WHEN, a few years ago, the generosity of Mr. Alfred Mosely sent several English teachers on a tour in the United States, an American teacher contributed to a New York paper her impressions of those visitors whom chance had led to her own school. Her ungrudging tribute to their various excellent qualities reached a climax in her exclamation of delighted surprise: ‘So different from the teachers in Dickens!’ The discovery that Mr. Squeers is scarcely a type of the present-day English schoolmaster and that the methods of Dotheboys Hall do not fairly represent modern English pedagogics may appear somewhat belated. But one cannot very well describe this school-teacher’s mental attitude as exceptional, when one remembers how many people, otherwise well-informed, still derive from the same source their ideas about foreign missions and foreign missionaries. By many intelligent persons Mrs. Jellyby’s projects for the enlightenment of Borrioboola-Gha are taken as representing the real character of contemporary missionary enterprise, and a half-century-old caricature is seriously accepted as a faithful record of fact.
How amazed these poco cognoscenti would be if by any chance they should come across a few casual fragments of the official records of the World Missionary Conference at Edinburgh!1 And how their whole conception of the purpose, the methods, and the results, of foreign missions would be revolutionized if they would take the pains to study these nine volumes with the same care and freedom from prejudice as if they were candidates for a doctorate, investigating the science of missions with a view to the preparation of a thesis. We have here a collection of data of first-rate authority and value. In one respect it is admittedly imperfect, for the missions of the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches are outside its scope. As regards Protestant missions, however, the Conference was widely representative, delegates being invited from all societies which have agents in the foreign field, and which expend on foreign missions not less than $10,000 a year. Hundreds of missionaries, themselves unable to be present at Edinburgh, contributed memoranda which, when sifted, summarized, and reported on by the several ‘commissions,’ provided material for the discussions. Almost every phase of the missionary problem was exhaustively considered, so that these published volumes of transactions constitute practically an encyclopædia to which students of missions will resort for many years, both for accurately ascertained facts and for carefully weighed opinions.
Nor is it unfriendly or apathetic outsiders alone to whom this publication would open up new vistas of thought and knowledge. Sympathizers, as well as critics and opponents, need to revise their conceptions of the problem by its assistance. For even in the most ardent and aggressive sections of the Christian Church, it is only the specialists who have as yet understood how widely the conditions of the task have changed since the days of Moffat and Judson.
That the general missionary situation has been seriously modified during the last half-century is the first impression left upon the mind of the reader by a survey of the accumulated evidence. The new developments can be attributed in the main to one specific cause. If the missionary societies are compelled to-day to recast their methods in order to meet unfamiliar difficulties and to solve a problem that is almost bewildering in its novel complications, it is not on theologians, ‘old’ or ‘new,’ that they must cast the blame for the upheaval. The real creators of the revolution are James Watt, George Stephenson, and Robert Fulton. When we scrutinize the changes that make the most severe demands on missionary statesmanship, we find them nearly all reducible to the question of communications. Of course this shrinkage of the world works both ways. When a missionary can stand up before an audience in Edinburgh and remark incidentally that three weeks ago he was traveling in Mongolia, we can see as in a flash how the earlier difficulties of access have been simplified. It is no exaggeration to say that, by recent railway extensions alone, hundreds of millions of people — in the Levant, in Central Asia, in China, in the more populous parts of the East Indies, and in Africa — have been brought within comparatively easy range of Christian evangelistic effort. Yet, on the whole, the disadvantages of the quicker and cheaper means of transit seem, so far, to have outweighed the advantages.
In the first place, by these changes many parts of the world, hitherto protected by their isolation, have now become exposed to the danger of military and imperialistic aggression by Western powers, with the natural consequence that the instinct of self-preservation prompts a cautious, not to say hostile, attitude to outside influences that previously excited little alarm. The conflict between Russia and Japan has revolutionized the situation in the Far East. To-day we find everywhere not merely, as before, a racial spirit, but a national spirit, which especially resents the introduction of any religion that arrives under foreign auspices. The cry has even been raised in some countries that Christianity, being universal in its aim, must necessarily be a foe to the spirit of patriotism. Again and again, stress is laid by the missionary correspondents on the significance of this awakening of a new national consciousness. Not only in China and Japan has this spirit received a strong impulse, but in India, we are told, ‘it is now the conviction of many that everything Oriental, including their faith, must be conserved at all hazards, and everything Occidental, including Christianity, must be withstood to the uttermost.’ Similar reports come from such diverse regions as Persia, Siam, Java, the Philippines, Egypt, and the native section of South Africa.
In the more progressive countries, such as Japan, one of the results of this more ardent patriotism has been the establishment of government systems of education on such a scale as to compel the missionary societies to revise from the foundation their policy of using schools and colleges as a means of spreading the Christian faith. The greater resources of the government institutions make competition with them difficult. At the same time the largely materialistic tendency of the teaching in these state schools makes the need of definitely Christian schools more urgent than ever. Within the native churches themselves the leaven of nationalism is also working in aspirations for fuller powers of self-government and for liberation from the control of foreign missionaries or mission boards.
The railroad and the steamer have facilitated commercial and industrial, as well as political, changes. The expansion of modern trade has not left the mission field untouched. ‘Scattered throughout Africa and the Pacific Islands, not to mention other sections of the world, are thousands of Western traders, large numbers of whom are exerting a demoralizing influence.’ With every anxiety to beware of hasty generalizations, one is compelled to admit the conclusion that ‘whenever an Eastern and a Western nation impinge upon one another, the contact in some mysterious way tends to bring out the worst there is in each.’ A sample is the report from British East Africa that ‘the railway is bringing up into the country men whose evil lives are positive hindrances to Christian work.’
Of late years the peril of injurious moral influences from industrial movement has taken a new form. The Fijian group, Christianized by the labors of the Wesleyan-Methodist missionaries, has been invaded by thousands of Indian coolies, many of them described as ‘the sweepings of the Calcutta jails.’ The Hawaiian natives, nearly all of them Christians, are now outnumbered three to one in their own islands by Japanese and Chinese immigrants. More serious still is the new problem created in many large communities by the introduction of Western industrial conditions. In South Africa the natives, when once they have worked in the mines for wages, ‘go back to their tribal system with their whole view of social relations and of duty transformed.’ In Japan and India, home industries are being supplanted by the factory system with its usual accompaniment, the slum problem. As Bishop Bashford points out, China, with her hundreds of millions of inhabitants, is to-day confronted, all unawares, with the crisis of a transition from hand-labor to machine-labor, — a transition which in Western lands has often been attended by political as well as economic upheavals. Whether the foreign missionary confine himself strictly to his evangelistic message or offer the native communities the guidance in social developments which his wider education should have qualified him to give, such profound changes must inevitably affect the whole missionary outlook in these countries.
Another by-product of modern communications is the opportunity thereby given for the activity, in non-Christian countries, of those intellectual forces of the West which are antagonistic to Christianity. Half a century ago the religion brought by the missionary had no rival save the religion indigenous to the country. But the train or steamer that carries Bibles can carry also literature that is critical of the Christian revelation, even to the point, of avowed hostility. ‘The same problems of philosophy and theology,’ says Dr. Lepsius, ‘which come up at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, of Berlin and Jena, are discussed in Calcutta, Peking, and Tokyo, and in the daily papers of Cairo and of Constantinople.’ The cities of Japan and China are to-day flooded with agnostic publications. A missionary from the Southern Mahratta country reports that the names of such writers as Schopenhauer and Haeckel are well known there. Delitzsch’s ‘Babel-Bibel’ lecture was rendered into Marathi immediately on its delivery, and a widelycirculated newspaper took it into every corner of the district. The more popular arguments of Ingersoll and Bradlaugh have been translated into the Indian vernaculars, and are being distributed in the public free libraries and throughout the villages. To this account of the hindrance caused by antiChristian activities in the press must be added a note of the stimulus to materialistic ideas which has frequently been given by the temporary residence of Oriental students in Europe and America, where they are exposed to new and subtle influences which may weaken their old moral traditions without supplying any wholesome principles in their place.
These reports further bring out very clearly the aid given by improved methods of travel to the worship and propaganda of some of the leading non-Christian religions. By this means Mohammedanism has gained anew hold on the Malays of the Dutch East Indies. ‘A generation ago their Mohammedanism was merely superficial, but it is daily becoming a more and more pervasive and dominant faith. The greatly increased pilgrimage to Mecca, brought about by cheap steamer-rates and better facilities, is consolidating Islam. The Hadji, or returned pilgrim, is thenceforth an ardent defender and propagator of the faith, which gives him peculiar honor.’ In the same way, Buddhism has been able to revive the enthusiasm of its adherents by organizing on a larger scale pilgrimages to the sacred shrines. The Buddhists of Japan have also established a missionary society, which has sent workers to the mainland of Asia. As to Africa, ‘Mohammedan traders are finding their way into the remotest parts of the continent, and it is well known that every Mohammedan trader is more or less a Mohammedan missionary.’ Even among the natives of Cape Colony ‘there is a certain Moslem propaganda, to which the conditions of the situation are not unfavorable.’
It is evidence received direct from the field, let us remember, that has brought to light these new conditions. The missionaries reveal themselves in their own communications as keenly alive to every variation in national policy or social environment that tends to modify the character of their work. It is from the study of their letters that one of the commissions of the Conference draws the conclusion that ‘ the problems of the future differ in kind, as well as in scope and dimensions, from the problems of the past.’ Everywhere the missionaries are eager that the campaign shall be planned with a more deliberate and careful strategy, and that the training and equipment of the recruits shall more closely match their task. They believe that the sacredness of their cause demands the devotion to it of the ripest judgment and shrewdest calculation. So far from excusing slipshod methods, their confidence that their work is divine and that it is assisted by the Spirit of God requires that the human coöperation shall be of the very highest quality.
The whole character of the Edinburgh Conference emphasizes this conviction that the missionary problem must henceforth be treated as a problem in applied science. These elaborate reports of the commissions, based on thousands of letters received from all parts of the world, mean an awakening to the fact that truly scientific research must precede any helpful generalizations on foreign missions, as on any other subject of inquiry, and that the results of these investigations must largely determine the course of further efforts. The appointment of a Continuation Committee, to carry on and extend the work of these commissions, is a guarantee that the scientific idea will be a permanent factor in future policies of missionary expansion.
Too often in the past the enterprise of evangelizing the world has been regarded as a kind of guerilla warfare instead of as a unified campaign demanding thorough organization and prevision. Mere accident has often decided whether a new station shall be opened here rather than there. From this time forward a heavy responsibility will rest upon any mission board which distributes its resources of money or men without regard to the location of representatives of other societies, or to the comparative urgency of calls from various lands. In the disposition of the missionary forces, account must be taken of such matters as the density of the population, climatic conditions, the range of languages and dialects spoken, the temperamental characteristics of the people, their degree of culture, and the probability of raising up a strong staff of native workers. In some fields the concentration of several missionaries at one centre is the wiser policy; in others their diffusion over a wide area will be more effective.
Questions of time and opportunity have also a bearing on missionary strategy. For instance, at certain stages in the history of a country which has recently come into touch with the West, there are exceptional chances of influencing the young men who in a few years will become the national leaders. These and similar problems of generalship will compel the coördination of different societies and churches to a degree that has never yet been attempted. To avoid overlapping and friction there will be required in some instances such a reconstruction of traditional plans as will give an unrivaled occasion for the display of the truest Christian comity.
A scientific adaptation of means to ends will also determine the choice of methods. Roughly speaking, the principal missionary methods may be classified as evangelistic (including not only preaching, but pastoral and other means of caring for the native church), educational, medical, literary, and industrial. There is probably no country in which each of these would not be of service, but their importance will naturally vary according to local conditions. Medical missions, which have done more than anything else to break down anti-Christian prejudice in Persia, count for comparatively little in a country like Japan, with its modern developments of medical science and its excellent provision of public hospitals. The industrial training so valuable in developing the powers of the South African native is practically useless as a way of approach to the Chinaman, already diligent and expert in the practice of the manual arts.
But the most finished strategy depends for its execution on the competence of ‘the man behind the gun.’ The Preparation of Missionaries is accordingly the subject of one of the largest of these nine volumes, and the questions with which it is concerned overflow into almost every other section also. It is here that we are especially impressed with one of the outstanding characteristics of the modern missionary. This demand for a more thorough special training — a demand most urgently pressed by men nowon the field, who have discovered how the lack of such preparation has handicapped their own efforts — grows largely out of the sympathetic attitude of the missionaries toward the life of the people among whom they labor. So far from regarding the religion and social customs of these people with scorn and contempt, they show an almost painful anxiety to get into close touch with native tradition and native thought. They have undertaken their life-work, it is true, with the deliberate aim of promoting the supremacy of the religion in which they themselves believe. But that does not necessarily mean that they are blind to the purifying and uplifting elements in other systems.
There are some forms of religion, no doubt, in which it is difficult to find much, either in doctrine or in practice, of which the friendliest student can say that the mission of Christianity is not to destroy but to fulfill it. After reading, for instance, the description of the beliefs and observances of Animism, one can easily understand the reluctance of some missionaries to apply the name ‘religion’ to them at all. Nor is one surprised to find from the discussions of the Conference that some missionaries of long experience hesitate to endorse the represen Lations given by the Fourth Commission — that on ‘The Missionary Message in relation to Non-Christian Religions’ — of the extent to which these religions afford a foundation for Christian teaching. ‘The Hinduism you have got in the report,’ says one of them point-blank, ‘is not the Hinduism which bulks largest in daily life.’
In a supplementary report the Commission make their position clearer by the following admirable statement: ‘It is entirely true that Hinduism cannot be spoken of as a preparation for Christianity in anything like the same way as the Old Testament is such a preparation. No such view has ever been contemplated by the Commission. The analogy suggested in the report is not with the Old Testament but with Hellenism, which assuredly had the basest elements in it side by side with nobler things. It has its beautiful but poisonous mythology, its corrupt sexual morality, its cruel system of slavery, as well as its noble philosophy. Yet the presence of this base and cruel side of Hellenism did not prevent St, John or the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews from using its highest categories of thought and transforming them through the vital power of the Spirit. . . There is no reason whatever for Christian propaganda,’ they conclude, ‘unless the missionary has something new to proclaim; but it is equally certain that there is no basis whatever for the missionary appeal unless the missionary can say, “Whom therefore ye worship in ignorance, him declare I unto you.” ’
Even where the native faith itself seems to offer few ‘points of contact’ with Christianity, there is sure to be in the minds of the people some upward impulse, some desire for deliverance from evil powers, some vague aspirations for a higher life, which may in some measure be used as a preparatio evangelica. But this cannot be done except by a missionary who has acquired an insight into the working of the native mind on religious themes, and this insight is the fruit of a combination of an unprejudiced and kindly spirit and a long and careful study. Of these two qualifications it is only the second that is often lacking. Nothing could be more tactful than the general attitude of the missionary toward the people he addresses. His normal policy is constructive rather than destructive. The shrewd suggestion is made that, if any destructive work has to be done, it should be left to the native minister, who can say freely things that in the mouth of a foreigner would be regarded as insulting. In the same way, Principal Mackichan, of Bombay, refuses to call himself an iconoclast. ‘It seems to me,’ he says, ‘ that our mission is to present Christ to the people and win them from their idols, so that they, and not we, should become iconoclasts.’ It is in the backing up of this kindly temper by an intelligent appreciation of native thought that the missionary has too often come short, mainly through deficient opportunities of study.
If the plans outlined at the Conference are carried into effect, the missionary of the future will not be sent out to pick up this knowledge as best he can in the midst of the exhausting duties of his post, but will already have taken a general course of instruction in comparative religion, supplemented by special courses in the subjects most closely related to his own field. In certain cases recognition will be made of the high technical qualifications needed to meet the demands of a particular field at a particular juncture. Work among Hindu students, for instance, requires just now the services not simply of men of liberal culture, but of experts in philosophy competent to hold their ground against apologists for Hindu Pantheism. In another environment a scholarly acquaintance with the Koran or with the Confucian classics may be an almost indispensable condition of success. In every way the colleges and boards responsible for the curriculum must so study the problem of adaptation that, so far as possible, to the Arabs the missionary may become an Arab, to the Chinese he may become a Chinaman, and to the Kaffirs he may become a Kaffir.
The call for a blending of sympathy, knowledge, and judgment, is no less exacting in the region where religious faith is involved with social custom. It is often extremely difficult to determine the precise status of a particular usage, and to decide whether it is to be regarded as essentially part of a pagan cult, or as of neutral quality, and therefore capable of being perpetuated without harm if once it can be freed from its traditional associations. A typical example is the reverence paid in China and Japan to departed ancestors and national heroes, a reverence which is closely interwoven with the historic civilization of those countries. There are certain elements in this ‘ancestor worship’ in its popular form which are plainly inconsistent with Christianity; for example, the belief that the welfare of the dead depends upon the offerings made to them by the living, and that likewise the welfare of the living depends upon the protection of the dead. Accordingly, both the native churches and the missionaries in China are agreed that the practice must not be continued by the Christian converts. At the same time the idea at the basis of this custom has an obvious kinship with the great Christ ian doctrine of the communion of saints, which binds the seen and the unseen in one vast fellowship, as well as with Christian teachings as to the dignity of family relationships. It is wisely recommended that these features of the Christian faith should be emphasized in the missionary propaganda in China, and especially that every Christian burial should be made an occasion of showing the falsity of the charge that Christians are guilty of an unfeeling disregard for the memory of their departed friends.
A more startling but quite reasonable suggestion is that the Oriental institution of the ‘go-between’ —a woman who makes a living professionally by arranging betrothals and marriages — should be explicitly recognized by the Christian churches, and that they should use their influence to secure that, in the case of Christian families, this important function be exercised by those persons only who are of approved character. This proposal is an admirable example of the alertness of the modern missionary to promote the Christianizing of any existing social customs, which, however strange to Western ideas, are not in themselves objectionable. Here, again, preliminary study of anthropology and kindred subjects, with special reference to the field in which he is to labor, will go a long way to prepare the missionary for an intelligent handling of such problems. To this may well be added a training in sociology for the benefit of those missionaries at least who are likely to undertake work in communities where industrial and commercial changes are creating a new social environment.
It might seem a commonplace to include a knowledge of the vernacular among the necessary conditions of a really competent understanding of the religion and the life of a people. There is reason to believe, however, that in the past a standard of bare intelligibility has too often been considered sufficient. This has been due partly to the pedagogic incompetence of native teachers, and partly to the urgency of the demand for immediate service in the field, which has prevented newcomers from completing even such meagre courses of study as had been arranged for them. The missionaries themselves admit that to attempt to gain an insight into the native conceptions of things except through the medium of the vernacular is ‘to hang a ladder in the air.’ Even college students who can speak and read English can best be approached on the deepest subjects in the mother-tongue — the language of the heart and of the home. For this reason the Conference approves the practice of Christian schools in China of devoting considerable time to the Chinese classics, and recommends that efforts be made in every country to develop a native literature permeated with Christian ideas, which shall include not only books with a definite theological message, but biography, history, social science, and even fiction.
As regards the missionary’s own language-training, it is urged by some high authorities that it should begin before he sails. It can be carried out at home, so it is alleged, by more scientific methods and in a less distracting environment than on the field. On this point there is a conflict of opinion, but the Commission has no doubt of the value at any rate of instruction in the modern science of phonetics as preparatory to any subsequent linguistic work. And those who most doubt the wisdom of spending time in language-study at home are emphatic in their insistence upon the need of establishing in the various fields a really first-class system of training colleges in place of the happygo-lucky methods of instruction with which so many missionary recruits in the past have had to be content.
The new missionary, the product of the training above outlined, will in some fields have to discharge very different functions from those of his predecessor. In many countries his primary task will no longer be that of a pioneer evangelist — for such duties will fall mainly to the lot of the native worker—but of a leader and educator. However expert he may become in his special studies the disadvantages of his alien origin and upbringing can never be entirely overcome. Only by indigenous thinkers and apostles can the interpretation of Christianity in terms of native thought, and its acclimatization in the life of the people on a large scale, really be brought about. To discover and train men capable of this service will be the foreign missionary’s most critical and most fruitful occupation.
Regret is frankly expressed that hitherto the native preacher or teacher has been scarcely more than an echo. The native church has shown very little sign of ‘any original or formative thought on the great questions of the Divine revelation and of spiritual life.’ It has accepted not only the substance of the missionary’s message, but the form also. In its delight at the new power and life communicated by the spirit of the Gospel teaching, it has been conscious of no incongruity in the framework of creeds and confessions which has been fashioned in the ecclesiastical conflicts of the European churches. It seemed to him ‘shocking,’ said Bishop Gore at the Conference, that the native pastors should so largely have been trained by the aid of documents like the Thirty-nine Articles and the Westminster Confession, ‘documents full of controversies which are partial, which do not belong to the universal substance of our religion.’ But as yet no such thrill of indignant protest agitates the native churches. Indeed, many native correspondents candidly replied that they could not understand the meaning of the question asking whether they had been perplexed by ‘the distinctively Western elements’ in the missionary message as presented to them. The Western character of the missionary himself was obvious enough, and in some cases had aroused prejudice against him, but they were unaware of anything in the message which was especially difficult to assimilate. Perhaps if the question had been put to non-converts, a different answer might have been received.
The missionaries themselves are well aware of the handicap they suffer through the crystallization of Christian doctrine in shapes that are repugnant to the Oriental mind, and they tell us how practical experience in the field, while not in any way shaking their own faith, has profoundly modified their conceptions of the due proportion of the various elements in its content. The report of Commission IV, indeed, goes so far as to declare that ‘Christian theology must be written afresh for every fresh race to which it comes, so that it may justify itself to all as the abiding wisdom that cometh from above, ever quick and powerful, and not be misrepresented as if it were no more than a precipitation from the antiquated text-books of the West.’
There is something that appeals powerfully to the imagination in the prospect of what will happen when Oriental thought has had time to make its contribution to the rectifying of the traditional Christian theology and Christian ethics. ‘What we desire to see,’ says a correspondent of this Commission, ‘is not simply Christianity in India, but an Indian Christianity.’ For the present generation the desire will have to suffice. But before many decades are past the sight itself may gladden the eyes of our children, who will then become the contemporaries of an event in religious history worthy of being compared in its significance with the great Reformation. That new form of religion yet to be developed in Asia will not be an amalgam of Christianity and Buddhism, but will as fully deserve the name of Christianity as anything now preached from English or American pulpits. It will differ from Christianity, as we know it, not by any heretical omissions or substitutions, but by bringing into prominence certain phases of the Christian Gospel which have hitherto been obscured or overlooked through the peculiar development of Western civilizations and types of character. These elements have been existing all the time in the Christianity of the New Testament, but we have ignored them or underestimated their importance because they did not suit our own way of thinking.
‘ Eastern theology,’ predicts the principal of a college in Bengal, ‘will be more on the lines of the gospel of St. John than the Epistle to the Romans.’ The Hindu, more contemplative and mystical than we, will find himself at home in regions of Christian thought where the most cultivated Western thinker moves with difficulty. Hence the members of Commission IV look forward with eager anticipation to the time when ‘ whether through the Christianized mind of India, or through the mind of the missionary stirred to its depths by contact with the Indian mind, we shall discover new and wonderful things in the ancient Revelation which have been hidden in part from the just and faithful of the Western world.’ China, again, by her intense feeling of the solidarity of the people, has a valuable contribution to make to the interpretation of the truth that if one member suffers all the members suffer with it. If these glowing forecasts are fulfilled, even in a moderate degree, will there not come back to the countries from which the missionaries were sent an enrichment of their spiritual life which, in its reward for the labors and gifts of the past, will illustrate once more the great law of blessing through sacrifice?
It is not only on its formularies and theological text-books that the conflicts of the Church have stamped a peculiarly Occidental mark. Systems of church government bear equally the impress of provincial conditions and temporary emergencies. Here again, the new missionary will be prepared to take the place of a learner as well as a teacher. Naturally, when the foreign evangelist has gathered around him sufficient converts to be grouped in a native church, he establishes an ecclesiastical system corresponding to that of the church which sent him out. Every church organization that has yet been devised has merits of its own as a practical working scheme, and it is scarcely surprising that in this point also the native converts have generally been quite willing to adopt, without serious criticism, whatever pattern of church order may have been commended to them. As in the case of doctrine, the native mind has hitherto done little in the way of any original attempt to solve the problems of administration. But two forces are arousing it into activity. One is the general awakening, as already mentioned, of a national consciousness. This is bound to bring with it an impatience of foreign control, a readiness to assume those responsibilities of initiative and direction which have hitherto been borne by the missionary on the ground or the mission board at home, a desire to exercise in church government an independence parallel to that which is claimed in politics. The almost unanimous sympathy with these aspirations shown in the discussions at Edinburgh was a notable feature of the Conference.
Another impulse comes from the fact that the native Christians are discovering how sorely the progress of their faith is hampered by ecclesiastical divisions, which may have had sufficient justification in other lands and at other times, but which there is no excuse for perpetuating on the mission field to-day. The whole thing reaches its reductio ad absurdum in the story of a Hindu who is asked by a visitor to what church he belongs, and has just enough knowledge of English to be able to reply that he is a Scotch Presbyterian. To the converts from a nonChristian religion the difference between one form of church government and another seems so trifling that they cannot understand why it should be allowed to interfere with the united action that is required to make the Christian propaganda most effective. If the missionaries will lead them in the movement for union, so much the better; if not, the evidence is clear that in some countries at least the native churches will within a few years take the matter into their own hands.
An example of practical alliance has been set in West China, where the Protestant missions (1) have mapped out the field so as to prevent overlapping, (2) have established a union university, and a common board of study and examination, (3) have united in the management of a mission hospital, (4) are coöperating in the working of a mission press with a common hymn-book, a common magazine, etc., and (5) have a standing committee on church union, whose aim is definitely expressed as ‘one Christian Church for Western China.’ The possible results of a widespread following of this example may be inferred from the deliberate statement of Mr. J. R. Mott, that a well-considered plan of coöperation in the missionary work of the societies represented in the Conference ‘would be more than equivalent to doubling the present missionary staff.’ And just as the mission churches may be expected in the course of time to influence the thought of Occidental Christianity, so one may hope that before long their freedom from the ecclesiastical restraints imposed by tradition may lead the mother churches into the same liberty. ‘It is a thought not without its grandeur,’ said Lord Balfour of Burleigh, the President of the Conference, in his opening address, ‘ that a unity begun in the mission field may extend its influence and react upon us at home and throughout the older civilizations; that it may bring to us increased hope of international peace among the nations of the world, and of at least fraternal coöperation and perhaps a greater measure of unity in ecclesiastical matters at home.’
- Reports of the World Missionary Conference, 1910. New York, Chicago, & Toronto: Revell; Edinburgh & London: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier.↩