The Economics of Missions



It is now three score years and ten since the beginning of our American Baptist missionary operations. During these seventy years, the executive work of our Missionary Union has been conducted with an unsurpassed faithfulness and wisdom; its income has gradually increased from a few hundreds to over three hundred thousand dollars yearly ; and greater results in the conversion of men to God have attended the labors of our missionaries, than any other society can show. We attribute this, not to any devotion or zeal of ours, but to the special favor of God. Yet it would be uncandid if we did not say that, in our judgment, this success has been to some extent also attributable to the fact that our theory and method of missionary work have been, more nearly than those of other denominations, conformed to the model set for us in the New Testament. We trust that model still, and we expect further and larger successes to demonstrate that it comes to us from God.

Yet the apparent exigencies of particular times and situations endanger our faithfulness, and tempt us to ignore this model. The distance of the foreign field, and our comparative unfamiliarity with it, make us willing to accept excuses for an exceptional conduct of affairs there, which we should not be willing to allow at home. It has seemed to me that this is a favorable time to consider in a broad way the economics of missionary effort, by which I mean, not economics in the narrow sense of financial economy or saving, but economics in the larger etymological sense of administration or management,— in other words, the principles of Christianity, of our denominational faith, and of business procedure, which lie at the bnsis of foreign missionary work, and by which it should be regulated. We are only at the beginning of that work. The world stretches out before us, waiting for our coming. The resources now at our disposal are very small, compared with those which the Spirit of God will in the future move his church to give. It is a matter of vast importance that we settle now upon a right theory in the establishment of missions, and upon right methods in their management. An error here, though it may seem a slight one, will be found, like an error in fundamental astronomical measurements, to multiply itself on and on indefinitely, until incalculable and irremediable evil finally results.

Let me begin by mentioning certain principles which seem to me broadly and distinctively Christian. One is this: Keek by preference the degraded and the weak. God has taught us a lesson during these last seventy years, this namely, that the needy are the most accessible to the gospel, and that, when once won to Christ, they make the best propagators of it. Chris

*An address before the Baptist Congress, Brooklyn, Nov. 14,1882.

tian economics are not the economics of this world. They are the economics of love and the economics of faith. And they justify themselves by the result, for God is in them. The mission to the Burmans, inaugurated by the heroism and devotion of the Judsons, after all these seventy years of labor, has made but little inroad upon that proud and ancient system of heathenism. But the mission to the Karens, a subject and almost a servile race, has been blessed more than any other mission of modern times, until the Burmans are beginning to ask what power this is that is lifting their old foot-balls and drudges up above themselves. When Mr. and Mrs. Clough tried to teach men of caste, their progress was slow and disheartening. When they received the Pariahs, the tide turned and converts came in like a flood. In England to-day the greatest successes of Christianity are found in high-church missions to the degraded classes of London, and in the multitudes of conversions that have followed the work of the Salvation Army. These things, and not the preaching of St. Paul's and the West End, are ringing through the Reviews, challenging the attention of scientific men, and proving that the gospel is not dead, but is still the power of God. And one of the noblest signs of life in our American Christianity is the revived interest in city missions that is felt among our churches, and the disposition to give liberal support to evangelizing efforts in the neglected quarters of New York. God bless these efforts, and make them a new demonstration of the great principle of missionary economics, that our first duty is to the weak, and that through the weak we best reach the strong!

Our first duty,— but not our only duty. To say that we will give the gospel only to the poor, is to forget that the rich have souls as well as they. To say that the intellectual and refined are beyond us, is to deny the divinity and power of Christ. God leads certain detachments of his army against the very strongholds of the enemy — strongholds that are to be captured, not by sudden onset, but by long siege. A second important principle of missionary economics is that of — Persistent reinforcement of missions once begun,— at least until Christianity is embodied in vigorous working churches. We must remember that we have to deal with peoples, who, having lost the knowledge of the true God, have also lost all confidence in man,— peoples who regard the male missionary as a commercial speculator or a political emmisary, and the female unmarried missionary as simply a concubine. The very idea of disinterested love has never dawned upon them, — it must be created from nothing,— only time will do the work. Mere preaching is not enough,— that is counted as so much "talk,"—and the use of language, in heathendom, is not to express, but to conceal, one's meaning. What is needed is the slow demonstration of character, the exhibition of a Christian life, works of helpfulness and mercy, the gospel embodied in pity and love for the hardened and the lost. This at length moves the heart. Judson waited seven years for his first convert,— but the convert came. And when a hundred were gathered in a Christian church, his prophetic eye saw the work as if it were done,— Satan had fallen from heaven. The very lack of individuality among the heathen, which at first seems such a hindrance to their conversion, may prove an ultimate advantage,— for, let movement once begin, and the organic unity of family, caste, race, will send impressions through millions, and the massing of their force will be irresistible. We bless God now that we never gave up the mission to the Telugus. Let us never give up the mission to Siam. Let our second principle be Reinforcement, but never surrender.

A third principle,— Evangelization before education or civilization. The truth is, you cauuot educate or civilize to any good purpose, unless Christianizing has gone before. The English missionaries to the North American Indians began by providing homes for them, but the Indians did not want the homes,— they preferred the filth and squalor of their old life. Only as Christian influences taught them their spiritual needs, did they seek improvement of their outward condition. Some early Telugu missionary imported a case of shoes, to cover the feet of the bare-footed Hindus. History does not relate what became of them,— but it is cer1ain that the Telugus did not wear them. There are grave difficulties connected with the plan of lay-missionaries, or of colonies of Christian tradesmen. Among the Hindus, caste prohibits the employing of any but hereditary mechanics and artisans. Christian tradesmen could not find employment enough to keep them from starvation. The English Government is doing more to improve the farming of the natives, than any missionary society possibly could. Experimental farms are supported and fitted up with the best modern appliances; the natives have seen these in operation for years; and yet, before the famine of 1877-78, only seventy-five steel ploughs in all had been sold to native farmers in the whole Madras Presidency. Nor are medical missionaries so much needed. All the stations in the Telugu mission, except Ramapatam, have near them a free medical dispensary and hospital, in charge either of an English surgeon or of a competent apothecary ; and, up to the close of the famine, missionaries not located in such stations received free grants of medicines from the government, on application through a Collector. It may be doubted, indeed, whether a large amount of medical knowledge is not a hindrance, more than a help, to the work of the missionary. If he make a pecuniary charge for his services, his medical work ceases to be a matter of pure benevolence and an argument for Christianity; if he gives his services gratuitously, the crowds that come to him for merely physical relief prevent his giving any proper attention to the work of preaching.

The gospel does not need education to precede it, any more than it needs civilization or general philanthropy. Schools come after preaching, both in time and importance. When the mind is waked up by conversion, there is an eager desire to know the truth. Individual reformations, like the great Reformation in Germany, are followed by a mighty quickening of thought, and an advance in intelligence. But education will not make men Christians. It may only make them more accomplished and successful opposers of the truth. The merely secular gain derivable from an education furnishes a great motive to heathen young men to enter our mission schools. Once in these schools, their sole desire is to pass the examinations, and to fit themselves for government service, or for other remunerative employment. Mr. Bainbridge tells of a graduate of the Duff College, at Calcutta, who could speak twelve languages, but who declared that there was nothing so detestable to him as Christianity. Our missionaries say that some of the worst heathen they have to do with, the most sceptical, dishonorable and troublesome to native Christians, are those who have studied in Mission Schools. The schools of which I speak were not schools of our own denomination; but, if I am not mistaken, there is a tendency toward mere secular education among our own missions, and against it these facts ought to warn us. The third principle of our missionary economics should be: Education and civilization subsequent, and auxiliary, to the preaching of the gospel, and schools not secular, but Christian.

But I must pass to consider certain principles which are distinctively Baptist. And the first of them is this: Convert* should without unnecessary delay be gathered into churches large enough to give some sense of companionship and strength, but small enough to permit of effective selfgovernment. Here there is great need of a uniform method of procedure conformed to our denominational theory. We must not judge too harshly the short-comings of our missionaries when they are pressed with labors connecfed with a great revival. But we may certainly urge the importance of right beginnings in the evangelization of a great people, and no beginnings are right which do not result in the formation of effective working churches. On the one hand, converts should not be kept in large bodies, so scattered and unwieldy that they can hardly be called by the name of churches, and lacking in proper officers, discipline, and benevolent activities; nor, on the other hand, should these converts be organized into extremely small bodies, so weak that they cannot sustain themselves, and must soon die out.

The neglect properly to organize converts into churches must always increase the tendency to an Episcopal system of government. The representatives of other denominations declare indeed that every missionary is virtually a bishop, overseeing the native ministers. "Here," says Dr. Mullens, "is a practical New Testament Episcopate, sprung not from theory, but from circumstances; an Episcopate forced on men of all churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Wesleyans, and Lutherans." I I do not find that he added, Baptists, but we need to be careful lest we be classed with the rest. In theory, we hold to a congregational church government. We believe that the apostles left no successors; that no minister has the right to exercise lordship over God's heritage; that there is no authority on earth superior to the body of believers. And to these principles we ought everywhere and at all hazards to conform.

There is great reason to believe that the seeming necessity of ministerial authority over mission converts in the first centuries of Christianity was one of the chief occasions of the rise of the whole hierarchical and papal system. In theory, we protest against every such perversion of the ministerial office. We hold that Christ is the only Lord; that every Christian has a direct relation to Christ, as Sovereign and Lawgiver.

But it is certain that even among us there are men who, whether serving at home or abroad, never overcome their propensity to look down upon the Christians to whom they minister. It is certain that even among us there is a tendency on the part of missionaries to become bishops. I know that, after a great ingathering of converts, time is required to teach them their various duties, and that such converts are very immature and unused to self government. They will make mistakes, and those mistakes will sometimes be attended with serious loss. But this is not an argument against Baptist polity, but an urgent reason for it. As Macaulay has said: "The remedy for the evils of liberty is — liberty." The heathen convert must learn independence, by using his independence. Congregational church government, like democratic municipal government, is itself an education and a school. To keep converts under the control of the missionary, instead of letting them govern themselves, is to condemn them to perpetual childhood, to repeat the error of Rome, to forsake the fundamental tenet of Baptist polity, to endanger the whole future of our work.

From American Baptists who have had prolonged acquaintance with our mission in France, -I have gained the impression that the slow progress of our work in that country is in large measure duo to the lack of understanding, on the part of our missionary pastors, of the meaning and the working of the congregational principle. In a country so long monarchical, the methods of liberty are very hard to learn. The pastor and the missionary find it much easier to govern a church themselves, than to teach it the art of self-government. There is much ignorance with regard to Baptist polity.

There is much misapprehension, both at home and abroad, with regard to the real office of the missionary. The missionary is not a bishop. Still less is the missionary an apostle. The missionary is simply an evangelist. He has no authority, except that which belongs to every Christian preacher who is deputed by the church to which he belongs at home to go out to labor in new fields. His business is not to impose his own law, but to teach Christ's law,— not to govern the churches he gathers, but to teach them to govern themselves. And from this follows the second Baptist principle in the economics of missions. It is this: The churches gathered from among the heathen should at once be taught the duty of self-support and of self-propagation. The missionary's relation to them is not a permanent one. He thoroughly succeeds, only as he makes his converts able to get along without him. You can test his work best by asking, not how they do while he is with them, but how they do after he has left them. Does he teach his converts to provide for themselves, and then to provide for others? After their long centuries of oppression, heathen races are naturally servile. They look up to the missionary, as a superior being. His word is law. It is not well for him to be fellow-member in a native church. It is not well for him to be director and guide of any single church, longer than is absolutely necessary. The church will never form the habit of self-dependence, if the necessity of it is delayed too long. Even the apostles speedily transferred pastoral duties from themselves to their converts. However much these converts wished to retain them, they hasted away to regions beyond, commending the churches to God and to the word of his grace, which was able to keep them from falling.

Dr. L. W. Bacon speaks well of "the necessity of a double faith — the faith which lays the original foundation, and the faith that leaves the native churches when the time has come, to self-direction and self-support, as Paul loft the elders at Miletus, though he knew that grievous wolves would enter in, not sparing the flock." If there is any one thing which our missionaries and which Christians at home need to unlearn, it is their disposition to keep the mission churches under perpetual tutelage; to distrust the permanency of the new seed of the divine life implanted in a heathen's soul; or, which is the same thing, to doubt the wisdom of Christ in instituting a self-governing church, and the power of Christ to make that church self-supporting.

No man ever knows what he can do, until he is put to the test. No manhood can exist without the bearing of responsibility. And therefore we ought not only to teach our mission churches from the outset the duty of self-support, but after a reasonable time we ought to withdraw to other fields aud leave them to support themselves or die." They will not die, if we leave thom. They will die, of feebleness, if we do not. It is worthy of serious question whether our mission to the Karens has not reached a point where the best service we could render it would be to leave it to itself. Let the Theological Seminary remain, but let American preachers withdraw. And with all the abundant cause for gratitude among the Telugus, it is also a serious question whether the small rate of increase in native contributions during the past few years does not indicate a lack of instruction on this fundamental point, as well as over-slowness in organizing the converts into self-governing churches.

My brethren, it is the greatest of mistakes to do everything for our converts. They become convinced that missionaries, aud thoso who send them, are very rich, that they are "their father aud mother," and that they themselves need do, and need give, nothing. Dr. Andersou, of the American Board, never wrote a truer line than when he declared that "the self-supporting principle, in all its applications, needs an unsleeping guardianship and culture. The native churches, like young children, prefer things to be done for them. A wise missionary, and the Society which sustains him, should therefore from the outset resist the tendency which most missions show to perpetuate the dependent system." And Dr. Anderson is unquestionably right. Sooner or later that system must bo given up in every field where missions have had success. India must have its own typo of Christianity, and of preaching, and of church life. China can never he evangelized by a handful of foreigners. The main preaching in foreign lands must be done by native preachers who can speak with an idiomatic freshness, with a force of familiar illustration, and with a sympathy of race and manners, such as no American can ever attain. And, therefore, the missionary must not simply preach himself, — he must organize and direct the labors of others, showing them how, laying the burden upon them, and finally leaving them to support and to extend the gospel that has saved them, with the Holy Spirit for their only helper and the word of God for their only guide.

And now, finally, let me set before you two principles of missionary economics, which may properly be called business principles, as those I have mentioned were respectively Christian and Baptist. The first has reference to the relations between the Executive Committee of the Missionary Union and the missionaries whom it appoints aud maintains. This committee should insist that all applicants for appointment to the foreign field should be not only persons of sound health, of well balanced mind, and of proved practical devotion — patient, self-reliant, successful, in Christian work at home — but also that they should possess something of linguistic ability, and that this ability should have beeu sharpened and developed by thorough training in the schools. The day has gone by when men should be sent abroad who have not mind enough, nor persistence enough, to go through a complete course of preparatory education. No student should be taken from a Theological Seminary, before has he finished his full three years of work. No man who cannot learn Latin or Greek should be thought capable of mastering the far more difficult Hindu or Chinese. Those who are sent, moreover, should be personally known by the Committee. Not only their linguistic powers, but also their personal peculiarities, need to be learned by seeing them face to face in repeated interviews. Mistakes with regard both to the appointment of missionaries and the conduct of the foreign work might be avoided, if the Committee could study their men more carefully before they go out, and could consult them more frequently after they return. One of our oldest and most faithful missionaries declared that he had been in America and near Boston about a year, and had not had an interview with the Committee, and others who have been more than a year at home have had to solicit the only interview they have had.

The Committee should insist that the new men whom they appoint should serve an apprenticeship for one or two years under some experienced missionary, before being put in full charge of independent work. Dr. Jewett regards this working under the direction of an older laborer as an important qualification for usefulness any where upon the foreign field. Even though the novice is to devote himself to teaching, he needs to know what to teach, and how to mako his teaching a help to properly evangelical work. This he can best learn by practical experience in field-work, under the guidance of one who knows the people, their colloquial language, and their common ways.

Missionaries should be brought home, for the sake of health and contact with those who support them. And this change of scene should be more frequent, more regular, and also more brief, than it commonly is. Paul's missionary journeys were very successful, but none of them lasted more than four years. After each of them he came back to Palestine, and to the associations of his early days. The British in India have learned a valuable lesson, and now, in both the civil and military service, at the end of eight years of work, there comes a year of furlough. The first five years, of a missionary's life are more trying than any others. If, after five years, every new missionary could be brought home, and then, after a year of vacation, work in terms of eight years at a time, with a regularly recurring ninth year of rest, he would generally be not so entirely broken as to be unfit for a year of home service among the churches, his impressions would be more fresh and more easily given out to others, his health would be more easily recovered, and both for himself, the treasury, and the cause, it would be a matter of economy in the end. A narrow economy is a poor sort of economics, and a tender regard for the health of those who risk their lives in missionary service is the plain duty of the Board of Managers of our Missionary Union.

It should be plainly understood that the Board of Mauagers, through their Executive Committee, have control of the missionaries whom they support, and that, in cases where their rules are disobeyed, or where differences arise among the workers on the field, a corrective discipline, should be exercised. The churches will support them in maintaining discipline, and in standing by their just rules, whoever among their servants in the field may suffer. One case of prompt action would obviate the necessity of many others, while one case of neglect and submission renders the Committee powerless in all similar cases that may arise in future.

There will ever be divergent opinions with regard to particular measures. Missionaries will disagree. In such cases, the Board must decide. It can decide intelligently only as it knows the facts. It is important that the Secretary should personally know the missions of which he is the chief superintendent, and the suggestion of a journey on his part, once in ten years, in order that he may inspect the mission with his own eyes, and may hear the missionaries with his own ears, seems very wise and promising. We load the Secretary and the Committee with heavy responsibilities. Do we give them sufficient facilities for performing their work? Years ago, a sad controversy with regard to preaching and schools threatened the prosperity, if not the very existence, of our principal missions. A deputation sent to the other side of the world was a means, if not of harmonizing the conflicting opinions, yet at least of determining who among the missionaries could carry out the instructions of the Board, and of enabling the great majority to work together,—and it proved a most salutary expedient. Another great missionary body, threatened with a similar evil in Turkey, has recently appointed a deputation of the same sort. My contention is, that what has hitherto been done sporadically and infrequently, should be done regularly and as part of our routine work. Our Methodist brethren allow no five years to pass without sending a Bishop around the world, and the advantage that accrues, in the way of unity of plan and intelligent direction, from that personal visitation of the scattered missionary fields, is felt to be richly worth all the cost.

It has frequently been asked, by what methods the contributions of the home churches may be made more prompt and abundant, and how the interest of these churches in missions may be increased. The last of the business principles, which I shall mention, respects the relations of the Executive Committee to the churches and individuals who furnish the financial revenue of the Union. I must give my partial and qualified adhesion to the principle of bringing special churches at home into connection with special fields abroad. It is of course to Christ that we give; it is the whole world that we seek to save. But this does not forbid — it rather requires — that each Christian have particular persons at home whom he is striving to bring to Christ; nor does it forbid that he should have some particular people, province, mission-station, in which he is specially interested abroad. We want definiteness in our prayers and our efforts. Twice as much money can be raised for a specified missionary laborer whose needs are known, as can be raised for the work in general. Our brethren of other denominations, though slow in adopting this principle, are beginning to see that it is the true principle of missionary support. The churches of Oberlin, Ohio, with the students of the College, Theological Seminary, and Ladies' Institute, have formed a "China Band," the object of which is to lay hold of several central points in the great province of Shansi, and eventually to build an Oberlin in China. Shansi is an inland province of the Empire, hitherto almost untouched by missionary effort. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions have given this province to the Oberlin Band. They have already four missionaries in the field, clearing the way, and three others are preparing to go. Oberlin has taken the responsibility, Oberlin furnishes the men, Oberlin is to support the work.

I am persuaded that we have here a principle of missionary economics which is yet destined to work a revolution among us. Not that our Union is in any way to cease its work of inauguration and superintendence,— it is needed to unify and control. All its present agencies are none too many to employ in the work of collecting funds. It should still be held responsible for the general work of instituting and caring for our missions. All missionary moneys should pass through its treasury. All local societies should be simply auxiliary to it. Multitudes of individuals and of churches cannot take the responsibility of providing the entire support of a missionary. Let these combine their contributions as they do now, and let the Union administer the funds thus given. But wherever this is possible, let single states, single cities, single churches, single Sabbath schools, single missionbands, single wealthy men at home, be encouraged to take up, and be responsible for the support of, certain missions, the evangelizing of certain provinces, the maintenance of certain schools, the salaries of certain missionaries, the living of certain native teachers, with the express qualification and stipulation, however, that their gifts shall all go through the treasury of the Union, and that the laborers whom they support shall all be controlled by the Union. In other words, let the privilege be offered, to all who will accept it, of doing some specific mission work in connection with our great Society, — the Society being the almoner and dispenser of their bounty, while it gives up none of its powers. Let individuals be encouraged to support specific missions, as Arthington of Leeds gave his fifty thousand to evangelize the newly discovered regions of Africa. We have wealthy men who could send the gospel into the heart of heathen empires. Let us give them the opportunity,— it will be better than offering them a kingdom. Who can doubt that missionary zeal would thus be quickened — that missionary contributions would be doubled — that missionary laborers would be multiplied, and that new prayer to God and new triumph of his cause would attend the new movement of the churches? It is the principle of individual responsibility. I have urged it as a principle of business and financial management. But it is more than this — it is Baptist — it is Christian. Under God, it is the principle whose acceptance and observance will bring the world to Christ.