Now, without doubt the sending of the missionaries has vastly improved conditions of human life in the foreign-mission lands. The missionaries have been the forerunners of great improvements. They have been the pioneers blazing out the paths along which both trade and diplomacy have gone with the newer and better civilization of the West. Civilization has developed marvellously in the western half of the world. And the missionaries have been its advance agents into the stagnant East, and the savage wilds of the southern hemisphere.
Full, accurate knowledge of nature's resources and laws, and adaptation of that knowledge to practical uses, have been among the most marked conditions of the western world during the past century. And, as a result, education, medical and hygienic and sanitary science, development of the earth's soil, and resources above and below the soil, have gone forward by immense strides. So far as is known, our progress in such matters exceeds all previous achievements in the history of the race.
And some of all this has been seeping into the heathen world. It hasn't gotten in far yet; only into the top soil, and about the edges, so far. The progress in this regard has seemed both rapid and slow. When the great mass of these peoples have not yet gotten even a whiff of the purer, better civilization air of the western nations the progress seems slow. But when we remember the incalculably tremendous inertia, and the strangely stagnant spirit of heathen lands, it seems rapid.
The effort to get the heathen world simply to clean up; to open the windows and let in some fresh air, and use plain soap and water to scrub off the actual dirt makes one think of the typical small boy's dislike of being washed up. It has been a hard job. Yet a great beginning has been made. The boy seems to be beginning to find out that his face is dirty, and feels dirty. And that is an enormous gain.