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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
My dear Friend,
AN opinion has been very generally taken up, that missionaries to the heathen need not to be more than men of very ordinary talents: that a man of warm piety, though not distinguished above the common run of every day characters, either by depth or acuteness of understanding, but a man of plain sense and moderate intelligence, is fully competent to fill the station of a Christian missionary, except, perhaps, at a few places among Pagans or Mohammedans of a more refined and intellectual cast. There, it is admitted men of greater ability are requisite. This contracted and most false and hurtful notion of the subject is less prevalent now, I believe, than it was fifteen or twenty years ago; but it is still retained by many. Even to this day, in certain circles, it is not uncommon to hear such a remark as this: "Such an one has not talent enough for the ministry at home, but he may do for a missionary" or, "What a pity that a young man of fine abilities like Mr. Such-a-one, should not stay at home, but throw himself away by becoming a missionary !
This subject ought to have a candid consideration. If the opinion or impression on the public mind, respecting the sort of men that should become missionaries, be erroneous, it must be highly injurious, not merely to the individuals who have entered the missionary field, and those who may yet follow them, but to the cause at large. It
tends to lower the character of all the operations connected with the evangelization of the world— makes it almost disreputable to have any immediate connection with the agents employed in conducting these operations, and by a natural consequence diminishes the interest that is taken in all that is done, and all that may yet be accomplished by such instruments. I trust I may "magnify my office," (not supposing it comparable however with that of him whose words I quote,)-I say, I trust I may "magnify my office" without the imputation of pride or vain glory. But if in regard to the sacrifices it requires the duties it involvesthe responsibility that attaches to it—the object it aims at the effects it may produce the missionary service is not inferior to the ministerial, why should it be more lightly esteemed?
I admit that, in some missionary settlements, there are inferior departments which may be filled most usefully by persons of mediocrity, both as to talent and attainment, provided there be men of a more able description to fill the higher departments. For instance, a man of ordinary capacity may occupy the situation of schoolmaster: * he may give instruction in the common branches of education; he may catechise children and even adults, and may do much valuable service to the cause in his limited sphere; leaving to others of greater energy of mind, and of higher acquire
*But query, May not schoolmasters and all such inferior laborers in a mission be found among the natives? The employment of native catechists is recommended, not merely on the ground of their being equally able to do such duties; but because the expense of employing such is incomparably less, and they can be found in much greater numbers, than Christian teachers sent from another country.
ments, to direct the general affairs of the missionto engage in translating-in preparing elementary books of instruction-in studying the religious system of the people-in convincing and instructing gainsayers among the heathen-pointing out their absurdities-refuting their arguments-proving the futility of their objections to Christianitybringing the facts, doctrines, &c. of revelation to bear upon the hearts of the people—and adapting all these to their peculiar character and circumstances. Without ascribing to human agency more than belongs to it, no one hesitates to assign a high value to the talents and learning of a minister at home, which render his ministry acceptable and effective. Will the weight of character and the power of mind displayed by a missionary be less felt in his sphere? Has he not full scope for all his powers? And is not the exercise of them required in a missionary field as much as in a Christian congregation? Should a missionary of the first abilities, stationed among some of the most degraded of the species, represent his sphere as too limited for the exercise of his talents, I should entertain a very mean opinion of his judgment, to say nothing of his humility and modesty. I cannot well conceive of any field of missionary exertion where high intellectual powers may not have the finest and most useful display-and indeed many of the duties of a missionary are such, that none but persons of superior understanding and of cultivated minds are qualified for the proper discharge of them. To present this in another point of view, be it observed, that it is the property of a vigorous mind to accomplish with ease, and in a short time, what a mind of inferior power cannot perform but at the expense of much time and
severe labor. In the acquisition of languagesin plans for the amelioration of the people-in acquiring influence over them-managing and moulding them-and many other branches of missionary work, a man of quick perceptions and energetic character does more in the course of a few years, than weaker men could in a long lifetime. Now, is this a matter of no consequence? Is the quantum of effect which may be produced in a given time not worth consideration in the appointment of men to this service, although the life of man is so short, and the work so great, and the laborers so few, and delay so much to be deprecated?
There is one specious argument in favor of the erroneous notion I am attempting to expose :namely, That the mind of a heathen unenlightened by revelation, into whose understanding science or philosophy never shot a single ray, but beclouded and bewildered by his gloomy mythology, whose very light is darkness, must be so weak, that a Christian of the most ordinary capacity will prove more than a match for him. This is quite mistaking the matter. The Christian, it is true, has greatly the advantage of the other in the possession of the knowledge of revelation which he firmly believes, and which has enlightened him on a multitude of topics that are altogether unknown to the heathen. But there is a natural force of mind, a power of reasoning, and examining, and objecting, often discovered by mere savages, which would quite confound the theorists who attribute to them only ignorance and stupidity. There are doubtless minds of the highest order among all races of men, and perhaps there is no good ground to conclude that such specimens of genius are more
rare in savage than in civilized countries. In the latter every advantage is enjoyed for bringing out and improving the faculties; but in the former, in spite of all that tends to stint and repress them, there are minds that burst through every obstacle, and expand and shine in all their native light and majesty. The missionary often comes into contact with such. In discourse with them, he hears them start objections, bring forward arguments, require explanations, and defend their own opinions in a manner that will gravel the most experienced dialectician. How can a teacher of shallow understanding, and mean reasoning faculties, stand before such a man? Assuredly, if he does not feel his own inferiority, the savage will perceive it; and it is easy for him to transfer his contempt of such a missionary to the cause he advocates, and become confirmed in his errors because his antagonist could not refute them. No one will say, surely, that a missionary ought to avoid such discussions. To do so would be construed as a confession of his own weakness, or the weakness of his cause. The apostle Paul exhorts to avoid foolish and untaught questions, &c. agitated merely out of a contentious spirit, or concerning subjects not revealed, or beyond the reach of the human faculties. But a missionary must distinguish between cases of this kind and the reasonings of a heathen, desiring nothing but a fair discussion of his views. When a man "opposes" in this spirit, the missionary's duty is "in meekness to instruct him—if God peradventure will give him repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth."
I am not making overstrained representations on this subject. I appeal to the experience of every