A Letter to Missionaries in Japan
To all the workers in the Matsuye district,
My dear Brothers,
It is laid upon me to write to you about a few things in your daily life, that I may “provoke you to love and to good works” by stirring up your minds once more in remembrance. The power of our lives lies in “little things” and in them we are being tested day by day in the eyes of God, and before the world. If we are not exact in these little things much of our time and work will be wasted.
1. Do you rise early? None of us ought to be in bed after six, so that we may have at least one quiet hour with God for prayer and reading of His word before we meet others, and the day’s work begins. At special times we must get more—but no Christian can afford to take less than that.
I advise you as far as possible to fix your times and how you will spend each day. If you do not plan out your time beforehand, and keep to your plan, you will often fritter away your time in things that may be good, but are not the best work that you can do. But I specially ask you to fix your times of prayer and let nothing interfere with them.
2. Each of you ought to get a good three hours’ study done before midday, in which I include the reading of helpful books on the Bible and on spiritual life, preparation for your addresses, and writing spiritual letters to others. You are bound to be always as busily employed now, as you were when working for man in a secular employment. Yet I fear that there has been some unfaithfulness in this amongst us.
Does any brother say that he does not know what to study? How gladly I would give such a one my advice. Does anyone say he has not suitable books? Gladly will I give you such as you will carefully read—or help you to buy them cheaply.
Make notes of all you read. Mark the books you read. Have an interleaved Bible in which you can write down any helpful thoughts you receive: and freely write in it. Collect anecdotes, for a good anecdote is worth more than a jewel to you. Keep a book specially for them.
3. At noon let us all have fifteen or twenty minutes’ intercession for the whole work and for others. For this write down subjects of intercession and divide them into seven, one for every day of the week. Let us pray for the work round here in the following order:
|Monday||Oki, Sakai, Agarinichi|
|Thursday||Kisuki, Daito, Tambara|
|Friday||Imaichi and the Sea coast of Izumo|
Pray for the workers by name and for the Christians as far as you know them. Pray that the Lord may raise up more Spirit-filled workers throughout Japan.
4. The afternoon must be the time for visiting. Has not this been neglected too much? And yet this face-to-face pleading with souls is one of the greatest means of saving souls. The great revival in Samaria began with a personal talk (John 4).
In visiting take care to get to the point as quickly as possible. You have two things to do, to teach and to bring to repentance. Open your Bible and use it freely. Take care not to degenerate into mere light talk. Aim at getting that soul saved. Do not stay too long. An hour is generally long enough. Longer than that means light talk, and wasted time. Pray before you leave your house for visiting. Pray as you walk to the house. Pray when you have come back, and praise. Specially be careful when you are visiting the Christians to waste no time. Speak to them also pointedly about their souls. Find out whether they are growing in grace and gaining more light from the Word of God. Do they regularly pray and read the Word? Do they get blessing from it? Have they been boldly witnessing amongst their neighbours? Is there anyone to whom they can introduce you? Show that your one aim is their holiness and the extension of His Kingdom. See the children personally. Question them in the faith. And also the servants, if there are any. Encourage each home to have family prayers. If they have not begun it, offer to go to their house and start it for them once or twice and then encourage them to take it on by themselves. But after that also, I advise you going once in a month or so, to lead family prayer in each Christian house.
In Matsuye there are many workers who are not responsible for the Christians. Let them do their own appointed work, which is visiting the unconverted. For them to spend their time in visiting the Christians is waste of time, and often leads to religious gossip, and evil speaking. If you have not enough houses to visit, ask one of the Christians to introduce you to their friends. Or take a handful of tracts and deliver them at every house down three or four streets. And then go again next day to hear how they liked them. Or visit the Kuruma men as they wait for customers. Go to the little steamers, as they leave Matsuye and as they return, and give each passenger a tract. Or preach somewhere in the open air. If you find no such work to do, come and ask me.
5. Between that and the evening meeting I advise you to get your second daily hour for reading the Bible and prayer. If we put this off till bedtime we are often so tired that we cannot really profit by it. Fix the hour and keep to it.
6. In the evenings there will as a rule be meetings to attend. Even if you are not preaching, go to them and pray. Often the one who prays does better work for the meeting than the one who preaches. If you are to preach, you will have prayed much over it beforehand. And you will have thought carefully over what you are going to say and written down the heads. I believe the neglect of these things does not show faith in the Holy Spirit, but does show self- confidence. I advise you to preach the same sermon again and again—each time improving it, and preparing it as carefully as if it were new. If God has really given you a message to deliver, it is well to give it again and again. Wesley used to say that he never considered a sermon much good till he had preached it twenty times. Keep strictly to our rule, and do not preach more than twenty-five to thirty minutes. Take care in your address to impress one point strongly on your hearers. Show them that God expects them to yield on the spot, and be saved.
If the meeting is noisy with interruptions and opposition, I believe it is better not to pray publicly. After the preaching try to get hold of individuals. This is more important than the preaching. Apply the message to their consciences. And if possible do not leave them till they have yielded and found peace with God, however late that may be.
7. Go to rest early for the sake of your work on the following day. After a solemn meeting let there be no light talking. You have been dealing with the eternal interests of precious souls. Burden your soul before God for them and then go to rest.
This is how I ask you to spend your days. Let there be no time lost. Do not waste time over doing something good when you might be doing something better. Shun idleness as you would the plague. Take care how you spend your money, as I wrote to you before. Let everyone of you be able to play some musical instrument. Practise singing our hymns, and learn them by heart.
Let Sundays be given wholeheartedly to seeking God. Let it be a day of rich blessing in your own soul. Avoid anything that might hinder that. Make the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable. (Isaiah 58: 13)
On Mondays go out to the “regions beyond” your usual work. Go to some villages with a bundle of tracts, and preach in the open air, and try and get some individuals saved. Take the opportunity and go to some quiet wood or mountain by the way and hold communion with God.
Finally, brothers, love one another. Give no place for the devil to come in amongst us. Do not judge one another, or despise one another, or envy one another. Do not speak disrespectfully or coldly of one another. Never repeat each other’s faults. But rather often pray with one another and for one another. Thus shall all men see that we are His disciples. And better than that, by this they will believe that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
— From the Reward of Faith in the Life of Barclay Buxton