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found more useful, than any one which could be formed out of them all.
“It is, however, of vast importance, that the seve“ral societies should consider one another, as coadju‘tors, not competitors, and cultivate an amicable in“tercourse. In this case many may be preferable to “one, though proportionably larger. One may em‘brace this special object, another that: one may find ‘the readiest access to this country, another to that “country: external circumstances may give one an “advantage for a particular kind of service, from which ‘the other may be precluded: each may, as it were, “bring into circulation the treasure of wisdom and ‘piety, as well as influence, which is found in its par‘ticular circle; and they may all profit by the coun“sels, plans, observations, success or failures, of every “one; and help one another in various ways, when ‘that assistance becomes especially seasonable. Thus, ‘more methods may be tried, more talents brought ‘ into exercise, more information and wisdom acquir. ‘ed, and more exertion made by several societies, “amicably striving together for the faith of the gospel, “ than by one.—As divers kinds of soldiers form a “better army, than if they were all exactly of the same ‘ description, armed in the same manner, and formed ‘ into one vast phalanx; provided they have no other ‘competition, but who shall best serve the common “cause. *
* First Sermon before the Society for Missions to Africa and the East.
'One society should not be considered as opposing 'any that are engaged for the same purpose. The 'world is an extensive field, and in the church of 'Christ there is no competition of interests. From 'the very constitution of the human mind, slighter 'differences of opinion will prevail, and diversities in 'external forms; but, in the grand design of promot'ing Christianity, all these should disappear.'* •
In general, the interest of a charitable or pious institution, properly speaking, is the power possessed by that society of glorifying God, and doing good to men: and if good can be more advantageously done by another society, it is equally entitled to assistance and support; and the wise and benevolent will countenance all, in proportion as likely to be useful, and none in opposition to the rest.
These considerations have determined me to undertake the present service, though well aware that some persons might misunderstand my intention, or object to my conduct.—But still, a difficult}- of no small magnitude seemed placed in my way.
Almost, if not entirely, every subject relating to missions, has been pre-occupied; and this, not only from the pulpit, bat in the more permanent form of printed sermons, collected in volumes.—What more can be said or needs be said, concerning the deplorable state of the Gentiles? or the obligations of christians, according to their ability to attempt their conversion? What objection to such exertions remains
• Account of the Society for Missions to Africa and the East.
unanswered, orinadequately answered? Can anything, except ignorance, selfishness, indolence, and indiffer. ence about the honour of God and the salvation of souls, maintain any further opposition to the general design? On which side soever the subject is viewed, it might seem to be exhausted; nay, a peculiar kind of genius is necessary, even to say the same things in another way, and with the appearance of novelty or variety. o Their is, however, one encouraging consideration; that repetition itself, if restricted to the more essen. tial topicks, cannot prevent a plain and earnest discourse, from affecting and interesting every compas. sionate and pious mind. But in fact, a circumstance, which can scarcely be too deeply regretted, determined me to the text which I have chosen, and to which I now return. I mean the difficulty that has been found, in procuring an ade. quate number of competent missionaries, especially among our own countrymen, by several of the societies instituted for this important object. This, I am persuaded, has exceedingly tended to prevent success, and in many instances has chilled the ardour, and checked the liberality, which would otherwise have been manifested. I would by no means, be supposed to intimate that nothing, or that but little, has been done. My views of the transactions which have taken place, since this society was instituted, are very different. I am persuaded, far more important good has been done, and preparations made, and far more extensively beneficial effects will follow, from these exertions, than it is generally supposed, or than do at present appear. Yet the want of a far greater number of missionaries, endued with the genuine spirit, has had a greater effect in retarding our progress, than any backwardness of the publick to pecuniary aid; nay, than the unfavourable circumstances of these eventful times; or even the heavy losses and severe disappointments, by which it hath pleased God to try the faith and patience of the active and zealous friends to the cause.
A more particular consideration of our Lord's command to his disciples, as contained in our text, therefore, seems not unseasonable to the occasion: and may he so direct and prosper what shall be spoken, that it may produce a more general and earnest compliance with the important injunction!
We find the same words, or nearly, spoken by our Lord on two distinct occasions: first, when he appointed the twelve apostles; * and secondly, when he sent forth the seventy disciples. The context in the former instance calls for our peculiar attention. "When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with "compassion on them; because they fainted, and were "scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. "Then, saith he to his disciples, The harvest truly is "plenteous, but the labourers are few: pray ye there"fore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth "labourers into his harvest."
By comparing this passage with St. Luke, it appears highly probable, that at this important crisis,
“Jesus went up into a mountain to pray, and conti. “nued all night in prayer to God.”* At the time when our Lord gave this injunction, and enforced it by his own example; the spiritual worship of the true God was at a very low ebb. The Jews were generally satisfied with barren forms and notions, and with human traditions; their teachers were blind guides and hypocrites; and their builders disdainfully rejected the precious Corner-stone which God had chosen:—while the Gentiles, (that is all other nations,) were sunk in gross idolatry, except that a few had philosophized themselves and each other into various kinds of practical atheism. So that they were “without Christ, without hope, and without God in “ the world.” A remnant no doubt, was found in Judea and in other countries, both of pious Jews, and of Gentiles, who by their means had got access to the Greek version of the scriptures, and, like Cornelius, were earnestly enquiring after the salvation and the Saviour there revealed: (a most encouraging circumstance to those who are now labouring to get the scriptures, or part of them, translated into different languages, and diffused among the nations!) Yet the state of the world was, in general, most deplorable.— “Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the “people.” But it had been foretold, that in the times of the Messiah, “the Gentiles would come to the light, “and kings to the brightness of his rising.” Nay, “that he should be for a Light to the Gentiles, and
* Luke vi. 12, 13.