27 May 2020
Gospel Workers Sent from West to the East
Let us continue to see God’s hand moving in the Far East. The Lord moved according to His good timing to achieve His gospel purpose.
In the month of April 1815, Rev. and Mrs. William Milne arrived at Malacca with two Chinese printing shop workers. They were Mr. Leong Fatt and Mr. Choy Go. They came to set up a literature centre for the Christian missions in China. Such printing ministry was banned under the Manchurian Empire Government in Mainland China. They could not do it in Macau also which was under the rule of the Portugal Government. Rev. Milne was not welcomed to stay for more than 18 days in Macau after he arrived and he was sent to study Chinese in Canton secretly for four months. Robert Morrison exhorted this Scottish young man to learn Chinese well. Rev. Milne was in his twenties then. He continued to learn the Chinese language later in Java, Penang and Malacca in the next 9 years.
He translated the books of Deuteronomy through Job for the Chinese Bible of Robert Morrison. He worked very hard to learn the Chinese language. Due to the heavyweight of learning the Chinese language, he described learning Chinese as “a work for men with bodies of brass, lungs of steel, heads of oak, hands of spring steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels and lives of Methuselah.” Apart from learning the Chinese language, he also learned the dialect of Canton which is Cantonese. This became another asset for him. The Lord brought them to Malacca which was under the missionaries-friendly British Governor, William Farquhar.
The first Chinese newspaper in Malaya was published by Rev. Milne in order to reach out to the Chinese community. It rolled out from the press once a month. The content included religious ethics, astronomy, science, news around the world and educational stories. It was well-received among those who were Chinese educated. Mr. Leong Fatt became a journalist for the Christian newspaper. He also wrote a gospel booklet in Chinese named "Good Words for exhortation." It was printed in 1832. The small booklet was sent to China and influenced quite a number of people including the Guangxi scholar Hung Hsiu Chuan. Hung Hsiu Chuan was the leader of Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864).
Certainly, the teaching in the booklet never taught any reader to rebel against the Government. It was Hung who failed in the Government examinations plus the factors of poverty etc. which caused him to lead in mass rebellion against the rule of the Manchurian Government. Mr. Leong Fatt helped Rev. Milne to print a 71-pages booklet entitled "The life of Christ" in Chinese. By the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Mr. Leong was influenced much to study the gospel of Jesus Christ. He received water baptism after a careful examination of his faith in Christ in 1816. Rev. Milne guided Mr. Leong in Bible lessons, public worship, reading of Christian material and composition of his gospel tract. Mr. Leong was ordained to the gospel ministry in 1824.
There was a young British Christian who was influenced by Robert Morrison later. He came to learn the Chinese language from Morrison when he was back in England for furlough. He was Samuel Dyer. This young man left England with his wife for missions in China. Due to the ban in Mainland China, they arrived in Penang and spent their whole lives in Malaya. They co-laboured with Mr. Leong Fatt in Malacca in the printing service. He studied the printing techniques and made improvements. This helped the Chinese literature greatly. Dyer was studying law at Cambridge University but was led by the Lord to enter the Bible College for training to serve the Chinese. He learned Chinese dialects like Hokkien, Teochew, Foochow and Cantonese in order to preach to the Chinese community. He and his wife also promoted education for the girls in the Straits Settlements. They even set up girls' schools at their homes. This was never heard of before in the Chinese community. Usually, the girls were not sent for formal education. He translated the Chinese Bible of Robert Morrison again in simple Chinese because Robert Morrison used the Classical Chinese which was hard to be understood by commoners. The British missionary to China, Hudson Taylor married a daughter of Samuel Dyer. l visited the tomb of Hudson Taylor in China two times and was delighted to read about this link with Malaya.
We are thankful to our Heavenly Father for the missionaries who left their own countries to come to the Far East to save souls. Praise the Lord for their efforts in translation of the Holy Bible, the publication of Christian literature, setting up Christian schools and college to train the young. May the Lord grant us the burden to reach out to places directed by Him. Let us pray for the next generation that they will follow the footsteps of the spiritual forebears. "Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).
Rev. Lee Kim Shong