CHAPTER X: THE GREAT MISSIONARY REVIVAL.
BEFORE proceeding further with the thrilling story of the notable renewal and expansion of missionary endeavor, which set in almost from Carey's sublime venture, it will be of value to put in a paragraph a summary of what the whole of Protestant Christendom was doing at that date for the whole of heathendom. And first as to the religious condition of the earth's population, quoting the language of his famous "Enquiry" The inhabitants of the world amount to 731,000,000; 420,000,000 of whom are still in pagan darkness; 130,000,000 the followers of Mahomet; 100,000,000 catholics ; 44,000,000 protestants; 30,000,000 of the greek and armenian churches, and perhaps 7,000,000 of jews. It must undoubtedly strike every considerate mind, what a vast proportion of the sons of Adam there are, who yet remain in the most deplorable state of heathen darkness, without any means of knowing the true God, except what are afforded them by the works of nature; and utterly destitute of the knowledge of Christ, or of any means of obtaining it. In many of these countries they have no written language, consequently no Bible, and are led only by the most childish customs and traditions," etc., etc. Now, to meet and improve this most lamentable and appalling condition, what endeavors can we discover? Well, the Moravians were carrying on missions with some fair degree of success in Greenland, Labrador, in the West Indies, and Surinam, had once begun work in South Africa, had been driven out, and in the year of Carey's great sermon had sent another force. Besides Zeisberger and a few associates were still toiling under incredible hardships and discouragements among the Delawares, and after various removals, and one wholesale massacre of their innocent converts, were now for safety in Canada. The Danish-Halle mission had pushed in all directions from Tranquebar, had received cheering support from Denmark, Germany and England, had enjoyed a period of prosperity, but at present for several reasons, was in the midst of a steady and lasting decline. Schwartz had before him yet six years of life. In 1757 Kiernander had gone thence to Calcutta to open a mission in that city and was still doing his utmost to advance the Gospel among both natives and Europeans. As other earnest Christians, whose hearts were engaged and whose bands were busy, may be named Mr. Udney, Charles Grant and David Brown of the East India Company, the latter a chaplain. Scarcely a trace was left of Eliot's work for the Indians except his Bible, the last of five generations of Mayhews was ministering to a feeble remnant of a single tribe. On account of the excitements and passions resulting from the French War, and the Revolution, missionary toil for the aborigines had almost entirely ceased. And finally, as recently as 1786, Coke, while on a voyage to Nova Scotia, having been driven by a terrible storm far to the southward and making land first in Antigua, was led to start a mission upon that island. Something such. was the situation, and the outlook, when Carey and Thomas left England behind, and turned their faces resolutely towards India. But note the sublime audacity of faith which prompted this dauntless apostle to write while in mid-ocean: "I hope the society will go on and increase, and that the multitudes of heathen in the world may hear the glorious words of truth. Africa is but a little way from England, Madagascar is but a little further. South America and all the numerous and large islands in the Indian and China Seas, I hope will not be passed over." And this also a few months later when the very blackness of darkness seemed to have settled down: "Well, I have God and his word is sure; and though the superstitions of the heathen were a million times worse than they are, if I were deserted by all, and persecuted by all, yet my hope, fixed on that word, will rise superior to all obstructions, and triumph over all trials. God's cause will triumph, and I shall come out of all trials as gold purified by the fire.
"With such a spirit inspiring and propelling the leader, no wonder that something great in the way of results began presently to appear. But nevertheless, these words of George Smith are true: "The first two English missionaries to India seemed, to those who sent them forth, to have disappeared forever. For fourteen months no tidings of their welfare reached the poor praying people of the midlands, who had been emboldened to begin the enterprise." But July 29th, 1794, letters arrived for Ryland, of Bristol, who read them and sent at once for Dr. Bogue, of Gosport, an Independent clergyman, and Mr. Stephen, to rejoice with him. First they all gave thanks and prayed for a blessing upon the Baptist Society, and then the two latter called upon Mr. Hey, a prominent minister, and it was determined to begin immediately to agitate for the organization of a similar society, though with a much broader ecclesiastical basis. Suiting the action to the word, Dr. Bogue prepared an article, which in September appeared in the Evangelical Magazine, addressed to "Evangelical dissenters who practice infant baptism, urging all such to bestir themselves; arguing that the time had fully come to begin; expressing the conviction that many would be found willing and eager to assist, if only a few would step forth to lead, and that funds sufficient could be gathered to support at least twenty or thirty missionaries. So Carey's letters and this article in God's hands proved to be the "little fire" which kindled "how great a matter."
The effect of this clarion call was immediate, and profound, and wide-spread. The next month it was further stated in the same periodical that, if a society should be formed upon a large scale, and a basis so broad as to unite Christians "without respect to different denominations, or repulsive distinctions arising from points in dispute between Calvinists and Arminians," one man stood pledged for £100, and another for £500, to equip the first six volunteers for a mission to the South Seas. Some weeks later appeared the suggestion over the signatures of eighteen Independent, seven Presbyterian, three Wesleyan, and three Episcopal ministers, for a meeting for consultation, urging that in the meantime local and district gatherings be held to excite interest, collect funds, and choose delegates. In July, 1795, another article reached the public from the glowing pen of "T.H." [Haweis, a Church of England clergyman, whose influence through the years next ensuing was unequalled in raising enthusiasm and moving to effort,] "showing the very probable success of a proper mission to the South Seas," giving a long, and glowing, and intensely rose-colored setting-forth of the situation in those remote parts, proving conclusively the islands to be a very terrestrial paradise, and the people thereof the loving and lovable innocent children of nature!
Then at length, all things being ready, September 21st, the illustrious meetings began in London. At the outset subscriptions were made by the country ministers amounting to £750. Many encouraging letters from all parts of the island were read; it was announced that several men were ready to offer themselves as pioneers in the work; and the vote was unanimous to organize at once. This "fundamental principle," which still remains in the constitution of the London Society, was adopted: "The design is not to send Presbyterianism, Independency, Episcopacy, or any other form of church order and government (about which there may be difference of opinion among serious persons), but the glorious Gospel of the blessed God to the heathen; and it shall be left (as it ought to be) to the minds of the persons whom God shall call into the fellowship of his Son from among them to assume for themselves such forms of church government as to them shall appear most agreeable to the Word of God." Through three full blissful days the meetings continued, with two sermons, each day from eminent divines upon pertinent themes, and to audiences "immensely great." It seemed like a new Pentecost "with Christians of all denominations for the first time in the same place, using the same hymns and prayers, and feeling themselves to be one." Two hundred ministers sat together in the galleries; and Dr. Bogue said: "We are called together for the funeral of bigotry; and I hope it will be buried so deep as never to rise again." Whereat "the whole vast body could scarce refrain from one general shout of joy. Such a scene was never, perhaps, before beheld in our world; and it was a foretaste of heaven. We shall account it through eternity a distinguished favor, the highest honor, that we appeared here and gave in our names among the founders of the society. This will be ever remembered by us as the era of Christian benevolence."
The heavenly flame thus kindled in the metropolis quickly spread throughout all Britain, and it followed, of course, that money in abundance began to flow in from all quarters. One church in Southampton subscribed £270, and from Market Harborough came £83 1s. 7d., with this word: "No event in life has given me more pleasure than this glorious attempt to send forth the gospel." The children in a boarding-school, unasked, gave £1 9s. 6d. Scotland also caught the evangelistic fervor, missionary societies were soon formed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and before many months had passed, some £12,000 had been forwarded to London. This novel idea of missions to the whole wide world took such complete possession of Robert Haldane that he planned a vast mission to Bengal, of which be was to meet the entire cost, proposing to go out himself and securing Dr. Bogue as an associate. And when the East India Company refused their consent to the scheme, turning his beneficence into channels nearer at hand, with his brother James he formed the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Home, and within twelve years expended in connection with it the princely sum of £70,000. Nor did the tide of holy zeal fail to cross the Channel and arouse the saints upon the Continent, whose contributions ere long rose to £1,500. It came to pass that by the end of October the directors had £3,000 in hand, which was more than doubled three months later, and in June of 1796 they report the receipts as £10,000. Missionaries had also offered themselves in encouraging numbers. By mid-summer it was decided to purchase a ship and to open missions at once in Otaheite, the Friendly and Pelew Islands, and the Marquesas, with projects besides looking towards Madagascar, the West Indies, and the north shore of the Caspian! So great was their faith, and so enlarged were their ideas and longings. And thus early the prophetic hope was expressed that this uprising for the world's redemption will spread to every Christian bosom, to the Dutch, German, American, and all Protestant churches, till the whole professing world shall burn with fervent love, and labor to spread in every heathen land the sweet savor of the Redeemer's name."
Accordingly, the Duff was purchased at a cost of £4,875, and was furnished for her voyage to the antipodes at an additional expense of more than £7,000, several years' supplies for the missionaries included. A profit of £5,000 was expected from freight to be brought upon the homeward trip. A call was made and nobly responded to, for books, tools, cooking utensils, instruments, seeds and other supplies and one poor man expended £2 2s. upon six spades, nine hammers and four thousand sixpenny and tenpenny nails. July 28th the twenty-nine persons who had been chosen as missionaries were solemnly set apart to the high calling--six of them being married, only four of the number ordained, one a physician, two children, and the others artisans. Thousands joined in the novel and most impressive service, and no less than ten clergymen, representing Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, Seceders and Wesleyans, joining in the public exercises, "showing that affection is increasing between ministers of different denominations, who, previous to this institution, had neither fellowship nor intercourse." In reference to the religious situation it was written soon after: "In no instance in the limits of our recollection has such a spirit of prayer and supplication been poured out upon the churches, or such general approbation been discovered. The greatest kindness has been displayed in all departments of the government. Neither the Council Board nor the Custom House would accept fees." Wednesday, August 10th, 1796, at five A. M., the Duff dropped down from Blackall to Gravesend, a vast multitude beholding, and came to anchor at Spithead the Tuesday following. The East India convoy having already sailed, she was compelled (since the French wars were then raging) to wait six weeks at Portsmouth for the Adamant, a fifty-two gun ship. September 22nd found her at St. Helen's. The day after her anchors were finally hoisted, and her sails were spread for the ends of the earth. Thus the great undertaking followed in Carey's path, indeed three years and a half later than he, and yet in some respects at least, far outdoing that peerless founder and pioneer. It was at this juncture that one moralized with altogether pardonable exaltation of feeling: "It is highly probable that since the Lord and the apostles, the bosom of the deep has never been graced with such a vessel," or one "in which so many thousands of Christians embarked their hopes and followed with their prayers."
What remarkable growth may be discerned during the brief period under view. How different all this, for the number and variety and standing of those interested, for magnitude of operations and for eclat, from the deed of those twelve obscure Northamptonshire Baptist ministers with their ridiculously inadequate subscription, and the almost insuperable obstacles which to the last moment hedged up the way of Carey and Thomas. For nearly two years, until May, 1798, not a word was heard from Captain Wilson and the tremendous venture made by faith. Leaving the Duff to battle for weeks with fearful storms off Cape Horn, and then, baffled, facing about to beat her way past the Cape of Good Hope through 262 degrees of longitude, let us glance at certain steps of progress meantime taken at home. Measures were immediately taken to start a second mission in the Foulah country, some two hundred and fifty miles from Sierra Leone, for which Edinburgh and Glasgow offered to supply two men each, and the London Society was to add the same number. Plans were also laid for a mission in Cape Colony, which had recently been transferred from Holland to Great Britain. In January, 1797, it could be affirmed concerning the religious fervor resulting far and wide: "Christians in every corner of the land are meeting in a regular manner, and pouring out their souls for God's blessing on the world." And again: "The efforts most successfully made to introduce the Gospel to the South Seas have had a most powerful tendency to unite the devoted servants of Christ of every denomination in the bonds of brotherly love, and to awaken zeal to help the perishing multitudes in our own country, and also the Jews." So early was the discovery made that the best possible way to forward the work of evangelization at home is to push missions abroad with all ardor and energy. Month by month came tidings of both local and district movements to raise missionary funds, and to multiply toilers, both at many points in the heathen world, and in every destitute region where the gospel is already known. For this purpose scores of organizations were formed in every denomination. Similar interest sprang up in America; in Massachusetts and Connecticut, in New York and Philadelphia, and in various other parts of the Union. Nor was the enthusiasm less upon the Continent, for in Germany, Holland, Sweden, and Switzerland societies were organized. With all these, as well as with various individuals of influence, the directors of the London Society, the main center and source of the unprecedented outburst of faith and love and good works, opened correspondence for mutual instruction and encouragement. Among the rest Von Schirnding, a German nobleman, was delighted to hear of the evangelizing projects on foot; for years he had been cherishing similar schemes, and would aid liberally with money and men. And Vanderkemp, in Holland, a famed soldier, scholar, and physician, and aforetime a pronounced sceptic, offered himself as a messenger of glad tidings to the heathen, though past fifty years of age, and proceeded to organize the Netherlands Missionary Society. By the sudden death of his wife and only child by drowning he had forever lost his infidelity to the last fraction, had come across a copy of the report of the great London meeting containing the sermons and addresses, etc., and one text, "Curse ye Meroz," entered his soul. Falling on his knees he cried: "O Lord Jesus, here am I. Thou knowest I have no will of my own since I devoted myself to thy service. Prevent me only from doing this great work in a carnal, self-sufficient spirit, and lead me in the right way." Inspiring letters came too from Basle, which since 1771 had been the seat of a wide-spread movement "to maintain evangelical doctrine and piety." Certain devout German brethren sent their congratulations couched in these glowing words: "It is like the dawn promising the beautiful day after the dark night. It is the beginning of a new epoch for the kingdom of God on earth. Your undertaking and its success fills our hearts with joy and our eyes with tears. The history of Great Britain is sanctified by this unparalleled mission. What harmony among different persuasions! You call on the wise and good of every nation to take interest in the work and bear a part. Such a call was never heard of before. It was reserved for the close of the eighteenth century to be distinguished by it." And thus it was that the tide of zeal rose and spread abroad.
The first tidings from the precious missionary ship arrived in May of 1798, in a letter from Captain Wilson written at Canton six months before, and in July following the Duff lay at anchor in the Downs. Now naturally came the climax of exultation and buoyant hope. "Never, perhaps, was an undertaking more completely accomplished. Fifty-one thousand miles have been traversed without the least material loss or damage. The winds conspired to waft them safely and swiftly to their desired haven. Everywhere they were received by the natives with reverence and delight. All are settled in the islands they preferred, and apparently in the greatest safety. At Otaheite a most fertile district was bestowed upon them, and a commodious building." In a public address to Captain Wilson, Dr. Haweis did not fail to surpass the most fervid and fanciful in his portrayal of the past, present and future of the mission. But the directors well understood that something besides paeans of gladness were in order, and therefore, immediately after a day of special thanksgiving had been devoutly observed, they met to plan both how to maintain communications with the brethren already sent out, and also to open other fields for toil. Their faith and courage hesitated not to scan an evangelistic campaign in behalf of the kingdom as extensive as this: "Hindustan, the Sandwich Islands, and other groups of the Pacific; the Creek Indians, Canada, the Bermudas, and any West India islands, and any coasts of America or Asia." And presently they notify the churches: "We must have an enlarged supply of money and men. We expect a body of German missionaries, and we plan to engage a great company and teach them both theological knowledge and also occupations adapted to the islands." But just now all their energies were concentrated upon preparing for a second voyage of the Duff, with Captain Robson in command. By November 13th forty-six were in readiness--nineteen single men and ten married, with seven children--and were separated for the work whereunto they had been called. On the 20th the Duff dropped down the Thames, and ten days later weighed anchor. But December 8th found her with seventy ships at Spithead, where on account of fogs she layover two Sundays; on the 21st a south-west wind was so fierce that the fleet put into Portland Roads, and a day or two afterwards was off and out of sight under convoy of the frigate Amphion. In the same company sailed the Hillsborough, bearing some hundreds of convicts bound for New South Wales, and also Dr. Vanderkemp and three companions, en route to preach to the Hottentots in South Africa. These devoted men preferred to voyage on this ship filled with the worst of criminals, in order that during the five months of the passage they might have opportunity to labor for their salvation.
Hitherto, for five years together, the flood of good feeling and expectation of large results had been steadily swelling with scarce a refluent wave. Not a threatening storm-cloud had crossed the sky. But, of course, such encouraging conditions could not always continue. God's way with his kingdom is not after this fashion. As might have been expected, and as was on every account best for all concerned, a series of trials and searching tests now ensued in the shape of serious reverses, and failures apparently most disastrous, coming from various quarters, of divers kinds, and dropping down in quick succession. The current emotion, though mainly noble and Christian, contained also not a little of unhealthy excitement. Zeal was all aflame, but was not wholly according to knowledge, while many of the expectations most fondly cherished were unreasonable, and without basis in fact. The Millennium had not yet dawned, the victory over heathenism and savagery, even in the charming South Seas, was not to be won without a fight long and most arduous. It had already been noticed, and with deepest solicitude, that scarcely a clergyman, and not one of note and influence, had offered himself to go wherever the Lord through the Society should please to send him. Those who volunteered were, with few exceptions, laymen from the humbler walks of life, without learning, of but common gifts and attainments. And even these had not been sifted with sufficient care, quite a number proved incompetent, and some even morally unworthy. Trouble broke out in the company which had been dispatched to the Foulah country. They separated in alienation, some died, and war breaking out among the savages, others left and so the mission came utterly to grief. Next, early in August, 1799, the directors were stunned with the intelligence that the Duff had been captured by a French privateer when off Rio Janeiro, and had been taken to Montevideo and sold as a prize. The missionaries would be sent home, but the money loss was £10,000. Then on the heels of these evil tidings, came the further calamitous news from Otaheite that most of the missionaries who had been left there had fled the island, their lives seeming to be in danger, and by a chance vessel had been carried to Port Jackson in New South Wales, this long journey also entailing large expense. Likewise at Tongabatoo catastrophe had befallen, for some had died, some had fallen into shameful lewdness with the natives and had been cut off from fellowship, and finally civil war had broken out, in which the brethren had been first robbed, and then expelled. Only from Vanderkemp and his Hottentots arrived words of cheer. He was able to write that he had made a beginning, and that a "singular interest " had appeared. The "Spirit had begun a good work in some of the most abject and uncultured of the race." But there was no flinching or turning back in consequence. Without a moment's hesitation, either on the part of directors, or of the Christian public, the task was resolutely taken up of repairing the damage, and of sending reinforcements to the South Seas and to South Africa. By May of 1800, a contingent of sixteen men had been forwarded to the front.
The thrilling story will for the present be suspended of the London Society, whose beginnings were so glorious, as well of such incalculable importance both to Christendom and to the whole heathen world. It was not long after the hopes of so many of the earnest- hearted had been so rudely hurled from the zenith to the nadir, that they began again slowly and steadily to rise. Only the South Seas proved to be no sinless, stormless Eden, and their inhabitants turned out to be exactly of a piece with savages elsewhere. Many reverses were yet in store, and long and tedious waiting for the precious fruits of toil was to be required. Early in this century India, China and the West Indies were entered, Madagascar, that shining marvel among missions, in 1818. And these immortal names among others are found upon the list of those sent out by this honored society: Ellis and Livingstone, Morrison and Milne, Medhurst and Moffat, Vanderkemp, and John Williams the martyr of Erromanga.
No mortal can tell just how many missions, both in the Old World and the New, owe their birth either directly or indirectly to that astonishing evangelistic revival in the last decade of the eighteenth century, which under God originated vastly more with Carey than with any other man, and of which the London Society was not only one of the most remarkable effects, but also in no inconsiderable measure the cause. As we have seen, in its organization several denominations were heartily united, and it seemed to some that the end of bigotry and sectarian division had arrived. But presently the process of withdrawal began, and continued until the Independents were left practically alone. The Episcopalians led the way in 1799 by forming what now is the Church Missionary Society, one of whose fundamental rules has been from the first: "A friendly intercourse shall be maintained with other Protestant Societies engaged in the same benevolent design of propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ." One of the most serious defects in the period is seen in the fact that for many years no clergymen of the Church of England offered their services, and the only missionaries to be obtained were German Lutherans from the training institutions of Berlin and Basle. Among the earlier societies to be formed substantially upon the pattern set by Carey these may be named: In 1804 the British and Foreign Bible Society; in 1810 the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; the Baptist Missionary Union in 1814; the Basle Society in 1815; the Wesleyan Society in 1816; the Paris Society in 1822; the Berlin Society in 1824; and the Church of Scotland in 1829. The number has increased at the average rate of nearly three a year, until now, a century after the Deed of the Twelve in the back parlor of Widow Beebe Wallis, if all be included, whether denominational or individual, general or special, it surpasses three hundred.