Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Essays and short articles
Abstract:
The report mentioned by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By, and often (erroneously) referred to as being the one of first public mentions of the Faith.
Notes:
See also First Public Mentions of the Bahá'í Faith in the West and The Rise and Fall of the Parliament of Religions at Greenacre.

This entire book is available online in a variety of formats at archive.org. See also Word document.

Author note: "Rev. Henry H. Jessup, D.D, of Beirout, Syria."


The Religious Mission of the English-Speaking Nations

by Henry H. Jessup

published in Neely's History of the Parliament of Religions and Religious Congresses of the World's Columbian Exposition, pages 637-641
Chicago: F. Tennyson Neely, 1894
Addendum: This item is the one referred to by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By, where he writes:
It was on September 23, 1893, a little over a year after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, that, in a paper written by Rev. Henry H. Jessup, D.D., Director of Presbyterian Missionary Operations in North Syria, and read by Rev. George A. Ford of Syria, at the World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago, in connection with the Columbian Exposition, commemorating the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, it was announced that "a famous Persian Sage," "the Bábí Saint," had died recently in Akká, and that two years previous to His ascension "a Cambridge scholar" had visited Him, to whom He had expressed "sentiments so noble, so Christ-like" that the author of the paper, in his "closing words," wished to share them with his audience. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, page 256)
Historians have observed that, before this Parliament, "religion" was classified by many Americans into ethnic religion and universal religion. They considered there being only one universal religion: Christianity. In this view, all previous faiths were ethnic religions, and their purpose was to prepare the people for Christianity; ethnic religions may have had portions of the truth, but only Christianity had all truth. This 1893 Parliament was a pivotal moment in the abolition of such classification, as representatives of "eastern" religions such as Swami Vivekananda and Anagarika Dharmapala promoted a new religious tolerance. (Robert Stockman, personal email, paraphrased, 2012.)

click for larger image
There is a divine plan in all human history. It embraces nations as well as individuals, and stretches on to the end of time. Every nation and people is a part of the plan of God, who has set to each its bounds and its sphere of service to God and man.
For I doubt not through the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened with the process of the suns.
But no nobler service has been given to any people, no nobler mission awaits any nation than that which God has given to those who speak the English tongue.

In 1800 the English-speaking population of the globe numbered 24,000,000. It now numbers not less than 108,000,000, an increase of over 400 per cent, and it rules over two-fifths of the total area of the globe. It stands on a vantage ground of influence. Its voice sounds through the nations.

The four elements which make up it power for good and fit it to be the divine instrument for blessing the world are:

  1. Its historic planting and training,
  2. Its geographical position,
  3. Its physical and political traits,
  4. Its moral and religious character; which combined, constitute:
  5. Its divine call and opportunity, and result in its religious mission, its duty and responsibility.
1. The historic planting and training. In the beginning of the 7th century the Saxon race in Britain embraced the religion of Christ. From that time through nine centuries the hand of God was training, leading, disciplining, and developing that sturdy Northern race until the hidden torch of truth was wrested from its hiding place by Luther, and held aloft for the enlightenment of mankind just at the time when Columbus discovered the continent of America, and opened the new and final area for the activity and highest development of man.

2. The geographical position. A map of the world, with North America in the center, shows at a glance the vantage ground, the strategic position of Great Britain and the United States. Their vast seacoast, the innumerable harbors facing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the maritime instincts of the two nations, their invigorating climate, matchless resources, world-wide commerce, facilities for exploration and travel, and peculiar adaptation to permanent colonization in remote countries, give these people the control of the world's future, and the key to its moral and ethical problems.

While no other European race has succeeded in planting successful colonies and keeping them unmixed with the blood and the vices of inferior races, the Anglo-Saxons have transplanted the vigor of the original stock to the temperate climates of North America, South Africa, and Australia.

These great nations are permeated with the principles of the Bible; their poetry, history, science, and philosophy are moral, pure, religious; they are founded on a belief in the divine existence and Providence, and in final retribution; in the sanctions of law, and in the supremacy of conscience; in man's responsibility to God, and the ruler's responsibility to the people; in the purity of the family, the honor of woman, and the sanctity of home; in the obligation to treat all men — white, black, and tawny — as brothers made in the image of God. Such principles as these are destined to mould and control all mankind. The United States are impressing deeply the semi-Latin populations of South America, and England and America are affecting France.

A sincere religious spirit, a God-fearing integrity, will mould a nation only in one way, and the upward Godward growth of such a people will affect, by its vital energy, other nations and peoples.

5. With such a unique combination of historic, geographical, political, and religious elements, it is easy to see what constitutes the divine call and opportunity, the religious mission and responsibility of these great nations. The true ideal of the religious mission of a nation embraces its entire intellectual, moral, and social relations and duties to its people and to all other peoples.

It is thus a home and a foreign mission. To its own citizens this mission is one of religious liberty, the promotion of Sabbath rest, temperance, social purity, and reverence for the laws of God. The Anglo-American peoples should foster and defend those principles which their fathers fought to secure, and keep pure the foundation whose streams are to gladden and refresh the world.

It is treason to liberty, disloyalty to religion, and a betrayal of the sacred trust we hold from God for our children and our country to surrender the control of our educational system, our moral code, and our holy Sabbath rest from toil to our brethren from other lands, who have come at our disinterested invitation to share in these blessings, but who, as yet hardly free from the shackles of Old World absolutism or the despair-begotten dreams of unbridled license, are not yet assimilated to our essential and vital principles of liberty and law, of perfect freedom of conscience, tempered by the absolute subjection of the individual to the public good.

Let us each rear his own temple for the worship of his God according to his own conscience, but let the schoolhouse be reared by all in common, open and free to all, and patronized by all.

To the civilized nations this mission is one which can only be effective through a consistent, moral example. The English-speaking nations are not set as dumb finger-posts of metal or stone, but as living, speaking, acting guides. They are set for an example — to exhibit reform in act, to shun all occasions of war and denounce its horrors, to show the blessings of arbitration by adopting it as their own settled international practice, and to treat all social questions from the standpoint of conscience and equity. The Alabama and Bering Sea arbitrations have been an object lesson to the world more potent in exhibiting the true spirit of Christianity than millions of printed pages or the persuasive voice of a hundred messengers of the cross.

The recent action of Congress and the House of Commons with regard to a treaty of arbitration is pregnant with promise for the future peace of the nations and cause for profound gratitude to God. It is the religious mission of the English-speaking nations to form a juster estimate of other nations, to treat all men as entitled to respect, to allow conscience its full sway in all dealings with them.

Let these closing years of this noble century of progress be crowned with the glorious spectacle of a heaven-born and heaven-blessed covenant of lasting and inviolable peace between these great nations, one in history, one in faith, one in liberty, one in law, one in future service to God and all mankind.

To the semi-civilized and heathen nations our religious mission is one of helpfulness, uplifting and enlightening. The sympathies of our Christian faith are all with the poor, the suffering, the ignorant, the oppressed. We are bound in honor and gratitude to give to those hundreds of millions the Word of God, that golden key which shall unlock to them all our precious treasure of knowledge and truth, of faith and happiness.

The highly favored Northern races are called by every prompting of the law of love to go to the help of the less-favored continents of the south. Christ bids the strong to help the weak, the blessed to succor the unblessed, the free to deliver the enslaved, the saved to evangelize the unsaved. We owe them the benefits of civilization, the principles of justice, honor, and veracity, our social comforts and joys, intellectual education and uplifting, the relief of physical suffering; the blessings of medical science and skill, and, above all, the bright hopes and celestial promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But we find ourselves confronted and thwarted at the very gateway of the Asiatic and African, as well as the Polynesian races by that monster of hideous mien, the "Sacra auri fames," the accursed European greed for gold—gold earned at any price, gold in exchange for opium, gold for poisonous, maddening liquors, degrading and crazing, with their flood of foulness and death, men, women, and children made in the image of God. African chiefs and insular kings, pagan princes and Mohammedan sheikhs entreat us with tears to save their people from devouring fire enkindled among them by our own countrymen.

American citizens and British subjects vie with each other in pouring these streams of "distilled damnation," these brain poisoning, nerve-destroying narcotics and intoxicants, into the dark continent, the solitary islands, and the colossal empire of China. The European and American liquor traffic in Africa is pronounced by commercial and philanthropic men to be a greater evil than the slave trade and to threaten the entire extirpation of the African race. We are denounced by these children of nature in their helplessness and woe, as worshipers of a god of gold, as willing to sacrifice the bodies and souls of men to this gilded fiend of avarice.

We who are strong and bidden by our Master to bear the infirmities of the weak, and instead of this, men bearing the name of Christians, are shamelessly taking advantage of their weakness for the lowest and most groveling motives, to betray and destroy them. Where is the inspiration of our marvelous providential history? Where the fruitage and out growth of our political, moral and religious training? Where our obedience to the divine call and summons to the rescue of the sons of men? Where our following of the Golden Rule? Where is our sympathy; where our gratitude, where our honor? Let us all resolve that our nation and people shall no longer be compromised by complicity in these accursed forms of sordid traffic.

Our mission is one of peace. Von Moltke, surveying his army of 1,000,000 panoplied warriors, may declare war to be a divine institution; zealous enthusiasts may call for an Anglo-American alliance, which, by its armies and navies, could dictate laws to the world; but we are called to a propagandism of amity and peace. We are to guarantee to our sons and daughters of toll one full day's rest in seven; an equitable adjustment of all social and labor questions that arise; the protection of our children from the gilded tempting cup which at last "biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder."

This, then, is our mission. That we who are made in the image of God should remember that all men are made to God's image. To this divine knowledge we owe all we are, all we hope for. We are rising gradually toward that image and we owe to our fellowmen to aid them in returning to it in the glory of God and the beauty of holiness. It is a celestial privilege and with it comes a high responsibility.

From this responsibility there is no escape. If we are true to it we shall stand up for liberty, truth, and righteousness; we shall be pure; we shall be peaceable; we shall use our wealth, our moral and political power to root out wrong and sin from our homes, our public councils, our land, and our commerce, so that wherever our flags may float, neither slavery, nor the drink traffic, legalized impurity nor illicit trade can lift their heads. The pride of wealth, the consciousness of irresistible military power on land and sea, would soon transform our two great nations from being twin sisters of love and justice, truth and peace, into a double-headed monster of war and ambition, consumed with insatiate greed of universal dominion, and we should at length degenerate into that frightful Hindu ideal of the final age of the world, "the age of progressive misery and all prevailing woe."

In the palace of Behjeh, or Delight, just outside the fortress of Acre on the Syrian coast, there died a few months since a famous Persian sage — the Babi saint, named Beha Allah, the "Glory of God" — the head of that vast reform party of Persian Moslems who accept the New Testament as the word of God, and Christ as the deliverer of man; who regard all natives as one, and all men as brothers. Three years ago he was visited by a Cambridge scholar, and gave utterance to sentiments so noble, so Christlike that we repeat them as our closing words:

That all nations should become one in faith, and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should, and differences of race, be annulled; what harm is there in this? Yet so it shall be. These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the "most great peace" shall come.

Do not you in Europe need this also?

Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this that he loves his kind.

Back to:   Essays and short articles
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
 
.
. .