Propagate or Perish

By Evan D. Burns

At the centennial celebration of Adoniram Judson’s arrival in Burma (July 13, 1813), many mission leaders came together to commemorate Judson’s life and labour and to reflect on the missionary impulse that dawned during the nineteenth century.  In one interesting address, Rev. H. C. Mabie, D.D., of Boston, traced the influence of evangelical theology upon the missionary movement:

The act of Judson in becoming a Baptist under the circumstances en route to India, was the foremost factor in awakening a body of Christians in America to a denominational and missionary self-consciousness which it had not before known.  This action on the part of Judson and Luther Rice, his associate, served also to broaden all Christendom as concerned active endeavours to reach the heathen.  These pioneers, together with Judson’s predecessor, William Carey, as seconded by Andrew Fuller, the ripest theologian of his time, stood out as a new type of religionist even among the people whose name they bore.  The action thus inaugurated proved not a separatist action, but the addition of a new dynamic to Christendom in the epoch of a hundred years now closed.  The combined influence of the men named in England and America was so transforming that every self-respecting evangelical body throughout the world now has its foreign mission work.  It only illustrates the fact that Christianity must propagate itself or perish.  Life must be lost for the sake of others, if it would be saved.  This is the central paradox in Christ’s religion, the law underlying all divine redemption….  They were but simple expositors of apostolic Christianity.  They served in Providence to bring the Church back to its normal ideas and passion.[1]


[1]Rev. H. C. Mabie, D.D., “The Baptists in World Relations,” The Judson Centennial Celebrations in Burma: 1813-1913, (Rangoon: American Baptist Mission Press, 1914), 79-80.

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Evan D. Burns (Ph.D. Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is on faculty at Asia Biblical Theological Seminary, and he lives in Southeast Asia with his wife and twin sons.  They are missionaries with Training Leaders International.