Gibraltar, Algeria, Malta, Egypt, India, Burma, Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, Russia
May 12th, 1889
Mouth of Pelho River, North China, Lord's Day
My Beloved Angee,
I left Lientsu by a Chinese steamer yesterday and am now on the voyage to Chefoo which is the nearest port to all the famine district where we hope to reach D.V. tomorrow morning at daylight. I probably spend two days there and then proceed to Shanghai and shall be very glad to have letters there. My last to you was from Peking which I hope may reach England safely – the postal communications in the North and Inland parts of China are very primitive and my last batch from Peking would be sent by courier to Lientsu who takes an overland route and not the winding course of the rivers. The last night in Peking was a very happy one with two of the dear missionaries who came down to the hotel and sat some time talking over various points of truth. They appear to have been much blessed and cheered in hearing the simple gospel and strange as it may appear to all, it was in many aspects quite new to them and they owned it very frankly. It was a cheer to my heart too from the Lord thus to be used in any feeble measure for the refreshment of the Lord's servants in this vast country and the furtherance of Christ's interests among its hundreds of millions. They pressed me very much to call on the missionaries at Tong Chew, the place where I took the river boat again and my wagon stopped at the door of the compound and I even went inside the [corner folded] but felt so anxious not to lose any time that I returned to the wagon again without having [corner folded] one and got down to the boat as quickly as possible – I feel this is right before God, and so long as the business detains me in the place I am happy in any little service the Lord privileges me to take up but when the work is done I feel the sooner I move on the better, although it is a real sorrow of heart often to part with those whom grace has united in eternal bonds in Christ for ever. We had a fine day for the return journey by the mule carts and acting on the advice of another I sat on the shaft in front and found the jolting was not quite so bad, but it was bad enough and I do not think my body ever had such an ordeal in that way before. We made a start in the house boat about 3 in the afternoon (we left Peking at 7am) on Wednesday and reached Tientsui about noon on Friday and at once took a passage by the first steamer for Chefoo. I spent a nice time again with Mr Tomalin the missionary in the evening and he came down and saw me off yesterday. I heard from him and Mr Couzens that the word I had given on the Lord's day at Tientsui was appreciated by many but there were also some present who thought it might be all very good for the heathen but was not at all suitable for such a congregation as was then before me. Mr Couzens replied that it exactly suited him and I told the despiser the story of a lady to whom the gospel was once put and who said to the preacher "what then do you mean to say I must be saved in the same way as my footman and on hearing that she must said in the pride of her heart then I must decline to be saved…" I was really glad to hear the word has pricked some consciences. The missionaries were heartily glad for my plain speaking.
Chefoo, May 15th
We reached this port early on Monday morning – it is called the Brighton of China and on one side of it certainly is a very lovely spot and much frequented by Europeans in the hot weather. There are several comfortable hotels facing the sea and having a fine sandy beach in front – there is also some hilly scenery around Chefoo, but like most Chinese hills are very barren. I was thankful to get inside the Sea View Hotel where I am now resting quietly waiting the next steamer for Shanghai – two were expected 12 hours ago but have not yet been sighted and it will not distress me to have one more night in a comfortable bed. The steamer I came down from Tientsui in was not a first class boat – my bunk was about a foot too short and just outside my cabin door which was upon deck were four coffins with corpses – certainly not the most agreeable cargo.
Chefoo, May 16th
Have had another night's rest here as expected and the Shanghai steamer has arrived and will leave in a few hours, so I will finish the letter which I hope to be in time for posting at Shanghai by next mail. God has graciously given me a very happy time in Chefoo and prospered the business so that I am again encouraged and pass on filled with thanksgiving for all His abounding grace and goodness. My dear friend Tomalin of Tientsiu gave me a letter of introduction to a Dr. Douthwaite of the China Inland Mission here where they have a large station with schools for the children of the missionaries in various parts of China and also a sanatorium for those needing rest. The station is about 3 miles out, so I sent the letter out to Dr. D. by a Coolee with a note saying I purposed remaining here for two days and would be glad to meet them if the way was clear. The servant soon returned with a kind note asking me down to dinner at 6.30 and he would invite other members of the mission to meet me. Dr. D. is a noble man indeed and devoted to the Lord and His interests – I was soon at home with him and after dinner others came for a meeting and the Lord gave us a time of refreshment from His Blessed presence. After this one of the missionaries suggested another meeting for the following evening and we came together again, many of the senior boys were present at the second meeting and I felt much drawn out to these dear lads many of whom confess Christ and were much interested. It was such a cheer for all our hearts and there were many present and in saying farewell I think we all felt it was only a moment's separation for us and then to go no more out from His presence where there is fullness of joy in a relationship both perfect and eternal. The widow of the late young Schofield who laboured in China was with us and I had a call during the day from a young missionary called Robert Stephen a Scotchman not long out and learning the language purposing to go out with the gospel in the southern part of this province – he is also acquainted with Mr Huntingdon Stove and had heard of me from a dear brother called Weir at Shanghai. He is a noble young fellow and takes the place of separation to the Lord and is not connected with any of the mission societies – he is with open brethren and says he has read many of J.N.D.'s works and I was glad to have a little book of lectures on the Epistles of John to give to him.
We are very near the famine district here and there is much activity in some parts of the port in shipping rice and flour to these poor creatures. It is very distressing to hear the accounts of the terrible sufferings - it appears after the little they may have in their dwellings is pawned or sold, the next thing is to sell their female children or if pressed their boys and I am told sometimes they sell even dead bodies for food. I have met a few eyewitnesses of the misery – a large firm of millers at San Francisco has just sent fifteen hundred sacks of flour as a gift and a ship owner has brought it down to Chefoo free of any freight charges. You cannot imagine the fearful state of filth and wretchedness they are in even in a prosperous place like this – the hundreds of beggars and impudent enough they are too that swarm the streets – they appear to be swarming with lice as it appears to be one of their chief occupations to take their rags of clothing and pick out these vermin. They appear to have a great propensity for gambling – the streets and quays are covered here and there with groups of a dozen or more sitting upon the ground playing cards and if they buy a piece of bread worth perhaps 3 cash they gamble with the vendor whether they shall give him 5 cash or have it for nothing. You may even see young children sitting in groups on the street playing gambling games with the pebbles of the road. This is the fruit of Confucian teaching that some "wise" men of the Nineteenth Century would hold up on a level with Christ's, the Son of God, yea Who is God over all blessed for evermore. It is sad to hear that many of the missionaries in China are tainted with the annihilation doctrine, notably the Baptists – all the China Inland Mission men are sound as to this but grieve at the pernicious influence this bad and Christ dishonouring doctrine exercises over the native Christians.
I do pray the Lord may raise up faithful men who shall hold fast His word and not deny His name not only for China and India but for other parts of the heathen world – I do feel that we have been all asleep as to our responsibility in this matter and it is deeply humbling to think that while we who have had the truth so wonderfully unfolded to us are sleeping as to real missionary work – the enemy is full of activity in doing an evil work – it is notorious that Rome is the most active of all professing Christians both in China and India. The American Methodists too are alive and many of their missionaries I have had the joy of meeting have struck me as being very sterling men who love the Lord Jesus Christ and His word. In prayer these men have struck me much for their childlike simplicity and unfeigned faith. Those I heard in various parts speak very decidedly too as to the non-eternity doctrine so prevalent.
At sea, May 17th
This letter will be a little witness of the constantly changing scene through which I am passing in the ship I am now on board is all that one could ever wish for in the way of cleanliness, comfort and good food and for the joy of my heart the Chief Officer of whom I have heard much and who was on the look out for me is a very bright and happy child of God. We have spent much of the time I have been on board, together in his cabin for our mutual refreshing in the bowels of Jesus Christ – he is called Newcome and is from Suffolk and has been converted about two years. While his ship was at Tientsui he heard from one of the missionaries that the lady who kicked a little at the gospel I preached was to be a passenger to Shanghai and while at dinner last night her name was mentioned (Mrs Hearson) so I remarked that I knew a family of that name in Basingstoke at which she seemed interested, saying that her husband was from there. He is a son of Mr Hearson the stationer and has been in China some years, lent to the Chinese by the British Government to instruct in naval matters and holds a good position at Tientsui – he is away for a few weeks on board a Chinese man of war and she and a little daughter about Daisy's age are going to Japan for a holiday – I hope there may be an opportunity of a little further chat with her, but she is a poor sailor it appears and as we are having a little tossing today she is keeping in her cabin. It seem singular my meeting her again and finding that her husband is a Barnstaple man.
From Shanghai I purpose D.V. going up the great Yangtsee river to Hankow and returning again in time to get a steamer from Nagasaki to this outlandish place in Southern Siberia called Vladivostock. On returning from this I began to work the southern ports – Ning Po – Foschow Amoy [?] then across the island of Formosa and back to Amoy again – then Swatow, Hong Kong and Canton and from there to the Phillipine Islands and the Celebes, Cochin China to Singapore – this will occupy me to the end of August I expect so that I shall be in all the heat of Summer. P.F.&Co. may wish to hurry me on to the Colonies and in that case I should not visit many of these places in the China seas.
Well the Lord keeps my heart and mind in great peace through His infinite grace and my body in good health so that I move along with all possible speed enjoying the business which God does so wondrously prosper and dropping a little word of cheer for the dear missionaries among whom I have been so singularly thrown.
Trust you are being kept in peace and quietness too my beloved Angee and in good health, also our dear boys and their treasures. Thank God for making them good husbands and good fathers and may this mercy be continued to them for Jesus blessed name's sake – I shall close my letter now as there will only be just time to post it at Shanghai by the outgoing mail after my arrival. Our birth days are drawing near again – how comforting to know that while our days here are few indeed we are through grace among that mighty redeemed host who have been called by the God of all grace in His eternal Glory by Jesus Christ.
Much love to dear Arundel and Harry, dear Harriett and Emma and all the darling children – Eunice, Eliza and Mr Robertshaw and all beloved friends in Barnstaple and wish a double portion once more for yourself believe me my dearly beloved wife.
Being very affectionate Husband