Delivered in St. John's Church, Brooklyn, February 24th, 1839,
WITH EXPLANATORY NOTES.
By EVAN M. JOHNSON, Rector.
Published at the request of the Missionary Committee of said Church.
The author of this Discourse has expressed his opinion freely of measures. It will be obvious to the reader that he was compelled, in tracing the origin of this foreign missionary spirit in the Church to which he belongs, to speak of other denominations, in which it sprang up in this country; otherwise he would not have done this. However unfortunate he may be in differing from others in opinion, as to these matters of expediency, or as to the order and unchangeableness of the Church and its Ministry, he still is most happy to say, that he numbers among those he esteems as his friends, and as most estimable and pious persons, many, very many, who think entirely different from him. E. M. J.
ISAIAH, Chapter v., part of the 18th with the 19th verse.
"WO UNTO THEM * * * * * * THAT SAY, LET HIM MAKE SPEED AND HASTEN HIS WORK, THAT WE MAY SEE IT: AND LET THE COUNSEL OF THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL DRAW NIGH AND COME, THAT WE MAY KNOW IT."
IT has been judiciously said by an historical writer, that "they who skilfully administer to public prejudices, become, in time, masters of the people." This truth was strikingly illustrated by the history of the Crusaders. The land of Judea had been subjugated by the Mohammedans; the place of our Saviour's birth--the city of Jerusalem and its environs--the localities consecrated by his death, his burial, his resurrection and his ascension--were in the possession of Turks and Infidels. It was with difficulty that the pious and devout Christian obtained access to those hallowed spots. Soon, it began to be taught by the clergy, that the days of the captivity of Jerusalem were nearly accomplished,--that the prophecies had "distinctly marked the age of the beast, the Mohammedan heresy, six hundred and sixty years;"--it was therefore thought to be time for action, as the Lord always brought about the [1/2] fulfilment of prophecy through direct human agency. Pope Urban, in the eleventh century, assembled the Council of Clermont, to take measures to reclaim the Holy Land, and thus to fulfil the divine predictions. His whole address to the great collection of Bishops, Dignitaries, and Nobles, is remarkable for its energy, and for the great apparent sincerity with which it evidently was delivered. In order to excite the missionary spirit, he says to those who were willing to embark in the undertaking to rescue the Holy Land: "You will be extolled through all ages, if you rescue your brethren from danger; to those present, in God's name I command this; to the absent, I enjoin it. Let such as are going to fight for Christianity, put the form of the cross upon their garments, that they may outwardly demonstrate the love arising from their inward faith. Do not fear death--human wickedness can devise nothing against you worthy to be put in competition with heavenly glory,--let no love of relations detain you, for man's chiefest love is towards God,--let no attachment to your native soil be an impediment,--those who may die, will enter the mansions of heaven." [* If any one will read the addresses made by this Pope, and others of his day, they will find them to be models of this kind of declamation. We think that little improvement has been made by modern imitators.] The great assembly cried out, "Deus vult,"--they knelt, and Cardinal Gregory, in their behalf, made a general confession of sin, and they received the Holy Father's benediction.
The excitement thus enkindled, spread like an electric shock through Christendom,--thousands upon thousands hastened to join the standard. The first expedition set forward, and ended in disastrous defeat. After some years, another mighty effort was made, and then another, and another. St. Bernard, a most eloquent and pious man, said that it was "sin and unbelief that was the cause of failure." Says he to an assembled multitude: "You may subdue all the kingdoms of Europe, but vain are the conquests of ambition, if you trust not in the promises and obey not the commands of God." Now again Christendom is aroused. Nobles sell and mortgage their estates to raise money; the Clergy and the people volunteer as warriors; females contribute largely of their means, and in many instances neglect even their own offspring to go and render personal aid to this mighty effort; even children formed societies, and enlisted as soldiers, and were furnished with ships to carry them to the Holy Land. In the year 1213, boys and girls stole from home to go to Jerusalem; two vessels laden with them were wrecked on the Isle of St. Peter; the rest of the ships went to Borgia and Alexandria, and the master sold the children into slavery.
Here indeed "the spirit of the age" fully developed itself. The varied results of these attempts made from time to time, you may read for yourselves. There were some distinguished divines, and others who were not carried away by this FANATICISM. Gregory, Bishop of Nice, declared that the Crusades "were not religious observances." After him Jerome condemned them as highly injurious to the cause of religion. Both thought it criminal in Christians to neglect their duties to the Church, to their families, and to their country, to embark in such visionary projects. They were condemned and denounced as opposing the work of God--they were no doubt considered to be far behind "the spirit of the age;" and not until the delusion passed away, were those found, who did justice to their opinions. It was in vain that, during their lives, they strove against delusion, for "those who had skilfully administered [2/3] to public prejudice had become masters of the people." We must allow that those who encouraged, and those who engaged in these Crusades, were persons of great sincerity of purpose, of great zeal, of great disinterestedness, of great faith in what they believed to be the promises of God; of great self-devotedness, and of great perseverance. Yet, for all this, they were deluded fanatics; they desired to know "times and seasons," in fulfilment of prophecy; they virtually said to the Lord, "make speed and hasten" the restoration of the Holy Land, "that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it." They were dissatisfied with the divine appointment, that the Turks should be in possession of the Holy Land, and they were determined, if possible, effectually to drive them from it.
My hearers, a spirit of like kind most extensively prevails in this age, and especially in this country. It has in view a different end. It aims at the present and immediate conversion of the world to Christianity. [* The American Bible Society made a pledge, a few years ago, that every family in the world should have a Bible within a given time.] It is conceded on all hands that the Scriptures, the revealed will of the Almighty, teach us that the time will come, when the blessings of the Gospel of Christ shall be diffused among all nations. It is most certain that, as yet, these have been extended to but a very small portion of the great human family. The disposition which now prevails is, to 'hasten the time;' to, indirectly, blame the Almighty for not bringing it about sooner. I fear that the woe denounced in our text is deserved by this generation. "Wo unto them that say, let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it: and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it."
Some of the Jews, during their captivity, had this complaining temper; finding fault with the Almighty because he did not shorten the period of their captivity, and restore them speedily to their own land.
There is, and for some years past has been, among us, an increasing uneasiness at, and dissatisfaction with, the divine procedure. Many cannot seem to be reconciled to the idea, that God should permit whole nations to be ignorant of his Son; and they seem determined, that at this very time, the prophecy shall be fulfilled, that the Son shall "have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." They imagine that they are the very individuals whom God has raised up to accomplish his purpose, and that those who doubt this, and withhold their countenance and contributions, are opponents of his work.
I ask your attention to consider the origin ofthis very prevalent sentiment. About the commencement of the present century, in consequence of the general convulsion among nations, and the prevalence of devastating wars, and the overturning of long established governments and institutions, many pious, good and learned men, having devoted their time and attention to the study of the Prophecies, became convinced that "the set time" for the extension of Christ's kingdom had come. Some very learned and many popular expositions of prophecy were extensively circulated, to prove, that from these sins, it was evident that the Millenial age of the Church was near. Some thought they had arrived at mathematical accuracy, and foretold the very year when "the day" should be accomplished, and when Satan should be chained. This prying into futurity, has ever been a popular desire; and we believe, that at the present day, there exists generally, a sort of undefined notion that [3/4] the Millenium is near. Many actually believe that Christ will soon come to reign on earth. [* We infer that some in high standing, even in our own Church, do not consider this a delusion, because Wolff, the open and avowed advocate of this sentiment, was lately ordained by one of our Bishops, at the solicitation of the Professor of Ecclesiastical History in our Theological Seminary.]
About the same time, the British Government had permanently established its authority among the nations of the East. As their moral darkness become known in England, the desire to enlighten that darkness became prevalent; to increase this truly Christian spirit, and to procure means, where means so abundantly existed, to afford moral culture, where civil power had triumphed, it was necessary to address most stirring appeals to British Christians to awaken them to discharge this duty, which was so evidently pointed out in the providence of God.
These sermons and addresses were soon extensively circulated in this country. Presently a few young men, in a Seminary established by the Independents of New-England, for Theological Education, formed themselves into an association, and avowed their determination, in obedience to the call of God, to devote themselves to the cause of missions among the heathen. They appealed earnestly to their elder Brethren. The time was favorable. The idea of the approach of the Millenium, very general. Much was doing in England for the heathen in India. The spirit diffused itself with rapidity through the country. It was in vain that any Gregory or Jerome attempted to check its progress. A Board of Commissioners was formed, composed of the most distinguished ministers and members of this sect, selected from every quarter of our country; committees were appointed to levy contributions in their congregations, and large sums were immediately raised, to carry into effect at once, this great object; other smaller sects, mingled as they are in this community with this greater sect, set forth in this enterprise. The Anabaptists, though as a sect never before distinguished for their literature, thought they were especially called to attend to the work of translating the Scriptures. [* It was not foreseen by all of those who assented to this arrangement, that the Anabaptists would, in translating the Bible into foreign languages, introduce their peculiar views as to the manner of baptizing, by substituting for the word "baptize," that word, in the language into which they pretended to translate the word of God, which means "immerse." Thus, most of the foreign translations prove to be Anabaptist Bibles, and now, at the very commencement of the missionary work among these nations, the controversy thus excited about the correctness of the translation is agitated, and must be settled. This surely is no part of the work of God.] And last of all, members of the Church were carried away with the surrounding fanaticism.
It began to be taught among us, that it was highly disgraceful that the Episcopal Church of the United States had not a solitary missionary on heathen ground. To wipe out this foul stigma, missionaries have since been sent, at great expense, to China, and one on an exploring tour among the Turks, in Persia, from which he has just returned. [* I do not consider the mission to Africa as a foreign mission. It is manifestly our duty, if we induce the colored people to go there, from hence, to send with them the Christian ministry and the sacraments of the Church.] Since the beginning of this excitement, the great American Bible [4/5] Society, [* Perhaps there never has been a more signal failure in the accomplishment of its designs, than the AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY. It promised to promote harmony among sects; look at the controversy with the Anabaptists, which has arisen in that institution; look at the controversy which now rages between the two parties of the mostnumerous sect composing it. It promised to reduce the price of the Bible. Bibles are sold by individuals as cheap, if not cheaper, than by that Society; it distributes few, very few Bibles gratuitously, and is sustained at an immense expense in payment for rents, and to Agents, Contractors, and dependents.] and the American Tract Society, and innumerable other Societies, have contributed directly of their funds, and all indirectly of their influence, to sustain these operations and to control public sentiment; and now it is a general and received article of faith, that this is the day for the conversion of the heathen, and that those who think otherwise and withhold their contributions and aid, are not entitled to the name of Christians. Those who hesitate are said to be "ignorant of the Scriptures," "to be destitute of the Spirit," and to have "cold hearts." I do not doubt, my hearers, the same was said of those holy men, who in vain strove to check the fanaticism of the Crusaders, when they appealed to the "signs of the times," to prophecy, to Scriptures, and acted, moreover, with the approbation of the then visible head of the Church.
The fact is, that, during the last year, some hundreds of thousands of dollars have been raised by charitable contributions, and expended in sending persons called missionaries, [* It is commonly understood that, by a "missionary," one is meant who preaches the Gospel. There is a deception practised in the use of this term. If any one will take the pains to look at the Reports of these foreign laborers in the annual statement of the Foreign Board of Commissioners, he will find the far greater proportion of them are only school teachers; and some tell us they dare not so much as mention religion at all. Of those sent to Greece or China by our Church, it is not believed that a single one is a missionary in its literal sense. They are all school teachers.] to various parts of India, China, Persia, Arabia, &c., from these United States of North America; that the Christian public have been taught, and believe, that it is their duty to send these individuals, without regard to expense; that those who differ from this opinion are indifferent to the cause of Christ's gospel; and those Christians and congregations are said to have the most piety and zeal, who contribute most money thus to send the Gospel to the heathen of distant lands. We find lists of contributions, and names of contributors, printed and published with, I fear, too much ostentation.
By missionary fanaticism, I mean--the spirit that excites to all this--that leads any of those who call themselves Christians, here, in this comparatively remote part of the world--in North America, to think that, at this time, God calls them to go, or to send others, to the most distant quarters of the globe, to preach the Gospel among the heathen. Well aware of the pride and prejudice by which this fanaticism is sustained--well aware of the odium which those who are carried away with it attach to those who will presume to doubt--I shall attempt to show why, in my opinion, this is not the Lord's work; but rather that it is the work of man's folly. To use the popular language of the day, I feel as if I had a special charge to bear my testimony against this delusion,--to strive to convince others, that they are distrusting the providence of God, and sinning against him, by throwing away their gifts and graces on visionary experiments; and though I do not expect sectaries will hear [5/6] or listen to what I say, I do hope, that some of those in our Church who have been deluded, and who are carried away with the "spirit of the age"--who are throwing in the weight of their talents and character to sustain this popular error, may be led to think, more prayerfully, seriously, and impartially, and to see if they are not laboring for nought, and spending their strength in vain.
Lest any, at this stage of our discourse, should turn away and say--the preacher is opposed to missions; he must be wrong; and in this wholesale manner condemn all that may be said, let me most distinctly say, it is untrue that I am an enemy to missions. I am, in fact, and for years have been, myself, a home missionary; and I hope to spend and be spent in this cause of preaching the Gospel, and ministering, especially to the poor, destitute, and ignorant. I receive my reward as I go onward--that best of all rewards, the approbation of my own conscience. God forbid that I should say one word to discourage a proper Christian zeal, directed to any object which Christian prudence or common sense commend. It is because I conceive that this spirit which has been excited in this country,--of sending persons to far distant and heathen lands, to effect the immediate conversion of the inhabitants,--had its origin and finds its support in the erroneous opinion of man, and not in the will of a holy and righteous God, that I attempt, without fear or favor, to state my objections to the whole movement.
I do not believe that those in this country who encourage this foreign missionary spirit, as it is called, are engaged in the Lord's work; because to do this, they pervert Scripture. The petition in the Lord's prayer, "thy kingdom come," is often quoted in support of these measures. While it is, undoubtedly, the duty of all Christians to pray that the kingdom of God may come, yet, it is to come, according to the will of God; "thy will be done." This kind of supplication, can only be used, the more to fit us for the service of God, and to make us more willing and able to do our duty, and more worthy of his aid--than it is to alter, or to interfere with, or to change the course of his Providence; as a general petition, we use it, and not as applied to any particular future event. To illustrate this:--It is the will of God, that all men should be saved, and that every one to whom Christ is revealed, should repent and believe the Gospel; and we ought to pray that this may be. But who does not see a great difference between such general supplication, and that very particular supplication made by enthusiasts, in which they call on God to grant this prayer, then, at that time, in behalf of some individual then present in the congregation? This is common among some sects, and they are as much justified in this practice, as those are who select out this particular event, which all believe that God will at some time accomplish, and then in saying "thy kingdom come," think that he will effect it now, in this our day, because they pray for it.
Because our Saviour, in a parable, uses this expression, "the field is the world;" this text has been abused, to inculcate the doctrine that the whole world is the field in which Christian ministers are now to labor. If rightly applied, the allusion is most happy. The world is the field. This extensive field calls for, and requires, in its various subdivisions, many and devoted laborers; but laborers are not to leave the harvest when it is ripe and ready to be gathered--to go and sow seed where the ground is not even tilled.
But it is said, did not our Saviour say to his Apostles, "Go ye into [6/7] all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature?" He said this, and he said it to the Apostles, and he gave them power to do this, and sustained them by his miraculous grace. Is it not obvious, there is a great difference as to the means to be used at the first propagation of this religion, and for its extension in after ages, when the miraculous powers given to the Apostles had been withdrawn? It is contrary to all sound rules of interpretation, to consider what was addressed personally to the Apostles, particularly in regard to their immediate duty in propagating the Gospel, as addressed, through them, to every minister of the Gospel to the end of time. This is a very common abuse of Scripture. Let us try it in another case. Says our Saviour to his Apostles, "these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they shall cast out devils, and shall speak with tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Those who have believed that this promise was to all believers to the end of time, and have acted accordingly, [* The Irvingites and others.] have as good ground for their belief, as those who say that this especial command given by our Saviour to his Apostles, for a special purpose, is obligatory on Christian ministers now. If it be moreover strictly so--then, every minister who remains in one place to preach his Gospel, is violating this command. Again, says our Saviour to the seventy, "Behold I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions." Can any one suppose that Christians can handle serpents at this day, and not be harmed?
I know what a prodigious effect has been produced by the frequent repetition of these, and a few of such like texts of Scripture, and by pleading the binding authority of the charge given to the Apostles. All I wish is, that Christians would calmly consider these passages, and some others, which I have not time to mention, and see whether they can truly and legitimately be brought to sustain the sentiment for which they are and have been so often quoted,--that it is the duty of Christians, now, to go from this country to the most distant part of the globe, to effect the conversion of the heathen. I do not believe that those in this country who encourage this foreign missionary spirit, are engaged in the Lord's work, because it is also stimulated by a false view of the condition of the heathen in the sight of God. If we look at the speeches before the Foreign Missionary Societies, and their Reports, we find that most generally, the heathen are stated to be going down, generation after generation, to endless misery. It is no where in Scripture told us that the heathen are all finally lost; indeed the contrary is taught us, in these and other passages: "That the Gentiles which have not the law, are a law unto themselves." That "God is not a hard master, reaping where he has not sown." We are, from a general view of Scripture, taught that the whole race of man, since the fall, is in a very different state from what it would have been, had not Christ offered himself to God for them. Those then, who awaken Christian sensibility and sympathy, by bringing forward most prominently this doctrine, that all the heathen are damned, assert what the word of God does not warrant, [7/8] and therefore use means which God cannot approve to carry on his work. [* So general had become the idea that all the heathen are damned, that when the Editor of the Churchman lately advanced the contrary doctrine, he was denounced and condemned as a heretic, and even displaced from his station as a Professor in our Seminary. I have in vain looked for a defence of the contrary doctrine. No one has dared to assert that all the heathen are damned. Some of those who were in such haste to condemn the author of the tract entitled "The Salvability of the Heathen," have (to their credit be it said) done him and his opinions justice, by re-appointing him to his Professorship.]
I do not believe this foreign missionary spirit to be of God, because it may safely be affirmed, that God never calls any to neglect some duties to discharge others. Look for illustration of this to New-England. I select this part of our country, because it is generally reputed by its own inhabitants, to be more enlightened, more religious, and more intelligent than any other portion. It can be most abundantly proved, by documents put forth in the form of reports of associations, by printed public statements, which have been uncontradicted, and from other sources, that during the last thirty years there, the common schools have been neglected, and of course, have fallen off rather than improved--the colleges have remained, to a great degree, stationary--the religious societies have become more and more distracted and divided--the persons acting as their teachers have been changed and dismissed, until there can hardly be said to be any thing like a settled ministry--the Sabbath, so called by them, has become awfully desecrated--intemperance fearfully prevalent. The religious societies called Churches, have, it is by general consent admitted, signally failed to resist the torrent of irreligion and vice. It has been necessary to establish other societies to do the work for them, and these seem also to fail. [* On this subject, see an able article by Dr. Hewitt, in a late number of the Literary and Theological Review.] Every sort of heresy prevails abundantly, from that which denies our Lord's divinity, to that which denies our future existence and accountability. Schism upon schism, and sect upon sect, have started up, each one claiming to have made new discoveries in doctrines and religion. It is indisputably true, that this is so; that during the last thirty years, the cause of religion and public morals has most awfully retrograded even in New-England. How could all this have been, if those who call themselves Christians, and especially Christian teachers, had faithfully done their duty at home?
During this very period, while religion was thus declining among them, the time and talents of their most influential men have been devoted to exciting and keeping up this foreign missionary spirit, and some two or three millions of dollars have been sent to India, and China, and Persia, and Greece, to support foreign missionaries, sent from where their exertions were so much wanted to restrain immorality, irreligion, and vice, to where they have been of so little use.
[*From the Twenty-ninth Annual Report of the Commissioners for Foreign Missions for the year 1838, we learn that their annual income for that year was $236,170; for the year before, $251,000. The number of ordained missionaries in all parts of the globe, including those among the Indians of America, is 126. The whole number of Church members at all the stations, after deducting those paid for being there, is about 2000. Let it be remembered that this work has been thirty years in progress, at this very great annual cost, and we are compelled to [8/9] say, that almost nothing has been done. Will any one say that this great amount of money could not have been appropriated in a manner to have produced far different results, in dispensing education and Christianity in our own country? This statement includes the missions at the Sandwich Islands, of the success of which we have heard so much. If the descendants of the Salem Puritans have carried there their religion, they have also carried there their intolerance and spirit of persecution. It seems there are some persons of the Romish persuasion residing on these islands. A clergyman was sent by the Church for their religious instruction. In the Report for 1838, we find the following:--
"HINDRANCES TO THE WORK. There appears to be a disposition on the part of a portion of the Romish Church, to interfere with our operations at the Sandwich Islands; or, rather, there has been a decided and persevering influence exerted by a portion of the foreign residents at Honolulu, to introduce an opposing mission to the one already in the field, reckless of the consequences to the people and government. The Romish priests, who were banished from the islands some years since by order of the government, returned to Honolulu in a British vessel in the spring of last year, and were ordered by the acting Governor of Oahu, to leave the islands in the same vessel in which they came, but refused to do so. On the facts being reported by the Governor to the King, who was then at Maui, the order to depart was confirmed, and the priests were taken by the government on board the vessel. The owner of the ship, on being compelled to receive them, went on shore with his crew, carrying the flag with him, which he presented to Mr. Charlton, the British Consul, who burned it in the streets. The arrival of a British, and also a French ship of war, while this matter was pending, and the interference of their commanders, is understood to have nearly overpowered the resolution of the government in the legitimate exercise of its powers in relation to foreigners. The King, however, remained firm, and the priests some time after left the islands."
This was instigated and promoted by these missionaries, and is a repetition of the expulsion of the Quakers from Salem. From this intolerance, and from the introduction of fanatical practices, which here have proved ruinous, such as female prayer meetings and got up revivals, it is not probable that there, any permanent good will be effected by this sectarian effort.]
What is thus true in all these respects of New-England, is true to almost as great an extent throughout the whole country, especially in those most extensive districts settled by emigrants from thence or their descendants. Here then, it is evident, duty at home has been neglected, while this other supposed duty has been most industriously discharged. Further, general reasons, if others were wanting, exist to prove that it cannot be possible, this is the Lord's work. There are other special considerations which are conclusive to the preacher--that these foreign missionary operations are not of divine origin.
The universal or Catholic Church of Christ, as it at present exists in the world, is divided into three great branches: The Greek Church, the Roman Church, and the Anglo-Catholic Church.
Although it has pleased the Almighty to permit a temporary estrangement as to outward communion to prevail between them, yet they do in reality, substantially agree in essentials; they all believe in the authority of the Sacred Scriptures; they all believe that the Church is the 'pillar and ground of the truth;' that its ministry is of divine institution, and has existed from the Apostles' days, in three orders; they all receive for truth the doctrines of the Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, and acknowledge the authority of the four first councils; they all believe in the necessity of sanctification for salvation. They all look to the same Saviour for redemption, and the same Spirit for [9/10] sanctification. There is also agreement as to their outward worship: for in each, liturgical worship only is used. [* We should hail it as one of the most auspicious signs of the times, if great and good men, in each of these great branches of Christ's Church, would strive more earnestly to find out in what points they agree, rather than in what they differ. We think we see an opening to a reconciliation between the Greek and English Churches; and may we not hope, that when questions purely of a political character shall have been separated from those of a religious, that the way will be opened for "an armistice," if not a reconciliation, between the English Church and its branches and the Roman obedience?] To this Church Christ has said, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it;" though its brightness may be obscured, yet its sun will never set in darkness. To this Church are his promises made, that it shall be the "joy of the whole earth," "all nations shall flock unto it." Since the days of the Apostles, from time to time errorists and schismatics have departed from its unity, resisted the lawful authority of its Priesthood, and undervalued the efficacy of its sacraments. Thousands of these have had their day, and passed away. Thousands exist at the present time, and like them, will pass away and be no more seen. But this great Church, thus extending its branches over Christendom, remains unaffected by these novelties and speculations of schismatics. We believe the Almighty will, through this Church, accomplish his designs of extending its blessings. He will not use those as his instruments, who have rejected the authority and renounced communion with his Church, and are thus living in open rebellion against him.
I will illustrate this idea by an example. The Independents, or Congregationalists, or Presbyterians, (by which names they are called indifferently,) and the Anabaptists, or, (as they are now called,) the Baptists, of these United States, both or all of them, sects of modern origin, having openly rejected the authority of the Church which was originally established in England, (the land of most of our ancestors,) in the Apostolic day, and set up new societies of their own, by them called Churches, are sending missionaries, money, and books, to the most distant quarters of the earth among heathen, to spread--What? not the Church, but what they call the Church; not the society which Christ established on earth, whose ministers he commissioned, and with whom he promised to be "unto the end of the world"--but a sect, which indeed believe some of the articles of his faith, and reject others, just as they please.
It seems most reasonable to believe, that when the time comes, that God will bring to the knowledge of the truth, the millions of heathen in India and China; he will do it by means of his Church, rather than through the schismatical sects, originating and existing in the United States, or elsewhere.
This accounts for the want of success which we have already noticed, though more than three millions of money have been spent in this undertaking. I have not time to allude to the absurdity of the attempts making by these sectaries to convert members of the Greek and Roman Church, to their either heretical or schismatical opinions.
[* A Society has within a short time been formed in the city of New-York, by Presbyterians, to convert the members of the French Church to their "evangelical religion." It was publicly announced lately, that a sermon would be preached and a collection made, "in the Brick Church," to support its Agent. There has been for a long time great solicitude felt by this sect, for the members of the [10/11] Greek Church in the Holy Land. A considerable number of Presbyterian ministers are supported there, to convert them to evangelical piety. As a specimen of the surprise which some of these express in finding any of the Bishops of the Greek Church to possess either piety or information, I extract the following from the journal of Mr. Goodell:--"Two important persons in the Armenian Church, died the past year; one was a bishop, eccentric, but apparently much enlightened. He had the Scriptures read to him by a priest some hours before he died, and seemed to enjoy it very much, exclaiming every now and then, "Oh how sweet! oh how precious!" He also partook of the Lord's Supper, having previously made confession of his sins to God. He had already confessed to a priest, according to the rules of the Church, but told the priest that he had no sort of confidence in his power of forgiving sins, and merely confessed to him because he wished to be obedient to his Church; but that now he was going directly to God with his confession, hoping there to obtain forgiveness. Though he was not free from superstition, we still indulge the hope! that he was, and ever will be, one of Christ's own flock."
Another extract from that of Mr. Whiting: "The Greek bishop of Aleppo is here on a visit. This man is much enlightened, and he loves the light. He is a man of much good sense and seriousness. I was charmed with the judicious, spiritual character of his conversation. He appears to have at heart, the spiritual good of his people and nation, and to be grieved by their late opposition to our missionaries. He bought a considerable quantity of school-books and Scriptures, and says that on returning to his flock, he shall himself open and teach a small school of lads. We have had much interesting conversation with this man, and have been delighted and encouraged to find A BISHOP possessing so much good sense, and so much seriousness and zeal in the cause of truth and piety."
Wonderful! that Mr. Whiting, from New-England, should find one bishop of the Greek Church, who did not believe in the power of man to forgive sins! and another, who possessed piety and good sense! These extracts will convince every judicious person of the utter incapacity of men like these for the work in which they are engaged. I cannot but imagine myself listening to a dialogue somewhat of this kind, between this Mr. Whiting and the Bishop of Aleppo. After Mr. W. had stated the object of his mission, to convert the members of the Greek Church to "evangelical piety," the Bishop of Aleppo asks, "From whence did you come on this errand of mercy?"
Mr. Whiting. From Boston, in New-England, in North-America.
Bishop. Surely you have come a great distance; and if you can teach us a "more excellent way" than we have already, I will gladly listen to you. I suppose you have brought letters of commendation from your Bishop?
Mr. W. Why, I never saw a Bishop in my country. Some people there called Episcopalians, have Bishops; but we made the discovery that they were useless, and for about 200 years we have done without them. All our ministers are equal: we allow of no superiority.
Bishop. Indeed! under whose authority then do you go forth?
Mr. W. The "American Board of Commissioners," composed of devout and pious men, who are mostly Congregationalists and Presbyterians.
Bishop. What is the form of public worship which you propose to introduce among us?
Mr. W. Why, we reject all forms, and depend on the Spirit to give us words and utterance in prayer. We think that forms, though they have been in use formerly, are calculated to quench the Spirit, and we have thrown them away.
Bishop. As you have rejected the authority of Bishops, and the manner of celebrating the worship of God according to the order of the primitive Church, I suppose [11/12] you have made some new discoveries in Christian doctrine. Can you inform me on this point?
Mr. W. The founders of our Church did not think that the example of the primitive Church, or the Creeds which had before been received as symbols of faith, were sufficient; they thought they could make better themselves. So a great number of godly men, in the time of the great revolution in England, met at Westminster, and made a Catechism, which contains the "substance of our faith."
Bishop. Am I to understand that those who receive this Catechism, of which I have before heard, are united in their views of either the order of the Church or the doctrines of the Gospel?
Mr. W. Why, indeed, I cannot say they are. Some think that the Presbyterian form of Church government is taught by it; others think that Independency, where the Church members may make their own ministers, is allowable; and others think every one may suit themselves in this matter. As to faith, some receive this for substance of doctrine only; others think it must be understood literally, and so received. I am sorry to say there is among us much diversity of opinion on points of Christian doctrine, and no little dissension.
Bishop. I suppose, however, that this system, which you think improved, and which you come here to teach us, is productive of better fruits than was the old, which your fathers rejected. There is, I conclude, in America with you, more piety, more holiness, and more devotedness to God, than formerly, or than there is with us?
Mr. W. We have among us many very pious and godly men; but I am sorry to say, that even where such great light shines, there is much moral darkness. Religion has not that hold on public sentiment that we could wish. Some have feared that sin and iniquity increasingly abound.
Bishop. Are Christians in America united in religious sentiment?
Mr. W. It is a lamentable fact, that we have almost an infinite number of sects; though our system has not hitherto produced unity, yet we hope that it will, and that Christians will become more united.
Bishop. I suppose the festivals of the Church are observed with more care with you than with us?
Mr. W. Festivals! Why, I know of no festivals except the Sabbath; that is too much neglected. I have heard talk of Christmas day, but the religious observance of that is Popish: our people spend it in sports, of shooting, hunting, &c., otherwise I never heard of Church festivals. I hope you do not symbolize with Rome, so much as to keep their holy days?
Bishop. May I ask in what estimation are the sacraments of the Church held?
Mr. W. Why, we do not believe in the Popish doctrine of the efficacy of sacraments, or of their necessity: as for baptism, it is well enough for the children of the elect to be baptized--we do not attach much importance to this--more than nine-tenths of our population die unbaptized: as for the Lord's Supper, it is received by some as an outward badge of Church membership, but it is not essential.
Bishop. I wish I could converse longer: but from what I have heard, that you reject the authority of the four first Councils of the Church; have set up a new Church, independent of that which Christ established; that your system is attended with innumerable evils, dissensions, distractions, a neglect of the sacraments and festivals of the Church, and that it does little to check vice and immorality; I think you had better had remained at home, and turned your thoughts to consider your own heresies, rather than to come all this distance, and to feel so much concern for the spiritual darkness of the Holy Catholic Greek Church.]
 The foreign missionary operations of the Episcopal Church in these United States, are of two kinds: Those which are designed to reform the members of other Christian Churches, and those designed to convert the heathen of foreign lands to Christianity. Such serious objections exist to either of these projects, that it cannot be, it is the Lord's work, or that those who forward them are manifestly moved therein by the Holy Ghost. Suppose it to be our duty to strive to effect the conversion of the heathen, why go to those of China, or Persia? [12/13] We have some millions of blacks in our country who are really heathens; we have on our continent and adjoining our borders some hundreds of thousands of savages. To these we might devote all our labors of love, and yet find much ground unoccupied.
It cannot be admitted that it is our duty to go thus far away, unless it can first be proved that the members of the Church in this country are obliged to do all that is to be done of this foreign missionary work. Once admit that we can do but a part of it, and then it would seem to follow of necessity, that the part which is most practicable ought to be selected, and that certainly would be, the field nearest and most accessible. But I cannot admit that, as members of the Church, we, here in these United States, have at present any thing to do with foreign missions: because, by engaging in them, we violate the rule, the truth of which we think well established, that God never calls any to neglect one duty to discharge another. All the funds to extend the Church and Kingdom of Christ which have been obtained, or which under any circumstances can be obtained, from members of our Church, are but a moiety of what could be most immediately and advantageously applied, to rescue from ignorance and spiritual death the millions in our own newly settled and destitute regions. We, as a Church, have not done our duty to these. Thousands who had been educated in the knowledge of Christ, and in communion with his Church, have died without consolation, perhaps without hope, on account of our neglect in sending them the ministry of the word, and the bread of life. Our duty--our evident, palpable duty--has been awfully neglected.
I wish to illustrate this, by stating particularly, that during the last year the sum of about fifty thousand dollars only was contributed to defray the expense of all our missionaries in the whole United States. Suppose our operations had been confined to the valley of the Mississippi alone; suppose this whole sum had been expended for the seven millions of persons residing there; would that be any thing like a proper discharge of our duty to them? We have only sent here and there a missionary, whose wants have not been half supplied, and many of whom have returned sick and broken down, having wanted the comforts of life. We have left some of our Bishops in that region, in want of means for their own comfortable support, and all of them almost wholly destitute of the ability to carry into effect their pious designs of establishing schools, seminaries, churches, and other missionary stations.
[* It is really worth while to consider the results which flow from the missionary operations of our Church, as at present conducted. One church in Charleston, S. C., determines, at its own cost, to sustain a missionary in China. The churches in Maryland and Virginia contribute largely to support the schools in Greece. In these very States there are hundreds of thousands of slaves, who do not know that they have souls, and it is felony to learn them to read! Some of our Bishops do not travel through their extensive Dioceses, because they have not the means to defray their expenses, and our Church sends a gentleman to travel in Persia, at an expense of ten thousand dollars! Bishops Chase and Kemper cannot establish their Seminaries for want of means, and ten thousand a year has, for some years, been expended by our Church, to maintain persons in Batavia, to learn the Chinese language, and also to teach school. In this very city of Brooklyn, within two months, more than two thousand dollars (of which one hundred dollars was to purchase a set of silver communion plate for the mission in Africa) were sent for missionary purposes far away, and the church here belonging to the colored people, having been consecrated by the Bishop, which is in debt, in all about one thousand [13/14] eight hundred dollars, was sold by the Sheriff the very same week this money was collected, for two hundred and sixty-two dollars. This enumeration might be much extended. The Church in Rhode-Island has conducted its missionary operations with the most judgment and prudence, and of course, with the most success. Long after the writer was admitted to orders, by the truly excellent Bishop Griswold, there were but three congregations in the State. By employing laborers in the destitute parts and by applying the contributions of the pious almost exclusively to this object, the number of officiating clergymen is now sixteen in that small State. Large and flourishing congregations have been collected where the Church was, a few years since, unknown. Here is a commendable example for others.]
 This is the fact: The Bishops and missionaries have not been sustained, their wants have been neglected, and their opportunities of usefulness cramped, for want of means. It was our evident duty to supply these means to the extent of our ability, and this has been neglected. During the same year there have been expended, under the authority of our Church, these various sums of money, for the support of forty-four persons:
In Greece, fourteen thousand dollars;
In China, four thousand dollars;
To Agents, more than four thousand dollars.
What the whole expense of the exploring missionary just returned from Persia is, I do not know; certainly not much less than ten thousand dollars. Had all this been added to the fifty thousand dollars given to our Bishops and missionaries, then their wants would not have been one half supplied. I think, as a Church, we have neglected the greater to discharge what, it must be admitted by all, is a less important duty. To do this, I cannot think God ever calls any.
As to the lawfulness of our missions, so called, in Greece and to the Greeks in Constantinople, I think every consistent Episcopalian can have but one opinion. If the authorities of the Greek Church had solicited the aid of the Church in this country, then, if that aid could have been given consistently with the full discharge of duties at home, it ought to have been given. It does, however, not appear that the Greek Church has ever desired our aid. [* Itis greatly to be desired, that the Bishops of our Church would immediately open a correspondence with the Patriarch of Constantinople, (which might easily be done through our Charge there,) and ascertain whether the continuance of the schools in Greece, and the establishment of another "mission" at the city of Constantinople, be desired by him; if not, the one should be abandoned, and the persons employed recalled, that they may enter upon more important duties at home. The idea of establishing the other should then be given up.] We have, in opposition to her remonstrances, (in some instances certainly,) thrust in upon her persons who here are called missionaries, and there school teachers. I cannot think that he who established his Church, can call the members of one branch of it, thus to interfere and strive to break the unity of a sister branch. As well might the Church of England send missionaries to reform the Church in the United States.
Having been thus established in error, and continued through want of inquiry and proper reflection, the results which have attended this foreign missionary enterprise of our Church have been such as might have reasonably been expected. In China, nothing has been effected. In Persia, we have yet to learn from our exploring missionary's journal, whether any thing has been, or can be, done. In Greece, [14/15] as missionaries, our agents have not acted at all. As school teachers, a great desire to obtain a knowledge of the English language having prevailed, they have had some considerable success.
In conclusion, my hearers, for my own part I have no doubt, but that the establishment and maintenance of Kenyon College in Ohio, has done more to advance the cause of Christ and his Church in the world, than all the foreign missionary efforts which have ever been made by our Church, though these have cost ten times as much as the other. It is, to aid the venerable founder of that Institution, to establish another of like kind, in the midst of what is now a wilderness, but which will soon be occupied by thousands and tens of thousands of those who go out from among us, that your contributions are solicited. He has been laboring seven years to obtain means to pay for lands on which to erect his buildings, and to support his College; during this time, our Church has sent some thousands of dollars more than his need requires, to enable two or three persons to study the Chinese language in Batavia! and teach thirty children the English language! under an idea, that at some future time, they and their pupils can be permitted to preach the Gospel in China, from which they are at present more than two thousand miles distant. Had the amount which this experiment has cost, been placed at the disposal of Bishop Chase, "the wilderness and the solitary place would have been glad." Let us then, on this occasion, contribute our mite, and if it be only like that of the widow, it will show our approbation of his work, and our desire of its success.
END OF THE DISCOURSE.
To the Editor of the Brooklyn Advocate:
SIR:--I am truly grateful to you and the Editor of the Long Island Star, for your christian-like and gentlemanly notice of the Sermon lately put forth by me on "Missionary Fanaticism as opposed to Christian Zeal." I wish all who either write or speak on this subject, would, as you both have done, confine their observations to the matter of the sermon itself. I have been openly, to my face, accused by an officer of one of our great American Societies, engaged largely in foreign operations, with being an abettor of the doctrines of Thomas Paine, and as a suitable associate with his followers. I have been accused of favoring Popery in the sermon. A reverend brother, a member of the Foreign Committee has, I understand, before a Brooklyn audience, indirectly held me up as an unbeliever in revelation, and has expressed a desire for a public disputation with me on its evidences, though he has since confessed that he never has read the sermon. The Evangelist, a sectarian newspaper, charges me with "mental hallucination," because I believe in the divine constitution of the Christian ministry as existing in the Catholic Church. A Clerical editor of a religious newspaper [15/16] in Boston, says that I affirm, I would rather the money sent to foreign lands to support Missionaries, should be expended on a Theatre in New York. I am frequently represented as having in this sermon opposed all Missionaries. Such misrepresentations, and the exhibition of such temper, do me no injury, but they may do harm to those who indulge them, and who are so much in earnest to propagate among heathens that religion which forbids all "evil speaking." I really wish the discussion be turned from me to the subject. If I have made any erroneous statement, if I have misinterpreted any text of Scripture, if I have erred in the conclusion to which I have arrived: viz. that it is not now the duty of Christians to send men and money to the amount $300,000 annually, to far distant nations, while thousands upon thousands among and around us, are dying without hope and without knowledge; let some one point out my error. I am sure I am willing to be convinced and to confess, if I am wrong. Let none hurt their own souls by uncharitable censure, instead of striving to enlighten the mistaken by sound argument. The first edition of the sermon is almost sold, and another will be shortly printed, which can be had at a cheaper rate for distribution. All I wish is, that persons would read before they condemn.
Yours, with respect,
EVAN M. JOHNSON,
Brooklyn, March 27, 1839.
New York : Louis Sherman, at the Protestant Episcopal Press,
142 Fulton. Street,