Изображения страниц

distinctive token of their divine origin, that they are directly designed for the evangelization of the world. For each the authentic superscription is the commission to "go," that all nations may be discipled and won to the obedience of faith, through the preaching of Jesus Christ, and in accordance with the commandment of the eternal God. (Matthew xxviii. 19; Romans xvi. 25, 26.)

II. Nor does the providential indication of the great field for present foreign enterprise seem less clear. All trustworthy modern investigation confirms the ancient record of the Bible concerning the unity of the human race and concerning its primitive home. God not only made out of one blood every nation of men, appointing their seasons of appearance in history, and fixing their boundaries of habitation, to the end that they might seek him; but when at the outset he separated the sons of Adam, and divided to the nations their inheritance, he fixed these historical boundaries and seasons with reference to the number and influence of his chosen people-i.e., with reference to the preparation of the world for Christianity, and its subsequent proclamation to every creature. The high land of Armenia, about the headwaters of the Euphrates, was undoubtedly the original hive of the human race. Thither all the lines of historic testimony point; and if we cannot actually trace them all the way to their point of meeting, we can distinctly see their uniform tendency and approximately measure the degree of their convergence. From this central seat two mighty streams of population have issued forth during the past centuries, and now at length, in our day, each stream having completed its flow round half the globe, the extremes of earth's inhabitants stand facing each other across our Western sea. It is a suggestive fact that the circle of the earth which passes through the Ural Mountains, dividing Asia from Europe, passes also through California, on our Pacific slope; and this circle (speaking in general terms and with reference to the lines of historic movement) also divides the earth into its Christian and heathen hemispheres. True, west of our imagined line lie those most oriental of Oriental nations, Persia, Arabia, and Syria, together with Asia Minor; but, more significant still, all these have participated in the great Western movement, and their history and historic influence in a most striking way have been propagated through Europe and America rather than through the distant East. The wonderful Mediterranean, with its exhaustless advantages of extended coast-lines and numerous islands, attracted those whom the forbidding boundaries toward India repelled, and thus there was a deep and permanent cleavage of the race along the line that we have named.

Again, on our western side of this dividing barrier, the three

[ocr errors]

leading epochs of ancient history are most instructive for us to-day and in relation to our present inquiry. Cyrus (500 years B. C.) united the nations around him, and spread the Jewish religion and Jewish synagogues throughout his world. Alexander the Great, two hundred years later (300 years B. C.), covering a wider territory, brought East and West together, and made the peculiar treasures of each the common possession of all; the Roman Augustus, in the fulness of his power when Christ was born, consolidated and newly shaped what had been previously acquired, and carried the whole body of his civilization through Europe. In the centre of the region thus affected by this movement of the centuries, receiving influences from adjoining lands and mightily influencing them in turn, were

Those holy fields,
Over whose acres walked those blessed feet
Which, eighteen hundred years ago, were nailed

For our advantage on the bitter cross. And so it was that Christianity, entering this historic stream at its source, inheriting Persian discipline, appropriating Grecian learning, and following Roman conquest, has been enabled to transform and mould this Western Christian hemisphere. Meanwhile—and this is the special point for remembrance here—India and China, the whole vast region of Eastern Asia, had been growing up in isolation, neither receiving nor giving in the mighty ferment that kept Western Asia and Europe in constant agitation. We can now see that, in the wisdom and plan of God, the fulness of the times for those distant Asiatics had not yet come. He would first allow them, as he had the peoples of the West, to work out their own religious and social problems, and weary themselves in their wanderings from him, while he should in the meantime be preparing the instruments and agencies for their spiritual deliverance when the divinely-appointed time should arrive. Has not the hour come, and the instruments ? If, as we devoutly believe, the world's history before Christ's incarnation was in preparation for that momentous event, and its history since is in preparation for his return-each succeeding period being the effective antecedent of that which follows—may we not justly say that all which has been hitherto achieved is in preparation for the evangelization of those millions of India, China, Japan and Africa, that have grown up almost as far removed from the influence of our modern and Christian life as if they had inhabited another planet?

The plan of the world's redemption is one, and the providential methods for accomplishing the successive parts of the plan are essentially alike, just as the field is one, though its cultivation may advance


only by provinces and sections. That Christianity which was so early brought into conflict with Judaism and with Grecian and Roman heathenism, is only now ready for successful conflict with Hindooism and Buddhism, and Confucianism and Mohammedanism, and other forms of venerable and deep-rooted error which enthrall more than half the race. These slowly-passing centuries have been centuries of training for a task that will be found to demand all their accumulated resources. Christianity has been divinely guided and empowered to embody itself in the various forces of society, educational, political, industrial, commercial, philanthropic, in order that these forces may now be turned (trained and fitted as they have become) to the conquest of these unevangelized empires. We say again, He who had prepared, through long ages of discipline and development, the religious truths and liturgic forms of Judaism, the literary resources of Greek speech, and the comprehensive and vigorous political agencies of Rome, for the purpose of furnishing Christianity at its birth with the needed agencies for rapid and permanent victories, He has been preparing Christianity itself, by all subsequent discipline and development, for the more difficult contest that now lies before its mature and thoroughly-equipped strength. When we remember whence the gospel came to us, and how it has come, we may devoutly acknowledge that God has enlarged Japheth, and that he permits him to dwell in the tents of Shem. Surely there is an obligation in the inheritance.

III. In prosecuting the work thus devolved upon us we must look for agencies mainly to the foreign fields themselves. There can now hardly be a dissent from the fundamental missionary principle that China must be evangelized by Chinese; and Burmah by Burmese; and India by Indians; just as Europe must be evangelized by Europeans, and America by Americans. This principle, while it makes the need for foreign missionaries imperative, determines their general line of action. Their personal occupation of alien fields is temporary, though it may well extend over several generations yet, while they are preparing those fields for the permanent occupation of the gospel. It is not simply the winning of a few converts that is sought, nor simply the adoption of the Christian name by a few tribes of untutored savages; but the complete Christianization, in all their modes of thought and life, of populous kingdoms that were far advanced in culture and civil organization twenty centuries ago. It is, to make one example stand for all, to get such a Christian hold upon the moral and intellectual forces of Burmese society that native Christians may there undertake for their people what the Christians of this country




are striving to do here. This goal is doubtless yet a long way off, and calls for a wisdom, patience, persistence, and liberality that perhaps not many among us fully recognize; but it nevertheless is the goal of our hopes and activities.

Thanks be to God, the experimental stage in modern Christian missions has fairly passed; and it has been a splendid success, confirming the Saviour's promise and demonstrating his people's ability and obligation. We have not only Christian churches among the heathen, but we have Christian families and Christian schools and Christian communities. Thoughtful heathen can themselves now trace the broad lines of contrast between their own religion and Christianity, and discern at least some of the leading characteristics of that godliness which in manifold ways blesses the life that now is, as well as secures that which is to come. We have obtained light upon missionary methods, acquired precious experience, and accumulated a multitude of helps of priceless value and permanent advantage. And the one capital lesson out of all this preliminary labor is that the great work must be done by native agencies and native machinery, and that our chief endeavor must be to prepare the way for these.

We are indeed in a new era. Let any one read the Minutes of our last Burmah Baptist Convention, or read the proceedings of the General Missionary Conference which met at Allahabad, India, last Christmas, or study Grundemann's magnificent Missionary Atlas, and he will feel that this new era in the missionary enterprise has assuredly come. The church's consciousness of her appointed work is clearer and stronger than ever before. She is more certain of her ground and of the way to occupy it; and the fruit of her labor appears on every side. We do not disparage the past. The returns have been wonderful, for the expenditure of men and money and time. But our face must be to the future, wherein our duty lies ; and with broader views, improved methods, and more intelligent faith, we must seek especially to evoke and foster and train those effective native instrumentalities through which the vast heathen world is to be redeemed.

In thus exalting the native agencies to the place assigned them by almost all experienced missionaries of every denomination, we do not forget that the heathen must be saved, if saved at all, by the preaching of the gospel, through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is to secure just that result, in all its blessed and permanent fruitfulness, that we so emphasize the point before us. A sense of unqualified dependence upon the presence of Christ and the energy of the Holy Spirit leads

[ocr errors]

us to estimate, above all other visible means of evangelization, suficient numbers of sanctified and competent men who can wield the sword of the Spirit. If all heathendom were converted to Christianity to-day—just that and nothing more, simply new-born babes in Christ-our duty and methods could hardly be essentially different from what they now are, or ought to be. This primary work of conversion would be a glorious consummation indeed. All heaven would be moved with exultant joy, and earth could frame no adequate form of thanksgiving. But were that done, still the work would remain, without which all else would soon be again lost, of so edifying the " body of Christ" that the transformed heathendom might continue an established, intelligent, and self-perpetuating Christendom. As it is, we have the first work yet to do, but it must be done with constant reference to the second; and, such is the order of God's kingdom, the methods which are adjusted to the second are just those which can alone be relied on to accomplish the first. The plans which aim at permanency are really best adapted to immediate success. To provide for efficient native agencies is the surest way to win native converts.

IV. The bearing of all this upon the relation of our Educational Institutions to Foreign Missions, it will not need many words to indicate. These institutions are the church's training schools, where she forms and furnishes her leaders for every good word and work. More than she is aware, the tone of her thought, the style of her teaching, and the methods of her activity are determined in these schools. In a very important sense is it true that the church can only be, in her prevailing spirit and outward activities, what these schools make her; while it is equally true that they can only be what she makes them. It is a suggestive and monitory fact that American Foreign Missions had their birth in an American Christian College, and out of similar institutions have gone the men who have sustained them to this hour. The work will cease when our colleges and theological seminaries cease to cherish it. Let this be remembered alike by our churches and our schools to-day.

It is not supposed that our schools can give special training for missionaries, nor would it be wise for them to attempt it. Every missionary must know the people among whom he labors; he must know their speech, their modes of thought, their habits of life; but these he can only competently learn from the people themselves, on his special field. But our schools can and should be pervaded by the missionary spirit; their studies can be moulded by the evident design of God in the configuration and history of the earth. Geography,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »