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ON DIFFERENT MODES OF MISSIONARY
My dear Friend,
IT is the besetting sin of many theorists to take a view of their subject from one point only. Hence all that belongs to it is seen under a certain aspect; while, by the simple process of changing his position, the theorist might learn that his subject has more sides than one, and so he might obtain the means of modifying, correcting, and perfecting his views. Perhaps you think I am guilty of this sin in insisting so dogmatically upon the mental and moral powers of missionaries; as if the great variety of field did not admit, nay require, a similar variety in the character of its cultivators. I freely grant that the Pagan and Mahomedan world, the great field in question, presents a vast variety of soil. There is a wide disparity between the intellectual habits of the learned Brahmin and the wild Caffre-between the philosophical and mystical Soofi, and the American Indian.-As the ground is not every where alike, the mode of culti vation proper in one of these departments of the
field will not be altogether adapted to another. Each will require a description of talent in the labourer suited to the peculiarities of the work. One talent is needful here, another talent is useful there, and a third, different from both the former, is required at a third portion of the field. The deduction then from the fact of the variety of the work is, that a corresponding diversity of talent must be brought to bear upon that the labourers must be
located according to their respective capabilities of performing work of the description required in the particular fields assigned them to cultivate. But you would not infer, surely, from the circumstance of the comparative learning and civilization of some heathen countries, and the comparative rudeness of others, that in the one case labourers of good abilities are called for, and in the other labourers of no abilities at all, or next to none. I have yet to learn where that country is, and what kind of people inhabit it, where the work of evangelizing them is so easy that the weakest and "least esteemed in the church" may be entrusted with the accomplishment of it.
Consider that with all the acknowledged variety in the intellectual character and external circumstances of men, HUMAN NATURE is universally the same; that it is found in all the inveteracy of its enmity against God, and hatred of truth and righteousness from the line to the pole. And thisthis in all the various dresses it wears,
is the enemy
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
The Spirit of God does of heaven alike upon the
preparation of the soil? 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 a 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