IN the Evangelist, Prof. Warren Clark writes upon “The Great Obstacle to the Progress of Christianity in Heathen Countries.” He declares this great obstacle to be “the inconsistency of Christians.” Yet, when we come to read his article, this “inconsistency of Christians” is not indeed the inconsistency of those who profess to be Christians; but that which is counted the inconsistency of the people who are not Christians at all, in their going from what are called Christian lands to what are called heathen countries, and acting there in a way unbecoming to Christians.
He says that “to veterans long on the field [of missionary work in heathen lands] the ingenuity is taxed to know how to answer the questions of heathen converts, as to why these rich and wealthy people from Christian lands are indifferent to all religion.” He speaks of having taken from Japan “two of our most earnest Christian converts on a visit to the foreign resident quarter of Yokohama,” when “the first thing they saw in front of the English Episcopal Church, was a drunken British ‘tar,’ assaulting an equally intoxicated American sailor, and both of them were being arrested by a heathen Japanese policeman!” Further, he mentions a Japanese student whom he met in London, and with whom he went around to see “the sights of the metropolis,” and, “returning at night along the Strange,  the evidences of drunkenness and licentiousness were so glaring, as to put to blush anything I had ever seen in any ‘heathen’ country, and my Japanese companion (whom I had been trying to convert to Christianity) was dumb with surprise and horror. ‘Is not this the capital of the greatest Christian empire in the world?’ he asked. ‘Did you ever see such wickedness in heathen Tokio?’ ‘No,’ was the only answer I could give. ‘Then why don’t your churches convert these degraded men and women here in London? You need not send missionaries ten thousand miles to find the heathen when they are at your very doors. Before I left Japan,’ he continued, ‘our consular agent advised me against the immoralities of London, and warned me against the temptations in this great Christian city!’”
The great mistake of all this is in speaking of Britain, America, etc., as Christian lands, and of London, New York, and the like, as Christian cities. There is no such thing in the world as a Christian country, nor even a Christian city. Only those are Christians who individually and decidedly choose Christ as their life, their all in all. Whoever does not do this is as certainly a heathen as is any person in any heathen land or heathen city, who does not make such a choice of Christ. But to count these countries Christian countries when they are not such at all, and to give the people in heathen countries the idea that these are Christian countries indeed, according to the Christianity which is preached to them, and which alone they can look upon as Christianity, and then blame these people with inconsistency in not being Christians in those heathen lands when they never thought of being Christians in their own “Christian” land—this is the greatest inconsistency of all. It is an utter misleading of the people in those so-called heathen lands. And when the missionaries themselves so mislead the people in heathen lands, they themselves are the ones who are responsible for this “great obstacle to the progress of Christianity in heathen countries.” And they cannot in justice wonder that the people in heathen lands are caused to question the power and virtue of Christianity when the missionaries themselves give the people in heathen lands to understand that these others are “Christian countries,” and when they teach those people to expect Christianity in the people of these “Christian countries” and “Christian cities,” when in fact the vast majority of these people make no pretensions to Christianity and care nothing for it whatever.
There is a way for the missionaries out of this difficulty; but it is not by complaining of the inconsistency of Christians, when the people of whom they complain any more heathenish than the heathen, and are in no way connected with Christianity. The true way out of the dilemma is to get down to the truth of Christianity upon its true foundation: that Christianity is an individual thing, and that the only Christians that there ever can be, whether in America, in England, in Japan or in China, are those people who, as individuals, have chosen, in the true Christian way, Christ as their portion forever; and along with this recognize also the truth that every person who does not do this, is a heathen, whether he be an American, a Japanese, a Britisher, or a Chinese.
This conception of things would also amongst the missionaries and all Christians, break down at once all national lines and race distinctions. Then the people of no country would stand any higher in the estimation of no country would stand any higher in the estimation of the missionary than those of any other country; because, not having accepted Christ, all being heathen, and the missionaries having a message to all such,—the people being all alike, and the message being one to all people, the missionaries would necessarily look upon all alike.
But the missionaries will all at once say, “It would never do to call the American people heathen.” Very well, then, why call the Japanese, or the Chinese, or any other people, heathen? And if other people must all be called heathen, and the people of America and other such “Christian lands” cannot be called heathen, when all know that, as a matter of fact, multitudes of these are more heathenish than are those who are called heathen—then it is a mere matter of favoritism on the part of those who do the calling. But why should there be such favoritism, especially toward those who are the worst in the comparison?
We do not say that people in America and other such countries, who are not Christians, should be called “heathen.” No more do we say that the people in China, Japan, and other such countries, who are not Christians, should be called “heathen.” The people in America who are not Christians, are simply sinners and lost men; and the people in Japan and China who are not Christians are simply sinners and lost men: wherever they are, they are all alike; and there is no respect of persons with God nor with those who are of God.
Let all the missionaries, ministers and Christians in the world recognize everywhere the Christian truth that only those are Christians who have chosen Christ as their Saviour and their portion forever, and that all who have not so done are all alike in all the world, wherever they be, and whatever they may be called. Then this “great obstacle to the progress of Christianity in heathen countries” that is here and so much elsewhere complained of, will no longer exist anywhere in the world.
A. T. J.