Outlines of a Sermon by Dr. Crawford
During his long life Dr. Crawford, after leaving the home land, seldom preached in English. Only now and then on certain occasions a sermon to his missionary brethren was called for in China. His work was among the Chinese. One who often heard him in that language testifies that he preached with great force and effect. While his delivery was not attractive, he poured forth his living, burning thoughts with such fervor that the matter, not the manner, took possession of the hearers. Let one instance illustrate. Mr. Leo, the teacher of Mrs. Crawford's school at Teng Chow, had been a Christian several years; the family lived one hundred miles distant, a three or four days' walk. Be it remembered that in China the old patriarchal custom still prevails for all the sons and grandsons, with wives and children, to live together, all subject to the oldest living progenitor. Should a son go abroad for business or for any other purpose, his wife and children remained with his parents, partly as hostages for his sending them a share of his earnings, and partly to secure his periodic visits. Mr. Leo was very anxious that his wife should go and be with him, and make him at least a temporary home at Teng Chow. But the father, a stern, haughty old Confucianist, dyed in the wool, though proud of his son and fond of him, utterly refused the request. This state of things continued several years, Mr. Leo doing his own cooking, washing and other domestic requirements, in order to save the more money to take to his father. On one occasion the father visited him at Dr. Crawford's, and the latter became interested in the son's plea to have his wife with him. At an evening service, old Mr. Leo being present, Dr. Crawford took as his text Colossians iii: 20, 21, "Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged."
During the first part of the discourse while Dr. Crawford strongly pressed the duty of filial obedience and reverence, Mr. Leo was observed to be exceedingly pleased. When the second
half of the discourse was taken up, Dr. Crawford, though being careful to avoid anything like personal allusions, yet with direct reference to the case before him, vividly portrayed the fatal mistake of many parents in so grinding their sons—refusing them the liberties of manhood—as to drive them to despair and eventually to many vices and to the wilful desertion of the whole family, and, in short, to make a complete wreck of themselves. Early next morning young Leo came to Mrs. Crawford, with face wreathed in smiles, and said, "My father wishes me to go home and bring my family." Then he added thoughtfully, "Truly this preaching has wonderful power!"
During Dr. Crawford's visits to the United States, what seemed to be most needed were lectures on missions and kindred themes, though occasionally he preached sermons. An outline of one of these, which was delivered at several places, is here given as showing the habitual attitude of his mind on the subject treated. He rarely wrote out a discourse in full, but amplified copious notes, and being full of his thoughts he poured them forth with a glowing, moving power that could never be done in writing. Many letters, some addressed to him and some to his wife, thanking him for "that great sermon" which stirred them so deeply, are now in her possession.
The Policy of Christ
By T. P. Crawford, D. D.
1. Christ, by Laying Aside the Sword, Enfranchises the World. Christ, being in His original glory King of kings and Lord of lords, held all the power of heaven and earth in His hands. But when He came to our world He laid His royal glory down and came in the "form of a servant"— came uncrowned, unarmed and unprotected to the work of our redemption. The mental and moral conditions of mankind seemed to have required this mode of procedure, and He does not shrink from the self-denial, difficulties and danger of the undertaking. Let us study His thoughts.
Soon after entering on His ministry it is said (Matthew xii: 14-21) , "Then the Pharisees went out and held a council how they might destroy Him. But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew Himself from thence. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. And He charged them that they should not make Him (or His whereabouts) known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive (fight); nor (give the battle) cry, neither shall any man hear His voice (commanding His troops) in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench till He send forth judgment unto victory, and in His name shall the Gentiles trust." That is, Christ will not use force sufficient to break a crushed bullrush or to snuff a dying lamp wick, till He send forth the gospel unto victory, and till the nations shall trust in His name.
In perfect accord with the course here made out by the prophet, Jesus rejects all reliance on the power of the sword for supporting the kingdom which He will establish among men. He will not prompt, coerce or influence one thought by its use. He will, therefore, rely alone on the gospel, and respect the freedom of the human will even at the expense of His own life. When the Pharisees threatened His life He withdrew Himself from them. When arrested He made no defense. When Peter drew his sword He commanded him to put it again into its place, saying, "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword;" and, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will presently give me more than twelve legions of angels (for my protection)? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?" When on trial before Pilate, the governor, He says boldly, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I might not be delivered to the Jews" — and He went to the cross.
Again, when Jesus sent out His disciples to preach the gospel, He said to them, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves." "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another." "In your patience possess ye your souls." "He that will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
Thus we see that Christ on principles profound as divine thought, excludes the use of the sword, both offensive and defensive, from the domain of religion, and founds His kingdom on the absolute freedom of the human soul. He will reign "not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" — not by the force of self-assertion, but by the spirit of denial. This is the spirit of Christianity, the "liberty of the gospel," the regeneration of Christ, the new departure in the field of religion. Thus Christ by
laying aside the sword enfranchises the world, or endows mankind with that freedom of soul which is essential to all true worship.
He wants us to be His free-born sons, To own His sway from love; To worship Him with all the heart, And reign with Him above.
2. Christ, by Laying Aside the Purse, Enriches the World. It is said (2 Corinthians viii:9), "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich." The terms rich, poor and poverty, are here used in their common acceptation.
Christ certainly did not become mentally, morally or spiritually poor for our sakes, but literally poor, that we through His poverty might be rich — rich in every sense of the word. Being the Son of God and "Heir of all things," Christ was originally rich in the abundance of His material resources. "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, the cattle upon a thousand hills, the earth and the fulness thereof, saith the Lord."
Think for a moment of the riches of Christ, the possessor and governor of the universe. This our world and all other worlds within the range of our vision and telescopes are but a few of the outlying provinces of His boundless empire, their productions but the diminutive specimens of those found in His immediate dwelling place. The Holy Jerusalem, the bride or capital city of the Lamb, as described by John in his twenty-first chapter of Revelation, exhibits like other imperial cities the wealth and magnificence of His vast dominions. Thus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, reigned supreme in the midst of infinite riches, power and glory, worshipped by angels, archangels and four and twenty elders who cast their golden crowns before His throne, saying, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were, created."
The riches of Christ, both according to human conceptions of royalty and the description of John, correspond to the greatness of His kingdom and the dignity of His government. What heart can conceive, what tongue express, the grandeur of the palace of God and the Lamb? These in perfection meet all the works of nature and all the works of angelic art. What architecture there! What scenery! What beauty and glory in that city whose buildings are
pure gold, whose walls are precious stones, whose gates are pearls, whose streets are paved with blocks of solid gold, and whose maker and builder is God! Yet we are told that our Lord Jesus Christ, the possessor of all these riches, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, became of no reputation, became poor, even without a place to lay His head, that we "through his poverty might be rich." Paradox of paradoxes this! How strange, unnatural, even absurd His procedure seems in our eyes, judging by our persistent disregard of His example and teaching! Truly His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. We enrich our children by giving them our riches, He by giving us His poverty! We relieve the wants of the poor and ignorant by putting their minds to rest, He by putting them to work!
The material gifts of our rich men, as centuries of history show, demoralize and ruin full seven in ten of their sons and proteges; and yet we still go on in the same ruinous course, ever decreasing the strength of their moral faculties in a corresponding degree. We fail to cultivate in them a spirit of manly labor and self-denial by the pursuit of noble ends. Thus our sons are cast, unpracticed and unpoised, into the stream of life, soon to sink beneath its turbid waters. How these sad and oft-repeated failures should humble our proud hearts before God, should work a thorough revolution in the basal ideas of our philosophy. How penitently they should bring us to Jesus, the Anointed of God, the Redeemer of souls, the Philosopher and Guide of the ages, to learn how to deal with fallen human nature. He comprehended all its necessities and acted accordingly.
His grace or gifts, unlike ours, never demoralize or ruin His heirs, but regenerate, develop, enrich and save mankind. Let us, then, once for all, abandon our human methods, however orthodox they may be, and come straight to the Master for the true principles on which to conduct our present great and widespread missionary enterprise, as well as for other concerns of life.
When Christ came down from heaven to redeem our heathenish world, to lift us out of the mire of sin and selfishness, to purify our hearts and make us heirs of His kingdom, He first humbled Himself to our condition by laying aside His regal power, riches, and glory. He brought neither purse nor sword with Him into the work, but left them both in heaven far beyond our fleshly sight. He thus declined to use the two great forces before which human hearts bow with the greatest reverence. Their use in His eyes seemed incompatible with the moral regeneration which He wished to produce. He would neither force nor bribe the people in the slightest
degree, either directly or indirectly, to become His disciples. He would respect their manhood, however weak, and leave every one perfectly free to receive or to reject His offer of salvation, except so far as His Spirit makes them a willing people. He, therefore, preached to them a voluntary gospel of repentance, self-denial and self-support, for in this way alone could He arouse into personal activity their dormant and religious faculties. In this way alone could He strengthen and develop these faculties so as to make them capable of bearing that exceeding weight of riches, honor and glory into which He wished to bring His disciples. For these reasons, it seems to me, Jesus appeared among men in absolute weakness and poverty.
He did not begin His work in Palestine by brandishing His sword, nor by distributing His gold and silver, His food and raiment, among its oppressed and indigent inhabitants. He did not first relieve their physical wants and then labor to save their souls, as is the modern fashion. He did not reverse the laws of human nature nor attempt to work a moral regeneration by physical means. He offered no money, no temples, no synagogues, no chapels in which they might meet for His worship. He founded no schools, no colleges, no seminaries in which they might study His teachings, but left them to provide all these things for themselves. Neither did He open any hospitals, asylums, orphanages or retreats for the benefit of the poor. Neither did He open any farms, any shops, any savings banks, or intelligence offices for the benefit of the laboring classes. Neither did He remove any social or political burden from the shoulders of the people, but left them all as He found them, under the stern necessity of relieving their on wants and removing their own burdens by the exercise of their own faculties. True, Jesus on many occasions healed the sick and cast out devils; yet He never did so by use of human medicines, but always by the use of words, thereby showing the people that He was a teacher come from God, able to forgive their sins and save their souls. On two occasions, and only two, he fed the hungry multitude that listened to Him all day long, but when they began to follow Him for the loaves and fishes He turned upon them, rebuked them sharply for the grossness of their perceptions, and drove them from Him. After this He fed them no more. Would that we now had the moral bravery of the Master! See the sixth chapter of John. Unlike the modern school of philanthropy, Jesus honored tine manhood of His people by leaving them something to do, to bear, and to work out for themselves, even with fear and trembling. He did not desire to
make religious parasites, paupers, camp followers and moral weaklings, but strong, healthy, self-reliant Christian men and women — brave soldiers of the cross, ready and able to spend and be spent in His service. Influenced by this high aim, Christ our Saviour, hiding His power and wealth from our timid, covetous sight, poured out His mental, moral and spiritual riches upon us without stint and without measure.
In short, Christ did nothing but preach the gospel, relying on it and it alone, under the Spirit's blessing, to work the regeneration He wished to produce in the world. On His ascension to heaven, He commanded His disciples to preach it to every creature — a long and arduous undertaking. But he honored them with His confidence by trusting them to find the ways and means of accomplishing it, only that they should be Spirit-guided. Like their Master, they went forth in faith and humility to their work, confining their labors to preaching Christ crucified to the people, to sowing the seeds of spiritual life in their hearts, watering them with their tears, and waiting patiently for them to bear heavenly fruit through the ages.
Results have proven the wisdom of the Saviour's course. Taking His apostles from the common people and stimulating their hearts by the spirit of His own self-denial and teachings, their converts have now become the richest, most intelligent, benevolent, righteous and most powerful nations the world ever saw. Compare the moral elevation of grand old England, Germany, France, America, and other Christian nations with the poverty, ignorance and moral degradation of the various Mohammedan and heathen nations of the earth, and by the contrast see how Christ's voluntary, self-denying, self-supporting policy stands out as a grand success, and also see that He did not become poor for our sakes in vain. Humanly speaking, it would have been far easier for Christ to make us rich through His riches than "through His poverty," through the "wisdom of this world," than through the "foolishness of preaching." Had He only demolished a few of those golden buildings in the New Jerusalem, pulled down a few miles of her walls of precious stones, taken up a few miles of those blocks of solid gold that paved her streets, broken to pieces one or two of her pearly gates, and scattered these treasures broadcast over the world, how easily He could have hushed that wail of poverty which has been going up to heaven through the ages. Or had Christ only accepted the offer of Satan, bowed down and worshipped him, this would have been unnecessary, for Satan himself would have furnished
the means by which to draw mankind after him. With what ease Jesus Christ could have become the universal "God of wealth" and filled the world with His temples and His own exclusive worship! But what would have been the effect of such a procedure? Utter demoralization, covetousness, selfishness, depravity, ruling over every human heart.
It is also far easier for us good Christians of this rich and benevolent day to give our money for the relief of others than to give them our own personal presence, our own humble soul-saving labors. This is the difficult work to be done, the work the blessed Saviour and His apostles did—the work which we must do, beginning from our own homes and extending outwards in every direction, if we would uplift and save our dying fellow-men.
Oh, Christian friends, the heathen are not dying for our money, but for our Christ. They are dying not through poverty of body, but through poverty of soul — poverty of God. O rich, educated, benevolent, pious Christian brothers and sisters of the west, the heathen need you — not your charities, science and particular type of civilization — but you. They need to see many of you face to face, to hear your sweet words of life, to be drawn by you, personally, patiently, lovingly to Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. As the roots of living trees must go down by their own force into the bowels of the earth, touch and take up the dead particles of inorganic matter, and by a mysterious process transform them into particles of living stem, branches, leaves, flowers, fruits, so must living Christians by their own impulses go down among men and women dead in trespasses and in sins, and by the living words of the living Saviour, transform them through the Spirit of the living God into living Christians able and ready of themselves to bear fruit to the honor and glory of the Redeemer's name.
In conclusion, let us follow the example of the Master — so conceal our power and wealth from the people as to free their minds from all earthly considerations, and going forth in a simple, unpretending manner, faithfully preach the gospel of Christ as the power of God unto every one that believeth. Let us first sow the seed — first bring the heathen to Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, that they may obtain new hearts through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit; and then churches, pastors, education, civilization, wealth, freedom, and all other good things will spring forth, and in a natural, healthy way flourish among them to the glory of Him who became poor that we might be rich, and humble that we might be exalted.
He sets us free from slavish cares, And burdens of our own; And calls us to His noblest work, To make His Gospel known.
To sound the trump of jubilee, To say, the Lord is come; To save His people from their sins, And take His ransomed home. ===========
Go to Chapter 26
[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]
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