The Canon Taylor Controversy
Echoing back to the controversy over the terms evangelization and conversion Pierson defended his own position by assuring readers that preaching the gospel to every creature
...means no superficial, hasty, formal proclamation of the good news of grace. It means thorough work, the implanting and erection of all the institutions of Christianity. Everywhere men are to be confronted with the Christian church and home, school and college, society and civilization. They are to see demonstrated before their eyes, and by the logic of events, what the gospel of Christ can do for the man, the woman, the child; what it can do to elevate labor, dignify humanity, abolish cruelty and even discourtesy, supplant caste by a true equality, and lift all society to a higher level." (Missionary Review, February 1889:87)
And yet for Pierson the gospel should not be concentrated in one place before it was diffused to all peoples.
Not everyone was in concert with this emphasis. The great British missiologist, Edward Storrow, argued that new workers should be deployed to areas that were most promising. "Of course the gospel should be preached to every creature and nothing short of a supreme attempt to win the whole human race for Christ can satisfy Him or absolve His church from its solemn responsibility; but seeing that there is no probability of this being done in our day by united and well advised effort on the part of any considerable number of Christian communities, it may be of service to consider where missionaries may be sent with the greatest probability of finding 'a great door and effectual opened unto them,' and with the fewest adversaries to oppose their entrance and impede their endeavors." (Missionary Review, April 1889:264)
Once again Pierson responded, this time, in an article entitled 'The Mission and Commission of the Church."
Christ says: "The field is the world," and no part of it is to be left unfilled and unsown. If we wait to "convert" our hearers, we shall never put our working force into the whole field. Just here has been the great mistake of the church even in her missionary era! Christ's principle is DIFFUSION; our practice is CONCENTRATION. We emphasize conversion, while he emphasizes evangelization; and so our human philosophy counsels us to convert as we go, and so increase the converting force. The effect is that we keep tilling a few little comers of the world field, sowing them over and over, until the soil loses power to yield, while tracts a thousand miles square have never yet borne the tread of the sower! Even disciples are asking, "Are there not heathen enough at home, that we send the flower of our youth to the ends of the earth?" (Missionary Review, May 1889:327) [Italics his]
H. Grattan Guinness could not understand why Canon Taylor would make his criticisms. He felt they were not helpful to the cause of world evangelization and wrote, "Our duty to prosecute missions in no way depends either on their hopefulness or their success÷So that even if Canon Taylor's anticipation were correct, which happily they are not, it would in no way alter our duty as Christians to obey Christ." (Regions Beyond, January 1889:5-6)
Even the German missiologist Gustav Wameck could not resist a rebuff to Canon Taylor, 'The apostles, Herr Canon, were probably not, like yourself, great arithmeticians, but they were heroes of faith. They believed, with full and firm conviction, what is written in the last of Matthew concerning the omnipotent omnipresence of their Saviour with them. Therefore, they said: 'To a minority with Jesus belongs victory and the future.'" (Quoted in the Missionary Review, May 1889:360) [Italics his]
In another article entitled "Serving our own Generation," Pierson writes,
We owe to our Lord an infinite debt; we can never pay it; all we can do is to acknowledge it by our service to our generation according to His will and in His name. Obviously so far as that debt can be paid, it can be paid only during the period which limits the generation of which we form a part. This proposition seems so simple and obvious as to need no argument. Yet, practically, it has never been accepted and acted on by the church in modem times, nor at any time since the apostolic age." (Missionary Review, July 1889:481)
Pierson conceded that there was much work to be done by Christians outside of evangelization, things that would provide for future generations certain inalienable rights. "But, meanwhile, we must not overlook what is even a more pressing duty and privilege, viz.: we must not permit this generation to die unsaved, so far as our consecrated labor can prevent it. No activity in providing for future generations can atone for our inactivity in providing for our own generation, which first of all we are to serve, by the will of God, with the gospel." (Missionary Review, July 1889:482) [Italics his]
In simple obedience to that last command, without a secular spirit, a calculating hyper-caution, a dependence on worldly patronage, a distrust of adequate support, without waiting for the whole church to recognize her obligation or attempt to discharge it, those who do feel the mighty pressure of these great facts and truths must covenant with God and each other, that this generation shall not pass away till all this work is done!" (Missionary Review, July 1889:487) [Italics his] He then concluded, "This conception of evangelism grows upon the writer until it is difficult to think of anything else." (Missionary Review, July 1889:487)
That victory was assured was not a question in the minds of many. Rev. E.T. Cumick wrote, "The present is emphatically a missionary age÷In the light of present developments the reign of Christ on earth is beyond doubt; the only question is as to the time of his coronation." (The Gospel in All Lands, 1889:311)
At the International Christian Endeavor convention held in Philadelphia in 1889, A.T. Pierson was quoted by Francis E. dark as saying,
I pray God to let me live long enough, after having given twenty years of the best of my life to the study and advocacy of this great proposition, to see this enterprise of Christian missions taken up by the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor, by the Young Men's Christian Association, by the Young Women's Christian Association, by the Young Women's Temperance Union, by the great Missionary Crusade in the college, as well as by the churches of Christ in general, with a determination that before this generation shall pass away the world shall have known that Jesus Christ died for sinners. (Clark, 1895:286)
Robert Arthington wrote to the Missionary Review exhorting the editors, "How I wish you felt it your duty to write yourself in humble, simple, but prevailing language and keep to it, keep it up month after month, of those parts and populations of the world which never, since our Savior's ascension, have had÷ and have not now÷the Gospel according to Luke or John or the Acts, in their hands, perpetually in print!" (Missionary Review, December 1889:942) [Italics his] Pierson's response revealed the broader purpose of the Review.
The sole aim of its editors has been to arouse the whole Church of Christ to breathe messages of life to the regions beyond...We are persuaded that in order to bring about that holy enterprise which will lead the Church to bear the tidings to every unsaved soul with the utmost possible speed, we must scatter information about every Field, present every aspect of the work, appeal to every class of motive, in a word, consult every variety of temperament to be reached and study every variety of hindrance to be removed. (Missionary Review. December 1889:943) [Italics his]
Entering the Final Decade
Julia B. Schauffler, in the opening editorial of Woman's Work for Woman in 1890, wrote,
Only ten years of this century remain, and on the way in which we improve this passing opportunity depends in a large degree the progress of the world in Christian life and thought for many years to come. Think of the possibilities of the future as Dr. Pierson shows them in this grand word picture:
"Never was the whole field of missions so inviting or the harvest so promising. Never was the Church of Christ furnished with facilities so ample and abundant for the speedy and successful accomplishment of her work. The next decade of years will witness not only evolutions, but revolutions that even now seem incredible within so short a time. The Church of Christ must push all the forces to the front and lay a molding hand on the plastic material of social life. The anointed tongue and consecrated pen, the printed page and the loving epistle, the church and the school, the Christian family and the Christian home, must unite their witness to the power of the Gospel, in the eyes and ears of every creature." (Woman's Work for Woman, January 1890:4)
Following Pierson's lead, in 1890 Dr. D. McEwen gave a major address at the Evangelical Alliance Conference. China's Millions reported that he said,
The special work of the Christian Church to-day is the immediate evangelisation of the whole world. Conversion, whether of the few or the many, is the work of God Himself; but it is committed to the Church to take the Gospel message to every creature; and the time has come, in the providence of God, when this ought to be done, not in a halting, tentative way, but by sweeping measures. Through the march of discovery, the progress of international commerce, and the translation of the Scriptures, the speedy evangelisation of the human race has come within the region of practical Christian politics. (China's Millions, January 1890:13)
He went on to outline that it would take only 50,000 workers and the expenditure of 15 million pounds sterling annually, for ten years, in order to preach the gospel to every creature. McEwen pointed out that this kind of planning works in war; why should it not work in the Christian conquest of the globe?
In A.T. Pierson's editorial "Is There to Be a New Departure in Missions," it was obvious that he was beginning to sense the rush of time as the new century approached.
It will no longer do to act and talk as though we had countless years and even centuries before us wherein to evangelize the world. We have often said, what now we calmly and deliberately repeat with emphasis, that with one tithe of the 'dash' and 'push' with which all worldly enterprises are carried forward, the thirty millions of Protestant church members now on earth would not let ten years pass without belting the globe with the missionary effort and bearing the good tidings of the gospel to every family of man! We yearn to see the church of God take up this work as though she felt that the time is short and eternity is only long; that millions of unsaved souls die every year, and a whole generation in less than forty years; as though she saw that God has given her opportunities and facilities that multiply her responsibilities a hundred fold. (Missionary Review, January 1890:2)
J. Hudson Taylor also was well aware of the time passing in relation to the generation he was trying to reach. At the end of 1889 he wrote an article entitled 'To Every Creature" in which he said,
In 1877 the Conference of Missionaries assembled in Shanghai appealed to the Christian Church to evangelize China in the present generation, and many hoped it would be accomplished in the present century. More than half the time before the close of the century passed, and not one-hundredth part of the people have been reached, yet this generation is the last of sixty since our Saviour gave the command, which, as Dr. Pierson has well pointed out, has laid the responsibility on the church of each successive generation to give the gospel to each individual living in its own period. There is no impossibility in our Master's command. Were the Government of England to determine on the conquest of a distant land they would think it a small matter to land 10,000 troops in any part of the world's circumference; and the Church of God to-day could easily, within the next five 'years, effect the evangelization of every one of China's millions. (China's Millions, December 1889:171-172)
Taylor went on to outline a plan in which 1000 evangelists would take two years for preparation and then within a three year period bring the gospel to every family in China! He obviously had not lost enthusiasm for what could be done in the closing decade.
Taylor's appeal was reprinted in the Missionary Review and other places. Regions Beyond says of Taylor, 'The Rev. J. Hudson Taylor, speaking of the great missionary command, *Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,' said that during the last fortnight whose words had acquired a new meaning to him; he had been considering them in the light of the possibility of practically obeying them, and reaching every individual in the world. He believed it was our duty to make the attempt." (Regions Beyond, November 1889:402) [Italics his]
Still, there were detractors. William Ashmore, a retired missionary to China, wrote to the Missionary Review in May
1890 (page 375) disapproving ofTaylor's plan saying that sufficient time was not allowed for the Chinese to not only hear the gospel but to understand it. Oddly enough, William Ashmore's name was listed on the Permanent Committee associated with the plan!
Geraldine Guinness, in a few years to become Taylor's daughter-in-law, made a special appeal to the Student Volunteers on behalf of Taylor's plan to evangelize China. She referred back to the document of the Shanghai conference of 1877 calling it "a most memorable, noble, pathetic paper" saying "it is impossible to read unmoved the burning words of that eloquent and pathetic plea." She went on to say,
We believe that no impossibility is enjoined in our Master's clear command to "preach the gospel to every creature;" but that it can be done,÷and done in this present generation... Shall a task which one thousand workers might accomplish in three years of steady labour, after two years of preparation, be thought of as chimerical and beyond the resources of the Christian Church? (Regions Beyond, November 1890:400-401) [Italics hers]
In February 1890, Taylor called for an upcoming conference of Protestant Societies meeting in Shanghai to seriously address the question of evangelizing China. "We would ask for much prayer that this Conference may be made a time of great blessing, and that such steps may be taken as shall hasten the day when the Gospel shall have been brought within the reach of every creature in China. We have already entered on the last ten years of this century; surely, ere its close, we shall see this accomplished." (China's Millions, February 1890:17)
Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness also spoke of the close of the century. In the January 1890 edition of Regions Beyond (pp. 3-4) she wrote,
As our century draws to a close, the increase of missionary activities, among other signs of our times, indicates the near approach of that end which shall be such a glorious beginning. But let such activities increase still faster for the time is short! How can we make this last decade of the century 1(5' best in this respect?...Let us not be timid in our petitions and expectations, but aspire to great things. Let us pray that the whole heathen world may be evangelized before the century ends." [Italics hers]
Pierson, writing this time from Scotland, enthusiastically agreed. "No man can show a sensible reason why within the next ten years the Word of God should not be published throughout the world. Thirty millions of Protestant disciples can evangelize the world if each one will become responsible for fifty other souls.-.This decade ought to be the most glorious of all history in the progress of the gospel." (Missionary Review, March 1890:165) He added, a few pages later, "I want to live long enough to see this world mapped out for God, to see a definite organized movement for the occupation of the whole world for Christ." (Missionary Review, March 1890:198)
By now other voices began taking up the challenge. In early 1890 J.L. Stevens, a Presbyterian, addressed the presbytery of Athens, Georgia on the subject "The Gospel Can and Ought to be Preached to the Whole Heathen, Jewish and Mohammedan World in the Next Ten Years." Quoting Mark 16:15, Stevens said, "since it is our imperative duty and to our highest interest that this command be obeyed, why delay it?" The substance of his appeal was a detailed look at how many men and how much money would be required to accomplish the task by the year 1900. Stevens concluded by challenging the Presbyterians to do their part to serve as an example to other Protestants. Afterward, he sent his article to many missionary magazines to widely circulate the idea.
Pierson, meanwhile, rejoiced to see the new champions of the vision. In the April edition of the Missionary Review he wrote, "The thought of evangelizing the world in this generation is taking hold of various persons and various plans are forming to carry out the project...This duty and privilege of reaching the whole world with the gospel during the present generation, and even century, has been often urged on the readers of this Review. We rejoice to see that thought working in many other minds throughout the church, and cropping out in so many directions." (Missionary Review, April 1890:310) [Italics his]
Pierson often told the story of German Christians in Hamburg who saw amazing results in their evangelism because they came together in prayer and dedication. On an international level with the same type of dedication the results would be phenomenal, he insisted.
Give us twenty-five hundred men of like consecration, and in another quarter of a century we can have 175,000 new churches, 1,875,000 gospel stations, 25,000,000 converts; we will scatter 160,000,000 Bibles, 3,000,000,000 pages of tracts÷and, with these twenty-five hundred such men, we will tell the good tidings to the whole population of the globe within the remaining ten or eleven years of this nineteenth century! To evangelize this race is a load that will crush the few; it can be lifted only by the many. (Missionary Review, July 1890:514)
Writing from China, Geraldine Guinness, wrestled over how the gospel might be preached to every creature. In the paper her parents edited in London, she wrote, "Dr. Pierson's words often come to mind in this connection, they were to this effect....'If God will show me anything that I can do for the salvation of the world, that I have not yet attempted, by His Grace÷I will do it at once.' It is a great problem÷(/ie problem of the nineteenth as of the first century how best, how most surely and most quickly, to carry the gospel of Jesus, to EVERY creature." (Regions Beyond, June 1890:237) [Italics and emphasis hers]
One result of all this enthusiasm was the "Extra-Cent-a-Day Band," which encouraged church members to set aside an extra penny every day for missions. This unusual way of raising extra money for missions was initiated in direct response to the appeal for the speedy evangelization of the world. One participant commented, "Let the Church, followers and representatives of Him whose earthly life was a mission to a lost world, resolve that ere this century closes the story of the Saviour shall indeed be proclaimed to every creature. That will make our age sublime!" (Missionary Review, July 1890:552)
In his editorials and books Pierson wrote a great deal about prayer and missions.
Every time the Church has set herself to praying, there have been stupendous movements in the mission world. If we should but transfer the stress of our dependence and emphasis from appeals to men to appeals to God÷from trust in organization to trust in supplication÷ from confidence in methods to importunate prayer for the power of the Holy Ghost, we should see results more astounding than have yet been wrought. (Missionary Review, August 1890:585-586) There is too much dependence on appeal, on organization, on human instrument, on Governmental patronage, on the influence of education and civilization; and too little simple looking unto that real source of success, the power of God in answer to prayer, first to open doors of access, then to raise up and thrust forth laborers, and then to break down all opposition and make the truth mighty in converting, subduing, saving and sanctifying. (Missionary Review, August 1890:630) Eliminate God from missions and you have nothing left but a human enterprise; all the grandeur and glory are gone; for the one supreme charm and fascination of this work is that, in idea and plan, in origin and progress, it is divine. (Missionary Review, September 1890:653)
The editors of the Illustrated Missionary News agreed. In referring to the work of the China Inland Mission and its goals to preach the gospel to every creature, they commented, "Let us not forget that to preach the Gospel to every creature is not a 'mere human project, but a Divine command.'" (Illustrated Missionary News, Feb. 1, 1890:24) [Italics his]
Over and over Pierson pressed his point home. "There is no lack of money nor means to compass the evangelization of the world within the present century," he said, "if there were but the spirit of enterprise to dare and undertake for our Redeemer." (Missionary Review, August 1890:587) And yet, how difficult it seemed to arouse the church.
With profound and solemn conviction we record once more our testimony, after more than a quarter of a century of the study of missionary history and biography, that only from a divine point of view can the mystery of missions be interpreted or the significance of missions be appreciated. Higher up than the level of the most self-denying heroism must we get to command this true horizon; and our constant effort with tongue and pen is to awaken and arouse sluggish believers to behold this march of God and fall into line under His leadership and take up the march with Him. (Missionary Review, September 1890:656)
Speaking to the annual meeting of the China Inland Mission, Pierson said, "It is time that the Church of God should awake to her responsibility. We have been acting as though we had an eternity in which to do the work, and the people whom we seek to reach had an eternity on earth in which to be reached; whereas the fact is that our term of service and their term of life must both very soon expire." (Regions Beyond, September & October 1890:353) He went on to say,
There never was such an opportunity. We are living in days that are more augustly awful than any in previous human history. I say, deliberately, that I would rather live in the year 1890 than have lived in the time of Christ Himself, not because it would not have been a transcendent privilege to see the Lord in the flesh, and to be among the number of those who were closely associated with His life, but because this is a grander day of opportunity and a more magnificent day of privilege. (Regions Beyond, September & October 1890:354)
A missionary from Thailand, D. McGilvary, wrote to the Review in October 1890, "You might be interested to hear another voice from the field in response to the standard raised preeminently by your Review for a crusade to evangelize the whole world during the present century. The idea is a grand one. Possibly, the faith of but few has reached the standard of Christianizing the whole world during the next decade. We all know it is not beyond the divine power to effect it." (Missionary Review, May 1891:325) [Italics his]
During the last quarter of the 19th century American politicians spoke of the "manifest destiny" of America. It was not surprising, then, that a pastor in Washington D. C., Rev. A.W. Pitzer wrote,
The providential mission of this nation is to give the blessed Gospel of the Son of God to all peoples of the earth...We hold the Gospel, not merely for ourselves but in trust for a lost world. We have the men and the money, the missionaries and the agencies, methods of transit and transportation, in more than abundance, to give the Gospel in ten years, as God's witness, to every nation under heaven. The supreme duty of this nation is to realize her sublime providential mission, and bear the blessed light of the Gospel to all the dark places of the earth, to the habitations of men now filled with cruelty. There is no second Columbus to be born, nor any new continent to be discovered. This is the "last days," and this "ends of the earth," the light that shines across the Pacific from San Francisco and Portland reaches to the very lands where that first light was kindled. "Now or never," is the world to be evangelized by us. (Missionary Review, November 1890:825-826) [Italics his]
But the strongest voice was still that of A. T. Pierson. In his editorial titled "The Regions Beyond" he repeated, 'The motto of the great apostle of the Gentiles was, THE REGIONS BEYOND... The motto of Paul is the true watchword of the Church in this new age of missions. After all the work of a century, we have only just begun. We are not even at the midway pillar; and God says, 'Speed ye! Make haste! Forget the things behind and push for the Regions Beyond.' And this we will do by the grace of God!" (Missionary Review, February 1891:81-82) j
His constant harping on this same theme irritated some. The Rev. Canon D.D. Stewart in an article entitled "The Greatness of God Shown in the Slow Christianizing of the Earth" wrote, "A thousand years are with the Lord as one day÷All nations will, in due time, come and worship before God, and, in God's estimation, that time is rapidly approaching, though, according to man's arithmetic, there is a protracted delay." (Church Missionary Intelligencer, July 1891:473-474)
In response to this criticism Pierson replied, "[Yes, that's true] but 'one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,' and there have been single historic 'days' in this period, in which He has wrought the work that ordinarily would have taken a millennium." (Missionary Review, February 1891:84) Pierson defended the need for speedy evangelization in a book he wrote entitled The Divine Enterprise of Missions. Reviewing this book in The Church Missionary Intelligencer Eugene Stock commented, "Dr. Pierson, notwithstanding his principle of diffusion rather than concentration, has no sympathy with the scampering notion of a 'witness' just telling the tidings of salvation once, and then boasting that Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled." (May 1892:381) Pierson writes, "Is 'witnessing' then, so superficial, artificial a process, that we are to picture to ourselves some flying courier, galloping on horseback through village after village, announcing the good news, and then hastening away elsewhere? To bear testimony unto all nations is no such short, hasty, inadequate proclamation of the Gospel message." (Pierson, The Divine Enterprise, 1891:69)
But Pierson was not locked into looking to the end of the century. He suggested that another international meeting like London be held in 1892. There they could gather up the results of missions and take stock of what was left to be done. What would need to be done in the second century of modem missions? He asked, "Is it too much to hope that this next century of missions may not have passed until the whole world shall have been acquainted with the Gospel?" (Missionary Review, February 1891:142)
Once again he stressed the strategic need to divide up the world for evangelistic purposes. Rev. J. Murray Mitchell, also writing in the Missionary Review, admitted, "It might, perhaps, be possible to form an international committee, representing all Protestant missions, to map out the great battle-field and suggest a plan of campaign; at present, each mission, each regiment chooses its own field and fights its own battle, with little or no reference to others." (Missionary review, March 1891:173-174) But this kind of strategizing could only be done by a world level conference. And when Pier-son asked for opinions on whether a London-type conference should be held in 1892-93, most of the responses from mission agency heads were negative, similar to the following comments of Dr. M. H. Houston of the PCA (Southern) Foreign Missions Board:
My opinion is that the London Conference is so recent that it would not be well to attempt another World's Missionary Convention in 1892, at least for the discussion of those general subjects which were before the London meeting. I would be glad, though, to attend a World's Convention at any time to consider the urgent practical question, "What can be done more than we are now doing to evangelize the present generation of men?" (Missionary Review, July 1891:527)
That same year A.T. Pierson was asked to speak at the first Student Volunteer Movement Convention in Cleveland and no one was surprised when his subject was "The Evangelization of the World in This Generation." Pierson began,
The supreme question of the hour is the immediate preaching of the Gospel to every creature...! am afraid that the seeds of a great apostasy are in the Church of God today, that in the midst of this century and its closing decade it should even be questioned whether we could evangelize the world in our generation, when the luxuries alone that crowd our homes, that cover our persons, that are hung upon our walls and stuffed into our library cases, the gold and silver, the jewelry and the ornamentation, the costly furniture in our homes, would of themselves suffice to make the Gospel speed its way around the earth inside of a decade of years. It is a pretty solemn question whether we ourselves are saved if we allow this state of things to go on much longer. (Student Mission Power, 1979:82)
Later in the same talk he said, I want to say to you, that with the 40,000,000 Protestant church members in the Church of God, with the $12,000,000,000 in her treasury, with all the capacity for carrying on the work in business methods, according to the very best and wisest and most sagacious suggestion, I have not the slightest idea that we shall see the world evangelized in this generation, nor that it will be evangelized in ten, twenty, or a hundred generations to come unless the supernatural element enters into it as it has never entered into it since apostolic days. (Student Mission Power, 1979:85)
For I solemnly believe, and I say it with the emphasis of a dying man, that if the Church today should resolve that the year 1891 should not go by until she had sent at least one representative of Christ and His Gospel into every destitute district on the surface of the earth, so that there should be no district a hundred miles square that should not be represented by one witness for Christ, before the year 1891 passed by there would be an outpouring of the Holy Ghost to which even Pentecost would be simply the first drops of a coming latter rain. (Student Mission Power, 1979:88)
By July of 1891 Pierson was able to report,
This conviction of the duty and feasibility of giving the whole world the Gospel in the present generation has taken possession of countless men and women in all parts of the globe. Hence the simultaneous calls for increased laborers, enlarged means, and higher consecration. Let us keep this cry echoing, and let us press the Lord's enterprise until not a lethargic church or apathetic disciple remains÷until not a child of Adam remains without the knowledge of the Second Adam, who is able to repair the ruin wrought by the first. No believer can tell how much depends upon his activity joining in this crusade of the ages. Every voice and pen, every heart and hand and purse, should be enlisted constantly and unreservedly to secure the immediate proclamation of the Gospel to every soul. To this end the pages of this Review are pre-eminently and prayerfully devoted. (Missionary Review, July 1891:540)
In spite of all that had happened in the previous ten years, there was still formidable opposition to the cause of missions. Rev. A.A. Pfanstiehl wrote, "It has been figured out by those who look upon this work from a political-economy point of view that it costs about $1000 to make a single convert in heathendom, and that at the present rate of progress it will take two hundred thousand years to convert the world!" (Missionary Review, September 1891:683) Because others had already dealt with the inaccuracy of these statistics, Pfanstiehl went on to show the value of these "expensive" converts both from an historical and biblical viewpoint. A.T. Pierson also added a comment on the back of this article: "The only real discouragement in the work of missions is the slowness and sluggishness of the church to fall in line with the command and the leadership of our Royal Captain. The church has numerical force and financial resource sufficient without a doubt to bear the Gospel message to every soul before the century ends." (Missionary Review, September 1891:685)
Pierson's most concise statement of what could be done by the year 1900 was The Greatest Work in the World: The Evangelization of All Peoples in the Present Century published in 1891. This title reflects Pierson's continuing belief that if the church were all she was meant to be, the job could be finished by the year 1900. By this stage Pierson was dealing not with twenty years as he had in 1881, nor with 15 years as when "An Appeal" was authored. Now there were ten short years left before the turn of the century. The Greatest Work was thus his last ditch attempt to wake up the church to her God-given responsibilities and opportunities. He began by stating, "The supreme enterprise of the age is the immediate preaching of the Gospel to every creature." (p. 5), adding that there was no lack of resources for the job, either men or money, nor lack of opportunity or access to the world. The hindrance is "unhesitatingly, that the Church of God is trifling with human souls and with her own duty." (Pierson, 1891:7) He went on to convincingly outline the marvels God had done in the nineteenth century, readying the whole world for the Gospel. And he irrefutably showed that the church needed to go to the regions beyond, not only geographically, but in faith, prayer, power, giving and holy living. In conclusion, he said,
The grand duty of the hour is, therefore, as plain as an unclouded sun at its zenith: faith in the duty and so the possibility of doing it; energy of action, courageously and promptly doing the King's business; and prayer for power from above. Give us these, and before this generation passes away, the world shall hear the Gospel. (Pierson, 1891:56)
The entire text of this book appeared as a serial in the Missionary Review, thus bringing these views into the public scrutiny.
In 1891 Pierson also published The Divine Enterprise of Missions in which he outlined his philosophy of mission,
Now of the things which we have spoken, this is the sum: Every saved soul is called to be a herald and a witness; and we are to aim at nothing less than this: to make every nation, and every creature in every nation, acquainted with the Gospel tidings. This is the first and ever-present duty of the Church: it is the heart of the whole missionary plan. God will give us souls as our hire and crown; large results in conversion of individuals and the transformation of whole communities will follow, as they always have followed, a godly testimony. But we are not to wait for results: we are to regard our duty as never done while any region beyond is without the Gospel. Let all men have a hearing of the Gospel at least; then, when evangelization is worldwide, we may bend our energies to deepening the impression which a first hearing of the Gospel has made. But, again, let it peal out, as with a voice of thunder, to be heard wherever there are believers! The first need of the world is to hear the Gospel, and the first duty of the Church is to go everywhere and tell every human being of Christ, the world's Saviour. To stop, or linger anywhere, even to repeat the rejected message, so long as there are souls beyond that have never heard it, is at least unjust to those who are still in absolute darkness. Instead of creating a few centres of intense light. God would have us scatter the lamps until all darkness is at least relieved, if not removed. (Pierson, The Divine Enterprise, 1891:99-100) [Italics his]
The year 1892 was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist Missionary Society, thus marking the beginning of a new century in missions. Many believed that the next few years would be the greatest in the history of the world's evangelization. Regions Beyond heralded, "It is possible for us in the few remaining years of this decade to do more towards evangelizing the heathen than has been done in the whole century since Carey's days. This is a fact, and one which throws on us all most solemn responsibility." (Regions Beyond, January 1892:6)
In February of 1892, A.T. Pierson asked the question, "What is the Next Step?" in relation to the task of world evangelization. "I think we need first of all to realize that the evangelization of the world in this generation is not a mere wild dream, but may be made a fact if the Church of God will have it so, and use the means God has given to her." (Missionary Review, February 1892:141) [Italics his] Pierson continues,
Who can tell how rapidly the Gospel message might be diffused over the habitable globe if all this available material could be utilized? After twenty-five years of constant study of this subject, and conference and correspondence with hundreds of students of missions and missionary workers, I am more and more satisfied that if the Church would but imitate the laudable "push" and "dash" of the men of this generation, the children of light would flood the world with the Gospel in as little time as Ahasuerus dispersed his royal decree from the Bosphorus to the Indus. Will any one tell us why not? (Missionary Review. February 1892:141)
Perhaps a prayer conference might be of value, Pierson suggested. If mission leaders were to come together for a prayer conference, they could lay before the Lord the whole problem of whether their dreams for the end of the century were feasible.
Robert Arthington once again suggested the dividing up of the unoccupied fields. "To partition the world for evangelistic purposes would seem quite easy and without material expense: by interviews in London for preparation; meeting in their rooms for apportionments; correspondence with a few eminent societies abroad for work among the actual heathen. The work of division should be accomplished with urgent prayer and dispatch. I deem it the first and best thing to do and be done in Christ's Kingdom," he stated. (Missionary Review, February 1892:143)
In the next issue of the Missionary Review, the President of the Boy's Brigade, J. Q. Adams, stated that the role of young people's societies can not be overemphasized in relation to the task of world evangelization. As was true of Christian Endeavor, the YMCA & YWCA, the Boy's Brigade in the United States at that time emphasized missions. "Moreover, it is safe to say that these boys will go into the Church knowing not only that there are heathen, but that il is the duty of every Christian to pray, labor, and give in order that the Gospel may be preached to every creature." (Missionary Review, March 1892:197)
As the months passed, the Review hammered away at what it would take to do the job. That the church's idleness was the primary cause of the slow progress of missions was a widely accepted premise. In April, someone signing his name as W.C.C. wrote, "It is generally admitted that the worldliness of the Church is the only obstacle to the immediate evangelization of the whole world. The work is well within our spare ability, and there is nothing in the way of doing it and doing it at once; only the people who profess to be doing it are not doing it, but, as a whole, are devoting nearly all their time, labor and money to the pleasures and vanities of this world 'as the heathen do.'" (Missionary Review, April 1892:280)
That same month it was announced that a Congress of Missions would be held in conjunction with the World's Fair in Chicago, September of 1893. The initial suggestion was A.T. Pierson's, but it was taken over by others and brought to different purposes. È
In May 1892 A.T. Pierson once again called for the immediate evangelization of the world.
Obedience to our Lord's will should be immediate. It has been long delayed, and the time is short. We firmly believe, and the conviction enters into the very marrow of our being, that the disciples of Christ should at once organize efforts and occupy the whole world; that the whole field should be mapped out, and the whole force be massed together; that we should then proceed carefully to divide the field, so that no part should be overlooked, and then to distribute the force, so that no part should be unprovided for. (Missionary Review, May 1892:326) [Italics his]
In June he wrote, "We are not to wait for results; we are to regard our duty as never done, while any region beyond is without the gospel. Let all men have a hearing of the Gospel at least; then when evangelization is world-wide, we may bend our energies to deepening the impression which a first hearing of the Gospel has made." (Missionary Review, June 1892:406)
In July Pierson wrote an article entitled, "Discerning the Signs of the Times." In it he brings in to clearer focus the hand of God in the historical development of missions. "Now observe what follows," he says, "God having a definite historic plan, and the fitness and fullness of times being the determining law, we have only to study carefully and prayerfully the events of the present day to see the plan revealed and read the forecast of the future, and especially the near future." (Missionary Review, July 1892:505) "Are we at such a time in history?" he asks, then concludes, "At this centenary of William Carey; God's signals flash like lightning and boom like thunder around the whole sky. By every mightiest argument and most persuasive appeal; by every motive drawn from a world's need and our opportunity; by every open door and loud cry; by every Scripture prophecy and promise, and by every unfolding of Providence Christ is just now saying to His Church, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature!'" (Missionary Review, July 1892:508-509)
The August issue had an article by a young volunteer, on his way to Africa. In reference to the unfinished task of world evangelization, he wrote, "Gazed at in the light of the great white throne, what do the words mean to present-day Christians? Simply this, that if the trust is not yet discharged it is for us, the Christians of this generation, to rise up at once in the strength of the Lord and with loving obedience carry out His great parting command.... Have the believers in Christ sufficient men and means to send the required numbers? Yes; probably so." (Missionary Review, August 1892:574)
As the result of the centenary, the "Forward Movement" was born, emphasizing greater giving to missions, more laborers for the field and greater facilities for educational and medical missions. The editors of Regions Beyond were excited about the possibilities of this movement and wrote,
In these closing days of the dispensation the Church of God will see a "forward movement" for the evangelisation of the world, so wide, so deep, so swift and strong and prevailing, that the achievements of the century that lies behind us will be seen to be but the foundation and beginning of a final mighty God-inspired work. If we each are but faithful to our Lord, the Gospel may yet be preached "to every creature" in this generation. Let us seek that faithfulness which will make this possible. (Regions Beyond, December 1891:485)
Pierson was not satisfied with this comment and wrote in response,
We have thought a true forward movement will include much more than this. First of all the occupation of hitherto unoccupied fields in the regions beyond÷nothing is more imperative than that there should be no part of the world-field absolutely lying in neglect; and, secondly, a true forward movement will include the rapid and world-wide proclamation of the tidings of redemption, evangelization in distinction from conversion, and the various machinery of an organized Church of Christ. The first need of the race is to hear the Gospel message, and when this has once reached every creature, then the way is open for a more thorough work of conversion, organization and education. And, thirdly, a true forward movement will include a systematic and united prayer on the part of the constituency at home for definite results on the individual fields of missions. (Missionary Review, December 1892:881)
But again, Pierson was not primarily worried about the strategic planning or lack of it on the part of the mission agencies. His greatest concern was, as always, for the lack of consecration in the church. Again he warned that the Church was not serious about obeying Christ, particularly his last command; they were simply trifling with their faith. When church leaders tried to excuse their disinterest by accusing him of shallow mission strategy, he repeated with increasing force:
It is so much the more imperative that this work should be immediately undertaken and with all possible promptness accomplished, because even when done, it is but the beginning, not the end of evangelism. Had every human being to-day heard the Gospel, with every pendulum stroke one dies and another is born; and so, within thirty years a new generation must be taught, or we have again earth people by the unevangelized; so that, unless the Church of Christ keeps up her holy activity, and reaches one new soul every second this work will not remain done, though once accomplished. Moreover, evangelization is not conversion, but only the first step in preparation for it. (Missionary Review, February 1893:84) [Italics his] By 1893, when these words were written, many leaders had already begun to look beyond the year 1900 into the twentieth century. Time was short and some, like Rev. Josiah Strong, author of the influential book. Our Country, spoke of the nineteenth century as one of preparation saying that God had opened up doors in science, education, medicine and politics, and all of these facilitated the spread to the gospel.
In London, James E. Mathieson in "Missions, the Salvation of the Church" already spoke in the past tense, lamenting the fact that so much more could have been done in the world-wide proclamation of the gospel had the church risen to the occasion. But now,
It does not seem likely, now that we are drawing near to the close of the second millennium of Christianity, that anything will arise in the conditions of mankind in the leading Protestant lands, or in the phases of theology which largely govern the minds of men in lands ruled by Bible principles, to greatly alter the proportions which now obtain between the various sections of the Church in their numerical strength and social influence and power...Is it beyond hope that we may one day see a pause in this hitherto endless strife for mastery in seeking to gain the first or second or third place in membership, in edifices, in revenues, which now engages the ceaseless watchfulness and activities of leading men in every denomination? and instead of this feverish race for supremacy in an age which seems governed largely by statistics, a more prayerful pondering of our Lord's parting command, a turning to a more excellent way and to a nobler strife, in a determination to keep in the foremost place the vast neglected work which her Lord has set before His Church, 'Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.'" (Missionary Review, March 1893:175-176)
Some knowledgeable missionaries, on the other hand, still believed that great things could be accomplished by the end to the century. Bishop Thobum of India wrote, "I am confident that before the year 1900 every missionary body in India will be found fully committed to the great work of gathering in the converts by the score and the hundred and nurturing them for God and heaven. I shall be surprised and disappointed indeed if the ingathering of the next eight years does not exceed that of the previous ninety-two." (Missionary Review, January IS93'A7) A missionary to Burma felt that the numerous signs of the times and progress of the gospel "leads us to believe that the time is near when a nation shall be born in a day. Yes! The day is dawning, and God's weary workers may well congratulate each other, for all these things betoken a speedy proclamation of the Gospel to all nations of the earth, and then cometh the end." (Missionary Review, January 1893:50)
Oddly enough, it was not a missionary, but a pastor, Francis E. Clark, also founder of Christian Endeavor, who in his speech before the CE convention in Montreal in 1893 said,
Who will join me this year in a pledge of proportionate giving of at least one-tenth of what God may give us? Do you want a larger mission, Christian Endeavorers? Do you want a new crusade? Here it is. Could anything be larger? It reaches the ends of the world. It embraces every nation and people and kindred and tribe. It means salvation, yours as well as theirs. It means the filling of our missionary treasuries; for we will always give, as we have done through our wisely directed denominational channels. It means no more worthy cause at home or abroad will suffer. In rime, as we grow more numerous and richer, it will mean thousands where there are now hundreds, and millions where now are given thousands. It means obedience to our Lord's last command. It means that the twentieth century, yes, that this little remnant that is left of the old nineteenth, will usher in the glad era of an evangelized world which has heard in its remotest corners the gospel message." (Clark, 1895:478) (Italics mine]
In March of 1893, Regions Beyond published a plea for its readers to set aside time on the Lord's day to especially pray for the evangelization of the world to hasten the Lord's coming. They wrote, "There is no reason why in our own time the Word of God should not be carried within reach, substantially, of all the peoples of the earth, provided we use the resources at our disposal." (Regions Beyond, March 1893:181) [Italics mine]
Faith that the task could be completed by 1900 was beginning to grow dim. Some like Luther Wishard, of the YMCA, believed that the job would only be finished with the help of native workers. "The missionaries believe that when these men are fully charged with this spirit they will accomplish more in the evangelization of their people in a decade than foreigners can do in a century." (Missionary Review, August 1893:584) Cyrus Hamlin, speaking to the International Missionary Union in 1891 had already clearly expressed this view,
Fifty years ago the prevailing idea was that the world is to be converted by the preaching of missionaries. That idea is no longer held by anybody. The native Church is to be the true missionary Church. Native preachers and helpers are to go everywhere preaching the Word. They are to do the chief work of evangelization. The great work of missionaries is to bring forward, to educate, to train the native laborers and native churches unto this work, and give the whole over to them as soon as possible. This is the only way in which the great work of the world's redemption from sin and darkness can be accomplished. It is the most effective and economical way. (Missionary Review, January 1892:55)
That cooperation with national leaders was essential to finishing the job of world evangelization was self-evident to A. T. Pierson. He also expected this sort of co-operation to extend beyond proclamation to the social mission of the church. "To proclaim the simple Gospel to man as man is the great commission. To reach this world-wide destitution, to prevent overlapping, waste, and friction in the work, and build up society after a celestial pattern, there must be cordial, sympathetic, universal co-operation among disciples. To rescue from flood or fire, the whole body must move, or vainly will the heart yeam or the hands stretch out to help. The heroism of some members of Christ's body may be hindered and made ineffectual by the inactivity of the rest. Co-operation there must be if this problem is to be solved." (Missionary Review, March 1894:170)
By 1894, Pierson was talking less about the year 1900 and more about the present generation. At the quadrennial in Detroit his talk was entitled "The Evangelization of the World in This Generation." Mott introduced him by saying that Pierson had been placing special emphasis on this particular phrase in the last two years. But Pierson commented that the inspiration for the motto had come to him 20 years earlier (1874) from Acts 13:36.
What is a generation? A generation is that lapse of time that extends between the cradle and the grave for the average population of the race. Three generations pass away in a century. A generation covers the generating of the population during the period of a mortal existence, and their continuance on the sphere of their mortal experience-thirty three years, or in that neighborhood. Remark that that was the life of Christ, and that that was the period of the Acts of the Apostles, as though to show you what could be done by one generation when the spirit of God dwelt in the midst of God's people. Your service is to your generation, you cannot affect past generations; your influence does not move backwards. You can only remotely affect future generations; and the best way to serve the next generation is to serve this generation to the fullest of your ability. Lay the foundation for the usefulness that will survive. (Moorhead, 1894:114)
Pierson went on to explain that there are seven great wonders that indicate that the fullness of time has come in relation to evangelizing the world in this generation. These are things like worldwide exploration, communication, assimilation and the like. He concluded by saying, "Seven fingers of God laid on the work of evangelism, to take hold of it with the grip of God and help us to move the world inside of thirty years for God." (Moorhead, 1894:115) This was indeed a major shift In spite of his indefatigable work, his efforts had not been sufficient to awake a church surfeited with the luxury and pleasures of the "gilded age." now caught up in the "gay nineties."
In July 1894, Robert Arthington again wrote a letter "to the Church of Christ Jesus" admonishing Christians everywhere to help to bring about the fulfillment of Rev 5:9 and 7:9, that all nations and tribes might be represented at the throne of God. He proposed that first of all certain tribes and peoples, with a population greater than 100,000 who had never heard the gospel be strategically targeted. The Word of God should be translated and then "preach the gospel throughout that Tribe, carefully noting the several eligible central positions and terminal borders of each." (The Missions of the World, July 1894:237) Regardless of what anyone thought of his plan, Arthington urged the church to see that it should have a plan to finish the job of world evangelization.
If the various societies would commit their present fields and circuits of preaching to the Lord in charge, and, in His Spirit, to the most advanced members of each native Church, dividing the rest of the heathen amongst them in wise arrangement without overlapping, always welcoming other workers in harmony,÷to parts of their several spheres not yet occupied, ÷they might undertake all parts of the globe where the art of reading is not known,÷and, with the aid of bible evangelists, the whole world might be evangelized... (The Missions of the World, July 1894:237)