STORRS

THE PERMANENT MOTIVE IN MISSIONARY WORK


BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Richard S. Storrs was born at Braintree, Mass., in 1821. In his book "Preaching Without Notes," he tells of his early practise and experience in pulpit delivery. After fifteen years patient effort he became one of the most accomplished extemporaneous speakers in America. He wrote much at first, developing a fine rhetorical style and a rich vocabulary that subsequently served him well as an impromptu speaker. His advice to divinity students was: "Always be careful to keep up the habit of writing, with whatever of skill, elegance, and force, you can command." Because of this early training in writing he was able later in life to adopt the method of thoroughly preparing his thought for his sermons, and of leaving the choice of words and the framing of sentences to the moment of delivery. His greatest success was achieved after he became a purely extemporaneous preacher. He was for fifty-four years pastor of the Church of the Pilgrims, Brooklyn. During this time he produced a number of books, of which the most important is "The Divine Origin of Christianity, Indicated by its Historical Effects." He died in 1900.

Lewis O. Brastow, D. D.


STORRS

1821-1900

THE PERMANENT MOTIVE IN MISSIONARY WORK

Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark xvi., 15.

The Permanent Motive in Missionary Work: it is a catholic and comprehensive, even a cosmopolitan theme. It does not concern itself simply with the interest of foreign missions, technically so called. But, if you think of it, it concerns those in every Christian communion who are trying to further the cause and kingdom of our Lord on the earth. It concerns not the missionary fields alone, as they are popularly called, in other lands, but every field in which Christian service is sought to be rendered, from the obscurest slum in this town of Boston to the ragged edges of the circumference, the outmost circumference, of the world of mankind.

We are familiar, of course, with the temporary, local, changing motives to missionary enterprise, which meet us at times, impress us forcibly for the moment, and pass away; the influence of great and signal occasions, when sympathies are almost tumultuously excited; the impulse which comes with a sweeping eloquence, which lifts us from the common levels of earth, and bears us as on wings toward issues and actions which we had not anticipated; perhaps the impulse which comes with personal interest in missionaries whom we have known, or mission fields which we have traversed. Great successes on certain fields move our enthusiasm; or tragic and terrible experiences in others, as recently among the Armenians, stir the deep fountains of our feeling. No one of these impulses is to be disregarded. Each one in its place has a power of its own, and all are to be valued and welcomed for their effect. But what we are to look for is the motive more deep, permanent, governing, which will be beneath and behind all these; as the tide-motive is beneath and behind the advancing and retreating waves which rise and flash, and break upon the beach; and this will be a motive not simple and single, but no doubt combined of several, distinguishable from each other, as a powerful current is made up of different uniting affluents. We must separate them in thought, that we may afterward combine them.

I think first, then, we shall all recognize this as essential to the missionary motive: a clear and profound recognition of the evilness and misery of the actual condition of mankind, certainly as compared with the powers which are instinctive in every human soul. It makes no difference really, or very little, at this point, whether we accept the Scriptural declaration that man has fallen from a higher estate to his present level, or conceive, with some modern theorizers, that man is just now partially emerging from the conditions of his brute ancestry, stumbling up, through sin and error and manifold tremendous mistakes, toward wisdom and virtue, and the blessedness which they bring. In either case, the present condition of mankind is one of imperfection, weakness, unsatisfied desire, unrealized promise, and manifold peril. It is not the missionary who tells us this, principally or alone. Every observant foreign traveler repeats the same. Everyone who has resided abroad, and then he comes back to testify with an unprejudiced mind to that which he has observed, relates the same. The supreme difficulty here is in the want of the recognition of God, and of the great immortality.

It used to be a reproach against Christian scholars, made by skeptics, that they investigated the ethnic religions in the spirit of suspicious hostility, by which their processes were diverted from true lines, by which their conclusions were colored. I am not concerned to argue the case of the Christian scholars of fifty years ago, or more, but I can certainly affirm that the Christian scholars of our own time investigate these religions carefully, patiently, sympathetically, with an eager desire to find everything in them that is of beautiful worth; and they do find many things of truth and beauty, many things which excite their admiration, as illustrating the attainment of the higher aspiration of the human mind, reaching after the unseen if haply it might find it. But they find nowhere the discovery of one personal God, eternal in authority, immaculate in character, creating man in His own image, and opening before him the ageless immensities beyond the grave; and in the absence of such recognition of God, and such recognition of the immortality, man is left to grope where he can not fly, to clutch the earth where he misses heaven. So it is that industrially, politically, commercially, socially, intellectually, he is on the lower level, until some exterior power reaches and ennobles him. So it is that crime, such as is unknown in Christian communities, is familiar and tolerated in the world. In fact, we need not fix our thought, prominently, on the more devilish crimes which still exist in parts and portions of the earth,—cannibalism, infanticide, human sacrifices, self-torture, the slavery that would destroy body and soul together in its own hell. Commoner vices have told us the story sufficiently,—drunkenness, licentiousness, the gambling passion, the opium habit, the fierce self-will that rushes to its end, regardless of anything sacred, in order to attain its pleasure.

All these we know. How familiar they are to the mind, and in the life, of the world at large! And there seems no power arising within the circle not reached by Christian influence to relieve the gloom, to elevate those who are opprest by these sore burdens. There is no power. Property asserts its right to oppress, and to enjoy; poverty accepts its function, however unwillingly, of suffering in silence; the degradation of woman strikes a vicious stab at the heart and conscience of immense communities, while the oppression of childhood blights life at its germ; and, with the prospect of nothing better to come, suicide becomes a common refuge from the unbearable misery. There is nothing overstated in this description of the world at large; and you know how it is in your city slums, even in this city of refinement and culture, I have no doubt; certainly in the city in which I live; in the London and Birmingham of the other side, where the little girl twelve years old had never heard the name of Christ, where the boy of about the same age only knew the nature of an oath by having been his lordship's caddy. These are what we are to reach and lift, if we can do it. These are they to whom we are to bring blessings from the Most High. Certainly, every heart in which there is a spark of Christian sympathy must feel the power of this motive, pressing to the utmost and instant exertion of every force to relieve the suffering, to enlighten the darkened, and to lift the opprest.

No one need exaggerate, everyone should recognize, the weakness and wretchedness, the exposure and the peril of human society. When we remember that in this universe of ours destiny clings closely to character, has never anything mechanical or arbitrary about it, but follows the spirit which encounters it, then those tremendous words of our Lord in the twenty-fifth of Matthew have upon them an appalling sharpness and reach, as addrest to the great classes and companies of mankind; and we must recognize it, and hear the solemn bell of the universe ringing through His word, and telling us of what is to be looked for in the hereafter.

But then with this recognition of the exposure and peril of human society, of mankind at large, we must associate the recognition of the recoverableness to truth, to virtue and God, of persons and of peoples who are now involved in these calamities and pains; to whom, now, unrest and apprehension are as natural as speech or sight; the recoverableness of men as persons, and of communities as well as persons.

Here, of course, we come into direct antagonism with the pessimist, who says, "It is all nonsense! You can't possibly do the work; you can't take these ragged and soiled remnants of humanity in your city streets and weave them into purple and golden garments for the Master; you can not accomplish the effect which you contemplate, in the cities, in your own land, along the frontier, or in other lands. It is as impossible to make the unchaste pure, to make the mean noble, as it is to make crystal lenses out of mud, or the delicate elastic watch-spring out of the iron slag!" That is the world's view, a common and a hateful view. Our answer to it is that the thing can be done, and has been done, and done in such multitudes of instances that there is no use whatever in arguing against the fact. Christ came from the heavens to the earth on an errand. He knew what was in man; and He did not come from the celestial seats on an errand known beforehand to be fruitless and futile. He came because He knew the interior, central, divine element in human nature, to which He could appeal and by which He could lift men toward things transcendent. We have seen the examples of success, how many times! Hundreds, yea even thousands of times, in our own communities, as missionaries have seen them in the lands abroad: where the woman intemperate, in harlotry, in despair, has been lifted to restored womanhood, as the pearl oyster is brought up with its precious contents from the slimy ooze; where the man whose lips had been charged with foulest blasphemies has become the preacher of the gospel of light and love, of hope and peace, to others, his former comrades; where the feet that were swift to do evil have become beautiful on the mountains in publishing salvation. We have seen these things in individuals and in communities; in the roughest frontier mining-camp, where every door opened on a saloon or a brothel, or a gambling-table, and where, by the power coming from on high, it has been transformed into the peaceful Christian village, with the home, with the school, with the church, with the asylum, with the holy song, where the former customary music had been the crack of revolvers. We have seen the same thing on a larger scale in the coral islands, scenes of savage massacre and of cannibal riot and ferocity, where the Church has been planted, and Christian fellowships have been established and maintained. We have seen these things, and why argue against facts?

Arguing against fact, as men ultimately find out, is like trying to stop with articulate breath the march of the stately battleship as she sweeps onward to her anchorage. An argument may meet a contrary argument; no argument can overwhelm a fact. And these facts in experience are as sure, as difficult of belief perhaps, but as compulsive of belief, as are the scientific demonstrations of the liquid air, of the wireless telegraphy. We do not question the reality of what we see; and we know that these effects have been produced, on the smaller scale and on the larger. I suppose that everyone who has ever stood on the heights above Naples, at the Church of San Martino, on the way to St. Elmo, has noticed, as I remember to have noticed, that all the sounds coming up from that gay, populous, brilliant, fascinating city, as they reached the upper air, met and mingled on the minor key. There were the voices of traffic and the voices of command, the voices of affection and the voices of rebuke, the shouts of sailors, and the cries of itinerant venders in the street, with the chatter and the laugh of childhood; but they all came up into this incessant moan in the air. That is the voice of the world in the upper air, where there are spirits to hear it. That is the cry of the world for help. And here is the answer to that cry: a song of triumph and glorious expectation, taking the place of the moan, in the village, in the city, in the great community; men and women out of whom multitudes of devils have been cast, as out of him of old, sitting clothed, and in their right minds, at the feet of Jesus.

You can not tell me that it is impossible to produce these effects, for mine own eyes have seen them, mine own hands have touched them. I know their reality, and that every human soul which has not committed the final sin and passed the judgment is recoverable to God, if the right remedy be definitely applied; and that every people, however weak, however sinful, however wanting in hope and expectation, has within it the possibility, and above it the promise, of the millennium. God's power is adequate to all that. We want to associate this idea of the recoverableness of persons and of peoples to the highest ideal and to God Himself; we want to combine this with the idea of man's present misery and hopelessness in his condition, to constitute the true and powerful missionary motive; and then we want to recognize the fact that the gospel of Christ is the one force which, being used, secures this result in the most unpromising conditions.

Here, again, we encounter the opposition of multitudes. How often men have laughed, how loudly they have laughed, at the idea that the story of the crucified Nazarene could inspire a despondent soul to hope, could purify the vicious soul into virtue, could bring any soul nearer to God! Perhaps somewhere they are laughing at it now; possibly even in this city of Boston, the home of culture and refinement, of fine and wide thought—I don't know, I don't live here; but I know that in the country at large there are always those who are disposed to say, "It is perfectly puerile to try to reach human sorrow and human sin with the power of the gospel, lodged in the little book which the child may carry in her hand!" As if the inconspicuous forces in the world's development were not always those deadliest on the one hand, or most benign on the other; as if wafts of air did not kill multitudes more than all the batteries of artillery; as if the unseen forces, hardly manifesting themselves at all, were not those which society seizes by which to advance itself most rapidly and grandly—that little spark, vanishing instantaneously, but revealing the unseen force which drives machineries, draws carriages, illuminates cities, and enables you and me to talk as if face to face with friends and correspondents at the distance of a thousand miles; that fleecy vapor, vanishing silently into the air but representing the gigantic servant of modern civilization, which tunnels mountains, scoops out mines, and links the continents together with iron bands. These unseen powers are the ones that man craves and uses, or that, on the other hand, he dreads and repels; and the power of the gospel, however men may smile at the idea of that power, has vindicated itself too many times to be assailed by argument, certainly too many times to be encountered with ridicule.

The gospel is able to reconstitute society by reconstructing the character of individuals. Through its effect on persons it opens the way for vast national advances. It touches not merely the higher themes, but all the themes that are associated with those, and immediately pertinent to the interest of mankind. It teaches frugality and industry, and honesty, by express command, and by the divine example of Him who brought it to us. It turns men, as has been forcibly said, "out of the trails of blood and plunder into the path of honest toil." It is a gospel for every creature, that is, for every created thing; and gardens bloom in a lovelier beauty under its influence, and harvest festivals, of which the country is full to-day, are only its natural and beautiful fruit and trophy. It exalts womanhood; and by the honor it puts on womanhood, and by the honor it puts on childhood, it inaugurates the new family life in the world. It honors, as no other religion does or ever did, the essential worth of the immortal spirit in man; and it forces him, pushes him, crowds him, into thoughtfulness and educational discipline, since it will not allow him to be manipulated into paradise by any priestly hand, but comes to him in a Book, and sets him to work to investigate its contents, to inquire concerning it, to look out widely around it, and to inform himself by careful thought of what it is and what it means.

There is the basis of colleges and theological seminaries, and I hope there will be no quarrel between them! There is the basis of all the educational institutions and influences that are worthy in the world. Christianity brings them. It generates by degrees a new social conscience. It unites communities, on which it has operated, in new relationships to each other. International alliances become possible, become vital. International law becomes a reality and a power; beneficence is stimulated, and law becomes ethical. As we have seen recently, in the prodigious excitement of feeling throughout civilized countries in consequence of the apparent gross injustice done to a single French officer by a military court, the time is coming, tho it has not yet fully come, when mankind shall be one in spirit, and an

"... instinct bear along,
Round the earth's electric circle,
One swift flash of right or wrong."

It is not commerce which does this, it is Christianity. We are witnesses to it. Our ancestors, not many centuries ago, were mere rapacious savages, robbers in the forests, pirates on the sea; it was Christianity, brought to them, that lifted them into gladness, serenity, great purpose, great expectation and hope; and the new civilization in which we rejoice on either side, I will not say of the separating, of the uniting ocean, was founded on that New Testament, the folios of which, I believe, are still preserved in Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, and in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. Here is the basis of what has been the grandest, most illustrious, and most prophetic, in the recent history of mankind. Give the gospel freedom and it will everywhere show this power. Among the children and youth to whom it goes, among the mature and the strong, wheresoever it goes, it grapples conscience, it stimulates the heart. That one sentence, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin," is the profoundest truth, is the most persuasive and commanding appeal, ever addrest by an inspired apostle to the children of mankind; and wherever that is heard, sin is lost in penitence, and hope is lost in triumphant vision, and the glory of the world disappears before the glory immutable of the Son of God!

Then we are to remember, certainly never is this to be forgotten, that the great imperishable motive, surpassing and dominating every other in missionary effort, is adoring love toward Christ, as central in the Scripture, glorified in history. No student of history, no observer of human experience, can fail to see that there is the sovereign passion possible to human nature; beside which the passion of love for a friend, for a country, for a business, for studies, may be auxiliary, but must be subordinate. There is the passion which has done the grandest things the world has ever known. There is the passion the vision of which interprets to us the strangest, sublimest pages of history. We have all felt it, I am sure, if we are Christian, in our measure, and at times; at the sacrament, perhaps; in those sabbaths of the soul of which Coleridge speaks, when the mind eddies instead of flowing onward; when we have been moved to a great effort for Him whom we love; most keenly, perhaps, when we have been in keenest sorrow, when the earth was as iron under our feet and the heavens as brass above our head, and we were all alone, yet not alone, for there stood beside us One in the form of the Son of Man, making luminous the dark! We have felt this love toward Christ; and when we have felt it we have known that no power could surpass or approach it in the intensity of its moving force, to every enterprise, great, difficult howsoever it might be by which He would be honored.

Love has been the sovereign power in all the Church. Judgment may be generous; love is lavish. Judgment may be stedfast in its conclusions; love is heroic in its affirmations. It was love that garnished the house, and poured out the spikenard, and spiced the sepulcher. It was love that faced the flames, as in Felicitas and Perpetua, fronting the dungeon and not shrinking, fronting the sword and not blanching. It was love that said, "The nearer the sword, the nearer to God." You can not conquer that power, indestructible, full of a divine energy.

And with the experience of this comes the vivid vision of the divine Providence, working for the gospel in human history. How wonderful it is! Look at the progress of the last ninety years, since missionary work began in this country! The changes, except as they are matters of public record and of universal personal observation, would be simply unthinkable—the vast new machineries of travel and of commerce; the incalculable additions to the wealth of civilized lands; the ever-increasing prosperity and power of Protestant nations, in which the gospel is honored; the equally ever-reduced power and lessening fame of nations, ancient and famous, in which the gospel is refused free movement with a home among the people; the continually closer approaches of civilized and Protestant nations to each other, as of Great Britain and this country. Many years ago Lord Brougham said, you remember, "Not an ax falls in the American forest but it sets in motion a shuttle in Manchester." That has been true ever since, and is more true to-day than ever before. Not a mine is opened, not an industry established, not a mechanism invented in the one country, which is not recognized, and the power of which is not felt, in the other; and more and more their policies are weaving together, not necessarily in form, but in fundamental, underlying sympathy. All these things are going forward with the opening of regions and realms formerly inaccessible to Christianity; so that now the Christianity which seemed buried in the catacombs, which seemed burned up in the martyr fires, has the freedom of the world, and may everywhere be preached in its purity and its power. Here are the plans of God going forward; and we ought to feel in ourselves that in every hardest work we do we are only keeping step with the march of omnipotence.

I know that there are many who fear that the prosperity of our times, the love of pleasure, the desire for ease and enjoyment, are to interfere with and stay these plans of the divine Providence for the furtherance of Christ's Church, and of His cause in the world. I do not wonder at the fear, though I do not share it. Unquestionably the secular spirit is more intense and widely distributed at this time than it ever was before, and the opportunities for its gratification, in the acquirement of wealth and in the enjoyment of every luxury, are greater than ever before. Undoubtedly it is true that Sunday observance is far less strict, and family discipline and training far less careful, than they were, perhaps, in the days of our own childhood. Sunday newspapers make almost all American ministers wish they were Englishmen; and Sunday observance among ourselves reminds one too often of that colloquy between Joshua and Moses as they were coming down from the mount during the idol-feast, when the younger said, "There is a noise of war in the camp." "No," said the elder and more discerning, "it is not the voice of them that shout for the mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome, but it is the voice of them that sing, that I hear." Sometimes in our congregations I think it is not the shout for the mastery of the truth, pushing it upon men, it is not the voice of them that cry, in penitence and humble obedience, because they are overcome, but it is the voice of them that sing that we hear; and the singing is too often in operatic measures, and done by quartets, not by congregations! Talleyrand was right in saying years ago that Americans take their pleasures sadly. I think that we are right also, and more nearly right, when we say that Americans take their religion too lightly, too gaily, as if it were a varnish upon life instead of a fire and power within it.

But the human soul is still beating, and full of life, in the heart of everyone whom we address; and God's gospel has its grip on that human soul whenever it reaches it through our ministry, lifts it nearer the things supernal, and nearer God Himself. While I see many things to make us solicitous, I see nothing to make us timid, concerning these mighty advancing plans of God. If persecution could not stay them, if prelacy could not finally thwart them, I do not believe that bicycles are going to override them, in the end, or that they are to find their grave in the fascinating golf links. No! there is One who sitteth above the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; and His plans go forth, soundless, silent, except as they come into operation. But they never are broken; they never are drawn back; and the world has to learn more and more clearly, every century, that the banners of God are those which never go down in any struggle, and that whoever walks and works with God is sure of the triumph.

Then do not let us forget that this is the sublime interval in history between the ascension of the Master and His second coming in power and glory, to judge the world! "In a grand and awful time" the hymn says—and I repeat it:

"We are living, we are dwelling,
In a grand and awful time,"

when the heavens have been luminous with the splendor of the ascension, and are destined to be luminous again with the awful glory of the coming for judgment; and now is our time for work—for work with the energy of the divine Spirit whose dispensation this is. That Spirit wrote His gospel by the inspiration of human minds, and by the instruments of human hands, on leaves of parchment and papyrus. He is writing His gospel now, at large, through His inspiration of human minds and guidance of human hands over the expanses of the continents. But it is the same gospel—the gospel of sin, the gospel of atonement, the gospel of regeneration, the gospel of future judgment, and of future glory for the believing. That is the gospel; and we are to go with Him in extending the knowledge of that and in writing it ourselves. Wheresoever we have the opportunity, that is our work; a work greater, more momentous, wider in its relations, than any other done upon the earth.

Let us not forget then the meanness, the misery and evilness, of human society, where the gospel does not enter and pervade it. Let us not forget the recoverableness to God of every person and every people, if the divine energies are rightly used. Let us not forget that the gospel of Christ is the power at which men laugh and say, "You are trying to quarry mountains with sunbeams; you are trying to lift masses of masonry with aerial or, at best, with silken threads." It is the gospel of Christ which is to be the power to lift mankind, and glorify God, on all the continents, in all the earth. The passion of love for Christ, stimulated by everything that we read or hear, quickened by the Spirit in our hearts, is the power that is to loosen amassed wealth and make it fluent, that is to vitalize dead wealth and make it active, that is to enter into every languid heart and inspire it for service. And then the view of the divine Providence working in history toward one result, steadily steering toward one haven and port,—the earth renewed in righteousness and beautiful before God; and then this dispensation of the Spirit, in which we have our time! After the resurrection, a disciple said, "I go a-fishing." Likewise said they all. It seems strange that even after that miracle, which has shot its radiance everywhere upon the history of the world, any disciple should have yielded to such an impulse. But now shall we, after the ascension and when the skies are still glowing with it, after Pentecost has opened heavenly principalities and powers to our view and our experience, under the shadow of the great white throne that is to be set in heaven—shall we go to building and bargaining, to mining and merchandising, as our chief aim in life, and omit this sublimest service which angels, it seems to me, must bend above the battlements of heaven to see in its progress, and to make their hearts and harps jubilant in its vitality and success?

Oh, my friends, let us remember, wheresoever we labor, that our errand is to make this complex, complete, energetic missionary motive more clear to every mind, more thoroughly vigorous and energetic in every heart. Everything else must be postponed! Do not let us spend our strength in picking the gospel to pieces, to see if we can't put it together again in a better fashion! Do not let us spend our strength in any denominational controversies or collisions. Let us give ourselves, with all our power, to making this immense missionary motive operative throughout all the churches, throughout and in all Christian hearts; till He shall come whose right it is to reign, and take unto Himself His great power, and rule, King of nations as well as King of saints. Let us recognize this as the one truly magnificent errand for man on the earth. Let us be filled with the Divine Spirit, that we may accomplish it the more perfectly. Let us never intermit the service. And if, as we grow older, we grow weary with cares and labors, and it may be with sorrows, and are disposed sometimes to think we may now rest, let us remember the word of Arnauld, the illustrious Port Royalist, whom even his passionate enemies, the Jesuits, admitted to be great, of whom it is recorded that when some one said to him, "You have labored long, now is your time to rest!" his reply was, "Rest? Why rest, here and now, when I have a whole eternity to rest in!" God in His grace open that tranquil and luminous eternity to each of us, where we may find rest in nobler praise and grander work, forevermore; and unto Him be all the praise!