SATURDAY, 26th Oct. 1901.--I left Tung Ch’wan this morning about 5.30, with Yuen Ta Ch'en and Li Sao San. We had a most beautiful morning to start, one of the finest I have seen for a long time, with a beautifully fresh, almost cold, breeze. The air was clear and crisp, and as we reached the hills on the farther side of the river the prospect was magnificent, the high hills far away on the other side of T'ung Ch'wan being just visible in the distance.
The first twenty " li " (a li is about one-third of a mile) is up and down hill, but afterwards the road leads through a gully between the hills and is fairly level, though not so good as the one from Chungking. As I crossed the river at T'ung Ch'wan, and wended my way towards Yen T'ing, my thoughts travelled back to thirteen or fourteen years ago, when I first entered T'ung Ch'wan by that route. I have not been along the road since, and most of it is forgotten, but here and there glimpses of landscape, a house, an inn or a turn of the road would flash back familiarly.
At forty-five " li " from Yen Ting we were met by two inquirers from there, who had come to meet us, or rather I suppose were on their way to the Fu to ask about us, as I had not arrived at the time they had first expected. We found the people had been waiting and were somewhat disappointed at my owing to my having to attend to the renting of a house, which took longer than I had hoped for. The men turned back with us, and one of them went ahead to give the news of our approach.
We had a good journey and reached the river, three " li " from Yen T'ing, about five p.m., well before dark. After crossing the river we came to a " Filial Arch,” one “li " from the city, where we found thirty or forty people waiting to receive us. I bowed to them, and they said a few words of welcome, let off some crackers, and escorted me into the city. I dislike these numbers to meet one with this ceremony, but there seemed no way to avoid it. They wished me to go at once to what they called the “Li pai tang " (the chapel) saying that everything was prepared. I felt in some doubt as to the advisability of accepting their invitation as I did not know what my going might involve. We do not yet know the people ; they have started this " Worship " on their own account to a large extent, and who the man is that takes the lead I have yet to learn. His motives and aims are as yet a mystery to me, and until I know better where I am with him, and the whole business, it seems better not to go and reside in his house, so we came to the inn where I now write these notes.
Some of the inquirers from Yu Lung Chen and the man in charge there, Fu Ch'ang Ming, came to the inn to see me. I think they did not like my being there, but they took it very well. Shortly after our arrival someone appeared with red cushions and red cloth for the chairs and inn couch. I tried to find out a little about things, and learnt that the leading spirit is a man called K'ang Sao Fu, who is a well-to-do man in the city. He appears to have a good deal of influence in the place, looks about thirty-five or forty years old, tall and rather slightly built, and gives one the idea of manliness. I understand he was in Yu Lung Chen attending the meetings, and gathered that the doctrine was good. It was too far for him to attend there, so he decided to give part of his own house, the “tao wu" (guest hall) for the holding of meetings, which I understand he conducts himself.
Through his influence large numbers have attached themselves to the cause, or " Church " as they call it. The people call themselves " chiao hwei ti hsiung " (Church brothers), but they do not seem to know much of the customs of the Christian church. After the others had gone, I inquired of Mr. Fu, the caretaker at the neighbouring out-station of Yu Lung Chen, as to Mr. K'ang's antecedents. It occurred to me to inquire if he had had anything to do with the great gambling trouble, when the Yen Ting Hsien made a raid upon it last spring, as I mentioned in the notes of my last visit. Mr. Fu replied that he had, and that the magistrate had settled the business without a trial some time since; the magistrate, I am told, says that K'ang has had a severe warning. After a while I went round to the " Li pai t’ang," escorted by several inquirers who had come for me, with two men carrying lanterns going before us ! I was led up a main street and round the first to the right, also a main street, and a few doors up was guided to the entrance of a large house situated between two shops. As I entered I noticed a written paper on the door with “ Fu Yin Tao T'ang," i.e., Gospel Hall, on it, and some writing below, which I had not time to read then. At the door I was met by several people, also two boys stood, one on each side, holding hand lamps ; these led the way into the interior, where a large company was assembled as if for meeting, all in most orderly fashion. The room, a large one, was lighted with foreign lamps, and native candles in. stands, and on the walls were various papers covered with writings. On one of the pillars hung a large board with a long list of names of those who profess to believe the doctrine. At the top of the room stood the altar to ancestors, which had not been taken down, but it was covered with a red satin cloth on which was the Lord's Prayer in large characters. The large room with its number of lights and crowd of quiet orderly people was a sight not to be easily forgotten. As I went in I was received by the whole company, and took my seat at the top of the room. After a little while I spoke, telling them something of our customs and of the necessity of sincerity in their search for truth. The man Ch'en Kwan San, whose sister-in-law came to us in T'ung Ch'wan to complain of his treatment, was one of those who now received me. I spoke very plainly, and I think we had a fairly good time, they assenting with apparent sincerity to all that I said. The whole movement is a strange one, and whether for good or otherwise I cannot yet say. I am moved with various feelings, and am praying earnestly for right guidance. If this man K'ang is repentant and desires to reform, and takes this way of doing it, it may be God's way of working in this neighbourhood. If he is a rascal and is using the Christian Church and cause as a cloak to screen him from trouble, while carrying on his evil practices, then he is a great scoundrel indeed, and is leading away large numbers. He professes to be changed, and conducts worship. Large numbers come to hear him, so I am told, but I have had very little conversation with him yet.
The people here have practically formed a church of their own, but have been waiting for us to give it formal sanction.
Idlers and Children not Admitted.
Early this morning Li Sao San got up and went off to read what is on the paper at the door, and found a number of very good facts and instructions. A notice had also been put up to say that I was expected on the 15 th, and would preach on the 16th ; inquirers were to come early, and idlers and children would not be admitted.
I understand that one inquirer had been severely reprimanded for going back to his own village and using the name of the Church to the injury of his neighbours. They say that this is a thing they will not permit, and if it is done they will have nothing to do with the persons who act in such a way.
Monday, 28th October. Just after breakfast yesterday Mr. K'ang sent round a present of a duck, a fowl, some eggs,, and a basin of flour. Shortly afterwards he and several other inquirers, some of the principal people here, and some from Yu Lung Chen, came to call. At first we had some general conversation, then our talk turned to the character of those who are professing an interest in the truth, and as Ch'en Kwan San was present I spoke very plainly to him and the others, and I think he had a lesson ; I also told Mr. Fu to go and see about him. This led to our talking of the people in Yen T'ing, and somehow Mr. K'ang himself told of what he had been, of the gambling business, etc., and said that he had thoroughly given it up. He told us that his parents had died when he was young, and he had no one to control him, and being possessed of some little money he was led astray ; but he had now seen the error of his ways. He said that he had not joined the Christians until after the gambling business was settled. His idea was simply to give over his sins, to trust in Christ, and to devote himself to preaching the Gospel. This we subsequently learned he had done pretty thoroughly during the past few months. He made a very straightforward statement of his idea of taking up with Christianity ; that some year or so ago he was in Chung-king where he frequently attended the Methodist Episcopal Mission street-preaching hall, near the Tao T'ai yamen. I spoke to him of the ancestral tablet in the " tao wu " where the meeting is held, and he replied that he had not worshipped it for several months, and was prepared to take it down ; but that his wife and some other members of his family advised him to leave it for the present, and not to worship it, but wait until he had learned more of the truth before removing it. He said that the next time we came we should find it removed. I did not press him to take it down, feeling most strongly that any such action must be of his own free will. He seems quite prepared to take the necessary steps. I was extremely pleased to have had this statement before the morning meeting, as it throws a good deal of light on what I wrote yesterday. Yuen and Li were also much relieved by what we heard, for it gave us all the impression of evident sincerity. If all we have seen and heard is arrant hypocrisy, then it is of the most extraordinary kind.
We went to Mr. K'ang's house for meeting, and found a good company assembled, which increased after we arrived. Everything was clean and tidy, the forms properly arranged in the centre of the room, chairs and small tables at the sides and two chairs at the top for the speakers. Mr. K'ang made all arrangements, and we had a very orderly, and I think useful meeting. Those present were very attentive, and gave the impression of earnestness ; not coming simply for curiosity as one so often finds is the case, but meeting to worship God and hear His truth.
After meeting I asked the inquirers to stay awhile, so that I might examine them. I commenced with Mr. K'ang, and found that he knows a good deal of the truth ; and he told me of his relations and his trying to influence them. I found that he had commenced the work in the fifth moon, and had continued the meetings regularly, conducting and teaching in them himself. He has a rough register of attendance, also a clean one kept beautifully, so that one sees at a glance how often people have attended. He has also a separate list of inquirers, besides the one on the board hung up ; and a book in which he enters the names of those who show most interest. His register is a copy of Mr. Fu's at Yu Lung Chen, only better kept. I was quite surprised with the order in which I found everything. He seems modest and speaks fair, as well as being polite and respectful.
The next man I saw was his cousin, a man a good deal older, who has a Chinese degree of B.A. He tells me he is of one mind with his cousin in this matter, and desires to be true and faithful. This man has been at Chentu, and knows Dr. Parry, and has heard the doctrine from him, as well as having read some for himself.
Several others, more distant relatives of Mr. K’ang, were also introduced. I interviewed between twenty and thirty, and Yuen examined between ten and twenty. Several knew very little, but two or three gave wonderfully clear answers. I was particularly pleased with three, who gave very clear statements of the truth, as well as definitely expressing their decision to be right out for Christ.
One man Cho gave one of the best testimonies I have ever heard in China from an inquirer. In any inquiry meeting at home this man would have been classed as one of the most hopeful converts, without hesitation. He stated most distinctly, as well as humbly, his own sense of sin, and that this had been brought to him most vividly by the Gospel ; that he had found pardon and forgiveness through Christ's atoning death, and now his sincere desire was to follow in His footsteps. I could hardly believe my ears as this young man told me these things, with such apparent reverence, humility and contrition as I have rarely seen. What could I do but believe that God had been here working His own blessed will in a way we had not thought of. One's mind may be full of doubt and suspicion of the sincerity of such confession, owing to past experience, but I must acknowledge I was bowed in thankfulness to God for such evidence of His grace. My discernment may have been at fault, but somehow two or three of these testimonies seemed to carry conviction with them. I was simply filled with thankfulness, and could only pray God to carry on the work which He Himself had begun in this quiet, dead-alive, and almost lonely city among the hills in central Sz-Chwan.
Another testimony was extremely interesting ; that of a man who lives one li from the city. He has devoted a large amount of time to learning the truth, knows his catechism by heart, is very much in earnest, has learned to pray morning and night and to thank God for his meals. He says he must pray before he sleeps.
It was simply extraordinary to hear these things from people who had never seen a foreigner before --at any rate had never spoken to one --and had little if any teaching but what they had obtained from Mr. K'ang and their catechisms and Testaments. Here is a nucleus of a church all ready to our hands. God give us grace and wisdom to know how to deal with this people. They have made mistakes no doubt, but on the whole I think they have done wonderfully well with the little knowledge they have. I cannot but feel deeply thankful that I have been permitted to see such work in this land.
Several came to call on me in the afternoon, and at 4.30 the local magistrate sent me word that he would like to see me in response to my request for an interview. So I went to call on him. I was anxious that there should be no misunderstanding about the relation to the work here, and, if any of these people were using the name of the Church to screen themselves from the law, I would endeavour to make things right. I found the magistrate a comparatively young man, who could speak English pretty well, a very rare accomplishment for officials in West China. We were able to talk matters over in English and so avoid being overheard by the attendants, which in this particular case was a great advantage. He at once asked me what we meant in the Church by the term " T'ing Yu " or listener, and I explained how we used the title for those who come to hear, expressing themselves willing to learn, but whom we are not prepared to class as inquirers until we have further knowledge of them.
We then talked freely of the opening of the work here, and he told me of Mr. K'ang and his antecedents, that he was a small expectant official, and that not only had he been gambling but he had used his influence to terrorise people, and that he had not been a good man. The magistrate was quite aware of his present attitude and the Church, and said he knew we would not screen him if he ought to be punished, but he told me very distinctly that Mr. K'ang was quite changed. Since he had joined the Christians he had nothing against him whatever, and he gave every evidence of repentance. I was extremely pleased to hear this. The magistrate also expressed his pleasure at the change, and said that while we could not prove it real, we could accept what there was and wait to see how he continued. He added that for such a good work he would be the last to stand in the way, and when his people were helped to do right he was well pleased. He was extremely friendly, and invited me to a meal to-day when he said we could talk over things better. He tells me that nothing is reported in his Yamen against those who profess to be Christians, and he believes we do not wish to have lawsuits. He said the caretaker Mr. Fu at Yu Lung Chen was an honest man, but he had no talent !
In the evening I went again to the " Li pai t'ang " (the chapel) where several were already gathered ; the numbers increased and we had a good meeting. I spoke for only a short time, then Li and Yuen gave testimony, the latter’s text being about Paul and “not being ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." Both spoke nicely, and after singing I asked if any of the local people wished to say anything. Then Mr. K'ang got up and spoke exceedingly well. He seems to have quite the gift of a preacher, and judging from what he said I imagine the people get fairly good teaching. He spoke of the necessity of taking down the family gods and ancestral tablets, and of his wish to serve the Lord, and trusted they would all be of one mind with him.
Three or four others also spoke very nicely indeed, for the first time I should think, but really with point and earnestness. We arranged for another meeting to-night, and conversations to-day. The day was not over then, for, after I returned to the inn, several of the inquirers called again, and the magistrate returned my call, and renewed his invitation to dinner. There was an eclipse of the moon, and tom-tomming went on for hours. After the magistrate left, some of the inquirers stayed and talked till quite late.
These people deal very strictly with any attempt to use the name of the church to injure others, and have struck of the names of one or two because they have tried to do this. The notice put up at the door of the meeting-house states, amongst other things, that the teaching of Jesus has spread to every country. “He came to save the world, and to persuade men to turn from evil and follow that which is good. All those who would be His followers must have a sincere heart, throw away the false, and follow the truth ; they must not cherish covetousness, each performing his own duties in his sphere of life, so that the people and the Church may be on friendly terms. If there are those who use the name of the Church and do outside that which is evil, trusting in their power to impose on the people, it will be difficult to distinguish who is who. Now all you who are Christians and those who are outsiders, let not those who are of the people cheat the Church, and the Church is not to cheat the people, etc., etc.”
Yu Lung Chen, 30th October, 1901. All Monday, I was kept closely at it with callers in the inn, who came to inquire further about religious things. Two young men were very anxious to know how to use a reference Testament, one of them being the man who gave such a good testimony on Sunday. In the afternoon I went to dinner with the magistrate, and had a long talk with him about Church affairs, and about some of the people who now profess an interest in Christianity. I told him of some of the things I had heard about Mr. K’ang and he said there was no foundation for them. I have done my best to try and find out if Mr. K'ang and these people have really any very wrong motive in joining us, and I can find none. Some of them appear very satisfactory. In the evening we had a good meeting ; several engaged in public prayer for the first time, and it was a great encouragement to see them. Mr. Hwang and Mr. Fu from Yu Lung were very interested. We left Yen T'ing yesterday morning, three of the inquirers accompanying us to this place. Mr. K'ang and a cousin were of the party ; they said they wanted to hear more, and would return in time for Sunday's meetings. I was met, on arrival here, by quite a number of people some way from town, and crackers were let off for some distance along the road ; on reaching the door people lined the way, and three great crackers or salutes were fired off. I found that I had also been expected here for some days, and people from the villages round had been waiting, but had been forced to return to their homes ; some because their money was spent, others on account of their crops. Still, last night there was a good houseful at meeting and I think a most helpful gathering. I find that 267 names are on the register here but that includes the 83 at Yen T'ing. Mr. Fu tells me that these people attend three or four times before he enters their names, and those who cease to attend he crosses off. Some of these are not sincere, and have used the name of the Church to injure others, and the true inquirers are very anxious that this be put a stop to as soon as possible, and press me to make some rules and arrangements whereby it can be checked. They say that Mr. Fu is an honest man, but has no power whatever to control things, and if something is not done serious trouble may arise. They tell me many others would join if there were more control, and more hope of arrangements being made to look after the people, but while things are as at present they will keep aloof. I told them of our prospect of having more workers next year in T'ung Ch'wan, but they said T'ai Ho Chen would suit them better, if we could have some one there. This was said quite independently of any suggestion of mine.
Yu Lung Chen, 31st October, 1901. Have had an extremely busy time here, quite a number of people came yesterday, and I was not able to see them all ; some came late, others had gone away, but in the evening the place was packed with most attentive listeners. No doubt a wonderful work is going on here, and I find much progress in knowledge since my last visit, and many express a desire to be truly penitent. Last night in the meeting, after Li and Yuen had spoken, Mr. K'ang gave a fine testimony, told of how he came here without much, if any, idea of what he wanted, except that he thought his being a member of the Church might add to his prestige, but having bought a catechism and other books, he awoke to the truth ; he told them that they knew of his past, and now he was anxious to serve Christ. The people seemed greatly impressed. Li Sao San heard them whispering to one another, "That is K'ang Sao Fu” in great astonishment. Last time I wrote of the need of some one here, now I say it is simply indispensable. When the Lord gives us a good work, shall we not enter in and undertake it ? For many years I have prayed to see a genuine interest in the Truth, and longed to see men give evidence of real conversion as I have seen at home. Now I think I have seen it ; anyhow it was so good I could only humbly thank God for the work He is doing. I may be mistaken, and influenced by sentiment to some extent, but somehow these things which I have seen and heard are different from those I have experienced elsewhere. I can only pray and ask your prayers that this good work, which I believe has been begun of God, may be carried on.
Passing through T'ai Ho Chen, and spending one day there, in which I did not hold any regular meeting, but only interviewed some of the people, I went on to Kwan Yin Koa, arriving there on 2nd November. My last visit to this place was in company with Isaac Mason in June of last year, when we came at the request of a few people who professed to be interested in the Truth, and were anxious to have help from us. They began holding meetings among themselves in a house belonging to one of the leaders of those interested. Isaac Mason and I were on that occasion received with great eclat, firing of crackers, show of tawdry decorations in dirty rooms, with red silk curtains, etc., and with a great appearance of zeal for the Truth. There were between twenty and thirty inquirers.
Immediately after our visit rumours of the troubles in the North reached this district. The people got frightened, no one was really in charge, or had capacity or knowledge enough to teach or lead them, and the result was the withdrawal of many inquirers.
On our arrival yesterday we were warmly welcomed by a few, but with nothing of the enthusiasm of last year. I examined several who say they attend meetings on Sundays, but only one or two know anything at all of the Truth. The way that these people attach themselves to the Christians, without the slightest knowledge of what they are doing, is almost incomprehensible to a foreigner. Some of them told me they believed the doctrine, but when asked what the doctrine was, they pleaded entire ignorance, some not even knowing the name of the God whom we worship, and yet they said they had been joined to the Christians and attended meetings for a year ! There seem three or four who are slightly more intelligent than the rest, and who know something of the Truth. They all --I think with some justice --excuse themselves by saying that they “have no one to teach them, and how can they hear or understand without a teacher ? " One of their number would like to do more. At present he leads the meetings when possible, but his farm and other claims prevent him from doing all that he desires. He certainly requires training and teaching himself, if he is to teach others. There are now two probationers and about fifteen inquirers. I spoke to them very plainly about showing more earnestness in trying to find out the Truth from the Testaments and books they possess, and I hope by our next visit some progress may have been made. The work here is a great contrast to that around Yu Lung Chen, and yet a year ago this seemed much more promising.
Chin Fu Wan, 4th November. Since my last visit to this place, in June, 1900, a small shop has been rented on the street of this busy market, and a native placed in charge. The village is situated on the main road between Wan Hsien on the river Yang Tse and the capital, Chentu. On market days over 10,000 people crowd its one long street. This occurs once in every three days, and on the intervening days little, if any, business is done.
On our arrival on Saturday, shortly after noon, the street was almost impassable with the crowd of people who had come to market. Yesterday, Sunday, hardly anyone was to be seen ; here and there at a tea shop, a little crowd gathered round a table to watch the card players. Cardplaying and gambling seem to be the occupation of many, on the off market days. They read no books, no papers come their way ; if they have something to eat and nothing to do they seem to be quite satisfied ! Dirt, horrid smells, filthy homes, do not seem to affect them in the slightest ; they know of no desire for anything cleaner or better, at least so it seems. “Dead in trespasses and sins," and one might add “in sloth and dirt," is a fitting description of many of the people we meet. What can be done ? Would that the Spirit may come and breathe upon the dry bones, for they are very dry, that they might live. Life, spiritual life, is the one great need of this people.
Twenty or thirty gathered with us in the morning for worship, and in the evening rather more ; most of them listened attentively, and recognised truth as truth when they heard it, showing that in the hearts of this people God is at work. Seventeen persons have entered their names as inquirers. I examined several and found some of them had a fair knowledge of the Gospel, and one or two appeared really desirous of doing right.
November 4th. Reached Tung Ch'wan to spend a few days more here, before proceeding south again ; thankful for what I have been permitted to see, and glad to have had these two young men with me. Yuen's message at Yu Lung, the last night we were there, was very good. His text, short and to the point, was " Be real as well as nominal."