Thomas Scott’s Appeal for Missionary Action at the First Anniversary of the CMS

Published April 3, 2014 by Tim Scott in Church History, Church of England, Evangelicalism, Missions, Thomas Scott
Church St. Michael's and All Angels, in Aston Sandford, Buckinghamshire, Thomas Scott's Final Parish (this building did not exist at the time)

Church of St. Michael’s & All Angels, in Aston Sandford, Buckinghamshire, Thomas Scott’s Final Parish (not the original building)

Thomas Scott was the first secretary of the Church Missionary Society and one of its founding members. When the CMS celebrated its first anniversary on May 26, 1801, Thomas Scott was one of several men who addressed the members of the society that day. I have given an excerpt of that sermon below. The reader will be struck with Scott’s sense of urgency, a sense of urgency that characterized most evangelical missionary endeavors in the 18th and 19th centuries. The reader should also note Scott’s belief that cooperation among Christians would allow for a greater gospel influence in the world. Finally, Scott’s remark that “life is short,” should serve as a reminder to us that we need to make the gospel our top priority.

Here is what he said:

When we think of nearly a thousand millions of our species at once inhabiting this globe; all sinners, all having in mortal souls, all to stand before God in judgment, all soon to die, yet to live for ever in another world, either in happiness or misery; and few, (alas, how very few in comparison!) Having any ground to hope for happiness in that eternal state: when we reflect that another thousand millions will in a few years have succeeded the present generation; all born in sin, and the children of wrath and disobedience, to be soon swept away into eternity, and that this is the case from age to age: and when we remember that “God has so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life; “that in infinite mercy he has sent us the gospel, and let us to embrace it; that we possess a good hope through grace; and that the same gospel is suitable, free, and sufficient, for all throughout the world, if all heard and believed it: surely the mind that was in Christ, love to him and his cause, a desire to imitate his example, and genuine philanthropy, will combine to excite us to use all our influence, in every way, which may tend, either directly or more remotely, to promote the great ends of Emmanuel’s incarnation, and death upon the cross! Our life is short; a large proportion of it is already spent; we have lived too much and too long unto ourselves; and “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whether we are going.” Let us then not merely inquire what we are bound to do, but what we can do. And how any of our labors, efforts, or contributions, according to our several talents, may produce some effect in spreading our holy religion; and how we, feeble and insignificant individuals, by combining our influence, and exciting others to join us, may extend its blessings to the remotest nations, and to those who shall exist in future ages. Surely this is the grand end for which we ought to value life, after we “have known the grace of God in truth;” and all that respects our temporal interest, should be entirely subordinated to the desire of glorifying God, and doing good to mankind, above all in their eternal concerns!*

*Thomas Scott, Theological Works: Published at Different Times and Now Collected into Volumes, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: William W. Woodward, 1810), 3:176-77.

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