« AnteriorContinuar »
more satisfactorily than in a recent masterly argument to show the divine origin of Christianity by its historical effects. More and more it becomes evident that the history of the world is the history of redemption not simply as a spiritual work, though this is ever the supreme and all-controlling interest, but the redemption of all the powers and faculties with which man is endowed. At present “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together” in bondage, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God,” when it too shall be redeemed, and science and art' and philosophy shall lay their tributes at the feet of Christ. Hence no true progress in any department of human effort, no achievement in art or literature but has its place in the all-embracing movement of the ages. What a picture may thus be presented to the spiritual universe of God of the wondrous results of the Redeemer's work, of the triumphs of truth and righteousness oyer sin and error! What new ascriptions of joyful praise to him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb for evermore”!
There can be no failure with Christ as Leader. Delays may occur at various points through the lack of zeal and consecration of those whom he is pleased to use as his agents. We are never straitened in him, but in ourselves.
The object is worthy of our Lord, and “ for the joy set before him ” in the sublime enterprise he was ready to limit himself to the conditions of a human life ; to submit to the greatest indignities, despising the shame.
Some suggestion of this joy in his work is given in the revelation to us of the “joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth over one soul released from its bondage and restored to its heavenly estate. The full significance of the fact in its eternal consequences thrills their hearts with gladness. Something of this joy is known to the Christian teacher as some pupil, the special object of prayer and effort, enters on a new life; to the pastor, as he finds response to his labors in the changed lives and character of his people; to the missionary of the cross, as he sees Christian homes and Christian institutions established among a people hitherto living in the darkness of heathenism. Something of this joy is the privilege of every child of God, as a fellow-laborer with him in the great redemptive work. This joy has at times stirred the great assemblies of this Board, while listening to men like John Scudder, David T. Stoddard, and Titus Coan as they have set forth the triumphs of the gospel in their several fields, and have been lifted to higher levels of thought by the grand conceptions and visions of the coming glory.
Of all the assemblies of Christian men and women the world over, it is fitting that we of the American Board should enter into this joy of our Lord, and that memories of spiritual uplifting at these meetings should be among the most precious memories of our lives.
But what is all this, what can be all this, to the joy of our Lord in the redemption of the world; of the countless millions of the human race out of every nation, kindred, and tongue, and in the ultimate triumph of his kingdom on the earth, when Christian institutions shall be the common possession of all the children of men, when
all that is best and worthiest in human character shall have been realized, when childe hood shall be nurtured in the midst of sweet controlling spiritual influences on every
hand, and even the laws of heredity and environment tend to the more perfect development of all the powers of the human mind and to the realization of the holiest aspira. tions of renewed souls! Truly a new heaven and a new earth!
He that wept over Jerusalem and its impending doom, he that showed his loving sympathy with every form of human suffering and sorrow, what must be his joy over * a world redeemed and made blessed in his love!
What a motive is here set before us for effort, for sacrifice, for prayer and renewed consecration, that we may be sharers in his work, partakers of his joy! May this joy be our inspiration and strength!
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE AMERICAN BOARD WITH THE
CHURCHES: AN HISTORIC STATEMENT.
BY REV. E. K. ALDEN, D.D., HOME SECRETARY.
| A paper from the Prudential Committee, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Boord, at Chicago, October 5, 1892.]
ALL great movements in the Kingdom of God on earth start from germs implanted by the Divine Spirit in individual souls.
THE FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN BOARD.
This was the origin of each of those benevolent societies, more than ten in number, which sprang up in rapid succession on both sides of the Atlantic, beginning at Kettering, England, one hundred years ago this week, October 2, 1792, with William Carey, Andrew Fuller, and their associates, and including what took place at Bradford, Mass., June 29, 1810. It is to the honor of the Massachusetts General Association, at that time an exclusively clerical body, that, then and there, it instituted what it was pleased to call “a Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for the purpose of devising ways and means, and adopting and prosecuting measures for the spread of the Gospel in heathen lands." There were present at this meeting twenty-one voting members, eighteen from Massachusetts, two from Connecticut, and one from New Hampshire, associated in counsel with seven honorary members, of whom four were from “the Divinity College” at Andover and two from the “ · Presbyterian Communion" of New Hampshire. It was a unique, anomalous affair, when looked at from the human side, as much so as that which took place nearly eighteen hundred years before at Antioch in Syria, and under the same divine superintendence. Niue men were elected as Commissioners, four from Connecticut and five from Massachusetts, four of them laymen and five clergymen; and to this “ Board of Commissioners" thus instituted, these twenty-eight ministers commended the “four young gentlemen members of the Divinity College” who had declared in their written statement that their minds [had] been long impressed with the duty and the importance of personally attempting a mission to the heathen.” A little more than two months later, September 5, these Commissioners, only five of the nine being present, having taken their seats around the parlor table of the parsonage at Farmington, Connecticut, prarerfully and deliberately accepted their sacred trust, not from man but from God, and without delay entered upon the consideration of broad plans for their world-wide work, instructing a sub-committee of three “to obtain the best information on the state of the unevangelized nations on the western and eastern continents and report" at a future meeting ; also, “ to correspond upon the subject “with other missionary societies.” It is one indication of the breadth of these plans in the minds of these thoughtful men that, having been constituted simply “a Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions" without other designation, they immediately designated themselves in the first article of their Constitution, not “The Massachusetts Board " nor “ The Massachusetts and Connecticut Board”; not the “New England Board " nor “ The New England and New York Board”; not the “ Congregational Board "nor the Congregational and Presbyterian Board”; but the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.” “ By this name and style,” these are their own words, “ the Board shall be known." They felt that they were inaugurating not a local, ne partisan, nor sectarian, but a broad American movement, one which might perhaps icclude all Christians of every name, " for propagating the Gospel," as they express it in their second article, “ among those who are destitute of the knowledge of Chris. tianity.” To this Constitution they signed their five names, and sent it forth to
the world. There those five names in the order of their signature, “ John Treadwell, Joseph Lyman, Samuel Spring, Calvin Chapin, Samuel Worcester” stand upon the records of that memorable meeting at Farmington, in company with the names, also in the order of their signature, of the “ four young gentlemen members of the Divinity College,” “Adoniram Judson, Jr., Samuel Nott, Jr., Samuel J. Mills, Samuel Newell" who subscribed the statement, copied in full on the same records, that they were “impressed with the duty of personally attempting a mission to the heathen.” Those nine names upon the records of the first meeting of the American Board declared for all coming time the origin of this great movement of the century, that it was the Spirit of God operating upon a few individual souls.
ITS CLOSE FELLOWSHIP WITH THE CHURCHES.
But now came a second stage in the movement. These five men, having written out in their first report the story of the formation of their new organization, sent forth with it a fervent appeal, addressed, as they expressed it, not“ To the churches,” not" To the ministry,” but “ To the Christian Public," including of course churches and ministry, but broader than either or both, the entire Christian community, persons of every age and every name. And upon this idea they continued to act, closing each annual report during several successive years with a similarly earnest appeal addressed to the same broad constituency. It was like the call of the gospel, “ Whosoever will ” let him unite with us in this blessed work of proclaiming Christ to the heathen world. These appeals, however, soon began to emphasize the call, as expressed in the third annual report, “ To the Clergy, the revered Pastors of the American churches," urging them to become voluntary agents in their own congregations and neighborhoods, by communicating missionary intelligence, by forming auxiliary associations, and by soliciting contributions both from individuals and auxiliaries. This was one of the most successful methods by which from the first the American Board cultivated a close fellowship with the churches. And a large number of churches responded, through their pastors, through pledged subscribers, through the formation of auxiliary societies, some of them representing men alone, some of them women alone, some of them children alone, and some of them all classes in the congregation. Soon special attention was called to the Missionary Concert of Prayer, to be held upon the first Monday of each month, which became one of the most cherished meetings of the churches as such, and which was almost invariably brought to a climax by a freewill offering at its close.
It is worthy of note, in this connection, that five days after the American Board was incorporated upon June 20, 1812, the General Association of Massachusetts put on record their approval of this action in the following terms: “Voted, that the measures adopted by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in procuring the act of incorporation for securing its funds, and in the Commencement of Missions, meet the entire approbation of this body.” At the same meeting the report of the Board for the previous year was presented which closes in the following words : “ This communication from the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions is respectfully submitted to the General Association of Connecticut and to the General Association of Massachusetts Proper, with an earnest request that the exertions of these venerable bodies may be continued, and that their prayers may ascend in unison with those of this Board to the Great Head of the Church, that he would give his blessing to the humble endeavors of his servants and open an effectual door for the spread of the Gospel, until all the nations of the Earth shall embrace his truth, and be made the partakers of his great Salvation."
At the next meeting of the Board, held September 16, 1812, this spirit of fellowship with the churches was again expressed in the following action : "Voted, that the Prudential Committee annually transmit a copy of the doings of the Board to the General
Association of New Hampshire, the General Convention of Congregationalists and Presbyterians in Vermont, the General Association of Massachusetts Proper, the General Association of Connecticut, and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States."
This relation of the Board to the churches thus became a power from the beginning of its history and has been warmly cherished, on both sides, from that day to this. It was manifested not merely in the auxiliary associations of single congregations, numbering in 1835 about 1,600, but in the larger circles of county and neighborhood auxiliaries, some of which had a notable history for a long period. In some cases churches themselves in an official way became identified with the American Board by formally accepting it as the authorized agent of the church in carrying forward its missionary work among unevangelized peoples, and when they took up their monthly or annual contributions they felt that they were, in a manner which could not be misunderstood, depositing their votes in the interest of the one cause dear to them all — even the children being trained from their early years to put in with their own hands their own consecrated gifts. The same idea pervaded other churches and congregations which, though they did not formally recognize their relation to their cherished Missionary Society, did so practically. Indeed this became the well-understood Congregational method of carrying forward all their benevolent and philanthropic enterprises; and it was emphatically so in their relations to the American Board. Probably no churches anywhere of
denominational name have been more loyal and hearty in the support of what they have felt was their own missionary organization than the churches which have regarded themselves as the constituency of the American Board; and this fact the Board itself has gratefully recognized throughout its entire history. Hence, it has frequently asked the question, “ How can a closer and more efficient fellowship between the churches and the Board be secured?"
A CLOSER FELLOWSHIP CULTIVATED.
This is the practical inquiry to which a succession of replies has been made along our history. Some of these replies let us briefly notice.
In the selection of Corporate Members special attention has been given to the relation of these members to the churches. One third were to be “respectable clergmen,” usually pastors of churches; one third were to be “ respectable laymen,” usually those who were supposed to be influential with the churches, many of them church officers; and the remaining third "characters of the same description whether clergsmen or laymen,” but all having similar relations to the churches. The first nine men selected by those twenty-one ministers who constituted the voting members of the Massachusetts General Association were representative men as related to the body which has continued — the four laymen, Governor Treadwell and General Jedediah Huntington, of Connecticut, Samuel H. Walley and William Bartlett, of Massachusetts, well-known business and public-spirited men of large influence; the five clergymen, President Timothy Dwight and Calvin Chapin, of Connecticut, Samuel Spring, Samuel Worcester, and Joseph Lyman, of Massachusetts, Samuel Spring and Samuel Worcester being the two men who had planned the new organization on their ride together from Andover to Bradford on their way to the Bradford Meeting.
No one acquainted with the pastorate and membership of the churches can look over the list of the Corporate Members of the Board, from that day to this, without being impressed with the fact that these men honorably represent the churches and educational institutions of our constituency and must carry with them an acknowledged
weight of influence in all their counsels. The gradual increase of number in the Corporate membership from nine to two hundred and fifty, and the enlarging area they represent from Massachusetts and Connecticut to all the New England, Middle, Western, and nearly all the Southern States, has been in the same interest, the better to represent and to influence the churches throughout the land. This matter was taken into careful consideration at the Annual Meeting in 1863, by the appointment of a special committee, Dr. Leonard Bacon, chairman,l to recommend, if they thought it advisable, " rules concerning the election of Corporate Members,” who presented an elaborate report in 1864, followed by another careful paper from the Prudential Committee presented by Secretary Wood in 1865, which culminated in the definite action of the following year. This was the meeting, in 1866, at which the following preamble was adopted:
“Whereas membership in this Corporation is not an honor merely to be conferred on men distinguished by position, by learning and genius, or by civil and ecclesiastical influence, but is a trust which cannot be discharged without labor and sacrifice; therefore every man elected to membership, if he accept and retain the trust, shall be considered as pledged to perform its duties and expected to be a constant attendant at the meetings of the Board for business whenever such attendance is reasonably practicable.”
The following rules were also adopted :
“In supplying deficiencies or filling vacancies, regard shall be had to a distribution of members among the several States, in some proportion to the contributions from the States. ...
At each Annual Meeting a committee of seven on new members shall be appointed by the President, whose duty it shall be to recommend to the meeting next ensuing the names of persons deemed suitable for election as Corporate Members."
This latter rule was in the interest of careful inquiry and selection by a committee, which has always been made up of both laymen and clergymen from different sections of the land who have the opportunity of consulting whomsoever they may judge to be well informed as counselors, including not only individuals, but also, if they choose, churches and conferences representing those sections from which the membership is to be selected. A few years later, in 1875, this rule was so amended as to provide that three of this committee shall have served in the same capacity the previous year. To this standing committee of seven all churches and all conferences of churches, as well as individuals, may, if they choose, recommend at any time during the previous year any individuals whose names they may desire to have presented for nomination. The appointment of this committee of seven was certainly a thoughtful provision in the interest alike of the churches and of the Board to secure, with the largest opportunity for nomination, the wisest possible representation for Corporate membership.
But while it was agreed that the Corporate membership in order to be most efficient and most truly representative of the entire constituency must necessarily be a somewhat limited body, it was felt that something further was desirable in order to bring the churches through their pastors and individual members into a more intimate fellowship. This was what led to a somewhat unique feature introduced in 1821, namely, the arrangement for an honorary membership by which churches or individuals by the contribution of fifty dollars might give to their pastors the privilege of entering into the deliberations of the Corporate Members on equal terms, in attendance on the Annual Meetings, in joining in discussions and in business of every kind, with the exception
1 This Committee consisted of " Leonard Bacon, D.D., Seth Sweetser, D.D., Judge William Strong, Asa D. Smith, D.D., Frederick Starr, Esq., Rev. Thornton A, Mills, and John Kingsbury, Esq.”