In June 1860 the Keppel Street Church in London, with a membership of around 170, resolved on conscientious grounds. to dissolve their connection with the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society and commence a Strict Baptist Mission on a new and independent basis. For many years there had been disquiet about the open communionism and arminianising tendencies in the older Society. The Suffolk Strict Baptists had no hand in the decision to form a new Society, but the Suffolk based editor of the Gospel Herald commented,
we wish to commend. this interesting and, we believe, scriptural undertaking, to the support of all who desire to see the gospel in its simplicity and purity proclaimed in heathen lands, and the ordinances of the New Testament maintained.
An additional reason for dissatisfaction with existing Societies was the amount spent on administration, George Pearson, the first Honorary Secretary of the new Society, contrasted the constitution and working of a modern Missionary Society, with its paid officers, its spacious Mission House, and its centralisation, to the simplicity of the sending out of Saul and Barnabas from the Church at Antioch (Acts 13). A few months later the editor of the Gospel Herald quoted a writer in The Times who had subjected the accounts of a number of large Missionary Societies. `to a searching examination, showing how much of the receipts was swallowed up in home expenses and salaries’;. Accordingly, expenses were kept to the barest minimum: there were no salaried staff, no premises, a room had to be hired for the monthly committee meetings, which in 1886 cost £1. 4s. 0d!
For over 30 years the work of the Mission was carried on by agents and native Indians. The most prominent of these workers was H.F. Doll, an Anglo-Indian civil servant who, in 1867, undertook to superintend evangelistic work in and around the city of Madras on a voluntary basis, where he was already the recognised pastor of a Church. He laboured faithfully for 20 years, hut neither the Committee nor the many supporters of the Mission had ever seen him face to face. The Committee therefore decided to invite him to this country, ‘feeling assured that our friends will fully justify the course we have taken, and that the best interests of the Mission, both pecuniary and otherwise, will be abundantly promoted thereby’;. The visit materialised, he was welcomed by a number of supporting Churches, but his stay was all too brief.
By 1894 contributions from about 100 Churches and Sunday Schools were supporting, ’71 stations and sub-stations in India and Ceylon, 68 agents and workers’. With an income of about £1000, support and interest was being sustained, but there were clear disadvantages in the lack of personal contact with those who were supervising the work in India. Accordingly, in November 1894, a day of prayer was called, when the purpose, in continual prayer from 8.00 a.m. until 8.00 p.m., was to ask the Lord to call missionaries from the Churches to direct and develop the work in South India. Shortly afterwards, Samuel Hutchinson and Ernest Booth offered themselves for service. Both were accepted, and they sailed for India in the following February. These beginnings were unpretentious, but ‘a long standing reproach was being wiped away’, that Strict Baptists are not interested in the spread of the gospel.
In an address given at the Annual Meetings in 1893, John Hunt Lynn of New Cross, said, “Our Mission should be a golden vein in all our church life, and a silken cord tying our hearts to united action … we should be the most earnest evangelists on earth”.
Dr Kenneth Dix