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

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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 25 of 31)
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civilization, so that a larger proportion of its people can read than in
New England. It has done more to extend and to diffuse in this land
a knowledge of different countries and people than any or all other
a"'encies, and the reaction upon the churches of this foreign work has
been invaluable." — pp. IG, 17.

Greatly to the embarrassment and sorrow of its projectors,

but to their subsequent joy and gratitude, a double seed, with
the elements of a divergent growth, was planted at the very
outset. Two of the first missionaries of the Board became
Baptists on their way to India. An appeal was thus made to
another numerous and powerful body of Christians to sustain
their new-born brethren in the work to which they had conse-
crated themselves. Thence originated the Baptist Missionary
Union, whose history runs along with that of its elder sister in
letters of light, illustrated by the Christian heroism of Judson
and the noble women who successively bore the cross at his
side, by the gentleness and courage, the incredible endurance
and triumphant death of Boardman, and by numerous other
honored names which formed the subject of one of our papers
in an earlier volume of this journal.

We do not propose to enter into the history of the American
Board. The volume before us could be abridged within our
proposed limits only by reducing it to a dry digest of names,
dates, and statistics. We hope that it will be read in its en-
tireness by all who are interested in its subject. It has been
compiled with the utmost care and skill by Dr. Anderson, who
has been identified with the Board from 1824 till the present
day, and has been for thirty years its Corresponding Secretary.
We trust that the time may yet be far distant when our suc-
cessors will record in full his manifold services, primarily to
the cause of his Divine Master among the unevangelized, but
pari passu to good letters, sound learning, and liberal Chris-
tian fellowship. His narrative style is perspicuous and fluent,
swelling in genial fervor with the greatness of its theme, di-
gressing gracefully for the discussion of such points as crave
argumentative treatment, and presenting the entire subject of
missions in the most attractive form to all who love the Gospel
or their race.

The quiescence from which the churches of our land were
roused by the formation of this Board was an utterly unchris-
tian 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 un-
restingly aggressive force. The church that makes of itself a
close corporation, and furnishes the means of religious nurture
only to its pew-holders, — its members bringing their own shal-

low cups to the fountain of salvation, and never proffering a
draught to a thirsty outside brother, — has no title to be re-
garded 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 blessedness of Christian faith and hope who
yearns not to make his fellow-men partakers of that blessed-
ness. Yet, in the discussion upon the charter of the Board
in the Senate of Massachusetts, it was gravely opposed on the
ground " that it was designed to afford the means of exporting
religion, whereas there was none to spare from among our-
selves." It was well rejoined by the late venerable Judge
White, " that religion was a commodity of which the more we
exported the more we had remaining." Thus did it prove on
experiment. The missionary enterprise returned its priceless
revenue of vitalizing and fertilizing energy to its supporters
long before its direct effects were conspicuous. Philanthropy
thenceforth became, not the prerogative of a few, but the law
of the whole Church. The spirit which first went forth for
the victims of Hindoo and Burman superstition was not slow
in detecting heathenism at home. The various classes of the
unprivileged were sought out, and brought under appropriate
means of instruction or reformation. Seamen, prisoners,
slaves, the poor of our great cities, the dwellers in frontier
settlements, neglected children, profligate women, — all were
gradually taken into the scope of Christian charity, and there
now remains hardly a body of worshippers which has not some
one or more of these great causes among its foremost objects
of interest, and either of organized action or of informal co-
operation. These statements apply not to one denomination,
but to all. True, the cause of foreign missions depends chiefly
on two or three of our largest religious bodies. Of the others,
some lack the requisite means ; some have not a sufficiently
close cohesion to make combined effort on an extended field
practicable ; while others are doubtful of the permanent re-
sults of such labors, so long as they are liable to be thwarted
and neutralized by the vices of civilization that follow on every
track on which intercourse is opened. But where the action
has not been aided or emulated, the reaction has been pro-
foundly felt, and the sects and the serious Christian believers
that are doing little or nothing for the extension of the area of

Christendom confess only the stronger obligation to aid in
making the existing Christendom more worthy of its name.

Meanwhile, we cannot overestimate the power of character
which has grown out of the missionary work. It has brought
back the heroic age of the Church, and has placed before the
world such illustrious examples and verifications of the effec-
tive power of the Gospel as had hardly been witnessed since
the Apostles passed on to their reward. The contributions
thus made to the store of religious biography are invaluable,
and, next to the life of the all-perfect Author and Finisher of
our faith, there is no instrumentality for the creation and
growth of personal piety to be compared with this. Our older
readers will remember the intense enthusiasm aroused, and the
earnest impulses given, by the Memoir of Harriet Newell, the
wife of one of the first band of missionaries, who died at the
Isle of Prance at the age of nineteen. Eminently endowed
by nature and by grace, fitted as few women have been for the
most arduous of all services to her kind, she undoubtedly
effected more for the cause of missions and of Christ by
her death, than she could have effected by the longest life.
Tlie consecration of her girlhood in its budding promise com-
mended the work to universal Christian sympathy ; while the
beautiful traits of her character — the strong and brave heart
with the tenderness, modesty, and refinement of the true wo-
man, all intensified and glorified by the martyr-spirit, and
tested by exposures and sufferings which, though since ex-
ceeded, then had no precedent or parallel — were a felt demon-
stration of the faith that energized and the hope that gladdened
her. This was but the first of a long and precious series of
life-records, — Dr. Anderson enumerates more than forty, — of
which there is not one that has not had its Divine mission in
rebuking scepticism, awakening conviction, urging Christians
to a more devoted life, and inspiring new and more vigorous
endeavors for the growth of religion in the world. In our own
pages, we have had within the last few years no more fruitful
or profitable themes than the Lives of Judson and Stoddard, —
the former in every dimension one of the greatest men of his
age, arrested in early infidelity by an agency hardly less signal
than the miracle which converted Paul from a persecutor to
an apostle, and thenceforth devoting the fire of genius, the


powers of a giant intellect, and the wealth of profound erudi-
tion, with a singleness of purpose seldom equalled, never sur-
passed, to the diffusion of the Gospel, — the latter peculiarly
fitted to adorn the highest places of literary culture, rejecting
the most flattering and honorable overtures, that he might
wear his life out in untold privation and sacrifice among the
mountains of Persia. Such men do not live or die to them-
selves. They reproduce something of their own likeness, not
alone on the arduous paths they trod, but in unnumbered
homes and quiet walks of duty, in humble scenes, in the sus-
ceptible hearts of children, in our colleges, in our rural parson-
ages, and wherever is a chord that can vibrate at the touch of
what is most noble, generous, and holy.

In connection with this department of our subject, we ought
not to forget the biographies of the deceased Corresponding
Secretaries of the Board, of whom four have been commemo-
rated in volumes, and a fifth in the pages of the Missionary
Herald. These were all marked men, closely identified with
their work, bringing to it strong minds and fervent hearts, and
taking into their characters the heroic elements with which it
is fraught. The first of these was Rev. Dr. Samuel Worcester,
a pioneer in the cause, whose prescient mind saw in its very
inception its destined triumph, and whose plastic and organiz-
ing ability was second to no agency in its early success and
rapid growth. Though a keen controversialist, he was pre-
eminently " a man of the beatitudes," uniting with the hardiest
features of character — a strenuous purpose and an indomita-
ble will — all the amenities of the Christian gentleman. In his
declining health, he sought renewed strength where most men
in his condition would have expected only a grave, among the
Cherokee Indian tribe, where a flourishing mission had been
established. He attained his goal, witnessed the achievements
of Christian civilization among the rude aborigines, mingled
his last prayers with those of the missionaries and their con-
verts, and sank to his rest in the forest, where, through his in-
strumentality, already " instead of the thorn was the fir-tree,
instead of the brier the myrtle."

Jeremiah Evarts, a lawyer by profession, succeeded him, and
after ten years of earnest and exhausting toil died, like his
predecessor, on a journey undertaken too late to repair the


waste of an overtasked body and mind. Dr. Anderson justly,
if not with too guarded panegyric, says of liim : —

" He had a mind and a heart that made him a prince in the domain
of intellect and of goodness. He was far-seeing, cautious, earnest, firm,
conciliatory, — everything, in short, to render him an eminently suita-
ble person to conduct one of the grandest of human enterprises. His
memorial is in the record of his wise plans successfully carried out, of
his untiring labors cheerfully performed, of his manifold sacrifices pa-
tiently submitted to, and of the joy unspeakable and full of glory that
filled his soul while the gate of heaven was opening to receive him." —
p. 125.

Eev. Elias Cornelius, D. D., was appointed Mr. Evarts's suc-
cessor, but died — also at a distance from his home — before
he had assumed the active duties of his office. He had, how-
ever, at an earlier period served as an agent of the Board
among the Indians in the Southwest, and had been largely
instrumental in arrangements designed to promote those arts
of civilization without which there may be sporadic cases of
conversion from heathenism, but no permanent and trans-
missible Christian institutions. He was a man of rare powers
and graces, beloved as a pastor, eloquent as a preacher, of rich
and varied culture, of singular executive ability, and of ardent
and consistent piety.

The work of the Board had so increased as to demand a
division of labor, and Rev. Benjamin B. Wisner, D. D., was
chosen one of three Corresponding Secretaries in 1832. His
character is well sketched by Dr. Anderson.

" Dr. Wisner had the rarest qualifications for a secretaryship in a
great missionary institution. His spirit, naturally somewhat overbear-
ing, had been softened by a partial failure of health and pastoral trials-
Cheerful, social, rejoicing in the usefulness of his associates and of all
about him, his fine conversational powers made him a most agreeable
companion. His public spirit made him ready for every good work ;
and such was his love for work, that he seemed never to grow weary
in well-doing. He did everything promptly and thoroughly, and little
things and great things equally well ; not with eye-service, or to have
glory of men, but because he loved to be doing good, and because na-
ture and grace made him happy in doing with his might what his hand'
found to do. So it was always and everywhere ; and this made him
the man for committees and sub-committees, on which he was generally


to be found, when work was to be done trencbing largely upon the
hours usually appropriated to rest and sleep. He was a model of a
business man — wakeful, cheerful, collected, judicious, laborious, de-
voted, disinterested. It was no mere official interest he had in his du-
ties. The public welfare was his own. He felt a responsibility for the
course of events. His heart was in the great cause of missions — in
every part of it.

" His forte was executive. But he had great power also in debate
in deliberative bodies. As a writer, he did not readily adapt himself
to the popular mind. There was a lack of fancy and imagination, of
the discursive and illustrative power, and of flow in thought and style
— defects that may have been owing to some infelicity in the manner
of his education. But, as an extemporaneous debater, he would have
commanded attention on the floor of either House of Congress. At
the very outset of the discussion, he seemed to have an intuitive per-
ception of the leading points, in their natural relations and order, and
to be at once prepared for a logical, instructive, convincing argument.
This always gave him influence in deliberative bodies, where his tact
and ability seemed never to be at fault.

" His mental powers came early to maturity ; and comparing his la-
bors and influence with those of other men, he needed not threescore
years and ten to stand with the more favored men in the impression
made upon his age. Yet his early death has ever seemed among the
greater mysteries of God's holy providence." — pp. 217, 218.

Dr. Wisner was succeeded by Rev. William Jessup Arm-
strong, D. D., who lost his life in the wreck of the steamer At-
lantic in 1846. In the fearful scene from which he was trans-
lated he moved among his companions, calmly and trustingly,
with words of consolation and hope ; as the crisis approached,
his fellow-passengers crowded around him, " because," said
one, " it seemed safer to be near so good a man" ; and, as he
was swept into the sea, he gave utterance to his " perfect con-
fidence in the wisdom and goodness of Him who doeth all
things well."

These men were, indeed, selected for their offices because
they were men of eminent powers, large influence, and surpass-
ing excellence. But it is not too much to say that it was the
missionary cause that made them fit to conduct it, that they
were educated for their ofi&ce by the momentous interests
which that office gave into their charge, and that thus alone
were they raised from the rank and file of well-to-do Christians


to the foremost places in the sacramental host. With Dr.
Worcester, indeed, there is reason to believe that the world-
embracing plan had an independent origin, though not prior
to the Williams College union ; — it would appear that he
had meditated and talked of it before he had listened to the
appeal of Mills and his companions. We cannot doubt that
his soul was enlarged and exalted by the great thought, and
that his whole life flowed ever after in a fuller current of
religious emotion, energy, and efficiency. His successors were
not chosen for their work, but made by it. They were put
into their office because they had previously devoted them-
selves with ardor, wisdom, and distinguished success to other
departments of the service, or had manifested a profound and
fruitful interest in it. We are led to similar reflections on
looking over the lists of the various office-bearers and the cor-
porate members of the Board. We find among them a large
number of the very men whose characters would denote, not
mere Christian culture, but the operation of the strongest
forces which our religion can bring to bear upon the human
soul, — men whose lives must needs have been formed under
the overmastering influence of some great religious idea, to-
ward which they have reached on and up, till the extensor
muscles of the spiritual man have gained preternatural vigor,
and the apprehensive faculties have acquired a superlative apt-
ness, keenness, and precision as to all things human and divine.
Nor let it be thought that we are pursuing a mere fancy. In
all departments of life men are thus trained and developed.
They elect their spheres of thought and action, and then are
enlarged, dwarfed, or rounded to the measure they have chosen.
The natively great thus become small, and the natively small,
great. The American Revolution shaped the men who con-
trolled its movement. Paltry party politics shape after a wide-
ly different type the men who seem their masters and mysta-
gogues. Why should not the noblest conception which can
enter the human soul, the most godlike service which can be
rendered by human wisdom and charity, equally give tone to
life and character ?

We have devoted as much of our space as we can now affi)rd
to the biographical literature of missions, yet have conveyed
to those who are not familiar with it but a faint idea of its


affluence. To pass to another department, the American pul-
pit has given utterance to no eloquence surpassing that which
has been called forth on the various occasions presented by
the exigencies of this enterprise, in anniversary, ordination,
and funeral sermons. Dr. Wayland's Sermon on the Moral
Dignity of the Missionary Enterprise remains unequalled for
grandeur of thought and style. Its periods roll on as if
fraught full with the glory of a regenerated world. It sent a
glow of zeal and joy through the Christian hearts of the land,
and, if we remember aright, was reproduced in other tongues,
and wellnigh made the circuit of the globe. Similar in strain,
and striking every vein of feeling that could have its pulses
quickened by the theme, have been the numerous discourses
of which we have a list in the volume before us. Dr. Hop-
kins's Semi-Centennial Discourse is stamped with the massive
features of his intellect, — not artistically wrought, but dis-
playing a wonderful compression of narrative, argument, and
emotion, most forcefully combined and interfused, and falling
upon the reader as in his energetic utterance it must have
fallen upon the hearer, with an absolutely irresistible weight
of conviction. We quote the closing paragraphs.

" What the precise blending is to be of those two great elements of
change, tendencies and personal interposition, or how long the unchecked
current of tendencies is to run, it is not for us to say. God makes
haste slowly. The bud is formed, and then winter intervenes. The
baffled spring lingers. According to geology, the days were long while
tendencies did their tardy work of upheavings and deposits. For four
thousand years the ages were in preparation for the coming of Christ.
But at length God said, ' Let us make man ' ; at length ' the Desire of
all nations ' came. Personality asserted a visible supremacy, tenden-
cies were seen to be flexible to will, and special interposition reached
its high-water mark, up to the present time.

" But we now wait for another and broader movement. We think
that prophecy and converging tendencies both indicate that we are
nearing, and rapidly too, a point from which a new epoch is to open.
As at the coming of Christ there were musings and forebodings, and
the quickened sense caught presage of coming change, so it is now.
The very air is full of its voices. The fig-tree puts forth leaves. For
the first time since the dispersion of men, is the world waking up to
the consciousness of itself as one whole. Hardly yet do we compre-
hend fully the great thought of the Master, that 'the field is the


world.' In their early dispersions, men diverged as upon a plain.
That plain they now find to be a globe, upon which divergence becomes
approximation and ultimate unity. The circuit of that globe, with
every continent, and island, and ocean that it rolls up to the sunlight,
or buries in its shadow, is now known ; and this it is that we are to
conquer for Christ. How wide the field, compared with that of primi-
tive missions ! How wide the work now, compared with it then ! Never
before was there such a theatre for the action of moral forces ; never
before were there such forces to act ; or such subordination of nature to
them, giving them new facilities, and instruments of mightiest power ;
and never before were these forces taking their positions, and muster-
ing themselves in such relations, as now. The old issues and spectres
of fear are passing. The papacy is reeling ; the crescent is waning ;
idolatry is tottering ; infidelity is shifting its ground and hesitating ; the
masses are upheaving. The power of those great principles of liberty
and equality, which are Christ's Gospel on its human side, is beneath
them, like that of the earthquake, and oppression and slavery are see-
ing the handwriting upon the wall, and the joints of their loins are
being loosed. And Christians are praying and giving, and when the
cry comes for special help they hear it ; and there is joy and thanks-
giving in ten thousand hearts this night that they do ; and the battal-
ions in the great army are nearing each other, and the shout of each
becomes more distinct in the camp of the other; and to-night we lift our
shout, and hold forth the hand of fellowship in this work to all who love
the Lord Jesus. And more than all, the Spirit of God is poured out,
and revivals are extending, and these showers of divine grace so de-
scend as to show what ' the great rain of his strength ' may be. Now
the field rounds itself out into some proportion to the love of God in
sending his Son; now that achievement comes up into its place for
which the mighty energies that have been perverted in war and world-
liness were intended ; now we see the full contrast between the solitaiy
SujQPerer upon Calvary and his work; and looking upon him and upon
it, we say. Yes, thou Man of sorrows, thorn-crowned and buflTeted, it
shall all be thine. He ' shall give thee the heathen for thine inheri-
tance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.' Look-
ing upon him and upon it, we join our voice to that of the heavenly
host, saying, ' Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power,
and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and bless-

" Brethren we rejoice that we live in this day, and may have a part

in this work. It is not for us ' to know the times or the seasons, which

the Father hath put in his own power.' It is not for the husbandman

to bring on the summer. It is for him to sow and plant, and wait the



movement of the heavens. So let us, so let every Christian, go forth
. — weeping if need be — bearing precious seed ; let us sow beside all
waters ; let us see that there shall be the handful of corn upon the top
of every mountain, and God will see that ' the fruit thereof shall shake
like Lebanon.' " — pp. 34-36.

Its services to learning and science merit especial commem-
oration in treating of the missionary enterprise. In philology
and in descriptive and physical geography more has been
effected within the last half-century by this agency than by all
others, and in our own country the contributions of the mis-
sionaries of the American Board to these branches of knowl-
edge have borne to other researches and discoveries a propor-
tion which it would be impossible to estimate, and which,
could it be stated in figures, would seem almost mythical.
The mere scholar may gratify his taste and win his desired
meed of fame by manipulating pre-existing materials, by edit-
ing a new text of a well-known author, or propounding a new
theory for familiar facts, or making a generalization which
simplifies a science without adding to its contents ; while the
missionary must lay the foundation of his work, for the most
part, by learning what civilized man had not learned before.
The scene of his labors is, we will suppose, some previously
unexplored region of Asia or Africa. He must first select a
base line for his spiritual triangulation. He must measure

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 25 of 31)