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“Son of man, if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Christian missionaries have executed their commission when they have made all possible efforts to bring the gospel in contact with the minds of men. They can do no more. The hearing ear, the awakened conscience, the understanding heart, the willing obedience, are all the appropriate work of the Holy Spirit. Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase.
Now there has been a commencement of preparations of this sort in very many of the benighted nations and tribes of men. In hundreds of dark places the truth begins to shine ; in most very feebly, nevertheless it shines, and there is a gradual and constant increase of the light of life. Some millions of immortal minds are no longer in the total darkness they once were; and all that is necessary to make full preparation for the Spirit among the heathen, is to have these lights multiplied and increased in brightness, so as to throw the rays of truth over all nations.
The other preparations, resulting from providential movements in society, are on a far more extended scale. "God, by means of a thousand causes, is fast throwing the world open to his people, and is even bringing large portions of it either under the government or the controlling influence of Christian nations. He is furnishing his people with means for making the gospel bear on the minds of men, far more powerful than he saw fit to bestow on his people in former ages; and he is taking away the impediments to traveling, and making access easy to almost all parts of the world. In a word, who can look over the earth, and not believe that providential preparations are in progress on a vast scale for the coming of the Spirit ? While the preparatory agency of good men is beheld only here and there, providential preparations are going on, at this moment, throughout the habitable earth. And doubtless there are, too, preparatory influences of the Spirit himself on the minds of men, even where the gospel is not known, and where there is no truth except a few rays of the light of nature. But on this I shall not now dwell.
To do justice to this part of the subject, I must call attention to one other cheering indication, namely,
5. In some recent events in heathen lands, which seem like forerunners to this advent of the Spirit.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these events is the recent outpouring of the Spirit at the Sandwich Islands. Such an outpouring as that was in connection with all the other protestant missions now in the heathen world, would bring millions of souls into the visible church in a single year. And it is well known that many of the islands in the South Pacific ocean, where English missionaries are laboring, have been blessed with similar gracious visitations. In Tinnevelly, a district in southern India, there was an awakening, a few years since, which, had it extended with like power over all India, would have subverted the great Braminic system of idolatry, and made Christianity the nominal religion at least of a hundred millions, Even the recent awakening at Krishnagur, in Bengal, with only a very small amount of the light of truth, needed only to become general to overturn the superstitions of that populous province. There have also been outpourings of the Spirit in South Africa, which, if they had been more diffused, would have christianized the entire Hottentot and Caffre races. The same remark may be made respecting the Karens of Burmah, the Greenlanders, and the North American Indians. Among some small portions of the Oriental churches also, there are, at present, operations of the Spirit, which, were they extended to all portions of those churches, would raise them from their spiritual death.
Now these several agencies of the Spirit, viewed in connection with the preparatory measures already mentioned, seem like forerunners of that universal outpouring, which is to change the moral aspect of the world. They encourage the hope of such a blessing, and they may perhaps be regarded as the first fruits of it.
And it is interesting to observe how, in these events, there are diversities of operations, but the same God working all in all; how the agency of the Spirit presents itself to our view in different aspects, but all tending to the same result. The several operations that have been referred to as forerunning events, have each their distinctive traits; from the “great and strong wind," rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks, as at the Sandwich Islands, to the “ still small voice," as among the Oriental churches.
I have gone through with the argument, which seems to me fully to establish the fact, that there is yet to be a great and universal outpouring of the Spirit upon the church and the world. And can there be any reasonable doubt on the subject ? May we not yield our faith to the delightful anticipation ? Believing that we may, let us now take a brief survey of the EFFECTS of this outpouring of the Spirit.
And, first, in the CHURCH. The real people of God will be induced to enlist fully in the work of preparing the way of the Lord in every part of the habitable earth. There will be no longer any reserve, any holding back. A mighty result! but it is one which the Holy Spirit can perform with infinite ease. He has only to exert an influence upon the spiritual discernment of the soul, and upon its powers of feeling, and the work is done. Then the spiritual world opens and spreads out in glorious prospect, as Canaandid to Moses on the top of Pisgah. The whole heart, the whole man yields, voluntarily, joyfully. Where now is the fascinating, bewildering power of riches, or of the honors and pleasures of the world ? Gone! Fled before the presence of him, whose prerogative it is to proclaim liberty to spiritual captives. Ambition, pride, vanity, and the love of the world disappearing, let go their avaricious hold upon millions of wealth. God's people are made willing in the day of his power, and there is a liberal hand and a full treasury. Men come up to their duty, and feel it to be a privilege. What the amount will be of individual prayer and labor, and what the proportion will be of individual conEribution to help onward the cause of Christ in that day, I pretend
not to determine. But who believes, that the men and the women now constituting the visible church are doing all they would rejoice to do, if the Spirit were to make them this visitation? Ye who dwell in your ceiled houses, who recline on your couches of ease, whose tables are loaded with the bounties of Providence, and who have all that heart can desire, may you feel this melting, all-subduing influence. And may all be anointed with this holy anointing, baptized with this heavenly baptism, created anew in Christ Jesus by this spiritual regeneration. Even so I believe it will yet be throughout the church. The low state of benevolence, now scarcely anywhere above the lowest standard of Christian self-denial, is not always to continue thus. The true members of Christ's church are to become the subjects of a wonder-working divine energy. They are to feel the powerful influence of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich. The abundance of their joy, in their unreserved consecration of themselves to their Lord and Master, will abound in the riches of their liberality; yea, and abound too in prayer, flowing out of a full spirit that will not cease its importunities for this very blessing from on high.
What an admirable object will the Christian then be, and what an admirable object the Christian church! Zion will arise and shine, her light being come, and the glory of the Lord being risen upon her. The church will exist for the good of the world. No talents will be deemed too great for the missionary work, no learning too profound, no eloquence too fervid, no standing too elevated. What armies will be sent by the church into the empire of darkness, and what means will it put in requisition for the holy warfare !
I must here guard, however, against a serious misapprehension. Nothing in the leading sentiment of this discourse can excuse the church for delaying to enter fully upon the prosecution of this work. I have indeed stated my belief, that, in point of fact, the church will not enter upon this work as it ought to do, until the Holy Spirit is poured out upon it in more copious measure. But this belief is founded only on the fact, that the love and zeal of the church are at present wholly inadequate. Let no one urge this as forming any excuse for the church to delay the work. It can be no reason why the work should not be prosecuted to its full extent. How can the church be excusable in waiting for the grand advent of the Spirit, when the very thing it is required to do is to go before the Spirit, and prepare the way for his advent ?-and when, too, it now has all the learning, all the wealth, all the power of speech, all the facilities for traveling, that it would have, if the Spirit were thus poured out ?and when it has the most abundant favoring indications of Providence, and all it ever will have that is imperative in the command of its Savior, and all it ever can have that is affecting, that is overpowering, in motive ? How can this be a valid excuse, when all that the church needs, more than it now has, to cause it speedily to publish the gospel through the world, is more willingness, more disposition, more inclination to do what is confessedly its duty ? In view of this lamentable indisposition and backwardness, we do indeed rejoice in the promised great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Christian church ;-but then, ye people of God, ye surely can have no right to wait till ye are thus visited. If really converted men and women, how can ye have the face to demand more grace, before performing the very work for which ye were called into the kingdom!
I must also make one other remark, before proceeding to illustrate the effects of this visitation upon the world at large. In speaking of this great outpouring of the Spirit, I would by no means deny that it will be attended, for a time, by such divisions and heresies in the church, and by such fearful convulsions in and among the nations, owing to the vastly excited and as yet unsubdued state of men's minds, -as almost to realize the prophet's figurative description of wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke, the sun turned into darkness, and the moon into blood. Such a thing is not improbable. It may even be an indirect consequence of the first onset of the mighty Agent for the overthrow of iniquity. And what observing, thoughtful mind does not now perceive indications of a future war of opinion, in which religion shall be a predominant element, a war of religions as it were, more extended and more terrible than any thing of the kind yet seen, and which may at length fearfully threaten even the very existence of the true church? And it may be, and the Scriptures give countenance to the idea, that just in this emergency, God, the Holy Spirit, will come forth in the transcendent power and majesty of his grace, as he came forth, at the formation of the earth, with his creative power, upon the dark, tumultuous waters of the great deep.
And then, will the world feel a renovating spiritual influence throughout the vast extent of its population. Far more than we have seen on any of the more favored spots that have been mentioned, will then be witnessed wherever the gospel is proclaimed. The progress of the heralds of the cross will be one of light, and everywhere the rays of truth will be winged with power. At the sound of the gospel trumpet, every Jericho shall come down; and at the call of the minister of Christ, the sun shall stay his progress in the heavens. And then, as we believe, will Satan be bound that he deceive the nations no more, and satanic power and influence be withdrawn from the earth. What a change will there be in the policy of the nations, when he, who, with iron grasp, has swayed his wicked sceptre over them for ages, is hurled from his impious and bloody throne! What a change in the civil and social relations and condition of mankind! What rapid, what wonderful changes will there be daily, all over the world!' Men will yield themselves to the divine influence in masses. Nations will be born in a day. Idols and idol worship, and superstition in its thousand forms, will come to an end. How glorious the prospect! See the multitude assembled before yonder idol on the plain of Juggernaut, and in the midst, that Christian preacher. The tumult of the people around him is like the sound of many waters. But soon it is hushed. Every ear attends, every heart is touched, every eye melts, and thousands bow to the reign of Jesus. Lo, the day of mercy for the world has come. The Almighty Spirit is going forth conquering and to conquer. Brumha, and Vishnu, and Boodh, and the False Prophet, and the Man of Sin, and every other spiritual abomination in high places, flies before him, like the shades of night before the rising sun, and the messengers of the gospel have free course throughout the earth ;-till at length every island and every continent is subdued. Then the rapt visions and prophetic paintings of the latter day are realized, and Jesus reigns over a redeemed, sanctified, and happy world.
In conclusion I would ask, what hinders this work from advancing among heathen nations far more rapidly than it does at present? What is the insuperable obstacle? Alas! what can it be except the worldliness and apathy of the Christian church? The real difficulty exists no where else. To the church is given the work of preparing the way for the Spirit to bless the heathen world with its influences, and the church has not done it. The gospel has not been everywhere preached, and comparatively few minds among the heathen have yet been trained by culture to take the oversight of converts, should they be greatly multiplied in every land. Should the harvest wave over the field of the world, it would perish, yes, it would perish, for want of reapers. Why has the church so long neglected this work? Why does she neglect it now? The cry of spiritual death, that is heard over the earth, bears witness to an amazing disregard of obligation on the part of members of the church, and to a corresponding accumulation of guilt.
And who of us can plead guiltless ? Are we interested as we ought to be in the progress of Christ's kingdom? Have we prayed as we should have done? Are we doing all we can to awaken songs of praise to the Savior in every nation and tribe of mankind ? The indifference of Christians to this great work is amazing. Who would believe that a child of God, an heir of glory, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and commanded to publish abroad the tidings of his love, could think and care so little whether these tidings were thus proclaimed? And if it be so with us, how can we believe that we have the spirit of Christ? And how look forward with hope to the time, when we shall stand before him in yonder heaven, and see him face to face? Verily the church has neglected this work too long, and so have we its members. Let us arise every one, in the strength of the Lord God. He calls us from on high, and commands that so far as in us lies we prepare his way to every family, and to every human heart. No more let us take counsel of our love of the world, no more of selfishness, no more of unbelief. In the fear and love of God let us do our duty in this matter, that our own souls, in holy fellowship with the Spirit, may rejoice with self-satisfying and with everlasting joy.