How are the Nations to be Subdued to the Obedience of Faith?

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:...But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith...." -- The Apostle Paul, Romans 1:5, 16:26

In an 1822 sermon delivered before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in New Haven, Connecticut, Alexander Proudfit, Associate Reformed minister, explained what is the key to the success of worldwide missionary endeavors. The sermon was titled The Universal Extension of Messiah's Kingdom, and throughout, he emphasizes the promises of God for the success of this endeavor through the means appointed. And the key means that God has appointed for the Great Commission is, simply put, faithful preaching.

"But there is another and still more powerful means, by which the Gospel is to be diffused among the nations; -- the preaching of the word of reconciliation. The Scriptures, translated and distributed, will probably remain a dead letter, unless accompanied with the ministrations of the living teacher. Far be it from me to detract from the importance of Bible Societies, or to utter a remark, which might tend to relax the exertions of those who are engaged in the honorable work of diffusing the Scriptures. Let associations of this character be formed; let copies of the sacred volume be multiplied; let them be dispersed through every country; let them be conveyed into every house, and placed on the shelf of every habitation of mankind. Let all this be done with a zeal answerable to the unutterable importance of the work; yet I venture to assert, that it is by the preaching of men, enlightened, ardent, self-denied, disinterested men; by the preaching of such in a pre-eminent degree, that the nations are ultimately to be subdued to the obedience of faith" (p. 15). 

John Lafayette Girardeau on the Church's Responsibility to Foreign Missions


In May of 1868, some three years after the end of the Civil War, John Lafayette Girardeau was called upon to address the Society of Missionary Inquiry at Columbia Theological Seminary. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Presbyterian Church) had recently seen a resurgence in interest in foreign missions, and Girardeau wanted to strike while the iron was hot. The text of this discourse was printed in the August 1868 edition of The Missionary, and presents us with a stirring call to consider the obligation upon the church to bring the gospel to the nations who have not yet heard it. 

Girardeau writes out of his particular context, and so explores the Southern Presbyterian Church's relative lack of foreign missionary involvement in the antebellum period, as well as the changes that the Civil War had brought, and the opportunities that were then before the church by God's almighty providence. His convictions about the gospel are clear: "That the heathen, as constituents of the federal head of the race, are involved in the guilt of his first sin; that they are voluntary transgressors of natural law indelibly impressed upon the conscience of mankind; that they perish under the operation of the penalty of that violated institute though it be not reduced to a written form; that their condition is one of misery, ruin, and death; that their only hope of eternal salvation lies in their knowledge of the gospel of Christ; that the Church as the constituted trustee of that gospel is imperatively bound by her Master's last command, by the laws of her being and the very instincts of her nature, to preach to them a crucified and risen Saviour as their light in darkness, their deliverance from sin, and their redemption from woe..." Likewise, his belief in the necessity of foreign missions is settled: "A selfish Church would be a contradiction in terms, a monster drinking from her own breast the milk which was intended to nourish the dying children of want."

Girardeau's address captures a vital aspect of the ministry of the church, at a significant time in the life of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. It is relevant both as a historical document, and for its ongoing encouragement to those engaged in foreign missions on a variety of levels. Tolle lege! 

The Creed of Presbyterians

Egbert Watson Smith (1862-1944) was a distinguished graduate of Davidson College (1882) and Union Theological Seminary (Richmond, Virginia, 1886), who went on serve as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Second Presbyterian Church of Louisville, Kentucky, was also noted for his love for foreign missions. In 1911, he became executive secretary of Foreign Missions for the Presbyterian Church in the United States, in Nashville, Tennessee, where he labored and authored works in support of missions and missionaries around the world. Even after he retired from that position in 1932, he took on the newly created position of field secretary of foreign missions. He served as one of the most active and able advocates of missionary activities in the American Presbyterian church. 

As a confessional Presbyterian, he also wrote in defense of the Westminster Standards, the creedal position of the Presbyterian Church. His 1901 volume on The Creed of Presbyterians is remarkable because it makes the point that the Westminster Confession of Faith, and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, are simply put, a summary of essential truths that evangelical, Protestant Christians agree are taught from Scripture. They are not uniquely Presbyterian in a sectarian sense, but Catholic in nature. They affirm the principle of one true Church, in all its branches, to be the body and kingdom of Christ on earth. Smith has written this work for laymen, and it serves as a good introduction to what Protestants believe concerning the sovereignty of God, the authority of Scripture, and the value of having a summary of these things to unite believers in the truth, all of which serve as a great motivation for the spread of the gospel. 

This is a book that 21st century Christians will appreciate, as the depth and breadth of the author's humility and charity shine through as an example of how confessional Presbyterians may serve the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ with those two particular attributes, which is as much needed today as it was over a century ago. Take time to download and peruse The Creed of Presbyterians, which is a wonderful contribution to the whole church of Jesus Christ. 

Jure Divino Presbyterianism

"The Southern Presbyterian Church was committed from its initial organization in 1861 to a theory of the church advanced by Thomas Cartwright in England in the latter part of the 16th century, embodied in the Scottish Second Book of Discipline (1581) and championed by James Henley Thornwell and other Southern Presbyterian divines as over against Charles Hodge of Princeton in the 1850's." -- Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Vol. 2: 1861-1890, p. 414.

As Thompson goes on to relate, John Lafayette Girardeau summed up the Southern Presbyterian position well, historically known as jure divino Presbyterianism, or divine right Presbyterianism, as he laid it out in a sermon before the General Assembly of 1875: 

"There are two supreme obligations which this final charge of the Lord Jesus lays upon the  heart of the church. The first is the transcendent duty of universal evangelization. The second is the inculcation and maintenance of the truth which Christ, the prophet of the church, has taught, and the commands which Christ, the king of the church, has enjoined. The call of the gospel is to be addressed to all the sons of men, and when they accept it, and are gathered into the fold of the church, she is to teach them all things whatsoever Christ has commanded. There are obviously a positive and a negative aspect of this charge to the church, — positive, in that she is directed to teach all that Christ has commanded; negative, in that she is implicitly prohibited from teaching anything which He has not commanded. The negative duty is a necessary inference from the command which enforces the positive. Here, then, we have the principle tinctured with the blood of our Puritan, Covenanter and Huguenot forefathers — that what is not commanded, either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures, is prohibited to the  church. She can utter no new doctrine, make no new laws, ordain no new forms of government, and invent no new modes of worship. This is but a statement of a fundamental principle of Protestantism, contra-distinguishing it from Rationalism on the one hand and Romanism on the other, — that the Scriptures, as the word of Christ, are the complete and ultimate rule  of faith and duty. They are complete, since they furnish as perfect a provision for the spiritual, as does nature for the physical, wants of man, and, therefore, exclude every other rule as unnecessary and superfluous. They are ultimate because, being the word of God, they must pronounce infallibly and supremely upon all questions relating to religious faith and practice.  The duty of the church, consequently, to conform herself strictly to the divine word, and her guilt and danger in departing from it would seem to be transparently evident. But the clearest principles, through the blindness, fallibility, and perverseness of the human mind, frequently prove inoperative in actual experience; and the history of the church furnishes lamentable proof that the great, regulative truth of the completeness and supremacy of the Scriptures constitutes no exception to this remark. Because we are Protestants, and Presbyterian Protestants, because the doctrine of the perfection and ultimate authority of the word lies at the root of our system and is embodied in our standards, we are not, therefore, free from the peril attending the failure of the church to conform herself in all things to the revealed will of Christ, and her tendency to rely upon her own folly instead of His wisdom" ("The Discretionary Power of the Church," Sermons, p. 370-371).

May 27, 1871: The Reformed Presbyterian Covenant of 1871

The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North American in its Directory of Public Worship teaches about the principle of covenanting: 

"Covenanting with God is a solemn act of worship in which individuals, churches, or nations declare their acceptance of Him as their God and pledge allegiance and obedience to Him. Public covenanting is an appropriate response to the Covenant of Grace. The 'Covenant of Communicant Membership' is to be accepted by individuals who profess faith in Christ and unite with the Church. Ordinarily, such individuals are to give public assent to this covenant in the presence of the congregation. When circumstances warrant, churches and nations also may produce statements of responsibility arising from the application of the Word of God to the times in which they are made. Such covenants have continuing validity in so far as they give true expression to the Word of God for the times and situations in which believers live. (For a fuller discussion of vows and covenanting see Testimony, chapter 22 ['Of Lawful Oaths and Vows'], especially paragraphs 8 and 9.) Examples of such covenants are the Scottish National Covenant of 1638, the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America’s Covenant of 1871."

On May 27, 1871, the Synod of the RPCNA, meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, entered into a solemn covenant and confession of sins before the Lord. The history of this event as well as the text of the Covenant itself is recorded by William Melancthon Glasgow in his History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of America. Glasgow notes concerning Samuel Oliver Wylie (1819-1883) that "He was the Chairman of the Committee which drafted the Covenant of 1871, and, with a few changes, was adopted as it came from his pen." The Covenant has six sections - section 5 is reproduced here. The history and full text of the 1871 Covenant (also known as the "Pittsburgh Covenant") from Glasgow can be read here

"5. Rejoicing that the enthroned Mediator is not only King in Zion, but King over all the earth, and recognizing the obligation of His command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and resting with faith in the promise of His perpetual presence as the pledge of success, we hereby dedicate ourselves to the great work of making known God's light and salvation among the nations, and to this end will labor that the Church may be provided with an earnest, self-denying and able ministry. Profoundly conscious of past remissness and neglect, we will henceforth, by our prayers, pecuniary contributions and personal exertions, seek the revival of pure and undefiled religion, the conversion of Jews and Gentiles to Christ, that all men may be blessed in Him, and that all nations may call him blessed."

Of this section it has been noted: "We hail with delight one special feature of this Pittsburgh Covenant—its recognition of the obligations to missionary and evangelistic effort. There is particular allusion, it is true, to this duty in the Solemn League and Covenant, but it is entirely overlooked in subsequent renovations of it, or the Bonds of Adherence which the Churches, from time to time, have adopted. It is here brought out with a clearness and prominence worthy of its great importance. There is something touching in the express references to past shortcomings on this head. They furnish evidence that the men who framed and subscribed this Covenant are not moving in the mere groove of antiquated forms and traditions, but are alive and awake to the momentous responsibilities of the present hour" (The Reformed Presbyterian Magazine, Oct. 2, 1871).

The RPCNA entered into a briefer Covenant subsequently on July 18, 1954. But it was the Covenant of 1871 that signified a distinctly American application of the principle of covenanting within the RPCNA. Take time to read the six sections, and Glasgow's history of a special day in the history of Reformed Presbyterianism in America here

All the Earth Shall Be Filled With the Glory of the Lord

In 1835, Samuel Miller (1769-1850) preached a sermon before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Baltimore, Maryland. His text was that from Numbers 14:21: "...all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." It is a great promise that gives hope to Christians concerning the expansion of Christ's kingdom on earth. But it does not stand alone in God's Word. A significant portion of his sermon involves the assembling together of other Scriptures which only serve to undergird this promise. 

"1. First of all, and above all, our hope is founded on JEHOVAH'S FAITHFUL AND UNERRING PROMISE. This is, undoubtedly, the chief ground of confidence. For that a religion which has been preached for eighteen, centuries, and which has been as yet received, even nominally, by less than a fourth part of mankind, will one day, and, at most, in a century or two from this hour, pervade and govern the world, we can expect with confidence only on the promise of Him who is Almighty, and who cannot lie. But this promise is surely enough for the most unwavering confidence. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Jehovah is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of all that has gone out of the mouth of Jehovah shall not pass away, until all be fulfilled. 

Let us attend, then, to some of the promises on this subject with which the word of God abounds. Take the following as a small specimen of the 'exceeding great and precious'  catalogue found in the inspired volume.

  • The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, Rev. 11:15.
  • Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession, Ps. 2:8.
  • All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him, Ps. 22.27.
  • From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place shall incense be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts, Mal. 1.11.
  • And I will gather all nations, and tongues, and cause them to come and see my glory, Isa. 56.18.
  • And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it, Isa. 2:2.
  • His name shall be continued as long as the sun; men shall be blessed in him, and all nations shall call him blessed, Ps. 72:17.
  • The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God, Isa. 35:1-2.
  • And the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; and all dominions shall serve and obey him, Dan. 7:27.
  • He shall say to the North, Give up; and to the South, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, Isa. 43:6.
  • His way shall be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations, Ps. 67:2.
  • And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, Isa. 40:5.
  • Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God, Ps. 68:31.
  • The isles shall wait for his law, Isa. 13:4.
  • He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth, Zech. 9:10.
  • All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God, Isa. 52:10.
  • We see not yet all things put under Him, Heb. 2:8.
  • But he must reign, until all enemies shall be put under his feet, 1 Cor. 15:25.
  • At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is Christ to the glory of God the Father, Phil. 1:10-11.
  • For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, Hab. 2:14.

Such is a specimen of Jehovah's promises respecting the future prevalence and power of the gospel. Read them, Christians, with joy and confidence. Ponder them daily and well in your hearts, as a source of continual encouragement. And remember that they shall all, without failure, be gloriously accomplished. I cannot tell you precisely when this happy period shall arrive; but I can tell you, on authority not to be questioned, that, at the appointed time, this earth, so long the abode of sin and sorrow, shall be restored from its desolations, and made to bloom like 'the garden of the Lord.' I can tell you, that her Almighty King will yet, notwithstanding every unfavorable appearance, make Zion beautiful through his own comeliness put upon her; that he will yet cause her righteousness to go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth, Isa. lxii. 1. These promises may not, indeed, be all fully accomplished, until we, who now listen to their recital, shall be all sleeping in the dust; or, rather, if by the grace of God, we be made meet for it, -- rejoicing before the throne, in possession of still brighter glory. But, 'though we die, God shall surely visit his people' in mercy. Though neither we, nor even the next generation shall be permitted to witness on earth the complete development of 'the latter day glory;' yet let us rejoice in the assurance that it will come in due time, and in all its promised blessedness. The vision is yet for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry, Hab. ii. 3."

This powerful sermon has inspired many over the years to pray and labor for the pouring out of God's Spirit upon the nations, as should we all. There is a similar text in Psalm 72, to which Samuel Miller also refers in his Thoughts on Public Prayer

"I once heard of a minister who, in a time of revival, when his own heart, as well as the hearts of his hearers were unusually warmed with the power of the Holy Spirit, closed a prayer in the midst of the revival, with great acceptance, in the words of the Psalmist (72:18-19): 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things; and blessed be his glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen! The effect was electric in suddenness, and most happy." 

Moses Drury Hoge on the Relation of the Westminster Standards to Foreign Missions

 On the Log College Press Compilations page, you will find the Memorial Volume of the Westminster Assembly, 1647-1897, a wonderful collection of essays about the formation and theology of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. One of the important articles in that book was written by Moses Drury Hoge, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, entitled "Relation of the Westminster Standards to Foreign Missions." Hoge examines some of the historical reasons why the churches who adopted the Standards were not as possessed of a missionary spirit as they ought to have been; the missionary vision of the Standards; and the ministries of Alexander Duff, missionary to India, and John Leighton Wilson, missionary to western Africa. All who love to see the gospel go forth will be encouraged by Hoge's reflection.

Here's an important slice from Hoge on how the Westminster Standards ground missions in the biblical doctrine of the church: "The true theory of missions is one that clearly recognizes the fact that the great head of the church has not only committed to it the truths necessary to salvation, but has provided it with the government, the laws, the offices, and the equipment for building up the kingdom of God and extending its conquests through the world. This is in accordance with the spirit and teaching of the Westminster Standards, in proof of which we need only quote their noble testimony: "Unto this catholic, visible church Christ has given the ministry, the oracles and ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life and to the end of the world; and this he doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, made effectual thereto." Thus are the scattered sheep ''gathered" from the North and the South, the East and the West, into the safe and happy fold of the Good Shepherd. By its divine constitution the church is, therefore, qualified to secure all the spiritual ends for which it was instituted, and is in itself a missionary society of which every communicant is a member; and as each one has a recognized place in it because of its representative form of government, this very fact is calculated to enlist the sympathies, to deepen the sense of responsibility, and to stimulate to the most earnest, practical activity on the part of every member of the great household of faith."

May those who live under the teaching of the Westminster Standards be impelled more and more to bring the gospel to the nations!

The Story of William Sheppard, African-American Presbyterian Missionary to the Congo, is Amazing

If you're a Presbyterian and you've never heard of William Henry Sheppard, that isn't surprising. But it is disappointing. He was a black Southern Presbyterian missionary to the Congo, who overcame prejudice and segregation to bring the gospel to the Congolese. At times perhaps he seems to have been more explorer and artifact collector than Christian missionary, but his impact on Presbyterian and world history was significant in both church and state. You can read his account of his missionary journeys here

[This post was originally published on July 26, 2017. See also Pagan Kennedy, Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the Nineteenth-Century Congo here.]

American Presbyterian Missions to China

The missionary endeavor has always been important to Calvinists as evidenced, for example, by John Calvin sending the first Protestant missionaries from Geneva, Switzerland to the New World (Brazil, 1557). In the 19th century, American Presbyterians began to send missionaries to the Far East. Log College Press is assembling the works of some of these missionaries, and the stories of the lives and labors is fascinating to read. To give a few examples:

Nathan Robinson Johnston (1820-1904) was a Reformed Presbyterian minister who labored as a missionary to the Chinese in California, as he notes in his autobiographical memoir, Looking Back From the Sunset Land; or, People Worth Knowing. He records his joy at finally seeing Covenanter ministers sent to China, and notes their motto: "China for Christ."

William Speer (1822-1904) was another Presbyterian missionary both to the Chinese in California, and to China itself. After serving as a medical missionary to Canton, China, for five years, Speer came to San Francisco in 1852 with a call from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions to evangelize to the city's Chinese population, where he labored until 1858. He was the founding minister of the Presbyterian Chinese Mission Church ("North America's Oldest Asian Church"). He started what became the first public school for Chinese children and youth; published The Oriental, America's first English-Chinese bilingual newspaper; and helped bring about the repeal of a California law that imposed a tax targeting Chinese miners. Some of his works include China and California; An Humble Plea, Addressed to the Legislature of California, in Behalf of the Immigrants from the Empire of China to This State; and The Oldest and Newest Empire: China and the United States.

Absalom Sydenstricker (1852-1931) was a Southern Presbyterian missionary to China. His life story is told by his daughter, Pearl S. Buck, the famous prize-winning author and noted liberal who played a role in J.G. Machen's conflict with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in The Fighting Angel and The Exile. Sydenstricker authored An Exposition of the Construction and Idioms of Chinese Sentences, in Colloquial Mandarin.

Hampden Coit DuBose (1845-1910) was another Southern Presbyterian missionary to China, who went on to found the Anti-Opium League in China. He authored Preaching in Sinim; or, The Gospel to the Gentiles, With Hints and Helps for Addressing a Heathen Audience; The Dragon, Image, and Demon, or The Three Religions of China: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism; and “Beautiful Soo,” the Capital of Kiangsu.

 Hunter Corbett (1835-1920) was a Princeton graduate who served as a missionary in China for many years, where he established an academy for boys which became China's first university. He also helped to established the Shandong Presbytery, and would later serve as a moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. He authored A Record of American Presbyterian Mission Work in Shantung Province, China; and Opening of Presbyterian Hospital, Chefoo, Shantung China.

Divie Bethune McCartee (1820-1900) was a medical missionary to China, who established the first Protestant congregation in that country in 1845. He served as a diplomat as well, and authored works on science, history and politics.  Robert Elliott Speer (1867-1947) paid tribute to him in A Missionary Pioneer in the Far East: A Memorial of Divie Bethune McCartee

Click on the author links above to learn more about these remarkable 19th century American Presbyterian missionaries to the Chinese. And remember the motto: "China for Christ."

God Glorified by Africa

In recent days, derogatory comments have allegedly been made in the highest corridors of power of the United States about Haiti and the continent of Africa. As a counterpoint, consider a volume by a 19th century American Presbyterian minister who thought of Africa as a place of great potential to glorify God. Africa, Cortland Van Rensselaer (1808-1860) says, has an important place in God's providential plan. The millions of souls there are precious in God's sight. "The Religion of the Reformation is Africa's hope." Therefore, he concludes, "Where, and how, can a Christian minister of your race, do more than by preaching the cross of Christ to the millions of Africa?" We have, he adds, the promises of God to undergird our efforts at preaching the gospel to the continent of Africa: "Prophecy declares the things that shall be: 'The whole earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.' Every land shall become Immanuel's; and in holy union with tribes and people of every tongue, 'Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands unto God.'" Africa is precious in the sight of God, according to Van Rensselaer, and thus, ought to be the object of our prayers and our labors for the extension of the kingdom of Christ on earth both for the good of Africa and the glory of God. 

How did Presbyterians think about missions 100 and 200 years ago? Read these books.

The Presbyterian church has always been a missionary church, desiring to bring the gospel to the tribes, tongues, people and nations around the world. And over the past two hundred years, our leading scholars have thought hard and written well on this topic. Ashbel Green wrote Presbyterian Missions in 1838, and Thomas Cary Johnson wrote Introduction to Christian Missions in 1909. Even though you probably won't agree with everything you read in these books, I have no doubt that reading them will give you a fresh perspective on your own ministry. The discussion of first principles and missionary motivations, and the stories of God's work in America and around the globe, will strengthen your faith and spur you on to love and good deeds.

If you've never heard of this Presbyterian missionary, you'll be thankful you saw this post!


John Leighton Wilson was a giant of 19th-century Presbyterian missions, but unfortunately, he is little-known today. Erskine Clark has recently told his story in By the Rivers of Watersbut his story was first told by another Presbyterian missionary, Hampden Coit Dubose. William Childs Robinson, in his book Columbia Theological Seminary and the Southern Presbyterian Church, tells this wonderful story: "At his vacation Wilson returned home from this memorable decision [to go to African as a missionary] made in prayer with John Bailey Adger at Columbia Theological Seminary. His father still refused to give his consent. "'Father,' said Leighton, 'would you be willing to go into the room and pray with me?' So they began, 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' The father could not go beyond that petition. Brought face to face with the world-embracing affections and purposes of God, he could not hold to any little contrary ambition of his own. Slipping his arm around his son's shoulder, he told him he could go." May the Lord use those who have gone before us in the faith to spur us on the bring the gospel to the nations!


"Global missions is the powerhouse of local missions" - 1st General Assembly of the PCUS (1861)

In 1861, the Committee on Foreign Missions at the 1st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the Southern Assembly, at that time known as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America), gave their report to the delegates present. The Committee's members included John Leighton Wilson (a former missionary to Gabon, Africa, and from 1861 till 1884 the Executive Secretary of the PCUS Committee on Foreign Missions) and James Beverlin Ramsey (a former missionary to the Indian tribes in America and author of a commentary on the first 11 chapters of Revelation). As a part of their report, the Committee composed one of the most stirring statements on the power and necessity of global missions ever written:

"[T]he General Assembly desires distinctly and deliberately to inscribe on our church’s banner, as she now first unfurls it to the world, in immediate connection with the headship of our Lord, his last command: ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;’ regarding this as the great end of her organization, and obedience to it as the indispensable condition of her Lord’s promised presence, and as one great comprehensive object, a proper conception of whose vast magnitude and grandeur is the only thing which, in connection with the love of Christ, can ever sufficiently arouse her energies and develop her resources so as to cause her to carry on, with the vigor and efficiency which true fealty to her Lord demands, those other agencies necessary to her internal growth and home prosperity. The claims of this cause ought therefore to be kept constantly before the minds of the people and pressed upon their consciences. The ministers and ruling elders and deacons and Sabbath-school teachers, and especially the parents, ought, and are enjoined by the Assembly, to give particular attention to all those for whose religious teaching they are responsible, in training them to feel a deep interest in this work, to form habits of systematic benevolence, and to feel and respond to the claims of Jesus upon them for personal service in the field." (Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederates States of America (1861), page 17 - one day, Lord willing, we'll have these Minutes uploaded to this site!)

"The spirit of missions is the spirit of the gospel." James Henley Thornwell on the cross of Jesus and missions

James Henley Thornwell's sermon "The Sacrifice of Christ the Type and Model of Missionary Effort" in Volume 2 of his Collected Writings is something every missionary, every pastor, every Christian should read. In it, he reflects upon John 10:17-18, and Jesus' voluntary sacrifice for His people, and draws application from it for the church of Jesus in every age. What motivated and marked Jesus must motivate and mark His disciples: reverence for God's glory, pity for the misery of man, a willingness to suffer, and a hope of reward. There are so many quotes I could highlight, but I'll give you these two. Read the entire sermon this afternoon!

“Is there nothing in this spectacle of a world in ruins to stir the compassion of the Christian heart? Can we look upon our fellows, members of the same family, pregnant with the same instincts and destined to the same immortality, and feel no concern for the awful prospect before them? They are perishing, and we have the bread of life; they are famished with thirst, and we have the water of which if a man drink he shall never thirst; they are dead, and we have the Spirit of life. We have but to announce our Savior’s name, to spread the story of the Cross, and we open the door of hope to the multitudes that are perishing for lack of knowledge.” (432)

“When I consider the magnitude and grandeur of the motives which press upon the Church to undertake the evangelization of the world; when I see that the glory of God, the love of the Savior and pity for the lost all conspire in one great conclusion; when I contemplate our own character and relations as spiritual priests, and comprehend the dignity, the honor, the tenderness and self-denial of the office; and then reflect upon the indifference, apathy and languor which have seized upon the people of God; when I look to the heavens above me and the world around me, and hear the call which the wail of perishing millions sends up to the skies thundered back upon the Church with all the solemnity of a Divine commission; when a world says, Come, and pleads its miseries; when God says, Go, and pleads His glory, and Christ repeats the command, and points to His hands and His feet and His side – it is enough to make the stone cry out of the wall and the beam out of the timber to answer it.” (448)

A Missionary's Farewell - Why John Bailey Adger went to preach the gospel in Asia Minor

In 1834, 24-year-old John Bailey Adger of South Carolina prepared to sail across the world to minister the gospel to the Armenians in Asia Minor, sent out by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. But why would he go to a foreign nation, when the need was so great in his own country? To the Executive Committee of the Southern Board of Foreign Missions, he penned this Farewell Letter. It is a beautiful apologetic for the work of missions to every people, tribe, tongue and nation.

A snippet: "Great as are our domestic necessities, I have been unable to convince myself, that it is my duty to remain in America! Why? Simply because I hear a louder call from Asia. Our Savior's ascending command, bids us evangelize the whole world. But his ministers are chiefly confined to a small portion of the earth. Very few Americans (hardly any from the South) have left their country to go to more destitute lands. All seem occupied in looking down at the contracted space around their own feet. Instead of the telescope, we are using the microscope. Instead of all mankind, we think only of our own countrymen. Instead of the whole harvest, we are anxious about reaping only the produce of a little corner. Instead of the whole glory of THE SAVIOR OF MANKIND, we are striving to win for Jesus, only a dim and lustreless diadem. I desire not that such views and feelings should be mine. It is the duty of the Church of Christ, and it should be my endeavour, 'to lift up the eyes and look round about.' Our Master has instructed us to teach all nations. He has allotted us our work upon a great scale. We must, therefore, 'attempt great things, and expect great things.' (the motto of William Carey, D.D., Baptist Missionary to India)." 

The story of William Sheppard, African-American Presbyterian missionary to the Congo, is amazing.

If you're a Presbyterian and you've never heard of William Henry Sheppard, that isn't surprising. But it is disappointing. He was a black Southern Presbyterian missionary to the Congo, who overcame prejudice and segregation to bring the gospel to the Congolese. At times perhaps he seems to have been more explorer and artifact collector than Christian missionary, but his impact on Presbyterian and world history was significant in both church and state. You can read his account of his missionary journeys here