“A young man should ask himself not if it is his duty to go to the heathen, but if he may dare stay at home. The command is so plain: ‘Go.’” – Lottie Moon, Nov. 1, 1873, Tungchow District, Beijing, China
I first heard the story of Lottie Moon from a dead man.
Specifically, it was a recording of W.A. Criswell’s Whether We Live or Die which was recorded from his delivery to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention , that year (6/10/85) being held in Dallas, TX.
Largely Dr. Criswell told of Moon’s erstwhile fiance, Crawford Howell Toy. Toy was a scholar virtually without peer and a man from conservative Baptist stock but one who, sadly, consigned himself to the role of apostate.
What stuck out about Moon in Dr. Criswell’s telling, however, was that Lottie Moon was a woman who loved Christ, His gospel, and the men and women of China created in His image who yet knew nothing of His saving work. She was a pioneer in women’s missions and, perhaps even more importantly, was used of God to drive forward the funding of international missions in a way rarely seen in church history. This is why, if you are Southern Baptist, you will see her name so often at Christmas time (more on that below).
I was pleased to find today that Dr. Criswell had told Lottie’s story more fully in another sermon of his. You’ll find his account below and I assure you that, if you love Christ, it will be well worth your time to read.
[Lottie Moon] died Christmas Eve in 1912 in a ship riding at anchor in Kobe, Japan. Kobe is a city, as with so many of the cities in Japan, built on the side of a mountain that rises out of the sea. And as you go up the side of the mountain, up there is a missionary’s home. And I was a guest in the missionary’s home. I wanted to be left alone for a while, as I sat there and looked out over the beautiful harbor of Kobe. And I just reviewed in my mind the life of this great, godly emissary of Jesus. Could I review it for you, as I did there in Kobe, looking out over the spacious harbor of blue water below me?
She was born in 1840, in Albemarle County, in the heart of Virginia, not very far from Monticello, the home of Jefferson Davis. . .Thomas Jefferson—I’m a good Confederate still, I tell you—the home of Thomas Jefferson. She was born into an affluent, aristocratic Virginia family. The county seat of Albemarle County is Charlottesville, where Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. And in that day, so long ago, the school for girls, which was a new development then, a school for girls had been founded in Charlottesville. This affluent family sent their daughter, Lottie Charlotte Moon, to the school in Charlottesville.
There was a teacher there by the name of John A. Broadus. He was also the pastor of the Baptist church. Dr. John A. Broadus was the most gifted scholar our Southern Baptist people have ever produced. He later became president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Broadus, in 1859, won this gifted, brilliant young girl to the saving faith we know in our blessed Lord Jesus, and he baptized her into the fellowship of the Baptist church at Charlottesville, Virginia.
She became a teacher and was with Miss Safford, the two of them, teachers in a girls school founded in Cartersville, Georgia. In February of 1873, the pastor of the church in Cartersville, Georgia, Dr. R. B. Heddon, attended a Baptist association, at which a flaming missionary sermon was preached. And when the message was delivered, Dr. Heddon stood up and proposed a covenant of prayer in behalf of all the deacons and pastors there, and the following Sunday that each preacher deliver a missionary sermon at his church and make an appeal for Christ and the foreign field. Dr. Heddon stood in his pulpit the following Sunday and preached on the text, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields: they are white unto the harvest” [John 4:35]. “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers” [Matthew 9:38]. And when he preached his sermon and gave the appeal, to the amazement of the citizens of Cartersville, their two teachers in the girls school walked down the aisle, Miss Moon and Miss Safford, and gave themselves to God to be missionaries in China.
Christmas that year of 1873, she began her work in Shan Tung, a province of north China, in Ting Chou, an ancient Chinese city with a wall around it; and for forty years, in Ting Chou, as a teacher, and in Ping Tu, an area about a hundred fifteen miles away, as an evangelist, in which field our Southern Baptist people reap our greatest harvest of souls in evangelism; in those two fields she devoted her life for forty years.
There is a devotion in this missionary, Lottie Moon, that has moved my heart to gratitude, to admiration for these years since I first was introduced to her life. She lived, she died, a single woman, alone. She was never married. Why? When she was in school in Charlottesville, there was a brilliant young student and professor who fell in love with her, and her heart responded to him. When she went away to be a missionary to the Orient, she continued to write to him and he to her. And they set a wedding date. And Miss Lottie Moon wrote to her family: she was returning to America to be married, after which both of them would return to the Orient, and either in Japan or in China, live their lives as a missionary couple.
This young man was, I suppose, the most brilliant, the most scholarly intellectual of all of the young men of his generation. As a young man he was invited to be professor of Hebrew on the faculty of our oldest seminary, the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In his education he went to Germany; and in Germany he was introduced to German rationalism and German higher criticism. That is a study of the authenticity of the books in the Word of God. And as you would know by the characterization of German rationalism, it looks upon the Bible as anyone would look upon any other antique document: no more of God than Homer; and the stories told in the Bible, no more likely to have happened than the stories of Greek mythology, Jason and the Golden Fleece, the exploits of Agamemnon, or Pericles, or Paris and Achilles of the war in Troy; that’s German rationalism. And this young man opened his heart to that repudiation of the Word of God; and he began to teach it in the seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.
Dr. James P. Boyce, who was president of the seminary, Dr. John A. Broadus, who succeeded him, those two men talked to the brilliant young professor, “You cannot teach in our seminary believing that the stories in the Old Testament are myths and legends and spiritual parables.” What a far cry from the day when God blessed our Southern Baptist people, and this day, when He is beginning to take away His favor. “You cannot teach,” said Dr. Boyce and Dr. Broadus, “You cannot teach in this Baptist seminary and believe that the Word of God is myth and legend and parable, with no substance in reality; that there’s no Adam and Eve, that there was no garden of Eden, that the laws of Moses in his books are concoctions by a list of unknown authors that they documentize until it becomes a foolish fragment,” on and on.
Dr. Broadus, Dr. Boyce accompanied this brilliant professor, Crawford H. Toy—if you are a theologian, the author of the book on Proverbs, in the International Critical Commentary—they accompanied Dr. Toy to the railroad station in Louisville. Dr. Boyce put his arm around him, and raising his right hand to heaven, said, “Crawford, I would give this right arm if you were as you were when you came to us at the Southern Seminary here in Louisville.” He left, he became a professor of Hebrew at the Unitarian Harvard Divinity School, the Harvard Divinity School that the Unitarians captured. He joined the Unitarian church. Finally he didn’t bother to go to church at all. That’s the man.
Lottie Moon and Dr. Crawford H. Toy set a date to be married. But in those days, as the letters crossed the Pacific Ocean, she learned of Dr. Toy’s German rational acceptance; the repudiation of the Word of God. And in her missionary life, she had come to feed upon the Holy Scriptures, to believe in them as veritably the inspired message of the living Lord. And finding the repudiation of the Holy Scriptures by the brilliant young professor Dr. Toy, she wrote him and said, “I cannot find it in my heart to marry someone to whom the Bible is not the Word of God.”
She broke off the engagement. She lived her life, forty years a missionary, alone. One time wrote, when she drew out of her bank the last savings she had to buy bread for starving Chinese, she wrote across the little book of deposit, “I pray that no missionary shall ever be as lonely as I.” I salute the memory of Lottie Moon.
As I mentioned above, Lottie Moon’s name adorns the Christmas-season offering taking by Southern Baptist churches across the globe. It is fitting, considering Lottie’s own push to see some of the material bounty distributed during this season aimed at spreading the fame of the Lord’s name. In her own words,
Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of The Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of the human race, the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches and scant poverty to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth? (Sept. 15, 1887, Tungchow District, Beijing, China).