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Home arrow Griffin's History arrow Debate on Foreign Missions-Chapter 27
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I am glad my Brother Potter keeps in such good hu­mor. It does me good when he gets up a laugh, but he is like a gentleman I have heard of—he can make more lather with a small piece of soap than any man I ever saw. I will give him credit for that. And out of that little mistake of mine he made great capital! If that proves the only mistake I shall make in life it will be a small one. If he had made no worse mistakes than that during this discussion, it would be a happy thing for him. I am glad he is so sympathetic. He says he admits that the gospel is the ordinary means in the work of salvation. I do not suppose he has ever read our Confession of Faith in his life before. I will give him a copy; I will, honestly, if he will read it after this thing is over. He has admitted all I asked him. Let us quote the proposition again: “Resolved, That the gospel work carried on by the different denominations of the Protestant world in heathen lands or foreign countries, known as the Foreign Mission work, is au­thorized in the Scriptures, and blessed and owned of God”—“authorized in the Scriptures,” not in the Con­fession of Faith, nor Campbell & Rice’s Debate, but in the Scriptures. He has read, time and again, that we accept the use of ordinary means, and I have asked him over and over to show me a single place where there were any converts to this religion in nineteen centuries where the gospel was not preached.

Brother James, as I understood him, said this: “I do not think Brother Potter ought to call me a Campbellite, for he has the loan of my double-barreled shotgun and silver-mounted revolver to fight his opponent with.” in this he referred to some of the books Brother Potter has been using.

“And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” He says that is Universalism. He knows how we teach on that. In regard to the 9th chapter of Romans, the potter spoken of there, he says, is God. I do not deny that interpretation. I deny what he claims is there taught in regard to God’s shaping the destiny of men. As I showed in my last speech, this figure of the potter and day was employed by the apostle to represent God’s dealings with the Gentiles who had accepted Christ, and the Hebrews as a people who had rejected him. I showed that God in his di­vine government requires of man, as his moral subject, to conform to his ideal of character, in order to be an honored and favored vessel of his. I showed that the dishonored vessels, formed of the lump of clay, represented the Jews as a body who rejected Christ, God’s ideal of character actualized. I showed that as the potter must have respect to the condition of the clay, in order to shape the vessel according to the ideal de­signed—as the vessel would be marred in the hands of the potter, and hence be unfitted for the service intended, if the clay was not in a proper state—so God, in shaping human character by the forces of his divine providence as a moral Sovereign, must have re­spect to the attitude of men toward him as moral agents.

I showed from the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Jews, as individuals and as a nation, marred their own character and destiny in the hands of the Divine Potter by their own willful course in sin. I showed also, from both the prophecy of Jeremiah and Paul’s second letter to Timothy, that it was the privilege of those who had already become dishonored vessels to repent and be changed to honored vessels of the Lord. This proves that the election, which makes individuals spiritual vessels of honor or dishonor, depends not upon the abso­lute choice from eternity by the sovereign will of God alone, but also upon the moral choice of the individual. This honors the dignity of the human will, and em­phasizes the greatness of individual responsibility and the great trust committed to the Christian Church in the world’s evangelization.

He says I ought not to quote Proverbs against him, for he believes in human responsibility. It seems so from that beautiful illustration about the debt. What have I got to do with the debt when I am dead in Adam and cannot do any thing—when the sheep are all elected from eternity? Talk about rue making a debt! I can­not make a debt; God has made it for me. How sym­pathetic he is! He says I am in a hard place. I am so dull I cannot see it. That is the only trouble. Jesus said, Go;” Brother Potter says, “ Stay.” How many men of his Church have gone to the foreign field? Has he gone? He says he will measure miles with any man. Are we talking about measuring miles? We are talking about going to the heathen. Jesus, just be­fore his ascension, with uplifted hands—in which were still the prints of the spikes that fastened them to the cross—said to the apostles, “Go, preach the gospel to every creature.” I have given proof-text after proof-text. Brother Potter said he did not want a volume, but I thought I would give him text upon text like hot shot from a Gatling gun. I have shown the gospel fruits of missionary efforts in the work of evangelizing the world? What has he shown? I have shown a per­fect identity between the gospel work of the primitive Church and the Foreign Mission work of today. But he says they had no Boards then. That was an argu­ment, wasn’t it? He said I would have to prove they would not have been saved without the missionaries. What evidence has he that God blesses the Regular Baptist Church? What evidence has he that anybody was ever brought in by the Lord? Suppose I were to demand that he should prove that this could have been done without the gospel, what evidence, according to such logic as that, has any Church that it ever did any good? He says there were no Boards behind the labor­ers of the primitive Church. This objection is ground­less. The Church in the apostolic age sent forth its laborers into the Gentile countries. So the Church to­day sends forth its laborers into the foreign field. The Church of the first century employed such measures and means as were best adapted to advance its work in that day among the Gentiles. So the Church today, through its mission hoards, is employing the best means and methods for the propagation of the gospel in hea­then lands.

A word in regard to what my brother says about Grecian civilization. If he will get Appleton’s or Johnson’s Cyclopedia he will find that Cecrops, whom he talks about, was a legendary character of Greece, and that Nimrod was never regarded as the founder ­of the civilization of Egypt. I do not want to hurt his feelings, but I do claim—though I do not claim to be a great man—that when I quote books I do know what they mean. Did I not show that Foreign Mission work is the very basal idea of the gospel? You know how Brother Potter treated the passages which I quoted as proof-texts in favor of mission work. I repeat some of them: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” “It is more blessed to give than to re­ceive.” “If any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his.” “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Will that do for a missionary text? What was Christ’s mind but to seek and save the lost? As the Father sent him, so Jesus sends us. His command is, “Go, and I will go with you.” Ah! my brother cannot get out of his dilemma. The passages of Scripture which I have just quoted place Jesus he-fore you as a model missionary. I have given the tes­timony here of authority after authority proving the abundant gospel fruits of the Foreign Mission work on the foreign field. I have presented passage after pas­sage from the Word of God showing the object of the Foreign Mission work and the end it is designed to subserve. I quoted Acts xxvi. 17, is, the commission given to Paul, and showed that that was Foreign Mis­sion work. I quoted the words of the intercessory prayer, in which Jesus says to the Father, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” I showed you that in the gospel Church, guided by the Spirit of the living God, Paul and Barnabas were set apart to the missionary work. That is just the way our missionaries are set apart. Paul and Barnabas were selected by the Holy Spirit; they felt the call; the Church was impressed to send them. They preached the gospel to the needy and degraded heathen, just as our men are doing today. The work was just the same, my friends, and it produced the same fruits. The early gospel work and Foreign Mission work are identical.

I want to notice his proof-text, that excellent proof-text that he has given us—Matthew xx. Now, he says God has a right to do just as he pleases about saving men. I am going right to the Scripture, he says that God can do as he pleases, and has a right to save his own, and will do just as he pleases in the salvation of souls. We will turn to this 20th chapter of Matthew and see what it means. I have another passage to put right over against it. If the doctrine is taught in this. Scripture that my worthy opponent claimed in his ex­position and application of it, it will harmonize with the teaching of the other parts of the Bible: For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the laborers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and what­soever is right I will give you. And they went their way. A gain he went out about the sixth hour and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the clay idle? They say unto him, because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall he receive. So when the even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his reward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they re­ceived every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they received it, they murmured against the good­man of the house, saying. These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for, a penny?” Is that a parallel to the atonement? Those were servants of the Lord. If you did not keep telling these people, time and again, that I have failed they would never notice it. He says he is three speeches ahead of me, but he has not noticed one-half of my proof-texts. These laborers represent the servants of Christ, both the Jews and Gentiles. The Saviour in this parable is teaching his prerogative in rewarding his servants for their work, not in pardoning and justifying souls. In rewarding the labors of his servants he does as he pleases, but he does not save or damn men arbitrarily. Hear the Master’s own language in regard to this, Matthew xxiii. 13: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men,”—he said man could not do that—” for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” They stood back themselves, and kept others out. Now what about this Scripture? If my brother can explain this, I want him to do it. He finds fault about my defining the proposition. I just want to say a word here. I think these moderators will remember that I asked him if he did not understand the words owned and blessed of God” to mean the regeneration of the heathen by God, through the Foreign Mission work? And he said he did not.

I tried to get him to take a stand in personal conver­sation with me, and he would not do it. He knows that. That is the reason I wanted it defined. He tells you here that I would not define it, and he did not un­derstand my proposition for four days.

But we will go on with thee argument. I want to notice some things here that are of importance to us. I have presented you a line of argument which I want to call your attention to. I have shown that the gospel work of the New Testament and the work of Foreign Missions are founded on the same principles, and that they are therefore identical. These principles arc faith and love and loyalty. The great motive-power that moved Christ was the compassionate love for suffering humanity, and I have shown that this is the very heart of the Foreign Mission work. This work is based upon the principle of the unity of the human race, and that is the reason why all men everywhere are called upon to repent. Brother Potter did not offer to answer these proof-texts, and yet he comes out boldly and ad­vocates election. He has acknowledged that the word is the ordinary means through which men are saved. So then he has given up the question.

He says he believes in civilization. Then, why does he not con tribute to it ? Why does he not do something for it? If God’s elect are being brought out in heathen lands by the gospel, why has he not a hand in the work? Did not he acknowledge to me that the Bible gives a better civilization than any other? Then the civilization he enjoys today is the result of Foreign Missions. When Paul crossed the Aegean Sea, heed­ing the voice which said, “Come over and help us,” that was Foreign Mission work. The Holy Spirit said to the youthful Church, send laborers to the foreign field; and the Church obeyed. So the Church today is heed­ing the dictates of the Holy Spirit in sending laborers to - the heathen lands to preach the gospel. I have shown, time and again, that Boards are only instrumen­talities of the Church. But we are not discussing Boards now. I have shown further that this grand work has always been adapted to the circumstances of the times when the work was done. According to Brother Potter’s logic there is not a Presbyterian who has any fruit in gospel work. He believes every denomination but his own is in error. To establish what he claims for his Church, he must prove a Church succession clear back to the apostles. There are evidences showing that God owns and blesses the Foreign Mission work, and that it is of God—that God has been with us. This is proved by the fact that we have been prospered, and that there are more converts to Christ in the foreign field today, in proportion to the laborers engaged, than we have in our home work. The last nineteen centuries—the unfolding years from the origin of Chris­tianity to the present time—are but one grand, gleaming chain of evidence demonstrating the fact that Foreign Mission work is blessed and owned of God. I will read now a quotation from Harris’ “Great Commission,” page 151, in support of this fact: “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, become general in Armenia, where it had been introduced as early, probably, as the second century; carried from Armenia into Iberia; rapidly spreading throughout Ethiopia, whither it had been conveyed by Frumentius; and published about the year 350 by Theophilus, at the instance of Constantine, in the south of Arabia. In 314 we find bishops from Britain present at the Synod of Aries. How much earlier the gospel had entered Britain it is impossible to state. Probably, as Gretser suggests, it was brought from Gaul early in the second century. Through the instrumen­tality of Ulphilas the Visigoths now embraced Chris­tianity, and to him they were indebted also for an alpha­bet and a translation of the Bible. The Goths had prob­ably received the gospel in the century preceding, for in the early part of this century we find a Gothic bishop at the Council of Nice.” Now you can see how this gospel is spreading. The word mission means to send; it does not matter about the means if God is with it. “The fifth century was signalized by the nominal con­version of several of the German nations. In 432 Pa­tricius, a Scotsman, induced the Irish to embrace Chris­tianity, and in 496 the Francks assumed the Christian name and induced the Alemanni to follow their ex­ample. In the sixth century Christianity was pro­fessedly embraced by many of the barbarous nations bordering on the Euxine Sea, and was more widely diffused among the Gauls. From about the year 565 to 599 the Irish monk Columba labored with consider­able success among the Picts, and in 596 Augustin succeeded in converting Ethelhert to the profession of the Christian faith, whose example was immediately followed by his Anglo-Saxon subjects in Kent and soon after by the other Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Ec­clesiastical missionaries from England, Scotland and Ireland carried the gospel, in the seventh century, to Bavaria, Belgium, and several of the German nations. Traces of its extensive propagation by the Nestorian Christians of Syria, Persia and India, are also to be found, at this period, in the remotest regions of Asia; and, if the Monumentum Syro-Syriacum is genuine, it obtained a footing in China about the year 636. Tartary, parts of Germany, Friesland, and Saxony, were the principal additions to the domains of Christendom in the eighth century. In the ninth, Denmark and Sweden, Bulgaria and Moravia, professed subjection to the faith, as well as parts of Slavonia and Russia. From Mora­via the gospel was carried into Bohemia. In the tenth century the rays of Christian light began to enter Po­land. In Hungary Christianity was made a national religion by a royal decree; and in Norway, where it had been first introduced from England, it was imposed by the severest measures. From Norway it was car­ried into Iceland, the Faroe and Shetland Islands, and even to Greenland.”

As I said, I do not claim that in this propagation of the gospel, the work was all as spiritual as it should have been. A great deal of it is nominal, and means were used that I would not endorse, but that was just as true of Israel in the Old Dispensation. Some very bad men presided over Israel under the Theocracy. They used means that we would not endorse. When such means were used they injured God’s people. The same was true in the propagation of the gospel by the Church in some of the centuries past. If Christianity was ritualistic the spirit would be ritualistic, and if it was spiritual, it was where the work was carried out according to the missionary principles of today, and it was only where the gospel laborers were pious and de voted that the Church dispensed its greatest blessings

“The eleventh century saw a Christianity established as the national religion of Russia, and records its wider diffusion in the East. Conquest and conversion had now come to mean nearly the same thing “—just what I have been speaking of—” and hence, in the twelfth century, the political subjugation of Pomerania was followed by its nominal subjection to the Christian faith; the Island of Rugen, long the stronghold of heathen­ism, was subdued and its inhabitants baptized; and the conquered Fins were compelled to submit to the same rite.” You see those were means that we do not en­dorse today. “The nominal Church was still further enlarged in the thirteenth century by the forced sub mission of Prussia, Livonia, and many of the northern provinces, as well as by the recovery of portions of the Saracenic Territories in Spain. The fourteenth century was marked by the professed conversion of the Lithuanians, one of the last of the heathen nations of Europe which embraced Christianity; while the fifteenth was indelibly stained by the forced subjection of parts of the newly-discovered hemisphere.”

Here is what Mr. Harris himself says: “It is historically true, indeed, that many of the agents employed from century to century in this wide diffusion of the gospel, were men whose wisdom, piety, and zeal would have adorned the apostolic age; but it is notoriously known that its principal instrumentality con­sisted of worldly policy and martial power, and conse­quently that its immediate results were only territorial aggrandizement and nominal submission. According­ly, as many of these conquests had been made by the sword, by the sword many of them were subsequently lost. Civilization itself, at one period, suffered a decline. Ages of darkness rolled over the Church, until Chris­tendom, so far from being in a capacity to convert the world, stood itself in the most urgent need of substan­tial conversion. That glorious change, of which the signs and means had long been gathering, was the great event of the century of which we are now speaking.” Then he goes on to say, in speaking of the revival of Christian missions, in language which I have quoted in a former speech, that this revival commenced in its spiritual form in the 16th century, coming out in its great work in 1792. I do not want to be misunderstood upon this point. You understand what I say, that the work was missionary in the sense I have described it, and wherever the Church has violated the principles and spirit that were manifested in the first century of the Christian work, which I have shown are the same as the principles and spirit of the Foreign Mission work of today, it has failed. Christian workers who have failed to depend upon the energizing, quickening, and guid­ing power of the Holy Spirit, have always failed. But there was a reaction in the Reformation, and the Roman Catholics were pressing their work forward and throw­ing their influence out upon the world, and the leaders of the Protestant Church saw that they had to depend upon something else instead of statesmen for strength. Protestants went down on their knees to the Lord, and then came the great baptism of the Holy Spirit that swept like a great tidal wave over Ireland, Scotland, Ger­many, England, and France. Then came the bugle note that echoed and re-echoed from our own land, and then went forth the great army to the foreign field. The Church has always prospered in proportion as it has taken upon its heart suffering humanity for the sake of Jesus and the brotherhood of mankind.

Now, just a word or two as evidence in the further advancement of my argument. I call attention to the argument that every Church that has the Foreign Mis­sion spirit and takes up the work prospers. That is an evidence that this work is blessed and owned of God. You know it is said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and the idea in Proverbs on that is, that it impoverishes us to withhold, and blesses and energizes us to give. That is the way it is in nature and in the Christian work. I do not belong to the Methodist Church, but I say, without fear of successful contradic­tion, that that Church was born of the Foreign Mis­sion spirit. Take the Missionary Baptists; they were few in number until sixty years -ago. They are now over two millions strong in the United States. Theirs is one of the foremost denominations in missionary work. They stand in the front rank. Their institu­tions flourish in every State from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and the results of their work are seen in the Islands of the Sea and everywhere on the globe. My brother says I bring up missionary authority. I want to say that the man I quoted got a prize on his book and Brother Potter dares not say he is not honest. These facts are just as the Rev. John Harris tells them. Where can Brother Potter show a first-class author who is opposed to missions? There may be such au­thors, but I do not know of one. Look at the growth of the Missionary Baptist Church, and of the Presbyterian Church, and of all Churches engaged in this mission work! I do not say this to reflect on my brethren that differ from me, nor to please those who agree with me. I say a man or a woman may possess the spirit of Christ and not enthusiastically engage in the Foreign Mission cause; but it dwarfs their souls and limits their usefulness. He acknowledges man’s responsibility and that he may blunder. This I believe to be true of our anti-mission brethren in their attitude to the Foreign Mission work. Put an acorn in a flow­er-pot, and water it until it begins to grow, and put a glass over it sufficiently strong to keep it from sending out its branches, and it will make a little dwarfed oak, with diminutive, acorns. But if you drop an acorn into the black soil, where the sunshine of heaven can flood it without an invitation, and where the rain can freely pour down upon it, and where it can have free access to draw its nutriment from the earth beneath and the heavens above, it will grow up and spread, and will be­come a grand oak that waves its giant form in the breeze. This is a true picture of the contrast between the growth and progressive development of the Churches which engage in the Foreign Mission work and those which do not.

Brother Potter has admitted that it is one of the grandest works he knows of, though he has not admit­ted that it is blessed and owned of God. He admits it is grand. Then, if it is, why does he not do something for it? I have shown beyond a doubt that it is author­ized in the New Testament, and blessed and owned of God. The home Church needs the blessing as well as the foreign field. Let me make an illustration: Sup­pose you could see those poor mothers up in India and in the land of Islam, and those other countries where women are shut up and excluded from all privileges. A woman is not allowed to speak to any man except her lord and master. Mothers are looked down upon by their own boys, who insult them. In India and China a woman never has a kind word spoken to her, and as a wife or mother she has to eat last, sitting down on a mat of corded felt. She can have no communication with the outside world. She is kept in ignorance, and is subject to the passions of her degraded lord. And think of those child marriages. A little girl is taken from her mother and sold to the parents of a boy over yonder, and taken home, there to become a slave. She knows nothing of the man she has to marry until a certain time, and then is put into his hands. Then think of the gospel going there and reaching thousands of those women. Think of the gospel of the Son of God breaking up those castes and transforming those homes. Let me tell you how the women are reached. The heathen are very much prejudiced against women. They think, especially in India, that when a woman dies she goes into a cow or some other animal. She has no soul. A man won’t speak about his wife, and if you name the name of his wife or daughter it is an insult. The missionaries went there, but could not get into their homes. One day a missionary’s wife was em­broidering a shoe, and one of the rich Brahmans came by, and looking at her work, it struck his fancy, and he said, “Teach me that.” She said, “I will, if you will permit me to show your wives how to do it.” He said he would not do that, and went off. But she knew he would come back again. He came back, and’ consent­ed to let her teach his wives how to embroider. She was a long time teaching them, and while doing so she was all the time dropping the words of the gospel into their hearts. These women may have all been elected from eternity. I do not know; but I believe they at least became members of God’s elect family, When the man saw the change he asked what it meant, and the women tremblingly told him that this woman had taught them these things, and that they had begun to love Jesus and trust in him. The mis­sionary woman trembled for them, but at last he came, and said, “Tell me about Christ.” This has not been over twenty-five or thirty years ago. The result was he found the Saviour and trusted in him, and so the work spread, and now the result is that there are twelve thousand such homes as this open today to receive the gospel. The women are crying, “Come over and help us.”

I thank you.

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