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Title: The Unity of the Church Essential to the Conversion of the World
Author: Gwyther, James Henry Alexander
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1846 John Snow edition by David Price, email

                   [Picture: Public domain book cover]

                         CONVERSION OF THE WORLD.

                                A SERMON,
                             PREACHED BEFORE
                           MISSIONARY SOCIETY,
                            Their Anniversary
                              IN MAY, 1846,

                           J. H. GWYTHER, M.A.
                         VICAR OF MADELEY, SALOP.

                                * * * * *

                            IRONBRIDGE, SALOP.


                            _Price Sixpence_.


    “_Neither pray I for these alone_, _but for all who shall believe in
    me through their Word_: _that they all may be one_: _that the World
    may believe that thou hast sent me_.”—JOHN xvii. 20, 21.

The last earthly act of one we love and honour, is often referred to with
deepest interest, and revolved with the most thoughtful attention.  It is
then that the dying Parent delivers his solemn counsels, and unbosoms his
most sacredly cherished feelings.  If ever the tenderest and earnest
workings of the heart are laid open, it is as the scene draws near and
yet nearer to its close.

And as our beloved SAVIOUR approached the termination of His earthly
history, the strong commanding feelings of his soul were displayed, and
then especially he taught his disciples what sentiments he would have
them cultivate, and what objects he would have them propose; whilst by
his example, he taught them in _what spirit_, and by _what means_ to
_seek those_ high and holy ends.

It was then, assembled with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane,
that He as the Great High Priest of Our Profession, breathed forth in
earnest prayer, the words before us:—

     “The _last acts_ of the Great Mediator, were _acts of prayer_.”

HE prayed! that he might impress his people with the importance of
prayer.  He made them _witnesses_ of his prayer, that when they hereafter
might follow him their divine intercessor, _by faith_, within the veil,
they might know for what ends, and in what spirit, his intercession is
carried on.  HIS LAST ACTS _were prayer_.  It was in _prayer_ that he
closed his last interview with his Apostles.  It was in this exercise
that he passed his hour of agony in the Garden; and when on the Cross,
His dying breath was spent in repeated and solemn application.

Oh! beloved brethren! ’twas a solemn scene;—the adorable Mediator with
the shadows of death deepening around him, employed in earnest addresses
to his FATHER.  The Garden—the Judgment Seat—the Scourge—the Cross, were
full before him.  On what now is His spirit bent?  On what subjects does
he meditate?  His prayer will tell, and tell how fully his heart was
occupied with the work of mercy—the well-being of his church—the honour
of his Father—the salvation of the world.  It was then he uttered the
prayer in which he sought for his people, that they all may be one, that
the world may be converted to him.  He had _charged_ them “to love one
another.”  He had shown them that they were _virtually_ “all one:”  By
the sacred supper, he had sought to cherish their love and union, and now
by his example he taught them to make it the burden of their prayer.  And
even still his heart longs for this!  He looks down from his exalted
throne, upon that church which he so much regards, and which he “has
purchased with his own blood;” that church to which he has entrusted such
a high and glorious work; big with the richest blessings for a ruined and
wretched world.  He sees that church divided, torn, distracted,
alienations and strifes prevailing, whilst the world’s millions are
waiting, _uninstructed_, _unenlightened_, _unblest_; and then, having
connected the conversion of the world with the unity of the church, he
again pours forth the intercession, “Father, may they all be one, that
the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

In the endeavour to fulfil that duty, which the Directors of the London
Missionary Society have assigned me, I feel I need your sympathy, and
your prayers.  I stand before you “in weakness, and in fear, and in much
trembling.”  From a sense of my own insufficiency to perform this duty
aright, as well as from the conviction that I may be standing in the room
of some more qualified and acceptable advocate of the cause, I was
naturally reluctant to leave the quietude of a country village and place
myself in this public situation: on the other hand, believing that this
was a call from GOD, to bear my humble testimony to His truth in this
great Metropolis, and that in endeavouring to do his will, we shall not
fail of his grace; I have come beloved brethren, and would seek to offer
a few remarks upon the interesting subject now introduced to your notice.
The subject I am fully aware, is now one of those to which so much
attention has been given of late years, that I cannot hope to present it
more clearly or forcibly than it has already been placed in your view:
all I can attempt is to bring these things again to your remembrance, and
again to urge them upon the attentive consideration of the Christian

In doing so, I propose to consider three things—

  I.  The object, which in this Petition, the SAVIOUR seeks.

  II.  The means by which it is to be promoted.

  III.  The reasons why it should be most earnestly desired.

We must proceed to notice:—

I.—_The object_, _which in this petition the Saviour seeks_.

It is the unity of all _believers_ upon Earth.  Not indeed that CHRIST is
indifferent to the peace and love which ought to bind together _all
mankind_ as one great family.  He purposes to secure _this_; but he seeks
to bless His Church, that thro’ it he may bless the world.  Yes! beloved
brethren,—Men ought to “_be one_” in the bonds of love and kindness.  We
are Brethren, all “one man’s sons,” and where there is a man, there is
one who has a claim upon the thoughtfulness, the care, the kindness of
his fellow man; and in order to promote the general well-being of our
species, we should be _as one_.  To us there cry the poor in their
destitution—the ignorant in their darkness—the oppressed in their
wrongs—the victims of war, murderous and impious war—the slaves in the
chains, which tyranny has thrown around their persons, or set on their
intellect and conscience; _these_, and sufferers in every other form of
woe, appeal to _man_, the _family_, the _fraternity_ of man, for
sympathy, pity, and relief.  They are Men; they are Brethren; and these
are outrages against our common claims, which should rouse all that hear
the cry, to succour the suppliants.  We have all one FATHER, and happy
will be the time, when His divided and distracted household, shall again
“love as brethren;” when the oppressor shall cease; when “violence shall
not be heard in our borders;” when the clangor of war shall give place to
the melting sounds and celestial song of “Peace on earth, and good will
towards men;” when truth shall fill all intellects, and love reign in
every heart.  Bright!  Glorious Day!—And shall this happy consummation
ever bless this afflicted, burdened, groaning world?  It shall!  The
Gospel _purposes it_, and to secure its accomplishment, the Gospel is
daily putting forth its heavenly energy, and ere long, earth in love
shall be the very emblem of the heaven of heavens.  The fierce passions
of the human spirit shall be subdued.  “The wolf also shall dwell with
the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid”; “the cow and bear
shall feed”: “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters
cover the sea.”—ISAIAH xi, 6–9.

But another work must precede this.  The Church must first be _made one
itself_.  The universal harmony predicted, and eventually to be realized
in the world, must first pervade the elements of CHRIST’S Visible Church,
and therefore as a means to that great end, even that the world may
believe in, fully recognize, and submit to the authority of Him, whom GOD
has sent, the Redeemer here prays, that His disciples may “be one;”
implying thereby that the unity of the Church, is the great pre-requisite
for the conversion of the world.

1.—_And who are His Church_, _His People_, _the subjects of this prayer_?

None but those who rest upon His atonement, and rely upon His grace, as
the one foundation of their hope for eternity.  It is not the bearing of
a Christian name; it is not an enrolment in any society, however
scriptural in doctrine and apostolic in discipline that constitutes men
Christians.  There may be loud profession—an orthodox creed—ceaseless
activity—large sacrifices, without _faith_ in JESUS or _love_ to his
name.  But _these_ are indispensible; without _them_ there is no interest
or fellowship with CHRIST, and no part, or lot in His Church.  Without
_faith_, there is no salvation; and “if any man love not our LORD JESUS
CHRIST he must be accursed.”  The possessors of these alone, are the true
“living stones built up a spiritual house.”

But the Church includes _all who believe on the Son of God_, among
whatever community they may be found.  Each christian may _have_, and
ought to hold _dear_, his convictions, as to the truths the bible
teaches, and the church principles which are there developed.

The Bible is ever to be his standard, and his conscience binds him to
receive _all_ that it teaches.  We plead for no latitudinarian
indifference.  We have _our_ convictions, nor dare we yield them, unless
GOD should, by His Spirit, afford us another view of truth; nor will any
candid christian, who differs from us, call for such a sacrifice.  We ask
not for such unwarranted concessions from any.  Nor dare we judge the
LORD’S servants; to their own Master they stand or fall.  To Him they are
amenable, and it cheers the spirit to think that our minor errors and
imperfections hinder not Him from receiving any who rest on Him for
mercy, and yield to Him their hearts.

_All these are His people_—they are parts of His universal Church; though
severed from each other, they are one with Him; members of His mystical
body; branches in Him the Living Vine!

And where shall we seek them?  They are found adorning fellowships of
varied names, and each possessing features of peculiar beauty, and sacred
excellence.  We dare not say that a connexion with any system of itself
can make men Christians; nor of Episcopacy, Presbyterianism,
Congregationalism, nor Methodism, that it is exclusively THE CHURCH OF
GOD, so as to monopolize all sacred relations and existing piety.  But we
believe that genuine disciples of CHRIST are to be found amongst them

The churches which have numbered among them a Fletcher, a Henry Martyn, a
Cary, a Williams, a Wesley; will furnish their portion towards the one
great assembly, “the church of the first born written in heaven.”

The genuine disciples of the SAVIOUR, are to be found in various ranks,
and among different denominations of Christians; from these many have
been gathered already, and swell the throng around the throne of GOD
above.  Even now the multitude collected from among them, is greater than
any man can number; they have lost their party badges and sectarian
titles.  This is their only distinction, “They have washed their robes,
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,”—and they need no
other—this is their great _title_—this secures them a happy, blissful
place before the throne of GOD and the Lamb; and they desire no more.

And many yet are found _below_.  True our minds are distracted by the
differing names and varied distinctions which exist among us.  But be of
good cheer, beloved brethren, upon a goodly company, though widely
scattered, CHRIST looks down with joy, seeing in each of the throng, a
trophy of his love; a soul saved by his sacrifice, and transforming to
his image.

The SAVIOUR’S prayer contemplated _all these_, and sought that they may
_all be one_.  And indeed they so far are even now _one_.

There is a bond which binds them to each other, which no power can sever.
It is that spiritual tie which unites them to CHRIST; in Him they are all
one.  They were ONE in _ruin_—in separation from GOD—in captivity to
Satan—in exposure to eternal death.  They now are partakers in a common
salvation—redeemed by the same blood—renewed by the same Spirit—relying
upon one Saviour—Children of one Parent, they form one holy family, and
will spend an eternity together in their “Father’s House.”  Thus real,
substantial, and indissoluble is their union.  They are one, as CHRIST is
in the FATHER and the FATHER in Him.

But, alas! this ill accords with the aspect they present to the world,
and the attitude in which they stand to each other; nor can the prayer of
CHRIST be silent, until the _one-ness_ of his people shall be _felt_, and
their union shall be manifest to all.

2.—Then we may further enquire—_Wherein must such union consist_?  It is
clear, not in the adoption of _one common name_; for such may be, and the
aim be entirely lost, and the object of the SAVIOUR unattained.
Something of this kind was realized in the dark ages.  The Church of Rome
then contained within itself well nigh all existing nominal Christianity.
But did this, think you, brethren, realize the prayer of our LORD?  _One_
name embraced men of every varied creed, and covered every form of
abomination.  A one-ness, where except for the title “Christian,” and for
the form of godliness, no religion seemed to exist; life and soul were
lost, the frame-work alone remaining.  This one-ness was that of the
tenants of the sepulchre and the grave yard, where the fellowship was
that of an universal corruption, and the calm was the stillness—the
silence of death, only broken by here and there a mourner, weeping that
the dry bones were so many, and that they were so very dry.

No, this is not the peace we long for, and for which CHRIST prays.
Better, a thousand fold better, is our present state, than such an unity
as that.  It is at least replete with _life_, though disfigured by
diversities.  We have spirit, and we have power; though that spirit is
too frequently expended in strife, and that power in warfare.

The _first thing essential_ to the attainment of Christian Unity is, that
Christians should be brought to _feel_ that real one-ness, which even now
exists between them.

There is a principle which is inseparable from the existence of vital
godliness, and that is faith in CHRIST.  Now if all who look to the work
of CHRIST for justification, and confide in the HOLY SPIRIT for
sanctification, are really Christians, why should they not be felt to be
such, and loved as brethren?  CHRIST loves them,—let them love each
other.  To all of them JESUS is precious; then let our hearts embrace
with ardour all “who love our LORD JESUS CHRIST, in sincerity;” and if we
can do this, there will be but little difficulty in rendering that unity
visible.  How can it be concealed?  For where there is true love, there
must to some extent be friendly intercourse—sympathy will be
engendered—in spite of existing distinctions, love will draw us together
into kindly greetings, and social fellowship.  Nor will there be wanting
opportunities of co-operation in efforts to diffuse the Bible, extend the
Gospel, and convert immortal souls.

And even where this may not be, there will be witnessed a cordial
interest in each other’s labors of love; we shall rejoice when prosperity
attends the work of others employed with us in the same holy enterprize,
and mingle our tears with those which disappointments cause to flow from
the eyes of our beloved and devoted brethren; and only let this but be
realized, and all bitterness, and envy, and malice, will speedily
disappear.  If Christians differ in opinion, yet they will agree in
heart; if they are constrained to exhibit their views strongly, they will
aim to do so with “the meekness of wisdom,” and with the kindness of

Oh, for this consummation!  Believers, labour and pray for it—sacrifice
for its attainment your party jealousies—mortify carnal prejudices, and
crucify the spirit of bigotry; and thus hasten the accomplishment of the
SAVIOUR’S prayer, when we shall all be one—_one_ in love—_one_ in our
great aim for reviving the church, and saving the world—_one_ in fervent
prayer—and shall all value, more than any other title, the _one_ new name
given to the disciples at Antioch.

Having considered somewhat at length _the object which in this_ petition
of the SAVIOUR, he more _especially seeks_; namely, the unity of his
Disciples; a one-ness in his Church; let us in the second place, advert
to _the means by which it is to be promoted_.

And here I need scarcely remark, that _coercion_ can do nothing: neither
ecclesiastical canons, nor authoritative edicts, can sway the conscience,
or influence the affections.  Nor can even much reliance he placed on
moral suasion, or controversial discussion.  We may acknowledge the
importance of the object, but be after all undecided as to the method of
its attainment, or indifferent to its ultimate success.  The great means
are with GOD; yet all of us can do something towards the promotion of
Christian Union, and I would humbly suggest the following hints:—

1.—_By personally cherishing_, _and prominently keeping in view those
great truths upon which the Church of Christ has agreed_.

For after all, to use the admirable language of a Christian author upon
this subject; “The unity which the Church of CHRIST should maintain
within, and promote without, even in our present circumstances exists,
and that substantially, though imperfectly.  Its existence is proved by
an identity of motives and aims; proved by that similarity of sentiment,
which makes the Christian find a new brother in every converted man;
proved by petitions and praises, like in matter and in manner, and
offered to the same throne of grace; proved by the general correspondence
of our forms of worship.  Were some enlightened heathen, such as Cicero,
to rise up and come among us, he would perceive little difference among
the purest Christians, unless his attention were called to it by some
formal partisan.  The grand and glorious features of the Christian faith,
would stand out before him in bright contrast with those of heathenism,
if our paltry animosities did not obscure them.”

Let us then set before us, and steadfastly gaze upon the great
soul-elevating, and spirit-uniting doctrines of the Gospel.  The
atonement of CHRIST—His perfect work—finished redemption—spotless
righteousness—all prevailing intercession, and final conquest.  The work
of the Spirit in the regeneration, sanctification, and perfection of
believers.  These are the great master-truths; let them be to our souls,
what they are to the Gospel, the Alpha and Omega, the foundation of all;
and much will be done in enlarging our views, refining our judgments,
breaking down prejudice within, and concentrating our affections upon
points of general agreement.  In addition to this, let the mind of CHRIST
be ours.  His mind was absorbed with love to his FATHER, and compassion
for souls.  Cherish the same; let this predominant passion occupy and
control our spirits, and there will then be but little space found, and
less taste felt for those trifles which distract, divide, and embitter.

2.—We may promote this Christian Unity further, _by seeking to form_,
_and convey a right impression of our own excellence_, _in comparison
with the worth of others_ “_who follow not with us_.”

We are too prone to dwell with much of sectarian gratulation, upon the
peculiar advantages of _our own_ communion, or the evidences of divine
favour we have been blessed with; to the disparagement of others, from
whom we differ.  That spirit, whilst it leads us to vain boasting, as
infallibly leads to a despising of our brethren.  Rather let as mourn
over our own imperfections and short-comings; let us recall to mind how
feeble and often futile have been our efforts; how our piety has mingled
with much _of earthliness_, our love with much _of selfishness_, our zeal
with much _of partiality_, and our devotedness with much _of self

On the other hand, let us be willing not only to allow, but even to
rejoice in the excellencies of others—to ponder their worth and their
works—to cast the sin-covering mantle of true christian charity over the
infirmities of our brethren, and to rejoice with them in their success,
weep with them in their discouragements, and aid them in their necessity.
Thus we shall, as saith St. Paul, “look not every man on his own things,
but every man also on the things of others.”  Each preferring his brother
in honour and in love.  The bonds of christian union will be
strengthened, and the dove-like spirit of peace condescend to dwell in
the hearts of christians, constraining even the world, as of old, to
confess—“see how these disciples love one another.”

3.—_Christian Unity is to be promoted by co-operation in those wise
schemes of christian effort_, _which may consistently embrace all who
love the Saviour_.

Co-operation has ever been found very powerful in producing and
sustaining unity.  In such christian efforts, there is a common object
proposed; a measure of agreement in the means to be employed, in order to
its attainment; a participation in responsibility; a sympathy in trials;
an interest in success; all which bind kindred hearts; unite in holy
brotherhood those who share in the same common-wealth and privilege; and
allay those feelings of envy and jealousy which have so fearfully
agitated and divided the body of CHRIST.

Thanks be to GOD, we live in an age, when such efforts are put forth, in
which we may conscientiously co-operate with our brethren, in the great
and glorious designs they contemplate.  By so doing, we shall help much
to complete the unity of the Church.

Yet, beloved brethren, why enumerate more means?  There is one influence,
which adequately employed, would secure the whole.  What want we, but a
large and universal effusion of the Holy Spirit?  Oh, yes! this would do
it all.

It would fix our gaze upon ourselves, until we sank abased in the dust.
It would attract us all to the cross; that whilst drawn to one common
centre, all would be drawn closer to each other.  Such would appear the
transcendent glories of that object, that all others would in comparison
lose their power to charm or interest us.  The ruin, guilt, danger,
wants, and woes of a perishing world, would awaken our tenderest
compassion and ever watchful solicitude.

Eternity unveiled—heaven in its peerless glories—hell in its hopeless
torment, would so bring our spirits under the “powers of the world to
come;” that we should be blind, and deaf to all things of inferior
moment.  Were this gracious influence but felt and cherished, all would
indeed be one.  Divisions would be healed.  Stumbling blocks be removed.
Hearts joined to hearts.  Joys mingled with joys; and the blessed
SAVIOUR’S prayer, receive its full accomplishment, and His people be one,
even as He and the FATHER are one.

It remains for me in the Third place, to direct your attention _to the
reasons_, _why this Christian Unity should be so earnestly desired_.

Now here we might, if it were necessary, advert to many and weighty
reasons, for seeking to promote and increase this spirit in the church of
CHRIST.  I shall only however, fix upon the two more immediately
connected with the text; the one _implied_, and the other _expressed_ by
it.  The first is derived from _its being the great prevailing desire of
our divine Redeemer_.  It rested much upon His heart, or he would not
have prayed so earnestly for it.  He was then going forth to gird himself
for His arduous undertaking.  He was about to engage in fierce conflict
with the powers of darkness.  He had before him the accomplishment of a
glorious work—the vindication of the divine honor—the illustration of the
divine perfections!—the recovery of a ruined and apostate race—the
establishment of a kingdom, which eventually should be co-extensive with
the world.  In doing all this, he would have to pass through scenes of
humiliation, suffering, and death.  He would have to assert his victory
over death and the grave, by raising himself, and “spoiling
principalities and powers, make a shew of them openly, triumphing over
them.”  He would finally have to ascend up on high, “leading captivity
captive,” to receive his reward, and claim his kingdom; to mark the
success of his cause, and the triumphs of his cross.  But he plainly
foresaw how intimately that success, and these triumphs, were connected
with the unity of his disciples—how preeminently their one-ness
constituted their strength—of what vast importance to his ultimate
conquest of the world, was the mutual agreement and brotherly love, which
His people should evince.  And so he interceded, with a spirit yearning
for the fulfilment, and deeply interested in the result, “FATHER I pray
that they all may be one.”

And if this desire be so strong on the part of the Redeemer; if this
unity be dear to him, should we not, His professing followers, esteem it
as worthy of our regard?  Yea! as of the first moment?  Can we feel
indifferent, when the honor of GOD, and the glory of JESUS are involved?
Can we be _unconcerned_ spectators of the present divided and discordant
spirit which prevails among us?

Nay, surely christians, your master longs for unity.  Lay aside every
other consideration, and let his will be paramount, and your desire and
prayer be “that they all may be one.”

The other reason I would adduce for the cultivation of this spirit,
arises from the direct _influence such unity is to have upon the
conversion of the world_, (as stated in my text,) “I pray that they may
all be one, (in order,) that (as a means to an end,) the world may
believe that thou hast sent me.”

The conclusion then, at which I would desire to arrive, is, that such
unity is essential to the final triumph of the Gospel; that if we desire
the latter we must seek to promote the former; and in fact, that unless
we are willing to strive for—sacrifice for—pray for the spirit of unity;
our efforts, zeal, and devotedness will be virtually defeated.

And now look, beloved brethren, what is the state of the world in this
the nineteenth century?  Eighteen hundred years have rolled away, since
the command was given by the Great head of the church, the risen and
ascending SAVIOUR, “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to
every creature.”  And still the Prince of darkness maintains his sway
among the nations.  Idolatry and superstition, the chief pillars of his
throne, are resting in almost every land.  Darkness still covers the
earth, and gross darkness, the people.  Out of 900 millions of immortal
souls, scarcely 300 millions are even nominally Christians.  To
multitudes the name of JESUS is a sound unknown; and the glad tidings of
His grace and salvation strange things.

My brethren, ought these things so to be?  Or would these things have so
been, if the church of CHRIST had risen to her duty; in a word, had
greater union prevailed among her members?  She has had strength,
resources, opportunities; she has not lacked zeal, intelligence, nor
encouragement; but she has expended her strength, in that which profiteth
nothing; her resources, in fostering intestine warfare; and perverted her
opportunities, to promote sectarian dogmas, and anti-christian strife.
We are called bitterly to mourn these departures from the Spirit of
CHRIST; and thus with shame, to confess that we are verily guilty
concerning our heathen brethren.  Upon the christian church, has been
laid the obligation to preach to them the Gospel; but alas! we have
fearfully neglected our duty, or at least very inadequately performed it.

But see, my beloved brethren, what influence this christian unity would
exert, and what consequences would follow from it in the conversion of
the world.  _For the church would then be a witness for the truths and
excellence of the glorious gospel_—and how important is that!  It is in
_the church_ that the men of the world study the gospel.  They care not
to investigate its real nature, as revealed in the bible—they care not to
study its features, in the character of CHRIST—they care not to attend to
its delineation in the ordinance of preaching.  But they _can_ see it in
professors—and they will scrutinize their character, and keen sighted and
vigilant are they in detecting evil, and discerning imperfections.  And
how invariably have the division, discord, and strifes of the church,
laid a stumbling block in the way of the enquirer—strengthened the
worldly in their prejudices against the truth, and confirmed the
unbeliever in his incredulity and contempt.

But on the other hand; a church, _spiritual_, _zealous_, _devoted_, _one
in love to each other_, in love to CHRIST and love to souls, would bear
upon itself its own credentials.  The world convinced by such evidence,
and impressed by such scenes, would acknowledge “that GOD was with us of
a truth,” our religion would be honoured, and “the name of our LORD JESUS
CHRIST glorified.”

And again—_if such unity existed and prevailed_, _the whole undivided
energies and resources of the church_, _would be at liberty_, _and ready
to be devoted to the extension of the gospel_, _and the salvation of the

Much strength is now lost in our conflicts with each other—much
squandered upon vain and profitless discussion.  Let these hitherto
mis-employed energies be called forth—these perverted resources gathered
into the proper channels; and then may we not hope that the church of
CHRIST would present an unbroken front to the powers of evil, and move on
one compact and irresistible host to secure the happy subjection of all
things to our Redeemer.

_The cultivation of this spirit moreover_, _would place us in a state of
eminent preparedness for our glorious work_.  Our minds would no longer
be engaged in minor objects, but would constantly recognize the one great
end—the conversion of the world to CHRIST.  All occasions of envying,
strife, and division being removed; what agents would Christians be in
this holy enterprize?  Men baptized with pity for souls and love to
JESUS—burning with ardent zeal to make him known—counting not their lives
dear unto themselves, so that they may set forth the unsearchable riches
of CHRIST.  And in answer to the united prayers of such an united people,
CHRIST would send forth his Holy Spirit as it never yet has come.

Yes! beloved brethren! only let there be unity in the church, and scenes,
of which Pentecost was but a type, an imperfect emblem, will presently
appear.  Much has been done in preparing for the approaching harvest.
The seed is thickly sown, and is being sown still more thickly.  The
preached word—millions of bibles—the hundreds of millions of tracts—the
labors of Sunday schools, and the efforts of missionaries; all these have
scattered wide the sacred gospel.

And now what wait we for?  Oh! beloved! for the shower which these united
prayers of the united church shall bring down; then, and not till then,
nations will be converted to JESUS; the world will be brought to his feet
believing; earth shall raise its triumphant song—“Hallelujah for the LORD
GOD omnipotent reigneth.  The kingdoms of this world, &c.
Hallelujah.”—The church _is one_.—The world is CHRIST’S.

Having already detained you so long, I feel reluctant to trespass upon
your patience further.  I must however not forget that my duty would be
still more imperfectly performed than it has been already, were I not to
make honourable mention of that great and noble society; the claims of
which I would in conclusion urge upon you.

I say _great and noble society_, for such verily it is; whether you
regard the broad and catholic principle upon which it was originally
founded—the eminent and pious who have adorned its ranks—the devoted,
self-denying, and exemplary men who have been its missionaries—or the
signal success and peculiar blessing with which the “GOD of all grace”
has crowned its operations.

These are days in which missionary societies proceed with rapid strides;
and it is interesting to a devout and enlightened mind, to review the
history of such institutions; to trace them in the infancy of their
existence, the feebleness of their first efforts, the perils and danger
attendant upon their course; and then to rejoice in every year of their
advancing strength and prosperity.

In the case before us, whether we consider the signs of the times when
the foundation of this society was laid, amidst the fall of thrones and
the convulsion of the civilized world; or the limited means and feeble
agency, with which it commenced its efforts for the redemption of the
nations; or the gigantic obstacles, both at home and abroad, which were
then presented to its progress; or whether we glance at the superhuman
and glorious results, which in every sphere of its labours have rewarded
its toils; reason, no less than piety, will give utterance to humility
and praise in the poetic strains of inspiration, “not unto us O LORD, not
unto us; but to thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s

We rejoice in the happy contrast presented to our view, between the state
of things _now_, and that of _former days_.

When this society commenced its benevolent career, there were many
formidable obstacles with which the originators of such institutions had
to contend.  Great ignorance and gross mis-conception prevailed as to the
real condition, social and moral, of Pagan nations.  The visitors of
heathen countries had contented themselves with merely glancing at the
surface of society, even often purposely refraining from a detail of
evils and enormities they could not have failed to have observed, whilst
others denied the vices they had no care to suppress, and the existence
of miseries which their own interest or influence had served but to

It was indeed maintained that the negro race in general, the Hottentot in
particular, was the connecting link between the animal and human species,
though partaking far more largely of the attributes of the brute, than
the similitude of the man.

But on the other hand, the inhabitants of the east were glowingly
described as blest with civilization, and enlightened by science; and
although the objects and forms of their worship were diversified, yet as
their eulogists affirmed, their veneration for their gods was sincere and
unbounded; while in social life, they were patterns of excellence—kind in
their tempers, and lovely in their manners—living to make each other
happy, and dying in the assurance of paradise hereafter.  Such were the
popular falsehoods to be combated and refuted, at the very outset of the
missionary enterprize.

But where are now the advocates of Paganism, and the apologists for
Idolatry?  The moral condition of the heathen is better understood
to-day, by the children in our schools, than it was by the enlightened
classes of society fifty years ago; and the necessity of the gospel to
meet the wants, and heal the sufferings of mankind, has become a familiar
and undisputed truth.  And by whom have these idle tales and gross
fabrications been exposed?  By the men of GOD, sent forth from our midst,
who have lived _with_ the heathen, and _for_ the heathen; from whose
concurrent testimony the church has learned, and the world has been
constrained to admit, that idolatry in all its varied forms, is an
abominable thing; that its principles are founded on falsehood and
absurdity, and that its requirements are cruel and obscene.

In the early days of missionary efforts, the fields of labour were
necessarily few and contracted.  The wide and effectual doors opened to
us were then closed, and for admission our revered forerunners entreated
and pleaded in vain.

Their ardent zeal panted for access to the teeming and degraded
multitudes of India.  But by the merchant, the soldier, and the
statesman, the christian missionary was alike denounced and resisted.
The robber and the spoiler were found in the train of the British
conqueror; but the minister of heavenly mercy might not set his foot upon
those distant shores.

Now, thanks be to GOD, how altered is the scene; the legislature of our
country has awarded religious freedom to India; and now the missionary
may go through the length and breadth of that mighty empire, testifying
to the Mussulman and idolator “repentance towards GOD, and faith towards
our LORD JESUS CHRIST,” unmolested by the natives, and befriended by his
countrymen.  If the early friends of missions excluded from the millions
of India, turned their attention to the colonies of the west; there the
curse of slavery rested with all its unmitigated horrors.  And whilst
christian compassion wept over the lacerated body, or the more tortured
spirit of the deeply injured negro; the stern voice of the oppressor
forbade the application of the balm that might have soothed and healed
his bleeding heart.  In the judgment of the slave-holder to instruct the
negro in the mild principles of Christianity, was an offence not to be
forgiven, an evil pregnant with every conceivable danger; and of all men,
the missionary was the man most to be dreaded and detested.  But the
spirit of justice, philanthropy, and religion, maintained the hard fought
contest, till the spirit of oppression though unchanged, was compelled to
yield; and amidst the scenes where Smith was martyred as the friend of
the slave—where the sanctuaries of GOD were pillaged and destroyed—where
faithful brethren were seized, imprisoned, and threatened with death,
_there_ liberty has been proclaimed to the captive, and _there_ the
glorious gospel of the blessed GOD has gladdened and governed the hearts
of thousands.  In Southern Africa also where the arms of our country had
triumphed, British power was exerted for the support of slavery, and the
discouragement of christian missions.  The feelings of the colonists in
general, were well expressed by the Dutch farmer, who in reply to the
proposal of Robert Moffat to preach the gospel to his servants, exclaimed
with a voice of thunder!—“preach to the Hottentots—preach to the dogs.”
But _now_, thanks be to the GOD of missions, the Hottentot is free; the
Caffre is protected, and the wandering and hostile tribes of the desert
enjoy the advantages of liberty, order, and peace; sanctified and
enhanced by the blessings of religion.

But surpassing all other wonders of a gracious providence on behalf of
missions—China, which from time immemorial barred her gates against the
stranger; which ten years ago appeared equally impregnable for ages to
come.  _China itself is open_!  Opened to an extent far beyond our power
of occupation.  Already the faithful evangelist proclaims the gospel of
salvation in her crowded cities, none making him afraid, and many giving
welcome to his message.

Of the christian missionary then, so lately proscribed in the east and
west, excluded from the deserts of Africa and the cities of China, it may
now be said “the world is all before him where to choose, and providence
his guide.”  Can we not trace the hand of GOD in all this, and say “what
hath GOD wrought.”

To form a just estimate of the benefits that have directly resulted from
the missionary labors of this and other kindred societies, during the
brief period of their varied efforts, it is necessary that we should
attentively consider the magnitude of our design—the conversion of 600
millions of idolators to christianity—a multitude diversified in habits,
language, and character—the limited amount of agency that has yet been
employed—the antiquity of the various systems of idolatry which prevail,
in contrast with the novelty and strangeness of the gospel claims; and
above all, the perfect congeniality of heathenism, to the depraved
principles and passions of the human nature, in opposition to the
humbling and sanctifying influence of Christianity.  These considerations
are suggested, not for the purpose of alleviating disappointment and
bespeaking forbearance to a narrative of failures; but rather to heighten
our pleasure and enlarge our gratitude, that amidst obstacles so gigantic
and with means so limited, we have in the short space of fifty years been
favored through the divine blessing, with success so varied and
abundant—success, both in character and amount, it may be confidently
affirmed, greatly exceeding the largest expectations of the fathers of
the cause.

This society has laboured to bless suffering man amidst the different
forms of his guilt and misery, in Asia, Africa, Polynesia, and the West
Indies.  And in which of these wide fields of its mercy has it failed?
It has laboured for his happiness in relation to the life that now is, as
well as that which is to come, and in which of its designs of mercy has
it not succeeded?  Behold the triumphs of christian missions in the
peaceful villages and cultivated plains of Africa—in the contentment and
prosperity of the West Indian freed-man—in the Polynesian savage,
transformed into the kind husband, the tender parent, and the happy man!

What numerous evils have not been terminated, and what daring crimes have
not been prevented by the influence of missions?  How many a widow,
otherwise doomed to perish amidst the horrors of the burning pile, now
lives!  How many an infant, destined to die by the hands of its mother,
is now pressed to her bosom!  How many a victim, marked as a sacrifice to
the gods of his country, now trusts and adores the GOD of salvation!
Yes! we do rejoice in these supplementary advantages of christian
missions; but had our success been limited to these, we should have
deemed success itself a failure.  Our first, our noblest aim, is not to
civilize but to _evangelize_ the heathen; not only to raise the savage to
the dignity of man, but to raise man to fellowship with GOD.

And in every scene of conflict with error and sin, the champions of the
truth have maintained a good fight, and have been heard exulting, “now
thanks be to GOD who always causeth us to triumph in CHRIST, and maketh
manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”  Theirs is no
empty boast, as they indulge these joyous strains.  They point in
_Africa_ to the wandering marauder, once more ferocious than the lion
which prowls amidst her sandy deserts, now harmless and gentle as the
lamb!  In _India_ to the Brahmin, once the object of idolatry, now of
scorn; once caressed by friends and loved by kindred, now a solitary
outcast; “but what things were gain to him, he has counted loss for

In the _Isles of the Pacific_ to the man, once both the destroyer and
consumer of his fellow man; but now the cannibal delights in peace, and
breathes the amenities of love.

In the _West Indies_ to redeemed multitudes, once in harder and viler
bondage than their crudest oppressors could impose on their emaciated
frame; but the SON OF GOD has made them free, and “they are free indeed.”

But on the other hand this society has had to mingle her tears with her
praises, and exhibits the trials as well as the triumphs of faith.

From Madagascar the shepherds have indeed been driven, and their flocks
scattered; they wander amid the wilderness as lambs among wolves, and
many have been offered as a sacrifice upon the altar of their faith.

From the deserts of Siberia also, where for more than twenty years our
faithful brethren laboured with untiring zeal, to plant amid those snowy
solitudes the garden of the LORD—they have been driven from their much
loved toil.

In Tahiti also, where our fathers gathered their plenteous, yet long
delayed first-fruits, we have been called to reap the bitterest sorrow.
The envious eye and malignant spirit of popery could not tolerate that
fair field of protestant faith and apostolic piety; and in the Government
of France she found a mind sufficiently ungenerous, and a hand
sufficiently oppressive, to effect the desolation of that lonely island.
Alas! freedom bleeds, and injustice triumphs in Tahiti.  The people have
fled from their homes to breathe the air of freedom in the fastnesses of
the mountains, and the christian queen is now a fugitive from her native

Nor these things only.  Our success has provoked the zeal of our
adversaries.  Idolatry, which once regarded our efforts with silent
scorn, now feels our power, and arms itself for resistance.  Popery
tracks the footsteps of the christian mission; not in Tahiti only, but in
China, India, Africa, the West Indies—on every soil they tread.

Yes! beloved brethren, we must not dream of repose, or allow our past
success to lull us into security or indifference.

The hosts of earth and hell are opposed to us; they unite in strong
phalanx against the LORD, and against His Anointed.  _Unity_ is their
watch-word, for _unity_ is their strength—combination and co-operation
are their principles.  Let us be taught by the enemy; let us put on the
whole armour of GOD, that we may be able to stand in the evil day; and
_over all_, “put on charity which is the very bond of perfection.”

Remember, beloved brethren, that in an united advance against the enemy,
the victory is sure.  The Captain of our Salvation is now gone forth
conquering and to conquer.  To Him are given “the heathen for his
inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.”
And “He must reign until he shall have put all enemies under his feet.”
The cause, the glorious cause is advancing!  Christians will you not help
it?  The conflict has begun!  Christians will you not join it?  The final
triumph of Messiah is at hand; even now the angelic hosts are preparing
their golden harps to celebrate with the rejoicing heaven and redeemed
earth, the consummation so ardently anticipated by the Redeemer—so long
desired by the church—so cordially hailed in promise—so fervently
supplicated in prayer; even the complete unity of the church, and by


                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                   Geo. M. Smith, Printer, Ironbridge.

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