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In the present aspect of the roral and religious world, there is something very peculiar, distinguishing it from any preceding period. Our world, in all ages, has presented a scene of wide spreading moral desolation, sufficient to call forth the sympathies and exertions of the Christian and Philanthropist. But obstacles, in the way of moral reformation, arising from the prejudices and political institutions of mankind, have existed, appalling to human reason and almost insuperable to the strongest faith in the divine promises. Since the days of the apostles, exertions, corresponding to the magnitude and importance of the object, have seldom been made by individuals, and never by the great body of professed Christians. And not unfrequently those whose hearts were engaged in the cause of God and man, have expended their strength and zeal in the use of means not sanctioned by the great head of the Church. When not groaning under the yoke of oppression, or bleeding beneath the sword of persecution, they have sought the patronage of the civil power, and endeavored, by carnal weapons, to secure the victory, promised to be achieved only by the sword of the Spirit. The history of Christendom confirms the truth, that God will honor no means in extending and building up the kingdom of the Redeemer, except the voluntary exertions of his people in the use of those bloodless wea pons, furnished in the Holy Scriptures; and that these are
mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Convinced by the fruitless attempts of past ages, that no reliance can safely be placed on the secular arm, Christians have been taught to look for the blessing of God on their own voluntary exertions. And if there are any so unapt to learn, as still to expect from the civil power any favor except protection and security in obeying the dictates of conscience, the fundamental principles of our government utterly exclude the most distant hope. We are reduced to the happy necessity of depending on God alone in the use of the appointed means for the fulfilment of his promises. The patronage afforded by other governments being thus removed, the Church is left to feel the full weight of her own responsibility; that on her unconstrained exertions depend the existence of a Christian ministry, the maintenance of public worship, and under God, the salvation of immortal souls. And we bless God that those who love our Lord Jesus Christ, have not been altogether insensible to the weight of obligation imposed by thc circumstances in which they are placed. The various and successful operations of Christian benevolence, in the present day, furnish ample evidence that the gospel imparts to the heart an energy sufficient to sustain any enterprise required by the exigencies of the Church and of the world. It is truc, nothing has yet been done commensurate to the spiritual wants of our own country, and much less of the world. But a spirit of Christian enterprise has been awakened, which we trust in God, will not rest, until the carth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. Thus far, whenever, spiritual wants have been ascertained, and fields of promising usefulness pointed out; the calls for pecuniary assistance have been answered with a promptitude and liberality, which leave no ground to fear the want of means to accomplish any future enterprise. A heart imbued with the spirit of the gospel, never can be insensible to the claims of a perishing world. As soon as it
is known that the the Bible is needed, and that the people are willing to receive it, money flows from innumerable channels into the treasury of the Lord. In like manner the means of supporting ministers of the gospel to an indefinite extent, may be obtained from those who need their ministrations, aided by the voluntary contributions of the more favored portions of the Church. So numerous are the promising fields opening in our own vast territory, not to mention foreign countries, that laborers, sufficient to cultivate one half of the ground, cannot be obtained. Indeed, the operations of missionary societies are limited, not by the want of pecuniary means, but of competent and faithful men willing to endure privation and labor. A few years ago, when the first Theological Seminary was established in this country, the question was frequently asked, where will these young ministers find employment? Those already in that sacred office receive with difficulty a scanty subsistance. What will become of an additional number? Experience has shown how groundless are these apprehensions. Now, when these institutions have been multiplied ten-fold, the calls for ministerial labor are so numerous and pressing, that our young men are generally engaged before they have finished the prescribed course of study.
The Presbyteries connected with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, report between six and seven hundred congregations destitute of regular pastors. And we venture to affirm, that the churches of other denominations, are not, in proportion to their numbers, more fully supplied. The proportion of ministers, to the population of the United States, is every year rapidly diminishing. The tide of population is flowing to the west, to the north, and to the south; so that in less than one-fourth of a century, cultivated fields, flourishing villages and large cities, will occupy places now the abodes of wild beasts. These colonies, emigrating from Europe and the older states, carry
with them the elements of social institutions and Christian churches. They not only receive with gratitude the Christian missionary who visits their new abode, but they send back from the wilderness repeated and earnest entreaties, to give them Bibles and ministers able to teach them to understand what they read. The American Bible Society has said that they shall have Bibles—and the Christian community is responding-means shall be furnished to redeem the pledge. Missionary societies, are saying, we know where a thousand missionaries more than we can command, may be fully and usefully employed; and we know, also, where the means necessary for their support can be obtained. But men of suitable qualifications cannot be procured. Never did a field more extensive and promising present itself to the enterprise of the Christian community. The question is, shall it be left uncultivated until it be overspread with briars, and thorns, and thistles ? Shall those who know the value of Christian privileges, and are willing, according to their means, to aid in obtaining them, be permitted to pass off the stage of action, and their children to grow up in ignorance and irreligion, before the heralds of the cross be sent to their assistance ? Every one knows that the difficulty of instructing and reforming a people universally sunk in ignorance and vice, is an hundred-fold greater, than when a few are standing ready, at once, to take the minister of the gospel by the hand—to cheer him in his- labors, and to aid him by their counsel, their influence, and their prayers. If our vast territory is ever to be filled with a Christian population, it is more economical to take possession, while we have in the bosom of the country, auxiliaries, than to gain possession after it falls, as is the certain consequence of delay, entirely into the hands of the enemy. Now only a part, hereafter the whole of the expense must be borne by the established churches. In the one case, the strength and resources of the Church would be increasing with the growth
of the country. The churches formed, would aid in forming others. In case of present inaction, not only the relative, but the positive strength of the Church would diminish. For in the moral, as well as the physical world, action is necessary, in order to retain the vigor already possessed. All this is admitted. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Where shall we find men of a right spirit duly qualified for this work? What is to be done in the evident destitution of laborers necessary to collect and secure the abundant barvest now ready for the sickle ? Our Master has given the answer—Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest. This prayer has for ages been on the tongues of professed Christians, and is still repeated, whenever the wants of the Church and of the world come into remembrance. But is it accompanied with corresponding exertions? It is self-evident that to pray God to grant a particular blessing, when at the same time we neglect the use of means in our power, necessary to its attainment, is nothing less than solemn mockery. Earnestly to desire an object and not to raise a hand to receive it, when presented, is inconsistent with the invariable principles of human action. Could it be believed that a man, having the perfect use of his limbs, was really thirsty and desirous of a drink of cool water, when instead of going ten steps to a copious fountain, he would sit and beg that it might be conveyed to him by the immediate hand of the Almighty? We pray, and very justly, that the hungry may be fed, and the naked clothed, and yet if we do not minister to their wants according to our means, what advantage are our prayers to ourselves or to the needy? It is true, man cannot make ministers such as would be a blessing to the Church and the world. He cannot give them a new heart, and furnish them with the natural talents necessary to preach the gospel in a profitable manner. Therefore we must pray the Lord