WHILST thus defining in some measure our future prospects and aims, we would impress upon our readers the fact that they have developed before us, in a manner and to a degree, of which we had no anticipation a few years ago. China has been such a “ closed door," and has opened so reluctantly to receive the messengers of the Gospel, that many of them have hardly expected ever to be other than " despised and rejected," as their Master was before them.
When, however, the marvellous Providence of God overrules the cruel enmity of the Boxer rising of 1900, and converts a nation of 400,000,000 people into an attitude of polite recognition of the influence of the missionary, so that his teaching is sought after and listened to by overwhelming numbers, it becomes a necessity that the facts be laid before the Home Churches. It can hardly be too strongly emphasised that the present is a unique opportunity for the enlargement of all missionary effort in China, whether we refer to purely evangelistic effort, educational, medical or literary work. As these lines were being penned we had a fair example of the press of work abounding on every hand. The doors being opened half an hour before the time, the meeting-house in the city of Chentu was quickly filled to overflowing with a quiet, orderly crowd of men and women, ready to sit a couple of hours to listen to the preaching of the Gospel. Seven days a week this could be repeated, if only the men were there to preach. In the towns and villages throughout the whole of Friends’ District -- which, by the way, is equal to the six northern counties of England -- reaching, teaching and school work are waiting to be done. All the work --the foundations of which have been laid in past years in the steady toil which needed long patience -- is now increasing so rapidly that the present band of workers cannot possibly compete with the demands upon their time and strength. In addition, the altered attitude of the people demands Western teaching, and the question has to be faced, Shall China get it with or without the Gospel ? This is a question of world-wide importance, for Western training she will have. If she takes it with its excessive military influence, as in Japan, which seems quite possible, the world's peace may be endangered by the rise of a military Empire on the vast scale which her resources permit. The coming of Christ's Kingdom may be hindered unless the present opportunity be quickly and thoroughly grasped. The Christian Church will have cause to regret any neglect to respond to the call which has been sent to all the Home Churches, from the three thousand missionaries already in the field, who are bearing the burden, and what does appear to be the very “heat of the day.” They appeal for more helpers, more support, more prayer. Shall they appeal in vain ? The men who are best acquainted with the facts of the present conditions are most emphatic in their call for help.
In all truly healthy work there must be growth and expansion. We rejoice that we can say that this is the fact in our own branch of the mission field in China. But the little band of twenty-four workers, --only ten of whom are men, --is quite inadequate to meet the growing work, and the expansion which the present crisis demands. We therefore appeal to our readers prayerfully to consider whether we, as a Society --and many of our members individually --^have not at the present time a special call of God to respond adequately with our best offerings.
Especially would we appeal to the educated young men, who are about to take up their life work, to consider the cry from the land of Sinim, in the light of the Saviour's marching orders, -- '' Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” That command is given to the disciples universally, as much as the Gospel invitation, “ Come ye," and there should surely be a time in the experience of every Christian, for considering to what part of " all the world " it is God's will that he should go. Undoubtedly to some the right place is at home, and to such the Saviour's words apply, --" Go, tell thine own house how great things the Lord hath done." Yet before settling-in to home life, should not each follower of Christ consider the call to " tell it out among the heathen that the Lord is King " ? Should any one question how one may be sure there is no mistake in the decision, we would answer, the call is threefold, and can be discerned step by step. First, there is the call of God in His written word already quoted, no one can gainsay that ; then there is the call in the individual heart and the desire to respond to the first call ; and third, the call in the outward providence of circumstances. May not the present special circumstances in China be the final call for some who have been seeking to know their life work ?
His lamps are we to shineAnd go where He may say ;And lamps are not for sunny roomsNor for the light of day,But for dark places of the earth,Where sin and want and pain have birth.
Let no one hesitate in the fear that the needs of the home lands are too pressing. On this point it may not be out of place to quote the recent words of a Scotch missionary in China (Dr. J. C. Gibson), who says : -- “ If anyone feels so impressed by the needs of home that he hesitates to consider other fields, let me suggest a simple method which will help to determine personal duty. Resolve that you will not offer yourself for any post for which there are other candidates as competent as yourself. In Great Britain there are about 38,000,000 souls. and among these there are about 44,000 ministers and over 700,000 Sabbath School Teachers. In China there are in all little over two thousand missionaries. The ratio of these workers to the population is as if you had in Edinburgh one minister and one Sabbath school teacher to do all the evangelistic and pastoral work in the city."
Again, in view of home and family claims, which might seem sufficient to deter some, this is his actual experience, and it is worth notice, “ As an only son, when I went to the foreign field, I left at home my mother and three sisters, who might fairly have made a strong claim for my remaining at home, but from no one of them did I ever hear a single word of opposition. When I returned from my first term of service, only one of those four remained in life, and yet I never had a moment's reason for regret for the decision which I had made. I had ample testimony that the tie formed with the foreign field became to those who remained at home a signal means of grace, and the source of a large amount of happiness, which, if weighed in the right balance, fully compensated them, I believe, for any loss they might have incurred."
Dr. Griffith John, who has been for over fifty years a missionary in China, voices the heartfelt experience of many of his fellow-workers, when he says, -- “I thank God most devoutly that I am a missionary. I have never regretted the step I took, and if there is a sincere desire in my breast it is that I may live and die in labouring for Christ among the heathen. I am prepared to offer a joy in this work such as will enable you to understand what the Master meant when He said 'My peace I give unto you.* The romance of missions is a home dream, the blessedness of missionary life is a reality.”