Given at Grafton [Ontario]W7193 ADDRESS TO WOMAN'S FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY
Jul 6 1892
As one reads these accounts of the first attempts at Foreign Mission work,1 What strikes one as the most remarkable fact is the extraordinary opposition of Xtian people to the movement, that the Christian Church could ever have sunk to such condition of selfishness & narrowness as to forget that its peculiar mission was to spread the good tidings of a Saviour to the World. It is really inexplicable, how those professedly Christian men, the ministers of the church could read their bibles without accepting the commandments of the Saviour as there laid down, moreover it is very difficult to comprehend how they could be Christians at all, just the same as it is very difficult to understand now, how any one can possibly be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and not obey his commandments. For if we will not shut our eyes to the real duty that is laid down for us in the Word of God, there are just two courses indicated for the true disciple of Christ,- Either we must go ourselves to the nations that are in darkness, or if it is impossible we must do our very outmost at home to send others. If we cannot go down the mine--remember, we must hold the ropes.
Therefore it comes to this, either those who call themselves Christians do not read their Bibles or they deliberately disobey the Saviour's commandments. Is this a safe thing to do? Then the question arises Can any one be a Christian without reading the Bible. It is the word of God, it is the Revelation of God's will to man, of what we must do to be saved, and having read this revelation of the Father's Will, how can we dare disobey? No matter whether we succeed or not; no matter if the heathen are to be saved without us, we cannot set aside our Lord's bidding to us to "Go unto all the world &c. &c." & the responsibility thereby. Did it ever occur to you Christian women that the reason there is so much indifference & lethargy & deadness, utter stagnation, in our churches, and that worldliness has come in upon us like a flood, drowning out all vitality and life is because the Church has failed to obey Christ's commandments and has thus lost God's blessing, for you will notice that just accordingly as a church is interested in missions or not it is an alive or dead church. As MacKay of Uganda writes home in all of his letters "Of one thing I feel sure nothing could be better for rousing the spiritual life of a congregation & leading it on to a higher life, than the cultivation of the spirit of missions. The progress of the Kingdom of God in the world is a study well calculated to enlarge the mind & soul & rescue torpid congregations from their self satisfied ease. What a power for good would be our home millions of Christians if really alive to their privilege & duty in helping forward the work [? torn page].
The Missionary Spirit strikes a death blow at selfish piety. Now then how are we to awaken this missionary spirit (first of all in ourselves); by the conscientious study of our Bible, for it seems to me either we have forgotten to read it or have been dozing & dreaming whilst we read. How can we find out the exact command of God, how can we know what He expects of us, if we do not study his rules laid down? They grow faint in our memories. We have to keep continually repeating to ourselves "If ye love me &c ye are not your own &c." I often think if we would go back to our Catechism which we all have learned from our childhood, there would be a more perfect obedience. And [?] you do not give up teaching it. Now let us try it; what is the first portion "Mary's chief end is to be?" Then follows most naturally "What rule hath God given &c." Thus we see we must go to the Bible to find out the duty expected of us. "Hereby we know, that we know him, if we keep his commandments." Now we are also told in God's word that we are justified by faith but that we are also told that "Faith without works is dead." Now dear friends it is just up to this point--we want to lead Christian Work. Religion is a practical thing not a theory it is a conduct a practice, it is the act of obeying Christ. Christianity is not a treasure to be stored, it is a message to be delivered. God never bestows spiritual power for private & exclusive use. It has been truly said "We are not reservoirs of spiritual blessing, but channels;" as soon as we begin to dam up the blessing, it evaporates like the dew or stagnates into an unhealthy pool, generating disease & death. How? Why, if our influence does not bring strength & power, life & energy to the work of the church it diminishes & weakens. Since there is nothing more deadening to the vitality of any church than phlegmatic indifference that wretched lack of interest, which chills and cools the ardour of the most enthusiastic worker. As Mr. Macdonald said "Do not let us be mere hangers on to the camp." Then having learned from our Bibles the duty laid upon us of working for Christ; the next means I would suggest for awakening interest in the work of the churches, is to make ourselves thoroughly acquainted [with] the various schemes of the church their aims, their objects & their needs. To do this read the religious newspapers and specially do I commend the effort of the F.M. Committee to your attentive perusal. It is a great mistake that reports are necessarily dry. The report of the F.M.S. is exceedingly interesting & full of information, as a young lady of our M.B. said. So too is the report of our own W.F.M.S.
How can you possibly have any interest in our missionaries & their works, If you know nothing about them, a great deal, if not all the indifference, which prevails is due to evilful ignorance, for I cannot believe our Christian people could be so heartless so wickedly selfish, so deaf to the imploring cries, that come to them from every quarter of the heathen world, if they really knew the facts. If they only knew the work of those brave servants of God amidst many dangers & discouragements, principally because there are so few labourers amongst such a multitude, if they read their appeals for help, their noble self- sacrifice and joy in it. It seems to me the hardest heart would be melted, the tightest purse string would be untied.
Then if we are to be of service, we must show our interest, let us manifest our
interest by a regular attendance at all the meetings of the Society. This is the Lord's work not ours to do or to leave undone just as we please. Our W.F.M.S. is one of the recognized schemes of the church and should have the interest and support of every Presbyterian Woman, and should not be treated as if it were the mere whim & fancy of a few enthusiasts.
Now just let us consider what we can do to help in this matter. It is exceedingly discouraging to the President & those actively engaged in the work, that so few seem to have any real interest in the work, sometimes they come sometimes they don't; they forget the day altogether or give the most trivial excuses. Now, I think the rule for us should be as binding as that of the Christian Endeavour, its members are bound to attend their meetings except when burdened for a reason sufficient to offer to Jesus Christ Himself. All the women young and old, not the two or three, should feel it is our meeting. You know there is nothing more discouraging than empty seats. There is a great stimulus in members, & if you can do nothing more than fill a chair and look interested, I entreat of you to come, it will be a great help & bye and bye you will be able to do more than look interested. How? Well, always be on the outlook for missionary intelligence & when you come across an item of interest or a thrilling account mark it; lay it by and take it to a meeting. Head it read it as if you felt it, naturally, not in a dull monotonous voice. Let each one feel, I must do something to make it more interesting, & this is only right, it is not to be the President's Society (it is not fair). We should not leave the whole burden on her, and in doing so, you will be astonished how your own heart will be stirred & aroused. On the other hand I would like to say, that no one should come to the meeting with the idea that necessarily something interesting must be provided for them, it is not a meeting for entertainment it is a meeting for work in which we have to come together to receive intelligence of our missionaries as to their work & success to consult as to the best means of helping them & keeping up the interest in our hearts & the hearts of others & in spreading that interest to all around. It is a meeting for devising means of how to gain contributions for spreading the gospel and encouraging each other in acts of self-denial so that we may be able to give more and more. Above all things it is the place of prayer, where we must lift up our hearts & voices in most earnest supplication for the help & blessing of God in our efforts.
O dear Christian Sisters, we do not pray enough. If our society is to be of any service our auxiliary meetings must be prayer-meetings. And this brings us to another point & you will excuse me if I speak very plainly on this matter, but I want to bring home to your hearts the duty which is laid on each one of us of always doing what we can to help & therefore to be ready & willing to lead our sisters in prayer when it is required of us. We are exceedingly in earnest about this, because we are convinced, that societies are not formed & societies die out & societies are cold & dwindling simply because there are sometimes not even two or three Christians who will take this part, who, in plain words, love their saviour enough to cause them to forget themselves and render this service for Christ's sake in order to help on the cause of sending the news of a Saviour to a perishing world. You must see that the work of our society will be a failure without prayer & that first & foremost our meetings must be prayer meetings & how can this be if every one refused to take part. If this duty is left to one or two, it becomes so monotonous & wearisome that it is almost useless & therefore I entreat of you to put it before your own minds as a duty, as a service to God Himself & then you will feel very differently about it. You would not surely let a selfish feeling on your part be an obstacle to the work, because really it is selfishness we are so afraid of hearing & of the remarks that may be made upon us. Now, think of it, cannot we be brave enough to risk that much for the sake of Him who gave his life for us? What is this little sacrifice in comparison with the sacrifices of our Missionaries? As to criticism I never heard Christian women unkindly criticize one another, we all know how simply weak & nervous we are, and as to breaking down, if we prepare our thoughts as well as we can before hand & rely upon God's help we can never break down for God never fails those who strive with his help to do their duty. Do not say I have no gift or I am nervous, we know all about it but put yourself, in God's hands. We must "expect Great things &c." A great help to this duty is a suggestion I read in a leaflet, that is to make a habit when we are offering our own private devotions, of putting our thoughts into audible words. Many pray in their minds but learn to do it in words. I thought this a very helpful suggestion.
Some one says I cannot express myself and the words seem to leave. Why it seems to me if you keep your minds full of the terrible need of those poor heathen souls, of the terrible sufferings of those poor women and children, you cannot keep silent, involuntarily the longing of your souls will spring to your lips. The need of help is so great, &c & Miss Harris & Dr. Beatty's appeal.
1 For examples of Mary Baker McQuesten’s Presbyterian Missionary Society and Public Addresses, see W7172, W7181, W7193, W7203, W8422, W8432, W8447, W0127a, several others are illegible.