23 May 2020
“and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this”
Malacca is a historic town. Anyone who visits West Malaysia must not miss this town. It was founded between 1376 and 1400 by a fugitive Prince from Sumatra. He was Parameswara. Many thought the name Malacca was taken from the tree named Melaka under which the prince was resting when a mouse deer which was small size stood up to a dog and even chased it away into a river. During his reign, Malacca grew very fast in trading and became the envy of certain western Governments. The traders came here for spices, perfume, tea, silk and gold. The Portuguese who professed Roman Catholic faith captured Malacca in 1511. It was found that the place had no less than 100,000 people speaking about 80 languages. It was a kind of metropolis. A diplomat of Portugal regarded this town as a good place to live. At the peak time, Malacca became so strategic to the West that a German mapmaker showed only Malacca on the Malay Peninsula.
The Dutch who professed Protestant faith fought the Portuguese and ruled Malacca from 1641-1795. During their governance, they built the Christ Church Building in 1753, it was under Dutch Reformed Church. They also built the Stadthuys. We still can see these buildings today. It is a must drop by place for those who visit Malacca. From what we learned in history, the Dutch were more interested in economic ventures than involved in spreading the gospel.
In 1824, due to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty, Malacca came under the governance of the British. It became part of the Straits Settlements together with Penang and Singapore two years later. Historians regarded Malacca as the source of the Christian faith of the Far East. The British missionary, Robert Morrison left England alone on his way to preach to Mainland China. He was asked by the captain of the marine vessel which he was in if he could manage to persuade the Chinese to the Christian faith. He confessed that he could not convince the Chinese but he trusted his God could do it. Such convictions caused him to contribute to the gospel work in China and Malacca.
The Manchurian Empire Government banned its people from teaching the Chinese language to foreigners. Those who helped the foreigners to publish printed materials would be served the death penalty. For the necessity of staying in Macau, Morrison chose to be employed by the British East India Company as a translator. Only the Western company staff could go to Canton. He prepared himself to serve in China by learning the Chinese language seven years ahead before his departure from England. Such knowledge became an asset in an unfriendly environment. Rev. William Milne was sent by London Missions to assist him in 1812.
By divine providence, they made Malacca an important base for the gospel outreach in China. Robert Morrison helped in planning and left the work to be carried out by William Milne in the Malay Peninsula. In 1815, Rev. and Mrs. Milne arrived at Malacca with two printing shop workers from China. The two workers were Mr. Choy and Mr. Leong. They brought the woodblock edition of the Chinese translation of the New Testament Bible. Since then, many printing materials for the gospel literature were produced in Malacca and sent to China. Rev Milne also taught the Bible in the Dutch Reformed Church.
In 1818, Robert Morrison and William Milne founded the Anglo Chinese College in Malacca. Rev. Milne became the first principal of the college. It was started to teach the English language to the Chinese young men and to teach them the gospel faith and to instruct the Chinese language to the missionaries from the West. This was the way they trained the gospel preachers and helped the Western missionaries to be well versed in Chinese language and the Chinese thinking. In 1843, the college was
moved to Hong Kong. l know an old Christian church leader in Thailand who was a graduate of the college in Hong Kong. He was studying in the college during the World War Two. In 1823, the Anglo Chinese College in Malacca published the Chinese translation of the Old and New Testaments. Finally Morrison and Milne had finished the translation of the Bible into the Chinese language. This helped the Chinese to read the Book of books. When l mentioned to church visitors from Hong Kong a few years ago, they were amazed that the Malay Peninsula was involved in the publishing of the second Chinese Bible. The first Chinese Bible was published by Joshua Marshman in India one year ahead due to his usage of a more advanced printing machine.
Malacca is a world renowned city in world history and church history. We pray that the strategic location of our country may be used by the Lord to advance His gospel cause. Apart from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, Malaysia is a country that is filled with the knowledge of the Chinese language. From the kindergarten level to college level, the Chinese language is being taught. There are more than ten Chinese newspapers being published in East and West Malaysia. We have news broadcasts in Mandarin and Chinese dialects. Hundreds of Chinese associations are still active and maintain relationships with fellow kinsmen in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. We have Christian bookstores that sell sound Christian publications in the Chinese language. Malaysian Christians could be used as a channel of gospel blessings to Chinese-speaking parts of the world. The divine providence of these things is not without God’s purpose. May the Lord fit us into His eternal plan.
Rev. Lee Kim Shong