The True Theory Of Missions To The Heathen -- By: W. W. Patton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 015:59 (Jul 1858)
Article: The True Theory Of Missions To The Heathen
Author: W. W. Patton


The True Theory Of Missions To The Heathen1

Rev. W. W. Patton

A thought lies behind every deed, an idea is illustrated in every achievement. The ideal maybe but dimly revealed in the consciousness of him who labors at the practical; yet by it is his work guided and his toil sublimed. Plans which are comprehensive in their scope, should find their justification and encouragement in true theories; for, if advocated upon false grounds, they will either entirely fail of success, or will be feebly prosecuted and attended by mortifying and disastrous imperfections. No cause can permanently triumph, which does not vindicate its claims to the minds of intelligent men. Action, to be vigorous and sustained,

must be based on perceived truth, must appeal to the ripe convictions of the more enlightened portion of the community.

It is on this account that we propose, in the present Article, to inquire after the true theory of missions to the heathen, particularly as respects their object and necessity.

The work of foreign missions, as the enterprise of evangelizing the heathen is called, has, since the apostolic period, always been prosecuted to some extent by the Christian church; but within the last half century it has attracted increased attention, partly by reason of a revived spirit of piety, and partly from the new facilities of exploration and labor furnished by the present age. Earnest, thoughtful, and sanctified minds have been its advocates and self-denying agents. The great mass of true Christians have supported it by their prayers and contributions. It has even conquered, to no small extent, the prejudices of worldly men and secured their occasional commendation. All classes, infidels scarcely excepted, declare that the work is honorable and important, and should be carried forward with energy till light has penetrated the remotest regions of darkness. But when we inquire for the basis upon which the enterprise should be prosecuted, for the necessity which vindicates the work, the answers are various and conflicting. The end to be secured by foreign missions differs in the opinion of different men, who may be arranged, however, in three classes, each with an independent theory of missions.

I. First, we have what may be termed the worldly or unevangelical theory. This advocates the cause of missions on secular rather than religious grounds; or, at best, on a basis of morality rather than of piety. Travellers meet with missionaries, are hospitably entertained, visit the schools and churches, behold the superior condition of the converted natives in all secu...

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