It is the death of Christ which supplies the motive of missionary enterprise.
We must ever remember that when we speak of the death of Christ, we speak of a death different from our own. Our death is the cessation of activity; Christ’s was the crown and climax of His life. “I have power to lay it down,” He said, and that is a power no other man has shared. We die when our appointed hour comes, and when the hand of God hath touched us, and we sleep. But Christ never looked upon His death like that, as something inevitable and irresistible. He looked on it as the last free glorious service of a life that had always been a life of love. Here in one gleam, intense and vivid, was gathered up the light of all His years. Here in one action which we name His dying was gathered up the love in which He wrought. And it is just because of the power of that action, concentrating all the scattered rays, that Christ could say, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” How true this is as a fact of history we see in the story of the Christian Church. There is the closest connection in that story between the death of Christ and missionary zeal. There have been periods in the Church’s history when the death of Christ was practically hidden. The message of the cross was rarely preached; the meaning of the cross was rarely grasped. And the Gospel was looked on as a refined philosophy, eminently fitted for the good of men, inculcating a most excellent morality, and in perfect harmony with human reason. We have had periods like that in Scotland, and we have had periods like that in England. God grant that they may never come again with their deadening of true religion. And always when you have such a period, when love is nothing and moral law is everything, you have a period when not a hand is lifted for the salvation of the heathen world. For it is not morality that seeks the world; it is religion centering in love. It is a view of a divine love so wonderful that it stooped to the service of death upon a cross. So always, in evangelical revival, when that has been apprehended in the wonder of it, the passion to tell it out has come again, and men have carried the message to mankind.
And may I say that it is along these lines that the road must lie to a deepening of interest. To realise what it means that Christ died, is to have a Gospel that we must impart. There are many excellent people who, in their secret heart, confess to a very faint interest in missions. They give, and it may be they give generously, and yet in their hearts they know that they are not interested. They know almost nothing about mission-fields, and are never seen at missionary meetings, and take the opportunity to visit a sister church when a missionary is advertised to preach in theirs. With such people I have no lack of sympathy, for I think I understand their position thoroughly. I have the gravest doubt if any good is done by trying excitedly to lash up their interest. But I am perfectly confident that these good people would waken to a new and lively interest, if only they realised a little more the wonder of the love of God in Christ. What think you, my brother and my sister, is the most wonderful thing that ever happened? It is not the kindling of the myriad stars, nor the fashioning of the human eye that it might see them. It is that once the God who is eternal stooped down from heaven and came into humanity, and bore our burdens, and carried our sorrows, and died in redeeming love upon the tree. Once realise what that means, and everything else in the world is insignificant. Once realise what that means, and you must pass it on to other people. And that is the source of missionary zeal—not blind obedience, nor any thoughts of terror, but the passing on of news so wonderful that we cannot—dare not—keep it to ourselves.