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History and Ecclesiastical Relations of the Churches of the Presbyterial Order at Amoy, China   By: (1819-1892)

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To the Ministers, Elders, and Members of the Reformed Dutch Church :

It is proper that I give some reasons for the publication of this paper. The importance of the subject of the ecclesiastical organization of the churches gathered in heathen lands, I conceive to be a sufficient reason. Those who may differ in regard to the views set forth in this paper, will not dispute the importance of the subject. Instead of the questions involved having been settled by any of the Presbyterian Denominations of this country (the Dutch Church included among them), by experiments in India or any other heathen land, very few of the churches gathered from the heathen, by these various Denominations, have yet arrived at a stage of development sufficient for practical application of the experiment. (See foot note, page 160.) There are, however, a few mission churches, where the subject is now becoming one of vast practical importance. The Church at Amoy stands out prominent among these. With the continuance of the divine blessing there will soon be many such. Hence the importance of the discussion, and its importance now .

Many experiments have been made in reference to the best way of conducting the work of missions. The Church has improved by them, and has been compelled to unlearn many things. We are continually returning towards the simple plan laid down in God's Word. As the Church by experiment and by discussion has thus been led to retrace some of her steps in the preliminary work of missions, should she not be ready to take advantage of experiment and discussion, in reference to the ecclesiastical organization of the mission churches, and stand ready to retrace some of her steps in this second stage of the work of missions, if need be, in order to conform more fully to the doctrines of our Presbyterial church polity? I would use the phrase Scriptural church polity , but I suppose it is the universal belief of our Church, that Presbyterial polity is scriptural. At any rate, it is the duty of the Church to examine the subject carefully. She has nothing to fear from such examination. She should fear to neglect it.

In addition to the importance of the subject in itself considered, I have other reasons for discussing it at the present time. There are mistaken impressions abroad in the Church, concerning the views and course of your missionaries at Amoy, which must be injurious to the cause of missions in our Church. It would seem to be a plain duty to correct these impressions. I will quote an extract from a letter, I recently received, from an honored missionary of a sister Church:

"I have heard much, and seen some notices in the papers of the battle you fought on the floor of Synod, and would like to hear your side of the subject from your own mouth, as the question has also been a practical one with us. We have our own Presbytery, and manage our own business, and insist on not having too much of what they call the new science of Missionary management; a science which, I believe, has been cultivated far too assiduously. It was this, more than anything else, which kept me from going out under the A.B.C.F.M., and to Amoy. I hear, however, from some, that what you and the brethren there had formed, was some sort of loose Congregational association. If so, I must judge against you, for I believe in the jure divino of Presbytery (or Classis if you choose so to call it), and I think you and they should have been allowed to form a Presbytery there, and manage all your own affairs, and that your Boards at home should be content to consider themselves a committee to raise and send on the funds. But it is hard for the D. D's and big folk at home to come to that. They think they must manage everything, or all will go wrong; while how little it is that they can be brought to know or realize of the real nature of the work abroad; and then it is the old battle of patronage over again... Continue reading book >>

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