“SIGNS OF THE TIMES” A Sermon by Jedidiah Morse: Pastor of the Congregational Church in Charlestown.
DANIEL xii. 4, 10.
BUT THOU, OH DANIEL, SHUT UP THE WORDS AND SEAL THE
BOOK, EVEN TO THE TIME OF THE END; MANY SHALL RUN
TO AND FRO, AND KNOWLEDGE SHALL BE INCREASED.
MANY SHALL BE PURIFIED AND MADE WHITE, AND TRIED;
BUT THE WICKED SHALL DO WICKEDLY; AND NONE OF THE
WICKED SHALL UNDERSTAND; BUT THE WISE SHALL UNDERSTAND.
Jedidiah Morse 1761-1826
OUR blessed Lord once addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees, in a way of keen reproof for their criminal inattention to events which were manifestly fulfilling most important prophecies, in the following language; “When it is evening, ye say, it will be fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day; for the sky is red and lowering. Oh ye hypocrites, ye can – discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Daniel’s seventy weeks;[Dan.ix.24] were then nearly completed. The sceptre was departing from Judah; Elias had already come in the person of John Baptist, as the forerunner of the Messiah; the numerous prophecies relating to his character, doctrine, and miracles, were visibly fulfilling, and a general expectation of his coming prevailed over the world. Had these Pharisees and Sadducees taken due pains to acquaint themselves with these prophecies, and with the singular events, which were accomplishing them; had they been as attentive to these “signs of the times,” as to the signs of the weather, they might easily have perceived that these were the times of their expected Messiah, and that their nation was shortly to be given up to awful punishments for rejecting him.
“That, which hath been, is now; and that, which is to be, hath already been.”[Eccles. iii:15] “Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.”[Ch.i:10] Are there not many of the present generation of men, who resemble these ancient Pharisees and Sadducees? They can “discern the face of the sky;” they are wise to prognosticate the course of events with respect to political and commercial affairs; but they ”discern not the signs of the times;” they are criminally ignorant of the Scripture prophecies, which relate to the present period, and inattentive to events, which are remarkably fulfilling them. But this, however, should not surprise us; since the prophet has given us warning, that at this period “the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand.”
The verses of the text may with propriety be read in connection. The intervening passage is a digression, and may be included in a parenthesis. The import of the verses thus connected, is this; that “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;” and that the effect of this increase of knowledge, in conjunction with other causes, will be, that “many shall be purified, and made white, and tried.”
The person, who addressed Daniel in this prophecy, and directed him to “shut up the words, and seal the book to the time of the end,” was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. In the tenth chapter of this prophecy, [v. 5-6] a more particular account of this personage is given. “Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz; his body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in color to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.” Any one, who will take the pains to compare this description with that, which St. John, in the Revelation i:13-20, gives of Jesus Christ, must be convinced, that the personage here described, who is the same, that addresses the prophet in the text, can be no other, than the Son of God. This might be farther confirmed by a comparison of Daniel xii. 5, 6, 7. with Rev. x. 2. 6. in both which places the personage, alluded to and described in the text, is ” represented, as setting his right foot on the sea, and his left upon the land, as Sovereign Lord of both elements.”
The prophecy under consideration, which was dictated by “him that is true,”[Rev. iii.7] describes events, which were to happen in the last times, or “in the time of the end,” and must of course remain obscure, till the events predicted shall be about to happen, or be actually passing in view of the then existing generation.
The prophecy in the text is then yet to be fulfilled; or, perhaps to speak more correctly, is fulfilling by the events of the present times. This appears from the prophecies connected with the text. The victories of Mahomet, or the rise and establishment of his dominion, and also the destruction of his power, seem plainly foretold and described in the five last verses of the chapter preceding the text.[Dan.xi.40-end “And at the time of the end,” i.e. of the prosperity of the Roman empire, “the king of the south,” meaning Mahomet, “shall push at him: and the king of the north,” the Turks from Scythia, “shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots and with horsemen, and with many ships, and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow, and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape out of his hands, even Edom and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” It is remarkable, that while the Turks from the north overran Syria, Palestine, and the other neighboring countries, Edom, Moab, and Ammon escaped, and have never been conquered by any nation; and their inhabitants, the Arabs, to this day, receive an annual tribute from the Ottoman emperors, for the safe passage of their pilgrims and caravans to Mecca. “He,” meaning the Turkish emperors, continues the prophet, “shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and Ethiopians shall be at his steps.” These prophecies have all been literally fulfilled. Egypt, with her immense treasures, Lybia and Ethiopia, embracing the northern parts of Africa, fell under the dominion of the Turks, and so remain to this day.
Events, which are yet future, are foretold in the two following verses; “But tidings out of the east, and out of the north, shall trouble him; therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to take away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palaces between the seas in the glorious holy mountain;[Temple Mount] yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” Mr. Mede supposes, that these “tidings from the east, and the north, which shall trouble the Turkish emperor, may be the return of Judah and Israel from the countries east and north of the holy land, as in these countries the greater numbers were dispersed, and remain to this day.” The return of the Jews to their own land, is expressly predicted by the prophet Ezekiel; [Chap, xxxix. 5 last verses] and to this event, and to the assistance, which shall be given them by the Christian nations east and north of the holy land, this prophecy may refer. Tidings of such assistance from these nations would doubtless trouble the Turkish government, who are in possession of the country, which is to be restored to the Jews.
But other writers on prophecy give the passage a different interpretation. Persia lies to the east, and Russia to the north, of the Turkish dominions. For centuries past, it is well known, that the Turkish emperors have been apprehensive of a junction of these two formidable powers, and have exerted all their policy to prevent it. It is known also, that there is a tradition current among the common people in Turkey, that their empire will one day be overthrown by the Russians; also that a mutual affection and confidence subsist between the Christians of the Greek church, vast numbers of whom are inhabitants of the Turkish empire, and the same denomination in Russia, where this is the established religion; and that the former consider the latter, as those “whom ancient prophecies mention, as designed by God for their avengers and deliverers in after ages.” [See Sir Paul Rycaut’s Account of the Greek Church, c, iii. p. 83. Published 1678] So the Greek church interprets the prophecy under consideration.
On the whole, it appears most probable from the language of this prophecy, that the Persians on the east and the Russians on the north will, at a period not far distant, unite in one grand effort against the Turkish empire to overthrow it; that the Turks will establish their camp and collect all their strength “between the seas of the glorious holy mountain,” i.e. in the land of Canaan, between the Mediterranean and Dead Seas, whence they will go forth with great fury against their combined foes, “to destroy, and utterly to make away many.” “Yet he,” i.e. the Turkish power, “shall come to his end, and none shall help him.” This will complete the ruin of the Mahometan power, or the eastern antichrist. The overthrow of the western antichrist, which is also predicted in this chapter, will happen about the same time.
“And at that time,” says the prophet in the chapter, which contains our text; that is, at the time when the great events of which we have spoken, shall be passing; when the antichrists of the east and the west shall be falling (for they are to fall, agreeably to the prophecy, nearly at the same time) by the means, which God hath ordained for that purpose; “at that time, shall Michael stand up, the great Prince, which standeth for the children of thy people, and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was, since there was a nation, even to that same time.” “And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book;” that is, Israel, God’s chosen heritage, who shall have been preserved till this time a distinct people in all the nations, among which they are dispersed, as entirely so, as if their names were registered in a book, shall now be delivered, collected and established in great peace and prosperity in the holy land. The prophets, and after them our Lord, and his apostle John in the Revelation, all represent the time of the conversion of the Jews, and their return to the holy land, as a time of great trouble.
After these and the contemporary events, which we are led from the prophecies to expect, shall have happened, then will follow, how soon after we know not, the general resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment, to which the following verses undoubtedly refer; “And many of them, that sleep in the dust of the earth (many being here put for all [Rom. v. 15]) shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever.”
The Lord Jesus Christ, by his Spirit, having dictated to his holy and beloved prophet the whole series of grand events, which were to happen from the time these prophecies were penned, to the complete establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth, and even to the end of time, directs Daniel to close his sacred records, which would remain obscure, and but partially understood, “till the time of the end,” till the events predicted should be actually happening in view of the world. Then many will be running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge will be increased. And as these times will be full of trouble, such as the world at no former period ever witnessed; and also times of increased light and knowledge; both will conspire to purify the souls of good men, who shall have understanding in the times. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried, and the wise shall understand; but the wicked shall do wickedly, and shall not understand;” they shall be given up to blindness and obstinacy of heart, because they will persist in their wickedness, against all the light and evidence, which shall surround them, and they shall have nothing to support them, under the trials, which shall befall them in that awful period. .
Such I conceive to be the meaning of the text. In fixing it, I have consulted the best helps within my reach. I have been thus particular in bringing into view and explaining the prophecies, immediately connected with the text, for the purpose of ascertaining, as far as practicable, the time, when we are to expect the events, which it predicts. If our interpretation be correct, the events, which are to fulfill this prophecy, are near at hand, or they may be even now passing in view of the present generation. In the sequel of this discourse therefore I propose,
I. To exhibit evidence to shew, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its ultimate and highest accomplishment, but is probably fulfilling by the events of the present time.
II. To show what effects we are to expect will follow these events.
III. To apply the subject.
I. I am to exhibit evidence to show, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its ultimate and highest accomplishment, but is probably fulfilling by the events of the present time.
Some prophecies, says Lord Bacon, “are not fulfilled punctually, at once, but have a springing and germinant accomplishment throughout many ages, though the height, or fullness of them, may refer to someone age.”[Advancement of Learning. Book ii. in English] Precisely of this character, I conceive, is the prophecy now under consideration. To the period, when the Christian religion was first introduced and propagated in the world, the words of this prophecy may be literally applied, “Many ran to and fro through the earth, and knowledge was increased.” And “many were purified and made white, and tried,” by cruel persecutions. “The wicked” then “did wickedly, and none of the wicked understood” the signs of the times; “but the wise did understand.”
Wonderful was the revolution effected in the world by the introduction of the Christian religion. The preparations made for this event, by the providence of God, corresponded with its magnitude. The Roman Empire embraced almost the whole world, and its inhabitants universally spoke the Greek or Roman language. These were the languages of their courts, of their laws, of their priests and learned men, of their worship, and of their books generally. These circumstances, it is easy to conceive, were adapted wonderfully to facilitate the spread of the Gospel. The Jews, in consequence of their frequent captivities, were dispersed extensively among the surrounding nations; and, having carried with them a knowledge of the true God, prepared the way for the conversion of those nations. The Hebrew Scriptures had been translated into the Greek language, and were thus prepared to be dispersed and read in due time among that extensive portion of the heathen nations, to which this language was vernacular.* See Note A.
About this time also the proselytes of the gate, as they were called, were greatly multiplied. These were persons from various parts of the world, who had renounced heathenism, acknowledged and worshipped the true God, but had not fully embraced Judaism;[See Jennings’ Jewish Antiquities, vol. i. p. 131] and thus, freed from the prejudices of both, were prepared to receive the new religion, which Christ came to establish. The first Gentile converts to Christianity were chiefly of this class of people. We may add, as another remarkable event preparatory to the spread of the Gospel, that previously to the advent of our Savior, philosophy and the arts were cultivated to a great extent, and advanced to a high degree of perfection. Thus the minds of men were refined and prepared to examine the evidence on which Christianity claimed to be believed; and, through the power of the Holy Ghost, to embrace, defend, and propagate its sublime and heavenly doctrines. The heathen nations moreover had become tired of their religion, and of their idol gods; they had ceased to consult their oracles, and to respect their priests, and sighed for a change.[Millar’s Hist, of Christianity, vol. i. p. 255]
These preparations being made by the providence of God, the expected Messiah made his appearance, and set up his kingdom in the world. His disciples, at first few in number and of no reputation or influence among men, soon increased to a multitude. Within less than forty years after the death of Christ, his gospel was preached, and by great numbers embraced, in all the celebrated cities and countries, and even in the remote provinces and villages, of Asia, Europe, and Africa, comprising the whole of the then known world. The Sun of Righteousness darted his genial beams in every direction over the earth. The heralds of the Savior, sent forth, “their sound into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.”[Rom.x.18] Before the generation, who were contemporary with our Lord, had “passed away,[Matt.xxiv.14,34] the Gospel was preached throughout the world, (i. e. through all the Roman empire, among gentiles as well as Jews,) for a witness unto all nations.”
Clement, a fellow laborer with the apostles, asserts, that “St. Paul taught the whole world righteousness, having preached both in the east and in the west, and traveled to the utmost bounds of the west.” It is believed by many, that he preached the gospel even in Britain. According to Justin Martyr, “there was no nation, no sort of men, whether Greeks or barbarians, no country, however rude or unpolished, where prayers and thanksgivings were not presented to the Father and Creator of all things, through the name of the crucified Jesus.” Lanctantius says, if “the Christian law is entertained from the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, where every sex, age, nation, and country, does with one heart and soul worship God.” Irenaeus and Tertullian bear full testimony to the same facts. The latter,* after enumerating the principal portions of the world, where the gospel had been preached, concludes thus, “In all these places the name of Christ reigns, because he has now come, before whom the gates of all cities are set open, and none shut; before whom doors of brass fly open, and bars of iron are snapt asunder; that is, those hearts, once possessed by the devil, by faith in Christ are set open.”
The opening of the Christian era, and the first spread of the Gospel over the world, we may therefore consider as commencing the fulfillment of the prophecy under consideration. At this period “many ran to and fro through the earth, and knowledge was increased. Many were purified, and made white, and tried.”
It has received a “germinant accomplishment,” to use the words of Lord Bacon, in succeeding ages of the church; particularly during the three first centuries, and when Constantine ordered all the heathen temples to be destroyed, and established Christianity, as the religion of his empire, about the year 331. Also, and especially at the period of the Reformation, and the consequent revival and spread of the true religion, as well as of learning, philosophy, and the useful arts.
But considerations brought into view in the beginning of this discourse, and others of great weight, lead us to conclude that the highest and complete fulfillment of this prophecy is yet future; or perhaps we have entered on the period, in which it is to receive its full and ultimate accomplishment. Judging * from the course of events for the last half century, particularly of the last twenty years, we are constrained to believe that God in his providence has been, and is preparing the world for some grand revolution, some wonderful display of his sovereign and almighty power. Such a revolution is plainly foretold by the prophets; and from the language, which they use in describing it, as well as from the preparations, which are making to introduce it, we are left to infer that, though in many points it will resemble, yet it will on the whole far surpass, in magnitude and effect, that which took place at the opening of the Christian era.
Whether the world is again to be reduced to two languages and one grand empire, so far, as shall be necessary to free intercourse and the diffusion of useful knowledge among the various nations of the globe, cannot be foreseen. What God in his providence has once done for the accomplishment of one grand Revolution, he can and may do again, if necessary, to effect another of a similar kind and of greater magnitude. By a more extensive commercial intercourse among the nations; by wars, conquests, and revolutions; by raising up a modem Alexander, to subjugate a large portion of the world; by an increase and diffusion of knowledge, derived from travellers, and enterprises for discovery; especially by means of Missionaries, who are already scattered in every part of the world, and every day are increasing in number, and exploring some new region; not only learning the languages of the nations, but communicating the knowledge of their own; by all these and other means, which Divine providence may ordain, may not the English and French languages become to the world, what the Latin and Greek languages were before the Christian era? And may not the vast domains of some modern Alexander, become united with the dominions of some other great power, corresponding to the Roman Republic in the days of Alexander, and so the mass of mankind, be once more combined in one grand and universal empire.
As, by their peculiar situation, the Jews were formerly made subservient to the conversion of the Gentiles; so this remarkable people are to be used, according to prophecy, for the same end, at some future period. The conversion of the Jews, and their to return the Holy Land, will accomplish so many prophecies, in so public and signal a manner, as to confute and silence infidelity in every form. The attention of the whole world will be excited to this wonderful display of the mighty power of God, in fulfilling his word; and the effectual influence of his Holy Spirit, converting the nations, and bringing in “the fullness of the Gentiles,”[Rom.xi.25] will render genuine Christianity universally triumphant, [Note B.]
But it is time to direct your attention to events of the present day, which remarkably correspond with the prophecy under consideration, and appear to be fulfilling it in its highest ultimate intention. All, who have taken pains to acquaint themselves to any considerable extent with what has been passing in the world, particularly since the commencement of the American Revolution, and who duly consider the existing state of things, and the prospects of still greater changes, than any which have yet taken place, must be constrained to acknowledge, that it is now true, in a degree more remarkable than at any former period of the world, that many are “running to and fro in the earth, and that knowledge is increasing.” We now enter an immense field, over which we have time only to cast a rapid glance.
Men of enterprise and intelligence, moving in all directions, by land and sea, prompted by motives of gain, of literary curiosity, of fame; or by the refined and exalted motive of benevolence to the souls of men; are running to and fro, exploring every inhabited spot on the globe; publishing and circulating, in various languages and forms, accounts of their discoveries, and thus adding immensely to the stock of useful knowledge in all its branches. The details, which would abundantly illustrate and confirm the truth of what we have now asserted, would fill volumes, and will not be expected in a single discourse. We can only point your attention to a few prominent facts out of the multitudes, that crowd upon the mind.
First, as to the American Continent, “many are running to and fro” through this portion of the globe, “and knowledge is increased.” The northwestern and northeastern coasts of this extensive Continent, the only parts of the seacoast, before unknown, have been minutely surveyed, by skilful navigators, and an acquaintance formed, and commercial intercourse opened with the native tribes bordering upon them. These things have prepared the way for planting a number of English, Russian, and Danish colonies in regions, which, till within a few years, were classed under the head of “Unknown Lands.” These colonies, formed by Christian and civilized nations, (for different purposes indeed,) are doubtless designed by Providence, as so many stands, whence, in due time, will be diffused over those dark regions the light of science and religion. In aid of this desirable event, the interior of North America has been lately explored by enterprising travelers in different directions, from the waters of the Atlantic to the coasts of the Pacific Ocean; so that few portions of it, of any great extent, now remain unknown. [Note C.]
In like manner, the interior of South America has been extensively traversed by men of science, and a knowledge of the inhabitants, and of the situation and resources of the several countries, acquired. These discoveries, together with the revolutions and changes in government and property, which have happened, and which are still taking place in rapid progression, have already prepared the way, and are opening it still further and wider, for the heralds of the Savior to go forth into every corner of the Continent, where inhabitants are to be found, to proclaim the glad tidings of his Gospel. Multitudes of these heralds, taking up their cross, and putting their lives in their hands, have already spread themselves, in different stations, either among the heathen tribes, or in the frontier and destitute Christian settlements, over a great part of the Continent, from Greenland on the north, to Patagonia on the south.[Note.D] And multitudes more, we may reasonably hope, will shortly be added to them, when it is considered, that Missionary and Bible Societies are increasing beyond all former example, which of course must increase the means of supporting Missionaries and diffusing religious knowledge; and that the Lord, in a wonderful manner, is inclining the hearts of suitable men to engage in this self-denying service, and providing means for educating them for this purpose.[Note.E]
From the Western we direct your attention to the Eastern Continent. There too, in a still more remarkable manner, “Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increased.” We behold scenes of amazing interest on that vast theater; scenes which are rapidly fulfilling this, as well as other prophecies of Scripture.
It is remarkable, that the doctrine of Mahomet was forged at Mecca, and the supremacy of the Pope established by a grant from Phocas, [Phocas was Byzantine Emperor from 602 to 610. He usurped the throne from the Emperor Maurice, and was himself overthrown by Heraclius after losing a civil war] in the very same year, that is, Anno Dom. 606. Hence it is inferred, that, as the eastern and western antichrists began their reign together, their expected overthrow will happen about the same time; and that time, according to the best interpretation of prophecy, is probably near at hand, even at the door. The overthrow of these gigantic powers, which will shake all nations by their fall, is to be speedily followed, according to prophecy, by the return of the Jews to the Holy Land; and this signal event by the conversion of the Gentiles; and thus “the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”[Rev. xi. 15.]
Preparatory to these tremendous and delightful events, and during their progress, as a part of the appropriate means of their accomplishment, “Many will be running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge will be increased.” Several of the prophecies, by different events, will be fulfilling at the same time. Accordingly we find that, while the Papal and Mahometan powers, assailed by wars, which are deluging in blood and desolating one country after another, are tottering to their final fall; and while the instruments, raised up and fitted by Divine providence to destroy these powers, are executing their bloody work, “Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increased.” Voyages and enterprises for discovery by sea and land have been planned and executed to an uncommon extent, and with great success. The islands in every ocean have been visited; the coasts and harbors of every country on the globe have been surveyed. The vast interior regions of Africa, which a few years since were unknown to the civilized and Christian world, have been penetrated, in various directions, by adventurous and intelligent travellers, and are likely soon to be as well known, as other portions of the globe; and establishments are already formed, with prospects of extensive good effects, for diffusing among them a knowledge of the sciences, and of the arts of civilized life.[ Note F.]
In Asia, in ways still more remarkable, “many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increasing.” The Asiatic Society [Founded in 1784, by Sir William Jones, who was its brightest ornament] has effected wonders in the acquisition and diffusion of useful knowledge in that populous portion of the world. Travelers of great name and authority have visited some of the principal nations of Asia, and have added largely to the general stock of knowledge.
These discoveries, and the information, which in consequence of them has been acquired, relative to the character, languages, manners, customs, religion, government, and history, of the nations visited, have prepared the way for Missionaries of the cross. These self-denying friends of the Redeemer and of the souls of the heathen, filled with Christian zeal, are flocking in great numbers to this vast field of Missionary labor, which has long been whitening for harvest. From Great Britain, and her colonies, whose Missionary and Bible Societies, literary establishments, and other benevolent, richly endowed, and well directed Associations, have done more for the diffusion of Christian and other useful knowledge, than all the world beside; from Germany, Denmark, Holland, and we are happy now to add, from New England, have gone, and are going forth, a succession of Missionaries, who are spreading themselves in Europe and its islands, in North and South America, in the West Indies, in the islands of the Pacific Ocean, in Africa and its islands, in New Holland, in the thickly peopled islands in the Indian Ocean, in China, in Tartary, in Hindoostan, and in many other parts of Asia.* Many of these Missionaries, with almost incredible industry, perseverance, and success, are engaged in translating the Holy Scriptures, into the languages of the most numerous Pagan nations. Thousands, probably millions, of copies of the sacred volume, in these different languages, have already been printed and circulated among people, ignorant of the Gospel. Many have been the converts of these holy men of God, and among them not a few of the learned and influential men of these heathen nations, who, full of love to the Savior, and zeal for his cause, of thankfulness for the blessings they have received, and concern for the souls of their countrymen, have themselves become successful preachers and Missionaries of the cross, [See “The Star in the East,” a Discourse by Rev. Dr. Buchanan, reprinted in Philadelphia by Bradford; and in Boston by Monroe & Francis; a discourse, which should be read by every Christian.] And what is worthy of particular notice, a seed sown by one of the Apostles of our Lord in the heart of Asia, which has ever since been germinating, secluded from the eye of the Christian world, has been lately visited, and under the nurturing care of wise and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, is likely to prove an eminently fruitful branch of the Christian church, in a region desolate and barren in the fruits of righteousness. I allude to the Christians of St. Thomas, or as they are now called, the Syrian Christians, in Malayala, a sequestered region of Hindoostan. These Christians, More than 200,000 in number having 55 churches whose faith and worship resemble those of the Church of England, and who have among them ancient and authentic copies of the holy Scriptures, profess to have descended in regular succession from converts to the Christian faith, made by St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of our Lord, who it is said here preached the Gospel, and suffered martyrdom.[Note H.] These Malayalan churches are connected with 215 other Christian churches in Mesopotamia and Syria, which are oppressed with difficulties and struggling for existence, [Panoplist vol. iii. P. 527] Measures have probably been adopted effectually to relieve these churches, to strengthen the things which remain and are ready to die, and to render them, as from their local and relative situation they may be rendered, subservient to the extensive propagation of the Gospel in the regions around them.
* A full account of these Missionaries, of their labors, sufferings, and success, is given in the reports of the London, Baptist, Edinburgh, United Brethren’s, and other Missionary Societies in Great Britain; compendious extracts of which may be found in the Panoplist and Missionary Magazine, and other works of the kind in the United States.
But I must forbear. The subject is vast and inexhaustible. The events of the present day seem to be adapted and designed, by the Providence of God, to prepare the world to receive the Gospel; and at the same time the appropriate means are preparing and in operation to an extent altogether unparalleled for diffusing the knowledge of its blessed truths to every creature under heaven. Thus we see that at the present period, “Many are running to and fro through the earth, and knowledge is increased.”
I have time only to glance very briefly over the second branch of discourse, which was,
II. TO show, what effects we are to expect from the events, which have been briefly described. “Many, (says the Prophet,) shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.” Such are the events we are to look for, whenever the prophecy we have been considering shall be fulfilling. If we look back to the opening of the Christian era, to the time when the Apostles of our Lord first preached the Gospel in the world, we shall perceive with delight its astonishing effects upon the characters and conduct of men. In all, who enjoyed its benign influence, and embraced its divine truths, it produced amiable, holy, and heavenly dispositions. In the humble disciples of Jesus, every quality, which could adorn the human character, was to be found; and great, in the first ages of Christianity, was the multitude, of these children of God, scattered in different parts of the world. Still there were multitudes more, who persisted in doing wickedly, and did not understand the things, which belonged to their peace. .
Effects like these, but in magnitude and extent still greater, we are to look for, agreeably to prophecy, at the period of the other grand Revolution in the Christian church, of which we have spoken, and which is yet to come. If such effects begin to exist, at the present day, to a remarkable extent, they furnish evidence, that this prophecy is now fulfilling before our eyes.
The terms, “purified, made white, and tried,” when used by the Prophet to express these effects, plainly indicate that the period, when “many shall run to and fro through the earth, and knowledge shall be increased,” will be a period of great sufferings. And such a period we are forewarned by the Prophet to expect; “And there shall be a time,” (and this time is that, in which the prophecy under consideration will be accomplishing,) “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that same time.”[Dan. xii. 1.] How many years this period of trouble will continue we know not. Judging from the present state of the world, we have probably entered upon it. Its darkest part is doubtless yet to come. For we are taught in the prophecies to expect that the world, which now lieth in wickedness, is one day to be punished with most awful judgments of Heaven. “Behold the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and he shall destroy the sinners out of it. For the stars of heaven, and the constellations thereof, shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine; and I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” (Isaiah xiii. 9, 10, 11.) Also, Isa. xxvi. two last verses. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For behold, the Lord cometh out of his place, to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.”
While the Lord shall be thus executing his strange work, in punishing the nations for their wickedness, he will, at the same time, by new and uncommon means, be spreading his word, and the light of his Gospel, and increasing every species of useful knowledge; and will, by the instrumentality of this knowledge and these judgments, purify multitudes of people, who will hereafter be numbered among those, who will be arrayed in white, and will have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.[Rev. vii. 13, 14.]
Are not effects of the mixed nature, we have now described, every day produced, and coming to our knowledge from every part of the world? While the judgments of God are in the earth, are not some of the inhabitants in every part of the world learning righteousness?[Isaiah xxvi. 9.] Look at the tragedy, which is now acting on the theater of Europe, at which the world is gazing with astonishment; what are its effects? Are not multitudes purified by it, and made white, and tried? Is not God, in this manner, removing those obstacles to the progress of useful knowledge and the pure Gospel of Christ, which for ages have been accumulating in that region, where ignorance and superstition have prevailed to so great an extent among the people, and preparing the way for better times, and a better order of things? Amid these scenes we behold the Christian church remarkably preserved, awake to her true interests, and zealous to advance them; tried by various opposition, yet purified and made white by her sufferings; rising in glory, increasing daily in numbers, and extending her influence rapidly over the world. Thus the wrath of man is made to praise God, good is educed out of evil, order out of confusion. The church, during this dismal period, will resemble Israel in the land of Goshen, at the time when the darkness, which was felt, brooded over the Egyptians; her members will have light in all their dwellings, be shielded from the destroying angel under the wing of the Almighty. While the wicked, who will obstinately persist in doing wickedly, and who will not understand the prophecies, nor observe the signs of the times, nor regard the judgments of Heaven, will resemble the Egyptians, when under judicial darkness; the things, which belong to their peace, will be hidden from their eyes; they will be left to fill up the measure of their sins, and to ripen for some signal overthrow. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root, nor branch. But unto you, that fear my name, shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings.[ Malachi iv. 1, 2.]
Such, as we have now exhibited, is the evidence, that the prophecy in the text has not yet received its highest and ultimate accomplishment, but is now receiving it in the events of the present time; and such are some of the effects, which we may expect to follow these events. The application of the subject remains.
The period of the world, in which we have our probationary existence, is an eventful period. The aspect of the times is portentous in an uncommon degree. Changes and revolutions, which affect not only the peace and prosperity, but the existence of nations, are continually announced to the public. Indeed we may now say, what was said more than twelve years ago, and with still more evidence to support its truth, than then existed, that, “Wonder has succeeded wonder for so long a period, and in such regular succession, that wonders have now become the ordinary course of events, “[*Dr. Dwight’s Sermon on 4th of July, 1798]
*On July 4th, 1798, Dwight delivered an address entitled, “The Duty of Americans, at the Present Crisis,” which analyzed the downside of the French Revolution and offered a lesson to America. Dwight declared:
“Where religion prevails…a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts. To destroy us therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath and seduce us from the house of God. Religion and liberty are the two great objects of defensive war. Conjoined, they united all the feelings and call forth all the energies of man….
Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference to either, at any time, becomes the prevailing character of a people, one half of their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. Here, eminently, they are inseparable.
Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves, but not the freedom of New England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it; and nothing would be left, which would be worth defending.”
My design in selecting the text, and my single object in the preceding discourse, has been to awaken the attention of my audience in general, and particularly that of the religious Society now assembled, to the “signs of the times.” If this object have been in any degree attained, by the facts and observations now presented before you, we shall the more readily perceive, what are our appropriate duties, and be more easily persuaded to discharge them.
If there be any reasonable foundation to believe, that the representation, we have given of the present state of the world is correct, it is surely high time for us to awake out of sleep, to fix our eyes on the great events, which are passing before us; to compare them attentively with the predictions of the inspired prophets, and then to act wisely for ourselves, for our families, for the church of God, for our country, and for our fellow men in general. The course, which wisdom dictates to us with reference to these several objects, is obvious. Our first care should be for ourselves, that our own peace be made with God; knowing that there is no safety in perilous, nor indeed in any times, but in his friendship and protection. Our next care should be for our families, which are a part of ourselves, that they be diligently and faithfully instructed and governed, and so far, as depends on us, prepared to meet and endure the trials, which await them. No pious parent, who loves his offspring, and discerns the aspect of the times, will be satisfied without doing all he can, to secure their salvation. After that we should be concerned for the church, the ark of God, in which all its true members will be safe, during this stormy period of the world. Her interests should be dear to us. For her prosperity we should continually pray. “For Zion’s sake, we should not hold our peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake, we should not rest, till the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof, as a lamp that burneth.” While we perceive a deluge of troubles about to overwhelm the world, we should lift up our warning voice, and do what we can to persuade all, over whom we have influence, to enter into the ark, that they may be safe. Love to that country also, which our offspring after us are, to inhabit, with such scenes of trouble in prospect, should excite in us deep solicitude, and prompt our fervent prayers for its reformation, its safety, and prosperity. We should feel a tender sympathy for a suffering world, and pray that the righteous God would in mercy cut short these days of his vengeance, and hasten the period of the Redeemer’s universal reign, when his will shall be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.
These duties wisdom prescribes to us all; and the peculiar aspect of the times, and the prospect before us, imperiously demand our attentive performance of them. The friends of the Redeemer, we have reason to expect, will discern these prophetic signs of the times, and be prompted by them to vigorous exertions in his cause; but the eyes of his enemies will be closed. “The wicked shall do wickedly, and shall not understand.” Infidels, and those, who harmonize with infidels in sentiment and practice, will not perceive what God is doing in the earth. While he is using them, as instruments in his hand, to accomplish his prophecies; intent on their own purposes, they will think they are prospered. “Whom God wills to destroy, he first permits to be infatuated.” The Apostle has given us warning that there will come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, where is the promise of his coming? For, since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue, as they were from the beginning of the creation.”[2 Peter iii. 3,4] If such characters should appear, and such language be heard, in these times, which bear so many marks of the “last days,” we shall not be surprised.
To the Christian Society now assembled, to pay their annual and united homage to God in his sanctuary, I now turn my address.
Fathers and Brethren. “The Society for propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North America,” is the first Institution of the kind established in America, and yet it is but of recent origin. It has been in operation but twenty three years. During this period, we have the satisfaction to believe that its exertions have been extensively useful, not only to the few remains of Indian tribes, still among us, but more especially to the destitute inhabitants of the eastern division of this Commonwealth, to which its attention has been hitherto principally directed. [For a particular historical account of the origin, proceedings, and present state, of this Society, see Appendix]
The grand design of this Society is sufficiently expressed by its name. This design, its members’ have endeavored, according to their means, to accomplish, by supporting Missionaries, aiding the settlement of Ministers, patronizing Schools, and distributing the holy Scriptures, and useful books of various kinds, in places where such aid seemed peculiarly important.” The funds of the Society, aided by liberal grants from the Legislature, for a course of years, and other donations of large amount, which delicacy forbids me more particularly to specify, have enabled the Society to do much in these ways, for the religious improvement of a large and very useful body of our necessitous fellow citizens. For a few of the last years, the Society has directed its attention, and a portion of its funds, to the destitute in several of the neighboring states.[To Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, and Canada] The field of usefulness is every day extending; and, were the funds of the Society much larger than they are, they could be employed to great advantage in meliorating the condition, and promoting the salvation, of the ignorant and suffering part of our fellow men.
Since the establishment of this Society, many others have been instituted for like purposes, in this, and in most of the other states; and yet there is ample scope for all their exertions, and for the employment of all their means. The increase of these Institutions, the liberality with which they are supported, and the zeal with which their pious and benevolent objects are pursued, and the success with which their labors are rewarded, augur well to our country, and to the cause of our Redeemer. Let the members of this parent Society, which has led the way in these benevolent and most useful establishments, be animated with increasing zeal in their labors of love to the souls of their fellow men, and still maintain the rank they sustain, and be an example in Christian zeal and fidelity, to other similar Institutions. Let love to God, and love to men, prompt and govern all our measures and exertions; so shall we manifest that we are among the “wise, who understand,” secure the liberal patronage of the friends of the Redeemer, and best accomplish the grand object of our Institution.
Particularly let the peculiar and serious aspect of the times, and the wonderful means, which are in operation in all parts of the world, to effect the same glorious object, which we have in view, inspire us with corresponding ardor to be co-workers with our fellow Christians, and with God, in alleviating the miseries, which have already come, and are fast thickening, upon our guilty world, and which are preparing the way for the millennial peace.
To our efforts let us join our prayers and say, “Arise, Oh Lord, let thy work appear before thy servants, and let the whole earth be filled with thy glory.” Let the united prayers of the multitudes of thy saints on earth come up before, thee, as incense, that the great voices may soon be heard in heaven, saying, “Alleluia, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever, Amen.”
ABOUT two hundred and seventy years before the birth of Christ, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek language, and deposited in the famous Alexandrian Library, by Ptolemy Philadelphus, one of the kings of Egypt.* Here they remained neglected, till the time of our Savior. At this period this version was rescued from obscurity, and brought into use among all who spoke the Greek language, heathens as well as Jews. Our Savior and his Apostles all quoted this version, as did the primitive fathers. All the Greek churches used it, and the bible of the Latin churches, was a translation of it. The converted nations had the Scriptures translated into their language ‘ from this version, as the Illyrian, the Gothic, the Arabic, the Ethiopic, the Armenian, and the Syriac.
It is remarkable, that at the time when the Septuagint translation of the Scriptures was made, God had brought under the dominion of the Greeks, by the instrumentality of Alexander the Great, all the eastern nations of the world; and that they continued members of the Grecian Empire, at the time of our Savior, and during the period of the first propagation of the Gospel. “In this manner did God remarkably prepare the way for the preaching of the Gospel, which was then approaching, and facilitate the union of so many nations of different languages and manners into one society, and the same worship and doctrines, by the instrumentality of the purest, most copious, and correct language in the world, and which became common to all the countries, which were conquered by Alexander.”[ Rollin’s Ancient History, vol. vi.p. 79. Etheridge’s edition]
* Various fabulous and contradictory accounts of this translation have been given by Aristeat, and other authors. Those who wish to see a full and satisfactory view of this whole subject, may consult Pridcaux’s Connections of the Old and New Testament, part ii. chap. i. p. 28—64.
The late movements among the Jews, particularly the convocation of the Grand Sanhedrim at Paris by Bonaparte, This Assembly consisted of 111 members. (July 15th, 1806,) may be considered as distant indications that the period of their dispersion is drawing to a close, and that a way. preparing for their return to the holy land. In remarking on this extraordinary assembly and its designs, it has been said, “The Deputies from the Dutch Jews and those from Frankfort on the Main, have been admitted into the Sanhedrim of France and Italy, and have declared their determination to adhere to its decisions. It will doubtless be the policy of Bonaparte, to attach to his person and government, the whole body of this dispersed, and enterprising people, and to avail himself of their services in promoting his ambitious views. The ready entrance, which they obtain into every country of Europe, makes them peculiarly fit instruments for his purposes.”[Christian Observer, vol vi. p. 405.] What effects are to follow from this meeting of the Grand Sanhedrim, and in what ways it may tend to effect the return of this scattered people to the country of their ancestors, cannot be foreseen.
This extraordinary people, by a standing miracle, have been preserved for nearly 1800 years, distinct from all the nations among which they have been dispersed. By means of their holy scriptures they have maintained a general uniformity in their religious faith, and a knowledge of their original language, in which they can readily converse, and maintain intercourse with each other. The meeting and transactions of this Grand Assembly may therefore be intended by Divine Providence, (though the Emperor of France, who convoked it, doubtless had quite different objects in view,) to give rise to a more intimate and extensive connection and correspondence between the scattered remains of the tribes of Israel, wherever they are found, and to lay plans for combining their pecuniary means, and their influence in effecting, in due time, not merely the ambitious views of an earthly monarch, but the purposes of Heaven, and the object of the desire and expectation of this people, viz. a return to the holy land. The following extracts from the work alluded to, give countenance to these conjectures
The learned and eloquent President [Abraham Furtado, of Bourdeaux] of this Sanhedrim, in an address to the Commissioners of the Emperor, has the following sentence. “Methinks I see the muse holding her immortal burin, and tracing on her adamant table, amidst so many deeds, which make this reign so conspicuous, that which the hero of the age has done to destroy utterly the barrier raised between nations, and the scattered remains of the most ancient people.” This expression marks the extent of the views of this Assembly.
In a communication of the Emperor to the Sanhedrim arc the following passages, from which some of his views may be collected, that have a bearing on the subject in question.
“In return for his gracious protection, His Majesty requires a religious pledge for the strict adherence to the principles contained in your answers. This assembly, constituted as it is now, could not of itself give such a security. Its answers, converted into decisions by another assembly, of a nature still more dignified and more religious, must find a place near the Talmud, and thus acquire, in the eyes of the Jews of all countries and of all ages, the greatest possible authority. It is also the only means left to you to meet the grand and generous views of His Majesty, and to impart, to all of your persuasion, the blessings of this new era.
“The purity of your law has, no doubt, been altered by the crowd of commentators, and the diversity of their opinions must have thrown doubts in the minds of those who read them. It will be then a most important service, conferred on the whole Jewish-community, to fix their belief on those points which have been submitted to you. To find, in the history of Israel, an assembly capable of attaining the object now in view, we must go back to the Great Sanhedrim, and it is the Great Sanhedrim, which His Majesty this day intends to convene. This senate, destroyed together with the temple, will rise again to enlighten the people it formerly governed: although dispersed throughout the whole world, it will bring back the Jews to the true meaning of the law, by giving interpretations, which shall set aside the corrupted glosses of commentators; it will teach them to love and to defend the country they inhabit; it will convince them that the land, where, for the first time since their dispersion, they have been able to raise their voice, is entitled to all those sentiments, which rendered their ancient country so dear to them.
“Lastly, the Great Sanhedrim, according to ancient custom, will be composed of seventy members, exclusive of the President. The duties of the Great Sanhedrim shall be to convert into religious doctrines the answers already given by this assembly, and likewise, those which may result from the continuance of your sittings.
“For you will observe, Gentlemen, your mission is not fulfilled; it will last as long as that of the Great Sanhedrim, which will only ratify your answers and give them a greater weight; His Majesty is, besides, too well satisfied with your zeal and with the purity of your intentions, to dissolve this assembly before the accomplishment of the great work in which you are called to assist.
“In the first instance it is fit that you should name by ballot a committee of nine members to prepare, with us, the groundwork of our future discussions, and of the decisions of the Sanhedrim. You will observe that the Portuguese, German, and Italian Jews, are equally represented in this committee. We also invite you to acquaint the several Synagogues of Europe of the meeting of the Great Sanhedrim without delay, that they may send deputies able to give to government additional information, and worthy of communicating with you.”
The Sanhedrim, in reply to the Emperor’s communication, say, that “his Majesty the Emperor, in allowing the formation of a Great Sanhedrim, has anticipated the wishes and the wants of all those, who profess the religion of Moses, in Europe, &c.” They direct “That a proclamation shall be addressed by this Assembly to all the Synagogues of the French Empire, of Italy, and of Europe, to acquaint them, that” on the 20th of October next, (1806,) the Great Sanhedrim will open in Paris, under the protection, and by the special permission of his Majesty.”
In the address of the Israelites of Frankfort on the Main, to the Grand Sanhedrim, are the following expressions indicative of their views.
“May the glorious example of France extend beyond the limits of its Empire.’ May the humanity of its sovereign gain ground over the whole earth, and produce a noble sentiment of emulation, by which we shall be admitted to share the happiness of our brethren, instead of a barren sentiment of admiration! May the Rulers of mankind lend an attentive ear to the mournful voice of an insulted nation! O Divine Goodness! deign to cast a look of mercy on a people formerly the object of thy complacency? Inspire the masters of the world! Move their hearts in favor Israel!”
The President, in his reply, echoes these sentiments in the following language.
“The impulse given by France, the influence of its opinions on the European continent, indulge a hope that many states will be proud to follow its example.
“The time will come when people shall no longer give vent to those odious and ridiculous passions which were gratified by our humiliation.
“The career of esteem and of consideration is open for us let us enter it with a bold step; let us divest ourselves of the rust of prejudices. Thus shall we conquer the prejudices of others.”
In 1809, a society was formed in London for the express purpose of promoting the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. They commenced their active labors in March, of this year. From their report in November following, it appears that their benevolent efforts are likely to be extensively useful. A chapel has been opened for Rev. Mr. Frey, who preaches Sabbath evenings, to a crowded audience, many of them Jews. Their free school, not confined however to Jews, contains upwards of 300 children. One of the principal Jews in the kingdom, has lately been baptized, and made vice president of the society. A learned Rabbi lately from Palestine, has embraced the Christian faith, and is placed under able instruction, in hope that he may become a minister of the gospel, in due time among his brethren in his native country.[Christian Observer, vol. viii. p. 739.]
From the foregoing, the reader will perceive, that the first steps, in Divine Providence, toward a return of the Jews to the Holy Land, are probably already taken, in the events now brought into view. The Grand Sanhedrin, of Europe,* composed of representatives from every community in this quarter of the world, under the protection and direction of the Emperor of France, may, it is conceived, at no great distance of time, attach to itself, and bring under its influence and control, all the scattered remains of this people throughout the globe. Such a course of events, with the concurring efforts to convert them to the faith of the Gospel, it is easy to perceive, prepares the way, and very naturally leads on to their return agreeably to prophecy, to the land of their fathers.
* Europe contains probably one half the whole number of Jews on the globe; and these embrace almost the whole of the learning and talents of the nation. More than 13,000 Jews inhabit the single city of Prague.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name. After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them from out of their enemies’ lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them anymore there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”[ Ezekiel xxxix. 25, to the end.]
The Russians were the first to survey the North West coast of America. After them, Cook, Meares, Dixon, Vancouver, La Perouse, and many other able navigators, American as well as European, have almost perfected our knowledge of this coast. Mr. Hearne, in 1769, to 1772, and Mr. Mackenzie, in 1789, proceeding from the English settlements on Hudson’s Bay in different courses to the N. W. visited the Frozen Ocean. In 1792, 1798, the latter gentleman had the honor of being the first European, who visited the Pacific Ocean, by an inland journey from the English settlements above named. Captains Clarke and Lewis, under the auspices of our own government, have since visited this Ocean in another direction. And I am informed, that a little colony is already on the way, partly by land across the continent, but principally by water, with a view to plant themselves on the waters of the Pacific Ocean, at the mouth of Columbia river. The Russians have a settlement on this coast further North, which, according to Hassel, consists of about 800 souls.[Hassel’s Tables, 1809] In Greenland, the Danish government have a colony of 6,100 souls. The British colonies are spreading their settlements around Hudson Bay, on the Labrador coast, (of which country Mr. Cartwright has published an interesting description,) and in Upper Canada. The enterprising inhabitants of the United States are already in companies passing the Mississippi, and planting themselves in the newly acquired territory of Louisiana. Journeys from the Atlantic states, to the Pacific Ocean, will probably soon become as common, and excite as little public attention, as a voyage round the world.
In Greenland the United Brethren, or Moravians, and the Danes, support missionaries, at Lichtenau, Newherrnhut, and Lichtenfels; the former place is surrounded by heathen inhabitants, among whom the missionaries arc laboring with zeal and success. But the inhabitants around the other two settlements, consist chiefly of persons baptized by the Brethren, and educated in Christian principles. Those, who do not belong to the Brethren’s church, have all been baptized by the Danish missionaries, so that No Trace Of Paganism Is Now Left In That Neighborhood. [See the 38th No. of the periodical accounts of the Brethren. 1804.]
In Labrador the Moravians have missionaries stationed at Okkak, Nain, and Hopedale. In this cold and dreary region, among the poor Esquimaux,[Eskimo] these intrepid soldiers of Jesus Christ, are pursuing their labors with increasing “joy and thankfulness.” One of their reports[See No. 39.] States, that the poor Indians, “were remarkably diligent in their attendance upon Divine worship; and seemed to take great delight in every opportunity afforded them to hear the gospel.” These missionaries had established schools for the instruction of young men, which are represented as in a flourishing state.
This exemplary sect of Christians, the United Brethren, have missionaries established also at Fairfield, in Upper Canada; among the Chippeway Indians, on the Tonquakamick; at Petquotting, on the river of the Hurons; at Goshen, and among the Delaware Indians, on the Wabash;* in Surinam, South America, at Paramaribo, Bombey, and Hoop, on the Corentyn; also, in the Danish West India Islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. Jan. In these islands they have five settlements, in which the number of Negroes in their congregations amounted, in 1807, to 10,557. In 1805, 207 adult negroes were added to these churches by baptism.[See No. 46, of their Periodical Accounts.] To Demerara, Monte Video, Buenos Ayres, and other stations in South America, and in several of the West India Islands, missionaries have been sent from England; and a number also into Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the other British colonies north of the United States. Add to these, the various religious associations in the United States support missionaries among the Cherokee Indians in Tennessee; the Wyandots, at Sandusky, on Lake Erie; the Oneidas, and the remains of the Stockbridge tribe in New York; the Marshpee and Vineyard Indians in Massachusetts, and the Narragansetts, at Charlestown, Rhode Island. And beside these are supported a great number of temporary and stationary missionaries, along the extensive frontier of the United States, and in the destitute parts of their interior settlements.
* This tribe, within a few years, has been visited by a Delegation from the Stockbridge Indians, (who are under the care of Rev. Mr. Sergeant) at the head of which is Captain Hendrick, with a view to introduce among them the Christian religion, and the useful arts. This mission has been patronized, and, in part supported, by The Society for propagating the Gospel among the Indians, &c. A school was to be established here, and a master of the Stockbridge tribe was engaged, and went on with the Delegation, to keep it. See Appendix.
Without pretending to a precise knowledge on the subject, we reckon within the limits of the United States, at least thirty Missionary Societies of different descriptions and denominations of Christians; and fifteen Bible Societies; the latter, all instituted within the last three years, and three fourths of them within the last year.
Theological Institutions have been established at New York, (1805,) by the Associate Reformed Church; the stated number of students from about 10 to 15. Also at Andover, in Massachusetts, (1808,) the whole number of students since admitted, between sixty and seventy.* And at New Brunswick, New Jersey,(l 810,) by the Dutch Reformed Church, which is just commencing its operations. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church,
* Four of these, viz. Messrs. Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Samuel Nott, and Samuel J. Mills, have already devoted themselves to missionary labors in foreign countries, and two others are destined to a mission in the interior of Georgia, and arc on their way thither; at their meeting’ in May last, resolved on founding a similar institution somewhere within their bounds, and are collecting the necessary funds for the purpose. Besides these, there are funds to a considerable amount attached to the Colleges at Cambridge and Princeton, and to the Academies at Exeter,(N.H.) and Andover, (Mass.) for the support of theological students.
Institutions of this kind, and particularly for the purpose of educating missionaries, are established at Gosport in England, where in 1807, there were thirteen students; also at Hoxton, England, and at Berlin, in Prussia, wherein 1805, were five students.
Among other establishments alluded to, which have in view the benefit of the inhabitants of this benighted quarter of the world, I have pleasure in mentioning, particularly, “the African Institution,” to which the abolition of the slave trade gave rise, and which was formed in London in April, 1807. Its members in point of rank, talents, wealth, and good influence, are among the first characters in England.
The objects of this noble institution, and the means of effecting them, will be best learned, by the following extracts from their Rules and Regulations.
Resolved, 1. That this Meeting is deeply impressed with a sense of the enormous wrongs which the natives of Africa have suffered in their intercourse with Europe; and from a desire to repair those wrongs, as well as from general feelings of benevolence, is anxious to adopt such measures as are best calculated to promote their civilization and happiness.
2. “That the approaching cessation of the Slave Trade hitherto carried on by Great Britain, America, and Denmark, will, in a considerable degree, remove the barrier which has so long obstructed the natural course of social improvement in Africa; and that the way will be thereby opened for introducing the comforts and arts of a more civilized state of society.
3. “That the happiest effects may be reasonably anticipated from diffusing useful knowledge, and exciting industry among the inhabitants of Africa, and from obtaining and circulating throughout this country more ample and authentic information concerning the agricultural and commercial faculties of that vast continent.
4. “That the present period is eminently fitted for prosecuting these benevolent designs; since the suspension, during the. war, of that large share of the Slave Trade, which has commonly been carried on by France, Spain, and Holland, will, when combined with the effect of the Abolition Laws of Great Britain, America, and Denmark, produce nearly the entire cessation of that traffic along a line of coast extending between two and three thousand miles in length, and thereby afford a peculiarly favorable opportunity for giving a new direction to the industry and commerce of Africa.
“To prevent misconception concerning the views and measures of the African Institution, it may be proper in the first instance to declare, that it is the Society’s fixed determination not to undertake any religious mission, and not to engage in commercial speculations. The Society is aware that there already exist several most respectable Institutions formed for the diffusion of Christianity, and means not to encroach on their province. It may also be proper to premise, that it will naturally become the duty and care of the Society, to watch over the execution of the laws, recently enacted in this and other countries, for abolishing the African Slave Trade; to endeavor to prevent the infraction of those laws; and from time to time to suggest any means by which they may be rendered more effectual to their objects; and likewise to endeavor, by communicating information, and by other appropriate methods, to promote the Abolition of the African Slave Trade by Foreign powers.
“The means which it is proposed to employ for the purpose of promoting civilization and improvement in Africa are of the following kind.
1. “To collect and diffuse, throughout this country, accurate information respecting the natural productions of Africa, and, in general, respecting the agricultural and commercial capacities of the African Continent, and the intellectual, moral, and political condition of its inhabitants.
2. “To promote the instruction of the Africans in letters and in useful knowledge, and to cultivate a friendly connection with the natives of that Continent.
3. “To endeavor to enlighten the minds of the Africans with respect to their true interests; and to diffuse information amongst them respecting the means whereby they may improve the present opportunity of substituting a beneficial commerce in place of the Slave Trade.
4. “To introduce amongst them such of the improvements and useful arts of Europe as are suited to their condition.
5. “To promote the cultivation of the African soil, not only by exciting and directing the industry of the natives, but by furnishing, where it may appear advantageous to do so, useful seeds and plants, and implements of husbandry.
6. “To introduce amongst the inhabitants beneficial medical discoveries.
7. “To obtain a knowledge of the principal languages of Africa, and, as has already been found to be practicable, to reduce them to writing, with a view to facilitate the diffusion of information among the natives of that country.
8. “To employ suitable agents and to establish correspondences as shall appear advisable, and to encourage and reward individual enterprise and exertion in promoting any of the purposes of the institution.”
The subscriptions to this institution have been very liberal,”‘ and the prospect of success encouraging. The aid of the United States, through the Secretary of the Association has been solicited in a correspondence with the President of the Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery in the United States, and with other American gentlemen of respectability. In one of his letters he states the strong reasons, which exist, to induce the American government and the American public, actively to co-operate in accomplishing the plans of this Institution.
“The success,” he says, “of any endeavors for the civilization of Africa, must depend on the degree in which the continuance of the Slave Trade on that coast can be prevented. Much has been done by the legislative enactments of Great Britain and America. Your Congress however, do not seem to have been aware of the subtle evasions, which men, practiced in this trade of blood, would have recourse to, in the prosecution of their nefarious practices. Accordingly, it appears, that American ships, using the Swedish, Spanish, and Portuguese flags, and some even sailing under their own, have appeared in the African seas, for the purpose of procuring slaves, to carry to the colonies of Spain, Portugal, Sec. What is wanted in order to destroy this system is, in the first place, an act of Congress, rendering it highly penal in any American citizen, to be engaged in this trade, either as a capitalist, or as an agent, under any flag, or under any circumstances. But above all, a contract or agreement between Great Britain and America, that the cruisers of both nations shall be empowered indiscriminately, and mutually to enforce their Abolition laws. At present, the American laws prohibiting the foreign Slave Trade, are a dead letter, because they have no cruisers on the coast of Africa, or in the tropical latitudes, to carry them into effect. If once, however, it were understood, that these piratical violators of the laws of their own country, as well as of the dearest rights of humanity, were obnoxious to seizure by British cruisers, and to subsequent condemnation, much more would be done in a few months to remove the grand obstacle, to the improvement of Africa, than could otherwise be effected in a series of years. On this subject the gentlemen above mentioned have been strongly solicited to use their influence to produce a willingness, on the part of the government of the United States, to accede to such an agreement, to which I am persuaded there would be no objection on this side of the water; and from which many happy effects, not only to Africa, but to ourselves also, might be anticipated. The cooperation of the two countries, in one common purpose of benevolence would serve, it might be hoped, to draw more closely the bond of union between them, and would unquestionably strengthen in the minds of all benevolent men, the existing motives for desiring a perfect amity to be perpetuated between them.”
It is hoped that the American government and people are not wanting in a disposition to lend their legislative aid and private influence, to the accomplishment of an object, which, when understood in all its contemplated consequences, cannot fail to excite the warmest approbation, and even admiration, of every humane, upright, and liberal mind.