What shall I more say? The time would fail me were I to attempt even the catalogue of all the true saints and dauntless heroes of the mission cause from age to age. But may I not dwell for one moment on some of the beloved names of this last century ? Let me, at least, make passing mention of the Moravian Missionaries in Greenland, "Fired with a zeal peculiar to defy The rage and rigour of a polar sky, And plant successfully sweet Sharon's Rose On icy plains and in eternal snows ;" of John Eliot, the Apostle of the Red Indians, with his life of toil and gentleness, and his motto, that prayer and painstaking would accomplish everything; of David Brainerd, living alone among the savages in the forests, though far advanced in consumption, and saying, " My heaven is to please God and glorify Him ;" of the just, the venerable, the generous, the simple-hearted Schwartz; of Henry Martyn, the Cambridge senior wrangler, as we see his pure pale face rising above his foul congregation at Cawnpore, and pity him during those long hours of lingering fever, when he had to thrust his head for rest among the damp boxes of his luggage, till he sank into his lonely grave in the plague-stricken city of Tocat; of poor Adoniram Judson, bright and cheerful even amid the horrors of a Burmese prison; of Bishop Reginald Heber, who, though he had worked but two years in India before he was found dead in his bath, yet during those two years had breathed into his tender lyrics that fire and dew of poetry which has done so much to sweeten Indian life; of Bishop Cotton, and the six years of wise and faithful energy before that one false step on the plank which flung him into the turbid river, never to be seen on earth again; of Samuel Marsden, the friend of the Maories, who civilised as well as taught them, and whom they loved and honoured as a father.
My brethren, what lives are these! how superior to ours, which are so murmuring, so somnolent, so self-indulgent ! Are not our lives, compared to the lives of such as these, as the brambles to the oaks at whose feet they grow ? Ay, but even in these days, even in our own lifetime, there have been some, who. " aiming at something more high and heroical in religion than this age affecteth," have even glorified the missionary's labours with the martyr's crown. It was thus that, in 1840, John Williams was murdered among the heathens of Erromango; it was thus that, in 1845, the brave sailor, Allen Gardiner, was starved to death in the long Antarctic winter at Picton Island, while, on the cavern near which his skeleton was found, he had painted up the words, " My soul, wait thou still upon God, for my hope is in Him." It was thus that, in 1862, Bishop Charles Mackenzie, after a life that looked all failure, died of fatigue and fever amid the malarious swamps of the Zambesi. "As for happiness," he said to his sister not long before his death, "I have given up looking for that altogether. Now till death my post is one of unrest and care. To be the sharer of every one's sorrow, the comforter of every one's grief, the strength-ener of every one's weakness; to do this, as much as in me lies, is my aim and object." "He said this with a smile," she adds, " and, oh! the peace in his face ; it seemed as if nothing could shake it!"
And though that is but sixteen years ago, even since then two more heroic souls have joined that glorious army of martyrs — David Livingstone and Coleridge Patteson. Five years ago,1 on May 1, 1873, David Livingstone, the great pioneer, the great foe of the slave-trade, breathed his last in the sultry wastes of Central Africa, in his hut at Ulala, with no white man near,—no love of wife or sister to cool his fevered forehead; no hand of son or brother to close his glazing eyes. And faithful to the very last to that which had been the great work of his life, he wrote, as the last words of his journal, almost with his dying hand, "All I can add in my solitude is, may Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one . . . who will help to heal this open sore of the world." (These lines are recorded on his gravestone in the nave of Westminster Abbey.) And seven years ago Coleridge Patteson, noble Coleridge Patteson, the pure-hearted, gallant, modest Eton boy, who gave up every prospect in England to labour amid the Pacific savages;—who had been obliged to be ready many a time to plunge in the waters that break among those coral reefs, "amid sharks, and devilfish, and stinging jellies," to escape the flight of poisoned arrows, of which the slightest graze meant horrid death— he too in that high service died by the clubs of savages whom he had often risked his life to save; died, as since then the brave and gentle Commodore Goodenough died, at the hands of savages exasperated by the accursed manstealing wickedness of white men who desecrate the English name; and they laid the young English martyr Bishop in an open boat to float away over the bright blue waters, with his hands crossed as if in prayer, and a palm branch on his breast.
1 Preached in St. Andrew's, Holborn, April 11, 1878.
There are many, many lessons, my brethren, on which I have not even touched, which yet spring immediately from the contemplation of these noble and saintly lives during nineteen centuries at which we have glanced;— lessons of self-denial, lessons of patience, lessons of self-conquest, lessons of mastery over the world in the might of unarmed holiness. Each one of them was a bright planet in the firmament of human goodness, sparkling with a different lustre, but each irradiated by one common sun. Faith—faith in the unseen—faith in God, faith in Christ, and that faith leading to infinite self-denial, and working by incessant love, that was the secret of their common holiness, that is the lesson of their common example. For all these died in the faith. It was by faith that Ignatius faced the lions; by faith that Polycarp stood unflinching in the flame; by faith Antony lived his twenty years in the mountain cell; by faith Benedict rolled his naked body among the thorns to subdue the lusts of the flesh ; by faith Fra Angelico despised the honours of the world ; by faith Francis reproduced on the Umbrian hills the life of Christ; by faith St. Columban faced the fierce tyranny of Burgundian kings; by faith St. Boniface hewed down the idol oak; by faith Eliot, and Judson, and Marsden, and Heber, and Mackenzie, and Coleridge Patteson, and Allen Gardiner, and David Livingstone civilised the Indians, converted the heathen, put down the slave trade, showed us how to do, and dare, and die in their Master's cause. Let us with them follow Christ our common Lord.
Saintly Workers, p. 164.