1902 Encyclopedia > Missions


MISSIONS. The history of Christian missions may, for practical purposes, be best divided into three chief period—(1) the primitive, (2) the mediaeval, and (3) the modern. None of these periods can be neglected, for they have an intimate connexion with each other, and illustrate the activity respectively of individuals, of the church in her corporate capacity, and of societies.

The Primitive Period.

Christian missions had their origin in the example and the command of our Lord Himself (Matt.xxviii. 19) ; and the unparalled boldness on the part of the Founder of Christianity, which dared to anticipate for the Christian faith a succession of efforts which should never cease to cause its propagation to be undertaken as "a distinct and direct work," has been justified by the voice of history.10 Whereas other religious have spread from country to country as component parts of popular opinion, have travelled with migration or conquest passed in the train of things and by the usual channels of communication, the first foundations of the church had hardly been laid before individual missionary activity marked the life of each one of the circle of the apostles.

Of the actual details of their labours we have been permitted to know but little. There only of the immediate followers of the Saviour have any conspicuous place in the apostolic records, and the most illustratrious in the whole domain of missionary activity, St Paul, did not belong to the original twelve. His activity took the form of journeys and voyages, chiefly to large towns, where his activity took the form of journeys and voyages, chiefly to large towns, where his message found a poin of contact either with the Jewish synagogue or the aspirations of the Gentile world. The result of his labours and of those of his sucessors was the towards the middle of the 2d century the church had extended its conquests through Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, southern Gaul, and northern Africa.1 Ecclesiastical history can tell but little of the church’s earliest teachers, and the infancy of many of the primitive congregations is wrapped in hopeless darkness. Whatever was effected was due to the evangelizing labours of individual bishops and cleargy, who occupied themselves "in season and out of season," and toiled zealously and effectively in the spread of the church, though leaving no record of their devotion. Amongst the most distinguished representatives of this individual activity in the 4th and 5th centuries may be Ulfila, the "apostle of the Goths," about 325 ; Frumentius, a bishop of Abyssinia, about 327 ; Chrysostom, who founded at Constantinople in 404 A.D. an institution in which Goths might be trained to preach the gospel to their own people ; Valentinus, the "apostle no Noricum," about 440; and Honoratus, who from his monastic home in the islet of Lerins, about 410, sent forth numerous labourers to southern and western Gaul, to become the leading missonaries of their day among the masses of heathendom in the neighbourhood of Arles, Lyons, Troyes, Metz, and Nice.

The Mediaeval Period.

With the 5th century the church found a very different element proposed to her missionary energies and zeal. Her outposts of civilization had scarcely been planted when she was confronted with numberless hordes which had long been gathering afar off in their native wilds, and which were now precipatated over the entire face of Europe. Having for some time ceased to plead for toleration, and learnt to be aggressive, she not only stood the shock of change but girded herself for the different work of calming the agitated elements of society, of teaching the nations a higher faith than a savage form of nature worship, of purifying and refining their recklessness, independence, and uncontrollable love of liberty, and fitting them to become members of an enlightened Christendom.

(a) The Celtic Missionaries.—The first pioneers who went forth to engage in this difficult enterprise came from the secluded Celtic churches of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, which, though almost forgotten amidst the desolating contest which was breaking up the Roman world, were no sooner founded than they sent forth "armies of Scots" to pour back upon the Continents the gifts of civilization and the gospel. Of many who deserve mention in connexion with this period, the most prominent were—Columba, the founder of the famous monastery of Iona, and the evangelizer of the Albanian Scots and northern Picts ; Aidan, the apostle of Northumbria Columbanus, the apostle of the Burgundians of the Vosges ; Callich or Gallus, the evangelizer of north-eastern Switzerland and Alemannia ; Kilian, the apostle of Thuringia ; and Trudpert, the martyr of the Black Forest. The zeal of these singular men at the head of ardent disciples seemed to take the world by storm. Travelling generally in companies, and carrying a simple outfit, these Celtic pioneers flung themselves on the Continent of Europe, and, not content with reproducing at Annegray or Luxeuil the willow or brushwood huts, the chapel and the round tower, which they had left behind in Derry or in the island of Hy, they braved the dangers of the northern seas, and penetrated as far as the Faroes and even far distant Iceland.3

(b) The English Missionaries.—Thus they laid the foundations, awing the heathen tribes by their indomitable spirit of self-sacrifice and the sternness of their rule of life. But, marvelous as it was, their work lacked the element of permanence ; and it became clear that if Europe was to be carried through the dissolution of the old society, and missionary operations consolidated, a more practical system must be devised and carried out. The men for this work were now ready. Restored to the commonwealth of nations by the labours of the followers of Augustine of Canterbury and the Celtic missionaries from Iona, the sons of the newly evangelized English churches were ready to go forth to the help of their Teutonic brothers in the German forest. The energy which warriors were accustomed to put forth in their efforts to conquer was now "exhibited in the enterprise of conversion and teaching"4 by Wilfrid on the coast of Friesland,5 by Willibrord in the neighbourhood of Utrecht,6 by the martyr-brothers Ewald or Hewald amongst the "old" or continental Saxons,7 by Swidbert the apostle of the tribes between the Ems and the Yssel, by Adelbert, a prince of the royal house of Northumbria, in the regions north of Holland, by Wursing, a native of Friesland, and one of the disciples of Willibrord, in the same region, and last, not least, by the famous Winfrid or Boniface, the "apostle of Germany," who went forth first to assist Willibrord at Utrecht, then to labour in Thuringia and Upper Hessia, then, with the aid of his kinsmen Wunibald and Willibald, their sister Walpurga, and her thirty companions, to consolidate the work of earlier missionaries, and finally to die a martyr on the shore of the Zuyder Zee.

(c) Scandinavian Missions.—Devoted, however, as were the labours of Boniface and his disciples, the battle was not yet nearly won. All that he and they and the emperor Charlemagne after them achieved for the fierce untutored world of the 8th century seemed to have been alone in vain when, in the 9th, "on the north and north-west the pagan Scandinavians were hanging about every coast, and pouring in at every inlet ; when on the east the pagan Hungarians were swarming like locust and devastating Europe from the Baltic to the Alps ;when on the south and south-east the Saracens were pressing on and on with their victorious hosts. It seemed then as if every pore of life were choked, and Christendom must be stifled and smothered in the fatal embrace,"8 But it was even now that one of the most intrepid of missionary enterprises was undertaken, and the devoted Anskar went forth and proved himself of true apostle of Denmark and Sweden, sought out the Scandinavian Viking in his native home and icy fiords, and, after persevering in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties and hardships, handed on the torch of self-dying zeal of others, who "casting their bread on the waters" saw, after the lapse of many years, the close of the monotonous tale of burning churches and pillaged monasteries, and taught the fierce Northman to lay aside his old habits of piracy, and gradually learn respect for civilized institutions.

(d) Slavonic Missions.—Thus the "gospel of the kingdom" was successively proclaimed to the Roman, the Celtic the Teutonic, and the Scandinavian world. A contest still more stubborn remained with the Slavonic tribes, with their triple and many-headed divinities, their powers of good and powers of evil, who could be approached only with fear and horror, and propitiated only with human sacrifices. Mission work commenced in Bulgaria during the latter part of the 9th century ; thence it extended to Moravia, where two Greek missionaries—Cyril and Methodius—provided for the people a Slavonic Bible and a Slavonic Liturgy ;thence to Bohemia, and so onwards to the Scythian wilds and level steppes, where arose the Russian kingdom of Ruric the Northman, and where about the close of the 10the century the Eastern Church "silently and almost unconsciously bore into the world her mightiest offspring."1 But, though the baptism of Vladimir and the flinging of the triple and many-headed idols into the waters of the Dnieper was a heavy blow to Slavonic idolatry, mission work was carried on with but partial success ; and it taxed all the energies of Albrecth, bishop of Bremen, of Vicilin, bishop of Oldenburg, of Bishop Otto of Bamberg the apostle of the Pomeranians, of Adalbert the martry-apostle of Prussia, to spread the word in that country, in Lithuania, and in the territory of the Wends. It was not till 1168 that the gigantic fourheaded image of Swantevit and destroyed at Arcona, the capital of the island of Rügen, and this Mona of Slavonic superstition was included in the advancing circle of Christian civilization. As late as 1230 human sacrifices were still being offered up in Prussia and Lithuania, and, in spite of all efforts of the Teutonic Knights to expel by force the last remains of heathenism from the face of Europe, idolatrous practices still lingered amongst the people, while in the districts inhabited by the Lapps, though successful mission had been inaugurated as early as 1335, Christianity cannot be said to have become the dominant religion till at least two centuries later.

(e) Moslem Missions.—The mention of the order of the Teutonic Knights reminds us how the crusading spirit had affected Christendom, and exchanged the patience of a Boniface or an Anskar for the fiery zeal of the warrior of the cross. Still it is refreshing to notice how even now there was found the famous Raymond Lully to protest against propagandism by the sword, to urge on pope after pope that necessity of missions amongst the Moslems, and to seal his testimony with his blood outside the gates of Bugiah in northern Africa (June 30, 1315). Out of the crusades, however, arose other efforts to bear the banner of the cross into the lands, of the East, and to develop the work which Nestorian missionaries from Baghdad, Edessa, and Nisibis had already inaugurated along the neighbourhood of the Caspian Sea. In 1245 the Roman pontiff sent two embassies, one to charge the Mongol warriors to desist from their desolating inroads into Europe, the other to attempt to win them over to the Christian faith. The first, a party of four Dominicans sought to commander-in-chief of the Mongol forces in Persia; the second, consisting of Franciscans, made their way into Tartary, and sought to convert the successor of Oktai-Khan. Their exertions were seconded in 1253 by the labours of another Franciscan whom Louis IX. of France sent forth from Cyprus,2 while in 1274 the celebrated traveler Marco Polo, accompanied by two learned Dominicans, visited the court of Kublai-Khan, and at the commencement of the 14th century two Franciscans penetrated as far as Peking, and kept alive a flickering spark of Christianity in the Tartar kingdom, even translating the New Testament and the Psalter into the Tartar language, and training youths for a native ministry.3

(f) Missions to India and the New World.—These tentative missions in the East were now to be supplemented by others on a larger scale. In 1486 the Cape of Good Hope was rounded by Dias, and in 1508 the foundations of the Portuguese Indian empire were laid by Albuquerque. Columbus also in 1492 had landed on San Salvador, and the voyages of the Venetian Cabot along the coast of North America opened up a new world to missionary enterprise. These bold discoveries had secured the countenance of the pope on the condition that wherever they might plant a flag they should be also zealous in promoting the extension of the Christian faith. Thus a grand opportunity was given to the churches of Portugal and Spain. But the zeal of the Portuguese, even when not choke by the rising lust of wealth and territorial power, took too often a one-sided direction, repressing the Syrian Christians on the Malabar coast, and interfering with the Abyssinian Church,4 while the fanatic temper of the Spaniard, maddened by his prolonged conflict with the infidel at home, betrayed him into methods of propagating his faith which we cannot contemplate without a shudder, consigning, in Mexico and Peru, multitudes who would not renounce their heathen errors to indiscriminate massacre or abject slavery.5 Their only defender for many years was the famous Las Casas, who, having sojourned amongst them till 1516, had drawn a terrible picture of the oppression he strove in vain to prevent.6 Some steps indeed were taken from disseminating Christian principles, and the pope in granting territory to the crowns of Spain and Portugal had specially urged this duty, and had been instrumental in inducing a band of missionaries, chiefly of the mendicant orders, to go forth to this new mission field.7 But the result were scanty. Only five bishoprics had been established by 1520, and the number of genuine converts was small. In settling, however, his realm the conqueror of Mexico evinced to little solicitude for the spiritual welfare of his charge; and the labours of the devoted men whom he begged the emperor to send out were successful in banishing every vestige of the Aztec worship from the Spanish settlements.8

(g) The Jesuit Missions.—It was during the period at which we have now arrived that the great organization of the Jesuit came into existence, and one of the first of Loyola’s associates, Francis Xavier, was also one of the greatest and most zealous missionaries of his or any other era. Encouraged by the joint co-operation of the pope and of John III. Of Portugal, and strongly tinged like Loyola with ideas of chivalry and self-devotion, he disembarked at Goa on the 6th of May 1542, and before his death on the Isle of St John (Hiang-Shang)m, December 2, 1552, he had roused the European Christians of Goa to a new life, laboured with singular success amongst the Paravars, a fisher caste near Cape Comorin, gathered many converts in the kingdom of Travancore, visited the island of Malacca, made his way to and founded a mission in Japan, thence revisited Goa, and impelled by the quenchless desire to unfurl the banner of the cross in China, had set out thither to fall a victim to malignant fever at the early age of forty-six, within sight of that vast empire whose conversion had been the object of his holy ambition.

The immediate successor of Xavier. Antonio Criminalis, was regarded by the Jesuits as the first martyr of their society (1562). Mattheo Ricci , an Italian by birth, was also an indefatigable missionary in China for twenty-seven years, while the peculiar methods of unholy compromise with Brahmanism in India followed by Robert de’ Nobili drew down the condemnatory briefs of pope after pope, and were fatal to the vitality of his own and other missions. Other representatives of the same order worked with success in evangelizing the Spanish settlement of Paraguay in 1582, while their defeated foes the Huguenots sent forth under a French knight of Malta a body of devoted men to attempt the formation of a Christian colony at Rio Janeiro. By the close of the 16th century the unflagging zeal of the Jesuits led to a more complete development and organization of the missionary system of the Roman Church. To give unity and solidity to the work of missions, a committee of cardinal was appointed under the name of the "Congregation de propaganda fide," and to it was entrusted the entire management of the mission, conducted under the superintendence of the pope. The scheme originated with Gregory XV. gave it plenary authority by bull dated June 2, 1622. Gregory’s successor, Urban VIII., supplemented the establishment of the congregation by founding in connexion with it a great missionary college, where Europeans might be trained for foreign labours, and natives might be educated to undertake mission work wherever new colonies were settled. At this college is the missionary printing-press of the Roman Church, and its library contains an unrivalled collection of literature bearing on the particular work. From its walls have gone forth numbers of devoted men, who have proved themselves able to promote in a singular degree the enlargement of the boundaries of the church by means of material as well as spiritual forces.

3. The Modern Period.

This last period of missionary activity is distinguished in a special degree by the exertions of societies for the development of mission work.

As contrasted with the colossal display of power on the part of the Church of Rome, it must be allowed that the churches which in the 16th century broke off from their allegiance to the Latin centre at first presented a great lack of anxiety for the extension of the gospel and the salvation of the heathen. The causes of this, however, are not far to seek. The isolation of the Teutonic churches from the vast system with which they had been bound up, the conflicts and troubles among themselves, the necessity of fixing their own principles and defining their own rights , concentrated their own principles and defining their own rights, concentrated their attention upon themselves and their own home work, to be neglect of work abroad.

Still the development of the maritime power of England which the Portuguese and Spanish monarchies noted with fear and jealousy, was distinguished by a singular anxiety for the spread of the Christian faith. Edward VI. In his instructions to the navigators in Willoughby’s fleet, Cabot in those for the direction of the intended voyage to Cathay, good old Hakluyt, who promoted may voyages of discovery in addition to writing their history, agree with Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s chronicler that "the sowing of Christianity must be the chief intent of such as shall make any attempt at foreign discovery, or sale whatever is builded upon other foundation shall never obtain happy success or continuance." When on the last day of the year 1600 Queen Elizabeth granted, to George, earl of Cumberland, and other "adventurers," to be a body corporate by the name of "The Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading with the East Indies," the expressed recognition of higher duties than those of commerce may by some be deemed a mere matter of form and, to use the words of Bacon, "what was first in God’s providence was but second in man’s appetite and intention." Yet a keen sense of missionary duty marks many of the chronicles of English mariners. Notably was this the case with the establishment of the first English colony in America, that of Virginia, by Sir Walter Raleigh. The philosopher Heriot, one of his colleagues, laboured for the conversion of the natives, amongst whom the first baptism is recorded to have taken place on August 13, 1587.1 Raleigh himself presented as a parting gift to the Virginian Company the sum of £100 "for the propagation of the Christian religion" in the settlement.2 When James I. granted letters patent for the occupation of Virginia it was directed that the "word and Service of God be preached, planted , and used as well in the said colonies as also as much as might be among the savages bordering among them"; and the honoured names of Nicolas Ferrar, John Ferrar, Dr Donne, and Sir John Sandys, pupil of Hooker, are all found on the council by which the home the home management of the colony was conducted.

In the year 1618 was published The true Honour of Navigation and Navigators, by John Wood, D.D., dedicated to Sir Thomas Smith, governor to the East India Company and much about the same time approved the well-known treatise of the famous Grotius, De Veritate Religionis Christianae, written for the express use of settlers in distant lands. The wants, moreover, of the North American colonies did not escape the attention of Archbishop Laud during his official connexion with them as bishop of London, and he was developing a plan for promoting a local episcopate there when his troubles began and his scheme was interrupted. During the Protectorate, in 1649, an ordinance was passed for "the promoting and propagating of the gospel of Jesus Christ in New England" by the erection of a corporation, to be called by the name of the President and Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, to received and dispose of moneys for the purpose, and a general collection was ordered to be made in all the parishes of England and Wales ; and Cromwell himself desired a scheme for setting up a council for the Protestant religion, which should rival the Roman. Propaganda, consist of seven councilors and four secretaries for different provinces.3 On the restoration of the monarchy, though the influence of Richard Baxter with Lord Chancellor Hyde, the charter already granted by Cromwell was renewed, and its powers were enlarged. For now the corporation was styled "The Propagation of the Gospel in New England and the parts adjacent in American," and its object was defined to be "not only to seek the outward welfare and prosperity of those colonies, but more especially to endavour the good and salvation of their immortal souls, and the publishing the most glorious gospel of Christ among them." On the list of the corporation the first name is the earl of Clarendon, while the Hon. Robert Boyle was appointed president. Amongst the most eminent of its missionaries was the celebrated John Eliot, who, encouraged by Boyle, and assisted by him with considerable sums of money, brought out the Bible in the India language in 1616-64, having revealed at the end of the Indian grammar which he had composed the secret of his success : "prayer and pains, through faith, in Jesus Christ, will do anything." Boyles displayed in other ways his zeal for the contributed to the expense of printing and publishing at Oxford the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in the Malay language, and at his death left £5400 for the propagation of the gospel in heathen lands.

The needs of the colonial church soon excited the attention of others also, and great efforts were made by Bishop Beveridge, Archbishop Wake, Archbishop Sharpe, Bishop Gibson, and afterwards by the philosophic Bishop Berkeley, and Bishop Butler, the famous author of the Analogy, to develop the colonial church and provide for the wants of the Indian tribes. In 1696 Dr Bray, at the request of the governor and assembly of Maryland, was selected by the bishop of London as ecclesiastical commissary ; and, having sold his effects, and raised money on credit, he sailed for Maryland in 1699, where he promoted, in various ways the interests of the church. Returning to England in 1700-1, and supported by all the weight of Archbishop Tenison and Bishop Compton, he was graciously received by William III., and received letters patent under the great seal of England for creating a corporation by the name of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts" on the 16th of June 1701.

With the establishment of this corporation the ear of the activity of societies for carrying out mission work may be said to commence, though the opening of the 18th century saw other movements set on foot for the same object. Thus in 1705 Frederick IV. of Denmark founded a mission on the Coromandel coast, and inaugurated the labours of Ziegenbalg, Schultze, and Schwartz, whose devotion and success told with such remarkable reflex influence on the church at home. Again in 1731 the Moravians illustrated in a signal degree the growing consciousness of obligation towards the heathens. Driven by persecution from Moravia, hunted into mountain-caves and forests, they had scarcely secured a place of refuge in Saxony before, "though a mere handful in numbers, yet with the spirit of men banded for daring and righteous deeds, they formed the heroic design, and vowed the execution of it before God, of bearing the gospel to the savage and perishing tribes of Greenland and the West Indies, of whose condition report had brought a mournful rumour to their ears." And so, literally with "neither bread nor scrip," they went forth on their pilgrimage, and, incredible as it sounds, within ten years they had established missions in the islands of the West Indies, in South Americ, Surinam, Greenland, among the North American tribes, Lapland, Tartary, Algiers, Guinea, the Cape of Good Hope, and Ceylon.1

Such, were the preparations, for the more general movements during the last, hundred years, and the manifestation of missionary zeal, on a scale, to which it would, be difficult, to find a parallel in Western Christianity.

The progress that has been made may be best judged of from consideration of the following details:—

(a) At the close of the last century there were only seven missionary societies in existence, properly so called. Of these three only, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, the Halle-Danish Society, and the Moravians, had been at work for the greater part of the century, whilst four, the Church Missionary Society, the Baptist Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Dutch Society at Rotterdam, began their work only in its tenth decade. To-day these seven have, in Europe and America alone, increased to upwards of seventy, and to these must be added, not only several independent societies in the colonies, but numerous missionary associations on a smaller scale, the offspring of English and American societies

(b) The following chronological lists illustrate the growth of missionary societies in Britain and the United States:—

Great Britain and Ireland.

1691. Christian Faith Society for the West Indies.

1698. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

1701. Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

1732. Moravian (Episcopal) Missions of the United Brethren.

1792. Baptist Missionary Society.

1795. London Missionary Society.

1796. Scottish Missionary Society.

1799. Church Missionary Society.

1799. Religious Tract Society.

1804. British and Foreign Bible Society.

1808. London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews.

1813. Wesleyan Missionary Society.

1817. General Baptist Missionary Society.

1823. Colonial and Continental Church Society.

1829. Church of Scotland Mission Boards. National Bible Society of Scotland.

1831. Trinitarian Bible Society.

1832. Wesleyan Ladies’ Auxiliary for female Education in Foreign Countries.

1834. Society for Promoting Female Education in the East.

1835. United Secession (now Presbyterian) Foreign Missions.

1836. Colonial Missionary Society.

1840. Foreign Aid Society.

Coral Missionary Fund.

1840. Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Missionary Society.

1841. Colonial Bishopries Fund.

1841. Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society.

Waldensian Missions Aid Fund.

1843. British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews.

1843. Free Church of Scotland Missions. 1843. Primitive Methodist African and Colonial Missions.

Methodist New Connexion in England Foreign Missions.

1844. South American Missionary Society.

1849. Evangelical Continental Society.

1852. Indian Female Normal School Society.

1853. Lebanon Schools.

1855. Presbyterian Church in England Foreign Missions.

1856. Turkish Missions Aid Society.

1856. United Methodist Free Churches Foreign Missions.

1858. Christian Vernacular Education Society for India.

1860. Central African Mission of the English Universities.

1860. British Syrian Schools.

Melanesian Mission.

1865. Ladies’ Association for Promoting Female among the Heathen

1866. China Inland Mission.

1867. Delhi Female Medici Mission.

1867. "Friends" Foreign Mission Association.

1868. Cape Town Aid Association.

1869. "Friends" Mission in Syria and Palestine.

Irish Presbyterian Missions.

1876. Spanish and Portuguese Church Aid Society.

Columbia Mission.

Original Seccession Church Indian Mission.

1877. Cambridge Mission to Delhi.

1880. Church of England Zenana Missionary Society.

United States of America.

1733. Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.

1787. Society for Propagating the Gospel in New England.

1800. New York Missionary Society.

Connecticut Missionary Society for Indians.

At Boston. Connection Missionary Society for Indians.

1803. United States Mission to the Cherokees.

1806. Western Missionary Society for Indians.

1810. Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

1814. Baptist Missionary Union.

1819. Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society.

1833. Free-will Baptist Missionary Society in India.

1835. Foreign Missions of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

1837. Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church.

1837. Evangelical Lutheran Foreign Missionary Society.

1842. Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society.

Strict Baptist Missionary Society.

1843. Baptist Free Missionary Society.

1845. Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

1845. Southern Baptist Convention.

1846. American Association.

Board of Foreign Missions of (Dutch) Reformation Church.

Board of Foreign Missions of United Presbyterian Church.

American United Brethren, Moravian.

United States German Evangelical Missionary Society.

American Mexican Association.

Indian Home Missionary Association.

Indian Missionary Association.

Local Baptist Missionary Society.

Women’s Union Zenana Missionary Society.

(c) At the beginning of the present century the total sum contributed for Protestant missions can hardly be said to have amounted to £50,000 ; in 1882 the amount raised by British contributions alone to foreign missions to upwards of £1,090,000, thus divided:—

Church of England Missions…………………£460,935

Joint Societies of Churchmen and Nonconformists……….153,320

Nonconformist Societies, English and Welsh…………313,177

Scottish and Irish Societies………………………155,767

Roman Catholic Societies………………………10,910

(d) At the same date it is calculated that there were about 5000 heathen converts under instruction, not counting those belonging to the Roman Catholic missions. At the present day the converts from heathenism may may be estimated certainly at no less than 1,800,000, a single year (1878) showing an increase of about 60,000.

(e) When the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was founded in 1701, there were probably not twenty clergyman of the Church of England in foreign parts. The spiritual condition of the Settlers in America and elsewhere was terrible in the extreme, and no effort was then made by the church to win over the heathen to Christ. But now the position which the church holds in the British colonies and dependencies and many parts of heathendom is recognized by all. In those regions where the society labours, and which before it commenced its work were spiritually the "waste places" of the earth, there are, including the American Church (the first fruits of the society’s effort), 138 bishops, more than 5000 clergy, and upwards of 2,000,000 members of the communion.

The above tables sufficiently indicate how varied are the missionary agencies now at work, covering the heathen world with a network of mission outposts, which within the last century have won nearly two millions of converts to the Christian faith.

The continuity of missionary enthusiasm maintained through the primitive, the mediaeval, and the modern periods of the church’s history, operating at every critical epoch, and surviving after periods of stagnation and depression, is a very significant fact. It is true that other religions have been called missionary religions, and the one of them, occupies the first place in the religious census of mankind.1 But the missionary activity of Buddhism is at thing of the past, and no characteristic rite distinguishing it has found its way into a second continent ; while, as for Mohammedanism, the character of its teaching is too exact a reflexion of the race, time, place, and climate in which it arose to admit of its becoming universal.2 These and other religions of the far East may still maintain their hold over millions, but it must be admitted that their prospect of endurance in the presence of advancing Christianity is very small, and it is difficult to trace the slightest probability of their harmonizing with the intellectual, social, and moral progress of the modern world. With all its deficiencies, the Christian church has gained the "nations of the future," and whereas in the 3d century the propagation of Christians to the whole human race was only in a hundred and fifty, this has now been exchanged for one in five,3 and it is indisputable that the progress of the human race of this moment is entirely identified with the spread of the influence of the nations of Christendom.

Side by side with this continuity of missionary zeal, a noticeable feature is the immense influence of individual energy and the subduing forces of personal character Around individuals penetrated with Christian zeal an selfdenial has centred not merely the life, but the very existence, of primitive, mediaeval, and modern missions. What Ulfila was to the Gothic tribes, what Columba and his disciples were to the early Celtic missions, what Augustine or Aidan was to the British Isles, what Boniface was to the churches of Germany and Anskar to those of Denmark and Sweden, that, on the discovery of a new world of missionary enterprise, was Xaxier to India, Hans Egede to Greenland, Eliot to the Red Indians, Martyn to the church of Cawnpore, Marsden to the Maoris, Carey and Marshman to Burmah, Heber, Wilson, Milman, and Duff to India, Gray, Livingstone, Mackenzie, Steere, Callaway to Africa, Broughton to Australia, Patteson to Melanesia, Mountain and Field to Newfoundland, Crowther to the Niger Territory, Brett to Guiana. At the most critical epochs such men have ever been raised up, and the reflex influence of their lives and self-dental has told upon the church at home, while apart from their influence the entire history of important portions of the world’s surface would have been altered.

If from the agents themselves we turn to the work that has been accomplished it will not be disputed that the success of missions has been marked amongst rude and aboriginal tribes. What was true in the early missions has been found true in these latter times. The rude and barbarous northern peoples seemed to fall like "full ripe fruit before the first death of the gospel." The Goths and the Vandals who poured down upon the empire were evangelized so silently and rapidly that only a fact here and there relating to their conversion has been preserved. Now this is exactly analogues to modern experience in the South Seas, America, and Africa We must here content ourselves wit a cursory survey of what missionary enterprise has accomplished in those regions and among the more civilized nations of Eastern Asia.

The South Seas.—That missions have done much in these regions in suppressing cannibalism, human sacrifices, and infanticide, humanizing the laws of war, and elevating the social condition of women, is a fact confirmed by the researches of Meinicke, Waitz, Gerland, Oberlander, and even of Darwin.4

In Australia work among the aborigines, wherever it has been zealously conducted, has been blessed with signal success. Amongst the Papuans by Moravian stations of Ebenezer in the district of Wimmera, and Ramahyuck in that of Gippsland, can point to their little villages of 125 native Christian inhabitants, their cleanly houses, and their well-ordered churches. In the district of South Presbyterian Mission has been similarly successful, while in New Zealand the native population was converted almost within a single generation. In the islands north and north-west of Australia the Dutch missionaries have been especially successful in the Minahassa (see CELEBES), of whose 114,000 inhabitants more than 80,000 have won over to the Christian faith, forming 195 communities with 125 schools ; and southern Borneo, the Rhenish Missions in the south and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in the north have been enabled to establish themselves firmly, while the former society has also done a great work among the Battaks in Sumatra. Amongst the dark-coloured races of Polynesia missionary work has made great advances through the labours of the London Missionary Society, the Wesleyan, and the American Board. Making Tahiti its basis of operations, the first-named society has carried on missionary operations in the islands of Australasia, Hervey, Samoa, Tokelau, and Ellice, while the American Board has witnessed equally favourable results in the Sandwich Islands, and in Micronesia (Caroline, Marshall, and Gilbert Islands) the agents of the Hawaiian Association are actively at work under the direction of American missionaries. In Melanesia the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the Wesleyan, the London Missionary Society, and the Presbyterians are all actively engaged. The Fiji group stands out as one of the most promising centres of Christian civilization, and the governor, Sir A. Gordon, was enabled to report in 1879 that, out of a population of about 120,000, 102,000 are now regular worshippers in the churches, which number 800, while over 42,000 children are in attendance on 1534 Christian day schools. The Loyalty Islands have been occupied partly by Roman Catholic missions and partly by the London Missionary Society, while in the New Hebrides the missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland and of the Presbyterian churches of Canada, New Zealand, And Australia, in spite of many obstacles, the unhealthiness of the climate, and the variety of the dialects spoken, have upwards of 3000 natives receiving Christian teaching, 800 communicants, and 100 native teachers. On the islands of Banks of Santa Cruz, and Solomon, the English Episcopal Church is achieving no little success, sending native youths for months at a time to Norfolk Island to received instruction, whence they return again in order to spread the knowledge of truth at home. These islands will ever be famous in connexion with the martyr death of the noble Bishop Patteson.

The Uncivilized Peoples of America.—The quiet humble labours of the Moravians have accomplished much in Greenland and Labrador, whilst among the Indians of Canada and the people of Hudson’s Bay the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel has not allowed laboured in vain, nor the Church Missionary Society in the dioceses of Rupertsland, Red River, Saskatchewan, Moosonee. At Columbia, on the coast of the Pacific, a practical missionary genius named William Duncan has succeeded in civilizing a body of Indians degraded by cannibalism, and at his Metlakahtla mission stands, at the head of a community of some thousand persons, which has a larger than is to be found between there and San Francisco. Testimony to the value of the results achieved was borne in 1876 that be could hardly find words to express his astonishment at what he witnessed. Amongst the Indian tribes of the United States work is carried on by the Moravians, the American Board of Missions, the Presbyterians of the North and South, the Baptists, the Episcopal Methodists, and the American Missionary Society ; and the result is that 27,000 Indians, divided amongst the 171 communities of different denominations (including the Roman Catholic) are in full membership with the church, and have 219 of worship, besides 366 schools attended by about 12,222 Indian children. The Cherokees, the Choctaws, the Creek, the Creeksaws, have their own churches, schools, and academies, and may compare favourably both intellectually and morally with their white neighbours in Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.5 Amongst the negroes in the United States more than 1000 places of worship have been built since the last war, while the American Missionary Association alone has erected 26 academies with about 6000 students, for the purpose of preparing freed slaves to be teachers and missionaries. Amongst the Indians on the Essequibo and Berbice in British Guiana, the missions of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel have been rapidly extended, and now upwards of half the Indian population are members of Christian churches. In the British West Indies, through the united labours of various missionary societies, out of 1,000,000 inhabitants upwards of 248,000 are returned as regular members of the churches, 85,000 as communicants, while 78,600 children receive instruction in 1123 day schools, of which number about 45 belong to Jamaica.

Passing to the southern promontory of South America, we find that the self-denying labours of Allen Gardiner are beginning to justify the devotion that prompted them. The London South America Society not only carries on its operations in the Falkland Islands, where youths from Tierra del Fuego receive instruction, but has founded stations in Tierra del Fuego itself, has roased the natives of Patagonia from their spiritual deadness, and has extended its labours even to the Indians in Brazil.

Africa.—Here there are three great regions of missionary activity,—on the west coast, in the south, and in some parts, of the east.

The largest and most fruitful mission field in West Africa is that of Sierra Leone, where at least seven-eighths of the people are now Christians, though the first mission does not date further back than present century ; and important results have also been obtained in Senegambia (on the Pongas), in Old Calabar, and in the republic of Liberia. On the Gold and Slave Coasts the labours of English Wesleyan missionaries and the North German missionary societies have been crowned with no small success, while the Basel Society, which celebrated it jubilee in 1878, has extended its sphere of activity to Ashantee, translating the Scriptures into the native languages, and changing primeval marshes into bright-looking Christian villages. In the Yoruba lands the Church Missionary has 11 stations, 5994 Christians, and 1657 scholars, while on the Niger we are confronted with the interesting spectacle of negro preachers and teachers labouring under the coloured Bishop Crowther, carrying on a work which the last few years was consecrated by the blood of martyrs.

South Africa has for some time been a centre of missionary activity. Here thirteen British and Continental associations have proved that all the South Africa races, Hottentots and Kaffres, Fingoes and Bechuanas, Bechuanas, Basutos and Zalus, are capable of attaining a considerable degree of Christian civilization, and can not only be instructed in handcraft and agriculture, but trained as ministers and teachers. A single instance of this is afforded in British Kaffraria by Lovedale Institute of the Free Church of Scotland, where youths from all the above-mentioned tribes are taught along with Europeans, and every Sunday sixty students proclaim the gospel in the neighbouring villages. In the cause of mission work here few ever laboured more zealously than the late Bishop Gray, whose diocese, when first constituted, included the whole colony of the Cape, but whose successor has now for his suffragans the bishops of Grahamstown, Maritzburg, St Helena Bloemfontein, Zululand, St John’s, and Pretoria.

East and East Central Africa, so long neglected, is now being rapidly occupied by missionary enterprise. Here the island of Madagascar has been in great part evangelized, while on the island of Mauritus the Anglican Mission has developed pre-eminent results. On the mainland, the coast of Zanzibar calls for special notice. Here the little island of the same name has long been the seat of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, and the Heroic Bishop Steere has not only erected a cathedral on the site of the former slave-market, but translated the New Testament into Sawahili, a language which can be the tribes around the lakes, and even in Uganda.

China.—"O mighty fortress! When shall these impenetrable brazen gates of thine be broken through?" was the mournful exclamation of Valignani, the successor of Xaxier, as he gazed in sadness at the mountains of China. The words well express the incredible difficulties which this largest and most thickly peopled heathed land in the world, with its petrified constitution and culture of three thousand years, presents in the way of missionary effort. The country itself, the people, their speech, their manners, their religion, their seemed to unite in opposing an insuperable barrier, but history has to record how efforts have been made by many bodies, and at many times, to break it down. An early Nestorian Church established itself in the empire, but was either uprooted, or died out in course of time. In the 16th century the Jesuits undertook the task, and in spite of the persecutions which they have undergone the missions of the Roman Church, with their numerous foreign clergy and their hosts of natives of different ecclesiastical degrees, have attained no small measure of success. Before the country was really opened to foreigners by the treaty of Tientsin, pioneers, proceeded thither from America, and from the London Missionary Society. The labours of Dr Legge in translating and reducing by system the Chinese classics are well known. At the present day it is estimated that there are upwards of 29 societies at work in the country, with about 250 ordained missionaries and 63 female teachers, and the number is constantly increasing. These societies, of which the largest proportional belong to England, and the next largest to America, support, it is estimated, 20 theological schools, 30 higher boarding schools for boys with 611 scholars, 38 for girls with 777 day schools for boys with 4000 to 5000 pupils in attendance, 82 for girls with 1307, while is missionary hospitals and 24 dispensaries are under the direction of medical missionaries, whose work in China has been recognized almost from the first as the source of the greatest blessing. The mission centres stud the east coast from Hong Kong and Canton to the frontiers of Manchuria in the north ; thence they advance little by little every year into the interior, while as yet the western provinces are scarcely touched by missionary effort. The literary labours of the various societies have been carried on with the utmost perseverance; and on the foundations laid by a Morrison and a Milne later toilers have been enabled to raised a superstructure of various portions of the Bible, as well as various Christian books and religious and general periodicals which constitute a means of vast importance towards gradually gaining over his land of culture. At Peking a Russian mission has been labouring for more than one hundred and fifty years. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Missionary Society have lately opened up new centres in this almost limitless country.2

Japan.—Of the missions in Japan it is as too early to forecast the future. The signing of the commercial treaties of 1854 and 1858 with America and England was followed in 1859 by efforts on the part of the American churches to extend a knowledge of Christianity, and in these Bishop Williams, an accomplished Japanese scholar, proved himself a valuable leader and guide. Soon afterwards other societies found their way into the country, and in March 1872 the first Japanese congregation, of 11 converts, was constituted in Yokohama. Within the last eight years these 11 have increased to 1200, while the American missions have been supplemented by those of the Church Missionary Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Nearly every mission has what may be called a high school for girls, and these institutions are very popular. Thousands of copies also of the Gospels have been circulated in Japanese, and representatives of nearly all the missions are engaged in translating the entire New Testament, while a Russo-Greek mission has established itself in the north, and in advancing steadily, having already made about 3000 converts.3 Thus, when it is considered that in the beginning of the 17th century the Japanese Government drove out the Portuguese and massacred the native Catholic converts, and prohibited all Christians under pain of death from ever setting foot in the country, and when it is borne in mind that many of these old laws against Christianity have not yet been repeated and that the old district of strangers is still plainly discernible among the governing classes, it is clear that, while there is much ground for hope, effectual results can only be the work of time.

India.—What is true of China and Japan applies with tenfold force to India. Here the results achieved resemble those which were attained in the conflict between Christianity and the religion of old pagan Rome, with its mass of time-honoured interwoven with the literature, institutions, and history of the empire. Against the influence of prestige and settled prejudice the wave of the gospel beat for centuries in vain. Slow and gradually it was undermining the fabric, but no striking results were immediately visible. So also in India with the Hindu proper Christianity has hitherto made inappreciable progress, while among the rude aboriginal or non-Aryan tribes its success has been remarkable. Independently of Roman Catholic missions upwards of twenty-eight societies are earnestly engaged in the English missions field, and the following figures will give some idea of the progress that has been made during the twenty or thirty years. In British India, including Burmah and Ceylon, it is estimated that in 1852 there were 22,400 communicants and 128,000 native Christians young and old ; in 1862 these had increased to 49,681 communicants and 213,182 native Christian; in 1872 there had been a further increase to 78,494 communicants and 318,368 native Christians young and old ; in 1862 these had increased to 49,681 communicants and 213,182 native Christian ; in 1872 there had been a further increase to 78,494 communicants and 318,363 native Christians, while in 1878 the latter figures rose to 460,000. When we look at the share that each of the societies has had in this increase, we find that the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Church Missionary Society together have since 1850 increased in membership from 61,442 to upwards of 164,000 ; the London Missionary Society from 20,000 to upwards of 48,000 ; the Presbyterian missions of Scotland, England, Ireland, and America from 800 to 10,000; the Basel mission in India from 1000 to 6805; the Baptist missionary societies (including the American as well as the English) from 30,000 to 90,000 ; the five Lutheran societies from 3316 to about 42,000. In some places the progress made has been exceptionally rapid. In Cuddapah, e.g., in the Telugu territory, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the London Missionary Society laboured side by side for upwards of thirty years without winning over more than 200 converts. Then on a sudden there sprang up a revival among the non-castle population, and the 200 became nearly 11,000. Among the Kols, after five years’ waiting, the Gossner missionaries baptized their first converts in 1850 ; now in the German and English together these amount to about 40,000. Since the famine, however, in 1878-79, the increase of new coverts has been still more rapid, and the practical experience of the superiority of Christian pity to heathen selfishness and of the helplessness of their heathen deities, united with the effect produced by persistent missionary labour in past years, brought thousands into the fold of the church. Thus in the Tinnevelly district, where the Church Missionary Society carries on its operations, upwards of 11,000 heathens applied in 1878 to Bishop Sargent and his native clergy for instruction preparatory to baptism.1 In the same district, in connexion with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, between July 1877 and the end of June 1878 upwards of 23,564 persons betook themselves to Bishop Caldwell and his fellow-labourers for Christian teaching. Thus the English Church missions in Tinnevelly and Ramnad received in little more than a year and a half an increase of 35,000 souls,2 and the Propagation Society is now proclaiming the gospel in nearly six hundred and fifty villages in the Tinnevelly district, amongst not merely food-seeking "rice Christians" but those who have had the courage to face severe persecution for joining the Christian church. Encouraging progress has also been made among the Santals and the Karens in Burmah and Pegu. Speaking generally, it may be said that the largest propagation of native converts is in the south, in the presidency of Madras ; next to southern India the most fruitful field is Burmah, where the American Baptist missions are carrying on a successful work among the Karens, while the Propagation Society has founded many schools on the Irawadi, and penetrated up to Rangoon, and beyond British territory to Mandalay ; next in point of numbers stand Bengal and the North-West Provinces. Here the largest contingent is supplied by the missions by the missions in Chutiá Nagpúr, among the aboriginal tribes of the Kols, while the Santal mission also presents many promising features. For the Punjab district and that of Sind, the Church Missionary Society has planted in Lahore a flourishing theological seminary for Christian Hindus, Sikhs, and Mohammedans, and Christianity has advanced thence by way of Peshawar into Afghnistan and Kashmir. It thus appears that by far the greatest measure of success has been obtained amongst the aboriginal races and those who are either of low caste or of no caste at all, while the real strongholds of the Hindu religion and civilization still stand out like strong fortresses and defy the attempts of the besiegers. Still the disintegrating agency of the contact with Christianity is working out its slow but sure results. "Statistical facts," writes Sir Bartle Frere, "can in no way convey any adequate idea of the work done in any part of India. The effects is often enourmous where there has not been a single avowed conversion. The teaching of Christianity amongst 160 millions of civilized industrious Hindus and Mohammedans in India is effecting changes, moral, social, and political, which for extent and rapidity in effect are far more extraordinary than any that have been witnessed in modern Europe." "The number of actual converts to Christianity in India," says Lord Lawrence, "does not by any means give an adequate result of missionary labours. There are thousands of persons scattered over India who from the knowledge they have acquired either directly or indirectly through dissemination of Christian truth and Christian principles have lost all belief in Hinduism and Mohammedanism, and are in their conduct influenced by higher motives, who yet fear to make an open profession of the change in them lest they should be looked upon as outcasts and lepers by their own people." To some each a negative result may at first appear discouraging ; but, read by the light of history, it marks a natural, almost a necessary, stage of transition from an ancient historical religion to Christianity. The Brahma Somaj is not the first instance where a system too vague and shadowy and too deficient in the elements of a permanent religion has filled the interval between the abandonment of the old and the acceptance of a now faith, the cultured classes amongst the Greeks and Romans experienced in their day, after the popular mythology had ceased to satisfy, a period of semi-scepticism before Christianity had secured its hold. Meantime in India the indirect agencies which are at work—the results of war and conquest, of European science and European literature, of the telegraph and the railway, the book and the newspaper, the college and the school, the change of laws hollowed by immemorial usage, the disregard of parts of the country—all these various influenced are gradually bringing about results analogous to that to which Sir James Mackintosh referred in a conversation with Henry Martyn, when the Oriental world was made Greek by the successors of Alexander in order to make way for the religion of Christ. But when to these indirect influenced we add the effects of direct missionary instruction, of training schools like those of the Free Church of Scotland in Madras, of Bishop Cotton in the North-West Provinces, of Zenana missions now carried on on an extensive scale amongst the female population, of the numerous missionary presses at work circulating thousands of copies of the Holy Scriptures and of Christian books, it is obvious that, small and insignicant as these agencies may seem compared with the magnitude of the work required to be done, there has been a great advanced made during recent years. The present century of missions may favourably compare with the primitive and medieval ages of the church, and the continually of the missionary spirit operating, as we have seen, after long periods of stagnation and depression is the best guarantee of its ultimate and more complete success at the close of the present epoch, during which, to use Karl Ritter’s expression, "almost all the rivers of the earth have begun to run in double currents, and nearly all the seas and rivers have become the seas and rivers of civilization." (G.F.M.)



(1) Justin, Dial, c.117; Tertull, Apol., 37; Id., Adv. Jud., 7

(2) Theodoret, H.E., v. 30.

(3) See A. W. Haddan, "Scots on the Continent," Remains, p. 256.

(4) Church, Gifts of Civilization, p. 330.

(5) Bede, H.E., v. 19.

(6) "Annal. Xantenses," Pertz, Mon. Germ., ii. 220.

(7) Bede, H.E., v. 10.

(8) See Lightfoot, Ancient and Modern Missions.


(1) Stanley, Eastern Church, p. 294.

(2) Neander, vii. 69 ; Hakluyt, 171 ; Huc, i. 207.

(3) Neander, vii. 79 ; Gieseler, iv. 259, 260 ; Hardwick, Middle Ages, 235-337.

(4) Geddes, History of ht Church of Malabar, p. 4 ; Neale, Eastern Church, ii. 343.

(5) Prescott, Conquest of Mexico, i. 318, iii. 218.

(6) Relacion de la Destruycion de las Indias.

(7) Prescott, Mexico, iii. 218 n.

(8) Prescott, iii. 219.


(1) Hakluyt, Voyages, iii. 345.

(2) Oldy, Life of Raleigh, p. 118.

(3) Neale, History of New England, i. p. 260; Burnet, History of his own Times, i. p. 132.

FOOTNOTES (p. 515)

Holmes, Hist Sketches of the Missions of the United Brethren, p.3 ; Grant, Bampton Lectures, p. 190.

See Scott Robertson, Analysis of British Contributions to Foreign Missions, 1883.


(1)Max Müller, Chips, iv. p. 265.

(2)Newman, Grammar of Assent, p.424.

(3) Lightfoot, Comparative Progress of Ancient and Modern Missions p. 8.

(4) See Christlieb, Foreign Missions, p. 88.

(5) Ibid., pp. 98, 99.


(1) See Lightfoot, Ancient and Modern Missions, p. 10.

(2) The Roman Catholic Mission had 404,530 converts in China in 1876, with a yearly increase of about 2000.

(3) Christlieb, Foreign Missions. p. 222.


(1) Abstract of Church Missionary Society’s Report for 1879, p. 13.

(2) Report of the Propagation Society for 1879, p. 31 sq.

The above article was written by: Rev. G. F. Maclear, Warden, St. Augustine College, Canterbury.

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