The Duty of the Church with Respect to
Being the Triennial Sermon, before the Bishops, Clergy and Laity, Constituting the Board of Missions
of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Preached in St. Paul's Chapel, New-York,
Thursday Evening, October 7, 1841.
By Jackson Kemper, D.D.,
Missionary Bishop for Missouri, Wisconsin and Iowa, and Bishop in Charge of the Diocese of Indiana.
New-York: Published for the Board of Missions, 1841.
Romans, x. 13, 14, and part of 15.
WHOSOEVER SHALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED. HOW THEN SHALL THEY CALL ON HIM IN WHOM THEY HAVE NOT BELIEVED? AND HOW SHALL THEY BELIEVE IN HIM OF WHOM THEY HAVE NOT HEARD? AND HOW SHALL THEY HEAR WITHOUT A PREACHER? AND HOW SHALL THEY PREACH, EXCEPT THEY BE SENT?
THERE are many yet living who have witnessed the rise and growth of the scored cause of missions within the boundaries of the American Church. It was very feeble at its commencement, and had but few friends to sustain it. They watched its progress with deep and anxious solicitude. Sometimes it was deemed inexpedient, if not wrong—sometimes it was contemned or treated with cold indifference—again every measure was thoroughly canvassed—and every false or unsuccessful effort was ridiculed. The ordeal was severe, but highly salutary; for, in the process of time, the doubting were satisfied, and objections, once formidable, were removed. At last, we acknowledged it to be the work of the Lord—we ranked ourselves as a MISSIONARY CHURCH—we openly confessed that the FIELD was the WORLD.
Have we entered upon the work in a proper spirit? Do we realize the extent of our privileges, our responsibilities and our duties? If enabled at the present moment to remove one obstacle, to encourage one friend, or to interest one more heart in the cause, I shall not have preached in vain.
May the spirit of the living God grant us a right judgment in all things; and enable us to the extent of our abilities, to do our duty in the vineyard of the Lord!
The text, like many of the other declarations of the scriptures, presents us with an epitome of the gospel, and develops the unutterable importance of the subject. God, says our adorable Master, so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. And in the passage now before us, we learn from that apostle who was so wonderfully commissioned to preach the gospel, and who through toils and sufferings, often cast down but never despairing, carried the cross and its rich consolations to the remotest regions—we learn from him that salvation is pledged to those who call upon, invoke, or worship the Lord Jesus; and that to obtain this most precious of gifts, this gift that is really everlasting,—to be partakers of eternal life,—they must believe through the preaching of those who are sent forth for that purpose. To whom then is the conversion of the world committed? As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you, said the Saviour to his apostles. To that spiritual society or fellowship, THE CHURCH, whose officers they were, and for whom its great Head uttered the solemn prayer, "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may know that thou hast sent me,"—to the Church then, the spiritual spouse of the Redeemer, with her authorized ministers, and all her children—to her is committed the sacred trust of bringing Jew and Gentile into the fold—of making known the glad tidings to all who are living without God and without hope. Has the command been fulfilled—the command given to the apostles and their successors, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature?" And are we all—all the baptized members of the flock of Christ, striving mightily to obey the sacred injunction, "Do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith?"
I submit the following propositions to your consideration: I. The duty enjoined upon the Church is exceedingly arduous, and demands the utmost exertions and every sacrifice.
II. The Almighty has so far blest our efforts, that we have abundant reason to be thankful, and take courage.
Having illustrated these propositions in as brief a manner as possible, I will close with the inquiry, What is incumbent upon us at the present time, judging from our ability and the demands and opportunities pressing upon us and opening to our view?
I. The first proposition is this: That the duty enjoined upon the Church by her great and glorious Head is exceedingly arduous, and can only be accomplished by untiring efforts and a cheerful readiness to make every sacrifice that the cause demands. And what is this sacred and most imperative duty? It is to proclaim glad tidings—the glad tidings of mercy, pardon and eternal life to the guilty, the ruined and the lost. And as all have sinned—as there is none that doeth good, no, not one,—the Gospel is to be preached to EVERY CREATURE. This is the clear, the express requirement,—in injunction given under the most impressive circumstances, and given to those who were the representatives of the whole Church upon earth, if not the Church itself; and who, in the language of Scripture, went "every where" for its accomplishment.
Constrained by the love of Christ, that love which induced him to humble himself even to the agonies and the death of the cross to rescue us from unutterable wo, we are to prove our faithfulness by a deep and abiding interest for the spiritual welfare of our follow beings. God has commanded—and he who has tasted and knows that the Lord is gracious, will delight to fulfil his will. Actuated by the high and lofty views, and the sacred and endearing motives which the scriptures continually inculcate, we cannot but feel, intensely feel for the degraded state of all who are aliens from the hopes and the consolations of the gospel. Sympathy must sway our bosoms when we behold those who were destined to immortality, selfish, wicked and hardened. Daily do we pray thy kingdom come—to come with power and peace to every heart, as well as to our own. And who is not anxiously solicitous for the honor of his Lord,—who does not cherish an intense desire to enlarge his Master's kingdom—who is not ready to make some sacrifices for Him who died that we might live?
This high commission—this magnificent effort the Church HAS assumed. Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it. By gratitude and love then, and every motive that can sway the human breast, is every member thereof bound to seek for the mind that was in Christ Jesus; and, as he imbibes that spirit, to watch and pray, and strive with increasing earnestness, that there may be one fold and one shepherd. Our daily public worship opens with the sublime declaration: "From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts." In that inspired prayer which is used in every service, we beseech our heavenly Father not only to hasten the growth of his Church, but that his will may be done on earth,—with the same delight, the same universality,—as it is done in heaven. When humbly beseeching him for all sorts and conditions of men, we pray that ho will be pleased to make his ways known unto them, his saving health unto all nations. And where could we find a more beautiful and appropriate missionary hymn than one of the daily chants in the Evening Prayer, when, after imploring God to be merciful unto us and bless us, we are taught to say: "That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations." And then we burst out in the glowing strains: "Let the people praise thee, O God; yea, let all the nations praise thee." In the Litany we supplicate for mercy upon all men; and on Good Friday, for mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels and heretics—that all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of God's word may be taken from them, and that they may be brought home to the flock of our blessed Lord. In the ordinal the ministry is alluded to as appointed for the salvation of mankind; and in reference to a newly consecrated Bishop, we pray for such grace, that he may ever more be ready to spread abroad the Gospel, the glad tidings of reconciliation. The highest council of our Church, erred not then when she openly declared that the field before her is the world; and that every baptized person is pledged to support the sacred cause of missions.
And why is this plain and acknowledged duty so arduous? Alas! the whole world was under captivity to the devil, the father of lies; who still, as the adversary even of believers, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. We trace his influence in the idolatry and ignorance, the cruelty and lust, of the heathen, who being past feeling, have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness; in the superstition and fanaticism of many professing Christians around us; in the self-conceit, the bitter sarcasms and the blasphemous language of the infidel; and too often in the worldliness, luxury and indifference of our own members. Hence the necessity of soberness and vigilance,—of steadfast resistance in the faith,— hence the necessity not only of a holy life, but of constant self-denial even in the most Christian countries. If the wiles of our enemy can only be repelled by putting on the whole armor of God, how strong must we be in the Lord, and in the power of his might, when we endeavor to pull down the kingdom of Satan! Of the subtilty, and snares, and fiery darts of this wicked one, we are not fully aware. Who, like the saints of old, is praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance? Who rejoices that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's sake? Who esteems it a privilege to have his letters of orders written in these words: "I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake." The first missionaries approved themselves in all things as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the Church—it flowed copiously and freely with God's permission. And to die for Christ—for the honor of his name—for the advancement of his cause—oh, this was their most blessed privilege. Then the word of God mightily grew and prevailed—then multitudes were added to the Church—then by those who were divinely commissioned, the gospel was truly preached, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
The priceless value of the soul, and its imminent danger—the love of God and the infinite condescension of the Lord Jesus—demand the ready, the cheerful sacrifice of time, of talents, and of life. Remember the heart-searching declaration—the declaration of Him who loved us with an unutterable love, and died for our redemption: "Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me, and of my word's, in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Such solemn assurances sustained and cheered the primitive follower amidst perils and sufferings—when thrown to wild beasts—or burnt at the stake. And such labors of love were never, never in vain.
II. And have we reason to believe that our few and feeble efforts have been blest? Our past history is full of mercies on God's part, and indolence and transgressions on ours. Wo is unto us if, as a Church of the living God, we preach not the gospel. We are not yet doing it as faithfully, as powerfully as we might. But our endeavors have not been forgotten—have they not been blest? Unquestionably they have to such an extent as to afford abundant reason for thankfulness and encouragement.
Who does not rejoice that we are laboring in Africa—in poor, benighted, and almost brutalized Africa—that we are returning the slave to the home of his fathers—now a freeman not only as to civil rights and intellectual improvement, but in the very best sense of the word—free in Christ Jesus from the thraldom of sin, and Satan, and eternal death. The missionaries who have gone to that land are missionaries indeed. From my soul I honor them. They have jeoparded their lives unto the death. They went to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.
And is not the hope, however faint, of being enabled to pour the light of truth upon that nation, which numbers 300,000,000 of inhabitants—inhabitants wholly given to idolatry or atheism, worthy of some efforts, some sacrifices—especially when there were those who were ready and anxious to devote themselves to the work? Shall the poor, and once despised Moravians, shame us by their perseverance, and steadfastness of faith, and their final success, even amidst the ice of Greenland?
And is it nothing to have been the early and steadfast friends of regenerated Greece? to have taught many of her fairest and most influential daughters all that appertains to woman's mission—the life and purity of the gospel—its hopes and richest consolations—with the ability to impart to the rising generation that knowledge that maketh wise unto salvation?
And those ancient churches, so long and cruelly oppressed— burning, but not consumed in the wilderness of infidelity—still retaining the truth, and the ordinances, and the holy scriptures—O, could we rekindle the fire on their altar—could we impart life to their worship and energy to their preaching—could they be rescued from the thraldom of vain and superstitious rites, and learn to place a proper value upon the precious truths of the gospel, how would we rejoice and be glad! How great [7/8] would be our privilege to restore the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!
The field of Texas, like that of our own valley of the Mississippi, is ripe for the harvest, and is only waiting—waiting did I say? it is almost dead for the want of reapers.
With respect to the western portion of our own country—the mighty West—the seat of future empires—from whence the arts and sciences—and if we are faithful to our trust—the elevating and holy doctrines of Christianity in all their vital influence, are to extend far and wide, through Mexico and the almost boundless plains of South America to Cape Horn and the isles of the Pacific—even in the West, amidst the wildest speculations, the most intense excitement, and the all-absorbing desire to be rich—even there the Church has been planted—and in many a village is to be found a band of faithful worshippers. The reports of the clergy from every part of that immense missionary district are encouraging. And could there be a combined effort among them—could they be relieved from the sad and chilling influences of poverty—were they fully sustained, and their numbers increased—the result would be most gratifying. But even now—amidst their many and untold trials, their difficulties and their discouragements—the hearts of our western laborers are often filled with joy—and they are compelled to exclaim, What has God wrought!
III. And are we blest? And is this work really of God? And is the vine, once so tender, spreading her branches to the north, the south, and the farthest west? Let us up then and be doing—let us tarry no longer in our indolence—let us ascertain, before the great Searcher of hearts—let us ascertain our actual position. I inquire not whether this is the destined period in the councils of the Most High for the conversion of the world—the path of duty should be found out—found out in all sincerity—and anxiously and earnestly pursued. How remarkably peculiar, how vastly important is the position of our Church! Possessing as we fully believe all those characteristics which distinguished the primitive fold:—A scriptural Liturgy—evangelical doctrines—and the apostolic succession—having the form of godliness and the power thereof—free from the false and worldly scruples and the time-serving policy of civil governments—independent—respected, and influential—in the midst of an intelligent, enterprising and commercial people—Brethren! may it not be our duty to convert the world—may not this high, this inestimable privilege be offered to us! And are we prepared—are we doing at the present moment even one tenth part of what we are capable? Our means and our power are extensive—and under the blessing of Him, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, our aim—our constant, undeviating, untiring aim should be great and lofty. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God."
With the talents we possess, (and for which, as good stewards, we must finally account, at that hour when no secrets can be hid,) with the talents committed to our trust and the privileges we enjoy, cannot our faith, our liberality and our self-denial, greatly increase? Cannot our supplications be more fervent, our economy more strict, our love of souls more ardent? Have we, as individuals, or a Church, a deep and abiding interest in the success of missions!
Not a brother would I accuse of indifference or cowardice. But I would stir up, with God's permission, the pure mind of each one, by way of remembrance. It is the spirit of missions I earnestly and most, affectionately advocate—the improvement of those opportunities of which the apostle speaks when he exhorts us to do good unto all men, and especially unto them who are of the household of faith. In well-doing we are never to be weary; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not. I say not that we are all required to contribute to the Foreign or even the Domestic Department—it is the improvement of opportunities I advocate—being steadfast and unmoveable in the work of the Lord. Thus the mother limiting all her efforts to her little ones, may exercise her commission to the full, while she really brings them up, with an ever-watchful spirit, in the true nurture and admonition, and leads them on in the footsteps of our adorable Saviour.
The division into Foreign and Domestic is often arbitrary, and might, without detriment, be abolished; for no one, I presume, would wish to withdraw our heralds of the cross from Africa, suspend our incipient efforts for Texas, or abandon the much injured aborigines to all the degrading vices they have learnt from unprincipled men who pretend to be civilized. Let us go where duty calls—where Providence points the way—and let us rejoice in the privilege, for we assuredly ought—O, let us rejoice in the privilege of sending forth in the name of the Lord and under the guidance of his Spirit all those, who, thoroughly instructed in sacred truths, hear the cry, Come over and help us—and cannot resist the deep, the abiding conviction concerning their sphere of duty—whose hearts burn within them when they hear of people or nations wholly given to idolatry, or licentiousness, or worldly-mindedness. Cultivate, dear brethren of the clergy, cultivate with the utmost assiduity your own vineyard—love with the strongest affection your own spiritual children,—but close not your hearts to the sufferings and the wants of your neighbors, those whom the events of life and the inquiries and efforts of our beloved Zion have made such—and wish, in the true spirit of the Gospel, wish God speed to those who are thrust out by their own absorbing and irrepressible convictions into new and hazardous fields. Many who now surround me, and whose difficulties and labors have far exceeded my own, can tell, how innumerable are the calls—how fervent, how heart-rending the appeals of those, our fellow citizens, and fellow Churchmen, who once worshipped with us in the same sanctuary and participated of the same holy ordinances, but are now debarred from spiritual consolations, the church-going bell, the assembly of the saints,—and are exposed, perhaps fatally exposed, to the delusions of error, and the degradations of infidelity.
To theological students, in whose welfare I am most truly interested, I can speak with plainness; for at the present day, if amid the prodigious efforts of Popery—the beautiful example set us by various denominations in this country—and the delightful, the noble stand which our highly honored mother, the Church of England, has at last taken in reference to missions, there is even one, looking to the ministry, who has not in all sincerity and from his heart said to his Saviour, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth—and is not ready to say to the Church, Here am I, send me—he has mistaken his calling. The spirit to be cultivated at the schools of the prophets, is the spirit of unreserved and entire devotion to the cause of Christ Jesus and Him crucified. The heart, the whole heart is required. Self control should be rigorously exercised from the first day we look to the plough—mortification and fasting should often be practiced as beneficial, if not necessary duties—and martyrdom, the honor of losing our lives for the Saviour's sake,—should it not be considered the highest object of our attainment? For it, should we not daily prepare—daily be ready? Amid the convulsions of the world, and the interesting events which are constantly developing, we may be called to the hardest duties and the severest trials. But we see and know enough at the present hour to convince us, that a self-sacrificing spirit is necessary if we would win Christ, and be acknowledged by Him at the day of retribution. I advocate not austerities, or fanatical reveries, or solitary retirement—all I would ask is a diligent study of the Scriptures, and a readiness to receive, without gainsaying, their calm and holy influences, with a childlike disposition.
Brethren of the Society on whose concerns we are now assembled! Sustain, I beseech you, our missions, and increase the laborers. Put forth every effort, so that at least the Valley of the Mississippi, the country on our south-western Atlantic coast, and likewise that on the borders of the Upper Lakes, may blossom as the rose. A trust, a sacred trust is committed to us—let us not be unfaithful. There is that scattereth and yet increaseth. You are aware of the promises of God. Your hearts have often glowed when meditating upon the declarations of prophecy. Can we not hasten the time when the Saviour's kingdom shall come—when peace and good will shall reign triumphant? Remember the early labors of the primitive Church, and her wonderful success. We are now co-workers with the Most High—co-workers in his great and glorious designs. If much good can be accomplished—if a strict economy [10/11] in all things, and an increased interest in the work will enable us to command more time and more money—withhold not your exertions, lest haply ye be found fighting against God. Be entreated by the love of Christ—more sacrifices can yet be made—more, more, many more fields can yet be possessed in our day. Let us up and be doing, for the Lord is with us. Send forth missionary bishops to Africa and Texas. Let the leaven spread—the grain of mustard grow—the net be cast into the deepest waters. God will give the increase. It is for us to plant and water.
Constrained by the undying love of Christ to love the immortal souls of our fellow beings—let us be ready for the privilege, if it is ever conferred, to scatter the precious seed on every field—to erect the banner of the cross on every mountain. Let us at least hasten the time—by our prayers, our exertions, and our sacrifices—when the joyous sound shall burst from every heart, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things."