Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Missionary Societies, by John Leland


A correspondent in Palestine, in a late letter to his friend in this country, dated at Nazareth, in Galilee, writes thus:
“By a great number of pamphlets, said to be Evangelical Magazines, and a great variety of other writings, purporting to be of a religious nature, forwarded to this country, we have received correct and authentic knowledge of numerous missionary societies, and other societies of a like kind, formed and very zealously supported in New England, and adjoining parts, in North America. Believing that these zealous societies wish for useful assistance in the great work they have undertaken, we are happy to inform you – which information you will please to communicate to these societies – that, about seventeen hundred years ago, a missionary society was formed and instituted in this country. Having had access to the records and minutes of this society, we are able, with great pleasure, to state to you, that the great design and objects of this society were not of this world. The chairman, or president, or more properly speaking, the founder of this society, was a person whose character is divine, and altogether lovely; his name, according to the records, is Jesus Christ. The more effectually to accomplish the great objects in view, he associated to himself twelve assistants, taken chiefly from that class of men known by the appellation of fishermen, and constantly going about doing good, was, himself the most self-denying and laborious of all in promoting the all-important ends of this mission. The missionary work increasing greatly, a meeting of the society was called and holden about the year thirty. Present at this meeting, the president and the twelve assistants. After considering the extensiveness of the missionary ground, and the importance of thoroughly promoting the missionary work, seventy missionaries were appointed and sent out into a great variety of places, which the president himself designed afterwards to visit. Their instructions, with orders to report after they had accomplished their mission, were these: ‘Go your ways, and, as ye go, preach, saying the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scip for your journey, neither two coats, nor yet shoes, for the workman is worthy of his meat, and that they should eat such things as were set before them.’ Having fulfilled the duties of their appointment, they made their report with great joy in the success of their mission, not that they had gained money in great or small sums, but that even the devils were subject to them through the name of the president. The president highly approved their fulfillment of their mission, and congratulated them on their success; but, at the same time, informed them that their highest cause of joy was that their names were written in heaven. About three years after this, on a very trying occasion, in the midst of a vast concourse of people, he addressed his missionaries, and said, ‘When I sent you without purse and scip and shoes, lacked ye anything?’ And they said, nothing. It is the unanimous opinion of the people of Galilee, that, had the president and members of this society, together with their missionaries, declined engaging in the labors of their mission, until ample funds for their abundant pay and support had been collected and fixed on permanent security, the work, which they so remarkably performed, would never have been entered upon, even to this day.
“When the people of Galilee consider the unceasing solicitations, and that in a great variety of shapers, which are made for money, by your missionary societies; the numerous and continual collections and contributions that are made for them, the amazing sums they have funded; and the presidents and directors of the New England, and other missionary societies, almost wholly taken up in managing money matters; even descending to obtain from the unsuspecting little children, the few cents which are given them by their friends; and, at the same time, a few young and inexperienced persons, with great salaries fixed upon them, sent out as missionaries; (and, at the same time, probably, parish-hunting;) they are strongly persuaded that your missionary societies are unacquainted with this ancient Galilean society; or, if they have heard of it, they pay little or no attention to its example. The inhabitants of Galilee, to be sure, after being made acquainted with their schemes and practices, wish to be excused from having a branch of the New England missionary society, or any of the missionary societies of their neighborhood, established in Nazareth, or in any part of their country; being altogether better satisfied with the missionary society anciently established in this country, and which ardently wish to see flourish in its power and purity, not only in Palestine, but in America, and in all the earth.”

* First published in 1818.

John Leland
Written by John Leland, as found in The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland: Including Some Events in His Life (Miss L. F. Greene, editor, New York, NY: G. W. Wood, 1845) on pages 471–472.

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