Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Uncommon Christians" by Henry W. Frost (1858-1945), China Inland Mission

In his 1914 essay "Uncommon Christians" for the China Island Mission, the North American Director for CIM (1893-1929), Henry W. Frost, wrote,

[The Lord Jesus Christ] desires that no disciple should remain a common Christian, but rather that every disciple should become, at once and forever, an uncommon Christian. . . . 
[There] is a multitude of common Christians; but, comparatively, there is but a small body of uncommon Christians. So then, things are terribly wrong.
And it is no light matter that this is so, since it is this living on common planes of life which makes common action possible and uncommon action impossible. For a low-living church will never produce anything else but a low-level product of experience.
It is a vital question, therefore, what the Master means when He declares that He would have His disciples to be uncommon Christians. And it is this question which we desire to face, and as far as possible, to answer.
What then is an uncommon Christian?

Frost bases his 16-page essay and the term "uncommon Christian" on Scottish Bible translator Robert Young (1822-1888)--of Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible (1879) and Young's Literal Translation (1862) fame--and Young's suggestion that the Lord Jesus' words in John 10:10 can be translated as, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it above the common."

Henry W. Frost (1858-1945)
According to Frost, an "uncommon" Christian (i.e., "above the common" Christian) is one who

(1) makes God's Word his only, his full, and his constant rule of faith and practice;

(2) lives out his life, having no confidence in the flesh, but having all confidence in the person and power of the Holy Spirit;

(3) makes the Lord Jesus Christ once and forever the absolute Lord of his life;

(4) has the vision of those who walk in heavenly places, and who thus sees things from the heavenly and larger standpoint; and

(5) gives his life irrevocably to God for the saving and sanctifying of the souls of men.

Published by CIM in Philadelphia and Toronto, the entirety of the 1914 essay is available online (in PDF format) and at no cost thanks to Cornell University Library's Wason Pamphlet Collection (vol. 91, pamphlet 21).

The essay gives no indication if Frost borrowed the "uncommon Christian" term from, or was influenced by, James Brainerd Taylor (1801-1829), the Second Great Awakening evangelist who most likely coined or originated the term some 90 years prior.

J. B. Taylor, a Connecticut native and maternal cousin of the famed missionary David Brainerd (1818-1847), defined an "uncommon" Christian as one who is an "eminently holy, self-denying, cross-bearing, Bible, everyday" Christian. Among others, the prominent Scottish missionary-explorer to Africa, David Livingstone (1813-1873), was inspired to become an "uncommon Christian" by his reading of the popular Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor (New York and London, 1833).

Detroit-born and a graduate of Princeton University, the American Presbyterian pioneer missionary Henry W. Frost (1858-1945) was responsible for establishing an American headquarters for the China Inland Mission. Founded in 1865 in Great Britain by missionary J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), CIM relocated its offices to the U.S. in 1901. In 1965, CIM changed its name to the Overseas Missionary Fellowship. Today, OMF International is headquartered in Colorado.

On the 50th anniversary of its first appearing in 1938, OMF Books republished in 1988 Dr. and Mrs. Howard and Geraldine Taylor's 364-page By Faith: Henry W. Frost and the China Inland Mission.

By Faith: Henry W. Frost and the
China Inland Mission

(1938, reprint 1988)

For an entry on the "uncommon Christian" H. W. Frost in the nearly 2,500-entry, 845-page Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions (page 230, Gerald H. Anderson, ed., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999), see here.

As the BDCM entry notes, Frost was a contributor to The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. In the historic 90-essay, 12-volume set (1910-15), he wrote the essays on "Consecration" (in vol. 10) and "What Missionary Motives Should Prevail?" (vol. 12). As of 1999 when the BDCM was published, Frost's 900-plus-page unpublished autobiography was stored at the OMF International archives in Toronto, Canada.


Leeanne said...

Reading Joni Earickson Tada's book 'A Place of Healing' she refers to a book by Henry Frost. This sent me to Wikipedia to find out more about him and wonder if there could be any link with Methosist Minister Rev Rob Frost. Certainly they both have (had as sadly Rob died several tears ago) a great calling to ' Share Jesus'!

Leeanne said...

This book is referred to in a book by Joni Earickson Tada. 'A Place of Healing'. Any link with Rev Rob Frost (UK)?

Francis Kyle said...

Hi Leeanne, thanks for the note. Don't know if there is any link between the American Presbyterian Henry Frost (1858-1945) and the late British Methodist Robert Frost (1950-2007). Seems unlikely.