David Brainerd (1718-1747): O that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey!

DavidBrainerd

“Thursday, Nov. 4. [At Lebanon] Saw much of my nothingness most of this day: but felt concerned that I had no more sense of my insufficiency and unworthiness. O it is sweet lying in the dust! But it is distressing to feel in my soul that hell of corruption, which still remains in me. In the afternoon, had a sense of the sweetness of a strict, close, and constant devotedness to God, and my soul was comforted with his consolations. My soul felt a pleasing, yet painful concern, lest I should spend some moments without God. O may I always live to God! In the evening, I was visited by some friends, and spent the time in prayer and such conversation as tended to our edification. It was a comfortable season to my soul: I felt an intense desire to spend every moment for God. God is unspeakably gracious to me continually. In times past, he has given me inexpressible sweetness in the performance of duty. Frequently my soul has enjoyed much of God; but has been ready to say, ‘Lord, it is good to be here;’ and so to indulge sloth, while I have lived on the sweetness of my feelings.

But of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry, almost continually; so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of him the more insatiable, and my thirstings after holiness the more unquenchable; and the Lord will not allow me to feel as though I were fully supplied and satisfied, but keeps me still reaching forward. I feel barren and empty, as though I could not live without more of God; I feel ashamed and guilty before him. Oh! I see that ‘the law is spiritual, but I am carnal.’ I do not, I cannot live to God.

Oh for holiness! Oh for more of God in my soul! Oh this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God; the language of it is, ‘Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in God’s likeness,’ (Ps 17:15) but never, never before: and consequently I am engaged to ‘press towards the mark’ day by day. O that I may feel this continual hunger, and not be retarded, but rather animated by every cluster from Canaan, to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! O that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey! These insatiable desires after God and holiness continued the two next days, with a great sense of his own exceeding unworthiness, and the nothingness of the things of this world.”

– David Brainerd (1718-1747), The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, p. 103-104

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David Livingstone (1813-1873): I never made a sacrifice

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David Livingstone (1813-1873), the famous Scottish pioneer missionary and explorer of Africa, developed something of a celebrity status in 19th century Victorian Britain for his work in Africa as a missionary, explorer and slavery abolitionist, among other things. His achievements and his sacrificial devotion to opening up Africa to commerce and Christianity provided inspiration to a 19th century British public in search of a moral center to its imperialist policies in Africa. In December 1856, David Livingstone returned to England after spending fifteen years in southern and central Africa. A year later, on 4 December 1857, he gave a speech to students at Cambridge University, in which he refuted the popular idea that he had made such a great sacrifice by his endeavours in Africa:

“My object in going into the country south of the desert was to instruct the natives in a knowledge of Christianity, but many circumstances prevented my living amongst them more than seven years, amongst which were considerations arising out of the slave system carried on by the Dutch Boers. I resolved to go into the country beyond, and soon found that, for the purposes of commerce, it was necessary to have a path to the sea. I might have gone on instructing the natives in religion, but as civilization and Christianity must go on together, I was obliged to find a path to the sea, in order that I should not sink to the level of the natives. The chief was overjoyed at the suggestion, and furnished me with twenty-seven men, and canoes, and provisions, and presents for the tribes through whose country we had to pass.

In a commercial point of view communication with this country is desirable. Angola is wonderfully fertile, producing every kind of tropical plant in rank luxuriance. Passing on to the valley of Quango, the stalk of the grass was as thick as a quill, and towered above my head, although I was mounted on my ox; cotton is produced in great abundance, though merely woven into common cloth; bananas and pineapples grow in great luxuriance; but the people having no maritime communication, these advantages are almost lost. The country on the other side is not quite so fertile, but in addition to indigo, cotton, and sugarcane, produces a fibrous substance, which I am assured is stronger than flax.

The Zambesi has not been thought much of as a river by Europeans, not appearing very large at its mouth; but on going up it for about seventy miles, it is enormous. The first three hundred miles might be navigated without obstacle: then there is a rapid, and near it a coal-field of large extent. The elevated sides of the basin, which form the most important feature of the country, are far different in climate to the country nearer the sea, or even the centre. Here the grass is short, and the Angola goat, which could not live in the centre, had been seen on the east highland by Mr Moffat.

My desire is to open a path to this district, that civilization, commerce, and Christianity might find their way there. I consider that we made a great mistake, when we carried commerce into India, in being ashamed of our Christianity; as a matter of common sense and good policy, it is always best to appear in one’s true character. In travelling through Africa, I might have imitated certain Portuguese, and have passed for a chief; but I never attempted anything of the sort, although endeavouring always to keep to the lessons of cleanliness rigidly instilled by my mother long ago; the consequence was that the natives respected me for that quality, though remaining dirty themselves.

I had a pass from the Portuguese consul, and on arriving at their settlement, I was asked what I was. I said, “A missionary, and a doctor too.” They asked, “Are you a doctor of medicine?” “Yes … . .. Are you not a doctor of mathematics too?” – “No … . .. And yet you can take longitudes and latitudes.” – Then they asked me about my moustache; and I simply said I wore it, because men had moustaches to wear, and ladies had not. They could not understand either, why a sacerdote should have a wife and four children; a joke took place upon that subject. I used to say, “Is it not better to have children with than without a wife?” Englishmen of education always command respect, without any adventitious aid. A Portuguese governor left for Angola, giving out that he was going to keep a large establishment, and taking with him quantities of crockery, and about five hundred waistcoats; but when he arrived in Africa, he made a ‘deal’ of them. Educated Englishmen seldom descend to that sort of thing.

A prospect is now before us of opening Africa for commerce and the Gospel. Providence has been preparing the way, for even before I proceeded to the Central basin it had been conquered and rendered safe by a chief named Sebituane, and the language of the Bechuanas made the fashionable tongue, and that was one of the languages into which Mr Moffat had translated the Scriptures. Sebituane also discovered Lake Ngami some time previous to my explorations in that part. In going back to that country my object is to open up traffic along the banks of the Zambezi, and also to preach the Gospel. The natives of Central Africa are very desirous of trading, but their only traffic is at present in slaves, of which the poorer people have an unmitigated horror: it is therefore most desirable to encourage the former principle, and thus open a way for the consumption of free productions, and the introduction of Christianity and commerce. By encouraging the native propensity for trade, the advantages that might be derived in a commercial point of view are incalculable; nor should we lose sight of the inestimable blessings it is in our power to bestow upon the unenlightened African, by giving him the light of Christianity. Those two pioneers of civilization – Christianity and commerce – should ever be inseparable; and Englishmen should be warned by the fruits of neglecting that principle as exemplified in the result of the management of Indian affairs. By trading with Africa, also, we should at length be independent of slave-labour, and thus discountenance practices so obnoxious to every Englishman.

Though the natives are not absolutely anxious to receive the Gospel, they are open to Christian influences. Among the Bechuanas the Gospel was well received. These people think it a crime to shed a tear, but I have seen some of them weep at the recollection of their sins when God had opened their hearts to Christianity and repentance. It is true that missionaries have difficulties to encounter; but what great enterprise was ever accomplished without difficulty? It is deplorable to think that one of the noblest of our missionary societies, the Church Missionary Society, is compelled to send to Germany for missionaries, whilst other societies are amply supplied. Let this stain be wiped off. – The sort of men who are wanted for missionaries are such as I see before me; men of education, standing, enterprise, zeal, and piety. It is a mistake to suppose that any one, as long as he is pious, will do for this office. Pioneers in every thing should be the ablest and best qualified men, not those of small ability and education. This remark especially applies to the first teachers of Christian truth in regions which may never have before been blest with the name and Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the early ages the monasteries were the schools of Europe, and the monks were not ashamed to hold the plough. The missionaries now take the place of those noble men, and we should not hesitate to give up the small luxuries of life in order to carry knowledge and truth to them that are in darkness. I hope that many of those whom I now address will embrace that honourable career. Education has been given us from above for the purpose of bringing to the benighted the knowledge of a Saviour. If you knew the satisfaction of performing such a duty, as well as the gratitude to God which the missionary must always feel, in being chosen for so noble, so sacred a calling, you would have no hesitation in embracing it.

For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay?- Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? – Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in, and for, us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which HE made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”

– David Livingstone (1813-1873), Speech to students at Cambridge University, 4 December 1857

Christopher J.H. Wright: This surely has to be one of the most foundational elements of the Old Testament contribution to our theology of mission

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“All stand under YHWH’s judgment. All can turn to YHWH and find his mercy. This surely has to be one of the most foundational elements of the Old Testament contribution to our theology of mission.

1) If it were not the case that all nations stand under the impending judgment of God, there would be no need to proclaim the gospel.

2) But if it were not for the fact that God deals in mercy and forgiveness with all who repent, there would be no gospel to proclaim.”

– Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative, p. 462

Jim Elliot (1927–1956): I have no question in my mind why God sent me here

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Jim Elliot (1927–1956) was an American missionary who did missions among the Amazonian Indians (specifically the Huaorani people) in Ecuador, South America, and then died there as a martyr for the sake of the Gospel at the tender age of 28. When he was asked why he left for Ecuador instead of staying in the USA (some reckoned it was unnecessary to go since there was a great need among the American youth for the Gospel, which was regarded as the priority), he replied:

“You wonder why people choose fields away from the States when young people at home are drifting because no one wants to take time to listen to their problems. I’ll tell you why I left. Because those Stateside young people have every opportunity to study, hear, and understand the Word of God in their own language, and these Indians have no opportunity whatsoever. I have had to make a cross of two logs, and lie down on it, to show the Indians what it means to crucify a man. When there is that much ignorance over here and so much knowledge and opportunity over there, I have no question in my mind why God sent me here. Those whimpering Stateside young people will wake up on the Day of Judgment condemned to worse fates than these demon-fearing Indians, because, having a Bible, they were bored with it – while these never heard of such a thing as writing.”

James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) on the doctrines of grace as a strong motive for missions/evangelism

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Tomorrow I leave for a fortnight with a group of about 26 students for the Dutch Reformed Student Congregation’s (of Bloemfontein) annual evangelism trip to Phoenix, just north of Durban, South Africa. It will be my fourth time and I’m very much looking forward to it. Phoenix is possibly the largest concentration of Indian people in the world outside of India itself. Though there are many Christians in Phoenix (and also people of every sect and cult imaginable – from Mormons to Jehovah’s Witnesses to Branhamists to self-described “heathens”, you name it), the majority of the people are either Hindu or Muslim.

Sometimes people consider the doctrines of grace (what is commonly called “Calvinism”) as a hindrance to missions/evangelism. They argue that is doesn’t make sense to make the effort to share the gospel with people if they are non-elect. Hyper-Calvinist heretics would nod their heads to this. But those with a biblical Reformed view of the matter know that the doctrines of grace as expounded in the Canons of Dort are exactly the greatest impulse for evangelism we have. I remember a few years ago when I was in Phoenix for this outreach, I was having a chat with one of my friends while overlooking a large area of Phoenix (see photo below where we were chatting – the church where we stay, Jeshurun, a congregation of the Reformed Church in Africa, is on top of a hill which offers a great view of Phoenix), and as we looked at all the houses with Hindu prayer flags on them, with an adhan (Muslim call to prayer) sounding from a Mosque 400m away from us and mantras being chanted from the Hare Krishna temple right next to the church where we stay, I said to my friend: “If we had to go into those homes tomorrow and depend on the persuasive power of our own arguments and rhetoric, and expect Hindus and Muslims to come to Christ by their own power and will after having been avid devotees of their religions for decades, we might as well pack up our things and go home.”

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With this in mind, James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000) explains why the doctrines of grace gives us a firm motive for proclaiming the gospel. These quotes come from his book, co-authored by Philip Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel, in Boice’s chapter on unconditional election:

“People suppose that if God is going to save certain individuals, then he will save them, and there is no point in our having anything to do with it.  But it does not work that way.  Election does not exclude the use of the means by which God works, and the proclamation of the gospel is one of those means (1 Cor. 1:21).”

“Moreover, it is only the truth of election that gives us any hope of success as we proclaim the gospel to unsaved men and women.  If the heart of a sinner is as opposed to God as the Bible declares it to be, and if God does not elect people to salvation, then what hope of success could we possibly have in witnessing?  If God does not call sinners to Christ effectively, it is certain that we cannot do so either.  Even more, if the effective agent in salvation is not God’s choice and call – if the choice is up to the individual or to us, because of our powers to persuade people to accept Christ – how could we even dare to witness?  For what if we make a mistake?  What if we give a wrong answer?  What if we are insensitive to the person’s real questions?  In that case, people will fail to believe.  They may eventually go to hell, and their eternal destiny will be partly our fault, and how could any thinking, feeling Christian live with that?”

“But on the other hand, if God has elected some to salvation and if he is calling those elected individuals to Christ, then we can go forth boldly, knowing that our witness does not have to be perfect, that God uses even weak and stuttering testimonies to his grace and, best of all, that all whom God has chosen for salvation will be saved.  We can be fearless, knowing that all who are called by God will come to him.”

Richard Bauckham on the witness of the Church in exile

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“Its [the biblical image of God’s people as exiles] positive significance for mission is its call to the church to be a counter-cultural movement, living for a different God in a different way and with a different future in view.”

“It may be that this image [of exile] will come into its own again as the church in the postmodern west reconceptualizes its missionary relationship to a post-Christian society.  The church in the west may have to get used to the idea that its own centre in God, from which it goes out to others in proclamation and compassion, is actually a position of social and cultural exile or marginality.  This may improve its witness to the Christ who was himself so often found at the margins.”

– Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, p. 80-81

J.I. Packer: It is a great privilege to evangelize

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“It is a great privilege to evangelize; it is a wonderful thing to be able to tell others of the love of Christ, knowing that there is nothing that they need more urgently to know, and no knowledge in the world that can do them so much good.

We should not, therefore, be reluctant and backward to evangelize on the personal and individual level. We should be glad and happy to do it. We should not look for excuses for wriggling out of our obligation when occasion offers to talk to others about the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we find ourselves shrinking from this responsibility and trying to evade it, we need to face ourselves with the fact that in this we are yielding to sin and Satan.

If (as is usual) it is the fear of being thought odd and ridiculous, or losing popularity in certain circles, that holds us back, we need to ask ourselves in the presence of God: Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor?

If it is a false shame, which is not shame at all but pride in disguise, that keeps our tongue from Christian witness when we are with other people. We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more—our reputation or their salvation?

We cannot be complacent about this gangrene of conceit and cowardice when we weigh up our lives in the presence of God.

What we need to do is to ask for grace to be truly ashamed of ourselves, and to pray that we may so overflow in love for God that we will overflow in love for our fellow men, and so find it an easy and natural and joyful thing to share with them the good news of Christ.”

– J.I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, p. 85-86