Highlights from: Stephen Neill: A History of Christian Missions (Part I)

Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions. 2nd Edition. Edited by Owen Chadwick. London: Penguin Books, 1986.

 Chapter 2: The Conquest of the Roman World, A.D. 100-500

“in A.D. 529…Christianity was fashionable…” (41)

“Faith became superficial, and was identified with the acceptance of dogmatic teachings rather than with a radical change of inner being.  As the Church became rich, bishoprics became objects of contention rather than instruments of humble service.  With a new freedom, the Church was able to go out into the world; at the same time, in a new and dangerous fashion, the world entered into the Church.” (41)

“The Cappadocian Fathers – Basil (c.330-79), Gregory of Nazianzus (329-89), and Gregory of Nyssa (c.330-95) – had received the best education that the times offered, the two former having been, in fact, fellow-students of the future Emperor Julian in the University of Athens.  Perfectly familiar with Homer and Plato and Demosthenes, these fathers wrote in a Greek which, though not classical, is clear and idiomatic and admirably adapted to the purposes for which they used it.  Purists, and defenders of Hebrew as the only tongue in which theology can really be expressed, may criticize the Hellenization of the Gospel as necessarily deformation.  But, if the Word of God was to make itself at home in a world in which Greek was the universal medium, it could do so in no other way than by teaching itself to think and speak in Greek.” (41-42)

“In all this side of Church history there is much that is grievous and discreditable – the rivalries of the great sees and their incumbents, political chicanery, personal malevolence, and even bribery and corruption.  But the Church lived in its humble and faithful members, and in the ceaseless life of prayer and worship in which the true apostolic succession was to be found.” (42)

Chapter 3: The Dark Age, 500-1000

“Once the Arabs had begun to emerge from the fastnesses of their deserts, their progress was astonishingly rapid.  By 650 the ancient empire of Persia had been destroyed.  Jerusalem fell in 638, Caesarea in 640, and with them Palestine and Syria came under Muslim domination.” (54)

“…though less violent than has often been represented, the Muslim conquest was a major disaster for the Christian world.” (55)

Chapter 6: The Roman Catholic Missions, 1600-1787

“In two hundred years the Jesuit Order had only 456 members in China, of whom nearly one fifth were Chinese.  Mortality through disease and persecution was heavy.  Every journey was an adventure.  Of 376 Jesuits sent to China between 1581 and 1712, 127 were lost on the voyage through disease or shipwreck.  It is amazing that so small a company of men achieved so much.” (176)

“The first principle of Protestant missions has been that Christians should have the Bible in their hands in their own language at the earliest possible date.” (177)

Chapter 7: New Beginnings in East and West, 1600-1800

The Mission on the Middle Volga. … Peter the Great confirmed the promises of his predecessors, and further added the privilege of exemption from the hated military service for those who would accept baptism.  It is not surprising that these offers proved welcome to the inhabitants.  It is recorded that, in the years 1701 to 1705, 3,683 pagan Tschermisses accepted baptism.” (184)

“Cyril Vasilyevich Suchanov (1741-1814).  This layman devoted his whole life to the conversion of the Tungus people of Dauria.  Believing that missionary work depended more on quality of life than on the spoken word, he reduced his personal possessions to what he could carry about in a travelling-bag, moved ceaselessly among the nomads, and won their whole-hearted affection.” (185)

“In the Protestant world, during the period of the Reformation, there was little time for thought of missions.  Until 1648 the Protestants were fighting for their lives;…” (187)

“Johann Gerhard (d. 1637).  Gerhard’s point of view was that the command of Christ to preach the Gospel to all the world ceased with the apostles.” (189)

“Only one baptism of an Indian in the Church of England is recorded in the seventeenth century.” (197-98)

“By far the most famous of all the missionaries who have worked in South India was Christian Friedrich Schwartz (1726-98)…” (198) “And the young Rajah Saraboji, who had been for years under Schwartz’s care, also set up a marble monument, with the epitaph that he had himself composed:
Firm wast thou, humble and wise,
Honest and pure, free from disguise;
Father of orphans, the widow’s support;
Comfort in sorrow of every sort.
To the benighted, dispenser of light,
Doing, and pointing to, that which is right.
Blessing to princes, to people, to me,
May I, my Father, be worthy of thee,
Wisheth and prayeth thy Sarabojee.” (199-200)

“One of the fruits of the Missionary College at Copenhagen was the mission of Hans Egede to Greenland.” (200) “But the value of her sacrifice is seen in the words of a dying Greenlander: You have been more kind to us than we have been to one another; you have fed us when we were famished; you have buried our dead, who would else have been a prey to dogs, foxes, and ravens; and in particular you have told us of God and how to become blessed, so that we may now die gladly, in expectation of a better life hereafter.” (201)

“The noted Congregationalist minister Cotton Mather (1663-1728) in Boston corresponded with Francke in Halle and with the missionaries in Tranquebar, and agreed with them that a world-wide preaching of the eternal Gospel, free from confessional limitations, would help to usher in that great outpouring of the Spirit which would be one of the signs of the end of the age.  Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), theologian and revivalist and later president of Princeton, put mission in the centre of his programme, and associated it with the idea of a world-wide ‘Concert of Prayer’ for missionary work.  This idea, originating in Scotland, caught the imagination of Edwards, who set out the programme at length in A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture Promises, and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time.” (203-04)


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One Response to Highlights from: Stephen Neill: A History of Christian Missions (Part I)

  1. frenly says:

    thanks for this highlights..

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