THE MISSIONARY CAUSE
Alexander Campbell, prominent in the
body known as Disciples or Christians,
was born in Ireland in 1788, and received
his education in Glasgow University. In
1809 he emigrated to the United States
and took charge of a Presbyterian congregation
in Bethany, Va. He did not
long remain in this pastorate, but proceeded
to institute a society based upon
the abolition of all confessions and formularies
and the acknowledgment of the
text of the Holy Scriptures as the sole
creed of the Church. In 1841 he founded
Bethany College (Bethany, Va.), and remained
its president until his death in
1866. In 1823 he founded the Christian
Baptist, changed its name in 1829 to the
Millennial Harbinger, but abandoned it
three years before his death. He was a
prolific controversial writer and published
over fifty volumes, among which were
hymn books and a translation of the New
THE MISSIONARY CAUSE
He that winneth souls is wise.—Prov. xi., 30.
The missionary cause is older than the
material universe. It was celebrated
by Job—the oldest poet on the pages
Jehovah challenges Job to answer Him a
few questions on the institutions of the universe.
"Gird up now thy loins," said He;
"and I will demand of thee a few responses.
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations
of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding.
Who has fixt the measure thereof?
Or who has stretched the line upon it? What
are the foundations thereof? Who has laid
the corner-stone thereof when the morning
stars sang together, and all the sons of God
shouted for joy? Who shut up the sea with
doors when it burst forth issuing from the
womb of eternity—when I made a cloud its
garment, and thick darkness its swaddling
band? I appointed its limits, saying, Thus
far shalt thou come, but no farther; and here
shall the pride of thy waves be stayed.
"Has the rain a father? Who has begotten
the drops of the dew? Who was the mother
of the ice? And the hoar-frost of heaven,
who has begotten it? Can mortal man bind
the bands of the Seven Stars, or loose the
cords of Orion? Can he bring forth and commission
the twelve signs of the Zodiac, or bind
Arcturus with his seven sons?
"Knowest thou, oh man, the missionaries of
the starry heavens? Canst thou lift up thy
voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters
may cover thee? Canst thou command the
lightnings, so that they may say to thee, Here
we are? Who can number the clouds in wisdom?
Or who can pour out the bottles of
heaven upon the thirsty fields?"
If such be a single page in the volume of
God's physical missionaries, what must be
its contents could we, by the telescope of an
angel, survey one single province of the universe,
of universes, which occupy topless, bottomless,
We have data in the Bible, and, in the
phenomena of the material universe, sufficient
to authorize the assumption that the missionary
idea circumscribes and permeates the entire
area of creations.
Need we inquire into the meaning of a
celestial title given to the tenantries of the
heaven of heavens? But you all, my Christian
brethren, know it. You anticipate me.
The sweet poet of Israel told you long since,
in his sixty-eighth ode, that the chariots of
God are about twenty thousand of angels.
And what is an angel but a messenger, a
missionary? Hence the seven angels of the
seven churches in Asia were seven missionaries,
or messengers, sent to John in his exile;
and by these John wrote letters to the seven
congregations in Asia.
Figuratively, God makes the winds and
lightnings his angels, his messengers of wrath
or of mercy, as the case may be.
But we are a missionary society—a society
assembled from all points of the compass, assembled,
too, we hope, in the true missionary
spirit, which is the spirit of Christianity in
its primordial conception. God Himself instituted
it. Moses is the oldest missionary
whose name is inscribed on the rolls of time.
He was the first divine missionary, and, if
we except John the Baptist, he was the second
in rank and character to the Lord Messiah
Angels and missionaries are rudimentally
but two names for the same officers. But of
the incarnate Word, God's only begotten Son,
He says, "Thou art my son, the beloved, in
whom I delight." And He commands the
world of humanity to hearken to Him. He
was, indeed, God's own special ambassador,
invested with all power in heaven and on earth—a
true, a real, an everlasting plenipotentiary,
having vested in Him all the rights of
God and all the rights of man. And were
not all the angels of heaven placed under
Him as His missionaries, sent forth to minister
to the heirs of salvation?
His commission, given to the twelve apostles,
is a splendid and glorious commission.
Its preamble is wholly unprecedented—"All
authority in heaven and on earth is given to
me." In pursuance thereof, he gave commission
to His apostles, saying, "Go, convert all
the nations, immersing them into the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all
things whatever I have commanded you; and,
lo, I am with you always, even to the end of
the world." Angels, apostles and evangelists
were placed under this command, and by Him
commissioned as His ambassadors to the
The missionary institution, we repeat, is
older than Adam—older than our earth. It
is coeval with the origin of angels.
Satan had been expelled from heaven before
Adam was created. His assault upon
our mother Eve, by an incarnation in the most
subtle animal in Paradise, is positive proof
of the intensity of his malignity to God and
to man. He, too, has his missionaries in the
whole area of humanity. Michael and his
angels, or missionaries, are, and long have
been, in conflict against the devil and his
missionaries. The battle, in this our planet,
is yet in progress, and therefore missionaries
are in perpetual demand. Hence the necessity
incumbent on us to carry on this warfare
as loyal subjects of the Hero of our redemption.
The Christian armory is well supplied with
all the weapons essential to the conflict. We
need them all. "We wrestle not against flesh
and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of
this world, against wicked spirits in the regions
of the air." Hence the need of having
our "loins girded with the truth"; having
on the breastplate of righteousness, our
feet shod with the preparation to publish the
gospel of peace, taking the shield of faith, the
helmet of salvation and the sword of the
Spirit, the Word of God, always praying and
making supplication for our fellow-missionaries
and for all saints.
The missionary fields are numerous and various.
They are both domestic and foreign.
The harvest is great in both. The laborers
are still few, comparatively very few, in either
The supply is not a tithe of the demand.
The Macedonians cry, "Come over and help
us;" "Send us an evangelist;" "Send us
missionaries;" "The fields are large, the people
are desirous, anxious, to hear the original
gospel. What can you do for us?" Nothing!
Nothing! My brethren, ought this so to be?
Schools for the prophets are wanting. But
there is a too general apathy or indifference
on the subject. We pray to the Lord of the
harvest to send our reapers to gather it into
His garner. But what do we besides praying
for it? Do we work for it? Suppose a
farmer should pray to the Lord for an abundant
harvest next year, and should never, in
seed-time, turn over one furrow or scatter one
handful of seed: what would we think of him?
Would not his neighbors regard him as a monomaniac
or a simpleton? And wherein does
he excel such a one in wisdom or in prudence
who prays to the Lord to send out reapers—missionaries,
or evangelists—to gather a harvest
of souls, when he himself never gives a
dollar to a missionary, or the value of it, to enable
him to go into the field? Can such a
person be in earnest, or have one sincere desire
in his heart to effect such an object or
purpose? We must confess that we could
have no faith either in his head or in his heart.
The heavenly missionaries require neither
gold nor silver, neither food nor raiment. Not
so the earthly missionaries. They themselves,
their wives and children, demand both food
and clothing, to say nothing of houses and
furniture. Their present home is not
"The gorgeous city, garnish'd like a bride,
Where Christ for spouse expected is to pass,
The walls of jasper compass'd on each side,
And streets all paved with gold, more bright than glass."
If such were the missionary's home on earth,
he might, indeed, labor gratuitously all the
days of his life. In an humble cottage—rather
an unsightly cabin—we sometimes see
the wife of his youth, in garments quite as unsightly
as those of her children, impatiently
waiting "their sire's return, to climb to his
knees the envied kiss to share." But, when
the supper table is spread, what a beggarly
account of almost empty plates and dishes!
Whose soul would not sicken at such a sight?
I have twice, if not thrice, in days gone by,
when travelling on my early missionary tours—over
not the poorest lands nor the poorest
settlements, either—witnessed some such cases,
and heard of more.
I was then my own missionary, with the
consent, however, of one church. I desired
to mingle with all classes of religious society,
that I might personally and truthfully know,
not the theories, but the facts and the actualities,
of the Christian ministry and the so-called
Christian public. I spent a considerable portion
of my time during the years 1812, '13,
'14, '15, '16, traveling throughout western
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
I then spent seven years in reviewing my
past studies, and in teaching the languages
and the sciences—after which I extended my
evangelical labors into other States and communities,
that I might still more satisfactorily
apprehend and appreciate the status, or the
actual condition, of the nominally and profest
religious or Christian world.
Having shortly after my baptism connected
myself with the Baptist people, and attending
their associations as often as I could, I became
more and more penetrated with the conviction
that theory had usurped the place of faith,
and that consequently, human institutions
had been, more or less, substituted for the
apostolic and the divine.
During this period of investigation I had
the pleasure of forming an intimate acquaintance
with sundry Baptist ministers, East
and West, as well as with the ministry of
other denominations. Flattering prospects of
usefulness on all sides began to expand before
me and to inspire me with the hope of
achieving a long-cherished object—doing some
good in the advocacy of the primitive and
apostolic gospel—having in the year 1820 a
discussion on the subject of the first positive
institution enacted by the Lord Messiah, and
in A. D. 1823 another on the same subject—the
former more especially on the subject and
action of Christian baptism, the latter more
emphatically on the design of that institution
tho including the former two.
These discussions, more or less, embraced
the rudimental elements of the Christian institution,
and gave to the public a bold relief
outline of the whole genius, spirit, letter and
doctrine of the gospel.
Its missionary spirit, tho not formally propounded,
was yet indicated, in these discussions;
because this institution was the terminus
of the missionary work. It was a component
element of the gospel, as clearly seen
in the commission of the enthroned Messiah.
Its preamble is the superlative fact of the
whole Bible. We regret, indeed, that this
most sublime preamble has been so much lost
sight of even by the present living generation.
If we ask when the Church of Jesus Christ began
or when the reign of the Heavens commenced,
the answer, in what is usually called
Christendom, will make it either to be contemporaneous
with the ministry of John the
Harbinger, or with the birth of the Lord
Jesus Christ. We will find one of these two
opinions almost universally entertained. The
Baptists are generally much attached to John
the Baptist; the Pedobaptists, to the commencement
of Christ's public ministry. John
the Baptist was the first Christian missionary
with a very considerable class of living Baptists;
the birth of Christ is the most popular
and orthodox theory at the respective meridians
of Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Arminianism.
But, by the more intelligent, the resurrection,
or the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ,
is generally regarded as the definite commencement
of the Christian age or institution.
Give us Paul's or Peter's testimony, against
that of all theologians, living or dead. Let us
look at the facts.
Did not the Savior teach His personal
pupils, or disciples, to pray, "Thy kingdom"—more
truthfully, "Thy reign—come"? Does
any king's reign or kingdom commence with
his birth? Still less with his death? Did
not our Savior Himself, in person, decline the
honors of a worldly or temporal prince? Did
He not declare that His kingdom "is not of
this world"? Did He not say that He was
going hence, or leaving this world, to receive
or obtain a kingdom? And were not the
keys of the kingdom first given to Peter to
open, to announce it? And did he not, when
in Jerusalem, on the first Pentecost, after the
ascension of the Lord Jesus, make a public
proclamation, saying, "Let all the house of
Israel know assuredly that God has made (or
constituted) the identical Jesus of Nazareth,
the son of Mary, both the Lord and the Christ,
or the anointed Lord"?
Do kings reign before they are crowned?
Before they are anointed? There was not
a Christian Church on earth, or any man
called a Christian, until after the consecration
and coronation of Jesus of Nazareth as the
Christ of God.
The era of a son's birth was never, since
the world began, the era of his reign or of
the commencement of it. It is a strange fact,
to me a wonderful fact, and, considering the
age in which we live, an overwhelming fact,
that we, as a community, are the only people
on the checkered map of all Christendom,
Greek, Roman, Anglican or American, that
preach and teach that the commonly called
Christian era is not the era or the commencement
of the Christian Church or kingdom of
the Lord Jesus the Christ.
The kingdom of the Christ could not antedate
His coronation. Hence Peter, in announcing
His coronation, after His ascension,
proclaimed, saying, "Let all the house of
Israel know assuredly that God has made—touton
ton Ieesoun—the same, the identical
Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord
and Christ"; or, in other words, has crowned
Him the legitimate Lord of all. Then indeed
His reign began. Then was verified the
oracle uttered by the royal bard of Israel,
"Jehovah said to my Jehovah"—or, "the
Lord said to my Lord,"—"Sit thou on my
right hand till I make thy foes thy footstool."
Hence He could say, and did say, to His
apostles, "All authority in the heavens and
on the earth is given to me." In pursuance
thereof, "Go you into all the world, proclaim
the gospel to the whole creation; assuring
them that everyone who believes this proclamation
and is immersed into the name of the
Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Spirit, shall be saved."
Here, then, the missionary field is declared
to be the whole world—the broad earth. They
were, as we are afterwards informed, to begin
at the first capital in the land of Judea, then
to proceed to Samaria, the capital of the ten
tribes, and thence to the last domicile of man
There was, and there is still, in all this arrangement,
a gracious and a glorious propriety.
The Jews had murdered the Messiah under
the false charge of an impostor. Was it not,
then, divinely grand and supremely glorious
to make this awfully bloodstained capital the
beginning, the fountain, of the gospel age and
mission? Hence it was decreed that all the
earth should be the parish, and all the nations
and languages of earth the objects, and millions
of them the subjects, of the redeeming
grace and tender mercies of our Savior and
What an extended and still extending area
is the missionary field! There are the four
mighty realms of Pagandom, of Papaldom, of
Mohammedandom and of ecclesiastic Sectariandom.
These are, one and all, essentially
and constitutionally, more or less, not of the
The divinely inspired constitution of the
Church contains only seven articles. These
are the seven hills, not of Rome, but of the
true Zion of Israel's God. Paul's summary
of them is found in the following words:
"One body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord,
one faith, one baptism, and one God and
Father of all."
The clear perception, the grateful reception,
the cordial entertainment of these seven
divinely constructed and instituted pillars,
are the alone sufficient, and the all-sufficient,
foundation—the indestructible basis—of
Christ's kingdom on this earth, and of man's
spiritual and eternal salvation in the full enjoyment
of himself, his Creator, his Redeemer,
and the whole universe of spiritual intelligence
through all the circles and the cycles
of an infinite, an everlasting future of being
and of blessedness.
The missionary spirit is, indeed, an emanation
of the whole Godhead. God the Father
sent His Son, His only begotten Son, into our
world. The Son sent the Holy Spirit to bear
witness through His twelve missionaries, the
consecrated and Heaven-inspired apostles.
They proclaimed the glad tidings of great joy
to all people—to the Jews, to the Samaritans,
to the Gentiles, of all nations, kindreds and
tongues. They gave in solemn charge to
others to sound out and proclaim the glad tidings
of great joy to all people. And need we
ask, is not the Christian Church itself, in its
own institution and constitution, virtually
and essentially a missionary institution?
Does not Paul formally state to the Thessalonians
in his first epistle that from them
sounded out the Word of the Lord not only
in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every
No man can really or truthfully enjoy the
spiritual, the soul-stirring, the heart-reviving
honors and felicities of the Christian institution
and kingdom, who does not intelligently,
cordially and efficiently espouse the missionary
In other words, he must feel, he must have
compassion for his fellow man; and, still further,
he must practically sympathize with him
in communicating to his spiritual necessities
as well as to his physical wants and infirmities.
The true ideal of all perfection—our
blest and blissful Redeemer—went about
continually doing good—to both the souls and
the bodies of his fellow men; healing all that
were, in body, soul or spirit, opprest by Satan,
the enemy of God and of man.
To follow his example is the grand climax
of humanity. It is not necessary to this end
that he should occupy the pulpit. There are,
as we conceive, myriads of Christian men in
the private walks of life, who never aspired
to the "sacred desk," that will far outshine,
in eternal glory and blessedness, hosts of the
reverend, the boasted and the boastful right
reverend occupants of the sacred desks of this
our day and generation.
But Solomon has furnished our motto:—"He
that winneth" or taketh "souls is wise"
(Prov. xi. 30). Was he not the wisest of
men, the most potent and the richest of
kings, that ever lived? He had, therefore, all
the means and facilities of acquiring what we
call knowledge—the knowledge of men and
things; and, consequently, the value of men
and things was legitimately within the area
of his understanding; or, in this case, we
might prefer to say, with all propriety, within
the area of his comprehension.
Need I say that comprehension incomparably
transcends apprehension? Simpletons
may apprehend, but only wise men can comprehend
anything. Solomon's rare gift was,
that both his apprehension and his comprehension
transcended those of all other men,
and gave him a perspicacity and promptitude
of decision never before or since possest by
any man. His oracles, indeed, were the
oracles of God. But God especially gave to
him a power and opportunity of making one
grand experiment and development for the
benefit of his living contemporaries, and of
all posterity, to whom God presents his biography,
his Proverbs and his Ecclesiastes.
"The winning of souls" is, therefore, the
richest and best business, trade or calling, according
to Solomon, ever undertaken or prosecuted
by mortal man. Paul was fully aware
of this, and therefore had always in his eye a
"triple crown"—"a crown of righteousness,"
a "crown of life," a "crown of glory." And
even in this life he had "a crown of rejoicing,"
in prospect of an exceeding and eternal
weight of glory, imperishable in the heavens.
There is, too, a present reward, a present
pleasure, a present joy and peace which the
wisdom, and the riches, and the dignity, and
the glory, and the honors of this world never
did, never can, and consequently never will,
confer on its most devoted and persevering
There is, indeed, a lawful and an honorable
covetousness, which any and every Christian,
man and woman, may cultivate and cherish.
Paul himself justifies the poetic license,
when he says, "Covet earnestly the best
The best gifts in his horizon, however, were
those which, when duly cultivated and employed,
confer the greatest amount of profit
and felicity upon others. We should, indeed,
desire, even covet, the means and the opportunities
of beatifying and aggrandizing one
another with the true riches, the honors and
the dignities that appertain to the spiritual,
the heavenly and the eternal inheritance.
But we need not propound to your consideration
or inquiry the claims—the paramount,
the transcendent claims—which our enjoyment
of the gospel and its soul-cheering, soul-animating,
soul-enrapturing influences present
to us as arguments and motives to extend
and to animate its proclamation by every instrumentality
and means which we can legitimately
employ, to present it in all its attractions
and claims upon the understanding, the
conscience and the affections of our contemporaries,
in our own country and in all others,
as far as our most gracious and bountiful
Benefactor affords the means and the opportunities
of co-operating with Him, in the rescue
and recovery of our fellow men, who, without
such means and efforts, must forever
perish, as aliens and enemies, in heart and
in life, to God and to His divinely-commissioned
ambassador, the glorious Messiah.
We plead for the original apostolic gospel
and its positive institutions. If the great
apostles Peter and Paul—the former to the
Jews and the latter to the Gentiles—announced
the true gospel of the grace of God,
shall we hesitate a moment on the propriety
and the necessity, divinely imposed upon us,
of preaching the same gospel which they
preached, and in advocating the same institutions
which they established, under the plenary
inspiration and direction of the Holy
Spirit? Can we improve upon their institutions
and enactments? What means that singular
imperative enunciated by the evangelical
prophet Isaiah (Isa. viii.), "Bind up the
testimony, seal the law among my disciples?"
What were its antecedents? Hearken! The
prophet had just foretold. He, the subject
of this oracle, viz: "The desire of all nations,"
was coming to be a sanctuary; but not a sanctuary
alone, but for a stone of stumbling and
a rock of offense (as at this day) to both the
houses of Israel—for a gin and for a snare to
the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The Church, therefore, of right is, and
ought to be, a great missionary society. Her
parish is the whole earth, from sea to sea, and
from the Euphrates to the last domicile of
But the crowning and consummating argument
of the missionary cause has not been
fully presented. There is but one word, in
the languages of earth, that fully indicates it.
And that word indicates neither less nor more
than what is represented—literally, exactly,
perspicuously represented—by the word philanthropy.
But this being a Greek word
needs, perhaps in some cases, an exact definition.
And to make it memorable we will
preface it with the statement of the fact that
this word is found but twice in the Greek
original New Testament (Acts xxviii., 2, and
Titus iii., 4.). In the first passage this word
is, in the common version, translated "kindness,"
and in the second, "love toward man."
Literally and exactly, it signifies the love of
man, objectively; but, more fully exprest, the
love of one to another.
The love of God to man is one form of philanthropy;
the love of angels to one man is
another form of philanthropy; and the love
of man to man, as such, is the true philanthropy
of the law. It is not the love of one
man to another man, because of favors received
from him; this is only gratitude. It
is not the love of one man to another man,
because of a common country: this is mere
patriotism. It is not the love of man to man,
because of a common ancestry: this is mere
natural affection. But it is the love of man
to man, merely because he is a man. This is
pure philanthropy. Such was the love of God
to man as exhibited in the gift of His dearly
beloved Son as a sin-offering for him. This is
the name which the inspired writers of the
New Testament give it. So Paul uses it, Titus
iii. and iv. It should have been translated,
"After that the kindness and philanthropy of
God our Savior appeared." Again, Acts
xxviii., 2, "The barbarous people of the Island
of Melita showed us no little philanthropy.
They kindled a fire for us on their island,
because of the impending rain and the
There are, indeed, many forms and demonstrations
of philanthropy. For one good man
another good man might presume to die. But
the philanthropy of God to man incomparably
transcends all other forms of philanthropy
known on earth or reported from heaven.
While we were sinners, in positive and actual
rebellion against our Father and our
God, He freely gave up His only begotten and
dearly beloved Son, as a sin-offering for us,
and laid upon Him, or placed in His account,
the sin, the aggregate sin, of the world. He
became in the hand of His Father and our
Father a sin-offering for us. He took upon
Himself, and His Father "laid upon him, the
iniquity of us all." Was ever love like this?
Angels of all ranks, spirits of all capacities,
still contemplate it with increasing wonder
This gospel message is to be announced to
all the world, to men of every nation under
heaven. And this, too, with the promise of
the forgiveness of sins and of a life everlasting
in the heavens, to everyone who will cordially
accept and obey it.