THE FATHER OF MISSIONARIES.
And he went out, not knowing whither he went.
Hebrews xi. 8.
S. Michael's Church, Cambridge, S. Andrew's Day, 1876, at the Inauguration of the Cambridge Mission to Delhi.
He went out, as many had gone out before him, as many would go out after him. We picture to ourselves the scene, as it actually took place. It is an ordinary caravan moving westward. A head of a family, with his children, his servants, his camels, his flocks and herds, his household goods, starts from the home of his forefathers to seek his fortunes in some new region. From ancient Ur of the Chaldees he journeys to Haran; from Haran to Damascus; from Damascus to the land of the Canaanites, the land of the children of Heth. He moves onward and onward towards the setting sun; till at length all progress is stopped by the sea barrier which parts him from the unknown worlds beyond. There from those bare mountain heights he would look down on the dark purple ocean with its boundless expanse and its ceaseless turmoil—the ocean terrible even to his late descendants, who shuddered to think of those that 'occupy their business in the great waters,' that 'are carried up to the heaven and down again to the deep,' while 'their soul melteth away because of the trouble,' but far more terrible, more awe-inspiring, more mysterious still, to one who so late had left his inland home in the far East, and gazed now for the first time on this watery plain, the symbol at once of the infinitude and power of God and of the restless activity and toil of human life. And, as his eye ranged over its mighty expanse, and his imagination dwelt on those vague dream-lands which (was it fable or fact ?) were said to lie far off in the region of the setting sun, beyond the line where sky and ocean were blended together—Javan and Tarshish and Chittim (if we could imagine such names current then)—peopled with men like himself—what must have been his thoughts as he remembered the promise, the divine and irrevocable promise, that his seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, and that in him all the families of the earth should be blessed? For, while all else in the scene was changed, the stars, the sacrament of this promise, remained unchangeable, as the promise itself was unchangeable. They shone overhead—each particular star—with its own light, in its own region, above that strange, vague ocean, just as they had shone over his boyhood in his familiar inland home.
What was there then in this movement, that Psalmists and Prophets and Apostles should single it out for special emphasis? It was after all to the outward eye but a common caravan. Migration in Abraham's day was the rule, not the exception, of Eastern life, as it is still among the tribes of the desert. Hundreds of nomad sheiks had done the same before, and hundreds would do the same after him. War, enterprise, restlessness, even hunger, has set and is setting numberless such caravans in motion. Yet no one remembers them; no one records them. They are as much a matter of course as the voyage of an emigrant vessel is a matter of course with ourselves.
And these movements of households after all are quite insignificant compared with those vaster migrations of which history speaks, where whole armies, whole nations, whole peoples, have gone forth from their homes, not knowing whither they went. Century after century the tide of humanity was rolling westward, turning its face like Abraham towards the setting sun. Think of those vast movements of our race—dimly discerned, if discerned at all, in the traditions of primeval history, but now at length read more clearly in the languages and customs of men— when one after another the great subdivisions of the Aryan family broke off from the parent stock and sought their fortunes in new regions, Greek and Roman, Celt and Slave and Teuton—wave dashing upon wave in ceaseless sequence, and deluging whole continents in their victorious career. Think again of those tremendous hosts, which the mere lust of conquest has driven forward from time to time from East to West—the armies of Assyrians and Babylonians, of Medes and Persians, in ancient times,—the hordes of Saracens, Huns, Tartars in later ages—Slackening like locusts the fields of the West. And at last all Europe was occupied by Asia, and from the pillars of Hercules men looked out in despair on that vast Atlantic Ocean, as from the mountains of Judaea Abraham had gazed on the Mediterranean Sea, and it seemed as if now at length a barrier were placed at once and for ever against this onward march of humanity. But the centuries rolled on; and all at once the barrier was broken down. The old cry, 'Westward ho,' was raised again. Again the stream of mankind poured onward in torrents. Over the ocean now, as over the continent before, this human tide advanced. Europe was poured into America, as Asia had been poured into Europe. Ambition, enterprise, commerce, necessity, drove and are driving their thousands yearly to new homes in the West; and vast cities, threatening to rival Liverpool and Manchester in numbers and wealth, have started up suddenly out of the earth, where, when some of us were boys, stood only a few log huts amidst uncleared forests or in desert prairies.
Whence comes it then, that in the ceaseless tide of humanity, thus rolling westward through the ages, this one caravan of a simple nomad Bedouin—this single drop in the mighty stream—has fastened on itself the attention of men? How is it that in the history of our race this migration of Abraham has a higher interest than all the hordes that from time to time have swept over the face of the earth—the great armies of a Rameses, a Sennacherib, a Xerxes, a Genghis Khan, a Timur?
The answer is contained in one word. It was his faith, which singled him out in the counsels of God and has stamped him on the hearts of men. 'By faith Abraham being called... obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went.' 'Abraham believed God.' 'Against hope' he 'believed in hope.' It was not ambition, not enterprise, not restlessness, not the lust of conquest, not the greed of gain, but the consciousness of a divine presence, the submission to a divine command, the trust in a divine blessing, which drove him forth into unknown lands. He saw the hand of God beckoning him onward, which others could not see. He heard the voice of God calling him forward, which others could not hear. And so he left the home of his fathers; he detached himself from all the fond memories of the past and all the joyous associations of the present; he made the great venture of faith; he threw himself upon the blessing, threw himself upon the future, threw himself upon God. With what vagueness he realised the promise, we cannot tell. To him it must have seemed not less mysterious than that star-spangled vault, so calm and so impenetrable, which was its outward type. But he saw at least as in a glass, he read as in a dark enigma, the glory of the great Messianic day, when his children should rule over the earth. The shadow of the future was projected on the experience of the present. He saw, and he believed. He went forth, nothing doubting. He went forth, not knowing whither he went.
And can we say that his expectation has been disappointed in the result? Is it not the case that Abraham is the most wide-spread, most famous, most cherished, most universal name in the records of our race?
Look at the matter from any point of view which you may choose. Put aside all thought of a divine revelation. Shut your eyes to any considerations of a supernatural guidance. Forget, if you can forget, the momentous issues of the Incarnation. Read the fact, if you will, in the dry light of secular history. Is it not true even then, that Abraham is the patriarch of mankind in a sense in which the term will apply to no other man? Is it not true that the main stream of human history is traced up to Abraham and Abraham's migration as its source? Is it not true—true on any showing—that in Abraham's seed, whether his natural descendants the Jews or his spiritual descendants the Christians, all the families of the earth have been blessed? Is it not true, that despite themselves all the most powerful, most civilised, most intelligent races of mankind have paid homage to Abraham's faith as inherited by Abraham's children, have poured their precious gifts—their silver and their gold—into the temple of Abraham's God? Is it not true that all the fertilising currents of human history in all ages, Babylonian and Egyptian and Persian, Greek and Roman, Celt and Teuton and Slave, have one after another been sucked into this main stream and swelled the waters of the mighty river of God?
For Abraham was not only faithful himself, but he was also the father of the faithful. Look at the history of the Jewish race. What was the secret of its long, unbroken life, the principle which revived, animated, sustained it amidst all disasters and under every oppression? Was it not faith—faith in a divine purpose, in a divine call, in a divine mission for the race? With all their narrowness and all their meanness and all their weakness, aye, and amidst all their defections too, this faith never died out. It was the breath of their national life. The spirit of Abraham never altogether left his children. And so they were despised, and yet they triumphed: they were trampled under foot, and yet they dictated terms to the nations. 'The vanquished,' said Seneca bitterly of the Jews,'have given laws to the victors1.' He was dismayed by the spread of Jewish beliefs, of Jewish customs, everywhere. What would he not have said, if he could have looked forward for three centuries and forecast the time when the spiritual Israel—the offspring of Abraham by faith—should plant its throne on the ruins of the majesty and power of imperial Rome?
Men may ridicule this idea of a divine call as an illusion: they may despise this faith in the unseen as an idle dream. They may tell us to husband our
1 'Victi victoribus leges dederunt,' quoted by S. Augustine dt Civ. Dei, vi. Ii.
material resources, to advance our scientific knowledge, to elaborate our political and social arrangements, and to banish all such unrealities from our thoughts. But assuredly this belief in a divine prompting has ever been the most potent, most beneficent, most enduring influence in the history of mankind. Look outside the pale of sacred history. Take as examples the two greatest of the Greeks— the greatest in the world of thought, and the greatest in the world of action. What was it which singled out Socrates among all the philosophers and moralists of Greece, and invested his character with a moral sublimity unapproached by the rest? What else but his belief that he too was prompted by a divine spirit, a supernatural voice, deterring, advising, inspiring, stimulating, to which he rendered implicit obedience, and for which he was content cheerfully to face even death itself? What was it which rescued Alexander from the herd of vulgar conquerors and tyrants, despite all his faults, which gave its permanence to his work and influence, and made it a true praeparatio evangelica? What, I ask again, but his belief that he was sent from heaven to break down the partition wall between Greek and Barbarian, and to fuse them into one common polity, under one common rule1?
1 Plutarch de Alex. Fort. i. 6 Koivbs ^aeiv 6e66ev ap/xoo-TT]s utol SiaXXaKrijS T£iv o\ay rofdfav.
Of faith—true faith—wherever it may be, Abraham is the prototype. But it is in the missionary life above all others, that the special form of his faith is reproduced. The missionary leaves the home of his fathers, as Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees; he too hears a divine voice beckoning him forward; he too goes out not knowing whither he goeth; and against hope he believes in hope. Abraham is the earliest of missionaries, the true spiritual father of the glorious band of evangelists who from age to age have carried the light of God into the dark places of heathendom: of that first-called disciple, whose name we this day commemorate, the earliest to enlist in this brave army, who left his home on the Galilsean lake, left his all, that he might follow his Master to suffering and to death: of that first and chief missionary to the Gentiles, the greatest because the least of all the Apostles, who carried the torch of the Gospel from city to city and from land to land, having no certain dwelling-place, knowing not from hour to hour what should befal him, bearing about in his body the dying of the Lord Jesus, till at length the martyrdom of life was crowned by the martyrdom of death: of that brave preacher, the father of English missionaries, Boniface, who sailed from his native shores to carry the glad tidings into the wilds of Germany, and after a long life's labour died by pagan
hands, thanking God with his parting breath that those who kill the body have no power to hurt the soul: of that great evangelist, the Apostle of the Indies, Francis Xavier, who with the divine warning 'What doth it profit a man' ringing ever in his ears, went out, not knowing whither he went, bearing the message to the farthest East, ambitious only to spend and to be spent, the most energetic, most self-denying, most loving of missionaries: of those pure and devoted soldiers of Christ, whom in these latest ages our own Universities have sent forth—their best and noblest sons—to lay down their lives for Christ; of Henry Martyn, most heroic in spirit and most feeble in frame, who after a brief, energetic career was struck down, far away from friends and home, on a long and toilsome journey in Asia; of Charles Mackenzie, the modest and singlehearted, who at the outset of a missionary career of no common promise yielded up his childlike soul to God its giver in the steaming fever-stricken wilds of Africa; of John Coleridge Patteson, the gentle scholar and affectionate teacher, who fell a victim to the poisoned arrows of those Pacific islanders whom, barbarians though they were, he would only consent to treat as brothers in Christ. God grant that this noble army may never want recruits! God grant that, as from time to time its ranks are thinned by death, or as new levies are raised for some fresh campaign in the service of our great Captain, men may press forward from this our own dear Cambridge to fill the vacant places, and do battle for the truth!
I need hardly say why I have put these thoughts before you this evening. You yourselves will have anticipated the moral. These annual days of intercession have not been without their fruit. Some among ourselves have heard the call and are ready to obey. Steps have been taken for the formation of a Cambridge mission to North India. Two volunteers have already come forward. The head-quarters of the mission are to be fixed at Delhi.
Delhi! What associations do not gather about the name? Delhi, the immemorial centre of Hindoo tradition—the chief stronghold of Mohammedan power—the capital of the descendants of Timur—the seat of the most splendid, if not the most powerful, of Oriental monarchies—the city of many sieges, Tartar, Persian, Mahratta, English—Delhi the beautiful, the cruel, the magnificent, the profligate.
The name of Delhi will ever have a thrilling interest for English hearts. What hours of anxiety and what feats of valour does it not recal? Though nearly twenty years have passed, it seems yet to many of us only the other day, when the power and the prestige of England was hanging on the news S. S. 4
from Delhi. The massacre at Delhi was the chief scene in the first act of that terrible drama, the Indian mutiny. The siege of Delhi was a crisis in the action. The fall of Delhi was the earnest that English rule in India was not broken. And what deeds of heroism did not the emergency call forth? In all history I know no nobler feat than the daring resolution of those brave men who set fire to the magazine which they were defending, to save it from the insurgents, though it was almost certain death to every one of that gallant band—a feat nobler far, as it seems to me, than the most famous exploits of Greek or Roman story—than the deed of those farfamed three hundred who blocked the pass against the countless hosts of the barbarian invader, or those dauntless three who held the bridge while the timbers fell crashing into the river behind their back. For there were no admiring crowds to encourage and to applaud here. It seemed only too likely that not one man of those nine would live to say how the deed was done. It was duty, sheer duty, which prompted the act—an act of courage and self-sacrifice, over which the Christian soldier in his campaign of peace would do well to ponder.
And a name too of not less absorbing interest to the Christian, than to the Englishman. The Delhi mission was still in its infancy, when the mutiny broke out. The Delhi mission was baptized in blood. It was literally murdered. But, here as elsewhere, the blood of the martyrs was the seed-plot of the Church. The work of evangelisation has revived. A memorial Church, bearing the name of the first martyr S. Stephen, commemorates the death of these his latest successors. No missionary field in India, we are told, is more promising than this. Only men are wanted to aid in the work.
And to Cambridge more especially the call comes. It is the blood of Cambridge martyrs which cries out of the ground for revenge, the noble revenge of bringing the gospel of love and peace home to the hearts of that people by whose hands they were slain. The Delhi mission was in its origin essentially a Cambridge mission. Its martyrs were Cambridge men. Its first founder, the chaplain, had been a Fellow of Christ's College. Its acting head, at the time when the mutiny broke out, was a member of Caius College. Another student, attached to the mission, was a near relative of one who now holds an honourable office in our University. All these were among the first-fruits of the slain. Shall their blood cry to us in vain?
It is therefore in some sense in fulfilment of a pledge which Cambridge has given to Delhi, that our two volunteers have devoted themselves to this work. Before we meet together on S. Andrew's Day next year they will already, if it please God, have left our shores.
They will go forth, not thinking that they are doing any great thing. They will thank God for the privilege, but they will not commend themselves for the effort. They will feel that such a call is only a fresh cause for self-humiliation. They will ask themselves why they should be proud of doing that for Christ which hundreds of their fellow-countrymen are ready to do for patriotism, for fame, for enterprise, even for greed? They will feel that any sacrifice is too small when they think of the Great Sacrifice.
They will go forth, as Abraham went forth, in faith; not knowing what future God has in store for them; ready to do the work, patient to suffer the trials, strong to bear the disappointments, which He may assign to them.
They will go forth, not underrating the difficulties, and yet not despairing of the end. They will know that, though they are weak, yet God is strong. They will feel assured that His truth must prevail, though others may reap the harvest where they have sown the seed.
They will go forth, let us hope, not underhanded. Two only have offered hitherto. Three others are needed. It is held that our mission should at first starting consist of five members at least. We desire to make a strong, united, compact assault upon one point, and thus to effect a breach through which others may pour in and occupy the fortress. I would not willingly think that Cambridge cannot find even five men for such a work as this.
They will go forth, fully counting the costs. They will not be swayed by a passing gust of enthusiasm, but they will be possessed by the firm assurance of faith. Much as I should rejoice that some word of mine this evening might touch one and another heart in this congregation and lead them to offer themselves for the work, I dare not appeal to any transient feelings. It is above all things needful in our volunteers, that having put their hands to the plough, ihey should not look back. '\}\'-\\ 7 \\.'C\\j\ \ V
They will go forth, determined .to hold: together. They will remember - that union is strength. They will suffer no diversities of taste and no conflict of opinion and no inequalities of temper to estrange them one from another. They will entertain no rivalry, but the rivalry of doing Christ's work.
They will go forth, depending on our prayers, our efforts, our sympathy, that all alike—we in Cambridge and they in India—may feel bound together in one common work. May it never be said of us that they have looked to us for encouragement and support in vain!
Therefore as you kneel in silent prayer in this church before we part, and again as you commend yourselves to God this night on your knees in your secret chambers, I ask you to remember the Delhi mission. Pray that those who have offered themselves for the work may have courage, and power, and energy, and love, and sound judgement, and largeness of heart, for the fulfilment of their task. Pray that others may be added to them, lest, while the vineyard is large, the labourers should be all too few.
The originator of the Delhi Mission was the Rev. M. Jennings, formerly :Fe11ow< of"ChrUt's College^" tJierChaplain at the station, who collected^ money, for, it and. Jaid iili foundations. In July 1852 two Hindoosof "high position, Ram Chandra and Dr Chimmum Lall, were baptiied. • 111*1854 the-Rev. f. S. Jaclcscn, Fellow of Caius College, and tljej^evi A» R. HubbariJ, a menjbtr/of the same College, arrived from England, and started the work as a distinct mission. At the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857 a" tne above were murdered, except Mr Jackson, who was in England at the time, and Ram Chandra, who after many hairbreadth risks managed to escape out the city alive. The other missionaries, Messrs Corrie Sandys and Louis Koch, with Miss Jennings, Captain Douglas and others, also fell victims. The mission was refounded in 1859 by Mr Skelton, Fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, and was called S. Stephen's College. Its direct association with Cambridge University dates from the occasion of this sermon.