In a 1739 sermon, published posthumously as A History of the Work of Redemption, Jonathan Edwards (1703–58) wrote:
It may be hoped that then many of the[m] will be divines, and that excellent books will be published in Africa, in Ethiopia, in Turkey—and not only very learned men, but others that are more ordinary men, shall then be very knowing in religion, Isaiah 32:3–4.
In this passage, Edwards clearly demonstrates a global interest in the “propagation of the gospel,” turning his attention to China, the East Indies, and South America as well. Edwards could not have foreseen the fulfillment of these words in the next century—the great century of Protestant missions. In fact, Edwards’ words and works would be carried around the globe to the encouragement of many missionaries, missionary societies, and mission publications endeavors.
Missionaries of the nineteenth century include well-known men and women, such as William Carey (1761–1834), the British missionary, Particular Baptist minister, translator, and social reformer who spent decades serving in India; Adoniram Judson (1788–1850), the American Congregationalist and later Baptist missionary who served in Burma for thirty-seven years; Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), the British missionary to China for more than fifty years and founder of the China Inland Mission (1865); Lottie Moon (1840–1912), the Southern Baptist missionary to China with the Foreign Mission Board who spent nearly forty years of her life working in China; and Amy Carmichael (1867–1951), Presbyterian evangelical missionary for the Anglican Church Missionary Society to India who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur, serving India for fifty-five years. Their commitment to the gospel, missions work, and the countries they served is moving, and it has motivated many to follow in their footsteps.
But what about the hundreds of missionaries whose names haven been forgotten? These include men such as the Frenchmen Eugène Casalis (1812–91), Thomas Arbousset (1810–77), and Adolphe Mabille (1836–94) in the service of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) to Basutoland, today the Kingdom of Lesotho. They worked tiresomely for more than sixty years combined as translators of the first Bible in the Sesotho language, writing the first English-Sesotho Oxford-published dictionary. They were founders of elementary schools, a theological seminary (Morija Theological Seminary), a newspaper (Leselinyana la Basotho, “The Small Light of the Basotho”), a book press, an indigenous church (Lesotho Evangelical Church), and a self-propagating movement, and ultimately they laid the groundwork for a nation, which is still going strong today. There is Mary Slessor (1848–1915), the Scottish Presbyterian missionary to Nigeria who promoted women’s rights and protected native children while spreading the gospel. There is William Whiting Borden (1887–1913), a Yale graduate who studied under J. Gresham Machen at Princeton Theological Seminary. Borden was a wealthy philanthropist and missionary candidate who died in Egypt en route to the Gansu province in China to work among the Muslims. He is interred at the American Cemetery in Cairo, next to Dr. Andrew Watson, who served for more than fifty years at the American Presbyterian mission station in the Middle East, alongside the more well-known Samuel Zwemer (1867–1952), the “Apostle to Islam.” Furthermore, what about the many neglected educators, administrators, and organizers of local mission stations? These include men such as Christian Wallmann (1811–65) of the Rhenish Missionary Society (1799) and Hans Peter Hallbeck (1784–1840), the Swedish-born Moravian missionary who worked in the Valley of Grace of the Cape region in South Africa.