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From the annals of presbyterian history

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  • thebishopsdoom
    Before the start of the text of the first chapter of The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, by Richard Fletcher is the following quote: To
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2003
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      Before the start of the text of the first chapter of The Barbarian
      Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, by Richard Fletcher is the
      following quote:

      "To spread abroad among barbarians and heathen natives the knowledge
      of the Gospel seems to be highly preposterous, in so far as it
      anticipates, nay even reverses, the order of nature."
      General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1796

      Some background to the comment I was able to find from Ian Murray's
      book, The Puritan Hope.
      Begin quote:
      The first attempt to move the Church of Scotland to give new
      attention to foreign missions occurred in 1796 when the Synods of
      Moray and of Fife both laid overtures before the General Assembly in
      Edinburgh. These overtures petitioned the Assembly to consider the
      methods by which the gospel was to be spread over the world. The
      debate which resulted on May 27 of that year has been called 'the
      most extraordinary perhaps, and the richest in character that ever
      originated in the Courts of a Protestant Church'. Its drama arose
      from the composition of that Assembly, for its members represented
      very different and far from homogeneous parties...
      In the famous debate of 1796 William McBean spoke earnestly for his
      Synod's overture. Addressing his ministerial brethren, he reminded
      them how they prayed every Lord's day 'for the speedy and universal
      diffusion of the gospel' and that it was therefore incumbent upon
      them to prove their sincerity 'by shewing an example of active zeal,
      in bringing about this happy event'. 'Scripture prophecy,' the
      minister of Alves concluded, 'points our faith to the accomplishment
      of this promised event, and while we anticipate, it ought also to be
      our endeavour to hasten the time when the knowledge of the Lord shall
      cover the earth "as the waters cover the sea."
      This appeal was speedily countered by the Rev. Mr. Hamilton of
      Gladsmuir who affirmed: 'To spread abroad the knowledge of the gospel
      among barbarous and heathen nations seems to me highly
      preposterous... The apostle Paul preached, not to naked savages, but
      to the inhabitants of cultured cities.' Such a claim was too much for
      the conscience of John Erskine to endure in silence; rising to his
      feet and stretching his hand to the bookboard before the Moderator,
      the seventy-five year old evangelical leader exclaimed, 'Rax me that
      Bible!' He then proceeded to read from Acts 28, a passage which shows
      Paul preaching in the very kind of situation which Hamilton would
      have had them regard as impossible.
      But Erskine's long-to-be-remembered intervention made no impression
      upon 'Jupiter' Carlyle [Dr. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk], who rose
      to support Hamilton's motion that the two overtures on missions be
      dismissed. Dr. Hill, not wishing to put the Assembly in such an
      entirely negative position, suggested a rider to Hamilton's motion of
      dismissal committing them to 'resolve that they will embrace with
      zeal and thankfulness any future opportunity of contributing by their
      exertions to the propagation of the Gospel of Christ'. This expedient
      carried the day by a majority of fourteen...
      Another twenty-eight years were to pass before the General Assembly
      in 1824 gave its formal support to foreign missions.
      End quote.
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