Imágenes de páginas

would be doomed a prey to an imperishable worm, and to the racking torments of an interminable hell. But, blessed be God, “life and immortality are brought to light through the Gospel." In the very means we are using, eternal life is given; in the very seed we are sowing, the first principles of a blissful immortality are disseminated. And as it becomes moistened with the dews of heaven, and warmed by the genial influences of God's Spirit, it expands, and germinates, and grows, it buds, and blossoms, and fructifies; and it is our painless duty at once to nurture and to defend it, till it be transplanted into the paradise of God, where it will flourish throughout eternity. The work, then, my brethren, in which we are employed is, by the assistance of God, to effect a change in the general appearance of things ; and all the instructions which we deliver, whether by conversation, or example, or preaching, or catechetically,--they may be all considered as so many means towards the great end for which we are labouring, -the transformation of the moral surface of the world; so that the “ wilderness shall become a fruitful field," and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.”

But we remark,

II. That an assiduous persévérance is enjoined upon us in the prosecution of this enterprise.

“ In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand.” We are to give “ line upon line,” and “precept upon precept ;” not only “here a little,” but “there å little” also. The great principles of Christianity are to be often brought under mental review; and that the more frequently, according to the degree of ignorance, and waywardness, and vacillation under which the mind existed previous to its reception of them. If such a course is found necessary amongst experienced Christians in civilized society, how much more expedient is it for the catechumens of the New-Zealand church, who have but lately emerged from a state of profound barbarism! To produce an abundant crop, the seed is not only to be scattered, but watched with unceasing care through all the future stages of its growth. The nature of the soil itself, the remaining existence of weeds, and the power of unfavourable circumstances, are all so many reasons which demand perseverance and attention. And in proportion as the value of the soul exceeds that of the body, in proportion as the “meat which perisheth” is inferior to that which “ endureth unto everlasting life,” in the same ratio must our unmitigated perseverance be applied to the work of moral culture in which we are engaged.

1. The necessity of such perseverance arises, in the first place, from the natural barrenness of the soil -- from the innate depravity of the human heart ; barren as relates to every thing which is good, but productive of every thing which is evil and pernicious. It is not merely indisposed to the one, but decidedly inclined to the other; as prone to

sin as the sparks to fly upward. It possesses an inherent antipathy (so to speak) to foster the seeds of divine truth ; and exhibits a corresponding fecundity in the production of error. As weeds are to the earth, so sin is to the soul; and, after all our attention, they will still spring up, and exert their different degrees of perniciousness. The remaining ignorance, and superstition, and prejudice of the mind will each contribute its part to destroy what little goodness is implanted, either by subtracting the principle of life from the root, or by choking, with their exuberance, its advancement to perfection. It will, therefore, be the object of our perseverance, either to extract them altogether, or to neutralize their effects. Ignorance must yield its place to instruction; and, as knowledge advances, superstition and prejudice will disappear.

2. The influence of unfavourable circumstances is another demand upon our assiduity in the work. This may arise from the want of novelty. As to scriptural history and doctrinal information, there is novelty enough ; but that of external worship, and duties, and ceremonies is worn away by constant practice. Frequent use has rendered these common; and the effect of mere repetition is to produce disgust. And we would here remark, that though the custom of embracing Christianity by tribes may be connected with minor advantages, yet, upon the whole, it seems far from being desirable. When a system of religion is embraced by scores, because it is embraced by one, (by their own Chief, or by any one else,)—and in many cases, probably, for no other reason at all than simply because that one embraces it, it makes us anxious as to the reality and stability of their faith, and suspicious as to the sincerity of their motives. The ten persecutions of Rome had no other effect on the primitive church, than to establish it in the faith ; but when a part of the pagan world embraced Christianity because it was espoused by Constantine the Great, it gradually declined beneath their fostering patronage, and fell from bad to worse, until it was well-nigh lost in the darkness of the Middle Ages. And it is to be feared, that were the pompous rites of eastern idolatry to succeed the fooleries of the more plausible, but equally idolatrous, system of Popery, and be introduced into this country, their novelty alone would induce attention and support; and amongst their devotees would be found a host of renegades from many a Christian church, but who have no foundation on which to build their faith, and who are perfectly unable to give a reason for their change.

3. Another unfavourable circumstance, which calls for our perseverance, is the spiritual lukewarmness of the people. Like the Laodiceans of old, they are “neither cold nor hot.” In the outward services of religion they manifest a praiseworthy attendance and devotion ; and it is very gratifying to behold the extreme curiosity with which they inquire into the meaning of God's word. But the generality of them seem to stop at the very threshold of religion, substituting the means

for the end, and seeking no other. For instance : How little of true repentance, of faith, and of inward purity, do we meet with! Where are the streaming eyes, the heaving breast, the uplifted hands, the reverential knees, the faltering tongue, the contrite, broken heart? How seldom is the monotony of our usual duties interrupted by the injected cries of “God be merciful to me a sinner!" or, “ What must I do to be saved ?” And how seldom are we gladdened with the voice of praise and thanksgiving, for the extended mercy and pardoning love of God! And yet, my brethren, this only affords us a stronger reason for our perseverance, for our continued labours and our prayers. If God has done so much for this people, will he leave off in the middle, and do no more? The much which has been received is rather a sign that much more is in reserve: else where is the meaning of the injunction,-“In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand ?" Let us, then, still go on sowing the precious seed, though it be with weeping. Let us still “cast our bread upon the waters ;” and though we find it not now, yet we shall“ find it after many days;” for “they that sow in tears shall reap in joy."

4. The inundations of pride and self-conceit, by which the partially enlightened mind is in danger of being overwhelmed, is another circumstance unfavourable to our object. It is a lamentable fact, that by this means the Gospel, which ought to be the “savour of life unto life,” frequently becomes the “savour of death unto death.” The very blessing of God, through the perversity of man, is turned into a curse. It is true, the New-Zealander is not alone in this respect. Do we not often detect it in ourselves ? and is it not sometimes apparent in our superiors? And yet the line of distance between what a philosopher knows, and what remains to be known, is not less visible and remarkable than that between the state of a Christian native, instructed in religious truth, and the state of ferocity and cannibalism in which he but lately existed; and, therefore, there is as much excuse for one as for the other. Yet, wherever such a feeling predominates, -as it is a certain bar to future improvement,-it must be our object to undermine or to destroy it, either by taking away the occasions of vanity, or by nipping it in the bud. And, perhaps, amongst others, one method would be to discourage that incessant roving of uncommissioned and unqualified native men, who traverse the country in all directions, and unsettle the minds of the inquisitive by their confused and foolish thoughts, and interpretations of Scripture. And, perhaps, an enlarged system of education might be devised, (would our funds admit of it,) for the instruction of those youths who might eventually, and with advantage, be called forth to fulfil the office of native Teacher. We need never expect the truths of the Gospel to be accurately understood and fully practised, beyond the immediate precincts of our several sta

tions, until something of the kind is adopted. This is not merely a sowing of individual seed; but the plants thus raised are trained up and nurtured, that they may grow to seed themselves, and inseminate the whole island with their produce. The seed would thus be plentifully scattered “ beside all waters,” and an abundant harvest would be the result.

5. Further: Opposition to the Gospel, and its influence on the native mind, is likewise a claim upon our assiduity. It is a recorded fact, though not a necessary consequence, that the Christian church has prospered the most when its members have been opposed. As yet but little of weighty opposition has been experienced in this Mission, save what Popery presents; and this appears to have been a happy design of Providence in favour of these natives, considering the general weakness of their faith, and the instability of their purposes. Perhaps God has reserved such opposition until they be strong, and able to bear it; until the plant has become bardier, and its root has taken faster hold on the earth ; until the husbandman shall have fenced it round, and supported it, and prepared it for resistance. Still, however, they have to contend with opposition in its more mitigated forms; and it is our duty to cherish their desponding minds, to dissipate its proverbial pouritanga, and to cultivate it in the most adapted manner, that it may be enabled to overcome the temptations of the present, and to withstand the adversities of the future.

6. If, my brethren, we would have further reasons for engaging our perseverance in this work-in the cultivation of the Lord's vineyard,let us look at the shortness of the season. Whilst we are sleeping, and dreaming of an eternal spring, time is flying, and summer draweth nigh. Man's life is but “a vapour,” scattered with a breath; and we know not how soon it may pass away. Sickness, and disease, and death are hastening him to his eternal home. We may be taken first, and our flocks be left as “sheep without a shepherd;" or our people may be taken first, in their sins, and in their blood; and leave us to the torments of self-reproach and condemnation, if we have not persevered to the utmost to save them. Let us look at the extent of the field. Upwards of a thousand plants for each of us to cultivate! Upwards of a thousand plots of ground for each to till, and each separate plot a work of life! Upwards of a thousand minds to instruct, a thousand souls to save ! and each soul to live for ever, and proclaim to all eternity our attention or neglect! Let us look at the scarcity of the labourers. Half a hundred men, in both Societies, for the whole New Zealand work! and these fifty must do it all! If it is not done by them, it will remain undone, and thousands will perish for lack of knowledge. “The harvest is plenteous, but the labourers are few;" and in proportion to their fewness must be the extent of their labour, and the continuance of their application. And let us look at the

are now

value of the crop. All other produce is but of temporary growth, and subject to decay. “In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withereth.” But the fruits of the Spirit are of eternal value, because they proceed from an eternal source, and will have an eternal duration. And, because of its deathless nature, the loss of such a soul is an eternal and irrecoverable loss. But the value of a seed is not confined to itself: it contains within itself the germ and existing principle of others. And who can tell how many souls shall be saved by the salvation of one? Whilst one part of the crop is collected, and stored away into the granary of heaven, another part of it is left, as the seed of the church, to impregnate the earth; and so on continuously through all the ages of futurity, until the Son of man shall commission his angels to reap the world, and proclaim the “harvest-home.” How many a sheaf will then be found, which has sprung from the very seed which we sowing! And how will it then gladden our hearts, to think that even angels are employed to reap the produce of our incessant toil and perseverance ! Let us, then, my dearest brethren, go on in our “ work of faith, and labour of love;" “let us not be weary in well-doing;" but let us persevere now, and persevere unto the end; “ for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

But we proceed to observe,

III. That that perseverance is to be maintained irrespective of success.

It has been often, and very justly, remarked, that “ success is no rule of duty.” As the duty itself must exist previous to its performance, it is therefore independent of that good or ill success with which it may be attended. If an explicit command is given, and we know ourselves to be the agents to whom it is given, the course of duty is at once exhibited, and the object of our pursuit evinced, without the least reference to future contingencies. Obedience may be succeeded by events as much opposed to our expectations as to our hopes, and their effect on the mind may serve only to abate its ardour, and to depress its spirit. Yet, notwithstanding the oppressive and dejecting influence which such events are calculated to infuse, so long as the command itself remains unaltered and unrepealed, its obligation continues, and the terms which bind us to its execution are as imperative now as if it had been but recently delivered. Now, we are commanded to “preach the Gospel,” and to deliver the ordinances; we are commanded to “ sow the seed,” and to cultivate the vineyard, of the Lord. The terms of the commission are as plain and authoritative as the Saviour could have uttered them. As it extends to “the end of the world,” to the terminating limit of time, the injunction is as obligatory upon us as it was upon the Apostles ; and, as the agents of the church, our present and eternal happiness is involved in our obedience,-obedience

« AnteriorContinuar »