« السابقةمتابعة »
To the weight and importance of their doctrines were added the charms and advantages of novelty.—But it will be recollected, that neither Christ nor his Apostles ever pretended to establish a new religions Theirs was merely a new dispensation of the true religion, which had been the same in every previous age. They taught "none other things than what Moses and the Prophets did say should come." It will also be recollected, that the Christian religion, when first made known to idolatrous nations, is as new to them now, as it could have been then. And it may well be questioned, in either case, whether the novelty of the system is any recommendation of it. Does not the inquiry, "what new religion is this"? which Missionaries then, and Missionaries now, are obliged to hear so often asked, and asked too by way of reproach, occasion them on the whole more hurt than good?
Let us now turn from a consideration of the superior advantages of the primitive saints for propagating the religion of Christ, to notice, several particulars in which we obviously have an advantage over them.
One of these, and one of no inconsiderable magnitude, results from the modern inprovements in the art of Navigation. By the invention of the magnetic needle, and its application to the purposes of Navigation, the wide world of waters is easily explored, and the most distant parts of the globe are brought as it were together. Doubtless Paul would have deemed it a very great privilege, could he have enjoyed, in respect to this, the advantages of modern travellers and Missionaries. A voyage in our days half round the globe would not probably be more arduous or te lions, than his little excursion from Jeru salem to Rome.
Another invention of vast advantage to us as an instrument of promoting the gospel, is the art of printing.—In primitive times, to obtain copies of the Scriptures, or of other valuable works, when the whole must be transcribed with the pen, was necessarily tedious and expensive. I remember to have seen it stated somewhere, that it once cost the same in England to procure a copy of the Scriptures, as to build one of the arches of the London bridge. But with what comparative ease are books now circulated and multiplied? How would Paul have exulted, could he have gone forth on his Missionary excursions, bearing thousands of Bibles and Tracts? Or could he, within a few days, and at a trifling expense, have placed his invaluable Epistles into ten thousand different bands ? No miracle he ever wrought, or perhaps thought of, would in his estimation have been so important to him as the privilege of doing this. • Our advantages for spreading the gospel are superior to those of the primitive disciples, in that we enjoy the protection of government. This they did not enjoy. They labored at the constant hazard, not merely of all their worldly comforts, but of their personal liberty and lives. The Apostle Paul represents himself as having been, simply because of his attachment to the gospel, "in perils” almost innumerable, “in stripes above measure, in prisons frequent, and in deaths oft." During a considerable part of his public ministry, he was an "ambassador in bonds." He was obliged to pursue his most benevolent labors under the suffering and embarrassment of wearing a chain. Would he have deemed it no privilege could he have been released from this painful species of confinement? And could he have been delivered from his constant exposure to stripes, impris
ment, and death? Would he have deemed it no prive ilege, if, instead of the persecution of the civil powers, he could have enjoyed their protection, as Ministers and christians do at the present day?
The numbers and acquirements of Christian teach ers, and of christians generally, at the present time, give them great advantages over the primitive saints in relation to the work of spreading the gospel. When christianity began to spread, the number of its public teachers was few; and for several years afterwards, they could not have been numerous. And not only so, they were generally, in the usual sense of the term, illiterate. However important in other respects their ministerial qualifications might have been, they were deficient in a knowledge of books and in a knowledge of the world. They had never enjoyed opportunities of becoming extensively learned. And with little qualification, these re marks may be extended to the whole primitive christian family. The number of christians was few at first, and though it constantly and rapidly increased, it did not often draw within its compass those who were distinguished for their literary attainments." Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble were called." In their first attempts to extend the gospel, and particularly among Greeks and Romans, Christians were obliged to as sume the embarrassing attitude of teachers in relation to those who, both in their own estimation and in that of the world, were far more learned than themselves.
But in respect to Christians at the present time, the opposite of nearly all this is truth. The present number of Christians is very great. Of those now living who bear the christian name, there cannot be less than two hundred million souls. The present
number of Christian teachers is also great. the vast multitude of Ecclesiastics connected with the Roman Catholic and Greek communions, the number of Protestant Christian Ministers must amount to many thousands. And should we retrench even from these all such as are essentially disqualified for preaching the gospel; still there would remain a mighty host, who love their Master and his work, and who are highly qualified with learning and talents, as well as piety, to inculcate and defend the faith of the gospel, and to promote its universal prevalence and triumph. And the Christian world at the present period, instead of being inferior in knowledge and civilization to the other portions of the globe, is vastly and confessedly superior. This is the portion, to which Mahometan and Heathen nations must ultimately look, not only for their religion, but for most other things which are truly valuable either in science or in the arts of life.-The facts here stated conconstitute obviously not a single advantage, but a powerful train of advantages, in the hands of Christians at the present day for spreading the gospel.
The mode of operation pursued by Christians at present, affords them some advantages over the primitive saints, in their efforts to advance the kingdom of Christ.-Formerly, the different parts of this arduous and important work seem not to have been accurately defined, or properly distributed. The division of labor into the two distinct kinds, of making contributions and exertions at home, and acting as Missionaries abroad, was not sufficiently understood. And to such as were inclined to make contributions, the most desirable facilities probably were not afforded. The plan of combining efforts by means of organized associations, so far as appears, was un
known. Whatever was done, therefore, was done individually; and those who were able to do but little would not think it of consequence to attempt any thing. Those also who actually went to the Mission field, seem either to have overlooked, or (what is more probable) were prevented by the force of circumstances from employing, one of the most powerful means ever devised of assailing the empire of darkness;-I mean the establishment of schools, for the religious instruction and benefit of heathen youth.
It will be admitted, I should think, in view of these remarks, that the present mode of Missionary operation is in several respects superior to the ancient; and consequently that it places advantages in our hands of which the early Christians were destitute. The necessary division of labor between those who contribute at home, and those who are active abroad, is now understood and universally obtains. And to such as are willing to aid the work by their contributions, every desirable facility is at present afforded. The smallest mite is not refused, nor is it bestowed in vain. Every rill is directed into its proper channel; and every channel into a still broader stream; and the effect of all united is to swell the current of that mighty river, which is making glad the city of our God. Associations composed of individuals, and these united in larger auxiliaries, and these again combining their power, and bringing it to bear exclusively upon a single object-the dissemination of gospel truth,-must obviausly give to the charities of the present day all that energy and efficiency which system and union are able to impart.-The Missionaries abroad too are every where availing themselves of the benefits of schools. They are carrying into effect a system of