World to Win
the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall worship before
You. For the Kingdom is the Lords and He rules over
the nations." Psalm 22:27-28
great era of missionary advance was the nineteenth century.
The considered judgement of church historian Kenneth Scott
Latourette is that: " Never had any other set of
ideas, religious or secular, been propagated over so wide
an area by so many professional agents maintained by the
unconstrained donations of so many millions of individuals."
the beginning of the nineteenth century, Protestant Christianity
was concentrated in Europe and North America. Except for
some small Christian enclaves, Asia was almost untouched
by the Gospel. Africa was still the "dark continent"
except for the ancient Copts in Egypt, Ethiopia and
Sudan and a small number of Dutch settlers at the Southernmost
tip of Africa, at the Cape.
by the end of the 1800s, Christianity was a world
religion with churches established in almost every country
on earth. The vigorous energy and momentum of the Protestant
missionary movement in the nineteenth century was unparalleled
in human history. The 19th century missionary movement had
a revolutionary influence upon cultures out of all
proportion to its modest numerical strength. It reduced
hundreds of illiterate languages to writing, produced libraries
of books, pioneered tens of thousands of schools, developed
movements for the relief and prevention of human suffering,
introduced modern medical skills to save millions of lives
from tropical and other diseases, introduced advanced methods
of agriculture to provide adequate food for millions of
previously malnourished people, and brought an end to cannibalism,
human sacrifice, infanticide, burning of leprosy patients,
widow burning, slavery and numerous other prevalent social
evils. The result of this momentous missionary enterprise
was the rapid expansion of Christianity throughout Africa,
Asia and the Pacific Islands.
the success of this bold missionary endeavour was by no
means certain. From the beginning sceptics laughed at the
audacity of these pioneers, discounting any possibility
of success. The British East India Companys attitude
was published in these words: "The sending out of
missionaries into our Eastern possessions (is) the maddest,
most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project
which has ever been suggested by a moon struck fanatic!
Such a scheme is pernicious, imprudent, useless, harmful,
dangerous, profitless, fantastic." (20 Centuries
of Christianity, page 279).
missionary, William Carey, and his co-workers, were belittled
as "fools, madmen, tinkers, Calvinists and schismatics!".
Their preaching was stereotyped as "puritanical
rant of the worst kind." (William Carey, S. Pearce
Carey, 1923). The Edinburgh Review editorialised:
"We see not the slightest prospect of success; we
see much danger in making the attempt."
light of the incredible obstacles, overwhelming distances,
very real dangers and relentless opposition involved, how
do we explain the sustained explosion of Protestant energy
aimed at winning the world for Christ?
Calvins Institutes, the Swiss Reformer wrote of "the
Magnificence" of Christs reign prophesied
in Daniel 2:32-35; Isaiah 11:4; Psalm 2:9 and Psalm 72 where
Christ will rule the whole earth. "Our doctrine must
tower unvanquished above all the glory and above all the
might of the world, for it is not of us, but of the living
God and His Christ" who will "rule from sea
to sea and from the river even to the ends of the earth."
Calvins missionary zeal is attested to by the fact
that within 25 years from the time John Calvin began
his ministry there were 2000 Calvinist churches and
about half a million Calvinists, in France alone! Calvin
sponsored missions throughout Europe and even as far afield
the 16th and 17th centuries were primarily a battle for
survival for the Protestants. While they succeeded in winning
whole nations to Christ (Hesse, Saxony, Prussia, England,
Scotland, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark) they had to
fight for their lives against Catholic repression, invasions
the first century of Protestant history the world powers
were Spain and Portugal. These Roman Catholic empires dominated
the seas and the overseas possessions of Europe. Only after
the English defeated the Spanish Armada (1588) did the possibility
arise of Protestant missionaries crossing the seas. As the
Dutch and British grew in military and naval strength they
were able to challenge the Catholic dominance of the seas
and the new continents.
Protestants ventured out across the oceans to extend Gods
kingdom, including John Eliot (1604-1690). Eliot mastered
the Algorquim language of the Indians in Massachusetts and
became a pioneer Bible translator. Eliots biography:
"The Triumphs of the Reformed Religion in America:
or the Life of the Renowned John Eliot" written
by Cotton Mather and published in 1702 was to inspire many
others into missions in succeeding generations including
David Brainerd and William Carey.
Oliver Cromwell, in 1649, the English Parliament established
the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.
Over £15 900 (an enormous sum of money in the 17th
century) was donated towards this first evangelical missionary
society. Cromwell proposed a comprehensive plan for world
evangelism dividing up the world into four great
mission fields. Unfortunately the death of Cromwell and
the restoration of the monarchy in England under Charles
II set back the cause of missions.
the 18th century there were several Protestant attempts
to reach distant peoples with the Gospel. These efforts
were mostly carried out by Pietists like the Moravians of
Count Von Zinzendorf. Their work focused on converting individuals
in or near some European colony. The Christian groups created
by these Pietists were tiny islands of believers engulfed
in oceans of heathens.
the missionary movement launched by William Carey thought
in comprehensive terms of evangelising whole countries and
discipling whole populations. Carey was the first to articulate
the need for Christianity to be firmly rooted in the culture
and traditions of the land in which it is planted. For these
and many other reasons Carey is called "the Father
of Modern Missions".
launch of the modern missionary movement by William Carey
and the "Particular (Calvinist) Baptist Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathens"
marked the entrance of Great Britain into world missions.
Throughout the 19th Century Britain was to contribute more
men and money to the cause of Protestant missions world
wide than any other country. K.S. Latourette in "A
History of the Expansion of Christianity" (1945) records
that in 1900, of the 13 607 Protestant foreign missionaries,
5901 were from the British Isles and 4110 from the United
States. In that one-year 1900 of the $17,161,092
donated to Protestant missions, $8,225,645 was from the
British Isles and $5,403,048 from the United States). The
concept of Britain as a Christian nation with a God given
responsibility for world evangelism was deeply rooted in
19th century Victorian society.
means used to accomplish the tremendous task of world evangelisation
was innovated by William Carey (and inspired by Acts 13:1-5).
When he wrote his Enquiry he asked: What would a trading
company do? Carey proposed the formation of companies of
dedicated Christian pastors and laymen. These companies
should appoint committees to collect and evaluate information,
to raise funds and to select suitable missionaries to send
to the foreign mission fields.
voluntary societies transformed 19th century society. It
made possible interdenominational action together for clearly
defined purposes. It altered the traditional power base
by encouraging lay leaders and tapping into the wealth of
talents of rank and file Protestants. It also inspired countless
other voluntary societies to fight the slave trade,
improve working conditions for children, establish Sunday
Schools and a host of other causes.
Protestant missionary movement of the 19th century was also
remarkable because it advanced (with very few exceptions)
without either state control or state support. Unlike the
Catholic missions of Xavier, Las Cases and Ricci, the Protestant
missionaries were financed by voluntary donations and only
advanced by the power of prayer and persuasion. Since the
time of the Emperor Constantine, the propagation of religious
beliefs had tended to be carried out with the active support
of kings and princes. Mass conversions, such as under Clovis,
king of the Franks, Prince Vladimir of the Russians or King
Olaf of the Vikings, were the accepted means of extending
the Faith. The Protestant missionaries of the 19th century,
however, had found a way to engage in missions while upholding
we still need to ask: What inspired the pervasive determination
in 19th century Protestant churches to firmly plant the
Gospel in every nation on earth? The answer is: Calvinism
passion to preach the Gospel in every nation and to win
heathen tribes to Christ sprang from those Reformed churches,
in England and America, which had been most deeply influenced
by the Great Evangelical Awakening of the 18th century.
These revivals were based upon the study and proclamation
of the Reformed teachings of the Puritans. The two primary
human instruments whom God was pleased to use in the 18th
century revivals were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.
was a Calvinist whose books reasserted the faith and conduct
of the Puritans. His sermon, "Sinners in the Hands
of an Angry God", was used by God to spark the
Great Awakening. Edwards book "The Life and
Diary of Rev. David Brainerd" (published in 1749)
was mightily used to inspire the 19th century Missionary
movement. Jonathan Edwards himself invested the last 7 years
of his life as a missionary amongst Indians and frontiersmen
at a frontier settlement in America.
of Jonathan Edwards books was "A Humble Attempt
to Promote an Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of Gods
People through the World, in Extraordinary Prayer, for the
Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christs
Kingdom on Earth . . ." (a rather long title, but
a very descriptive one). When William Carey set sail for
India one of his treasured possessions which he carried
with him was this book by Jonathan Edwards.
the founders and missionaries of the original prototype
Baptist mission launched by William Carey in 1792 were Reformed.
When they came under criticism for their "strict
Calvinism" and being "followers of Jonathan
Edwards", Careys colleague, Andrew Fuller,
responded that if their critics "preached Christ
half as much as Jonathan Edwards" had, then "their
usefulness would be double what it is!" He added
that it was most significant that the mission to the East
had originated with men of Reformed principles and if it
ever fell into the hands of men who rejected these principles
it would become ineffective for Gods Kingdom. (Life
of Andrew Fuller by John Ryland).
Serampore Mission Principles explicitly committed all their
missionaries to the Reformed doctrines of Grace. Similarly,
the London Missionary Society (founded in 1795), which was
thoroughly interdenominational, was most outspoken that
"the doctrines of grace generally known as Calvinism,
provided a common platform for the best missionary action."
The first generation of LMS missionaries had no difficulty
with signing the full Westminster Confession.
Morrison, the pioneer missionary to China in 1807 was a
strict Calvinist from the Church of Scotland. Henry Martyn
who sailed for India in 1805 was also Reformed. His pioneer
Bible translation ministry in Persia was cut short by his
death at age 31, in 1812.
Whitefield, whose ministry along with Jonathan Edwards was
so inextricably linked to the great revivals out of which
the 19th century missionary movement was launched, was unashamedly
a Calvinist: "You know how strongly I assert all
the doctrines of Grace as contained in the Westminster Confession
of Faith and in the (Thirty Nine) Articles of the Church
of England." (Whitefield, Tyerman). Whitefield
testified that he learned much of his theology from Puritan
books such as Matthew Henrys Commentary on the Bible.
the great 18th Century Revivals many Puritan books were
reprinted: John Owen, John Bunyon, Hooker, Shephard, Guthrie
and many others. This revival of interest in the Puritans
led Augustus Toplady (author of "Rock of Ages"),
John Newton (who wrote "Amazing Grace"),
Charles Spurgeon and many other churchmen to become Calvinists.
The British Museum catalogue lists eleven editions of Matthew
Henrys Commentary on the Bible and two American reprints.
It is calculated that more than 200 000 single volumes of
Matthew Henrys commentary had been circulated prior
to 1840 alone.
revitalised Protestantism, refreshed with Calvinistic writings
and preaching, rose to the challenge of world evangelisation
with a zeal and boldness never before seen in history. Many
Christians had engaged in evangelism and missions before,
but "never before had the followers of any faith
formulated comprehensive plans covering the entire surface
of the earth to make these purposes effective."
(A History of the Expansion of Christianity, by Latourette)
Murray in "The Puritan Hope" concludes:
"The theological impetus which lay behind the new
missionary era came from the Puritan books of the seventeenth
century, which must be classified as Calvinistic."
additional distinctive which characterised the greatest
century of missionary advance was the eschatology of victory.
This optimistic view of the future was often spoken of by
Whitefield: "when the earth shall be filled with
the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the seas"
the immortal words of Isaac Watts hymn published in
1719 (based on Psalm 72):
shall reign whereer the sun
his successive journey run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax and wane no more"
first generation of missionaries of the 19th century were
overwhelming post-millennial. The driving power of this
prophetic hope was prominent in the speeches and sermons
at the inaugural meetings of the Baptist Missionary Society
(1792), the London Missionary Society (1795), the New York
Missionary Society (1797), the Church Missionary Society
(1799) and the Glasgow Missionary Society (1802), amongst
Carey wrote in the Form of Agreement at Serampore: "He
who raised the Scottish and brutalised Britons to sit in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus, can raise these slaves
of superstition, purify their hearts by faith and make them
worshippers of the one God in spirit and in truth. The promises
are fully sufficient to remove our doubts, and make us anticipate
that not very distant period when He will famished all the
gods of India, and cause these very idolaters to cast their
idols to the moles and to the bats, and renounce forever
the work of their own hands."
Lord will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing
all the gods of the earth; people shall worship Him, each
one from his place, indeed all the shores of the nations."
only was the 19th century the greatest century of missions,
but probably also the greatest century for composing some
of the best-loved hymns. Many popular hymns of that time
echoed this eschatology of victory, including "All
Hail the Power of Jesus Name", "Zions
King Shall Reign Victorious", "Jesus Shall
Reign" and "From Greenlands Icy Mountains".
This hymn was composed by Reginald Heber who gave his life
for the Gospel of Christ in Calcutta, India:
we, whose souls are lighted
wisdom from on high;
Can we to men benighted
The lamp of life deny?
Salvation, O Salvation!
The joyful sound proclaim
Till earths remotest nation
Has learnt Messiahs Name."
with doctrines and hymns such as these, the Protestant churches
in the 19th century were inspired to "expect
great things from God and to attempt great things for God".
the words of Alexander Somerville in 1886, this was "a
new enterprise on behalf of the noblest object that can
engage the enthusiasm of man the salvation of millions!"
first foreign missionary, Alexander Duff, declared: "Oh,
what promises are ours, if we had only faith to grasp them!
What a promise is that in the Great Commission Go
and make disciples of all nations, and lo I am with you,
even to the end of the world! We go forth amongst the hundreds
of millions of the nations; we find gigantic systems of
idolatry and superstition consolidated for thousands of
they tower as high mountains. But what does
faith say? Believe and it shall be. And if any Church on
earth will realise that faith, to that Church will the honour
belong of evangelising the nations, and bringing down the
so they went out thousands of pioneer Protestant
missionaries. They expected their life-transforming message
to change history and it did!
God be merciful to grant a revival of those Biblical doctrines
that will inspire a similar missionary vision and effectiveness
in the 21st century. By Gods grace, and inspired by
the same Biblical principles and missionary vision of the
19th Century missionary movement, the 21st century may become
an even greater century for fulfilling the Great Commission.
His days the righteous shall flourish . . . He shall have
dominion also from sea to sea and from the river to the
ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness will
bow before Him, and His enemies will lick the dust . . .
Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him, all nations shall
serve Him . . . All nations shall call Him blessed . . .
let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen."