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The propagation of Christianity in the world, is the most important subject which can engage the attention of a historian. The rise, the progress, and the downfall of empires; the discovery of unknown countries; the lives of philosophers, of senators, of princes; the improvements of the arts and sciences, may furnish useful and interesting materials for history; but nothing is so momentous as the diffusion of the gospel in the world, which at once brings "glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, and good will towards man.” The transcendent importance of this subject is stamped by no less than Divine authority. In the New Testament, we have only two branches of history; the Gospels, containing the life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Acts of the Apostles, cxhibiting a view of the propagation of Christianity in the world.
It is not improbable, indeed, that some will think the following work should have commenced with the Christian æra; but as, from the period of the Apostolic age,
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until the Reformation, the materials are in general extremely scanty and uninteresting, and as the principal facts have already been detailed nearly at full length, by our ordinary ecclesiastical historians, the Author considered it as unnecessary for him to repeat what had so often been written before.
Others, perhaps, will think that he should have given an account of the Roman Catholic, as well as of the Protestant missions; but if it be considered, that Popery is Antichristian in its nature, it will appear obvious, that the extension of such a system, had little or no claim to be in. troduced in a work, the object of which was to exhibit a view of the propagation of Christianity since the Reformation. Besides, the Roman Catholic missions have been so numerous, so extensive, and of such long standing, that, had the Author included them in his plan, the work, instead of consisting of two, would have extended to five or six volumes; a circumstance which would probably have excited no slight feeling of repugnance in the minds of most of his readers.
The Author, however, has deeply to regret, that, even with regard to the propagation of Christianity by the Reformed Churches, his work is, in some instances, materi. ally defective. This is particularly the case with respect to the Danish, and several of the Moravian missions. In writing the history of the Danish mission in the East Indies, it was not in his power to procure the Reports of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and still less the accounts of that mission which are annually published in Germany; and as he was anxious not to withhold any information which he did possess, he has, in his account
of it, indulged in a looseness of narration, by no means consistent with historical precision. In other instances, there is a considerable disproportion in the several parts of the narrative; while some events are detailed at full length, others of equal or greater importance are slightly passed over. These things he is sensible require an apology; but, in fact, they were in a great measure unavoidable in the present state of our information, relative to the propagation of Christianity among the Heathen. March 1st, 1814.
THE missionary cause is emphatically the cause of God. They who engage in it with hearts congenial with the temper of the gospel of Christ, give “ Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, and goodwill to men.” They will not only share the honor, but eventually the reward of “workers together with him.” He who becomes instrumental of saving only one soul from endless misery, does more for man than if he should give him a kingdom, or the world;" for what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be cast away?” The cause of missions rises in importance as we contemplate the value of the human soul, for it brings to the nations, sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, the knowledge of the salvation of the souls of men; and it becomes still more important from the consideration, that it brings the knowledge of this salvation as emanating from the source of uncreated wisdom and goodness; and as the only way that sinful men can be restored to the favor of God, consistently with his veracity, and the demands of his violated law. No resources of natural light have ever been found sufficient to give this knowledge. In vain do we listen to the most profound philosophers, the wisest statesmen, and the most refined metaphysicians. These in all ages, destitute of divine revelation, have only left man where they found him, “ dead in trespasses and in sins.” The most they have been able to do, is, to raise an altar, and inscribe on it “ TO THE UNKNOWN God.” And as to the article of human happiness, they have sought out many inventions to obtain it, but alas, these have proved only as broken cisterns, that will hold no water. To whom then shall we go to obtain relief from the flood of miseries that sin has introduced into our world? I answer, to those men of God, who have received a dispensation of the gospel of Christ to shew unto men the way of salvation, by the remission of sins through the blood of the cross; “ Ask of them, the old paths, where is the good way, and walk there.