« FöregåendeFortsätt »
ing in which they taught, appears to me a mere circumstance, which does not affect the principle. Modern Missionaries have foreign languages to study, which the Apostles had not; and it is absolutely necessary for them to be stationary whilst learning, and whilst teaching heathen youths.
Translations of the Scriptures are sanctioned by the constant use made of the sacred writings, by our Lord and the Apostolic Missionaries; and their references are generally made to a translation of the Old Testament into the Greek tongue. For it is the meaning, the sense of the Scriptures, that is to be regarded as sacred, not the Hebrew or Greek words. It is the superstition of the Romish Church in China and other countries, to consider the Latin words, “Pater, Filius, Spiritus Sanctus," &c. as sacred, and not to be translated. The Budh Priests, in China, do the same with many of the Sanscrit words of their
superstition, and do not translate them. Perhaps Bishop Lowth's idea, (which is adopted in the practice of some Missionaries,) that the word Jehovah is not to be translated, partakes of the same superstition. In the New Testament, the word Jehovah is never used, but is translated as our translators in the English Bible have generally done, by a word corresponding to Lord.
The employment of the pen, in narratives, memoirs, letters, &c. for the diffusion of divine truth in the earth, is fully justified by the sacred writings themselves ; and these writings authorize the use of the pen and the press, as a very eminent means of preserving and diffusing the Gospel. If any comparison were to be drawn, (a proceeding which I do not advise,) I know not but writing would appear the most efficient means. How great has been the effect upon the human mind produced by the Gospels, or memoirs of our Saviour, written by the Evangelists, and the epistles or letters written by Paul and the other writers of the New Testament !
But although this be admitted, preaching, that is, testifying to men by the living voice, the gospel of the grace of God; opening and expounding the Scriptures, teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, reasoning from
principles of natural religion; persuading, and if necessary, disputing with the opponents of the truth, is never to be disused. And as we have apostolic example for preaching viva voce, so we have apostolic example for publishing and defending divine truth by means of written essays or letters. If we take into account the permanent utility of Paul's letters for eighteen centuries past, it would probably appear, that he converted and edified more persons by means of his letters, than he did by all his preaching, and his miracles, and his sufferings put together. If it be objected that the writings of Ministers and Missionaries, and private Christians can never be compared to the inspired Gospels and Epistles, it is granted. No more can the preaching of uninspired ministers be compared to the divine sermons of Jesus, and the inspired preaching of the Apostles; and, therefore, when we argue about the comparative use of means, the argument still holds good: inspired letters being compared with inspired sermons; and uninspired translations and essays, compared with uninspired preaching. An induction of particular facts, as given in church history, from the days of the Apostles to the present time, would, I doubt not, confirm what has been now advanced in favour of a variety of means, viz. colleges or schools of the prophets, translations of the Bible and religious writings, preaching and oral teaching. The admirable Luther used all the three means: he was professor of divinity at the Wittemberg University, a preacher in the same city, and an assiduous writer of religious essays and expositions of sacred writ, by all of which means he converted many individuals, and reformed the religion of nations. But there are not many persons competent to employ all these means; if a man excel in one, the churches should be satisfied. The object to be attained is the communication of truth to the human soul, that it may be enlightened, purified, and saved; and whether this be done to children or adults, by means of a school, or hearing the word preached, or reading the Scriptures, or religious books, containing the sense and meaning of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures—let God be praised for giving efficacy to the means, and let them be
employed zealously and assiduously; for, since all these means are, less or more, rendered effectual, it is manifest that the Lord does not confine himself to any one, to the exclusion of the rest; and therefore it is incumbent on Christians to employ all, or such of them, as circumstances may render most practicable. In one's native country, where instruction can be conveyed to thousands in one's mother tongue, preaching should be extensively employed. Amongst unlettered tribes of men, no use can be made of books, and therefore that means is by the necessity of the case excluded; but a seminary to introduce the knowledge of letters, and to raise up native preachers, would be an important means. In some places, as China for example, it is extremely difficult to become qualified to preach; and it is impossible, under present circumstances, to gather a congregation to preach to. Teaching a few individuals, or writing books in one's own hired house in China, or teaching in a college out of China, and the distribution of Bibles and Tracts amongst Chinese colonists, are the means that can be mostly used. Happily, the Sacred Scriptures are all translated into the Chinese language, and there are a few religious essays, but much more-very much, is still required to be done in qualifying preachers and writers to expound the Scriptures, to testify the Gospel, and to reason with the heathen, to enforce even the principles of natural religion, and declare to them the God that made the heavens, who is to them generally unknown. Heaven, indeed, they speak of, but concerning Him who is higher than the heavens, they are almost totally ignorant. Oh, what a wide field! what an abundant harvest! is there in the regions beyond India, accessible through the medium of the Chinese language! how few the labourers, and how difficult the work.
But, blessed be God, a beginning has been made. Providence has blessed the efforts of his servants, so that the acquisition of the language is now much facilitated. In the Anglo-Chinese College, native books, teachers, and students are provided. By the Chinese Bible, divine truth is made accessible to the educated; and there is one Chinese Protestant set apart to the ministry amongst his countrymen,
with the Bible in his own language, for his sole guide and his instructor, under the desired influences of the Holy Spirit.
I thus briefly rehearse to you what God has done by his servants, for it was his co-operation which gave efficacy to the
very limited means at first employed; and now that the means are thus far increased, it must ever be remembered, that all that men can do, when they have done their utmost, is but the use of means which cannot be effectual unless the hand of God work with them; the energy of his Holy Spirit must be prayed for and relied on, and then the labour will not be in vain. Men, and the efforts which they make, or the measures they employ, preaching, teaching, writing, must all be considered as instruments in the hand of God, the Father, Son, and Spirit. In the temporal deliverances and national conquests of God's ancient people, his might, and the operation of his hand were always acknowledged. In the spiritual deliverances from Satan's usurpation of the human heart, and the spiritual conquests of primitive disci ples and apostles, “ The hand of the Lord” was recognized in those that believed the Gospel and turned to him, and to him they gave the glory.
The churches should esteem and encourage those men who spend or hazard their lives in distant lands for the sake of the Lord Jesus, but they should be careful not to rob God of the honour that is due to his name, for this is the very principle of pagan idolatry, and of all impiety. Men sacrifice to their net and to their drag, and pay a sort of worship to the mere human instrument of good, forgetting the divine band which wielded it.
These Notes were added when the same discourse was read
Although we have not assembled to-day expressly for missionary purposes-yet, in as much as I believe it capable of demonstration, that one part of the design of Chris
tians forming societies or churches, is the diffusion of Gospel light throughout the world-you will not deem the discourse of this day irrelevant to the object of our meeting. I fear Christian churches still view the propagation of the Gospel, rather as an act of voluntary benevolence than as a duty binding in all Christians, and all churches to the full extent of their means. Christians are too selfish in supposing that their own edification is the sole object of associating together in church fellowship, and they do not, perhaps, consider sufficiently that indifference to the great object of extending the Redeemer's kingdom, is rather presumptive evidence against their being subjects of his kingdom. Alas! where is the loyalty of many to Zion's king? I speak of what comparatively ought to exist. Whilst I rejoice that in this highly privileged land, there are so many of every rank in society who are faithful servants and subjects of the most High God-may they daily increase, and may hundreds and thousands be raised up to spend their fortunes, and sacrifice their lives, in his spiritual and just wars against Satan's usurped dominion over the children of men.
Leaf Square, May 2, 1824. And I by no means wish you to begin in distant regions, but to begin in your own neighbourhood, by teaching the rising generation those things that promote their usefulness in this life, and their happiness in the next.