"The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye, therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest."
It is probable that no period can be selected in the history of the church, at which the need was greater than at present, for an increase in the number of those engaged in the work of the ministry. This need will be seen, from every point, at which we attempt to contemplate the church in itself, or in its relation to the world. The statistics of our denomination will exhibit at this day, a smaller number of ministers, in proportion to the number of members, than at any former period. The large additions made to the churches, call for a corresponding addition to the number of those, who shall teach the multitudes the way of truth, and feed them with the aliment needed for their christian life, and growth in grace. The rapidity with which the population of our country is increasing, and the millions constantly pressing upon us, from other countries, demand largely increased numbers of those, whose duty and privilege it is, to train the young of our own people in paths of righteousness, while they place before the hordes of European emigrants, that gospel, which alone, can lead them out of the darkness of papal idolatry, or the mazes of German and French infidelity. The many providential circumstances which have recently conspired, to produce a sudden change in the aspect of heathen nations, and to break down the barriers with which those nations have been heretofore closed to the reception of the Gospel, require constantly increasing supplies of new ministers and
heralds of the cross, to enter upon the fields thus opened. Such are some of the considerations, which present themselves with reference to the church at large; but, if we confine our attention to our own Association, the demand for an increase in the number of laborers, will be equally apparent. At our last annual meeting, there were in our body, six ordained elders, to supply ten churches, and nearly one thousand members. Were these all men in the prime of life and health, and all exclusively devoted to the ministry, they would still be inadequate to occupy the field. We suppose, that it can never be fully occupied, until each church has secured its own pastor, whose whole time and talents shall be exclusively devoted to the spiritual interests of his own flock. Our present minsiters, have their services divided among several churches, and much of their time, necessarily occupied in other pursuits. Most of them are well advanced in years, and, while we revere them for their former usefulness, value them most highly for their present services, and hope that they may be long spared to give us the aid of their wisdom and experience; yet their grey hairs, and furrowed brows, remind us, that we cannot long expect a continuance of their wonted vigor and activity. Others, tho' comparitively young, have already manifested symptoms of decaying health, - and some are understood to be contemplating a removal to other fields. "The harvest, truly, is great, but the laborers are few."
How shall this need be supplied? All feel and admit, that the laborers must be sent of God. Those who enter upon the harvest, unprovided with a heavenly mission, will scatter rather than secure the fruits. But, while we depend upon God alone, to provide and commission his laborers, still, dear brethren, we must be active instruments in procuring the supply. The means to be employed for this purpose, are embodied in the passage with which our letter commences - "Pray ye, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers." God has seen fit to institute, an intimate connexion between the prayers of his people, and the procurement of this, as well as other blessings. It is our sole purpose in this letter, to excite your attention to a more diligent use of these means. We would, that at every gathering of God's people, for public worship, their united aspirations should ascend, for an increase in the number of those, who are to stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, to guard from outward foes, and inward strife - leaders of the hosts of Isreal, in their aggressive influence on the world. That each father, as he gathers his family morn and evening, around the family altar, should teach them to offer constant prayer, that faithful shepherds be provided for the flocks to which they belong - that while he asks for daily food and raiment, for the temporal comfort of his household, he should mingle therewith a prayer, for the constant services of one, who may break to them the bread of life. That each servant of our Master, when he enters the closet, may carry with him a fervent petition, that God would provide for him and for his brethren, a faithful and devoted pastor to minister to their spiritual comfort, and strengthen their Christian graces. Such frequent recurrence to it, in social and private prayer, must necessarily excite a more heartfelt interest in the subject, and awaken a deeper sense of its, importance. It will be found intimately associated with every object for
which the Christian is wont to pray. Do we look with fearful anxiety, at the strides made by Catholicism in its attempted encroachmnets upon our civil and political institutions; and at the indications of an approaching conflict with the minions of tradition and superstition, led on by the Roman preisthood, trained in the halls of science? We should reccollect, that the ministers of the Gospel, are to be our standard-bearers in the conflict, and earnestly seek that their numbers may be increased, and their hands strengthened. Do we lament the tendencies so rife among us, to adopt the "isms", and vagaries, by which numbers are led away from the simple truths of the Gospel, and pure doctrines of the cross? We shall look to an enlightened and efficient ministry, as affording the best guides to our people, and their safeguards against error. Do we mourn over the languishing state of our Zion, the spiritual dearth and leanness of our churches? We shall remember that the ministration of the Word, furnishes the food, by which the church is to grow and prosper. Do our hearts yearn over the ruined condition of sinners around us? - we shall reccollect that the preaching of the Gospel, is "God's own instrument for the conversion of the world."
What we thus pray for, we shall endeavor, so far as human agency is concerned, to bring about. An humble and entire reliatace upon God, to raise up and send forth his messengers - and constant appeals to him, for the exercise of his sovereign power in this behalf, are, by no means, inconsistent with active exertions on our part, for the same end. It is our privilege and duty, to be instruments in his hands, and co-workers with him. We can do so in many ways, a few only of which may now be suggested.
1st. We may seek out and bring into exercise, such gifts as promise usefulness in the work. There are often found those whose hearts are filled with a desire for usefulness, but who are detered from engaging in the work, by diffidence of their of own abilities, or a sense of their own unworthiness. Such should be encouraged to exercise their gifts. Opportunities should be frequently afforded them, to engage in public prayer, exhortation, and exposition of the Word. Cases may, and do sometimes occur, in which the prudence of the church may be called for, to restrain the forward, and repress the presumtuous; but far more frequently, the affectionate interest and support of others, is needed to encourage the trembling, in the discharge of duties, which they long to perform, and shrink from undertaking. There are, no doubt, latent gifts and talents now in the churches which might thus be drawn into exercise, and which would seeure not only a present supply for our own pulpits, but provision for the future and aid for the general field. Some, whose ripe years, and intercourse with the world in other pursuits, have given them a knowledge of mankind, which, now sanctified, and directed by the word of God, prepares them, at once, to enter into the harvest with the promise of usefulness. The period has not yet arrived, if it may ever be expected or desired, when the demand for increased numbers in our ministry, can be supplied from those who have undergone a thorough training in the schools of science and theology. Our churches have been heretofore planted and watered by those, who have been called from the active pursuits of life, to enter upon the sacred office, without
a special education for the work, and the same blessings which have followed their labors, may yet be expected from others of like character. We need and desire an educated ministry, but not to the exclusion of those, who like the early preachers of Kentucky, shall enter with warm hearts and strong minds, under circumstances which prevent them from waiting to acquire a thorough preparation for the field. Well disciplined regulars may form the nucleus of an army, while much of its efficiency and power, may be given by active and ardent volunteers. But, among the many young men, who have recently enlisted under the banner of the Cross, may we not find some in our churches, who with affectionate encouragement from their elder brethren, and pecuniary aid from their wealthier brethren, might now consecrate their youthful talents and energies to God's service, and enter upon that course of training, which is needed to prepare them for able ministers, and efficient missionaries of the Gospel?
2d. We may make provision for a more liberal and just support for those who labor. The day has gone by, when argument was needed to teach our churches, that, the "laborer is worthy of his hire," - but we have not yet learned to estimate as we should do, the value of that labor, and the extent of that part of the hire which is due from us. We need yet to be taught, that it is our duty to furnish the laborers in our Masters vineyard, with such support, as will enable them to forsake other employments, and devote all their mental and physical energies to the great duties of their calling - to furnish it, in such manner, as to remove all anxiety from their minds with reference to the immediate maintenance of themselves and their families; and in such measure, as will afford them some prospect, that, when they cease from their labors, their wives and little ones will not be cast upon the cold charities of the world. Like talents, and like devotion of time and labor, with less sacrifice, will, in other pursuits secure this measure and manner of support, and why should it not be expected by and awarded to God's husbandmen?
3d. We may learn to value more highly, the office, character and services of those who are engaged as laborers, and to render them more efficient aid in their ardous duties. Our ministers need, not only the temporal support, to which we have alluded, but the moral and spiritual cooperation of their members. Frequent contemplation of the magnitude of the work before them, and fervent prayer for an increase in the number and efficiency of those who engage in it, will go far to prepare us, for this cooperation. The very knowledge of the fact, that such interest is felt and such prayer offered by their brethren in their behalf, will so strengthen the hands, and warm the hearts of the ministers, as greatly to lighten their pulpit labors, and comfort them in the discharge of their pastoral duties. While the hands of Moses were held up, by his assistants in the mountain, the Standard of Israel prevailed on the plain. Brethren, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few - pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.
[Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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