CHARLES G. FINNEY
Articles in THE INDEPENDENT of NEW YORK
THE TRUE MISSIONARY SPIRIT
BY PRESIDENT CHARLES G. FINNEY.
NEW YORK, JUNE 17, 1875
I. What it is not.1. It is not a sense of obligation to labor for the salvation of souls.
2. It is not a yielding to this conviction of duty.
II. What it is.1. It is true sympathy with the Spirit of Christ.
2. It is the love of and concern for perishing souls.
3. It is a jealousy for the honor of God.
4. It is more than a state or states of the sensibility. It is true benevolence aflame for the conversion and salvation of the world of sinners for whom Christ died.
III. How to excite and secure this state of mind.1. Not by urging labor for the salvation of souls as a duty.
2. Not by insisting that every church should support a missionary.
3. Not by insisting that every family should be represented in the missionary field.
4. Not by denouncing the supineness of the church in relation to these matters.
5. Not by exhortations to deny self and devote our means to the support of missionary societies.
All these may be important considerations to urge in their proper place; but they are in place only when the true missionary spirit is already excited. If the true missionary spirit is not already awakened, the urging of such considerations can have but a legal and not a gospel influence. We cannot secure the love of souls by pressing the duty of loving and caring for them. we cannot secure benevolence by pressing the obligation to benevolence. The attempt this is to overlook the laws of mind.
Positively, the true missionary spirit must be excited, if at all, by presenting and pressing the true character, condition, and prospects of sinners; their moral and spiritual state; their ill-desert; the certainty of their damnation unless they are made holy; their total moral depravity, illustrated in the fact of heathenism, their profound ignorance of the true God; their astonishing and disgusting depravity and superstition; their cruelty to each other; their debasing of themselves; their ignorance of and contempt for the true God; the compassion, self-sacrifice, and efforts of God to save them; in short, the presentation and pressure of all those considerations that truly represent the lostness of sinners, with the compassion and dying love of Christ for them. These considerations, when truly and aptly set before the human mind, tend directly and strongly to awaken and sustain a true missionary spirit. When we wish to awaken a spirit of charity to the unfortunate or suffering, in cases of famine, or pestilence, or war, or great national or local calamities, do we expect to open the hearts and purses of the people by simply urging the duty of charity or almsgiving? Do we not, rather, gather facts and statistics and show the people the real state of the case? Do we not gather facts and incidents and spread them before the public, and thus find access to their hearts and purses? If we want nurses for army hospitals, if we want colporteurs or Bible-readers or any efforts of benevolence, do we not spread out before the people the necessities of the case as much as possible? Do we not paint the ignorance, the suffering, the degradation, the ruin so widespread and unspeakable, and thus endeavor to awaken and actually secure the standing up of multitudes of helpers? This is common sense. It is scriptural. It is philosophical. When the people are made to understand, somewhat in detail, the facts of the case, they hardly need be told that it is their duty to do something. They are intensely disposed to do something. Narrate the facts, spread out the truth, let us look at the field, let us see what is there as far as possible, let us know the particulars, lead us through it, or give us a panoramic view of its desolations, its horrors, of its ruin, of its perishing necessities, and if these things do not stir in us the missionary spirit exhortations are but in vain. But real Christians must be and will be excited to action by the true representation of the facts in the case.
True benevolence is secured only by a knowledge of the facts demanding benevolence. Disinterested love cannot be secured by command, by convictions of duty, or by fear of punishment. It must be secured, if at all, by presenting the guilt, the ill-desert, the ignorance, the ruin, and unspeakable value of the human soul, or the wants, the suffering, the ignorance and degradation and desolation of a race in ruins. And, as we are constituted, it is necessary to descend as much as possible to particulars, facts, cases, individuals. We do not comprehend generalizations, general statements, and statements on a vast and infinite scale. We need to have presented and to ponder an interior view of particular localities, families, and individuals, and to be carried forward from a particular locality and cases to a more general and widespread view of the desolations, in order to be moved to the foundation of our being. First give us the individual cases, customs, localities, abuses, and desolations, then lead us to a consideration of an indefinitely extended number of like cases. When we are impressed by an interior view of touching individual cases and circumstances,, according to the laws of our mind, we can then be carried forward to the indefinite multiplication and consideration of cases of a similar kind and import. In this way alone are we capable of being moved to a true sympathy with Christ and to the exercise of a true missionary spirit.
This leads me to remark, as kindly as possible:
1. The mistake of some of our returned missionaries, and of agents that go about to collect funds for missionary purposes. They often prepare what they call missionary sermons and go around and preach upon the duty of supporting the missionary cause. The duty is admitted. They complain of the supineness of the churches. The justice of the complaint is admitted. They urge that the number of missionaries should be indefinitely increased. This also is admitted. They urge self-denial and self-sacrifice for the cause of missions. This also is admitted. They urge that every church possessing the pecuniary ability should have a missionary in the field. The truth of this is not questioned. They urge parents to train up their children as missionaries. This question is not contested. All these are admitted. But all this is practically of little or no avail. Individuals and churches are moved to but a very limited extent to act in this matter under such presentations. All this we have known, all this we have admitted; but we need facts more than we do principles in this case. We need to have an interior view of the missionary fields, of the facts, degradations, and desolations of the missionary fields, either home or foreign. Because of this mistake, the Church has come to feel that if a missionary agent is going to preach they care but little to hear him. A missionary truly said in my hearing, not long since, that in many places a missionary meeting was regarded as dry and uninteresting. This is often so with missionary sermons. But why is it so? The why is obvious. There is a mistake in the preacher. Instead of moving us to the exercise of a missionary spirit by giving us a view of his field of labor and opening up to us the real facts in the case, he exhorts us to a duty which we admit, but utterly fails to move us to the performance of it by exciting our benevolence. I have often sat with pain to hear what is called a missionary sermon, witnessing the astonishing mistake that missionaries and missionary agents make in their appeals to the people. When agents or missionaries have come to preach to my people I have often begged them not to give us a sermon, but to give us facts. Sometimes they could and sometimes they could not throw aside their manuscripts and talk to us of the real state of things in their missionary field. Whenever they have given us the facts our people have been stirred to action. I never saw our people fail to be deeply moved under the representation of the facts and desolations of the missionary field represented, whether home or foreign. More has been done to excite a missionary spirit by one such representation of facts than by all the missionary sermons they ever heard.
2. I notice the mistake that is made in urging young men and women to become missionaries. An appeal is often made to young men to become ministers and to both sexes to become missionaries because it is their duty. It may be their duty, but it is their duty first to have a missionary spirit. It is their duty to care supremely for the honor of God and the salvation of souls. But if they have not this love and concern for souls and a supreme jealousy for the honor of God it is not their duty to undertake the work while their heart is not in it. To urge them to do so is only to press them to go forward in a legal spirit, when, it will be found they will do but little good. Set them to work for God and souls without the love of God and souls and they will dishonor God and stumble the souls with whom they labor. They cannot truly represent God without God's love of souls in their hearts. They cannot win souls without an unfeigned love and deep concern for them in their hearts. I fear there are already too many laborers in the field, both at home and abroad, who are moved rather by a sense of duty than by the love which constitutes the religion of Jesus.
3. We can see from this the only true way to secure efficient laborers for God, both at home and abroad. Excite their love, their compassion, their zeal by presenting the real facts of the case. If all the missionary boards in Christendom will call home their missionaries, male and female, for one year and enjoin it upon them to go to every church in Christendom and spread out before them as fully and as much in detail as possible the real state of the unconverted world, I believe they will secure more missionaries and more money than have been secured in all the time since missionary operations were first undertaken. I believe they might return to their missionary fields after a year of such labor with more men and more money than they would otherwise obtain in fifty years.
4. I would humbly remark that it appears to me to be an error in the reports of missionary boards, and in the correspondence of missionaries themselves with their boards, that there is not enough of detail in regard to the state of the unconverted in their respective fields to stir the hearts of the people. Is there not something lacking here? To save time and expense, their correspondence and publications appear to me to be too dry. To save time and expense, they seem to withhold from the people the food which is necessary to stimulate and render permanent their missionary zeal. Their reports are interesting as far as they go; but do not the churches need much more than the statistics regarding the number of churches, the number of missionaries, the number of converts, and such business details as are generally spread before the public? We need more facts, more of that which the missionary sees and hears and feels in his everyday labors. These things become so familiar to missionaries that I fear they forget the importance of communicating the details to the churches at home. I have found that in conversing with a foreign missionary, either male or female, for half an hour about the details of their work and their field I will be excited to more zeal, more love for the souls of the heathen, and more effort to save their souls than by any number of missionary sermons or other public communications from missionaries. I know the missionaries complain that they have not time to write these details; but how can they be better employed? Would it not more effectually promote the missionary interest to take time, at any rate, and keep the people at home fully apprized of the facts so essential to the permanency of missionary zeal in the churches? I desire to say much more, but this article is already, perhaps, too long. God bless the missionaries!
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