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the missionary cause. These events are appointed as the means of improving their characters, of increasing their fitness for the great work, and so of leading on to greater success in the end. There is something very animating in that principle of God's providence, which makes great disappointments, adversities, and sufferings, events which try the souls of men,-the means of bringing about great results. We see that no enterprises of extraordinary moment are carried forward smoothly and easily. Nor is it in this manner that men are prepared for such enterprises. Greatness, whether in character or in the objects accomplished, is invariably associated with difficulties, and often with what the world calls disasters. May we not, then, be permitted to indulge the cheering thought, that the various adverse and painful events which have met us in the missionary enterprise, are in reality expressions of the divine favor, and are clear indications, that the work in which we are engaged is one of singular grandeur, and that our humble endeavors for the salvation of the heathen are to be crowned with ultimate and glorious success?
The present occasion leads us to contemplate a profound mystery of divine providence, a mystery as great and unfathomable, as any of the doctrines of our religion. At the present day, almost two thousand years after Christ made propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and after so much has been done by apostles, and martyrs, and other servants of God, and so many prayers have been offered up for the spread of the gospel, and when we have been inclined to think that the darkness is almost past, and the universal reign of Christ near at hand, there is still on the island of Sumatra a tribe of cannibals, a million of human beings so savage and cruel, that they murder their fellow-men, even those who come to them on an errand of the purest love, and then, horrible thought! devour their mangled, lifeless bodies.-Where now,-we might be ready to ask,-where is the God of infinite power and grace,-where is the God who has all hearts in his hand, and who has mercy on whom he will have mercy,
-that men should any where be found possessed of a character so unutterably base and dreadful? Or if they are found, where is the God of justice, that they are not instantly cut off? But this mystery does not end with the cannibals existing in Sumatra, and in other parts of the earth. It extends, in all its unsearchableness, to the whole heathen world. Why is it,-(I do not utter the words irreverently, but to show that we are of yesterday and know nothing, and that God's ways are past finding out,)—why is it that even at this day three fourths of the human race are left in heathen darkness, having never known the name of the only Savior of lost men? Why has not God caused them to hear the glad tidings, when at any time during the ages of darkness that are past, he could have raised up unnumbered ministers, and sent them forth into all lands, and could have made the gospel preached by them, effectual to their salvation; ---yea, when he could have saved them with infinite ease, if he had seen fit, without the labor of any ministers? Why has he suffered so great a part of this world to remain a barren, frightful wilderness, when it has been in the power of his hand to make it a fruitful field?
It explains no part of this mystery to say, that the heathen are moral agents, and that God treats them as such. It is indeed very plain, and what no man ever doubted, that the heathen are moral
agents. But what if they are moral agents? They are no more so than our own forefathers were. But when God sent the gospel to our idolatrous forefathers, and converted them, he surely did it without injuring their moral agency. And if he had pleased, he could just as easily have converted any other part and every part of the heathen world. Who can suppose that any greater measure of divine influence, or any greater display of divine grace, is necessary to save those who are now pagans, than was necessary to save our pagan ancestors? There can be no doubt, that the Almighty God, had he chosen to do it, could long since could at any time-have given to his Son the heathen for his inheritance, and brought the uttermost parts of the earth to submit to his peaceful reign. The question which involves the mystery is, why has not God chosen to do it, and why has he not put forth that act of his power and grace needful to bring it to pass?
Nor does it clear up the mystery at all to say, that the Christian world has been in fault; that if they had been as benevolent and active and faithful, and as fervent in prayer, as they ought to have been; the sound of the gospel, accompanied with the power of the Holy Ghost, would long ago have reached all nations. I admit this. Still the great question remains: Why has not God made the Christian world thus benevolent, and active, and faithful, and fervent in prayer? Why has he not actually raised up well qualified ministers in sufficient numbers to accomplish the mighty work of the world's conversion? He raised up Paul and the other apostles; and he raised up Luther and Calvin, and a multitude more. And he could have raised up others in any numbers he chose, as easily as he raised up these. He could have raised up a hundred as easily as ten, and a thousand as easily as a hundred. God has had power to carry his word and his saving work long ago into the midst of China. He has had power to turn the heart of the Emperor and of all his officers to embrace the Christian religion, and to labor for its diffusion through the empire. He has had power to establish churches, schools, colleges, and seminaries there, which should long before this have raised up millions of devoted Christians, and educated thousands and thousands of faithful ministers,-yea, enough to supply the whole empire, and to send the gospel to all the surrounding countries. The mystery of mysteries is, that God, with his infinite power and wisdom and love, has not done this. And the mystery of mysteries this will doubtless be to us, till we have minds large enough to comprehend the infinitude of God's attributes, and the whole system of his works through all past and all future time. The inspired writers do not answer, and do not attempt to answer, the questions which may be raised respecting this subject, or respecting the conversion of some sinners in Christian lands, while others are passed by. They attempt to solve no part of this great mystery. They teach us, what is highly important for us to know, that God, in all these things, acts "according to the counsel of his own will," and that his will is infinitely wise and good,-and there they leave the subject;-and they leave it there, that the loftiness of man may be brought low, and that God alone may be exalted.
I shall touch upon one point more, and that is the true spirit of the Christian religion-so widely, so totally different from the spirit of the world. A tribe of cannibals in Sumatra have inhumanly killed and devoured our beloved brethren, who went there from the purest
benevolence. What now shall we do to avenge the innocent blood of these missionaries? Shall we petition our government to send forth an army to inflict signal punishment upon those monsters of cruelty, and to teach them, that American citizens cannot be injured with impunity? Or shall we pray God to send down fire from heaven to destroy them? No, brethren. The God whom we worship, is the God of love. And our Savior, infinitely merciful himself, requires all his disciples to copy his example, and to cherish a benevolent, compassionate, forgiving temper towards the worst of the human race. And when, after his resurrection from the dead, he commissioned his apostles to go forth to preach the glad tidings of salvation to all the world, he directed them to begin at Jerusalem, where so many prophets and messengers of God had been killed, yes, he directed them to begin the work of benevolence at Jerusalem, in the midst of those who hated him, and had shed his blood! Behold the true spirit of our religion! It is the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and forgiveness. It is the spirit of love-love to enemies, to persecutors, to murderers. Guided by this spirit, let us meditate no return to those who have massacred our beloved missionaries, but to labor and pray for their eternal welfare. Let the officers of our Missionary Board take special pains to send the precious blessings of the gospel to the island of Sumatra, and to the Batta territory in the interior of that island, the place where LYMAN and MUNSON were slain. And let the missionary, selected for the purpose, be solemnly instructed to preach the gospel to the inhabitants of Sumatra, beginning at Batta. With holy confidence in God, let that missionary go forward to his work of mercy among those poor, wretched cannibals. And let him search out the very men who murdered our brethren,—yes, let him be sure to search them out, and begin with them. As they are first in guilt and wretchedness, let him first seek their good. With a heart that pities them, and longs for their salvation, let him proclaim to them the glorious gospel:-Behold I bring you glad tidings. Open your ears to the message of divine love. Jesus died for sinners, for the chief of sinners; and he is able to save to the uttermost. I offer you pardon in his name; pardon for blood-guiltiness, and for all your crimes. Those Christians who sent me to you, have no feeling of revenge. They ask nothing of you, but that you would look unto Jesus, and be happy for ever in his kingdom. Thus let him preach to those degraded, miserable heathen, the unsearchable riches of Christ. And if the grace of God should touch their hearts, and bring them to repentance, and if they should at length be seen at the feet of Jesus, weeping for their sins, and weeping too at the thought of his dying love, and devoting their whole souls to him, and then going about to tell their companions in guilt, that they had found the SAVIOR, and proclaiming his abounding grace to all around them;— Oh! this would be a spectacle, at the sight of which angels would rejoice, and the report of which would fill the hearts of ten thousand believers with holy gladness. And could those two missionaries, now we trust in heaven, hear the blessed tidings of the repentance of their murderers, how would they join with the angels in their rejoicing, while with a pure, Christ-like spirit, they would feel willing to go down again to earth, and bear the pains of a hundred deaths, for the joy of beholding such precious fruits of God's Spirit, and such glorious triumphs of his grace, in the salvation of sinners!
No. 11. VOL. 9.] NEW YORK, APRIL, 1835. [WHOLE NO., 107
BY REV. JOEL MANN,
THE OBSTINATE PERVERSENESS OF MEN.
JEREMIAH Viii: 5.-They hold fast deceit; they refuse to return.
THIS solemn accusation was made by the holy and heart-searching God, against his professed people. It was delivered by the prophet, in the language of Jehovah himself. The message of which this forms a part, begins thus ;-" Moreover thou shalt say unto them, thus saith the Lord, shall they fall and not arise? shall he turn away and not return ?" That is, if a man has made a misstep and fallen, will he not immediately endeavor to arise? Will he contentedly lay prostrate on the ground, and give up the object he had in view? If he has fallen into a pit, will he not endeavor to get out as speedily as possible? Or, if a man is on a journey and has lost his way, will he not return into the right way as soon as he discovers his error? If he has turned away into a wrong road, will he not abandon it, and return to the right without delay, when he is correctly informed? In such cases men are thankful, when their error is pointed out and they are assisted in correcting it.
Why, then, said the Lord, is this people slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast deceit; they refuse to return. Here was a strange case. In regard to duty, the Lord's people would not act on the principles of common prudence and discretion. They had backVOL. 9. No. 11.
slidden and fallen, and would not endeavor to recover themselves. They were contented to lie in the dirt and filth of sin. They had wandered out of the right way and were in the road to destruction, and would not forsake it. When kindly admonished by the Lord himself, they would not return to the right way. They persisted in the wrong, knowing it to be the wrong. They held fast deceit and refused to return.
I hearkened and heard, saith the Lord, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, what have I done? Every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. The great God who had condescended to instruct and warn his people, listened to hear if any among them began to confess and repent;
-if any began to reflect on his conduct, and to say, what have I done? But they spake not aright. They did not come with humble confession. They did not cry unto the Lord with deep self-abasement. They did not forsake their evil ways; but every one turned to his favorite course, and rushed on, heedless of danger, as the ignorant and furious horse rusheth into the battle. Such were the professed people of God in days of old.
We live in a brighter age. We enjoy the instructions of the Lord from heaven. Our privileges far surpass those which were conferred upon the ancient church: and more abundant and precious fruits of piety may be expected of us. But, as I apprehend, the same disobedience, unfaithfulness, and backsliding are to be found in the professed people of God now, as in those days, when the prophet Jeremiah wept, and warned, and prayed. Let us look at the proof of this; and let us not be stiffnecked as they were of old; but solemnly regard the truth of God and faithfully apply it to ourselves. The same charge is doubtless true to a great extent, concerning professors now, which was delivered by the prophet against the Jews. They hold fast deceit, they refuse to return.
1. Professors of religion are guilty of this, when they refuse to repent of their backslidings and neglect of duty. They often acknowledge that they are imperfect, and sometimes feel that they ought to do differently. They go to a religious meeting, and conscience is a little aroused, and they perceive that they have no engagedness in religion, and nothing of the true spirit of prayer. They know this is wrong. But, instead of humbling themselves at once for this sinful departure from the Lord, they harden their hearts more and more. They satisfy themselves that they are as good as other professors, and perhaps lay the blame of their deadness and negligence upon their brethren. They think they should not have sunk down into this state of awful declen