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Autobiography: First Contact with Missionary Concept PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wilson Thompson   



IN THE fall I made a tour, by Lawrenceburg, Madison, and thence to Maria Greek Church, situated near Vincennes; and thence up the Wabash Valley, Busaro Prairie, to Furman’s Greek and Honey Greek Churches, preaching almost day and night in these regions. I made a tour to a church on White River, and baptized four there, and then returned to Honey Greek. Here I became acquainted with Elder Isaac McGoy, who had just engaged in the “modern missionary enterprise”. He had established a Station and an Indian school, on Raccoon Creek. At his strong solicitation I agreed to visit his Station and school. When the time came for my appointment, I started in company with some brethren; we went through Terre Haute, and from thence to the Station on Raccoon. When we arrived we found Elder McCoy sick of a fever, but he was beginning to recover. Elder Aaron Frakes, who was the pastor of Honey Creek Church, went with us. After my sermon, as was their order at the Station, the opportunity was given for the reception of members, when Corbly Martin, the teacher of the Indian school, related his experience and his doctrinal views. He was received, and I baptized him in Raccoon Creek, for Elder McCoy was not able to do it. After preaching at the Station a few days and nights, we returned to Honey Creek, and soon I started for home.

My uncle, Joseph Thompson, my father’s brother, and his wife, and Gideon Long were with me. We came to General Allen’s, at the east side of Fort Harrison Prairie, and from here we struck our course through the woods; sometimes we had a small trace and sometimes none. I, being a woodsman from my youth, led the way. We came that night to Mr. Ather’s, at the three forks of Eel River. After this we had to camp in the woods. We found no settlers but Messrs. Lad and Whetsel at the bluffs of White River, some twenty miles below where the city of Indianapolis now stands; all was a vast forest at that time. We went on, camping in the woods during the night, until we came to Thornberry’s, on Big Flat Rock, below where Rushville now stands. The next day we reached the settlement near Counersville, and from there to my brother Jeremiah’s, and from there home. We found all well. During this tour I visited the widow of Elder James Lee. Lee had moved from Miami to Honey Creek, and had settled his family on new land, and died soon afterward.

Shortly after my return home I received a letter from Elder Isaac McCoy, requesting me to join him in his Mission, to come to his station and go with him through the Indian tribes to Fort Wayne, to which place he thought of moving his station, it being more convenient to the Indians. This trip he purposed to make in January. His solicitation took a deep hold on my mind; for I had viewed the missionary scheme only as being a benevolent plan for promoting the spread of the gospel. Whether or not it was a scriptural plan, I had not examined, nor once questioned. My mind became greatly impressed with the vast importance of preaching the gospel to ALL nations. And as these poor heathen savages were among us, and we had their land, and had greatly reduced their numbers, I felt that I would seize the opportunity now offered for carrying the gospel among them.

I soon made my resolution known to the churches, but I met with strong opposition from all the members. My house soon became crowded, day and night, with my best friends, often pleading with tears in their eyes for me not to go. They presented their own destitute condition, if I should leave them; and then they would point out all the horrors and privations that I must endure in spending a life among these superstitious and cruel barbarians. Elder William Jones, whom I regarded as an able teacher in Israel, came, with several others, and stayed most of two days and one night. He labored hard to persuade me to abandon the undertaking, but all to no effect. No one said a word about the enterprise being wrong or anti-scriptural; all seemed to admit that the wonderful movements, the zeal and perseverance now so suddenly and so simultaneously springing up in the United States and Europe did surely give some strong indications that the time was at hand when the gospel was to be preached to every nation. All this was admitted, but I must not leave them to engage in this work.

This, I thought, looked selfish in them; for if the time had come for the gospel to be preached to those heathen people, some one must go and preach it, and I believed then, as I do now, that God fixes the field of labor for each of His called ministers, and in that place alone will they be profitable. And when He is about to move one of His ministers from one place to another, circumstances and impressions will open up the way. My mind was not decided as yet, as to whether I should finally engage as a missionary or not; this should depend on my impressions and their evidence respecting my duty as presented to my mind. I must be satisfied what was the Lord’s will, and that should govern me without regarding ease or toil, privation or plenty; and for this knowledge I was seeking and praying, fully believing that God would direct me, for I was submissive to His will. This I told to all that talked to me.

My contemplated winter tour to Raccoon Station and thence though the Indian tribes in the Wabash Valley, and so on to Fort Wayne, where Elder McCoy designed a location, would probably show, by the next spring, what the prospect of success was, and what the path of duty would probably be. I met their arguments on privations and hardships by saying: “I was born in the new settlements of Kentucky, which the Indians called the ‘bloody ground’, in the year 1788, and I had been raised to the use of the rifle; the chase of the deer, the bear, the panther, and other wild animals, was the sport of my leisure hours; I had learned most of the habits of the Indians, and was used to camp life; I was a woodsman that could not lose my compass, and I did not know but the Omnipotent Disposer of events might have been superintending my education in the forest as a college far more suitable for an Indian missionary than any school of science could be. These matters time would doubtless develop.” I further told my friends that I hoped to be found submissively waiting and observing the openings of Providence, prayerfully seeking for wisdom to understand them, and for the leadings of the Holy Spirit to guide me in the right way that I might not go astray, for “it was not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

Under these circumstances I made every arrangement to start. I had my horse shod, and all in readiness for the next Monday morning, and this was Saturday, the church-meeting day at Pleasant Run. I had bid the other churches “farewell”, and to-day I bade this church “farewell” also, but expected to meet them again on Sunday.

I started home alone on foot, and as I was walking fast and in a thinking mood, suddenly these words came to my mind: “Who hath required this at your hand?” It thrilled through my whole frame and set me all of a shiver. I stood motionless, except a shaking from head to foot, with eyes bent toward the ground. I could not answer the interrogation, but this inquiry started calmly in my mind: “God ‘worketh all things after counsel of His own will’; if He intends to send the gospel to the Indians, or to any other heathen nation, He has not only fixed the time for it but has arranged the system. And have you the evidence that this is either the time or the system which He hath appointed?” I saw myself on the verge of a precipice, and, like a blind man, was about to leap I knew not whither. I stood without moving hand or foot, and trembling with solemn awe! In my mind I said: “Lord, shall I know what Thy system is and whether this is it or not? O, Lord, teach me, and let not my feet be taken in the snare of the crafty.” The reply to my mind was quick and satisfactory: “‘All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.’ Search it carefully and you will find the Lord’s plan.”

During all this time I stood like a statue in the road. It seemed to me that I must have stood there half an hour without raising my eyes from the ground or moving a limb. I often look back to that time as the most solemn period in all my life. When the last-mentioned text came so forcibly to my mind, I was fully satisfied that this new system of missions was of human origin. It was new, and I knew but very little about it; but the text relieved me, by fully convincing me that I would find the Lord’s plan plainly set out in the Scriptures. My trembling left me at once. I felt calm, but still I was anxious to discover the Divine system for the spread of the gospel among the heathen. I proceeded homeward with my mind at ease, and I have never felt that sort of mission fever since. I got home, and every hour of time that I could spare was devoted to this subject. The next day I published a renewal of all my appointments at the three churches, and that I had abandoned my journey, at least for the present. I read the commission which Christ gave to His disciples with close attention, and found it definite, special, and limited. Definitely: “Preach the gospel”, not anything else, but the gospel alone. Specially: “In all the world”, and “to every creature”, not to the dead nor to those in purgatory and hell. It is limited: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” and nothing more. Here is the boundary line in teaching; teach all, not a part, but “all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” No more than what Christ had commanded them were they commissioned to teach to any one; therefore those who teach such things as are not commanded by Christ go beyond their commission, and are rebels against the King of Zion, and prove themselves impostors and not the ministers of Christ. This great and well-defined commission, as given by Christ, was also given to special characters, not to any or all promiscuously, or to any who claim it, but exclusively to His disciples.”

A disciple is one who is under the government, instruction, and tutelary discipline of a teacher, whose lessons, commands, and instructions, the disciple is bound to obey and observe strictly. To these disciples, and such as these only, did Christ give the commission, showing them the obligations they were under to obey strictly and faithfully all they were to teach, and then to stop where His command stopped. This being an arduous and responsible work, He fortified them by declaring that all power, both in heaven and earth, was in His hand, and that He would be with them through all their course, in the trials and afflictions attendant on the discharge of this commission.

To supply them with the proper spiritual gifts for their work, the Holy Spirit was promised them; and they were not to engage in the work until they received those gifts, which would not be until he was glorified. Then the Comforter would come and abide for ever with them, and bring to their memory all things that He had said unto them, which things they were to teach all nations to observe. Christ was a Baptist, and His disciples were Baptists. John the Baptist, who was sent of God to baptize with water, received his authority from heaven and not from man. He baptized Christ and perhaps all His disciples. Christ perpetuated this ordinance by the commission given to His apostles; and He told them to tarry at Jerusalem until they were “endued with power from on high”, and then they were to begin their mission. This endowment they received on the memorable day of Pentecost, which may be regarded as the day of the inauguration of Christ as King of His visible kingdom. His church on that day began its administration as the executive authority of that kingdom. The apostles then received the requisite gifts for their work, and the evangelists for theirs, and all pastors, teachers, and exhorters, and even lay members, received theirs. This was the church the Lord added to daily, such as He would have to be saved. This was a Baptist Church or, at least, a church composed of believers who were all baptized. Peter had commanded: “Be baptized, every one of you;” then “they that gladly received His word were baptized.” These were added to the hundred and twenty disciples, making about thirty-one hundred and twenty in all. Peter, standing up in the midst of the multitude, referred to the prophecies of Joel and David, to prove that this day, with the events then transpiring, were matters of prophecy, in attestation of the exaltation of Christ as a king at God’s right hand. But no prophet that I could find, in speaking of this day or its events, had ever spoken of it as a day in which even one dead sinner would be quickened to spiritual life; but they had all spoken of it as a day in which the Lord would pour out His spirit and its gifts, upon His servants and upon His handmaidens, and they should prophesy, and there would be signs and wonders in earth and heaven, and dreams and visions among the young and old of Zion.

These were the blessings spoken of in connection with this day of Pentecost. So the events of the day corroborated the prophecy, for the Spirit was poured out upon God’s people abundantly. The hundred and twenty disciples, who were in waiting for this outpouring of the Holy Ghost, made the first class of attendants; the second class were those devout men from every nation, who had been taught the folly and idolatry of the heathen nations, and, under a thorough conviction that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, had abandoned their native lands and national religions, and, as proselytes to Judaism, were dwelling at Jerusalem, where the law and the prophets and the psalms were deposited, and where these oracles of Jehovah were read and expounded every Sabbath day. The rabble of unbelieving Jews constituted the third class, which, perhaps was the most numerous.

The Spirit came visibly as cloven tongues of fire on the first class, and then Peter arose, full of the Holy Ghost, and began his work by teaching the devout proselytes to understand the prophecies of Joel and David. He proved the resurrection and glorification of Christ, and showed that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which they now both saw and heard, was the fulfillment of the promise which Christ made to them, and for the fulfillment of which they, according to His command, had been tarrying at Jerusalem. When Peter had thus clearly answered their previous inquiry: “What can these things mean?” these devout men were pierced in their hearts, and with a full conviction of duty, and an unerring willingness to obey and perform all that this exalted King might require of them as His subjects, they cried out to Peter and the other of his associates: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter replied: “Repent”—that is, leave Judaism as you formerly left heathenism, “and be baptized, every one of you,” openly putting on Christ as your Saviour, as your King and Lawgiver, “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then they that gladly received the word were baptized.”

Here I saw a sample of the mode of bringing into the true visible church or kingdom of Christ, His people of all nations. There was no moneyed board, nor anything in the least resembling the present modem missionary enterprise, or any of its kindred institutions. I read on, still more and more confirmed. Another example was Peter’s mission to the house of Cornelius, a devout man whose prayers and alms had come up before God as a memorial, and to whom God sent an an-gel, who directed him to send to Joppa for Peter; and, in the meantime, Peter, by the vision on the house-top was supernaturally prepared for this event. So far from Peter being sent by any board or society, the church at Jerusalem really called him to account for going to Cornelius. I still read on, more and more, delighted with God’s plan and its success, as its glories and systematic harmony opened to my mind. When I came to the conversion and call of Saul, and read his apostolic or missionary commission to the heathen, I found the whole divinely-arranged plan fully and practically exhibited. The contrast was so obvious in every point as to show clearly that they could not both be from the same source.

If the plan adopted by the apostles, by which Paul was sent forth to the heathen (Gentiles) is Christ’s plan, then the opposite (the modern plan of missions) is antichrist’s. Paul was sent directly by Christ; the modern missionary is sent directly by a board of missions. The field of labor for Paul was specially pointed out by Christ; the field of labor for the modern missionary is specially pointed out by the board. The support and defense of Paul was Christ alone, Who said: “I have appeared unto thee to make thee a minister and a witness of the things thou hast seen, and those in which I will appear unto thee, delivering thee from the people and the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee.” And Paul, referring to this sure support said: “Having received help of the Lord, I continue unto this day, witnessing to both small and great none other things than those which Moses and the prophets did say should come.” All this showed that Paul’s commission and supplies were ample. The modem missionary goes forth under the pledge of the board, and is constantly complaining that his treasury is exhausted. Paul’s mission was successful, and his supplies were abundant. The modern missionaries never have enough, but are constantly crying “give, give!” Paul’s success was so great that in a few years he had planted many churches through Asia, and we hear of his going to France and Spain. Historians say that he once visited London, and he said he preached the gospel to all nations. All these churches were flourishing, their members were all called in one hope of their calling, and they were one body and one spirit. They had “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, and one God and Father of all.”

The modern missionaries have such poor success that with the thousands sent out, and the millions of dollars expended, very little has been done; perhaps not even one well organized gospel church is to be found as the fruit of their labor. So far from Paul’s being sent out and supported by the saints at Jerusalem, he raised money in the churches which he planted among the Gentiles, and conveyed it to the poor saints in that city! The modern missionaries never relieve the poor at home, but beg the last cent they can get from the poorest widow, or the hired orphan girl in the kitchen. Paul was separated to the work whereunto the Spirit of God had appointed or called him by express command; but the modern missionary is separated to the work whereunto the board has called him. The contrast might be still further demonstrated, showing these two systems to be opposite plans, and contrary to each other at every point. The first is of Christ directly; the other is its opposite and antagonistical to it, and is of course antichrist’s. Of these facts I have been more and more confirmed. By this exercise of mind and this course of searching the Scriptures, my feet were saved from the snare, and my course of ministry settled for life.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 15 November 2006 )
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