Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-8-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled Lottie Moon. Every year at this season, a few weeks before Christmas, there is throughout our association and convention of Southern Baptist churches a week of prayer for foreign missions. There is a Christmas gift that we bring to our Lord and dedicate to the saving of the lost and the preaching of the gospel beyond the seas. That week of prayer and that offering for Christ is dedicated to the memory of the noble woman in whose name the week of offering is made: Lottie Moon. Once in a while I ought to speak of the life of this unusual and dedicated missionary. To my surprise, I have learned it has been more than fifteen years since I spoke on the life of Lottie Moon. We have a generation of youngsters who have never heard the story of her life from the pulpit. I shall try to do better in the future, if God gives me length of days, so that once in a while our youngsters are made acquainted with the unusual dedication that lay in the consecrated missionary, Lottie Moon.
All through and from the beginning of the Christian history and story there have been noble and unusual women used of God. For example, Paul would write to the church at Rome, “I commend unto you Phoebe, our sister, a servant of the church; for she hath been a helper of many; and Priscilla, who for my life laid down her neck, unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” [Romans 16:1-4]. Here in almost one breath Paul names two unusual and dedicated Christian women, Phoebe and Priscilla. And this morning, the pastor names a third: Lottie Moon.
Lottie Moon was born in Albemarle County, in the heart of Virginia, near the home of Monticello, the residence of Thomas Jefferson, in the year of 1840. The county seat of Albemarle County is Charlottesville. And she was sent as a girl to a school in Charlottesville, Virginia. A professor in the school, and the pastor of the Baptist church there, was the famous and illustrious John A. Broadus. And in 1859, John Broadus, our greatest scholar, later president of our Southern Seminary, won the girl to the Lord and baptized her into the fellowship of the Baptist church in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Upon her graduation from school, she became a teacher. In February, 1873, she was teaching with another young woman, Miss Safford, in a girls’ school in Cartersville, Georgia. In February of that year of 1873, at an associational meeting, the pastor of the church at Cartersville heard a burning and flaming address on missions. And this man, Dr. R. B. Heddon, stood up and proposed that the pastors and the deacons make a covenant together to pray for missions, and the following Sunday, that each one of the pastors preach a sermon on missions to his congregation. That following Sunday, true to his promise, this pastor Heddon stood in his church at Cartersville, Georgia, and delivered an impassioned appeal on the text, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white unto harvest” [John 4:35]. And he asked for volunteers. And to the amazement of the city of Cartersville, Georgia, down the aisle came both of their teachers in the girls’ school, Miss Lottie Moon and Miss Safford, offering themselves as mission volunteers to go to China. By Christmas of 1873, Miss Moon was in Shandong, the great northern province of China, located in Ting Chou, the center of our Baptist educational work in China; and for forty years lived there as a missionary of the gospel of the Son of God.
Her greatest work was about a hundred fifteen miles away in a section and a place called Ping Tu. Fearless and alone, this woman made her way that hundred fifteen miles to work among those Chinese of Ping Tu. And as a result of her missionary efforts, one of the greatest revivals that ever swept over China won to Christ, among those Ping Tu Chinese, thousands and thousands of Christians.
In Ting Chou, in a little home that they called “the little house at the crossroads,” she lived for forty years, teaching girls, and teaching women, and teaching others the way of the Lord Jesus. Some of the things in her life astonish me beyond anything I could imagine. For example, in the civil war that brought China to a republic, under the generalship and presidency of Sun Yat-sen, in that war, Ting Chou, where she lived, was on the battle line. And a cannonball burst through her little house, knocking off a corner of it, making two big gaping holes in it. It bothered her not at all. Though she lived in the line of fire, and was in range of artillery distance, she went to bed, slept peacefully all night long, with the cannons roaring, and the bullets flying, and her own house bombarded by a shell from the artillery. Reckon you could do that? Reckon I could? Worry me to death, worry me to death, scare the living daylights out of me. That’s God’s servant.
I remember hearing in the days of World War II, a great Christian in London, in the midst of the blitz, peacefully going to sleep. And somebody said, “With these bombs bursting, and shrapnel slaying, and bullets whizzing, and these dive bombers overhead, and London a’fire, how can you sleep?” And that dear woman replied, “Well, I believe in God, and He says that He watches over His own; and that He that guards His children will neither slumber nor sleep [Psalm 121:3-4]. And I just decided there was no need for both of us to stay awake.” Isn’t that great? “So I went to sleep.” That was Lottie Moon.
In the days of her youth, as a student, there was a young, brilliant professor, scholar, who fell in love with her. And as the days passed, her heart was moved in love toward him. And while she was over there in China as a missionary, in their writing back and forth, it was decided that she would marry. The young, brilliant professor went to Germany to study. And he was introduced there to all of the world of higher criticism. And he came back to America to be a professor in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky, when James P. Boyce was president of the school, its first president, and Dr. John A. Broadus was a fellow teacher. His name was Crawford H. Toy. And Lottie Moon and Crawford H. Toy set a wedding date; and he was going to the Orient to live, and both of them would be missionaries together. Over there in Germany, introduced to higher criticism and German rationalism, is that system of thought that looks upon the stories of the Old Testament as myths and legends and spiritual parables. Dr. Toy, I suppose the most brilliant of all of the young men Southern Baptists have ever produced, Dr. Toy began to teach that in the seminary at Louisville, Kentucky. And upon a day, Dr. Boyce and Dr. Broadus called him into the office, and said, “You cannot doubt the Word of God, its plenary inspiration, its verbal inspiration; you cannot cast aspersion upon the revelations here of the Word of God and remain a teacher in our seminary.” They forced his resignation. Dr. Boyce and Dr. Broadus went down to the train station in Louisville, Kentucky, and Dr. Boyce put his arm around Dr. Crawford H. Toy, and raising his right hand to heaven, said, “Crawford, I would give that right arm if you were as you were when you first came to us at the seminary.” He left Louisville Seminary to become a professor in the Harvard Divinity School, which was Unitarian. He joined the Unitarian church; finally attended no church at all. That was the man that Lottie Moon set a wedding date with to marry.
And in their writing back and forth, Lottie Moon began to find in the letters of Crawford H. Toy that attitude toward the Word of God, as the young professor followed the pattern of German rational criticism. And she finally wrote to him and said, “Over here in my missionary work, I have learned to lean upon the Word of God. It is my strength and staff and stay. Nor could I ever be happy in my heart wedded to a man who did not believe God’s Book.” She broke off the engagement. She wrote to her family there would be no wedding. And she lived all the days of her life Miss Lottie Moon. And in after years, as an older woman, when somebody asked her about it, she replied that it was a choice between her Lord and her wedding; and she had given herself to the Lord.
I wonder what Lottie Moon thinks, looking down from heaven upon these modern Baptist professors who follow the pattern of German rational criticism and who look upon the stories of the Old Testament as being myth and legend and spiritual parables. Oh, what a difference, what a difference in the dedication of these of the days passed, and this new theology, and this latest sophistry of this modern, weak, and anemic theological generation.
That’s one reason I love to salute the memory of Lottie Moon, and that’s one reason I love to bring the story of her life before our congregation. In the latter part of the 1911, and as it entered into 1912, there came great difficulties into the work of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. They were in debt and in debt and in debt and that despite one of the noblest efforts for missions that this world ever saw. In 1888, Miss Lottie Moon wrote an appeal to the women of the South that they organize in support of the Foreign Mission enterprise. So in May, 1888, the Southern Baptist Convention met in Richmond, Virginia, and at that meeting there was organized Women’s Missionary Union of the Southern Baptist Convention. And in keeping with an appeal of Lottie Moon, for desperate need in supporting the work in China, there was that Christmas of 1888 the first Foreign Mission offering taken up by our Southern Baptist women. Their goal was two thousand dollars; and to the amazement of all the people who belonged to the Southern Baptist Convention at that time, they raised three thousand dollars and sent two missionaries out to China to help in the work in which Lottie Moon had made so urgent an appeal.
So every Christmas thereafter, this appeal was made for a Christmas offering for foreign missions. But despite those appeals and that work, our Southern Baptist people so forgot the work of Christ and the need of our foreign missionary that the board went progressively in debt, and in debt and in debt as the board tried to support the work that was already launched and take care of the missionaries already sent- and not enough money coming in even to support what had already been launched, the board grew heavier and heavier and heavier in debt. At that same time there was a famine in north China, and it swept through Ping Tu. The Christians of Ping Tu began to die by the scores and by the hundreds and finally by the thousands. Lottie Moon, who was then approaching seventy-two years of age, Miss Lottie Moon took her salary and gave it to feed the poor Christians of Ping Tu. She withdrew from the bank at Shanghai all of her savings and gave her savings to feed the Christians of Ping Tu; and learned, to the heartbreak of her life, that she herself was living on borrowed money by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia. She fell into the strangest kind of an illness, and they could not discover what or why. When the doctor was sent for, in a moment the doctor answered, “She was starving to death.” If her Christians at Ping Tu were starving, then she would not eat. And if the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board could not raise enough money to support her, she refused to live on borrowed money.
It was decided to send her back home to America. There was a nurse, Cynthia Miller, whose furlough was due; both of them were placed on a ship. And as that ship stopped at Kobe, Japan, in the harbor, frail Lottie Moon, seventy-two years of age, forty years a missionary in China, lying in her berth on the ship, began to speak, and to clasp and to unclasp her frail hands in Chinese greeting. And Miss Cynthia Miller listened to see what she said: and she was greeting old Chinese friends whom she had known in the years passed in Ping Tu, in Ting Chou, and thus with a greeting and the name of a loved Chinese friend, she slipped away to be with her Lord, Christmas Eve, December 24, 1912. According to the laws of Japan, her body had to be cremated. The ashes were lovingly brought by Miss Miller across the sea. There in Albemarle County she was buried, and a little stone at her head, at the head of the grave, a little marble stone writes her name, and the date, 1840-1912, and the words, “Missionary of the Southern Baptist Convention to China for forty years,” then underneath, “Faithful unto death.”
In the church there is a window dedicated to her. There is the picture of a woman in flowing robes, walking through sheaves of ripened grain, in her left hand, clasping to her heart the Word of God; in her right hand, holding high a flaming torch, and underneath, the Great Commission: “Go ye therefore into all the world, and teach all nations” [Matthew 28:19]. For three years the Christians in Ting Chou, poor as they were, gathered money to buy a little marble of slab that they placed at the home of the little crossroads, where she lived, with her name and the date, and the words, “The Ting Chou Church shall remember forever.”
When I was in Recife, Pernambuco, we have a great work there; a magnificent school. And upon the dedication of a new building in that school in Recife, I listened to the president. His name was Alfredo Menezes, one of the finest looking men and one of the most eloquent I ever heard or saw. I asked, “Who is that man? And where did he come from? And how is it he became a Christian and a Baptist and the leader of this great institution?” And the answer was, “Alfredo Menezes was a brilliant and eloquent lawyer in Recife, the capital of the great Brazilian state of Pernambuco, and he was so chaste in his language and so brilliant in his oratory that one of our missionaries, who had translated the life of Lottie Moon, had taken the manuscript to the eloquent lawyer that he might polish the Portuguese language in which it is translated. And as that brilliant lawyer read the life of Lottie Moon, he gave his heart to Jesus, went to the little Baptist church in Recife; the preacher didn’t give an invitation, he stood up before they had the benediction and said, “Wait! Wait! I have given my heart to the Lord. I have accepted Christ as my Savior, and I want to make public that profession now”; went down the aisle, was accepted, was baptized, was later elected head of our great Baptist work in Recife; and every year, every year, has someone come before the entire complex of schools there over which he presides to deliver an address on Lottie Moon.
When we come to this season of the year and we dedicate this special Christmas gift to the work of our foreign mission enterprise in the name of Lottie Moon, just know and always remember: it is done in memory of one of the noblest, finest, truest, most consecrated and devout of all of the missionaries who have ever served under the banner and in the name of Jesus our Lord. It is a delight to my soul to encourage our people in this gift. God bless us as we share in this worldwide soul-saving effort. And God bless our noble women in the church as they enter this week of prayer, the Lottie Moon Week of Prayer for Foreign Missions. And if you want to give a gift to Jesus at Christmas time in honor of His Son and our Savior and you want to dedicate it to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering for foreign missions, God bless you in it and bless our church as we generously respond to this most Christian of all appeals.
And best of all, is there somebody today, in this hour, in this early morning service, to give his life to the Lord, looking in faith to Christ, put his life in the fellowship of the church, give his life in a special service and ministry of our Lord, does the Lord bid you come this morning? If the Holy Spirit speaks thus to your heart, while we stand and sing this invitation hymn, make it now, come now, while we all stand and sing together.