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THE EARLY DAYS OF THE GREAT MISSION
THE year 1892, the centenary of the foundation of
the Baptist Missionary Society, is a fitting time to take some note of the humble twig from which has sprung the magnificent growth of Foreign Missionsa growth, moreover, which, notwithstanding its noble proportions, is as nothing compared with that vastness whereunto, under God, it will doubtless hereafter attain.
To whom belongs the honor of first pressing the claims of the heathen on the Christianity of this country it is difficult to say, but it must be remembered that in the spring of the year 1784, at a meeting of the Northamptonshire Baptist churches, it was agreed, on the motion of the Rev. John Sutcliff of Olney, to set apart an hour on the evening of the first Monday in
every month for social prayer for the success of the Gospel, and to invite Christians of other denominations to unite with them in it. The measure thus recommended was eagerly adopted by great numbers of the churches, and so marked a revival of religion ensued that it was afterwards regarded by the associated ministers and the missionaries as the actual commencement of the Missionary movement.
The Rev. John Sutcliff, who was born at a place called Straithey, near Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, in 1752, was trained for the ministry at Bristol College, then under the care of the Revs. Hugh and Caleb Evans. A paper containing "a view" of Mr. Sutcliff's studies during one year, and the letter in which, when about to leave college, he thanks his tutors for “all favours conferred upon him," are in the possession of Sir William Thomas Lewis. Mr. Sutcliff was tall of stature, being over six feet; and another distinctive feature of his personal appearance was a very decided Roman nose, which was responsible for several amusing anecdotes. A Baptist minister of my acquaintance relates them with great unction, but as so much depends upon the way they are told, I shall make no attempt to reproduce them here. Mr. Sutcliff lived in a large house adjoining the chapel. It was owned by and the residence of a Mrs. Andrews, a member of his congregation. The house is still standing, though much altered. A stone near the roof is thus cut: