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Captain, the King; men are the servants, or instruments by which he works: but still they are moral instruments; they should zealously co-operate, they should be active workers together with God, and him they must always acknowledge. And those servants that honour him, he will honour. A zealous use of suitable means, and a humble reliance on divine aid must always go together. To sit still, and do nothing, but wait till Heaven shall miraculously convert the nations, which some persons recommend, is a course as unscriptural and irrational, as to be all bustle and activity, in the use of means, without any regard to the Supreme Agent. As if man-unaided man, could overcome the God of this world, and conquer Satan's kingdom. How futile such an attempt! and how impious to presume to take Heaven's work out of Heaven's hand! Man, unaided, can effect no good, but the Almighty, without means, can accomplish his purposes; still he is pleased in carrying on the renovation of the world, to employ human means; and he is infinitely wise, and this arrangement must be infinitely good; it is, therefore, ours to be unwearied and abounding in the work of the Lord, employing, as experience may suggest, the most appropriate means.
The Spiritual Church I consider a theocracy, adumbrated by the theocracy of the Jewish nation. Jehovah is king. The kingdom is spiritual; the omniscient God, the Father of Spirits, is the sovereign Ruler. He requires no vicegerent on earth; and there is none. The churches on earth, like the tribes of Israel, or the provinces of an empire, are equal amongst themselves, and amenable only to their Divine Head.
But whilst maintaining this fundamental principle, these several tribes, or provinces, or churches, may have laws and regulations for the preservation of peace and order amongst themselves, without at all infringing upon, or casting off the supreme rule of their Divine Sovereign. Of the power and supremacy of God our Saviour we would never lose sight.
Since the time when Barnabas and Paul rehearsed to the
church at Antioch the result of their two year's mission in Asia Minor, how manifold have been the labours, the afflictions, the persecutions, the schisms, the heresies, the corruptions, the declensions, and the revivals of the churches; and how varied the circumstances, and the characters of those whom God has employed to extend the spiritual kingdom of the Redeemer. "To the Messiah are given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve him." This the prophet declared in these very words more than five centuries before the Saviour's advent; and now, in our days (eighteen centuries subsequent), do we see the prophesy partly fulfilled, which is a pledge of its complete accomplishment at some future day.
Acting on the principles which have just now been recognized, and in the faith of the divine promises, the London Missionary Society, seventeen years ago, recommended the person who now addresses you,* by prayer and the laying on of hands, to the grace of God, and sent him forth to the work to be fulfilled; and through God's mercy he stands here this day to "rehearse" to this assembled church all that God has done with him. The Divine Providence has led him by a way that he knew not, and in paths which could not be by us foreseen. After so explicit a recognition of the divine rule and government of the world and the church as has just now been made, it will not be necessary to refer to it in every step of our rehearsal; for we desire to acknowledge God in all our ways, and magnify his gracious Providence, although we may not in words always refer to it.
Barnabas and Saul were separated to the work by an express injunction from Heaven; Acts, xiii. 2. "The Holy Ghost said, separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work
* Jan. 8th, 1807, ordained in Dr. Nichols's Chapel.
whereunto I have called them;" but the Missionary of whom we now speak had no such call. Gratitude to the Saviour, to whom the written word led his mind, and a desire to promulgate the salvation which is in Jesus, induced him to offer his services to the church. Some letters of Vanderkemp, recorded in the Evangelical Magazine nearly twenty years ago, decided him to say, in reply to enquiries for Missionaries, "here am I, send me." He would readily have gone to Africa with the unfortunate traveller, Mungo Park, and Anderson, his brother-in-law, as a Missionary, in the settlement the formation of which Park contemplated. Park and Anderson soon finished their mortal career. Finally, China was suggested to him as the sphere of his labours, and he acquiesced.
In the first apostolic Mission, Barnabas and Saul were united, and they had Mark for their minister, or helper, or servant, in whatever they might require. But the first Protestant Chinese Missionary went quite alone. Barnabas and Saul did not leave their own empire, they travelled not more than two thousand miles, and were absent but two years.
China is seventeen thousand miles from England, through some stormy seas and under scorching suns; it is a land in which foreigners, and above all, European foreigners, are interdicted; but Providence conducted him thither in safety, and provided for him a residence and temporal support.
The prophet Ezekiel, who lived about the time of the Chinese Confucius, received his commission from Heaven in these words, "Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them, for thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of a hard language, but to the house of Israel." And such is now, (after innumerable difficulties have been overcome by former labourers,) the situation of ministers in England; to them the churches say, "go with the Bible, and thousands of good books to assist you; and speak in your mother tongue, and to your own people, a people prepared by many ad
mitted Christian truths, the words of divine revelation. But the Chinese Missionary was sent to "a people of a strange speech, and of a hard language." An ancient and copious language, entirely unlike any other language under heaven. Even with the best assistance to acquire it, the Chinese language may be justly called "a hard language," and the then difficulty of obtaining assistance, rendered the acquisition of it more so. Natives in China are not allowed to teach it to foreigners, which makes it difficult to procure their aid, and when obtained, they know only their mother tongue, and for want of a medium of communicating their ideas to foreigners, they are ill qualified to teach. I would here remark, that a competent knowledge of some Asiatic languages is a more difficult task, and a more rare attainment, even amongst Missionaries, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, than is generally supposed. And Missionary Societies do not, perhaps, lay stress enough on furnishing the means for a speedy and extensive acquisition of foreign languages by their Missionaries. However,
By persevering labour and undivided attention, considerable progress was made in the Chinese language; and by many years' application and great expense,* books have been written and printed, which will render this "strange speech" more easy of acquisition to those who may hereafter be sent forth to teach the nations beyond the Ganges.
Out of China also, from under the influence of malicious informers, and a persecuting government, books and teachers are now provided at the Anglo-Chinese College, an institution originated for the furtherance of the Gospel, and to promote the temporal and spiritual well-being of the Chinese. By the aid of the lamented Milne, this institution was reared and tuition commenced; and by his help, as is well known, the whole of the canonical Scriptures were translated, and have been printed and sent forth to the
The Hon. the East India Company expended £15,000 on printing Morrison's English and Chinese Dictionary.
world. Oral instruction has been given to many, and some Christian Tracts have been written in Chinese, and extensively circulated. Several individuals have their minds much influenced by the truth, and one, to whom Milne was the means of conversion, is now left amongst his countrymen in China, as a teacher of Christianity, having, in his own tongue, the Bible alone, and we hope the Holy Spirit of God as his guide. This is a brief rehearsal of what God hath done by his servants in this case. Milne has been removed, we hope, to his eternal rest, but there are yet four or five labourers, who, since the Chinese Mission commenced, have entered and yet remain on the field.
It is now no longer a question, as it once was in England, whether the Chinese language be acquirable or not for religious purposes. We have now, in our own tongue, copious Chinese philological books, a Chinese Bible, a Chinese Christian College, and a converted native Chinese teacher; and should we not be thankful and be encouraged.
Pioneers, who make ways and approaches, are thought to hold a humble place in the army, in the republic of letters, and in the churches. The conqueror, the author of genius, and the dignified prelate or popular preacher, who enter into other men's labours, are those who appear to effect great things; the pioneer is forgotten. Missionaries who first enter pagan lands, are only pioneers. They may clear a little ground, make roads, plough and sow, (very necessary labours to be sure,) but the field is as yet unsightly. When the blade shoots up above ground, it is encouraging; but the husbandman must still exercise long patience, till the ear be formed, filled, and ripened-and the yellow waving harvest be gathered in. And ere this be effected, it may be that a part of the promised crop is blasted and lost. I fear the patience of British Christians will be tried, if not exhausted, before the fruits of the Chinese Mission exhibit any striking appearance. Some of the means which we