MISSIONS AND THE ADVENT
By A. T. PIERSON, D.D.
It was a saying of Immanuel Kant that every man propose to himself three questions: What can I know? What ought I to do? and for what I may hope? All action is the result of incentives; and the more numerous and powerful the incentives, the more prompt and energetic the activity. Hope is, therefore, the greatest motor of human life; it is the very sculptor of character and conduct; the architect of history and destiny. Hope is so connected with happiness that its perfect crown is heaven; and Dante was not less philosopher than poet when he wrote over the gates of the Inferno, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!”
The Blessed Hope of our Lord’s Return was, no doubt, the foremost of all motives, hopes and incentives which moved early disciples to zeal and activity in missions; and to revive this hope - to make it practically a mighty motor to us that it was to them, is to provide a new impulse and impetus in the work of a world’s evangelization. Hope is the one impulse that never loses its youth, and, above all, this hope. On the contrary, so soon as we lose sight of the Advent’s imminence and say:- “My Lord delayeth His coming,” we are tempted to indolence, self-indulgence, and controversy on minor matters. When disciples felt the time to be short and the duty to be urgent, they were “all at it and always at it”; self-denial was an easy yoke and petty jealousies were scorned as trifles. So soon and so long as that hope was dim, and Christ’s coming [and Kingdom Age] was pushed into the far-off future, the Church began leisurely working, then flippantly playing at missions, as though vast circles of time lay before us in which to witness to the world. Revive this hope of the Lord’s Coming and it begets hourly watching, ceaseless praying, tireless toiling, patient waiting.
The Scriptures warrant no expectation of the world’s conversion in this [evil] age of witness; so far as we look for such result we work on the wrong basis, and will either be disappointed or deceived in the outcome. The soldier who misconceives the object of a campaign, may falsely construe all the movements of the army. If he thinks the whole force of the foe is to be captured, the seizure of a few leading strongholds seems only next to absolute defeat. But, if he knows that this is exactly according to orders from headquarters, and that the plan of his great commander is thus carried out, seizing and holding certain strategic points, and waiting for him to arrive with reinforcements, what would otherwise have seemed defeat, now becomes success.
Since Jesus of Nazareth, through the rent veil of His flesh and the rent door of His tomb, opened to every believer the path of life, nineteen centuries have gone by, during which a vast number of souls, equal to twenty times the present population of the globe, have gone down to the grave, ignorant of Christ. Isaac Taylor once attempted a catalogue of the great social evils:‑ polygamy, legalized prostitution and capricious divorce, bloody and brutal games, rapacious and offensive wars, death and punishment by torture, infanticide, caste and slavery. From all lands where the Cross has been set up and the gospel faithfully preached, these owls of the midnight flee before the new dawn.
The war is God’s, but it needs money and materiel. Brave
Captain Gardiner, at Tierra del
Fuego, led a little band of seven against Satan’s seat in
One of the most venerated missionaries, Dr. H. N. Barnum, once gave an account of fourteen years of labour, in preaching, establishing stations, training a native ministry, and carrying on all the work of evangelization and education over a wide territory. The question was asked:‑ “At what cost was all this done?” And the answer was - for a sum less than the cost of the church building in which he was then speaking - an edifice worth probably £30,000! Fourteen years of such wide-reaching work at an average cost per year of somewhat over £2,000!
Is it strange that the soldier of Christ endures hardness, fights the good fight of faith, carries the Cross at all risks to plant it on Satan’s strongholds, while he is looking daily for the coming of the Captain of his salvation, and knows not how soon he may lay down his warrior’s armour for the crown of victory? Paul forgot all his losses in such gains - and counted all but refuse, for the sake of the [select] resurrection hope.* Fellowship with Christ in suffering brings fellowship in glory; and to die with Him as a malefactor is to be exalted with Him as a benefactor. With many disciples, the eyes are yet blinded to this mystery of rewards, which is one of the open mysteries of the Word, and some cannot see how rewards can have any place in an economy of grace. But we must not confound [eternal] salvation and recompense. It must be an imputed righteousness - exceeding far that of the most proper Pharisee - whereby we enter [‘the race’ (1 Cor. 9: 24; Heb. 12: 1, 16, 17)]; but having thus entered by faith, our works [will] determine our relative rank, place, reward, [inheritance, and entrance into the millennial kingdom of Messiah, (Matt. 5: 20; Col. 3: 24; Eph. 5: 5, 6).]
[* See, Phil. 3: 11; Acts 20: 24; 21: 13.]
More than twenty-five years ago a missionary, after seventeen years of work on the foreign field, lay on his deathbed. Suddenly arousing himself, with great emphasis, he said “I have a testimony to give, and would best give it now. Tell the Christian young men that the responsibility of saving the world rests on them; not on the old men, but on the young. It is past time for holding back and waiting for providences. I used to think that a missionary ought to husband his strength; but this is a crisis in the world’s history, and one man by keeping back may keep back others. Reason is profitable to direct, but the man that rushes to duty is faithful. There are times when rashness is the rule and caution the exception. I look upon the Church as a military company: an army of conquest, not of occupation.”
While that dying missionary was leaving behind his last legacy in a message to young men, there was at Princeton, New Jersey, another missionary, returned after thirty years’ service in India, who was gathering in his own house, from time to time, a few younger brethren, to urge on them the same deep conviction - that on them God had laid the burden of beginning a new missionary crusade. He put before them the map of the world, pressed the need of an organized movement among young men to enter the regions beyond; and, while he left them to consider and confer, he withdrew into a neighbouring room to pray. To those prayers we may trace a movement so mighty that in twenty-five years it enrolled on its missionary covenant more than eight thousand young men and women.
The golden chalice which is filling is God’s purpose; its flood is man’s opportunity. And whenever God’s full time comes, the angel whose stride spans sea and land declares:- “There shall no longer be DELAY!” Then, or never, we fall into line with God’s movement. His times and tides wait for no man. Swiftly His plan sweeps on to its goal, leaving behind the sluggard and the idler. Ye watchers, be ready, and when the full hour is come for the work and war of the ages, stand in your lot and be not found faithless.