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SERMON,

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JOHN, IV. 35, 36.

Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal; that both he that soweth, and he that reapeth, may rejoice together.

THE design of the present solemnity is, to call

the attention of Christians to the cause of Missions, to quicken their zeal, to stimulate their exertions, and especially to urge them to engage in fervent prayer to Almighty God for his blessing on our own Society, and on the Universal Church, in their labours among the heathen nations.

To answer this design is necessarily more difficult, as so many preceding Anniversaries

have occupied many of the chief topics connected with the question. Yet it is not, on that account, the less important: because, though the leading points may have become familiar to the minds of Christians; yet, to seize the varying appearances of events, to rouse attention to the particular duties arising from each, and to promote that earnestness and simplicity in the efforts which we are making, whereon our success, under God, so much depends, are matters of great moment.

And, indeed, the very difficulty of detailing these passing circumstances, and uniting them with some notice of the general cause of Missions, may be beneficial, if it lead us to a more unreserved dependence on Divine Grace, and to more earnest supplications for the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, without whom we can neither think nor do any thing that is good.

This reliance is the more necessary now, since there never, perhaps, was a time, when so weighty a responsibility rested on the advocate of Missionary labours. A new æra seems to have commenced. After many years of comparative depression, the mercy of God appears to be answering our prayers, by affording opportunities of usefulness, which we never could have anticipated in an earlier period of our proceedings. A great occasion,

therefore, now presents itself; and we have especial need of Divine aid, while we endeavour to adapt to it the purport of those remarkable words of our Saviour, which I have read to you.

They were spoken when his disciples, during the absence of the Samaritan woman, had urged him to partake of the provisions which they had procured. Our Lord, in reply to their solicitations, described his ardent zeal for the salvation of souls, which the prospect of instructing the Samaritans had excited, as supplying the want of bodily food: My meat is, to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work. And then he addressed the disciples in the words of the text, with the design of leading their minds from the natural harvest, which was still four months distant, and of which they had probably been discoursing as they passed through the fields, just springing with the tender blade, to a spiritual harvest, which was already ripe for the sickle; and to excite them, after his own example, to that activity in teaching and saving mankind, which the husbandman manifests when the corn is ready for the garner.

The spirit of the passage, then, is obviously to animate the reaper to enter into the harvest, from the consideration of the ripeness of the whitening grain. And it will, therefore, afford me the occasion of bringing before you

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THE CAUSE OF MISSIONS, NOW THAT OPPORTUNITIES OF DIFFUSING THE GOSPEL ARE OPENING UPON US FROM EVERY QUARTER.

In considering this subject, as represented by the striking image of my text, we must look AT THE ASPECT OF THE FIELDS; and AT THE ENCOURAGEMENTS TO THE REAPER.

I. WE MUST LOOK AT THE ASPECT OF THE FIELDS.

When our Lord uttered these words, he had immediate respect to the Samaritans. It wanted, at that time, four months to the natural harvest. But if the disciples would lift up their eyes and look on the fields, across which the inhabitants of Sychar were hastening at the tidings of the woman, and whom our Saviour probably pointed at with his finger when he spake, they would behold a spiritual harvest, not merely shooting up its early blade, but now ripe for their labour; they would see people coming with eagerness, to hear and receive the doctrine of salvation.

This was the usual period in Judea, between the first appearance of the blade and the ripening of the corn. They began sowing about the end of our November, or beginning of December, and the harvest was ripe before May. When our Lord spoke these words, it was probably about the end of our December.

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