The Love of Christ the Great Motive to Missions


Brethren Of The Missionary Union :—Times and places change, and men change with them, but Christ is the same yesterday and to-day and forever. When we last met, the white summits of the Rocky Mountains looked down upon. us. We kindled our westernmost campfire two thousand miles from here, in a region whose stones are silver and out of whose hills men dig gold. Our hearts were glad because we had been enabled to celebrate the centennial year of Baptist missions by laying upon God's altar a million-dollar offering,—the largest that our churches in America had ever made. A bright future seemed opening before us; enlargement of our work appeared practicable; we fancied that a more rapid pace had been set for the years before us. We sang our hallelujahs, we committed our cause to God, and we launched out for another twelvemonth voyage. But it was not long before the financial sky began to darken. Though the vessel had shot ahead, we had to take in sail. The hurricane came down upon us. We seemed just ready to drive upon the rocks of bankruptcy and disaster. But we cried unto the Lord in our trouble and he brought us out of our distresses. He made the storm

1 Opening address of the president at the eightieth anniversary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, Saratoga, May 27, 1894.


a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. The ship is battered and weatherworn, but it has come into the haven, and we say with the psalmist: "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!"

The future still confronts us, but we have learned some useful lessons from the past. We have come to believe in a Providence that makes even seeming evil the means of good. We know that God does not forget his people. "Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall there be fruit in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet will I rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvation. Jehovah the Lord is my strength, and he maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places." Since this is a society of God's ordaining and upholding, the words which Longfellow wrote of the ship of State, our Federal Union, may be applied in a more spiritual sense to our Missionary Union:

Sail on, O Union strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all its hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast and sail and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
'Tis of the wave and not the rock;

'Tis but the flapping of the sail

And not a rent made by the gale!

In spite of rock and tempest's roar,

In spite of false lights on the shore,

Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!

Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,

Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,

Our faith triumphant o'er our fears,

Are all with thee,—are all with thee!"

Although the English Baptist Missionary Society began its work a little more than a century ago, it is only eighty years since American Baptists engaged in foreign missions. On May 18, 1814, there was formed in Philadelphia the General Missionary Convention, of which our Missionary Union is the continuation. During these fourscore years since Judson and Rice were appointed its first missionaries, what heroism abroad and what sacrifice at home have distinguished its annals! The very continuity of its existence is a wonder of divine Providence; its unexampled successes, in spite of pecuniary reverses and martyr deaths, are witness that some principle grander than that which animates any secular organization is its moving power. That principle is the love of Christ. Shall we commemorate the achievements of our Missionary Union, and not stand in awe before the impelling energy that has wrought them all?

As I asked you a year ago to contemplate the decrees of God as the great encouragement to missions, so I ask you now to contemplate The Love Of Christ As The Great Motive To Missions. Not our love to Christ, for that is a very weak and uncertain thing. Nor even Christ's love to us, for that is something still external Christ's Love In Us 287

to us. Each of these leaves a separation between Christ and us, and fails to act as a moving power within. I speak of the larger love of Christ, which includes both these. Just as God's decree furnishes the great encouragement to missions because it involves and brings in its train the church's decree to preach the gospel to the perishing, so Christ's love furnishes the constraining motive to missions because it involves and brings in its train the church's deathless love for the souls for whom Christ died. Not simply our love to Christ, not simply Christ's love to us, but rather Christ's love in us, going out toward the lost, is the motive that has founded and sustained our Union in the past, and that will deliver and prosper it in years to come.

I bring to you the old commandment which you have had from the beginning; but I would make it a new commandment to you this morning by showing you that the law of love is a law of life, that it is no arbitrary demand but is grounded in the nature of things, that it is only the expression of the organic relation which Christ sustains to humanity and humanity sustains to Christ. And I lay down as a truth of Scripture the statement that Christ and humanity are bound together as one organism. I mean nothing less than this, that all men everywhere, saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles, since the incarnation and before the incarnation, are bound to Christ, and Christ is bound to them, by the ties of a common life. We are familiar with the thought that Christ is the Head of the church, that all regenerate souls constitute his body, that he lives and dwells in every true believer. But there is a prior union with Christ which Scripture declares to us but which we have strangely neglected. Christ is also the natural head of universal humanity; in him, the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation, were all things created—all the physical universe, all the angelic hierarchies, all the race of man—and in him, who upholds all things by the word of his power, all things, including humanity, consist or hold together, from hour to hour. The whole race is one in Christ. Have we thought of Christ's life as animating only believers? That is true of Christ's spiritual life. But there is a natural life of Christ also, and that life pulses and throbs in all men everywhere. All men are created in Christ, before they are recreated in him. The whole race lives, moves, and has its being in him; for he is the soul of its soul and the life of its life. There is an organism of humanity as well as an organism of the church, and Christ is the center and life of the one as he is the center and life of the other.

The ancient feeling of the organic unity of the family and of the State was only the dawning of this larger conception of the unity of the race. Shakespeare shows how deeply he saw into the moving idea of the classic world, when in "Coriolanus" he makes Caius Marcius say to the rabble, "Get you home, ye fragments!" The mob had in it no sense of the organic unity of the Roman people, and so they were worthless fragments, without significance or value. Rome would never have been great if the idea of a larger life had not taken possession of her people,—a life that transcended the powers of the individual and included many generations in its scope. Principcs mortales, rempnblicam UNITY OF MANKIND IN CHRIST 289

ceternam was the noblest maxim of Tacitus. Now we have applied all this to the church, but we have not extended the doctrine beyond the Church, any more than Aristotle extended it beyond the State. He said that "The whole is before the parts," but he meant by "the whole" only the pan-Hellenic world, the commonwealth of Greeks; he never thought of humanity, and the word "mankind" never fell from his lips. He could not understand the unity of humanity, because he knew nothing of Christ, its organizing principle. But we can see that all humanity is one, because Christ, the whole in which all the individual members participate, is "before all things," as well as "in all" and "through all."

But we must not conceive of this unity of all men in Christ as a merely physical unity. This would be repeating the error of Herbert Spencer. He believes in humanity as an organism. But since he denies freewill, the life of this organism is virtually nothing but physical life. The individual members passively execute the impulses communicated to them from the inscrutable power of which they are the partial manifestations. Sin, if such a thing be possible in the system, and misery, the natural consequence of sin, are both necessitated, and there is absolutely no remedy. There is no eye to pity and no arm to save. We shudder at this conclusion, and we rejoice that our view of the relation of humanity to Christ leads us to precisely the opposite result. Humanity is a moral, not a physical, organism. Though created and upheld by Christ, every man is endowed with that priceless heritage, freewill, and he can use his free-will in resisting, instead of obeying, the law of holiness which reigns supreme. And when moral disintegration has entered through this abuse of free-will, the law of love can repair the ruin that sin has wrought, Christ's free-will can manifest itself as a recreated humanity in the incarnation, and individual men can secure new birth and new life by voluntary reunion with him from whom their life originally came but from whom they had morally separated themselves by their sin.

Love is the gravitation of the moral universe. It operates, however, not inversely as the square of the distance, but directly as the distance. Its law is: From each, according to ability; to each, according to need. The farther away from God the soul is, so much more goes out toward it the divine compassion; the more estranged from Christ, so much the more does Christ long to save. Kant denned an organism to be that in which the whole and each of the parts was reciprocally means and end. Christ, the Head and Life of universal humanity, the great whole of which each individual man is normally a part, recognizes the obligations of the organism which he has constituted. The natural tie which bound him to all men and all men to him made not only possible but necessary his bearing all our burdens and sins in his atonement. The holiness that condemned sin must involve in condemnation him who constituted the natural center and life of humanity. The heart must suffer with the suffering of the members; aye, the heart can suffer when the members cannot, because the members are stupefied and benumbed while the heart is yet healthy and whole.

Redemption, then, in terms of modern thought, is TRANSCENDENCE NOT OUTSIDENESS 2QI

the movement of the whole to save the part. The great love of Christ is the rational effort of the organism to retrieve the error and to expiate the sin of its members. In the very nature of things the Lord can save humanity only by the sacrifice of himself. He must bear our just condemnation, if we are to go free. But for this very reason, that he is the essence of humanity and that all men live only in him, his sacrifice can be our sacrifice, his atonement can avail for us. We have mystified his work too long by our theories of external and mechanical imputation. The truth is something profounder and more vital than that. Because Christ is our life, naturally as well as spiritually, it was humanity that atoned in him. Only this conception of the organic unity of all men in him can enable us to understand Paul's words: "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that One died for all, therefore all died; and he died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again." In other words, the love that constrains to missions is simply the flowing out to the extremities of that great tide of life of which the death and resurrection of our Lord are the most signal types and manifestations.

The doctrine of the immanence of God has been transforming the thought of our generation. We see, as our fathers did not, that while God is transcendent, transcendence is not necessarily outsideness; that God is not far from any one of us; that he works not only without but from within; that law is only perpetual miracle; and that evolution is nothing but the method of God. But the world has yet to learn the great truth that the God who is so near it, who constitutes its very life, and who is carrying forward its historic development, is none other than Christ. As he is the eternal Word, so he is the only Revealer of God. And he is Love. I would apply this doctrine of immanent Love to missions. I would induce you to see in Christ the center and source of all love, because you see in him the center and source of all life. As all physical energy is but the stored-up product of the sun in the heavens, so all the moral energy of man is but the stored-up product of the Sun of Righteousness. Our love is faint and cold, and, severed from the source of love, it will be soon exhausted; but, since it is connected with an infinite dynamo in Christ, there is no limiting its duration or its power. If I am a member of Christ's body, then I tingle with loving life which he himself supplies. I too love every member of that humanity to which he has bound himself and for which he has shed his blood. I fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the church. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. My love is a manifestation of Christ's love. As I have freely received, so I freely give.

Mere natural selection would leave the weak and the bad to perish. It believes in a sort of progress; but, as Darwin and Huxley both confess, it can give no guarantee that this progress will be in the direction of benevolence or even of morality; it may, for all they know, be progress toward mere brute force and demoniacal injustice. This is because the philosophy of mere natural selection is deterministic, and it recognizes

no central sensorium in the universe, knows of no divine consciousness or liberty or righteousness or love. John Fiske, in his "Cosmic Philosophy," has a glimpse of the truth, and improves greatly upon Herbert Spencer, his master, when he declares that the universe is not a machine but that it has an indwelling principle of life, and when he suggests, faintly and timidly, that artificial selection may do something which natural selection cannot. Oh, that it might dawn upon the minds of these scientists that Christ is this indwelling principle of life, that it is he that holds the universe together, and that he is none other' than the manifested love of God! Now we see One who has not only the power but the disposition to save the lost, and with this we have the historical proof that what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God has done by sending us his Son. Incarnation and atonement and resurrection and regeneration are, so to speak, processes of artificial selection which counteract the natural selection of sin and death by the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

To be organically bound to Jesus Christ, then, is to be organically bound to all men over the whole earth. To feel for men across the sea and to send them the gospel is only the recognition of their common relationship to us by virtue of their being natural members of Christ. As he has the deepest interest in their welfare and destiny, so we, his members, are bound to have interest in them also. Nothing human is foreign to us any more than it is to him. As he gave his life for the least and meanest of his members, so we ought also to lay down our lives for them. All the members of the race are brethren. We do not reach our individual perfection until we realize that we are parts of humanity, and no man is ever fully saved himself until he learns from Christ to work for the salvation of the world. The reign of universal peace and of universal righteousness will never come except by the recognition and worship of that Christ who is himself the embodied peace and righteousness of God, as well as the embodied unity and life of humanity. The race will be redeemed only as one after another of the individual members of the race accepts Christ's gospel, permits his love to move him, becomes a channel of communication by which the great love of Christ may flow to all the world.

As the love of Christ in us is the church's great motive to missions, so it is the world's great motive to turn from its sin. "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin," and the exhibition of Christ's love in the Christian countenance and conduct is the great means of breaking down the barriers of selfishness and enmity and pride, and opening the hearts of sinners to the inflowing of the same life-giving stream. Christ himself is invisible, and the sinner thinks of him as far away, even though he stands at the door and knocks. It is most often the Christlike look, or the Christlike words, or the Christlike charity of some Christian, that convinces the erring that Christ is in the world and that even now Christ is seeking him. Ah, this is the reason why our missionary work is so supremely important! As God the Father does not work and is not known except through Christ the Son, so Christ the Son does not work and is not known except through his HUMANITY TO BE A PERFECT ORGANISM 295

followers. Even as my Father hath sent me, he says, so send I you. "Lo, I am with you alway." "He that receiveth you, receiveth me, and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me." Could any identification be more complete? Dear friends, we shall never understand the fullness of the church's resources nor the greatness of the church's power, until we see in the church the new incarnation of the Redeemer and the new embodiment of his love. As we are the very body of Christ, surely the redeemed members will reach out after those who are still diseased and dying, and will persuade them, by the example of their own love and life, to receive that love and life themselves.

And so the whole race is to be turned into a perfect organism, by being leavened with love. Humanity is to become a great moral personality which freely manifests the life of the Redeemer. Families, classes, nations, are to be articulated portions of his body, and all together, revealing his varied excellences and executing his will, are to reflect and to magnify the God who dwells in Christ as Christ dwells in his members. Thus our Lord's petition shall be fulfilled, "that they all may be one." Jerusalem is "builded as a city that is compact together." Our Missionary Union, with its motive of love, and its organization of loving activities, and its presence of the loving Lord in the midst of it, is only a representation in miniature of the greater Jerusalem, the city and temple of the blest.

In a recent address by Director Burnham of the Columbian Exposition, he declares that the great Chicago Fair was made possible only by the unselfish determination of the architects and artists to let no private and personal interests or preferences stand in the way of hearty co-operation toward the one common end. Many a plan had to be surrendered, many a wish to be given up, in order that the grand result might be achieved. Many a risk had to be run, many a sacrifice of time and money had to be made, before the triumph was made sure. But no one of all those designers or contributors is sorry, now that the whole world has confessed the Exposition to be in its way the greatest wonder of all time. Brethren of the Missionary Union, the White City has come and gone. Fire and frost have made way with most of its transient glories, and what is left will soon decay. But there is another grander city rising beneath the sky,—it is the city of God, the city of the saved, the city in which Christ dwells and reigns. We are permitted to put our hands to the building of it. It will rise solidly and rapidly, only as we give up our private and personal ambitions, only as we merge our interests in the great whole, only as we make large and free our gifts for Christ and for humanity. Let us not be lacking in our faith or in our works, in our loving or in our doing, for we are setting up the crowning wonder of the ages. This city of redeemed humanity will abide when all the palaces of earth shall perish; it alone hath eternal foundations, for its builder and maker is God.