The Significance Of The Haystack Centennial -- By: Edward Warren Capen

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 063:252 (Oct 1906)
Article: The Significance Of The Haystack Centennial
Author: Edward Warren Capen

The Significance Of The Haystack Centennial

Edward Warren Capen

In October of this year the members of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, prominent leaders in missionary work, and friends of Williams College will gather in Williamstown, Mass., around a monument which marks the site of a haystack. Why should so strange a monument have been erected some forty years ago? and why should hundreds of intelligent persons in this twentieth century gather here? Because on this spot occurred one of the memorable events in the history of the Christian church. The monument tells the simple fact. In raised letters upon the marble face we read: —

The Field is the World
The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions 1806
J. Mills
James Richards
Francis L. Robbins
Harvey Loomis
Bryan Green

Among the chief glories of America are the thousands of the choicest young men and women from our colleges and universities who have been sent out during the last century by American Christians to carry the gospel with all its transforming power to those who are without a true knowledge of God, and to form into Christian churches and communities those who had been reclaimed from savagery or from a partial civilization. The

modern American missionary movement began in Williams-town on that summer afternoon, one hundred years ago.

I. The Haystack Centennial is significant because it commemorates a focal event.—In that group of young men converged the light of nearly two centuries of interest in missions, while from it have come the rays of the brilliant missionary achievements of the century just closing. Behind it were the desultory labors of the missionary workers of the whole colonial period, and the opening years of the national period; before it were the systematic labors of the well-organized and efficient leaders of the American missionary movement.

No one of the young men present at that meeting for prayer had any realization of its significance. Even the exact date is unknown, and the only detailed account of it was given nearly fifty years later by the only survivor of the five, Hon. Byram Green, of Sodus, New York. Do we remember the meeting mainly because of its dramatic features? By no means, but because, so far as is known, it was the occasion of the first definite resolution ever made by Americans to begin for themselves the work of foreign missions; and because it was chiefly due to the resolution then formed that four years later, in 1810, the American Board was organized, and that in 1812 missionaries actually sailed from the United...

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