Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the advancement of social life, the more enlarged and accurate notions of truth and justice, the corroboration of every civil and every domestic tie, the restoration of the other sex to their natural place in society, and the many blessed effects which flow to our own sex, from that restored society and influence; not the wisdom, the wealth, the peace, the civil liberty, which, wherever Christianity has appeared, have uniformly followed in her train, and which every nation has enjoyed more purely and perfectly in proportion as the system of Christianity which it has received has been purer and more perfect; these are not the only, nor the greatest blessings which our backwardness or indifference would deny to our uninstructed fellow creatures. These, or any one of them, would be an object worthy of the utmost exertions and ardent desires of a benevolent mind; and to accomplish which, in any considerable degree, the labour of a man's whole life would be a cheap and easy sacrifice. Who is there among us who would not rejoice, by all safe and peaceable means, to introduce a greater reverence for truth, a greater purity of language, a better founded and more consistent veneration for the obligations of justice and integrity among those with whom we dwell, to whom is entrusted the daily care of our persons, our property, and our children, and through whose agency and evidence alone, those among us who bear rule

must provide for the public peace and security ? Who is there who calls to mind the wretched follies by which men, naturally as acute and intelligent as ourselves, attempt to escape from the burden of sin, and to appease the anger of offended Heaven, without desiring to substitute repentance and a faith in that great Victim who died for the sins of the world, in place of the vain washings, the unprofitable self-mortifications, the abominable obscenity, the hideous cruelty, the ashes, the torturing irons, and the torturing flame, which engross the time, and delude the understanding, and destroy the happiness of the Indian aspirant after holiness? Who, lastly, that has either witnessed or heard but a small part of the wonderful and horrible things which, in the name of religion, are perpetrated and daily perpetrating around us, but must desire, (by the same mild and persuasive arguments which only suit our cause) to quench those funeral flames to which love, strong as death, is now consigned by interested priestcraft; to abate those murders which pollute the stream of Ganges, and add a darker horror to the hideous features of Juggernâth; and to still those innocent cries and dry up that infant blood, which day and night mount up from Central and Western India, as a witness against us, to the God and Parent of all men ?

But more is yet behind! These are not the only nor the most awful considerations which impel us to labour in the dissemination of the Christian faith. The souls of men are implicated! It is not, indeed, necessary for my argument, and it is far, very far from my inclination, to determine rashly of the final state of those that are without, and who must stand or fall to that great Master only, whose throne is established in righteousness and judgment. But whatever mercy may be shown to those that offend in ig. norance; whatever benefits may emanate (through the uncovenanted bounties of our God) from the death of Christ, towards those on whom the light of the Gospel has not shined; yet, doubtless, (if we would not resolve the privileges of the Gospel into a nullity,) a faith in Christ must be the entrance to a more certain and excellent salvation; the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which the regenerate obtain, must not only enable them to a more genuine holiness, but conduct them to a brighter glory; and, in whatever sense the Living God is the Saviour of all men, the same text, on which we ground this hope, assures us, that, in a more pre-eminent and particular sense, He is the Saviour of them which believe.' Nor is this all; for if murder, if uncleanness, if fraud, if falsehood, be breaches of that law which is written in the heart of every man, and that natural light whereby even the heathen are left inexcusable; yea, if idolatry itself be a practice, (as we find it described both in the prophetic and the apostolic writings,) no less offensive in itself to God, no less subversive of the morals of men, and no less a criminal breach of the law of nature, than it is inconsistent with the dictates of natural reason, and with those notions of the Almighty which even the visible creation inculcates; it is impossible to contemplate the spiritual state, and spiritual prospects of very many of those by whom we are surrounded, without a painful apprehension of the issue of such errors, and a very earnest wish and prayer that the knowledge and sanctifying grace of the Gospel may be in time communicated to them.

Nor can it be maintained with reason that feelings like these, and the exertions consequent on such feelings, are exclusively incumbent on a peculiar order of men, on the ministers or missionaries of Christianity. On us, no doubt, there is an additional and awful obligation; a wo is laid on us if we preach not the Gospel; and He who hath sent us forth into the world to proclaim His truth to every creature, requireth of us, beyond a doubt, our utmost endeavourswhere means of personal exertion are affordedand our utmost liberality, where we have to aid the personal exertions of our brethren. But to all, and not to the clergy only, the honour of God should be dear. On all, and not on a small minority of God's servants, the obligation is imposed of desiring the happiness and promoting the salvation of their brethren. And it is as much the duty of every Christian, in his proper sphere, and according to the means which he possesses, to lend his help in turning the sinner from the error of his ways, and delivering the blinded Gentile from the accumulated danger of his condition, as it would be to pluck his brother out of the fire, or to prevent him, by timely warning, from walking down a precipice.

“ Still,” it has been said, " for such feelings and exertions there is ample scope at home. There are thousands in our native land who, no less than the heathen, need in. structing and reclaiming, and on whom it were wiser and better to expend our missionary energies, than to intrude them on a race with whom we have no concern, and who may resent the intrusion in a manner dangerous to the dearest political interests of our nation.”

For the first of these objections there might perhaps be more plausibility, if the promoters of missionary exertions abroad were indifferent to the condition of their erring countrymen, or if they did not also labour, at least as dili

gently as their opponents, in the support of schools, in the distribution of the Scriptures, and in every other channel of benevolent exertion and expenditure, which can reclaim the wretched from the error of his ways, and instruct the ignorant in his duty. But to maintain that the danger of those who are already in possession of the means of grace, is to occupy our minds so entirely that we can spare no pity to those who have no means of grace at all, that the progress of God's kingdom is to be suspended so long as there remains, in those countries over which it has a general empire, a perverse and unbelieving remnant, is to maintain that which, if it had been held by the apostles, would have excluded us, who are now assembled, for ever from the knowledge and blessings of which we are partakers ; inasmuch as while a single Jew remained unconverted, it would have been an offence, on this principle, to offer the kingdom of God to any single Gentile. And who does not see, that the existence of misery and vice and ignorance in our own land, is no argument whatever against endeavouring, in other lands, to diminish the amount of vice and ignorance and misery, and that we are bound by every tie of reason and compassion and piety, to render honour to God's name wherever we may ourselves be thrown, and, as far as we have means and opportunity, to do good to all men without distinction.

But can it really be maintained, with any semblance of truth, or reason, or humanity, that the nations of this country, our neighbours, our domestics, our fellow-subjects, our fellow-soldiers, who toil for us; who shed their blood in our defence; whose wealth contributes so largely to the prosperity of Britain, and their valour (their faithful and invincible valour and allegiance,) so essentially promotes our security and renown; that these men, with whom we live and converse, distinguished by so many estimable and amiable qualities of intelligence, of bravery, of courteous and gentle demeanour, are devoid of a claim on all the good which we can render or obtain for them, on our affections, our bounties, our services, and, I will add, our prayers ? Can we petition their Father and ours that His glorious kingdom may come, without desiring, if we think of them at all, that they

may be partakers in it with us? or can we forget that such prayers and desires are no other than a mockery of God, unless our actions follow our lips, and we endeavour, in God's strength and help, to forward that triumph of His mercy for which we profess ourselves solicitous ?

To the plea of political danger I must not be supposed insensible. We have no right, as Christians, to attempt a good work in a manner which is likely to be attended with an immediate and preponderant evil; we are bound, as Christian subjects and citizens, so to temper our zeal with discretion, as not to disturb the peace of the land wherein we dwell, and the government from whom we receive protection. And even

setting aside all secular considerations and secular duties, we shall err most grossly against that pure and peaceable wisdom, whereby only we can attain the conversion of the heathen, if we assail their errors with any other weapon than mild and courteous and unobtrusive argument, or do any thing which can array their angry passions against those opinions which we seek to recommend to their acceptance.

But in the system which only has been tried by the members of our communion, and which only, so far as my advice or authority can reach, shall ever, by God's blessing, be attempted in India; a system studiously distinguish. ed from and unconnected with government, yet studiously kept within those limits of prudence and moderation which a wise and liberal government has prescribed; a system which, while it offers our faith to the acceptance of the heathen on the ground of its spiritual blessings, disqualifies no man, on account of his contrary opinions, from any civil or political advantage; a system which, by the communication of general instruction and general morality, imparts a knowledge and feeling which, whether they become Christians or no, must be highly valuable to them; a system which puts them in fair possession of the evidences of our creed, leaving it to themselves and their own unbiassed choice to determine between light and darkness; in such a system, so long as it is steadily adhered to, and patiently and wisely pursued, there is not, there cannot be danger.

They are their own learned men who are our teachers,

« AnteriorContinuar »