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John, XII. S2, 33.
"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me: this he said, signifying what death lie should die."
If the perfection of wisdom consist in seeking the noblest ends by the fittest means, then does the cause of missions appear before the world invested with the glory, and preferring the claims of this elevated attribute. Of the benevolence and sublimity of our object, there can exist no doubt; the only question which can arise about the rationality of our scheme, must relate to the adequacy of our means. We are not unfrequently reminded, that all attempts to convert pagan nations to Christianity, which are not supported by the aid of miracles, must prove entirely ineffectual, or be followed with very inconsiderable success. That miracles were necessary at the introduction of Christianity, as the witnesses of its heavenly origin and descent, is perfectly obvious; they formed the visible signatures of a divine band, to the testimony of the Son of God and his apostles; but to argue for their repetition through succeeding ages, in every country to which the Gospel approaches for the first time, is to contend that a deed, however well attested, cannot be admitted as valid, unless the witnesses who originally signed it, live for ever to verify their signature. This objection however is best answered by an appeal to facts; and here it may be observed, that however difficult it might be to ascertain with precision, the exact time when the testimony
of miracles ceased, nothing is more certain, than that these witnesses had finished their evidence long before the conversion of the northern and western parts of Europe. The demand for supernatural interpositions, as necessary to the propagation of Christianity, is therefore urged with an ill grace by a Protestant, when it is remembered that there is not a single Protestant country which did not receive the Gospel unaccompanied with signs and wonders; and with still greater inconsistency is it made by an Englishman, when it is considered that this happy country, which is the glory of Christendom, the joy of the whole earth, and the evangelist of the world, was recovered from the thraldom of Saxon idolatry without one miraculous operation.
What then are the means with which we set out on this high and holy enterprise of converting the world? I answer, the DOCTRINE Of The Cross: for, saith Christ, "If / be lifted up, or " when I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me."
In these words, our Lord announces the nature of his approaching death,—he was about to be lifted up, or crucified; he predicts the consequences with which his crucifixion would be followed,—all men would be gathered to him;— he specifies the means, and the manner of their conversion,—they would be drawn or attracted by an exhibition of his death.
The text presents us with, The great object of Missionary zeal,—the grand instrument of Missionary exertion,—and the final accumulation of Missionary success.
It will be instantly perceived that I have not sought after novelty of subject, and it will soon be discovered that I have not attained to ingenuity, or profundity of discussion. The state of my mind and feelings, since I received the application of the Directors, has precluded all this. Their request for my services on this occasion, found me at the tomb of all that was dearest to me on earth, a situation not very favourable for penetrating into the depth of any other subject than my own irreparable loss. One thing which induced me to comply with their solicitation, was a hope that my mind would thus be drawn away in some degree from the heart-withering recollection of departed bliss: nor has that hope been altogether disappointed; for the subject of my sermon has often presented such visions of spiritual glory, as, when the eye of affection was moistened with grief, have made the tears forget to fall, and hushed the sorrows of a bursting heart, and thusfctaught the preacher, that while the Missionary cause goes as the messenger of mercy to pagan realms abroad, it is one of the best comforters in the house of mourning at home.
I. The text presents us with the chief object of Missionary zeal: "To bring men to Christ."
There are, at the present moment, more than six hundred millions of the human race, in the appaling situation of the men, whom the Apostle describes as " without Christ in the world;" and the question is, with what feelings, and what purposes, a Chrislian should survey this vast and wretched portion of the family of man. To ascertain this, you have only to contemplate the scene, which at your last anniversary was brought before you with such a force of reason, pathos, and eloquence. Behold St. Paul at Athens. Think of the matchless splendour which blazed upon his view, as he rolled his eye round the enchanting panorama, that encircled the hill of Mars. On one hand, as he stood upon the summit of the rock, beneath the canopy of heaven, was spread a glorious prospect of mountains, islands, seas, and skies; on the other, quite within his view, was the plain of Marathon, where the wrecks of former generations, and the tombs of departed heroes, mingled together in silent desolation. Behind him towered the lofty Acropolis, crowned with the pride of Grecian architecture. There, in the zenith of their splendour, and the perfection of their beauty, stood those peerless temples, the very fragments of which are viewed, by modern travellers, with an idolatry almost equal to that which reared them. Stretched along the plain below him, and reclining her head on the slope-of the neighbouring hills, was Athens, mother of the arts and sciences, with her noble offspring sporting by her side. The Porch, the Lyceum, and the Grove, with the statues of departed