| 1. C. T. Studd
2. D. E. Hoste
3. W. W. Cassels
4. S. P. Smith
|5. C. Polhill-Turner
6. A. Polhill-Turner
7. M. Beauchamp
Eighteen months have passed since the death of Harold Schofield from typhus fever, far away in inland China. Instead of the early dawning of a long, hot summer day over a Chinese city, we stand in the gloaming of a chill, wet January night in London's busy Strand. Down pours the persistent rain. But crowds of people throng the entrances to Exeter Hall, regardless of weather, and the great area of the building is filled to its utmost limit, long before the hour fixed for assembly.
Evidently some deep interest and strong enthusiasm move this vast throng. What is it that has brought them thus together? Only a missionary meeting? Surely one of unusual interest!
Enter with the multitudes. It is a sight that even Exeter Hall, with its long roll of enthusiastic gatherings, rarely equals. Hundreds of young men throng the vast building, mingling with a representative gathering of all ranks and ages, of all sections of the Church and grades in social life. Upon the platform, amongst others waiting for the speakers, is a deputation of forty undergraduates from Cambridge.
It is not difficult to discover the centre of interest to-night. Across the hall large maps of China are suspended, showing the stations of the Inland Mission.
A missionary farewell has summoned this great multitude. Seven young men are upon the eve of starting for work in inland China. Who are they? And how comes it that their going has awakened such enthusiastic interest?
The answer is on every lip—"The Cambridge Band sail tomorrow. Tonight is their farewell. Five from the University, and two young officers from crack regiments, have together given themselves to the work of GOD in China; not only relinquishing brilliant prospects and social distinction, to become poor missionaries, but actually joining the China Inland Mission, which means so much! They are going to put on Chinese dress and braided tail; going to bury themselves, nobody knows where, in the heart of that strange land, to live in the people's houses and eat their food, and rough it in long, trying journeys and all sorts of other ways. Strange infatuation! and yet they seem intensely happy about it—count it quite an honour and privilege, and never can be got to say a word as to any sacrifice involved."
Silence steals over the vast assembly. The Chairman enters, and with him the outgoing band. Stanley P. Smith, and his friend, C. T. Studd, from Trinity College, Cambridge, both distinguished in the athletic world; the Rev. W. W. Cassels, of St. John's; Montagu Beauchamp and Arthur Polhill-Turner, from Trinity, and Ridley Hall; D. E. Hoste, late of the Royal Artillery; and Cecil Polhill-Turner, of the 2nd Dragoon Guards. Young all of them — in the full strength and vigour of their manhood—embodying all that is noblest and best in the estimation of their fellows, all that most readily stirs admiration, and wins regard. No wonder the heart of Christian England was moved. Consecration to the work of missions is not, thank GOD, unusual in our day.
But when before," wrote one who was present, "were the stroke of a University eight, the captain of a University eleven, an officer of the Royal Artillery, and an officer of the Dragoon Guards seen standing side by side, renouncing the careers in which they had already gained no small distinction, putting aside the splendid prizes of earthly ambition which they might reasonably expect to win, taking leave of the social circles in which they shone with no mean brilliance, and plunging into that warfare whose splendours are seen by faith alone, and whose rewards seem so shadowy to the unopened vision of ordinary men? "It was a sight to stir the heart, and a striking testimony to the power of the uplifted CHRIST to draw to Himself not the weak, the emotional, and the illiterate only, but all that is noblest in strength and finest in culture."
One glance at the faces of these men is enough to assure the most casual observer that they are intensely in earnest, and that they are filled with a peace and joy the world cannot give. As they address the assembled multitudes, not one heart but is convinced of the loftiness of their aims, the depth and devotion of their love to CHRIST, and the grandeur of the cause to which their lives are given.
"We began to understand," wrote one, "how much more noble a sphere of service was offered by CHRIST to young men with great possessions and good abilities, than any the cricket field, or the river, the army, or the bar could afford."
Earnest, loving words of eloquence and power carry home the message so deeply upon their hearts. It is CHRIST alone they preach. The joy of being His; the joy of living to serve and love Him; of leading others into His liberty and light; of following Him even into lives of self-emptying, loneliness, and toil—for the life of the world; and the necessity for absolute self-surrender and obedience if one would know the rest in Him and peace that passes understanding. And then, the depth of our indebtedness to those who know not GOD.
"We are all under obligation to spread the knowledge of a good thing," said Mr. Stanley Smith. "It is simply this fact, coupled with our having clearly heard the Master's call, that is sending us out to China.
"We do not go to that far field to tell of doctrines merely, but of a living, present, reigning CHRIST...
"We want to come to the Chinaman, buried in theories and prejudices, and bound by chains of lust, and say to him, 'Brother, I bring you an almighty Saviour!' And it is our earnest hope and desire that the outcome of this meeting will be that scores and scores of those whom we now see before us will ere long go forth not to China only, but to every part of the world, to spread the glorious Gospel.
"For years in England we have been debtors... And the knowledge of this precious JESUS, who to most of us is everything in the world, is absolutely wanting to thousands and millions of our fellow-men and women today.
"What are we going to do? What is the use of great meetings like this if the outcome is not to be something worthy of the name of JESUS? He wants us to take up our Cross and follow Him,—to leave fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, property, and everything we hold dear, to carry the Gospel to the perishing...
"Oh, to think that Gordon at Khartoum has but to speak a word, and millions of money go from England .. .and in Egypt our noblest and bravest shed their blood... A greater than Gordon appeals to the Church. From the Cross of Calvary the voice of JESUS still cries...'I thirst'
"Ah, that Divine thirst! It has not yet been quenched. It has hardly begun to be quenched.
"He thirsts for the Chinese, the African, the Hindu, the South American. Are there none here who would fain quench His thirst? Would you pass by that CHRIST? Behold His agony! You could not do so had you seen Him in the flesh. But now He thirsts with a deeper than bodily thirst. With His great soul He thirsts for the millions of this earth.
"David once thirsted for the waters of Bethlehem...and three of his followers broke through the ranks of the enemy, and, at the risk of their lives, brought him that water...
"Shall not this Mightier than David have His thirst quenched tonight? Shall not the Divine LORD have His thirst quenched? Shall not the Man of Sorrows have His great heart rejoiced by men and women offering themselves for the work of spreading the glorious Gospel? CHRIST yearns over this earth. What are we going to do? ...
"Does some one ask, 'What is it that is sending you out?' We cannot tell you tonight of visions or dreams; but we can point...to the great needs of the heathen abroad that prevent us from staying in England.
"And now a last word. How can one leave such an audience as this? It seems to me as if CHRIST has come right into our midst, and has looked into each face amongst us — men and women, old and young. To each He comes with tender love...and, pointing to the wounds in His pierced side, He asks, 'Lovest thou Me?'...
"'Yes, LORD, Thou knowest that I love Thee.'
"What is the test of love?...'Keep My commandments.'
What is the test of friendship? 'Slake My thirst.' 'Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.'
"And what, Master, do you command? 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.'"
The results of that evening's meeting in blessing to the world, eternity alone will reveal.
But why recall a scene so familiar to most of us? To link it with another, that may be more deeply connected with it than we think. Only eighteen months before, in the summer of 1883, a solitary figure knelt in the little study on the inner courtyard of a Chinese dwelling in distant SHAN-SI. Harold Schofield's prayers that GOD would send out to China—send to that very spot—men of culture, education, and distinguished gifts, intellectual as well as spiritual, were silent now. His work seemed to have ended with an early death and lonely grave upon the eastern hills above the city. But was it done? Had those prayers no connection with the sailing of this group?
"About the end of 1883," said Stanley Smith—first of the Cambridge Band to give himself to GOD for missionary work—"About the end of 1883 I wrote to Mr. Taylor telling him I wanted to come out to China."
Not long, that, between the prayer and answer! Had Dr. Schofield but known it, he might have echoed the prophet's words, "Whiles I was speaking in prayer."...For at the beginning of his prayer the commandment went forth, and at the very time he was pleading with GOD, this young heart was being prepared for the call and consecration that were to bring the answer. Stanley Smith volunteered before the year closed. And two years later he and four of his companions from Cambridge were working on the T'ai-yuen plain, in the very towns and cities that had so heavily burdened Dr. Schofield's heart.
Nor was this all. Part of the missionary's plea had been that GOD would pour out a great blessing upon the Universities at home; that large numbers of college men might be converted, and consecrate their lives to foreign work.
One of the most remarkable features of the out-going of the Cambridge Band in 1885 was the way in which their departure was used to bring this about. During that year the University of Edinburgh experienced a wonderful revival—the first wave of an incoming tide of unparalleled spiritual life and power. In February 1885 Dr. Moxey wrote:—
"The event that has precipitated the shower of blessing that has fallen in our midst is the recent visit of the two young Christian athletes from Cambridge who are now on their way to preach CHRIST to the Chinese.
"Students, like other young men, are apt to regard professedly religious men of their own age as wanting in manliness, unfit for the river or cricket-field, and only good for psalm-singing and pulling a long face. But the big, muscular hands and long arms of the ex-captain of the Cambridge eight, stretched out in entreaty, while he eloquently told the old story of Redeeming love, capsized their theory. And when Mr. C. T. Studd, whose name is to them familiar as a household word as perhaps the greatest gentleman bowler in England, supplemented his brother athlete's words by quiet but intense and burning utterances of personal testimony to the love and power of a personal Saviour, opposition and criticism were alike disarmed, and professors and students together were seen in tears, to be followed in the after meeting by the glorious sight of professors dealing with students and students with one another."
One of the promoters of this movement speaks of it as perhaps the most wonderful that ever took place in the history of university students.
"I have," he says, "to tell you how our great Edinburgh University and the allied medical schools, with between three and four thousand students, have been shaken to their very depths; how the blessing has spread to all the other universities of Scotland; and how already, as the students have scattered far and wide, the work is extending in its depth and reality throughout the whole country—I might almost say, throughout the world."
Oxford and Cambridge also were visited by the departing missionaries, with rich results in blessing. A deputation of men from Cambridge who had known and esteemed them during their college course came to bid them farewell at the Exeter Hall meeting, as we have mentioned.
"We come," said the spokesman, "to wish these dear friends, whom we have known and respected for years past, every blessing...Since I have been in this hall it has been said to me—
"'What a pity that such men should be going abroad! We want them here at home. Those who have distinguished themselves as they have could win young men to CHRIST, and do a work that others, less known, cannot accomplish.' And he went on to add, 'I hope it will be for the best.'
"Now, sirs, I do not hope it. I thank GOD that I know it is for the best. I know what their going out has done for me. I know what it has done for Cambridge. For years past Cambridge has not been behind other universities in missionary interest. Perhaps it has been before them. We have had missionary meetings, and missionaries have addressed us from time to time. But when men whom everybody had heard of and many personally knew, came up and said, 'We are going,' it seemed to bring us face to face, in a new way, with the needs of the heathen world ... We had meetings in room after room, night by night, at Cambridge, and at one over forty men stood up and gave themselves to missionary work.
"But not only has their going stirred up missionary interest; it has also taught us what it is to give ourselves wholly to CHRIST. ...It has shown us that we must take up our cross and follow Him; that there is to be no compromise, however small; that we must be all for our Master, with nothing between our souls and Him.
"Now could these men hope to do a greater work by stopping at home? While they were here we loved and respected them, but they were never used of GOD as they are now."
The story of this remarkable movement is to be found in Mr. Broomhall's valuable book, The Evangelisation of the World. One quotation further may be given, as expressing a thought that naturally occurs in this connection. A correspondent writes to the Record, of the farewell meeting that took place at Cambridge when many hundreds of gownsmen were present:—
"As I sat last evening among the audience at the great 'China Inland' meeting in our Guildhall, a meeting of surpassing interest, and not least to an earnest Evangelical Churchman, I could not but ponder what the main reasons were for the might of a movement which has drawn to it man after man of a very noble type, and of just the qualities most influential in the young Cambridge world.
"My main reasons, after all, reduced themselves to one—the uncompromising spirituality and unworldliness of the programme of the Mission, responded to by hearts which have truly laid all at the LORD'S feet, and whose delight is the most open confession of His Name and its power upon themselves.
"I venture to pronounce it inconceivable, impossible, that such a meeting should have been held in connection with any mission enterprise of mixed aims, or in which such great truths as personal conversion, present peace and joy in believing, the present sanctifying power of the SPIRIT, the necessity among the heathen of faith in CHRIST for salvation, and the loss of the soul as the alternative, were ignored, or treated with hesitation. Nor could such a profound interest possibly be called out did the work not demand of the workers very real and manifest self-sacrifice, and acts of faith."
That a mission so little known—poor, unsupported by any great denomination, and with methods so distasteful to the natural mind—should have attracted these men, was indeed no small part of the surprise evoked by the whole movement; but to those who remember Harold Schofield's life, consecration, prayers, and early death, and the promise, "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit," there may appear less wonder in the harvest reaped from buried seed.
On Thursday morning, February 5th, 1885, Mr. Stanley Smith and his companions started for China. Seldom has any departure excited wider interest, or called forth more prayer.
"Thoughtful minds," wrote Dr. Wilder, of Princeton, "will he waiting to see how the glow of their piety endures the tug and toil of learning the Chinese language, and their close contact, daily, with masses of ignorant and superstitious idolaters, no bracing influences around them from cultured Christian society."
How deadening such contact is, and how trying the sudden transition from crowded meetings and all the active service of life at home, to the isolation of an inland city, the difficulties of an unknown language, the restraints of Chinese custom and prejudice, and the burdens, big and little, that daily press upon the soul, face to face with heathenism, none but a missionary can fully know.
One of two very opposite effects is usually the result. Either the Divine life suffers and declines, or else, by prayer in the SPIRIT, and daily faithful study of the Word of GOD, the inward man is strengthened "to run and not be weary," to "walk and not faint." But the missionary must carry his own atmosphere with him, only possible through the constant "renewing of the HOLY GHOST."
Fully realising this, the journey out to China was made a time of special waiting upon GOD. In spite of much opposition and scorn, a bright testimony to CHRIST was maintained on board the ship, and souls were saved. The Cambridge men travelling second class, as missionaries, were a source of much wonder and amusement to their fellow-passengers, until they began to find out the power of those Christ-filled lives.
"Everything was ordered by our gracious God," wrote Mr. Stanley Smith, "to bring us to the shores of China in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of CHRIST; just seeing that all we have to do is to recognise that we are nothing, CHRIST is all, and trusting in Him to enter into the rest that remains for the people of GOD—the rest of faith. For surely God is strong enough to fight our battles. And surely GOD is rich enough to supply our needs. And surely GOD is wise enough to teach us and direct our paths."
The blessing which had so remarkably attended the meetings held in England and upon the voyage was repeated in Shanghai, Pekin, and elsewhere, upon the travellers' arrival. Meetings were held for English-speaking residents, and missionaries. Many young men and others were converted, and a remarkable outpouring of the SPIRIT OF GOD took place amongst the missionaries, especially at Pekin.
Landing on March 18th, the young men were met by Mr. Hudson Taylor, who had preceded them by a fortnight to make all arrangements for their going inland at once. Chinese dress was put on, a long farewell said to foreign life and surroundings, and at Shanghai they parted; C. T. Studd and the Polhill-Turners going westward to Hankow, and thence by the Han to SHAN-SI; while Messrs. Stanley Smith, Hoste, and Cassels, and subsequently Mr. Beauchamp, went northward, via Pekin, to SHAN-SI.
In the lovely month of May, full of the hope and promise of spring, they reached T'ai-yuen, the capital of the province, and Dr. Harold Schofield's old home. Almost two years before, he had been called away from earthly service, and now they stood where his work had been laid down, the living answer to his many prayers.
Vast, needy, populous SHAN-SI, the sphere of their labours, was everywhere wonderfully open to the Gospel. The people, won by the kindness of the foreigners during the awful famine, were on all hands accessible, and favourably disposed. Dr. Schofield's medical skill had done much to deepen friendly feeling, and in many places Christian teachers had only to go, to be welcome. Larger than the whole of England, or the States of New York and Massachusetts put together, and with a population of nine millions, SHAN-SI had as yet only three mission stations. Over one hundred important walled cities, centres of government and influence, dotted her wide plains and mountainous uplands; and over one hundred were still without a missionary. At T'ai-yuen and P'ing-yang Fu little churches were now gathered; and at T'ai-kuh, about forty miles south of the capital, representatives of the American Board had recently settled. But that was all. Still there were more than a hundred cities, with towns and villages innumerable; still there were thousands and thousands of homesteads, millions upon millions of souls, untouched by the Light of Life.
Such was SHAN-SI as the newly arrived Cambridge men found it, in May 1885.
That it was a fruitful and promising field there could be no doubt; for especially in the south of the province there were remarkable signs of blessing. The one station in that region, P'ing-yang Fu, had been opened by the Rev. David Hill, of the English Wesleyan Mission, during the time of the famine. Admirably situated in a populous district, this beautiful and important city became a centre from which the Gospel spread far and wide. Mr. Hill's Christlike spirit made itself deeply felt. His life was a blessing, and the people loved him.
In 1879 he was joined by Mr. J. J. Turner, of our Mission, who remained on after Mr. Hill was obliged to return to his important work in Hankow.
One of the most notable results of Mr. Hill's residence at P'ing-yang was the conversion of Pastor Hsi, at that time a proud Confucianist, and strongly opposed to foreigners.
A man of remarkable gifts and good family, Mr. Hsi was a scholar by training, and by heredity a doctor! He owned a small farm in a village near P'ing-yang, and was well known in the neighbourhood as a person of influence and standing. Hard times during the famine had made him poor, like everybody else, and thus it was he came under the influence of the foreigner. In 1880 Mr. David Hill offered a prize to the scholars of the city for the best essay upon Christian doctrines, supplying them with books. Mr. Hsi's essay gained the prize. He was introduced to Mr. Hill, and from the first greatly respected and loved him. The conversion that followed was gradual but decided. Mr. Hsi became an earnest spiritually-minded Christian, and continues a mighty power in the church to this day.
In 1882 Mr. Turner went home on furlough, and Mr. S. B. Drake, who had been helping him at P'ing-yang, took up the work, and began to organise the rapidly growing church with much wisdom. Recognising the remarkable gifts of Mr. Hsi, he appointed him an elder, and the Christians speedily came to look upon him as their head.
For about three years Mr. and Mrs. Drake worked on at P'ing-yang, most of the time singled-handed; and during that period the blessing of GOD rested upon their labours to a remarkable degree. In the spring of 1884, just a year before the arrival of the Cambridge Band, there were about fifty baptised members in the church, all of them tried believers well known to the missionaries, who watched over them with constant care. The rule of the church was clear and decided—to receive no one by baptism until their earnestness and consistency had been fully proved by at least a year of Christian life.
Besides the members, there were large numbers of interested inquirers, who had put away their idols, and were meeting to worship GOD, in more than twenty villages round about the city. Services were held at eight village out-stations, and those who gathered regularly were fully three hundred persons.
Not a little persecution had attended the work, but the Christians only clung together the more firmly. Elder Hsi, full of life and fire, devoted his time voluntarily to travelling through the district, helping the believers in every possible way. Himself a saved opium smoker, he felt the deepest sympathy for others enthralled by the vice, and a large part of his efforts was on behalf of such. He commenced Opium Refuges in many places, and sold pills of his own making, as well as preaching the Gospel of a full salvation.
In the spring of 1885, Mr. and Mrs. Drake were obliged to leave for needed rest and change. And for a few months the Christians were left without missionary supervision.
To this interesting district four of the Cambridge Band were designated. Perhaps no more promising sphere could have been found in China. It was a great field, ripe for harvest, and very eagerly the young missionaries anticipated the privilege of labouring there.
Leaving T'ai-yuen in the middle of June, they went southward across the great and populous plain, journeying through crowded towns and cities and countless villages among the cornfields, where the wheat was turning golden, and the maize was green and young, or amid acres of glowing opium poppy, brightening the landscape, but saddening the heart. The fine mountain ranges to east and west of them gradually approached, until at last the road ascended their lower slopes, the valleys narrowing so that only the river could find its way below. Fertile and well-wooded, some of the hillsides were lovely, and reminded the travellers of home. But no mission-station was passed on that long ten days' journey.
At last, however, signs of blessing indicated the neighbourhood of P'ing-yang.
"One day before reaching this city," wrote Mr. Cassels, "Stanley Smith was on in front...when a Chinaman came up and shook him warmly by the hand. Surprised at this, (for the Chinese mode of salutation is a deep bow, with clasped hands, raised to the forehead) Stanley at once thought the man must be a Christian, and said inquiringly,—
"'Ye-su-tih men tu?'—'A disciple of JESUS?'
"The man signed that it was so; and then came and shook hands with me. He forthwith made us take some refreshment at a little place by the roadside...and invited us to his house, hard by, for our midday meal. As we went, he said he had known we were coming.
"'How so?' asked Mr. Key.
"'Because,' he answered, 'I have been praying that missionaries might soon be sent to us.'...
"Pointing up a valley, he continued, 'All the people living there are giving up their idols.'
"You can imagine how we were cheered by this, and how delightful it was to meet five or six other Christians at his house, and to join in prayer and praise, although we could not understand."
It was a happy party that occupied the roomy mission-premises at P'ing-yang that summer of 1885:—
"The four of us," wrote Mr. Cassels, "Beauchamp, Stanley Smith, Hoste, and I, occupy three sides of one little courtyard, each having a room to ourselves. On the fourth side is the room used as a chapel. In another court Mr. Baller and Mr. Key put up, and our dining-room and kitchen are there. And in still another the evangelist lives ...
"We are very happy; enjoying our work, enjoying our walks on the city wall with views of the not distant mountains—wonderfully lighted at times by the setting sun, and enjoying, above all, our little gatherings for prayer and praise and study of God's Word."
Here at last were the reinforcements so long needed. They were warmly welcomed by the Christians.
Rapid progress was made with the language; work came thick and threefold; and the friends could not long remain together. In eight months four new stations were opened -- so that in May '86 Mr. Studd, who had come over from Han-chung to join them, was at K'uh-wu, an important city about forty miles south of P'ing-yang; Mr. Beauchamp at Sih-chau, three days' journey to the north-west; Mr. Cassels still farther on, at Ta-ning, among the mountains; Mr. Stanley Smith at the busy town of Hung-t'ung, twenty miles to the north-east; while Mr. Hoste was alone at P'ing-yang Fu.
July 1886 witnessed a happy reunion, when Mr. Hudson Taylor was at last able to pay a long-promised visit to SHAN-SI, and all the missionaries gathered at the capital to meet him. Days of blessing followed (Days of Blessing, compiled by Mr. Montagu Beauchamp, tells the story of this visit, and the Conferences, both native and foreign) as in that inland city they waited on the LORD, and found refreshment in mutual fellowship and communion.
After the Conference in T'ai-yuen Mr. Taylor went south to meet the native Christians in the P'ing-yang district, and hold similar meetings there. Hung-t'ung, Mr. Stanley Smith's new station, was the first visited. Over a hundred church members assembled, for two days; the inner courtyard of the mission-house being set apart for the women, and the outer for the men. The meetings were full of life and power. As many as three hundred listeners gathered on Sunday morning, August 1st, and wonderful testimonies were given to the saving CHRIST. On the second day of the Conference a deeply impressive service was held, at which a number of the native Christians were set apart as elders and deacons. Mr. Hsi, up to that time an elder at P'ing-yang, was ordained Superintending Pastor of the whole district, and another devoted native brother was appointed to P'ing-yang.
A few days later a similar Conference was held in that city, when about fifty Christians gathered, and there also men were set apart for the work. None of these helpers received regular salaries, many of them, on the contrary, giving largely of their substance to the LORD.
Mr. Taylor, who had never before been so far inland, felt it a great privilege to be able thus to visit SHAN-SI. For the first time he found himself in one of the nine formerly unevangelised provinces for which he had so long laboured and prayed. The parting came all too soon. He was going on south-west, three or four hundred miles overland, to Han-chung; and those who were remaining went out to bid him a long farewell. It was the middle of August, and overpoweringly hot, so the start was made at night.
"The first stage was by moonlight," wrote Mr. Stanley Smith, "and we accompanied them some way. A few last words of helpful counsel, a few last words of mutual love, a few last words in solemn stillness, as with hands locked in his we each received his parting blessing, and the visit to SHAN-SI—so long expected, so long deferred, but now so blessed in its outcome, so treasured in our hearts— was over.
From that time the development of the work all over southern SHAN-SI was rapid and wonderful. Earnest spirituality and devotion on the part of the missionaries was met with equal consecration and enthusiasm amongst the native helpers. All had but one aim—to spread the knowledge of the love of JESUS; and the women were not behind the men, as the following incident will attest:—
"Some time before the Conferences, the city of Hoh-chau, on the main road to the capital, was much on the heart of Pastor Hsi. Day by day, at family prayers, he pleaded for that place and neighbourhood, deeply feeling its spiritual destitution. At last his wife said to him—
"You are always praying for Hoh-chau. Why do you not go and commence an Opium Refuge there, as you have done in so many other places?"
"I have spent all," he replied, "that I can use in this way; unless the LORD supply the means, no more can be attempted."
"Why," she responded, "what do you think it would cost?"
"Twenty to thirty thousand cash," he answered gravely. (About five pounds sterling.)
When the wife heard that she went away and said no more. But she could not forget it. There was a city needing the Gospel. Here were ready, willing workers, longing to enter it. But means were lacking. What could she do?
Next morning the good Pastor pleaded, as usual, the need and darkness of Hoh-chau. What was his surprise, as he rose from his knees, to see his wife standing beside him with all her jewellery, including many much-prized possessions, which she handed to him, saying—
"I can do without these. Sell them, and let Hoh-chau have the Gospel."
Christian sisters, how many of us have ever done as much? In how many a jewel case, in how many a wardrobe, "costly array" is treasured, while hundreds of similar cities are to-day unentered, and missions on all hands lack funds? Might we not echo that Chinese woman's words—
"I can do without these. Let Hoh-chau have the Gospel."
An Opium Refuge was soon opened in that city, and a good work commenced. But there, as in all the neighbouring stations, there was no one to go to the women.
Lady-workers were badly wanted, and this need led to much prayer, until in the winter of 1886 a new house was taken in Hoh-chau, specially for work amongst the women. Two Norwegian ladies, Misses Reuter and Jakobsen, came down. Their lives of singular Christ-likeness and devotion were exceedingly blessed in that station, and thus began a woman's work in southern SHAN-SI, much on the lines of that commenced a few months earlier along the Kwang-sin River.
The year that followed was one of remarkable ingathering. Pastor Hsi and his wife came to live with Mr. Stanley Smith and Mr. Hoste at Hung-t'ung; but, though their hands were thus strengthened, they had more than they could do to overtake the work. Hundreds of villages surrounded them in the populous mountain valleys, and the Christians, widely scattered, had to be visited in their own homes. In scores of houses the idols had been destroyed, and Christian worship was conducted daily, it being quite a common thing to see texts put up outside the doors, instead of idolatrous papers, for good luck.
During April and May, two hundred and fifty persons were baptised in this part of the province, two hundred and sixteen of whom were at Hung-t'ung.
Very memorable was the day on which fifty-two women and one hundred and fifty-eight men thus confessed CHRIST at one station. It was Saturday, April 23rd, 1887, in the midst of a three days' Conference, at which three hundred Christians and inquirers were assembled. The enthusiasm of the meetings it would be impossible to describe. Pastor Hsi spoke with wonderful power, and the testimonies from the Christians were deeply impressive.
So large an ingathering was the cause of great rejoicing when the tidings were received in England but many in China could not but question the wisdom of baptising two hundred and sixteen people at one station in one day.
The incident calls up a wide and important question in missionary policy—whether persons should be baptised upon profession, merely, of their faith in CHRIST, or whether sufficient time should be required for them to give full and satisfactory evidence of a change of heart and life.
The dear workers at Hung-t'ung now act upon the latter principle, having fully come to see that nothing short of clear evidence of a turning from sin to GOD is sufficient to warrant baptism and outward membership in the flock of CHRIST. But in 1887 some of the brethren in that station did not fully realise the importance of this course. Of the two hundred and sixteen baptised in the spring of that year many subsequently gave cause for sorrow; but on the whole, they were a band of sincere believers. For when, after the lapse of six years, Mr. Hoste carefully examined the Church roll at Hung-t'ung to see what had become of the two hundred and sixteen baptised in April 1887, one hundred and thirty-five were found to be still in regular fellowship with the Church. Seven had been transferred; four had been removed by death; twenty had been lost sight of; and fifty were known to be backsliders, the majority of whom had returned to opium smoking. Very few had relapsed into idolatry.
That one hundred and thirty-five should have stood the test of six years certainly speaks well for the work.
Time fails to follow further the details of recent developments in SHAN-SI. Suffice it to say, that in the four years from 1886 to 1890 over six hundred baptisms had taken place. Eight new stations were opened during the same time in various parts of the province, three of them occupied by ladies only.
At the time of Dr. Schofield's death two little bands of workers, with fifty or sixty converts, in two widely separated stations, had been the only Christians among nine millions of heathen. In 1890, seven years later, there were more than forty missionaries of the C.I.M. working in the same sphere, at ten stations, with thirty native helpers, and between seven and eight hundred native Christians. And since that time the work has gone on growing, until now, in 1893, more than seventy missionaries are labouring in seventeen stations in SHAN-SI.
How little, even so, in a region as large as England and Wales put together!
Mr. Hoste and Pastor Hsi are still labouring at Hung-t'ung, Mr. Studd, no longer connected with the Inland Mission, holds the fort in a neighbouring city, while the other members of the Cambridge Band are all occupying important C.I.M. stations in western China.
GOD has used them, and taught them many lessons, fitting them for wider service in days to come. Does one of them regret, now, the consecration that led them to China? Would one of them return and choose an easier pathway? No, a thousand times no! Every word, every appeal of theirs they would re-echo to-day with tenfold earnestness. What they have given they would give again, and more if it were possible; counting it an honour to follow in His footprints who yielded Himself "for the life of the world."
Copied for WholesomeWords.org from chapter XXIX of The Story of the China Inland Mission by M. Geraldine Guinness. 2nd ed. 2 vols. London: Morgan & Scott, 1894.