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Value Of Medical Missions As A Christian Philanthropic Agency

( Originally Published 1913 )

By training the native Christian Church in true Christian Philanthropy.óWe here take up an aspect of Medical Missions which, to a large extent, has been obscured, and yet which may claim to impart to their service one of its most striking missionary values. It has already been seen that Medical Missions fulfil a most useful purpose in stimulating native philanthropic effort on the part of heathen communities. That, however, is quite another thing to the training of the native Christian Church in true altruism. The one is an indirect bye-product that is at the most of secondary importance. The other is a result which has a profound significance upon the whole future of Christianity on the Mission Field. And it is very necessary that we should pause for a moment to consider the nature of this side of the value of Medical Missions.

It may fairly be said that whilst in the lands of Christendom, philanthropic effort is usually to be found in considerable measure, e.g., hospitals, asylums, etc., yet that there is on the whole only an indirect connection between such ministries and the work of the Christian Church. That it is the spirit of Christianity and the atmosphere created by it which has given birth to, and fostered all this philanthropy, hardly any will deny. But at the same time there is very little evidence of any close link between the Church and these manifestations of man's care for his fellows. And herein, we venture to say, lies a matter calling for considerable regret.

How often has the taunt been hurled against the churches that theirs is a religion of words, not deeds. That they have no care for the distressed and suffering of this present world, and solely concern them-selves about the work of preparation for the next. Mistaken and untrue, no doubt, but who shall say that much of this railing against the churches has not been caused by the absence of any integral relation between the Church and philanthrophy ? And who shall question that, in the modem severance between organised Christianity and some of its fruits, the whole cause of the Evangel in the lands of Christendom has suffered a grievous handicap ? We have but to go back to the genesis of Christianity to find how both word and deed were indissolubly bound up together, each complementary, the one to the other, and each necessary for the adequate presentation of the religion of Jesus Christ. Therefore how great is the loss when a strange gulf is allowed to develop between the teaching and the practice of Christianity, and how invaluable the service that can be rendered by Medical Missions, even in nominally Christian lands, by the bridge that they erect across that gulf.

Accordingly, when we pass to the Church on the Mission Field, it becomes manifestly clear from the foregoing considerations that it is of first moment to inculcate a direct share in philanthropic work. The young native Church cannot be left to regard such effort as something outside of itself. Essentially, and all the more because of the widespread necessity for practically every form of philanthropy in mission lands, must the native Church grip the idea that works of benevolence are responsibilities which it must directly assume and discharge. In other words, that such expressions of care for the suffering and destitute are indispensable to its best and most fruitful life, and that only by engaging in these ministries can it both exhibit that object lesson of its faith which its heathen neighbours ought to see, and place its feet in the footprints of One who " came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

Now, in this work of educating the whole native Church, Medical Missions are of tremendous value. Starting with the exhibition of deeds of practical sympathy, and healing kindness, Medical Missions go on to inspire the organisation of similar pieces of work by the native Church. As a senior Chinese Missionary once wrote, " No head station in the Mission Field should be without some object lesson in Christian philanthropy." At first the spirit of true altruism may be difficult to cultivate, inasmuch as the members of the Church have been totally unacquainted with any such conception in their heathen ethics. But assuredly the vital necessity of leading them, in their corporate capacity, to assign a place for the various philanthropic agencies in the work of the Church is a self-evident duty, in the discharge of which Medical Missions render an invaluable service to the whole missionary enterprise.

And happily there are not wanting indications that our brethren in the native Church are awakening to a sense of the obligations of Christian stewardship which their faith has imposed upon them. Take the splendid efforts of the Christians in Manchuria during the outbreak of plague in 1911. Examples of the bravest and most self-sacrificing heroism on the part of the newly trained Christian medical students belonging to Pekin, Mukden, etc., were noteworthy incidents of that awful time of pestilence. Take yet later the splendid Red Cross work amongst the wounded, carried on in various parts of China during the Revolution of 1911-12. How truly did the spirit of the Master manifest itself in numbers of young Christian Chinese who went into the teeth of danger and endured hardships that they might minister to those of their countrymen in suffering and distress. Yes, the native Christian Church can be trained in the noblest philanthropy, if we will but set before them the necessary object lessons, and it is at once the glory and responsibility of Medical Missions to lead the van in this contribution to the future efficiency of the Church on the Mission field.

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