To the Ministers, Elders, and Members of the Reformed Dutch Church:
It is proper that I give some reasons for the publication of this paper. The importance of the subject of the ecclesiastical organization of the churches gathered in heathen lands, I conceive to be a sufficient reason. Those who may differ in regard to the views set forth in this paper, will not dispute the importance of the subject. Instead of the questions involved having been settled by any of the Presbyterian Denominations of this country (the Dutch Church included among them), by experiments in India or any other heathen land, very few of the churches gathered from the heathen, by these various Denominations, have yet arrived at a stage of development sufficient for practical application of the experiment. (See foot-note, page 160.) There are, however, a few mission churches, where the subject is now becoming one of vast practical importance. The Church at Amoy stands out prominent among these. With the continuance of the divine blessing there will soon be many such. Hence the importance of the discussion, and its importance now.
Many experiments have been made in reference to the best way of conducting the work of missions. The Church has improved by them, and has been compelled to unlearn many things. We are continually returning towards the simple plan laid down in God’s Word. As the Church by experiment and by discussion has thus been led to retrace some of her steps in the preliminary work of missions, should she not be ready to take advantage of experiment and discussion, in reference to the ecclesiastical organization of the mission churches, and stand ready to retrace some of her steps in this second stage of the work of missions, if need be, in order to conform more fully to the doctrines of our Presbyterial church polity? I would use the phrase Scriptural church polity, but I suppose it is the universal belief of our Church, that Presbyterial polity is scriptural. At any rate, it is the duty of the Church to examine the subject carefully. She has nothing to fear from such examination. She should fear to neglect it.
In addition to the importance of the subject in itself considered, I have other reasons for discussing it at the present time. There are mistaken impressions abroad in the Church, concerning the views and course of your missionaries at Amoy, which must be injurious to the cause of missions in our Church. It would seem to be a plain duty to correct these impressions. I will quote an extract from a letter, I recently received, from an honored missionary of a sister Church: