header image
Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 7
Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 7 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Potter/Yates   



I am glad this afternoon to he greeted by this great sea of smiling faces. It shows that there are a great many false prophets in this world. I will give my Brother Hume credit for standing with me in the prediction that the people would hear this discussion. I believe that my brother and myself are only laboring for what we think to be for the greatest good, and we are glad to have the people come out whether they agree with us in every particular or not, for we believe it will lead them to investigate the truth. You have heard the proposition read. I will commence again with the heathens as referred to in Romans i. 20. I want to read you my brother’s exact language. You see we are sometimes a little short in memory. It is just as reported. I do not want to misrepresent him. It is just what he said about the heathen yesterday when referring to that quotation in Romans i. 20: “The heathen were without excuse. Why were they? They had Nature, which ought to teach there is a God. Ought not the same thing teach the heathen now? If it answered the purpose then, why not now? My idea is that when people think there is a God, and have an idea of his character, they ought to have some respect for him; and it is my idea that it is so.” That is his language. “It is my idea that it is so.” That is very different from the interpretation he gave in his speech. I will give him credit for his memory being short. And he says farther “Nature unfolds a volume to the people wherever they live. Paul said the people who had that were without excuse, as they had some way to know.” Then the Bible and the ministry are not absolutely essential for the heathen to know that there is a God. He slips out of it by saying what he meant. He does not allow me to say what I mean. He says he meant a saving knowledge; but that ruins his election business, as he has come out on it so boldly, because they knew it and then degraded God. When they degraded God it was by their own hands. God left them to themselves, and then they were degraded. So much for that point. Now I am going to take him up just as he spoke. If I should happen to forget any thing, I hope he will tell me.

My brother says that the, commission was given to the apostles, and asks if it was not so given, to “tell the meaning of that pronoun ‘ye.’” That is a wonderful, thing in philology. “Ye” is the plural. It might be addressed to two or to a crowd. But he said the commission was given to the apostles—that is the idea. But those apostles represented the Church. I am afraid my brother will have to be dealt with by my Regular Baptist brethren. I am fearful it will not end in this. I believe our Baptist brethren are close communionists, and they believe that God gave a visible, tangible, local organization—an ironbound plan of Church polity. That is what I call it. If it is the Lord’s, it is all right. Where did he get his authority for close, communion, if the apostles did not represent the church? I want him to answer that. He will not receive the communion except from the hands of a successor of the apostles. On the night of the Lord’s Supper there was no one present but the apostles. If he believes in apostolic succession, that puts him down as a Roman Catholic priest; and, to be consistent, he should take the stand of the Catholic priesthood—that no one has the right to partake .of the bread and wine but the preachers; and, like the Romanists, he should give the deacons and membership the wafer in place of the bread and wine. If the commission was not given to the Church, neither was the Lord’s Supper. Of course he will give us some light on that. We will now notice that Arabia question. He says he did not mean to say Paul preached there at all. He did not mean to say that it was scriptural, but it was his idea that he did. He did not exactly explain it that way until he got into a place he could not get out of. He did not mean to say it was Scripture. I do not suppose he did, by any means.

He said God called his preachers. We admit that I gave that in showing the identity of the Foreign Mission work with the gospel work, as recorded in the New Testament. He says there is no identity. Let him take up my line of argument as I gave it yesterday— the object and end to be subserved in the Foreign Mission work, the principles of it, the motive that actuates it, the call and preparation of the workers, and the fruits of the work. I want him to deny, and I dared him to deny, in my opening speech, that the principles I laid down there have been manifested by the grand workers in this Foreign Mission work. He knows that in my affirmation of the proposition under discussion I do not affirm the measures and’ means, but he dodges around in them like a partridge in the prairie, trying by means of them to keep from being struck.

I want to give him a little piece of explanation. He said he did not know what I meant by Paul’s obligation in Romans i. 15. I will try and make my meaning plain to him. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” That is the 15th verse. Going back to the 14th verse: “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise.” Now couple that with this: “The love of Christ constraineth me.” Why was he a debtor? Jesus told us we must love our neighbors as ourselves. This very Apostle Paul said without love he was nothing—compassionate love, the very love that constrained Jesus to come from the bosom of the Father into this world to seek and to save the lost; that was the very love that burned and glowed in the apostle’s heart. This was the debt he was under. He had good news and glad tidings. There were men and women in the wide world who did not know the good news, and he was a debtor to all nations and all people, so far as in him lay, to give them these glad tidings. Compassionate love made him a debtor to give them this message of salvation. I wonder if my brother will deny that debt. I will turn back to show you that that was the Saviour’s way of doing things. The heart is moved. Christianity makes us humane, and tender, and compassionate. Let us go back and look at Matthew ix. 36 for just a moment: “And when he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion on them.” That word “compassion” is from two words: “com,” together, and “passus,” to bear—that is, to bear or suffer together—to take another’s condition upon one s heart. That is the way Jesus did, and that is the way Paul did, and that is the way the Foreign Mission workers do today.

Then, my brother said the Mission Work was a money business. I will make him sick of that money part of it before Saturday night. Jesus’ heart was moved with compassion; he put himself in their place. “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them.” If you were in the condition of the heathen, and were degraded as they, and had never heard of Jesus, and you could only learn by personal instruction, and had seen a few fruits of Christianity and its advantages, would you not desire to have it brought to you? That will lead me to explain the curiosity of the Japanese when they read the Bible. When Jesus saw the multitude “he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd”—helpless, exposed to danger and ruin. It would be folly for a man or any individual to he touched with compassion for one not in need, and not in danger. That is the way it is with the heathen work. That is what made me call Paul a debtor, my brother.

Well, he made a very logical argument on the explanation I made about the word heathen. Hardly in place, my brother. Let us see how that is. He says I quoted, “it is the power of God unto salvation;” but I said, as it is, “to every one that believeth.” He said, speaking of the publication of the gospel to the ungodly man, that it was the circulation of it, and asked if it was necessary to publish salvation here to the people; and he went on to ask me if I would preach to babies and idiots. Was not that an argument about the heathen? The commission was to those that were capable of believing. He and I agree about that. It does not refer to idiots and children. But what is he going to do about his election when a man is not an idiot, those who have the faculty of reasoning? I want him to explain that to us. I do not understand it. Then he says I teach the universal damnation of the heathen, and asks what am I going to do with that. I will leave them to Jesus, just where he will have to, because God never commands us to do what we cannot, nor that which he will not give us ability to do; therefore he will deal with the heathen as with us, in accordance with the light they have. The baby is not developed; the idiot has not the faculty of reason or of becoming a religious being. That is very different. I am talking about those men and women who are capable of receiving the message when presented to them in the spirit of the Lord, and of cooperating with God in the work. And I want him to meet that squarely. I do not know what he is aiming to do about his commission, but he will fix that for you. If, according to the position of my worthy opponent, nature is a sufficient revelation of God to the heathen to bring out and save all God’s elect, as set apart from eternity, then the Saviour made a mistake in enjoining upon the Church through the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature; and the Apostle Paul also, in claiming that the heathen, even with the light they had from nature, had no excuse for their degrading practices of idolatry, and that Christ, if they would only accept him, was now revealed to them in the gospel to save them from their degraded state, brought about by abused privileges. So much for his absurd position that as many heathen will be saved through the light of nature without the gospel as with it. He made a nice explanation for you on the seed, employed to represent the Word in the parable. I think he will have a little trouble on that word again—Matthew xiii. 3-19. In regard to the seed sown, he said it was sown in the human heart. The heart sometimes in the Bible is used to represent the whole inner man, because of the controlling passions. It simply means the receptive nature, for the Devil sowed tares there, too. He said the seed did not prepare the heart. What does? It says we are begotten of the gospel; that is the language of the Bible. He makes it literal; you must take it figuratively. It is figurative. What did Jesus design to teach when he pictured these four classes of hearers? Will God command a, person to do a thing, and not give him ability to do it? God gives me an eye to see, but he does not see for me; God gives me an ear to hear, but he does not hear for me. What does Jesus mean to teach in this parable? Why, the preparation of the ground and the sowing of the seed represent our part in receiving and propagating the gospel. God creates the grain. God gives us the revelation, God gives us the sunshine and the rain; that is it, isn’t it? He spoke of the farmer. What is the farmer’s part? It is to prepare the ground and sow the seed; but the seed will not sprout without the rain and sunshine. Paul spoke of one planting and another watering, “but God giveth the increase.” We are laborers together with God, my brethren. We open the heart to receive that seed. While we have an understanding and reasoning powers, we cannot transform our nature. By the preparation of the ground we mean the earnest attitude we can assume toward God, and which prepares us to receive the word. The case in which the seed fell by the wayside, where the travelers passed over it, applies to those who let worldly thoughts fill their minds about worldly things. The seed which sprung up and was withered because there was rock beneath it represents that class who hear the word but do not take it down into their consciences; the rod is not broken. Those in whom the thorns choke out the seed, are those who listen partially, with other thoughts mixed in—who do not go into deep spiritual self-examination, asking God to help root out the weeds. The good ground represents those who earnestly listen, and ask God to help them and give them life. We can do that, that is our part, and God will do his. But what if the Word does not yield fruit, and the heart was prepared before the Word was put in? What is the value of the Word, my brother, in regeneration? What is the value of it? Well, I will tell you the point my brother makes. He quoted Luke about the good man who, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings out hood results, and the evil man who brings out bad results; the good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the bad tree bad fruit. He denies that we are to keep the heart with all diligence. “Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” In the passages he quoted about the fruit of the good and bad tree, Jesus was arguing that the life was like the inner nature, and was saying nothing about the point that Brother Potter quoted it to sustain—viz., the preparation of heart. Not a word. It had nothing whatever to do with it. Then he says the preparation of the heart is froth God. It is a cooperative business; when we open the understanding and let the word of God in, the Holy Spirit energizes the word and also accompanies it. We can open our heart to it as we open our eyes to the sunlight. We open the heart to the influence of the Holy Spirit, and with the Word of God the Holy Spirit flashes in and energizes the soul to receive it. I want him to give me a little testimony. Will he tell us where souls have been converted in heathen lands without the Word? He always demands that I shall give him the proof. And I do not claim they are all lost. I explained to you that all those that lived up to the beet light they had would be saved. My brother knows that all idolatry is but a perversion of man’s original worship of one true God. That is the inference of Paul in the first chapter of Romans. The Hebrew theocracy was the gospel in symbolism.

He is a little troubled on the Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith. I had forgotten that. I will talk a little about that. He says the Regular Baptists do not revise. I would like to have him show how far back they got their articles of faith. Let me ask him if he can show his articles where he quoted this morning? He quoted a man this morning that has been acknowledged to be a dishonest historian. My brother certainly knows that Jones has been proved to be a falsifier in that book (pointing to Campbell and Rice’s debate). I will bring it down and show where he garbled and mistranslated the original language of the old historians of those Waldenses he was talking about today. He has been exposed as a perverter of the facts of history, and I am not willing to take him as a witness. I want to go further, and show you about this revision. He says the Bible remains the same—that, principles do not change. That is true: but men in their understanding of the truth do not remain the same. The Word is represented as the seed sown, from which results come. Nature is the same, but our knowledge of it is not the same. Wise men, they say, change sometimes, but the other kind do not. There is a great amount of truth to he studied and understood. Why, he says he just dares me to say I do not indorse election, with Calvin. I dare to do it, and I dare to say to you here this afternoon that the Cumberland Presbyterian Church does not embrace Calvinism. I defy him to show that we embrace that doctrine. That was the very thing that caused us to take our stand and become a separate denomination.

I want to read one little thing in regard to his missions and missionaries in the early centuries, propagating the gospel in Northern Europe. My worthy opponent, and his honorable historian, Jones, from whom he gave a long quotation concerning them, both inferred that they were Baptists, and brother Potter particularly emphasized that they were his brethren— Anti-mission Baptists—and he wonderfully eulogized their work as being of God, and owned and blessed of him. But the brother did not know, when he was quoting from Mr. Jones, that these people were not Baptists; that I could follow him up with the very best authorities and prove to the contrary. I will now quote from Harris’ “Great Commission” in regard to these missions and missionaries of Brother Potter’s. Mr. Harris shows conclusively that the missionary work performed in the countries and at the time Brother Potter speaks of was not performed by Baptists, but by the very ecclesiastical body that Brother Potter claims the Catholics sprung from. There was a division in the Church under Decius, who ascended the throne of the Roman Empire in 249 A.D. This division occurred in 251 A.D. A small faction withdrew from the main body of the Church. It was the main body—the great national Church of the Empire—that did this mission work. At that day, according to my brother’s views, the Christian Church, in every nation might be called Catholic. Let me read on page 151: “It was not until the eighteenth century that the era of Protestant missions can be said to have commenced. Not indeed that the missionary spirit had slumbered in the Church from the apostolic age until then. Every intermediate century had witnessed the diffusion of- at least nominal Christianity. Although as early as the third century the original impulse given to the progress of the gospel had evidently declined, in the fourth we find Christianity existing in Persia. It became general in Armenia, where it had been introduced as early, probably, as the second century; it was carried from Armenia into Iberia, rapidly spreading throughout Ethiopia, whither it had been conveyed by Trumentius; and published about the year 359 by Theophilus, at the instance of Constantine, in the South of Arabia.”
I want to know if Constantine, in his influence, was over the Regular Baptist Church? It was the State Church of the Roman Empire at that time; and all of his quotation from Jones’ history this morning fails to help his case. The missionaries of the third and fourth centuries, whom Jones claimed as Baptists, and whom my opponent claims not only as Baptists, but as members of his own Church—the Anti-mission Baptists of today—were the missionaries of the State Church of Rome. Though this was true, they were instrumental in bringing forth some excellent gospel fruit, notwithstanding their many errors in the work. They had no real piety or religious success, only in so far as they complied with the principles of the, Foreign Mission work. But I want to turn over here and read a little further. I knew he would bite at that yesterday. He says in 1791 the first Foreign Missionary Society was organized. I will read on page 154 of Harris’ “Great Commission:”

The seventeenth-century was an age of missionary preparation and promise. The close of the preceding century, indeed, had witnessed the first attempt on the part of Protestant Christians to make a descent on heathenism. The distinguished honor of making it belongs to the Swiss “—this is squarely against your Baptist doctrine; I hate to read it to you, but we are friends—” for in 1556 fourteen missionaries were sent by the Church of Geneva to plant the Christian faith in the newly-discovered regions of South America. In 1559 a missionary was sent into Lapland by the celebrated Gustavus Vasa, king of Sweden. Early in the seventeenth century the Dutch, having obtained possession of Ceylon, attempted to convert the natives to the Christian faith. About the same time many of the Nonconformists, who had settled in New England, began to attempt the conversion of the aborigines. Mayhew, in 1643, and the laborious Eliot in 1646, devoted themselves to the apostolic service. In 1649, during the Protectorate of Cromwell, was incorporated by act of Parliament the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England. In 1660 the Society was dissolved, but on urgent application was soon restored, and the celebrated Robert Boyle was appointed its first governor. The zeal of this distinguished individual for the diffusion of the gospel in India and America, and among the native Irish and Welsh, his munificent donations for translations of the sacred Scriptures into Malay and Arabic, Welsh and Irish, and of Eliot’s Bible into the Massachusetts Indian language, as well as for the distribution of Grotius’ “De Veritate Christiane Religiouis,” and, lastly, his legacy of £5,400 for the propagation of Christianity among the heathen, entitled him to distinct attention.”

I have not time to read all. I would like to. I will now speak on Japan for a short time. I have not at hand the book I had expected to quote from, having left it in my hurry; but I will say this, and make my statement good: In 1859 the Protestant Episcopal Church sent an ordained minister into Japan. That man, by the laws of Japan, was not allowed to preach publicly. Then the work was begun by the Presbyterian Board, Baptists, and. others, during the time from 1860 to 1870. The Japanese saw our civilization after Commodore Perry had been there. They wanted the civilization, but were prejudiced against the Christian religion. But these men were anxious for the cause of Jesus. The Spirit of God makes them that way. They went there in the spirit of the Master, and would not be employed for teachers only as they could perform their work. So at last they were allowed to preach in the houses. The people became anxious to read the Bible. Why? They had seen the fruits of this wonderful civilization produced by Christianity, and they began to want it. That was because Commodore Perry opened the Bible right on the flag, thereby acknowledging that the great Republic he represented owed all its prestige and glory to the Bible. But my brother says, “Only 7,791 converts in Japan!” How much this little handful of men and women are doing! In 1872 they only had ten members, and they observed the week of prayers and two or three Japanese students went to the meeting. They heard about Pentecost, and believed, and these young men prayed so to God that the wicked sea captains who witnessed the scene said their hearts trembled within them. And they have added to them 7,791 members in these few years. Pretty good work, with all this heathenism against them. Look at the membership of my brother’s Church in 1851, as reported by the Baptist Almanac. They were 60,000 strong; in 1861 they were 40,000 strong, There, I will say to you in all kindness, my brother, you have lost 20,000. I got it from the Baptist Years book—Almanac. That is pretty good authority; you quote from it. O how he is growing! That is the result of his wonderful biblical doctrine. The Mission work in Japan, he tells us, is doing badly. How about’ your own Church, my brother?

Here is another little book from which I will read concerning the Foreign Mission work in Africa. There it is on the map—those gleaming centers of light. This is by McKenzie, from his History of the Nineteenth Century, page 214:

“Southern Africa was the home of the Bechuanas, a fierce, warlike race—cruel, treacherous, delighting in blood. No traveler could go among them in safety; they refused even to trade with strangers; they bad no trace of a religion, no belief in any being greater than themselves, no idea of a future life. In the early days of missionary efforts Dr. Moffatt, with some companions, went among these discouraging savages. For years he toiled under manifold difficulty.” For money, my brother? “No man regarded his words. The people would not even come to church until they were bribed by a gift of tobacco; and their deportment, when they came, was unbecoming in a high degree. They stole the missionary’s vegetables, his tools, and the very water which irrigated his fields. They destroyed his sheep, or chased them in utter mischief into dangerous places. But Moffatt, a heroic Christian man, labored patiently on, and in time a vast success crowned his noble toils. Almost suddenly (in 1828) the people began to attend church in large numbers, and to evince deep interest in the instruction of the missionaries. Dr. Moffatt translated the Bible into the native tongue, and there arose an eager desire to be able to read. Many persons professed Christianity and applied for baptism. Soon they manifested a disposition to clothe themselves, and to keep clean their persons, which heretofore were filthy. They began to improve their dwellings, and in a simple way to furnish them.” (The Bible was at the bottom of that). “They wanted plows wagons, and other agricultural implements. They entered readily into commercial relations with foreigners, and, in a few years their imports of foreign manufactures amounted to two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, paid for in the produce of the soil. Christianity is now almost universal among the Bechuanas. Education is rapidly extending, the natives are being trained in adequate numbers for teachers and preachers, and Christianity is spreading out among the neighboring tribes. The Bechuanas have been changed by Christian missions into an orderly, industrious people, who cultivate their fields in peace, and maintain with foreigners a mutually beneficial traffic.”

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 19 September 2006 )
< Previous   Next >


The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.