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

Chapter XXIX

A Poem for the Churches

God leads his saints in wondrous ways,
His purpose to fulfill;
He gives them grace to choose their course,
And works his sovereign will.
Supported by his loving hands
They rise upon their feet;
He bids them go — run to and fro,
And make their strength complete.
Some run at first with eager haste,
And down they fall with pain;
The Father kindly lifts them up,
And bids them start again.
Some feeble ones begin to move,
Then hesitate from fear;
To such he gently says: "Fear not,
Your Father's arms are here."
He lets them stumble, totter, err;
He does not let them go,
But turns their weakness into strength,
And makes them wiser grow.

Betimes, he sends them forth to work —
To cultivate his field,
To break the sod and sow the seed,
Regardless of the yield.
He lets them reap the seed they sow,
Allots to each his share,
Maintains their right to all they own,
And thus he proves his care.
His way — so holy, just and true,

[p. 229]
So loving and complete —
Sends through their souls a living thrill
That makes their service sweet.
They hence revere His Holy Name,
Perceive with clearest ken
That justice sways his sovereign mind,
And feel themselves free men —
Not free to sin and dissipate,
Like slave on holiday;
But free from Fate and carnal bonds,
Yet bound in Christ for aye.
'Tis thus they love the Lord their God,
And love their neighbor too;
'Tis thus they keep his righteous law,
And pay their debts when due.

The Lord has set his saints in flocks —
In churches large and small;
Like sheep they love to congregate,
Dependent each on all;
Like sheep they have an aptitude
To hear a shepherd's voice,
To follow him with ready step,
And in his care rejoice.
The faithful shepherd knows his sheep,
And counts them one by one;
He leads them forth to pastures green,
And guards them as his own.
Such shepherds, born and called of God,
Are blest with courage bold,
To keep the wolves beyond the flock,
The goats without the fold.
True pastors love the cause of Christ,
The people in their care,
And seek their good by day and night,
With trembling, hope and fear.
They look for their reward above,
Where Jesus sits enthroned;
Their hearts and aims to him respond
Whose life for us atoned.

[p. 230]
Such do not cringe before the strong,
Nor trample on the weak;
But show respect to every one,
In ways both just and meek.
They do not strive for worldly fame;
Nor force, nor bribe, nor lie
To draw disciples after them,
"To make their colors fly."
They do not act the double part,
As certain "wise ones" do,
Who shrewdly claim to hold the right,
And still the wrong pursue.
Nor do they serve the cause for gain,
Or seek an easy place,
Since Christ their Lord was crucified
To save a fallen race.
They feel impelled by Christ's command,
The gospel to proclaim —
To preach to sinners, old and young,
Salvation in his name —
His name alone, and boldly say
To ever-erring men,
Trust not in works or outward rites,
"Ye must be born again."

"Salvation! O the joyful sound,"
The gift of God Triune!
'Tis thus we have our second birth,
Our life with Christ attune;
'Tis thus we wear his sacred name,
And bear his cross while here;
'Tis thus we brace our courage up,
And wait till he appear.
'"Tis grace — free grace — the work must crown
Through everlasting days;
It lays in heaven the topmost stone,
And well deserves the praise."
'Tis grace, through faith in Jesus' blood,

[p. 231]
That breaks the sinner's heart,
That brings him weeping to the cross,
And makes his sins depart;
That fits him for his duties here,
For stations low and high;
For every work beneath the sun,
And life beyond the sky.

A Christian church must follow Christ,
The way, the truth, the life;
Must worship him with lowly mind,
Above all carnal strife;
Must be the home of loving saints,
With welcome warm and free.
With helping words for struggling souls
On life's tempestuous sea;
Must truly be the house of God,
A temple for the Holy Ghost;
A beacon light that streams afar
Along life's dang'rous coast.

Such church must rest on solid rock,
And not on glitt'ring sand;
Must rise in Christ her living Head,
A self-denying band;
A consecrated, active band,
To do his high behest,
That weary, heavy-laden souls
May come to him for rest.
"Elect of God" — a "chosen" band
To suffer loss and shame,
To be reviled and ostracised
In honor of his name.
"Elect of God" to persevere
Through good and ill report,
To frown upon the ways of sin,
And give the right support;
To hand the faith from age to age,

[p. 232]
To make no substitutes;
To serve the Lord as he enjoins,
And not as fancy suits.
'Tis thus each church should clearly be
The Body of the Lord,
Assembling every Sabbath day
To carry out his word;
A congregation formed of saints,
A holy brotherhood,
Impelled by God and mutual love
To seek each other's good.
A poet true has sung her praise
With unpretending art —
Her power to charm and elevate
The truly pious heart:

"Well, wife, I've found the model church,
And worshipped there to-day;
It made me think of good old times,
Before my hair was grey;
The meeting-house was finer built
Than they were years ago;
But then I found, when I went in,
It was not built for show.

"The sexton did not set me down
Away back by the door;
He knew that I was old and deaf,
And saw that I was poor.
He must have been a Christian man,
He led me boldly through
The crowded aisle of that grand church
To find a pleasant pew.

"I wish you'd heard the singing, wife,
It had the old-time ring —

[p. 233]
The preacher said, with trumpet voice,
'Let all the people sing'!
'All hail the power,' was the hymn;
The music upward rolled,
Until I thought the angel choir
Struck all their harps of gold.

"My deafness seemed to melt away,
My spirit caught the fire;
I joined my feeble, trembling voice
With that melodious choir.
I sang as in my youthful days,
'Let angels prostrate fall!
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown him Lord of all.'

"I tell you, wife, it did me good
To sing that song once more,
I felt like some wreck'd mariner
Who gets a glimpse of shore —
I almost want to lay aside
This weather-beaten form,
And anchor in that blessed port
Forever from the storm.

'"Twas not a flow'ry sermon, wife,
But simple gospel truth;
It suited humble men like me,
It suited hopeful youth.
To win immortal souls to Christ
The earnest preacher tried;
He talked not of himself or creed,
But Jesus crucified.

[p. 234]
"Dear wife, the toil will soon be o'er,
The vie'try soon be won;
The shining land is just ahead,
Our race is nearly run.
We're nearing Canaan's happy shore,
Our home so bright and fair;
In heaven above no sin is found,
And there's no sorrow there."

The model church! her ornaments
How simple, yet how meet!
We love her courts, her inner life,
So charming and so sweet!
The vain, the "loud," the selfish type
Be gone! forever gone!
And let our people learn of Christ,
The meek and lowly one.

Each church is called to rule herself —
In Christ complete, though small;
Her laws are found in Holy Writ,
Her rule the vote of all.
She owns allegiance to her Lord,
And knows no earthly head;
She trusts in his directing power,
None other comes instead.
Christ fills her soul with love divine
For truth and freedom's cause;
He has no slaves within his realm,
Nor code of servile laws.
He sets her free from worldly cares,
And burthens not his own,
And calls her to his noblest work,
To make his gospel known.

[p. 235]
She has no part in specious schemes,
Nor union with the State;
No tribute brings to "pious rings,"
Or "saintly syndicate."
She guards her rights with watchful eye,
And in their due defense
Declines the "aid" of "Alphabets,"
With all their kind pretense.
She spends no time or funds on show,
Nor votes to build a spire
Surpassing all within the town
To make the folks admire!
She never tampers with God's word,
Nor tampers with her own;
But meets her pledges "honor bright,"
And thus she holds her crown.
The Lord's appointed work she does
With steady, cheerful mind,
And keeps it up from year to year
With' all her strength combined.
Such church—with moral vision clear,
With spirit kind and just,
With faith and practice reconciled —
Performs her sacred trust.

The mission work to her belongs —
The Lord did so ordain,
And holds her bound by his command
To rule in this domain.
In her domain — the gospel sphere —
Each church, as such, must use
Her men, her means, and all her gifts
To spread the saving news.
She plans her work with prayerful thought,
Her pastor leads the way,
Her members join with one accord
To serve, to give, to pray.
She sends her chosen heralds forth

[p. 236]
To regions far and near,
To men at home and men abroad,
To sinners everywhere;
They cry: "Behold the Lamb of God,
The Saviour lifted high!
Behold his side for sinners pierced;
Behold him bleed and die!
For you his precious blood was shed,
Your griefs on him were laid;
Repent and trust his saving love,
Your ransom price he paid!"

Some go to rude, benighted lands,
To preach — not "civilize,"
To make their carnal hearts anew,
And not to "formalize."
They put no trust in rites or modes,
In science, tool or skill
To re-construct the human soul,
Or change the carnal will.
They trust the power of gospel truth,
The spirit's work beside,
To form the new, the Christian life,
And make that life abide.
They sow in tears the precious seed,
And wait the harvest time;
To reap the known unripened grain
Would be to them a crime.
They study well their mission fields,
And what the Lord commands;
Nor do they heed impatient cries
For "mass-converting plans."
Such "plans" are not approved of Christ,
That's not the way it's done;
He never saves men's souls en masse,
He saves them one by one.
Impatience is a dang'rous vice —
An Anglo-Saxon trend,
The parent source of countless woes,
And errors without end.

p. 237]
Such go to lay foundations deep,
And not to "temporize;"
To do a self-sustaining work,
And not to "subsidize."
They ne'er degrade the native church,
Nor call for "pious gold"
To feed a "host of parasites,"
And codlings in the fold.
Nor do they seek to make "a noise"
By writing "grand reports"
That laud their labors for effect,
Or stoop to such resorts.
They feel themselves in conscience bound
To state unvarnished fact;
Respect the churches' right to know
The way their servants act.
These love their brethren in the work,
Observe fraternal laws,
And stand together for the truth,
The safety of the cause —
The safety of our Christian life,
Our church and mission weal —
Depend alike on fellowship
In Scripture, faith and zeal.

Co-operation is the plan,
The churches with their peers,
And with their workers on the field,
In mutual love and cares.
Then let the saints throughout the land —
Our churches one and all,
In cities, towns, and country round
Obey the Saviour's call;
Arrange themselves in helping groups —
Not over large or small —
And send their gospel heralds forth
Around this earthly ball.
How charming is such work of love!

[p. 238]
How sweet their tidings are]
To burthened souls in every place,]
To sinners in despair!

The promised day is giving signs,
The night begins to flee!
A glimmering light to gild the skies —
The dawning jubilee!
A captive world begins to wake,
The blinded eyes to see!
A voice from heaven seems now to say;
"Set all the nations free!"
Go sound the trump! Go tell the news!
Go cry, the Lord is come
To save his people from the chains,
And lead His ransomed home!

We now are growing old and worn,
Near four-score years are run;
Our mission jubilee is nigh,
Our work will soon be done.
Our fields with all our growing grain *
We do hereby bequeath
To you — the people of our love,
The churches of our faith.
Dear brethren in the Lord, farewell,
Our parting song is o'er;
We soon shall sing with you again,
Where partings are no more.

* [These fields are in and around the cities of Shanghai, Teng Chow, Ping Tu and Taian, China.]

[p. 239]
O God of peace, cause wrong to cease
For thy name's sake;
Let all partake —
And give thy people rest,
In love and Thee.

Bid doubts subside, and faith abide
Among thy saints;
Remove restraints —
And give thy people rest,
In love and Thee.

Thy grace impart to every heart,
Our sins forgive;
As we forgive
And give thy people rest,
In love and Thee.

Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done —
Not his or mine;
But only Thine —
Here let thy people rest,
In love and Thee.


      Though many trials, dangers and toils fell to the lot of these two servants of the Lord during the more than half century they la­bored in China, though called upon to bear reproaches and ostra­cism at the hands of their friends in the beloved home land, "none of these things moved them" one step from their blessed work. Al­ways, amidst the vivid flashes of the lightning, and the mad fury and thunder of the storm, they heard the Master's voice whisper­ing, "Peace, be still." They were sustained by the power of the same loving, almighty Saviour whom they preached to the Chinese sinners. Nothing was so grateful and so encouraging to their wea­ried spirits as to hear one of these redeemed heathen say, "This is a new way. Our literary men despise it, our common people reject it,
[p. 240]
our relatives hate it; nothing but obloquy, persecution, pecuniary loss will follow its acceptance. But my soul is more precious to me than all the glory and riches of the world."

      As that regenerated heathen counted all these as nothing com­pared with eternal life, and as Paul "counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus," so with these servants of the blessed Master, the raging of the heathen and the reproaches of friends weighed nothing, as they had respect unto the recompense of the reward, and looked at the things which are not seen, but eternal, and could joyfully sing:

Thou, Lord, dost reign o'er Thy domain,
From wrong and error free;
Whate'er may come, whate'er be done,
We trust, O Lord, in Thee.

The waves run high and lash the sky,
No light or rest we see;
Whate'er may come, whate'er be done,
We trust, O Lord, in Thee.


[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]

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