Project Canterbury

["Concluding Address" at the meeting of the Board of Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, meeting at the Academy of Music, New York, on October 13, 1874. From The Church Journal, New York, October 22, 1874.]

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2008


Mr. Presiding Bishop, My Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen: At this late hour of the night it will be necessary for me to abstain from any long speech [O no]; but I desire to take leave of you, for this is a leave-taking, with a very earnest exhortation to you to think more earnestly and to act more vigorously in this cause of missions to which your attention has been drawn to-night. For every effect there must be a cause; and for such a result as this, that your Mission Board is $20,000 in debt, there must be a cause. In a city like this and in a country like this, there is no one single object which, if it be prosecuted with energy, can ever fail for want of funds. I conclude, then, that there must be some cause which leads to this result that your mission fund should be in debt. What is that cause? I am afraid, dear friends, it is, in plain language, a dulness, a coldness of heart with regard to missions. Now, I am prepared to make a bold assertion, one that I think I could prove, that neglect of missions is first a contradiction to the laws of nature; that it is, secondly, a contradiction to the instincts of humanity; that it is, thirdly, a contradiction to the course of Divine Providence; and that it is, lastly, a contradiction to Divine revelation.

That it is a contradiction to the laws of nature, I infer from this, that all nature and all science prove that the world has come to its present state by a continued course of improvement. Geologists tell us how many ages it has taken to bring the earth in which we live into the state in which it now is. Those, then, who sit down and acquisce in a state of things which admits of improvement without any attempt to improve it, do contradict that fundamental law of nature to which all science bears testimony, that everything we see around us is an evidence of a progressive tendency to improvement.

And then I say that the neglect of missions contradicts the instincts of humanity, for there is no human being that I know of who, from the earliest dawn of reason, does not endeavor to the best of his ability to improve those things of which he knows, and feels, and understands the value. Look, for example, at the care a parent bestows upon a child. It is no discouragement to a parent to look to a period of training of the child three times or four times as long as that which would be necessary to perfect the training of any one of the inferior animals. A horse comes to its maturity at five years old. A parent, when the child is five years old, then only, for the first time begins to think that her real work in teaching her child is just approaching to its beginning. Now, then, I say, with regard to the neglect of missions, a great deal of the neglect of missions arises from this, that instead of seeing that the more noble the animal, the more capable of improvement, so much the longer will be the period required to bring it to maturity, we try some miserable, puny, stingy experiment, find that experiment fails, then pronounce all missionary effort useless, and give it up! Think only if a parent were to judge upon that principle; that a parent, finding a difficulty in teaching the child its A B C, continues that work for a few months, or until the child is five years old, and then pronounces the child utterly hopeless, incapable of improvement, and gives up the attempt! Such is the case of those who send out one of those starveling missions which are the disgrace of our Church and of our Christianity, into the midst of vast masses of heathen nations, and, when the experiment has been tried for a short term of years, give up in despair.

The third point is that the neglect of missions contradicts the course of God's providence, for the course of God's providence, dear brethren, has always been to lay up in store in the bowels of the earth, from ages before the world was made, such things as in due time would be revealed and applied to the use of man, for his comfort and for all the purposes of his daily life. No country is more rich in these hidden treasures of Divine Providence than this; no nation is better able to avail itself of those treasures of Divine Providence laid up in store before the world existed in its present state. All your mines of coal, all your vast deposits of iron, all your mineral oils, everything in fact that is now ministering to the wealth and comfort of this people, was laid up by the Providence of God to be revealed in due time to minister to your wants. So it was in a most remarkable degree in the course of the fulfilment of that decree of Divine Providence that men should multiply and replenish the earth. When the day came in God's providence that mankind should multiply and extend itself across the ocean. as our countrymen stretched under the guidance of Columbus into this great continent, at the very same time when that spirit of maritime enterprise arose which has peopled with our race this great Northern Continent, it pleased God to reveal in the bowels of the earth that loadstone which has since been found by a great philosopher, Franklin, to be identical with the very same power by which he drew down the lightning from heaven. [Applause.] At a time when mankind was multiplying in the Old World and it needed expansion for its redundant population, it pleased God, I say, to reveal the magnet which should guide the mariner over the deep, bring him to new lands unknown before, open to him new fields for colonization and for enterprise, and so release him from that state of thraldom in which he was when he hugged the shore for fear of launching out in the deep, and drew up his ship over night for fear of a storm.

Here, then, was the first great alteration in our system, all laid up in the providence of God, all ready to be made use of by an energetic nation such as this when the day came for the development of the purposes of Divine Providence. [Applause.] The next great step, of course, was this: When it became expedient that rapid communication should take place across the ocean, we had a philosopher in England--I think it was Dr. Dionysius Lardner--who wrote an article to prove that no steamship could cross the Atlantic Ocean. [Laughter.] The ink with which the article was printed was scarcely dry before the first steamer crossed the Atlantic; and now, as you well knew, we are all of us crossing in about nine or ten days from America to Ireland, backwards and forwards, with no more thought of it than formerly you used to think of going from New York to Albany by steamer. Such is the change that has taken place, and such is the marvellous facility which by God's providence, has been placed in the hands of an energetic people for carrying out the highest purposes of the life that now is, and so readily availed of by those who "go down to the sea in ships," who prosecute their business in great waters, who convey all the produce of the various climates of the earth to minister to your luxury and to your comfort.

And then comes the last of these developments, that when it became necessary that men should communicate freely one to another almost with the rapidity of lightning--that power which your same great philosopher that I spoke of developed, demonstrated, and brought down from heaven--that power now goes under the deep and connects you in a moment of time with the mother country, used, I am afraid, for ignoble objects to tell whether cotton rises or falls, or whether gold is at such a price or another, but intended no doubt for a higher purpose than that, and that is to show us that in the womb of God's providence through ages back there have been laid up these treasures which God ordained to be used in His own appointed time for the advancement of all the best interests of mankind, social and temporal, to minister to the comforts of the life that now is. [Applause.]

Of course, now I come naturally to the last point, and just to ask this very simple, and yet I must say very painful question, when all these gifts of God, when all these laws of nature, when all these developments of providence are so visible in our eyes, why is it that we stop short exactly at that point at which all our energies ought to be taxed to the uttermost? That is, when we come to Divine Revelation, and know that commandment which God has so wonderfully carried out by His providence, by revealing all these methods by which men run to and fro upon the earth, and increase and multiply and subdue it, why is it that, when the time came for the fulfilment of that commandment resting upon Divine Revelation, resting also upon an eternal purpose of God that the Lamb foreordained to die before the foundation of the world, concealed for four thousand years in the language of prophecy and under types which could be understood only by those whom the Spirit of God specially enlightened--that when the time came after four thousand years that the visible manifestation of the Son of God upon earth was the signal given to all believers to go unto all the world and preach His Gospel to every creature whom God in His providence had scattered over the whole face of the earth; that when then the confusion of tongues at Babel had done its work, and Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and dwellers in Mesopotamia, all those who surrounded the site on which the Tower of Babel was built, should all scatter themselves over the various lands into which God's providence led them, when the Chinese in their junk, imitated probably from Noah's ark, and perhaps existing at a period very little after the Deluge; that when the Chinese and other Asiatic nations did come, as I am certain they did, from the Asiatic continent, and peopled this great continent, built those cities which have been found in the bosom of the woods in Central America, representing a high state of civilization, when the ancestors of the Peruvians and the Mexicans carried with them many of the arts of social life and refinement which the Spaniards wondered at when they saw them; that when the time came that the Gospel was to be preached to these men whom God had thus planted in all the various parts of the earth, then it seemed as if all the energy of the most energetic nations of the earth failed to grasp that simple principle, that everything that God has given us to do, and every particular and means that God has given us of doing it, bind upon us a duty in proportion to the magnitude of the object to be attained, by directing all our thoughts and energies and offering up our most earnest prayers for the fulfilment of that highest work of God, because it is the highest? [Applause.]

Now, if any Christian man here present will tell me that there is one single thing which he holds of more importance than that of which I am now speaking--if any human being will lay his hand upon his heart and say "I believe that all these purposes which are now being carried out by steamboats and railways and electric-telegraphs and machines of every sort, by mines underneath the ground, or by manufactories above the ground, that any single one of all these things is of more importance than the converting to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ one single child," I should be glad if that man would stand up in the midst of this congregation and assert that. [Applause.] But I am sure it is not so. I am sure that every single person here present, man, woman, or child, is prepared to admit that all these other things are absolute vanity, compared with "the one thing needful," which our Blessed Lord has given us to do, and has given us most abundant facilities for doing; that He has given us the grace of His Holy Spirit in our hearts; that He has given us these ample means, which we spend so lavishly upon our own luxury, and upon our own comforts, and upon our own locomotion; that He has given us the most abundant means of fulfilling this purpose of Divine Revelation. I ask, then, (and I say it, I believe, without presumption,) I ask in His name, why is that purpose not fulfilled? Let those answer me who can. Why is the one thing of all others which most clearly demonstrates the Divine Providence, why is that thing which of all others most clearly demonstrates the Divine will--why is that the one thing of all others to be treated with coldness and neglect? Why are missionary societies to be left wanting these few thousand dollars, which are lavished in the streets of New York every day of your lives upon purposes utterly worthless compared with this great object? [Applause.]

I have spoken, dear friends, of the providence of God. Let us consider what that providence is. You have heard of the elephant's trunk, which has its double power of riving and tearing up an oak or of picking up a pin. Such is the providence of God that the Ruler of the Universe, whom the heavens and the heavens of heavens obey, numbers every hair of our heads, and that without Him not one sparrow falleth to the ground. I look then at these Indian tribes of which we have heard to-night, recognizing in them perhaps the very smallest part of the subject upon which I shall address you to-night; but the smaller the work, so much the more pointed, I think, will be the argument. If some say that there be but 40,000 of these Indians, if the highest estimate that you hear raises them to 270,000, I ask of you, the representatives of some forty or fifty millions of Christians, is that a very great work for the elephant to undertake? [Laughter.] Is this a very large pin for such a great nation as this--a nation, too, which is well aware of its greatness? [Laughter and applause.] Is this too large a pin for such an elephant as this to pick up?

Well, then, I come to the manner in which this work is to be done, and here I feel deeply sorry in being obliged to differ from my dear friend and brother whom I respect so much--the Bishop of Niobrara; but of course I have my own experiences, and experiences lead to thought as thoughts lead to action; and, therefore, I am unable to concur with him in that kind of composite mode of operations which he seemed to think necessary under present circumstances. Perhaps the present circumstances may be the explanation of the different modes which seem to occur to my mind from that which appeared to exist in his. New Zealand, dear friends, happily began with the soldiers of the Cross. No soldier of the Crown of England set foot in New Zealand before the missionaries had taken possession of the island from end to end. Hence I think the difference. If the soldier of the Cross be not foremost in the field, it may be impossible to say what may afterwards be necessary in the way of that composite system of physical force combined with moral suasion which your experienced Missionary Bishop seems to think now to be necessary. Happily in New Zealand we needed nothing of the kind; happily in Melanesia we needed nothing of the kind. Not a gun was ever fired in New Zealand before the Gospel of God, from one end of the island to the other. [Applause.] Guns were happily unknown in our mission vessels. We never had but one gun on board and that was a fowling-piece for the purpose of giving signals; and yet our decks were crowded from morning to night, by men quite as barbarous as the red Indians in their habits, but they were not provoked to retaliation in the same manner that I fear the red Indians of this country have been.

And that leads me to ask another pointed question, and perhaps it may be considered personal, and by some even deemed offensive. The question is this: "How can we account for the fact that the Indians in the Dominion of Canada appear to be so different from the Indians in the dominion of the United States?" There is a difference. I have heard much about both, and I have seen something of both. There, then, must be a cause to be assigned for this effect, and the cause, I think, is this: That the Indian missions in Canada were earlier in date than those missions in this country; and the reason probably was that there were too many attractions in your great cities here. The great cities rose more rapidly in population and wealth than they did in the neighboring Dominion, and the natural effect was that your best men, I think, got too much anchored to the town--too much tied to their fashionable congregations; and the very best word that I have heard to-night was that of Mr. Hinman, when he hoped that more good, comfortable rectors--the most eloquent men in the city of New York--would soon be found in the forefront of the battle in the far West. [Great applause.]

Of course, dear friends, I would not dare to say these things if I were not ready to put myself at the head, or, at all events, to go in company with you; but, old as I am, and partially unfit for the work, there is nothing. I should like better, if I were not charged with a Diocese of a million or more souls, than to go out with a good, earnest deputation of good rectors of New York and all the cities in Northern America, and have a thorough good raid, without arms, without ammunition, without rations, and without anything else but the simple preaching of the Gospel, taking care, of course, to learn the language beforehand, because it is that which keeps us back from many of these Indians. Just as I could hardly find a single man who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England, though so many cross from this side, so I hardly ever meet a man that does not talk about the difficulty of acquiring languages. The difficulty is in setting about it. Do you suppose Bishop Patteson acquired a knowledge of seventeen or twenty languages, so as to be able to preach in half of them and converse in all of them, without some effort? You may talk about natural gifts and the facilities for acquiring languages; but the real natural gift is to have in your heart a determination that you will do what is necessary to be done; that you will learn what is necessary to be learned; that you will give up everything that is necessary to be given up, and that you will go forth; and depend upon it, my good friends, if there be any young man here who wishes to be a missionary, never let the difficulty of acquiring a language stand in his way. There is Mr. Hinman, who will teach him at once. Ask Mr. Hinman whether he would not have a class now of young missionaries--twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty--and undertake to teach them the Dakota language in the course of twelve months. I would teach anybody the New Zealand language in twelve months, or less than that, if he is only willing to learn, because you know the old proverb, that one man can lead a horse to water, but twenty cannot make him drink. I will lead the twenty men to water, provided they will promise me that they will drink. (Laughter.) With that knowledge of languages, and with a stream of young men saying to themselves "All this is very well; Wall Street and the Stock Exchange, and the cars and everything else, is all very well; but there is one thing which is better than all these: that is simply to do the work which Jesus Christ has given us to do, to do it with all our might, and face all difficulties and all dangers that come in the progress of it, to let nothing keep us back, not even death itself"--because what are the sailors and soldiers doing? They are putting their lives in their hands. There is no exaltation of a missionary. Talk not about a missionary's self-denial. It is the very thing men are doing for far worse purposes. All those men who are supposed to be necessary to coerce the Indians; all those generals and soldiers who are now following up the Indians with fire and sword, are submitting to privations; they are incurring risks greater a great deal than any missionaries are likely to undertake.

I say, then, look at missions in the plain common sense of Christian duty; look at them as the work which God has given us to do; let a fair proportion of an our population, those whose hearts God has moved, invited, and exhorted every year to devote themselves to this particular branch of the work, and then you will see from this small work, of which I have spoken, this conversion of these few hundreds and thousands of Indians in this country, our missions will expand into a far larger work; we shall take a higher and a wider range of thought; and so, dear friends, I come to tell you.

You have heard, perhaps, that in the General Convention there has been a talk about what was meant by proposing that the Church in the United States should be organically united with the Church in England. What I meant by it is this: That we should have a larger front to go forth into the realms of Satan--a larger power to make aggression upon heathenism; that we should do it as a united Church; that there should be no distinction between a clergyman in the United States and a clergyman in England. (Great Applause.) I do not want to interfere, and the Archbishop of Canterbury does not want to interfere with your canons or your rules of order. You may alter them again and again as much as you like. But what I say is, let us be united in heart upon this one point: that here is a great nation, thirty millions in England, fifty millions in the United States, all of them speaking the same language, all of them reading the same Bible, all the subjects of the same promises, all looking forward to the same account which we most give before the judgment-seat of Christ This great stewardship, then, of the whole world is, at this present moment, I believe, committed to our Anglo-Saxon race. (Applause.) If it be not committed to us, I ask to whom is it committed? Has the stewardship of souls, as a duty binding upon mankind, ceased to exist? Spain had it once. Spain neglected it. Spain had lost it. France had it once. Portugal had it once. There is no nation now that can be put in comparison, for one single moment, as a real effective missionary power upon the earth to our own English-speaking race. (Applause.)

You have heard about the increase of population here. Now, it is perfectly appalling to think of what the population of this country may become. If you set to work and calculate the seven millions of square miles that there are in the territory of the United States you will find that by the time the territory of the United States shall have been as thickly peopled as the territory of England, it will contain more than the whole present number of the human race, that is, that if it please God to move the heart of this great nation to a sense of its true, its highest responsibility, there may be within a given time the whole number of the human race actually professing Christianity within the limits of the United States, and able, upon equal terms, man for man, to do battle with the other remaining unconverted portion of the human race scattered over India and China and Africa, and all these other smaller countries which yet remain in heathen darkness. Now is not that an adequate object for a nation like this? Is not that a reason why England should be united with her daughter-country in America? Is not that a reason why the Church in America should be united, as with one heart and with one soul, with the Church in England? (Great Applause.) Is not that a reason why Bishops should go forth sometimes like Bishop Mackenzie from England to die in America; sometimes like Bishop Auer from America to die in Africa; sometimes like Bishop Patteson to die in Melanesia, and by their deaths to serve Christ as effectually as by their lives, by setting forth an example of Christian self-denial, of duties performed at the hazard of life? All these qualities of a Christian missionary which stir up the hearts of all real believers in Christ as effectually as the deeds of heroism that are done in war by our soldiers and sailors, stir up the hearts of our young men to go and do likewise! (Applause.)

Now, dear friends, I must bring this to an end. I hope I have made sufficiently clear what I intended to say, and as I have spoken of Africa, and as all of you here have special reasons to be interested in our friend, a great explorer of Africa, Dr. Livingstone (applause), I wish to end what I have to say to-night in the words that he used when he addressed the University of Cambridge, on the subject of the Central African Mission on the Zambeze. He ended, in most simple yet most affecting and touching words: "Gentlemen, I have said all that I have to say; I leave it with you." (Prolonged applause.)

Project Canterbury