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the outfit and provisioning for a few months of one
a of our ships of war, or the equipment of a small armament for the protection or conquest of some insignificant island ; but one thing I will say, if we improve not the present advantages which the favourable situation of political affairs, the flourishing state of our commerce, and the extent and credit of our foreign relations, put within our reach, God in his righteous providence may soon deprive us of them all; and the news from England and India that have just reached us, put a new emphasis on this consideration.
To conclude then, what if the directors of our missionary societies should make a demand for supplies adequate to the equipment and maintenance of four times the number of missionaries at present in actual service, would the demand meet with a refusal as a thing impossible ? or, might it be accomplished ? By a determined renunciation of a few superfluities—by retrenching a few fashionable luxuries—by the sacrifice of a little taste and a little empty pleasure, it might. This must be obvious to any one who chooses to reflect upon the subject, and that not to four times but to ten times the amount of the present scale of operation ?
Then why is the thing not done? Either because the object is not of sufficient importance to justify such sacrifices-orI leave you to supply the rest.
I am yours, &c.
My dear Friend, The difficulty of proving to the heathen the truth of christianity is a subject which has often engaged my thoughts. I have also endeavoured to elicit the sentiments of others as to the best method of setting the evidences of the truth before the mind of an unbeliever, but hitherto have met with nothing altogether satisfactory. I now offer you a few observations on the subject, more for the purpose of setting the difficulties connected with it in their true light than as containing a complete solution of them,
The evidences of the truth of the christian religion are various and abundant; they are sufficient to carry full conviction to the mind of any one capable of appreciating the force of them. But the historical evidences are from their
nature ill adapted for popular conviction ; they are beyond the reach of the great mass of the people; and the internal evidences cannot be felt or understood by those who have no personal experience of the
power of the truth on their own hearts, and who have no living examples of it before their eyes. The evidence from miracles (now that miraculous powers have ceased) resolves itself into the testimony borne to the miracles of the first age of christianity, but the truth of that testimony the heathen may be supposed to have no means of ascertaining.
Thus the great mass of evidence comprehended under these three divisions is almost wholly inaccessible to the heathen world. That christianity was attested by miracles—that the commencement of the christian dispensation was the close and the fulfilment of a prior economy of miracles that had subsisted from the very infancy of the world—that the success of christianity by such instruments as its first disciples, and in such circumstances as characterized that era, is itself a most stupendous miracle—that the concurrent voice of ancient history, the testimony of enemies as well as friends, confirm the truth of the principal facts recorded in our scriptures--that these scriptures, as we now have them, are the genuine and unadulterated records of divine revelation, handed down to us through a long succession of ages-that the character christianity claims is established by the effects it has produced in millions of instances, in turning sinners from darkness to light and from the power
of Satan unto God that this evidence is continually accumulating by the additions making to the number of its believers who “ have
the witness in themselves”—that the purity of its precepts, the sublimity of its doctrines, the holy spirit it breathes, the evils it cures, the joy and peace it bestows, the glory it reveals, the consistency of all its parts, its being so worthy of God, and so suitable to the state of man, all, all bear witness for it as a revelation not of earthly origin— that it comes from God and is “ truth and no lie.” This, and much more than all this, the heathen in the first instance can neither appreciate nor believe; they may have the bare testimony of the missionary who addresses them on such subjects that christianity is supported by many infallible proofs,” but they labour under a total incapacity of examining them. It is true that much of the character here given to christianity might be learned from an attentive and intelligent perusal of its sacred records ; but this is supposing a degree of candour of mind and interest in the subject which it is too much to suppose the heathen to possess. They have a religion of their own, and they demand at the very outset some proof of the truth of the new system proposed to them before they will think it worth their while to give it any farther attention.
Missionaries, when they begin to address themselves to a heathen population on the subject of religion, are often called upon to give some visible sign or demonstration of the truth, as the only condition upon which they can expect to be listened to and believed. Could the missionary perform
miracles in confirmation of his doctrine, as the apostles and other christians of the primitive age had the power of doing, the matter would be instantly set at rest : no better attestation could be given, and no more could reasonably be demanded. Though there might still remain in the breasts of the heathen all the resistance of the carnal mind to the pure, humbling and spiritual doctrines of the Bible, there would be little room for cavil against the truth of the “strange things brought to their ears.”
But as no christian missionaries, at least none deserving of the name, now pretend to the possession of miraculous gifts, and must meet opposers and objectors on other ground, it becomes a serious question how they may best accomplish the task of setting before the heathen the gospel, accompanied with such proofs or arguments in its favour as may be convincing alike to the rude and savage, and to the refined and civilized worshipper of idols.
After what I have said at the beginning of this letter you will not suppose that I pretend to dictate to missionaries how they ought to proceed in this
I conceive that missionaries ought to be men capable of wielding the weapons of their own warfare; for it would be an ungracious supposition indeed, to suppose men sent out in the character of evangelists to instruct heathen nations so ill qualified for encountering the arguments of an acute heathen intellect, or the captious objections of a