OLD SCHOOL – Are You Prepared to See What a Call for Missions from 229 Years Ago Looked Like?
The following article was first published in Evangelical Magazine in September 1794, and was written by one of the most gifted mission tutors the world has ever seen: David Bogue.
God has favoured us with the knowledge of the way of salvation through a crucified Redeemer. Our obligations to Him on this account are inexpressible, and, I trust, we are often prompted from the fullness of our hearts to ask, “What shall we render unto the Lord for all His benefits?”
If in many things we are anxious to make a suitable return, there is one thing with respect to which, if weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, we shall be found wanting.
A survey of the state of the world presents to us more than one-half of the human race destitute of the knowledge of the Gospel, and sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. Their deplorable condition it is utterly impossible for words to describe! And what have we done for their salvation?
There are hundreds of millions of poor Pagans ignorant of the true God, and falling down before stocks and stones. There are hundreds of millions more blinded by the delusions of Islam, and unacquainted with Jesus, as the only mediator between God and man, whom to know is eternal life.
If we have never thought of these things, there is much reason to lament our criminal unconcern for the honour of God, and for the salvation of the perishing souls of men.
If they have been the subject of our serious consideration; with such a scene before our eyes, what methods have we employed that all these myriads of Pagans and Muslims might be delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son?
While we are forced to acknowledge that we have as a Body done nothing, we may justly reflect we are under the strongest obligations to do everything in our power. We all know that it is the supreme end of our existence to glorify God, but can we suppose that though we endeavour personally to live to His honour, our obligations are fulfilled, while we have employed no methods as a Christian body to lead our brethren in Pagan lands to glorify Him also, by making them acquainted with His nature, government, and grace?
We profess ‘to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.’ But are we not bound thereby ‘to shed abroad the sweet odour of His name in every place,’ till it be diffused throughout all the dark paths of the earth, the habitations of ignorance and cruelty?
We are commanded ‘to love our neighbour as ourselves’; and Christ has taught us that every man is our neighbour. But do we display this love while we allow gross darkness to cover the Pagan and Islamic nations, and are at no pains to send to them the glad tidings of salvation through the sufferings and death of the Son of God?
Perhaps we have not considered our duty resulting from that command which was directed from the Supreme Authority to every follower of the Lamb: “Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”
That has not yet been done!
It ought to be done without delay; and every Christian is called upon to act his part, and cannot without criminality withhold his exertions towards procuring obedience to the command of his Redeemer and his Lord. Gratitude calls loudly to us to be active instruments in the hands of Christ, in proclaiming to the most distant parts of the earth that grace of which we hope we have ourselves been made partakers.
Justice too unites her strong and imperious voice, and cries, ‘Ye were once Pagans, living in cruel and abominable idolatry.’ The servants of Jesus came from other lands, and preached His Gospel among you. Hence your knowledge of salvation. And ought ye not, as an equitable compensation for their kindness, to send messengers to the nations which are in like condition with yourselves of old, to entreat them that they turn from their dumb idols to serve the living God, and to wait for His Son from heaven?
Verily you owe a debt!
But it may be asked, “Why are we in particular called on to exert ourselves in this work?”
Will it satisfy you if I answer, that I am one of you, and think myself on this account obliged to speak more immediately to you? A connection with a society or denomination of Christians should certainly influence us to seek the welfare of that society, and authorizes us to invite all members to discharge the duties incumbent on them.
Besides, all other bodies of professing Christians have done, and are doing, something for the conversion of the Heathen.
The Church of Rome have been far more abundant than those of all other sects. They have conveyed Christianity to the blinded Pagans!
The Church of England has a society of considerable standing, for the propagation of the Gospel.
The Church of Scotland supports a similar institution.
The Moravian Brethren have, if we consider their numbers and their substance, excelled in this respect the whole Christian world.
Of late the Methodists have exerted themselves with a most commendable zeal.
An association is just formed by the Baptists for this benevolent purpose; and their first missionaries have already entered on the work.
None alone are idle.
There is not a body of Christians in the country, except ourselves, but have put their hand to the plough. We alone (and it must be spoken to our shame) have not sent messengers to the Heathen to proclaim the riches of redeeming Love.
It is surely full time that we had begun. We are able. Our number is great. The wealth of many thousands of individuals is considerable.
I am confident that very many among us are willing, nay desirous, to see such a work set on foot, and will contribute liberally of their substance for its support. Nothing is wanting but for some persons to stand forward, and to begin.
We have the greatest encouragement, Brethren, to engage in this work of love. The sacred Scripture is full of promises, that the knowledge of Christ shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the channel of the sea; and every promise is a call and a motive to enter on the service without delay. It is the cause of God, and will prevail.
Should we even fail in the attempt, we shall not lose our labours; for though the heathen should not be gathered by our means, ‘yet we shall be glorious in the eyes of God. We have no reason to expect such an issue.
For all who are engaged have met with such success, as to animate others to unite their vigorous endeavours. In no one place have pious and persevering missionaries laboured in vain. Some perhaps may ask, what can we do?
We are willing to assist; but how can our assistance avail?
Need I say, Brethren, that our duty is to use the means of divine appointment? In every age of the Church, the propagation of the Gospel has been by the preaching of the ministers of Jesus Christ. By the same method are we to propagate the Gospel now.
I do not think I am too sanguine in my expectations when I say I am fully persuaded, that in every congregation among us annual subscribers will be found, and annual collection granted; and that the produce of these, aided by occasional donations, and by legacies from the lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ, will be sufficient for maintaining at least twenty or thirty missionaries among the heathen.
What pleasing and glorious effects may result from their labours! It is impossible for the human mind to calculate.
With objects before us so grand, and prospects so delightful, I conjure you, Brethren, to exert yourselves in the cause of your Redeemer, and of perishing souls. An insulated individual, and not having an opportunity of consulting with others, I take this method of recommending the subject to your serious attention. Think of it in your most pious moments. Let it be the matter of prayer before God; and make it the topic of your conversation one with another.
It is the duty of pastors of the Church ‘to be forward to every good work.’
I call upon the ministers of the cities to consult together on this important subject, and without loss of time to propose some plan for the accomplishment of this most desirable end; that ‘our Lord Jesus Christ may have the Heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession.’
launched the modern day mission movement by starting the world’s first modern day mission training facility. Although he only trained 200 missionary students in his life, what he invested helped send those missionaries to Malta, Guyana, Siberia, Africa, India, France, USA, Indonesia, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Burma, China, Singapore, Flanders, Ghent Bangalore, Macao, Hong Kong, Trinidad, and South Pacific Islands.
Several of those missionaries trained by David Bogue translated the Bible for the first time in history into the native language of where they were serving, including Robert Morrison’s Chinese language Bible.