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Defending the Faith - 1888


Christian mission work has often been criticized as needless and even contemptible. After Anglican religious leader Isaac Taylor glorified Islam at the expense of Christianity, E. Bosworth Smith (himself an admirer of Islam), responded with a defense of the Christian faith and its mission activities in an address before the Fellows of Zion’s College, given on this day, February 21, 1888.


“If, then, we believe Christianity to be truer and purer in itself than Islam, and than any other religion, we must needs wish others to be partakers of it; and the effort to propagate it is thrice blessed—it blesses him that offers, no less than him who accepts it; nay, it often blesses him who accepts it not. The last words of a dying friend are apt to linger in the chambers of the heart till the heart itself has ceased to beat; and the last recorded words of the Founder of Christianity [i.e. The Great Commission] are not likely to pass from the memory of His Church till that Church has done its work. They are the marching orders of the Christian army; the consolation for every past and present failure; the earnest and the warrant, in some shape or other, of ultimate success. The value of a Christian mission is not, therefore, to be measured by the number of its converts. The presence in a heathen or a Muslim district of a single man who, filled with the missionary spirit, exhibits in his preaching and, so far as may be, in his life, the self-denying and the Christian virtues, who is charged with sympathy for those among whom his lot is cast, who is patient of disappointment and of failure, and of the sneers of the ignorant or the irreligious, and who works steadily on with a single eye to the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men, is, of itself, an influence for good, and a centre from which it radiates, wholly independent of the number of converts he is able to enlist. There is a vast number of such men engaged in mission work all over the world, and our best Indian statesmen, some of whom, for obvious reasons, have been hostile to direct proselytizing efforts, are unanimous as to the quantity and quality of the services they render.”


Ellinwood, Frank F. Oriental Religions and Christianity. New York, 1891.

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