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A CALL FROM THE HEATHEN.
BY REV. HIRAM H. WHITE.
OF THE NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE,
Delivered before the Young Men's Methodist Foreign Missionary Society,at the Bennett Street Chapel, Boston,
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him, saying, come over into Macedonia and help us.'
Acts xvi, 9.
THERE is something peculiar to the influence of Christianity in removing the natural selfishness of the human heart. Instead of rendering its possessor contented with his own attainments, and satisfied with enjoying the richest of blessings, it no sooner fixes its seat in the heart, and spreads its influence through the soul, than a strong desire is begotten that others may partake of the same joys and privileges. Its charity having no bounds, encircles the nations of the earth, and would if possible, strew the blessings of our holy religion in the paths of all men. Hence the burning zeal, that characterized the Apostles in spreading abroad to every land the Redeemer's name; hence the efforts the true church has been making through many ages, to propagate the doctrines of the Bible; hence also that mighty spirit that has been awakened and gathering strength. in the hearts of Christians of every name for half a century past, whereby the gospel's light has been shed on many of the dark places of the earth. And now so great is the desire of many nations to receive the missionary of Christ with the Bible, that we may hear as from the four winds of heaven, come over and help us.'
Some of the ancients believed, that every nation has its guardian angel, some benevolent spirit, devoted to its happiness and welfare; and it has been suggested, that the man who appeared to Paul, in the visions of the night, was the guardian angel of Macedonia; that, moved with the knowledge of their wretchedness and moral darkness, he appeared in a human form to Paul, inviting and urging him to come over into Macedonia and help that people. This suggestionis truly interesting. And may we not suppose that the guardian angels of many nations are now mingling in our assembly, hovering round us unperceived, and that if we turn a deaf ear to their Macedonian cry, they will be our accusing spirits at the tribunal of Him who hath constituted us stewards of the goods of this life.
In order to be prepared to listen, let us contemplate the condition of the heathen.
1. They are in a state of natural degradation. The polluted fountain that was opened in the heart of man by his first transgression, has sent forth its streams to every land and every
clime under heaven; all flesh is corrupt before that God, who made man in his own image. God in the institutions of his mercy hath opened wide a fountain to wash this pollution away; but he hath distinguished the nations of the earth with respect to privilege. While the light of revelation discovers to some the nearest and best way to this lover of mercy, other nations, and those not a few, are left to grope their way in darkness. Out of eight hundred millions, the estimate population of our world, but two hundred millions enjoy the light of the gospel, leaving six hundred millions of our wretched race in ignorance and darkness. Why God hath thus distinguished the nations of the earth, we will offer no reasons, till some can be found above mere human conjecture. That they are thus situated we know, and we farther know, that help is asked at our hands. Their darkness and wretchedness are entailed from age to age. Son succeeds the father with the same heathenish soul-generation follows generation without a ray more of light to the land of death. The millions that death sweeps away this year, are equally benighted and depraved with those he swept away last year; and, if their condition changes at all, it is from dark to darker, from evening to midnight.
2. The heathen world are in a state of political degradation. In nothing is the difference between heathen and Christian countries more discernible, than in their governments. In one it is despotism; in the other freedom. It is true historians have given us glowing descriptions of the perfection of government and the liberty enjoyed by ancient Greece and Rome; but we presume to state it as an undeniable fact, that if these governments were compared with the worst in christendom, there would be a vast difference in favor of the Christian government. But how far have all other pagan nations sunk below ancient Greece and Rome. The princes of the heathen are generally noted amongst the worst for corruption and crime; their thrones are despotism itself; their sceptres are errors; their laws, if they have any, are a compound of folly and cruelty. There are millions and millions, who never breathed for a moment the mild air of freedom, never drank a drop from the cup of liberty, or set one moment in security, under their own vines and fig trees. Kings are taskmasters ; nations are slaves. We need to breathe a whole year the foul suffocating air of a prison, to feel even the iron grasp of the Inquisition, before we are prepared to estimate the despotism of heathen governments. The fact is, the tree of liberty will not grow on the soil, which is not enriched by the doctrines of God's revelation. Christianity must soften man's nature before he is prepared to rule, or to enjoy freedom.
3. The heathen are in a state of moral degradation. Mingled with their immorality, is their inhumanity. The principles which have the most influence among us in forming man's moral character, are not known among them. That pity and sympathy the Bible inspires are unfelt.
The picture which the Apostle has drawn us in his epistle to the Romans, of heathens in his day, is so appaling, fearfúl and disgusting, that not only does humanity weep over it, to think they are men, but its truth we should doubt, had not inspiration thrown in the darkest colors it contains, and guided the hand that drew it. The accounts we receive of them at this day show that their condition is not bettered by time. Survey the heathen world and you everywhere behold scenes at which shame itself blushes; and no terms sufficiently chaste can be found to describe them. Leaving the filthy Hottentot, who, in his natural state is like the swine in pollution and ignorance, with a mind enlightened with scarcely a ray of intelligence, having little that pertains to man, except the form, let us pass to the thousands that inhabit New Holland. Here we need only stop to notice one thing, that with them, the sweetest food, the most delicious fare, is the flesh of a human enemy. We then pass to the more refined nations of India and China. There you may behold a son murdering a father, or the mother that gave him life and nursed him, merely because they have become too old to support themselves. In India you may yet see, with what indifference and inhumanity, a mother can thrust from her arms her first-born and smiling infant to be devoured by the river god, the crocodile. At a short distance may be seen a funeral pile, where a living wife is consuming with the body of her dead husband. Near the principal city, the car of Juggernaut rolls on, in its track of blood, crushing to death the devotee of its unhallowed religion. Go to the islands of the Sea, or to the Indians of the north, and they have but one character. And it has been said, that you may search the vocabularies of every heathen language, from the Islands of the southern ocean to the tribes that encircle the northern pole, and in very few languages will you find any term that answers to our word morality. They do not know the import of the term.
4. The heathen are in a state of spiritual degradation. This is what marks their character most fatally. We have hitherto viewed them in relation to this life, as ignorant, enslaved and immoral: But we come now to view them in a more affecting point of light, as immortal beings; as standing in near relation to the Creator of all;—as journeying with us to the destinies of another world. But, alas, God in his perfections is unknown to them; few of them believe in the immortality of the soul or expect a resurrection of the dead. Though God hath so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son to die, ġet this glorious truth hath never reached their ears. Though life and immortality have been brought to light in the gospel, yet it hath never spread its glories to their view~~ though the Sun of Righteousness has arisen to dispel the darkness of nature's night, yet it is dark night with them still. Its light hath not chased their clouds away, nor illumined the valley of the shadow of death, in which they dwell. The plague wasteth in darkness, and the pestilence rageth at noonday; ġet there is no gospel hope as balm to be applied to their hearts in the distressing hour; there is none to strip death of his terrors, or disarm him of his sting. When our friends are borne away by death, we rejoice in the prospect of immortality. Death loses its terrors in the consideration that it is not the end of man. But think how many poor heathens enter the gate of death, into impenetrable darkness-plunge into a night, that to their view has no star, no moon beyond it.
But what is most affecting is their gross idolatry. Here is degradation indeed! To see millions of rational beings, having souls capable of honoring and loving a perfect God, who stamped man's soul with His image, bowing down before an unshapely block of wood, or prostrating themselves to a rudely graved stone, worshipping even beasts and serpents and devils, saying these are our gods; or if their religion teaches them to soar far as the burning sun, or the fair moon, or twinkling stars for gods, yet they have no thought of that heaven that lies beyond the sky, or that hell that gapes beneath, or that God that has inscribed his name on all. And then add the licentious rites and obscure ceremonies practised by them Who would not weep over them, and listen to that earnest and imploring voice, Come over and help us.'
5. Their is one state of hopeless degradation without foreign aid. This is yet another darker color to this picture, another ingredient thrown into the composition of their wretchedness. Not that all heathen must perish eternally without the gospel; but, that they cannot recover themselves to civilization, morality, and a knowledge of the true God. All experience and observation on this subject prove this. Where is now the nation that has recovered itself from heathenism by its own inherent power, without the aid of the gospel of Christ? Such a nation does not exist. To what nation has the gospel been carried by the winds of heaven, or by an angel from God? Has it not been put into man's hand by God, saying, Go into all the world and preach it to every creature? What has tamed the savage nature, and turned the lion into a lamb, and raised to civilization the most debased of human kind among the Ina dians of our country? I answer, the missionary,
6. What has wrought such wonders in bettering the conditions of the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands? The gospel of Christ. Great moral changes have taken place among many other nations, but in no one instance, without foreign influence. God works by the use of means. Christendom must help the heathen, or their condition is hopeless. There they must grope in darkness, till we carry them the lamp of revelation. There they must lie wounded and bleeding, till the missionary shall point them to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world. There they shall wander, till the hand of charity shall gather them into the fold of Christ. On themselves they can have no dependence, for the world by wisdom never found out God.
II. We proceed to remark, that this representation presents powerful claims upon the sympathies and liberality of various classes of the Christian public. A cry is heard, come over and help us!
1. It has its claim on the patriot and philanthropist. Yes. Put out of consideration the immortality of the soul, the retributions of another world, and it will not divest it of interest to every lover of liberty and mercy. The true philanthropist is not the lover of his country only, but regards himself as a citizen of the world, as a member of the family of man at large. The patriot not only holds dear the liberties of his native land, but he desires to break the arm of despotic power every where. The assertion needs no proof, that the blessings of our freedom, morality and kindness, are not enjoyed among any other people.
Where the gospel has not been published, man's wayward and cruel nature, his overwhelming passions and destructive pride unfit him for a righteous administration of government. Therefore, every one who would wish to send the blessings of civilization, freedom and peace to the wretched and debased heathen is interested to send the Missionary, with the Gospel of Christ. How many patriotic and warm hearts there are, throbbing with intense interest for those nations within the bounds of Christendom, who once tasted the sweets of liberty and independence, but have been brought low by tyrants and oppressed by despotic power. Who has not wept over Greece? Who has not bled at heart for Poland? yet, alas, who has even thought or sighed for once over nations in heathen lands, who groan under oppression more cruel than that of the haughty Turks, and are bleeding in the fangs of arbitrary power more fearful