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BY SAMUEL MILLER, D. D., PROFESSOR OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY AND CHURCH GOVERNMENT
IN THE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AT PRINCETON, NEW-JERSEY.
PLEA FOR AN ENLARGED MINISTRY.
LUKE 10:2. Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great,
but the laborers are few: pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.
The first ministers of the gospel were called and qualified in an extraordinary manner. Their Divine Master himself immediately selected them, gave them their commission, instructed them in the things pertaining to his kingdom, and endowed them with the power of working miracles in attestation and aid of their ministerial labors. With these extraordinary gifts he sent them forth on the great missionary enterprise of converting the world. After he had commissioned the twelve apostles in this manner, he sent forth“ other seventy also,” on the same great errand, and endowed with similar powers. to have been when he sent forth this second band of seventy ministers, that he repeated to them what he had before said to the twelve-The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. As if he had said" There are not yet enough of laborers for the great work which is to be done. Behold the immense field whitening to the harvest which requires to be gathered in! Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, who has all power in heaven and on earth, that he would raise up, and qualify, and send forth, many faithful laborers into his harvest."
* Preached in the Central Church, Philadelphia, May 18th, 1834, at the request of, and before, the Board of Education of the General Assembly of the Presbyte. rian Church.
Our blessed Savior was himself “the Lord of the harvest.” Why, then, it may be asked, did he direct his disciples to pray to himself, to do that which he saw was important and indispensable! Why did he not, unsolicited, send forth one company of ministers after another, until a number adequate to the work of gathering in the mighty harvest were actually on the field? I answer, because it was not intended by infinite Wisdom that the method of furnishing ministers by extraor. dinary means should continue after the first supply. It was necessary that the commencement should be by the immediate agency of the Master himself; because it was impossible to begin the work of instructing the people, and of gathering and organizmg churches, without a previous supply of living and authorized teachers. But when a begin. ning had been fairly made, it was judged best that the subsequent sup. ply and increase of preachers should be obtained by the ordinary course of human instrumentality. We are to consider our Savior, then, in uttering the words of our text, as virtually saying—“I shall extend no further, at present, this extraordinary supply. It is to be carried on, in time to come, by the agency of man. Still the Lord of the harvest alone can prepare ministers for their work, and send them forth; but his church can and must employ the means of attaining this blessing; and to these means let them henceforth address themselves with prayer and diligence."
And, accordingly, it is well known, that after the day of Pentecostwith a single eminent exception--ministers began to be called, qualified, and set apart to their work in the ordinary way. We find directions given to the teachers and rulers of the church, for selecting and ordaining candidates for the sacred office; and long before the period of miracles and inspiration was ended, we find careful study, and mature knowledge, as well as fervent piety, enjoined as indispensable preparation for the evangelical ministry, and that by an apostle who knew their value by experience, and inculcated them upon principles which apply
to all ages.
From the passage
propose to derive, and endeavor to illustrate and enforce the following propositions.
1. That we now, no less than in the days of our Lord's personal ministry, most urgently need a large additional number of laborers in the gospel field.
II. That it is the duty of the Church to employ all the means in her power, for the attainment of this blessing.
may be confidently asserted, that the declaration of our blessed Lord, that “the harvest is great, and the laborers few," was never more applicable-more strikingly and affectingly applicable to the state of the world, than at the present hour. With this fact, it is my earnest wish to impress every hearer. And I am so far from being afraid of drawing a more alarming picture than facts will warrant, that fear is, that, after all I can say, an adequate impression of the real state of the case will not be left upon your minds.
In the first place, then, there are, at this moment, within the bounds of the Presbyterian church, MORE THAN SIX HUNDRED VACANT CONGREGATIONS: congregations which are not only destitute of pastors, but , which cannot possibly be supplied with them, without a corresponding addition to the number of our ministerial laborers. Besides these vacant congregations, many of which are ready and loudly calling for pastors, and languishing and declining for want of them-I say, besides these
there are at least FOUR OR FIVE HUNDRED POPULOUS DISTRICTS, north, south, and west, in which, if we had zealous and able ministers to send to them, large and flourishing congregations might be speedily formed. So that our beloved church, at the present hour, most urgently needs MORE THAN A THOUSAND MINISTERS, over and above her present supply. And if they cannot be obtained more rapidly, and in greater numbers, than our means have hitherto furnished, these destitute, complaining, entreating, dying flocks, must either fall off to other denominations, and seek a supply of pastors from churches more faith. ful than ourselves; or be left to sink into all the desolation and death of practical heathenism.
In short, the number of gospel laborers which we are now able annually to send into the field, is scarcely more than A TENTH PART of what we most pressingly need. And, what is still more appalling, if no means be adopted for obtaining a much larger supply, the deficiency now so serious and distressing, will, every year, become more serious and more distressing, in consequence of the population of our country growing far more rapidly than the supply of ministers;-until, in a few years, myriads of our countrymen, and perhaps some of our own children, or our children's children, must be left without Sabbaths; without sanctuary privileges; without ministers of religion; and thus, virtually, abandoned to heathenism under the name of Christianity.
But besides all these loud calls for many more ministers; beside the large supply demanded for vacant churches, and the extended frontier settlements within our own borders; there is a much larger harvest* still, which calls for a far greater number of laborers than any
which has been mentioned. I mean THE HEATHEN WORLD. Had any one told the apostle Paul, in the midst of his arduous and devoted labors, that at the end of eighteen centuries from his time, more than threefourths of the whole human race would still be covered with pagan darkness, what would have been the feelings of that heroic, nobleminded missionary? Yet so the humbling, appalling fact is! Out of eight hundred and fifty, or nine hundred millions of mankind, more than six hundred millions are supposed to be still pagans, or under the dominion of an equally dark and degrading superstition. Over the darkness and misery of these perishing millions, the church of Christ has been criminally slumbering for ages. She is now beginning to awake. I say beginning, for this is all that can be said. She has sent out a few missionaries; but what are they among the uncounted millions who need their labors? It is like sending a single reaper to reap down the whitening fields of an empire! The missionaries who have been sent, are calling in every direction for MORE LABORERS. And even the heathen themselves are beginning to join their voices, and to entreat Christians to remember them, and to send to them those who can teach the way of salvation. But when, in consequence of these importunate and heart-affecting calls, we look round for even forty or fifty young men, whose hearts the Lord has touched with love to the souls of men, and especially with love to the heathen-(many hundreds, indeed, might be employed, and are wanted)—but when we look round for even forty or fifty consecrated young heroes, who are willing to carry the glorious gospel to the ends of the earth-we see them not! We
cry aloud for them, but we cry in vain! The truth is, for this immense field of service many thousands of laborers are pressing, ly needed. Nay, for this field several thousands of laborers would be
* See Note, page 16.