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appeal to principles, which fair minds will readily acknowledge. In other words, let us follow back the missionary enterprise into its essential principles. Let us consider the subject, not as belonging to one or another of the parties of Christendom, but, purely as one belonging to our common interests, and duties, as disciples of Christ. Let it even be forgotten, if it may be, that any missionary efforts are now making; that any missionary societies are now existing; and let us dispassionately consider the enterprise, as a subject for speculation; as a question upon which we are to determine, what is our duty as Christians? If it be not a work, which God will have us to do, the sooner it comes to naught, the better. But if it be his will that we engage in it, let us not oppose it, lest haply we be found to fight against God.
I resume, then, the inquiry, the missionary spirit, — what is it? what are its principles ?
I answer, the first principle of a missionary spirit, or a spirit which is earnest in the cause of diffusing the knowledge and influence of our religion, is, a Christian sense of the moral and religious condition of those, who are living under the influences of heathenism, and of false religion.
The question arises, what is a christian sense of the religious and moral condition of those, who are living under the influences of heathenism, and of false religion?
I know of but one way, in which we can obtain a satisfactory answer to this inquiry; or an answer to it, with which we ought to be satisfied; and that is, by endeavoring as well as we may, to see the world, to the extent to which it is unenlightened by our religion, as our Lord and his Apostles saw it; to see the religious and moral condition of our fellow creatures, who are unblessed with Christianity, as it is exposed to us in the light of the will and purposes of God, in regard to the world, as they are made known to us in the New Testament. No one, - I mean, no sincere believer in Christ, — can doubt whether he ought to view those who are without the pale of Christianity, as our religion itself views them; or whether we ought to feel, to cherish, and to exercise towards them, the sentiments which our religion expresses in regard to them. What, then, are the views and sentiments of our religion, in respect to the heathen world, and to all who are without the knowledge of Christ?
I say not, for Christianity does not say, that among the heathen, and the believers of a false religion, none are virtuous. There were in the time of our Lord, and there are now, virtuous and good men under every form of religion in the world. Nor do I say, for our religion does not say, that the offerers of a false worship, as far as this worship is offered in simplicity and sincerity of heart, are not accepted by God. I have not a doubt upon the question, whether they are accepted by him. I believe, for I think that our religion teaches us, that in every nation, he that fears God, according to the best conceptions which he has of him, and does righteousness, as far as he understands the law of righteousness, is spiritually a child of God, and will not fail of a part in the inijeritance of the children of God. And I further believe, and doubt not, that no one who has lived, or who will live, from the necessity of his condition, ignorant of the true God, in false religion, and in an-idolatrous wor
ship, will at last be condemned, because he knew not what he could not know; and did not, what he had not the means of understanding that it was his duty to do. These, I hope, will be considered as ample concessions. *
But, with all these concessions distinctly before us, let us view the heathen world, the world that is without Christianity, - as our religion views it, and as it actually is. I would not, if I could, excite a false, an artificial sympathy, in the cause of missions. Christianity needs no plotting, no trick, no concealment, no overcharged representations, for the accomplishment of any of its purposes. But let us not shut our eyes against the truth. Let us not view heathenism, and false religion, only as they are seen in the characters of a few
*I here quote with pleasure the sentiments of Macknight upon the question of the salvation of heathens. I do not know any other writer, of those who are called Orthodox, who has treated this sub. ject with equal liberality of feeling. “That the pious heathens should have their faith counted to them for righteousness at the judgment, notwithstanding it may have been deficient in many particulars, and even erroneous, is not unreasonable ; provided in these instances of error, they have used their best endeavors to know the truth, and have not been led by these errors into habitual sin.*** For it can no longer be pretended, that by making faith the means of salvation, the gospel hath consigned all the heathens to damnation. Neither can God be accused of partiality, in conferring the benefit of revelation upon so small a portion of the human race, in the false notion, that the actual knowledge of revelation is necessary to salvation. For although the number of those, who have lived without revelation, hath hitherto been much greater than of those who have enjoyed that benefit, no unrighteousness can be imputed to God, since he hath not excluded those from salvation, who have been denied revelation.” Translation of the Apostolical Epistles, vol. 1. pp. 197–201.
individuals, who stand out in most honorable prominence, in the picture which has come down to us of their age; and who, against every adverse influence, were illustrious as models of a piety and virtue, which would have made them worthy of honor in any age. Nor let us determine the character of heathenism, and of false religion, by considering them as they are manifested merely in their gorgeous shows; in their pomp and splendor; or, as they are sometimes brought before us, in their most simple and harmless rites. They have other features, which are the indices of another character. They have other principles, and interests, and ends, than are to be seen in a casual glance at them; other practices and consequences, which open to us very different views of their nature and character; and which are suited to excite a corresponding difference of sentiment, in regard to those who are under their influence. Let us, then, view them in the light in which they are brought before us by the sentiments, the feelings, and conduct, of Christ and his apostles, in regard to them.
In this aspect of the subject, I would say that, even if there were not to be found in the records of our religion any clear and explicit expressions of its sentiments in respect to the heathen, and to all to whom a knowledge of it has not been imparted, it still would not be doubtful what are these sentiments; or, what are the feelings with which we should view the world, which is without the knowledge of Christ. Take only the conduct of our Lord and of his apostles, their labors, and their sufferings even to death, in the cause of extending and establishing our religion ; in the cause of opposing, and exterminating error, superstition and sin ; in the cause of rescuing men from the delusion, and the debasement, of idolatry and of all false worship ; and who, that believes that Christianity is a dispensation from God, can doubt whether the rescue of men from this delusion and this debasement, — whether the recovery of heathens, and of those who are living under the influences of false religion, from their errors, superstitions and sins, - was in itself a cause as great and important, as essential to human good and to human happiness, as this plan in the divine economy, and these toils, and privations, and sufferings for its accomplishment, were themselves great and peculiar ? Let us conceive, as distinctly as we can, of the character of our Lord. Let us bring him before our minds, as he is brought before us in the New Testament, as the Son of God; the long promised Messiah, and Saviour, whom the Father had sanctified and sent into the world, for the express end, “that the world through him might be saved.” Let us bring him before our minds, associated, as he is, throughout the New Testament, in his mission, and I fe, and death, if I may so express myself, with the deep interest of God himself in the cause of suppressing everywhere idolatry and false religion, and of recovering men from the degradation, the vices and crimes, to which ignorance of himself and superstition had brought them. Let us conceive of this most exalted, this most holy of all the messengers of God, labor ng daily, and daily suffering, that he might bring men to the truth, and sanctify them by the truth ; enduring the scoffs, the insults, the artifices, and the persecutions of those, whom he came “to save, and to bless, by turning them from their iniquities unto God; ”