This article, by the way, captures well the basic theme and thesis of my upcoming dissertation, which both chronicles and analyzes Southern Baptist efforts down through the years to successfully navigate the perilous waters between the Scylla and Charybdis of the bitter interdenominational controversies, on the one hand, and the naive push toward organic ecumenical union, on the other, on the international mission field, as referenced here by Manly.
Many readers of the Journal can well remember the controversies, sometimes long and bitter, that were common between representatives of different denominations, say, forty years ago. While these discussions were not in every case an unmixed evil, neither were they always an unquestioned good. Many times, certainly, they gave great pain to good people on both sides, and furnished occasion for the world to indulge in sharp comments on the absence of kindly intercourse among Christians and on the fierceness with which rival sects were ready to spoil each other. At the same time, the spectacle of strife and dispute led many to urge, as a corrective, organic union among the various bodies of Christians.
Now, however, the old-time controversies are hardly ever even heard of and propositions for organic union of the denominations are very rare and have ceased to attract attention. Instead, while distinctiveness of the work and organization of the various bodies of Christians is not less marked than heretofore and much remains to be accomplished in the mutual relations of Christian bodies, there can be doubt that there has been a very great advance in the spirit of genuine fellowship and sincere respect for each other within the period named.
This result is on many accounts eminently desirable; and one of the most potent influences in bringing it about has been the Mission work among the heathen, in which these Christian bodies have been engaged. Their representatives in foreign lands, far from home and country, and often alone amid the great masses out of sympathy with them, even in the work for which they have specially come, are drawn more closely to each other on every opportunity for association, so as to emphasize the many points of the "common salvation" on which they agree rather than those, often incidental, on which they differ. Their experience, their labors, their dangers, their hopes are much the same, and they cannot but cultivate the spirit of sympathy and confidence towards each other. These sentiments come back to the bodies which sent them out, and they are themselves kindly affected toward those of whose fellowship their missionaries speak with gratitude. And so, side by side with the prosecution of the work of giving the Gospel to the heathen, the spirit of Christian courtesy and affection is cultivated at home.
The different denominations learn to know each other and to see what is best in each other. On every Mission field there are inspiring instances of Christian zeal, of heroic sacrifice, of unquestionable devotion to the honor of Christ. As these become known, true-hearted men and women in every communion feel the force of them and rejoice in these evidences of the power of Christ's grace and illustrations of the working of Christ's spirit.
"The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Above all meaner cares."
The work of Carey, Eliot, Burns, Martyn, Moffat, Livingstone, Patterson, Duff, Judson, Yates and others too numerous to mention, with whom the women who labored with them in the Gospel, belongs to no one body of Christians, but is the heritage of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity; and the story of their sufferings and their successes is doing more to bring all the people of God of whatever name, into closer sympathy and better understanding and more real harmony, than all the schemes for organic union that ever have been or ever will be propounded. "Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule—let us mind the same thing."