R. E. (Robert Ethol) Welsh.

Challenge to Christian missions : missionary questions & the modern mind online

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much as can be expected in one generation.
The world is still young. These dark child-
races are but beginners in life's career. They
have the capacity of future maturity, as much
as our own race had when Rome and Greece
looked down on it with contempt. We are
shortsighted judges if we pass sentence against
the process of elevation at its beginning because
of the blunderings of certain natives who, with
no Christian ancestry or Christian environment,
have failed to absorb Christian teaching.

2. " The natives are unsettled by the mis-
sionary^ spoilt by education^ Even suppose this
more widely true than it is. Unsettlement is
inevitable during their time of transition. There
is no progress for a people except through a
stage of unsettlement and stumbling.

Are they too independent and self-import-
ant ? Their swollen independence, with all the
foolishness into which it leads them, may be
the rude uprising of unbalanced manhood.
They " strut " as though they were mighty ;
but that strut is the boy's premature attempt

I20 The Challenge to Missions

to be a man, and, though it makes us smile,
it hints self-discovery and coming manhood.
Their mistakes in misusing their education and
liberties are the first erratic blunderings which
a raw people make in the use of their freedom,
the first unsteady steps on the way to a civilised

"They are happier in nature's raw state."
Perhaps they are — in the sense of bovine con-
tentment, as a Russian 7noiijik is happier in
his sluggish existence without a man's rights
than a free Briton, as the ignorant are happier
than the wise. But such happiness is no
measure of the worth and dignity of their life.
Do we refuse to educate a child because he is
happier when ignorant and young than when
he will be mature and wise ? Yet they are not
so happy as theorists assume : they live under
the terrorism of their superstitions.

Are some of them vain, superficial, unreliable,
upset by having high " notions " filling their
heads? No one — except possibly the fond
padre — wishes to gloss over their faults — and
even the missionary sees these with distress.
But the same thing is said of the freedmen of
the Southern States. The same argument was
urged against their emancipation. The same
charge was advanced — that they were happier
and more serviceable when they were slaves,

"The Mission-made Man'* 121

that education and freedom upset and spoilt
them, turned their heads and broke up the old,
peaceful relations. And there was truth in the
charge. Was emancipation an error, then,
because of the unsteadiness and blunderings of
the first and second generations of freedmen ?
Those may think so who live uncomfortably
close to them ; but we who stand detached are
able to take a larger, longer view. In the
course of generations the full benefit will be
reaped. The unsettlement and errors of the
transition time are inevitable ; and they are no
argument against freeing and educating the

Here at home the same thing is said : the
lower classes are spoilt by being educated ;
they are too proud to do menial work — see the
difficulty of getting servants! And indeed the
disadvantages of educating the million are
patent. Possibly they are being too highly
educated in letters and too little trained in
industries and practical work. But the abuse
which the lower classes make of education is
only incidental to their general elevation. The
ultimate enlightenment of the masses is worth
the price which has to be paid during the

If native races are unsettled and rendered
unsteady at first by foreign teaching and

122 The Challenge to Missions

missions, it is only the inevitable stage on the
way to their final maturity. The transition
time is always trying. The first effect of new
ideas everywhere is unsettlement. This is the
universal path of progress. We must take the
far look — say, across the same number of
centuries as we have had for our ascent — and
foresee better days. In Sir William Wilson
Hunter's words {The Old Missionary): "A
youth who starts life with such a wrench away
from the order of things around him as is
implied by conversion may have strange oscilla-
tions before he reaches true equilibrium or poise."

Many of the Negroes who revel in Christian
emotions have not yet ethicised their life. But
do we not find similar cases often enough
among ourselves? The last thing to be
Christianised in some men is their conscience
in matters of practical conduct.

The American, so the old story goes, asked
at Oxford how they got the College lawn
smooth as velvet. " You roll it, and cut it, and
roll it, and cut it, for two or three hundred
years, and then you get it like this," said the
gardener. If land newly taken in from the
prairie could not quickly be reduced to soft
lawn, as little can we expect to produce rich
Christian character out of raw races without a
long process of Christian cultivation. To change

"The Mission-made Man" 123

the metaphor, is the germ of the Christian life
set in the heart of native Christians ? We must
estimate the final outcome by what that germ
of goodness is capable of ultimately producing.

The mistake of the " Exeter Hall " idealist
is that he wishes the natives to be dealt with
at once as the white man's equal, to be fully
enfranchised in Church and State, and put on a
level with our own race. But they are child-
races, and must be treated as such. What
alienates the sympathy of many a layman is
the foolish talk of fond men who want to give
them the rights and social position for which
they cannot as yet be fully qualified. But it is
not the missionary usually who is guilty of this
fondling foolishness ; it is the theorist at home.
The missionary knows from practical and often
mortifying experience — witness the vagaries of
the " Ethiopian Church " of South Africa — that
they must continue under guidance and control
like children, until they have been trained to
use their new privileges and have matured as
full-grown men.

But that is no reason for keeping them
ignorant and Christless.

3. Is the missionary alone responsible for the
results ? It is a perilous and often a calamitous
time when the old " cake of custom " is broken,
when custom-law, the sway of chiefs and super-

124 The Challenge to Missions

stitions, and the settled tribal rule are destroyed.
The pagan order has, just as Miss Kingsley
described it, lost its restraining hold ; and the
new moral order has not yet mastered the
nature-folk and wrought itself into their fibre.
It is small wonder if there be unsteadiness,
blundering, and temporary failure, when there
is "one world dead, the other helpless to be
born." (See Appendix B., p. 184).

But even if missions were withdrawn, the
old pagan order of fetish fears and tribal law
could not possibly long remain. Railways,
commerce, and the whole mass of Western
civilisation will in any case proceed irresistibly
to break up the rule of caste and race-custom
and the superstitions of the unsophisticated.
The missionary is not the only foreigner among
them. By the confession of Dr Morrison and
Miss Kingsley, he is the best and most
humane representative of foreign enlighten-
ment. Robert Louis Stevenson said the same re-
garding the missionaries of Samoa — and among
the finest tributes he ever paid were his paeans
over the missionary James Chalmers and the
heroism of a native Samoan preacher. If these
rude races or old-world nations are not morally
seized and uplifted by Christianity, the old
pagan order will fall to pieces all the same,
and there will be no new moral and spiritual

"The Mission-made Man" 125

force set at work to create a new and better
order with finer restraints and higher law and

We are urged not to destroy the native
simplicity of primitive peoples. (The man
who has seen them in the flesh indulges in a
smile when the bookish dreamer at home talks
at large about their simplicity as though it
were idyllic !) But their so-called " simplicity "
does not suffer so much from the missionary
as from foreign trade and civilisation ; the best
results are to be seen where he is farthest from
foreign corruption. In any event it could not
long be preserved even if he disappeared from
the scene. Our material civihsation is invading
the preserves of all the primitive races of the
world, and nothing can arrest its march. There-
fore education — which should not be too high
for their actual requirements and should be well
balanced with manual, industrial training— and
all our moral and Christian forces must be set
at work among them, else they will either be-
come a direr curse to all who come into touch
with them, or they will racially perish.

The proper influence of well-conducted com-
merce is in many ways wholesome and helpful
in the spread of the kingdom of God. The
work of raising a rude native race cannot all
be done by missions and preachers. It needs

126 The Challenge to Missions

the merchant, the artizan, the capitalist each
to contribute something to the development of
the people's industrial and social life. Some
were disappointed when Livingstone, ceasing
to be a mere evangelist although to the last
a missionary, went forward as a pioneer into
Africa to open up the country and prepare
a way for commerce as well as missions. A
statesman as well as a preacher, he saw that
the people could never be elevated and en-
franchised in the human race without a full
civilisation being planted among them. Com-
merce opens up the country, develops its
resources, creates new wants which compel
the natives to leave their idle or hunting habits
and settle to steady work, and lays the material
basis for a new order of life.

Yet Manchester goods, railways, and the
like cannot socially and morally save them.
Commerce cannot make or mend character —
and often in its train corruption follows. At
any rate, for good and ill it pushes its way
to every square mile of the earth, and it is
everywhere breaking up the primitive "sim-
plicity" of native peoples.

The British Government through its schools
and colleges has supplied the best youth of
India with secular education ; and moral failure
is thus far confessedly the result It has turned

"The Mission-made Man" 127

out clever office-seekers, who have " notions "
put into their heads, in many cases prove un-
reliable, and think themselves too good for the
old menial, toilsome labour. Their old pagan
order and customs are upset — all the more
disastrously when no new religious power
accompanies the secular enlightenment to
balance the unsettlement it produces and
begin the long process of building up good

Sir William Wilson Hunter, K.C.S.I.,
specialist in Indian affairs, in his exquisite
idyll, The Old Missionary, says through his
typical hero : " The indigenous schools made
the native religions too much the staple of
instruction. Your Government schools take
credit for abstaining from religious teaching
of any sort, and in due time you will have
on your hands a race of young men who
have grown up in the public non-recognition
of a God. The indigenous schools educated
the working and trading classes for the natural
business of their lives. Your Government
schools spur on every clever small boy with
scholarships and money allowances, to try to
get into a bigger school, and so through many
bigger schools, with the stimulus of bigger
scholarships, to a University degree. In due
time you will have on your hands an over-

128 The Challenge to Missions

grown clerkly generation, whom you have
trained in their youth to depend on Govern-
ment allowances and to look to Government
service, but whose adult ambitions not all the
offices of the Government would satisfy. What
are you to do with this great clever class,
forced up under a foreign system, without
discipline, without contentment, and without
a God?" There is no inferential argument
here that Government ought to, or even can,
mix with its education the saving salt of
religious teaching.^ Sir William W. Hunter,
however, is an independent witness to the
fact that, not the missionary alone, but the
Government far more with its secular educa-
tion, is a disturbing agent which inevitably
breaks up the old order.

The transition must be gone through ; there
is nothing else for it under any policy, secularist
or Christian. The disturbance must be en-
dured ; it would not be abated if mission work
were to cease. And those take a very narrow
and shortsighted view of the case who boggle
at the present unsettlement and fail to look
far ahead and see what will result when
Christian enlightenment has done its slow,
cumulative work upon successive generations.

Many of the evils which catch the eye of the

1 V. Bishop Welldon in Evipire Review^ September 1901,

"The Mission-made Man" 129

critic are part of the demoralisation always
found where civilised and uncivilised races
meet and corrupt each other. All the world
over and in every century, the meeting-line of
different races, high and low, dark and white,
has been the scene of surging passions, bringing
peril to the weak. The white man's vices
flourish where he has lower races at his dis-
posal, and the men of the brown or the black
skin are apt to cast off ancestral restraints and

Have we estimated how the liquor traffic
demoralises the natives and works round to
the detriment of the missionary cause? Miss
Kingsley did " not agree that the natives of the
Gold Coast would be better without spirits " —
she only thought apparently that they would
be better without the mission school ! But she
is out-voted overwhelmingly by witnesses of all
beliefs and of no belief I have seen the havoc
wrought by " Cape Smoke " sold to the Kaffir
at ninepence a bottle — natives mad with it.
Tiie inflammable and unstable nature of the
natives is easily set ablaze by the fiery liquid.
This intoxicating curse, both directly and
indirectly, mars and impedes Christian work.
It accounts for some of those dark degenerates
who bear the brand of the mission school.

Concubinage, too, has something here to

I30 The Challenge to Missions

answer for. I have had an Englishman on the
China seas complacently avow the practice,
defend it, and assure me that it is quite the
usual thing for white men in the East On the
contrary, one knows well that numbers of white
residents among alien races are as clean in
their lives and as honourable as the best of
us at home. Yet every layman who has mixed
freely with his kind is aware of the loose lives
lived by too many of his countrymen when
"East of Suez, where the best is like the

Such things as these are associated in the
native mind with "Christian" countries, and
they hamper the missionary's work, and do
damage to the good repute of the white man's

"These missionaries are a curse to the
country. They are spoiling it for the white
man." This was said lately by a man who
had gone up to Livingstonia to buy cattle for
the North Charterland Exploration Company,
after he had stolen the natives' stock, abused
women and shot men who resisted, and had
been overtaken, tried upon evidence before the
English resident, Mr Murray, and severely
condemned and heavily fined. An extreme
instance, of course, yet not without a parallel
in the Congo Free State where the Belgian

**The Mission-made Man" 131

officers take their will of the natives, in the
South Seas under the Kanaka labour system,
and sometimes under the British flag. There
are of course good traders as well as bad ; but
too many of them exploit the natives (no guile-
less innocents, certainly, but what of that?)
and use them in cruel ways that make every
true man's blood boil.

R. L. Stevenson, while arguing that the
missionary should do more to keep on friendly
terms with the trader and win partial support
from him, wrote from Samoa : " The missionary
is hampered, he is restricted, he is negated, by
the attitude of his fellow -whites, his fellow-
countrymen and his fellow-Christians, in the
same island." " It has been observed," the
journalistic mouthpiece of British opinion has
recently said, " with no little truth that the
continuous object-lesson of kindliness, truthful-
ness, and integrity which the missionary con-
veys in his daily dealings with his neighbours,
standing, as it often must do, in striking
contrast to the vices of the ruling class, is the
chief stone of missionary ofience in the sight
of the average Mandarin " — and, it might have
been added, for the same reason the chief
missionary offence in the eyes of many white
traders, soldiers, and officials.

''The missionary unsettles and spoils the

132 The Challenge to Missions

natives": in what light do many (not all) of
the men who say this look upon the natives?
Largely as "black labour" for the mines and
the plantations, for coaling ships and bringing
down rubber, or as carriers for travellers or
menial servants. They are wanted as human
"beasts of burden," or as providing markets
for our goods. In the eyes of numbers they
are "unspoilt" so long as they supply "cheap
labour," are subservient, and give no trouble.
What are "niggers" for if not to be serfs of
the white man's purpose? Perhaps they are
less subservient when taught in the mission
school than when "raw." But are they for
ever to be treated as having been created for
ox-like submission and ignorance? When a
ship-master, a trader, a planter, or an agent of
a chartered company regards them as existing
to be exploited by the European and American,
we know what value to attach to his judgment
that Christian work " spoils " them.

It is here again that we see how our secular,
social, commercial, and political life and action
and our Christian work are interrelated and
bound up together for better or for worse.
The progress of missions does not depend
alone on what the missionary is, does, or says.
What is the general influence of the repre-
sentatives of Europe and America in their

"The Mission-made Man" 133

relations with pagan peoples ? The legions of
Christendom, when abroad in the interests of
the civil service, the army, the navy, commerce,
diplomacy, and education — what sort of moral
forces do they carry with them, and do they
tell on the whole against or in favour of the
message of the Church's agent ? On that much
of his success depends.

From this comes the force of the argument
often advanced, that we have plenty still to do
before the people of our own land are Chris-
tianised. " You need not go to China and Peru
when there are so many close to your hand
who are as ' black ' as you could wish." If,
indeed, we could first completely Christianise
our entire population and bring in the millen-
nium by concentrating all our forces at home,
the plea for this exclusive home policy would
have weight. But unhappily such a plan is
unworkable. The work at home and the work
abroad must go on abreast, and each helps the
other. All seas find the same level ; and, in
the close communication between nations in
modern times, the various races will rise or fall
together. Our moral conditions at home spread
their influence far over the world. If Europe
and America are not every way Christian, the
effect will be felt wherever Europe and America
exert their power.

134 The Challenge to Missions

The results of mission work among pagan
races, therefore, do not depend on the missionary
alone. They are affected by the entire weight,
good and bad, of the commercial, social, moral,
and political influence which white men bring
to bear upon those whom the Christian Church
seeks to Christianise.

Many of the sinister cases charged against
the mission school are not the direct product of
mission work, but are the waste-product of
native life disorganised by foreign civilisation.

Of this, Christian work is not the cause,
indeed, so much as it is the saving corrective,
the full benefit of which will only appear when
successive generations have gradually absorbed
the Christian life.

But may not the Best be the enem.y of the
Good.? The Hebrew race required to be
trained in Monotheism and the School of Law
and Kindergarten symbolism before being fit to
receive the spiritual revelation of Christ. Can
the uncivilised to-day dispense with this inter-
mediate stage of gradual education, and leap
from the lowest to the highest ground ? Would
not a religion inferior to Christianity, like
Mohammedanism with its simple monotheism
and code of rigid rules and penalties, serve
barbaric Polynesians and Africans better for
the first stage of their moral evolution ?

"The Mission-made Man" 135

But (i) it is impossible to keep any rude
race detached under such a legal schooling, and
ignorant of the Christian faith which is on the
march everywhere. (2) Africans who have ac-
cepted Mohammedanism have not been trained
and prepared thereby for the easier reception of
Christianity. On the contrary, it has arrested
the development of every race it has won. And
there is no other religion which is available for
the work of elementary drilling in legal ethics.
(3) The purely legal method has been tried
and has failed. Bishop Colenso made the
experiment in Natal. He withheld the full
Gospel from his Zulus and taught them the
law of commandments, training them in simple
morals and industry. When his preparatory
work was completed, his " School Kaffirs," set
free to go their own way, returned to their old
paganism again, reverting to type, as others
have "gone fantee." The full Christian faith
has proved itself the most powerful for the
moral development of immature races. It has
certainly to be taught them in simple, concrete
form by missionaries who have Moses' gift as
much as St John's. The reign of law has in
some measure to be retained alongside the
Gospel of love, as it is in the Christian education
of a child among ourselves. The transition for
such peoples is a somewhat perilous one.

136 The Challenge to Missions

But it has to be passed through on the slow
way to a higher life. There is nothing else for
it. Let two or three successive generations
absorb the Christian spirit, and it is seen that
the Best is the best for them as for us. Our
own barbaric ancestors proved it when they
received Christianity and were schooled and
elevated thereby. It is the one moral training
agency in the world which suits all grades of
men, making men as it saves them.

4. But are the viajority of native Christians
visibly improved by the work of missions ? That
is the paramount question.^ If most of the
native Church members are measurably better
in personal character and domestic life than
they were as heathen, better also than heathen
of the same class outside, the weak and foolish
specimens who have had mission training
supply no argument against the work as a
whole. It would be as preposterous to take
the fools and the religious rogues at home
who have misused their education and their
Sunday School nurture and build on them an
argument against the general effects and use
of current education and Christianity.

Let the " candid friend " of missionaries, Mr
Michie, give his evidence as to " the quality of

^ See Dr Campbell Gibson's calm and wise survey in Mission
Problems^ published since these pages were written.

"The Mission-made Man" 137

the Chinese Christian converts." " Few as they
may be, when all told, and mixed as they
must be with spurious professors, it is a grati-
fying fact, which cannot be gainsaid, that
Christians of the truest type, men ready to
become martyrs, which is easy, and who lead
* helpful and honest ' lives, which is as hard as
the ascent from Avernus, crown the labours
of the missionaries, and have done so from
the very beginning. It is thus shown- that
the Christian religion is not essentially un-
adapted to China, and that the Chinese
character is susceptible to its regenerating

Numbers of the converts are indisputably
good and sterling Christians, proportionately
as consistent and trustworthy as the better
class of Christians at home. A few of them
have already the bright signal of the saint in
their faces and their tested lives. Others have
not the spiritual faculty highly developed, yet
are genuinely good.

Many of these — cases from every country
could be quoted in scores — have given clear,
sometimes even magnanimous, proofs of their
unselfish devotion and renewed life. They

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