John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

An address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi online

. (page 14 of 31)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 14 of 31)
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our final harvest. It is a glorious work. And your memo-
rials of it are here most appropriate and striking.

But the peculiar purpose of this day's celebration leads us
all to a consideration of the history connected with it. Every
class of Christians in this country must acknowledge their
obligations to the noble Association whose missionary work
is particularly remembered here. It was the first, the orig-
inal foreign missionary work in our land, and it gave induce-
ment and reason for all the rest. We also acknowledge'^ in
the Episcopal Church, our engagement in the great work to
have been excited and awakened by it. But I cannot forget,
either, the obligations under which that Society is to the pre-
vious efforts of the Church of England. I remember Dr.
Porter, of Andover, said in his sermon before the American
Education Society, in a beautiful reference to this subject, —
" Had not her Home, with trumpet tongue, aroused the ener-
gies of a slumbering Church, and her Buchanan lifted the
pall which covered the millions of India, your Millses and
your Warrens would never have set foot on pagan ground."
This is a work in which all the people of God are so inter-
woven and united together, that it is very difficult to strike
the proportion of their mutual obligations. The past has
been thus far most encouraging and triumphant. The pros-
pect of the future is still more so. We have a range of
openings before us, and an accumulation of opportunities
for successful exertion, which will tax all the energies of the
whole Christian body. Let us be faithful, earnest, and
united in the work before us. This dim but cheerful day
is a happy emblem for us. If it is not clear sunshine, neither
is it darkness. And rich and full clouds of blessings are
hanging over us, ready to fertilize and bless our whole scene
and labors.


I was much interested in the prospective views of the
problem to be solved by us, as presented by the orator of
this day. I acknowledge with him the importance of spread-
ing a Christian civilization, and of not dissevering Christian-
ity from civilization. I will not deny that there is a danger
of this separation, against which we are to guard. But I
much more fear the confounding of the two, and the mistak-
ing of civilization for Christianity. I think there is an alarm-
ing tendency to this — a disposition to look at the temporal
elevation of a savage community, and a melioration of the
outward and social evils of the present life, as a real exten-
sion and operation of the Gospel. The preacher at home,
and the missionary abroad, are both exposed to this delusion ;
and we must guard against it. Let us never mistake the
progress of outward advancement in the present life, for that
real conversion of soul which is still indispensable for the
salvation of another. The slumbers of the sinful soul can-
not be "awakened by the snorting of the iron horse." I
would agree to the importance of spreading what our orator
has called "a model kitchen." And since he says he knows
a woman who could show them how to work it, I will say I
know one too, for I have tried her for these near five-and-
twenty years. Christian female influence, in all its depart-
ments, is most important in our work. But I would espe-
cially have that influence which David says is " bubbling up
of a good matter, and speaks of the things concerning the
King," as naturally and as easily as the steam arises from the
spout of her own tea-kettle in the model kitchen. We can-
not overvalue the importance of Christian family influence.
I have wondered that no speaker to-day has thought of Mills's
answer to his father's remonstrance against his missionary
plans : " Father, your prayers have led me to it."

But we must watch especially over a pure and simple mes-
sage of the life-giving Gospel. The word of power, the
word which giveth life to the soul, is the message of a cruci-
fied Christ — " the faithful saying^ that Christ Jesus came into


the world to save sinners ; " that which the dying Dr. Alex-
ander said was now " all his theology." We want a far more
simple and constant preaching of the Gospel every where.
And this is especially the missionary message. Let our mis-
sionary societies urge and guard this point with increasing
earnestness. We shall never triumph in our Master's cause
but in preaching simply our Master's word. This is the
message which the Holy Ghost will bless for the conversion
of the world, and this alone. My judgment of the solution
of our problem would be, to call back the whole Christian
Church to the Acts of the Apostles, and send the message
out again in the simplicity of Christ, and with the demonstra-
tion of the power of the Holy Ghost ; and then expect and
allow all possible advancement of civilization to follow in the
train of this divine truth. I hope I may not be considered
wanting in respect, in this expression of opinion. But I felt,
while I listened to the earnest eloquence of to-day, that there
Avas a danger of mistake on that other side also, which ought
not to be forgotten. In listening to-day to the interesting
history of the haystack meeting, my mind recalled a similar
meeting which was held at Andover in 1811. On a Fast day,
six young men, members of the Academy, went together dur-
ing the hour's intermission into a wood behind the Old South
meeting-house, and there, around an old stump of a tree, knelt
down together in united prayer. The meeting was without
forethought or appointment. These young men had no par-
ticular connection with each other. But their history has
been interesting in their subsequent course. They were
Samuel Green, who early died in the ministry at Boston ;
Daniel Temple, who passed his ministry in the Mediterra-
nean, and a few years since came home to die at Woburn, in
the room in which he was born ; Asa Cummings, so long the
editor of the Christian Mirror, who has lately departed in
the State of Maine ; William Goodcll, now the faitliful and
beloved missionary in Constantinople ; Alva Woods, late
President of the University of Alabama, and Professor in


Brown University ; and myself, still surviving — that is, four
Congregationalists, a Baptist, and an Episcopalian. We knelt
together in love and prayer on that day. We have tried, I
trust, to glorify our common Master in our different minis-
tries since. All of us have ministered the Gospel of the
Lord Jesus Christ according to our opportunities, I humbly
trust, acceptably in his sight. And thus, when our earthly
work shall have been completed, I doubt not we shall meet
in perfect harmony and love before his throne. There may
we all meet, to give all the glory of our work to Him who
sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.
And I am persuaded. Sir, that the more we cultivate this
spirit of union and love, the more we shall imitate our Mas-
ter's pattern, and the happier, and the holier, and the more
useful we shall be in his service. The promotion of this
spirit, I trust, will be one of the tendencies of the celebration
of this day.

The following lines, composed for the occasion
by Mrs. Mary Benjamin, widow of the late Nathan
Benjamin, long a missionary at Constantinople,
were then sung to the tune of the Missionary

Just fifty years are numbered,

Since, where we meet to-day,
A little band of Christians

Were gathered oft to pray ;
A youthful band and feeble.

Nor wealth nor fame was theirs ;
Yet here with God they wrestled,

And mighty were their prayers.

No earthly schemes or wishes

Those young disciples swayed,
And led their feet so frequent

To seek this quiet shade ;


But deep within their bosoms,
A holy flame burned bright,

Which soon 'round earth's broad circle
Should shed its glorious light.

The love that moved the Saviour,

That drew him from the sky,
Moved them with tenderest pity.

O'er heathen woes to sigh ;
They yearned with quenchless ardor,

Their Master's steps to tread,
And bear his parting message

To lands with death o'erspread.

Now pause we here a moment

That sacred group to see ;
Not bending 'neath the covert

Of some o'erarchiag tree ;
A haystack forms their shadow,

From careless eyes to screen.
Their roof 's the clear blue heaven,

Their carpet, earth's broad green.

Do not glad angels hover

On folded wing around ?
Bends not the Saviour's presence

Above this hallowed ground ?
Are not the prayers here uttered.

So fervent and sincere.
Breathed from each pleader's spirit

Into his listening ear ?

Where 's now that band of brothers ?

Some found an early grave
Afar from home and kindred,

Where India's palm trees wave ;
But Ocean's pitying surges

A requiem long have wept
Above the dreary chamber

Where Mills's dust has slept.


Let us inscribe their tablet

In holy thoughts and aim,
In high and earnest effort

To spread the Saviour's name ;
To keep the sacred beacon

They kindled, burning bright.
Till lesser flames shall vanish

In full Millennial light.

! watch there not around us

A glorious train to-day,
Of those who caught their mantle

And walked their holy way ?
And hear we not their voices

Call us from sloth to rise,
To follow in their footsteps,

And meet them in the skies ?

Mr. Field. " The Commonwealth of Massachu-
setts, the venerable mother of noble men and noble
institutions, is represented here by one of her
former Governors, himself an example of her best
sons. Emory Washburn, of Worcester, an alum-
nus of this institution, will now, I trust, let us
hear something from him, on behalf of his State."
Hon. Emory Washburn, LL. D., then replied :

Mr. Chairman : — In yielding to your call to say some-
thing in behalf of Massachusetts, I feel half inclined to
complain that she has been postponed to the Empire State,
after the eloquent address from one of her most gifted sons,
to which we have just hstened with so much dehght. [Dr.
Tyng. The gentleman ought to remember that he is alluding
to one as much a native of Massachusetts as himself] — I
accept the correction, Mr. Chairman; but it by no means
relieves my embarrassment, when I remember that I am
obliged to follow a gentleman who, like yourself, has added


to the native qualities of a Massachusetts man the training
and accomplishments of the great metropolis of our country. ,

But, Sir, standing upon this spot, surrounded by its
hallowed associations, with all the memories which the day
and the occasion are calculated to awaken, one can hardly
keep silent in the presence of this crowded assembly, even
at the hazard of doing injustice to the subject and himself.

No one can contemplate, for a moment, the history of the
missionary enterprise in this country, without being struck
by the economy of divine Providence in the instruments by
which the great work of Christianizing the Pagan world was
here conceived and undertaken. Friendless, feeble, unknown
to the world, yet urged on by a power and an inspiration of
which history only here and there furnishes examples, they
gave the first impulse to an enterprise, compared with which
the conquests of an Alexander or a Genghis Khan were but
the work of a day. It was Providence working out anew its
great designs, by the humblest of instrumentalities. It was
Moses tending Jethro's flock on Mount Horeb. It was a
son of Zebedee casting his net upon the Sea of Galilee. It
was Peter the Hermit at the Council of Clermont.

And as we trace the progress of this enterprise, we are
struck by the mighty truth that, few and feeble as were the
men who went forth in what the world looked upon as a
vain efibrt to arouse the nations of heathendom., they were
able to accomplish what could never have been done by the
entire nation itself, with all its treasures and navies and
armies. They meddled not with the power of crowned
heads. They threatened no revolution by violence. They
awakened no jealousies of the civil power. They penetrated
where our armies could not march. They planted institu-
tions, and reared the fruits of moral culture, among nations
which war might decimate, but could never conquer into

I know it is often asked. What have our missionaries, in
fact, accomplished ? Where are the fruits of so much labor,


and so much treasure expended ? As if old nations were
to be educated, old prejudices eradicated, old superstitions
banished in a day ! Let me compare this missionary enter-
prise with some of the most renowned schemes of ambition
which are recorded on the pages of history, and see with
how much truth men speak of failure and disappointment
in view of it. There is a coincidence, at least in time,
between it and one of these historic events, that must strike
the most casual observer.

In the memorable year 1812, on the 24th of February,
that treaty was entered into between Bonaparte and Prussia,
that had for its object the conquest of Russia with its sixty
millions of people. Five days only previous to that event,
two young men embarked, with their wives, at Salem, to go
forth as soldiers of the cross to war with the powers of
darkness among the hundred millions that thronged the
plains and cities of the East. Each were preparing for a war
of conquest ; one by the sword, the other by the Bible.

Let us follow, for a moment, the career of these two
forces, if indeed one of them be not too powerless to be put
in contrast with the other. It is the 23d of June. The
united armies of France and Spain, of Italy and Germany,
are assembled on the banks of the Neimen. Language fails
to describe, in adequate terms, the splendor and magnificence
of that array of armed men. Five hundred thousand of the
choicest troops in the world, who had gathered laurels at
the Pyramids, or at Wagram and Austerlitz and Jena, are
to pass that river on the morrow, with pennons flying, with
arms glittering in the sunlight, and, moving at the measure
of bugle and trumpet and swelling note of martial music,
under the lead of the greatest soldier the world had ever
seen, resolved upon conquest and victory. Six days only
before that, the little vessel that bore Newell and Judson let
go her anchor in the harbor of Calcutta. On the shore of
the Neimen stood a few scattered troops of Russia, to oppose
the passage of the grand army. On the shore of India


stood a Christian Governor, backed by the whole power of
the East India Company, to repel the invasion of these two
tempest-tost, toil-worn missionaries of the cross.

Now, Sir, let us close the volume of history here, and
read from the lessons of human experience the fate of these
two expeditions. Victory has undoubtedly again perched
upon the standard of this conqueror in a hundred battles,
while discomfiture and defeat only await this wild and vis-
ionary scheme of overthrowing the idols of a pagan world.

I open that volume again, at the end of eight months. It
is February, 1813. One of the two whom we had left at
Calcutta, after escaping to the Isle of France, where that
noble-hearted wife, so worthy to be the pioneer in the
mission cause, had put on the robes of immortality, has at
last returned and set down, solitary and alone, to begin his
work amidst the thronging dwellers in Ceylon.

But where is that army that, eight months ago, had en-
tered the Russian emphe, to conquer and possess it ? I look
for it in vain. Scattered, broken, discomfited, destroyed,
the last straggler of all that mighty host has followed in their
retreat the scarce twenty thousand panic-stricken wretches,
whom cold and hunger and the sword of the Cossack have
spared to tell their dismal tale of sufiering and defeat.

This brief chapter of the history of a single year, needs no
comment to enforce its own moral. Nor does it stop here.
I look again for that leader and his army, and I see him
brought home from his prison, in the midst of the ocean, to
repose in state beneath the dome of the church of the Inva-
lids, while here and there some old and decrepid soldier of
his grand army is listlessly sittmg and musing over the mem-
ories of the past.

I turn, again, to the other of these two enterprises ; and
though the early pioneers in the work are sleeping. Mills in
the bosom of the mighty deep, some beneath the palm groves
of India, and some in the green valleys of the Pacific isles,
I see the enterprise which they inaugurated still going on in


triumph. It has become the enterprise of the age, while yet
some of its early champions are spared to witness its widen-
ing field of influence and success. I cast my eyes over the
field of missionary operations, and I find nearly seven hun-
dred laborers stationed in more than one hundred and eighty
different localities, under the guidance of a Board possessing
neither official rank nor power, who in 1812 could command
an income of only twelve thousand dollars, now wielding a
revenue greater than that of some of the European States,
and making their cause felt and respected in every quarter of
the globe. Well, then, may the sons of Williams dedicate
this spot to the memory of their associates. Mills and Rich-
ards and Hall. Well may American Christians gather
around it. Well may the returned missionary come up
hither, to rekindle his zeal, and renew his vows of fidelity
in the work in which he is engaged. We rear here, it is
true, no monument of art. The men and the occasion need
none. This scene, this spot, are in far better harmony as
monuments, than bronze or marble, though moulded by the
hand of art and genius. The leaf-buds, in yonder grove,
where those pioneers met and prayed, bursting, when the
winter is over, into the rich verdure of Summer, and putting
on, at length, the gorgeous livery of Autumn with its ripen-
ing fruits, are far more fitting emblems of that enterprise
whose earliest bud was developed here, but the last of whose
immortal fruits shall be gathered only when the Cross shall
wave in triumph over a redeemed world.

Mr. Field. " Napoleon once said that Constan-
tinople was the centre of the world. The Ameri-
can Board has done well to make it a missionary
station, and we shall hear of it from one of its
missionaries, the Rev. Elias Riggs, who has been
there in the service. That city has been the centre
of vast naval and military operations during the


past two years, and great results have followed
from them. But of all the influences at work
among the eastern populations, that of the Chris-
tian missionary is certainly none of the least, and
time, I think, will show that it is one of the
greatest." Rev. Elias Riggs, D. D., of Constan-
tinople, who for twenty-four years has been a
missionary to the Armenians, then said :

Mr. Chairman : — ^^Vhen the ancient people of God had
been brought safely to the eastern shore of the Red Sea,
there went up a joyous song from the thousands of Israel,

•' Sing ye unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously ;
The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea."

But before they could be permitted to sing that song of
triumph, they must stand in very different circumstances on
the western shore of the same sea. Behold them there, in
straits and terror; a mountain barrier on their right, the
wilderness on their left, the sea before them, and the chariots
and horsemen of Pharaoh behind ! But what was the word
of the Lord by Moses to that terror-stricken host ? " Stand
still, and see the salvation of our God, which he will show
you to-day."

Similar has been the experience of the mission with which
it is my privilege to be connected ; in the beginning, straits,
anxieties and dangers; subsequently, enlargement, deliver-
ance and rejoicing ; and at every step we could only say, " It
is the Lord's doing."

We have, indeed, been permitted, and we account it our
highest privilege, to work together with Him ; to preach the
glorious gospel, to translate and publish the Bible, tracts and
evangelical books, and to train some " faithful men who may


be able to teach others also." But after all, we have felt,
and have often exclaimed, that the work was of God. One
illustration of this truth is found in the fact, that the most
rapid development of the great reformation going on among
the Armenians, has been at some of our newest stations.
The largest church and the largest congregation, within the
bounds of our mission, are at Aintab, a city two days' jour-
ney north of Aleppo, and scarcely known to our churches in
this country, until recently, even by name. Well do I
remember when, in our mission meeting at Constantinople,
only nine or ten years ago, discussing the subject of occu-
pying that station, we seriously doubted whether the first
missionary should venture to reside in that wild and appa-
rently unsafe region, or should take up his residence at
Aleppo, and reach over as best he might, and labor at arm's
length for the dwellers in Aintab ! And now, what do we
see ? In that same place, although the first missionary who
went there was driven away with stoning, there is now a
living church of one hundred and sixty-seven members, in
the judgment of charity new creatures in Christ Jesus, a
stated congregation of seven hundred or eight hundred, and
a church edifice capable of containing a thousand hearers,
and often filled to overfiowing with serious and attentive
listeners to the words of eternal life !

The question has been asked whether the progress of the
recent war affected the missionaries or their work unfavorably.
To this I reply, that personally we were not exposed to dan-
ger. We looked on and saw the immense preparations of
the alhed powers. We saw the passage of fleets and armies
to the scene of combat. We witnessed reviews of the allied
forces, and saw their regiments depart in their completeness
and pride ; and in some instances we saw their shattered
fragments retiu'n after the campaign. But in the immediate
vicinity of the capital there was no fighting. In respect to
our work I should say that, on the whole, the progress of the


war rather promoted than hindered it, and that in many ways
which time forbids me even to enumerate.

You have heard. Sir, with interest and with hope, of the
pubhcation of an edict last Spring, by the Sultan of Turkey,
announcing a variety of reforms in the administration of his
government, and especially proclaiming the principle of
entire religious toleration. All these reforms were proposed
by the Ambassadors of Great Britain, France and Austria,
and accepted and adopted by the government of Turkey.
When some of my associates called, soon after the promul-
gation of that edict, on Lord Stratford de RedclifFe, the
British Ambassador, to congratulate him on the success of
his efforts in the cause of religious liberty, he evinced sincere
and profound emotion ; and, raising his hands toward heaven
in thankful acknowledgment, said, " God has done it."
" When," said he, " we proposed those twenty points of
reform, I anticipated that some of them would be accepted,
some rejected, and some debated and delayed ; in short, that
we should see some progress. But they were all adopted,
without exception and without delay. God has done it."

I need not add, Sir, that we heartily sympathize in this
view with the honored representative of Great Britain, Avhose
untiring efforts have been given for so many years to the
cause of religious liberty in Turkey.

One of the reforms inaugurated by the recent edict, is the
admission of the testimony of non-mussulmans in courts of
justice. Hitherto the murderer even, might escape the ven-
geance due to his crime, if only he were a Mohammedan
and the witnesses against him not. I have myself known
an instance of this kind. But an escape from justice on such
technical grounds will no longer be tolerated.

But, Sir, towering high above all the other points in
importance, stands the grand principle of religious liberty.
The edict plainly declares that no man shall be molested on
account of tiis religious opinions, or on account of changing


his religion. And here permit me to remark, that an error
has been committed in the French and English versions of
the very sentence of this edict, more important than all the
rest put together. In those translations that sentence is
made tamely to read, " No man shall be compelled to change
his religion." And many of our English and American
editors have said, after reading the document, that the death
penalty was not expressly abrogated. Now the fact is that
the original Turkish of this passage reads literally thus :

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottAn address to the Christian public, especially to the ministers and members of the Presbyterian, Reformed Dutch, and Congregational churches, throughout the United States : on the subject of the proposed union between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the United Foreign Mi → online text (page 14 of 31)