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THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
My dear Friend, The promised sequel to the observations contained in my last letter, I now proceed to lay
If other motives than those which ought to actuate the mind, may impel men to offer themselves for missionary service; and if such persons may succeed in obtaining the sanction of societies, be appointed to fields of labour, and occupy them to their own hurt, and the injury of many—the subject demands the solemn consideration of all whom it in any way concerns.
In secular business, though principle is ever regarded as of the highest value, yet it is possible for a servant influenced merely by considerations of interest, expediency, or necessity, to perform his work with as much credit to himself, and satisfaction to his master, as if he had been actuated by the most honourable and conscientious motives in every iota of the service required of him. But in this sacred employment the case is
otherwise. Nothing can compensate for the want of a heart in the work-a heart right with God, in simplicity and sincerity devoting itself to him and to his service.
The first and obvious deduction from this is a warning to missionaries and missionary candidates themselves. Its language to them is—“ Look well to your motives—sift them to the bottom, and be not satisfied, although you think there be found
some good thing' in you, among much that is not so: separate the precious from the vile, and try how far such views and motives, as have the sanction of the word of God, influence you, independently of all other considerations."
The conduct which flows from wrong principles of action, although others may admire and extol it, conscience will pronounce to be destitute of all moral worth, and anticipate the sentence of condemnation God will at last utter alike against open transgression and feigned obedience.
Moreover, as there may be, and most commonly is, a mixture of motives to be discovered, when we enter upon the difficult search of the secret springs of our conduct, it is a matter of the first importance, to ascertain what share right motives have in leading to any particular act or course of action. The primary motive in the case of missionary service must be a sense of duty, entertained by a mind which approves, and chooses, and delights in the great end to which that duty points—the glory of God. Let the man then who “ desires” the “good work,” endeavour to ascertain how far he is actuated by a regard to the command and authority of God. Let him further inquire with what complacency the mind entertains the conviction of duty: in other words, whether he is brought to love the service, and rejoice in it, as the way in which God is pleased to give 'him the happy privilege and opportunity of glorifying his name, and fulfilling his blessed will.
Were I further to address such an one, I would say—“ If you have reason to conclude that the command to go and preach the gospel is imperative upon you as an individual, it is then with you a simple question of obedience to God. You must acknowledge his authority by yielding obedience to his command, otherwise you are selfcondemned as a transgressor. I speak not of the means of ascertaining your call; but supposing that point to be settled, and that you are satisfied in your own mind, that it is your duty to embark personally in the missionary cause, you cannot refuse to act upon the conviction, without forfeiting your title to the character of one who is 'following the Lord fully." "
Were it not that I consider self-deception here to be very dangerous, and the danger of being so deceived very great, I would not think it necessary to pursue this subject farther, but allow it to be taken for granted, that when the call of duty is
obeyed, we have nothing more to do but to congratulate the individual upon such a proof of his subjection to divine authority, and of his conquest over the appetites, or habits, or desires, that may have opposed his obedience.
When I consider the difficulty attending all investigations into the operations of our minds, and the proneness of all to judge favourably in their own case, it occurs to me that there may be
persons who take credit to themselves for acting under the influence of motives derived from the authority of God, and their duty to him and to their fellow men, while in reality, other considerations unattended to or unavowed, in a great
actuate them. They acknowledge in words, it is true, the authority of God, and seem also practically to acknowledge it; but after all, the obedience may not flow from regard to the command, but because the performance of the duty is, on other grounds, pleasant or profitable. Now, since partiality in judging of ourselves always inclines us to put the best construction both upon our outward actions and inward motives, we cannot be too suspicious of ourselves ;scarcely err in the way of too much severity, and should we
ever do so, the evil of the error would not be so great on that side as on this.
To trace the subject a little farther then. Suppose that, in pursuance of the command to preach the gospel, considered as imperative upon an in
dividual, and pointing in his case to the duty of going as a missionary to the heathen, he takes steps in the matter accordingly, and actually sets about the accomplishment of his purpose, there is still room for self-jealousy, for even in this case there may be something “ lacking,” and something wrong. The thing itself is commanded, and an acknowledged duty, and yet the motive and manner of performing it may be such as to render it, instead of an acceptable service to God, an abomination in his sight. That the authority of God is acknowledged is so far well—that the thing commanded is performed as well—but after all, the spirit put into the actual performance may be no better than that of a slave. The command must be obeyed “from the heart:"—the service must be a free-will offering; it must be a sacrifice of love and glad acknowledgment of the mercy of God, who has conferred the ability, and opportunity, and grace, to render back to him of that which has been received from him. The command to “ feed the flock of God," and to gather in the wandering sheep, must be performed in the manner required, “ taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but WILLINGLY_not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”
If there be not this willing spirit which is so emphatically pronounced to be an essential requisite to acceptable obedience; if the higher and purer motives fail to operate with commanding