Imágenes de páginas

majority of these stations strict observance is the exception, and a loose and partial one the rule. We hope to see a gradual advancement in this matter as the result, with God's grace and help of careful Bible teaching and the examples of our more advanced and conscientious Christians.

It may be objected that insisting on the divine obligation of Sabbath observance, and at the same time providing for the relaxing or annulling of these obligations, practically leads to about the same result as leaving the whole matter to be determined by individual choice or expediency. It should be remembered however that this modification or relaxation is not one of our suggestion but is specifically laid down by the Lord of the Sabbath Himself. The practice here advocated provides too for the gradual and finally complete introduction of the Sabbath into heathen lands on a basis of divine authority ; while the theory that the Sabbath was only a Jewish institution makes the observance of it a matter of choice rather than duty, and condones for its neglect or abuse which gradually becomes a habit interwoven with social and national customs. Under one theory, so far as this question is concerned, the Church is like a ship at turn of tide drifting in different directions in obedience to the temporary influences of wind and tide, but still holding fast to her anchor and destined to settle soon in a fixed position; under the other theory, she is without anchor, and drifting hopelessly.

Discipline.-We regard the administration of discipline as indispensable to the growth and prosperity of our work, and attention to it claims a large portion of our time and thoughts. With the use of our Record Book, and assistance of the leaders and helpers, and information obtained from other sources, the difficulty in gaining a knowledge of the real state of things is not so great as might at first be supposed.

The proportion of those who have been excommunicated on account of scandalous offences is comparatively small. As many as eighty per cent of these are cases of gradual and at last complete neglect of Christian duties, commencing with giving up Bible study, disregard of the Sabbath, and neglect of public worship. It now appears that most of these persons entered the Church without a clear apprehension of what Christianity theoretical and practical is. Their motives seem to have been obtaining a place as a preacher or servant, or pecuniary aid in other ways, or getting help in lawsuits actual or anticipated; all these motives being connected no doubt with the sincere conviction that Christianity is true, and the desire

to share in the spiritual blessings which it confers. They were also ignorant of the difficulties and trials connected with a Christian profession, and so when they met with opposition and persecution have fallen away.

We administer discipline as directed by the Scripture aud generally practised by Christian Churches at home; first, by exhortation and admonition, followed if necessary by a formal trial and suspension; and in failure of reformation, excommunication, after a period of suspension varying from a few months to one or two years.

The whole number of adult baptisms in my own field during the last seven years has been about one thousand. The proportion of excommunicated persons is about twenty per cent of the whole, and more than half of them have been from the one Hien Shiukwang, where there were for a time numerous accessions under a good deal of excitement. In the other four Hien the proportion of excommunicated persons as compared to the whole number of converts is about ten per cent. While there has been this falling away in individuals, there has been a comparatively slight loss of stations, nearly all having left in them a few earnest men, so that the places where there have been most excommunications are really stronger and more promising than when they had more names on the roll. No station has as yet been entirely given up. It is feared however that we shall soon have to give up four, three of them in the district of Shiu-kwang.

Cases of discipline have diminished considerably during the last year, and we hope the number may be much curtailed in the future by avoiding some of the causes which have led to them. Very few excommunicated persons have returned to us. Very few have become enemies and open opposers. Most are indifferent, some soured and disappointed. Not a few retain strong sympathy with the Church and continue to attend services. In every case so far as I know, the administration of discipline has been sustained by public opinion in the Church and outside of it; and the effect of discipline has been decidedly good. I believe the neglect of it would soon result in checking the growth and perhaps extinguishing the life of the Church.

It has been objected to this plan of conducting stations, that with the missionary living so far away from them, and the new converts left so much to themselves, it is impossible for him to know what is occurring, and the difficulties of finding out,and correcting abuses and irregularities must be greatly increased. There is weight in this objection, but in my opinion the difficulties are much

less than may be imagined; and the advantages of the stations, being left to themselves far outweigh the disadvantages. The helper is able to find out quite as much about the stations as the missionary could if he were constantly living among them. While there may be motives at work influencing Church members to conceal important facts from the missionary and also from the helper, there are other motives which work strongly in the opposite direction. Irregularities or improprieties on the part of an individual or a party in the Church, are very likely to be reported on the first opportunity by another individual or party. Should a whole station be interested in concealing something which ought to be known, some adjoining station, or people outside the Church will probably be found ready to give the requisite information. Our main dependence however is on the honesty and integrity of the leaders and the Church members; and especially on the fact that the station is theirs and not the missionary's; and that they rather than he, are the ones who are chiefly interested in correcting abuses. The fact that they do not depend upon the missionary for pecuniary support, which eliminates the strongest motive for concealment or deception, is a matter of much greater importance than the proximity or distance of the missionary. Many facts will prove that where there is a motive to deceive, the daily presence and supervision of the missionary is no sure guarantee against concealment and deception carried on during a long course of years.

Contributions-In contributions we have not accomplished what we ought. This matter has been constantly kept before the Christians, and special books and placards treating of this subject have been prepared for them and studied by them. A good beginning has been made in ways which it is not easy to tabulate and publish in public reports. Chapels have been built and furnished; a good deal has been done especially by those who are connected with chapels in entertaining and instructing enquirers; voluntary labor in evangelizing the “regions beyond ” has been carried on to a considerable extent; and poor Church members have been assisted. In addition to this, most of the stations have given a contribution through the foreign missionary once or twice a year, varying in amount from one to three or four dollars or more, which has been applied hitherto to paying the expenses of the helpers. Our contributions this year have been unfavorably affected by an unsuccessful effort to open a silver mine, in which members from all our churches are engaged. This undertaking is likely not only to diminish our contributions this year, but also we fear to injure and retard the work of the stations in other ways. Our Christians need

further instruction as to the duty of giving, and more pressure to induce them to give; and also to have placed before them objects suited to draw out their sympathies. The example of other missions, and especially, I may mention, facts recently brought to our notice by Mr. Macgowan in connection with his work at Amoy, have been a great help to us.

Schools.—The opinion and policy of the missionaries here as to schools vary considerably, and the course to be taken in the future is not yet fixed. There are but few places where the native Christians are strong enough in numbers and wealth to support schools of their own.

One member of our mission is trying the experiment of helping country day schools, paying about one dollar a year for each pupil. This help is furnished on the conditions that the schools have Christian teachers, that the pupils learn Christian books, and are subject to the examination and control of the foreign missionary and his helper. A similar plan has been adopted to some extent by English Baptist missionaries.

For myself I have not been successful with this plan. I am helping three day schools this year to the amonnt of from five to eight dollars to each school. These are started by the natives who applied to me for assistance. In each of them, I am disposed to think that a prominent, if not the chief motive, is to provide a support for the teacher, who otherwise would have nothing to do.

So far, no plan for schools has seemed to me so practicable and satisfactory in its results, as that of making the stations themselves a kind of training school for all their members. A great deal may be accomplished by systematic teaching on Sunday, and also employing leisure months and days in study.

The plan of a free day school during the winter months when the farmers have little to do, suggested and adopted last winter in one of the stations, has interested me greatly, and I should like very much to see it or something similar generally adopted.

Men employed and Incidental expenses.-From the more than eight hundred Church members in my stations, I have at present in my own employ two men, viz., one helper who receives five thousand cash ($4.67) per month, and one servant. The other helper is from one of the older stations. Besides these there are the following men from my stations in the employ of other missionaries, viz., two teachers, three helpers, and six servants, making the whole number in regular employ thirteen.

Besides these, I have for several years supported from private funds, a young man from a wealthy family who has been driven from his home by violent and continued persecution. His expenses are

from fifty to seventy dollars a year. He is now studying medicine and doing a good medical and evangelistic work in and about his home. He will soon I hope be independent and require no further help.

The amount expended for providing food for the Bible classes at Chefoo composed of leaders from the stations, has been about one hundred dollars a year. By tabulating the above and other items we have the following as the entire expense for my stations for the past year 1885, aside from the salary and itinerating expenses of the foreign missionary :Salary of two helpers

$ 112.00 Aid to one medical student



[blocks in formation]

About one half of this sum total is supplied by the mission. The above will present a fair average of expenses and the number of men employed from year to year. It does not include private assistance given to the poor amounting in all to about forty dollars. In 1884, I had an additional helper, and in 1883 two additional ones—both from the college at Sung Choufu. I expect to have for the present year, 1886, but one paid helper.

The foregoing statements will give, I think, a correct general idea of the character and condition of these stations at present. They are marked by the same weaknesses and defects which are found in a greater or less degree in Churches everywhere, and which we should expect to find in converts just emerging from the darkness of heathenism and still surrounded by heathen influences and only imperfectly emancipated from old heathen habits. In every respect they fall short of the Christian ideal and the ideal of the plan on which we are working. I am glad to be able to say however that the evidences of vitality and growth are more and more apparent every year ; that individual Christians are advancing in knowledge and spirituality; that the stations are in the main giving evidence of stability and promise of permanency; and that they are gaining a good report from those who are without.”

« AnteriorContinuar »