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METHODS OF MISSION WORK.
BY REV. J. L. NEVIUS, D.D.
ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF STATIONS IN CENTRAL SHANTUNG. (continued.) THE proficiency in Christian knowledge, of the members of these country stations, will I think bear favorable comparison with that of the converts cared for by resident preachers. The degree of illiteracy of the inhabitants of these rural districts is perhaps somewhat greater than that of the population of China taken as a whole. Not more than one out of twenty of the men can read, and not one of a thousand of the women. Among our Christians, nearly all the children and most of the adults of both sexes under fifty years of age learn to read. Some have made remarkable progress in the study of the Scriptures. A large majority of them have committed to memory the Sermon on the Mount, and many other shorter portions of the Bible. Scripture ideas and phrases have entered into the language of every day life. Persons of advanced age, though themselves unable to read, take great pleasure in relating Scripture stories and parables, and in teaching others less instructed what they have learned. The mental development of the converts and their enthusiasm in their studies have in many places attracted the attention and excited the wonder of their heathen neighbors. In one of our stations there is a literary man named Fu, now over fifty years of age, who has been totally blind for about thirty years. He has taught his daughter, a girl of fifteen, to read the Bible; she describing the characters as seen, and he telling her the names and mean ings of them. She has in this way learned about two thousand characters. Her father has memorized from her lips the gospels of Matthew and John, the Acts of the Apostles, and Romans, and many other portions of Seripture. He and other members of his family have taught his sister Mrs. Kung, who is also blind, to repeat nine chapters of Matthew; and this blind woman has taught her invalid bed-ridden sister-in-law Mrs. Wang to read the Scriptures, by repeating them to her character by character from memory, while her sister-in-law finds out the words on the printed page.
The manner in which Stations are propagated.-Many of the stations in this province, as before stated, are propagated largely by agents employed as evangelists. When new ones are established however, they are usually organized under a leader chosen on the plan detailed above. The English Baptist stations and my own
radiate from self propagating centres; reminding one of sarmentaceous plants which propagate themselves by runners striking root and producing new plants in the vicinity of the parent stock; the new plants also repeating the same process. When a man becomes a Christian the fact is known through the whole circle of his acquaintances male and female, far and wide. It is generally believed that his mind has lost its balance. He is shunned for a time, but before long his friends visit him either from sympathy or curiosity. They find him in apparently a normal condition, and working quietly in his shop or on his farm; and are curious to know what this new departure meant. An opportunity is thus afforded of presenting the claims of Christianity as not the religion of the foreigner, but the true religion for all mankind. The visitor goes home and thinks about the matter and comes again; attends service on Sunday; is interested in the truth; makes a profession of Christianity; and in process of time his home becomes a new propagating centre. Stations started in this manner have the advantage of a vital connection with the parent station, and they are nourished and supported by it until they are strong enough to have the connection severed, and live and grow independently. The Baptist mission, having tried both methods for some years past in the same field, have found that as a rule the stations which have originated as the result of the labors of paid agents, have been comparatively weak and unreliable, and some have entirely fallen away; while those which have been commenced on the self propagating principle have generally maintained a healthy vigorous growth. Instead of increasing their paid agents as the number of Church members has increased, they have diminished them nearly one half. This self propagating principle often results in the establishment of stations one or two days' journey from the propagating centre.
I have often been asked, Why do you not employ and pay more native agents? I reply by another question. Why should I? The only men I could employ are exerting what influence they have for good where they now are. My paying them money and transferring them from one place to another would not make them better men or increase their influence. It might have the opposite effect. During the last few years, I have in fact frequently been inclined to attempt to enlarge and hasten on the work by selecting and employing native agents from my stations, and have requested money appropriations from our society to enable me to do so. When the time has come for carrying out this plan however I have refrained from taking the proposed step, fearing that it would probably do more harm than good.
I am asked again, do you intend never to employ native paid agents. My reply is, I leave this question to be determined by the circumstances and in the light of the future. If suitable men are found, and it is clear that employing them as paid agents would do good, I should be glad to see them employed, and the more of them the better.
The Classes to which our Church members belong.-Most of our stations are found in country villages; and in general the Christians may be said to belong to the middle class. Although none of them are what we should call rich, not a few are "well to do" as compared to the majority of their own people. Many are farmers and day labourers. We have also school teachers, artisans, pedlars, and innkeepers. As a rule the men preponderate in numbers, though some Churches are composed mostly of women. Sometimes the men are first reached, and influence the women of their families to follow them; and sometimes the reverse is the case. The work among the women has in my stations and in the main in all the others, been carried on without the help of foreign ladies. A few country women have come to Chefoo to receive instruction from Mrs. Nevius. In most places visits of ladies, except the wives of missionaries accompanying their husbands, would hitherto have been impracticable, and in the opinion of the native Christians undesirable. The common assertion that heathen women cannot be evangelized through the instrumentality of men is certainly not universally true in China. Facts prove the contrary. In most places, indeed generally in the interior at a distance from the established central stations, they can hardly be reached and evangelized except by men. In many of the Shantung stations women stand out prominently as examples of zeal and proficiency in Christian knowledge. Persecutions.-Opposition and persecution have marked the course of our work to a greater or less extent in every district. The authority of the family or clan is often invoked to overrule the individual in his determination to enter the new religion. Village elders and trustees of temples unite in efforts to exact from Christians contributions for theatres and the repairs of temples. When native Christians persist in asserting their purpose to follow their own convictions of duty in opposition to those who think they have both the right and the power to control them, open outbreaks ensue, resulting in brutal assaults, house burning, and in some cases driving Christians from their homes. When other means fail native Christians are sometimes arraigned before the local magistrates on fictitious charges; and when it is found as at times is the case that the local magistrate is only too glad to join in the persecution,
false accusations become more numerous, and old law suits in which the Christians were parties, are revived. In these litigations the persecutors have every advantage. There are among them those familiar with all the arts and intricacies of Chinese lawsuits, and those who have friends in the ya-men, and money for bribery when it is required. Under these circumstances the Christians have small hope of justice. Charges are brought against them with such a show of plausibility, and such an array of evidence, that officers who are disposed to act justly, as I believe some of them are, may almost be excused for regarding Christians as guilty culprits, and treating them accordingly.
In cases of great injustice and abuse, missionaries have taken up the complaints of the native Christians, appealed to their consuls, and in some instances obtained at least partial redress. It must be acknowledged however that we have not invariably elicited correct representations of these cases; and also that when through the influence of the foreign teachers the tide of fortune has turned in favor of the Christians, they have not always been free from a spirit of revenge and retaliation. Bitter and unjust as the treatment has been which our Christians have often received, it is a growing opinion here that the best weapons with which to meet this opposition are Christian patience and forbearance; and that the surest victory and the one which will be followed by the best results is that of "overcoming evil with good." We are less and less disposed to appeal to the Civil power on behalf of our people except in extreme cases.
Sabbath Observance.-The difficulty of enforcing strict rules of Sabbath observance is not less here than in other parts of China. Our own mission has taken strong ground on this subject. We regard the Sabbath not as a Jewish institution but an institution for man in all ages wherever found. We believe it has the same authority as the other commandments of the decalogue; that the obligation to keep one day holy unto the Lord antedates the decalogue, as the duties enjoined in the other commandments do; and that the decalogue is but the divine reannunciation and publication of universal and eternal law. As such we hold that it can never be abrogated; that its observance is inseparably connected with the prosperity of the Church; and an index of its spiritual
In determining how Sunday shall be observed, or in other words, in the interpretation of the fourth commandment, we have an infallible guide in the teachings of our Saviour. He has declared that it is lawful and right; (1) to do good on the Sabbath day; (2) to
perform acts of necessity; (3) of mercy and kindness; (4) to perform work connected with or necessary to the worship and service of God; (5) that as the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, this commandment should be so construed as to subserve and not interfere with man's best and highest good. God's revelation of truth and duty is one consistent whole, each part connected with and conditioned by the others. Cases may occur in which one command supersedes and overrules the others. The paramount authority and commands of God may make it a man's duty under some circumstances to disobey a parent; the civil law or the inherent right to preserve one's own life against lawless violence, may make it right to destroy human life: and the necessities of war or famine may justify a man in taking and using what does not belong to him. So circumstances may justify the performance of ordinary labor on the Sabbath, in which case such labor is not to be regarded as ignoring or breaking the fourth commandment, but as obeying God's will in the exceptional as well as the usual observance of the day. Nothing should be done which the above principles laid down by our Saviour do not warrant.
It is evident that the natural outcome of these principles must be a great diversity of practice growing out of varied situations and conditions. It is evident also that the application of these principles must be left largely to each individual Christian. I believe this may safely be done so long as the divine obligation of this command is acknowledged. On the graduated scale representing on one extreme actions plainly inadmissible, and on the other actions as manifestly admissible, there is a wide medium of debatable ground where room must be left for the exercise of individual liberty and Christian charity.
To make the matter more practical. On the side of unjustifiable Sunday labor, we may designate that of the farmer who tills his own land, and is or ought to be the master of his own establishment; or the artisan who works in his own shop with or without employees. In such cases as these we insist on a strict observance of the Sabbath and make a breach of this observance a matter of censure and discipline.
On the side of justifiable work we designate enforced labor performed on Sunday by slaves, minors, daughters-in-law, &c.
In our stations the duty of Sabbath observance is generally acknowledged, and I think I may say that there is a manifest improvement in public sentiment on this subject. In my own field there is a considerable proportion of the stations in which the observance of the day is gratifying and commendable: but in a