The Continent of South America was discovered by Spanish navigators towards the end of the fifteenth century. When the tidings of a new world beyond the seas reached Europe, Spanish and Portuguese expeditions vied with each other in exploring its coasts and sailing up its mighty rivers.

In 1494 the Pope decided that these new lands, which were nearly twice the size of Europe, should become the possession of the monarchs of Spain and Portugal. Thus by right of conquest and gift South America with its seven and a half million miles of territory and its millions of Indian inhabitants was divided between Spain and Portugal. The eastern northern half, now called Brazil, became the possession of the Portuguese crown and the rest of the continent went to the crown of Spain. South America is 4,600 miles from north to south, and its greatest breadth from east to west is 3,500 miles. It is a country of plains and mountains and rivers. The Andean range of mountains is 4,400 miles long. Twelve peaks tower three miles or more above ocean level, and some reach into the sky for more than four miles. Many of these are burning mountains; the volcano of Cotopaxi is three miles higher than Vesuvius. Its rivers are among the longest in the world. The Amazon, Orinoco and La Plata systems drain an area of 3,686,400 square miles. Its plains are almost boundless and its forests limitless. There are deserts where no rain ever falls, and there are stretches of coast line where no day ever passes without rain. It is a country where all climates can be found. As the northern part of the continent is equatorial the greatest degree of heat is there experienced, while the south stretches its length toward the Pole Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is on the equator, and Punta Arenas, in Chile, is the southernmost town in the world.

For hundreds of years Spain and Portugal exploited and ruled with an iron hand their new and vast possessions. Their coffers were enriched by fabulous sums of gold and treasure, for the wildest dream of riches indulged in by its discoverers fell infinitely short of the actual reality. Large numbers of colonists left the Iberian peninsula for the newer and richer lands. Priests, monks and nuns went in every vessel, and the Roman Catholicism of the Dark Ages was soon firmly established as the only religion. The aborigines were compelled to bow before the crucifix and worship Mary until, in a peculiar sense, South America became the Pope's favorite parish. For the benefit of any, native or colonist, who thought that a purer religion should be, at any rate, permitted, the Inquisition was established at Lima, and later on at Cartagena, where, Colombian history informs us, 400,000 were condemned to death. Free thought was soon stamped out when death became the penalty.

Such was the wild state of the country and the power vested in the priests that abuses were tolerated which, even in Rome, had not been dreamed of. The priests, as anxious for spiritual conquest as the rest were for physical, joined hands with the heathenism of the Indians, accepted their gods of wood and stone as saints, set up the crucifix side by side with the images of the sun and moon, formerly worshipped; and while in Europe the sun of the Reformation arose and dispelled the terrible night of religious error and superstition, South America sank from bad to worse. Thus the anomaly presented itself of the old, effete lands throwing off the yoke of religious domination while the younger ones were for centuries to be content with sinking lower and lower. [Footnote: History is repeating itself, for here in Canada we see Quebec more Catholic and intolerant than Italy. The Mayor of Rome dared to criticize the Pope in 1910, but in the same year at the Eucharistic Congress at Montreal his emissaries receive reverent "homage" from those in authority. No wonder, therefore, that, while the Romans are being more enlightened every year, a Quebec young man, who is now a theological student in McMaster University, Toronto, declared, while staying in the writer's home, that, as a child he was always taught that Protestants grew horns on their heads, and that he attained the age of 15 before ever he discovered that such was not the case. Even backward Portugal has had its eyes opened to see that Rome and progress cannot walk together, but the President of Brazil is so "faithful" that the Pope, in 1910, made him a "Knight of the Golden Spur."]

If the religious emancipation of the old world did not find its echo in South America, ideas of freedom from kingly oppression began to take root in the hearts of the people, and before the year 1825 the Spanish colonies had risen against the mother country and had formed themselves into several independent republics, while three years before that the independence of Brazil from Portugal had been declared. At the present day no part of the vast continent is ruled by either Spain or Portugal, but ten independent republics have their different flags and governments.

Since its early discovery South America has been pre-eminently a country of bloodshed. Revolution has succeeded revolution and hundreds of thousands of the bravest have been slain, but, phoenix- like, the country rises from its ashes.

Fifty millions of people now dwell beneath the Southern Cross and speak the Portuguese and Spanish languages, and it is estimated that, with the present rate of increase, 180 millions of people will speak these languages by 1920.

South America is, pre-eminently, the coming continent. It is more thinly settled than any other part of the world. At least six million miles of its territory are suitable for immigrants - double the available territory of the United States. "No other tract of good land exists that is so large and so unoccupied as South America." [Footnote: Dr. Wood, Lima, Peru, in "Protestant Missions in South America."] "One of the most marvellous of activities in the development of virgin lands is in progress. It is greater than that of Siberia, of Australia, or the Canadian North-West." [Footnote: The Outlook, March, 1908.] Emigrants are pouring into the continent from crowded Europe, the old order of things is quickly passing away, and docks and railroads are being built. Bolivia is spending more than fifty million dollars in new work. Argentina and Chile are pushing lines in all directions. Brazil is preparing to penetrate her vast jungles, and all this means enormous expense, for the highest points and most difficult construction that have ever been encountered are found in Peru, and between Chile and Argentina there has been constructed the longest tunnel in the world. [Footnote: One railway ascends to the height of 12,800 feet.]

Most important of all, the old medieval Romanism of the Dark Ages is losing its grip upon the masses, and slowly, but surely, the leaven is working which will, before another decade, bring South America to the forefront of the nations.

The economic possibilities of South America cannot be overestimated. It is a continent of vast and varied possibilities. There are still districts as large as the German Empire entirely unexplored, and tribes of Indians who do not yet know that America has been "discovered."

This is a continent of spiritual need. The Roman Catholic Church has been a miserable failure. "Nearly 7,000,000 of people in South America still adhere, more or less openly, to the fetishisms of their ancestors, while perhaps double that number live altogether beyond the reach of Christian influence, even if we take the word Christian in its widest meaning." [Footnote: Report of Senor F. de Castello] The Rev. W. B. Grubb, a missionary in Paraguay, says: "The greatest unexplored region at present known on earth is there. It contains, as far as we know, 300 distinct Indian nations, speaking 300 distinct languages, and numbering some millions, all in the darkest heathenism." H. W. Brown, in "Latin America," says, "There is a pagan population of four to five millions." Then, with respect to the Roman Catholic population, Rev. T. B. Wood, LL.D., in "Protestant Missions in South America," says, "South America is a pagan field, properly speaking. Its image-worship is idolatry. Abominations are grosser and more universal than among Roman Catholics in Europe and the United States, where Protestantism has greatly modified Catholicism. But it is worse off than any other great pagan field in that it is dominated by a single mighty hierarchy - the mightiest known in history. For centuries priestcraft has had everything its own way all over the continent, and is now at last yielding to outside pressure, but with desperate resistance."

"South America has been for nearly four hundred years part of the parish of the Pope. In contrast with it the north of the New World - Puritan, prosperous, powerful, progressive - presents probably the most remarkable evidence earth affords of the blessings of Protestantism, while the results of Roman Catholicism left to itself are writ large in letters of gloom across the priest-ridden, lax and superstitious South. Her cities, among the gayest and grossest in the world, her ecclesiastics enormously wealthy and strenuously opposed to progress and liberty, South America groans under the tyranny of a priesthood which, in its highest forms, is unillumined by, and incompetent to preach, the gospel of God's free gift; and in its lowest is proverbially and habitually drunken, extortionate and ignorant. The fires of her unspeakable Inquisition still burn in the hearts of her ruling clerics, and although the spirit of the age has in our nineteenth century transformed all her monarchies into free Republics, religious intolerance all but universally prevails." [Footnote: Guiness's "Romanism and Reformation."]

Prelates and priests, monks and nuns exert an influence that is all-pervading. William E. Curtis, United States Commissioner to South America, wrote: "One-fourth of all the property belongs to the bishop. There is a Catholic church for every 150 inhabitants. Ten per cent. of the population are priests, monks or nuns, and 272 out of the 365 days of the year are observed as fast or feast days. The priests control the government and rule the country as absolutely as if the Pope were its king. As a result, 75 per cent. of the children born are illegitimate, and the social and political condition presents a picture of the dark ages." It is said that, in one town, every fourth person you meet is a priest or a nun, or an ecclesiastic of some sort.

Yet, with all this to battle against, the Christian missionary is making his influence felt.

La Razon, an important newspaper of Trujillo, in a recent issue says: "In homage to truth, we make known with pleasure that the ministers of Protestantism have benefited this town more in one year than all the priests and friars of the Papal sect have done in three centuries."

"Last year," writes Mr. Milne, of the American Bible Society, "one of our colporteurs in Ayacucho had to make his escape by the roof of a house where he was staying, from a mob of half-castes, led on by a friar. Finding their prey had escaped, they took his clothes and several boxes of Bibles to the plaza of the city and burnt them."

It was not such a going-back as the outside world thought, but, oh, it was a deeply significant one, when recently the leading men of the Republic of Guatemala met together and solemnly threw over the religion of their fathers, which, during 400 years of practice, had failed to uplift, and re-established the old paganism of cultured Rome. So serious was this step that the Palace of Minerva, the goddess of trade, is engraved on the latest issue of Guatemalan postage stamps. Believing that the few Protestants in the Republic are responsible for the reaction, the Archbishop of Guatemala has promised to grant one hundred days' indulgence to those who will pray for the overthrow of Protestantism in that country.

"Romanism is not Christianity," so the few Christian workers are fighting against tremendous odds. What shall the harvest be?