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the missionary has to encounter and overcome. Human depravity is at the foundation of all the opposition made to his efforts-and he is only successful in so far as he obtains the victory over it.
The mention of human depravity brings us then to the very essence of the difficulty of the missionary work. Were it not for this the ministry of the gospel among the heathen would be as easy and pleasant as it is arduous, and often painfully discouraging. But here we see also very clearly what it is that is necessary to the success of the undertaking. It is the outpouring of the Spirit of all grace. When the Spirit is shed forth abundantly the difficulty vanishes, the word of God has free course and is glorified, the flame spreads, the converts multiply-while the missionary stands still, filled with wonder and gratitude, and beholds the salvation of God. He sees that the work is carried on by an arm more powerful than his, he feels his own insignificance and gives all the glory to God.
The representation of the subject, perhaps you think, militates against the general strain of my letters, inasmuch as when the Spirit of God descends upon the missionary fields, the characters and talents of the labourers will appear to be of little account.
But I will just ask, if it be warrantable to expect such showers of blessing without suitable previous
preparation of the soil?
The Spirit of God does of heaven alike upon the
not descend like the rain untilled desert and the cultivated field. It is strictly limited to the extent of ground over which the hand of the labourer has previously been in operation. Unless an absolute miracle be expected, we must necessarily suppose that the gospel has been carried to the place, that the knowledge of it has been communicated to the people by the instrumentality of men; implying on their part the previous study of languages, the translation of the scriptures, perhaps the formation of schools, and the whole train of means conducted with suitable care, wisdom and zeal. And all this, of course, by men competently qualified for their respective labours. There is no instance on record of any great spread of the gospel either in ancient or in modern times; but, in connection with a system of corresponding means, to which God, as he has wisely appointed them, is pleased to give his blessing. And there is no reason from the nature of the thing, or any warrant from scripture, so far as I can see, to expect that the future extension of the Redeemer's kingdom will be effected without the intervention of human agency.
Besides, when the subject is viewed practically, it is most evident that even in the case of a general awakening of a whole district or people to the concerns of religion, while the work is confessedly the doing of the Lord, the labours of ministers or
missionaries, so far from being superseded, are rendered more necessary than ever. And if there are any circumstances which call emphatically for the exercise of great wisdom, prudence, firmness, discernment, quick understanding, sound judgment— in a word, for the best energies of mind as well as the best affections of a zealous and devoted heart, it is in the time of such a revival; for then the enemy is busiest; then the danger of mistake is greatest; then the responsibility of the labourer is heaviest ; then the greatest good or the greatest mischief may be done; then the work may, humanly speaking, be either greatly promoted by the ability of the agents, or marred by their errors or incapacity.
The accounts of revivals in America, Scotland, and other places, and the recent history of the South Sea islands, will illustrate and confirm all I have said.
But this leads me, in further explanation of my views, to speak of the general plan for conducting missions to the heathen. Let me then be indulged with your attention à little longer.
There are two general methods, which, if pursued to an adequate extent, promise with the blessing of God to effect the consummation so devoutly to be wished, the universal spread of divine truth through the world. The one is the employment of numerous able missionaries, with a host of followers in their train as catechists, artisans, printers, &c. to colonise heathen countries and introduce the
gospel with civilization as her handmaid.* According to this plan a very great number of missionaries of various descriptions, must be sent out, and vast resources will be required to support them. In some countries a colony of christians might support itself in the course of a few years independently of foreign aid. But in most instances the missionary emigrants would require liberal encouragement and support from home, because in the selection of spots on which to form settlements they must be guided as much or more by a regard to their usefulness as their temporal advantage, conveniency, or comfort. They must inquire, not where they have the best prospect of succeeding as cultivators of the natural soil; but where they may be most useful in sowing the word of God, and causing the moral wilderness to flourish and bear fruit. It might seldom be possible to combine these two objects, and therefore sufficient provision should be made against the probable wants of such settlers, that they might not be under the necessity of studying their own means of subsistence in the countries
*If every schoolmaster and artisan and agriculturist is to be termed a missionary, I have no objection that the name be extended to them, and in that case I concede that attainments inferior to those I have represented as necessary to the character of a missionary, using the word in a more restricted sense, may be sufficient. But I have employed the terin missionary to denote the principals of a mission, and so understood, I humbly conceive the standard of qualifications has not been raised too high,
where they settle, rather than the means of rendering themselves effective promoters of the evangelization of the people.
It would be a noble project if whole churches, pastors, and flocks were to emigrate to other lands, and become at once examples of the power of the gospel and promulgators of its blessed truths to the heathen nations. Were fifty or a hundred British churches THUS " to give themselves to the Lord," and establish themselves in well chosen spots in pagan countries, what might not be expected, with the blessing of God, from such a measure? Themselves strangers and pilgrims upon earth, true christians would thus exhibit more of their own real character, and would enjoy, it might be confidently expected, in spiritual prosperity an ample compensation for some worldly disadvantages; were the little leaven thus to mingle itself through the whole mass, how soon might not the whole lump be leavened! Surely there are many churches which as bodies have zeal and love and devotedness enough, if the scheme itself were at all practicable. And why is it not? The practicability of it will appear in different lights according to the state of mind in which it is contemplated. Perhaps if it had been proposed to the members of the church in Jerusalem to spread themselves through the surrounding region, testifying to all repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ, there might have been many plausible objections started;