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The kingdom of God is that new and spiritual dominion, which Divine grace establishes in the hearts of men. Its subjects are regenerated sinners. Once they were not under the spiritual dominion of God. They neither loved him, nor served him. “ But they are washed, but they are sanctified, but they are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” A new dominion is set up in their hearts. They love God. They aim to do his will. And though extremely imperfect still, yet they are the subjects of the Prince of Peace, and shall be more and more conformed to his will, till finally, he shall present them before the throne of the Father spotless.
This kingdom of God is set up in the souls of men, through God's appointed means of grace, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit accompanying them. The Word of God, especially the word preached, the sacraments and prayer, are the main instrumentalities for the recovery of this revolted and miserable world to God.
In the text, we are instructed by the Saviour to pray for the coming of this kingdom in all the world. The very next petition is, “thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth.”
The pious in every age have prayed for this. They have expected it. They “have seen the promises afar off, and been persuaded of them,” and have known that the time is coming when Jesus Christ shall reign in the hearts of men; when every darkened nation shall have received light; when every hostile weapon
* Preached on the day of a collection for Home Missions.
shall be dashed to pieces ; when the song of praise shall echo from the sides of Atlas and tremble over the waves of Ganges; and when, from every bill-top and every valley, the shout shall go up, one universal brotherhood of voices, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.”
Effort, to more or less extent, has been put forth by the church to extend her light, and love, and influence, and bring men into this kingdom of God. Alas! that she has done so little! Gene. rations have vanished out of her sight, borne on upon the mighty roll of centuries into another and unseen world; while, it would seem, the church has never mustered her strength as she ought, and laid down her offerings on the altar of God, and proved the power of prayer, and never expected as she ought to prepare these dying generations of men to stand before God !-But she has done something. Duty in this respect is no longer a secret. The precept and the promise are now too plain for any lingering doubt with an intelligent Christian ; and the wailing entreaty of dying millions, borne on every breeze that sweeps round the world, falls on the hearts of thousands of believers, as the voice of the Master calling on us to pity and save the poor! We hear this beseeching cry. We heed it. It affects our hearts to think what millions of men are dying and unfit to die ; and have no means to save them; and the last words they utter are moanings of dreadful despair! These are not times for inactivity; and this morning we are going to make the annual contribution for the cause of Missions in our country.
This one cause, in the opinion of him who speaks to you, is second now to none other in the arguments it presents for your liberal contributions. In the same opinion, it is more overlooked, in proportion to its real importance and the propriety of its receiving support, than any other of the prominent objects, which solicit your aid and receive it from month to month.
We are going to present to you some considerations on this subject. Our object is not so much to give you counsel, or give direction to your charities, or even to give you instruction, as it is to induce you to think and decide for yourselves. “I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say."
I. The different modes in which good people strive to advance the Redeemer's kingdom ought to be maturely considered :
When benevolent men are solicited in behalf of different objects, and all good ones, they usually, if not always, find themselves' unable to bestow as much as they would be glad to have it in their power to do. They cannot do everything. Their Lord has not given them the means. He has kept some of them in very narrow circumstances, perhaps for the very purpose of having them exercise a more severe industry, and a more careful economy, and a more constant and virtuous self-denial, in order to be able to extend a helping hand to those who are in want. Others are not so straitened ; but then, there are many ways of
doing good—they are all costly—and the most favored are obliged to portion out their liberality, not according to what is needed for the evangelization of the world, but according to what they have the ability and the heart to give. And therefore it becomes necessary to compare one object with another, one way of doing good with another, and come to a conclusion, how much of that which they have to bestow shall be appropriated to one object or way of doing good, and how much shall be appropriated to another. They must do this. They cannot avoid it. It arises from the necessity of the case. Not an intelligent and kindhearted believer in all Christendom is able, whatever be his wealth, to bestow upon objects he approves, as much as he would be glad to give. Every benevolent man who is accustomed to this benevolence at all does do this. He does it in every instance of benefaction. He gives much or little according to his ability and benevolence, and according as the matter before him appears to him more or less important at the time. And more: every man who gives anything ought to do this. He ought not to avoid it if he could. He ought, in the exercise of a sourd discretion, to make such a use of what he has to bestow for the establishment of the kingdom of God, as shali do most good. He ought by no means to act blindly. If he does, his benefactions may fail of the good they might do, not only, but they may do positive injury to the very cause he loves and attempts to aid. For it is by no means to be questioned, that, under the influence of misguided men, matters are brought up, which present an appearance of propriety, and whose advocates plead strongly for them, and ask for much liberality in their behalf; when, in reality, every peany bestowed upon them is worse than flung away. So that a sound and careful discretion—a discrimination in reference to the nature of the calls that are made upon our liberality, is one of our incumbent and important duties, as Christians and as men.
And these ideas are enough to show us, in what regard we are to hold that declaration, which we hear from so many amiable people, that one religious object ought not to be compared with another. The declaration is false. It is utterly unrighteous and un-Protestant. One object ought to be compared with another. As Christians, as men of duty and good morals, we are bound to do the most good we can, with the means we have to employ. This must be our intention, or we have not a righteous one. We have no right to squander our means, or employ them to do a less good, when they might do a greater, in any case wherein we are left to be governed by our own mind. Our mind should be a wise and righteous mind. If we were not Protestants—if we had given up our moral principles and feelings to the control of some ghostly conscience-keeper, then indeed we might consistently bestow without discrimination, and trust him to direct our bounty, whom we had already entrusted to keep our conscience. But, as
those who are under the Bible and not under an “ Apostolical succession,” falsely so called as those who expect to give account each one for himself unto God, it becomes us to look wisely at the objects which solicit our charities, to compare one object with another, and do the most good we can with the means put into our hands. There can be nothing wrong in our asking advice of those better informed than ourselves, of ministers, or any body else. But as far as possible, “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” And let not the common people take every thing upon trust, and leave it to ministers to appropriate their benefactions and manage them as they will. Ministers are generally bad financiers; and if they had wisdom enough, I am afraid they would not long have grace enough, to manage justly the benevolence of the church, if left to their own will.
Let it not, then, be said, among Protestant and Bible Christians—among those who keep their own conscience, that one religious object is not to be compared with another. You do make this comparison : you ought to make it: if you give anything you cannot avoid making it, except by the un-Protestant device of committing your conscience in benevolence to the keeping of somebody else.
II. It seems to us that there is reason to believe, that peculiar circumstances have led the people of this country to overlook too much the object before us.
The objects you patronize here, from month to month, are all good. They all have the same great object in view,—to set upon earth the kingdom of God. None of them could properly be passed over. We need the Bible Society—the Tract Societythe Sunday School and Seamen's Cause--the Education Society -Home and Foreign Missions. In no one of these is there any such preëminence as to give it a claim, from its own nature, superior to the claims of others.
A claim of precedence or superiority has sometimes been advanced for the Bible Society, and has been pleaded in the ears of multitudes; just as if there were no room to question, but that cause is more important than any other not only, but just as if the heaviest part of our different donations should certainly be devoted to that cause. But we can easily conceive, that other matters, necessary for the world's conversion, may cost more than it would cost to give a Bible to every inhabitant of the globe. If such a gift were all, the work would soon and easily be done. We can easily conceive also, that whole nations of men may be in such a state of ignorance and degradation and irreligion, that you would do them more good by giving them Tracts which they would read, than the Bible which they would neglect. Some cau. tious judgment, therefore, is needful-some discrimination-some comparing one mode of doing good with another. A Bible is not so costly a thing as a minister. It needs not, like him, daily
“ bread to eat and raiment to put on.” And often, even with the most constant use, it will last longer; and as ministers wear out and die off, others must be educated to take their places.
The preëminence in importance and in just claim for the largest patronage has been often set up in behalf of Foreign Missions. We are not going to say that Foreign Missions does not deserve this regard. But before we have done (if you give attention to what we shall say), you will find some reasons for not assenting to that idea, without some careful thinking on the subject. It is certainly true, that at present, the benevolent people of our congregations bestow more upon the cause of Foreign Missions than upon any of its sister Institutions. They may be right. Perhaps they would continue to do the same thing if they should examine as extensively into the operations and promises of these institutions, as they are capable of doing. And yet, it may be, that peculiar circumstances, and not wholly a sound and just judgment, have mainly given such a direction to their charities. We think it most certain, that the benevolent of this favored country have not done too much for sending the gospel to other and heathen nations. Would they had done more! Would, that they would come up to the measure of duty and do it now! And when we compare Foreign Mission with Home Mission enterprise, let us not be understood as desiring to divert from the former a single fraction for the purpose of turning it into the channel of the home department But looking at the extensive action for evangelizing the heathen, and commending all that has been done, let us take that as an argument and stimulus and encouragement for doing more than we have done yet, for our own country and our own kindred.
I have before me the account of the annual receipts for Domestic and Foreign Missions, of those great Institutions which it pleases you to employ to dispense your bounty; I mean the Boards of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church on the one hand, and the American Home Missionary Society and American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on the other. I ask your attention for a moment, first, to the comparative amounts given to the General Assembly's Boards of Foreign and Home Missions.
In 1848 Foreign Missions received $108,586. Home Missions, $61.922, In 1817
56,522. In 1846
52,800. In 1845
50,000, In 1844
41,000. in 1843
32,126. In 1842
34,463. In 1841
33,522, In 1810
39,220. In 1839
39,412. This is going back far enough to show the general feelings of the patrons of these Boards, and almost back to the commence