Conversions, Baptisms, Difficult Questions
After the recapture of the city of Shanghai by the Imperialists, order was gradually restored, and the missionary work was resumed under some new conditions. This is partly shown by the following further quotation from the letter mentioned in the last chapter:"On last Sabbath we had the pleasure of witnessing the baptism of our teacher, Wong Ping San. In the presence of numbers of his fellow-countrymen, he renounced all trust in any other salvation than that through Jesus Christ, the Son of the true God. There are a few others who seem somewhat interested in the gospel. The brethren have appointed Friday evening for Chinese prayer-meeting in our study at Te Hwo Dong, and services for the little church at the same place at twelve o'clock. Besides these meetings, there will be preaching to the heathen almost every day, both at our city house and at the Sung Way Dong. I think there is more disposition to listen to the truth than formerly."One of the missionaries in writing of Wong Ping San's examination for baptism, said:"It was really charming to hear him tell his experience - his struggles with heathenism, his efforts to make himself better, his doubts, his fears, and his final triumph in an old-fashioned conversion by the Holy Spirit."This marked conversion of so intelligent a man, who, from seventeen years of age, had been a diligent seeker after truth, had investigated the claims of all the religions around him, but found no rest for his soul, made an epoch in missions at Shanghai. Referring to his change of heart he said,"When I had prayed some time and arose to my feet, I felt that at all the enmity and ill will I had ever entertained toward others had passed away; and in my heart and whole body I felt invigorated. Suddenly I thought and said, 'Surely God has forgiven my sins or else I could not so freely forgive others their trespasses against me.' Thereupon I was enabled to return thanks without measure."This took place while he was still shut up in the besieged city, a short time before the visits of the
[This page has a picture of Dr. Crawford made in 1901; also a picture of Wang Ping San, the first convert under the work of the Crawfords, and forty years pastor of the Shanghi Baptist Church. These picture are not included.]
missionaries were cut off by the French blockade.
Mr. and Mrs. Crawford never forgot the joy of their interview with him the day after his great change. His face glowed with heavenly light as he said, "I have received the Holy Spirit," and then recounted to them his conflicts and final victory through trust in Christ. They had often been told by other missionaries that an honest mental assent to the truth of Christianity was all that could be expected of Chinese converts at that stage of the work. They could not accept this view, but labored in faith for the same conversions by the Holy Spirit that have followed proclamation of the gospel through the ages. Therefore they had double joy in seeing their faith verified by such an unmistakable passing from death unto life of a man for whom their hearts had been so intensely engaged. This joy was theirs alone for a time, as none of their colleagues saw him between his conversion and his escape from the city several months later. Prior to this, a few natives had united with other mission churches, and four men with the Baptist Church at Shanghai. Of these four, two had been excluded, one, Asau, had died, and one miserable specimen still remained. Soon after Wong's baptism this last one was excluded for opium-smoking, lying, and obtaining money under false pretenses; so Wong Ping San was in reality the first permanent member of the Shanghai Baptist Church.
As before stated, the four mission families, Yates, Burton, Cabaniss and Crawford, were now all living temporarily in the house erected in the foreign settlement, which they named Te Hwo Dong, that is, the "hall of brotherly love." While there, one Sunday morning, in the early spring of 1855, their front gate was opened, and in walked about a dozen country people, led by a man and his wife whom the Crawfords immediately recognized. These leaders of the party had been frequent visitors at the Yah Joh Loong during the war, and had listened with much interest to the gospel. Like many others, they had escaped from the city during the siege, and found refuge in one of the numerous villages a mile or two back of the Episcopal mission. They had industriously told the gospel story to the owner of the house in which they found shelter, and to many of the other villagers. Now that peace was restored, a large company of them sought the Crawfords saying: "We are come to hear more of this doctrine of salvation." Having walked several miles, they were invited to remain all day, which they gladly did. One middle-aged woman, the landlady of the refugees, was especially earnest, and as Mrs. Crawford urged on her
the obligations and joys of the gospel, she, taking the missionary's hand in both of hers, said: "You are going to heaven. You are acquainted there. I wish you to take me along and introduce me, for I do not know the way nor how to behave when I get there." All listened seriously, and came again and again, Sabbath after Sabbath. The Crawfords also accepted their invitation to visit the village, and did so, accompanied by Wong Ping San, and they thought some of them were not far from the kingdom of heaven. One young woman they remembered with peculiar interest. She was not yet married, and felt sure her future husband and family would not permit her to become outwardly a Christian. Her sighs, tears and prayers were very touching. They could only pray for her, point her to Jesus and urge her to trust in Him as a complete and all-powerful Saviour, who will never fail those who commit themselves to Him.
The Episcopal missionaries, learning what was going on at this village, sought an interview with Mr. Crawford, and claimed that region as belonging to their parish, though hitherto they had done no work there. Mr. Crawford explained that the leaders of this party of natives were his neighbors in the city, and that he and his wife had been their sole religious guides. The fact that the village was nearer the Episcopal residences than Mr. Crawford's did not seem a sufficient reason for relinquishing a work which Providence had thrown on them. Finally the Episcopal missionaries, seeing no other way to detach these people from the religious watchcare of the Baptists and attach them to their own church, opened a school in the village, employing the man from the city as teacher. Thus by offering this inducement to him and the patrons of the school, they gained a victory for which Mr. Crawford would not compete. This was the first, but not the last, time they had their inquirers and converts turned from them by pecuniary inducements. Such incentives to a profession of Christianity or choice of denomination are exceedingly corrupting, and they would never employ them. They never knew how many from this village joined the Episcopal Church. They saw the woman who had asked them to lead her to heaven once after she joined them. She seemed very loving and said: "I was sorry not to go with you, but they told me their church was nearer than yours, and after all it is the same Jesus and the same heaven."
Mrs. Yee, previously mentioned, had become interested in the gospel years before this period. While her husband, who was a tea-chest painter, was working and they were living at Su Chow, had
visited Shanghai in the furtherance of his business, and on return had told her about the foreign preaching halls, where a new religion or plan for securing salvation was taught. The idea of salvation took hold of her, and when the family removed to Shanghai, she earnestly desired to visit one of these halls. But being timid, and no one offering to lead the way, she anxiously awaited an opportunity. At last, having heard of the day schools, she gladly sent her two daughters as pupils, and afterwards her son. These girls daily taught their mother what they learned of Christianity, and when the Crawfords first met her, she already knew the ten commandments and the Lord's Prayer, and many scriptural facts. Though receiving constant instruction from Mr. Wong Ping San, as well as from the missionaries, when visiting the city, she was still, at the end of the siege, groping her way in the dark. She said one day, "When you think me ready I wish to be baptized, for I desire to follow Jesus in all things." Not long after this, as she knelt beside the bed in her cheerless hut, she gave herself to Jesus and found light and joy inexpressible. Springing to her feet, she hastened to tell Mr. Wong of her new found happiness. She was baptized by Mr. Crawford in the river in the summer of 1855. She was the first woman ever baptized in Shanghai. A friend had remonstrated with her in advance, saying, "Are you not afraid? You have never taken a cold bath in your life." She replied, "No, nor even washed my face in cold water, but I am not afraid. Jesus would not tell me to do what would hurt me, and if he did I would do it, and let hurt."
Mr. Crawford secured a good position for Mr. Nee as a teacher with another missionary, and took Mr. Wong, about the time of his baptism, as teacher of the language for himself and wife. Thus by daily association with them, Wong could have the religious instruction he so much needed. Even before his conversion he seemed to pity the erring, ignorant people, and now felt doubly anxious to present the Saviour for their acceptance. He was a close student of the Bible, and while they were learning from him the ins and outs of the Chinese language, Mr. Crawford opened up to him the rich treasures of God's word. The many practical phases of Christianity could also be better presented in this free intercourse than through set lessons. The two became intimate friends, studying together in the mornings and meeting in the afternoons in one of the chapels to preach in turn to the crowds that gathered. Sometimes Mrs. Crawford accompanied them to the chapels, sometimes to the surrounding villages, and took boat excursions with them to different towns. That article of the treaty with China,
restricting foreigners to a twenty-four hours' absence from an open port, had by this time become a dead letter, and journeys of weeks were made without disturbance or protest. By means of the general system of canals, any city, market town, or important village, in the great Yang Tsze valley, might be reached by boat. Boats of all sizes, from the narrow dispatch boat carrying one man who propels the oars with his feet, up to the luxurious pleasure palace, might be constantly seen passing hither and thither. They usually hired a good passenger boat of three compartments, furnishing of necessity their own bedding, cooking utensils, table furniture, fuel and provisions. Now steam is rapidly changing these modes of travel.
When stopping at any place, great or small, a crowd would immediately collect on the bank, affording an opportunity for preaching and tract distribution. Often leaving the boat for these purposes, the men of the party would visit different parts of the town, such as tea houses, open areas, or temple courts. Mrs. Crawford was sometimes invited to private houses, where she could present the gospel to the women in a more quiet way than on the boat.
At a certain town on one of their short trips, while they were standing on the pavement in front of a handsome temple, Mr. Crawford preaching to the multitudes, some person called out, "Bring a bench! Bring a seat!" One was speedily brought, and the missionaries were invited to be seated. After refusing for some time, the crowd earnestly insisting, they yielded. Shouts burst from hundreds of throats, "Ha! they can sit down, they can bend their knees like other people!" On seeking an explanation from their teacher, they were told that before the capture of Shanghai by the British troops, the officials issued a proclamation to encourage the people, saying that foreigners had no joints in their legs, and if knocked down they could not rise again.
The effect upon the nervous system of being always watched by a curious, gaping multitude, cannot be fully appreciated without experience. With closed doors and windows, they could sail along in midstream without attracting attention. But such imprisonment was intolerable for long periods. Like other mortals they need air and light, and with these come the gazing. Besides, health required them to get out of the boat occasionally and take walks on the paths along the canal. The country being a dead level, without trees or fences, they could be discerned from afar. In every direction could be seen men, women and children, running toward them for a good look. It was to most of these people the opportunity of a
lifetime. Walking on one of these trips, a long train of gazers following after, some being rather boisterous, the travelers suddenly wheeled about to retrace their steps. The movement being designedly sharp and unexpected, produced a general panic. The crowd turned and fled as for life, screaming at the top of their voices, calling on their gods for help. This experiment was not repeated. At another time, walking near nightfall along the canal, two countrymen came up rather rapidly behind them. On discovering them to be foreigners, one said, "Don't get too near lest they kick!" The other evidently priding himself on his superior knowledge, replied, "No, they are men!" Again they once heard a Shanghai man and a countryman discussing them. The latter exclaimed, "How white they are!" "Yes," said the citizen, "and if you lived on cow's milk like they do you would be white too."
In those early days, preaching was mainly addressed; not to regular congregations, but to great crowds of raw heathen, most of whom could not fix their attention, nor remain quiet long enough to understand a connected discourse. Under these conditions, formal services with singing and prayer were out of the question. Great skill was required to even partially interest the audience. Sermons could not be delivered after the western models, with their firstly and secondly, one argument coming out of another in logical order. Such preaching, had it been possible for the speaker, would have been lost on the audience. In private conversation with thoughtful Chinese, close reasoning is frequently necessary and appreciated, but for this, as well as for the mode of addressing the masses, skill can only be acquired by long practice and close study of the native mind. A certain kind of logic is demanded, but nothing is so effective, so convincing, as the assertion of a truth, pointed by a striking illustration.
Prior to Wong's baptism, the little church at Shanghai, composed of the missionaries and one native member, met for communion service once each month. The songs, most of the prayers and talks were in English, but the closing doxology was in Chinese, the only hymn of the kind in their possession. When they began to have prayer-meetings and weekly church services, hymns in the dialect of the people became indispensable, and Mr. Crawford felt impelled to supply the need.
A few days before his marriage in 1851, while he and his intended bride were discussing the character of their prospective work in China, Mr. Crawford said: "Our religion is a social one, and it seems to me that Christian churches can never be built up of
men alone. Your work will therefore be as essential to success as mine. Neither can Chinese congregations be sustained without vocal music. The people on our field will as yet have neither sacred hymns nor tunes. If you will teach our converts to sing, I will supply the hymns." To this she heartily assented.
In accordance with these early convictions, he now set about making hymns in the Shanghai dialect. Many of the missionaries had opposed the use of foreign tunes, maintaining that they destroyed the meaning of the words by violating the tones of the language. Some favored the use of Taoist chants and for the hymns preferred the classical style; but when Mr. Wong and Mr. Crawford composed and translated a few songs into the dialect, which was set to old familiar American tunes, the natives accepted them with avidity, and objections vanished. All united heartily in the movement. Such hymns and tunes were soon sung in all the mission churches, and a new era in religious worship was introduced in Shanghai.
Residence in the English settlement being inconvenient to their work, which lay mainly within the city walls, when the cooler autumn weather of 1855 came on, the Crawfords returned to their old home in the city for the winter. There they came in constant contact with the people, and had their school under daily supervision. But the dampness and malaria proved to be detrimental to their health. After two months of labor there, both were, within a day of each other, taken seriously ill. Dr. Burton moved them back to Te Hwo Dong, where he and Mrs. Burton cared for them most tenderly, the doctor acting as both physician and nurse until their recovery. As Dr. Burton strongly advised against any future attempt to live in the city, they returned the house to its owners, and rented a smaller one in a better location for a chapel, yet sufficiently large for the two schools. Mr. Po, the only son of a wealthy man, had succeeded Mr. Wong as teacher of the girls' school, and in a short time he and Mr. Saw, who taught the boys, both became Christians, each dying years afterwards in the faith. At this place, called Nay Way Dong, the missionaries spent the greater part of three days each week. Mr. Crawford and Mr. Wong preached in the forenoon, and after a cold dinner which they took with them, the rest of the day was spent in talking personally with the people; they to the men and Mrs. Crawford to the women, on opposite sides of the room. In this way they could find out the religious wants and difficulties of their hearers, and apply the truth accordingly. They found that public preaching to the heathen, without
some such accompanying conversation, is largely lost. The preaching hall being upstairs, hidden from the public gaze, they soon had quite a large, regular congregation. Opening into this hall was a small room, into which Mrs. Crawford often took serious women for prayer. Mrs. Yee, who with her family now lived in the lower part of this house, made this little room her sanctum and retreat from domestic distractions, frequently taking the others with her there to pray. It was in this place, too, that Mrs. Ling, mentioned in "The Chinese Bride," came while visiting a friend in the city, to offer her petitions; for her friend had said, "It frightens me to have you talk to God where I am."
During the years 1855 to 1857, a number of persons, besides school teachers and servants in the several mission families, became Christians. A general spirit of inquiry manifested itself in connection with the labors of all. Messrs. Yates and Cabaniss having returned to their repaired houses, a small chapel was built near them, outside the old north gate of the city, where the regular Sabbath services of the church were afterwards held. Baptisms were administered at the Sung Way Dong, where the audiences became more orderly. As a nucleus the native Christians on these occasions gathered around the pulpit and joined in the services. Chinese women, timid and shrinking as they are, never, so far as the observation of these missionaries extended, when truly converted, objected to being baptized, nor hesitated to use the portion of the chapel set apart for them.
While Mr. Crawford had his little preaching place near the south gate, with the boys and girls' day school connected with it, Mr. Cabaniss had similar quarters in another part of the city. Mr. and Mrs. Yates labored in their own neighborhood, having the use of the little chapel in which the church meetings were held on Sundays. Dr. Burton had labored in the medical line at a still different preaching hall, but was already becoming discouraged in regard to its evangelistic uses. Those who became interested in the gospel at any of these centers, or at the Sung Way Dong, where preaching to the masses was carried on daily by the missionaries in turn, were requested to attend the meetings on Sundays at the old North Gate Chapel, where all the church members assembled for worship. Thus was beautifully illustrated a division of labor with a united work. About this time Dr. Burton resigned from the mission, practicing his profession among natives and foreigners, until the opening of the American Civil War, when he returned to the United States.
In these early years of his labors, a fellow-worker asking Mr. Crawford's advice in regard to the propriety of admitting polygamists to baptism and church fellowship, led him to the careful study of this question. Missionaries were not of one opinion on this subject. As in every other perplexity, he went to the word of God for guidance. The first passage that came to him was Paul's injunction to Timothy, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober and of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre." (1 Timothy iii:2, 3.) "This scripture would imply," he said, "that there were those in the churches who had more than one wife." But a fellow-missionary suggested that such was not conclusive; for many other things were forbidden to the bishops, of which it would be a shame for any Christian to be guilty. So he began to search for other scripture teachings on this matter.
"And he saith unto them whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her," etc. (Mark x:11, 12.) "If it be adultery to marry another, when the first is put away, much more gross adultery must it be to marry another while still retaining the first." It seemed to him that Jesus had thus decided the question by this one affirmation. And there were other teachings of the Lord equally explicit, which need not be mentioned here; and Paul also by inspiration says, "Nevertheless to avoid fornication let every man have his own wife, and every woman her own husband" - by implication not the husband of another woman.
Nor is the Old Testament silent on this subject, though the Israelites followed this and other customs of the heathen around them for many generations. Leviticus xviii: 18 says, "Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister (margin, "one wife to another," which is probably the true rendering) in her life time." Moreover, in China polygamy is not legal. A man marries a chi (wife), but the arrangements and ceremonies are quite different when he takes a chie (concubine). The words are entirely unlike, and there should never be any question as to which one of his "wives" he should keep and which put away. All but his legal wife are concubines.
"But," some one objected, "perhaps several of these later ones have children, and the first or real wife may have none, would it not be cruel to break up families in this way?" His reply always was, "It is not our province to decide all the details in such matters, but the fact remains that the man must cohabit with but one - the lawful wife; yet he is under obligation to provide for the other
women and the children. Of course, turning away from this sin has its inconveniences and heartaches; so of the idolator, the drunkard, the opium-smoker, and other transgressors. But even sins of ignorance, when brought to the light, must be repented of and turned from, and every man must take the consequences of his own mistakes and sins."
He was sometime in clearly reaching all these conclusions, but held them firmly to the end. In all his long life he never had occasion to accept or reject a polygamist.
Go to Chapter 10
[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reprinted and reformatted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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