As I prepare to teach a Sunday School class on the theology and history of missions this summer, I’ve been greatly aided by Thomas Cary Johnson’s Introduction to Christian Missions (1909). He weaves together biblical theology, exegesis, and history beautifully, and does so from a high view of the church and its calling to be God’s appointed missionary society. We get a taste of how Johnson’s ecclesiology and missiology merge in his evaluation of how God used William Carey in the life of the church:
“Carey no more caused the mission movements which were so closely connected with his life than Luther caused the Reformation amongst the German people; but as Luther led and accelerated the one movement so Carey led, accelerated and gave his own character to early nineteenth century Protestant missions. In this way he was helping toward the awaking of more than individuals, and groups of individuals to a sense of their responsibility to be missionary. If the winning of religious toleration was a preparation to the winning of religious liberty in Virginia, in Colonial and Revolutionary days, so the excitation into being of great voluntary missionary societies was a preparation for something much better for the awakening of the Churches of Christendom to a consciousness of the fact that God's Church is the God-ordained missionary society, and that every Christian in virtue of his Church membership is a member of a missionary society, and as such is pledged to do his utmost for the disciplining of all nations.”
As a little lagniappe today, you’ll be encouraged by the missionary principles of Carey and his fellow-laborers, composed on October 7, 1805, as a "Form of Agreement Respecting the Great Principles on which the Brethren of the Mission at Serampore [in India] Think it their Duty to Act in the Work of Instructing the Heathen."
(1) It is absolutely necessary that we set an infinite value on immortal souls;
(2) that we gain all information of the snares and delusions in which these heathen are held;
(3) that we abstain from those things which would increase their prejudice against the Gospel;
(4) that we watch all opportunities of doing good;
(5) that we keep to the example of Paul and make the great subject of our preaching Christ the crucified;
(6) that the natives should have entire confidence in us and feel quite at home in our company;
(7) that we build up and watch over the souls that may be gathered;
(8) that we form our native brethren to usefulness, fostering every kind of genius and cherishing every gift and grace in them; especially advising the native churches to choose their pastors and deacons from among their own countrymen;
(9) that we labor with all our might in forwarding translations of the sacred Scriptures in the languages of India, and that we establish native free schools and recommend these establishments to other Europeans;
(10) that we be constant in prayer and the cultivation of personal religion to fit us for the discharge of these laborious and unutterably important labors; let us often look at Brainherd, in the woods of America, pouring out his very soul before God for the perishing heathen without whose salvation nothing could make him happy;
(11) that we give ourselves up unreservedly to this glorious cause. Let us never think that our time, our gifts, our strength, our families, or even the clothes' that we wear, are our own. Let us sanctify them all to God and his cause. Oh, that He may sanctify us for His work! No private family ever enjoyed a greater portion of happiness than we have done since we have resolved to have all things in common. If we are enabled to persevere, we may hope that multitudes of converted souls will have reason to bless God to all eternity for sending His Gospel to this country."
May the Lord cause his church today to pursue His glory and the good of the lost with the zeal of Carey and those who served with him!