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Christian Missions

IN addressing the National Convention of twenty-five hundred Methodist men at Indianapolis, Dr. Robert E. Speer predicted that, when the future student of history shall look back upon our times to inquire as to what has really been the greatest movement of history, "he will select as the deepest and most characteristic movement of this time Christianity's readjustment of its mission and the reassertion by Christian men of their obligation to carry the sovereignty of the gospel over all the world and into all the life of men."

Great moral movements, like the seas, mingle into each other. But, if we could clearly differentiate the Christian missionary movement of this age from all other movements, we would be forced to conclude that this movement, measured by its ideals, its scope, its achievements, its effect direct and collateral upon civilization, its ever-enlarging plans and prophetic hopes, is the most sublime and morally fruitful movement in the present-clay history of the world. Upon no feature of the Church did its divine Founder lay more stress than upon its missionary character. His last and decisive message to the Church bade it go into all the world and disciple all the nations.

The relentless edict of persecution forced the primitive Church early into missionary activities. Persecution hunted and scattered the early disciples into all the provinces of the Mediterranean. But in whatever territories these pursued disciples took refuge, they carried the ardent testimony of their Master's gospel. Christianity, by its own propulsions, spread rapidly from the shores of the Mediterranean, not only to north-ern Africa, but throughout the territories of Europe. It accompanied the earliest migrations to America, and established itself as the dominant religious faith of the New World.

The teen "Christendom" has long stood as the synonym of a large group of nations which together compose the world's most advanced and powerful civilizations. But in the great body of Christendom the distinctive conception of missions as now construed, like many other of the implicit and vital teachings of Christ, has come to late expression. In the days of his flesh, Christ's patience was evidently greatly tried by the lack of spiritual discernment so manifest in his disciples. Few facts can more greatly attest the blindness of the Church through long ages than its lack of vision of, its indifference to, its skepticism concerning, its duty to constitute itself a missionary evangel to all the world.

Practically, while there are a few organizations comparatively old, the foreign missionary conception is quite modern. While on the Continent and in England a few of the foreign boards were established in the later years of the eighteenth century, most of the effective organizations of today are less than a century old. The American Board was formed in 181o, the Baptist Board in 1814, the Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society in 1819, the Protestant Episcopal Missionary Society in 182o, the United Presbyterian Board Missionary Society in 1859.

The awakening of conviction from which has resulted the foreign missionary movement of Protestant Christianity was effected in the face of great indifference, even of opposition. When, only a little more than a hundred years ago, William Carey arose in a Baptist Assembly to inquire if Christ's command to his apostles to go "into all the world and preach the gospel" did not apply to the present time, the president curtly replied : "Sit down, young man. When it pleases God to convert the heathen, he will do it without your help."

The attitude of the great "Honorable East India Company," practically wielding England's control of the Indian continent, is well known. When it was proposed to send missionaries to the East, this company officially made a rejoinder to the effect that "the sending out of missionaries into our Eastern possessions would be the maddest, most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project which has ever been suggested by a moon-struck fanatic. Such a scheme is pernicious, imprudent, useless, harmful, dangerous, profitless, fantastic. It strikes against all reason and sound policy, it brings the peace and safety of our possessions into peril." It was not until 1813 that the English Parliament allowed missionaries to go to India.

When the Church Missionary Society of London was organized there was not to be found a single English clergyman who was willing to go upon foreign mission work, and for sixteen years this Society did its work only through foreign helpers. "In i 796 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed a resolution that 'to spread abroad the knowledge of the gospel among barbarous and heathen nations seems to be highly preposterous while there remains at home a single individual without the means of religious knowledge, to propagate it abroad would be improper and absurd.' "

The American Board of Foreign Missions was organized in 181o, really under the initial leadership of a few Andover Seminary students, namely, Samuel Mills, Gordon Hall, and James Richmond. But such then was the general opposition to the idea of missions that these spiritually awakened young men had to counsel together in stealth. They met for conversation and prayer upon the subject of missions in a lonely glen, but were greatly rejoiced to find that their hearts were drawn out in harmony upon the same subject.

No phenomenon in history is more marked, nor probably more fraught with significance, than the change which in the last century it might truly be said within the last twenty-five years has come into the thought of the Christian Church with reference to missions. The missionary enterprise is now a common enthusiasm of Protestantism. There are at present nearly fifty strongly organized societies or boards, the common purpose of which is, under the most efficient auspices at command, to establish evangelizing agencies in all heathen territory. As a policy both of comity and efficiency, the fields to be occupied are so differentiated that these various organizations do not enter the same territory as rival forces. A general result is that mission stations, like so many beacons of moral and spiritual light in the world's dark spaces, are already strategically planted here and there widely over pagan lands. Missionary forces are increasingly colonizing the heathen world.

Only a century ago the entire gifts of Protestantism for foreign missions did not exceed annually $200,000. In the last year England, the United States, and Canada gave more than $22,000,000; and in the same year the combined gifts of the world's Protestantism for this cause were not less than $33,000,000.

In the entire heathen world the number of employed missionaries from Christian lands approximates about 21,500, to which are to be added 105,000 native workers. The direct fruitage of missionary efforts in the fields occupied is represented by more than 7,000,000 living native Christians. These figures are most significant. But they represent only the merest fraction of achievements wrought. The eloquent words of Dr. W. F. Oldham, spoken of Methodist missions at the Indianapolis convention, would have truthful application if spoken of the entire missionary world. He said :

This slim handful, met at first by misunderstanding and racial prejudice, by open opposition and stony indifference, has kept patiently, steadily at work. They have had but a brief half century. During that time, working from five thousand to ten thousand miles from home, contending with strange languages and stranger customs, debilitated by unfavorable climates, harassed by disease, criticized abroad and till lately often sneered at at home, they have overcome initial difficulties, broken through the apathy of great masses of ignorance, have withstood the organized opposition of aroused priesthoods and the militant frenzy of persecuting fanatics. In the face of mobs and riots, of revolution and wars, and above all, in spite of powerfully intrenched religions and hoary superstitions, they have inaugurated changes, they have altered civilizations, they have witnessed the reformation of peoples and the rebirth of nations; they have planted schools and school systems; they have built churches and established Christian homes and Christian worship. . . . Behold, what hath God wrought!

The interest in missions shows no decline. It is, rather, that of a sustained and growing life. It is a movement fresh and vigorous in purpose, such as might have sprung from a youthful Christianity, a movement having in itself all the energy, hopefulness, and prophecy born of youthful enthusiasms. Christian missions are really but in their beginning. Their outlook is world-wide, their spirit world-conquering. In all their vocabulary there is no single suggestion of despair. Their task is as wide as humanity, but their confidence of success is absolute. If the term "enthusiasm" can be translated as God in working in human purposes, then, no historic cause than that of Christian missions has ever drawn to itself a support more sublime.

This cause has won for itself the approval of the world's most observant and intelligent thinkers. To speak slightingly or derisively of Christian missions to-day is to mark the person so speaking as both benighted and bigoted. A church member who does not believe in missions is pathetically out of harmony with the most enlightened thought of the age.

Phillips Brooks, when traveling in India, wrote home: "Tell your friends who do not believe in foreign missions (and I am sure there are a good many of such) that they do not know what they are talking about, and that three weeks' sight of mission work in India would convert them wholly." Mrs. Isabella Bird Bishop, traveler and author, says:

I am a convert to missions through seeing missions and the need for them. Some years ago I took no interest at all in the condition of the heathen; I had heard much ridicule cast upon Christian missions, and perhaps had imbibed some of the unhallowed spirit. But the missionaries, by their life and character, and by the work they are doing, wherever I have seen them, have produced in my mind such a change and such an enthusiasm as I might almost express it in favor of Christian missions that I cannot go anywhere without speaking about them and trying to influence others in their favor who may be as indifferent as I was.

This kind of testimony could be indefinitely multiplied. Christian missions stand recognized in all unprejudiced and intelligent thought as occupying a foremost place among the creative forces of human progress and moral enlightenment.

As to the current movement and spirit of missions, I have seen no clearer brief statement than one found in a single paragraph by Mr. Crow. He says:

Every year the Christian army advances farther into the territory of the enemy and adds thousands to its ranks. Go into any market town in China, any city of India, into the jungles of Africa, into the frozen north, among the cannibals and lepers and barbarians, into the far-away places of the great heathen world, and there you are sure to find one of the officers of this great army, whose outposts are far in advance of those of commerce. But this is no motley band of adventurers intent on humbling the Moor, despoiling the Jew, and burning heathen villages to plant the cross over ashes and dead bodies. It is a carefully organized army of Christian civilization, made up of highly trained men and women, marshaled at strategic points, who, under brilliant generalship, are laying siege at the very strongholds of heathendom. Theirs is a combination of the dauntless spirit of the crusader and the deadly efficiency of modern system and method.

The present-day missionary movement, studied from any standpoint, proves replete with informing interest.

It may not be overlooked that the very central main-spring of information, the insouling motive, of missions is primarily and exclusively one of highest moral and spiritual service to mankind. The missionary message to the Church and to the world is one that calls for the most unselfish benevolence, for the largest consecration of both gifts and service. While the success of missions in any field means a new market for the wares of the manufacturer and the merchant, the cause of missions is not a joint-stock corporation in any sense which primarily promises a return of cash dividends to its investors. It asks outright, from all who are able to bestow, free, large, and loving gifts.

To those who have no appreciation of the moral uses of money the whole plan may seem both visionary and Utopian. But to all who have entered sympathetically into God's methods of helping the world the spirit of giving to missions finds its supreme illustration and enforcement at the cross where God's Son freely gave himself for the world's redemption. It is true that selfish business is making vastly larger investments for revenue purposes in mercantile and industrial enter-prises than the Christian Church is making for the promotion of its missions. But in its magnitude, in its moral significance, as an index of high faith in and devotion to a divine cause, and in unmeasured fruit-fulness of results, the Christian consecration of capital and cultured life to missions represents the sublimest altruism now known to the world. The moral values in human education of so large, enthusiastic, and concerted giving of money, of so heroic devotion of individual lives as that now represented in the support of Christian missions, are beyond estimate.

Modem missions, considered as a business enterprise, furnish one of the most suggestive chapters of present-day life. A vitally important, though the least romantic side of missionary endeavor, is the raising of funds in the home Church for support of the work abroad. The education of the home Church is being conducted with increasing movement, thoroughness, and breadth, through publications, school training, and platform addresses. These and kindred agencies are awakening wide popular interest in the work of foreign missions. A great educational program is now in process throughout Protestantism. An increasing liberality is rapidly developing. Financial plans are in vogue through which it is sought to reach every member in every Christian congregation. The aggregate annual gifts of the Churches now reach up into the many millions. But it would not be surprising if within the next ten years the present large giving would be increased tenfold.

The missionary movement is commanding the serious attention of the cultured young men and women of the present generation. The Students' Volunteer Movement, made up of Christian students, as a single agency sent out into various fields up to December 31, 1912, fifty-five hundred and sixty-seven workers representing the best young life of the colleges. In addition to the great number having entered the field, there is in process a vigorous movement of propagandism extending to the leading colleges throughout the land. Its aim is to maintain a constant educational campaign in the interests of missions among the various communities of students. As a result many thousands who do not go into foreign work will enter upon their life pursuits in business and in the various professions bearing with them an intelligent and lively interest in the cause of missions.

Since the Edinburgh Conference there has been a vast growth of sentiment toward a general federation of Protestantism for the missionary conquest of the heathen world. There is at present no movement in the interests of which there is awakened a wider vision, none in which there is enlisted a more far-seeing and world-statesmanship than the cause of Christian missions. This work is so engrossing, its function so imperative, that Dr. John R. Mott could promptly decline the ambassadorship to China rather than to turn aside from the work of organizing Christian forces for the spiritual conquest of the Oriental world. He is a veritable leader among the prophets. And there is an army of consecrated lives under such leadership looking with confident expectation to a near day when the most decisive turning of the heathen multitudes to Christ shall be witnessed. There is a prophetic feeling brooding in the hearts of multitudes that God is preparing the way for near and great world-victories for the kingdom of his Son. .

Missionary management as now conducted is no haphazard affair. The great funds which pass through the missionary treasuries have all of them, or nearly so, to be secured from the free offerings of the churches. To stimulate the spirit of giving in the Church at large requires an inevitable outlay in educational effort, in field work, and in other ways. In consideration of these necessitated expenses, it is noteworthy that the administrative work of the large boards does not absorb more than about five per cent on all sums collected. This is high commendation for the business economies of these boards.

The boards, as a rule, are housed in spacious and well-adapted offices, are composed of representatives from the best reputed clergymen and laymen of the respective denominations. These boards, collectively the custodians of many millions of dollars, are charged with the grave and delicate responsibility of giving the most efficient administration to these vast sums. The executive officers are carefully chosen secretaries, men selected because of their high Christian character and assured fitness for their important tasks. These men give their entire time to the study of mission fields, to the devising of methods for the instruction and quickening of the interests of the Church at large in the cause, and to such other duties, not a few, as may be incident to their office. The members of these boards, excepting the secretarial officers, render their services without financial compensation.

The business functions of the board are so adjusted that no single factor entering into mission administration can supposedly escape scrutiny, advisement, and direction. There is not a candidate for the mission field who does not pass a most searching examination. His moral character, his religious experience, his educational history, his sanity of view and conviction, bis stamina of purpose, his temperamental adaptiveness to missionary work, his freedom from financial embarrassment, his physical fitness all these are made subjects of closest scrutiny. The missionary boards are increasingly critical, and rightly so, in the process of accepting candidates. Increasing knowledge of the heathen world intensifies the necessity of sending out as missionary workers only men and women of high spiritual and intellectual attainments. In the heathen mind there is so much of philosophical discernment, such acute ethical and spiritual insight, as to make it not only useless but a travesty to send missionary workers of inferior intellectual attainments.

There is no expectation on the part of the authorities that workers entering the fields are going to achieve at once spectacular successes. The work of the missionary is one requiring infinite patience and faith. The climate is to be mastered, the languages and customs to be learned, and the respect and confidence of natives are to be won as very preliminaries to missionary usefulness. There is little in the life to minister to fickle fancies or romantic notions. The missionary who enters intelligently upon his work is prepared to expect long and laborious waiting before he shall reap the fruits of success.

"Moffat was in Bechuanaland eleven years before he baptized his first convert; Carey waited seven years for his first convert in India, and John Beck was in Greenland five years before there was any indication of interest in his work. Missionaries worked in Uganda four years with no visible results. Morrison labored in more or less secrecy in China for twenty-seven years, praying for the time when he would be able to hold public meetings, and died without seeing that accomplished. Gilmour preached twenty years in Mongolia before he could report visible results. The first Zulu was converted after fifteen years of work."

We have noted the phenomenal success of winning converts to the Christian faith. But this success, inspiring as it is, falls far short of measuring the results of missionary effort. Wherever the missionary has gone, there the institutions of education spring up. There are now established in the mission fields of the world, and as the direct outcome of missionary effort, more than thirty-two thousand nine hundred and eighty schools grading all the way from the college and the theological school down to the kindergarten. In these different schools there are in training nearly three mil-lion, five hundred thousand pupils. In the list of institutions named there are eighty-six of university or college grade, and more than five hundred theological training schools or classes, most of which are entirely devoted to the preparation of native workers. The educational work thus summarized is monumental, magnificent. But it represents only inside figures. It is but a leaven of saving influence, self-multiplying, which more and more will work its enlightening way into and through the great masses of native workers.

The British Blue Book of 1904 says, "From a very early date missionary societies have played an important part in the development of Indian education." The boys and girls educated in the mission schools, in many cases, come to commanding influence in government positions. Sir Andrew H. L. Fraser, late lieutenant-governor of Bengal, says, "It has been my policy to find out the school from which boys who are candidates for government service come, and I find that the best boys have come from missionary schools and colleges."

Dr. James S. Dennis, an authority on education in India, says, "The educational enthusiasm which plans large things for the benefit of all classes of the Indian population has pertained almost wholly to the program of missions."

Hand in hand with the missionary have gone the physician and the nurse. The mission of Christianity is to the bodies as well as to the souls of men. There have been planted in missionary territory sixty-seven medical schools and schools for nurses. Under the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church alone there are operated nineteen hospitals. The hospital work of Christian physician and nurse, has made an enormous impression upon the heathen mind. It lends great reinforcement to missionary work.

The work of the missionary puts so beneficent a touch upon manifold human interests as to make the classification of all its benefits impossible. I again take pleasure in quoting from Mr. Crow:

If any proof were needed of the really superior abilities of the missionaries, it is to be found in their contributions to science. We owe to them practically all our present knowledge of foreign languages. The vast extent of their work along this line can be appreciated by the fact that the Bible is now published in more than six hundred tongues, though in the year of the American Revolution it was known in less than seventy. Set yourself to learn one hundred Chinese characters or a page from an Arabic dictionary, and you will have a new respect for the missionary who is required to master one of these languages. Yet, the task of translating the Bible into these great but difficult tongues is easy compared to that faced by other workers who have found tribes with a language so poor that even the simple message of Christianity could not be told in it. There the missionary has undertaken the tedious task of building up and enriching the language, adding new words or new combinations of words. After years of work of this kind, he is able to tell the story he came to tell. I know a missionary who has been working among the Eskimos for eight years, and has not yet been rewarded with a convert, but he is not discouraged. In a few years more he will have educated the natives to the point where they will be able to understand his message, and then he expects results.

It is not alone in philology that the missionaries have distinguished their professions. It was a missionary who first explored Africa, and gave the first impetus toward the development and enlightenment of that great dark continent. . . . A Yankee missionary manufactured the first set of movable types for the Chinese, thereby making possible the development of the Chinese newspaper. And we who live in the Orient owe the jinriksha to the inventive genius of another. More than twenty-five years ago the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was able to fill a large book of five hundred pages with a record of the contributions of missionaries to science, and a second volume of equal size would be necessary to bring the record up to date.

If there is one supreme message in the history of Christian missions, that message is not one of discouragement. The history itself, however ample, is ever amplifying; but in all the record there is no room for doubt. The territory of missionary achievement is one lighted along all its borders by the radiance of a coming glory, and across all its spaces herald voice answers to herald voice in proclamation of the sure and victorious triumph of Him to whom God shall give a name above every other name that is named either in the heavens above or in the earth beneath.

( Originally Published 1914 )

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