How can the missionary best bring to the heathen the knowledge of the "unknown" God?
We generally approach the heathen in Africa through the things they see. We use the parable method, the story method, just as you would teach children. We must remember this fact, that the native never understands anything in the abstract; he is not an abstract reasoner at all. Everything must be concrete with him; and if our presentation is not concrete, it is lost. We take the lessons as Christ taught them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like this, and like that." We must remember that the native knows nothing of zoology, or any of the other sciences as such. But concerning animals and beasts and birds, he knows far more than any missionary will ever know. The native is a child of nature, and he knows these things. While we study books, the native studies nature, and knows nature.
So we take the things of nature which the native understands, and from these lead him to an understanding of God. We teach him that there is a God who made all things; and practically every native has that knowledge in general. It is expressed in Zulu by a word meaning the "Greatest of the Great." Nearly every native understands that there is a Supreme Being, and we seek to teach him who that Being is, that He is the One who made the things of nature. We approach the matter from his side of the question, and from his knowledge, and so gradually lead him to a conception of the God of heaven.
How do you bring to the native a knowledge of the Bible, and of the third angel's message, when he does not read and does not have a Bible? How do you teach him to accept the authority of that Book?
We endeavor to teach the young people to read the Bible. We talk with the older people who cannot hope to read, about God's word and how He does things,—of the things they see and know,—and lead them on in this way. The ordinary natives have no knowledge whatever of history. Their traditions are somewhat hazy. They can go back no farther than their great-grandfathers, perhaps only their grandfathers. The past is mythical. They have what they call the prehistoric tense of the verb in most of the native languages, but there is nothing really tangible about it, and when you talk to them about the past, your presentation must be simple.
You cannot hang up a chart of the 2300 days, and expect them to grasp your explanation of its intricacies, as you do among advanced peoples. I remember one worker who spent a week in trying to explain and prove that the 2300 days began in 457 B. c., when the command went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. The natives know nothing about the Medes and Persians; they know nothing about Jerusalem; they know nothing about anything connected with that whole story; and after the week was over, they came to me and wanted to know what he had been talking about. We have to deal in a simpler way with matters that can be grasped.
How do you present the imminence of Christ's coming and the distinctiveness of our special message in such a way that the native will understand and will get more than just a general recognition of God, with Christ as our Saviour, and that He is coming again soon?
We have to leave the history part largely out of our instruction. The native must take your word as authority. He cannot be expected to understand any more than a child of six or seven years could understand. We must deal with tangible things, and recognize that these natives are children in their understanding. But on the other hand, we must not get the idea that just anybody can teach them, for we need the best teachers we have to instruct these natives.
We teach the great essential things,—the preparation of life that will enable them to stand when they meet their Saviour, and be prepared to go with Him into His kingdom.
We do not mention the great apostasy of the Dark Ages until we come into contact with Sunday-keeping missions; we deal with the truth, and rarely touch the other at all until it is brought in. Then we always meet it by saying: "Now, this is what God says; many people do not do what God says, any more than you did before you learned better. Here is God's word, and this is what He says."
When a man goes to the mission field, he must have love for the people, if he is to win them. If he doesn't have love, he might as well not go, The native will sense this lack, and it will not take him long. Love is the basis of all missionary work. We must go out and teach the natives, but love really reaches them and wins them for Christ's kingdom.
Cape Province, South Africa.
* With this new cut, one of several added to the "Evangelistic Cut Service," a reduction in prices is announced which is equivalent to a 25-per-cent discount. This word will be welcomed in the field. It has been made possible only through rigid economies, and can be maintained only on a strictly cash basis, Catalogue with new prices will be sent upon application to T. K. Martin, 8 Ash Ave., Tukwila Park, Washington, D. C.