Page images
PDF
EPUB

1. A.P. Peabody Art. II. — A History of American Baptiske fissions in Asia,

Europe, and North America. By WILLIAM GAMMELL, A. M., Professor in Brown University. With Maps and an Appendix. Boston: Gould, Kendall, & Lincoln. 1849. 12mo. pp. 359.

This work was prepared by the request, and published under the sanction of, “the Executive Committee of the American Baptist Missionary Union ;” and it amply justifies their choice of a historiographer. It is just what was to have been expected from the high literary reputation of the accomplished author. In point of style, it is chaste and elegant. It rejects all rhetorical embellishments, and, where the narrative is most exciting, its flow is still calm and dispassionate. The writer seems to have either distrusted the language of emotion as unfavorable to accuracy, or deemed it unworthy of a subject of such intrinsic dignity and sacredness.

Professor Gammell deserves our high regard, also, for the kindly spirit in which he has wrought out this monument to the philanthropy of his denomination. We look in vain for the language of bigotry, exclusiveness, or unkindness. The most generous notice is uniformly taken of the missionaries of other sects; and the ashes of buried controversy are in every instance left undisturbed. Nor is there any exaggeration of the stubbornness and waywardness of the Pagans among whom the missionaries labored; but they are always spoken of lovingly and hopefully. In fine, the book is eminently a Christian one; and higher praise than this we know not how to give.

Were we to suggest any faults, they would be perhaps chargeable upon the “ Executive Committee,” and not upon the author. He may have been limited to a certain size, or within a certain cost. If not, the work ought to have been larger, and the maps should have been at once more comprehensive and minute. The narrative is rather too closely crowded with names, dates, and decisive incidents. We should have been glad to see more of the interior and the byplay of missionary life, and to dwell more in detail upon the personal biography of some of those martyr-spirits whose public services are commemorated. This last deficiency is

in part supplied by several interesting memoirs of deceased missionaries, and especially by the graceful and charming Life of the second Mrs. Judson, by “ Fanny Forester," alias Mrs. Judson the third, who has contrived to interweave in her narrative life-like sketches of the members of several of the families connected with the Burman mission.

The missionary enterprise is a type of Christian zeal, which can never be wanting in an era of religious intelligence and activity. It slumbered only during the dark ages, and sprang again into energy with the re-awakening of the civilized world. It was the missionary spirit, wretchedly befogged and misguided, yet sincere and fervent, which inspired the Crusades, fed their enormous waste of treasure, and sustained unflagging courage in so many successive hosts of the soldiers of the cross. Nor can we doubt that the Crusaders understood Christianity as well, and were as thoroughly imbued with the true principles of Christian propagandism, as the grave civilians and reverend divines of England and America, who have rejoiced in the issue of the opium war in China as auspicious to the progress of the Gospel, or have looked upon the victory of Palo Alto and the bombardment of Vera Cruz as signal triumphs of Protestantism.

As regards modern missions of a more pacific character, the Romish church takes the precedence by a wide interval of the combined forces of Protestantism, both in priority of time, in extensiveness of operations, in the outlay of money, and in the number of devoted men who have made themselves either living or dying sacrifices to the cause. For this several sufficient reasons may be assigned. For one or two centuries after the Protestant Reformation, Great Britain was but a second-rate maritime power compared with the Catholic countries of the South of Europe, which, through their colonies and their unintermitted enterprises of exploration and discovery, were brought into intimate connection with every portion of the world then known or becoming known. When, too, the Romish theory of conversion promised and realized the most magnificent nominal results; and, where proselytes were to be made by the thousand, and new episcopal sees to be erected by the score, it would have been surprising had not the zeal of all Catholic Christendom been roused to its utmost measure of liberality and self-sacrifice. The Romish church also had great vantage-ground for missionary operations in the celibacy of its clergy, and in the entire subserviency of the monastic orders to the Pope. Any number of ecclesiastics could be detached at any moment from and for any given post of service, could move on their distant missions without domestic impediments either to retard their progress or to awaken home longings and regrets, and could be sustained each for a small fraction of the expense at which a Protestant mission family could be supported. Add to all this the fact, that for several centuries the Catholic countries of Europe exceeded the Protestant in wealth, and especially in convertible wealth, in a much greater ratio than in population. But the Romish missions have left only faint traces of themselves in the regions where they have been most liberally sustained. There is indeed much to admire and reverence in the Christian heroism of the Jesuit missionaries, who have, in thousands of instances, encountered death in its most fearful forms, offered themselves as marks for savage archery, and hugged the crucifix and joyously chanted the Nunc dimittis at the stake. The Protestant bigotry, which would ignore the records of their almost numberless martyrdoms, closes its eyes upon a history which has not had its parallel since the days of the apostles. Nor can we repress our ready and delightful credence to the train of historical and circumstantial evidence, by which it has been made more than probable that the territory of our own country was the scene of the saintly Fenelon's first labors in the cause of his divine Master. Yet when we find Catholic Christians reckoned by hundreds of thousands in the great empires of the East, and at one time by thousands in our own Western wilds, and then look in vain for any vestiges of the refining and elevating influences of Christianity on the soil hallowed by the blood of so many devoted laborers, we cannot but believe that the chief result has been an outward conformity to the rites of the Church, as to a new and more magnificent form of idolatrous worship. We find that baptism, by whatever means effected, has made a living convert, and that extreme unction, on whatever grounds permitted, has constituted a Christian death. Nor can we believe that one in a thousand of the nominal converts has had any ntelligent appreciation of the facts or doctrines of Christianity, has been guided to the spiritual worship of one God, or has had his savage code of morals essentially modified. The facility of Paganism in the admission of new rites, and in the adoption of new objects of worship, has been interrupted only during transient epochs of fanaticism. There was room in the Roman Pantheon for every Deity that had an altar or a worshipper; and the same ready hospitality has in modern times extended its embrace to the Virgin Mary and the saints, where a spiritual faith, connected with an amended life and a purified worship, would have won only here and there a solitary disciple. We are prepared, then, to anticipate fewer ostensible triumphs in the path of the Protestant missionary. And yet there is no quarter of the world, to which Protestants have carried the light of a pure faith, in which they have not made some discernible impression, and left results worthy of profound gratitude and full of encouragement for future efforts. In this field the English, Danes, and Germans commenced their efforts at nearly the same period; and the first missionary society among each of these nations bears date within a few years of the commencement of the last century. Until within the present century the Moravian Brethren furnished, it is believed, the most numerous and the most successful missionaries. Their establishments were Christian colonies of enlightened and zealous agriculturists and artisans, who connected with their religious teaching instruction in the arts of life, and diffused around them the amenities and charities flowing from a peculiarly Christian state of society. Their simple theology, their tender and loving spirit, their cheerful endurance of penury, privation, and affliction, their scrupulous integrity and unwearied kindness, have not indeed distinguished them from other Protestant missionaries; but they have been associated in such numbers and engaged in such pursuits, as to manifest the entire circle of Christian virtues in common spheres of activity, and in the complicated relations of social and industrial life; while the mere preacher as such is a man by himself, occupying constantly the position of an ambassador from the opposite party. Within the last half century, however, the Moravian missions have fallen into the background in comparison with the larger array of piety and zeal, which the wealth of the English and American churches has brought into the field. Our present plan will not permit us the agreeable task of reviewing the efforts made in other quarters, and we shall confine ourselves to a sketch of the missions sustained by the American Baptists. Prior to 1810, there was in the United States no organization for the support of foreign missions. During that year, four young men, members of the Theological Institution at Andover, presented to the General Association of Congregational Ministers in Massachusetts a document, in which they offered their own services as missionaries to the heathen, and requested advice and direction as to the best means of carrying their benevolent designs into execution. The writer and first signer of this document was Adoniram Judson, who yet lives, and may he long live, in unimpaired vigor of bodily strength, mental energy, and devotedness to the cause to which he consecrated the freshness of his youth. The consequence of this communication was the formation of the “American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,” under whose auspices three of these young men, with two others of kindred spirit, sailed for Calcutta, with the Burman Empire for their ultimate destination. During this voyage, Messrs. Judson and Rice, in the course of their scriptural investigations, found themselves constrained to alter their previous views as regards the ordinance of baptism, and were shortly afterwards baptized at Serampore by Mr. Ward, of the English Baptist Mission. They now found themselves, not, as we trust, estranged from the sympathy, but cut off from the support, of those on whom they had placed their reliance, and they appealed at once to the Baptists in America for the funds requisite to sustain them in their enterprise. Their appeal was warmly and gratefully received, as an indication of Providence opening an important avenue of Christian benevolence, and a Baptist Missionary organization was at once formed. Mr. Rice having returned to the United States, Mr. Judson was reinforced from time to time by the arrival of new missionaries, as rapidly as the Society at home was able to provide for their equipment and support. Mr. Judson had, meanwhile, fixed his residence at Rangoon, in the southern part of Burmah, and had diligently employed himself in the acquisition of the language, and in VOL. LXX. — NO. 146.

« PreviousContinue »