R. E. (Robert Ethol) Welsh.

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

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whom he is sent. The Empire of Christ has to
be planted in the community-life of the nations.
Only then can it put the people in a position
to receive the new spiritual life, and so win the
"great multitude which no man can number
out of all natio7is and kindreds!'

We must prepare for permanency. If any
event beyond our calculation, if another Advent
of Christ (even supposing it to be of an external,
dramatic character), were to arrest the work in
mid-course, we should be best prepared for it
by doing the whole work of Christianity. If
this work of Christianising the communities of
men throughout their whole life is restrained
by the expectation of an immediate Second
Coming, that expectation is in the very act
raising another argument against itself. Truth,
when rightly understood, does not cramp the
Christian aim nor limit the benefits which its
spokesmen carry with them.

Some who pray earnestly for the hastening

1 64 The Challenge to Missions

of the coming of Christ hold such a theory of
the course of prophetic events that their prayer
can only be answered by the hastening of the
increase of wickedness and apostacy. One
thing is sure, not the " times and seasons," but
that we can best help Christ to bless the world
by establishing His many-sided kingdom in the
entire life of mankind.

With this aim before us, our plans are laid,
not for " the casual sharpshooter bringing down
his man here and there," but for the slow,
lasting regeneration of the human race. Our
method of working is so determined as to lay
foundations for a huge structure, to sow seed
for future generations to reap. And our hearts
do not fail us in presence of slow progress and
the imperfections of the native converts. The
upward movement is but beginning. The world
moves slowly, but it moves. The kingdom of
Christ comes gradually, and " without observa-
tion." What God makes slowly he means to






The past century's experience of mission work
— not to speak of earlier times — has sufficiently
justified the faith of the pioneers. It required
audacious faith on their part to confront the
world's gigantic heathenism with nothing but
the gospel of Jesus in their hands and call it to
surrender. Was faith ever more daring than
when St Paul faced the Roman Empire and
Greek learning, and foresaw them yield to the
Son of Man ? Yet the answer of time confirmed
his faith.

To stand to-day in some Asiatic, African,
or Polynesian centre, surrounded by pagan
customs, pagan temples, and pagan apathy,
to be one among a few indistinguishable
Christians in presence of millions who are fast-
bound in the universal paganism, and to stand
up to it and believe that the gospel of Christ
can conquer and regenerate the whole — this
demands the faith that moves mountains. To
look on caste-bound Asiatics, and especially on
raw barbarians who are, in Kipling's language,

" Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child,"


1 68 The Challenge to Missions

and to find the capacity of full-grown manhood
in them, and foresee that out of that crude
material can be wrought the rich Christian
character — one's faith might well stagger at
the prophecy.

We have passed the experimental stage,
however, and that faith is sufficiently attested
by the witness of experience. It is only as
they cast their eyes over the work of ten or
twenty years that missionaries see much
measurable increase and improvement. Yet
from that small arc it is possible to infer what
curve and course the future is to make. There
are foretokens that what Coleridge called " the
miracle of Christendom" is to be followed by
the miracle of Asia and Africa, the miracle of
the world. The Gospel works. The world
goes round the sun. We have as much to go
upon for this faith as Newton had when he
inferred from local observation that the law of
gravitation controls the universe. We have our
Newtonian principle, in the faith that the
world will answer to the attraction of Christ's

Livingstone said that Dr Moffat foresaw
homesteads and railways covering Africa and
steamboats plying on its lakes. His anticipation
is already some distance on its way to fulfilment.
From these homesteads, he said, the sound of
Christian worship would be heard ; and we

The Return-Value of Missions 169

have foretokens of that prophecy's fulfilment

Dr Duff, " father of the faithful " though he
was, had not faith enough to believe that India's
womanhood could be enlightened. "Female
education in India, so far as I can see, is
hopeless. You might as well try to scale a
wall five hundred yards high as attempt to give
Christian education to either the women or the
girls of India." Yet already in Bengal alone
there are about 100,000 girls receiving education,
three-fourths of them an education under
Christian teachers.

The beneficent social work being wrought by
missions all over the world is itself alone an
answer to the critic and an attestation of faith.
Dr Dennis has crowded two volumes {Christian
Missions and Social Progress) with the sum-
mary of the changes effected — in domestic life, in
the relief of sickness by medical missions, in the
enlightenment and elevation of native women
by lady missionaries and teachers, in the
reduction of children's sufferings, cruel customs,
oppression, and caste, and in the purifying of
the relations of the sexes in marriage and the
community — in short, in the whole social life of
the pagan world. It is here that men who have
no faith in the religious aims of missions are at
one with us — in cordial approval of the work
done by missionaries in ameliorating the con-

ijo The Challenge to Missions

ditions of pagan life. The visible miracle
cannot be gainsaid, even by the sceptic.

"All things grow sweet in Him.
He draws all things unto an order fair.
All fierce extremes that beat along time's shore
Like chidden waves grow mild,
And creep to kiss His feet ;
For He alone it is that brings
The fading flower of our humanity to perfect

The return-value of Christian missions is seen
in the evidence they give us of the world-wide
power and truth of Christianity. In the mission
field the Christian faith is being verified before
our eyes. Its universal appeal to the human
heart, its fitness for mankind under all con-
ditions, its moral power for the regeneration
and elevation of the race, and the redeemable-
ness of the heathen are being openly attested
anew in the history of the world. Faith's
ventures are returning to certify our religion as
experimentally true.

Here we have living witness of the contem-
porary presence and activity of the Spirit ot
Christ. The Gospel works; and it works
moral miracles within present observation. At
the very time when scepticism heralds the
downfall of Christianity, it is demonstrating its
vital force in the regeneration of races and men
in all nations.

The Return-Value of Missions 171

For proof of the dynamic power of Chris-
tianity in transforming continents our appeal
formerly was made to the victory it achieved
over Roman paganism in early centuries. But
its claims would be weak if we had to reach so
far back in history in order to adduce evidence
of its conquering power over the pagan world.
The same conflict with paganism is proceeding
now under the lead of the missionary legions,
and Christianity is repeating its early triumph
in the same gradual stages. A fresh and
modern apologia for Christianity is being
wrought out by mission work before our eyes.
If some do not see it — well, some did not see
the miracle even when it was performed visibly
by the Christ Himself in person. If the
Christian Church had taken the advice of the
early opponents of foreign missions, if we had
"eaten our morsel alone," we should have
lacked the greatest present-day witness to the
truth of our religion.

If we ever ceased to disseminate the gospel
while paganism survived, it would be because
we had lost faith in Christ and had nothing
vital to say to mankind. Our missionary
enthusiasm is largely the measure of our
spiritual life. " The love of Christ constraineth
us." We cannot lie close to Christ's heart
without hearing how it beats with the passion
for all races of men. Those to whom He is

172 The Challenge to Missions

much will seek to make all men sharers in the
boon He has brought into their own hearts and
lives. And the results of faith's endeavour
will return to confirm their faith and give Christ
the Saviour world-wide verification.




{See Chapter II. pp. 88-86)

The Powers and the Priests in the East

First the missionary, then the consul, then
the gunboat — that is the pith of what many
a Chinaman may be heard to say. What
he resents most bitterly, and what we have
exposed in the text — the white priest's inter-
meddling with native courts, and foreign
encroachments on territory — important books
written by independent laymen, British and
American travellers and officials, as well as
by reliable missionaries, are continually certi-
fying afresh. Among these may be specially
named : China and the Powers, by Mr H. C.
Thomson, author of a work on the Chitral
Expedition ; The Real Chinese Question., by
Mr Chester Holcombe, Secretary of American
Legation at Pekin ; Overland to China, by Mr
A. R. Colquhoun ; and China in Convulsion., by
Mr Arthur H. Smith.

France has been protector of Roman Catholics
in the East ; it was a French priest who inserted
in the Chinese translation of the Treaty of i860
a fraudulent interpolation entitling missionaries
to reside and acquire property in the interior ;


176 The Challenge to Missions

and it was under severe pressure from France
that in 1899 ^^ Imperial Decree was issued
conferring on Roman Catholic dignitaries a
recognised official status in China.

" The bishops," says Mr A. H. Smith, " adopt
the rank of a Chinese Governor, and wear a
button on their caps indicative of that fact,
travelling in a chair with the number of bearers
appropriate to that rank, with outriders and
attendants on foot, an umbrella of honour
borne in front, and a cannon discharged upon
their arrival and departure."

The same status was offered to the mission-
aries of the Reformed Churches, but they,
backed by the British Prime Minister, declined
the offer.

Mr A. R. Colquhoun, author of well-known
travel-books, writing as a lay investigator, says:

" The blood of the martyrs is in China the
seed of French aggrandisement. France uses
the missionaries and the native Christians as
agents-provocateurs \ and outrages and martyr-
doms are her political harvest. What the pre-
ponderance of her commerce does for England
the Catholic protectorate does for France, so
that the influence of their respective positions
vis-a-vis of the Chinese is nearly balanced;
but France makes ten times more capital out
of her religious material than Great Britian has
ever done out of her commercial. Under the
fostering care of the French Government the

Powers and Priests 177

Catholics have become a veritable imperium
in imperio, disregarding local laws and customs,
domineering over their pagan neighbours, and
overriding the law of the land."

The irony of the situation is visible to shrewd
Chinamen — the sinister fact that France, which
protects Jesuit and other Romanist missions,
and displays so much zeal in backing up their
propaganda, has expelled these same Jesuits
from her own borders as a danger to the
Republic, and has herself rejected the religion
which she pushes forward in China. Their
leaders know that ** the presence of a Roman
Catholic bishop in Annam was the thin end
of the wedge which has split that country in
twain and brought a part of it under the
domination of France." The Chinese conclude
— no wonder ! — that Christianity is a useful
political weapon, the advance agent of territorial

With tragic results Germany has latterly
secured that Roman Catholics in Shantung
shall be under German protection. This was
brought about through the agency of Bishop
Anzer. " He began," says Mr Thomson {China
and the Powers, p. 250), " to assume an offensive
and dictatorial tone towards the Tsung-li-Yamen
and to all the district governors, walking into
their courts as though a superior, and reporting
any official who did not cringe to him to his
official superior and ultimately to Pekin.


178 The Challenge to Missions

Finally, to put the climax to his proceedings,
he obtained permission to build a cathedral
in Yu-Chow-Fu, where Confucius lived and
where his shrine is, in the province of Shantung;
and this cathedral was actually begun, and its
building led to the murder of the two German
missionaries, which furnished the pretext for
the forcible seizure by Germany of the port
of Kiao-Chau." This, he asserts, was one of
those sparks which set the Boxer patriotic
movement in a flame and produced such deadly
disaster. (And the horrible cruelties of the
Allied Troops during the convulsion in North
China further deepened native repugnance for
the foreign religion.)

Tributes are paid by the same writers to
the devotion and self-denying labours of in-
dividual Roman Catholic missionaries ; but
even good men, though they were Protestant
and not Papal, could not save this policy from
working havoc. And some of the better men
among them are beginning to see that their
Church is paying too heavy a price for the
favour of political Powers.

Why was Japan fast closed against Chris-
tianity and all intercourse with foreigners for
centuries ? Xavier and his henchmen had won
tens of thousands of Japanese converts. But
the foreigners, following the usual Roman
Catholic policy, intrigued for political power
and laid their hands on the reins of govern-

Powers and Priests 179

ment. The nation — the story and traditional
scenes are well known to the author as a
former resident in Japan — rose up in wrath,
slew thousands of converts, and practically
annihilated Christianity in the land, thereupon
sealing the doors of their islands to all
foreigners for two hundred and fifty years.
The noble spirit of the devoted Xavier could
not have averted such an issue to such a policy.

What but similar revolt must follow when a
similar policy is pursued in China ?

Quite as acute is the Chinese resentment
when foreign priests intermeddle with the
courts of law on behalf of their converts.
"Broadly speaking, in Chinese courts there
is no such thing as justice." Are the mission-
aries to leave their native followers to be
devoured by the " tigers and wolves " of the
Yamens ? They are naturally tempted to side
with their own people. But, if they do, they
are enmeshed in a network of complications
and animosities. Even if the wrong has all
been on the pagan's side, there may have been
indiscretions on the convert's ; and, in any case,
"whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the
pitcher hits the stone, it goes ill with the
pitcher." With good reason the Reformed
Churches, taught by some bitter experience,
have for the most part refused to take up the
lawsuits of their native members.

The Roman Catholics, on the other hand,

i8o The Challenge to Missions

take advantage of their status as local magis-
trates to intervene in the courts when their
supporters are involved.

Let Mr A. R. Colquhoun state the facts.
"Whenever a Christian has a dispute with a
heathen, no matter what the subject in question
may be, the quarrel is promptly taken up by
the priest, who, if he cannot himself intimidate
the local officials and compel them to give right
to the Christian, represents the case as one of
persecution, when the French consul is appealed
to. Then is redress rigorously extorted, with-
out the least reference to the justice of the
demand." After citing a specific instance in
detail, Mr Colquhoun adds : " It is not sur-
prising that arbitrary proceedings like this
should cause the Christians to be feared and
hated, and we need not wonder at the occasional
murder of a priest when such feelings are spread
generally throughout the country."

The people know that the foreign priest has
this privilege ; numbers of them appeal to
missionaries — Protestants included — to be ad-
mitted members of their churches, in view of
some threatened dispute or lawsuit : once they
are within the foreigner's fold the enemy will,
they imagine, be frightened off.

"Every Catholic headquarters," says Mr
A. H. Smith {China in Convulsion^ pp. 50, 51),
" is served by able Chinese, some of whom are
expert in Yamen affairs and act as lawyers for

Powers and Priests i8i

whoever has a case in hand. ... It is common
for those who are acting as advance agents of
the Catholic Church, in fresh woods and pastures
new, to let it be known that, whatsoever happens
to those who identify themselves with that
organisation, they will be protected in their

Protestants in some regions issue notices
and tracts to prevent the expectation of such
help from them ; but, in spite of all, shady
citizens apply for entrance, and some falsely
use the name of the missionary for their
nefarious purposes.

As the policy of certain Powers and priests
is likely to continue the same and create trouble
in the future as it has done in the past, let the
public discriminate and justly apportion the

In order to avoid " offences," the Reformed
Churches should do everything to sever them-
selves from all political backing, to prove — even
though it cost a great price in means, the refusal
of indemnities, and personal freedom — that they
have no mercenary ends to serve and are
absolutely disinterested in their campaign.

There are certain "offences" which are in-
evitable. In addition to some mentioned
already, the incursion of Western commerce
disturbs native industries and trade. "Fire-
ships," telegraphs, railways — of such disquieting
encroachments there can be no arrest.

1 82 The Challenge to Missions

It is also a grave offence in the eyes of the
authorities and the people that Christians
should decline to conform to the customs of
the country. Most missionaries and converts
stand out against the homage paid to departed
ancestors. Some argue that the custom means
little more than " paying one's respects " to the
dead : why not, then, " bow in the house of
Rimmon" to that extent? The primitive
Christians in the Roman Empire had to con-
front the same question. Why not conform
just so far as to pay passing homage to the
Emperor's statue ? But, though the particular
point was small in itself, it stood for their
general separation from paganism and formed
the test of their religious consistency.

" The refusal of the Christians to perform
ceremonies which they regard as idolatrous at
the New Year season, at the spring festival
when the sacrifices are offered at the graves,
at weddings, and especially at funerals, renders
them liable to persecution, sometimes to the
extent of being driven from their homes and
expelled from the clan to which they belong "
{China in Convulsion, p. 34). But in all such
matters of conscience the animosity aroused is
inevitable in the nature of the case. It must
be endured in patience and courtesy, in the
expectation that the leavening power of
Christianity will gradually spread enlighten-
ment and overcome prejudice. Not on these

Powers and Priests 183

grounds chiefly can it be said that " the mis-
sionary is at the bottom of all the trouble."

" It cannot be too often repeated," writes
Mr Thomson — and Mr Chester Holcombe has
already been quoted in the same sense {supra
p. 33) — "that the feeling against the mission-
aries was caused, not by their tenets, nor by
the quiet exercise of their religion, but by the
use made of them politically by their different
Governments, and still more by their harmful
intermeddling on behalf of their converts in the
courts of law."


{Chapters VII. and VIIL pp. 102, 108, 124, 188)

Checks to Progress in India

Mr Meredith Townsend, of the Spectator,
in the course of a discriminating discussion of
the inter-relations between the West and the
East, in Asia and Europe, makes an interesting
estimate of the prospects of Christianity in
India and of the elements that hinder progress.

The supernatural elements and the com-
plex creed in Christianity, Mr Townsend says,
present no difficulty to the Hindu mind. With
superhuman manifestations of deity in human
form the Hindu is already familiar : "no miracle,
however stupendous, overstrains the capacity of
his faith." On the contrary, Christ is not so
completely the Hindu ideal because not so
visibly supernatural and because so like their
own human ideal of humility and self-sacrifice.

One serious obstacle to missionary progress
lies in the attempt generally made by the
workers from the West, not to make Christians
merely, but to Europeanise the Asiatic. Mis-
sionaries insist on " civilising " the Indian after
the manner of the West. They breed in him
the desire of imitation, wrench him away from

Checks to Progress in India 185

the whole system of things in which he has
been reared, create a hybrid caste, not quite
European, not quite Indian, with the originality
killed out of it. The missionary as a European
is divided from the people of India by race,
colour, and incurable differences of thought, of
habit, of taste, and of language. He never can
become an Indian. All this is inevitable. But
Christianity is capable of adapting itself to all
civilisations. And, as Mr Townsend implies,
no attempt should be made to create the same
division among native converts by Europe-
anising them. As has been argued in preceding
pages, Christianity must be planted in the
consciousness of the world-races, and, while
tended and guided by the Western missionary,
must be left to adapt itself to their racial
conditions and become self-propagating along
their own lines, even at the risk for a time of
aberrations in the adaptation of Christian

The convert, too, is required to " break caste "
irrevocably. Mr Townsend believes caste to
be " a form of socialism which has through ages
protected Hindu society from anarchy and
from the worst evils of industrial and competi-
tive life — an automatic poor-law to begin with,
and the strongest form of trades union." But
"caste in the Indian sense and Christianity
cannot co-exist." The break-up is inevitable.
The convert must eat and drink with men of

1 86 The Challenge to Missions

other castes, must abandon the seclusion of his
home and much of his authority over his wife
and children, and must give up many of his
rooted habits. It is not only his religion that
is changed ; everything is changed for him.
" One can hardly wonder that many, otherwise
ready, shrink from such a baptism of fire." It
is, as we know well, on this account that many
in India remain Christians in secret.

Sir Charles Aitchison, one of India's Lieu-
tenant-Governors, said : " I know of one of the
ruling princes of India who probably never saw
or spoke to a Christian missionary in his life.
After a long talk with me on religious matters,
he told me himself that he reads the Sanskrit
translation of our Bible and prays to Jesus
Christ every day for the pardon of his sins. . .
Statistics of conversion are no proper or
adequate test of missionary work."

Moreover, the missionary in India is often
ridiculed for saying that he has hearers who
are converts but not Christians. He is stating
the simple truth, says Mr Townsend. "The
Hindu mind can believe, and does believe, in
mutually destructive facts at one and the same
time. An astronomer who predicts eclipses ten
years ahead without a blunder believes all the
while that the eclipse is caused by some super-
natural dog swallowing the moon, and will beat
a drum to make the dog give up the prize."
He may be convinced of the truth of Christi-

Checks to Progress in India 187

anity, but the assent is not a transforming
spiritual faith, and leaves him nearly where he
was — a baffling puzzle and a disappointment
to the missionary.

These obstacles alone account for much
delay in the victorious progress of Christianity
and for facts that feed the critics.^

Caste, again, has been a buttress to the
native ; and the removal of the old buttresses
and tribal habits sometimes leaves the converts

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