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 22 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 22 of 31)
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missionary fund, feels sacredly bound to put forth its best efforts


to raise its proportion, yet if in this generous rivalry to extend the
triumphs of our common missionary work, either body, by greater
wealth or numbers, or a longer course of benevolent training,
should have the honor and privilege of doing most to fill the
eoramon treasury, should not this generous preeminence, next to
love to the cause, become a powerful motive to bring up the
corresponding body, as fast and as far as possible, to an equal
liberality ?

9. While each branch of our church should deeply feel that she
has a grand mission to perform, and a large denominational devel-
opment to secure in a country like ours, large enough to form four
hundred and fifty States as large as Massachusetts, and capable of
sustaining five hundred millions of people when as densely popu-
lated as England, may we not feel fully assured that these high
responsibilities can be most fully met by both denominations, by
the largest development of the purely lenevolent^ unselfish, andwT?.-
sectarian spirit of Christ and his Gospel, in our great united and
fraternal missionary work for the salvation of our country and the
conversion of the world ? Though it is quite possible that for a
limited time each denomination, by separate missionary action,
stimulated by an intense denominationalism, might extend itself
over more missionary territory, and number more weak mission-
ary churches than by our united action, yet who can doubt for
a moment, that our present plan of building up churches pre-
eminently, and first of all for Christ — to do good and save
souls — leaving each church formed to its unbiased denomina-
tional preference, will, in the long run, be sure to fill our frontier
settlements most speedily with strong and efficient churches,
giving a corresponding efficiency and moral power to the asso-
ciated denominations which have established them?

10. Having for near half a century gloried in the catholicity of our
home and foreign missionary operations, and gathered rich bar-


vests from our united efforts, under the smiles of an approving
Providence, shall we now, at the middle of the nineteenth century,
and at the near approach of the millennium, prove recreant to all
our former blessed experience, hoist the sectarian standard, and
turn our foces towards the dark ages?

11. While all our churches have a deep, general interest in con-
tinued missionary union, our frontier settlements have special
reasons for desiring such action, as the formation of small churches
of Presbyterians and Congregatignalists, where it is desired,
according to the preference of the majority, will give them strong
churches, with pastors, most sjieedily and with the smallest expense;
will enable the growing communities of the West soon to gratify
their preference by having two strong churches instead of one.
Having both a Congregational and Presbyterian parent, these small
churches will be able to go to New England, as well as New York
and Philadelphia, for sympathy and aid, so far as is indispensably
necessary in the extension of their Home Missionary work ; and
having been generously aided in establishing their own churches
by the united assistance of our two bodies, they will be the more
ready to carr\^ the same united Christianity, as soon as able, to
*' the regions beyond."

12. Though some of our best men, in view of our late tendencies
to alienation and division, have, in hours of despondency, had .
doubts as to the practicability of our acting together much longer
in the missionary work, and a few have attempted, we are sorry
to sa}^, to estimate the inestimable value of our blessed union, yet
confident hope and expectation of a long and glorious future of
fraternal labor and success together springs up in their bosoms,
when they remember that, afier all, nearly all the churches and
ministers of these denominations are strongly in favor of continued
union, and intend to hold on to it ; know no doctrinal difference
between the two churches : stand on the same revival and theo-


logical basis ; have an affectionate regard for both their Presbyte-
rian and Congregational mother (many of them having been
nursed in the lap of both). Can such beloved sister churches
divide, refuse to walk together, when so fully agreed in all
the great vital elements of Christian union ; when that union
is their strength ; when Christ has given to them such a
glorious, united mission for tbe conversion of our land and
the world ; when the great Held is everywhere white for the
harvest; when our great enemy stands ready to divide and
conquer ; when the painful disruption of the Old and New
School is fresh in their memory ; when multitudes of warm mis-
sionary hearts are now deprecating the evils of incipient aliena-
tions and collisions, and are imploring the God of peace for the
perpetuity of our union ; when popery, infidelity, atheism, ration-
alism, and a mighty emigration from the Old World are com-
ing in upon us like a flood, and are summoning our united hosts
around the standard of the cross ; when, in answer to tbe united
petitions of our churches, our faith can already anticipate the
bursting out of glorious revivals, as in other days, which shall
burn up our " wood, hay, and stubble ;" reunite all hearts in the
strong bonds of our ancient confidence and brotherhood, and give
a new power to our beloved Congregational and Presbyterian Zion,
in extending the triumph of the Gospel over the world ?

The subscribers regard this as only a brief and very imperfect
sugggestive argument for peace and union, which we trust will be
followed by others more fully amplified and perfected, by both
our clerical and lay brethren in different parts of our country, and
by the religious press of our denominations.

FisuEK Howe, Albert Wooduuff,

GuEDON BuRcnAira, Homer Morgan,

Charles Butler, Charles A. Buckley,

David Hoadley, Jas. K, Taylor,


Wm. a. Booth,


Wm. a. Wheeler,
Anson G. Phelps,
George W. Phelps,
A. R. V/etmore,

A. Merwin,

0. E. Kingsbury,

B. P. Sherman,

J. W. Weed, M.D.,
A. S. Ball, M.D.,
J. W. Benedict,
Sidney Sanderson,
0. H. Lee,
Jared Linsly, M.D.,
Abijah Fisher,
L. S. Benedict,
Thomas Denney,
H.. E. Morrill, M.D.,
(jROWELL Adams,

C. P. Baldwin,

A. D. F. Randolph,
J. B. Fanning,
H. N. Beers,
John D. McCreary,
E. 0. Wilcox,
S. H. Wales,
R. R. Graves,
M. D. Thomas,
Lucius Hart,
Andrew Wesson,

Henry' Mills,
J. C. Halsey, M.D.,
Thos. S. Nason,
L. Jackson,
A. G. Benson,
John F. Trow,
A. S. Barnes,
J. R. Sacket,
Erastus Graves,
Isaac N. Judson,
Robert Perry,
S. W. Stebbins,
John J. Perry,
Hugh Aikman,
J. M. Frisbie,
James W. Dunning,
J. W. Camp,

J. C. HiNES,

J. W. Hayes,
R. J. Dodge,
E. C, Chapin,
Malan Hewit,
H. W. Ripley,
R. M. Hartley,
Wm, Himrod,
B. W. Mirriam,
H. Griffin,
R. J. Thorne,
Thomas S. Nelson,
Wm. D. Porter,
Abm. Baldwin,


Wm. E. Dodge,
Alfred Edwards,
A. B. Lane,
Henry C. Porter,
E. B. Brown,
Wm. W. Hurlbut,
E. M. Corning,
Lucius E. Clark,
James Warren, M.D„
Roe Lockwood,

H. 0. PiNNEO,

Geo. W. Snow,
Wm. Faxon,
Richard Bigelow,
Samuel E. Warren,
Wm. W. Bliss,
Richard D. Kimball,
Wm. Vail.

Curtis Noble,
Chas. a. Davidson,
Alfred Smith,
D. 0. Caulkins,
J. B. Thompson,
Aug. 0. Van Lennep,
Frederick Bull,
Cornelius Smith,
S. N. Stebbins,
H. S. Dorr,
Samuel C. Hills,
Lorenzo Snow,
R. D. Lathrop,
J. W. Bartholomew,
Isaac W. Jones,
Lewis E. Jackson,
Samuel E. Warner.


[From the Boston Review for May, 1862. J

1. Memo7'ial Volume of the First Fifty Years of the American
Board of Coynmissioners for Foreign Missions. Fifth Edi-
tion. Boston : 1862. 8vo. pp. 464.

2. TJie Christian Examiner. _JMarch, 1862. Art. VII. The
American Board.

3. The North American Review. April, 1862. Art. IX.
Memorial Volume of the American Board, &c.

4. The American Quarterly Church Review and Ecclesiastical
Register. January, 1862. Art. II. The American Board
of Foreign Missions and the Oriental Churches.

Is Christianity better than heathenism ? Are the Gospels
above the Vedas ? Is Christ more than Confucius, and the
Holy Spirit more than the "Great Spirit" ? These questions
arose unbidden as we read the " Christian 'Examiner's " article
on the "Memorial Volume" of the American Board. What
could the volume be that suggested such a review ? We had not
yet opened it. What could be the critic's critical or Christian
stand-point to see and say such things ? We at ^nce procuiEied
the Memorial, and read it from preface to appendix, «K0§sJ^en
again read the " Examiner." We cannot see how it has said
so much, and yet so little about the book, failed so totally ta
grasp it and the topics of which it makes record, and yet found
so many items and phrases to set in quotation marks and sur-
round with unamiable sayings.

" Rev. Rufus Anderson has produced a cold and calculating
official report, — a painful blue-book." (Examiner, p. 273.}

2 TJie American Board and its Reviewers.

It was not the object of the author to write a history of the
Board. He sought calmly and correctly to put on record in a
memorial, its origin, constitution, and relations ; and to give an
intelligent idea of its meetings, correspondence, finances, agen-
cies, ofl&cers, missionaries, churches, schools, deputations, fields
of labor, principles and policies of working, and resultant liter-
ature. A versatile talent and style of writing, felicitous as it is
varied, has attained this object, and we think that a heart warm
with desire to give the heathen nations to Christ, their Redeemer,
will not find the work a cold report.

The reviewer (and we think it but justice to a fair-minded
and classic periodical to say the reviewer rather than the
"Christian Examiner") speaks of "the odious elements of the
spirit of the board," always striving "to make a fair show in
the flesh ; " but the ground of such a reference to so noble an
institution does not appear. We class it with expressions like
the following ; others can perceive as well as ourselves the
ground and the spirit of them : " Dr. Anderson avoids his sub-
ject under the cover of a vigilant effort to be pious." " The
Board's Holy Ghost is guaranteed by certain rich and blameless
Pharisees of benevolence, who like to be hinted at in reports
and memorials." " It would be a curious problem to calculate
how much failure would put an end to this smooth culture of
corporate self-conceit." " The attitude of the board seems to
us to no small extent an instance of unconscious false pretences."
" This ' conversion ' is mere wood, hay, and stubble." " It
would be a noble enterprise to goad this eminently pious Board
into a vigorous application of common sense to their operations."
" The labored efforts to avoid the vital topics of this history."
" Probably one hundred cents represents the average desire of
' a professor of godliness ' out of our cities for the rescue of pagan
souls from the certain (?) perils of hell ! " " The Unitarian
body, if it does forever criticize itself before the world, is at least
free from this resolute contest with the most ghastly failure.
For our part, we do not desire its organizations and its members
to resolve themselves into a mutual admiration society." Such
expressions declare their inspiration of what kind it is.

More than half the article in the " Examiner " is devoted
to the finances of the board, and by small criticisms and great

The American Board and its Reviewers. 3

suppressions it labors to make its point that, financially, this
effort of half a century is an " unquestioned ill success," a
"most ghastly failure." It would seem that common candor
and fairness could have found room for at least one paragraph
of fact, that the receipts of the board have steadily increased
from one thousand to three hundred and fifty thousand per
annum ; that during this half century it has collected and dis-
bursed more than eight millions, without having experienced a
defalcation or suspicion ; and that its paper has been among the
best commercial paper of the world. But this simply and ob-
viously just statement of facts that lie upon the surface of the
history of the board would have spoiled more than half the
reviewer's work. " Every means has been resorted to for col-
lecting funds, and yet none can be said to have succeeded."
The writer seems unable to discriminate between a " most
ghastly failure " and a variation or improvement in the modes
of collecting. But if the trifle of eight millions is a failure,
what is the Unitarian idea of success in collecting for Foreign
Missions ? And what is their experience ?

" We had hoped," says the writer, "to discuss, in connection
with this ' Memorial Volume,' the principles and working of
the Missions themselves, their interior policy, and the service
which they may perform, especially the kind of agencies which
they should make use of; but we find almost nothing in regard
to the matter in this volume." (p. 282.) This statement sur-
prises us, since, of the four hundred pages in the body of the
Memorial, one hundred and seventy-five are an expose of this
very thing — "the principles and working of the missions."

But all these faults in the review of the Memorial are minor
and trivial compared with its vast omissions and suppressions.
Its original sin and depravity consist in " a want of conformity
unto " the great facts of the volume. Indeed, we suspect that
the theological status and the religious and spiritual mood of
the critic did not qualify him to do such a work. The field
to be reviewed seems to lie beyond the neighborhood of his
thoughts, and perspective, and grasp. The missionary forces
put into the fields of the Board are not stated and estimated in
any moral balances ; their Christian results are not reviewed
and summed up ; the principles, working, and interior policy

4 The American Board and its Reviewers.

of missions, occupying so large a part of the volume, are not
touched ; the educational fruits are not mentioned even in the
gross ; the broad field of missionary literature, a theme so invit-
ing for a Christian examiner, receives no allusion ; the moral
contrast wrovight out under the eye of the Board in its fields of
labor between 1810 and 1860 is not sketched or hinted at ; and
the Christian worthies, who founded the institution and who
have made it illustrious for half a century, are passed by with a
perfect and profound silence.

For us, therefore, to accomplish our purpose in reaching the
Memorial Volume, we must leave the " Examiner." But before
taking leave we must advert to the reviewer's ideas on the duty
of sustaining missions to the heathen :

"It is an error to say that missions, as such, are made obligatory
by the law of the gospel and the words of Christ." "A mission be-
yond the sphere of clearly defined good opportunity, simply that we
may think that we have done our duty in the matter of missions, is the
serious error of many good men. Place a given church in the midst
of a heathen community, and it must become, like the early church, a
missionary organization. Not so placed, it cannot so readily under-
take the work of missions." " Benevolent organizations, like that of
the American Board, should confine their operations to gathering and
administering funds in aid of those enterprises which can support their
appeal by clear evidence of a good work already begun, and sure to be
done to some extent even if no aid is rendered." — pp. 283, 284.

That is, if we are made comfortable by Christianity, not be-
ing "in the midst of a heathen community," no ^matter what
rehgion others have or how they fare. The early Christians
were under no obligation to send and carry the gospel to our
pagan ancestors, unless they saw a "clearly defined good oppor-
tunity." If Madagascar is towed in and anchored off Cape
Cod we are obligated by the opportunity to evangelize the
island. But lying off as it does at God's moorings in the
Indian Ocean our duty may not extend to so inconvenient a

We have not so learned Christ in his last command. Our
Christian sympathies are not so pent up. That " indefinite
sentiment," of which the Board is said to be the organ, leads
us into the effort to " preach the gospel to every creature."

The American Board and its Reviewers. 5

The " good opportunity " to labor where there is " clear evi-
dence of a good work already begun," is said to be the only
warrant for beginning a mission. So Paul confessed to a great
mistake when he said : " So have I strived to preach the gos-
pel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon
another man's foundation." Eliot should not have founded his
Indian churches. The pioneers of the Board had no right to
Christianize the Sandwich Islands, or in any place to fulfil
prophecy, and make the wilderness bud and blossom as the
rose. The first Christians in any given locality must be

The " North American Review," whose article on the Me-
morial Volume we have indicated at the head of this paper,
expresses our views and feelings on the duty of Missions so
thoroughly and so admirably, that we in this connection make
a quotation. The whole article is a noble and worthy tribute
to the genius, progress, and success of this half-century enter-
prise. The broad Christianity, scholarship, and compass of the
Editor, pressed by the onerous duties that a painful providence
has suddenly imposed on him, find time to revel in his theme,
and the grace of his pen is excelled only by the grace of his

" The quiescence from which the churches of our land were roused
by the formation of this Board, was an utterly unchristian state. The
legitimate gospel can have no statics, but only dynamics, so long as
there remains a nation or a soul not under its influence. It is in its
founder's purpose an unresistingly aggressive force. The church
that makes of itself a close corporation, furnishes the means of re-
ligious nurture only to its pew-holders, — its members bringing their
own shallow cups to the fountain of salvation, and never proffering a
draught to a thirsty outside brother, — - has no title to be regarded as
a church of Christ. The prime law of our religion is diffusive love ;
love imparts what it most prizes ; and he can know little of the bless-
edness of Christian faith and hope who yearns not to make his fellow-
men partakers of that blessedness." — p. 466.

We cannot appreciate these half-century records composing
the Memorial Volume without first admitting to our mind some
tolerable idea of the state of the Christian world as related to

6 The American Board and its Reviewers.

missions, and of the missionary field, when the Board com-
menced its work.

On the continent of Europe there was very little civil or
religious liberty. Evangelical religion had barely an existence.
We were just beginning to be known and felt as a member in
the family of nations, being in our second vigintal, and with
less than a fourth of our present population. We had no rail-
road, no telegraph, and but two or three steamers, coasting and
creeping at five miles an hour. A few local Home Missionary
and Bible Societies were doing something in a small way, but
national organizations to give the gospel to the world were not
thought of. Nor, indeed, was there any general idea in the
American church that this was a Christian duty, and could be
discharged. The morning light was breaking in England, spe-
cially among the Moravians, Baptists, and Wesleyans. Here
and there could be found an English or Scotch missionary in
Sierra Leone, South Africa, India, Tahiti, and the West Indies.
But the American church at this time had no organization for
foreign labor, and no foreign laborer for Christ. His friends
were ignorant and apathetic, while his enemies derided such
an undertakine;.

The missionary field was as vast and as dark as the friends
of missions were few and feeble. The Moslem power was yet
a terror in all the East. Turkey in Europe and in Asia, and
all that region where are now our most successful missions, was
under the pale light of the crescent, and the guard of bloody
hands. Southern Asia, at widely separated border spots,
showed a faint tinp-e of the coming; dawn. But inland and
direct to the arctic, or sweeping around through China's seas,
with an inclosure of the millions of the Celestials and Japanese,
there was scarcely one oasis. True, Morrison had planted a
solitary olive-tree outside the walls of the Chinese empire, but
it was so small it could ill spare a single leaf for the inquiring
dove. Africa, dark, stricken, bleeding Africa, still lay an
almost unbroken offering to heathenism, and to the traffickers
in human flesh. Two years only before the organization of the
Board our government had forbidden the foreign slave-trade,
we leading the nations in this crusade of mercy. The islands,
from continental Australia to the smallest coral reef of the

The American Board and its Reviewers. 7

Pacific, were, with very few exceptions, in unmitigated and
iinvisited paganism. No comforting and saving words reached
them from Him who " was in the isle that is called Patmos."
In our own land the wigM'am was still in Ohio. St. Louis
counted scarcely her thousand residents, while from the mouths
to the springs of the Mississippi, in all her tributary head waters,
now the homestead of fifteen millions of whites, the paddle of
the Indian was dipped without molestation, and almost without
a rival. Cincinnati still numbered her inhabitants by hundreds,
and it was not till two years later, 1812, that Buffalo rose to the
magnitude of a frontier military post.

Such was the position of the church in the earth, and such
the mournful state of the heathen world, when Mills proposed
to his praying companions " to send the gospel to that dark and
heathen land, and said, we could do it if we would." In con-
nection with their wishes to go, and their necessities in going,
the American Board was formed.

If the limits of this paper would allow, it would be a rare
pleasure, a Christian enjoyment of the highest kind, to name
and characterize the earlier members and managers of this
Board. To begin to call the catalogue, with the memorial-
ists for the charter, adding the first body of corporate mem-
bers, and then the earlier corresponding secretaries, Worcester,
Evarts, Cornelius, Wisner, stirs to new life and vigor our
noblest qualities. All the better associations of our childhood
are linked in with this institution and these men. We were
taught, by the way in which it was annually presented, received,
supported, spoken of, and prayed for, to place it next to an
apostolical institution. Probably no single manifestation has
done so much to give us a complete conception of the spirit and
scope of the religion of Christ. As an educating power in the
land, unfolding to the present generation the genius of Chris-
tianity, and shaping and stimulating the church to those other
organized labors that lie outside of parish limits, its influence
has been beyond parallel or computation. These names are
interwoven with the whole. It seemed to come of God through
them. So but to call over the catalogue of them is a means of
grace. But time would fail us. Partial portraits of some of
them are beautifully and nobly drawn in the Memorial. The

8 The American Board and its Reviewers.

author has shown a rare power and grace in making a few lines
portray so much, while in the comprehensive and truthful
sketches of the founders of the Board we recognize the pen,
peerless in Christian biography, of the Rev. Dr. Sprague, of
Albany. What the Earl of Shaftesbury said of the men com-
posing our missions in Western Asia, is eminently true of this
noble roll-call : " They are a marvellous combination of com-
mon-sense and piety."

The American Board is a phenomenon of fifty years' growth
and standing. Its origin, first movements, and development,
were all voluntary. It started in no denominational spirit, took
impetus, shape, and direction from no ecclesiasticism. It was
the natural outgrowth of the evangelism that inheres in all parts
of the real church of God. The spirit of Christ within the
church, and the working providences of God without, conjoined
and contributed to produce this institution. Nearer to the
common Master in spirit and in policy, it was born of no partic-

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 22 of 31)