Statement of Principles and Arguments
The principles for which Dr. Crawford almost literally "suffered the loss of all things" ought to be clearly, concisely, and in the proper spirit, stated in the life work of this great man. Twelve years ago a beloved and able brother, for many years pastor of one of the leading city churches in the South, wrote, "I have read the letters with great interest. It amazes me that there is nothing said of their work by the Board, and that our papers are so silent about the Gospel Mission. They ought to have a full hearing before the Southern Baptists. My deepest sympathy is with them. May the Lord abundantly reward them in their work, and compensate them for what they have suffered." That their principles and aims may have as full a hearing as possible before Southern Baptists, they are here presented:1. The Gospel Mission movement is an outcome of Baptist doctrines, a manifestation of a long-felt desire on the part of many among us, to conform our foreign mission methods and work to New Testament principles and apostolic examples; for it is painfully evident that without some change, Baptists can never expect to do much toward the evangelization of the world. Through a devout return to the inspired standard of faith and practice, the Gospel Mission hopes, sooner or later, to secure the hearty cooperation of all the churches, and thereby increase the number and spiritual force of our missionaries to the perishing millions of earth.
2. That portion of the Chinese empire which the Gospel Missionaries are beginning to enter, and for which they are asking God and the churches for one hundred seed sowers, is a vast field, stretching from the middle of Shantung Province in the northeast, through the populous provinces of Honan, Hoopei, and Si Chuen towards the southwest. Our purpose in going forth is to preach the gospel according to the command of Christ as given in the commission, which says, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." "Go disciple all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,
[The Bostick family with Po Chow Christians]
teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."
3. We desire with all our hearts to adhere to this commission, to preach the gospel of Christ as the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, and to let "modern adjuncts" alone. We shall do this relying on the Holy Spirit to accompany our message in the salvation or condemnation of men, to the glory of God the Father.
4. As preaching consists, not simply in proclaiming Christ to crowds and congregations, but also in speaking of Him to individuals and families from house to house, and teaching disciples to obey His commands, there is an abundance of gospel work for missionary women. . . . We know that for a while the Gospel Mission will meet with strenuous opposition both at home and abroad. Yet we believe that through our faithful labors God will, in His own good time, raise up for Himself regenerated, spiritual churches in this land, and from their membership call forth a supply of devoted evangelists and pastors. "Responsibility is the mother of activity." Then let the native churches, from the beginning of their existence as churches, conduct their own worship, meet their own expenses, and aid or support their own pastors; and this will become, not only a means of grace to them, but an unanswerable argument to their heathen observers. Baptist Christianity, to exist at all, must be self-propagating and self-supporting everywhere. Hence the Gospel Mission rejects foreign money for the employment of native preachers, colporteurs, Bible women, etc., for supporting schools, hospitals and asylums, and for building parsonages, cemeteries and the like. We decline, by the grace of God, to burden either our home churches or our mission work, with these adjuncts for drawing converts, or in any way to excite pecuniary expectations in the minds of the people, lest we be found building our holy religion on the sand of selfishness and hypocrisy.
5. Between the two methods there is no middle ground, for the two lead in exactly opposite directions. The life of the one is the death of the other. The subsidy method starts the young convert off, feeling that the mission is under obligation to support him and his poor relatives; the gospel method starts him off feeling grateful to Christ for saving his soul, and with a desire to help save others. We can never use either deception, force, or bribery, directly or indirectly, for making disciples, or in any way strive to gratify our own or the public's desire for success. We must build on the Rock or give up the work.
[p. 206]6. We believe that the church, and the church alone, is Christ's organization for the evangelization of the world; and that the Holy Ghost says to many of them, "separate me a Paul and a Barnabas to the work whereunto I have called them." We believe also that the cooperation of the churches with each other in Christian work is in accord with apostolic teaching, and with the practice in New Testament times. So it should be in all ages. As foreign fields are generally distant, and the expenses of the evangelization great even with the strictest economy, two or more churches, according to circumstances, can readily cooperate in choosing and sustaining a missionary in China, or elsewhere, as they frequently do in the case of a pastor. Thus each church becomes, according to its own action and ability, responsible as a body to the missionary for a part of his support, and he to each of them for the faithful execution of his trust. Thus every Baptist church in America, great and small, may become actively engaged in evangelizing the world, greatly to its own growth in grace. The church of God is the ground and pillar of the truth, and of all bodies on earth is best qualified to select and look after the character of its own pastor and missionary. For to the church is promised the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a qualification which cannot be predicated of any other body whatever. When such intimate relation of sacred and mutual responsibility is once established between a devoted church and a consecrated missionary, then the Spirit of the blessed Master will flow through all the members like the sap through the branches of a vine, and will yield fruit to the glory of God. Then earnest prayers and cheerful contributions will be made by the church, and cheerful, self-denying service will be rendered by the missionary — a condition of things greatly needed in these days.
7. The Gospel Mission movement has an important bearing, not only upon our religious life in the home land, but upon our religious prospects in the foreign fields. It is impossible for our native brethren to get a correct idea of independent church government, while they see that the missionary teachers are dependent upon a central body, which they call the lao whay, or venerable church, for a support. Link this with the fact that they see a few foreign ministers employing and dismissing native preachers at pleasure, or at least without the action of the native church, and we ask how can our independent or congregational form of government ever be introduced among them? Seeing the unbaptistic tendencies of the prevailing system in so many directions, both at home and abroad, should not our people generally withdraw from it and
[p. 207]come boldly to the help of the Gospel Mission, which runs in the opposite direction?
8. We propose individually to honor the churches, each in its own independent and sovereign capacity, as the body of Christ; to work under its direct authority, and to depend upon it, or a group of such churches, for the necessary means of support while engaged in preaching the gospel to the heathen. Under a sense of profound devotion to the Master's example and teaching, we rest the whole movement upon the bedrock of self-denial for Christ's sake and the salvation of men, alike for the churches at home, the missionaries abroad, and for the native Christians in every field.
9. Judging from all the information in our possession, $450.00 gold rate, per individual missionary, whether male or female, married or single, is amply sufficient for a yearly support in North China. This amount in detail is as follows:
Salary and personal needs $300.00 House rent and repairs 50.00 Teacher of the language 50.00 Itinerating and other expenses of gospel work 50.00 Total $450.00
Besides this, some additional allowance, according to circumstances, should be made for children. This is far less than is expended by the Board per missionary, but not less than is used by the China Inland missionaries.
10. We propose this reduction of expenditure for the following reasons: (1) It is the Lord's money, given by the Lord's people — much of it by those who are poor — for the purpose of sending the gospel to the perishing nations, and we cannot use it for other purposes without a breach of trust. (2) We wish to stand on an equality in this respect with our town and country pastors, as we look to them largely for sympathy and support. (3) We wish to set an example of economy and self-denial in order both to ennoble our churches and to induce them generally to send a large number of missionaries to this and other destitute fields. Many among our people are called of God to the foreign work, but for the lack of funds are kept at home. Let them now come and let the churches now send them forth to the work, both alike accepting self-denial as the basal principle of action in the Master's service. (4) Self-denial, even to poverty and death in the service of God, is a basal doctrine of Christianity as expressed in the life of its founder, and as afterward enjoined and exemplified by the apostles and the
[p. 208]early churches. For Jesus says, "For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." And Paul says, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich." Yea, those who would give vital Christianity to the Chinese must, like Jesus and the apostles, bring no money to the work, or in any way excite their cupidity and thereby corrupt their hearts. They must be drawn by the cords of gospel love to follow Christ, and not by the cords of foreign silver; not by loaves and fishes, but by the bread of life. They must also be taught by precept and example to accept the doctrine of self-denial and personal sacrifice for Christ's sake, rather than to expect pecuniary gain from a profession of His religion.
11. The support of the Gospel Missionaries is, according to our principles, to be a free gift from God's people, contributed through their several churches, and subject to the direct control of these churches. The work of missions being thus brought back to scriptural simplicity, it is hoped that a new era will begin; that hence forth the happy communication between the missionaries and the churches spoken of in Philippians iv:15 will prevail. Then supporting a self-denying missionary by a church or group of spiritually-minded churches, as a messenger of Christ's dying love for the souls of men, will become not only a pleasure, but a real grace to both pastor and people.
12. We regard all Baptist ministers, whether pastors or evangelists, home or foreign missionaries, as on an equality, and reject every theory which makes of a few of them heads or superintendents over others, or gives them control over the mission contributions and work of the churches. We do not believe in the unbaptistic system which works down upon the churches, but in the system that is worked in and by them; in the one that is adapted to their faith and conditions; in the one for which they feel themselves responsible and able to carry out under Christ their Head, without the intervention of any outside body.
13. We, as well as many others, are tired of the grinding wheels of outside organizations in the home land, and of the subsidy methods and modern adjuncts in mission fields. We long for the simplicity, fellowship, and self-denying energy of apostolic times, and must labor to bring this about. We of the Gospel Mission in China wish to go down to the people, wear their dress, live in their houses, and in general to eat the food of the land. For only in this way can we hope to get in full touch with those for whose salvation
[p. 209]we labor. Moreover, the Chinese dress is very much cheaper, more comfortable, and more readily obtained than the tight-fitting foreign dress. This is especially so in the interior where the foreign dress is an object of constant curiosity and annoyance, drawing the attention of the people away from the gospel message. For similar reasons we prefer to live in native houses. Foreign houses not only awaken fears of foreign aggression and lead to repeated mobs, but also prevent ready intercourse between the people and the missionaries, a thing most desirable to encourage, for the Chinese greatly need to see Christian life illustrated under surroundings similar to their own. By doing so we also relieve the difficulty of living in one element and laboring in another. Besides, many missionaries feel called of God to live among the heathen, and not to do so is a greater strain upon their strength than thus to come down as some call it. Again, it is not our business to foreignize, but to Christianize, the people among whom we dwell. Much of China is a high, dry, and healthy country, abounding in all kinds of necessary provisions which we utilize, instead of expensive ones from distant lands. Our course will thus so simplify and unburden the work at home and abroad, that every church, both great and small, both city and country, can readily take part in its support.
Go to Chapter 28
[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]
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