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and wishes of the young. Thus, e. g., if a minister is to be settled, the inquiry is, not who will be the most judicious, sound, instructive preacher ; but who will be most pleasing to the young. And so in other matters, which might be specified.
Now I do by no means object to regard being had, as far as may be wise, to that portion of our congregations. They are the hope of the church, and all hopeful means ought to be used to interest them in the business. of religion. But I do not think it expedient that they should have the leading influence, either directly or indirectly in religious affairs, rather than the older members of the church. And I give these following reasons.
1. The inherent, natural propriety of the thing ,-upon which I will not dwell.
2. The best interests of the cause of Christ require it. The older members—older in years, and older in the church—are better qualified to judge of doctrines and measures than those who are younger and more recent. It were indeed a pity if they were not—if they have been long in the school of Christ, and gained no wisdom by it, they have read the Bible more; have prayed, conversed, and reflected more; have learned more of the human heart; have seen more revivals, and had longer opportunity to judge of measures and results. Experience and observation, and the word and Spirit of God, have
taught them the way of God more perfectly' than they once understood it; and I appeal to all experienced Christians whether they have not seen cause as they have grown older, to change and modify their views in regard to many things. And if this be so, is it not safer for religion that their counsels should shape affairs, rather than the unripe counsels of the young?
Let me be answered this: Whether Christians that have been long converted, and in the church, are not wiser in religion than they themselves were when they were new in religion ? And if they are, whether it is not presumable that they are wiser than those who now are young, and new in religion, as they once were ? And, admitting this, does it not hence follow that this acquired wisdom of theirs, should be available to the church ? But how can it, if the
young are not to submit themselves to the elder? And let us refer the matter to the Head of the church himself, and gather his will upon the subject. He has expressed his will in the text, and in numerous other scriptures; and it is inferable from the nature of the case. To say
that older Christians shall not have the paramount direction of measures, under Christ, is in effect to say, that Christ's own teaching, so far as regards the usefulness of his disciples, shall amount to nothing. To what purpose is it that he has been long training his more advanced disciples? He has been teaching and disciplining them through a course of years, by his word, by his Spirit, and by his providence, and causing them to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of himself; and can it be agreeable to him that all this training, all this profiting in them, shall be of no utility to his cause? But how can it be ser
viceable, if these experienced disciples are to resign the direction of affairs to those who are but novices in religion? Is this, I say, the mind of Christ ? And does he choose that his great cause on earth shall be even in the condition of Rehoboam among his counsellors; who rejected the wisdom of the old men, and preferred that of the young. ?
3. I believe that the young themselves, would, in the end, be best satisfied and most happy in the church. They would feel a truer respect for it, and would be more humble and teachable.
Finally : how well would it be, both for the public interests of religion, and for the private satisfaction and improvement of the parties, if all concerned would behave agreeably to the spirit of the precept before us! If respect were never wanting towards the aged; nor condescension to the young; nor charity towards equals;—if humility and love pervaded the fraternity; and if the pastoral relation shared also in these holy dispositions, neither of the parties to it forgetting what is due in that relation to the other, what a happy exhibition of the social virtues would the church make and how impressive to the world!
I have discussed this text, because it is a divine precept, very solemnly enforced, and belonging to a class of precepts which I believe it to be the duty sometimes, if not frequently, to exhibit from the pulpit. I have discussed it with a general reference to the community at large, and not because there was any special call for it here. If it have any applicability to this particular community, I hope it may have some effect to correct the evil to which it has respect: if there be no present occasion for it here, it may still be well that it has been before us, as it may serve to forestall evils which, here, as well as elsewhere, are incident to churches ; being the offspring of human nature.
No. 10. Vol. XVII.]
[WHOLE No. 202.
DELIVERED IN ROCHESTER, N. Y. SEPTEMBER 12, 1843, BEFORE THE
AMERICAN BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR FOREIGN MISSIONS,
BY REV. THOMAS H. SKINNER, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE MERCER STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH NEW YORK.
PROGRESS, THE LAW OF THE MISSIONARY WORK.
« Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”—Philippians iii. 13.
When this service, by another's relinquishing it, was unexpectedly devolved on me, I too should most gladly have declined it, on account of the imperfect state of my health, had there been any one to whom I was at liberty to transfer it. And there was another reason which might well have led me to shrink from the duty of this hour, were it not that providential calls are designed for those to whom they come. I regard the present occasion as of very great sacredness, and as imposing on me one of the gravest responsibilities of my life. The representatives of three thousand churches are assembled to consult together upon the work of giving the gospel to the world. They have appointed me to speak to them in the name of Christ, concerning the business of their meeting : surely I may ask without disparaging myself or any other person, who is sufficient for the just performance of such an office! It calls for so unusual an unction from above, for so peculiar and uncommon a baptism of the Holy Spirit, not to mention other high qualifications, that I suppose no one living, duly aware of its demands, could undertake it without fear and trembling
When I began to cast about my thought to find an appropriate subject of discourse, this Missionary Institution presented itself before
*The author was the alternate of the Rev. Dr. Tyler of the East Windsor Theological Institute.
me in two aspects. At first I beheld it as having already a vast and most weighty charge on its hands : eighty-six stations among the distant heathen, with five hundred laborers; sixty-two churches with twenty-three thousand members; and more than six hundred schools with twenty-seven thousand pupils ; besides numerous printing establishments, with their founderies and presses for the use of the missions : a trust demanding so large a measure of liberality and of devoted and patient care, and being in itself of so unrestrainable a tendency to growth, that the fear would obtrude itself, of its becoming a burden which would not be long endured, without retrenchment and reduction. And this apprehension was strengthened by the monthly returns of deficiency to meet the expenses, which, until lately, was becoming larger and larger; and also by the following remarks in the last Annual Report : "While the heathen world never presented such openings as now for missionary labors, there are all over christendom indications as if the work would not be conducted on a much broader scale, without a new impulse from on high.” “We are now only where it was needful we should have been four years ago.” “This great and favored community has been virtually at a stand for a series of years in the work of Foreign Missions :" and there was yet further confirmation to this forboding, in certain intimations here and there given, that the Board has advanced about as far as it is expedient it should go in this work. These things almost seemed decisive in favor of my making a discourse against retrogression-of undertaking to demonstrate that the apprehension adverted to is groundless ; that no station need be surrendered, no missionary recalled, no church left in its infancy, as sheep in the wilderness, without a shepherd; no school dissolved ; no pupil dismissed : that the business of the Society is in no danger of becoming unmanageable ; that this noble work of modern evangelism need not commence so soon a backward movement. In this decision, however, I could not rest; for while I mused, this association assumed another appearance. I regarded it as sustaining other relations and responsibilities. It appeared in my view as a company of the followers of Christ, banded together by his command and his spirit, and also by mutual covenants and pledges to attempt the Evangelization of the world. Instantly, the large and numerous missionary associations already existing, with the extreme difficulty of sustaining them, passed fromnotice. They could no longer be thought of. For now the whole earth, with its corruption, guilt, and ruin presented itself as the field of action, and the perfect occupation of it with Christian churches and institutions was the labor to be done-the burden to be borne. To this enterprise, in its world-wide extent, and with its demand for resources existing only in God, every member of this Board stood committed, by virtue of his holy calling, so that it had been a violation of their Christian compact to disavow the accomplishment of this, as what they distinctly designed, and what they assuredly expected, along with others, and with help from God, to be instrumental in achieving
With this apprehension of their character and undertaking, such a strain of address as the first view suggested, could have no reconcilement. It was dismissed at once, and instead thereof, the point which it seemed most needful for me to enlarge upon before my Fathers and Brethren of this sacred association, was that they go forward with their undertaking, on the principle which governed the Apostle in his personal religion; namely, that of forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before. Accordingly I determined to speak to you with whatever measure of grace and strength God might give me, ON THE REASONS FOR PROGRESS IN THE MISSIONARY WORK—THE WORK OF EVANGELIZING THE
1. A great and fundamental reason lies in the very nature of Christianity. In the Christian scheme the following facts are essential :that mankind are in a state of sin, and dying in this state are utterly lost; that their recovery can be effected only by their being christianized, or brought under the power of the gospel ; that the gospel can do nothing where it has not been propagated or is unknown; that Christian Missions are the necessary means of its propagation, and that under the Divine blessing, these means are adequate, and their end certain. These facts which are, we may say, the groundwork of missions, their plea, their justification, their praise, are also an argument which no one can answer, for their most thorough and vigorous prosecution. They make an appeal to the hearts of Christians, which if it was justly responded to, would at once constitute the universal church a missionary society, and would keep missions advancing with increasing speed and power, until no man would be left beneath the wide vault of heaven without the knowledge of the gospel. These great primary truths of Christianity render all degrees of missionary apathy in the church her unspeakable dishonor and reproach, implying unparalleled hardness of heart, if not downright insincerity in her confession of Christ. We propound it, therefore, as a matter self-evident and unquestionable, that Chrsstianity should either be renounced as an imposture, or else be propagated through the world with all possible diligence; that there is no middle way, which reason does not instantly repudiate, between denying the gospel altogether and going forward with the work of spreading it among the nations of the earth, until the universal human race is brought under its influence.
II. The next reason is that the great Missionary Commandment has not passed away. The charge of Christ to his first disciples was meant for us who are here this day, as absolutely and perfectly as it was for them. If our Divine Lord were at this meeting in bodily presence, and standing up visibly before us, should address to us the words, “ All power is given to me in heaven and on earth : go ye therefore into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;"