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RESPECTING FOREIGN MISSIONS
WE HAVE heard from three dear sisters in Christ, who have been for a long time deeply interested in foreign missions, to the effect that they were greatly disappointed that in our last issue we quoted certain criticisms of foreign missions. They find no fault with our own utterances in the article; but think the quotations false when they refer to the missionaries as having taken part in the looting of Peking. One of the Sisters says,—”I ask you, in justice to the missionaries, to publish in the Tower the enclosed extract from an article in the May number of the North American Review,—by Rev. Judson Smith, Corresponding Secretary of the American Board of Foreign Missions.” We give the extract cheerfully, following, and will explain later on.
“THE MISSIONARIES AND THEIR CRITICS”
“The efforts of the Boxers were directed especially against the native converts, because of their connections with the foreigners. These converts were crushed by heavy fines, were robbed, were driven from their homes, and, in due time, were slain by hundreds and thousands. When the siege of Peking was raised the missionaries were left with large bodies of native Christians dependent upon them for everything. The missionaries themselves were left without homes, without resources, with these hundreds of homeless, helpless people looking to them for aid. Chaos reigned in Peking and in the country around it. The missionaries of different Boards felt that it would be intolerable for them to suffer these Chinese refugees, who had helped during the siege and had won encomiums for the share they had borne in it, to perish, as they must if something were not done in their behalf. The case was urgent. They were without food and without the means of obtaining it. Food and shelter for the very next day and then for days after that, must be found. Delay meant starvation and death. In the absence of all native authority with the knowledge and approval of Mr. Conger and other Ambassadors, two colonies were established in different parts of Peking, in courts abandoned by their owners, and were supported by the resources found in these courts, just as the Ambassadors and all others in the siege had been kept alive by what they found within their reach from the British Legation. As to the charge of looting by the missionaries, besides their own denials, we have the explicit testimony of one wholly outside their number whose position gave him exceptional facilities for knowing the facts. Mr. R. E. Bredon, Deputy Inspector General for the Imperial Maritime customs of China, who was in Peking throughout the siege and remained there some time afterward, wrote October 3, to the North China Mail, ‘I heard in the Legation, before we were enabled to leave it, that missionaries had taken quantities of loot. I took special pains to investigate the truth of the assertion, and found absolutely nothing to confirm it.'”
LET THE TRUTH PREVAIL
Although we quoted the Literary Digest article as a whole, we had no special desire to refer to the “looting” practiced at Peking. The leading journals have had much to say for and against the conduct of the missionaries in this respect; but for our part we considered that they treated the matter too severely,—seeming to overlook the fact that anarchy prevailed, and that it was not only necessary to take possession of palaces as temporary shelters, but necessary also to procure food for the starving—either by seizing food or by seizing goods which could be turned into money wherewith to buy food.
There is no doubt, however, that missionaries did adopt this plan of confiscating goods, called “looting”; for they have confessed it. The article by Rev.
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Judson Smith was called out as a defense of the course; and on close examination will not be found to be a denial of the facts admitted by missionaries Ament and Tewksbury. For instance Dr. Ament says,—
“In explanation of anything the missionaries may have done in the line of looting, it is only right to say that a famine was predicted for the coming winter, that they had hundreds of people in their charge who were in immediate need of food, clothing, and shelter, and who looked to the missionaries for assistance. It is but justice to them to say that if in the ardor of their desire to provide for their people, they did some things that attracted criticism, they did it with the best of intentions.”
The New York Sun of May 4, says:—
“In an interview at Kobe, Dr. Ament, while on his way home to this country in Mr. Conger’s company, gave an amazing picture of his experience in ‘selling stuff’ that did not belong to him. We are now quoting from the Kobe Herald of April 6:
‘”The Tungchau mission, through Mr. Tewksbury, were selling things at Prince Yu’s residence, and Miss Smith, of the London Mission, was selling off stuff from Boxer premises she had taken for her people. Mine was the last sale of the three. There were no especially valuable things on our premises—the owner was a broken-down Mongol prince; one sable robe, numbers of fox and squirrel-skin garments, and a large number of garments of inferior quality. The sale lasted two weeks.”
‘”Did you have it at stated times of day, then?”
‘”No, at any time when the officers came. I had an experienced Chinaman put a value on the things, and I then charged about one-half or two-thirds of the value they would have brought in ordinary times. The officers were very glad to purchase at those rates.”
‘”Then there was no regular sale?”
‘”No, the things were marked, and the officers would come and go prowling around the rooms, bringing to me what they wanted while I was going on with my work, and this, as I say, went on for about a fortnight. When they saw what things were wanted, some of our Christians borrowed a little money and went on the streets and purchased fur garments from Russians or Sikh soldiers, and brought them in and sold them to the officers at a good profit.”‘
“Thus was the palace occupied in the absence of its proprietor, by the Rev. Dr. Ament turned into a receptacle and mart for stolen goods; not stolen, he asserts, by the ‘Christians’ who brought the stuff in, but by them purchased on speculation from the original looters and sold under Dr. Ament’s supervision at a good profit. … If the Rev. Dr. Judson Smith blinks the word loot, the Rev. Dr. W. S. Ament doesn’t. We wonder whether the first-named divine has really read all the evidence afforded by his own chief witness.”
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But while we thus give both sides to the looting matter and thus establish the truth of all we published in our last, that shocked some of our readers, nevertheless we have heretofore avoided all reference to the matter, feeling that considerable excuse should be made for departure from Christian and civilized usages, considering that anarchy prevailed and that money from other sources was probably not available. Nevertheless we cannot commend the course. It would have seemed questionable to a “business man” and should not have been even thought of by ministers of the gospel of justice are love. The missionaries evidently were misled by the worldly looting spirit prevailing in that anarchy and did what they would not do again, and would not have done then under less temptation.
NOT MEN BUT FALSE DOCTRINES DO WE ATTACK
Our article was not intended as an attack upon missionaries, nor yet upon missions; but rather it was an attack upon the false doctrine which has been the mainspring of energy in connection with missionary efforts; viz., that the heathen are going into eternal torment by the hundreds of thousands yearly;—for lack of the knowledge carried to them by the missionaries. If Christian people desire to go to the people of China, Japan, India, Turkey, etc., as doctors, nurses, hospital-attendants, teachers of school-children, general teachers of morality, and illustrators of our Western civilization, well and good. And if incidentally then they get an occasional person or many to accept Jesus as their Redeemer and Lord so much the better. But it is high time that the false pretense, the pride and vanity bubble, of “converting the world” were burst, and that its baneful influence upon Christendom terminated.
The missionaries know full well that it is as reasonable to talk of a trip to the moon as to talk of “capturing the world for Jesus:” neither would be possible without a miracle,—the interposition of super-human power. It is time that Christian people learned that the only hope of the world’s conversion—the only hope that the Lord’s will shall ever be done on earth as it is done in heaven—lies in the promised second coming of our Lord Jesus, to be earth’s King, and to set up the Kingdom of God which we are assured will triumph over Satan and sin and every evil, and scatter blessings to every creature, and make possible to all a full return to divine favor and life-everlasting.
PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations.”—Matt. 28:19.
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.“—Mark 16:15.*
“The gospel which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.“—Col. 1:23.
“This gospel of the Kingdom shall be declared in all the world, for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end [of this age] come.”—Matt. 24:14.
*This verse is not found in the oldest Greek MSS. They end with verse 8. Thus the basis of the Christian Science, and Christian Alliance, and Mr. Dowie’s Christian Catholic systems falls.—See Revised Version, margin.
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If the expectation that the world is to be converted by missionary effort, before the Lord comes a second time, is a mistake, how shall we understand the foregoing Scripture statements?
We reply, that nothing in the above passages of Scripture or any others say one word about the world’s conversion as the result of the preaching. On the contrary, the general tenor of Scripture is to the effect that this age will end as did the Jewish age—with a great time of trouble—because of the “tares” out of accord with the Lord and his Kingdom of righteousness.
The Lord’s words here are to be viewed in the light of his previous instructions to the same apostles. He had told them to “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not;” explaining that for the time his mission was exclusively to the Jews, “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24). Now he would give them to understand that the Jewish favor was drawing to an end, and that ultimately they would be privileged to tell the good tidings to all that have an ear to hear—to Gentiles, all nations, as well as to Jews.
That this is the correct view of the commission is evident from the third text quoted above. The apostle announces that the time had come when the gospel privileges were open to every creature under heaven who had “ears to hear” and a heart to appreciate it. To interpret his language otherwise would be to charge him with falsehood; for neither then, nor since, has it been a fact that even one in ten of the human creatures under heaven have heard the gospel.
The key is in the last of these texts. It points out distinctly that the mission of the gospel is not to convert the world, but to “witness” to it. The true converts under this witnessing will be in all but a “little flock”; but to these “elect, according to the foreknowledge of God, through sanctification of the spirit and a belief of the truth,” God proposes to give a share with Christ in his Kingdom;—his agency for uplifting humanity and blessing all who, after being enlightened, seek a blessing—even unto life everlasting.
Anyway, it is the “Gospel of the Kingdom” that is to be preached in all the world, and not “another gospel”; and we fear that very few of the missionaries know much about the Kingdom gospel. Nevertheless the “gospel of the Kingdom” is clearly set forth in the Scriptures, which are now published in all the languages (not dialects) of earth. Furthermore, the Watch Tower literature is in the hands of all the missionaries in every quarter of the world; and through some of these—we know not—God can and will find the true “wheat” for his “garner.”
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One Sister inquires, Should not we carry to the darker parts of the earth our superior ideas respecting health, cleanliness, care of the sick, civilization, etc.?
If by we is meant the Lord’s consecrated people, our answer would be, No. God’s commission to us through Jesus and the apostles is restricted—”The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the meek,”—the teachable. “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear!” We are not to force the gospel of the Kingdom upon any, by sword and gun, or in any other manner. Thus the Apostle Paul witnesseth for Jesus and the resurrection and the Kingdom to come, seeking only so many as the Lord our God had called. He gave special attention to the instruction of these few, to the intent that they might be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light—the Kingdom. He never dreamed of general conversions and taking the world for Christ, knowing that such was not the divine plan,—except through the Kingdom.
As to whether the world (nominal Christendom) is doing well or ill for the heathen, is an open question. The fact that we, born and reared under Western civilization, would be miserable if obliged to live along the lines of Eastern civilization proves little; for so far as we can discern the people of China and India prefer their own methods, customs, etc. A canary bird, reared in captivity, may greatly enjoy its gilt cage with its swing, bath, etc., so as to feel lost indeed if deprived of them; but would the bird reared under other conditions, be happier in such a cage? We know that it would not. And may it not be so with different races of men, accustomed to different ideals and methods? Will the Chinaman be happier in a European cut of coat, shoes, shirt, collar and tie? Are we certain that the Chinawoman will be happier with larger feet, and shoes of our pattern and with corsets and Paris fashioned gowns?
Ah! you say, it is not these alone we would take them. We would supplant their Joss houses with what we term churches; and their weird musical instruments with our organs, and we would give them Jesus instead of Brahm and Buddha.
Even so! are we quite certain that this would increase their happiness? Are there not millions, in Europe and America, who have these very blessings, who are among the most discontented and unhappy people in the world? Are these foreign heathen either better or worse in God’s sight than many in so called Christian lands who attend “church” regularly, wear fashionable clothing, etc., of whom the Lord says, “This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precepts of men.”—Isa. 29:13. Let us not forget the Lord’s words to some very zealous for mission-work in his day;—”Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of Gehenna than yourselves.”—Matt. 23:15.
“Even as many as the Lord your God shall call,” said the apostle; and accordingly God’s people, realizing that the chosen will be few, should seek to labor in harmony with the Lord’s callings. Eighteen centuries show us that while no nation under heaven is refused or discriminated against, and some out of all have been called, nevertheless God’s favors have been chiefly toward the white or Caucasian race. If we have done all we know how to do in this the Lord’s special wheat-field, then by all means let us
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into other fields. But if through the delusions of Satan the “gospel (?) of damnation” has been substituted for the “gospel of the Kingdom,” so that the majority of those who profess the name of Christ have no knowledge of this gospel, then, by all means, let us who do know of it, bend all our energies to labor in this field which is “white already to the harvest,” and its harvest work rapidly progressing.
— September 1, 1901 —