Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History



Address to the Christian Public, November 1812

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, at their late annual meeting, appointed the subscribers a committee to prepare and publish an address to the Christian Public, in the name and on the behalf of the Board. . . . . . . . . .

The two great objects which the Board have in view, and to which they would direct the attention of their brethren, are the establishment and support of missions among the heathen, and the translation and publication of the Bible in languages spoken by unevangelized nations. That these objects are transcendently important, it would be a waste of time to prove; that they are admirably calculated to go hand in hand seems, also, undeniable. Neither the Bible without preachers, nor preachers without the Bible, will ever effect any great change among ignorant and idolatrous people. . .

The two objects, which have been mentioned are sufficiently great, extensive, and attainable, to solicit, nay to command, exertions and sacrifices from every benevolent person throughout the Christian world.

These objects are great. Every thing which has a direct tendency to promote the salvation of immortal souls is great beyond the power of language to express, or imagination to conceive. . . .

The objects are extensive. They admit, they require, the labors of multitudes. The glorious employment of being fellow laborers in the cause of God, is an employment in which all, who are so inclined, may at all times engage. But the support of missions, and the publication of the Scriptures, in all nations, are enterprises in which the efforts of multitudes can be united with peculiar facility. Christians in both hemispheres, and of every denomination, can direct their exertions to produce one result,—a result of the highest conceivable importance. Combined efforts, whether of a good or evil character, are incomparably more powerful than single efforts can be. How delightful, how enrapturing the sight, to behold good men of every rank and condition, in all parts of the world, uniting in one vast labor of love.

It is not only practicable for multitudes to unite in the great purpose of evangelizing the world; but such a union is absolutely necessary, in order to bring about this event in the shortest time. All the power and influence of the whole Christian world must be put in requisition, during the course of those beneficent labors which will precede the millennium. . . .

But the most animating consideration still remains—these objects are attainable. To deny the practicability and usefulness of missions, and translations of the Scriptures, would manifest a total ignorance of the subject, or a deep hostility to the progress of Christianity. Twenty years ago, objections to these extraordinary efforts might have been formed much more plausibly than at present. Happily for the world, such objections did not then stifle those beneficent attempts, which have already given the Bible to nations in the heart of Asia, in their own languages. Whether Providence shall bless the efforts of this Board, it is not in the power of man to determine. Let us wait with humility and submission. But that the objects in view will be attained, and by human instruments too, will not be doubted by those, who expect the final prevalence of true religion over error and sin. If the faith of Christians in America should be tried at the outset, it is no more than has frequently been experienced by Christians in every age. Such trials have often preceded the most signal success, and far from disheartening, should stimulate to more animated and faithful labors.

Possibly it may be thought by some, that the present times are unfavorable to the objects have described, so far as pecuniary contributions are needed; and that it would be best to defer charitable designs till our national calamities shall have been removed. We cannot yield for a moment to reasoning of this sort. It might receive many answers; a few brief hints will be sufficient.

God alone is the deliverer from public troubles, and must be regarded as such by all who have any just views of his providence. He can change scenes of national distress into scenes of joy and gratulation. He can cause light to spring up out of darkness, and educe good from evil. To him must the eyes of all be turned, who long for the happiness of mankind and the prosperity of the Church. What method so likely to secure the favor of God, as that of obeying his commandments? And it is his commandment, that the Gospel should be preached to every creature.

Besides, it would be adding immeasurably to all the necessary evils of war, if every charitable enterprise were to cease during its continuance. The interests of truth and beneficence would thus lose more in a short war than could be regained in a long peace. National calamities, instead of producing national repentance and reformation, would be the signal for letting loose the malignant passions, while all the charitable virtues were to lie dormant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We are unwilling to conclude, without addressing a few words particularly, and very respectfully, to the Clergy, the reverend pastors of the American churches.

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The Board whose duty it is to superintend the first American mission to foreign parts, and to expend with fidelity such monies as may be committed to their disposal, deeply feel their responsibility. They wish for all information which can be had, relative to the subjects which will come before them. Any communications, therefore, from the Clergy, either in their individual or associated capacities, will be received with respect and thankfulness. It will be the desire and aim of the Board so to conduct their affairs, as to secure the confidence of all Christians throughout the United States, of every denomination; and they venture to hope for the countenance of all, who admit the utility of missions and translations.

Among the numerous claims upon the public liberality, you will doubtless recommend those objects as worthy of especial regard, which have a direct tendency to make men happy here, and to fit them for heaven. That all such objects may be promoted, and that they all may harmonize in producing one grand result, the universal triumph of truth and benevolence, you will not cease to labor and pray. . . . . . . . .

Let us all remember, Fathers and Brethren, that the time allotted to our earthly labors is short; that the spiritual wants of the heathen imperiously demand attention and relief; and, while urging each other and our fellow sinners to deeds of charity, let us never forget the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

In behalf of the Board,

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Boston, Nov. 10, 1812.

Text—First Ten Annual Reports of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, pp. 47–53.


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Chicago: "Address to the Christian Public, November 1812," Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History 372–373. Original Sources, accessed August 17, 2019,

MLA: . "Address to the Christian Public, November 1812." Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp. 372–373. Original Sources. 17 Aug. 2019.

Harvard: , 'Address to the Christian Public, November 1812' in Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History. cited in , Source Book and Bibliographical Guide for American Church History, pp.372–373. Original Sources, retrieved 17 August 2019, from