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To conquer still; peace hath her victories
(MILTON, May 1682, on a proposal for the propagation of the Gospel.)
"Heretofore, in the first Evangelic times, (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again,) Ministers of the Gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians, but by their spiritual knowledge and SANCTITY of life.”
1. THERE are some professing Christians, of whom we have recently heard, who still argue that Christian Missions should be deferred, till the Almighty shall be pleased to grant miraculous powers to the men who shall be sent to heathen nations. But the communication of Christian knowledge to a fellow creature, is within the compass of man's ordinary powers; and therefore the reason for desiring miraculous gifts does not appear. The earth, by culture, accompanied by heaven's showers and sunshine, brings forth grain for the sustenance of man; and therefore no one asks for a miraculous production of the earth's fruits. The knowledge of Christian principles, like other knowledge, may be communicated by human industry; and when watered by heavenly influences from God's Holy Spirit, be made productive of holiness and virtue. We therefore deem it impious to be idle, and pretend to wait for miraculous powers.
2. Some advocates for Missions contend, that a renunciation of all assistance from regularly organized bodies of Christians, of a pecuniary nature, is essential to the character of a modern Missionary; and till such devotees can be obtained, the Churches must be contented to wait and pray, &c That men who can prosecute a Mission to teach Christianity to unenlightened nations, free of all charge to the Churches, or the Heathen, are perfectly justified in so doing, there can be no doubt. But it is denied that the Churches should inactively wait, and only pray for Providence to raise up such persons. We argue this on
the principle, that, to neglect human means, which God has put in our power, for the effecting of any good, and to pray that heaven may be pleased to effectuate that good without means, is impious hypocrisy and mockery. Man has no right to look for extraordinary help from Heaven, till he has "exhausted human efforts." In a devout spirit of humble dependence on God, first, Tsin jin leih, “exertto-the-utmost man's strength," and then it is justifiable to cast one's-self on the Almighty arm for extraordinary aid, if God be pleased to grant it.
The rational spirit of Christian Protestantism always does this now in all cases; as for instance, in the midst of tempests and shipwrecks, instead of remaining motionless, as some do, under a belief of Mahommedan fatalism, or cursing and beating their gods or saints, as do imageworshippers, of Pagan or of Christian name, British seamen never abandon the use of means.
The principle that it is man's duty to use all just means in his power, for the promotion of spiritual as well as temporal good, before he expects or prays for extraordinary interpositions of Providence, is but now being applied to Christian Missions. There has been, since the late revival of Missionary zeal, too much looking for "super-human” agents; men that should not require instruction; men without human passions, and above human wants and human infirmities; and there has been too much anticipation that Providence would interfere extraordinarily or miraculously, ere ever man had put forth the strength and energy already entrusted to him.
In a spirit of devoteeism all the Christian self-tormentors, the monks of Alet, who made a merit of stinging their hands with nettles, and the flagellantes, who scourged themselves with whips, are far outdone by the self-torturing devotees of India, and other parts of the world. Austerities may excite admiration from the ignorant, and serve the purpose of self-righteous, self-deifying mortals; but they communicate no knowledge; they lead not men to God and to the Saviour; they have been in every age of the world assumed as a cloak for secret impiety and licentiousness,
or have been the lamentable vagaries of weak and mistaken minds. I know I now tread on dangerous ground, and the opposite extreme has not been less ruinous to all that is estimable and good in the character of man. But I advocate not either extreme. Prosperity I know is dangerous as well as adversity, and self-indulgence is a more frequent vice than an excess of self-mortification. Still there is a medium line of moral rectitude and Christian wisdom, equally remote from each extreme, and it is for that medium I now contend.
Having put the case negatively, I will now state it positively. I think some theorists on the Missionary character, have worked it up to an utterly unattainable degree of ideal perfection. I choose a simpler and more practicable view.
3. A messenger of the Churches should then, I conceive, generally speaking, possess the same qualifications as a Minister of religion at home. Whilst the enemies of Missions ask for miraculous powers, some of the professed friends have maintained that an absence of all talent and acquirement does not disqualify a person; and that any body who has piety, will do for a Missionary, but not for a Minister. If a difference be argued for, I think the higher qualifications are required for the Missionary work.*
* I have heard it suggested among Protestant Dissenters, that their weakest Ministers, who can be of little service in Europe, are very proper for Missionaries." (And I have heard the same sentiment expressed by Missionary Directors, in 1825.) "Under shelter of the opinion that men of the best talents should be kept at home, we shall give too much encouragement to that self-complacency which cleaves to such men, and grant them a dismission from the service, which they will be glad to avail themselves of. But I cannot believe those Gentlemen think soberly of themselves, as they ought to do, who suppose they are too great, or too considerable to engage in Missions." (Up to the present time I have still heard it maintained, that the most highly gifted and best instructed Ministers of religion ought to be retained at home, and take the advice given to King David, "Thou art better than ten thousand of us; therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.”)
"As a man of no learning myself, I cannot but feel it a little contemptuous for me and my poor brethren, to be shoved with so much good
However, the Missionary should doubtless possess Christian knowledge and real personal piety. Without prescribing what his soul-experience of the "terrors of the Lord," and the "joy of believing" in Jesus should be, he ought not to be unacquainted with spiritual exercises of the heart, connected with, or antecedent or consequent to, the conversion of the soul, or its being turned from darkness to light, and from Satan to God. He must be an experienced Christian.* God usually makes the most holy men the medium of spiritual blessings to others.
He should possess some skill in languages; a rather critical knowledge of Holy Scripture, and of the evidences of revealed religion; a knowledge of the history of the
will into the hottest front of the battle, by men who are fitter for the work, but who claim that very fitness as the apology for sitting still; pleading their literature, and popular elocution, as a discharge from the war.” (MELVILLE HORNE.)
“Among other calumnies which were circulated against the founders of the Missionary Society, was the ungenerous imputation, that they were ready to transport their brethren to uncongenial climates, to labour amongst savage and heathen nations, whilst they continued to enjoy the delights of home. This reproach was as untrue as it was unkind, for Dr. Bogue and others requested of the East India Company permission to go to India, and were refused. (Cong. Mag. Feb. 1826.)
Some have gone to be temporary Superintendents and Commissioners; but, query? Did any of the Founders or Directors ever actually go to be Missionaries? Have they not all "continued to enjoy the delights of home?" They have transported others, but never gone themselves. Where then is the calumny or the untruth?
"In the qualification of a Missionary we must enquire not only into the sincerity of his piety, but also into the power of it. We should injure many by questioning their piety, who are not yet possessed of that vigourous and steadfast faith, that joyous hope, and that fervent love, which are absolutely necessary to support a man under all the sacrifices, dangers, hardships, and discouragements of a Missionary warfare. The tree that is green, flourishing, and fruitful, while standing in a rich soil, and sheltered by a surrou rounding wood, might wither and die, or be torn up by its roots, if removed to a heath, and standing alone exposed to the tempest." "A tolerable strength and maturity of religion, will therefore be as needful as the sincerity of it." “His Missionary zeal should not have been lately kindled, but such as having burned for years promises to continue in its heat." (MELVILLE HORNE.)
church and of the world. He should have enlarged views of human nature, in contradistinction from strong sectarian or national prejudices. English, or American, or French, or even European prejudices should not be allowed to influence strongly his mind. He should not have a zeal for his national usages, which form no part of Christian practice. A Christian Missionary from England is not sent to India or any other part of the world to introduce English customs, but Christ's Gospel. He should not be shocked nor irritated by the innocent usages of other nations, which happen to differ from his own. A Missionary's views of Providence, and the gracious care of God extended to all parts of his world, should elevate his mind above the Swiss disease of extravagant love of country. A notion which some people possess, that there is nothing good or comfortable out of England, that all God's works, every where, are inferior and to be despised, in comparison with what he hath done for England, may be called patriotism; but it is a notion that is unjust, and of an impious tendency, and is unworthy of a Christian Missionary.
He should have enlarged views of human governments, and not be a stickler for or against any form into which circumstances may have moulded the system of national rule, or even of Ecclesiastical Government. There is no reason why he should not have his own opinions on such subjects, but he should not be a keen politician, nor a high man for his own sect-ion or "branch" of the universal Church, whether Greek, Latin, or Protestant."* He should have "a single eye" to the glory of God and the good of men; a simplicity of intention that appears above board. He should not be an intriguing Ecclesiastic, nor of a grovelling plebeian mind, that would flatter the rich and powerful to obtain secular interest. He must carry the principle of unlimited toleration to the ends of the earththat man is not accountable to man, but is accountable to
* "You greatly prevaricate (or err) if you are more zealously intent to promote Independency than Christianity; Presbytery than Christianity; Prelacy than Christianity." (HOWE.)