THE GOSPEL ESSENTIALLY MISSIONARY IN ITS CHARACTER. BY JOEL HAWES, D. D.
John 20 : 21. As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
It might seem to derogate from the dignity of our Lord Jesus Christ to speak of him as a missionary among men. It is nevertheless true that he did sustain this character on earth. He was sent — and this is the essential idea of a missionary, — he was sent of the Father, on a mission of mercy to a miserable world ; and the great object of his mission he pursued with self-sacrificing love, till he exclaimed on the cross "It is finished," and gave up the ghost. Then, just before his ascension to glory, he sent forth other missionaries, the Apostles, commanding them to take up the work of evangelizing the world where he left it, and in their turn to appoint others, and these, others, that so the great work of mercy might go on till the whole world should be converted to God. In all this our blessed Lord acted in the spirit of his own religion. He showed what 34*
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is the nature of that religion and what its proper fruits in all
who come practically under its influence.
These remarks suggest the subject of my discourse, which is this, — The religion of the gospel is essentially missionary in its spirit and design. In illustration of this sentiment let us consider,
1. The origin of this religion. Viewed, objectively as a system of grace and truth, it originated in the bosom of everlasting love. It is not indigenous in our world. The soil of the human heart is not congenial to its growth. The apostacy exiled religion from the earth, and spread barrenness and death over all the abodes of men. In this state God beheld our race, a race ruined by sin, and in the counsels of eternity, his thoughts were turned upon the great work of human redemption. Darkness, deep and fearful, had overspread the prospects of man, and it had been a darkness without any dawn forever, if God had not so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son to die. Here is the fountain head of light and hope to our lost world. In the mission of his Son, God the Father embodied a system of truth and grace,, and in his person sent it forth from its native heaven on a visit of mercy to the abodes of men. Go, said the Eternal, to yonder world of wretchedness and guilt, and there make known my purposes of love ; seek»out the poor and the perishing of every name and tell them of the glad tidings of salvation, and rest not in thy
mission of love till all the ends of the earth shall hear of my grace and turn unto the Lord. Thus the origin of the religion of the Bible distinctly marks its missionary character. It came down from heaven, was sent hither to enlighten, to bless and save mankind ; its field is the world ; and its work here below will not be done till there shall not be a village, nor hamlet, nor dwelling of man on all the globe, unvisited by the light of truth, unblessed by the joys of salvation.
2. Consider the nature of the religion of the gospel. This is love, benevolent, self-sacrificing love, like the source whence it sprung. It was so characterized by the angels who announced the birth of its Divine Author, — "on earth peace, good will to men." This is the essential character of Christ's religion. Its doctrines, duties, invitations, promises, and even its Ihreatenings, breathe of love. They are instinct with the spirit of kindness and good will toward the needy and the miserable of every name. Now, such a spirit is necessarily diffusive. It seeks to spread itself abroad ; it can not be confined
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at home or within the narrow walls of selfishness, any more than the light which emanates from the san can be confined in
a dark room. The very attempt to confine, extinguishes it. As love in the bosom of God leads him to do good, so when a portion of that love is breathed into the bosoms of any of his creatures, it impels them also to do good ; it melts the cold and selfish heart into sympathy and tenderness, and inspires in the soul a warm and generous desire to diffuse, as widely as possible, the blessings of which itself has been made the happy partaker. How does love, benevolence, operate in the common relations of life ? Is it a sluggish, inoperative principle, choosing to keep at home, and to care and do only for itself? What are the feelings of the mother as she thinks of her sailor boy far off on the deep, or of a son suffering captivity in a distant land ? Is there no going forth of tender sympathy toward the object of her affection ; no sharing with him the hardships of his condition, in the dreams of the night ; no promptings of desire, by day, to go and minister to his comfort ? You have a friend whom you sincerely love ; he is at a distance from you. and you hear that he is sick and in want. What is the first feeling that rises in your bosom, what the most earnest desire that occupies your mind ? Is it not that in some way you may contribute to the relief of your friend ; may go and visit him in his sickness and sympathize with him in his sufferings ? So angels, impelled by benevolence, delight to go forth on missions of love, ministering here below to the heirs of salvation ? So the redeemed in heaven rejoice over sinners repenting on earth. And so all who have the spirit of the redeemed, the spirit
breathed into the bosom by the religion of Christ, can not but feel a sympathy for their needy, perishing fellow men. Like the Saviour they will compassionate their condition ; and though they may not be called to be missionaries themselves, they will assuredly possess the spirit of missions, so far as they possess the spirit of the religion of Christ, and will rejoice in every opportunity to send the blessings of that religion far and wide over the earth. ^^M
3. The missionary charatcer of the religion of the gospel is manifest from the declared design of that religion. This is to spread abroad the blessings of salvation as wide as the ruins of the fall. The mission of our Saviour into the world contemplated nothing short of this. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. The great plan of mercy, as disclosed in the Bible, is not confined to the people of any one age or na-
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tion. The atonement and the various provisions of grace revealed in the gospel were designed for all mankind, for the whole world. And further, it is the declared purpose of God, declared in numerous and most explicit passages in his word, that the free and ample provisions of his grace shall be pub-
lished over all the earth, and the offer of salvation made to every human being.
But how is this to be done ? The gospel can not publish itself to the nations. Nor will the needy and the perishing, whether of our own or of foreign lands, moved by an impulse from themselves, come where the gospel is, seeking its light and salvation. No, its treasures of grace and truth lie inclosed in a silent, speechless volume ; and it is for those who have that volume in their hands, and are blessed with its joys and hopes, to fulfill the purpose of God in respect to it, by sending it abroad to enlighten and bless the whole family of man. Its missionary design and character are to be carried out and illustrated by the living preacher, going forth to publish its glad tidings to those who are perishing for lack of vision ; and in this divine work all the friends of the Redeemer, impelled by the fervors of Heaven's benevolence, are, in their respective places, to bear a part. They are the representatives of the divine mercy in the world ; the selected agents through whom the missionary spirit of the gospel is to flow, as through its appropriate channels, to do away the effects of the curse, and clothe with moral verdure and beauty, all the desolate parts of the earth.
4. If the declared design of the gospel proves its missionary spirit and tendency, so also does its perfect adaptation to the
character and wants of man. Wherever man is found, over all the earth, he possesses essentially the same character, is oppressed with the same wants, and needs the same means of recovery. He is every-where a sinner, involved in guilt and misery, and in perishing need of help from above to raise him from sin and death to holiness and salvation. And it is the peculiar glory of the gospel that it brings to man just what he needs, and all that he needs, pardon, peace and eternal glory ; grace to enlighten, to sanctify, to comfort and save. Unlike every other system of religion, it is not local or limited in its character and claims, but is fitted and designed to be a universal religion ; and as such it adapts itself with perfect readiness to every modification of human character and to every variety of human condition. The kingdom of God is in you said
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the Saviour. It is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost — a spiritual kingdom, set up in the soul, and reigning there to extend its dominion over the whole man — to conform him to the image and will of God and fit him for the purity and blessedness of heaven. It is a noiseless, peaceful kingdom ; its weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God ; and its conquests ai'e not conquests of carnage and blood, but
of righteousness and truth, of light and love, infused into the mind and heart and creating the soul anew in Christ. Hence the religion of the gospel can adapt itself to all countries, whatever be their forms of civil government, and to all classes and grades of men, however diverse their character and condition. Its essential truths are so plain and simple that a child can understand them, and yet so great and comprehensive that the mightiest intellect is lost in admiration and wonder in the contemplation of them. The ruler and the subject, the philosopher and the peasant, the rich and the poor, the refined and the uneducated, the heathen and 'the dweller in Christian lands, — all stand in equal need of the gospel, and to all, indiscriminately and with equal readiness, the gospel adapts its provisions of grace and truth, of pardon and salvation. This feature of the gospel is one of its most striking peculiarities ; it is a system of religion perfectly adapted to become universal; to extend its dominion over every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation on the globe. As there is not a human being on earth who does not need what the gospel provides and 'offers, so there is not one whom the gospel is not fitted to elevate, to bless and save; and this clearly marks the mission of the gospel in our world as a mission of mercy and love to be extended to all mankind.
The missionary character of the gospel might be further argued from the office of the Holy Spirit, as intended to carry
out and complete the great work of the Saviour's mediation. When about to withdraw his personal presence from the world, our blessed Lord said to his disciples, " I will send you another Comforter who shall abide with you forever." And what was to be the sphere of his agency ? Was it to be confined to any particular country or province or section of the globe ? No, his field was the world. " He shall convince the world of sin." And how ? Not miraculously, or without the intervention of divinely appointed means ; but with such means, used by the friends of the Redeemer and extended over all the earth. How else is the mission of the Holy Spirit in our world to be
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accomplished ? He is now abroad among men executing purposes of mercy wherever the means of his appointment are faithfully used, and he only waits to have those means sent broad-cast over the earth, to go forth and attend them with his mighty power, convincing the world of sin and bringing back its alienated inhabitants to their allegiance to God, and to hope in his mercy. But passing this topic, I hasten to remark, 5. That in proportion as the gospel has flourished on earth, it has shown itself to be missionary in its spirit and tendency. All its conquests have been made in the spirit of missions. Its
central point of emanation was that upper room in Jerusalem, where the little company of disciples abode with one accord in prayer, some ten days after the ascension of our Lord, previous to the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This effusion of divine influence filled them with the spirit of missions, and sent them forth through Jerusalem and Judea and every where, as they had opportunity, preaching the gospel. It would seem as if this anointing from above was necessary to give the disciples a full understanding of the spirit and intent of the command of their risen Lord to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. However this may, be, it is certain that from that time, the Apostles and others, their fellow Christians, became, in an eminent sense, missionaries ; and anointed with the fervors of divine love, went forth, far and wide, proclaiming salvation through Christ. Primitive piety was warm-hearted, devoted, outgoing piety, and therefore preeminently missionary piety. Under the impulse which it imparted to Christian enterprise and zeal, the gospel flew abroad, as on a thousand v/ings, scattering light and joy and salvation over distant lands and heathen nations, till within thirty years after the ascension of our Lord, the gospel had penetrated the heart of the Roman empire and set up its banner by the palace of the Csesars. Thus the work of evangelizing the world went on, while the spirit of the gospel continued warm and vigorous in the hearts of Christians ; and the far distant East was visited by the footsteps of the missionary, and so was Spain, and
France, and the dark forests of Germany, and our own fatherland, then the abode of dark-minded idolaters and filled with the habitations of cruelty. There is not a nation on earth, now enjoying the blessings of civilization and Christianity, that is not indebted for them to the spirit of missions. Why our ancestors, the hardy Britons, did not continue as they had done, from generation to generation, to worship their Thor and Wo-
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den, and offer human sacrifices, clothed in the skins of wild beasts and living in caves and dens of the earth, can be accounted for only by the fact that the spirit of missions sought them out in their darkness and misery and won them over to the faith and hopes of the gospel. It was the same spirit that brought our forefathers to these then savage shores, and engaged them to plant here those civil and religious institutions which continue to bless us at this day. These excellent men had felt the power of the gospel ; it was in them a living principle of faith and love ; and this made them plan and toil and pray for the good of distant, unborn generations. Even Columbus, in his great enterprise of discovering America, was actuated as much, perhaps, % the hopes he cherished of extending here the kingdom of Christ as by any other motive. And
the earliest and best days of our religious history record many noble examples of devotion to the missionary work, attesting at once the end for which our pious ancestors came to this land and the spirit that glowed in their bosoms. Indeed, who does not know that in whatever bosom the gospel gains a practical lodgment, and there sheds abroad its peculiar spirit, the immediate effect is to wake up an interest in the spiritual welfare of others, and to prompt the inquiry, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ; — what wilt thou have me to do for my family, for my neighbors and friends, for my country and the world, that all may be blessed with thy salvation ? The conduct of Melancthon, in hastening immediately after his own conversion, to seek the conversion of his relatives and acquaintances was perfectly natural, the spontaneous dictate of a heart grateful for redeeming love, and acting under the impulse of the new spirit breathed into it. Scarcely any thing is more common among young converts than an ardent desire to engage in the missionary work. They wish to do something to testify their love to the Saviour, and advance the cause of human salvation, and happy would it be if this state of mind was always cherished and carried out in appropriate acts. Never indeed, does God in any place pour out his spirit and give success to his gospel in the revival of rehgion, but there is an immediate quickening of interest in the cause of Christian missions ; and that person's religion would be greatly to be suspected, who, professing himself to have the spirit and enjoy the hopes of the gospel, should
feel no promptings of earnest, benevolent desire to send to others the blessings of the common salvation. No, this cannot be.
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It enters into the very nature of the religion of Christ that it draws those who possess that rehgion into grateful, active fellowship with him, its Divine Author, in accomplishing the great design of his mission in our world, — that of seeking and saving the lost ; sending the blessings of salvation over all the earth.
In conclusion I am led to remark,
1. That in view of what has been said, we see why it is that the more religion we send abroad, the more we have at home. The fact is unquestionable. It is now some fifty or sixty years since the churches in this country began to take a new and special interest in the cause of Christian missions. Within that period most of the benevolent societies of our day have come into being, and every year has witnessed new and more extended efforts to send the gospel to the destitute, both in our own and in foreign lands. And when, since the commencement of our history, has religion been more flourishing at home,
or when has God visited our churches with more frequent and powerful effusions of his spirit? In proportion as the spirit of missions has gained ground and excited to effort and prayer in behalf of the needy and the perishing, the gospel has been prized by those who have long enjoyed it, and the fruits of a vigorous and growing piety have abounded. The fact is easily accounted for. The spirit of missions is the spirit of the gospel, and the more this spirit is brought into exercise in seeking to send the blessings of salvation to the poor and the destitute, the more strength and vigor does it acquire, and the mor-e it abounds in all the fruits of holiness. It was wont to be said, in the days of persecution, that " the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." It may be said, at least with equal truth, that the spirit of missions is the element of spiritual prosperity, both to individual Christians, to churches and communities. Religion is not like the coin of a country, diminished by exportation. It is rather increased. The more of it you send abroad, the more you have at home. So universally is this true, that no better means of growth in grace can be proposed to you, my brethren, than to cultivate the missionary spirit and to accustom yourselves to care and do for others. While striving to expel the darkness from other minds or other lands, your own darkness is scattered and you walk forth in the full light of day. While you water, you are watered also yourselves. While you send abroad the bread of life to the needy and the
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famishing, God will feed you with the bread of heaven, and you shall be daily growing in meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light.
2. We see the true ground of encouragement in regard to the success of the missionary enterprise. The work to be accomplished is vast. The obstacles in the way of its accomplishment are innumerable, and no power of man or of angel is competent to surmount or remove them. And yet we have perfect confidence in the ultimate success of the great enterprise in which Christians are now engaged, of sending the light of salvation through the world. And why ? Why, because it is an enterprise based on the gospel ; is moved forward by the spirit and power of the gospel; and just in proportion as Christians imbibe the spirit and come under the power of the gospel, they will enter into this enterprise, devote their energies to its advancement, and God, according to his promise, will be with them, and crown their efforts with his blessing. The gospel is God's great ordinance for the recovery of lost man to himself. It has come down from heaven, with heaven's light and power, come to create all things new ; and identifying itself, as it does, with the cause of missions, it imparts its own mighty
energy to that cause, and will bear it on, in despite of obstacles, to its predicted triumph over all the earth. It will breathe more and more its own spirit of love into the hearts of Christians, dispose them to look with a more benevolent eye, upon the wants of their fellow men, and open their hands in larger and more generous liberality, and so the missionary enterprise will be continually gathering new accessions of strength and power to itself, till ere long the shout shall come down from heaven, and reverberate through all the dwellings of men, " the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever."
3. The interest which is felt in the missionary enterprise is a fair test of the state of religion in any heart or in any church. It must be so, seeing the spirit of the gospel is essentially the spirit of missions. No heart can be in a right state, and no church can be spiritually prosperous, where the gospel does not diffuse its spirit of benevolence and love, and prompt to a corresponding course of action. And so sure as in any heart, or in any church, the gospel does operate to produce these effects, so sure it is that there will be a quickened interest in the cause of missions, and a more generous, efficient desire to engage in
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efforts to advance that cause. It can not be, that true religion can ever be indifferent to the spiritual wants of others, or look coldly on, while immortal men, near by and afar off, are perishing for lack of vision. The first promptings of a heart warmed with the love of Christ and grateful to him for redeeming mercy is to inquire, what returns can I make for the grace I have received from my Lord and Saviour ; what can I do to advance the knowledge of his precious name, and bring others to share with me in the joys of his salvation ? Try yourselves then, my friends, by this test. What measure of interest do you feel in the great cause of Christian missions ; what fervency of prayer do you feel for its success, what sacrifices make for its wider spread and more rapid progress ? Are you willing to have your interest in the gospel measured by the interest you feel in the efforts made at this day to send the blessings of the gospel to the needy and perishing among your fellow men ? Rely upon it, my friends, this is a point of vital importance in respect to the sincerity of your religion and the foundation of your hopes. We rejoice in all the evidences we witness among you, and they are many, of an interest in the cause of both home and foreign missions; a cause, we are sure, which lies near the heart of everlasting Love, and which ought to engage the best feelings and the most cordial co-operation of all who
call themselves Christians. We regret, we deeply regret that any should be indifferent to this cause, that any should treat it with coldness and neglect, while thousands and millions of their dying fellow men, at home and abroad, are sending forth their cries for relief. We pity, and we will pray for them ; for we consider their neglect, in this matter, as placing tliem in a condition of peculiar guilt and danger. We recollect that it was once said by the great Lord of missions, — he that is not for me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. So that this very neglect of theirs may at length involve them in the guilt and condemnation of those who are found against Christ and opposed to the interests of his kingdom.
4. It is of great importance that the missionary spirit should be assiduously cultivated in all our families, churches, colleges and theological seminaries; — in our families; that they may grow up in the spirit of the gospel, and early learn to carry out that spirit in caring and doing for the good of others ; in our churches ; that the tone of religion may be kept vigorous and
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healthful in them, and their members be distinguished, as they
should be, in co-operating with the Saviour in accomplishing the great object of his mission on earth; in our Colleges^ that our young men there in a course of education, may have their learning and talents sanctified and they be led to devote themselves, as Brainard . and Martyn did, to the noble work of spreading the gospel through the world ; and in our Theological Seminaries, too, that the students there preparing for the ministry may have a warmer and more expansive piety, and be qualified and constrained to go forth to their work, whether in Christian or in heathen lands, more in the self-denying, selfconsecrating spirit of the Divine Missionary, the Lord Jesus Christ, — who came from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost, and who, though he was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich. This is the true spirit of missions ; and just in proportion as that spirit reigns in our hearts, in our families, in our churches and in our seminaries of learning, religion will shed around its holiest and best influences and hasten the dawn of that happy day, when there shall be no more need to say — " know ye the Lord, for all shall know him from the least even unto the greatest."
5. The missionary enterprise is one of high dignity and excellence; and while it is adapted to cherish and -perfect some of the purest and noblest traits of the Christian character, it at the same time opens many rich and peculiar sources of enjoyment to those who enter into it in the true spirit of their Mas-
ter. The spirit of that enterprise, we have seen, is from heaven; its nature is benevolence; its object the conversion of the world ; its motives, the love of Christ and the love of souls • its means the diffusion of light and love among the beni^^hted and the miserable ; its enjoyments the consciousness of doinogood, the promised presence of the Saviour on earth, his near and peculiar presence, with distinguished rewards of o-Iory in heaven. If purity of motive, if elevation of aim, if grandeur of object, if simplicity and efficacy of means, if joy in God in hfe and immortal joy in his presence hereafter ; if all these can impart dignity to an enterprise, or worth to character, or blessedness to the soul, then should these qualifications be conceded as belonging in a high and peculiar sense to the missionary enterprise, and to those who are truly and from the heart eno-af^ed in that enterprise.
Look at Paul ; was ever man more noble, more elevated
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more useful, more bappy than he? But Paul was a missionary; and so were the other Apostles ; and so was Swartz, and Vanderkemp, and Ward, and Gary, and Eliot, and Brainerd, and Martyn, and Newell, and Fisk, and Parsons, and Judson and
many others who have gone forth from our land to bear the tidings of salvation to the dying heathen ; bright lights while they remained here below, they have gone up to take their place as distinguished stars in the firmament above, there to shine with peculiar lustre forever and ever.
6. It is one of the brightest omens of our day that the spirit of missions is pervading so extensively all denominations of Christians, and exciting them to constantly increasing efforts to fulfill the last command of the Saviour, " Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." But passing this, I hasten to say,
7. Finally, that all of us are bound to regard it, both as a duty and a privilege, to bear a part in the work of sending the gospel through our land and through the world. Be it that we are not called to engage personally in this work ; to go far away to the heathen, or to the distant and destitute parts of our own land, to make known the gospel of salvation; though a measure of service, even of this kind, may be required of some of us which we are by no means duly disposed to render. But there are other ways in which you may help forward the great work which we have been considering. You may assist it by your prayers. And if you have the spirit of Christ and know how to pray, no petition will break from your lips more frequently or rise from the heart with greater fervor, than
this. Thy Mngdom come. This prayer should be offered continually by the whole church, and by every one calling himself a Christian, till the Lord arise to plead his own cause, and establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the whole earth. With your prayers you may also give your alms. Nor will these be withheld, if you truly love the kingdom of Christ and pray for its prosperity. You will feel that you are stewards of the divine bounty ; that all you have and are belong to God, and realizing your responsibility to him for the use joxx make of whatever he commits to your stewardship, you will honestly inquire what the Lord will have you do with his property, and you will esteem it a privilege as well as a duty to apportion it out as he shall call for it from time to time, to help forward his cause of truth and righteousness in the world.
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AVith your prayers and alms you will also join your personal exertions. These are demanded in various ways to advance the cause for whicii the Saviour suftered and died. And a spirit should pervade every one of us, which shall prompt us to ask every morning, what can I do for Christ to-day ? and which should make us feel humbled and ashamed, if in the evening we are obliged to confess 'we have done nothing for him and his
cause. Each one of us, is as much obligated as the missionaries themselves, to do all in his power to advance the common cause of Christianity. We, equall}' with them, if we are Christians, have embraced that gospel, of which the fundamental principle is, — '"No man liveth to himself." Let this principle, my brethren, find a practical lodgment in your bosoms ; let it abide there as a prhiciple of feeling, of purpose, of action ; and if you ask for a field in which to labor for your Lord and Saviour, I would say, you may find such a field in your own family, in the Sabbath School, in the church and congregation to which you belong, in the city of your abode, any w^here, and every- where, where your influence can reach, or \vhere there are souls needing to be assisted into the way of life and salvation.
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