Project Canterbury

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 II. Some Hindrances in the Way of the Full Realization of the Missionary Idea

WHEN Christianity began to be preached in the world the first barrier which obstructed its onward progress was the race question, coupled with a contempt for one's fellow-man. And this question, when we come to consider it, has been interwoven like warp and woof throughout the entire subsequent history of Christianity, and it involves the whole of the missionary idea, the Fatherhood of God, the sonship of man, and the brotherhood of the human family.

We have already touched this thought somewhat in our first lecture, but now it may be well for us to examine the matter a little more closely. Christ addressed His teaching to humanity, and His redemptive work was in behalf of the human race. His Gospel was to be preached to the simple and learned, to peasant and fisherman, together with the scholarly Jew, the proud [25/26] Roman, the cultivated and fastidious Greek, and to each nation and every individual, aspiring to bring within the range of its influence the entire human family, perfectly adapted to meet and satisfy the needs of all, whether Greek, or Jew, circumcision or uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free. In our blessed Lord's personal conduct we read how He manifested His good will and favor toward the Canaanitish woman, who was an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, and a stranger to the covenants of promise, and how He commended the faith of the Roman centurion.

In His parable of the Good Samaritan, the missionary idea shines with divinest effulgence. And again in His conversation with the woman at the well of Sychar, Jesus saith unto her, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship; for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." And then there is the great apostolic commission, and the cross itself, with its weary, dying Victim, with arms outstretched as if to embrace the whole world [26/27] within the circle of His love. And after His Ascension we have the record of St. Peter's vision, "when he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air"--and by this symbol Christ showed him that he should not call any man common or unclean--"for of a truth . . . God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him."

In view of such teaching as this, we might naturally suppose that the race question was settled once and for all at the very beginning, but such, alas! was far from being the case. The apostolic Church did not catch the truth, and after a little while it was fast being lost sight of, and it was necessary to raise up a man as one born out of due time, with peculiar fitness to comprehend such teaching wholly, and then to make it his special mission to enforce it, and never to swerve nor turn aside until this feature of the Gospel was recognized and acted upon in its integrity, for a while at least. The capacious and receptive mind of St. Paul grasped the catholic, or universal, character of Christianity, and [27/28] he stamped the seal of its universality upon every page of his writings and in his preaching.

But there were two sources of strong opposition to the development and enforcement of such an idea. There was a strong pressure from within the Church against the idea, and likewise a pressure from without. Almost all the first Christians were Israelites, and the central sin of Israel, as a certain writer well says, "was its misconception of election, or national vocation. The nation traced its origin to a man to whom the promise was made that in him and in his seed the whole earth should be blessed. But this idea of the national vocation never took any strong hold upon the popular mind. Their distinctive, history inflated the mind of the people, it became the ground of the bitterest exclusiveness. The nation felt that the election of it meant the rejection of other nations. This interpretation left it without a vocation, served to check humanity as a sentiment at war with the divine decree, and degraded it and its deity by encouraging in it the notion that Israel was the exclusive favorite of Jehovah." And much of this narrow-minded exclusiveness the new converts brought with them into the Christian Church, and it clung to them with tenacious grasp, long after their conversion to the new faith. It seemed almost [29/30] impossible for the apostles, themselves, to divest their minds of preconceived modes of thought and life, and of their national sectarian prejudices. St. Peter succeeded for a moment after his vision, but it was not a great while before we find him yielding to party feeling, and joining with the Judaizers. And as honest and manly as St. Barnabas was, even he was carried away, and seemed ready to surrender this idea of the Gospel. And this, too, even after the first council at Jerusalem, where we might suppose such a question had forever been settled.

The pressure from without the Church was of a somewhat similar character, only stronger if anything, and more difficult to overcome. The race prejudice and contempt of the Gentile world in certain respects eclipsed the intolerant bigotry of the Jew. The Israelite had the high idealism of the prophets as a modifying influence, and "the logic of its central thoughts was a servant of human fraternity. Its ideas of the human conscience, individual and social, and its conceptions of the divine character and government, were the forces in it that told for the rights of the race." The heathen had little or no idea of an universal brotherhood and a fellowship of all men. The writer whom we have just quoted truthfully declares that it never occurred [29/30] to Plato, the wisest and most noble-minded of the Greeks, "that God made of one blood every nation of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth." According to him, "there is among human beings a racial and irreducible difference. To Plato democracy was a hideous thing, and with all his genius and goodness the claim that all men are brothers would have struck him as supremely ludicrous."

"The same remark applies to his greatest disciple. The slave is no part of human society." Man as man was nothing, no part of heathen thought. Who, before Christ came, had cared seriously about the kind of people among whom it was His chief delight to labor? From what source had the sorrowing and the suffering of the poor and diseased ever found help and consolation before the appearance of our Incarnate Lord, proving His divine and human mission by dealing with man on the basis of his own intrinsic value? Yes, heathen antiquity, with all its culture and refinement; its wealth, and intellect, and play of invention and art, regarded all people, except their special nation, as aliens and outcasts, besides despising what was weak, and flinging from it in contempt what was unfortunate even in its own body.

Uhlhorn, in his two books on "Christian [30/31] Charity and Heathenism," and "The Conflict of Christianity and Heathenism," shows us conclusively how heathenism had nothing but condescending pity to offer the poor. The aged were neglected. Helpless children were exposed by the hundreds. Captives and slaves were butchered by the thousands in the amphitheatre, and the weary and sorrowing were left to bear their burdens as best they could, without encouragement or sympathy save from an individual, perhaps, here and there, who was groping his way out toward the light of Christ's day. "Plato advocated that all beggars should be banished from the state. No one should take an interest in the poor when sick. If the constitution of a laboring man could not withstand sickness, the physician should or might abandon him without scruple. He was good for nothing except to be experimented on." "Can you condescend so far that the poor do not disgust you?" asks Quintilian; "the aid bestowed is no help to the poor, it simply prolongs their wretchedness." "He deserves ill of a beggar," writes Plautus, "who gives him food and drink; for that which is given is thrown away, and the life of the beggar is protracted in his misery."

And so the world was going on at its own cold, selfish will. Men were busy with their [31/32] occupations and amusements. The philosophers were absorbed in their speculations, and the merchants bargaining in the market places. Men of wealth indulged themselves in ease, and men of pleasure gathered around their banquet tables crowned with garlands, and flushed with wine, and there outside in their own empire were millions of the toiling and suffering and brokenhearted, groaning beneath their burdens, and no one cared, and no one came with a remedy, or had a real consolation to offer, until at last the Son of Man appeared and showed how He was the Very and Eternal Son of God, too, because He went past all that was racial and conventional and accidental in the condition of men; past all their higher relations, right through, until He reached the reality and core, and had dealings with Samaritans and Jews, and Greeks and Romans, and ate with publicans and sinners, and went after the lost sheep, and preached good news to the poor, and comforted the brokenhearted, and healed men of all manner of diseases. Who but the Son of God could have loved in this manner, man as man because with Him there could be no difference, or distinction, for we were all alike poor, the blind, and miserable, and naked, and equals in misfortune, as He looked at mankind.

[33] This was the charter of the Church, the spirit and example of its Divine Head. But it led to a long, hard struggle; and in the end the forces against the Church in large measure prevailed for a time, because the Church lost her first love, and yielded gradually to worldly conceptions and sentiments. As long as the primitive and apostolic ideal, as revealed by Christ to St. Paul in particular, prevailed, the Church entered upon a period of splendid missionary effort. The Gospel was preached without respect to persons throughout every part of the Roman Empire. Missionaries penetrated the forests of Germany and were welcomed with passionate enthusiasm by the Gothic nations. Churches were planted in distant Britain and Ireland, the abiding fruit of which labors is to be found in the fact that Christianity has become the religion of modern Europe and America.

The secret of its power in those days was its beautiful spirit of humanity. It came into the midst of heathenism as an institution of benevolence; as an organization whose watchwords were love, good will and compassion toward mankind, and the unbelieving Greek and Roman were able to see a body of men and women among them, who, for the first time in human history, were founding hospitals for the sick, houses of charity [33/34] for the beggar, societies to bury the unhonored and uncared for dead. Pestilence had no terrors for them. They carried their lives in their hands and went out ministering to the needs of the unfortunate, comforting the wretched, instructing the young, feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked, providing labor for the unemployed, offering shelter to the homeless, an asylum for the deranged, a place of refuge where the fallen might find aids to rise and be redeemed from their shame. Lecky and the historian Froude have in their writings some brilliant chapters, showing how the Church was the champion of the weak against the strong; how it unfalteringly maintained the eternal distinction of right and wrong, stood between the slave and his haughty master, and in the name of God and Christ demanded whatever were his rights on the common level of sinful humanity, and the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man in Christ Jesus, our Elder Brother.

And yet it remains a sad fact in the Church's history that we do not leave the apostolic age far behind before we discover a gradual letting down of her ideals, and a lapsing back into the old Jewish conceptions of religion and the old heathen notions of humanity; and the Christian religion dwindled finally into nothing much [34/35] larger or nobler or better than a racial, or national institution. The Christian Church, says the author of "The New Epoch of Faith," "repeated Israel's mistake. The Christian Church inherited and repeated an historic tragedy. Election came to mean the same thing to the Christian that it meant to the Jew. The humanity of the Incarnation was discounted for fifteen centuries."

This is an exaggeration. The Church never ceased to be a missionary Church, as evidenced in the mediaeval ages by Boniface, Adelbert, Columba, Aidan and many others; but however this may be in the large, and generally speaking, for many long dark ages there were "back eddies" in the stream of evangelizing the world. The river of our God was dammed in by artificial levees, and the desert places of the world ceased to "rejoice and blossom as the rose." Men forgot that we have a common Father; that we are all His children, and brethren one of another. Wealth confronted the Church as a barrier in the way of her onward missionary progress. Class also checked her advance, and the same old hindrance which had stood in her path from the beginning--the race question.

Let us continue to dwell more particularly on this latter barrier, for in a broad, philosophical [35/36] view of the matter almost every hindrance to the progress of the Gospel is more or less contained in the race idea and contempt for one's fellow-man. Canon Liddon said that from their insular position the English had intensified the healthy sentiment of patriotism into a vulgar prejudice against all foreigners as such. It was the bitter sneer of Voltaire that the English thought that God had become incarnate for the Anglo-Saxon race. "And if this exclusiveness is beginning to give way beneath the influences of culture and travel, it is no credit to our Christianity that it has not done so before." The English, however, are not alone in racial exclusiveness in religious development. The French and German and Italian and Russian are quite their equals in this respect. And we, here in our own country, are not feeble and backward disciples in the schools of our ancestors.

The Chinese speak of Europeans always as "foreign devils." Possibly an equally profane and contemptuous epithet would adequately express the popular estimate of the Chinese in Christian America. The Pacific coast has a story to tell, when truth is written, that will quite measure up, in some respects, to the atrocities of the late Boxer movement in China. Consider also the fate of the Indian, if we are disposed to [36/37] arrogate to ourselves peculiar excellencies which would exempt us from the charge of not being loyal and faithful exponents of Christian humanity. It was unfortunate for humanity that at the time of the great spiritual awakening of the Church in the Reformation Calvinistic theology should have become so dominant over the thought of our forefathers. It stifled missionary activity. Men reasoned that God had always acted on the principle of election and confined His salvation to a chosen few. Hence the conscience was undisturbed, and our fathers, as favorites of Heaven, enjoyed their inheritance, and despised and slew the non-elect, or heathen.

We regarded ourselves as the people, and from a lofty height of superiority in morals, intellect, religion and civilization looked down upon other races with contempt. There are races where the divergence between them and ourselves is very great. Here in our own dear Southland we have a race alien to ourselves, and I advance the suggestion with all humility, yet in all seriousness and earnestness, whether the main obstacle in the work to-day of evangelizing the Negro, and raising him up to the measure of his full capacity as a human being, is not owing to a considerable extent to our own egoism and self-righteousness, and to our self-assertion of [37/38] superiority, and to our persistent, self-willed abasement of a fellow-creature of like passions with ourselves. The Saviour said: "Whosoever shall say unto his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire." Canon Mozley, in one of his profound sermons (the greatest sermons since the days of Bishop Butler), has elaborated the principle of the Saviour's declaration into showing how contempt for our fellow-man is akin to murder, and is to be punished with hell-fire. Describe it how we may, contempt for our fellow-man is one of the chief hindrances in the way of the evangelizing of the Negro, and of all other peoples. Mutual contempt, if you please, but our share in the contempt is what concerns us, and for which we are responsible. In years gone by we had treated the slave with contempt, and not as a brother. We refused him Christian marriage and family life and education. We trafficked in human flesh and blood, and we suffered the consequences.

"Nebuchadnezzar, by leading Israel into captivity in Babylon, dissolved their state and nation, and thus executed the long threatened judgments of God upon His disobedient people." "He beareth not the sword in vain, he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." We believe the great [39/40] war President of the Federal Government to have been a Nebuchadnezzar working in the interests of humanity, even to the infliction of chastisement upon the noblest and truest people upon this earth; but not a modern reincarnation of the Christ, as many people in our country seem to imagine, as evidenced by the sale of Winston Churchill's Book, "The Crisis"--in which the author devotes a chapter to "The Man of Sorrows," and parallels the crucifixion and assassination on the respective Good Fridays of the first century and the last century. And many people love to have such blasphemy inculcated, for the book, we are told, sold into unrivalled editions, and was the most popular and extensively read book of the year. Fanaticism ought never to be substituted in the place of the truth. Possibly we of the South deserved to be punished for our contemptuous treatment of our fellow-men. The instruments with which it was effected do not touch the real merits of the question, even though the victims hail from Jerusalem, and the victors from Babylon.

And we are in danger of a modified repetition of this offence in our attitude toward the Negro now. We have eight or nine millions of them in the South at the present time, with only about one hundred clergymen of our Church working [39/40] among them, and the Church giving the paltry sum of $72,000 per annum! The State laws are alienating and segregating the races more and more sharply each year. It is true that the different States are doing a vast deal for the secular education of the Negro. In my own State the Negro institutions rank with the best. But they are all on race lines, and the several religious bodies have handed the Negroes over to themselves, and their churches are a kind of Jim-Crow car arrangement, and they have their own compartments for whites. Our Southern Bishops are almost the last bond uniting the two races, and popular demand may snap and sunder even this at no very distant day.

Ah, well, if we disbelieve in the common Fatherhood of God we can never become missionaries to these people. If we doubt their son-ship by virtue of the Incarnation, we will be rendered powerless to do them good. If we question our brotherhood in Christ Jesus, contempt will in the long run be the measure of our conduct toward them. I know of no training-school in all the world which offers such facilities and opportunities for the development of a true missionary spirit which can grapple with foreign peoples, and solve our ability to deal with the great race question of China and Japan, and [40/41] Hawaii, and the Philippines, and the West India Islands than here in our own Southern States. We dare not leave the Negroes alone. To allow them to sink back into savagery, as they have to a considerable degree done in Haiti, will be an unspeakable crime. A recent traveller, Sir Martin Conway, makes this observation concerning Haiti: "I suppose there exists in the whole round world no island blessed with more natural beauty than Haiti. Its bays, its beautiful hills, rising 12,000 feet, its incomparably fertile soil, its wealth of water, should make it the very garden of the earth; but it is a garden inhabited by a people sinking back into savagery, and for whom there will be no salvation till the white man has shouldered them again as part of his burden." If salvation then is of the white man, as I believe in the Providence of God it is, we are to assume this burden in our own land with cheerfulness and love, and not shirk it nor disregard it, as we are in large measure doing at the present time.

Love and faith and obedience are the trinity of spiritual forces which are to remove all barriers and sweep away all obstructions in this work as in all else which the Church is commissioned to do. Says a writer in "Lux Mundi": "The widening opportunities of intercourse are [41/42] opening up new nations whose existence had only been suspected before. They are bringing the various parts of human kind into a closer touch with each other, and the wider our knowledge of humanity the greater is the need of a Catholic Church which shall raise its voice above the din of conquest, and the bustle of commerce, and insist that all races shall be treated with justice and tenderness as made of one blood; which shall welcome all men freely into its own brotherhood, and conveying to them the gifts of the Spirit shall help them to show forth in their lives fresh beauties of the richly variegated wisdom of God." "Over against the divisions of race, and continent and island, the Church raises still its witness to the possibility of a universal brotherhood." Love for man as man created in the image of God, and redeemed by Jesus Christ, leading to kindness for the oppressed, charity and high-minded disinterestedness, these were the magic charms which laid a spell on the fiery, skin-clad tribes of Europe and prostrated them at the feet of our Incarnate Lord. And the same spell subjugated the Roman Empire to the cross. Men saw for themselves what Christianity, with all its shortcomings and failures, was trying to do, and they gave it their allegiance on account of its spirit, and aims, and good works.

[43] And the power of Christianity to-day is to be found in this same direction. It is the only institution in the world which has ever stood for the equal rights of man as man, on the only possible basis on which they can be granted and maintained. Only Christ and His religion have a true message for all mankind, irrespective of race, color, class or previous condition. Christianity stands forth as the defender of man, and in the name of justice and right before God pleads with him, and for him, and protests against his wrongs. She gives him a place at her family board, where the rich and poor, the wise and ignorant, the weak and the strong are all one in divine equality. She tells him of his worth as a child of God, and inspires him, and encourages him with the hope of immortality and Heaven. Whole nations of people have sunk so low in the scale of humanity that all ideas of the true God have long since vanished from their minds. There may be tribes of savages which no longer retain any sense of religion, nor worship any form of God.

Canon Liddon tells of a wild chieftain floating his canoe in a lake of human blood to fitly celebrate the obsequies of a dead parent. We know of brutalized natures in Christian lands steeped in sensualism and crime, with faculties so besotted that the most degraded savages are not [43/44] their inferiors. And such facts are calculated to make us look hard at the principle of the missionary idea. "Hard is the bushman's lot," says one of our missionaries; "friendless, forsaken, an outcast from the world; greatly preferring the company of the beasts of prey to that of civilized man. His gorah (a musical instrument) soothes some solitary hours, although its sounds are often responded to by the lion's roar, or the hyena's howl. He knows no God, knows nothing of Eternity, yet dreads death, and has no shrine at which to leave his sorrows. We can scarcely conceive of human beings descending lower in the scale of ignorance and vice."

And of the Andaman Islanders, another missionary says: "They have no conception of a Supreme Being. They have never risen from the effects they see all around them, even to the most imperfect notion of a cause. They have never ascended in thought from the works to a Creator, or even to many creators, that is to say, Polytheism." What a terrible effacement of the divine image! What an entombment of all knowledge! What a spectacle of death! Yes, this all makes the missionary idea seem mysterious. But its primary truth remains. The world is peopled with children of darkness, whose feet have been wounded and foully soiled traversing the wastes of time, but they are the [44/45] children of one common parent with ourselves, and are the offspring of God. The lowest savage possesses a gift which has never been entirely taken from him, a capacity to be redeemed and saved; and the proud claim of our most holy religion is that the whole race of man is capable, through supernatural grace, of the highest elevation. The sinner can be taken out of the dust, and the beggar lifted from the dunghill, and be set with the princes, even with the princes of the people.

I have dwelt at some length on this racial idea, because, as I have already said, in my judgment all hindrances resolve themselves in a general way under this comprehensive head: To rightly value man; to believe in the power of the Gospel to save him. These two forces, firing the human heart with faith and love, render all barriers of whatever description more or less secondary and subordinate.

Of course there are hindrances in the field, as well as at home. Oriental immobility; the national conceit of the Chinese and Japanese; the stolid dolce far niente dreaminess of India; the sensual fanaticism, cruelty and bigotry of Mohammedanism; the ignorance, hatred and prejudice of heathenism in a thousand different forms; the libelling malevolence of certain classes of travellers and merchants, and the utter [45/46] degradation and horror of abject savagery which I have somewhat described. But no outside barriers in themselves have ever been able to check the progress of the Church, nor the steady advance of the missionary idea. Where our religion has ever had her most formidable foes is in her own ranks. The Church's worst foes are, now as always, those of her own household. Selfishness is the root of all evil, and selfishness, in whatever form, springs from a failure to love our neighbors as ourselves. Nationalism, diocesan-ism, parochialism, individualism, are so many phases of the underestimated value we place upon our fellow-men. When once the Christian begins really to love, and to emphasize and unfalteringly maintain the honor and dignity of our common humanity, there is the missionary spirit born, and no powers and influences in this world, or in hell, are strong enough successfully to resist or thwart it. The one hindrance which our religion cannot combat, as our blessed Lord could not prevent His betrayal by Judas Iscariot, is unbelief in our own minds, which whispers the infernal suggestions of the evil one that the Gospel is not so very important for the heathen after all; nor for people generally. The fate of the heathen will be all right, even if they are left without a knowledge of the salvation possible for us in Christ Jesus. They will be [46/47] saved somehow by their own religion; or, anyhow, the worst that can happen to them will be annihilation, which, unlike the common sentiment of mankind in all ages, some of our preachers and teachers in prominent metropolitan pulpits have come to regard as not involving very serious consequences after all. It is a cold-blooded, blasé indifference, consigning millions upon millions of human beings in heathen countries, and in the slums and low places of our large cities, as well as criminals and unchaste people and unfortunates of every description, to the death and nothingness of the brute beast that perishes, or to the decay of mere vegetable matter. It is a hateful, pitiless pessimism, to which the work of the Church at home and abroad is giving overwhelming refutation every day. All men are created in the image of God, and are capable of being saved. If any perish, it is your fault, or mine, or theirs, and the old notion of purgatory cannot help it, and the modern notion of mortality cannot help it, and the latest claim of evolutionary science cannot help it.

In a roaring forest a multitude of sounds rings upon the ears, and in our generation there is much noise and uproar among the nations, and infinite confusion and babble of individual voices, and yet the Gospel of Jesus Christ is still proclaiming the old, yet ever fresh and glorious news [47/48] of the common Fatherhood of God, the sonship of man and the brotherhood possible to all men in Christ Jesus. Let me say it once more as I close: In order to reveal and actualize this grand truth, the Eternal Christ came down to this earth, and in His person manifested to the sons of men the perfect image and likeness of God. And He kindled in the world the light of His Gospel, by which men might be able to discern the Divine lineaments in themselves, and awake to a consciousness of their sublime and immortal destiny. Through that Gospel He gives to as many as will receive Him power to become the sons of God. He has redeemed our humanity from the curse which the first Adam left upon it. By His marvellous work, accomplished on Calvary, He has reconciled Heaven and earth, and procured a Father's forgiveness and given us assurance of a Father's love. And by accepting Him through faith, we are made bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh; and gazing upon Him we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, until in the second Adam our regenerated natures have recovered in all its fulness the primeval likeness which the first Adam obscured, and we once more stand in God's presence, created after God in true holiness and righteousness, one with Him and He with us; the sons of God, brethren one of another, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

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