Page images

“First of all, there is a danger that we may hold with a slackened grasp, in consequence of the discussions of recent times, the great truth which, I venture to say, is the foundation of every missionary society-that there is only one Saviour and Prince of mankind, the Lord Jesus Christ. The way in which this doubt, this loosening of our faith, begins is very gradual. It is not denied that Christ is a Saviour; it is not denied that Christ is one of the great religious teachers of the race; but what is questioned is this: Is He the only Saviour? Is He the only religious teacher of the race? That is the way in which the doubt begins, and then presently some one comes forward, and suddenly parades before us the truth, as if it were a recent discovery of the spirit of the age-that God reveals Himself in many ways to man. Why, sir, we had learned that long ago. It lies on the first page of St. John's Gospel-'The light is shining in the darkness; but the darkness comprehendeth it not.' And then books are written-and I am not here this morning to say a single word against these books-on the religions of mankind. They are very learned books; they are very charming books to read; but they are books confessedly dealing, not with the factsthe sad, terrible facts-of heathenism, as our missionaries see them with their own eyes every day; but they deal with the philosophy, the ethical teaching of the founders of these faiths; and let me say, they do not give us all their ethical teaching. They take great care to pick out a few grains of gold from amidst a multitude of sand. These books are written, and doubt begins to feel a little more courage, and stands up, and commences to quote Mr. Tennyson; and it says, God fulfils Himself in many ways.' Here

[ocr errors]

in Europe is one way, there in China is another way, in India is another way; and the result is this at the end, that even though some reverence be retained for Christ as a religious teacher, it is only the reverence given to Him as one amongst many. He has no more exclusive claim on the homage and faith of mankind than Confucius or Buddha, we are told: He is only one out of the many great religious reformers of the race. Now, sir, what


very remarkable is this-this kind of unbelief is very much offended if you call it unbelief. I call it unbelief, and unbelief of the deadliest kind; but it prefers to call itself broad theology. One thing at least is certain; it may be broad theology, but it is not the theology of the apostles of Christ. The men that lived with the Lord Jesus, who knew most of His mind, did not believe for one moment that religion was like food, simply a question of taste, for a race. They did not

believe that truth varied with different degrees of longitude. All through their writings, from first to last, you can trace this conviction running, burning like a fire in their bones. "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we may be saved.' They may have been in doubt about a great many things; there was no doubt here. They may have been left in uncertainty about a great many things in connection with the revelation of Christ; there was no uncertainty here. The rock on which they built everything was this-not a philosophy, not an opinion, but a solid, impreg nable, historical fact, We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.' Other revelations from God to man? Why, sir, they never denied it. Their own Judaism was one of the principal

ones; but no other revelation of God no other incarnation, save this- The Word was made flesh.' This the final, complete utterance of God's will for man-God, who at sundry times and in divers manners hath spoken in times past, hath in these latter days spoken unto us by His Son.' Now, sir, I do not this morning, as a comparatively young man in the ministry, pretend to say how far this so-called broad theology has become the theology of any of our ministers or churches; but I do venture to say this-if it has become the theology of any of our churches, do not look to them for any very constant or considerable help in the missionary enterprise-and if ever (which may God forbid!) it should become the leading theology of our churches,

I think you may date from that day the beginning of the end of our missionary enterprise. I do not say that our missionary societies won't go on for a time. Machinery does not stop all at once when you have shut off the steam; nor do missionary societies; but they will stop nevertheless. I am sure that there is no power, no spiritual force, strong enough to drive the wheels of the mighty work of the evangelisation of the world, save that power which acts from the conviction that as there is one mathematics, one science, just as true in China as here in England, so there is but one religion, one Saviour, one King, who is King of kings and Lord of lords."


We have been informed lately that it is quite possible for our missionary societies to go on doing their work, although we may not hope to convert the world to Christianity.

"It is said to us, You forget that Christianity is more than a religion; it is a civilisation as well.' Well, now, let your missionaries take their printing-presses and their books (and do not forget to put in a few copies of Matthew Arnold's works), and let them go out to the heathen, content with the humbler but not less useful work of educating and refining and civilising these savage races. Very well, sir; but before we turn our missionary societies into limited companies for the promotion of civilisation, I want to ask this question, Where are the missionaries to come from? Who is going to take the printing-press, the books, and these copies of Matthew Arnold's works into the distant and rude nations of the world? Why, sir, you won't find the men. I never yet heard of a band of cultured unbelievers,

even though they might have discovered the secret of Jesus, saying,

[ocr errors]

We will give up father and mother, and houses and lands, and even writing for the Contemporary Review itself. We will give up all these things for the sake of civilisation? We will go wherever Dr. Mullens chooses to send us-to Cannibal Island, if you like; they may eat us, but it won't matter; we do not count our lives dear to us for civilisation's sake.' I never heard the names of any of these self-denying heroes of culture. The fact is civilisation is just about as selfish as human nature is. It objects to be eaten. It prefers (I do not blame it for preferring, because it is civilisation) the sweet reasonableness of society at home to being called, as my brother is, a foreign devil in Shanghai, or


being cooked and eaten in some island of the South Seas. On the other hand, who are the men of whom the world is not worthy who have gone out leaving their English life and English homes? They have not been inspired by a passion for civilisation-no, they are the successors of the apostles, the true Apostolical Succession this. They are the successors of Paul and Barnabus-men who hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus. them the secret of their devotion to the missionary cause; ask them why many of them deliberately abandoned the chances of intellectual distinction in England; ask them why they have gone out, some of them to live in countries where to live means to suffer-and they will teli you, not for civilisation, but for the sake of Him who, of His own deep and infinite love, has looked down upon us and said, For My sake and the Gospel's.' Of course they carried something more than the Gospel with them-or I would rather put it thus, because they carried the Gospel they carried something more with them. The missionaries of Christ have always been missionaries of civilisation. I say again, the faith, the only faith that is the inspiration and strength of this missionary work; the faith that animated such men as Henry Martin, and Carey, and John Williams, and our own Moffat-was not the faith that believed in the spelling-book and printing-press only; it believed in them,

but it believed in something far nobler than them; it believed that India, and China, and Africa needed Christ as much as Europe did; it believed that Christ came into the world to save sinners, not in Europe alone. It was a faith that yearned with a changeless loyalty to the throne of Christ, to see Him crowned King of kings, and Lord of lords. Touch that faith, weaken it, you weaken the very mainspring of our modern missionary enterprise; abandon that faith, and our missionary societies will not last twenty years. Of course, this does not imply that we think that our Christianity should take the same form of intellectual expression or ecclesiastical organisation in the east that it does in the west. We do not care about the form. Let the water of life take its shape from the vessel that holds it. All we care about it is this it is the water of life, and it is because we believe it is, because that river flows from beneath the throne of God and of the Lamb, that on its banks, and there alone, grows the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations; it is because we believe this that we cannot but dig the channels into every land, ay, the desert and the solitary place, that into every spot the life-giving stream may flow; and it shall come to passfor, sir, the old words are true today-that everything which moveth, whithersoever the river shall come, shall live."



I have not left myself time to do more than just briefly to refer to the second danger to which our missionary enterprise is exposed from the spirit of the age. I refer to the temporary decay-for I believe it is only temporary--which modern doubt is introducing in our belief in the future punishment of sin.

"There was a time-I daresay it is within the recollection of most of us here-when the principal motive appealed to at the public meetings of this Society in support of it was the eternal doom that awaited the nations that knew not God. That time has gone by. The very phrase, 'the perishing heathen,' I do not remember to have heard for years. We seldom hear anything at our missionary meetings of the danger or the judgment which the nations that die without Christ may incur from Christ's hands. Now, sir, I say frankly I do not regret this. I go heartily with what Dr. Raleigh said in that noble and courageous speech which he made in this hall, I think, two years ago, when he said, 'We make no judgment as to the final and eternal condition of the heathen.' But, sir, what I ask is this: Is there no judgment being made-a judgment the reverse of the old and terrible one? It was once assumed that, because they were heathen, without a doubt they would perish everlastingly. It seems now to be assumed equally without doubt that because they are heathen they shall be saved everlastingly. I speak with great diffidence, and with a sense of responsibility; but I think I see indications of a spirit amongst our churches which, if it means anything, means this: that the perils of moral probation in England vanish when you reach China or India. We seem to forget that there is quite as much danger in an unscriptural charity as there is from an unscriptural severity. At any rate, sir, I am not sure that the deep and intense yearnings which the founders of this Society felt for the souls of the heathen, that intense longing for their salvation, the longing which, in tears and prayer, laid the foundation of this Society-I am not

at all certain that that yearning and longing are not becoming rare amongst us; and it is no sign for good if they be. Whatever theory you may hold as to the future state of the heathenand I confess frankly I have nonethis is certain that any theory that lessens your concern to preach Christ to them is by that fact self-condemned, Refuse, if you like, to speculate as to their eternal condition, but do not refuse to preach Christ to them. Whilst we are discussing they are sinningsinning, it is true, without law; but, sir, I remember that there are words -words dark and mysterious, I know, but whose very darkness may cover some judgment for them-For as many as have sinned without law shall perish without law.' At any rate this is certain whatever their responsibility-and we can leave it with our God-our responsibility is clear. We are entrusted with the Gospel, and it is ours to obey Christ's command, 'Go ye out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.' I heard the other day a simple but touching story-many of you may have heard it; if so, you will forgive my repeating it-which perhaps may serve not only to conclude these remarks, but to deepen our sense of the enormous mass of work that yet remains to be done. A company, I think, of gipsies, had encamped near a town. A lady who was occupied in doing the Master's work, and going to seek the lost, asked permission to be allowed to enter one of the vans. After some delay she was allowed; and she found upon entering a poor boy lying on a wretched bed, and evidently at the very point of death. She spoke to him kindly, but she received no answer. Then stooping down she whispered in his ear the old verse, and oh, what a biography God

God so

is writing of that verse! loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' There was no reply. A second time she repeated the same words, and a second time no notice was taken of what she said; and then a third time, kneeling down, she whispered into his ears the same words; and then the eyes already closed in death opened, and the thin white lips moved, and the whisper came, 'Nobody never told me this before, but thank Him kindly for it.' What a rebuke to us, brethren, in those words. At this moment there are

myriads of men and women and little children for whom Christ died, and whom He loves as much as He loves you and me, who, if they were to hear that old verse, God so loved the world,' this morning, would say, 'Nobody never told me this before.' There are hearts, dark and degraded I know, foul with all the nameless vices of heathenism; but hearts that Christ's blood can cleanse, that might turn to him with a look of love and say, 'Thank Him kindly for it.' I ask you, I ask myself, 'What are we doing to tell the world of the infinite love of God in Christ:""


Others will speak to you of the claims of this Society; but I, as the son of a missionary, and the brother of a missionary, cannot sit down without saying one word to the young men that are present here this morning.

"This Society does not merely want money it wants men, too. Dr. Mullens said to me this morning, it was quite a burden upon them, the want of men for the missionary work. I see numbers of young men present here to-day. Many of you are hoping to become heads of large business establishments in this city; many of you, I daresay, have the ambition to take your share in the great political agitations of the State. It is an honourable ambition; but a nobler ambition is before you to-day. The love of Christ may constrain you, and, filled with the grandeur and glory of Christ's kingdom - that kingdom which shall have no end-you may to-day, on your knees, say to Him, 'Lord, Thou hast said the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few: Lord, wilt Thou take me as one of the labourers for Thy harvest?' It may require sacrifice, but you will not speak of sacrifice to Christ in the

Men may

presence of His Cross.
sneer at you, or blame you; even
your friends may question your
motives; but that will not move you.
You have given up your life to the
noblest of all works-the work that
an archangel which surrounds the
throne of God may well envy-the
work of preaching Christ to the
heathen. That is enough. And often
and often, when you go to your work
in the far distant land, amidst days of
loneliness and toil-away from all the
English love and the English home
which now surround you-Christ will
come; and, oh! He will come with
that look and smile which means,
'Well done, good and faithful ser-
vant.' Talk of sacrifice with Christ's
look thus upon you! You will say-

'Happy if with my latest breath
I may but speak His name;
Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
Behold, behold, the Lamb!'"

« PreviousContinue »