I recently came across this old book on missions containing timeless principles that hold just as true today as when they were written over 100 years ago. I transcribed select portions so others can continue to benefit from it. I have also provided my Spanish translation here. This special edition has had some portions omitted for brevity. Also the footnotes and bibliography are not included. Edited by missionary Calvin George.
The Evangelization of the World in this Generation by John R. Mott. Originally published in 1900, by Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions
I. Definition, or, what is meant by the evangelization of the world in this generation
II. The obligation to evangelize the world
III. Difficulties in the way of evangelizing the world
IV. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of the achievements of the first generation of Christians
V. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of some modern missionary achievements
VI. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of the opportunities, facilities and resources of the church
VII. The possibility of evangelizing the world within a generation as viewed by leaders in the church
VIII. Factors essential to the evangelization of the world in this generation
IX. The evangelization of the world in this generation as a watchword
I. Definition, or, what is meant by the evangelization of the world in this generation
The closing years of the nineteenth century have witnessed in all parts of Protestant Christendom an unprecedented development of missionary life and activity among young men and young women. A remarkable manifestation of this interest in the extension of the Kingdom of Christ has been among students. The Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, taking its rise at a conference of American and Canadian students in 1886, has spread from land to land, until it has now assumed an organized form in all Protestant countries. It has been transplanted even to the colleges of mission lands, so that today the Christian students of the Occident and the Orient, of the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres, are united in the sublime purpose of enthroning Jesus Christ as King among all nations and races of men. The reality of their consecration is proved by the fact that during the past decade over two thousand of them, after completing a thorough college or university preparation, have gone out from North America and Europe under the regular missionary societies of the Church to work in non-Christian lands. A still larger number are equipping themselves for similar service abroad.
In several countries, notably in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, the members of this movement have adopted as their watchword “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” A great number of their fellow students who, although not volunteers for foreign missions, recognize their equal burden of responsibility for the world’s evangelization, have taken the same watchword as a molding influence in their life plans. The idea is taking strong hold, also, on a multitude of other men and women. Eminent leaders of the various branches of the Church of Christ, both in Christian lands and on the mission field, have endorsed the watchword and have urged the desirability of its adoption by all Christians as expressive of an inspiring ideal as well as of a primary and urgent duty.
A watchword which has in so brief a time gained a powerful hold on the minds of the future leaders of thought, and which is already beginning to make itself felt in the Church, is manifestly worthy of careful consideration. In such a consideration it is important that we clearly understand at the outset what is meant by the evangelization of the world in this generation. It means to give all men an adequate opportunity to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and to become His real disciples. This involves such a distribution of missionary agencies as will make the knowledge of the Gospel accessible to all men. It would seem that Christ logically implied this when He commanded His followers, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) when He told them to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19) when He enjoined upon them “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47) and when He said unto them, “Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Obviously this does not express all that He in His final charges has given us to do; but it does define the first and most important part of our missionary obligation—first because knowledge of Christ precedes acceptance of Him, and most important because on a knowledge of Christ depends all else involved in the Great Commission.
The Gospel which is to be preached to every creature is the Gospel which St. Paul and the other early Christians preached. Its main outlines are set forth in the fifteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, in which St. Paul sums up the Gospel which he had preached to them: “I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4) The many side-lights on the preaching of the Apostles given in the Acts and in the Epistles make plain that the substance and burden of their message or gospel were the facts about Jesus Christ — His wonderful life and works and teachings; His death for the remission of sins; His resurrection and ascension; His constant intercession; His sending of the Holy Spirit to convict, to transform, to guide and to energize men; and the promise of His own return.
What is it to preach the Gospel? The Greek words principally used in the New Testament mean to proclaim as heralds, or to transmit good news. Other words or expressions less frequently used are to talk or converse, to reason or discuss, to testify or bear witness, to teach and to exhort. Examples of all these forms of preaching, or of communicating a knowledge of Christ and His mission to men, are to be found in the practice of the early Church. The qualifications of the worker or speaker, and the circumstances in which he found himself placed, determined the manner of his presentation of the truth as it is in Christ.
So today we find the missionaries proclaiming and applying the Gospel in sermons or addresses in mission halls; expounding and discussing the truth in bazars, inns and street chapels; conversing about Christ as they visit from house to house and as they mingle with the people socially at feasts and public gatherings; teaching the system of Christian doctrine in schools and colleges; circulating the printed Scriptures and other Christian literature illustrating the Gospel by Christ-like ministry to the body, and by the powerful object lessons of the consistent Christian life and of the well-ordered Christian home; and ever pressing the claims of Christ upon individuals as they are met within the sphere of one’s daily calling. In all these and in other ways the Christian worker by voice and by life, by pen and by printed page, in season and out of season, seeks to set forth those facts about Christ which in all lands have been found to be the power of God unto the salvation of every man that believeth.
The Gospel must be preached in such a manner as will constitute an intelligent and intelligible presentation of the message. This necessitates on the part of the preacher such a knowledge of the language, the habits of thought and the moral condition of those who are to be evangelized as will enable them to understand what is said. Above all it involves the accompanying power and work of the Holy Spirit.
If the Gospel is to be preached to all men it obviously must be done while they are living. The evangelization of the world in this generation, therefore, means the preaching of the Gospel to those who are now living. To us who are responsible for preaching the Gospel it means in our lifetime; to those to whom it is to be preached it means in their lifetime. The unevangelized for whom we as Christians are responsible live in this generation; and the Christians whose duty it is to present Christ to them live in this generation. The phrase “in this generation,” therefore, strictly speaking has a different meaning, for each person. In the last analysis, if the world is to be evangelized in this or any generation it will be because a sufficient number of individual Christians recognize and assume their personal obligation to the undertaking.
To consider negatively the meaning of the evangelization of the world in this generation may serve to prevent some misconceptions. It does not mean the conversion of the world within the generation. Our part consists in bringing the Gospel to bear on unsaved men. The results are with the men whom we would reach and with the Spirit of God. We have no warrant for believing that all who have the Gospel preached unto them will accept it. On the other hand, however, we have a right to expect that the faithful preaching of the Gospel will be attended with conversions. We should not present Christ in an aimless and unexpectant manner, but with the definite purpose of influencing those who hear us to believe on Him and become His disciples. Like St. Paul at Thessalonica, we should preach the Gospel “in much assurance.” (I Thess. 1:5) We are not responsible for the results of our work, however, but for our fidelity and thoroughness.
It does not imply the hasty or superficial preaching of the Gospel. Professor Warneck wisely emphasizes the truth that the “rejection [of the Gospel] can be made only with knowledge, and that this can be the case only when the announcing has been completely understood.” The deliverance of the message must be effective, as lawyers would say, from the point of view of the hearer as well as of the speaker. This is necessary in order that the hearer may have full responsibility for his choice. So the work of evangelization is not an easy task. At rare times it may be accomplished by proclaiming the message once or twice; it may necessitate, however, not only frequent repetition of the facts about Christ but also long and patient instruction. The missionary must reckon with and surmount difficulties incident to language, age, grade of intelligence, heredity and environment. If the enterprise of world evangelization calls for urgent and aggressive action, with equal emphasis it calls for perseverance and thoroughness. It is maintained that the idea of the evangelization of the world in this generation does not do violence to such a conception of the proclamation of the Gospel.
It does not signify the Christianization of the world, if by that is meant the permeating of the world with Christian ideas and the dominance of the principles of Christian civilization in all parts of the world. If we may judge by history, that would require centuries. Of what country today can it be said that it is governed by the principles of Jesus Christ?
It does not involve the entertaining or supporting of any special theory of eschatology. For example, the holding of this idea does not, as some have assumed, necessitate a belief in the premillennial view of the coming of Christ. Nor does it stand in the service of any other particular theory of eschatology. Men entertaining widely different opinions as to the second advent of Christ accept alike this view of world-wide evangelization. Moreover, in advocating the evangelization of the world in this generation a limit is not set within which God is to accomplish any given part of His purpose for the world. A period is described, however, in which Christians should discharge their responsibility toward an unevangelized world.
It is not to be regarded as a prophecy. Stress is placed on what may be done and ought to be done, not on what is actually to occur. Is it not possible thus to urge a duty without venturing a prediction?
It does not minimize, but rather emphasizes, the importance of the regular forms of missionary work. A clearer understanding of the subject will be gained by considering the relation of the principal methods of missionary work to the enterprise of world-wide evangelization. These are educational, literary, medical and evangelistic. These methods must not be regarded as antagonistic to one another. On the contrary, where their true relationship is recognized and maintained, they support and strengthen each other. Each is indispensable to the common object of world evangelization. “The evangelistic method,” as Dr. James S. Dennis has observed, “must not be regarded as monopolizing the evangelistic aim, which should itself pervade all the other methods.” In a non-Christian land everything which manifests the spirit of Christ is in an important sense evangelistic. Every method should be employed which makes the Gospel intelligible and acceptable to men.
The various means of carrying on missionary work are well summarized in the words of the resolution framed and introduced by Alexander Duff at the Union Missionary Convention held in New York in 1854, and unanimously adopted by the delegates:
“Resolved, As the general sense of this Convention, that the chief means of divine appointment for the evangelization of the world are — the faithful teaching and preaching of the pure gospel of salvation by duly qualified ministers and other holy and consistent disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ — accompanied with prayer and savingly applied by the grace of the Holy Spirit, such means, in the providential application of them by human agency, embracing not merely instruction by the living voice, but the translation and judicious circulation of the whole written word of God — the preparation and circulation of evangelical tracts and books — as well as any other instrumentalities fitted to bring the word of God home to men’s souls — together with any processes which experience may have sanctioned as the most efficient in raising up everywhere indigenous ministers and teachers of the living Gospel.”
Educational work sustains a vital relation to that of evangelization. In some parts of the world more people have been led to accept Christ through educational missionary effort than through any other agency. George Bowen maintained that a majority of all converts in Western India were the result of educational work. Mission schools have been the most successful agency in reaching certain classes, for example, the higher castes in India. One of the few ways of bringing a knowledge of Christ to Mohammedans, as in Egypt and India, has been through education. This also has been one of the chief forces in opening the zenanas to women missionaries. In Japan, mission schools proved to be as much an entering wedge as did medical work in China. Education has done more than any other agency to undermine heathen superstitions and false systems of belief, thus facilitating the work of preaching the Gospel by removing false ideas which already had possession of the mind. It would be a calamity to the missionary enterprise to leave the mighty weapon of education to be wielded alone by agencies hostile to the spread of Christianity. Education, from the point of view of evangelization, is essential as a means for raising up and training native preachers and teachers and Christian leaders for all departments of life. If mission schools fail as an evangelistic agency, it is not because they teach, nor because of what they teach, but because they lose sight of the evangelistic aim, or because they are not conducted by men of evangelistic spirit.
Literary missionary work is of very great value in promoting evangelization, both as a direct agency and also as supplementary to all other forms of missionary activity. The evangelization of a people necessitates native evangelizing agencies, and these cannot be developed without the Bible. Without the translation of the Bible into the various vernaculars and without the development of Christian literature in them, it would be impossible to diffuse the knowledge of the Gospel throughout the world in a generation. Vernacular Christian literature, especially of a practical, spiritual and energizing kind, is also of great service both in spreading the knowledge of the Gospel and in building up Christian character.
Medical work also constitutes a necessary factor in the great work of evangelizing the world. It affords access to all classes of people, the highest as well as the lowest. It disarms hostility and breaks down prejudices and barriers, thus making possible the preaching of the Gospel in communities otherwise inaccessible. Mrs. Isabella Bird Bishop reports that in Central Asia she found fanatical Mohammedan tribes who, when asked whether they would receive a resident missionary, invariably replied that they would do so if he were a doctor.
Medical missionary work is an incontrovertible evidence of Christianity and of the power of the Gospel. The ministry of healing also wins the heart, and thus gives acceptance and added meaning and power to the message of salvation. Dr. John Lowe, a leading authority on this subject, maintains that medical work is “one of the most powerful, effective, and directly evangelistic agencies which the Church possesses.” This is true where the pervading and controlling aim in all the work is, as it should be, evangelistic. Where this is not the case, it is a misnomer to speak of the physician as a medical missionary. The true medical missionary will constantly commend the Gospel to his patients by word as well as by deed, and will be satisfied with no lower aim than that of winning them to Christ.
Notwithstanding the value of other methods, the proclamation of the Gospel by the living voice will always hold the preeminent place. The spoken Gospel is absolutely essential to the propagation of the Christian faith. The command is, “Preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15) “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Cor. 1:21) “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:13, 14) The value of medical, educational, literary and all other forms of missionary activity, is measured by the extent to which they prepare the way for the Gospel message, promote its acceptance, manifest its spirit and benefits, multiply points of contact with human souls, and increase the number and efficiency of those who preach Christ. The preaching of the crucified and risen Saviour always has been and always will be the power of God — the most effective means of leading men into everlasting life.
The evangelization of the world in this generation should not be regarded as an end in itself. The Church will not have fulfilled her task when the Gospel has been preached to all men. Such evangelization must be followed by the baptism of converts, by their organization into churches, by building them up in knowledge, faith and character, and by enlisting and training them for service. While the missionary enterprise should not be diverted from the immediate and controlling aim of preaching the Gospel where Christ has not been named, and while this work should have the right of way as the most urgent part of our task, it must ever be looked upon as but a means to the mighty and inspiring object of enthroning Christ in individual life, in family life, in social life, in national life, in international relations, in every relationship of mankind; and, to this end, of planting and developing in all non-Christian lands self-supporting, self-directing and self-propagating churches which shall become so thoroughly rooted in the convictions and hearts of the people that if Christianity were to die out in Europe and America, it would abide in purity and as a missionary power in its new homes and would live on through the centuries.
II. The obligation to evangelize the world
It is our duty to evangelize the world because all men need Christ
The Christian Scriptures and the careful and extended observation of earnest men the world over agree that with respect to the need of salvation all nations and races are alike. The need of the non-Christian world is indescribably great. Hundreds of millions are today living in ignorance and darkness steeped in idolatry, superstition, degradation and corruption. Reflect on the desolating and cruel evils which are making such fearful ravages among them. See under what a burden of sin and sorrow and suffering they live. Can any candid person doubt the reality of the awful need after reviewing the masterly, scientific survey by Dr. Dennis of the social evils of the non-Christian world? No one who has seen the actual conditions can question that they who are without God are also without hope.
The non-Christian religions may be judged by their fruits. While they furnish some moral principles and precepts of value, they do not afford adequate standards and motives by which rightly to guide the life, nor power to enable one to take the step between knowing duty and doing it. Though there are among the followers of these religions men of high and noble lives, in the sight of God all have sinned and stand in need of the Divine forgiveness and of Christ the Saviour. All other religions have failed to do what Christianity has done and is doing as a regenerating power in the individual and as a transforming force in society. It is a significant fact that the thousands of missionaries scattered throughout the world, face to face with heathenism and thus in the best position to make a scientific study of the problem, bear such a unanimous testimony as to the practical results of the non-Christian religions as should forever banish any doubt or reservation regarding their inadequacy to meet the world’s need.
The Scriptures clearly teach that if men are to be saved they must be saved through Christ. He alone can deliver them from the power of sin and its penalty. His death made salvation possible. The Word of God sets forth the conditions of salvation. God has chosen to have these conditions made known through human agency. The universal capability of men to be benefited by the Gospel, and the ability of Christ to satisfy men of all races and conditions, emphasize the duty of Christians to preach Christ to every creature. The burning question for every Christian then is. Shall hundreds of millions of men now living, who need Christ and are capable of receiving help from Him, pass away without having even the opportunity to know Him?
It is not necessary that we go to the Scriptures, or to the ends of the earth, to discover our obligation to the unevangelized. A knowledge of our own hearts should be sufficient to make plain our duty. We know our need of Christ. How unreasonable, therefore, for us to assume that the nations living in sin and wretchedness and bondage can do without Him whom we so much need even in the most favored Christian lands.
It is our duty to evangelize the world because we owe all men the Gospel
We have a knowledge of Jesus Christ, and to have this is to incur a responsibility toward every man who has it not. To have a Saviour who alone can save from the guilt and power of sin imposes an obligation of the most serious character. We received the knowledge of the Gospel from others, but not in order to appropriate it for our own exclusive use. It concerns all men. Christ tasted death for every man. He wishes the good news of His salvation made known to every creature. All nations and races are one in God’s intention, and therefore equally entitled to the Gospel. The Christians of today are simply trustees of the Gospel and in no sense sole proprietors. Every Indian, every Chinese, every South Sea Islander has as good a right to the Gospel as anyone else; and, as a Chinese once said to Robert Stewart, we break the eighth commandment if we do not take it to him. In the words of Mr. Eugene Stock, “Bring me the best Buddhist or Mohammedan in the world, the most virtuous, the most high-minded, and I think that man has a right to hear of the tremendous fact that a Divine Person came into the world to bring blessing to mankind. Whether he needs it or no, I will not stop to argue. I think he has a claim upon Christian people to tell him of that fact.” What a wrong against mankind to keep the knowledge of the mission of Christ to men from two-thirds of the race!
Our sense of obligation must be intensified when we ask ourselves the question. If we do not preach Christ where He has not been named, who will? “God has ‘committed unto us the word of reconciliation,’ and from whom shall the heathen now living ever hear that word, if the Christians of the present day fail to discharge the debt?” We know their need; we know the only remedy; we have access to them; we are able to go.
The claims of humanity and universal brotherhood prompt us to make Christ known to those who live in darkness and in misery. The Golden Rule by which we profess to live impels us to it. The example of Christ, who was moved with compassion to meet even the bodily hunger of the multitudes, should inspire us to go forth with the Word of life to the millions who are wandering in helplessness in the shadow of death.
The evangelization of the world in this generation is to Christians no self-imposed task; it rests securely upon Divine commandment. The Great Commission of Christ given by Him in the upper room in Jerusalem on the night after the resurrection (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46, 47), again a little later on a mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:19, 20), and yet again, on the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:8), just before the ascension clearly expresses our obligation to make Christ known to all men. While this command was given to the disciples of Christ living in the first generation of the Christian era, it was intended as well for all time and for each Christian in his own time. That the command was not intended for the Apostles alone is seen from the promise with which it is linked, “Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age.” (Matt, 28:20) The practice of the Church in the Apostolic Age and Sub-Apostolic Age shows that the command was regarded as binding not only upon the Apostles but also upon all Christians. It was addressed to all in every place and throughout every generation who should call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true there is no express command to evangelize the world in this generation; but, as Mr. Stock has pointed out, “If we have a general command to make the Gospel known to those who know it not, there seems no escape from the conclusion that the duty to make it known to all—that is, all now alive—lies in the nature of the case.” Thus the expression, the evangelization of the world in this generation, simply translates Christ’s last command into terms of obligation concerning our own lifetime.
In this command of our Lord we have “a motive power sufficient to impel disciples always with uniform force; which will survive romance; which will outlive excitement; which is independent of experiences and emotions; which can surmount every difficulty and disappointment; which burns steadily in the absence of outward encouragement, and glows in a blast of persecution; such a motive as in its intense and imperishable influence on the conscience and heart of a Christian shall be irrespective at once of his past history, of any peculiarities in his position, and of his interpretation of prophecy.” This command has been given to be obeyed. It is operative until it is repealed. The execution of it is not optional but obligatory. It awaits fulfilment by a generation that shall have courage and consecration enough to attempt the thing commanded. It should move to action all real Christians; for, in the words of Archbishop Whately, “If our religion is not true, we ought to change it; if it is true, we are bound to propagate what we believe to be the truth.” “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46) “If ye love me ye will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
It is our duty to evangelize the world because this is essential to the best life of the Christian Church
If all men need the Gospel, if we owe the Gospel to all men, if Christ has commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature, it is unquestionably our duty to give all people in our generation an opportunity to hear the Gospel. To know our duty and to do it not is sin. Continuance in the sin of neglect and disobedience necessarily weakens the life and arrests the growth of the Church. Who can measure the loss of vitality and power that she has already suffered within our own day from her failure to do all in her power for the world’s evangelization? The Christians of today need some object great enough to engage all the powers of their minds and hearts. We find just such an object in the enterprise to make Christ known to the whole world. This would call out and utilize the best energies of the Church. It would help to save her from some of her gravest perils—ease, selfishness, luxury, materialism and low ideals. It would necessitate, and therefore greatly promote, real Christian unity, thus preventing an immense waste of force. It would react favorably on Christian countries. There is no one thing which would do so much to promote work on behalf of the cities and neglected country districts of the home lands as a vast enlargement of the foreign missionary operations. This is not a matter of theory; for history teaches impressively that the missionary epochs have been the times of greatest activity and spiritual vigor in the life of the home Church. So the best spiritual interests of America, Great Britain, Germany, Australasia and other Christian lands are inseparably bound up with the evangelization of the whole wide world. The dictates of patriotism, as well as of loyalty to our Lord, thus call upon us to give ourselves to the world’s evangelization.
But the most serious and important consideration of all is that the largest manifestation of the presence of Christ with us as individual Christians, and with the Church at large, depends upon our obedience to His command. There is a most intimate and vital connection between “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations,” and “Lo, I am with you alway.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is associated in the New Testament with spreading the knowledge of Christ. More than that, the power of the Holy Spirit was bestowed for the express purpose of equipping Christians for the work of preaching the Gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth, beginning from Jerusalem. If the Church of today, therefore, would have the power of God come mightily upon her—and is not this the great need?—she will necessarily receive it while in the pathway of larger obedience to the missionary command.
The obligation to evangelize the world is an urgent one
Every reason for doing this work of evangelizing at all demands that it be done not only thoroughly but also as speedily as possible. The present generation is passing away. If we do not evangelize it, who will? We dare not say the next generation will be soon enough. The Church has too long been in the habit of committing the heathen to the next generation. “It is not possible for the coming generation to discharge the duties of the present, whether it respects their repentance, faith, or works; and to commit to them our share of preaching Christ crucified to the heathen, is like committing to them the love due from us to God and our neighbor. The Lord will require of us that which is committed to us.”
The present generation is one of unexampled crisis in all parts of the unevangelized world. Missionaries from nearly every land urge that, if the Church fails to do her full duty in our lifetime, not only will multitudes of the present generation pass away without knowing of Christ, but the task of our successors to evangelize their generation will be much more difficult.
Our generation is also one of marvelous opportunity. The world is better known and more accessible, its needs more articulate and intelligible, and our ability to go into all the world with the Gospel is much greater than in any preceding generation. All this adds to our responsibility.
The forces of evil are not deferring their operations to the next generation. With world-wide enterprise and with ceaseless vigor they are seeking to accomplish their deadly work in this generation. This is true not only of the dire influences which have been at work in the unevangelized nations for centuries, but also of those which have come from so-called Christian lands. By the liquor traffic, by the opium trade and by the licentious lives and gambling habits of some of our countrymen we have greatly increased the misery and woe of the heathen. All non-Christian nations are being brought under the influences of the material civilization of the West, and these may easily work their injury unless controlled by the power of pure religion. The evangelization of the world in this generation is not, therefore, merely a matter of buying up the opportunity, but of helping to neutralize and supplant the effects of the sins of our own peoples.
Because of the infinite need of men without Christ; because of the possibilities of men of every race and condition who take Christ as the Lord of their lives; because of the command of our Lord which has acquired added force as a result of nineteen centuries of discovery, of opening of doors, of experience of the Christian Church; because of the shameful neglect of the past; because of the impending crisis and the urgency of the situation in all parts of the non-Christian world; because of the opportunity for a greatly accelerated movement in the present; because of the danger of neglecting to enter upon a great onward movement; because of the constraining memories of the Cross of Christ and the love wherewith He loved us, it is the solemn duty of the Christians of this generation to do their utmost to evangelize the world.
III. Difficulties in the way of evangelizing the world
Difficulties external to the Church on the mission field
There are difficulties incident to the number and distribution of the unevangelized population of the earth. Approximately one thousand millions of people are in non-Christian lands. It is estimated that fully three-fourths of them have not had, and today do not have, an opportunity to learn of Jesus Christ. Thus the problem relates to at least one-half of the human race. It involves a number of people equivalent to the population of 175 Londons, or of 227 New Yorks. The difficulty is even greater than this comparison would indicate; for, while there are dense masses of people in the cities of Asia and other unevangelized continents, the great majority of the population is scattered throughout countless villages. In India, for example, nine-tenths of the population are living in over 700,000 villages. According to some estimates there are a million villages in China.
The numbers to be evangelized are not only vast and widely distributed, but there are still a few lands such as Tibet, Afghanistan and parts of Arabia where the missionary cannot work. Even in some countries where the missionary is allowed, there are people who are practically inaccessible. This is true of a constantly decreasing yet still large number of women in the zenanas of India, in the harems of Turkey and Persia and in other lands where women are kept secluded.
The chief political difficulty is the opposition of governments to the propagation of the Gospel. This is the case principally in countries where there is a close connection between the rulers and the religious or ecclesiastical leaders. In the Russian Empire it is not possible to teach freely evangelical truth. The Turkish government by various restrictions renders it exceedingly hard to carry on aggressive work among Moslems. It is difficult to preach in some places in the native states of India owing to the nature of the treaties. These examples suggest a very real obstacle to the work of evangelization.
Another serious hindrance to the work of the missionaries is the selfish and unjust treatment of non-Christian nations and races by nominally Christian powers. To this day the influence of the opium wars constitutes a barrier to missionary progress in China. The forcing of treaty rights from China, the extension of protectorates over parts of Africa, and the political efforts of the Roman Catholics in different parts of the world, have greatly increased the difficulty of evangelizing the inhabitants of all these regions. Such actions have aroused antipathy against all foreigners and created suspicion in the minds of the people, often leading them to regard the missionaries as political agents of the lands from which they come. Another difficulty, in a sense political, is the national feeling found in Japan, which regards the acceptance of Christianity as disloyalty to the Emperor. In India also there is a false patriotism which identifies love of country with firm adherence to the ancestral faith.
Missionaries agree that one of the most grievous obstacles to the spread of the Christian faith is the example set before the heathen by godless tradesmen, sailors, soldiers, travelers and other foreigners who frequent their cities. Bad as has been the influence of the traffic in opium, liquor and human labor carried on by foreigners, the effect of their unscrupulous and dissolute lives is even worse.
With these men living lives of greed and vice before the heathen, in utter defiance of every principle and teaching of the Christian religion, and far outnumbering the missionaries, is it strange that it is hard to persuade men of the reality and power of the Gospel which the missionary presents?
The social difficulties in the path of the missionary are intricate and obstinate. Race pride and prejudice meet him in every land, making it hard to win the confidence of the people and to secure a hearing for the message. The degraded and depressed condition of woman throughout the heathen world constitutes a great social problem. The fact that well-nigh one-half of the unevangelized are women, and therefore hedged in by various customs and laws which make and keep them ignorant, superstitious and servile, adds immensely to the task involved in the evangelization of the world.
The tyranny of custom and opinion holds most of the heathen as in a vise. Their customs have become to them second nature, and their traditions have gathered weight through long centuries. It requires a tremendous wrench for them to break loose, to join themselves to Christ and to comply with His requirements. In every pagan land and among the Jews, to become a Christian results, as a rule, in social ostracism. Among Moslems, to take such a step even endangers one’s life. The restraints of family and village organizations in China and in parts of Japan are very binding.
In India all these social difficulties are summed up and exemplified in the one word, caste. It includes those customs, habits and ceremonies which are so bound up in the lives of the people as to present an almost complete barrier to independent action. It meets the Christian worker everywhere and baffles him again and again. To become a Christian necessitates breaking caste. This involves giving up one’s occupation or means of livelihood. It also severs his family and other social relationships and disinherits him. It really means to give up his little world. The system of caste has such power of persecution that it is exceedingly difficult to break from it. All this has a vital bearing on evangelization; because to evangelize India, as well as other countries, within this generation will require a largely increased number of native Christians.
Not least among the hindrances to evangelization are those of an intellectual character. The fact that multitudes of the unevangelized cannot read is a serious drawback to the missionary enterprise. It is estimated that sixty per cent, of the people of Brazil are illiterate. ln India only six women in every thousand can read; and in China the proportion is still smaller. Missionaries have commented on the intellectual dullness of many savage tribes. We hear much of the slowness of the masses of China to receive new ideas. Their minds seem to run in certain grooves from which it is difficult to turn them. The intellectual difficulty with the Hindus is due largely to the fact that their minds are occupied with pantheistic ideas which make it hard for them to grasp even the rudiments of the Christian religion. The message of Christ, therefore, must win its way in minds already preoccupied with superstitions, traditions and false ideas. The intellectual pride and conceit of the scholastic classes of China, India and other lands is, as everywhere, a high barrier to the apprehension of Christian truth.
Linguistic difficulties are closely associated with intellectual difficulties. Although the Gospel portions of the Scriptures have been translated into the chief languages and dialects of the world, there are yet many in connection with which this work must still be done. It is a gigantic task to furnish in their own tongues to all races of mankind the revelation of God through the Scriptures, but it is indispensable to the enterprise of evangelization. There are also many languages still to be reduced to writing. In most languages of the non-Christian world there is the further difficulty that they have no words to express adequately the meaning of fundamental Christian ideas, for the simple reason that these ideas are unknown to heathendom.
Greatest among the external difficulties are those of a religious and moral character. The fact that there are hundreds of millions of adherents of Confucianism, Hinduism, Mohammedanism, Buddhism and other non-Christian religions, not to mention those of the corrupt forms of Christianity, suggests the vast extent of the religious problem. It is an intensive problem as well. These religions have existed many centuries, and in some cases for millenniums. They have become deeply rooted in the lives of nations and peoples.
Although breaches are being made in the walls of the non-Christian religions, they still manifest great power of resistance. The increasing success of Christianity in all parts of the world has seemed to arouse them to renewed activity and vigor. This intensifies the conflict involved in the evangelization of the world in this generation.
At the same time, the educated classes throughout Asia are fast losing faith in their old religions as the result of the study of Western science and philosophy. By having their confidence shaken in their former faiths they have come to distrust all religion. It is not easy to secure from them a careful consideration of the claims of Christ. Infidel and rationalistic literature is widely circulated and read in India and Japan, and this helps to prejudice further the minds of men concerning Christianity.
The coarse animalism of degraded tribes and races affords a soil most inhospitable to the Word of God. The masses of the heathen are indifferent to spiritual things. They need Christ; they are perishing for lack of knowledge; but they are not thirsting to know Him. They are so engrossed with material things that it is hard to get them to heed the Gospel call.
A fundamental lack throughout the non-Christian and Moslem world is the want of a sense of sin. They have no true conception of it. The prevailing belief that they are in the hands of fate tends to deaden the feeling of personal responsibility. Their moral sense is dull. The conscience does not respond to ordinary appeals. How great the task to get such people to feel any concern about their sins, without which they will not recognize their need of Christ the Saviour! Equally serious is the prevailing lack among them of the conception of a personal, holy God and a sense of their responsibility to Him. Often it will require long teaching before they can be led to grasp such conceptions.
The supreme obstacle to the understanding of the Gospel is the fact of sin. Sin underlies all else that opposes. It has benumbed the spiritual sensibilities of the heathen, seared their consciences, hardened their hearts, and made their ears dull of hearing. God only can awaken them. None awake without His call.
Difficulties within the Church on the mission field
(1) Of the native Christians. On nearly every mission field the poverty of the native Christians is a real obstacle to the work of evangelization. It prompts them to covetousness, and sometimes leads them to enter Christian service from purely mercenary motives. On the other hand it prevents the more rapid enlargement of the native evangelizing agencies.
While the life of the native Church compares very favorably with that of the Church in Christian lands, nevertheless its lack of spirituality is, as in Christian lands, a serious drawback to aggressive, evangelistic activity. This condition is due to the worldliness and religious indifference which characterize the minds of many of the members. In some fields so many have come into the Church from political or commercial reasons, without a genuine change of heart, that the spiritual standard is very low. Few among the native Christians know by experience what it is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is often, therefore, a want of readiness for service, and a weakness in testimony.
The native Church in most countries is wanting in independence and in power of initiative. In other fields, as in parts of Christendom, there is little zeal for the conversion of others. If the Gospel is to be preached to all men in our day, the spirit of missions must come upon the native Christians.
It is difficult to get a sufficient number of earnest and deeply spiritual native leaders. This is the case on every mission field, and is due on the one hand to the counter attractions of commercial pursuits and government service, and on the other to lack of spirituality. There is no greater need than that of self-denying, courageous, steadfast native leaders in each heathen land — men of such real personality and depth of religions experience as to be able to arouse and to mold the native Church and to lead its members in the work of aggressive evangelism.
(2) Of the missionaries. The missionaries have some special personal difficulties. In several countries they must face physical peril which comes from dangerous and deadly climates and from unhealthful sanitary conditions. In some fields, especially in tropical Africa, the rate of mortality among the foreign workers is very high.
The missionary under certain conditions finds it hard also to come into close touch with the life of the native Christians. There is more or less of a gulf between the Occidental and the Oriental, even though both be Christians. The difference in clothing, food, houses, social customs, education, language and methods of thought all make the chasm more difficult to bridge. Both missionaries and native Christians frequently have to fight against mutual distrust and suspicion, and also against temptations to exclusiveness and a sense of superiority. Wherever such barriers are allowed to stand, they not only interfere with helpful social intercourse, but also prevent unity in Christian service.
Attention has already been directed to the external aspect of the linguistic difficulty. It has also a personal aspect. The efficiency of the missionary, taking spiritual qualifications for granted, will be in direct proportion to his knowledge of the language of the people among whom he labors and his ability to use it. The pathway both to mind and heart of the people is through their mother tongue. It is not easy to master any language; it is a tremendous task to get a thorough hold on such languages as the Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. What an undertaking, then, to translate the Gospel into the hundreds of languages and dialects which do not today give expression to the glorious message. Professor Warneck has expressed the fear also that some of the translations already made are at the best but provisional, because the translators lacked the necessary scientific qualifications. To do such work in a manner faithful to the meaning which the missionary wishes to convey, and at the same time faithful to the idioms of the new language, is difficult indeed. It is hard to translate Christian ideas into the languages of the heathen so as to convey our exact meaning, because the words we are obliged to use often have idolatrous or heathen associations or applications. The missionary by oral instruction must patiently explain the Gospel until new ideas are associated with the words. Until this is done, even though the heathen be able to read the Scriptures, they will be unable to grasp the real meaning.
Missionaries the world over unite in saying that their chief battle ground is in their own hearts, and that their greatest difficulty is that of preserving a triumphant and an ever-expanding spiritual life. While this is true also of Christian workers on the home fields, the conflict is possibly harder on the mission field than at home. The reasons are that heathenism exerts such a chilling and depressing influence on the spiritual life, and that the missionary is so largely cut off from intimate association with deeply spiritual people, from conventions and conferences, and from other uplifting and inspiring influences which characterize a society dominated by Christian ideas and ideals.
Difficulties within the Church in Christian lands
Misconceptions and skepticism among Christians at home regarding the necessity and obligation to evangelize the world constitute a primary difficulty in the way of its accomplishment. The number of those who believe that the world ought to be evangelized is as yet comparatively small.
Until a sufficient number of Christians believe that it is the duty of the members of the Church to evangelize the world it will not be done. Many fail to regard Christ’s command as imperative, and look on the promotion of the enterprise of evangelization as optional so far as they are concerned. The vast majority of the membership of the Church have yet to learn that the taking of a knowledge of Christ to the whole world without needless delay is a most pressing duty.
Underlying this lack of appreciation of the urgency of the work is a far too prevalent skepticism as to the real necessity of preaching Christ to all men. Very many Christians entertain the belief that Christianity is not the absolute religion; that other religions have saving power; that the nations can get along without Christ. This fundamental failure to realize that without Christ these multitudes are without hope necessarily weakens the sense of personal responsibility and cuts the nerve of missions.
The want of unity among different branches of the Church at home, as a result of denominational pride, jealousy and misunderstandings, is a serious hindrance to the work on the mission field.
It results in overlapping, friction and waste of force. At times it has prevented the missionaries from making an equitable division of the unoccupied regions, and therefore has delayed the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel.
The invasion of the Church by the world is a menace to the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. In all ages conformity to the world by Christians has resulted in a lack of spiritual life and a consequent lack of spiritual vision and enterprise. A secularized or self-centered Church can never evangelize the world.
The fundamental difficulty on the home field is the lack of missionary pastors. If the leader of a congregation is ignorant or indifferent or skeptical concerning the need and obligation of the Church to evangelize the world it will be strange if the same may not be said of the large majority of the members. A task so vast can be achieved only by a Church filled with the spirit of missions. Therefore, if we are to have congregations abounding in faith, self-sacrifice, prayer and aggressive zeal, we must have pastors who have caught the vision of a world evangelized, and whose plans, utterances, prayers and activities are under the commanding influence of that vision.
Some considerations suggested by the difficulties in the way of the evangelization of the world
It should be observed that by no means all of the difficulties given in the foregoing outline apply to any one mission field, still less to the unevangelized world as a whole. Certain lands, races and religions present a stronger combination of obstacles than others. Here and there are citadels of mighty strength which will yield only to siege work. On the other hand there are doors of access to every race and religion and to nearly every nation, so that it is possible to press forward on every hand the work of evangelization.
These difficulties, however, cannot be ignored. They must be reckoned with. There is nothing to be gained by deceiving ourselves as to their existence, number and greatness. They should be looked at with clear eye, and their strength should be sanely estimated. The maxim of Moltke, “Erst wag’s dann wag’s — first deliberate, then dare — suggests the duty of every Christian with reference to the vast and arduous undertaking of world-wide evangelization within the generation.
Not one of these difficulties is insuperable. Obstacles similar, or others equally great, already have been overcome. Think of the difficulties which have been removed within the past half century! God has opened up within fifty years the most populous regions of the globe, including some which in the last generation were inaccessible. Railway lines have been extended all over Southern Asia. Steamboats are now found on lakes and rivers in Central Africa, and railways are penetrating that continent from every direction. China has at last opened widely to the railway and to steam navigation. Even the exclusive Province of Hunan, where settled mission work was impossible five years ago, is now the scene of the fruitful evangelistic labors of several missionary societies.
The political changes which have taken place within the memory of men now living have been equally remarkable. Nearly the whole Roman Catholic world has been opened to Protestant workers within fifty years. It is only forty years since Japan began to admit foreign missionaries, and now there are no restrictions to the preaching of the Gospel throughout the entire Empire. A little over a generation ago all China was closed to outsiders save five port cities. Now evangelists can proclaim Christ in every corner of the land. Within a generation Africa has been parceled out among the nations of Western Europe, Aggressive missionary operations are now carried on in all the great divisions of that continent. It is a remarkable fact that Russia, while not allowing Protestants to carry on an active preaching propaganda, affords to the British and Foreign Bible Society every facility for the circulation of the New Testament. The printed Gospel is finding its way even into Afghanistan and Tibet. Thus within the half century over 700,000,000 people have been made accessible to the missionary. In the light of these developments shall we designate any fields as inaccessible? “Has God ever declared them so? Has the Christian Church faithfully tried and found them so? Are we in this age of the world justified in acknowledging that it is beyond the power and resource of our Christianity to reach them?”
Hundreds of women missionaries are now at work among the women of India, the Turkish Empire and other lands, although two generations ago this was regarded as impossible.
Henry Martyn when in India wrote, “How shall it ever be possible to convince a Hindu or Brahmin of anything? . . . Truly, if ever I see a Hindu a real believer in Jesus, I shall see something more nearly approaching the resurrection of a dead body than anything I have yet seen.” Today there are in the Indian Church hundreds of high-caste Hindu converts. That work for Moslems is hopeless, as some church leaders insisted less than a generation ago, is abundantly disproved by the recent history of missions in Sumatra, the Punjab, Persia, Arabia and Northern Africa. All people are capable of receiving the Gospel. Some would argue that this is not true, — that there are those whose minds and hearts are so darkened, hardened and debased that they are incapable of understanding its message to them and not susceptible to its blessed and mighty influence. But the history of missions in every land totally refutes this idea. Is it not a fact of large meaning and encouragement that in all parts of the world missions have won remarkable triumphs among the most benighted and degraded? The duty of the Church then, as Duff urged, is to “go with the blessed Gospel, and proclaim it to all people who can be induced to listen to it; and where God has His elect, there the soul will be reached.” From the days of the Apostles the uplifted Christ and the energizing Holy Spirit have proved their ability so to transform men that “where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly.” (Rom. 5:20)
The greatest hindrances to the evangelization of the world are those within the Church. Dr. Griffith John, who has been at work in China for forty-five years, says: “I do not consider the difficulties external to the Church of vital importance. The difficulties within the Church at home are the ones that trouble me.” Dr. Chauncy Goodrich, who has labored in China for thirty-five years, writes: “I count the difficulties of the Chinese language and Chinese customs, of race prejudice and dense ignorance, of political exclusion and bigoted pride, all as nothing before a Church filled with the Spirit of the Great Commission.” These opinions seem to reflect the thought of the ablest missionaries in all parts of the world. It is a significant fact, and should do much to banish skepticism from the minds of Christians on the home fields.
There is a tendency among many Christians unduly to magnify difficulties, and to minimize the Providential opportunities, the promises of God and the resources of witnesses and ambassadors for Jesus Christ. “Like the ten spies we look at God through the human difficulties and the human magnitude of the work, instead of looking at the difficulties through God and counting on His supernatural and divine power always commensurate with the responsibility He gives us.”
Difficulties are not without their advantages. They are not to unnerve us. They are not to be regarded simply as subjects for discussion nor as grounds for skepticism and pessimism. They are not to cause inaction, but rather to intensify activity. They were made to be overcome. They are to call forth the best that is in Christians. Above all, they are to create profound distrust in human plans and energy and to drive us to God. “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27) Until we find some difficulty which is too hard for Almighty God we have no right to be discouraged. We must always take into account God Himself and the omnipotent, irresistible forces which He has placed at our disposal. “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
IV. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of the achievements of the first generation of Christians
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of early Christianity was the wide propagation of the Gospel. The age of the Apostles was pre-eminently a missionary age. The first generation of Christians did more to accomplish the evangelization of the accessible world than has any succeeding generation. This first generation may be regarded as the period extending from the Day of Pentecost to the destruction of Jerusalem, or from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D. The Acts of the Apostles contains the principal record of the achievements of the Christians during this period. It describes in bold outline the progress of Christianity from its beginnings at Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish world, to its establishment at Rome, the capital of the heathen world. One of its objects is to show how the early Christians labored to extend Christ’s Kingdom. Several of the Epistles also throw valuable light on the nature and extent of the evangelistic work of the time. The Apostolic Church has furnished many helpful lessons to the Christians of all subsequent generations; but in no respect is its example more instructive and more inspiring than in what it teaches concerning world-wide evangelization.
The field of the Christian operations of the first generation, so far as authentic records inform us, was limited practically to the Roman Empire. That Empire reached from Scotland to the African deserts and to the cataracts of the Nile; and from the Atlantic to the valley of the Euphrates. It stretched from East to West a distance of over three thousand miles. It comprised Italy, the ruling state, and thirty-five provinces of which three were insular, seven were in Asia, five in Africa and twenty in Europe. It bound together peoples differing widely in civilization as well as in race. The estimates of the population range from eighty to one hundred and twenty millions.
The social, moral and religious condition of the Empire in the first century was most distressing, notwithstanding extenuating facts which might be given. According to Gibbon, not less than one-half the population were slaves. There was general contempt for labor. Extravagance and luxury were carried to unexampled extremes. Society was thoroughly demoralized. Marriage had fallen into decay, and polygamy, concubinage and infanticide were sanctioned by leading men. The worst forms of vice and pollution were frightfully prevalent. There was a general passion for cruel games. The old mythological religions had lost their hold on the intelligent classes. Philosophy had run into materialism, skepticism and pessimism. The associations called up by such names as Tiberius, Gains, Claudius and Nero; the revelations of the recent excavations of the cities of Italy and the Levant; the records of Tacitus, Seneca, Juvenal and other classical writers, all confirm the truthfulness of St. Paul’s description in the first chapter of Romans of the terrible state of the heathen world in his day. Into such a society the early Christians went forth to proclaim the Gospel. In no part of the world today is Christ more needed than He was throughout the Roman Empire in the days of the Apostles.
There were several favoring circumstances which helped to make possible the wide and rapid proclamation of the Gospel. Commercial enterprise, Roman law and government, the imperial system of roads and other communications, and the general use of the Latin and Greek languages, had so closely united all parts of the Empire as to facilitate the propagation of ideas and impulses. Professor Ramsay says: “Travelling was more highly developed, and the dividing power of distance was weaker, under the Empire than at any other time before or since, until we come down to the present century.” Although Greek philosophy had shown its inability to satisfy the mind and heart, it nevertheless did help to prepare some minds for the clearer apprehension of the Christian faith.
The prevalence of the Greek language, and the fact that the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was widely disseminated, enabled the Apostles to make themselves understood in every city. In nearly every large center of population there was a Jewish community, and also a synagogue in which the Old Testament Scriptures were expounded. Besides this there were in all these places Jewish proselytes who had been gathered from the heathen and who proved to be the most susceptible hearers of the Gospel. Thus in a sense “every synagogue was a mission-station of monotheism, and furnished the Apostles an admirable place and a natural introduction for their preaching of Jesus Christ as the fulfiller of the law and the prophets.”
The first generation of Christians accomplished wonders toward the evangelization of the world in their day. This is clear, judging even from the comparatively meager Scripture records, and it is enforced by several considerations. In the first place, the different cities, districts and provinces reached by the early Christians with the Gospel suggests the vast extent of their work. Among the multitude present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost there were “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians.” (Acts 2:9-11) It is not improbable that men from nearly all these regions were among the thousands converted at the time of St. Peter’s sermon, and that through their instrumentality the Gospel was carried to different and widely separated parts of the Empire, and even beyond its confines.
The persecution in connection with the work of Stephen scattered the disciples “abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:2) where they carried on an active evangelistic campaign. We then have record of the work of evangelization in the city and villages of Samaria by Philip, St. Peter, and St. John, of the visits of Philip, and later of St, Peter, to a number of cities in Judaea. The account of St. Luke also shows that the persecuted disciples traveled to Phoenicia, Antioch, Damascus and Cyprus, preaching Christ.
With two or three exceptions the Gospel thus far had been proclaimed to Jews and Jewish proselytes. Then came the conversion of St. Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. After spending a few years at work in Cilicia and Syria, chiefly in Tarsus and Antioch, he launched out on his great missionary career, which continued for over ten years. He made three extensive missionary tours, which carried him over a number of the provinces of the Empire. He evangelized the four provinces, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia and Achaia, in all of which he established churches which continued to send out light for centuries. Of his four years in captivity two were spent in Home, and were filled with evangelistic labors. It is possible also that he carried out his expressed desire and intention to visit Spain.
The Scriptures tell us little regarding the later work of the other Apostles. St. Peter probably devoted himself to work among the Jews in different parts of the Empire. The tradition is quite generally accepted that he preached and suffered martyrdom in Rome. Beyond reasonable doubt St. John lived and worked for years in Ephesus. Although the numerous traditions about the other Apostles are not well supported, we may be certain that they were not idle nor silent with reference to the mission of Christ to men. That other Apostles preached in pagan and barbarous nations “is rendered likely by the extreme antiquity and the marked Judeo-Christian character of Churches which still exist in Persia, India, Egypt, and Abyssynia.” Moreover, in addition to St. Paul and the Twelve, there must have been very many other Christians from among the hundreds who saw Christ after His resurrection, not to mention the ever-increasing multitude of believers from the Day of Pentecost onward, who, filled with the same missionary spirit as Stephen, Philip, Barnabas and St. Paul, devoted their energies to preaching the Gospel in the Roman Empire and also in the outlying heathen lands.
The Scripture references to the results of the preaching of the Apostles are also suggestive both of the magnitude and of the thoroughness of their work of evangelization. After St. Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, “there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41) During the period which followed, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47) St. Peter’s sermon in Solomon’s porch resulted in many conversions, “and the number of the men was about five thousand.” (Acts 4:4) As a result of later work by the Apostles, “believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” (Acts 5:14) After the period of persecution which followed the death of Stephen, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified.” (Acts 9:31) When Christians of Cyprus and Cyrene came to Antioch and preached the Gospel to the Greeks, “a great number that believed turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21) and later under the preaching of Barnabas in the same city, “much people was added unto the Lord.” (Acts 11:24)
In Pisidian Antioch also, when St. Paul and Barnabas were on the first missionary journey, it is said that “came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:44) that of the Gentiles “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” (Acts 13:48) and that “the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region.” (Acts 13:49) In Iconium these two missionaries “so spake, that a great multitude both of Jews and of Greeks believed.” (Acts 14:1) When St. Paul next went over the ground covered on his first journey the churches were not only “established in the faith,” (Acts 16:5) but also “increased in number daily.” (Acts 16:5) At Thessalonica St. Paul preached Christ for three Sabbaths and among those who believed were “devout Greeks a great multitude.” (Acts 17:4) In Berea “many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” (Acts 17:12) Even at Athens “certain men clave unto him [St. Paul], and believed.” (Acts 17:34)
In Corinth the Lord spake to St. Paul by a vision and assured him, “I have much people in this city.” (Acts 18:10) It is also said that as a result of St. Paul’s preaching “many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8) His few years’ work in Ephesus was so successful “that all they which dwelt in [the province of] Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10) Even before St. Paul visited Rome he could write the Christians there saying, “your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” (Rom. 1:8) In the same letter he was also able to state that “from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum [on the shores of the Adriatic], I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.” (Rom. 15:19) While in Rome he writes to the Philippians, “my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.” (Phlp. 1:13) Still more striking are the statements made in writing to the Colossians. He reminds them of what they had heard “in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5 , 6) He likewise exhorts them to hold to the Gospel “which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” (Col. 1:23) We may safely infer from the foregoing passages, not only that Christianity had been very rapidly and widely diffused, but also that it had won a great many adherents.
The evangelistic achievements of the early Christians were remarkable, not merely when viewed territorially and numerically, but also when we consider the various classes in society who were reached by their preaching. Gibbon, in giving voice to the charge of those hostile to Christianity, says that the body of its early adherents was “almost entirely composed of the dregs of the populace — of peasants and mechanics, of boys and women, of beggars and slaves.” This is misleading; for while the majority of the Christians of the first generation belonged to people of inferior rank, there were many who came from the middle and upper classes. In fact Professor Ramsay maintains that Christianity “spread at first among the educated more rapidly than among the uneducated;” and points out in another place how “the working and thinking classes, with the students, if not the professors, at the universities, were attracted to the new teaching; and it spread among them with a rapidity that seemed to many modern critics incredible and fabulous, till it was justified by recent discoveries.”
A disproportionately large number of the converts mentioned in the Scriptures belonged to the better strata of the Roman population. Men and women who possessed property were reached, such as Barnabas of Cyprus, Ananias, Lydia and the mother of John Mark. The spread of Christianity among the rich may be inferred also from the » various references to them in the Epistles. Not only did slaves become Christians but also masters. Men of education were won to Christ, — as St. Paul, Crispus, and “a great company of the priests” (Acts 6:7) in Jerusalem who were “obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7) Not a few of the converts were men high in political or social station, among whom we find Cornelius, Manaen, the foster brother or companion of Herod the Tetrarch, and the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. Festus, Agrippa and members of the highest court in Rome, although they did not become Christians, had the Gospel preached to them. Among the converts in Thessalonica were “chief women not a few,” (Acts 17:4) and in Berea “honourable women which were Greeks.” (Acts 17:12) Professor Harnack in a most suggestive article shows how Christianity early made its way into the imperial family. “What a change! Between fifty and sixty years after Christianity reached Rome, a daughter of the Emperor [Vespasian] embraces the faith.” The persecution of the Christians in the first century bears testimony to the rapid spread of Christianity. The Neronian persecution, the first bloody encounter with the Roman state, occurred in A.D. 64; and in connection with it there were “an immense number” of martyrs. Milman’s inference seems fair that “the people would not have consented to receive them [the Christians] as atoning victims for the dreadful disaster of the great conflagration; nor would the reckless tyranny of the emperor have condescended to select them as sacrificial offerings to appease the popular fury, unless they had been numerous, far above contempt, and already looked upon with a jealous eye. Nor is it less clear, that, even to the blind discernment of popular indignation and imperial cruelty, the Christians were by this time distinguished from the Jews.” Although the next imperial persecution was that of Domitian about the end of the first century, there was a constant proscription of Christians between the two persecutions.
There are certain facts about the Christians in the second generation which clearly indicate that a great work of evangelism was carried on in the first generation. When we consider, for example, the multitude who suffered martyrdom in the second generation we are safe in assuming that there had been a wide-spread and thorough evangelization of the preceding generation. The discoveries of De Rossi and others indicating that millions of Christians were buried in the catacombs near Rome within eight or ten generations following the first century, afford reason to believe that Christianity manifested a mighty power of propagation in the Apostolic Age.
The fierce literary attacks which the Christian religion called forth in the second century, as well as the powerful apologies in its defense, afford additional evidence that the missionary achievements of the first and second generations must have been remarkable. Pliny the younger, who lived during the generation following the Apostles, in a letter to the Emperor written in the year 112 while he was proconsul of Bithynia and Pontus, observed that Christianity had spread throughout his province, not only in the cities but also in the villages and country districts, that the pagan rites were being interrupted, and that the temples were almost deserted. If this could be said so early and of such a distant province, is it not reasonable to assume that the Gospel must have been widely preached in the preceding generation? Gibbon thought that Justin Martyr exaggerated when in the second century he declared: “For there is not one single race of men, whether barbarians, or Greeks, or whatever they may be called, nomads, or vagrants, or herdsmen dwelling in tents, among whom prayers and giving of thanks are not offered through the name of the Crucified Jesus.” However, Professor Orr, commenting on Gibbon’s criticism, justly says: “If one reflects that Justin does not claim that all the races or tribes he speaks of had been converted to the Gospel, or were even preponderatingly Christian, but only that the Gospel had reached them, and had won from each its tribute of believers, the exaggeration need not be so great after all.”
What the early Christians achieved seems very remarkable considering the fact that at the time of the ascension of Christ the whole number of believers did not exceed a few hundreds, and that the early Church had to contend with practically every difficulty which confronts the Church today. What generation of Christians has met victoriously such a combination of difficulties and endured such sufferings? The social obstacles in , the way of the spread of the Christian faith were great. Uhlhorn asserts that “whoever became a Christian was compelled to renounce not only immemorial prejudices, but usually, also, father and mother, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives, place and employment.” Attention has already been called to the terribly corrupt moral condition of the world and the prevalence and vigor of the forces of evil. Superstition still exercised great power over the minds of the people. Polytheism everywhere presented a strong barrier to Christianity. Judaism with its exacting legalism, its exaltation of rites and ceremonies and its intense caste feeling was a source of constant difficulty to the missionaries. False teachers and seducers were also a hindrance to the progress of the Gospel. The graphic catalogue of St. Paul’s perils and woes given in his second letter to Corinthians speaks volumes for the difficulties which beset the Apostles in their work.
In many respects the most serious difficulty was the opposition of the government. Although Christianity violated no statute law of the empire, the Christians were often persecuted in virtue of the police authority of the magistrates which authorized them to oppose any movement threatening the peace or welfare of the community. There are good grounds for the belief that by A.D. 64 the government distinguished the Christians from the Jews and persecution became its policy. The fierce and persistent persecutions which began so soon and continued for generations were inevitable. “Never in the whole course of human history have two so unequal powers stood opposed to each other as ancient heathenism and early Christianity, the Roman State and the Christian Church.”
What was the secret of the achievements of the early Christians in their efforts to evangelize the world? The favoring external circumstances do not furnish an adequate explanation. The underlying reasons may be discovered by examining more closely the practice and equipment of the Christians of the Apostolic Age. In the first place, the leaders of the Church seem to have had the definite aim to get the Gospel preached as widely as possible within their day. Only in this way can the wide distribution and marked activity and urgency of the workers be explained.
Not only the Apostles but Christians of all classes recognized their responsibility for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom and engaged in the work of proclaiming the Gospel. The Apostles welcomed all as helpers whether laymen or ministers, men or women. Only three of the Apostles are mentioned in the Acts after Pentecost, whereas at least five laymen became prominent in the missionary enterprise. “We are told that after the dispersion the disciples, save the Apostles, went about preaching the word. The whole Church was filled with enthusiasm for the work. Gibbon places first among the causes for the rapid spread of Christianity the fact that “it became the most sacred duty of a new convert to diffuse among his friends the inestimable blessing which he had received.” Thus the duty of the evangelization of the world was not the burden of the leaders of the Church alone, but every disciple who felt the power of the Spirit of God had as a great desire and controlling object of life the salvation of his fellow men.
The early Christians preached the Gospel at every opportunity and in all places. Lightfoot observes, “A marvelous activity [was awakened] among the disciples of the new faith.” This activity was not limited to stated times and places. Every Christian became an active witness within the sphere of his daily calling. For example, traveling craftsmen and traders, like Aquila and Priscilla, went about teaching the faith. Friedlander says that “the messengers of the new doctrine visited not only cities, but also villages and farms; nay, did not shun to force themselves between those related by blood.” Professor McGiffert expresses the opinion that “it was through this quiet hand-to-hand work that he [St. Paul] doubtless accomplished most, and not through public preaching, whether in synagogues or elsewhere.” A mechanic would tell the story of what Christ had done for him to a member of the same trade, one slave to his fellow-slave, one member of the family to another. This constant collision of individual souls became the most effective means for the diffusion of the knowledge of Christ.
The Christians of the first generation kept pressing into the unevangelized regions. It was apparently the rule to enter open doors. St. Paul in writing to the Romans was able to say that he had striven — or had been ambitious — to preach the Gospel where Christ was not named. Even when he announced his plan to visit Rome where the Gospel had already been planted, he was careful to point out that Spain was the objective of his journey. The Thessalonian Church earned the praise of being a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, because from them had sounded out the word of the Lord through all the region beyond. The Church as a whole seemed to have an ambition to proclaim the Gospel in the whole world.
The leaders centered their energies on the strategic points of the Roman Empire — the great cities. Christianity became strongly established in the towns before it spread widely through the country districts. St. Paul in particular, with characteristic statesmanship, devoted himself largely to the cities. Not to mention the years which he gave to Antioch and Tarsus, we find him spending eighteen months at Corinth, two years at Rome, three years at Ephesus, and probably from six weeks to eight mouths each at Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Derbe, Thessalonica, Bercea, Philippi and Athens. Nearly all these places were great centers not only of population but also of government, commerce and education. They were centers of wickedness as well. Athens was the great university city of the world. Corinth was not only the metropolis of Achaia but also one of the greatest cities in the Empire. Ephesus was a vast focus merging the currents of life from both East and West. Rome was the metropolis of the Empire, and probably the most cosmopolitan city of any age.
St. Paul laid siege to these cities, regarding them, however, not merely as ends in themselves, but as bases for aggressive evangelistic operations in the outlying districts. This we see clearly by noting his work at Ephesus. It was the capital of the province of Asia, one of the largest, richest and most populous provinces in the Empire. It is said that there were five hundred cities in the province. St. Paul was able to say concerning immediate labors in the city, “by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31) and St. Luke declares regarding the work accomplished in the province directly and indirectly “that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10) It is entirely probable that St. Paul himself made tours in the province. It is also likely that he sent out workers. Many people who came up to the city on business or pleasure heard the new doctrine, yielded to its influence and went back to their homes to spread the truth. While right of way was given to the work of evangelization, the Apostles were careful to conserve results. Converts were baptized and organized into churches. The aim was to make these churches self-governing, self-supporting and missionary; and when all the difficulties are borne in mind, the success achieved in all these respects was truly remarkable. St. Paul was accustomed to revisit the churches which he had helped to establish. He visited the Galatian congregations at least twice. He sent deputations to the various churches to correct, to edify and to inspire them. He had a number of subordinate helpers such as Timothy, Titus, Mark and Erastus, whom he kept busy in this important work. The Acts and the Epistles give the names of about one hundred companions and disciples of St. Paul. Apostolic and other letters were sent as occasion required to different churches and were often passed on from church to church. Communication by means of deputations and correspondence was kept up between the scattered Christian congregations, not only in the same region but also between widely separated parts of the Empire. The itinerant apostles and prophets were very numerous in the early days. As a result of the employment of these various agencies, the Christians of the first generation were made conscious of their unity and felt the growing strength of their numbers.
The Apostolic Church committed the work of extending the Kingdom of Christ to men of strong qualifications. One must be impressed with the thoroughness of the equipment of workers like St. Paul, Barnabas, Apollos and Timothy. Among their striking qualifications were statesmanship, clearness of vision, breadth of sympathy, intense earnestness, singleness of purpose, heroism, self-denial, whole-souled devotion to Christ, large faith in God, prayerfulness and dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is especially noticeable that the spiritual qualifications were magnified and regarded as absolutely indispensable for all workers, even those in the subordinate positions. In choosing the Seven, the Apostles ordered that men be chosen who were “full of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 6:3) Apparently no worker was encouraged to go forth to evangelize who had not first been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Prayer had a very prominent place in the early Church, not only as a means of promoting spiritual life, but also as a force to be used on behalf of the work of evangelization. The mighty display of power at Pentecost was ushered in by prayer. Workers were appointed only after prayer. When they were to be sent forth the Church assembled for special prayer. The great foreign mission movement was inaugurated in prayer. If persecution came, the Christians met to pray. One of the two reasons for choosing deacons was that the Apostles — the leaders of the Church — might give themselves to prayer. The more carefully the subject is studied, the more apparent it becomes that what was accomplished in the Apostolic Age was largely due to the constant employment of the hidden and omnipotent force of prayer.
The Spirit of God guided and empowered the workers and thus governed and energized the entire missionary enterprise of the Church. He designated and separated the workers and sent them forth unto their work. He clothed them with irresistible power. He opened and closed doors. He led them in times of perplexity. In His might they carried the Gospel message throughout the length and breadth of the vast empire of Rome and even into the regions beyond.
What is the significance of the achievements of the Christians of the first generation for the Christians of today as we face the undertaking of world evangelization in this generation? While the Apostolic practice may not be intended in every respect as the model for the missionary enterprise in all ages, for the simple reason that conditions change, their example and the real secret of their triumphs should lift our faith, and guide us to the successful accomplishment of our task. The early Christians had some favoring external conditions which, as we have seen, greatly facilitated the wide, rapid and thorough proclamation of the Gospel. But as we recall the smallness of their number and the difficulties which beset their path, and, on the other hand, remind ourselves not only of our obstacles but also of the marvelous opportunities and resources of the Church today and the facilities at our disposal, who will say that the balance of advantage is not with us?
The words of Dr. Richard S. Storrs, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the American Board, impressively suggest the likeness of our own generation to the Apostolic Age as a time for world-wide preaching of the Gospel: “I cannot think it exaggeration to say, in view of the changes thus occurring within the century, that the astonishing preparation of the world for the first proclamation of the Master in it is now followed, if not surpassed, by a majestic preparation of mankind for such a testimony to be given to Him as hitherto no dream of the heart has imagined to be possible. . . The marvelous secular progress of mankind in the last eighty years, the unexpected advancements or recessions of states with the closer connections arising between them, and the opening of all lands to the moral forces dominant in Christendom — these give an equally majestic opportunity, in our time, for the furthest and swiftest exhibition of Him in whom the world has its help and its hope. Gradual preparation, ultimating in sudden consummation, is often God’s method in history. It was so before the coming of the Master. It was so before the conversion of the Empire. It was so, signally, before the Reformation. It seems to be so in our day.”
It should be emphasized once more, however, that what was achieved by the Apostolic Church was due not so much to the prevailing external conditions as to the equipment of the workers and their conception of their work, and that in all these essential respects we may be like the Christians of those days. Making allowance for miraculous gifts, what vitally important method did the early Christians employ which cannot be used today? Of what power did they avail themselves which we cannot utilize? The essential aim and character of the missionary work in both periods remain the same. The program of Christianity has not changed. The Gospel is the same. The Word of God is still quick and powerful. The power of prayer has not been diminished. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea and forever” and abides even unto the end of the age with all those who go forth to represent Him.
Man is still the weak instrument whom God uses, and the Holy Spirit is still the inexhaustible source of power. Surely Bishop Thoburn is right when he says: “If we could bring back the Church of Pentecost to earth, or, rather, if we could receive anew universally the spirit of that model Church of all ages, the idea of evangelizing the world in a single generation would no longer appear visionary; but on the other hand it would seem so reasonable, so practicable, and the duty to perform it so imperative, that everyone would begin to wonder why any intelligent Christians had ever doubted its possibility, or been content to let weary years go by without a vast universal movement throughout all the Churches of Christendom at once to go forward and complete the task.”
V. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of some modern missionary achievements
The Moravian Church has, in proportion to its ability, done more to extend Christ’s Kingdom in the world than has any other body of Christians. As an object lesson in the development of the missionary life of the home Church it is notable, and should be a guide and inspiration to other branches of the Church of Christ. Within forty years after the establishment of their settlement at Herrnhut nearly two centuries ago, they had started eighteen different foreign missions. During all their history the Moravians have been loyal to the missionary purpose. Missions have always had a large place in all their plans and activities. They have regarded this enterprise, not merely as an incident, but as their main business.
They have sent out more than 2,000 of their members as foreign missionaries. At the beginning of 1899 they had 379 missionaries (men and women), or one in sixty-six of the communicant members of their home churches in Europe and America. Their young men and young women are trained to look upon service abroad as a privilege. No urgency is required. It is never difficult to secure recruits. One of the secretaries of the Student Volunteer Movement made an address in a Moravian college and appealed for volunteers. He was surprised when at the close of his address the chairman of the meeting assured him that every student in the college was already practically a volunteer — willing and desirous to become a foreign missionary. Dr. Augustus C. Thompson tells of the little community of Konigsfeld in the Black Forest which has twenty-one out of 418 of its members engaged in foreign mission service.
Theirs is also a praying Church. There is probably no other branch of the Church of Christ whose members devote themselves so earnestly to intercession on behalf of world-wide missions. Even their hymnology to an unusual extent is devoted to the spread and triumph of Christ’s Kingdom.
It is not strange in view of the self-denial, consecration and prayerfulness of the Moravians at home that God has honored their work abroad. From 138 stations in twenty-one provinces, scattered throughout the four great mission continents of the world, they are sending forth the Gospel light. They have a force of 1,839 native pastors, teachers and helpers, and a membership of 96,197 — or nearly three times as many as in all their churches in the home lands. In many respects they resemble the Church of the first century. If the members of Protestant churches in the British Isles, the United States and Canada, not to mention other parts of Reformed Christendom, devoted themselves to the missionary enterprise with the energy shown by the Moravian Church, they would have a force of nearly 400,000 foreign workers. No such number would be required to achieve the evangelization of the world in this generation.
It should be noted also that there are a great many fields where the evangelistic efforts of the missionaries have not yet been attended with large visible results. Scattered all over the world are thousands of missionaries, whose names are not associated with conspicuous success, but who, nevertheless, have been proclaiming Christ with a faithfulness, thoroughness and heroism fully equal to that which has characterized the more prominent workers. They also are an essential factor in the world’s evangelization; and both they that sow and they that reap shall rejoice together. In view of the extent to which the Gospel has already been thoroughly preached, whether with or without apparent results, by a comparatively small number of workers, it seems reasonable to believe that by a judicious increase and proper distribution of all missionary agencies which have commended themselves to the Church, an adequate opportunity to know Christ as Saviour and Lord might be given to all people within our day. In the words of a veteran Indian missionary, “The largeness of God’s blessing on the puny efforts already made for evangelizing the heathen, demonstrate beyond the possibility of a doubt, that we are well able to evangelize the whole world in a single generation.”
VI. The possibility of evangelizing the world in this generation in view of the opportunities, facilities and resources of the church
It would seem that there is no sufficient ground for doubting the ability of the Church today to give the whole world the opportunity to know and to accept Christ. The fact that no generation has evangelized the world is not satisfactory proof that it might not have been done. Still less are we to measure the present ability of the Church by the standards and practice of a Church in the past not awake to her duty to the non-Christian world and under far less favorable conditions for world-wide missionary operations. The power of the Church has not yet been put to the real test. It seems hardly right to call a thing impossible or impracticable which has not been attempted. Livingstone said in a letter written from the interior of Africa not long before his death, “You don’t know what you can do, until you try.” The world-wide proclamation of the Gospel awaits accomplishment by a generation which shall have the obedience, courage and determination to attempt the task.
Viewed from a human standpoint, the evangelization of the world in this generation may not seem probable; but the contention is that it is entirely possible. Instead of assuming that this is impossible we should remember that God never has imposed upon the Church an impossible task. His commands are His enablings. A survey of the opportunities and resources of the Church and the facilities at her disposal will make it plain that she is more favorably situated in this than she has been in any preceding generation for the evangelization of the world.
For the first time in the history of the Church practically the whole world is open. The marvelous orderings of Providence during the nineteenth century, and notably during the past fifty years, have set before the Church the open doors for which Christians for generations have been praying. We are not justified in saying that there is a single country on the face of the earth where the Church, if she seriously desires, cannot send ambassadors for Christ to proclaim His message. If it be said that we ought not to force our way but to wait for Providential openings, it should be answered that neither ought we to neglect embracing the opportunities which God has already placed before us. Well did Carey exclaim, “What openings of Providence do we wait for? We can neither expect to be transported into the heathen world without ordinary means, nor to be endowed with the gift of tongues, etc., when we arrive there. These would not be Providential interpositions, but miraculous ones. Where a command exists nothing can be necessary to render it binding but a removal of those obstacles which render obedience impossible, and these are removed already. Natural impossibility can never be pleaded so long as facts exist to prove the contrary.”
It should be noticed also that there is no insuperable obstacle to world-wide evangelization so far as the ability of the heathen to understand the Gospel is concerned. The history of missions, even among the lowest types of humanity, demonstrates the truth of the statement of Bishop Selwyn, made after many years of observation and experience among the degraded inhabitants of the islands of the Southern Seas, “that all mankind are endued by the Spirit of God, in God’s own time, with a sufficient measure of capacity to receive everything that is necessary for the salvation of their souls; that there is no one single human being on the face of God’s earth who is shut out from the promises of the Gospel by any difference of intellectual or of moral capacity.” This does not mean that all men will accept the Gospel, but that all men are capable of receiving it. Many, doubtless, will not accept it should the opportunity be presented. Even in Christ’s own day, in face of His direct teachings and mighty works, many did not yield to the truth. On the other hand, in every place where Christ has been faithfully presented some have accepted Him. Therefore whether men heed the Gospel call or not, it is today possible to bring it to their attention.
In considering the Church’s present power of achievement we should take account of the facilities at her disposal. Among these may be mentioned, in the first place, the work of the geographical societies. There are not less than eighty-three geographical societies with a membership of 50,000, and 153 geographical journals. A hundred years ago nearly one-third of the globe was absolutely unknown. At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign practically nothing was known of the interior of China and Japan, Central Asia, Tibet and Afghanistan, As late as 1880 the interior of Africa was almost a blank, yet within twelve years the country was quite fully mapped out. The recent explorations of Dr. Sven Hedin and others have unveiled much of Central Asia. So today practically all of the inhabited portions of the earth are known to civilization. This is a distinct help to the Church. At the same time it has enlarged her responsibility. The words of Carey are to the point: “It was not the duty of Paul to preach Christ to the inhabitants of Otaheite, because no such place was then discovered, nor had he any means of coming at them. But none of these things can be alleged by us in behalf of the neglect of the commission given by Christ.”
The knowledge of the social, moral and spiritual condition and need of all races of mankind which the Church now possesses should greatly facilitate her work on behalf of the world. The one fact, for example, that the non-Christian religions have been found wanting in Divine authority, power and fruitfulness should and will help to make Christians realize their responsibility to the world.
The extension and improvement of the steamship service has benefited the Church as well as secular enterprises. Europe is twenty days nearer America now than sixty years ago, five days nearer than twenty years ago, and two days nearer than ten years ago. Sixty years ago it required sixty days for the mails to go from Bombay to London; now it requires considerably less than one-third that time. It took Carey nearly five months to go from Dover to Calcutta in 1793. One can make the trip now in three weeks. Judson’s trip from Salem to Calcutta in 1812 consumed eleven months; and as late as 1859 it took Bishop Thoburn four months to go from Lynn to Calcutta.
Now one can go from New York to Calcutta in a month. Moffat was three months in 1817 on the way from Gravesend to Cape Town; now the voyage lasts less than two weeks. These developments mean an immense saving of time to the missionary force.
As a result of all these means and agencies of communication the world has been growing smaller and smaller. They have united, as it were, the separated continents into one great nation. They have made the most remote and inaccessible parts of the inhabited world easily accessible. When Christ gave the Great Commission, the disciples could not have gone to the world as we know it. A man now might go around the world five times within a year. Professor Ramsay points out that “there are no stronger influences in education and in administration than rapidity and ease of traveling and the postal service; Paul both by precept and example impressed the importance of both on his Churches.” The Church can make more use of these valuable agencies in this generation than at any other time in her history because they are vastly more extensive and highly developed. It should be remembered also that these facilities, by increasing our knowledge of the heathen and their accessibility, thereby have increased our obligation.
The printing press has greatly multiplied the power of the Church to disseminate Christian truth. One of the marvels of the success of the Church of the first generation is that so much was accomplished without printed books. In those days few individuals owned a copy of the Scriptures. The Old Testament writings could be found rarely outside the synagogue. The method of spreading a knowledge of the Word of God was almost exclusively by oral instruction. The Apostolic writings came into existence comparatively late and their circulation progressed slowly. For centuries after the time of the early Christians, “to own a Bible was the privilege of princes, churches and monasteries.” It required years to write out a complete Bible. Even sixty years ago printing was done on hand presses and only from one to two hundred impressions could be taken in an hour. Now there are presses which print, bind and fold 96,000 papers in an hour. The invention of the linotype, the results of which Gladstone predicted would be “equally extensive and beneficent to mankind,” enables one operator to produce several fold as much composed matter as any regular typesetter. This and the many other improvements in the art of printing have, to a remarkable degree, reduced the price of books. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Bibles were very expensive and consequently were very scarce. Carey’s first Bengali Bible sold at about $20. A Bengali Bible can now be purchased for a few cents. The price lists of the various Bible societies show that in hundreds of languages the New Testament can be obtained for a mere pittance. No mechanical or serious financial difficulty, therefore, stands in the way of giving the Bible at once to every family under heaven.
The influence and protection of Christian governments is an immense help to the work of missions. In no age in the past could the ambassadors for Christ carry on their work with such safety. Over one-third of the inhabitants of the unevangelized world are under the direct sway of Christian rulers. Moreover, the Protestant powers are in a position to exert an influence that will make possible the free preaching of the Gospel to the remaining two-thirds of the people of the earth who have not heard of Christ. The ability of Christian nations shown in thus bringing the world within the range of their influence is, as the Bishop of Newcastle says, “the measure of the Church’s responsibility to bring to them the Gospel of Christ.”
Medical knowledge and skill is one of the chief auxiliary factors employed by the Church. Its influence in opening the hearts of the heathen to hear the Gospel and as an evidence in enforcing its claims is apparently almost as marked as was the exercise of miraculous gifts in the time of the Apostles. Medical and sanitary science are also a great boon in restoring and shielding the health of the growing missionary force.
The methods and results of the study of natural science and of other branches of Western learning is one of the mightiest agencies at the disposal of the Church. Its working and power were well likened by Duff to that of a vast mine beneath the structure of heathen ignorance, superstition and prejudice. Such, emphatically, is its influence today in India, Japan, China — in fact in all lands.
The Church not only has an unexampled opportunity to evangelize the world, as well as great facilities at her disposal, but she also possesses remarkable resources. Think of her membership. According to Mulhall there are 140,000,000 Protestants. In the British Isles, the United States and Canada alone there are over 25,000,000 evangelical Protestant church communicants. No one will question the fact that among this vast number are millions of spiritually minded and consecrated men and women. Contrast the millions of devoted Christians, whose religion is that of the most enlightened nations of the world — such as Great Britain, Germany, Holland, the Scandinavian countries, the United States, Canada, Switzerland and the Australasian and South African colonies — with the few thousands constituting the small, unacknowledged and despised sect which, on the Day of Pentecost, began the evangelization of the then known and accessible world. As we recall the achievements of that infant Church, can we question the ability of the Christians of our day so to distribute within the present generation the Gospel messengers and agencies that all mankind might have a full opportunity to know Christ as their Saviour and Lord? The money power of the Church is enormous. “The true value of all tangible property in the United States exclusive of Alaska, at the close of the census period, 1890, amounted to $65,037,091,197.” If members of evangelical churches possessed a sum proportionate to their number, which would seem to be a reasonable inference, their share was fully $13,000,000,000. Of this great amount they gave but one dollar out of every $3,287 for foreign missions, or one-thirty-second part of one per cent. Regardless of their income, if they had given but one-two-hundredth part of their real and personal property, their contribution to foreign missions would have been over $65,000,000, instead of less than $4,000,000. In 1898 Mr. Robert E. Speer estimated that the share of Christians in the wealth of America was $20,000,000,000, and that perhaps one-fiftieth of what the Church adds to her wealth each year would suffice, in addition to what is now given, to support a sufficient number of missionaries to evangelize the world. Mr. G. T. Manley, of Cambridge University, taking 100,000 as an outside limit of the number of foreign workers required, and assuming that Britain’s share would be one-third, estimates that the $50,000,000 required to support them would be far more than supplied if each communicant in Great Britain were to contribute four cents a day. If only one-fourth of the Protestants of Europe and America gave but one cent a day toward the evangelization of the world, it would yield each year a fund of over $100,000,000.
The giving to foreign missions has steadily increased throughout the century. Professor Warneck estimates that the collective gifts of all Protestants to this object in 1800 were probably not over $75,000. In 1899 they reached an aggregate of over $19,000,000. To evangelize the world, however, a much greater sum than this would be required, and, as has been seen, the Church’s supply is abundantly sufficient to meet the demand. What is contributed comes from only a small fraction of the membership of the Church. The examples of what is being given in different countries by single congregations, Sunday schools and young people’s societies, the situation and ability of which are typical and not exceptional, prove conclusively that the financial possibilities of the Church are practically limitless. Dr. Josiah Strong twenty years ago wrote: There is money enough in the hands of Church members to sow every acre of the earth with the seed of truth. . . God has entrusted to his children power enough to give the Gospel to every creature by the close of this century; but it is being misapplied. Indeed, the world would have been evangelized long ago, if Christians had perceived the relations of money to the Kingdom, and had accepted their stewardship.”
Among the greatest resources of the Church are the missionary societies, together with their workers and agencies on the foreign field. At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were six Protestant missionary organizations. Dr. Dennis gives 537 as the present number of foreign missionary societies and auxiliaries. Professor Warneck expresses the opinion that there is probably too much home machinery and that instead of increasing the number of societies there should be further consolidation. Without doubt there are missionary organizations in sufficient number and possessing sufficient strength and experience to guide an enterprise indefinitely larger than the present missionary operations of the Church.
In 1800 there were only about one hundred foreign missionaries. At the present time there are 15,460, including women workers. This indicates a gratifying increase. They are stationed at important points throughout the larger part of the unevangelized world. In no other undertaking, secular or religious, is there a more capable and devoted body of workers. They have developed and adapted varied and efficient methods for the extension and upbuilding of Christ’s Kingdom. The object lesson of their lives and achievements has enriched the Church and will serve always as a guide and inspiration. While the present number of missionaries is large in comparison with that of a century ago, there is need of an enlargement of the foreign force. The Church easily can furnish as many men and women as will be required. According to the estimates of missionaries it would be necessary to send out less than one-fiftieth of the Christian young men and young women who will go through the universities and colleges of the United States and Canada within this generation. When the students of Europe are taken into consideration, it will be seen that Christian countries can well afford to spare the workers required. Their going forth would quicken and strengthen rather than weaken the entire Church.
The native Church is the human resource which affords largest promise for the evangelization of the world. It is not only an impressive monument to the power of Christian missions, but an earnest of the vast fruitage which may be expected within our generation. It constitutes both the end of evangelization and its principal means. At the present time the native Church has fully 1,300,000 communicants and over 4,400,000 adherents. The activity, earnestness and liberality of these native Christians compares favorably with that of the Church members in any Christian land. There are about 77,000 evangelists, pastors, teachers, catechists, medical helpers and other native workers, and their number and efficiency are rapidly increasing. There are over 1,000,000 children and young people in the various mission schools and institutions of higher learning; and of this number at least 140,000 are in mission colleges, training institutes and high schools. From the ranks of these students and their successors are to come the hundreds of thousands of evangelists, teachers, Bible women and other workers who will be needed to preach Christ to the multitudinous inhabitants of the unevangelized world. This suggests again the significance of the Christian movement among the students of non-Christian lands. It is doing much to solve the problem of the world’s speedy and thorough evangelization by uniting the native Christian students, first, to lead their fellow students to Christ, and then, after their preparation is completed, to go forth to evangelize their own countrymen. In view of the extent and possibilities of the native Christian forces, surely the Church is able to accomplish far more today for the world’s evangelization than in any preceding age.
The Divine resources of the Church are immeasurably more powerful and more important than all others. The evangelization of the world is not man’s enterprise but God’s. Christ at the right hand of God is the leader of the missionary movement, and with Him resides all power in heaven and on earth. The Spirit of God is as able to shake communities now as in the days of St. Peter and St. John. The “Word of God possesses dynamic and transforming power. Prayer can still remove mountains. Macedonian visions are yet vouchsafed unto men. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Why has God made the whole world known and accessible to our generation? Why has He provided us with such wonderful agencies? Not that the forces of evil might utilize them. Not for the purpose of promoting strife and avarice. Not for us to waste or leave unused. Such vast preparations must have been made to further some mighty and beneficent purpose. Every one of these wonderful facilities has been intended primarily to serve as a handmaid to the sublime enterprise of extending and building up the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in all the world. The hand of God in opening door after door among the nations of mankind, in unlocking the secrets of nature and in bringing to light invention after invention, is beckoning the Church of our day to larger achievements. If the Church instead of theorizing and speculating will improve her opportunities, facilities and resources, it seems entirely possible to fill the earth with the knowledge of Christ before the present generation passes away. With literal truth it may be said that ours is an age of unparalleled opportunity. “Providence and revelation combine to call the Church afresh to go in and take possession of the world for Christ.” Everything seems to be ready for a general and determined engagement of the forces of Christendom for the world-wide proclamation of the Gospel. “Once the world seemed boundless and the Church was poor and persecuted. No wonder the work of evangelizing the world within a reasonable time seemed hopeless. Now steam and electricity have brought the world together. The Church of God is in the ascendant. She has well within her control the power, the wealth, and the learning of the world. She is like a strong and well appointed army in the presence of the foe. The only thing she needs is the Spirit of her Leader and a willingness to obey His summons to go forward. The victory may not be easy but it is sure.”
VII. The possibility of evangelizing the world within a generation as viewed by leaders in the church
In 1818 Gordon Hall and Samuel Newell, missionaries of the American Board in India, issued a burning appeal to Christians. It appeared as a pamphlet entitled “The Conversion of the World: or the claims of Six Hundred Millions, and the Ability and Duty of the Churches Respecting Them.” In it they maintained: “It is the duty of the churches to send forth preachers in sufficient numbers to furnish the means of instruction and salvation to the whole world. . . As to the number of preachers, the same reasons which prove the duty of sending one, equally prove the duty of sending as many as are requisite to fulfil the command of Christ, to preach the Gospel to every creature. If we send half a dozen missionaries to a country where there are as many millions of souls, we are too apt to imagine that we have discharged our duty to that country — we have sent them the Gospel. The fact however is, we have only sent the Gospel to a few individuals in that nation. . . The thing that Christ commands is to preach the Gospel to every creature, — not merely to a few individuals in every nation.”
One of the most impressive appeals ever sent by the missionaries to the Church at home appeared in 1836, and was entitled “The Duty of the Present Generation to Evangelize the World: An Appeal from the Missionaries at the Sandwich Islands to their Friends in the United States.” All the members of the mission united in the opinion that “the present generation can preach the gospel to the heathen. The men are already educated. Other means are ready. God requires it as a present duty. . . The world has long been under the influence of this scheme, of committing the heathen to the next generation.”
In 1858 during the time of the greatest revival the American churches have ever known. Dr. Joel Parker, one of the leading pastors of New York, preached a sermon on “The Duty of the Present Generation of Christians to Evangelize the World,” in which he said: “It is the duty of Christians to evangelize the whole world immediately. The present generation is competent under God to achieve the work. There are means enough in the power of the Church to do it. There is money that can be counted in millions that can be spared without producing any serious want. There are men enough for the missionary work. If ten thousand should leave us for heathen shores in the course of a twelve-month, going out in companies of from ten to fifty, they would scarcely be missed from our country. The Church, we have reason to believe would even be strengthened by it. Such a revival of Christian zeal would be the means of converting ten times that number.”
The Earl of Shaftesbury, in an address given at the conference on missions held in Liverpool in 1860, speaking of the condition of the world, said: “Do consider, that at this moment the numbers of those who do not believe in the name of our Lord are ten, twenty, perhaps thirtyfold, those to whom the knowledge of salvation has been administered. Recollect, that though the state of things be so, the world has been for eighteen centuries in this condition; and, during the latter part of these centuries, it has been in the power of those who hold the truth, having means enough, having knowledge enough, and having opportunity enough, to evangelize the globe fifty times over.”
Dr. Joseph Angus in 1871 preached a notable sermon before the Baptist Missionary Society on “Apostolic Missions: the Gospel for Every Creature.” It has been printed and given a wide circulation. In this sermon Dr. Angus expressed the opinion that “if the Christian Church will give itself to this business of preaching the Gospel, it has wealth enough and men enough to preach it, in the next fifteen or twenty years, to every creature. All we need is a ‘willing mind’—a Pentecostal spirit of prayer, and faith and zeal.”
The words of Simeon Calhoun, uttered many years ago, still ring with confidence: “It is my deep conviction, and I say it again and again, that if the Church of Christ were what she ought to be, twenty years would not pass away till the story of the Cross will be uttered in the ears of every living man.”
At the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China, held at Shanghai in 1877, the adopted report of the Committee on Appeal to the Churches contains the following weighty statement: “How long shall this fearful ruin of souls continue? Ought we not to make an effort to save China in this generation? Is God’s power limited? Is the efficacy of prayer limited? This grand achievement is in the hands of the Church . . . We want China emancipated from the thralldom of sin in this generation. It is possible. Our Lord has said, ‘According to your faith be it unto you.’ The Church of God can do it, if she be only faithful to her great commission. . . Standing on the borders of this vast empire, we, therefore — one hundred and twenty missionaries, from almost every evangelical religious denomination in Europe and America, assembled in General Conference at Shanghai, and representing the whole body of Protestant Missionaries in China — feeling our utter insufficiency for the great work so rapidly expanding, do most earnestly plead, with one voice, calling upon the whole Church of God for more laborers. And we will as earnestly and unitedly plead at the Throne of Grace that the Spirit of God may move the hearts of all, to whom this appeal comes, to cry, — ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ And may this spirit be communicated from heart to heart, from church to church, from continent to continent, until the whole Christian world shall be aroused, and every soldier of the cross shall come to the help of the Lord against the mighty.”
Professor Samuel H. Kellogg, of the Western Theological Seminary, after he had been for years a missionary in India, wrote: “I have been profoundly interested in the suggestion that has been thrown out of late in several quarters — that the Church of Christ should make it its business to see to it that the Gospel is carried to all the world before the present generation shall have passed away. That the Church of Christ as now existing on the earth has the full ability, both in men and money, for this work, no man can doubt. And if she has the ability, who can doubt for a moment that it is her bounden duty? Is the Church of Jesus Christ, so rich today in gifted men and almost boundless wealth, with almost every door in all the world thrown open to her in answer to her prayer, is she prepared to take the responsibility of putting off the kingdom?”
Dr. R. G. Wilder, who had been a missionary in India for thirty years, in an editorial which he wrote while he was in charge of The Missionary Review said; “Those dear brethren who seem to think and argue that some minds are too ardent on this subject, that this work must be prosecuted for generations and centuries and ages yet to come, before we can expect its completion, overlook the fact that thousands of heathens have been fully enlightened and won to Christ within the current generation who never before heard a word of Gospel truth; [and] that if a sufficient Christian force were enlisted the whole 800,000,000 of heathens might have been as thoroughly evangelized as these thousands, in the same period of time.”
In 1887, Dr. Judson Smith, Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in emphasizing the present opportunity of the Church, said: “What hinders the immediate effort to plant the Gospel in every nation and island and home in all the earth within the next few decades? Nothing but the faltering zeal and purpose of the mass of Christian believers now on the earth. That precisely is the critical question. Are we, the Christians of today, awake to these facts and responsive to the claims of this glorious work? Do we understand that this vast responsibility rests upon us? That it is possible now, as never before in the world’s history, to preach the Gospel to all the nations? And do we mean, God helping, that this work shall be done ere we die? This is the deep significance of the hour to this generation.”
Mr. Eugene Stock, the Editorial Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, writing in 1896 on the evangelization of the world in this generation, gave the following considerations, among others, bearing upon the possibility of the undertaking: “Some reader may urge, it has never been done yet. No one generation has been actually evangelized. True; yet that is no proof of its impossibility; and the fact that past generations of Christians failed to accomplish their task, or rather, never tried (except perhaps in the first century, and even that is very doubtful), is no reason why we should shrink from ours. ‘Give ye them to eat,’ said Christ to His disciples; and if ever there was an impossible task. He gave them one then; yet it was accomplished. But that was a miracle, urges our imaginary friend. Well, if it be allowed for argument’s sake that the day of miracles in the material world is past, most assuredly the day of miracles in the spiritual world is not past; nay, we are in the very noon of it. Yet perhaps we undervalue that development of even material things which daily tends to make material miracles less necessary. Half a century ago, who would have dared to predict that within much less than that time we should be able to communicate in a few minutes simultaneously with New York and Constantinople and Cape Coast Castle and Johannesburg and Fuh-Chow? The daily and hourly cablegrams from all parts of the world are so much a matter of course, that the Secretary of State for the Colonies, when, on a memorable recent occasion, he received no news from South Africa less than twenty-four hours old, went off at midnight to the office of the Telegraph Company to ask what had happened to the wires. This is but a single illustration. The world is shrinking fast in respect of distances to be covered. And God has flung open door after door that had been closed for centuries; so that what was utterly impossible when the Church Missionary Society was founded is perfectly feasible now.”
Dr. J. C. K. Ewing, the Principal of the Forman Christian College at Lahore, India, has expressed the following opinion: “I regard the idea of the evangelization of the world in this generation as entirely Scriptural. There is not a hint in the Word to lead us to adopt the popular theory that it is the Church’s task to strive generation after generation to gather out the few. ‘The Gospel to every creature’—that means to every man and woman living now. It is the fault of the Church if from amongst the present rising generation any advance to old age without hearing of Christ and His salvation.”
Dr. J. D. Davis, one of the oldest missionaries in Japan and one who for years labored with Neesima in the Doshisha, gives the following statement on the subject: “The duty and responsibility of the Church to ‘preach the Gospel to every creature’ within one generation is very clear. The doors are open; the Bible is ready in the language of most of the nations; the world is narrowed; it can almost be said, there is no more sea. Distance is being annihilated on sea and on land. The Church possesses numbers sufficient to furnish and support the workers necessary. There is machinery enough; there are wheels enough. It is only needed that the Spirit of God shall move within the wheels. Thousands or tens of thousands of ‘volunteers’ cannot do this work unless the Church itself is aroused to send them and sustain them and their work with its prayers and money. The Church has had to wait for the doors of the nations to be opened, for the world to be narrowed, for the Bible to be translated; but the Church has no need to wait even one day for the factor which is lacking to accomplish this work in one generation. God waits to give it; Christ is ready to baptize all hearts with the ‘Holy Ghost and with fire’ so that all selfishness will be consumed with love, and all money will be melted and reminted and stamped with the image and superscription of Christ. Were this done, the unchurched and unsaved millions of the so-called Christian nations would be won to Christ and the unconverted millions who have never heard would hear the Gospel within one generation.”
The considerations mentioned by Dr. S. H. Wainright, Principal of the Southern Methodist College at Kobe, Japan, should not be overlooked: “May we hope to evangelize the world in the present generation? We cannot give a negative answer, for no man has a right to set limitations to the power and resources of God, nor can anyone say concerning the possibilities of human faith, thus far thou canst go, but no farther.”
Dr. Samuel A. Moffett, a Presbyterian missionary in Korea, indicates the conditions on which that country might be evangelized in our lifetime: “Korea can be evangelized within a generation; but in order to accomplish it there is needed an added force of forty thoroughly qualified missionaries of enthusiastic, victorious faith in God and His message. It would also be necessary to have on the home field a Church willing to send them and to stand back of them in prayer, led by pastors who will influence their people to appreciate the privilege as well as the duty of the Church to perform its God-given office of world-wide evangelization.”
Dr. John Ross, who has been working in Manchuria for nearly thirty years as a representative of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, writes: “It was largely overlooked formerly — I am not sure that it is fully understood yet — that in the work of making the Kingdom of God coextensive with man God and man are ‘fellow workers.’ In the spiritual as in the material harvest man must perform his share or no grain will be garnered. As soon would we expect to see ripe grain walk into the farmer’s yard as to see the Kingdom of God planted in the world without human labor. To secure the material harvest man was ordained to do so in the sweat of his brow. To secure the spiritual harvest the ‘laborers’ are commanded to go ‘into all the world.’ God will do His part. He will not do man’s. The world would have been evangelized a thousand years ago had the Christian Church done its duty. And God will do His part any year in the 20th century if man will but do his.”
The Chinese Recorder contains an appeal by Rev. J. C. Garritt, a missionary of the Presbyterian Church, from which the following is taken: “China for Christ in this generation. Why not? . . . In this generation what doubt is there that China will be swept irresistibly into the stream of the world’s competition? The West will not wait till a later generation. Why should the Church wait till a later generation? . . . How splendidly equipped the Church is today to win not China only, but the world for Christ in one generation! What resources are at the command of the nations that the Church does not possess? Worldly power and prestige certainly do not count for as much as the power of the Maker of the world, by whom and for whom all things were created and in whom all things consist! If the world has money the Church does not lack. If the world has men, brains, wisdom, the Church has men, talents, prudence. If the world has agents to watch for, report, and take advantage of opportunities, the Church has her agents too. . . God is on our side, and His infinite power, wisdom and grace can never fail. . . Church of the living God! Take this one word, IMMANUEL, and plant the standard of the cross in every land under the sun!”
Dr. Griffith John, writing after nearly half a century of experience in China as the representative of the London Missionary Society, asserts his belief that “it is possible to evangelize the world in this generation if the Church will but do her duty. The trouble is not with the heathen. A dead Church will prevent it, if it is prevented. Why should it not be accomplished? God will have all men to be saved and come unto the knowledge of the truth. The resources of the Church are boundless. Let the will of the Church be brought into line with the will of God, and nothing will be found to be impossible. May God grant it!”
Dr. A. P. Parker, a missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in China, writes: “The idea of the evangelization of the world in this generation is reasonable. The plan is perfectly feasible. There are men enough and there is money enough in the Protestant churches of Europe and America to do the work. It can be done. And it ought to be done.”
Rev. James Jackson, Principal of the Kiukiang Institute in China, gives his opinion as follows: “Our responsibility surely is to the men of our own generation. No Christian will venture to say that our Lord has laid upon His Church an impossible task, or that it is His will and purpose that generation after generation of men should pass away into the unseen world without the opportunity of hearing and embracing the way of salvation, the knowledge of which He has entrusted to his Church and for the spread of which He has made His disciples responsible.”
Mr. Robert E. Speer, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, in speaking at the First International Convention of the Student Volunteer Movement, called attention to the necessity of a right attitude of mind and heart toward the subject if one would believe in the evangelization of the world in this generation as a possibility. He said: “Our position on the question of possibility will be largely determined by our views of its desirability. If we do not think we want the world evangelized, we will not have to search far before we find it impossible to evangelize it. But if tonight, face to face with our glorified Master, we catch His Spirit, hear His word, and are willing to do His will, and will open our hearts a little to catch that other cry that comes across the seas tonight from every heathen land, I do not think we can refrain from brushing away a great many objections to the possibility of the evangelization of the world in this generation that may now confront our view. . . This is not a human issue. God is in it. I have said that there is nothing in the world or the Church, except its disobedience, to render the evangelization of the world in this generation an impossibility. . .It is possible so far as God is concerned. Nay more, it finds its pledge and inspiration in Him. We often talk as though God was not interested in this question. We enumerate our human forces and look over the field to be possessed, and, just as we are hopeful or despondent, say it can or cannot be done. But this leaves out the mightiest force of all. You recall the question said to have been asked Luther by his wife in one of his despairing moods, — a question, I believe, alleged to have been addressed to Frederick Douglass also, by Sojourner Truth, — ‘Is God dead?’ I repeat it to those of you who doubt and hesitate tonight: ‘Is God dead?’ If we cannot rely on Him I am willing to surrender the whole question.”
Dr. Henry C. Mabie, Corresponding Secretary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, writes thus upon the subject: “I have no hesitation in insisting upon the universal duty in Christendom everywhere of immediate application, without reserve, of all our powers to the evangelization of the whole world. Certainly all will agree that the duty of each generation to its generation is imperative and universal. Then also I believe that the Church has never risen to anything like a comprehension of what God waits to do when His Church will get into line. The surprises of grace, the miracles of converting power, the rapid triumphs of the Gospel would astonish the whole earth if God were really put to the test. The master temptation of the devil is to secure procrastination on the part of the Church respecting the world’s evangelization. Of course this temptation should be resisted at every point, and if it were nations would soon be born in a day.”
Dr. George Robson, of Scotland, the editor of The Missionary Record in a review of Professor Warneck’s paper on “The Modern Theory of the Evangelization of the World” says: “If the Church would realize her relations to her enthroned Lord, if she would duly awake to her opportunities, responsibilities, and resources, and if her resources were more fully consecrated to the service of the Lord, there would be little difficulty, within one generation, in covering the whole open field of heathendom with centers of evangelization sufficiently near each other to diffuse the gospel over the intervening spaces.”
Rev. Alexander MacKennal, President of the Free Church Council, in an address at the International Student Volunteer Conference in London in January, 1900, said: “We seemed to recognize in the beating of the young heart towards that nobler possibility, the motto of which [the evangelization of the world in this generation] is upon this platform before me — I say, we saw in that the indications of something deeper than belonged to the thoughts and counsels of man. For myself, … I felt first the audacity of the proposal, then the reasonableness of the proposal, and lastly that the confidence of young men and women would carry it into effect I was sure. It seemed to me that the very finger of God was pointing the way and the Spirit of God inspiring the endeavor.”
At the London Volunteer Conference the Archbishop of Canterbury closed his address on “Evangelization the Primary Duty of the Church” with the following statement regarding the possibility of the evangelization of the world: “The aim of this Union [Student Volunteer Missionary Union] is that the Name of Christ shall be made known to all the nations of the world within this present generation, that is, that before those who are now living shall altogether pass away, there shall not be one spot upon the earth where the name of Christ, and the Cross of Christ, and the Love of Christ, and the Love of God the Father is not known, whether they will accept it or reject it. We know not how God may bless all the work that we may do, but it is not an inconceivable thing that, as God has within the last generation opened the way, so within the present generation He may crown His work. When we have preached the Gospel to every nation, there will still be Christian work to be done, but, at any rate, it seems now as if we who are now living, the young men amongst us who are now joining this very Union, those who are now studying the great task to which the Lord has called them, shall, before they die, be able to say, ‘The whole race of mankind is not yet Christian, but, nevertheless, there is no nation upon earth where the Christian faith is not taught if men will accept it; there is no place upon the whole surface of the globe where men may not hear the message of God and the story of the Cross if only they are willing to listen. It is brought home to them everywhere at their very doors, and the Church, at any rate, has discharged the primary duty of all her duties: she has made all nations hear the sound of the Gospel, she has made all nations hear of the Love of the Lord and of His great Sacrifice.’”
At the close of the Ecumenical Conference, held at New York in 1900, the General Committee prepared an address to the Church. This address was read at a meeting attended by representatives of missionary societies of all parts of Christendom and was adopted unanimously. It concluded thus: “Entrusting to Him the certain guidance of the great tides of influence and life which are beyond our control, it is for us to keep the commandments of His Son and carry to those for whom He lived and died and rose again the message of the goodness and love of their Father and ours. We who live now and have this message must carry it to those who live now and are without it. It is the duty of each generation of Christians to make Jesus Christ known to their fellow creatures. It is our duty through our own preachers and those forces and institutions which grow up where the Gospel prevails, to attempt now the speedy evangelization of the whole world. We believe this to be God’s present call, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’ We appeal to all Christian ministers set by divine appointment as leaders of the people, to hear this call and speak it to the Church, and we appeal to all God’s people to answer as with one voice, ‘Lord, here am I, send me.’”
VIII. Factors essential to the evangelization of the world in this generation
Factors on the mission field
If the world is to be evangelized in this generation more missionaries must be sent out. There are still extensive regions without a foreign worker, notably in the interior of Africa and of China, and in unoccupied lands like Tibet, Afghanistan and parts of the Turkish Empire. Even in the countries best supplied with workers there are districts with hundreds of towns and villages in which a missionary is seldom or never heard. Taking the unevangelized world as a whole the present force is absolutely inadequate.
Missionaries are needed for all forms of work. As there is in the non-Christian world only one medical missionary to every 1,400,000 people, it will be seen that there is need of hundreds of this kind of laborers. The fact that many missionary teachers are so overburdened that they are unable to use their opportunities to secure evangelistic results, and that there are not a few districts in which educational institutions need to be established for the training of native workers to evangelize their peoples, makes it clear that more men and women must be sent out to engage in teaching. The literary work of missions calls for large reinforcements from Christian lands. Thousands of women missionaries are imperatively needed to insure the evangelization of the multitudes of women in the world. In some missions the material equipment of educational, medical and literary missionary work is sufficient to warrant an evangelistic utilization of these aids several-fold greater than at present. In other places the facilities for all kinds of mission work have still to be created. Without doubt the greatest need in all missions and in connection with all societies is that of a large increase of the evangelistic force.
More missionaries are needed to help reach the unevangelized masses. They are needed to help solve the problems of the native Church and to meet the crisis which confronts the Church in nearly every land. They are indispensable to the development of the native Church — by helping to root and ground the native Christians in the faith, by bringing to them the lessons of the history of Christianity in the West, by helping to build up a Christian literature in the native tongues, by promoting right habits of Bible study and prayer, by suggesting tried and approved methods of Christian work, and by training, guiding and inspiring the native workers to extend the Kingdom of Christ among their own people.
In locating the missionaries there should be due regard to Providential openings, to the regions totally unoccupied, to the location of missionaries of other societies, to the distribution of the population, to the comparative receptivity of the several classes of people and to other considerations incident to the work to be done and the qualifications of the workers.
Leading authorities in all the great mission fields have been asked to estimate how many missionaries, in addition to native assistants, would be required so to lead the missionary enterprise as to accomplish the evangelization of those countries within a generation. The highest number suggested by any one is one missionary to every 10,000 of the heathen population. Few gave a lower estimate than one to 100,000. The average number given is one to 50,000. The number most frequently specified is one to 20,000. If we follow the last proportion, it would call for an increase of the present missionary force from 15,000 to 50,000.
The Church in Christian lands is well able to supply the number of missionaries required to evangelize the world. To make up the entire number called for would take but a small fraction of the Christian students who will graduate within this generation. It would require less than one-fourth as many men as now constitute the Protestant clergy and ministry of North America and the British Isles. The present distribution of laborers is not only uneven but unfair. Dr. George W. Northrop, in an address in which he appealed for an enlargement of the missionary force to one missionary for every fifty thousand heathen, says: “We challenge any man to adduce reasons which will approach to a justification of the course of the Christian churches in distributing their forces over this common missionary ground — the whole world — in such an extraordinarily uneven way, putting one minister in charge of 300 people, many of whom are Christians, and another, of no greater ability, in charge of 300,000, of whom all, or nearly all, are pagans.”
While the sudden increase of the number of missionaries by thousands might prove unwise, there is little danger that serious consequences would result from a gradual enlargement of the foreign force. Moreover, the calculations which have been given by different missionaries of the number of foreign workers required for achieving the evangelization of the world within this generation have been given simply as illustrations of what might be accomplished if the Church gave herself to the task. Professor Warneck is right in pointing out that mere numbers of missionaries afford no sure guarantee of desired results. At the same time it will be conceded by all that neither can these results be secured without a great enlargement of the number of missionaries.
The missionaries who are sent out to evangelize the world should be men of the highest qualifications. The success of the undertaking depends even more upon the quality of the workers than upon their number. The Apostolic Church set apart some of her ablest men for this work. Surely an undertaking of such difficulty as that involved in extending the Kingdom of Christ in all the earth calls for the strongest and the best. Well has Professor Legge urged that “missionaries ought to be the foremost men whom the Christian Church possesses; the men who have intermeddled most with, and gone deepest into all knowledge; whose intellectual resources are the largest, whose practical and persuasive ability is the finest, and whose temper is the most under their control; the most fervent in spirit, the largest in mind, and the most capable in action.” Generally speaking, the missionary needs a better all-round preparation than the home pastor.
On the spirituality of the missionary more than upon any other one factor on the mission field depends the evangelization of the world. Far more vital than the physical, social and intellectual equipment of the missionary is his spiritual furnishing. It is supremely and indispensably important that he be a man filled with the spirit of Christ. This point is being emphasized today by missionaries on every field. They maintain that unless the missionary be under the sway of the Holy Spirit he will, in the midst of deadening heathen influences, become cold and indifferent, his preaching will be fruitless, the example of his own life will be powerless and he will be unable properly to lead and to energize the native workers. Dr. Griffith John in dwelling on the last consideration says: “The quality of the native agent will very much depend upon the quality of the foreign missionary. An unspiritual, self-indulgent missionary is not likely to surround himself with capable, spiritual, earnest, and devoted native helpers.” Too much stress, therefore, cannot be placed on having missionary candidates form the habit of thorough and devotional Bible study before they go to the field, because a man mighty in the Scriptures is almost sure to be mighty in Christian work. The enterprise of world-wide evangelization calls also for missionaries of spiritual vision and of victorious faith in God and in His message. Rev. Thomas Green, Principal of the Church Missionary College at Islington, years ago summed up the spiritual qualifications of the missionary in the following words: “The men we want are men of God, truly converted in heart, and holy in life; baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; taught by the Spirit; led by the Spirit; filled with the Spirit; men of one idea, one aim, one object; like the Great Apostle of the Gentiles, counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ; determined not to know anything save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; loving Christ, living Christ, ready and willing, if need be, to die for Christ.”
To evangelize the world in this generation it is essential that there be a great increase in the number of well qualified native Christian workers. As Pastor V. Sorensen of Denmark indicates, the task cannot be accomplished by flooding the non-Christian lands with foreign missionaries. Thousands of missionaries in addition to those now on the field are needed to lead the enterprise of missions, and especially to reach the absolutely unevangelized regions; but it may be safely estimated that for every thousand missionaries there will be needed ten thousand native workers. The evangelization of Asia and Africa should not, therefore, be regarded chiefly as a European or an American, but rather as an Asiatic and an African enterprise.
There are manifest advantages in enlisting as many suitably qualified native Christians as possible in the work of evangelization. They are acclimatized and therefore able to work at all seasons. They can live and labor in their own country at comparatively small expense. They are able to come into more intimate social contact with their own people than one foreigner in a hundred can hope to do. The natives can travel, eat, lodge, live with the people; the missionary has exotic habits. The native workers naturally have fluent command of the vocabulary and idioms of the language. They have an intimate acquaintance with the habitual trains of thought, the currents of feeling and the springs of action. They understand the native character and are the best judges of the motives and sincerity of those among whom they work. They know the difficulties, temptations, doubts and prejudices of the people. In view of such considerations as these they will always have the most abundant and effective access to their own countrymen.
Experience teaches that natives have been the chief human factor in the evangelization of different countries. No extensive field has ever been thoroughly evangelized but by its own sons. This seems to be God’s method. Eminent and successful missionaries have emphasized by word and by practice the essential character of the native arm of the service. Duff said that “when the set time arrives, the real Reformers of Hindustan, will be qualified Hindus.” Neesima in speaking after years of observation and experience in Japan expressed his conviction that “the best possible method to evangelize her people is to raise up a native agency, and such an agency can be only secured by imparting the highest Christian culture to the best youths to be found.” Mackay not long before his death said: “The agency by which, and probably by which alone, we can Christianize Africa, is the African himself. But he must first be trained for that work, and trained, too, by the European in Africa.” Dr. Nevius repeatedly expressed his belief that “the millions of China must be brought to Christ by Chinamen.” Dr. Griffith John recently wrote that “the remarkable ingathering of the past few years in Fukien, Hupeh, Hunan, Manchuria and other parts of China, is to be attributed, under God, mainly to the efficiency, earnestness and assiduity of our native brethren.” Dr. Goodrich, in writing from North China about the important part which native agents must have in spreading a knowledge of Christ, said: “Whether considered politically, economically, sociologically, or historically, this is the only sound policy and effective method of evangelizing a great nation.”
One of the most difficult problems on the mission field is that of raising up and training this force of suitable native workers. They should be men with clear knowledge of the truths essential to salvation, men of true piety, men earnest and effective in service. That it is not an easy matter to secure them, every missionary can testify. The unreliability, the lack of spirituality, the want of resourcefulness and the low ideals and motives which characterize so many native agents is a source of much discouragement. So while there should be due regard to obtaining large numbers of workers and to distributing them wisely, the main concern must be to enlist and build up workers who will be really efficient. This calls for thorough and prolonged training. Strongly manned theological seminaries are greatly needed on the mission field. Without doubt the greatest work of the missionary is to make missionaries. In no other way can he so multiply himself. Some missionaries claim that each missionary should aim to train a band of at least ten native workers. What a work was achieved by the missionaries who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, gave the Christian impulse to Moses Kya in the Sandwich Islands, to Sheshadri in India, to Sau Quala, the Karen evangelist, to Tiyo Soga among the Kaffirs, to Bishop Crowther in Western Africa. Merely intellectual culture and foreign money alone can never produce such evangelists. They are the gift of God through the spiritual example, feeding and training of Christ-like missionaries.
The need of an army of competent native workers emphasizes the importance of educational missionary work. No work has a more vital bearing on the world’s evangelization. It is said that the Pasumalai College in Southern India has sent out over 500 native Christian workers, and there are other institutions which can show an equally encouraging record. Why should not every college and school become such a center of evangelization? This will not be the case unless those who have the responsibility of conducting these schools or teaching in them keep the subject constantly and prominently before the minds of the students.
There must be a great increase in voluntary Christian work by the rank and file of the membership of the native Church, if the Gospel is to be diffused throughout all lands in our day. The whole Church must be trained to be missionary. It is fatal to have the idea prevail in any native community that the responsibility for winning men to Christ rests on a professional class. Important as is the work of the paid agents or leaders, it is not in itself sufficient to reach the masses. In the days of the Apostles the Gospel spread with wonderful rapidity because individual Christians everywhere were filled with a passion for making Christ known and went about living Him and speaking of Him. So today in Korea, Manchuria, Livingstonia and other mission fields, where the work of evangelization is being pushed most extensively and vigorously, one of the chief secrets of the progress is that large numbers of the native Christians have heard the call of Christ and are seeking to win to Him their relatives, friends and neighbors.
The native Church of a given district may be regarded as the most important factor in the evangelization of that district. “The evangelization of a given district thus depends,” as Dr. J. J. Lucas of Northern India has pointed out, “largely upon the purity, unity, prayerfulness, spiritual knowledge, and growth of the Church of that district. Only to such a Church will Christ give converts, and without converts there cannot be evangelists.” The great force with which to impress the unevangelized is a holy Church in their midst, the members of which are living examples of the mighty transforming and keeping power of the Gospel.
This shows again the importance of the work of the missionaries in raising up spiritual native leaders, for what we make the native ministry they will make the native Church. We recognize, therefore, the desirability of conducting Bible Conferences for native Christians, of creating and circulating vernacular Christian literature, and of seeking to lead the students and pupils of all mission colleges and schools into a vital Christian experience and also to form right habits of prayer and devotional Bible study before they go out to become leaders in the churches. Above all, it should be remembered that the feeble spiritual life of native converts and leaders, their shallow conception of sin, the little progress they make in the study of the Scriptures, in observing the commandments of Christ, in giving of their substance to the spread of the Gospel and in preaching Christ to their own people, can be remedied only by the Spirit of God who works in answer to the prayers of those that believe.
A great enlargement of work for children will prove to be a valuable, if not a necessary, factor in obtaining and training a sufficient force of native workers to evangelize the world. The plan that seizes and impresses childhood tells mightily for victory. At first thought this may appear to require too much time to be of real help in evangelizing this generation; and yet further reflection will convince one that there is no more direct, certain and satisfactory way of augmenting the evangelizing force. The Roman Catholic Church begins with childhood in training its priests. Some consider that one of the chief reasons why Buddhism developed into numerically the largest faith in the world is the fact that during its early history so much attention was devoted to the children. The minds of the young are unprejudiced and most susceptible to Christian influence. They are the most hopeful class, not only because they are most impressible and docile, but also because the future depends so largely upon them. A child won for Christ means an adult won. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that the child as a child may be an evangelizing force. Often the parents are reached best through the children. The fact that the children are, in a sense, missionaries among their playmates and in their homes lends large meaning to the mission school system with its one million of pupils.
The promotion of the spirit and practice of comity in the work of the various missionary societies is an essential factor in accomplishing the evangelization of the world. Comity should mean nothing less than such a spirit of unity and practical cooperation as would avoid misunderstandings, friction and conflict among the workers. Such a spirit would do much to prevent the reproduction on the mission field of the narrow sectarianism of the home lands. By avoiding wasteful duplication of machinery there would be a decided saving in number of workers, in money and in power. A larger concentration of effort would be made possible. The Church would present a united front to the enemy. As a result of planning and laboring together in real unity there would be a greater manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in all the work. The evangelizing force would be greatly augmented; for, in the words of Bishop Thoburn, “if all the missionaries of the world could today be made of one heart and one soul according to the standard of the Church of Pentecost, the change would be equivalent to an immediate reinforcement of a thousand, or perhaps I ought to say of ten thousand, fully equipped new workers.”
There are many ways in which the various missions can advantageously cooperate as has been proved by the experience of cognate denominations in certain fields. They may unite in the conduct of training schools, of higher educational institutions, of hospitals and philanthropic enterprises, and also in the creation, publication and distribution of literature. They may come to an agreement to respect each other’s rules of discipline, principles of administration and scale of wages. They may agree on a just territorial apportionment and honor each other’s sphere of influence. Societies in extending their operations to other regions may go to unoccupied fields. The Bishop of Lahore strongly emphasizes this as follows: “As long as tens of thousands have never seen a Christian evangelist, it is little less than crime to court difficulties and heart-burnings by planting ourselves where Christ is already preached.” Dr. Walter K. Lambuth points out that “a wise regard for this branch of missionary economics on broad Christian lines would have long since led to a masterly and complete occupation of the field.” Has not the time come on most of the great mission fields for a federation of all the forces in order to map out and occupy every district? Judging from the expression of missionary bodies in different lands the time is ripe for such action. The chief obstacles to unity and cooperation, as was pointed out by the two Shanghai Conferences, are some of the missionary organizations at home. The vast extent and inherent difficulty of the work to be done call for a clearer recognition than ever of the oneness of Christ’s followers and for the wisest possible alignment and distribution of the forces.
If the world is to be evangelized in this generation it is necessary that the leaders on the various fields — both missionary and native — regard this as something not only to be desired but also to be accomplished. If they are skeptical as to its being the will of God that the Church of our day shall put forth her energies to bring a knowledge of Christ within reach of all men in the known and accessible world, it will not be done. On the other hand, if the missionary body as a whole and the tens of thousands of native agents have a vivid realization of the necessity of reaching the entire known and accessible world with the Gospel, they are in a position so to distribute, lead, educate and inspire the forces as to accomplish a marvelous diffusion of the great facts about Jesus Christ. Dr. Lucas, in writing on the evangelization of the world in this generation, says: “This is the duty of the Church. It should be her aim, and yet only now and then, here and there, is this aim held up and this duty urged. The Scriptural reasons and motives for such a united, systematic, heroic effort on the part of the whole Church, every Christian taking part, are not presented and pressed with such clearness, repetition, and emphasis as to awaken the conscience and stir the heart of God’s people the world over. Everywhere Calebs and Joshuas are needed to point to the infinite resources back of us and to encourage God’s people to go forward. The aim is Scriptural and the duty of making the attempt is clear, but the Calebs and Joshuas, how few they are!”
Factors on the home field
It is indispensable to the world’s evangelization that the churches on the home field become filled with the missionary spirit. A task so vast cannot be accomplished by the leaders of the Church at home alone, nor by the representatives of the home Church on the foreign field. The cooperation of a great multitude of the members of the Church is essential. This means that the churches in Christian lands must become missionary churches.
What characterizes a missionary church? It is a church whose members are intelligent concerning the enterprise of world-wide missions, and who recognize and accept their responsibility to help extend Christ’s Kingdom throughout the earth. Christians will not earnestly set about the work of evangelizing the world until they have a deep conviction that this is their duty and an ardent desire to perform it. The basis of such conviction and desire is knowledge. Among the rank and file of the Church membership there is at present great ignorance and consequent indifference concerning missions. As a result only a comparatively small fraction of the Church members are doing anything in an aggressive or whole-souled way to evangelize the world. Surely God never intended that only a few earnest and devoted men and women, here and there, should have a vision of the unevangelized world and be possessed by an intense longing for the salvation of the heathen.
Far too many Christians look on the promotion of the missionary movement as something quite outside the ordinary Christian life. They assume that to help extend Christ’s Kingdom is an optional matter and not obligatory. It must be pressed upon them that an intelligent and active missionary spirit is inseparable from a real Christian life; and that a man may well question whether he is living the Christian life — that is, having Christ live in him — if he is indifferent to the needs of over half the human race. The fundamental duty of the hour is well expressed in the following words of the resolution adopted by the Lambeth Conference of Bishops of the Anglican Communion: “To arouse the Church to recognize as a necessary and constant element in the spiritual life of the Body, and of each member of it, the fulfilment of our Lord’s great commission to evangelize all nations.” Christians must be led to see that it is their duty to keep informed concerning the Kingdom of Christ in the world — its field, its progress, its present-day triumphs, its problems and difficulties, its opportunities and its resources. The Church must be led to make the fulfilment of the command to disciple all nations the great business of this generation of believers.
The missionary church is a self-sacrificing church. The means given for evangelizing the world should correspond with the magnitude of the desired result. To mobilize and utilize the greatly enlarged force necessary to accomplish this purpose will require giving on a scale unthought of in the past. The Church, however, is abundantly able to supply all the money needed. If she is to respond as she should, her members both rich and poor must come to realize their responsibility as Christian stewards, not of one tenth alone, but of all that they possess, and moreover, that they are under obligation to make not simply good use, but the best use of the property that they have, in the light of God’s purposes for the world. If Christians would take the high. Scriptural ground of Livingstone, money enough would be released to enable the Church, so far as material resources are concerned, to meet every opportunity. “I will place no value,” said he, “on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.”
The awful need of a world without Christ makes it incumbent on Christians to be more watchful and conscientious in expenditures. Luxury and materialism have become a serious menace to the Church, and are unquestionably obscuring its spiritual vision and hindering its evangelizing zeal. There should be among the followers of Christ a putting away of extravagance and superfluities so as to reduce the necessities of life to a standard which will not be inconsistent with the example and teaching of Christ and the requirements of an unevangelized world.
There is need also among all classes of Christians today of more heroic giving and of real self-denial on behalf of world-wide missions. Why should more be required in this respect of the missionary than of the member of the home Church? “If I as a foreign missionary,” says Bishop Thoburn, “am expected to give up all things for the interests of the work, to count home and treasure and ease and personal comfort as nothing when the interests of the work are at stake, my brother in the United States who unhesitatingly assigns this standard of duty to me should be governed by a spirit precisely similar.” Christians should rise to a higher plane of sacrifice than exists in the Church today. They need to be reminded of the conditions of discipleship which Christ imposed and be willing to forsake all for His sake and the Gospel’s. Christian liberality stops short of the highest when it leads to no self-denial. Wherever the Christian wins the victory over selfishness and avarice and renounces the thought of centering his affections on this world as his home, there is developed world-conquering power. This call to self-denial and liberality comes to all who bear the name of Christ. To not a few it will mean to go out to preach Christ where He has not been named. To parents it will mean in many cases the giving up of children to the missionary service. To all who are unable to become missionaries it will mean giving generously of their substance, whether their possessions be little or great. Those who cannot go to the front should, if at all possible, support one or more substitutes there. Families should have their representatives on the foreign field. Each congregation of one hundred or more members should have, if possible, at least two ministers — a home pastor and another holding forth the word of life in some unevangelized land. If a Church cannot support its own missionary, two or more might unite for this purpose. This plan of having living links between the Christian communities at home and the mission fields is meeting with increasing favor. Each congregation should be ambitious to have some of the choicest young men and women in its membership become missionaries. Think of the inheritance to the churches they represented of names like Carey, Livingstone, Judson and Martyn. Rev. Hubert Brooke in a recent article’ tells of a church of 300 communicants in England which within the past decade had thirty-two of its members volunteer for foreign service of whom twenty have already gone to the field and three are in training. In other words, one in ten of the membership offered themselves and one in fourteen have actually gone out.
A loud call comes to the rich in this day of unexampled opportunity. They are in a position to hasten greatly the extension of Christ’s reign in mission lands. Has not the missionary enterprise reached a stage where large sums of money can be wisely expended upon it? The age of experimenting has passed. A science of missions based on one hundred years and more of experience is being developed. The leading missionary societies are conducted according to the principles and the methods which characterize all strong organizations. It is conceded that their funds are administered economically and wisely. Ex-President Harrison, in his opening address at the Ecumenical Missionary Conference, thus emphasized the desirability of large gifts to missions: “University endowments have been swelled by vast single gifts in the United States during the last few years. We rejoice in this. But may we not hope that in the exposition of the greater needs of the educational work in the mission fields . . . some men of wealth may find suggestion to endow great schools in mission lands? It is a great work to increase the candle power of our educational arc lights, but to give to cave dwellers an incandescent may be a better one.” There have been comparatively few conspicuously great gifts devoted to building up the Kingdom of Christ in less favored countries. Who can measure what might be accomplished toward the world’s evangelization if some of the rich disciples of Christ would, like Zinzendorf, devote their princely revenue and themselves to the promotion of this God-appointed work? Their time and thought will be fully as valuable and potent as their money. There is much force in the words of Mr. John H. Converse of the great commercial firm, the Baldwin Locomotive Works: “When business men apply to the work of missions the same energy and intelligence which govern in their commercial ventures, then the proposition to evangelize the world in this generation will be no longer a dream.”
The poor and those of moderate means, as well as the wealthy disciples of Christ, should give of their substance toward propagating the Gospel. A work of such extent and urgency calls for the participation of the entire Church of God. Special efforts should be put forth to train in habits of systematic, proportionate and self-denying giving the vast army of children in the Sunday schools and of young men and young women in the various young people’s movements of the Church. In this way a generation of intelligent and prayerful givers may soon be raised up who will carry forward the work in a manner commensurate with their opportunities. In a word, Christ summons all, old and young, rich and poor, to make their lives, including possessions, talents and influence, tell on the evangelization of the world.
The missionary church is a praying church. The history of missions is a history of prayer. Everything vital to the success of the world’s evangelization hinges on prayer. Are thousands of missionaries and tens of thousands of native workers needed? “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He send forth laborers into His harvest.” Is a vast increase in gifts required to prosecute adequately the enterprise? Prayer is the only power that will influence God’s people to give with purity of motive and with real sacrifice of self. Prayer alone will overcome the gigantic difficulties which confront the workers in every field. Nothing but prayer will strengthen the weak, tried and tempted native Christians, who have been raised up from lives of sin and degradation, and give them the evangelistic impulse. It is in answer to prayer that the Holy Spirit is poured out in mighty Pentecostal power on the workers and Christian communities in the far-off, needy fields. Hope and confidence should not be placed in the extent and perfection of organizations, nor in the experience which has been accumulated and the agencies and methods which have been devised in a long century of missions, nor in the unusual strength of the missionary body, nor in the multitude who have been gathered from every nation and race and faith into the native Church, nor in the wonderful resources and facilities of the home Church, nor in far-sighted and comprehensive plans, nor in enthusiastic forward movements and inspiring watchwords. It is easy to magnify human personality and agencies.
Prayer recognizes that God is the source of life and light and energy. Let methods be changed, therefore, if necessary, that prayer may be given its true place. Let there be days set apart for intercession; let the original purpose of the monthly concert of prayer for missions be given a larger place; let missionary prayer cycles be used by families and by individual Christians; let the best literature on prayer be circulated among the members of the Church; let special sermons on the subject of intercession be preached. By these and by all other practical means a larger, deeper, wider spirit of prayer should be cultivated in the churches. The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer. If added power attends the united prayer of two or three, what mighty triumphs there will be when hundreds of thousands of consistent members of the Church are with one accord day by day making intercession for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.
Mr. Robert E. Speer, in his pamphlet, “Prayer and Missions,” which has done so much to awaken the Church to prayer, goes to the heart of the subject: “The evangelization of the world in this generation depends first of all upon a revival of prayer. Deeper than the need for men; deeper, far, than the need for money; aye, deep down at the bottom of our spiritless life is the need for the forgotten secret of prevailing, world-wide prayer. . . The condition and consequence of such prayers as this is a new outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Nothing short of His own suggestion will prompt the necessary prayer to bring Him back again in power. Nothing short of His new outpouring will ever solve the missionary problems of our day.”
It is essential that the leaders of the Church in the home lands as well as on the mission field regard the evangelization of the world as a primary obligation and devote themselves to its accomplishment. The present attitude of the Church and the plans of her leaders are certainly not consistent with a deep conviction that in our day all men should be given an opportunity to know Jesus Christ. The great duty of the Church to disciple all nations should be recognized as the supreme question of the time. For over a century there has been pioneer work. The letter sent out to pastors in 1897 by the representatives of the mission boards of the United States and Canada rightly insists that “now the time has come for the Church of God to arise and gird itself for the conquest of the nations for Christ. Let us count this Divinely-given task as no longer a side issue, but as the chief object for which the Church exists.” Who can doubt for a moment that if the leaders of the Church at home really desired to have the world evangelized in this generation and set themselves to bring the hosts of God up to the task, it would be accomplished?
An enterprise which aims at the evangelization of the whole world in a generation, and contemplates the ultimate establishment of the Kingdom of Christ, requires that its leaders be Christian statesmen — men with far-seeing views, with comprehensive plans, with power of initiative and with victorious faith.
While the call to evangelize was addressed to the whole Church a special responsibility rests upon the home pastor because he has been divinely appointed to lead the forces. He holds a key position. If he lacks the missionary spirit; if he is not fully persuaded that the cause of missions is the cause of Christ Himself, his church will not be missionary. As the pastor so the people, is generally true in relation to this subject. It would be difficult if not impossible to find a case of a pastor deeply and actively interested in missions who has not met with a real response from a goodly number of his parishioners. “Let the pulpit give its proper place to the subject that was the vision of prophets, the song of sacred poets, the consolation of the Redeemer, the labor of apostles, the ingathering of the Gentiles; and missions would have a new standing in the Church, a fresh development in the world.” Where the pastor gives much missionary information to his people and systematically presses the claims of the world upon them, the people become missionary. His responsibility acquires added significance when it is remembered that the Church on the mission field will be a reflection of the Church in Christian lands. Its life will not reach and remain at a higher level than the life of the home congregations.
There are striking examples in all Christian countries showing what one pastor can accomplish who devotes himself with conviction and enthusiasm to the cause of the world’s evangelization.
The methods which such pastors have employed are reproducible by any pastor. The missionary pastor has abandoned the merely occasional missionary sermon, and makes missions the fiber and substance of his teaching. Much personal effort is put forth in his parish. The missionary work is thoroughly organized. Scriptural habits of giving are cultivated. The people are taught to offer continual prayer for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ. The awakening and maintaining of the spirit of prayer is recognized as the first duty. Missions have a prominent place in the pastor’s public prayers and this exerts a powerful indirect influence. Moreover, he gives himself much to prayer on behalf of the world. Here lies the secret of his enthusiasm and influence. It takes spiritual energy to stir up spiritual energy. Only fire kindles fire.
If we are to have more missionary pastors the subject of missions must receive larger attention in the theological seminaries. Chairs of missions should be established and filled only by men possessing both scientific attainments and a passion for the world’s evangelization. Students should be required to make an exhaustive study of the moral and religious condition of the unevangelized world, of the ground and history of missions, of the lives of great missionaries and of the methods of enlisting the fullest cooperation of the churches in the work of missions. Pastors should be taught to look on their churches, not only as a field to be cultivated, but also as a force to be wielded on behalf of the world’s evangelization. No student should be counted worthy to assume the duties of the ministry who has not acquired a world-wide horizon and who has not caught the real missionary spirit, that is, the spirit of Christ.
IX. The evangelization of the world in this generation as a watchword
The idea of evangelizing the world in a generation did not originate, as some have thought, with student volunteers for foreign missions. In substance, and often in practically the same phraseology, it has been urged in different generations by leaders of the Church both in Christian countries and on the mission fields. The Student Volunteer Movement, however, was the first body of Christians to adopt it as a watchword and to promote in an organized way its acceptance by all disciples of Christ.
The leaders of the Volunteer Movement in America and Britain in adopting the Watchword did not understand that in doing so they were making it binding on each volunteer. This they knew they had no authority to do. They did accept it, however, for themselves; and adopted it for the Movement in the sense of making it a great aim of the Movement, toward the realization of which they as leaders would seek to guide its forces. To this end they have, from the time of its adoption, had as a prominent part of their policy the leading of volunteers and all other Christians to take it as a personal watchword. As a result, not only many student volunteers, but a great number of other Christians have accepted the evangelization of the world in this generation as a controlling principle in their lives. In a word, then, it was made the watchword of a movement in order that it might more widely and more effectively be made the watchword of individual lives.
In actual use the Watchword has proved to be remarkably effective. This is due to the fact that it is at once concise, comprehensive, definite, instructive, Scriptural, striking and inspiring. Objection has been made to its wording on the ground that it needs explanation, but this might be said of almost every watchword which has influenced large numbers of men. Any great duty ever urged upon the Church has required and has received explanation and defense. That this is not without its advantages is suggested by the following words of the Bishop of Newcastle in his address at the London Student Conference. “For myself,” he said, “I think that it [the Watchword] did require, and that it has received, an adequate explanation. . . . It seems to me that you are perfectly justified in having a Watchword which challenges thought. If you had a Watchword which simply repeated a verse of Holy Scripture, I am afraid, that just as many familiar phrases are read and not realized, in like manner this Watchword might be passed over and not realized, too.”
The Student Volunteer Movement has derived many advantages from the use of the Watchword. It has helped to concentrate the convictions, desires and purposes of a great number of Christians on the work of the world’s evangelization. It has exerted a unifying influence among the volunteers. This means much in a movement which has become well nigh world-wide. As a rallying cry it has been of great value, affording a strong ground of appeal to men to become volunteers. It has attracted the attention of the Church, lifted its faith and moved it to greater sacrifice and prayerfulness. It has kept before the volunteers as well as other Christians the universality and urgency of their purpose. “It has imparted a steadiness of purpose, a unity of aim and a ringing note of hopefulness to the whole Union.”
The Watchword has exerted a most helpful influence in the lives of individual Christians. By emphasizing Christ’s command, it furnishes a powerful motive. By urging the responsibility comprised in a life time of service, it lends greater intensity to one’s missionary zeal and activity. It prevents unnecessary delay. It leads to the study of what is involved in the evangelization of the world in a generation. It calls out enterprise, self-sacrifice and heroism, and stimulates hopefulness and faith. It brings to the individual the inspiration which results from union with many others having the same ideal and purpose.
Many testimonies regarding the value of the Watchword to the life of the Christian might be given. A prominent Christian worker says: “In my life the Watchword has become a passion and a controlling force. It has kept me from confining my prayers and efforts to any one country. It has prevented me from magnifying a corner of the world-field out of its proper proportion. It has given me a truer perspective in service, a bolder faith in God, and a broader love for all evangelical Christian denominations; since the cooperation of all is necessary for the realization of the Watchword. Moreover, it has increased my love for the Lord who not only suffered and rose again from the dead, but also made it possible that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name by the Christians of each generation to the unevangelized of their generation.”
An Oxford man writes: “The Watchword has, I think, been the strongest call to consecration that has ever come to me. It does not of course set before us any standard or make upon us any demands which are not to be found in the love and commands of Jesus Christ. But it presents the ideal in such a definite and practical form as constantly to recall us from dreamily supposing that we are what we might be or are doing what we might do. We cannot reflect upon it without being startled from our apathy.”
A recent graduate of Harvard, engaged in teaching, gives the following testimony: “The Watchword has helped me to understand my own duty and that of the Church. In many ways it is like the divine command, ‘Be ye perfect.’ Once having heard its uncompromising imperative one can never be satisfied with a narrower view of the world, or of the work set for earnest men to do. It is not narrow or exclusive. Rather it gathers into a sentence the duty of all the ages, bids us remember the uttermost as well as the nearest parts of the earth, and gives renewed zeal in view of the urgent need and opportunity which it portrays.”
A worker among the young women of India, says: “At home the motto was to me a call to arms and the rallying cry of the ‘faithful.’ Since coming to the mission field, it has been to me that and much more. Face to face as never before with the powers of darkness, the motto has been a light shining in a dark place, forbidding despair and pointing to the glory which shall be revealed. For I believe with a deep faith that our motto is God-given and is but its own realization ‘casting its shadow before.’”
A Yale man now in Christian work among students writes as to the influence of the Watchword on his life: “It breaks down denominational and national barriers and makes me feel a part of a great and united army of young missionaries who are working for a common end under a common Master. It is a spur to attempt great things for God. It lifts one out of a lack of expectation, arising from looking merely at things seen, to behold and lay hold of the reality of the unseen plan and power of God.”
A Vanderbilt alumnus gives this expression as to the value of the “Watchword: “I wish to bear emphatic testimony to the influence of the Watchword of the Student Volunteer Movement upon my own life. It was not possible for me to get to the foreign field within over fourteen years after my decision to go. During these long years of waiting there was no end of forces to weaken one’s conviction of duty to the unevangelized world. This conviction the Watchword, on the other hand, intensified and did much to make a permanent and the controlling influence in my life. But the Watchword has never meant so much to me as since my arrival on the foreign field. The splendid vision of the Watchword is a needed inspiration in the face of the awful discouragements of mission work among the heathen and the call to urgency is a much needed spur to natural lethargy and conservatism.”
An Edinburgh medical graduate affirms: “The Watchword has carried into my prayer life a thought of urgency which was not often in my mind so concretely before. … It has supplied a concrete aim which has been operative in my thought when considering expenditure upon myself. It has served as a valuable point of appeal to others — arousing attention, stimulating investigation, stirring prayer and sacrifice. It has united me to many — known and unknown — holding the same ideal, and has thus brought me all the inspiration peculiar to a unity of purpose with many others. It has supplied a principle which has been a test of a very definite kind to my purpose, practices and aims.”
It is hoped that missionary societies and other Christian organizations may accept the Watchword, not only as expressive of the duty of the Christians of the present generation, but also as one of their points of missionary policy. In the last analysis, however, the Watchword must be made the watchword of individual Christians, if it is to be realized. The Watchword must be regarded and treated by each Christian as though he were the only one to whom it had come. It belongs to each one to give himself to the evangelization of the world in his day with such energy and faith that, if a sufficient number of Christians could be induced to do likewise, the task would be achieved. No one should wait for the whole Church, or, indeed for any others, to realize their obligation and attempt to discharge it; but if he feels the pressure of the facts and recognizes the hand of God in this enterprise, he should throw himself into its accomplishment. Responsibility is individual, nontransferable, urgent. However much one may hide behind the attitude and practice of the general body of Christians, either of his own or of other generations, at the judgment seat of Jesus Christ he must stand and be judged by what he himself did to serve his own generation.
It should be reiterated that responsibility for the world’s evangelization rests alike upon all Christians, and not merely upon students or any other special class or order. Its promotion is no more the duty and privilege of those who go to the mission field and of those who administer the work at home than it is of other Christians.
Each Christian should be on his guard lest he be deflected or hindered from discharging his responsibility to the unevangelized. The number of heathen, the serious combination of difficulties on the mission field, the lethargy and indifference of so many Christians, the lack of active interest among one’s own associates, should not be allowed to keep any Christian from saying, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians” and, therefore, “as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” (Rom. 1:14, 15)
What is involved in taking as one’s personal watchword the evangelization of the world in this generation? Far more than mere intellectual assent to the idea and nominal acceptance of it. More even than earnest belief in it and strong desire to see it realized. Knowledge, emotion and resolution are not substitutes for action. It is very dangerous for a man to become intellectually converted to a great idea and not practically. Nothing less is meant than making the Watchword a commanding influence in each man’s life.
There are several particulars in which the Watchword should govern the Christian. In deciding upon his life work the Christian must let the Watchword have its true place, and not be afraid to settle the question in the light of the opportunity and obligation to make Christ known to all men. He should be ambitious to enter that particular work and field in which his life will count most for the world’s evangelization. This decision, made conscientiously and fearlessly, will result in not a few going out to unevangelized lands as ambassadors for Christ. Others will be led to work in Christian countries as ministers and laymen, but for the same purpose — to give all mankind the opportunity to know Christ. The vital matter is that a man be willing and anxious to work where God wants him to work. If he is not willing to serve Christ everywhere he cannot serve Him rightly anywhere. The Watchword should influence also a man’s preparation for his life work. The fact that the undertaking is difficult as well as extensive and urgent demands thorough preparation on the part of all who would do most to accomplish it.
The Christian who has taken the Watchword as a factor in his life will make a study of the great subject of world-wide missions. By regular and careful reading of missionary literature and in other ways he will seek to understand all that is involved in the realization of the Watchword, and to ascertain how he can do most to promote its realization.
The religion of Christ should be a great reality in the life of every man who adopts such a watchword. How inconsistent and unreal it would be to urge preaching Christ as the sufficient Saviour and rightful Lord of all men and yet not know Him in personal experience day by day as a triumphant Saviour and as the actual Master of one’s life. There is no more direct or effectual way to hasten the evangelization of the world than to give Christ the absolute right of way in one’s own life and to be filled and energized by His Spirit.
The Watchword summons the man who would come under its sway to a life of self-sacrifice. He must give up personal ease. His time must be economized for study, prayer and work on behalf of missions. By real self-denial, as well as by thrift and faithful stewardship, he will make his money exert the maximum of influence on the extension of the Kingdom of Christ.
Everyone who feels pressed in spirit by this Watchword must also realize that he is called to a life of prayer. Like Eliot and Brainerd and Martyn and Pastor Harms he must know what it is to devote long hours to prayer. A missionary movement which would evangelize the world in this generation must acquire great momentum; and this can result only from more Christians giving themselves to the ministry of intercession.
The Christian who adopts this Watchword must devote himself with intensity and enthusiasm to its realization. He must not be satisfied with the little which he is now doing but only in doing all that he can. Let him be profoundly in earnest or else take some other watchword. Every mighty achievement in the history of the Church has been a triumph of men of genuine enthusiasm. Real Christian enthusiasm is not a product of the energy of the flesh, but of the Spirit of the living God. Such enthusiasm is constant, undiscourageable, contagious and irresistible.
If this Watchword has come to be a power and inspiration in one’s life, it is one’s duty to press it upon others. One of the best ways to insure its realization is to carry on a constant propaganda among Christians for the express purpose of influencing them to let it become a governing factor in their lives. If the Church is to be deeply moved by this idea, many, both ministers and laymen, by public addresses, by articles in the press and by conversation in the circles in which they move from day to day, must give themselves to its advocacy. From among them surely God will raise up some whom He will use mightily in rousing the Church to go forth to evangelize the world. It is impossible to measure what might be done by a few men who, catching a vision of the world evangelized, yield themselves wholly to God to be used by Him to realize the vision. Was it not one man, Peter the Hermit, who stirred all Christendom to unexampled sacrifice of property and life to rescue the Holy City from the Moslems? Did not God use Carey alone to awaken a sleeping Church and usher in the marvelous modern missionary era? Was it not Clarkson who was instrumental in quickening the conscience of a whole nation to abolish the slave trade? Was it not Howard who, also single-handed and alone, laid bare before the eyes of the world the sad state and suffering of the prisoners of different lands and brought about reforms for the amelioration of their condition? So today, let not one, or a few, but many of those in all lands and among all races who acknowledge Christ as King arise and resolve, at whatever cost, to devote their lives to leading forward the hosts of God to fill the whole world with a knowledge of Christ in this generation.