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heretics ; for the sending forth of labourers into the harvest : I say, such a disposition for prayer, in these and similar respects, does not seem so congenial to the minds of Christians in general, as one would suppose it must be, from the principles on which they rest all their hope and confidence.
My sphere of observation is contracted: and, if any say, I have not found it so among my friends and brethren, I congratulate him: but this, I confess, is the impression that I have received during the years of my acquaintance with evangelical persons.
Indeed it is my decided opinion, that nothing could so effectually promote the cause, not only of missions, but of Christianity in all respects, as a general concern among all Christians; not only on some special days or hours, but constantly, whenever they prayed, to remember, either more generally, or fully, the case of unconverted sinners, of the heathen and the poor Jews, with that of missions and missionaries, and the sending forth of labourers; in particular, the raising up of missionaries and ministers among the natives of those countries which we attempt to evangelize; as this alone can give a prospect of enlarged and permanent success. This indeed would be well calculated to excite a missionary spirit : but it is especially urged from a full conviction that it will be the introduction, when God is about to “fill the earth “ with his glory, as the waters cover the sea.”
An early acquaintance with the writings of president Edwards, Brainerd, and the New England divines, gave my mind a peculiar turn to this subject. The nations unacquainted with Christ have ever since lain near my heart: and I never thought a prayer complete in which they were wholly forgotten. This was the case several years before societies for missions that is, new societies in England,) were established: but I could do no more than offer my feeble prayers.
Since that time new and animating scenes have opened to our view; and now, far beyond my expectation, I have lived, for the second time, to recommend from the pulpit the missionary cause ; which I do with the most unreserved cordiality. It ought to be dearer to each of us than our lives : O may we then, more than ever, pour out our daily and fervent prayers for its success, whenever attempted ; and that the Lord of the harvest himself would send forth labourers into his harvest.
Let us, my brethren, consider the Saviour himself as in the midst of us; as witnessing our consultations, plans, and difficulties; and especially our earnest inquiries, 'What more can we do?' and let us suppose, that he, with his own gracious lips subjoined, in the language of authority and love, the injunction of the text; and then let us consider what effect it would have on our subsequent conduct.
But O, how deplorable the case of Britons, of persons acquainted with the gospel, yet living without prayer, or resting only in lifeless form ! who cannot pray for their country, or their nearest relatives, much less for the heathen, because they have not yet learned to pray for themselves! It is not, however, yet too late : “ Seek then the Lord “ while he may be found; call upon him while he “is near.” For, “ when once the Master of the “house is risen up, and hath shut to the door ; “ and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at “ the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and “ he shall answer and say unto you, I know you « not, whence ye are; then shall ye begin to say, “ We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and “ thou hast taught in our streets : but he shall “ say, I tell you I know not whence ye are: depart “ from me all ye workers of iniquity. There shall “ be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall “ see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the “ prophets, in the kingdom of God; and you 66 yourselves thrust out. And they shall come “ from the east, and from the west, and from the “ north, and from the south, and shall sit down in “ the kingdom of God. And behold there are last “ which shall be first, and there are first which “ shall be last.”1
A thought at this moment darts across my mind, which gives me pain and discouragement. There are, I know, even religious persons, apparently so at least, who disapprove the design, and endeavour to damp the ardour of those engaged in it; or at least cannot concur in any measures, till a sort of Utopian perfection, according to their notions, can be discerned in the plans and in the managers of the business.- I shall only say, that had such notions generally prevailed in our Lord's days, and in subsequent ages, we should now have been idolaters : if, in the times of Luther and his successors
in reformation, we must have continued papists. Join your efforts at least with some of our societies ; and let us have your prayers for them all.
Let no Christian make unworthiness, or discouragement, or want of liberty in prayer, an excuse or reason for neglecting this bounden duty. In general, prayer for others is the best preparation for pouring out our own complaints before God with confidence and comfort: and, did we more generally begin as our Lord hath taught us, “Hal“ lowed be thy name ; thy kingdom come ; thy “ will be done in earth, as in heaven;" we should more generally conclude with animated alacrity, “For thine,” O Lord, “ is the kingdom, and the “ power and the glory, for ever and ever:-Amen!”