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Early Mission Efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention in China
By Harvey Newcomb, 1855

      This mission, which has been subject to great changes, was commenced by Rev. I. J. Roberts, in May, 1844. Between his arrival in China in 1836, and the commencement of his labors in Canton, his efforts were mainly directed to the spiritual good of the Chinese in Macao and Hong-kong. Shortly after entering Canton, he gathered a church of 6 or 7 members, two or three of whom were afterwards useful, as assistants in publishing the Gospel. Early in 1845, Messrs. J. L. Shuck and Devan came to Canton. Mr. Shuck shortly after left with his children for home, and Mrs. Devan died in that city, Oct. 18, 1846, and Dr. Devan, after a temporary sojourn in Hong-kong, returned to America. Messrs. George Pearcy and Clopton, with their wives, arrived at Canton, in Oct. 1846, and Mr. Clopton died July 7, 1847, and his widow, with her infant, soon after returned. Rev. Francis Johnson arrived July, 1847, but his health failing, he returned, and reached New York in December, 1849. Rev. B. W. Whilden and wife arrived at Canton early in 1849, where Mrs. Whilden died, Feb. 20. 1850, and Mr. Whilden the same year embarked for the United States. Rev. Mr. Pearcy and wife, by reason of ill-health, left this station for Shanghai in 1848. Thus, among all the missionaries of this society, with the exception of Mr. Roberts, none have been long enough in Fuhchau to become able preachers in the local dialect. He has been a diligent laborer, and in his correspondence, eight persons are named as having received Christian baptism. In 1849, he visited the United States, where he was married; and in 1850, he resumed his work in Canton. In the Society's Report for 1853, his dismission is announced. He, however, remains in Canton, prosecuting his work as usual. The insurgent chief is understood to have been for a time under his religious instruction, and to have recently desired a visit from him, which he attempted to make, but without success. From an article headed "Canton Mission." in the Home and Foreign Journal for January, 1854, Rev. B. W. Whilden appears to have resumed his labors in that city. A Chinese school, containing 20 pupils, is mentioned, and Yong Seen Sang, who was long employed by Rev. Mr. Shuck, was then laboring as an evangelist in Canton. The Report for 1854 speaks of serious embarrassments in this mission; but the missionaries speak hopefully of future prospects.

      Rev. J. L. Shuck and wife embarked for China in 1835, and Macao and Hong-kong became the scenes of his subsequent labors. In this latter settlement, Mrs. Shuck, a highly esteemed missionary, died Nov. 27, 1844, and Mr. Shuck, with his children, soon after returned home. He reached Shanghai, on his return to China with his second wife and younger daughter, in October, 1847, where they were welcomed by Rev. Messrs. Yates and Tobey, who had a little preceded them. From the arrival of these brethren dates the commencement of this mission. Dr. J. L. James and wife, destined to Shanghai, were drowned in Hong-kong harbor, April 15, 1848, by the capsizing of the schooner Paradox, in which they had taken passage at Canton. Rev. Geo. Pearcy and wife, formerly at Canton, arrived at Shanghai Nov. 18, 1848, where they have since continued to labor. Like the brethren of other societies who had preceded them, they found Shanghai a promising field for Christian effort, and, with a knowledge of the local dialect, they found no difficulty in obtaining hearers. Besides the frequent ministry of the word in a smaller chapel within the walls, the brethren early made arrangements for the erection, within the city proper, of a substantial and spacious Christian edifice. This church was opened for worship on the 3d of March, 1850. The house is a brick edifice, with a belfry, and will accommodate upwards of 700 persons. Occasionally, it has been well filled, and usually some hundreds are present. In 1853,6 schools are reported as under the care of the mission, containing between 70 and 80 scholars. There is one out-station, having a small chapel and a school-house. While the brethren much value Scripture and tract distribution, they devote themselves chiefly to the preaching of the Gospel in the city, and in the large and numerous villages in the surrounding country.

      On the 2d of September, 1849, three Chinese were baptized. A recent letter states the interesting fact of the baptism of the son of an insurgent chief, a youth of 18, who was considered as giving uncommon evidence of piety. Mr. Tobey has returned to this country on account of ill-health. He arrived at New York, May 29, 1850. Rev. Mr. Shuck, having been suddenly bereaved of his wife, late in 1852, returned with his family to the United States. G. W. Burton, M.D., sailed from New York, Dec. 12,1853, on his return to Shanghai, accompanied by Mrs. Burton. By the last accounts, the missionaries were much encouraged, though living amid the ravages of war. The report for 1854 says, with reference to this mission, "At no time in its former history, has the encouragement to persevere been stronger. The church at Shanghai have been permitted to receive into their fellowship an interesting young man, by the name of Asou, who gives satisfactory evidence of a change of heart. This young man was nearly related to the southern king, one of the insurgent chiefs, and was on his way to Nanking to join the army. Having found protection in the families of the missionaries, it was soon ascertained that he was a regular reader of the Scriptures, and daily worshiped God He was more particularly instructed by them; and having professed faith in Christ, and a readiness to obey him, he was baptized and received into the church. Rev. Mr. Shuck has taken a dismission, in order to enter into the service of the domestic Board, among the Chinese in California.


[From Harvey Newcomb, A Cyclopedia of Missions: Containing a Comprehensive View of Missionary Operations Throughout the World, 1855, p. 277-278. Document from Google Books. jrd]

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