OUR WATCHWORD AND ISLAM
"The Evangelization of the World in this Generation" has long been a watchword of missionary effort. In early days it met with criticism. In these later days it faces neglect. Some think that it never had the power to grip men's minds or hearts because it was an impossible ideal or an ideal unfortunately expressed. Others believe that in the new day after the world war, and with the increased emphasis on the social gospel, the watchword needs to be expressed in different terms, or abandoned. It has been often interpreted, but not yet translated into life. Our Saviour Himself puts it in these words: "This Gospel of the Kingdom must first be preached in all the world for witness, then shall the end be." If we try to phrase it in homely Anglo-Saxon it would read: "Tell the good news to every one flow."
The New Testament records give an account of at least one life dominated and controlled by the same idea of immediate world-wide evangelization. The greatest of all foreign missionaries, in writing to a small and despised group of persecuted
Christians in the capital of the Roman world, expressed his life ambition in these words:
Harnack, in his Expansion of Christendom, shows how this ambition controlled the Church which Paul founded, and how within a century the good news travelled along every Roman highway by land and by sea from Spain to India.
There are more reasons why the watchword with its implied ambition should grip our hearts than in the days of Paul. The task never seemed so possible or so near to accomplishment. All the great spiritual movements of our day are tending to facilitate the accomplishment of world-wide evangelization; they appeal for stewardship and sacrifice, and are compelling church members to face their world task.
The watchword has proved its power in the lives of those who made it the controlling principle of their decisions and daily habits. This generation of ours can look back to men who not only lived it, but died for it. What God wrought in thirty years through the Uganda Mission is an example of the glory of the impossible. On September 13th, 1919, the new cathedral of the Uganda Church was consecrated on the summit of Namirembe. Some
of those present could remember the old grass building at the foot of the hill, the only House of God in the whole Protectorate. This one church has grown to 2,000 churches. The seventy communicants have become 30,000, and the 200 baptized Christians 100,000. These figures help us to visualize conditions that represent, not the slow process of age-long evolution, but the mighty working of God's Spirit in a lifetime. A man who died recently in Sumatra, Dr. Nommensen, worked for fifty-seven years as a missionary among the Bataks. He alone witnessed 170,000 persons led out of the darkness of heathenism into God's light.
The census returns are not generally considered missionary documents, but the Indian census proves by cold statistics the possibility of the watchword. In 1911 the total population of India was 315,156,396; Hindus, 217,337,943; Mohammedans, 66,647,290; Christians, 3,876,203. The rates of increase of Indian Christians in the decade from 1872-81 was 22 per cent.; from 1892-1901 was 31 per cent. In this last decade the Mohammedans and Parsees increased 6 per cent., the Hindus 5 per cent., the Christians 34 per cent., of whom the Protestants (apart from Romanists) increased 40 per cent. The next census (1921), will show a still larger increase in the Christian community. In the forty years from 1872 to 1911 the population of India increased less than 50 per cent., while the Christians multiplied threefold, or 300 per cent.
The watchword has not lost its power of spiritual inspiration entirely apart from results. Opportunism is not the last word in missions. The first and last words are "duty" and "love." The watchword is a challenge to every man to do his utmost for the highest. We need a challenge big enough to enlist all our latent powers and all the undeveloped resources of the Church. Carey's life of astounding fruitfulness and efficiency finds its index in the subject of his great missionary sermon before he went to the field: "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God."
The watchword sums up in one sentence the reality, the universality, and the urgency of the Christian life. It presupposes that we have a Gospel-the only Gospel, the Gospel of power for the individual and for society, God's perfect and final message for the whole human family. When we study the meaning of this word in the Epistles we can see why it was Paul's glory and boast.
"Missionary enthusiasm," said Dr. Griffith John, of China, "is impossible without firm conviction with regard to the Divinity of Christ's person, and an undying attachment to Him as Saviour and Lord. The progress of Christ's Kingdom must ever depend on the place which Christ Himself occupies in the devotion, the adoration, and the affection of the Church. If Jesus is not all in all to us, if He has not become Lord and God to us, it is certain we shall find it impossible to make a great sacrifice for Him, we
shall not go forth and fight His battles, we shall not suffer and die for the honour of His Name.
To the apostles Jesus was the only real Saviour; and hence their missionary enthusiasm and marvellous success. To the early Church the name of Jesus was above every name; and hence its burning zeal and self-propagating power. Jesus was not a myth, but a glorious reality, the brightest of all realities; and hence their magnificent courage and boundless hope. To the heroes of the mission field, whether ancient or modern, Jesus has not been as one among the many, but as the One; and hence their all-conquering faith and splendid devotion. From first to last, they have known no other name than the name of Jesus; and they have had but one passion and that is He. Let the Church to-day be loyal to Christ, and the result will be universal triumph.”
The impact of Western civilization through commerce, literature, and Western governments has utterly disintegrated old social standards, practices and ideals among educated Moslems, and is compelling them to readjust their faith in the Koran, or abandon it. The advocates of the New Islam in India, Turkey, Persia, and Egypt, are the allies, and not the enemies, of Christianity in the realm of ethical reform and higher social ideals; and we welcome their co-operation in this realm. The veil and polygamy are doomed, as well as slavery.
There is also a new attitude towards Christianity and the Bible nearly everywhere. Instead of
arrogance and fanaticism, there is an entire willingness to hear and investigate. In some centres of the Moslem world, the New Testament is to-day the best selling book. Public baptisms are no longer rare, once they were at the risk of life.
The watchword breathes the spirit of universality. It presupposes the solidarity of the race and the unity of the world. No man can believe in this solidarity without a deep consciousness of personal responsibility. The less favoured nations have a right to our privileges. The only alternative to exploitation is evangelization. It is not right for some of the human family to have everything until all of that family have at least something. The contrast is the condemnation. No colour scheme on the world-map can paint the moral darkness of sin as black as it is. Who can read of the many cruelties of heathendom without being deeply moved to a sense of responsibility, remembering our own heritage of home and social standards, the result of the Gospel. Because these conditions and human hearts can be utterly changed through the moral and spiritual power of the missionary message, Jesus Christ the Redeemer, they must be changed. This is the urgency of the task and the appeal of the hour. Ian Keith Falconer's oft-quoted words are still true: "While vast continents are shrouded in almost utter darkness, and hundreds of millions suffer the horrors of heathenism and Islam, the burden of proof rests upon you to show that the circumstances wherein God has placed
you were meant by Him to keep you out of the foreign field."
Well may we ask with Dr. Mott: "Why has God made the (Moslem) world known and accessible to-day as never before? Why has He provided such extensive and well-equipped missionary agencies at the home base and on the foreign field in our day? Why has He at this particular time placed such boundless resources at the disposal of the Church? Can we question, in view of the character of God, and the present-day facts of the world, that it is His will that the whole field be occupied and evangelized in our day, and that however great and difficult the undertaking there are resources in the Lord Jesus Christ and latent in His followers available and sufficient to enable us to carry out that will?"
The Evangelization of the Moslem world in this Generation - shall it not be our watchword and our prayer – program?
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