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personal religion as must necessarily affect all his engagements, and the general influence of his example. He will speak and act professionally, rather than con amore. be orthodox, without being evangelical. His sins may be rather of a negative than of a positive character. There may be nothing grossly erroneous in his preaching, or immoral in his life; and yet there may be a want, or defalcation which neutralizes and destroys his usefulness. Evidence of Christian character is not enough as a qualification for the work of the ministry, or for the office of a Missionary. There ought to be evidence of a high-toned piety. It will be all required and put to the test; and therefore, if there is reason to suspect that it does not exist, or if, during the process of training, the piety of the candidate seems to decline, he ought to be discarded. Better lose the individual than lose the cause.
I am no worshipper of talents and genius ; nor do I believe that the world is to be converted or improved chiefly by men of this lofty description. But strength of mind, capability of application, and facility in acquiring and communicating knowledge, are essentally necessary. Aptness to teach seems to include such qualities, and without that no man is called of God, and ought not to be called by men, to the office of the ministry.
It is possible for men to possess religion, and learning, and talents, and yet want wisdom in such a degree, as to unfit them totally for the work. Eccentric men, men who cannot act with others from some peculiarity of temper, men of uncourteous manners, men of irregular habits, are unfit, or at least very dangerous men to be employed as agents in the work of Christ. The mischief such persons have done is incalculable ; and it is sometimes not the less vexatious, that
are told they are good men, who mean well, whose peculiarities must be allowed for, and whose foibles must be
overlooked, I believe I may say with confidence that the failures in foreign missions have been more owing to this cause than to all other things together.
The connexion between cultivation and enlargement of mind, and the character of an individual's piety, has not I think been sufficiently attended to. I do not mean to question the sincerity of a person's religion, whose mind is comparatively feeble, and whose advantages have been inconsi. derable: but certainly, if knowledge is an important ingredient in piety, the less a man knows, and the less capacity he has for improvement in knowledge, the less confidence can be reposed in his understanding the nature of the engagement in which he proposes to embark, and in his capability of meeting the new and difficult circumstances into which he may be thrown. Imbecility of mind will often be found combined with narrow and incorrect conceptions Chris. tianity, and with contracted views of its great operations. It will usually be found more difficult to act with such persons, than with those of a higher order of intellect. They are more suspicious of others, more tenacious of their own opinions, morę unmanageable by argument, and more vindictive and unforgiving if offended. Talents and the grace of God, when combined together, tend mutually to strengthen and illustrate each other. Genuine religion never appeared more lovely than in such men as Pascal, Taylor, Owen, Howe, Watts, and many others that might be mentioned. The ta. lents of these men gave vigour and energy to their piety, while their piety hallowed and adorned their talents.
I cannot help expressing my fears, that there is too general a prevalence of the sentiment, that the ministry of the Gospel, both at home and abroad, is a work for which men of an inferior order, both of talent and in society, are fit. How does it happen that, comparatively, a small number of our families, respectable for their standing in society, and for their
wealth, think of devoting some of their sons to the good work ? Has the office become degraded? Or are they generally too proud to consider it an honour to serve the Lord in the Gospel of his Son? Or, are its emoluments too trifling to be an object of worldly ambition ? For that very reason, it ought to be sought after by such as could furnish the best evidence that they are not influenced by the love of filthy lacre, in de. voting themselves to it. Though it may not present a field of ambition to them, it may to others; and this is one of the dangers to which we are exposed, when we have persons of a certain description chiefly to deal with.
The foundation of some of these difficulties in regard to the ministry at home was laid by the system of the Calvinistic and Arminian Methodists, which has had a gradual influence on the regular Dissenting body, and the state of its ministry. The appointment of a considerable number of uneducated persons as Missionaries, at the commencement of Missionary operations, though perhaps unavoidable upon the plan then adopted, produced an impression unfavourable to persons of education and experience engaging in the work, under the effects of which Missionary societies are still labouring. We have reason to be thankful for a progressive advancement, and that of late particularly, individuals whose education has been finished, and whose minds have arrived at considerable maturity, have devoted themselves to the work. It ought to be the prayer of every Christian, that the number of such persons may greatly increase.
Note [AA]. p. 108.
That the spiritual state of the church must have a consi. derable influence on the success of the Gospel in the world, will not be questioned generally by intelligent Christians.
The connexion between them might have been illustrated at much greater length, and in reference to many other points, than the discourse embraces. The object of the discourse, when preached, was to make the argument tell, in its practical application, on my own congregation; here it may be proper to extend it farther. I shall advert briefly to a few points :
The general state of religion among the followers of Christ, must have a powerful influence in promoting or retarding the reception of the Gospel among the men of the world. This connexion was regarded even in Old Testament times. The church then prayed, “ God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us.
That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations.” Ps. lxvii. 1, 2. The references to it in the New Testament are numerous and clear. The ill effects resulting from a general and indiscriminate profession of Christianity at home, are visible and exceedingly painful. The character of the heavenly system is confounded with its apparent fruits in the lives of those who profess to have received it: From the adoption of some of the virtues of Christianity, by the men of the world, and the adoption of some of the practices, and much of the spirit of the world by Christians, the two parties have come to be mixed up to such an extent, that in regard to many things, the line of demarcation is scarcely visible. The hues of the two classes shade off into each other. Men of the world are found at the table of the Lord, professors are found in public places. It is as fashionable to hear certain preachers, as it is to listen to certain public singers, and admire certain public performers. Can we wonder at the low estimate in which Christianity is held by both parties when this is the case?
If Christ requires his people to be as he himself was in the world-testifying by his conduct, as well as by his preaching, that its deeds were evil, how should we expect a prosperous
state of religion, unless this conduct is pursued? If there be little visible difference between Christians and others, how can we expect that the real nature of genuine Christianity should be attended to ? If it may be said to be matter of study with many, how far conformity to the world may be carried, without the actual forfeiture of personal character, we cannot wonder that the world should love them, and regard them as its own.
More general and marked decision would command greater respect, would invite the attention of men to the points of difference, and lead, in many instances, to the most desirable results.
The influence of this imperfect state of profession in the nominal Christian church, upon the propagation of Christianity among the heathen, is most injurious. It is a mournful fact, that the most inveterate enemies to the work of God abroad, have often been found among our own countrymen. It is notorious, that both in the East and West Indies, Englishmen were, till lately, considered by the natives as having no religion, from the manner in which they lived. In both these regions, with some happy exceptions, they have done a great deal to counteract the efforts made to Christianize the inhabitants. In the South Sea and Sandwich Islands, the most horrid conduct has been practised by European and American voyagers, under the Christian name, to demoralize and ruin the poor benighted savages, who have recently received the Gospel. “Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord ?"
The state of religion in the church will also have a powerful influence on the instruments employed in the propagation of the Gospel. When religion flourishes, it will be found easy to obtain labourers, and those who are obtained will generally be of the right stamp. The character of the Missionary will often be found to grow out of the soil in which he was bred. His early habits, sentiments, and associations will adhere to him more or less, through life. If he has been surrounded by men