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variety of methods. In some periods, he has lifted over it the rod of correction; and at others, has kindled around it the fires of persecution. But the proper means of keeping alive his Church is doubtless its great and appropriate work-the work of co-operating with him in spreading abroad the religion of the Saviour. Accordingly it has in all instances exhibited the most life and vigor, when called to make the most costly sacrifices, and the most laborious exertions, for the diffusion of the gospel. Look at the Church in the days of the apostles. When has it put on its garments of beauty, and shone forth, as it did then? And if equal life and vigor are ever imparted to it again, it must probably be, under an equal pressure of calls and obligations, in regard to the work of spreading the gospel.
On the whole, my brethren, we have the utmost reason to be not only satisfied but thankful, that God is not accomplishing his plans and promises alone; but is graciously pleased to honor and benefit his unworthy children, by admitting them as "workers together with him," in advancing his holy cause and kingdom.
1. If the view we have taken of this subject iš correct, then many probably are under a mistake in regard to the work of spreading the gospel. The enemies of religion will of course regard the labor of promoting it as needless and oppressive; and the friends of religion may in some instances have so far coincided with them, as to consider and speak of it as a burthen. They may not have refu ed utterly to engage in it, but whatever they have done has been
from a sense of duty, and not of privilege-from a regard to the authority of their Saviour, and not from a consideration of the general interests of the Church. The remarks which have been made are fitted to convince such persons, that they have entertained low and unworthy views of the work of spreading the gospel. This work we have seen is more a privilege than a burthen. Paul was thankful that he was permitted to bear an important part in it; and Christians now have reason to be thankful that they may have a part too. Instead of considering it a burthen, which their Saviour has imposed, and from which they cannot be released; they should regard it as a privilege which he has in mercy granted, and of which they could not on any account consent to be deprived.
2. If the work of spreading the gospel is a privilege to the Church, then all openings and opportunities for engaging in it should be viewed with gratitude by Christians. How do we feel, my brethren, in respect to other things which we esteem as privileges? Do we not regard new openings and opportunities for improving and enjoying them as occasion of gratitude? The Apostle Paul urged it upon his brethren to pray for him, that "God would open unto him a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ;" although he was aware at the same time that such an opening must involve him in new labors and sufferings, and although he was at that moment, for his attachment to the gospel, a prisoner"in bonds." He regarded every new opportunity of labor and usefulness as a precious privilege to be seized and improved—a privilege, for which prayers should be offered, and thanks returned. And it obviously becomes us to view the subject in the same light. We
should consider every new field of labor which is opened, every new Missionary that is raised up, every new and practicable method of doing good which is devised, and every new opportunity which is afforded of making exertions or contributions for the spread of the gospel, not as an additional burthen imposed upon us, but as a new and precious privilege, to be acknowledged with gratitude, and to be improved so far as other and higher considerations will ad
3. If the work of promoting the gospel is a privilege to the church, then those christians who are most engaged in it enjoy the greatest privileges, and are the most happy. This remark has been true in all periods of the church, and is true now. Who was ever more engaged in this benevolent work than the Apostle Paul; and viewing his whole existence as a Christian, where was there ever a more highly privileged or a more truly happy man? During his ministry on earth, notwithstanding his many and cruel sufferings, he customarily spoke of himself as having "great joy”-being "filled with joy"-and as being “ exceeding joyful in all his tribulations." And who can describe the ever flowing tide of his joys, now he has entered on his eternal rest? How much more happy was he on earth, and how much more happy will he be forever, than though his course had been that of a comparatively idle and slothful christian? and as it was in his case, so is it in every other. Those individuals now, and those churches, and those portions of the christian world, which are most engaged for the spread of the gospel, are doubtless the most highly privileged, and altogether the most happy.
4. If the work of spreading the gospel is a privilege to christians, then none can vainly excuse themselves from it without doing themselves an injuryPersons often, and those too on whom the world has lavished some of its best favors, excuse themselves from contributing for the spread of the gospel, under the pretence that they are not able. They cannot do it, without intrenching upon what they esteem their necessary comforts, and doing themselves a real injury. But persons in such circumstances ought to reflect, that so far from being injured by contributions and exertions for the spread of the gospel, they cannot excuse themselves from the work without being injured. This work we have seen, is not a burthen, but a privilege; and to all to whom it is proposed it furnishes ground, not of complaint, but of devout thankfulness. All persons therefore, however they may view the subject, who criminally neglect it, or excuse themselves from it, are denying themselves a real privilege, and doing themselves a great injury.
Let us, my brethren, endeavour to catch and to feel the spirit of the subject, as it has been here presented. If the work of spreading the gospel is indeed a privilege, then we live in a day of peculiar privileges. We live in a day, when much is attempted, and much done, in this important and benevolent work; and when opportunities of engaging in it are continually recurring. The greatness of our privileges in this respect imposes a weight of responsibility, and we must expect to be called to a solemn account for the manner in which we have improved them. How then have we improved them; and what account shall we be able to render in the final day? Do we not know, that many opportunitiesof doing good to Zion, have been suffered to pass
without improvement? Do we not know, that we have done and enjoyed very little in the service of our Divine Master, compared with what we ought to have done and enjoyed? And does it not now become us, by increased activity and diligence, to redeem the time, and redeem the privileges, which we have lost? I have sometimes urged the work of spreading the gospel simply on the ground of duty; but here I may urge it on the ground of interest. God could have accomplished this work without the aid of his people; but in that case his people must have suffered. It is an honor, a privilege, and a mercy to them, that he is pleased to employ them. Let it then be their highest emulation, not who shall make the least exertions and sacrifices, but who shall make the greatest; and as they value their own personal interest, let them be willing to engage in their appointed work, with zeal, with diligence, and with untiring devotedness. Amen.