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Protestant missionaries are poor married creatures, caring for their comforts chiefly, incapable of sacrifice, doing therefore no manner of good. It is bad also in an illiterate Wesleyan to destroy the hymns of the Feejees; but quite right in Xumarraga to burn the picture-writings of the Mexicans. It is wicked in the Protestant missionaries to keep the Jesuits out of Tahiti; but very proper in Richelieu to“ prohibit the admission of Protestant colonists into Canada.” Finally, Father Marshall appears to have a cordial hatred of the country that gave him birth, and to cherish a hope that it may be humbled before long, and firmly to believe that the amiable Mexican and Brazilian nations are full of pious Christians, while the people of England are something worse than heathens; all which, it is to be supposed, will commend itself to the dutiful and loyal Irishry, who form his congregation, more than even to the most extensively “liberal” of our Protestant population. Not that this history is altogether worthless. With much careful sifting, one may get an idea or two out of it, worth dwelling upon, and even some facts not readily found elsewhere, which may be partially relied upon. But without charging the respectable Father with dishonesty, we must conclude this book, after careful examination, to be a work of incredible candour, which very simple readers may perhaps believe.
Yet when we turn to Protestant authorities, hoping to find matters better ordered among them, the result is nowise satisfactory. They do not, indeed, paint their own proceedings, in quite such roseate hues as the Jesuit used for his Society. They do make some allowance for occasional mistakes and shortcomings, in more or less euphemistic phraseology. Neither do they weave so elaborate a web of damaging testimony against their opponents, as has been skilfully meshed by Father Marshall; which is so far creditable. But they nearly all assume that Christian missions to the heathen began little more than half a century ago. They do not reckon Roman Catholic missionaries among the teachers of Christ, nor their converts among the Christian populations. Thus Dr. Brown, who is, on the whole, a fair and truthful historian, declines to notice the Romish missions, on the plea“ that there would often be no possibility of distinguishing between truth and falsehood in the narrations of the missionaries,” and quotes M. Cerri, secretary to the Congregation de Propaganda Fide in the latter part of the seventeenth century, as his authority for this conclusion. On the credit, then, of this report, the world-wide activity of Romish missions, which, after making all allowance for exaggeration, is one of the most remarkable phenomena in human history, is passed by as an empty glittering bubble,
floating about here and there and everywhere, but of no consequence, earthly or otherwise. Nor does Dr. Mullens, in his excellent statistics, take any account of the old missions in Madura or Ceylon, though his object is to show the present condition of Christianity in India. Nay, so far do some of them carry this spirit, that Mr. Venn speaks of the Nestorians in Goa, though rotten to the core, as a Christian Church, but will by no means allow the same title to the Franciscans and Jesuits. Mr. Venn bears an honoured name, but his life of Xavier will scarcely add to the estimation in which it has long been held; for the book is narrow and carping to a degree ; in praise the most grudging, in blame the most ready and punctual, that we have come across, for some time, at least, in the ranks of respectable literature. For a large view, then, of general missionary enterprise, we shall get small help from Protestant writers on the subject. Substantially, they treat the Romish priest as no better than a Brahmin or a Bonze. The gospel is brought for the first time to India by the Society for Propagating the Gospel, and to China by Dr. Morrison, though Xavier and Ricci had been there, not without wonderful results, three hundred years before. We confess ourselves, with all our Protestantism, unable to sympathize with this spirit. We think Christian history should not be written after the manner of The Bulwark, nor yet after the model of Father Marshall. We do not profess extreme" liberality," but would fain be reasonably honest. If a Father De Nobili puts the Virgin Mary into an idol car, and drives her by torch-light through a crowd of worshippers, with Nautch girls obscenely dancing, and tomtoms beating, and fire-works flaming in the air, we cannot see much difference between such a “Christian” procession and that in which the car was filled by Juggernauth, and all other accompaniments were the same. But if Hindoos and Buddhists are brought to Christ so far that their morals are tolerably Christian, and their habits of worship Christian after a sort, and so dear to them that they will abide long years of persecution and worse neglect, we confess ourselves charitable enough to think there must be some reality in a faith which submits to prison and torture and death rather than go back to Paganism. And believing that a brief survey of the whole course of Christian Missions may help us to a larger and truer appreciation of the nature of this work, and perhaps also shed a little light on various problems springing out of its present state, we think it may be worth while to glance over the whole field, both past and present, and ascertain, if possible, what has been done, and how it has been done, and what practical light it gives for the guidance of future operations.
We cannot fix with any accuracy the precise field of missions occupied by the apostles and their immediate successors. The traditions of St. James's visit to Spain, St. Paul's to Britain, St. Thomas going to India, and others beyond the wall of China, are of course among the many lively flights of patristic imagination. It is certain that at a very early period Christianity had been preached over a wide area of the then known world; but beyond that, let no man ask a question with any hope of a credible reply. Authentic history stops with the Acts of the Apostles. The men who followed did their work, but did not record it; and before a recorder came, a great mist swept over Christendom, and only the dimmest vision of that work can now be gained. But we may gather from St. Luke's narrative some hints as to the way in which mission work was done by St. Paul. Perhaps indeed his process was affected, more or less, by the kind of people among whom he laboured. No doubt it was; for St. Paul, unlike most Jews, had a very pliant kind of mind that shaped itself wonderfully to its circumstances, and became “all things to all men,” consistently with its staple belief. Now, as the gospel originated with a people less civilized than those of Greece or Rome, its primary mission work differed, so far, from that of all later ages, and is not necessarily a rule to other times. Christianity, since then, has always been identified with the higher civilisation, and its conflicts with Gentilism have therefore been the struggles of intellectual and material progress with Pagan corruption and decay. But it was not so at the beginning. The first mission work of the Church was carried on under peculiar conditions, never precisely repeated at any later period; a people in some respects less civiÎized having to do their work of moral regeneration among men proud of their splendid trophies in letters and science and government.
Yet it may be worth while to note how St. Paul went about his work in Antioch, or Ephesus, or Corinth, or imperial Rome. Not that this fixes the law of missionary operations in other times and under other conditions; but that it shows how a man of rare wisdom adapted himself to the world in which he found himself placed. Of course, the "weapons of his warfare were not carnal but spiritual.” Of course, it was the
power of the truth, and “ demonstration of the Holy Ghost," that really vanquished the heathen. Of course, too, it was the loving self-sacrifice of the apostle that “commended the truth to men's consciences in the sight of God.”
This last, among human means, we shall always find to be the great power of conversion; not logic, not “evidences of Christianity;" but always the faith and love and sacrifice of the Christian. If, however, there is anything which, more than another, distinguishes the apostolic missions, it is the new social life which was then established. St: Paul was not a mere teacher of a religious system. He did not settle down to spend a lifetime in the vain attempt to train a small band of converts up to the level of his own spiritual consciousness. His gospel was very brief; not therefore superficial, but necessarily rudimentary, and pregnant with a wisdom which time would ripen and reveal. It was a true “preaching” or herald's proclamation of the kingdom of God; and, at least in the first instance, it was chiefly addressed to the poor--the slaves and the craftsmen, the weary and heavy-laden. These, on their profession of a very simple creed, were at once baptized, and afterwards brought under more careful instruction, -- a process which was by and by reversed, when men came to have "more understanding than all their teachers.” Thus the Church was organized, and left very much to edify and increase itself, getting only occasional visits and letters from the apostles, according as circumstances required. We apprehend therefore, that, in order to understand the rapid growth of Christianity, special attention should be given to the nature of the church—the new social organization which the gospel had created.
In many respects, the primitive Christian was nowise distinguishable from any other citizen. He traded in the market, and paid his taxes, and visited his neighbours, like other people. There was no parallelogram, or phalanstère, where a theorizing communism experimented on its votaries. At Jerusalem, for a while, " they had all things in common;" but it was not an enforced rule, nor does St. Paul seem ever to have followed their example. The Christian converts, then, formed a new social organization, but it was one of a very spontaneous kind, quite unlike some others which we shall come across in later times. In point of fact, the Church, instead of having any communistic tendencies, was rather a protest against them. Christianity specially respected the rights of the individual and the institution of home. Then, too, Christians did not go to law, but decided all disputes among themselves. They had officials appointed to care for the widows and orphans. Without attempting the formal abolition of slavery, the Helot, in virtue of his brotherhood with Jesus, was raised to a moral level with his Christian master. And at least once a week, high and low, rich and poor, met on a footing of equality, and realized it in “the fellowship of breaking of bread and of prayer.” We have comparatively few special ordinances or regulations on this subject ; but anyone, even slightly acquainted with the social life of Greece or Rome, may
easily imagine how the moral principles of the gospel would inevitably embody themselves in “ a kingdom”—a social system radically and intensely different from all its surroundings. Slaves and men of the lowest caste became beautiful in their lives, and grand in their death. What was almost as strange, the few “wise and prudent” among them were no longer contemptuous of those beneath, for they had learnt that "he that would be lord in the church must become a servant.” Thus the Pariah rose, for moral worth, to a level with the Brahmin, and the Brahmin, in virtue of his Christian ministry, became truly a son of God; and the gospel triumphed, not simply as an idea by mere force of logic, but rather as a fact, whose evidence was its own faith, hope, and charity. Such, to our minds, was the primary mission-action of the Church. First, the loving selfsacrifice of the apostles caused “God to be admired in his saints," and kindled a fine enthusiasm which was, in due time, to burn up the selfishness of heathenism. This power, acting mainly from beneath upward—beginning, i.e., at the basement storey of the social edifice — gradually elevated the poorest to a moral level above the wise and great. Organized now into a social institution, the influence of Christianity became, not merely the power of a new doctrine, but the power of a new life. The social organization was simple, natural, and spontaneous, but on that very account, markedly different from the elaborate state and caste institutions of the Gentiles. Gradually, therefore, the apostles and their miraculous powers faded away, and the apostolic communities alone remained, like the central nucleus in the fire-mist, gathering together, by moral attraction, the loose elements of spiritual yearning and unrest among the heathen, and making them "to shine as the stars for ever and ever.” In this way, Christian missions would seem at first to have made progress-by means of truth embodied in a free, spontaneous community of love and good works. All could see it. All were bettered by it. All might enter it. And so, ere the last of the twelve was in his grave, the little "seed” was already a great tree, and the birds of the air were nestling in its branches.
The age of the apostles, then, was intensely missionary; but that which succeeded was rather theological. Readers of Church history will find this succession frequently repeated in after years; an era of progress followed by an apparent arrest, during which religious thought is deepening and consolidating. So in the growth of a plant the vital force is first expended in simply enlarging its dimensions, with texture feeble and pulpy; but by and by, the same power, neglecting mere size, achieves firmness and consistency. It was impossible, then, that the primi