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Statement of our plan. Arguments in favor of it drawn from the
commission which Jesus Christ gave to the first missionaries.
Hitherto our remarks have been rather incidental and preliminary. We will now proceed to the statement of the plan which it is the design of these pages to commend to the consideration of the church ;-a plan possessing, in the opinion of many, elements of great adaptation to the wants of the heathen, and well calculated to aid in the work of missions. We say to aid, because it is to be hoped that all new modifications of missionary effort may be used co-ordinately with the noble operations going forward through existing Societies. While all advantage should be taken of progressive experience and accumulated knowledge, to vary evangelical enterprise ; it should be deemed a privilege to counsel with, and if wished, be directed by those who have long been in the field as pioneers. Nobly have they done. Their praise is in all the churches. Their names are written on many a heart below ; and heaven's blest song is sung by those who had never joined in it but for them.
In fact, a strong reason, which has led to the preparation of these pages, is found in the following remarks from the pen
of of the secretaries of the American Board.* “ A CLASS OF LABORERS is needed,” he says,
* Rev. R. Anderson's introductory essay to the “ Life of Mrs. Ellis."
may find homes in the families of married missionaries, and enjoy all their advantages, without being entangled with the cares which families necessarily produce. There might be one or two unmarried missionaries connected with every considerable station. These, without embarrassment of any kind, might take a wide range, visit schools wherever established, hold meetings wherever practicable, distribute books and tracts, collect information, watch for opening doors, and act the part of the van-guard, and scouting parties of an army. Such men, when worn down with labors or attacked with diseases, may have comfortable homes to which they may retreat for assistance and refreshment. Missionaries of this class would have many opportunities for doing good, denied to such as are confined at home by the cares of a family.”
To return. The plan we desire to present is simply that of QUALIFYING AND SENDING ABROAD MEN TO HEAL THE SICK, AND PREACH THE GOSPEL. In other words, to combine the qualifications for healing and preaching in the same missionary.
By this it is not designed to send physicians, and have them attached to missionary stations, to attend to the wants of the missionaries themselves, and to the heathen immediately in their neighborhood. This, as need scarcely be said, is now the case with every important station. It is meant that these men should be unmarried, generally itinerant, and left to the providence of God to direct to their fields of labor.
Perhaps the most striking illustration in modern times of the class of laborers proposed, may be found in the person and work of the missionary Gutzlaff. By tracing his eventful labors in China, and noticing his indebtedness to medical skill for his success in that nation, the idea of raising up a band of itinerant medical missionaries has gained favor in the hearts of many. In all subsequent remarks the reader will please to refer to that individualas he appeared on his voyages to the north-eastern coast of China-for an embodying of the kind of laborers proposed.
Among the arguments that may be brought forward to show the desirableness of such a class of missionaries, great prominence should be given to the plan of labor marked out by Jesus Christ for those who were commissioned by himself in person. Before turning to the record of the details, as given in the New Testament ; some preliminary remarks may be appropriate.
It is not an unnatural supposition-but, in fact a reasonable expectation—that He whose wisdom is infinite, and who saw the circumstances of all coining time at a glance would have traced for the benefit of his followers, some of the general outlines of the best missionary plan. He could not but have seen that the humble Christian would faithfully and anxiously search the Scriptures, for directions on a point so intimately connected with the Divine glory, so important to the salvation of the heathen, and so dear to the bosom of the believer. On other points of deep practical interest, such as prayer, treatment of neighbors, chastity, marriage, war, worldly cares, and the like, he finds such intimations of the Divine will as the nature of those subjects requires. And, on matters which could not well be enumerated; he finds a precept which covers all the field, in the words :
“ Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them : for this is the law and the prophets."
As has just been said, on the subject of missions, it might be expected that some directions would have been given, more specific than those uttered on the hill-side of Olivet.
This natural a priori expectation seems inseparable from the nature of the case. Is it not amply fulfilled, even to the minutest detail, in the commission received from the lips of the Saviour, by the first missionary band ?
It is not a little remarkable that Jesus Christ passed over the subject of ecclesiastical organization with a few general instructions, too vague perhaps to furnish material for a particular mode of church government ; while to the missionary corps he gave directions the most minute and detailed. Has this obvious fact ever received the attention it demands? Have we liberty to pass untried a plan definitely described by the great Leader of Missions ?
We may here be met, with the suggestion, that a plan of labor, or code of directions, which was suited to the Apostles and other of the early missionaries, is not adapted to the present order of things in heathen countries ; and would not be the best for modern missionaries to pursue. Let the mind which gives birth to such a thought seriously inquire, whether the bare suggestion be not an impeachment of the Divine wisdom ; in having left upon the inspired Directory that which is not worthy of imitation. Honest inquiry may lead to the conclusion, that the not adapting the mode sketched in the New Testament is the secret of the comparative ill success of modern missions. At all events, the objection should be well pondered before it becomes a matter of fixed belief.
Human wisdom is never so apt to err as when it essays to improve upon Bible plans and Bible ethics. And it is ever found to be true, that, in proportion as a return is made to the simple directions of the Holy Scriptures, success is found to ensue. This is invariably the case, as well in the details of moral philosophy as in the arrangements of private, practical life. Why should it not be so in the case under consideration ?
It is true that we may do well to put in operation various instrumentalities that are not specifically noticed in the Bible; as, for instance, those designed by the various benevolent societies of the age ; but where specific directions are indicated, concerning any particular branch of christian effort, it is not so clear that we are prudent in departing materially therefrom. At all events, it becomes us to be able " to give a reason” for such departure. The general notion, not properly analyzed perhaps, that circumstances have so altered since the missionary commission was given by Jesus Christ as to render it wise to alter his plan, may not be satisfactory to the great Head of the church.
Those who think such a departure wise are bound to sustain one or all of three positions ; namely, that the Apostles and the Seventy were not missionaries in the proper sense of that term ; or, secondly, that there is a radical difference in the circumstances which now meet the missionary in foreign lands and those under which the first missionaries were placed ; or, lastly, that there was