I. Let me remind you of a few things relative to the greatness of your work.—Such a view of it may, in one sense, dismay you, and induce you to exclaim, “Who is sufficient for these things?” But in another sense it is necessary; and remember, for your encouragement, that “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.”
1. It is the work of saving souls.—Light as this is made of by the world, it is great. The temporal salvation of an empire is great and interesting; but the salvation of one soul exceeds all this; for the soul is capable of eternal happiness or misery. “What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”
2. It is the work of introducing the gospel where it has never been.—There is great importance attaching to this, whether in a country, city, town, or village. It is lighting a candle which may burn for ages. When Paul and Silas first entered Europe, they might have no conception of the effects. But what they taught was a light that has never been extinguished.
3. It is a work to which you may expect great opposition.—Satan will dispute every inch of ground with you, and his opposition will be varied. It is true, your brethren who have gone before you have had difficulties to encounter which you will probably escape; but do not expect that all opposition has ceased. The more God blesses you, the more opposition you may expect, not from Brahmins only, and Hindoos, but from Europeans. Expectations of ease and honour are utterly unworthy of a Christian missionary.
4. It is a work that must occupy your whole attention.—Nehemiah could not be diverted from his work, nor must you. You must not go with a divided heart. You may wish to attend to other things; but every thing must be done in subserviency to your great work. Never lose sight of this. If politics or worldly speculations invite your attention, you must reply, “I am doing a great work: why should the work cease whilst I come down to you?” Always consider an attention to any thing that would divert you from the grand object you have in view as “going down;” and say, I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.
II. But while yours is unquestionably a great work, it is also a work in which there are great encouragements.—Under this head we may remark,—
1. It is a work the foundation of which has been laid at a great expense.—When God would save a nation, he sent Moses and Aaron: he gave Egypt for them. When he would restore them, he sacrificed Babylon. But to lay the foundation of this work he sacrificed his Son!
2. It is a work which occupies a first place in the designs of God.—All his other works are subservient to this. They were not only made by Christ, but for him. The revolutions of empires are permitted for the sake of the people of God. Babylon was raised up to chastise them, and destroyed to deliver them. The invasion of Britain and other nations was permitted for the gospel’s sake; and who can tell but this may be the end which God intends to answer in permitting British armies to subdue India? Even slavery itself may be permitted for the gospel’s sake.
3. It is a work in which the hand and heart of God will be with you.—If ever you incline to despond, remember—“The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.”
4. It is a work which involves the happiness of your species.—Whence spring all the miseries of mankind? “Whence come wars and fightings?” From the state of their hearts. The gospel is the remedy, and the only remedy, Psal. 67.
III. Let me conclude with a few remarks:—
1. The greatest work requires attention to a multitude of little things.—It is composed of little things. Great works are not accomplished by a single exploit, but by a series of labours—by leaving no stone unturned. Look at Nehemiah. He inquires, weeps alone, prays, speaks to the king, obtains favour and a commission; but still he returned to labour, even in the night, and took a calm and deliberate view of the work; and when he communicated his intentions, his friends joined him; and thus, by a multitude of operations, the work is accomplished. He was laborious, firm, disinterested, patient, and persevering; and looked for his reward to God.
2. A great work may be hindered and stopped by little things.—Little follies will spoil the whole, Eccles. 10:1; such as the dispute of the disciples who should be the greatest; and little discords; and self-will. A great character will imitate Him who “pleased not himself.” Abraham’s condescension to Lot is a fine example.
My dear sisters, yours is a great work. In the first ages, there were women who helped to advance the good cause; and we are indebted nearly as much, under God, to the services of your sex as to those of our own. It is for you to strengthen the hands of your companions, by a cheerful demeanour under their various discouragements, by conversing with the native females, by keeping order in the family, by setting an example of modesty and affection, by economy and industry.—You may be of service on your voyage. It was remarked of one of our dear sisters, during her voyage, by an officer, that he never saw her equal in sweetness of disposition, calmness, kindness, and firmness in danger. This was a powerful recommendation of the gospel.—You may be members of a large family—conform to its rules; make yourselves useful; beware of jealousy, whisperings, envies.—You may be called to preside in a small station—conduct every thing in the fear of God. Bear and forbear, and forgive. Keep near to God. Seek your own happiness and interest in that of the whole.
Dear brethren and sisters, we shall be with you in heart. We shall pray for you. And we trust we shall meet you in the world above. Meanwhile my brethren and companions, assembled to bid you farewell, will cordially unite with me in the fervent prayer—Remember them, O our God, for good!—The Lord Jesus Christ be with their spirits.
Excerpt from a sermon entitled The Christian Ministry a Great Work (Addressed to two Missionaries and their Wives.)
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 513–515). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.