Our Duty to the Heathen
James Smith, 1860
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14-15
The possession of the gospel brings with it deep and solemn responsibilities; for whoever has it, is bound to circulate it. If we have received the gospel, and if we have felt the power of it in our hearts, we should not be satisfied until that gospel is preached to every creature, and is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. It is intended for the world, and is to be published to every creature. To withhold the gospel is to withhold from man his right; to neglect to publish the gospel is to neglect a positive command of Christ.
Every creature needs the gospel. It is the world's great want. The sun is not more necessary for the world than the gospel is for the soul of man. The God of Abraham is now the God of the whole earth. The middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile is thrown down, and the whole world is placed upon a dead level before God. Hence we read: "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Lim. For whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Thus the apostle shows the importance of spreading the gospel in the most forcible manner: "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?" See,
THE DEPLORABLE AND PITIABLE STATE OF MILLIONS OF THE HUMAN RACE. It is a state of wretched ignorance, for they know not GOD. They are strangers to his nature, will, purposes, mercy and grace, They know not if there is one God, or many. They know not if he is love or hatred, cruel or kind, merciful or implacable. They know not his law, and are total strangers to his gospel. They know not how to approach him, or what will be acceptable to him. They are alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.
They know not THEMSELVES. They have no just or correct views of the immortality of the soul, of its depravity, of the meaning of its deep inward yearnings after something that it knows not; or of the way to rid it of its guilt, fit it to dwell with God, or to obtain for it peace and satisfaction now. On all these matters they are dark.
They are in a state of pitiable helplessness. They are down, and cannot raise themselves. They are like the bones in the prophet's vision — they lie in the valley, they are bleached, and become very dry.
They are without information. Man is not born with the Bible in his head, or the gospel in his heart. We must be taught; therefore Jesus said, "Go and teach all nations." We must be informed; and, therefore Jesus said again, "Preach the gospel to every creature." There can be no instruction without a teacher, therefore Jesus sent out his apostles, and constituted his Church the instructress of the world. There are no teachers, unless they are sent, therefore we should look out good men of honest report — holy men, energetic men, men who will hazard their lives for the sake of the Lord Jesus — and send them to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.
And as God alone can qualify with gifts and grace, commission and dispose men to go on such an errand; as the harvest is plenteous and the laborers are few — we should pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest.
May the Lord write these thoughts on our hearts, and whenever we read, hear, or think of the heathen nations, may we remember that . . .
there is no salvation for them but by Jesus Christ;
they cannot be saved by Christ without faith;
they can have no faith without knowledge;
they can have no knowledge without instruction;
they cannot be instructed without teachers;
and teachers cannot go except they are sent.
And, as the effect of these thoughts, may we pray to God to raise up men, and look out for them, that we may send them far off unto the heathen. This shows,
OUR DUTY TOWARDS THEM. We should think . . .
of their great number,
of their present wretched state,
of their fearful destiny.
We should think of them as of members of the same family, out fellow-creatures, fellow immortals, and brethren according to the flesh. We should think of them often, very seriously, and until our thoughts affect our hearts and our conduct towards them. We should pray for them, and pray in earnest. Our prayers should be frequent, sincere, and springing from an intense desire to do them good, and that they might be saved. Being entrusted with the gospel, we should send it unto them. Paul, because he was entrusted with the gospel, considered himself a debtor both to the Jews and to the Barbarians; both to until wise and to the unwise; and, as an honest man, he was anxious to pay his debts, and therefore he never rested — but even labored more than any of the apostles.
Here is an example for us. Let us, then, be prepared to give up our sons to be missionaries, the they may be sent to carry the gospel to the heathen, and to give up our money to provide the funds necessary to send them, that they may go forth taking nothing of the Heathen. Let us be anxious to send our best men where they are most needed, and to send them quickly, for the heathen die; and to send large numbers of missionaries, for the heathen are many.
Let us send them with much prayer, knowing that all success is from God, and that without his blessing, every mission will fail.
Let us send them under a deep sense of our responsibility, God requiring it at our hands.
Others sent the gospel to our land, and so it came down to us; let us send it to other lands, that the knowledge of the Lord may cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea.
But let us not so think of the heathen abroad, as to forget the heathen at home! There are English heathen, Irish heathen, Scotch heathen, and Welsh heathen. Let us, by all means, seek to save them. At home everyone may be a missionary, and a missionary without expense to any society. All may speak of Jesus. Every one may speak for Jesus.
My brother, give Jesus your tongue, to speak to your neighbors, your friends, your servants, your children, and all related to you. Jesus wishes to speak to them by your tongue, and to do you the honor of using your tongue in saving souls from death, and the souls of those whom you love too.
My sister, give Jesus your tongue, you may speak for him, you may speak of him, without neglecting any duty, breaking any precept, or violating any of the proprieties of life. But in attending to the heathen at home, in the villages and hamlets around us, in the streets, lanes, and alleys of our towns, the heathen at our own doors — let us not forget the heathen afar off — but let India and China, Japan and Burmah, Africa and the islands of the sea, be remembered by us.
Let us see the finger of God pointing to every dark spot on the globe's surface, to sinners of every class, and climate, and color, to whom the message of the gospel is not affectionately and plainly delivered; and hear him saying to us, that we may be affected by the questions, and be stirred up to duty and to diligence, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?"