satisfied! What an expression to be used in reference to the Son of God! It seems to imply--it conveys to our mind the idea that apart from, and short of the salvation of sinners nothing would satisfy him. What!--not the glory which he had with the Father before the world was--not the crown which he had worn from eternity--not the sceptre of universal dominion which he wielded--not the obedience and adoration of the heavenly hosts? Would not these satisfy him? No, my brethren, not if there was none to go on the mission of mercy to redeem men--for from all those glories he veiled his vision, and left them all, and came down to the scene of our degradation and ruin to [14/15] undertake our recovery--and O what burning zeal in the accomplishment of this object! How it engaged, engrossed, absorbed him! And now in its fruits, in the conversion and salvation of men, he is satisfied. What a motive does all this furnish to a heart which truly loves the Lord Jesus, to seek diligently, by all possible means, the extension of the Gospel of this salvation. He perceives that by so doing he is instrumental in promoting the pleasure of his Lord. Here is our chief explanation of that Missionary zeal which burns in the bosom of every believer, in proportion to his piety. Each new conversion through the power of the Gospel, at home or abroad, increases the fruit of the travail of the Redeemer's soul ; whilst it saves a sinner from eternal death, and adds another child to the household of God, it swells the satisfaction of Jesus! And is not this enough! Enough to stir up every spirit to enthusiasm and to nerve every arm to effort--enough to command our personal influence, and our worldly means, and our fervent prayers! Can we aim higher than to satisfy him whom we love? Think of this when tempted to indifference and inaction in the great work of publishing the Gospel to the nations, and then be sluggish if you can!

So long as the divinely designated field of ministerial labor was kept distinctly in view, and its occupancy was aimed at with an eye single to him whose right it is to reign, and so long as the extension of the Gospel was essayed on the principles, [15/16] and by the measures, and in the spirit which he enjoined, no tardy or doubtful success marked the enterprise. Wherever the Gospel was proclaimed, it proved itself the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation, and every thing indicated that the kingdoms of this world were rapidly becoming the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. His word had free course and was glorified.

But when the Church, as an organized body, began to take the place of Christ--when the ministers of the Church began to seek its extension for their own influence and aggrandizement, and in ways accordant with the policy of the world, they were left to their own devices, and abandoned to their own might. The spirit of the original commission was lost. Instead of aiming at the conversion of the world by the simple preaching of the Gospel, and for the glory of God, they sought the subjection of men to ecclesiastical influence for their own emolument, and the struggle between the Church and the world degenerated into a mere political contest for secular gain and temporal power.

It is not my intention to describe the fatal apostacy, which arrested the progress of the great work for which the Son of God died and rose again, or to narrate the wonderful events which, after the lapse of centuries, raised a large portion of the Church from the dreadful declension which had prevailed. Nor shall I trace the tardy movements which, in some measure, brought a part of Christendom back to the views and spirit which belong to [16/17] the Church. It is cause of gratitude that the restoration has been so far effected. The becoming motto which is now inscribed on our banner is, "The Gospel and its institutions are for the world, and by the help of the Lord the world shall have them." The trumpet under which we rally speaks no uncertain sound. Its voice proclaims from one end of our borders to the other, and to every member of our communion, "Come up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." Let every one on whom the name of Jesus is named, dedicate himself to the cause which Jesus died to promote, and with which his glow is intimately connected. In reference to this work there is no longer any material difference amongst us. God, we trust, has made our household of faith of one mind, and any effort which would produce dissension, and interfere with the efficiency of this family of God, cannot be too deeply deprecated or too promptly controlled. If in practice we are true to the primitive policy which we have so hopefully adopted, we may be assured our endeavors will be attended by primitive success--the Gospel shall again have free course and be glorified.

And what, we may inquire, has this policy and the Missionary organization to which it led, effected? In examining the official statements which have been presented to us, since the meeting of the General Convention by which this system was originated, enough, I find, has been accomplished, to furnish matter for gratitude and encouragement. We see [17/18] that the pledge to make the WORLD the field, has not bean forgotten--we perceive that already, in our own country, some hundred points have been taken from Maine to Georgia--from Michigan to Louisiana. We perceive that in these Domestic efforts, the Foreign field has suffered no neglect. The interesting station in Greece has not only been sustained but reinforced, and another new and important station has been taken. The laborers for China are in its vicinity, diligently preparing for their work, and no way discouraged by the interdict which has been published to frustrate their purpose. We see on the coast of Africa a beginning, a blessed, promising beginning, the results of which, if now predicted, would, I am persuaded, sound more extravagant than fiction could portray.

Yes, thanks be to God, the Church is fairly at work in giving the Gospel to the nations, and the blessing of God is upon the undertaking.

That these important efforts to which I have briefly adverted, meet the cordial approbation of the members of our communion, it is unnecessary for me to announce. Could they now be assembled and enabled to review the measures which have been adopted, every move would receive, if not the entire, certainly the overwhelming vote of our people. Nothing has ever so united us as this noble enterprise of giving the Gospel to the nations. And should there any where be found a cautious, timid spirit, ready to fear we were advancing too fast, undertaking too much, I think his better [18/19] feelings would embarrass him in attempting to suggest a satisfactory curtailment. Where would he begin? Certainly not with dismissing any of the laborers who have been sent to the different portions of our own land, to minister the word of life to our destitute brethren. Not a voice would be raised to second such a proposal, for not one of these could be spared. We believe that our civil institutions are the best with which the world has ever been blessed. We believe that the influence of the Gospel is essential to their preservation. We believe our own ecclesiastical organization best calculated to extend and perpetuate that influence in its purity. We cannot if we would, and we would not if we could, effect its advancement by any alliance with the arm of civil power. The only mode in which it is practicable for us to diffuse this salt of the earth, is by the very process which has been adopted--the voluntary contributions of our people providing the means to send forth through our land, in its length and breadth, men who will preach the Gospel in connexion with our peculiar institutions. We owe it therefore to patriotism as well as to piety, to keep this system in action and to extend it. Should it cease or be embarrassed, and corruption and disorder run riot over our country to the destruction of our civil and religious liberties, we should not only have to mourn their loss, but to judge ourselves accessories to their ruin. There is no retiring from this portion of the field--none. We must onward for our country's sake, as well as that of the Church, and by the help of God [19/20] onward we will go, heart and hand, in preaching the Gospel to this nation.

Nor can I persuade myself that any are to be found, who would seriously advocate the arrest of a single Foreign enterprise which has been essayed. Here also, we shall be utterly at a loss where to commence retrenchment. Sure I am, no hand could be found to pen the recall of our brethren who are laboring in Greece and its vicinity. What! disband those interesting schools which have been so admirably conducted as to win the decided approbation of all who have visited those classic shores, and the grateful acknowledgments of the people themselves, and of their civil and ecclesiastical rulers. Disperse those hundreds of children who are eagerly imbibing the elements of religious education, and preparing to adorn and bless their country! Remand those devoted laborers, whose praise is in all the churches! Cut off the source of those delightful reports, which have gladdened and animated so many hearts! No! they have already amply remunerated us for all that has been done. The simple story of Elizabeth of Crete--the affecting obituary of Chariklea alone, have thrown around that Mission an interest and sanctity, which must endear it to every Christian. We have no heart to think of it, but to pledge ourselves for its support, and to pray for its continued and enlarged success. By God's help that people shall have the Gospel.

Shall we then look to the remote East, and decide to recall those youthful soldiers of [20/21] the cross who are busily preparing their armor, and diligently exercising themselves for the great conflict which must take place in achieving the spiritual emancipation of the millions in China? The time may not have fully come for that conflict. But if we may rely on the statements of the Missionaries on the spot, it is at hand. There is a power at work within that empire which promises the destruction of those barriers to the truth, which imperial policy is endeavoring to maintain, and before our men are fitted for the field the crisis may come. I am aware that Providence seems to have assigned the lead and the chief labor in this war fare to British Christians. But shall no representative of the American Church be there, to stand, side by side, with those of our parent Church in this most magnificent enterprise? Shall we furnish no token of our approval--no evidence of our sympathy in this grand and glorious undertaking? Shall we regret the manifestation which has already been made, and bid those whose hearts are burning with zeal, quit the ground on which they are preparing, and return to the homes which they have relinquished? I flatter myself the Church would rebuke such a proposal. Congregation after congregation would rise up in the good spirit of St. Peter's, Charleston, and say, we pledge ourselves to keep the men on the field till removed by God.

Nor can I imagine that what has been begun for imbruted and bleeding Africa, occasions regret, or would admit retrenchment. The voice of blood--[21/22] the cry of souls ready to perish, have too long been unheeded by those to whom Africa is looking, and has a right to look for relief. We have acted late and done but little. Our facilities for assisting that degraded and debased people are great. Our debt is great. Blessed be God, its liquidation is begun. We are paying the first penny, and instead of re-demanding it, l am sure our united suffrage would be, pay on till the uttermost farthing is laid down.

For myself, I can see no room abroad and none at home, for curtailment in our efforts to give the Gospel to the nations, but every where I find ample argument for enlarged operations. We know not what we can do, till we better try. Who would have thought some twenty years since, that the enfeebled, withered arm would so soon have acquired the action by which it is now signalized! Its range and its might may be yet further enlarged. The will to essay is all that is wanting, and the skill will be given by him who bids us stretch it forth. No thing but unbelief will prevent it from commanding a sweep, and evincing a power, which will be an honor to the body and the head with which it is connected, and render it a distinguished blessing to all people.

I know, my brethren, that means are needed to sustain those who are specially set apart for Missionary labors: but if we proceed in faith and earnestness, those means will assuredly be placed at our disposal. If any of the fluctuations in the [22/23] temporal concerns of then affects our ability to spread the Gospel, the fault will be largely our own. The possibility of such a result, we ought not for one moment to recognise. They on whose contributions we are mainly to rely, are not, in many in stances, likely to be so seriously affected by such changes as to render a diminution of their aid necessary. That aid has heretofore proceeded chiefly from the surrender of superfluities. I am sure there is a spirit in the Church, which, if properly addressed, will go further--will, if required, lead to self-denial for this cause, and glory in sacrifices for its promotion. I believe that the clergy, as a body, already voluntarily tithed for Missions, would cheerfully add another and another tenth of their pittance, rather than this noble work should be embarrassed. Indeed, it seems to me that the posture which we have assumed in reference to this under taking, has in some sort virtually laid us under the responsibilities of a solemn compact. By what we have projected, we have practically avowed to God, what we think we ought to perform, and until, in our efforts to accomplish it, we shall have gone to the utmost verge of Christian self-denial, we cannot with good conscience and good faith retire from what has been projected. If in these times of light and piety, Christians are required, from considerations of prudence to curtail their expenses, such retrenchment must not commence where it should end--with the cause of Missions. To this if compelled to come, we come last of all. Stop what [23/24] will, till every thing else is at a stand, the cause for which Jesus died must go on. To this we are pledged, and I am sure there is no mind to with draw or forfeit that pledge.

In this great work it would ill become us to utter or indulge cold calculation as to mere cost. It must and will be clone, cost what it may--and it is our privilege that we are permitted to aspire to the honor of aiding in its completion. When a Grecian assembly was in consultation as to the most appropriate statue for their God, and a distinguished sculptor advised marble as a substitute for the material which they proposed to employ, he was heard with respect so long as he urged the durability of the material he recommended; but when he further urged its cheapness, they hissed him to confusion. I trust this noble spirit, enlightened and purified by grace, will be our spirit in spreading the Gospel among the nations. Whilst we study and essay such measures as promise the most extended and prominent success, let us scorn to name the expense, where the glory of Jesus is involved. All we are, and all we have are his, and no heart which has felt his love should ever stop to calculate the cost of sustaining and advancing that work which is the pleasure of our Lord.

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