The ministers and messengers of the Philadelphia Baptist Association.
To the churches they represent, send Christian salutation.
Beloved brethren, — Having been permitted, once more, to assemble together, in our metropolis, without any interruption from pestilential disease, we would offer our thanks to Almighty God; and having received and heard your affectionate communications, our hearts rejoice in your joy and sympathize in your griefs.
Accustomed to address you annually, in a letter of Christian love, we proceed with pleasure to the task, and fervently pray that by this service your bosoms may be strengthened and refreshed in the Lord. At the present season, when a new era appears to have sprung up in the Christian church, when the servants of God, both in the Old World and in the New, dissatisfied with exhibiting the glories of the Redeemer in the vicinity of their own habitations, stand prepared to bear the lamp of the Lord's Anointed amid the glooms of the deserts and into the regions where the human frame is almost stiffened with cold or scorched with sunshine; — at a season too when distinguished success follows such pious endeavors, and when we are loudly called upon to come "to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty," we feel desirous of addressing you on the important subject of Christian missions.
We will endeavor, by divine assistance, to exhibit —
I. The principles on which they proceed.
II. The extent to which they have been carried, and
III. The encouragements we possess for future exertions.
I. In inquiring into the principles which have given birth to missionary toils, we are struck with the difference between them and those principles which actuate the world. Distant climes are not traced that wealth may be gotten, reputation and ease secured — that curiosity may be indulged, or the blood of thousands wantonly shed. The servant of Christ goes forth prepared to suffer, with his Lord, poverty and reproach; perils from his countrymen and perils from the heathen. The awfulness of his message and the responsibility of his office elevate him above the vanities of curiosity, and on the banners which he plants are inscribed, "Peace on earth and good will towards men."
The following principles have given rise to Christian missions, and sway the conduct of faithful missionaries:
1. A deep conviction of the fallen state of the human race.
Once indeed man was in honor, but now he is in disgrace. "Wo unto us that we have sinned." - In our common father we have all sunk in the abyss of original defection, and are all actual offenders against a righteous God. Many have endeavored to extenuate the offences of the heathen world. Idolaters have been represented as the untaught children of nature, whom the Supreme being would rather pity than punish; but such are not the representations of the holy Scriptures, the oracles of divine truth. That they who have sinned without the law, will be judged without the law, is admitted; but it is expressly declared, that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." That such as "change the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image" are "without excuse." And that "the judgment of God is," that "they who commit such things are worthy of death." Who will dare to oppose his judgment to the judgment of infinite wisdom and righteousness? Or, who can be inactive when he hears the Bible proclaim "Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile?
2. Another principle influencing to holy labor is - the total inability of the sons and daughters of men to deliver themselves.
The Jews on our earth, amounting to, at least, seven millions of its inhabitants, are still resting in the Mosaic law, a law which Christ has abolished, and which, were it now in force, could not effect their salvation, it being impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. The Mahometans, whose number is full one hundred and thirty millions, found their hopes of paradise on zeal for the Koran, veneration for Mahomet, pilgrimages to Mecca, and the persecution of heretics; but alas, what can these do for a sinner's salvation, if, as we are persuaded, the Koran is false, Mahomet an impostor, the pilgrimage folly, and the persecution iniquitous? - The heathen, amounting to about four hundred and twenty millions, place their expectations of life eternal, in the adoration of the heavenly bodies, or of idols, which having eyes see not. They hope for salvation because they worship and wash in rivers, or because they torture and abuse their bodies in a variety of ways at which reason shudders and humanity weeps. Spits run through their tongues, threads passed through the sides, hooks fastened m their backs, the burning of women on the funeral piles of their husbands, and the crushing to death of men under the wheels of the carriages of their gods, are among the numberless devices invented by them to take away sin. - Of the remaining inhabitants of our earth, consisting of one hundred millions of Roman Catholics, forty-four millions of Protestants, and thirty millions of the Greek and Armenian churches, how many are found depending on future happiness on penances, dispensations and unscriptural rights and ceremonies. Do and live was the law given to man in innocence. Do and live is the favorite maxim of our fallen race; whereas all our doings are polluted, and the word of God expressly declares, "that by the deeds of the law no flesh living shall be justified."
3. Another principle is, that there is in Christ all that fulness of salvation that poor and miserable sinners stand in need of.
Jesus Christ is the glorious Mediator between God and man:his blood can atone and his righteousness can justify. His Holy Spirit can change the stoutest heart, arrest the deepest prejudices, beget in the breast where sin has abounded the most fervent desires after perfect holiness, and transform the most infatuated idolator, or the most abandoned profligate, into a child of wisdom and an exemplary saint. The faithful missionary knows that Christ Jesus the Lord is appointed of the Father, and is exalted by his own merit, to be a hiding place from the storm and a covert from the tempest, and that there is "no other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved." — An experimental sense, therefore, of the glory and the worth of the Redeemer, inspires the wish that all the ends of the earth may come and serve him.
4. It animates the heart farther to learn that this way of salvation shall be known in all the earth.
The sacred page is replete with prophecies to this effect. A few may serve as a specimen of many. "It shall come to pass, in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it," Isaiah ii. 2. "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea," Isaiah xi. 9. "Living waters shall go out from Jerusalem," — like an ocean breaking forth on each side, — "half of them towards the former sea, and half of them towards the hinder sea, in summer and winter shall it be. And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one," Zechariah xiv. 8, 9. "Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over," Ezekiel xlvii. 5. The progress of Christ's kingdom will be gradual, like the growth of the mustard tree or the operation of leaven, but at last it will, be victorious. The stone, which has already smitten the image is becoming a great mountain and must fill the earth.
5. We will mention but one missionary principle more, namely, — That the means by which, instrumentally, the great work is to be effected, is the ministration of the Divine Word.
We would not be understood as supposing that this is the only means. Whenever salvation goes "forth as a lamp that burneth, it will be in answer to the prayers of Zion, and as it extends, private Christians will, in their several circles, be instructors too: "Every man shall teach his neighbor, and every man his brother until all shall know the Lord." The King of kings may also render famines, earthquakes, pestilence, wars, or revolutions of empires, channels of peculiar instruction; but, it is at least presumable, that under the indefatigable labors of Zion's missionaries, his kingdom will come. Earthen vessels will bear the celestial treasure. The commission of Christ directs his ministers to "go out into all the world." "Many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased." Israel anciently was often recovered from the backslidings by the holy prophets. The light of the reformation came forth and spread, while eminent men of God were bearing their testimony. Then may we not hope, and ardently expect, that the glory of the latter day will be visible, when the precious sound of evangelical ministers has gone out into all lands and "their words unto the ends of the world?"
II. Influenced by these important considerations, and urged on by the love of immortal souls, many of the servants of IMMANUEL have gone forth, and are now employed in various and distant climes.
To give you, dear brethren, a full statement of the extent and success of their labors would, were it even in our power, be transgressing the bounds prescribed for our annual epistle. We will, however, in as brief a manner as possible, mention a few facts for your information and encouragement.
The commission of our Lord, as before observed, directed the apostles to go and teach "all nations," and, in Mark xvi. 20, we read that they went forth and preached "EVERY WHERE." They were not stationed ministers, but ITINERATING missionaries. From the testimony of Eusebius and others, it appears that Peter visited Pontus, Galatia, and the places adjacent; that Andrew directed his course into Scythia, John into lesser Asia, Philip into Media and Armenia, Bartholomew into Arabia, Matthew into Persia, Thomas into Judea, Jude into Syria, Simon the Canaanite into Lybia and Egypt, and Matthias into Capadocia; while Paul, as a seraph, flew almost everywhere to win souls to Jesus Christ.
The first age of Christianity was eminently an age of missions. But after the decease of the apostles, the seed they had sown was left to spring up, - corruptions gradually entered the church, — the man of sin began at length to be revealed, and desire for the salvation of men was lost in the pursuit of ecclesiastical usurpation, pomp, and revenue.
It is however, a very remarkable circumstance, that in modern missions Papal Rome has led the way. — "When the Roman Pontiffs," says Moshiem, "saw their ambition checked by the progress of the Reformation, which deprived them of a great part of their spiritual dominion in Europe, they turned their lordly views towards the other parts of the globe." The society, which in the year 1540, took the denomination of Jesuits, or the company of Jesus, were by the Pope chiefly employed, at first in India, Japan and China, after which they spared no pains in propagating their erroneous sentiments in the "West Indies and on the continent of America.
In the year 1556, Protestants began to feel for the nations involved in paganism. Fourteen missionaries were sent from Geneva to America. The Swedes also exerted their zeal for the conversion of the superstitious Laplanders, and both the English and the Dutch carried with them into their increasing foreign settlements the doctrines or the reformation.
Early in the last century the Moravians began to organize and exert themselves in the missionary cause. Their spheres of action have gradually increased; besides their missions in six of the West India islands, they have settlements in Greenland, Upper Canada, and South America; their missionaries are employed also at the Cape of Good Hope, on the coast of Labradol; and in the Russian part of Asia. The zeal, the afflictions, and the success of these United Brethren have been great.
Patronized by Christians in Scotland and in America, Elliott, Brainerd, Edwards, and others labored among the aborigines of our country; but it was not till about the year 1790, that the great missionary spirit, which now exists, began to diffuse itself.
On the minds of our Brother Carey and of several of the brethren of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association in England, the case of the benighted pagans lay with weight. Prayer meetings for the spread of the gospel were established, and a pamphlet was composed and published by Brother Carey, stating and enforcing the obligations of Christians to exert themselves for the conversion of the heathen. The holy flame spread, until in the year 1792, the Baptist missionary society was formed. Bengal was determined upon as the seat of the mission, and our Brethren Carey and Thomas were first sent thither. A mission house has been purchased and a church constituted at Serampore, near Calcutta. Many of the natives have been added to the Lord, and some of them have died triumphing in redeeming love. Though the mission has suffered loss in the removal of several of the missionaries by death, yet the loss has been repaired by the accession of others. Ten or twelve brethren with their wives were, by the latest accounts, engaged there in advancing a Redeemer's interest. Several natives, and some of them Brahmans, are also preachers of a glorious gospel. A new church has lately been formed at Dinagepore, under the care of Brother Fernandez, and the constitution of two or three more churches was in contemplation when our brethren last wrote us. Twenty-seven persons were baptized last year, and fifteen more were under hopeful impressions. The whole word of God is translated into the Bengalee, and the second edition of the New Testament is in the press. Nearly the whole of the New and some parts of the Old Testament are translated into Mahratta, Orissa, Hindostanee, and Persian languages, and the good work is still proceeding. The gains that are drawn by our Brother Carey from the College of Fort William, in which he is the oriental professor, and those by our Brother Marshman from the school, and by our Brother Ward from the press, are cordially devoted, as are the gains of all the brethren, to the advancement of the cause of Jesus. Oh that the Lord may abundantly recompense their self-denial, and gloriously prosper their arduous and pious effort!
By the same society an attempt was made to establish a mission at Sierra Leone, in Africa. Two brethren were sent thither, but the sickness of the one and the imprudent political interference of the other, terminated the favorable expectations which were indulged of a settlement on that coast.
The piety, the engagedness, and the activity, which were so visible among the members of the Baptist churches, operated on other evangelical societies to such a commendable degree as to produce anxious desires to be employed in the same way.
Hence, in the year 1795, two hundred ministers of different denominations assembled in London and formed "the London Missionary Society." Large sums have been collected, and this numerous society is zealously alive in causing the name of the Lord Jesus to be made known far and wide. Its first efforts were directed toward the islands in the South Seas. They have since sent missionaries to the Cape of Good Hope, Canada, Newfoundland, and India. It is generally believed that there are under their patronage about one hundred missionaries.
Several societies of a similar kind have arisen of late in Scotland, and other parts of Europe, and in the United States.
Aided by our Baptist friends, and especially by the New York convention, our Brother Holmes has labored among the Indians of the Six Nations, among whom, to the praise of illustrious grace, great inquires have been made respecting the way to heaven.
At the last Association in New York, a Baptist mission society was established there.
The Dutch Reformed Church have also sent missionaries on the frontiers of our country and into Upper Canada.
The Methodists likewise, amidst great opposition and persecution, are persevering in maintaining a public ministry among the negroes and others in the West Indies.
The Massachusetts Baptist Mission Society, which was formed in May, 1802, have, in manifold instances, found the blessings of the Lord following their Christian and benevolent exertions. The magazine published by them quarterly, the profits of which are appropriated for the furtherance of the cause of God and of truth, is fraught with desirable information on this interesting subject.
The Philadelphia Baptist Missionary Society, of which several of us are members, though of recent formation, has not been left to struggle in vain. Brother T. G. Jones, who is our missionary in the eastern parts of the State of Ohio, has already made a communication of agreeable tidings. In order to baptize believers in Jesus, he has led them into waters where this holy ordinance was never administered before, and on a late tour he constituted a new Baptist church near the town of Lisbon. Numbers listened eagerly to the preaching of the cross, and in the work his heart appears to be much enlarged.
The general assembly of the Presbyterian church in the United States has of late become a missionary body. During the three years previous to 1802, seven or eight missionaries were annually employed, and since then have increased to fifteen or twenty. The principal spheres of their exertions are among the settlers on the frontiers of the country, the blacks and a few of the Indian tribes.
The Charleston Baptist Association of South Carolina, at their last session, received favorable accounts from their missionary, Brother John Rooker, relative to his ministration among the Catawba Indians. They have engaged him to continue with them, and are about establishing a school for the instruction of their youth.
Of the Congregational Mission Societies of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, we would now give brief statements, with pleasure, were it not for the circumscribed limits of our annual letter. We wish them everyone success, so far as truth is maintained, in the name of the Lord God of Sabaoth!
III. And now, beloved brethren, from the unvarnished accounts we have given you, though by far too short, permit us with all seriousness to intreat you to judge of the signs of the times. Have we not almost superabounding encouragements for future exertions? — The sky looks red and we think rain may be expected. Oh for showers of righteousness to bless the plains below!
Prophecy, as it relates to time, is no rule of action. It has been the pleasure of the Holy Ghost so to involve in mystery the numbers, according to which the time when "these things shall be" is to arrive, as that the profoundest theologians, the ablest servants of Jesus have been, and still are, divided in their interpretations of the same. But if the time, the set time to favor Zion may be known by her children taking pleasure in her stones, we cannot but ardently hope that it is at hand.
The best interpreter of prophecy is its fulfilment. It is an excellent remark of Sir Isaac Newton, that "The folly of interpreters has been to foretell times and things by prophecy, as if God designed to make them prophets. The design of God was much otherwise. He gave the revelations of John and the prophecies of the Old Testament, not to gratify men's curiosity by enabling them to foreknow things, but that after they were fulfilled, they might be interpreted by the event; and his own providence, not the interpreter's, be manifested thereby to the world." Such seems to be the meaning of the answer of the "man clothed in linen, who was upon the waters of the river," to Daniel (Ch. xii. 9.) The prophet was eager to know what and what manner of time the prophecy he had heard referred to: the reply was, "Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." The keys of time, as the great, Poole observes, "hang only at the girdle of Christ."
The object of missionary societies, beloved brethren, is great, greater indeed than the Reformation itself. That aimed at the overthrow of the beast; this at the destruction of the dragon, from whom the beast derived its power: "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." The Almighty Conqueror is on his way. In numbers of our churches, in various parts of our Union, the preaching of the cross is evidently the power of God. The uttermost parts of the earth have also furnished us with songs! - O may the season soon come when
"Europe and Asia shall resound,
With Africa, his fame;
And thou! America, in songs
Redeeming love proclaim."
O that we all may be truly active in the Saviour's cause. "There is the same difference between diligence and neglect or idleness, as between a garden curiously kept, and the sluggard's field. The one is clothed with beauty, the other with deformity." That the eternal God may be glorified, immortal souls saved, civil society benefited, savage cruelties superseded, and millennial days introduced, are among the many objects contemplated by the industrious sons and daughters of grace. They cannot sleep as do others! - If Macarius did penance for only killing a gnat; if the least misconduct require purification, as was the case with the Jews when they touched things unclean, what must, on reflection, be the suffering of those professing Christians, who, owing to their indifference or sloth, cannot be represented - to put the most favorable construction on their demeanor — as SAVING MUCH PEOPLE ALIVE! What purifications, what interpositions of mercy will they stand in need of, who, while thousands around them are full of energy in order to promote the universal spread of the gospel of peace, are themselves indulging in sleep! "O our souls, come not ye into their secret; unto their assemblies," let each one of us say, "mine honor, be not thou united." The industrious bee, by his sedulity in summer, lives on honey all the winter, while the drone is not only cast out, but beaten and punished. Dear brethren, imitate the industrious bee; feast on the luxuries of well-doing. Oh be much in prayer. Our Lord teaches us before we ask for daily bread, to petition for the coming of his kingdom. May we be watchful against sin and Satan, circumspect in our deportment, patient in suffering, fervent in spirit, active in duty, and joyful in hope. That the God of peace may sanctify you wholly, is the prayer of yours, in a dear Redeemer.
HENRY SMALLEY, Moderator. WILLIAM STAUGHTON, Clerk. ===============
[From Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, 1806. — jrd]
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