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The Church's Burden

The Reinicker Lectures for 1902

By the Right Reverend George Herbert Kinsolving, D.D.
Bishop of Texas

New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1902.

Chapter I. The Missionary Idea

IF you will pardon me, in beginning this course of lectures, I would like to indulge for a moment, in a few personal reminiscences which spontaneously crowd upon the mind as I stand here on what to me is one of the sweetest and most hallowed spots on this earth--dear old Seminary Hill. In 1873, while a student in the Junior class, my fellows elected me to deliver an address on Missions. It was my first public utterance, and missions, thank God! was the subject of it. When I consulted with Dr. Packard as to what I should say on so vast a subject, with the wise and practical judgment so characteristic of him, he at once advised me not to waste my time on platitudes and abstractions. "Tell your fellow students something about what the missionaries are doing," said he, and following this suggestion, among other things, I retold the beautiful story, as written by Dr. Montgomery, of George Schmidt, the Holland peasant, who first carried [3/4] the Gospel to South Africa and planted in a valley of Caffraria one of the most wonderful missions ever established by evangelical Christianity.

Some years afterwards I was invited to deliver the annual address before the Missionary Society of the Seminary, of which Society I had once enjoyed the honor of being President.

Then again it was my very great privilege, at the request of the Bishop of Virginia, to preach the ordination sermon for the class in which the founders of our mission in Brazil were set apart for their work--a work which, in the Providence of God, marked an epoch in our Church life, and established a precedent which has become so far-reaching in its promise that the present century alone can in some measure determine it.

And now, after the lapse of more than a decade of years, the faculty of this Seminary have once again honored me with an invitation to deliver the present course of lectures on the Reinicker foundation. And almost without choosing, the old, yet ever fresh and new theme of Missions takes possession of my mind, and I have come to you with a message, as God, by His Holy Spirit, reveals it to me, to talk with you on a three-fold aspect of the subject--viz., (1) The Missionary Idea. (2) Some Hindrances in the Way of its [4/5] Full Realization. (3) Some Reasons for My Belief in its Ultimate Triumph.

In our lecture this evening we will consider the Missionary Idea. The missionary idea, how did it originate? What does it mean? The idea originated in the mind of Jesus Christ. In its own inherent character it was a revelation, through the Incarnation, from on high.

It is the fashion of modern thought to emphasize the importance of evolution, and the principle of development, to the exclusion of very much else which is true in our world, and to the ignoring and even repudiation of other forces and principles which are just as important and equally as apparent as these. For instance, we often hear it said that the Church or Kingdom which Christ our Saviour established in the world was the natural and inevitable evolution from Judaism. It supplemented the old Church, and in many respects was an appendage and continuation of it. The truth of the matter, however, is, that Christianity was established and proclaimed for the first time by Jesus Christ--and proclaimed as a system, perfect and complete in itself, composed of parts peculiarly its own, and standing alone in the world on its own independent authority and power, in many respects, [5/6] as Canon Liddon strikingly expresses it, "a grand original," and possessing an objective and subjective existence, in its most essential features, aside from Judaism altogether. Christianity, I say, distinctly as such, is to be regarded as a new element, now for the first time brought down from Heaven to earth when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. By no means is it the mere natural development of germs previously latent in Judaism. The Jewish religion did not evolve or generate the Christian religion. Christianity was not conceived, as it were, in the womb of Judaism, afterwards coming to the birth as the offspring of this, its mother. It was not a product of its past or previous history. The one system, I repeat, did not by a law of development, or a process of modification, gradually become transformed into the other. "The Christian Church was an idea realized in Christ's mind absolutely, not relatively. It was His own invention, if I may so say." Modern scepticism has dared affirm that Christ, when on earth, taught only what was already known, what was more or less old; that He merely reproduced what had been discovered in former ages, and that, after all, His system of truth was but a re-enactment of what was in the law, and a restatement of the [6/7] lost teachings of the Prophets. Such sentiments we most earnestly deny, and in opposition we maintain that Christ did not merely borrow from Jewish or any other sources, but that His teaching was in a large measure original and new. He discovered, and as a pioneer led the way into numberless "new worlds" of truth, which before that were as lands unknown, unexplored and uninhabited.

And, following this thought a little further, we would add that our Lord acted in an entirely different capacity from that of a mere reformer. He did reform. He purged society and "His fan was in His hand; and He was like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." Yet He came among us-invested with another sort of commission than simply to accomplish the peculiar kind of work in relation to the Jewish Church that our forefathers, for example, long afterwards had to perform with reference to the Christian Church. These latter, you remember, were delegated to remodel an old system which was then, and had been for many centuries, in existence, but which somehow in the lapse of ages had got strangely out of repair, and sadly needed reconstruction. Numbers of her stones had rolled down from the walls of this Zion, and accumulated masses of [7/8] d├ębris and rubbish were visible on every hand. All things appeared to be crumbling away into decay and ruin; wild beasts of various descriptions had crept through the breaches into the enclosure, and were trampling under foot the celestial flowers growing within, and making a fearful havoc with the trees and fruits planted in this garden of His by the hand of the Lord Himself; so that earnest and faithful men found it necessary to replace these stones in their former position, to build up again the towers, to remove the dirt, thoroughly renovate the structure and restore it to its original condition. Work of this kind, you will find characterized on the pages of Church history as that of the Reformation. That is to say, it was a readjustment of the dislocated material of an old institution according to the pattern and style of architecture after which the building was first erected, and which it possessed prior to its falling into ruins, without altering the site of the building, or changing the plan of it, or adding anything thereto of your own creation or fancy, or without subtracting aught therefrom.

What we mean by this illustration is to show that in no sense is the Christian Church a reformed Jewish Church. The Saviour's work was [8/9] pre-eminently creative in character, and not like our ancestors', reformative. It was not a sweeping and garnishing of an old house and setting the furniture to rights, and dusting off the cobwebs and accumulations of the ages. Christ did not put the new wine of the Gospel into the old bottles of Judaism, otherwise the bottles would have burst, and the wine have been spilt. Nor was it even that He raised up an edifice, the superstructure of which is Christian and the foundation Jewish. Christ built His Church new from the lowest stone in it to the topmost spire pointing heavenward. And while He may have appropriated, and did appropriate, much of the material taken from the ancient Church, this material no longer remained of the same description that it had formerly been. Its distinguishing marks were lost upon being thus applied, and the new creation took the place of and superseded the old one, and was set up in the world unique, independent, complete and perfect in itself.

And if what we are saying be true, as applied to Judaism, how much more when we come to consider the question of the relation of Christianity to the various ethnic religions of the world. It is quite the fashion in some quarters in our day to regard Christianity as only "the outcome [9/10] and consummation of the religious searchings and struggles of the race--a sort of summum bonum of the religious history of mankind." But, as we have already said, Christianity in its essential features is unique, independent and original--a new creation, and not an evolution nor an amalgam and conglomerate of other systems.

Are you arguing then for the notion that we have in Christianity a violent rupture in the world's history--a break and gap in the religious experience of mankind? Not at all. "Nature never makes leaps," says Leibnitz; neither did Christianity. If ever a religion did preserve its continuity with what preceded it, that religion is Christianity. It allowed nothing to perish in Judaism or heathenism which it was worth while for men to possess--not one jot nor tittle of essential truth. It was in a marvellous degree eclectic, inclusive and comprehensive. All previous history, Jewish and Gentile, flowed into Christianity naturally, as its true consummation and end, and found there its necessary complement and real completion, and interpretation. Says Luthardt: "Jesus Christ is the end toward which all ancient history tended, whether external or internal--an end required by the whole previous development, the answer to the question with [10/11] which it concludes, the solution of its enigma, the key by which we may be enabled to understand the history of the world. He, the miraculous gift and act of God, coming from above and not from beneath, is not its product, but He is its requirement, and therefore, though with respect to His nature and origin supernatural, yet in His historical position, its natural close. He is, so to speak, the filling out of the void which the history of mankind had left, but which it was unable from its own resources to fill. Such is the position of Christianity--that is, of Jesus Christ in history, retrospectively viewed. He is the goal to which it was tending, and its close; and corresponding with this is the position He occupies in history prospectively viewed. He is the starting point and its power. A new era begins with Him and is ruled by Him."

Following this line of thought, then, and concentrating our attention upon the application of it to the special subject before us for consideration, let us see what there was of the missionary idea which Jesus Christ used, and what there was which He fulfilled, in Judaism and in the heathen religions of antiquity; and what gave to Him and His teachings their original and distinct position in our world.

[12] When God at first revealed divine truth to His chosen people, the missionary idea was implanted in the revelation. A modern writer has truthfully said that "the first Hebrew was chosen for his descendants and for all the families of man. The nation that drew its life from him was elected for universal service. Its isolation, its unique endowment and history were privileges whose termination was the good of mankind." At sundry times and in divers manners God continued to whisper the message of missions. Now and then a prophet, or some holy man of God, heard the heavenly voices, and, in trying to repeat what they heard, gave utterance to thoughts of marvellous beauty and magnificence, and outbursts of sublimest inspiration. The Prophet Daniel, in particular, as he gazed with far-reaching sight down the dark and misty ages of the future, foretold with distinct and definite perception a period in which the God of Heaven would set up a Kingdom which should break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms, yet itself should never be destroyed, but should stand fast forever. The same era passed before his mind's eye in the vision of the night when he speaks of beholding one like unto the Son of Man coming with the clouds of Heaven, unto whom was given [12/13] dominion, and glory, and a Kingdom that all people and nations and languages should serve Him.

Is not this thought plainly interwoven through the utterances of all the prophets, until it becomes almost the sole burden of their song--that a spiritual Israel would arise to supplant the natural; that a heavenly Jerusalem, "a city whose Builder and Maker is God," was destined to take the place of the earthly, and, in a word, that the ancient dispensation in its full completeness was intended to constitute only a perishable emblem of the certain establishment and immortal perpetuity of the new?

The people of Israel, however, as a people, never understood such messages. On the contrary, they became deaf and obdurate, and on this fundamental rock of error eventually went to ruin. The prophets themselves were possibly speaking more wisely than they knew, but not until Christ came did their inspiration have a true interpreter, and fulfiller--One who gave explicit meaning to all that was vague and indefinite, and who brought the missionary idea out into the clear light of day.

In the Gentile world the condition of affairs was no better--indeed, it was infinitely worse. Plato dreamed his beautiful dreams of the relations of man with man; yet the missionary idea [13/14] was an impossible conception to the natural mind of both Greek and Roman. Before the advent of Christ, God had been preparing the world in a special manner for the reception of the Gospel, and under the influence of this preparation there had been some advance in the direction of meeting the idea when it should be made known. Yet this advance only began in earnest, as an early Christian apologist pointed out, with the birth of the Roman Empire, and that was not until Christianity was born also. Before that, for century after century, the world had groped and wandered in exactly the opposite direction from the revelation which was made by Jesus Christ. The historic development of men was all in the direction of distinct nationalities, and away from the unity of the race. The ancient world knew nothing of a common humanity, and the idea of a religion having as its object the uniting, as members of one great whole, individuals from among the various nationalities, and even the nationalities themselves, was an idea to be laughed at as the dream of an enthusiast, the vagary of a madman. "They could understand how people could unite and make a nation, and how a nation could make a religion, but a religion making a nation, and welding into one common whole of mutual fellowship, sympathy and love the diverse [14/15] peoples, nations and tongues was unintelligible and incomprehensible"; and even when the Roman Empire had, by an universal kingdom, somewhat prepared their minds for what Christ had to reveal, yet the parallel and analogy between the heavenly and earthly kingdoms failed in many essential particulars, and the missionary idea came as a new and startling revelation. To Gentile as to Jew, the mystery had from the beginning of the world "been hid in God."

Our thought is now leading us to a point where clearness and logic require that we should define what it is we mean by the missionary idea. We have endeavored thus far to describe the source whence it originated. The missionary idea, as we understand it, is a revelation, through the Incarnation, of a universal religion based on the threefold truth of the Fatherhood of God, the sonship of man in his relation to God, and the brotherhood of man in his relation to his fellow-man. As part and parcel of this revelation is the commission to all who accept and believe in the revelation to make it known throughout the world. We have revealed to us in Jesus Christ a universal type of manhood. The laws of His kingdom are to be the laws of all races, civilizations, and individuals, and His Sacrifice efficacious for sinners of all sorts and conditions, [15/16] everywhere and in all ages. This threefold truth, as we have already said, was revealed by Jesus Christ, the very and eternal Son of God in His divine nature, and very man by virtue of the Word made flesh, and dwelling among us, a partaker of our human nature.

The recognition to a greater or less degree of a part of this truth had been the source of all spiritual endeavor in the heathen and Jewish worlds prior to our Lord's coming. The Jew had been taught at the very cradle of the human race that man was made in the image of God, and by creation was God's child; and though he narrowed that conception to his own nation and people, he never lost sight entirely of a wider range of the truth, because he always retained his faith in the unity of God and of the human species. And mankind at large, in the midst of infinite confusion and apparent contradiction, time and again had given evidence of belief in the divine origin of man, and had manifested their aspirations after an immortal destiny. Witness certain achievements, and how God-like appears the nature of man. The pages of history record deeds from which stream an undying blaze of ineffable glory.

How magnificent had been man's struggle to rise to higher planes, to break loose from the [16/17] shackles of his lower self! We see his footprints indurated in the hard rock forever, showing where he toiled and climbed from a state of barbarism and savagery to reach the mountain tops of civilization, holiness and truth. No sacrifice had been too great for him, no suffering too severe; but in spite of scorn, and hatred, and shame, he had forced his way upward, and with tortures of body and bitter pangs of soul had wrestled with the Heaven-sent messengers of righteousness, not letting them go till they had blessed him with promises of a nobler destiny than this earth affords and explained something of the secret of that power within him, kindling there a sense of his own worth, and telling him of a Being in the blue eternities above, whose offspring we are, and in whose image we have been made.

But it was only after the Incarnation that man began to take in as a great motive power and vitalizing force the full meaning, with all that it implies, of God's relation to man, and man's relation to God, and the possibilities of union in one divine and human family. Whatever had been the difficulty with man prior to Christ's Incarnation, however far away he may have wandered from his Father's home, and however completely he may have lost the likeness of his [17/18] heavenly parentage, Christ came with a message of restoration and renewal. He came telling mankind that God is our Creator and Father, and that we are His children--His children by the right of creation, preservation, and redemption. He has created us by His power. He preserves us by His providence, and He has redeemed us by His grace; and the individual soul which heeds this announcement, and takes the meaning of it into his heart, at once and of necessity goes abroad throughout the world and begins to tell to his fellow-men the same glad message of hopefulness, and helpfulness, and salvation. The commission of the Master becomes part and parcel of his very spiritual life--"Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature"--"making disciples of them, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and teaching them to observe whatsoever things I have commanded you." Love toward God and toward our fellow-man becomes the mainspring of all our activities.

As we study the meaning of the Incarnation, and of what it cost our dear Lord to reconcile us to our Father, and to bridge the chasm between Heaven and earth, the love animating Him, and the self-sacrifice through which that love was made manifest begins to glow in our [18/19] hearts, and we begin to try to love, too, and to reproduce the Christ-spirit, and to live the Christ-life, and to imitate the Christ-example. We live day by day in spirit at the foot of the cross, and we gaze upon that crowning exhibition of His love--a love which passeth all human understanding. Who can comprehend its height and depth, its length and breadth! Too vast for the conception of either man or angel; it is as boundless as infinity, and commensurate with God Himself. At the foot of the Cross to think of limiting that love is like a nail print in His blessed hands and feet, and a spear thrust into His side. We begin to learn fast, and with ever-increasing depth of conviction and intensity, that this is an universal love, intended to make glad all races and peoples, and kindreds, and tongues. "Lo, I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." Whatever may be the accidental differences between man and man; whatever the dissimilarity of race or color, or peculiarities of civilization, we learn from our Incarnate and Crucified Lord that every being possessing a rational and immortal soul is to us a possible brother in Christ Jesus, and a joint heir with us to all the rich inheritance purchased for us by the blood of a common Master and Saviour. We realize that there is no more reason for withholding our love and [19/20] interest from the rude inhabitants of the icy fields of the Arctics, the barbarous savage of New Zealand, or the degraded natives of China, or Africa, than from those of our own land because of different face, and feature. The heart of the Esquimaux, though as cold and frozen as his own ice-bound hills, is still susceptible to God's Holy Spirit, nor is it less precious in a loving Saviour's eyes than our own. The torpid and sluggish soul of the Hottentot is with no more difficulty awakened from fatal slumber than are many of us from carnal security and a callous indifference to those things pertaining to our highest interests. In Adam we all died; in Christ we are all to be made alive. God willeth not that any should perish, but that all should come to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. He desires that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body and "partakers of the promise of God in Christ by the Gospel."

The missionary idea, we say, is based upon the fact, First, of the Fatherhood of God--"God made of one blood all the nations of men." Secondly, upon the unity of the species--"God made of one blood." . . . "We are His offspring." . . . "God made man in His own image." . . . And lastly, and chiefly, upon the brotherhood possible to men in Christ Jesus.

[21] As long as men remain ignorant of the first two parts of this idea they inevitably divide asunder and face each other in the attitude of strangers and enemies. The individual fights for himself, and cares naught for his fellow-man except in so far as self-preservation and self-interest compel, while the nations likewise live and labor each for themselves, regardless of reciprocal relations, and interdependent obligations except on the same low level of selfishness, and national greed and gain; but let the individual, or the nation, lay hold of the first two parts of the missionary idea and the tendency in both must be toward community in interests and life. But the only bond which can knit them together in love, and thereby establish a real fellowship or brotherhood, is faith in one common Redeemer and union to each other through and in Him. Christ is the centre of the circle, and the nations and individuals are the radii which in approaching the centre approach each other--and unite all together at one common point. That Christ has this power is conclusively shown in that, wherever His religion has prevailed, there have men been brought closer together, and this fellowship in a greater or less degree has existed. In individual hearts it has been strong, and its presence has manifested itself time and again [21/22] under circumstances where everything worked adversely, and seemed to conspire to prevent it. And even with men collectively, wherever nations have been under the influence of a common Christian sentiment, in spite of their political jealousies and alienations they have been forced into a recognition of mutual rights and common interests and sympathies which otherwise would be impossible and without ground for their existence.

What binds America and the nations of Europe together to-day is the common culture growing out of a common religious faith; and if that faith could be strengthened and made positive in the hearts of all, with all their diversity they would be practically one, and neither war nor conflict of commercial interests, nor any other earthly consideration could eradicate or destroy their unity.

I do not know whether in a course of lectures like these it is expected, as in a sermon, that a practical application of a general subject is to be given. But however this may be, let it suffice for me to say, in concluding a discussion of one aspect of my subject, that, as Christian people, we need to cultivate more and more the missionary spirit, and to broaden our sympathies until they include the whole race of man. We are to [22/23] seek to recognize in every Christian man a brother, without regard to artificial distinctions and outward differences. Of course, there are natural conditions and race affinities, and antipathies which always have existed and always will exist in the body politic and in the social sphere; and no institution recognizes the present order of the universe more clearly than does the Christian Church.

It preaches no Gospel of social equality in a worldly sense, nor a doctrine of political equality, which takes as its watchwords the false, mad, wicked cry of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," meaning "liberty of evil, equality in misery, and a fratricidal brotherhood of Cain." But, notwithstanding, there is a strong disposition in modern days to lose sight of the essentially democratic character of Christianity, and to make it plutocratic, or aristocratic. "A Gospel of gentility" some one has aptly styled it, rather than a "Gospel to the Gentiles." Wealth is esteemed as the virtue of virtues, and is worshipped with supreme adoration; while poverty is almost regarded as a crime. Success is what entitles men to our interest, and draws us into fellowship with them; failure is an unpardonable sin.

Yet, on the other hand, a poor Christian is as much our brother as a rich one, and a black one, [23/24] as a white one. What have property qualifications and color lines to do with the Church of God? The humblest mechanic or laborer is, in Christ, as much our brother as the most successful of our merchants, or professional men, or any who have risen to high positions of honor and worldly distinction.

And then lastly, in the fact that in God all men have a common Creator and Father, and that they are His children, and that in Christ they have a common Saviour and Redeemer, we have the great missionary idea of the Church, with all its duties and obligations and responsibilities. Not to believe in missions, and not to be willing to aid them to the full extent of our ability, is equivalent to saying that we do not believe in God's truth and in the claims of humanity and in the rights and privileges of any but ourselves. If a heathen poet could exclaim, "I am a man, and therefore nothing human is foreign to me," we surely can go further and say, I am a child of God, and my fellow-man, who is an heir with me of the self-same heritage and a child of the self-same God, is my brother; and because he is my brother, no sacrifice which I can make for him is too great, no service rendered can be other than willing and sacred and sweet.

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