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TO THE PALESTINE MISSIONARY SOCIETT,
BT THE REV. SERENO E. DWIGHT,
It is probablj known to my andience, that this part of our Commonwealth was selected, as the scene of the interesting solemnities, which we have just witnessed, in consequence of the formation, during the past summer, of a Missionary Society, consisting of the ministers and numerous members offourteen neighbouring churches and congregations. The design of the society is to support at least one missionary to Palestine. That event is one of no ordinary interest to Christ and his Church. The fact, that so many, and so respectable Churches have discovered, at the same moment, a deep and practical interest in the cause of missions; is in itself a delightful circumstance. Still more gratifying is it to leam, that, for the accomplishment of their benevolent purpose, they are associated as one body, in a regular, organized society. It assures us that their efforts will be concentrated, systematic, and permanent. It leads us also to hope, that an example of Christian benevolence, so well directed and so honorable to its possessors, will be extensively followed. And what crowns the interest, which, as christians, we have felt in this event, is the region of the world, selected by the Society, for the labors of its Missionary: a region, which no christian can think of without remembering, that to it he is indebted for all the blessings which he enjoys in the present life, and for all which he hopes for in the life to come.
It need not be said, that the The American Board O* CommisSioners For Foreign Missions feel at least their share of interest in an event so auspicious to their cause. It is at the request of their Prudential Committee, beloved brethren of these associated churches, that I this day address you. It could have been wished, for your sakes, that the proposal of such an address had been made at an earlier season. Yet your christian candor and kindness will allow me to express to you, even with little preparation, th« instinctive feelings of the heart
Permit me then, Brethren, with unfeigned and cordial sympathy, to congratulate you, peculiarly; as well as the rest of this assembly; on the delightful solemnities of this day. In the exercise of christian love, you had prepared your united free-will offering to be presented to your common Saviour and Lord. This offering was a Herald of Salvation, whom you had resolved to send forth to publish the Gospel of peace on the mountains of Judah, and to say unto Zion, 'Thy God reigneth.'—To day, Brethren, you have seen him, and a beloved brother associated with him in the same work of faith and labor of love, consecrated by prayer and the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, for this honourable office.
Is it an interesting sight for a single church to behold the man of their choice set apart for the work of the ministry. To-day, the members of no less than fourteen churches behold the man of their choice, and with him the partner of his future labors, set apart for the same sacred employment: not indeed to preach the Gospel to themselves; but (what is not less interesting to an expanded benevolence) to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ in that land, the very name of which excites the liveliest emotions in every christian bosom. Was it a delightful occasion to a company of Jewish christians assembled at Jerusalem; when they beheld the right hand of fellowship given by the Apostles to Paul and Barnabas, that they should go to the Gentiles. To day, that scene is reversed. A company of Gentile christians are here assembled to behold two brethren, in whom we think we discover the same grace, commissioned in the same manner to go to Jerusalem. In behalf of the Prudential Committee; and, may I not say in behalf of three sister churches in the metropolis associated for the same benevolent design; I tender you our christian salutations; and, in the name of Christ, we bid you God speed.
It is to us an interesting fact, that the first mission to Jerusalem and Palestine should have been established by the American Church. America is the only Christian nation, which has never persecuted the descendants of Israel. It was proper, therefore, that she should have the honor of leading the way in their ultimate restoration to the land of their fathers. That land is itself associated with all that is dear to our feelings, or animating to our hopes. It is the land concerning which Godsware to Abraham, "I will surely give it unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, for an inheritance." In it the Church of God for fifteen centuries found its only earthly habitation. There are the sepulchres of Abraham and the Patriarchs, of Moses and the Prophets, and of the Apostles and Martyrs of Jesus. There the plan of redeeming mercy was revealed through successive ages by the spirit of prophecy; until in the fulness of time, the Shepherds of Bethlehem, as they watched their flocks by night, heard the heavenly messengers proclaim "Glory to God in the highest; Peace on earth; and Good will to men;" because "a Saviour is born in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord." There the Son of God lived as our Prophet; died as our Sacrifice; triumphed over death and the grave; appointed the conversion of the world; and went as our Forerunner into heaven. There, too, were educated and commissioned, those Apostles and other Missionaries to whom we, with the rest of Christendom, are indebted for the Gospel. That land is now also, in a most important sense, the Land of Promise. I know, that for more than seventeen centuries, it has been trodden down of the Gentiles. Yet the God of Israel, who brought back his ancient people from Babylon, has given them a sure and unfailing promise, that he will set his hand, "the second time, to assemble the outcasts of Israel, and to gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth."* Of the fulfilment of this promise, the Christian Church will not be an uninterested spectator. Not only will she behold the Jews added to the number of her children; but their restoration will be to the Gentiles as life from the dead.
Viewed as a field of Missionary enterprise, Palestine possesses at least equal interest. Of the countries, which compose the empire of Mohammed, it may be regarded as the centre.
The remotest limits of the Barbary States on the S. W.; those of Turkey in Europe on the N. W.; of Asia Minor on the N.; of Tartary and Persia on the E.; and of Arabia and Egypt on the S.; are about equally distant. Strange that the Land of Promise should have been, for so many centuries, the centre of this impure and sanguinary Imposture. Though the followers of Mohammed constitute a compact population of 80 millions, all of them acquainted with one common language; yet, if I mistake not, our own Mission to Palestine was the first Protestant mission ever established in a Mohammedan country.* I need not ask the christian, whether this mighty empire is to be broken down; or whether the countries, over which it extends, are to be given to the Prince of Peace. The christian has a sure word of prophecy; unto which he takes heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place. By that light he discovers, that the days of this empire are numbered; and that the deliverance of this vast and benighted region draweth nigh. For the fulfilment of this prophecy he does not rely on an arm of flesh. The musket and the cannon may indeed prepare the way, by overturning the various despotisms by which these extensive regions are oppressed. Yet it is only the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit wielded by the christian Missionary, which are mighty through God to the pulling down of the strong holds of Satan. A Protestant Mission, firmly established in Palestine, is therefore an object of no ordinary interest. Placed in the very heart of the Mohammedan empire, it may propel the streams of life to its remotest extremities.
Within the limits of this empire all the Ancient churches of Christ are to be found, except one; and that is in its immediate vicinity. The Greeks are a population of four millions; the Armenians of two; and the Syrian Christians probahly of one more. The Coptic Christians in Egypt are numerous; and the Abyssinians probably exceed three millions. Here then is a Christian population, dispersed over the empire of Mohammed, or in its immediate neighbourhood, of more than ten millions. All of them, as is found by actual experiment, are prepared to receive the Scriptures, and to welcome the christian Missionary. They know the vernacular language of their respective countries. They are acquainted with the character, habits, and feelings, of
• The mission at Harass, was within the limits or Russia.
the people, and are inured 'to the climate, and mode of life; bat they need the truth of the Gospel and the grace of God. Now they are lamps that have not been lighted; and the objects around them are enveloped in darkness. When they are kindled from the fires of Heaven, what a flood of light, will they not shed on the whole Mohammedan world. Jerusalem is their place of pilgrimage; and thither many thousands of them repair, every year, to celebrate the feasts of their respective churches. A band of faithful missionaries, stationed at Jerusalem, may send the Bible and other religious publications not only through Egypt, the States of Barbary, Abyssinia, Arabia, Persia, Asia Minor, and Turkey in Europe; but, by the help of the Armenians, through the remotest territories of central Asia.
Within these limits, also, are found not less than one half of the Jews, now existing; all the Samaritans; and all the descendants of the Ten Tribes. These interesting remnants of the ancient Church of Israel will, as they are successively discovered, be within the operations of the same Mission. Such is the mode of travelling in these countries; and so extensively is Jerusalem the common rendezvous of both Jews and Christians; that from it, as a central point, the Missionary can act with a decisive efficacy on all the various tribes in these widely extended regions. Where then, let me ask, can this world furnish a field of missionary labor equally extensive; equally interesting in itself; or one, the first fruits of which will be followed by a harvest equally abundant
Permit me also, Brethren, to congratulate you on the Period, when this Mission is established, and when your Missionary is to go forth. I here allude to the widely-extended convulsions of the Mohammedan world, and to the symptoms of decline and speedy overthrow every where visible throughout the empire of the False Prophet The two eastern pillars of that empire, the kingdom of the Great Mogul and that of Hyder Ali, are dashed to pieces. Persia is rent asunder, and has become two kingdoms. The Persians, as a sect, have long been separated from the more western Mohammedans. An extensive and rapidly increasing apostasy from Islam* now exists in the province of Fars, in Persia; and a far more extensive and formidable one, that of the Wahabees, in Arabia. The sceptre of Turkey, also, is ready te
• The Mohammedan Faith.