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Jubilee Address to the Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Baltimore, Maryland, October 6, 1871.

By George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of Lichfield.

Extracted from The Churchman, New York, Daily Edition, Monday, Oct. 9, 1871

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2008


A public meeting in aid of the cause of missions, under the auspices of the Board of Missions, was held in Emmanuel Church last evening (October 6, 1871), commencing at 7 1/2 o'clock, the Rt. Rev. Samuel A. McCoskry, D. D., LL.D., D.C.L., Bishop of Michigan, in the Chair.

Evening Prayer was said by Rev. Wm H. Vibbert, of Conn., assisted by Rev. C. H. Hall, D. D., of Long Island, and Rev. E. M. Van Deusen, D. D., of Central New York.

[There follows an address on Mission by the Rt. Rev. William Bacon Stevens, Bishop of Pennsylvania. The address concludes:]

We have, to-night, with us, beloved, one who, thirty years ago this very month, was consecrated as a Missionary Bishop to go forth far, far south, beyond where you can see these stars, beyond the equator, and beneath that glorious Southern Cross that glitters in the southern sky. He was sent there. The cross was in the sky; but, oh, the hearts of the men that lived beneath that cross were benighted. They knew not of Him who hung upon the cross. They knew not of the love that gave itself upon that cross for their souls. And he went forth in his youth as the standard-bearer to hold up the cross on the land beneath as God had held it up over the southern pole. He went there, and he labored there, and his labors, by the blessing of God, have been so blessed that one diocese of his has grown into sixteen dioceses, with their bishops and their clergy; and that land which he found in a state of semi-barbarism just as it were coming out of the benighted state of intense heathenism, he has left nominally a Christian land. And may we not say that he has won for himself a crown? And as over that Southern Cross as it hangs in the southern sky there is also the Southern Crown, so to him who has borne the Cross aloft in those far-off regions may we not say there remaineth the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall give him at that day for his noble missionary work? That Bishop it is my pleasure to introduce to you on this occasion, and while he has had a warm welcome from his Brother Bishops of the House of Bishops, while he had had a warm welcome from the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, we, to-night, gather around him with our missionary hearts, hearts full of the love of Christ, and in the fervor of that love we bid him, as a Missionary Bishop, welcome to our missionary meeting and to the jubilee which we this day celebrate. I know, beloved, that you will rejoice to hear him speak practically of this mission work, and to tell you from his own lips the rich experience of a Missionary Bishop in the far-off regions of the south.


The CHAIRMAN. I have great pleasure in presenting the Lord Bishop of Lichfield, who will now address us on the subject of missions.

Bishop SELWYN, Lord Bishop of Lichfield. Right Rev, Father, Ladies, and Gentlemen: There seems to be a peculiar character about a meeting like this, which distinguishes it from ordinary mission meetings. We assemble here in the House of God; our meeting is begun with a solemn service to Almighty God; those who take part in this meeting appear in their robes of office. It seems then that this meeting has a character peculiar to itself. I quite understand the reason. It is because this is the jubilee of the great Board of Missions, which carries out in behalf of this branch of the Church of Christ that great duty which belongs to every living branch of that Church, of going forth into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature.

In England, as you are well aware, the work of Missions is usually carried on by voluntary societies, and no branch of our Anglican Church has more reason to be grateful to one of those great missionary societies, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, than this Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. When your bishops came to England to the Lambeth Conference, four years ago, their united testimony was borne on all public occasions to the services which the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had rendered to the infant Church in these States, in their time of need. What I say, then, will be taken in no degree as a disparagement to the work, or to the efforts, or to the success of that Society; but I rather point to this great branch of the Church of Christ, established throughout this vast country, as a proof that God, even by imperfect instruments, can bring forth such mighty results.

I come to thank you for the reception which you have given to myself and to those who come here with me to hold out to you and to receive from you the right hand of fellowship. I come to bring from the mother country those greetings with which all branches of the Christian Church were wont in old times to salute one another in the name of their common Lord; and above all this is the occasion, on which, perhaps, more than on any other, I feel an outpouring of my inmost heart, because we have the representation of that great power which, through the Spirit of God, works in the Church of Christ for the evangelization of all nations to the truth or His most holy faith.

Dear brethren, then while I thank God for the work which has been done by our voluntary societies at home, I must express my joy at finding that the work of missions in his country is not consigned to a voluntary society, but that it is made an integral part of the work of the Church itself. I am the more persuaded that this is the right mode by which missionary enterprises should be carried out, because we know that the command of our blessed Lord was not given to individuals; it was not left to be executed by voluntary zeal; it was a never-dying commandment, accompanied by a never-dying promise, that we should go into all the world, with the certainty that He would be with us always, even to the end of the world.

So then you have hit, I think, upon the right method of discharging this great duty. You have organized within the Church itself, and as an agent of the Church itself, this great Board of Missions. We have followed you, at an humble distance of time and with far inferior resources, in our Australian Church, in which, twenty years ago, at a meeting of all the bishops then in Australasia, six only in number, though now they are sixteen--and here I must beg leave to correct my dear brother, the Bishop of Pennsylvania that those sixteen dioceses of which he speaks are the dioceses in Australasia as well as in New Zealand, six formed out of my own diocese of New Zealand, ten formed out of what when I first went there was the diocese of the Bishop of Australia--those six dioceses in the year 1850 accepted the very same principle which you for fifty years have acted upon here, that the Church itself should act not by voluntary societies, but as a part of its own inherent duty, and by its own energy.

Dear friends, this I believe to be the true principle. As you heard a most comprehensive sermon last night on the subject of missions, I shall not enter much into the purely spiritual part of the question; but I must lay down just these few plain principles, and if there be any one here who differs from me in any one of them, I should like to have a few minutes' private conversation; but I rather believe there is no one who will not accept these five or six leading principles:

First, that the commandment of our Lord is to His Church to go into all the world and to preach the Gospel to every creature.

Secondly, that that commandment is binding upon us all, not to be left to voluntary efforts, not to be optional with ourselves whether we discharge it or not, but that this must be bound upon every member of every living branch of the Church of Christ as his bounden duty to discharge in his own part and in his own person, both by his alms and by his prayers, if not by his personal effort, that share of this great work which God has given him to do.

And then, I think, none of us will dispute this great fact, also, that the God of missions is no respecter of person, but that in every nation "he that feareth God and believeth in Him is accepted by him." Then, I think, we shall further agree also in his great principle, that "God has made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the whole earth." And then, further, I hope we shall agree, also, in this, that all the nations of the whole earth, though they may differ in essential respects on all other points, though there be differences of intellectual power, differences of culture, differences of civilization, yet all have at least that measure of capacity to receive the grace of God which is necessary for their receiving the benefits and the blessings of the Christian covenant.

And then, dear brethren, I must also claim your belief to this great principle, that Jesus Christ shed His blood and died for all alike; and then, further, for this, that, through our blessed Saviour and in fulfilment of His promise and in answer to His prayers, the Holy Ghost is poured out upon all flesh; and then the last principle with which I desire your agreement is this: that at the last day, that God, who is no respecter of persons, but who cares for all alike, will ''gather together His elect from the four winds of Heaven, a great multitude which no man can number, of all peoples, and all nations, and all kindreds, and all tongues, to stand before His throne and before the Lamb."

There is our foundation. No other can be laid. No one single stone, I believe, of that foundation can be removed. Now, then, let me trace these principles into their actual operation. With all this clear statement of the Gospel of which I have given this imperfect outline is it not strange that we should hear on many sides distrust, coldness, suspicion, everything in fact the most opposite to that full current of willing faith and that readiness of hearty love with which we should expect that all Christian persons would receive this great spiritual obligation of taking their part in the work of Christian missions? Ever since I have been in any degree connected with missions I have endeavored, as far as I could, to analyze all these questions, to find out what it can be which in the face of all Scripture, in the face of all our repeated statements of belief, in the face of what every one will admit to he his duty if he is questioned upon it, shall nevertheless produce this result, that there is a coldness, and that there is a deadness, and that there is a backwardness in the cause of Christian missions. If you will have patience with me I will endeavor to trace out some of there hindrances, one by one. And the first comes under the head of time.

We are growing more and more impatient every day. When it pleases God to multiply our facilities of locomotion, when men run around to and fro upon the earth, send their messages across the earth with the rapidity of lightning, call unto their aid fire and water, the most opposite elements, and even (as was said of your great statesman in old times), bring down the lightning from Heaven to do your errands, we come into such an impatient state that we cannot even allow God to carry out His own work in His own time, we must have it at once; we number as it were a few years within which we will try our finite experiments, we fix a sort of limit to our hopes, that if in ten years or it in twelve years we can see some visible result, then we are to have faith in the work of missions, then we are to take courage and go on! Dear brethren, have we yet to learn that all results must be left in the hands of God? If the world by God's providence, by His determined council and foreknowledge, waited four thousand years for its Saviour, if the holy men of God were content, as the first great missionary, the patriarch Abraham, was, to receive the promises and to embrace them and to see them afar off, and yet to be content with that one single spot of earth, that grave of Macphelah, as his only inheritance in the promised land, and his own one son Isaac as the only representative of that great multitude, countless as the stars of Heaven and as the sands upon the seashore, which were to be made his children by adoption and grace, oh then, dear brethren, let us dismiss this. We have nothing whatever to do with time; we are the servants of that God with whom 'one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.' Let us be content to work on, to do all that we can in our little lives of three score years and ten and be content to lie down and say that, so far as visible results and tangible success are concerned, we have nothing whatever to boast of, but that we have sown in God's name the seed which, after its appointed period of latency, in God s own appointed time, shall spring up and bring forth fruit, some thirty fold, and some sixty fold, and some an hundred fold.

The next great hindrance to this practical faith in the work of missions which I will bring before you, is the imputation, which you hear on all sides, of failure. Let us go to Holy Scripture for that. Was St. Paul satisfied with the results of his works in any of the churches which he planted? Did he not live to see much decay? Was it not necessary for him to administer severe rebuke? Still more, did not that apostle who by our Lord's will exceeded by twenty years the prophetic limit of the utmost span of human life, who lived to the age of 100 years, live only to see that some of the churches planted by himself had fallen into decay, that their candlesticks were about to be removed, and yet that the light which was quenched in one part of the Church of Christ would assuredly be rekindled in another?

No, brethren there is no such thing as failure in the works of God. God permits our works to seem to fail, to try our patience, to prove our faith, to encourage us to prayer, to make us more earnest in his work, lest if he were to grant us too large a measure of success, we should, as in the days of our temporal prosperity, forget the God who gives us our wealth, and attribute it to the efforts of our own hands--accept the gift but forget the Giver. No , then let no failure, real or apparent--real, I think that cannot be; apparent, there ever will be--let no failures ever enter into our minds; let us simply do God's work in God's name, with prayer for God's blessing, and be assured of this, that in good time we shall reap if we faint not.

But now, then, to speak of failures on a lower ground. Have we a right to speak of failures after such miserable, such impotent, such parsimonious attempts as we make to evangelize the world? If I send a man to lift with his single hand a weight of three or four tons, lying on the ground, and he comes back to me and says that he cannot lift it, shall I say that that man has failed? No, dear brethren; neither would I say that missions have failed when we send out one poor helpless man to preach the Gospel to a million of idolaters--when we place in the midst of the great Empire of China, which, as you have heard, contains three hundred millions of heathens and idolaters, one or two missionaries, unassisted save by the grace of God; forgotten even, perhaps, by many of those who sent them out; deriving a precarious subsistence from alms, not always given with perfect readiness, and withdrawn often on the slightest pretext. No, dear brethren; if we wish to evangelize the world--if we wish really to test this question of success and failure--let us send out to the heathen such embassies as we send out in our civil capacities to all foreign states; let us take care that the majesty of the Church of Christ is represented by the dignity of the ambassadors of Christ; let all men see that we are in earnest; that we are not expecting them to believe that one poor, simple, unassisted man represents the great dignity and majesty of a whole branch of the Church of Christ to the three hundred millions of idolaters in China. Let the means be, in some degree at least, commensurate to the work before we turn around upon missions and say that they have failed.

Now another subject, and that is one of equal importance, and that is the alleged difference of capacity. I have already touched upon that; but you know, dear friends, what a false philosophy there is abroad, which is absolutely contradicting what we find so often in the Word of God, whether in those exact words or in similar words--that "God is no respecter of persons." I grant that there may be some excuse when even an inspired apostle, after the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Ghost had been poured upon him from on high, required a vision thrice repeated to convince him that God is no respecter of persons. It may well be matter of excuse--and God will excuse those who pray to be forgiven--if some of us have not yet fully comprehended this great divine truth, that all mankind are endued by the Spirit of God, in God's own time, with a sufficient measure of capacity to receive every thing that is necessary for the salvation of their souls, that there is no one single human being on the face of God's earth who is shut out from the promises of the Gospel by any difference of intellectual or of moral capacity. And yet how frequently is it alleged, "it is no use to do anything for these people; look at them; are they not the very lowest type of humanity?" Dear brethren, I have seen myself what men call the lowest types of humanity. I have seen the Australasian blacks; I have seen those poor benighted men in Oromango who have twice killed the missionaries of the Gospel who landed on their shores, first John Williams, and then Mr. Gordon; and I am sure that those men, I know that those men have the same capacity, in all necessary respects, for the reception of divine truth that any one of us is gifted with by God among those who are present here to-night. I have been present with some of them on occasions of which I need not speak at length, when one of this despised race was sentenced to death, and I attended him at his execution. I must say that, with the imperfect knowledge of our language, with all the difficulty of communication with that man that I had, he left upon my mind, at the moment that his irons were being struck off, the impression that he died with just so much of simple faith as was accepted by Jesus Christ from the penitent on the cross.

I then pass from that subject, that difference of capacity, begging you all to shut out from your minds that poisonous philosophy which draws distinctions between man and man, which God has never drawn, and which will be reversed in Heaven when the whole multitude of God's elect shall come to stand before His throne.

Now, then, for another point, and that is one perhaps of which you have heard something here--the different habits of some of the races to whom God commands us to minister. The favorite phrase is, "the wandering habits, the unsettled habits, the changeable habits" of this or that race of people. In Australia there were the Australian blacks wandering from place to place, and they were supposed to be therefore shut out from all hope of conversion. Here you have your red Indians, the wild men of the woods, men of whom poets speak, as "wild in woods the noble savage ran." All that was poetry; but you hear them spoken of as men who, because they are hunting tribes, because for their bare subsistence they move from place to place, are therefore incorrigible; that it is unnecessary to make the attempt; it is sure to fail. I see here one of your own six missionary bishops,--he is behind me here--the Bishop of Minnesota. I have conversed to-day with one of his clergy. He tells me that there are 4,500 of those Indians in Dakota who are now giving up under the influence of Christianity these very wandering habits which were supposed to be fatal to the hope that they would ever receive it. He tells me that they are now settling upon farms; that they build houses resembling our own; that they have given up their life in wigwams, their communist life; that they are settling down in the domestic walks of a life like our own; that they fill their churches on the Lord's day, that they bring their children to be baptized, that their youths come to our schools, that they are in fact acquiring day by day, and with far greater rapidity than ever their best friends would have expected, the usages both of Christianity and of civilized life.

Now, dear friends, why is that? Because missionaries have been found who, instead of expecting wild men to conform to our habits, have made our habits conformable to theirs, who have followed them up from place to place and have won their confidence, who have lived the same rough life that they have lived and gained their hearts by showing a real sympathy for them in their benighted state? But we propose an impossible problem which perhaps I may illustrate from ancient history. The fable, you know, is that the beginning of civilization came from that great musician whose name was Orpheus; that he went out with his harp into the woods and played such captivating strains that the wild men of the woods followed him and built cities in order that they might ever remain within the sound of that music which so touched their hearts. But we say no; we tell these wild men of the woods ''come into our cities, give up your wandering lives, and then we will play music to you;'' so that the music is to be the end and not the means; that the Gospel is to be preached to them when they have first accepted that total change of manners which nothing but the Gospel can produce.

Let us then dismiss that subject. Let us believe--and I hope we shall all agree,--that there is no one single nation on the face of God's earth the habits of whose people are of such a kind that they cannot come within that universal promise that all mankind shall, in God's time, be subdued to the obedience of faith.

Now, then, another and a very solemn point, and it is what you have all heard--I believe that what I say to-night is simply what all of you have heard by way of objection, though perhaps the answer has not occurred to you all; I have heard it again and again, ''they are dying out;'' just as if the poet Tennyson were to say:

"A year is dying in the night;
Ring out the wild bells and let him die."

Is that Christianity; is that the Gospel--absolutely to take comfort to ourselves, to shut up our hearts, to close our pockets, because we say: "here is a race which is dying out, and therefore we have no duty to discharge?" Dear brethren, I could bring that home to you by a very simple illustration. It any one of you, parents, had a child that was dying and you were to go to your clergyman to beg him to go down to offer a prayer for that child, would you take it as a sufficient answer if that clergyman were to say, "the child is certain to die; what is the use of coming down to pray for it?" Would you not in the fulness of your hearts, in the agony of your parental love, use words like those of the nobleman to our blessed Lord, "Sir, come down ere the child die." So, dear brethren, if those races of the earth be in God's providence appointed to pass away,--not, remember, because of any Divine purpose, but in consequence of the sins, the vices, which follow in the train of civilization (for these are the causes of death, which is claimed as a mysterious dispensation of God, that the colored races should melt away before the advance of civilization), and if there be other races of the earth which are by God's providence appointed to pass away, as the natives of Newfoundland have passed away, as the last native of Van Dieman's Land has passed away, so much the more think of those that remain. Give your alms and lift up your prayers for the remnant that is left. And as for those that have passed from this earth, not one of them is dead; they are all alive; they will all stand with us before the judgment seat of Christ. Whether their blood will be upon our heads, is one of those secret things which belong unto the Lord, our God.

Once more; I have but a few more thoughts to bring before you, and those, perhaps, of a more practical kind. Another great argument is the want of means. We have before us the scope of our work. We have heard of how much has been done. Let us think now what remains undone. There are, perhaps, of all denominations of Christians about 300,000,000 on the earth. The common estimate of those that remain in heathendom is twice that number. Think nothing done, then, while aught remains. Think nothing done till the whole is completed; till the whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and then we hear, ''where are the means?" Dear friends, we never knew any branch of our good English family that ever lacked means to do any work whatsoever, however great, which it determined to do. I know that for the purposes of war in that little petty war in New Zealand, provoked against the native races, we spent over £7,000,000 sterling. I know that for the redemption from captivity (most justly, it is true, and most worthily of the object) of forty souls that were taken captive in Abyssinia, the British Government thought it not too much to spend more than £5,000,000 sterling. I know how there vast works of commercial enterprise, all these great railways, all these great engineering feats, of which we boast, are always supported with abundance of means commensurate with the end to be obtained. I have no fear, then, whatever, that if your hearts be willing you can find the means. The means are abundant; the only question is, are you prepared to give them? There is no compulsion save that constraining love of Christ of which we have heard. There is no man's taxation, but there is that written law of God that we should give to Him as freely as we have received; there is that inexhaustible bank upon which we all may draw, the very essence of our Christianity, the very fulfilment of our Founder's command, that we should deny ourselves in order that we may take up our cross to follow Him, and will any one of you here present say that he or she could not, out of their daily personal expenditures, save at least one-quarter, for the service of God, of that which they now spend upon themselves; and put all that together, and then tell me whether, even if China were to open all its doors to receive our missionaries, even if Dr. Livingstone would come back from the heart of Africa and tell us that there also a great and effectual door was opened for the Redeemer's march over the earth, if the whole world were to say to us, as it with one voice, "Come over to us and help us, only deny yourselves," and the means will never be wanting?

Next as to the men. There is another cry--and this is the last with which I shall trouble you--"where are the men?" Dear friends, when our blessed Lord said that "greater works than these shall ye do because ye believe in me," He left a little band. That band of one hundred and twenty that gathered in that upper chamber, that little band of five hundred that saw Him in Galilee before His Ascension, that was the sum total of the men to whom Christ gave this vast commandment, this stewardship of the souls of all mankind. How was it fulfilled? The Spirit who came down from Heaven so endued them with power from on high, that while in the infant state of the Church men required signs to induce them to believe, "God's Spirit working with the apostles confirmed the word with signs following;" when these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were removed, then came the Divine promise in the ordinary course of the fulfilment of the words of Christ, that He would be with His Church always, even unto the end of the world; that as to Jonadab, the son of Rechab, because of his obedience to his father's will, the promise was given that he should never lack a man to stand before God forever--so to those who accepted to the full the burden of the Cross and went forth to bear that Cross in the power of the Holy Spirit to all the nations of the then known world, the promise was given that they should never lack men who, in their place when they should be taken to their rest, should stand before God and do the work of Christ forever. That, too, is a plenary promise. That is a promise which knows no exception. It was in that spirit and in that faith and in that power that St. Paul commissioned Timothy to deliver the Gospel which he had received from him to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also--five generations of the Christian Church comprised in two short verses of the Epistle to Timothy. It was in that strength and in that spirit that St. Paul directed Titus to go to Crete and to ordain him elders in every city. And who were those Cretans? Always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies; and yet those liars were to be the preachers of Gospel truth; those evil beasts were to lie down with the Lamb or God; out of those slow bellies were to flow forth rivers of living water.

Never tell me, then, that there is a race upon the earth out of which, by God's providence and by the gift of His Holy Spirit, there cannot be raised faithful ministers, able to serve God in the holy offices of His Church. You have them here. All that has been said about the Red Indian and his wandering habits has never daunted the faith or daunted the courage of your missionary bishops who have gone forth among those races, there to gather men to serve God in the holy ministry of His Church. It has been the same in Africa. It has risen there even to a higher grade. A poor boy, taken out of a slave-ship hold, trained in the schools of the Church Missionary Society at Sierra Leone, and sent to England, there to be trained for the ministry of the Church, has since returned to England to receive consecration as a bishop of the Church, and gone back again to the heart of Africa there to preach to his countrymen the unsearchable riches of Christ.

The same is seen everywhere. India has its band of native pastors. Ceylon has its like company of preachers. New Zealand, out of a race never exceeding in number (men, women and children) 100,000 souls, has yielded to Bishop Williams and myself seventeen ordained missionaries, not one of whom--in the midst of troubles of war, in the midst of the relapse of many to heathenism--has ever swerved either from his allegiance to the British crown or from his faith in the Lord Jesus.

I say, then dear brethren, that there is no lack of men. "God is able out of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." Only let us go forth to our work with a living faith--a wide, a world-wide faith--a faith resting upon a hope which enters into that which is behind the veil; let us go forth in the name of the Lord of hosts to bear the banner of the Cross--that banner which you have heard has been already planted in the most distant part of God's earth, in the island of New Zealand. You in the intermediate space, you with your nine millions of square miles, you with your vast population increasing every decade by so many millions of souls--to you belongs the stewardship of undertaking the charge of the larger nations of the earth. You may have the blessed privilege of being the means under God's hand of carrying the Gospel to the three hundred millions of idolaters in China, and the one hundred and seventy millions of idolaters in India, to the untold multitudes, like the sands upon the sea-shore in number, who throng the vast pains of Central Africa.

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