Foreign Missions

In former letters I have mentioned the missionary work being done by Americans in the Orient, and I deem the subject important enough for an article, in view of the conflicting reports which have been brought back by tourists. We had an opportunity to investigate the work done by American missionaries in Hawaii, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, India, Egypt, Palestine and Turkey. We met representatives of nearly all the churches in the various departments of missionary work, and as a result of our observations our interest in foreign missions has been quickened. In Hawaii the missionaries laid the foundation for the present civilization in the islands and exerted a most beneficial influence upon the natives.

In Japan the missionary work has spread rapidly and is carried on under four heads. The religious teacher presents the gospel and establishes churches ; the school teacher arouses an interest in education and establishes schools; the medical missionary, by unselfishly rendering obvious service, opens the way for both the preacher and the school teacher, while the Young Men’s Christian Association and its accompanying organization, the Young Women’s Christian Association, weld the church membership into a religious but unsectarian working body. The rapid growth in public instruction has some-what dwarfed the relative importance of the mission schools in Japan, and the spread of the science of medicine has made the work of the medical missionary less conspicuous there, but the religious teacher in Japan has a field which is not surpassed anywhere. The Japanese people are rapidly drifting away from Buddhism, which until recently was the national faith. Shintoism, which has become the state religion, is not a religion at all’, but a reverence for ancestors. Japan must have a religion, for no nation is likely to avoid decay unless its morals are reinforced by religion. If I had the authority to decide the question, I would send some of the leading men of each denomination to Japan to present Christianity to the educated Japanese. English is taught in the schools of Japan, and one can speak to the Japanese without the aid of an interpreter. This proposition. I tested several times. While it would be an advantage to have preachers who could speak the Japanese language, still, it is more important that we should send our ablest divines there—men who can meet the most intelligent of the Japanese upon an equal footing and defend before them/ the Christian philosophy of life.

Japan is the gateway of the Orient, and is to-day exerting an influence upon China greater than the combined influence of all the European nations. Western civilization is likely to enter China through Japan. In fact, I believe that the Christian religion, presented to the Chinese by the Japanese, would spread more rapidly than if presented in any other way, for China has come to regard Japan as a leader of thought. More than five thousand Chinese students are now at schools in Japan, and Japanese teachers are being more and more employed in China. Some of the most earnest Christians whom we met are natives of Japan. At Tokyo, at Kioto, and at Kagoshima I was especially impressed with the sincerity and enthusiasm of the Japanese Christians. I could not but recall the lines `”Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love” as I saw how much stronger this heart tie is than the ties of blood or race or language.

In Seoul, Korea, we found a very successful medical mission and a flourishing Young Men’s Christian Association. We also learned of several Christian congregations.

In China mission work has made great progress, although it has had to bear the brunt of the fight now being made against foreign influence. During the Boxer trouble there were examples of heroism among the Chinese Christians which recalled the early days of martyrdom. There were those who suffered death because of their devotion to the Christian faith, and thousands more who did not hesitate to take the part of the white Christians against members of their own race. It takes time to educate a race or to make an impression upon a great population like the population of China, but the next quarter of a century is likely to see the Christian religion spread more rapidly among the inhabitants of the Flowery Kingdom than it has during the last century.

That our missionaries often make mistakes need not be denied. They are human, and to err is the lot of all. A missionary among strangers must exercise more sagacity and discretion than one who works among people of his own race. The wonder is not that missionaries make mistakes, but that they do not make more than are now charged to them. It is even possible that a missionary occasionally proves untrue to his calling—is it strange that this should happen to a missionary almost alone and with but little sympathetic support, when it sometimes happens to ministers who are surrounded by friends and hedged in so that a fall would seem almost impossible?

One part of the missionary’s work has received scant notice, namely —the planting of western ideas in the Orient. The daily life of a missionary is not only a constant sermon, but to a certain extent, an exposition of western ways. His manner of dress and his manner of living are noted, and even if he did not say a word, he would make an impression upon those about him. It would be worth while to send Christians to the Orient merely to show the fullness and richness of a Christian life, for, after all, the example of an upright person, living a life of service according to the Christian ideal, is more eloquent than any sermon—it is the unanswerable argument in favor of our religion.

It is sometimes suggested by those unfriendly to missionary work that missionaries live in too great comfort. This criticism will not have weight with those who have attempted to live in the Orient upon the salary of a missionary, but even if the missionaries lived more luxuriantly than they do, that would still exert a beneficial influence. As the Chinaman becomes educated he learns of the manners and customs of the people of other nations, and the home of the missionary gives an opportunity for comparisons. In China there is polygamy, while the missionary has but one wife. In the Chinese home the birth of a son is the occasion for rejoicing; the birth of a daughter an occasion for less rejoicing, if not actual mourning. In the missionary’s home the girl child is as welcome as the boy. The missionary’s wife is not only a standing rebuke to the practice of foot-binding, but is a stimulus to the movement now setting in for the education of women.

The Catholic missionaries reach a class which might not be reached by Protestant missionaries and Protestant missionaries appeal to some who could not be reached by the Catholic missionaries. Each church does its own work in its own way, and the result is better than if either church attempted to follow the example of the other. The celibacy of the priest and his voluntary sacrifice of home and its joys that he may more fully devote himself to religion–these appeal to some, especially to those who have been impressed with the asceticism of the religious teachers of the Orient. There are others, however, who are more impressed with a form of Christianity which does not deny to its ministers the advantages of the family. In other words, the different branches of the Christian Church, each pursuing its own way, meet the widely different needs of the heathen better than any one church could do it.

Missionary work in the Malay states has been very slow because the Malays are nearly all Mohammedans, and it has been found difficult to make headway against this religion. The Mohammedan believes in one God, accepts most of the Old Testament, and regards Christ as a great prophet, but claims that Mahomet was a later prophet and a greater one.

Burma, the home of Buddhism, is one of the best missionary fields, and great success has attended the Baptist mission, which has its headquarters at Rangoon.

For many years American missionaries have been establishing schools and churches in India. While this field has also been developed by the English missionaries, I was informed that a majority of the Sunday school children are now attending American Sunday schools. It is one of the indisputable proofs of our country’s supremacy in altruistic work that though drawing nothing whatever from India in the way of revenue, it sends into India every year for religious and Educational purposes almost as much as England does, notwithstanding the fact that England draws something like a hundred millions a year from India.

We found the various departments of Christian work growing vigorously in India. Medical missionaries are winning the confidence and the affections of the unfortunate; teachers are bringing increasing thousands to a higher level of intellectual development; and the ministers are explaining to the people why it is that the Christian is sympathetic and benevolent. Simply stated, the medical missionary compels attention, the school teacher takes the one whose attention has been aroused and furnishes an education which enables the pupil to see things in their proper relation, while the minister points out the philosophy of the efforts of the other two and presents the conception of life, which leads both medical missionary and teacher to separate themselves from home and friends and devote themselves to people who are connected with them only by the primal ties which bind each human being to every other.

I shall long remember two meetings which I addressed in India. One was held under the auspices of the Y. M. C. A. at Allahabad, one of the centers of the Hindu religion. At the conclusion of my address an Indian arose and addressed me as follows. “Mr. Bryan, you can not judge of the influence of Christianity upon our country by the number of church members. The spirit of Christ and the Christian ideal have made an impression far wider than the church membership would indicate. Tell your people that the Indians are grateful to them for the missionaries and teachers whom they have sent among us, and tell them how few these are in number compared with our needs. Send us more, and assure your people that we appreciate the benefits received from America.”

This unsolicited testimonial to the good work of our missionaries and teachers is entirely deserved. The influence of Christianity upon the Orient is vastly greater than one would think, if the church membership were the test. The stimulus which is given to Eastern thought is enormous, and already the Hindus, Parsees and Mohammedans are imitating the methods of the Christian world and establishing schools independent of the government. The education of the boys is proceeding more rapidly than the education of the girls, but the latter is not entirely neglected. One Mohammedan woman, of Bombay, of unusual mental strength and character, outlined a plan which she had formed for establishing a school for the women of her religious faith.

The Bombay meeting was in some respects the most remarkable meeting that I ever addressed. Rev. Mr. Mell, an American, is pastor of the Methodist Church in Bombay. While in Calcutta I received a letter from him asking me to deliver in Bombay, in his church, the lecture entitled “The Prince of Peace,” which I delivered at Tokyo and at Manila. As the time approached for the meeting, he concluded that his church would not be large enough for the audience and arranged to secure the Town Hall, which accommodates about three thousand people. He was somewhat fearful that this hall would be larger than necessary, but it was the only audience room that he could secure. When the time came for the meeting, the hall was not only filled to overflowing, but the crowd outside was such that it was difficult for us to effect an entrance. On the platform were prominent Hindus, Mohammedans and Parsees, and three-fourths of the audience, at least, was made up of non-Christian Indians. Yet these people listened for more than an hour to a defense of the Christian religion—listened as attentively as any audience ever listened to a political speech, and when I went from the hall, the younger men were massed along the way and cheered as our people cheer during the campaign. The next day I received a letter from one of the young men thanking me for shaking hands with him as I passed out.

In the letters on India I have referred to the Presbyterian college at Allahabad. At Bombay we found a Congregational school for boys and girls and a school for the blind. It touches one’s heart to see these sightless little Indians cared for by American philanthropy and, under the teaching of sympathetic friends, made more capable of self-support and raised to a higher intellectual level than millions who can see. Many of the children taken into these schools are orphans whose parents died during the famines. What a history might be written if the events of their lives were put on record, and how much evidence would be furnished to those who endeavor to trace the providence of God in the lives of individuals as well as in the course of nations.

I have in another article referred to the work of the United Presbyterians in the valley of the Nile. It would be difficult to overestimate the influence which these pioneer Americans have exerted over the descendants of the Pharaohs. The government is giving more and more attention to educational matters in Egypt, but the first work was done by the missionaries, and no one can appreciate what this work means who has not had an opportunity to compare the boys and the girls in the schools with the children who are growing up in ignorance outside. In Jerusalem the Catholic school for girls most interested us, and I need not add that the Catholic missionaries have in many countries been the first to risk their lives in the spread of the gospel and in the establishment of schools, orphan asylums and hospitals.

In Syria and in Turkey the Americans are very active. For half a century they have made Beyrout headquarters for Syria, and their churches and schools are scattered all over this portion of Asia. At Constantinople also we met a large company of the representatives of the various American churches, and their schools have been built on both sides of the Bosphorus.

Why spend money on foreign missions? If the Oriental is happy in his idolatry or in his worship of God through other religious forms, why disturb him? These questions may be answered in various ways, but one answer will suffice for the purpose of this article. The Christian ideal of life is the highest ideal. There is no more beautiful conception of life than that it is an overflowing spring. There is no true measure of greatness except the Christian measure, namely—service. If this ideal is good enough for America, it is good enough for all the world. If truth must, according to eternal laws, triumph, then this ideal must triumph over all lower ones, and how can it triumph over lower ideals unless it is brought into contact with them? If we see a man engaged in some useful work, but laboring with antiquated tools, it is a kindness to him to offer him an implement that will increase his effectiveness. If we see a man following a low ideal and making but little of life, is it not a kindness to offer him a higher one which will not only enlarge his usefulness but his happiness as well? If the Christian ideal is worthy to be followed in America, it is worthy to be presented in every land, and experience has shown that it is an ideal capable of being made universal, for it has commended itself to people of every clime and of every tongue.

But it is said that we must not neglect home missions in our zeal to carry the gospel and its attendant blessings to foreign shores. This is a familiar objection, but as a rule it is urged by those who do the least for home missions. I think I am far within the truth when I say that the most liberal contributors to foreign missions are also the most liberal contributors to home missions and that those who are so afraid that work at home will be sacrificed for work abroad are the very ones who themselves make few sacrifices for the work at home. The same spirit which leads one to be generous in the support of those benevolences which are immediately about him leads him to take an interest in the needy wherever they are found. The same spirit which makes one anxious to have the Sermon on the Mount known in his neighborhood leads him to desire that the knowledge of this sermon and the philosophy which it contains shall be brought to the people of all the world.

There is another answer to those who say that we must confine our efforts to the home field until we have supplied every moral need. If an individual refuses to assist in the improvement of others until he has himself reached perfection, who will be able to aid others? In the effort to help others one often finds more improvement than could come from a concentration of his efforts on himself. So the country which refuses to extend a helping hand to other lands until all its people have passed beyond the need of improvement will do nothing for the world. As the contributions to benevolences would be small, indeed, if only those contributed who could do so without sacrifice, so the contributions to the world’s advancement would be but slight if only those helped others who were not themselves in need of help.

`”Let him who would be the chiefest among you be the servant of all ;” if this is the measure of national greatness, then our nation is the greatest of all, for its contributions to the world surpass the contributions made by any other nation. These contributions are made in three ways : First, it contributes through the men and women who have come from other lands to study here, and who carry American ideas back to their homes; second, through the men and women who have gone to other lands as preachers and teachers; and, third, through books and printed reports.

I venture the suggestion that it would be worth while to establish schools in the United States where representatives of other nations could be brought and made acquainted with Christianity and with the institutions which have grown up in Christian society. These could then go among their own people and preach with greater effectiveness than foreigners possibly can.

Next to this comes the education of the natives in schools established in their own land and this, of course, is far less expensive. From $40 to $50 a year will pay for the board, clothing and tuition of a student in the lower classes of an Oriental Christian college. If the hundreds of thousands of Christians who could, without sacrifice, educate one student a year could be induced to contribute money for this purpose, what an impetus would be given to the cause of Christianity through-out the Orient ! And who, when he remembers what has been accomplished by one trained mind directed by a high and holy purpose, will attempt to estimate the beneficent influence of money thus spent? Who will set limits to the good that may be done by those Orientals who are preparing themselves for larger work under the instruction of American missionaries and teachers?

Making due allowance for the frailty of human nature and for the mistakes which all are liable to make, it may be said without fear of successful contradiction that the missionaries, physicians and teachers who consecrate themselves to the advancement of Asia’s millions along Christian lines are as high minded, as heroic, as self-sacrificing, and, considering the great destiny of the race, as useful as any equal number of men and women to be found in any other part of the world.