Baptist History Homepage

Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford
By L. S. Foster

Chapter XV
Progress Under Difficulties

[p. 106]
      Among those who sought refuge in Teng Chow during the rob­ber raid of 1867, were a large number of persons from the Mung family village twelve miles distant. Some of these found lodging near Mrs. Leo who told them of the great salvation. The heart of Mung Ki Hwa being touched by the story, Mrs. Leo led him to see Mr. Crawford. Having nothing else to do he came day after day, drinking in the gospel and asking questions, and in the intervals diligently studying the Bible. He belonged to the great family of Mencius (Mung Tse) and inherited many of that philosopher's sterling qualities. On the departure of the robbers he returned to his home, but walked back to the city on Sunday mornings to join in the religious services, and was erelong converted and baptized. He instructed his wife, son and single daughter as much as possi­ble. His second son was then absent in Manchuria, and being a man of considerable energy and contributing largely to the support of the family, he thereby secured their deference in proportion. Hearing that his father had joined the "foreign religion," he has­tened home to set matters straight. Mr. and Mrs. Crawford were at his father's house when the young man arrived. On entering he sa­luted his parents and immediately walked out by the opposite door. The mother evidently knew the object of his visit, and seemed much disturbed. Though the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Crawford was very embarrassing, it was too late for them to return to the city that afternoon, so they made the best they could of the situation, urging Mr. Mung to be gentle, but to hold firmly to his profession. The next day, after the Crawford's departure, the son returned, accompanied by a maternal uncle and other relatives for whom his father entertained the highest respect, and they began operations. The old men urged that this was a foreign religion wholly unknown to the Chinese and everywhere spoken against, and that his embracing it was a very great disrespect to the mem­ory of their venerated ancestor. Mung replied that Mencius was a
[p. 107]
seeker after the good and true, and would no doubt have accepted the religion of Jesus had it been presented to him, for it was pre­eminently good and true.

      "So it may be," they answered. "You may accept it privately, but you must not openly follow it to the disgrace of yourself and family in the eyes of your neighbors. Take your book back to the teacher Crawford and ask him to dismiss you from the church."

     "No, said Mung, "Pastor Crawford gives the Bible, but he does not take it back; receives men into the church, but does not thrust them out. Moreover, I myself will hold on to both."

      The men persisted, getting on their knees, which was a rare con­descension on their part, and had great weight with him. The son wept and pleaded. The two married daughters were sent for to add their influence and one of them joined her brother in pleading, but the other said, "Let father alone. He has embraced a religion which I know to be good, and I should like to be a Christian myself."

      All other resources having been exhausted the son now went into convulsions, the last resort of a Chinese before suicide. He wrought himself into such a passion that he fell to the ground foaming at the mouth, with hands, clenched and the whole body rigid. The mother crying out that the son was dying, flew at her husband saying, "You must recant." The excitement became in­tense. The visitors stood around making frequent suggestions first to one party and then to the other. Mung's obstinancy puzzled them, for it is always understood that when a position is so offensive as to create a general uproar it must be yielded. Missionaries are often blamed by the Chinese for refusing to yield just a little of right and justice for the sake of peace. Mung had been accustomed all his life to the compromising method. His son was now lying on the floor apparently dying, his daughters were wailing, his wife vehemently pressing him, his venerable relatives beseeching, and his neighbors remonstrating. So he yielded. Yes, he would leave the church and drop the whole matter.

      Soon everything became quiet. The son arose from the ground in health. Relatives and friends returned complacently to their homes.

      Next day when the old man was out at work, the son proposed to burn his books, still fearing the promise might have been given without the intention of fulfilling it.

      "No," said the mother, "I dare not allow that. Your father is a lamb when unprovoked, but a tiger when his anger is aroused." On the following Sabbath, Mr. Mung, instead of going out to

[p. 108]
work, took down his Bible and began to read. The son, looking at his mother, said, "I told you so! I told you he did not mean to keep his promise!"

      "No," slowly and firmly replied the old man. "No. Once having obtained eternal life, do you think I will throw it away? Never!"

      So though he held staunchly to his religion, yet he had no prick­ings of conscience for the falsehood he had told. "To be sure," said he, "it was, strictly speaking, not right to lie about it, but under such circumstances who could adhere closely to the right?"

      Temporizing, compromising, trimming, avoiding difficulties, are essential to the Chinese code, hence the training of the con­science of one of these people is a slow process. Enunciating the right is to his mind the same as performing it, or at least that is as much as can be expected.

      This same faithful Mung, when his widowed daughter begged him to facilitate her learning the way of salvation, replied, "No, it is enough for me to bear the burden of being a Christian myself. You belong to your father-in-law, not to me, and I cannot take the responsibility for such a step on your part." Through instruction and Christian growth, however, he learned to view the matter dif­ferently, and his daughter erelong became a Christian.

      For nearly twenty years he and his wife were among the best of native Christians, letting their light shine and leading others into the heavenly road. His widowed daughter preceded him to the better land, and he himself died in a good old age rejoicing in the hope of eternal life. The only surviving daughter was baptized shortly after his death. Such Christians are a great joy to the mis­sionaries, and their constant prayers are that many more may be speedily gathered into the churches in China

     Mr. Crawford baptized a number of others in the year of Mr. Mung's conversion, and the Monument Street Church reached a membership of about twenty-five persons. About the same time there was also an awakening in connection with Mr. HartwelPs labors. Tsang Yuen Teh had heard the gospel at Hwang Hien, and with soul on fire had taken it to his home at Shang Tswang. On the approach of the robbers in 1867, he led his family and relatives to a mountain top for safety. There all kneeling down he prayed the Heavenly Father for protection. Not a hair of their heads was in­jured, while a party of their neighbors who had refused to go with them were massacred. These experiences impressed them pro­foundly and prepared many of them to accept Tsang's teaching. In the early spring he and several of his brothers, with their wives

[p. 109]
and aged mother, proceeded to Mr. Hartwell's home in Teng Chow where they remained some weeks under his religious teach­ing. During the year Mr. Hartwell baptized twenty-two persons.

      A year or two later the Monument Street Church rented rooms at the Mung village to serve as a chapel, while eight of the breth­ren volunteered to go in turn, two and two, and preach to the peo­ple there, the church defraying their expenses. A goodly number attended the services, and things seemed to prosper for some time. Mr. and Mrs. Crawford also went out occasionally, laboring at that and the adjacent villages. After a while opposition arose, and the village elders forbade any one entering the chapel on pain of a fine. This put an end to the congregation, and the rooms were re­turned to the owner, as it was thought best to suspend the work there for some years.

      In 1870 the political and social atmosphere all over China be­came filled with animosity toward foreigners, and the most outra­geous vices were attributed to them. A vile book issued by some one in Hunan and scattered throughout the empire, called The Death Blow to Corrupt Doctrines, fired the public mind by gath­ering up all the old scandalous rumors, adding more to them, and advising the extermination of the hated race. Some of these accu­sations were couched in such obscene language that the translators of the book omitted certain portions for the sake of decency. Re­ports flew about that all foreigners were to be killed or driven out of the country. Such tales had gained currency so often that the missionaries were not inclined to give heed to them until at last they culminated, June 21, 1870, in the Tientsin massacre a tragedy that horrified the civilized world. Innocent foreign men, women and children were suddenly seized, tortured and slain in a most horrible manner. The Roman Catholic Orphanage, Cathedral, and other buildings at Tientsin were burned to the ground, the native officials not lifting a hand for the protection of life or property. The sufferers were mostly French, but the Chinese masses did not distinguish between nationalities. News of the atrocity, even some of the details, reached the Crawford's at Teng Chow before the deed was actually perpetrated, showing conclusively that the plans were well matured and widely known. The position of all foreign­ers now became critical. The gentry of Teng Chow held meetings to discuss the situation. And a proposition was made to send a committee for the purpose of examining the cellar of Dr. Mateer of the Presbyterian mission to see if the eyes and hearts of murdered Chinese women and children were secreted, there. However, one

[p. 110]
of their number who had been a frequent visitor at the missionar­ies' houses, and who had seen this cellar in the process of con­struction and knew its design, dissuaded them from their purpose. The servants of both the Baptist and Presbyterian missions became alarmed and some of them fled to their homes. Spies came prowl­ing around the mission houses, asking to see their internal arrange­ments, and it was thought best to allow them to do so. The stories increased in number and intensity, as they flew from mouth to mouth, the people scowled upon the missionaries as they walked the streets, and old acquaintances feared to let them enter their homes. Finally, the missionaries requested the magistrate to issue a proclamation denying the reports, so as to quiet the people; but when he declined to do this, saying there was no danger, they de­cided in consultation to retire to Chefoo until there should be a change in the public mind. As it would have been difficult for so many to secure native conveyance at once, and as they feared be­ing attacked on the way, they dispatched a messenger to the United States consul, S. A. Holmes, Esq., of Chefoo, asking for a gunboat to transport them to that place. Chefoo had also passed through a panic, many of the women fleeing on shipboard for safety while the men stood guard in the streets of the settlement. There being no American vessel of war in the port at the time, the British admiral generously sent up one which took them all to Chefoo, except Mr. Crawford and Mr. Mateer, who remained be­hind to arrange for the security of their mission dwellings. Having placed the keys in the hands of the magistrate they followed a few days later by land.

      The sudden departure of the missionaries on a man-of-war broke the spell and the people looked at each other in dumb aston­ishment. The officials awoke to the fact that grave responsibilities rested on them, and when nearly two months later the missionaries returned in a United States war vessel, the Prefect promised to give them ample protection, requesting the gentlemen of the mis­sion to go directly to him should there be any disturbance. This pledge has been faithfully kept by the successive incumbents of the office ever since.

      A number of persons were baptized soon after their return from Chefoo, those professing Christianity being nothing daunted by the dangers that seemed to threaten. Mrs. Hartwell "fell on sleep" a few days before the Tientsin massacre, and, so mercifully es­caped its attendant troubles.

      From the beginning of their residence in Teng Chow Mr. Crawford

[p. 111]
noticed the prevalence of an impression in the public mind regarding the missionaries which he had never observed at Shanghai. The people looked upon them as possessing a kind of political power that would give them a mighty influence with the mandar­ins, or native officials, and in consequence of this belief the people constantly sought the aid of the missionaries in lawsuits. This im­pression may have arisen from the conditions under which the missionaries settled among them just at the end of the war between China and the English-French alliance. By this war the Chinese supposed themselves subjugated, and thought that foreigners com­ing as conquerors would be able to have everything their own way. The missionaries could largely have corrected these erroneous opinions had not their native employees helped to keep them alive. Many years afterward they learned one reason why, in the Teng Chow region, their reiterated assertions that they had no official power were unheeded, and why the popular belief in this supposed power only increased. A man named Tso, who came from Shang­hai as a missionary's native assistant, had spent much of his life in the office of his mandarin brother, and was consequently conver­sant with the various ins and outs of that most corrupt of all places. Taking advantage of the prevailing impression, Tso gave it out that he was interpreter and general manager for the foreigners at Teng Chow and could induce them to do whatever he chose. Peo­ple soon began to go to him with their lawsuits, begging him to intercede with the foreigners, who, in turn, should bring their pres­tige to bear upon the mandarins in behalf of his clients. As a rule the man who had the money (for it was the money that Tso cov­eted in his nefarious schemes) was the man who secured his help. He gained a number of suits and was handsomely rewarded.

      On a certain occasion, by false representations, he induced a missionary to accompany him to the office of the city magistrate and intercede for an oppressor who thereby gained his case. The mandarins themselves seemed to stand in some indefinable dread of offending the foreigners, the feeling being secretly fostered by Mr. Tso. But "murder will out," and in process of time he was dis­missed from employment and excluded from the church for other transgressions. Years elapsed before much of his lawsuit iniquities came to light. It required long and patient effort, after his career at Teng Chow was ended, to even measurably counteract the evil. Nay, even in 1893 some of the native Christians claimed that mis­sionaries should manage their lawsuits and aid in the collection of their bad debts. This idea prevails in most parts of China even yet,

[p. 112]
and is privately fostered by men like Mr. Tso. What a strong hold this thought had on the community and how it was sometimes used, let two instances illustrate.

      A bachelor named Tsei, living in a village twenty miles from Teng Chow, and professing deep interest in the gospel, came to Mrs. Crawford repeatedly for religious instruction. He occasion­ally attended the Sunday services at Sun Kia, and several of the brethren from that village visited him. He groaned over his sins, studied the Bible, and seemed diligent in prayer, but somehow he failed to secure their confidence and his repeated applications for baptism were deferred. Finally becoming impatient he went to Chefoo and applied for baptism to Dr. W. of the Scotch Presbyte­rian mission. Dr. W., learning that Tsei had been under Mr. Craw­ford's instruction, wrote to know if there were sufficient reasons for refusing baptism to such an earnest inquirer. Mr. Crawford in reply gave some suspicions of the man's sincerity. Later Dr. W. wrote again, saying that Tsei had quite gained his confidence, that Mr. Crawford's suspicions must be groundless, and that he felt it his duty to baptize him. Mr. Crawford replied that it was a matter Dr. W. must decide for himself, but suggested that it might be well to give Mr. Tsei no material benefit for his profession of Christian­ity. Dr. W. received him and all went on smoothly. But after a while Tsei took his cousin's wife. This had been his object from the first. His outraged fellow villagers, notwithstanding his having joined the "foreigners' church," gave him a terrible beating and returned the woman to her husband. Now came his opportunity to use the foreigner. He accordingly brought his case of suffering "for Christ's sake" before Dr. W., and desired him to have his per­secutors severely punished. Dr. W. by some means (it is often very difficult to get at the truth in such a case) found out the real state of affairs and refused aid, and sharply rebuked Tsei for his wick­edness. With this his Christianity ceased and we heard no more of him.

      Second, Brother Kwo, an earnest Christian and a member of Monument Street Church, consulted Mr. Crawford in regard to lending a considerable amount of his hard-earned money to his neighbor, Mr. Li, for the purpose of setting up some business. Mr. Li was to do the work and the two were to share the profits equally. Mr. Crawford advised against the partnership, reminding Mr. Kwo that Mr. Li was borrowing in every direction, and, as was well known, never paid his debts. But Mr. Li's fair promises gained the day, and as was anticipated Kwo could recover neither

[p. 113]
profits nor capital. Then Mr. Kwo came to Mr. Crawford, his pas­tor, and urged that he make Li return his money. Mr. Crawford told him that he feared his efforts in that direction would be in vain. Mr. Kwo replied that Mr. Crawford should take the matter to the mandarin, which he declined to do, but insisted that collecting debts was no part of his ministerial duty. Whereupon Mr. Kwo went about among the brethren complaining of Mr. Crawford for his neglect of pastoral obligations. The native pastor of the other church was very much exercised upon the subject and told Kwo to try Mr. Crawford again. "If he again refuses to take up the case," he continued, warmly, "come to me and I will do what I can for you, though you are not a member of my church." Mr. Kwo died, however, without collecting the debt, and the father and brother complained bitterly against Mr. Crawford because he refused to take up the matter.

      These views of the missionaries' relations to the native Chris­tians so filled the atmosphere around them that it required the ut­most firmness and vigilance on Mr. Crawford's part to maintain his proper place as a religious teacher. His course, though disap­pointing their false expectations, was the only true and wholesome one. Some missionaries, unfortunately yielding to the pressure, fell into the snare to the unspeakable injury of the cause of Christianity in China. As the years go on, however, there is less and less of this interference in lawsuits by missionaries of all denominations and fewer requests for it.

Go to Chapter 16

[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]

Return to Baptist China Missionary Index
Return to Baptist Biographies
Return to Baptist History Homepage