Sermon III. Sermon at the Second Annual Meeting of the Missionary Council in Washington, D.C., November 1888
"The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever."--REVELATION xi. 15.
THESE words are God's surety that the prayers, the trials and the labors of His Church shall be crowned with success.
We are living in the great missionary age of the Church. Impenetrable barriers have been broken down. Fast-closed doors have been opened. There is no country where we may not carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Divine Providence has been fusing the nations of the earth into one common brotherhood. Man has created nothing. The lightening would run its circuit in the Garden of Eden as well as when Morse made it man's messenger. In the fullness of time God has lifted the veil from human eyes to see the mysteries of His bounty, and so prepare a highway for the coming of our King.
I have no argument about the obligation of missions. It is eighteen hundred years too late for this.
I speak to you to-day of the progress of the Kingdom of Christ. Pray for me that the story may lead us to the foot of the Cross to consecrate all that we have to His blessed service.
At the close of the last century a thoughtful young Englishman asked the governor of the East India Company to go to India to preach the Gospel. The answer was: "The man that would go to India upon that errand is as mad as a man who would put a torch to a powder magazine."
A few years ago Chunder Sen, the great scholar of India, died. On his death-bed a friend asked him what he thought were the prospects of Christianity in India. He answered: "Jesus Christ has conquered the heart of India." Not that great battles are not yet to be fought, much weary work to be done, but with more than half a million of Christians in India, which have been won in this century, we are certain that the nation will be won to Christ.
I turn to that dark continent which has had more of human sorrow bound up in its history than any place on earth. Forty years ago in a cottage in the highlands of Scotland an aged man said to his son: "David, you will have family prayer to-day, for when we part we shall never meet again until we meet before the great white throne." David Livingstone read the thirty-fourth Psalm, the key-note of that wonderful life, and then poured out his heart to God in prayer, threw his arms around his father's neck and kissed him; they parted never to meet again in this world, and so he went to Africa. He did a wonderful work in the Bechuana country. He was a carpenter, blacksmith, teacher, laborer, physician and minister to these poor souls, but the man's heart was in the interior of Africa. One day, with about as much preparation as I take when I go to the north woods of Minnesota, he left for the interior of Africa. His route was along the path of slave traders, and every few days he came to some place where a poor woman had fainted in the chain-gang and had been strapped to a tree with her babe at her breast and left to be stung to death by insects. No wonder that he wrote in his Journal, and blotted it with tears: "Oh, God, when will the great sore of the world be healed?"
When you remember that the followers of the false prophet are the only people engaged in this traffic in human flesh, and that to the poor African it means slavery or death, you have the answer to the stories of the progress of Mohammedanism in Africa.
I cannot tell the story of his life. One day he was found dead on his knees in prayer in an African hut. That life had so impressed itself upon the heathen folk that they did what will always be a marvel of history. They wrapped the body in leaves. They covered it with pitch. They carried it nine months on their shoulders. They fought hostile tribes. They swam swollen rivers. They cut their way through impenetrable thickets, and at last stood at the door of a mission house in Zanzibar, and said, "We have brought the man of God to be buried with his people." And so David Livingstone sleeps in Westminster Abbey.
Our Stanley took up Livingstone's work, and he laid Africa open to the gaze of the world. He travelled nine hundred and ninety-nine days, and the thousandth day reached the sea-coast. In all that journey he did not meet a single, solitary soul who had heard that Jesus Christ had come into the world. Stanley tells the reason why he went back to Africa. He said:
"When I found Livingstone I cared no more for missions than the veriest atheist in England. I had been a press reporter, and my business was to follow armies and to describe battles; to attend conventions and report speeches, but my heart had not been touched with sympathy for missions. When I found this grand old man I asked: 'What is he here for? Is he crazy? Is he cracked? I sat at his feet four months and I saw that a power above his will had taken possession of his life, and given him a hunger to lead poor heathen folk out of their darkness.
"I have heard the same voice speaking to my heart, 'Follow me,' and I go back to Africa to finish Livingstone's work."
This was a few years ago. To-day there are fifteen Christian Bishops of our communion in Africa. Eight were present at the Lambeth Conference. One of them, Bishop Crowther, was captured when a boy ten years of age on a slave ship, placed in a mission school, transferred to a high school, then to the university, graduated with honors, and went back to Africa as a Bishop. As I looked in the face of that black man and thought of his wonderful history, I remembered another man from Africa that carried the cross of my blessed Master up the hill to Calvary, and that this aged servant of Christ was following in his blessed footsteps.
Another of these Bishops was one of the manliest men that I ever looked upon; Bishop Smythies, the picture of manly beauty, honored by his university, beloved by friends, a face gentle and loving as that of St. John. When I thought of this man going on foot in the interior of Africa, perhaps to die for Christ, I could not keep back the tears, and I went to him and said, "My good brother, I cannot tell you how my heart goes out to you in loving sympathy." He smiled and said, "Bishop, when the Church in Jerusalem had more work than it knew how to do, the Holy Ghost sent one of its ministers upon a long journey to convert one African. Surely it is not much for the Christians of Christian England to send a Christian Bishop to millions who never heard there is a Savior."
And now I turn to the opposite quarter of the globe--Australasia, New Zealand, and Polynesia. When I was a boy there was but one English settlement, and that was known throughout the world as Botany Bay, the abode of the most abandoned criminals of English civilization. There are to-day twenty-one Bishops in those islands. I wish I could tell the story inwrought in the lives of Selwyn, Patteson, Williams, and a host of others, some of whom have laid down their lives for Christ.
To-day cannibalism is a thing of the past. Human sacrifices, thank God, are to be found nowhere on the earth. There is not one of those islands without its Christian church, and in some of them the last vestige of heathenism has passed away. They have thousands of Christian men and women under their native pastors. Surely this is no time to talk about the failure of Christian missions.
Now I turn to Japan. Less than forty year ago one of our brave American sailors, Commodore Perry, cast anchor on Sunday morning in the harbor of Yeddo. He called his officers and crew together for public worship, and they sang that old hymn of our fathers, "Old Hundred"; and the first sound that this hermit nation heard from her younger sister of the West was that grand old hymn.
Next year Japan will have a constitutional government. It has already adopted the Christian calendar. There are more that a million of children in their public schools. Many of these schools are under the charge of Christian men and women, and it is only a question of a few years when Japan will take her place beside other Christian nations. This is more wonderful when we remember that until recently there was a statute in Japan that, "if any Christian shall set his foot on the Island of Japan, or if the Christian's God, Jesus, shall come, he shall be beheaded."
I turn to China. I wonder that its doors are open to Christian missions when I remember that Christian nations at the mouth of the cannon have forced upon that people that deadly drug which drags body and soul to death, that their names have been by-words and hissing in Christian lands. The secret is that God sent to China a young Englishman whose life was hid with Christ in God. Chinese Gordon saved the nation of China, and his name will be a household word forever. Surely a people where the poorest laborer can become the first prince of the realm if he becomes the first scholar, and if his son is a vagabond sinks to the place from which his father came, surely such a people have the elements to receive the Gospel of Christ.
Time would fail me to tell the story of missions in North America; I should begin at Hudson's Bay, where Bishop John Horden has lived thirty-five years amid its solitudes and won every one of its Indian tribes to Christianity. I should tell you of the Bishop of Athabasca, whose home is within the Arctic circle, who could not attend the Lambeth Conference because he could not go and return the same year. I should tell of my young friend, the Bishop of Mackenzie River, when I knew that he spent nine months each year travelling upon snowshoes and three months in a birch-bark canoe; that the only way that he could carry to them the Gospel was to follow them in the chase, hunt with them, fish with them, lie down in their wigwams in his blanket and always have waiting upon his lips the sweet story of the love of God, our Father. I told him I wished he would give me his post-office address and I would send him books and papers; he said: "Bishop, I am a thousand miles from a post-office and only get one mail a year."
I should tell you of another, the Bishop of Rupertsland, Dr. Macrae, the only Bishop in Christendom who has a university made up of a Roman Catholic college, a Presbyterian college, and a college of the Church of England; so large-hearted that almost by one consent the people of Manitoba have made him the president of their entire educational system.
If I turn to our own land, it would be to tell you that one hundred years ago the Church was a feeble folk, scattered along the Atlantic coast and known as a people that were everywhere spoken against. Thank God, to-day her voice is heard in the miner's camp, in the schoolhouse of the border, in the wigwam of the Indians, and sturdy heralds are in the fore-front of that mighty movement which is peopling this land with its millions of souls. Marvellous as is the progress of Christian missions and the work which has been done in this century, it has largely been committed to the English-speaking race. In the providence of God races of men have been selected by Him to do His work. Two hundred years ago the English-speaking people of Europe were less than many of the nations of the Latin races. Spain outnumbered England two to one. To-day there are one hundred and fifty millions of English-speaking people in the world, one-tenth of the entire human family. When we think of the future, that by the close of another century more than five hundred millions will be speaking one language, it leads us to ask, on bended knees, why has this commission been committed to this English-speaking race, and what are the responsibilities that rest upon our branch of the Church of God? I reverently believe that it is because on its civil side it recognizes as no other race that government is a delegated trust from God, who alone has the right to govern. It represents constitutional government, and it has done so since Bishop Stephen Langton, at the head of the nobles of England, wrung the Magna Charta from King John, and henceforth recognized the sacredness of the citizen, who has been clothed with an individuality unlike any being who lives or will live in all the ages of eternity. On its religious side it recognizes the two truths which underlie the possibility of the reunion of Christendom--the validity of all Christian Baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that the condition of
fellowship in the Church of God is faith in the incarnate Son of God as contained in the Old Catholic creeds. Surely we may hold up the olive branch of God's peace over all strife and divisions among the disciples of Christ, and say "Ye are brethren."
When we remember that in the providence of God the Greek tongue was spoken throughout the civilized world to prepare a way for the coming of His Son and the preaching of the blessed Gospel, we see in these facts forerunning tokens of his preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
If I had time to-day, I would love to tell you the story that is inwrought in the history of our noble Missionary Bishops; men who have hazarded their lives for the Lord Jesus. I wish I could tell you of their ventures of faith, foundations for Christian schools which they have laid with prayers and watered with tears, and with a prophet's eye looked forward to a future when the land will swarm with millions of souls, that so by Christian nurture and Christian training the Church may fulfil the Master's words, "Feed my lambs." I wish I could tell you of the work, dear to every Bishop's heart, of the daughters of the Cross; yes, and I would like to bring to this Council some of the tempest-tossed and weary souls who have been led out of their darkness to the rest and peace and gladness of Christian faith. I wish I could bring here some from the northern forests and the prairies of the West, the men of the trembling eye and the wandering foot, that they might thank you for having led them out of their heritage of anguish and sorrow into the light of the children of God.
I may not close without a word of tribute to those who have fallen asleep. Since our last General Convention nine Bishops have crossed the river and are waiting for us on the other shore. Unbidden tears come as I remember the loving Elliot, our St. John; Welles, another holy Herbert; Brown, with his Catholic heart that had room enough to take in all the poor and the sorrowful of his diocese; Harris, every whit a great leader in our Israel; Dunlop, the soldier on the outpost, often debarred brotherly sympathy, who in loneliness and weariness bravely did his work. Others who were patriarchs of the Church of God--Green, Lee, Potter and Stevens--all men who were great leaders in the Church of God, who bravely did their work, whose faces are upon every heart, and who have entered into rest.
Since I entered the House of Bishops, fifty-three Bishops have laid down their shepherd's staves and entered into rest.
A word, and I have done. Surely in such a day as this it is no time to discuss shibboleths. Its is a time for brotherly sympathy and great-hearted work. With such responsibilities around us there must be no divisions among those who love the same Saviour and look for the same heavenly home. I remember that at a critical period in our missionary work the venerable Doctor Dyer said to me with tears in his eyes, "Strife is an awful price to pay for the best results, but strife among the kinsmen of Christ in the presence of those for whom He died, and when wandering souls are going down to death, is almost an unpardonable sin." May I not ask you to-day, dear brothers and sisters, what have we done to help on in the great work which is to be done in the eventide of the world? What lonely missionary have we remembered in prayer during the past week? What wanderer have we tried with love to lead to the Saviour? Have we given the cost of the trimmings of a dress? Have we made any sacrifices for Him who gave Himself for us? May I not ask you to-day here beside God's altar to consecrate all you have and are to His service?
With some of us the eventide draws on. A little while, such a little while, just time enough to do His work, and then the end shall come. And when we reach that other home, next to seeing the Saviour, next to having the old ties re-united, will be the comfort and the blessedness of meeting some one whom we helped heavenward and home.