this long interval, have defended the truth, and, by their invaluable writings, recommended the excellence
and power of godliness. Faithful and learned ministers have indefatigably labored; and the Lord
hath often sent a plentiful rain, and confirmed his inheritance when it was weary; but still
an extensive promulgation of the Gospel has not been seriously attempted. Nothing since the primitive ages
of Christianity, deserving the name, has appeared, until the present period.
[See Appendix A., note A.]
Now, at a season the most unpromising, when wars, revolutions, and confusion prevail; now, when infidelity assumes a formidable
aspect, increases its votaries, and arrogantly threatens to crush revealed religion; at this very time, under
all these inauspicious circumstances, see the Church enlarging the place of her tent, and stretching forth the
curtains of her habitation! She breaks forth on the right hand and on the left, to inherit the Gentiles, and make the
desolate cities to be inhabited. All who embrace the doctrines of grace, in every nation, seem inspired
with the same spirit. Vast plans are formed, immense expenses incurred, and the most distant continents
and islands become the objects of attention. Now, the deplorable state of those who dwell in the
land of the shadow of death, and perish for lack of knowledge, excites compassion. Societies are instituted to
facilitate the work; and men, zealous and intrepid in the service of their Lord, readily offer to visit the utmost ends of the earth, and cheerfully
submit to the toils and dangers inseparable from missionary labors.
Such views and efforts constitute a distinguished epoch in the history of the Church.
[See Appendix B.]
Events so singular, and in their consequences so interesting, create serious inquiries. The assiduous observer of Divine Providence, losing sight
of subordinate agents, looks up and asks, What is God doing? Why are the intricate wheels, which, with respect to this important object,
have so long seemed stationary, now put in
motion? Is there nothing in the word of God, is there no promise, no prediction, which will illustrate the procedure of Providence, and inform his people
of the rise and progress, the source and tendency of this astonishing movement? From the prophecies of the Old Testament respecting the kingdom of Christ,
a satisfactory reply cannot be obtained. Those prophecies refer chiefly to the beginning or to the conclusion of the Gospel dispensation. Some were
accomplished in the days of the apostles and their immediate successors. The most of them look forward to a distant period. Very little concerning the
intermediate space, or the train of events which mark the approach, and are to usher in the glory of the latter days, can be from them expressly collected.
[See Appendix C.]
Our blessed Lord, in many of his parables, delineates the gradual and extensive progress of his kingdom. In the Epistles a formidable adversary is
mentioned, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming But our most decisive information is to be
derived from the APOCALYPSE.
[See Appendix D.]
The various vicissitudes which, in succession, designate the present dispensation of the Church, and the time when the promises will be fulfilled, are there more pointedly
described than in any other portion of the sacred scriptures. To a prophecy in this book I have presumed, my Brethren, upon this occasion, to request
your attention; a prophecy in which you will find an answer to your inquiries, and from which it is my design to deduce a NEW MOTIVE for strenuous and
persevering exertions in your missionary engagements.
Convinced of the difficulties which unavoidably attend the explantion of prophecies not yet accomplished, and persuaded of a prevailing disposition to
magnify present events; aware of the propensity which urges to anticipate what is future and sensible of the peculiar circumspection with which we ought