“Is It a Christian Mission?” American Sentinel 12, 9, pp. 129, 130.

THE Christian Observer observes that “the work of the Rev. Gilbert Reid, in China, is distinctly to the higher classes. In that country Mr. Reid believes that the educated and official classes must be reached before much can be accomplished for those beneath them.”

This work of Mr. Reid is professedly Christian work. It is a mission distinctly to the higher classes. It is proposed to bring these higher classes to Christianity; then by these bright examples of Christian grace and virtue accomplish much for “those beneath them.”

But we wonder what means is to be employed by Mr. Reid to do this. As his mission is professedly Christian, the Bible is the only thing that can rightly be used for the work to be done. But for the mission and the method of work here proposed he has not Bible; for the Bible is directly against it.

The root idea of this mission is distinction of classes—respect of persons: while the Bible holds to the eternal truth, that “There is no respect of persons with God.” How then can he use the Bible in the work of a mission whose root idea is against Bible principle?

As this is professedly a Christian mission, it is fairly to be presumed that the faith of Christ is to be the all-important theme; but the faith of Christ plainly forbids that which is the fundamental proposition of the scheme. It is written, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons…. For if ye have respect of persons ye commit sin; and are convinced of the law as transgressors. How then can men be brought to Christ, by methods [130] whose fundamental principle is contrary to the expressed word and faith of Christ? And if they are not brought to Christ, then what will the mission accomplish?

But this is not all: As Mr. Reid’s is professedly a Christian mission, it is to be supposed that he will follow the method, and present the word, of Christ. There came to Jesus once, one of “the higher classes”—one of “the educated and official class”—a ruler of the Jews, a member of the Sanhedrim. The first words that Jesus said to him were these: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

This high-class man didn’t understand that, and asked, “How can a man be born when he is old?” “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

It Mr. Reid does not preach this to the higher classes to whom he has gone, then he will not preach to them Christianity at all. And as certainly as he does preach it, and as certainly as any of them accept it and are born again, so certainly they will no longer be of “the higher classes.” On their own part they will not count themselves of “the higher classes,” but of the lowest, the chiefs of sinners; and on the part of “the higher classes” those who are born again will no longer be recognized or counted as belonging in their “class” at all.

Yet more than this: Even though Mr. Reid’s scheme should succeed exactly according to his plan as described, no man would be justified in concluding that it was the work of Christianity throughout. Even though he should succeed in getting “the higher classes” to accept his religion and still remain “the higher classes,” so that “those beneath them” could be attracted by their example, the mission would yet lack the essential element of Christianity.

Everybody knows the readiness of the lower classes to court the attention and favor of the higher classes by imitating their ways, whether it be in the cut of their hair, the cut of their beard, the cut of their coats, or the cut of their religion. Whatever becomes fashionable among the higher classes will be readily copied by those beneath them. And only let Mr. Reid’s religion become fashionable among the higher classes of China or anywhere else, and just then he will find “much accomplished for those beneath them” in the way of their imitating the ways of the new fashion in religion.

But it would not by any means be Christianity. Whole nations have been thus “Christianized;” but they were further from Christianity when it was done, than when they made no pretensions to being anything but heathen. At first they were only heathen. But after being so “Christianized,” they were heathen and hypocrites besides. When they were only heathen, there was room, and a possibility, for them to become genuine Christians by accepting the faith of Christ upon principle. But when they became heathen, who, by only outward form, gave themselves credit for being Christians, they thus shut themselves off from becoming Christian indeed, by having made it only a cloak for their heathenism.

Christianity is not a fashion: it is a principle. It is not a thing that can be imitated: it is a new life put in the heart. It cannot be derived from any example of “the higher classes,” but from God alone, by a positive faith in Jesus Christ.

And just because it is a principle and not a mere profession; because it is a new life and not a new fashion, in its very nature Christianity can never recognize classes, nor class distinctions, nor have any … of persons whatever. The cross of Jesus Christ abolishes and obliterates all middle walls of partition, obliterating “the enmity” from which arise all things.

In the light of the plain words of Scripture, and what Christianity really is, it is plain enough then that Mr. Reid’s mission is, is to carry to China a view of philosophy and civilization that is different from that which they have. But neither philosophy nor civilization, nor even a compound of both, is Christianity.

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