Chapter I. The New Persia
Chapter II. The Past in the Present
Chapter III. The Task of the Church
Chapter IV. Living Epistles
Chapter V. Methods of Evangelism
Chapter VI. "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism."
THE OPEN ROAD IN PERSIA has in it all the thrill of real adventure along byways unknown to the mere tourist. There is a Persia that the ordinary traveller never sees. Mr. Richards writes of what he himself knows intimately. Every page throbs with the human touch of a man who lives in close comradeship with people for whom clearly he has a big heart of love. I know, too, that he does love them, and that they love him, for I have watched him in his life among them. In places he has written courageously and with great plainness of speech, but yet with very real sympathy about certain conditions obtaining in the New Persia. And if he appears to express strong opinions of some phases of life and conduct, I think Persians who know these conditions would more than justify him. They themselves have often been more severe in their own criticisms of their country.
A difficulty that besets any one who would write of present-day events in Persia is that while he is writing the country is changing. A fact which stands out clearly in this fascinating story of modern Persia is indicated in the title. The Road is "open"; open for every sincere endeavour that points the way to national progress. The reigning Shah had a vision of a new Empire of Persia which should worthily take its place among the world empires of to-day; and with splendid courage he has steadily overcome one obstacle after another that seemed to bar the way and that might have deterred a less intrepid ruler. One of his great accomplishments has been the way he has caused roads to be driven over mountain and desert connecting up the most distant parts of his great empire. He will be famed in history as "The Road Maker."
And the Road in Persia is "open" in new ways for every altruistic enterprise which will benefit the country. It is true that foreign residents in Persia, whether missionaries or merchants or what not, find many of the present restrictions to be irksome. The remedy is to take a long view backwards and forwards. For example: this book was written in the autumn of this year, just when the present regulations affecting foreign primary schools were coming into force. But there was a time in the not-far-distant past when the chaotic condition of things in Persia was a far greater hindrance to the effective carrying on of even very modest school enterprise. We have watched the way Persia has faced the task of putting her educational house in order; and one sign of success is the way she now feels able to undertake the whole of the elementary education of her own children; this need not imply that Persia is ungrateful for the lead given in the past by American and British missionary societies. We look back and are glad that we encouraged Persia to think out her problems. We look forward, and dare to believe that Persia does sincerely value the disinterested work for her people which Christian missionaries have so cheerfully given in hospitals and schools over a long number of years, and that she will wish to keep a place in her future plans for that social, moral, and spiritual strength which has unquestionably been contributed by Christian missionaries who rejoice to be God's servants for the truest good of Persia.
The chapter on "Living Epistles" is an epic of how the sons of Persia are to-day being energized by the Spirit of the living God. It is an effective witness to the way in which Jesus Christ meets and satisfies the deepest need of men of every race.
The increase in the number, and more, in the quality of Persian Christians leads on inevitably to the development of an indigenous Persian Church. The day is well nigh gone when a divided Church in Persia can any longer be tolerated. There are difficulties in the way, but they are not insuperable if we believe that the Holy Spirit still lives and that He guides us into a knowledge of the will of God. "The road beckons on."
J. H. Linton,
Bishop in Persia