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ON THE REASONS WHICH MAY JUSTIFY QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS TO DECLINE THE MIS
My dear Friend,
WHAT reasons are sufficient to justify an individual qualified for missionary service, declining that service, and spending his days at home? This is a question you will say easier to propose than to solve. I am persuaded, however, that the difficulty attached to the question is not so great as may at first sight appear; and provided you admit the assumption upon which I proceed in attempting the solution of it, I trust you will be satisfied that I have drawn a fair and reasonable conclusion.
It would argue great ignorance of human nature, however, to expect that any solution of such a question could prove equally satisfactory to all who might consider it: and especially to those who might feel themselves more immediately interested in it. Quot homines tot sententiæ. The decision of practical questions should be an act purely intellectual-the undisturbed, unbiassed work of the judgment. The passions can be safely admitted
to a share of the deliberation only when they are on the right side of the question, but as this is supposed to be yet undetermined, it is generally best to exclude them as much as possible till the affair is decided. The arguments for and against are wonderfully affected by the view the mind takes of one result of the deliberation as desirable, and another as undesirable; and when the question deeply involves our own interests, or is supposed to do so, it is almost beyond human nature not to lean to the side to which all the affections would push the conclusion.
I think it has been generally allowed by all who are rightly affected to the cause of missions, that when a pious individual every way qualified, so far as may be known, determines it to be his duty to devote himself to the service of God among the heathen, and follows up his determination, he does well, in other words, that it is HIS DUTY to go. But if he had so chosen it, would it have been his duty to remain at home? Is it his mere willing it that makes it his duty to go or stay? This, I suspect, is a pretty general opinion, but I think an erroneous one: for upon this principle every one's duty is determined by his own impressions. What he conceives to be duty in certain circumstances is duty; but if, in the same circumstances, he had determined upon an altogether different course, that would have been duty also! Thus one man determines to become a missionary because he concludes from a
consideration of his advantages, and all the circumstances of obligation resting upon him, that he is called to go. But if he or another individual in similar circumstances determine to engage in the ministry at home, or to follow a secular profession, he is still in the way of duty.-This seems difficult to be admitted.
Were these different paths of supposed duty equally inviting or equally forbidding, there would be no room to suspect the operation of improper bias in the choice of any one of them. But if one of these paths is fenced up with thorns, and can be trodden only at the expense of relinquishing much that is dear to flesh and blood, we may without being uncharitable conclude that many decline from this path of duty, and choose another path, which of course to them is not the path of duty. This is sufficiently plain, and I endeavour to express my self upon it as plainly as possible.
Nevertheless, with all this acknowledged and lamented weakness, there may be in many instances that honesty of intention and sternness of principle which will carry the question against the combined force of every bias and prepossession and interest leagued to bribe the judgment, and procure the wished-for decision.
Surely there are many such minds of sterling principle among the pious youth of Great Britain, educating for the ministry or other professions, as well as young ministers already engaged in the
work, and men in secular life of humble and devoted hearts, and respectable talents and learning. It may not be too late for some of them to sit down to the consideration of this question; and if they think they have already decided it for themselves, and are acting upon the decision by abiding "in their calling," I would humbly yet earnestly press them to review their decision, and if their re-examination of the subject end in the same conclusion as before, a more satisfactory and complacent feeling of rectitude will doubtless reward their trouble. And if upon this repeated trial of the matter they should find reason to reverse their former decision, it will be matter of congratulation that they discovered their error in time to retrieve it.
Had I access to any one of the description alluded to, I should frankly offer my opinion, and give my reasons for it without any fear of being thought presumptuous or officious in meddling with matters which did not belong to me; for I consider that this would be the very circumstance especially qualifying me for passing a judgment in the case. My being personally unconcerned in the decision of the question would give me an advantage above others of superior information and profound judgment, whose interests or affections might be more concerned in the practical result of a deliberation, which might involve their separation from a beloved friend, or brother, or pastor; and as to the indi
vidual himself, he might more safely rely upon the disinterested judgment of a stranger than upon his own, or that of any of whose advice he could avail himself.
In such a case I would suggest the following general considerations.
1st. The evangelization of the world is given in charge by Christ himself to his disciples generally; consequently, while the work remains unaccomplished it is binding upon all. And each individual disciple must conceive himself as specifically included in it, unless he be able to shew good cause of exemption. The aged, the very young, the weak in bodily health or mental capacity, are, without difficulty, struck off the roll of those to whom the charge applies in the way of personal engagement in the service of Christ. With them we have therefore at present nothing to do. We have before us men qualified for the work, but deliberating whether they ought to be exempted on other grounds.
2nd. As Christ does not require any one to put himself into actual service as a minister or missionary by breaking through the established rule of duty in ordinary life, so he cannot approve of any one forsaking unwarrantably any part of duty in order to engage personally in the work of an evangelist to the heathen: consequently there is a danger of entering upon it uncalled and unapproved, as well as a danger of criminally declining it. But,