1.16. Chinese as Christians.

The Rev. Charles Gutzlaff, speaking of them in 1834, says: “If converted to the Christian faith they would probably rank very high in the scale of nations..... Upon the whole it must be confessed that there is much in the Chinese character capable of the highest improvement.”

Mrs. Isabella Bishop, the intrepid traveller, the first woman to be admitted to the Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society, at first the opponent of Christian Missions, and latterly the staunch upholder of the same on Exeter Hall platform and elsewhere, speaking of the Chinese converts, says—“They live pure and honest lives, they are teachable, greedy of Bible knowledge; generous and self-denying for Christian purposes. The best stuff in Asia.”

The author of “The Children of China” says—“One very good thing about the Chinese is, that they are so steadfast and faithful, not at all inclined to change. So when once a Chinaman

  ― 18 ―
becomes a Christian, he is almost sure to be true to Christ, whatever may happen..... They are very ready to give too, and do all they can to support missionary work themselves.”

The Rev. J. L. Nevius, in “China and the Chinese” (1869), says—“I may say further, that I have met with some of the most beautiful instances of affection, attachment and gratitude in China, which I have ever known; and that it has been my privilege to form the acquaintance of not a few Chinese whom I regard with more than ordinary affection and respect on account of the natural amiability of their dispositions, their sterling integrity and thorough Christian principle and devotion. …What, then, is the conclusion of this whole matter? Simply this; that it is not difficult to find every species of vice and immorality both in China and at home, and that, on the other hand, we may find exhibitions of the better principles of our nature in both countries if we are disposed to seek them. The standard and the practice of virtue are almost necessarily, and as might be expected, lower in China than in Christian lands, but the wonder to my mind is, considering our superior advantages, that the difference is not greater. It is certainly not so striking as to form the basis of a very marked contrast, or to render it modest or prudent for us to designate any particular vice, or class of vices, as peculiar to and especially characteristic of the Chinese..... I am persuaded also that the effect of close and familiar acquaintance with the Chinese, or any other nation, is to produce and deepen the impression of a common origin and nature. At first we notice external peculiarities of complexion, dress and manners, which are superficial, accidental, and unimportant; but by degrees we become almost unconscious of these outward differences, as we notice multiplied evidence of common instincts and longings, doubts and fears, joys and sorrows, virtues and vices. We see the same indications of a noble and godlike nature suffering under the effects of a terrible catastrophe or fall, swayed by conflicting tendencies and impulses, and utterly unable to find the ark of rest and peace. In the Eastern or the Western hemispheres, ‘as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.’ ”

The author of “Mission Problems and Mission Methods in South China,” writes as follows—“We have seen unclean lives made pure, the broken-hearted made glad, the false and crooked made upright and true, the harsh and cruel made kindly and gentle. I have seen old women, seventy, eighty, eighty-five years of age, throwing away the superstitions of a lifetime, the accumulated merit of years of toilsome and expensive worship, and, when almost on the brink of the grave, venturing all upon a new-preached faith and a new-found Saviour. We have seen the abandoned gambler become a faithful and zealous preacher of the gospel. We have seen the poor giving out of their poverty help to others, poorer still. We see many Chinese Christians who were once narrow and avaricious, giving out of their hard-earned month's wages, or more, yearly, to help the church's work. We see dull and uneducated people drinking in new ideas, mysteriously growing in their knowledge of Christian truth, and learning to shape their lives by its teachings. We have seen proud, passionate men, whose word was formerly law in their village, submit to injury, loss and insult, because of their Christian profession, until even their enemies were put to shame by their gentleness, and were made to be at peace with them. And the men and women and children who are passing through these experiences are gathering in others, and building up one by one a Christian community which is becoming a power on the side of all that is good in the non-Christian communities around them.”

Mrs. Stott, a missionary to China, relates the following, given in “China's Millions,” January 1901—“One of the first converts in our city of Wen-Chow was a man who had come in from his country farm to do business. He went into the chapel and heard the truth, and came again and again until he believed in it. One day, when he was in the chapel, he heard something from the preacher about opium-smoking and opium-growing. We will not have anything to do with opium in any shape or form. We cannot afford to play with opium as some of our churches play with drink in this country. ‘We will not have the opium-smoker, neither will we have the opium-grower; and the man who grows opium is not admitted into the Church; or, if he grows it afterwards, he is put out of the Church, because it is an evil thing and we will have nothing to do with it.’ This man went home to a patch of ground where he had some opium growing, and his conscience smote him. He said, ‘It is a paying thing, and I am a poor man.’ It pays me more than three times as much as a crop of wheat would yield. Not only so, but that ground has to be so enriched for a crop of opium that it yields better rice afterwards. It does not take up the space of the rice either, because it is grown at another time of the year. He began to think of that little patch of opium on the hillside, and said, ‘I am a poor man, and I cannot do without it.’ He said, ‘I will never grow it again. I will let it grow up this year, but I will never grow it again.’ But something said, ‘If it is wrong next year, it is wrong this year’; and again he tried to ease his conscience. ‘I won't do it again. I have done it now.’ But the voice said again, ‘If it is wrong next year, it is wrong this year.’ He got no sleep that night; and so he rose next morning and, with his scythe, cut down all his opium.”

Mrs. Stott further relates two cases of glorious steadfastness which is reported in “China's Millions,” August 1902. Her words are—“China is a noble land. The people are a noble people. Sometimes people say to me, ‘You seem very much in love with the Chinese. I thought that they were very dirty.’ I have to say, ‘Yes, they are dirty, but, dirty or not dirty, we love them.’ I do not think that I have ever found a missionary who has laboured for a few years in China who did not love the people. There is something in the very character of the people that draws out your heart's affections, such as their sturdy independence, and their firm grasp of whatever they receive. They do not receive Christanity easily. They require line upon line, and precept upon precept in the teaching; but, when they do receive it, they hold it with a grasp that not even death itself can overcome. You have had evidence of this again and again. You have had again and again a picture of these men willingly laying down their lives for the sake of Christ. In my own district one of our preachers was caught by the ‘Boxers’ two years ago, and a choice was offered to him between death and life—life if he would recant, if he would just sign a paper to say that he would no longer worship the God of Heaven, and death if he refused to do so. They waited for his decision, and calmly and unflinchingly he chose to die, and there and then they beheaded him. I knew that man's wife. Twenty

  ― 19 ―
years before she was a virtual martyr. At that time her husband was not converted. She was the first Christian in her village, and the whole village was against her. They tried to prevent her taking water from the well; they tried to prevent her walking upon the common street; and, at last, when these petty persecutions availed nothing, they took her from her house by her hair, and dragged her into the street, and deluged her there, and left her fainting and, as they thought, dying. She managed to get back to her house, where she lived for three months longer. Her steadfastness was the means of the husband's conversion. Twenty years later he joined her in the Glory—a martyred family for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake. That is the kind of people they are. We marvel often at their steadfastness, and we praise God for it.”

In an address by Dr. G. Whitfield Guinness, missionary of Ho-nan, reported in “China's Millions,” August 1903, is the following—“The one thing that deeply impressed me on my return more than anything else was, not the sight of the ruins of the place where we had been delivered, but the faith of one of the Christians. He was a fine, tall man, with a face full of the joy of the Lord, and when we came back to the province I heard about his sufferings. They had taken him and tied his thumbs behind his back, and then drawn him up to the ceiling and left him hanging, and beaten him cruelly, and asked him to deny the Lord Jesus Christ and give up his faith. But no; he remained true. They beat him again, and let him hang for hours, and he suffered terrible torture. When I saw him I said, ‘Was it worth while suffering like that for Jesus’ sake?' ‘Worth while!’ he answered. ‘Why, I would go through it again to-morrow for Jesus’ sake.' I tell you, brothers and sisters, it is an encouragement and a strength to our faith to see a Christian like that. Remember, he had been baptized but one week before the riots.”

Mr. Robert Coventry Forsyth, in “The China Martyrs of 1900,” says—“Chang An, a steward, was taken by the Boxers, who demanded that he should recant and worship the idols. He replied, ‘I will not; you can do as you please with me, but I will not deny the Lord.’ He died under the sword..... Mrs. Yany, a pale, delicate, timid woman, with her two little girls, was taken by the Boxers, then released. She fled to relatives in the mountains, and was taken again. They tried to make her recant and worship the idols in the temple to which they took her. An attempt also was made to compel her to marry one of their number, and thus save her life. To all these demands she opposed a firm denial, and she and her daughters were cut down with swords..... A schoolboy, named Wang Chih-shen, was taken. He could have saved his life by worshipping some tablets. The village elders even begged him to do it, saying that then they could secure his release. But he refused, saying, ‘I can't do it. To say nothing of disobeying God, I could never look my teacher and schoolmaster in the face if I did it.’ So he died.”

Mr. Arthur Judson Brown, an American writer and traveller, says, in “New Forces in Old China,” (1904)—“Much has been said about the character of the Chinese Christians and doubts have been cast on the genuineness of their faith. It is admitted that they sometimes try the patience of the missionary. But is the home pastor never distressed by the conduct of his members? I am inclined to believe that the Christians in China would compare favourably with the same number selected at random in America..... The real question is this:—Is the Christian Chinese a better man than the non-Christian Chinese—more moral, more truthful, more just, more reliable? The answer is so patent that no one who knows the facts can doubt it for a moment. This is not saying that all converts are good or that all non-Christian Chinese are bad. But it is saying that, comparing the average Christian with the average heathen, the superiority of the former in those things which make character and conduct is immeasurable..... Is it said that these Asiatics have become Christians for gain? Then how shall we account for the fact that out of their deep poverty they gave for church work last year $2.50 per capita, which is more in proportion to ability than Christians at home gave? The impoverished Tu-kon farmers rented a piece of land and worked it in common for the support of the Lord's work; the Pekin school-girls went without their breakfasts to save money for their church, and eight graduates of Shantung College refused high salaries as teachers, and accepted low salaries as pastors of self-supporting churches. ‘Rice Christians?’ Doubless in some instances, just as at home some people join American churches for business or social ends..... And it costs something to be a Christian in China. All hope of official preferment must be abandoned, for the duties of every magistrate include temple ceremonies that no Christian could conduct. For the average Christian, loss of business, social ostracism, bitter hatred, are the common price. Near Peking, a young man was thrice beaten and denied the use of the village well, mill and field insurance, because he became a Christian. A widow was dragged through the streets with a rope about her neck and beaten with iron rods which cut her body to the bone, while her fiendish persecutors yelled:—‘You will follow the foreign devils, will you!’ And that Chinese saint replied that she was not following foreigners but Jesus Christ, and she would not deny Him! And so, on every hand there are evidences of fidelity in service, of tribulation joyfully borne, of systematic giving out of scanty resources. While sapient critics are telling us that the heathen cannot be converted, the heathen are not only being converted but are manifesting a consecration and self-denial which should shame many in Christian lands..... The history of missions in China has shown that it requires more time to convert a Chinese to Christianity than some other heathen, but that he can be converted, and that when he is converted he holds to his new faith with a tenacity and fortitude which the most awful persecution seldom shakes. The behaviour of the Chinese Christians under the baptism of blood and fire to which they were subjected in the Boxer uprising eloquently testified to the genuineness of their faith. That some should have fallen away was to be expected. Not every Christian, even in the United States, can ‘endure hardness.’ Let a hundred men anywhere be told that if they do not abandon their faith, their homes will be burned, their business ruined, their wives ravished, their children brained, and they themselves scourged and beheaded, and a proportion of them will flinch. Those poor people, hardly out of their spiritual infancy, stood in that awful emergency absolutely alone. Could an American congregation have endured such a strain without flinching? Let those who can safely worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences be thankful that the genuineness of their faith has never been subjected to that supreme test. Those were grievous

  ― 20 ―
days for the Christians of China. Two graduates of Tengchou College remained for weeks in a filthy dungeon when they might have purchased freedom at any moment by renouncing Christianity. Pastor Meng, of Paoting-fu, a direct descendant of Mencius, was 120 miles from home when the out-break occurred. He was safe where he was, but he hurried back to die with his flock. He was stabbed, his arm twisted out of joint and his back scorched with burning candles in the effort to make him recant. But he steadfastly refused to compromise either himself or his people, and was finally beheaded. The uneducated peasant was no whit behind his cultivated countrymen in devotion to duty. A poor cook was seized and beaten, his ears were cut off, his mouth and cheeks gashed with a sword and other unspeakable mutilations were inflicted. Yet he stood as firmly as any martyr of the early Church. One of the Chinese preachers, on refusing to apostatize, received a hundred blows upon his bare back, and the bleeding sufferer was told to choose between obedience and another hundred blows. What should we have answered? Let us, who have never been called on to suffer for Him, be modest in saying what we should have done. But that mangled, half-dead Chinese gasped:—‘I value Jesus Christ more than life, and I will never deny Him.’ Before all of the second hundred blows could be inflicted unconsciousness came and he was left for dead. But a friend took him away by night, bathed his wounds and secretly nursed him to recovery. I saw him, when I was in China, and I looked reverently upon the back that was seamed and scarred with ‘the marks of the Lord Jesus.’ Of the hundreds of Christians who were taken inside the legation grounds in Peking, not one proved false to their benefactors. ‘In the midday-heat, in the drenching night rains, under storms of shot and shell, they fought, filled sand-bags, built barricades, dug trenches, sang hymns and offered prayers to the God whom the foreigner had taught them to love.’ Even the children were faithful. During the scream of deadly bullets, and the roar of burning buildings, the voices of the Junior Christian Endeavour Society were heard singing:—

‘There'll be no dark valley when Jesus comes.’

Such instances could be multiplied almost indefinitely from the experiences of Chinese Christians during the Boxer uprising. Indeed the fortitude of the persecuted Christians was so remarkable that in many cases the Boxers cut out the hearts of their victims to find the secret of such sublime faith, declaring: ‘They have eaten the foreigner's medicine.’ In those humble Chinese the world has again seen a vital faith, again seen that the age of heroism has not passed, again seen that men and women are willing to die for Christ. Multitudes with-stood a persecution as frightful as that of the early disciples in the gardens and arenas of Nero. If they were hypocrites why did they not recant? As Dr. Maltbie Babcock truly said:—‘One-tenth of the hypocrisy with which they were charged would have saved them from martyrdom.’ But thousands of them died rather than abjure their faith, and thousands more ‘had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; they where stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated; wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and the holes of the earth.’ Col. Charles Denby, late United States Minister to China, declared—‘Not two per cent. of the Chinese Christians proved recreant to their faith, and many met death as martyrs. Let us not call them ‘Rice Christians’ any more. Their conduct at the British Legation and the Peitang is deserving of all praise.' Beyond question, the Chinese Christians as a body stood the test of fire and blood quite as well as an equal number of American Christians would have stood it.”