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John G. Paton: The Fruit of a Father’s Prayers

Aug. 24, 2015By: Evan Burns

John G. Paton was the 19th century Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides.  He suffered much personal loss, ridicule from churches at home, and great discouragement.  The Lord used Paton to mobilize many churches and missionaries to give themselves obediently to the missionary task.  Through his great adversity, he attributed the abiding presence of Jesus as his source of life and strength.  More than any other man, his father’s humble-hearted spirituality indelibly marked Paton’s thirst for God.  Often times, courageous missionary leaders are trained by the warm piety of fathers who walk with God and reflect the light of the Divine Presence.  May our children rise up and say, “He walked with God, why may not I?”

Paton affectionately reflects on his father’s influence:

81rVoh_l3FLThree times daily, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and "shut the door;" and we children understood by a sort of spiritual instinct that prayers were being poured out there for us, much like the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice, pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip in and out past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy communion. The outside world may not have known, but we knew, where that happy light came from dawning on my father's face. It was a reflection from the Divine Presence of God.

 Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof. Though everything else in my Christian experience were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up again in that Sanctuary Closet. I can still hear the echoes of those cries to God, pushing back all doubt with the victorious appeal, "He walked with God, why may not I?"

  Somewhere in or about his seventeenth year, my father had passed through a crisis in Christian experience, and from that day he openly and very decidedly followed the Lord Jesus. At this time, he began that blessed custom of Family Prayer, morning and evening, which my father practiced without one single omission till he lay on his death-bed, at seventy-seven years of age. Even to the last day of his life, a portion of Scripture was read, and his voice was heard softly joining in the Psalm and his lips breathed the morning and evening prayer. None of us can remember that any day passed without family devotions. No hurry for market, no rush for business, no arrival of guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevented at least our kneeling around the family altar, while the High Priest led our prayers to God for himself and his children.

Oh, I can remember those happy Sabbath evenings; no blinds drawn and shutters up, to keep out the sun from us, as some scandalously affirm; but a holy, happy, entirely human day, for a Christian father, mother, and children to spend. There were eleven of us brought up in a house like that; and never one of the eleven, has been heard, or ever will be heard, saying that the Sabbath was dull or wearisome to us. But God help the homes where these things are due by force and not by love! The very discipline through which our father passed us was a kind of religion in itself. If anything really serious required to be punished he retired first to his closet for prayer, and we boys learned to understand that he was laying the whole matter before God; and that was the severest part of the punishment for me to bear! I could have defied any amount of mere penalty, but this spoke to my conscience like a message from God. We loved him all the more, when we saw how much it cost him to punish us. And in truth, he had never very much of that kind of work to do upon any one of all the eleven. We were ruled far more by love than fear. 

“Our Cottage Home: The Fruit of a Father's Prayers”, by John G. Paton

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A Marriage Proposal

May. 28, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Adoniram Judson asking Mr. Hasseltine for his daughter’s hand in marriage:

aajudson"I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

From Memoir of Adoniram Judson which is written by his son.

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The Most Fascinating Period of Missions History?

May. 22, 2015By: Evan Burns
A question was posed by my PhD professor of Missions, Dr. David Sills.  His question and my answer are below.  
QUESTION:  Some say that the current era of missions will surpass many of the superlatives recorded in the pages of missions history. What are some of the developments in Christianity that indicate that this prophecy will be true? If you cannot embrace such a bold statement, why would you disagree?  
ANSWER:  Before I express my opinion, it would be necessary to ask further questions about the phrase, "the current era of missions will surpass many of the superlatives recorded in the pages of missions history." My question is, "in what ways do some say contemporary missions will surpass the superlatives of the past?" Are people thinking primarily of the number of missionaries and the diversity of sending nations? Is this a quantitative comparison or a qualitative comparison? My intuition says that this is a quantitative comparison. If we are strictly comparing numbers of people who go overseas as missionaries (which some would include short-term trips) then yes, today's mission force is quantitatively superior to any other time in history. This is largely due to the wealth of Western churches, the speed of travel, globalism, and other technological advances. I praise God for how quickly missionaries can move about the globe. Quantitatively speaking, it is an unparalleled day in which we live.
Nevertheless, my contention is that the sacrifice and commitment of the present-day era of missionaries are fragile and fleeting compared to most eras of missions history. Take the Moravians for example; they were famous for selling themselves into slavery in the West Indies to reach the African slaves. Even many of the English and American missionaries of the 19th century would set sail for a land to which they had never taken a short-term exposure trip, and they would pack their coffins well aware that they would probably die within the first two years. Now taking those two example alone (and many more could be cited), there is a significant qualitative difference between then and today. Moreover, when reading the rich spirituality and deep theology penned by those committed missionaries in the toughest of times, it is difficult to compare what we include in our brief newsletter updates today.

Amid all today's advances in medicine, transportation, communication, and technology, it seems that there is a qualitative difference in our souls. To be sure, missionaries of the past were no more perfect than we are today. Saints are sinful in every era. But could it be that the quality of former mission endeavors was deepened by the fact that they had to struggle and suffer more than most of us do today? No email; no medical evacuation; no jet plane; no electricity; no computer; no cell phones; no vaccinations; no ATM machines. I imagine that if I were someday in heaven to ask St. Patrick, Boniface, Adoniram Judson, or David Brainerd what they thought was the qualitative difference between their missionary endeavor and mine, they would probably say something similar to what Paul said: " Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (2 Cor 1:9).
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Trials Ordered By Infinite Love and Mercy

Mar. 27, 2013By: Evan Burns

In 1824, while Adoniram Judson was tortured in a Burmese prison for 21 months, his wife Ann cared for him.  And concurrently their little daughter Maria was ill.  The gravity of this tribulation nearly pushed the Judson family to the breaking point.  Recording the Judson’s submission to the sovereignty of God, Ann wrote:

Our dear little Maria was the greatest sufferer at this time, my illness depriving her of her usual nourishment, and neither a nurse nor a drop of milk could be procured in the village.  By making presents to the jailers, I obtained leave for Mr. Judson to come out of prison, and take the emaciated creature around the village, to beg a little nourishment from those mothers who had young children. Her cries in the night were heart-rending, when it was impossible to supply her wants.  I now began to think the very afflictions of Job had come upon me.  When in health, I could bear the various trials and vicissitudes through which I was called to pass. But to be confined with sickness, and unable to assist those who were so dear to me, when in distress, was almost too much for me to bear; and had it not been for the consolations of religion, and an assured conviction that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I must have sunk under my accumulated sufferings.[1]

[1]Francis Wayland, A Memoir of the Life and Labors of the Rev. Adoniram Judson, D.D., vol. 1, (Boston: Phillips, Samson, and Company, 1853), 361.  Also quoted in Eugene Myers Harrison Giants of the Missionary Trail (Chicago: Scripture Press Foundation, 1954), 73.

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Missionary Biographies

Mar. 5, 2013By: Evan Burns

Here is a great list of free ebooks of missionary biographies.  It includes biographies of missionaries such as: Brainerd, Carey, Chalmers, Geddie, Gilmour, Ginsburg, Grenfell, Judson, Livingstone, Mackay, Marsden, Moffat, Paton, Slessor, Taylor, and other collections.  Here also is another more extensive list of shorter biographies of many other great evangelical missionaries.  

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