Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

MISSIONARY QUALIFICATIONS.

BY REV. JUDSON SMITH, D.D., FOREIGN SECRETARY. (A paper from the Prudential Committee, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Board, at Chicago, October 5, 1892.]

In a great and difficult undertaking it is quality which counts, not numbers. The 300 of Gideon's band achieved what the 32,000 from whom they were chosen could never have accomplished. Without the faith and persistence of Columbus, that expedition across unknown seas which just four centuries since broke the path to this new world and gave a shape to all later history had never been begun, or had paused midway. Garibaldi's call to those who were in love with famine and cold and wounds and death rallied an invincible band for Italy's deliverance. It is thus most natural that in the great enterprise of Foreign Missions the qualifications of those who conduct it should be matter of constant and most careful inquiry.

1. The importance of the question is obvious. In such an undertaking, where the office of the foreign laborer is so largely that of leadership and organization, the force and significance of the work depend mainly on the character and capacity of those who conduct it. History abounds in illustrations of the point. The beginnings of New England, so full of interest and momentous consequences, were shaped by a very small number of men and women who came hither from England during the reigns of the first two Stuarts. The swift collapse of the Second French Empire and the equally marvelous victory of the German force were due not so much to the superior numbers as to the superior quality of those who marched with the Prussian king. The patriot armies of the Revolution won victories from the mercenary troops opposed to them out of all proportion to their numbers or equipment. It has been well said: When bayonets think, they become irresistible.” And Joshua kindles the courage of Israel by the same thought, when he says: “One man of you shall chase a thousand." Now the small number of men and women who compose the missionary force on any of the fields where this work is in progress hold a like position of advantage, and in a plastic way lay their hands to movements of wide reach and lasting influence. It makes all the difference between success and failure, whether they are wisely or carelessly chosen.

1. This question touches the central factor of Christian Missions. It is usually the missionary that makes the mission, and not the reverse. The missionary comes before the Society which supports him. This is the historical order; and it is the natural order. Paul and Barnabas, moved by the common impulse that stirred the church at Antioch, and designated thereto by the Holy Ghost, went forth to Cyprus and Pisidia and Lycaonia and Cilicia with the message of the gospel. Patrick labored in Ireland without society, without associate, and determined the fortunes of a kingdom for centuries. The missionary purposes of Hall, Newell, and Judson preceded the American Board and the Missionary Union which assumed their support. When we think of the great missionary operations of these later years, there rise to our thoughts the names and deeds of Morrison and Moffat, of Williams and Patteson, of Riggs and Schauffler and Dwight, of Bagster and Pinkerton and Logan, and the noble army of godly men and women who have wrought with them. They are the ones who have given character to the missionary cause, who have vindicated its dignity, who have won to it the instinctive praise and reverence of the Christian world. We do not forget the wise and able men who have directed the great Mission Boards of Europe and America ; we do not overlook the great army of ministers and people, men and women, whose

prayers and gifts have brought to this cause increasing strength and success.

But it is none of these, it is not all these combined, that have created the Foreign Missions of our day

means.

and that have given to them their character and efficiency. That service we owe to the choice heroic souls who broke the path to pagan lands and set the example of a noble service and kindled the enthusiasm of the Christian world to the burning point.

“O small beginnings, ye are great and strong,

Based on a faithful heart and tireless brain;
Ye build the future fair, ye conquer wrong,

Ye earn the crown and wear it not in vain." 2. It must not be inferred from all this that a Missionary Society is a matter of no special importance. The relations of things ought to be clearly stated. The individual missionary goes to a service to which he feels himself impelled by the sentiment of Christian loyalty. He acts in obedience to the direct command of Christ, and discharges his own personal duty in that service. But this duty is a general one, and rests upon the whole body of Christian believers. It belongs to the Church to preach the gospel to every creature. The service must be rendered by individuals; and yet the responsibility rests upon all. Hence there is the most obvious propriety in the coöperation of the whole body of believers in this great work. Part of this duty may be performed by gifts, by sympathy, by prayers, and by counsel. And here is exactly the point where the call for the Mission Board emerges. It is the church coöperating with the individual missionary, helping to the common end, bringing whatever it can to reinforce the common cause. And the missionary is materially aided by these

His call to the service is judged and approved by his brethren. His hands are set free from other calls for effective service by the supply of others' gifts. His plans are more wisely laid and more successfully wrought out through the counsel and suggestions of his brethren. And thus the whole body of believers, with all its diverse gifts and resources and mutually stimulating faith and zeal, moves to the work as one man, a sacred army, an invincible host. Naturally, as the work advances and new fields are occupied and new activities are developed, the significance of the individual diminishes while that of the sympathizing, coöperating, and counseling body increases. But it never ceases to be a question of radical and primary importance who shall carry on this great work, and how their number shall be reinforced.

The relation of these two forces is sometimes misconceived, and the function of the Society spoken of as an impertinence, or even as a tyranny. The natural and the customary relation is that of sympathy and helpfulness. The missionary and his work are the gainers by all the counsel and affectionate care of the Society; as the individual soldier is more effective for the organization of the army to which he belongs, for the sympathy and support of the nation that reinforces and controls the army. The wisdom of many is greater than the wisdom of one. It is the weight of the whole head that drives the axe's edge to the mark.

II. Let us now proceed to the main question: What qualifications are to be sought in those who engage in this service? A momentous question, not here to be answered exhaustively. Light may be gathered from the nature and aim of the work, while the history of the movement makes many things certain and plain.

It might at first be thought that since this service is one to which Christ summons his people, and since the individual missionary obeys a personal call, this fact of a special divine call constitutes the one single and sufficient qualification. If one hears this call, that proves that he is to engage in the service, and no further inquiry is to be made. But a little thought will modify this view. We are considering the qualifications for missionary service which a Mission Board may seek and expect to find. No one can restrain the individual from following out his convictions and serving God and his generation according to his own purpose. But when a Society coöperates, and the missionary desires and asks the approval and support of the Society, the situation is materially changed. It then becomes necessary that the supposed divine call be substan

tiated, laid before the brethren for their approval, and subjected to reasonable and sufficient tests. It is possible that one may mistake his own wishes for the voice of God; and we must try the spirits. The service attempted is one in which many share, and it is needful to consider how different laborers will work together. It is also a varied service, calling for diversity of gifts; and it must be considered how this man will fit this place, in this station, and in this field. Some qualities are found in truly regenerated men and women which, as experience proves, totally unfit them for a share in a common enterprise. Physical conditions also need attention, since the demands of missionary service in most foreign lands are more severe than in the same sort of service at home. Mental equipment and religious faith and spiritual discernment must be considered, so that disappointments may be avoided and the common aims of those concerned in the enterprise be secured.

1. The first qualification we name is a clear and unquestioning conviction of the fundamental and characteristic doctrines of the gospel and of their competency to bring life and salvation to the pagan world. This is indispensable. The very object of missionary work is to preach the gospel, and to aid in establishing the institutions of the gospel, among those who have lost it or who never possessed it. There can be no genuine missionary work which does not look to these ends. The evangelization of a land and people has never been effected by education or deeds of philanthropy, by industrial arts or measures of government. It is wrought by the Spirit of God through the preaching of the gospel and the personal influence of the Christian life. No man can hopefully attempt this work who does not both know and love the gospel, who does not see and profoundly feel the danger and ruin of men without the gospel. And the gospel is not a mere phrase, or a sentiment, that may take any shape. It is the truth about Jesus Christ, the story of his august person, his marvelous birth and life and teachings, his death and glorious resurrection and everlasting reign. And this story is in the pages of Scripture and can be found nowhere else. What the pagan world needs, what the pagan nations do not know and are perishing in darkness and despair because they do not have it, is this gospel as it is preserved to us in the Word of God. This is what Christ bids his disciples preach to every creature, and this is the only message he has ever blessed. And at the sound of this good tidings the dead in every age have waked to life, and the lost nations have been redeemed.

Now the true missionary must clearly know and firmly believe this gospel, and be ready to teach it as the very truth of God come down from heaven, or he will not reach the hearts of men or move their wills. He may teach all other things with great skill; but that is of no avail: the pagan needs a new heart rather than new light. It is not merely an ignorant or undeveloped world to which the missionary goes; it is a lost world. And his one errand is to announce a divine Redeemer to men who are dying in their sins. If he wavers on this point, if he attempts to preach this glorious truth with mental reserves and exceptions, he will be but sounding brass and a clanging cymbal, and his efforts will be worse than in vain. If there is any reality in this work, if it is not all a great mistake, the missionary is dealing with the truth of God and with the eternal destinies of men; and he must be in solemn earnest, as one who stands between the living and the dead, whose words are freighted with eternal issues and with whom a mistake is fatal. In any teacher it is demanded that he be in clear possession of the subject he teaches; in the missionary the practical nature and bearing of the truths concerned give double emphasis to this demand. Let no one mistake the point. It is not reasonable to expect that young men, fresh from their studies, with ittle experience, will know all that they will come to know after years of service and spirituai growth. But it is reasonable to demand that they know the message they re to deliver, and that they believe it with all their hearts and preach it as the truth of the living God.

2. The missionary spirit is an indispensable qualification. This is a simple thing, 2 very real fact; not some intangible sentiment or fancy. Undoubtedly the first great missionary possessed and revealed this spirit. And what is more characteristic of Paul's life and labors than the zeal and uncalculating eagerness with which he threw himself into the work of preaching the gospel in Asia and Greece, and at Rome also? Of splendid natural gifts, with the best training his times could afford, he counted “all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” and determined to know nothing among the intellectual and haughty Greeks save Jesus Christ and hin crucified.

This qualification is as needful now as in that age, in the last missionary as in the first. He must love his work and believe in it, and throw himself into it without reserve, and find all his satisfaction in seeing it thrive. And he must love his work for that which is central and characteristic in it, because it is a work of saving men from their sins and building a kingdom of faith on the ruins of Satan's power. This is the supreme quality in all really effective work. This drove St. Francis Xavier our through the East to India and Ceylon and China, and, in spite of frowning danger and inevitable death, made each onward step brighter and more glorious than the last. This fed the hope and nerved the strength and inspired the mind of Judson through the long night of waiting and imprisonment and the loss of his dearest ones, until the morning broke and Burma's salvation was begun.

This is more than intellectual gifts, important as they are; more than mental breadth and largeness of view, valuable as all must deem them. It is the conquering and crowning element in all successful missionary work. Livingstone is great in many respects; but the zeal for Christ's kingdom, the desire to see that blest dominion spread and fill the dark places of the earth and all the habitations of cruelty which shone through every day and every step of his eventful life — this is his highest crowa, the secret of the unwasting reverence in which his memory is held by multitudes of Africa's sons as well as by the whole civilized world. This spirit is akin to that martyr spirit by which through two centuries of storm and night, of dread and death, the early Church traveled its patient, suffering, glorious path to the conquest of the old Roman world. Its power is as great to-day, and it is not wanting. Not once or twice do we hear from missionary life the sentiment which our beloved Logan once expressed : · They talk to me of sacrifices. I have made no sacrifices. My work has been a great privilege from first to last.” Nothing short of this spirit will stand the stress which must come on all, when clouds thicken and the fruit of labor is deferred, and ingratitude is the response to years of loving toil.

If any say that this is only the Christian spirit, which all disciples are bound to cherish, we should perhaps not deny it. But it is clear that the missionary work lays a special demand on this spirit; and it is idle to send to this work any man who is not so deeply in earnest in his chosen work as to rise above every difficulty and delay, all opposition and persecution, and set against obstacles and hardships a patience which shall outlast them all. * It pleased him from whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings "; and “the disciple is not above his Master." The evangelization of the world is no holiday task, to be finished in a day without dust and heat. They who attempt it must follow their Lord and arm themselves with a patience and love like his, and fill up what remains of his sufferings, and for the jor that is set before them endure the cross, despising the shame. It is of such that the sainted Heber sings:

They climbed the steep ascent of heaven

Through peril, toil, and pain;
O God, to us may grace be given

To follow in their train !

[ocr errors]

It is this spirit before which in due time every wall and obstacle shall go down over all

the earth, as the sands and wrecks and refuse along the shore of a continent sink Lubeneath the rising tide.

3. We mention next good mental powers and thorough education. Any fair recog. lietot nition of the demands of missionary service reveals the reasonableness of this require

ment. Note what tasks necessarily devolve on the missionary. He must acquire a pas ready command of the language of the people among whom he labors. Not infre

quently he must reduce the language for the first time to written form, arrange the

vocabulary, prepare the grammar, and thus in a sense create the elements of a new e literature. Always translation of the Bible into the vernacular devolves on the mis

sionary, a task of the greatest magnitude. The gospel must be preached in a foreign language, so that its truths shall be understood and its claims be felt by simple minds. Schools must be opened and manned for training native preachers and helpers, and a

whole system of Christian education devised and administered. The selection of ves: missionary centres so as to command strategic positions calls for special measures of

judgment, breadth of view, and power of organization. Dealing with native chiefs and kings, with foreign and often hostile governments, is a necessary part of the missionary's duty, and demands the gifts of the statesman and diplomatist, and tests them all. The right treatment of false religions, skilful dealing with those who are involved in them, are matters which would task the greatest philosophers the world can furnish. The organization and wise development of native churches, with the manifold practical questions that grow out of these and are indissolubly connected with them, involve all the gifts and genius that have adorned the Episcopal office in mediæval and modern days. The missionary is the pioneer and leader, the instructor and pattern of a new order of things, and finds his resources drawn upon to the utmost, and cannot escape the call. The missionary force, thus, must of necessity be a picked force; every man a chosen man; the more capable, the more fully developed, the more richly furnished, the better.

Now it is obvious that in the main the men who are to meet these demands will be found in our colleges and theological seminaries. Nothing less than the balanced judgment, the quickened powers, the widened outlook which ordinarily come from such training are adequate to this work. Moses was furnished for his great office by being nourished as the son of Pharaoh's daughter, “ learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and in deeds." The leaders in the building of New England were trained in the great English universities, and were a winnowed host. The history of missions confirms this view. The men who have done the most work and the best work on the foreign mission field are those who have been well furnished intellectually, both by native gifts and by thorough training.

Missionary societies do wisely to keep to these high standards. Fifty men thoroughly trained will accomplish more than four times their number of indifferently

And what is needed is leaders ; not the rank and file, which the native agency will furnish to their own great gain, but captains and generals; and these must be trained men. Exceptions are recognized, and due honor given to those who without this special equipment have labored unselfishly and not in vain. The point here urged is not to insist that a liberal education of itself will ensure good missionary service; but that any man who is naturally and spiritually fitted for this service will be more of a man, will possess greater resources, and will accomplish more by reason of such training. And the service demands and gives fullest scope to all 1:3 the resources of mind and heart, of character and manners that can possibly be

brought to it. It is impossible for the missionary to be too learned, too cultured, too eloquent, too versatile, too much of a scholar, a philosopher, a preacher, a statesman, or a gentleman, for the needs of his field and work. Granted the other radical qualifi

[ocr errors]

furnished men.

72

« AnteriorContinuar »