HopeSteadfast FaithMissionary PromisesA needful SphereThe Power of
ContrastInspiration from Church HistoryVisible Fruits.
Thus with somewhat of the
Must the moral pioneer
From the future borrow;
Clothe the waste with dreams of grain,
And on midnights sky of rain
Paint the golden morrow.
The Bible, from first to last, is
one unbroken, persistent call to hope.Dean
We are saved by hope.The
FOREIGN missionaries have the most
discouraging spheres in the world, and are usually the most hopeful of
men. Stewart was in this respect a good representative of his class, for
his hopefulness was subjected to the severest tests, and yet he did not
hang his harp on the willows. His was the secret of annexing the future to
the present and the harvest to the seed-time, and he saw in ridiculously
mean beginnings the prophecy of great things. His optimism is revealed in
every book he wrote and in every one of his missionary addresses. In his
Love-dale he writes: The great future of the missionary enterprise
may be left to take care of itself. It is safe in the hands of its
Founder. Its progress means the gradual spread of Christianity. Its final
success means that the future religion of mankind will be the religion of
Jesus Christ, and the future civilisation of the world a Christian
civilisation, whatever its form may be.
. . .
And that is just what we labour fora day in the future
when the Dark Continent shall be a continent of light and progress, of
cities and civilisation and Christianity. There is no good reason to doubt
the coming of such a day.
He never lost his faith in Africas
redemption. In his Moderators address he said, All question as to the
final success of the work may be set at rest.
In the greatest books on missions
there is not, he tells us, the sound of a single depressing note.
Dont let despair begin with you, said one of his colleagues, let it
begin with us. Great hopes make great men and missionaries.
What are the sources of this
quenchless hope? It is rooted in an unwavering Christian faith. In
ordinary circumstances only a whole-hearted faith can induce a thoughtful
man to face the enormous difficulties of the field. He who hopes to
overthrow heathen systems must be very sure that his feet are planted upon
the eternal rock. An invincible belief in the recoverableness of the
heathen is the foundation of all missions. The missionarys faith is
increased by his sacrificing
worldly ambitions and devoting himself to a life of exile. Such a man has
no prospect of making a fortune and enjoying years of rest at home. The
work before him is fitted to shatter the hope that is sentimental, and the
faith that has not been confirmed. The difficulties that confront him call
out all his spiritual reserves. Consciousness of purity of motive brings
him into the right mood and
attitude for great inspirations. The missionary at his best has the spirit
of Arbousset, one of the earliest French missionaries to the Basutos. When
he landed at Cape Town and gazed at the Table Mount, the gigantic barrier
of rock became to him a symbol of the heathenism he hoped to overthrow.
Who art thou, O great mountain? he asked. Before Zerubbabel, thou shalt
become a plain.
The missionary broods more than
others over the missionary promises, and these are the most
astonishing and inspiring utterances in the whole world. Use and wont has
blunted the edge of our wonder, and only by an effort can we dismiss our
dull associations and grasp the unfailing optimism of the Bible. The
greatest literary miracle in the world is the unity of the Bible, and its
hope of the conversion of all nations. Its writers belonged to one of the
smallest and most exclusive races in the world; its books were written at
different times, by very different men, and amid various tendencies, and
yet they all introduce us to a King who is to establish a world-wide and
world-long kingdom. As Abraham was sitting under the great oak at Mamre,
he was told that he would have a chosen son, that his son would be the
father of a chosen nation, and that the nation would have a chosen seed in
whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. The hope of the
conversion of the whole world lives in the heart of the whole Bible. The
strongest utterances of this invincible optimism came from the prophets
when their land was in ruins and their religious institutions were caught
in the rapids and hurrying on to destruction. The same spirit pervades the
New Testament; for it was written by fervent missionariesapostle is the
Greek word for a missionaryand is everywhere full of the missionary
spirit. Its great oft-recurring words are outgoingteach, call, keep,
heal, say, go, etc. The beloved disciple, even when a prisoner in Patmos,
and in a day when heathenism was triumphant everywhere, wrote as if he
already heard the tread of the coming millions of Gentile converts
hurrying on to the mystic Zion, the seat of Him who is the Desire of all
nations. He saw his Divine Master in vision as a Roman warriora
bowmangoing forth conquering and to conquer and crowned with victory. The
missionary lives in the spiritual ozone of such truths, and thus his hopes
are fostered. Stewart, by pitching the tent of his meditation among the
promises, breathed that spirit of victory which throbs at the heart of
both the Testaments. With him the Christ that is to be is Christ the
Conqueror. One of them had the power of a charm over him Ethiopia shall
haste to stretch out her hands unto God. He hoped to mould the poetry of
the Christian life out of the hard, dull prose of paganism.
The foreign missionary has usually
one notable advantage over the average pastor or Christian worker at home:
he feels that he is where he is greatly needed. His work is not
tame and commonplace, and he has all the inspiration that comes from a
vast sphere and a very great and fresh enterprise. He is preaching the
glad tidings to those who, but for him, would probably never hear it, and
by his very presence he is doing something to lessen the surrounding
darkness. The spirit of enterprise was very strong in Stewart, and,
sanctified by grace, it made him a prince of missionaries.
There can be no doubt that he gained
not a little additional inspiration from the hundreds of young people
under his influence. The very flower of South Africa came to Lovedale, and
they represented the most vigorous and prolific races in the world to-day.
Very different were they from the decaying race for whom John Eliot
compiled a grammar and translated the Bible. Not a member of that tribe
now lives. The fact that the pupils at Lovedale belonged to various
tribes, stimulated emulation among them, and purified and guided their
racial jealousies. The Principal touched their lives at every point, and
through them he influenced nearly all the tribes in the land. They offered
him the very opportunity for which he had passionately yearned. In his
hands was the making of those chosen youths who were to be the makers of
the new South Africa. Lovedale thus had for him such a charm as a great
university has for its leading professors. It was a power-house, a
generating and distributing station whence new forces were to be conveyed
over the land. He thought that the Gospel was more likely to spread in
Africa from the south than from the north. One of his dreams was about a
chain of Lovedales stretching to Khartoum and beyond. He asked Rhodes to
give him a site in Rhodesia for one of them. He thought imperially.
wonderfully helps the missionary to preserve his apostolic optimism. He
has the best opportunities in the world for the study of comparative
religion, for everyday religions and the religion are at work
before his eyes. The merely intellectual study of this great subject is
fitted to make a profound impression. Max Muller says that he who knows
only one religion, knows none. This exaggeration suggests a great truth.
He elsewhere says more truly, No one who has not examined patiently and
honestly the other religions of the world can know what Christianity
really is, or can join with such truth and sincerity in the words of St.
Paul: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ! Only by setting Christs
religion by the side of one of its rivals can we gain the fullest
persuasion of the peerless excellences of the Christian faith. But the
study of heathen religions in books is often very misleading. We should
generously appreciate the elements of good in them, but we want to know
how they work. Many recently believed that the Bhuddism of Tibet contained
wonderful treasures of religious knowledge, and they hoped to find a new
Messias there. Those who have recently lifted the veil tell us that
Tibetan Bhuddism is rude idolatry and mere devil-worship. [A young Indian
physician witnessed for the first time the celebration of the Lords
Supper in Scotland. He wept throughout the service. When asked the reason,
he said: I tried to understand all that was said and done: I thought of
the beauty of your religion, of its love to man, its pity for the sinful
and the sorrowful. I then thought of my India, and of the many sad things
in our religion. I thought of its cruelty to our widows. When I put the
two religions alongside of each other I could do nothing but weep.
There can scarcely be a more
miserable religion under heaven than the African, and the missionary who
daily witnesses it is likely to appreciate the blessedness of the
Christian faith more than the average Christian at home usually does. We
have here one of the liberalising influences of the missionarys
enthusiasm. He is not tempted to mistake his own horizon for the earths.
rightly studied breaks the spell of despondency. His
Journal shows that Stewart, when exploring in the heart of Africa, had a
peculiar fondness for the Acts of the Apostles as a record of missionary
enterprise, and that he brooded over it
with an eye to his own career,
saying to himself the whileI also am a missionary. The Foreign
Missionary has every day an experience remarkably like that of the
leaders in the New Testament churches. He is therefore in the best
possible position for understanding, and receiving constant inspiration
from, the photos of church-life in the Epistles and the Acts of the
Apostles. How wonderful the story when one brings to it a realising
historical imagination. Paul and Silas crossed over to Europe as
travelling artisans. But they went as Heralds of Jesus Christ, and in the
spirit of conquerors. They hoped to rescue from heathendom cultured Rome
and the untutored nations, and they have done it. What moral and spiritual
miracles the pair accomplished To-day there is not a man, woman, or child
on the face of the earth who worships the gods that then had sway over all
Europe. It is true that Christs kingdom came not then with observation.
As Stewart points out more than once, the Roman historians, famed as they
were for their eagle-eyed acuteness, have, during the first three
centuries, only some ten or twelve brief and scornful references to the
Church of Christ. Yet ere long the Empires fell one upon another to form
a pedestal upon which to build the Church. Stewarts writings show that
he had made himself familiar with the triumphant march of the Church
through the ages, and thus he had the hope, we should rather say the
expectation, that the experience of the early Churches would be repeated
in Africa. When one has seen the Catacombs, a visitor to Rome says, one
understands the great explosion of Christianity under Constantine, the
city had been conquered underground. Stewart believed that something like
that was taking place around him. While surrounded by the night, he was
confident of the dawn, and the dawn overtook him.
For the facts he had
witnessed justified to a large extent his lifelong optimism. The previous
chapters record some of these facts. He believed that a great missionary
epoch had already begun, and that it would have immense issues. Young
missionaries may despair, said a veteran Indian missionary; we who have
witnessed such stupendous changes never can. Before the Native Affairs
Commission Stewart made a similar statement about the improvements he had
witnessed, especially in the native women, whose appearance had been
entirely changed. The sight of the boys and girls at Lovedale was fitted
to break the spell of despondency if it had ever mastered him.
In his Dawn he says:A fair
and just, and yet not optimistic, survey of the missionary situation of
to-day would lead us to the belief that it is better, more encouraging,
and more full of real results than at any time since the days of the
Apostles. How poorly at the best have we discharged the great duties God
has laid upon us in virtue of the gifts He has bestowed! Still, in Gods
time, apparently a better day is coming, for clearly "oer that weird
continent morn is slowly breaking." We return again in a final word to the
one power and influence sufficient for the regeneration of Africa. It has
been the keynote through all these pages. That one force is the religion
of Jesus Christ, taught not merely by the white mans words, but what is
far better, by his life, as showing the true spirit of that religion.
Believing thus that the best is yet to be, the shadows of the morning were
tinged in his eyes with the glory of the approaching dawn.
Shortly before his death Coillard
wroteMarch 4, 1904Read Dr. Stewarts Dawn in the Dark Continent,
Daybreak in Livingstonia, and Among the Wild Ngoni, by Dr.
Elmslie. To state my impressions would be impossible. I am humbled and
moved to wonder. What great things the Lord has done there.
We are saved by hope, the Apostle
says. The expectation of victory is often the guarantee of victory, for
every great battle is lost or won in the soul. In our Navy the signal for
a close engagement is the same as the signal for a victory. To hope is
often to achieve. These are the reasons why Stewart hoped all things not
impossible, and believed all things not unreasonable, and preserved his
unclouded optimism amid many assaults upon it.
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