Days of Grace in Manchuria begins with a brief sketch of the life and ministry of William Chalmers Burns who, after experiencing powerful revivals in Scotland, went to China as the first missionary of the Presbyterian Church of England, in June, 1847 where he laboured until his death in 1868. Though his ministry was mainly seed-sowing many recognize his work as an essential forerunner of the revival that later occurred.
This book records that gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit which began in 1908 mainly through the ministry of Jonathan Goforth. He had visited Korea to observe the revival there and fuel was added to his passion for God to use him powerfully by reading the writings of Finney and Edwards.
At Mukden, where he was a speaker, an elder’s confession ignited revival and eight hundred were convicted, confessed sin and subsequently made restitution. Thereafter the revival spread to other cites in Manchuria where the Presbyterians alone recorded 1,300 baptisms in five years.
We have included 4 of the 12 chapters.
“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”
It is the custom in some of the principal stations of the Manchurian Mission to hold a short series of special meetings, for prayer and Bible-study, during the early days of the Chinese new year. It is a time when all business is suspended; people are idle, temptation is rife, and it has been found a good thing to give the Christian people an opportunity of beginning the new year after a godly fashion. In the month of February, I908 — being the thirty-fourth and last year of the reign of Kuang-su — such a series of meetings was arranged for in various centres, and among others in connection with the Chinese congregation of the United Free Church of Scotland Mission in the city of Mukden.
It is a large congregation which has been ministered to for many years by a Chinese pastor — Rev. Liu Ch’uen Yao, one of the early fruits of a mission begun thirty-five years ago. Rev. Jonathan Goforth, from the Canadian Presbyterian Mission in Honan, was with us as special missioner. Immediately before coming to Mukden he had held a week’s mission in Liaoyang, a city some forty miles south of Mukden, and manifest blessing followed.
The work began in Mukden on a Saturday night with a special prayer-meeting. On the following Sabbath, Mr. Goforth held two services each preceded by an hour of prayer. There was a large congregation, from eight to nine hundred people being present. He told us fully about the revival in Korea, which country he had visited the previous autumn, repeating some of the striking things we had already heard from others. He closed with an appeal for earnest prayer that a like blessing might come to the Mukden people. An opportunity was given to any one who felt led by the Spirit to pray, but no one responded. It seemed as if the audience was struck dumb. To me it was amazing, as the Chinese are not usually backward in responding to the call to pray. But Mr. Goforth was disappointed. There was, however, a tone about the congregation which to me was full of quiet hope and expectation. In the address the key-note had been struck — this wonderful work in Korea and the need of the Holy Spirit. “It is not by might nor by power.” This truth, emphasised, iterated and reiterated, and pressed home, was not without its effect from the outset.
At night the congregation was very, large. I took this as a token for good. To see seven or eight hundred people gathered together after sunset, a thing almost unheard of in China, to listen to a foreign missionary setting forth the doctrines of sin and righteousness, seemed to me to be some thing miraculous in itself “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” Mr. Goforth’s address was from the Book of Ezekiel, the vision of the valley of dry bones. Another opportunity was given during a period of silent prayer for voluntary prayer or confession. Again, however, there was no response. The silence was deeper than in the morning, and Mr. Goforth was again disappointed; but to me, noting the faces of the congregation, the silence was more significant than words. The hearts of men had lost confidence towards God, and they simply could not pray. But one felt that something new had come to us, and that, under the surface of things, a great spiritual movement was in progress.
On Monday morning, immediately after breakfast, ex-Elder D—— was announced. He desired to see me in private. He began in a low, sad voice, saying that he felt ashamed to come but he had to do so. He could not look me in the face without shame, and he could not lift his heart to God until he had straightened out matters with me. I asked, “What things, Mr. D——?” “ Do you remember,” he said, “that about ten years ago Deacon M—— died, and that he had at the time of his death a certain sum of money in trust, belonging to the Church?” Yes, I remembered. “Do you remember,” he continued, “that my firm was security for this money, and that the Church accepted interest on it while the family were unable to pay?” Yes, I remembered. “Then the Boxer trouble arose, and you got the Church to cancel the debt, in view of the losses the Christians had sustained at that time?” Yes, that was so. “Pastor,” he sobbed, the M—— family prospered afterwards. They paid the money to me, and I never said anything about it to you. Yesterday, when Mr. Goforth spoke, I became very, uneasy and unhappy, I have not slept all night, and I have come to make this confession to you, and to ask you to pray the Lord to forgive this my great sin.”
I took the poor man into Mr. Goforth’s room and got him to repeat his story. Then we knelt together, and the strong man was broken down, as on bended knees with head bowed to the dust he pleaded for pardon. Soon afterwards, with a new look in his face, he left, having assured us that he would pay the money as soon as he had realised some property. Our hope had begun to be fulfilled. Mr. Goforth was greatly cheered.
That morning, at the close of the address, the usual opportunity was given for confession and prayer. But only those who felt moved by the Spirit were asked to pray; if they had not received the “Sheng Ling tiu kantung” (the grace of the Holy Spirit) they were to hold their peace. One deacon near me, an oldish man, rose and made the remark that he was not at all sure about the “Sheng Ling tiu kantung,” but he “wished to say a few words” on his own account. “O Lord,” he said in prayer, “I wish to say that I give myself to Thee now to be all Thine for evermore.” “Amen.” It was so natural, so entirely unaffected, that the whole congregation gave a glad response. A few more prayers, somewhat after the stereotyped form, followed, and a closing hymn was sung, full souled. No great manifestation came, such as Mr. Goforth thirsted for, but one was glad.
In the evening I posted myself near the door to keep late-comers from disturbing the meeting, and a more orderly gathering one could not wish for. Fathers and mothers were there with their children, and every one kept as quiet and still as mice. Mr. Goforth’s voice rang out well in every part of the large building. The usual opportunity for prayer or confession followed the address. One after another rose, and gave utterance to confession and earnest petition, sometimes mingled with sobs hard to supress. From the woman’s side of the house a voice arose. Soon the speaker’s feelings got the better of her, and she sobbed aloud. Just as she was in the midst of this sobbing prayer, some one gave a terrific yell, almost as if some part of the roof had fallen in, and in a moment the whole congregation seemed to be weeping together. This went on for the space of five minutes or so. Scores of people were praying in the most entangled fashion. One felt glad he had not to take the minutes of that short session. It was quite outside the limits of human interpretation. But the angel who keeps the records of such proceedings as these would be near at hand, and one imagines there was not a little to put on record. We met in the evening and held a short, hearty, hopeful prayer-meeting. The ladies of the Mission were greatly cheered. They had been longing and praying for some such movement among the women and now it seemed to have come. It was marvellous how the women came, twice a day through the mire and the keen cold, and some of them from great distances. Whole families came together and were blessed. At the close of the fourth meeting it was every one’s conviction that a great, if quiet, spiritual work was going on.
From my notebook I quote the happenings of the following days
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18th,
At the meeting this morning, which began at I0 a.m. we had an account of the work in Korea and Liaoyang, from a Liaoyang deacon. He spoke as one who had himself experienced a great uplift.
“There will be no difficulty now,” he remarked, “in getting the Liaoyang congregation to support its own minister.” Mr. Goforth spoke at considerable length, and yet the great congregation never moved. At the close one after another rose and prayed, men and women, to the number of fifteen or more. Their prayers were all manifestly the outpourings of hearts that had been powerfully moved. Our minister, Mr. Liu Ch’uen Yao, has been greatly quickened. His son, the doctor, prayed to-day. He also has been deeply moved. The women prayed with wonderful freedom, fervour, and gratitude.
At the evening meeting to-night the large church was three-quarters full from five o’clock till eight. An evangelist who has been to Korea told us of what he had seen there. But he seems to be measuring everything by that standard, and one hopes he will not get the people to follow any stereotyped method. The beautiful thing about the movement hitherto has been its spontaneity; no forcing, but the simple, natural movement of human souls touched by the Spirit. To-night it was delightful to see the people rising all over the church and to hear them pouring out their hearts in prayer. Again the greatest fervour and power came from the women’s side of the house. We were surprised to hear Mrs. L——’s voice. We heard she had been given up by, the doctor and was dying. And here she was, back from the gates of death, out at this evening meeting on a bitterly cold night, her heart brimming over with thanksgiving and devotion. She has made a determination to give the Lord two full days of service every, week for the rest of her life, and she is going to fulfil that determination. Mrs. P—— was also there, the strongest personality, in the Church, evidently having experienced a great uplift. Her prayer was something wonderful. Many others might be mentioned.
The good work is going on. It is a season of refreshing to us all, in fact a time of joy unspeakable. I am getting impatient for a service of praise. Mr. Goforth says it is too soon. He is glad that so many have been quickened, but thinks there are some who have hitherto been holding back. We had our prayer reunion at the close of the evening meeting. Every one thanked God for His gracious presence. Some one prayed that our minister himself might get a blessing. Thank God, Mr. Liu has got a blessing — you can see it in his good old face — and his son likewise.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY I9th .
This morning I went to the church before ten o’clock, as I wished to hear about the work in Korea from a Chinaman’s standpoint. The building was three-quarters full even then, and the women’s part quite full. Mr. Chang gave a very interesting and stirring address. That the work was genuine was demonstrated, he said, by the evidence of Chinese merchants in Pingyang, who, although they knew nothing about Christianity themselves, could yet judge soundly of its ethical effects. Being strangers in this Korean city, the missionaries naturally found their way to the house of the Shantung merchants, and talked with them. “Who were they?” asked the merchants. “Christians from Manchuria.” “Were there Christians in Manthuria also?” “Oh, yes.” “Were they the same sort as the Christians here?” “Don’t know. What are the Christians here like?” “Good men! good men!” “ Why do you think so?” “Oh, a man owed us an account, five years ago, of twenty dollars. He refused to acknowledge more than ten, and we had no redress. A few months ago he came back and,asked us to turn up that old account, and insisted on paying it with interest for these five years.” Things of this sort, Mr. Chang stated, were happening all over Korea.
Mr. Goforth spoke for quite an hour on Prayer, very tenderly and impressively. The- time came for voluntary prayer, and one after another prayed in quick succession. There is now no hanging back; on the contrary, many are eager; and a good deal of suppressed emotion is visibly being felt. I was struck with the movements of Elder S——. His feelings quite overpowered him. Twice he sprang to his feet, made an attempt to speak, and twice sat down again, burying his face in his hands in great distress. At last he rose, sprang to the platform, and said, in effect “Mr. Goforth, I can bear this burden no longer! Before the Lord and this congregation I must confess my iniquities. Years ago, as all you people know, I was an earnest and sincere Christian. But, alas, I fell!
He then gave the particulars of his fall, and continued “My wife spoke to me often about my great sin, and at last I could endure that no longer, and made up my mind to get rid of her. I mixed poison with her food on three separate occasions, but each time ineffectually. All this time I was a member in the Church, and often preached from that pulpit there. I got hundreds of cards printed with my name and designation as elder in this Church, but I am not worthy of such a designation.”
Walking over to the stove, “I now tear up these cards and burn them,” throwing a handful of cards into the fire, “and I charge every one here who has such a card of mine to destroy it. I have been all the time like a fierce dog frightening souls away from the fold of Christ. May God have mercy upon me! May God have mercy upon me!” And he threw himself down on the ground in a very agony of weeping.
Immediately, the whole congregation broke into loud lamentation. Scores of men and women rushed forward to the platform, fell on their knees, and made abject confession of sin.
It was impossible to gather particulars, the hubbub was so great. There was not a dry, face in the building. When the noise had subsided a little, Mr. S—— again got up and said “Here is a gold bangle which in my pride and vanity I bought and wore. And here is a gold ring which I have also been wearing. They are not mine. ‘Take them, and may God have mercy on my soul!”
In his terrible excitement to get rid of the ring he almost tore his finger out of joint. A friend beside him assisted him, and the ring and bangle were laid on the table. An earnest prayer, simple and tender, arose on the women’s side. It was a cry for forgiveness. I inquired who it was who thus prayed. The reply was, Mrs. S——, the wife of the elder who had just confessed.
I cannot remember what happened after that on the Wednesday forenoon. We were as those who had dreamed. There is not a doubt in the minds of any of us now but that we are in the midst of a great work of grace. The Spirit of the Lord is with us as we have not seen heretofore.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20th .
At both morning and evening meetings to-day the church was filled. The spiritual movement is spreading and deepening. There has been no scene such as we witnessed on Wednesday. But the desire to get good has spread over the whole congregation. They seem to be afraid that the time will pass away and leave them unblessed, and so we have had crowds of people confessing — elders, deacons, evangelists, members young and old, inquirers, backsliders. The whole congregation has been of one mind to-day. And it was this we must receive the Spirit and the power He can bring, and we must take every step, however painful it may be, in order not to miss this great blessing. The spirit of prayer has been wonderfully manifest. Sometimes half a dozen would start at once, and on one occasion the entire congregation of seven or eight hundred people were all praying together. But there was not the slightest feeling of discord. One felt they were all of one heart and one mind. The spirit of giving offerings has been wonderful. Men have promised land and houses, as well as money, to the Lord’s cause. I don’t know how many offered to give part of their time to voluntary service for the Master.
The spirit of praise has been very evident, especially to-day. The singing of hymns of thanksgiving has been splendid. A new song has literally been put into their mouth to glorify God withal. Old hymns are sung with a new and extraordinary fervour, and new hymns are coming to the front — hymns of confession and contrition, hymns of pardon through the precious blood of the Atonement — hymns expressing human need and heavenly peace. Songs of the redeemed they sing as they never sang before. “What can wash away my sin?” “Weeping cannot save me,” “Tell it o’er and o’er again, Christ receiveth sinful men” — these and many others are the hymns which have become sacred songs indeed through the revival.
“Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.”
THE last day of Mr. Goforth’s visit saw us on the high tide of revival. Great congregations filled the large church. A continuous stream of confession and petition flowed the whole time, the entire congregation frequently bursting into united prayer. It was something wonderful.
The desire to make confession brought great numbers to their feet. There was no pressure of any kind — indeed, Mr. Goforth rather repressed than encouraged them. But they would not be repressed. Men and women seemed overwhelmed with the sense of guilt, and could find no rest until they got rid of it in this way. The pastor left the pulpit, and, taking his stand at the foot of the stair, said, with great emotion, “ My sins are the greatest of all, for they are the sins of a minister of Christ. Pray for your minister.” Elder L—— came forward and said that he felt constrained to confess his sin. Petty acts of dishonesty, of which he had been guilty years ago, he quietly and circumstantially enumerated. There seemed no reason for his doing this — at any rate, publicly — but they had been rankling in his mind and keeping him from blessing, so he said H——, the elder, also made a clean breast of sinful things belonging to his past, and since then has been the means of blessing to many. One old man came to the pastor and told him that his heart was very sore, and he did not know what to do. “Just tell the Lord all that is on your heart,” was the reply. And the old man, bursting into tears, said “I’m sixty-eight years of age, and sixty years ago I told a lie about my mother, and she suffered for it!” Then it seemed as if the lifelong record of his sin all came up before him, and the old man was shaken as by a very tempest of contrition. When things seemed overpowering I led them away into a verse of some well-known hymn, such as “Jesus saves,” or “ Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” The result was always good.
At the farewell meeting (wrote Mr. Goforth) a new phase of the movement began spontaneously to appear. A long list of free-will offerings from those who had confessed were read out. They were spoken of as “ proofs of repentance.” I have before me a list of a few of these offerings. One man gives a dollar, another six; one offers a tenth of his income to the Lord, along with a gold bangle and gold ring; a fourth gives five bushels of grain. One man offers 500 strings of cash; another the rent of two small houses. One elder brings 300 dollars; and a voluntary preacher 160 dollars besides a month’s voluntary service. Another voluntary preacher offers the rent of half an acre of land yearly. A man who confessed to having cheated the hospital in making garments brings a piece of cotton cloth as restitution. A woman brings her gold ornaments and lays them on the table, and a little girl came forward, and holding up a bangle, said “ I like this bangle very much, but I want to give it to Jesus.” One deacon offers the salary of an evangelist another — the son of one of the first elders of Mukden, long since departed — offers twenty dollars a month towards the salary of a second minister for Mukden. One undertakes to preach the gospel in the open air every week. An elder gives a two-roomed house as a place of prayer, and so on. Everybody is willing.
It was unanimously resolved that the meetings should be continued, although Mr. Goforth had to leave, The oneness of mind with regard to the movement was remarkable. Missionaries, Chinese pastor, office-bearers, and the whole congregation were of one heart and one mind.
Mr. Goforth left on the Saturday. About thirty office-bearers, preachers, and dispensers went to the station, full five miles distant, in the early morning to bid him farewell. They sang a hymn, with great heartiness, as the train was about to start, much to the wonderment of the listening multitudes.
At the morning meeting Rev. Mr. Liu presided. Again the continuous stream of confession and petition poured forth for the space of two hours. Among others, four elders and a number of deacons spoke, confessing and asking prayer. The climax was reached when Mr. Liu, rising in the pulpit, asked earnest prayer on behalf of himself, his office-bearers, the staff of evangelists, the dispensers in the men’s and women’s hospitals, the schoolteachers, all those in the employment of the missionaries — and then he stopped. “And please include the missionaries themselves in your supplication,” broke in a foreign voice, “that a rich blessing may come upon them all.” And immediately such a burst of prayer broke out from the whole congregation as surely was never heard before; without confusion or discord, though that might have been expected. Seven hundred different people were each praying his or her own prayer aloud, and yet withal there was the most perfect harmony. Again and again that day this wave of prayer swept over the assembly, carrying every one along with it by an irresistible impulse. The experience was the same on the Sabbath. The church was crowded morning and evening. Had we not thought it wise to break up, the meeting might easily have gone on all day — and all night, for that matter. The stream flowed on, deepening and widening every hour — confessions, petitions, thanksgivings, consecration.
Requests for prayer poured in — for fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. A schoolgirl sent in a request for ten member’s of her family. A merchant requested prayer for a score of men in his employment, and a father for a son who was a prodigal in the far unknown. Prayers for backsliding members of the Church were very numerous. The excommunicated weighed heavily on the minister’s heart. He said that there were rules of the Church which were necessary, and which had to be carried out, and in consequence not a few whose names had once been on the communicants’ roll had been erased. But he longed for these men to come again, and he asked prayer that the Lord would open a door for them and incline them to return. It was the signal for another of those simultaneous outbursts of united prayer which was one of the characteristics of the meetings during those days. Never in the history of the city has there been such a day as that Sabbath day in Mukden.
It had been decided to have only one meeting a day from this onward. The church was well filled at eleven o’clock on the Monday morning of the following week, and the stream of prayer flowed on. At the close a hymn had been given out, and the blind organist had begun to play, when one of the elders, whose voice had not yet been heard — a much respected man among us — came down to the front, and in a few short, simple, manly words told of his coldness in the Lord’s service, and asked the earnest prayers of the people. After prayer a different hymn from that which had just been announced was sung; it was our “Hallelujah Chorus.” As one said, nothing else would do in the circumstances.
The tenth day of the meetings showed no signs of declining interest. From 10. 30 in the morning until 1.3O p. m. there was never a break in the stream of prayer. Towards the close the feeling became intense. One after another confessed with a broken voice, and made offerings. One man offered the salary of a native preacher as a thank-offering.
A formal resignation of elder-ship on the part of Elder S—— was read. He said that although he had made confession, and humbly believed that the Lord had pardoned him, yet his sin was so heinous that he could no longer remain in office. Thereupon Elders L—— and H—— in succession rose and declared that they, too, were no longer worthy to hold office. They all implored prayer on their behalf. It was another signal. The whole congregation burst into loud and united prayer. Afterwards they all rose in their places and begged the elders to remain with them.
Then the minister, standing in the pulpit, added with great, passionate earnestness “ Yes! Yes! and together we will drive the devil out!” Every hand was shot up when the mind of the people was called forth. The doxology had been sung, the benediction pronounced, when one of the elders, still on his knees, desired two meetings a day instead of one. The proposal was hailed with acclamation. So at five o’clock we again met. The church was three-quarters full. A large number of requests for prayer had been handed in. One of them was from Sheng, an old elder, who brought great disgrace on the Church many years before. His name had been taken off the roll of members for many years, but he had undergone a great change since the meetings began. He rose and made confession, and implored the congregation to beseech the Lord on his behalf and on behalf of his family.
Requests for prayer also came from the hospital dispensers, from the girls’ school, from the north and east suburbs chapels — in each of which prayer unions have been formed. The blessing has gone out to all branches of the Mission, and we look forward to a great work during the coming months in the chapels, in the hospital, and in all the schools. As I have already mentioned, our minister, Mr. Liu, received a great uplift. It is simply true to say that the conduct of the movement was entirely in his hands, so far as human instrumentality is concerned, from the time that Mr. Goforth left. I was always by his side. This was my privilege and my joy. To kneel beside him in the pulpit while in tender, sympathetic tones he led the congregation to pray for this and that one by name, the backslider, the penitent, the broken and contrite heart, “the bereaved widow with her five children” (entering into touching little details as only a minister who knew his flock intimately could do), to share in the work of applying the healing balm to wounded spirits, and to join him in his song of thanksgiving — all this was to me an unspeakable joy and is a glad memory.
There is a note, written at the time, in my diary “ ‘This is the Lord’s doing. It is marvelous in our eyes.’ The Divine Spirit is working his own gracious work in his own way among this people. There is a great danger of marring it. It must be with very gentle hand we touch it. And for the rest ‘Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!’ ”
“Prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
THE previous Chapter brought the story of the Mukden movement down to the tenth day. At the end of three weeks the wonderful awakening still went on, and there was no sign of any abatement. On the contrary, the interest was yet deepened every day after Mr. Goforth left.
As already mentioned, the evidences of a spiritual awakening were so unmistakable, that we felt it would be disastrous to bring the meetings to an end with Mr. Goforth’s departure; and it was therefore decided to continue them. But, fearing lest too much interference on the part of foreigners might hinder the free operation of the Spirit of God, we resolved to telegraph to Dr. Walter Lowrie (of Paoting-fu), telling him of the movement and asking for assistance. Dr. Lowrie is well known as a leader in evangelistic effort, and had charge of the resolutions on evangelistic work at the Centenary Conference at Shanghai. We therefore naturally turned to him as one who was likely to understand the situation and to send us the help we needed. I specially mentioned Rev. Meng Chi Tseng, the younger brother of the martyr minister of Paoting-fu, and himself minister of one of the congregations of that city; he was connected with the American Board Mission and was a friend of our own minister, Mr. Liu. On the day, that Mr. Goforth left we received a reply telegram from Dr. Lowrie “Elder Li starts Monday.” Paoting –fu is a three days’ journey from Mukden by rail, but how the railway is going to forward the kingdom of God in China is shown, when I say that within a week of our telegraphic dispatch Mr. Li was in the Mukden pulpit, with Mr. Meng by his side. When Dr. Lowrie first approached Mr. Meng, he had engagements which he feared would prevent him, and it was decided to send Mr. Li. Later the way was opened up and they both came.
Mr. Meng gave one address; it was brief, but it was worth his while, and ours, that he should come all the way from Paoting-fu to give it. It linked this wonderful movement of to-day with another memorable period now forty years gone by. Mr. Meng’s father was one of those who were led to Christ through William Chalmers Burns, during his visit to Peking in the sixties. He told us that from childhood he had had the desire to visit the land east of the barrier, having heard so much about it from his father, to whom Manchuria was rendered very sacred, the grave of his beloved Pin Wei Lien (Rev. W. C. Burns) being there. “You are reaping to-day,” he said, “ in this revival movement the fruit of the prayers of that man of God, who, just over forty years ago, began to pray for this which we now see and hear, the manifestation of the Spirit’s power in Manchuria. Even then Mr. Burns, in his dreary lodging in Newchwang, waiting patiently for the Master’s call and praying while it tarried — even then he saw this day in vision, and was glad. God,” he said, “will carry on His work in Manchuria. I have no fear of that.”
This address was given on the Friday. On the Saturday Mr. Meng was in the hospital suffering from a severe illness. For the next ten days he was unable to take any part in the meetings, and the speaking fell almost entirely to Mr. Li.
The interval between the going of Mr. Goforth and the coming of the Paoting-fu men was given up to continual prayer. The congregation continued to come out in large numbers. We sent dispatches to the out-stations inviting the country members to come in. A special entertainment committee elected itself, and called for subscriptions. They flowed in freely. It was a great gain, this interval of prayer. The minds of men grew calm in this atmosphere after the exciting period through which they had just passed. A great peace and joy grew up in the hearts of many who had been in the depths of mental distress. The men from the country were afforded an opportunity of joining in prayer for blessing on the coming evangelists. It was part of that Divine ordering which has been recognised by many since this work began.
From the tenth day onwards the meetings, which were held twice daily, each lasting fully three hours, divided themselves naturally into three parts. Thus, part of the first hour was given up to individual prayer. Between I0 and I I a.m. a large number had gathered. A hymn was sung and we knelt in prayer. One after another with-out a moment’s interval would lead our devotions, until fifteen or twenty had taken part.
This spirit of prayer was one of the characteristics of the movement. Every one seemed to want to pray. Then another hymn, and the requests for prayer followed.
This must not be regarded as a bit of foreign machinery introduced by the foreign missionary. We had nothing to do with it. From first to last there was no foreign machinery impelling the movement, for it created its own machinery. Thus, the requests for prayer arose as a necessity of the situation. So many people were getting up and requesting the prayers of the congregation for themselves, their relations, and others that it was impossible to take them up in an orderly manner. A Chinaman is practical in his praying as in everything else, and he must know definitely what is wanted of him. Some one at the back of the church would make a request that was not intelligible to some brother in the front, who would promptly ask for particulars. “Better write it out and send it to me,” suggested the minister, who had probably never heard of “ requests for prayer,” so-called, in his life. So it came to pass that the petitions were written out and sent in. They came in shoals. I have before me now a sheaf of over three hundred. There is no anonymity about them. It is not a case of “A father asks prayer for his son.” The flame and address of the petitioner are given in full in each case, also the names of those for whom prayer is asked. Thus — “Chu Ching Ho, a miserable sinner, who has been a [professing] Christian for twenty years, denied Christ and worshipped idols at the Boxer time) and has been indifferent ever since. Pray for me and for my wife, who is not a Christian. Alas! I have never done anything to induce her to become one. Pray that God may have mercy upon me.”
Another — “Wang Pao Shen asks the minister, elders, deacons, brethren, and sisters of the Church to pray for his father, mother, and wife, all of them still outside the kingdom of God.”
And yet another — “Hsiang Yang Sheng, a sinner without compare, who has transgressed every one of God’s commandments. Pray the Lord in His infinite mercy to compassionate me. Also for my son, for many years a member, but who has drifted away, and never goes to church. Also to my great sorrow my daughter-in-law and grandson are still outside. Pray the Lord for them, and for me, that He may have mercy upon us all. I send five dollars along with this, a token of my repentance.”
And so on, and on, through the whole sheaf for fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, relations, communities. The minister is in the pulpit, with the day’s petitions spread out before him. The congregation have all gathered, we all kneel, and together on our knees sing a verse of such a hymn as “I need Thee every hour.” One by one the requests are read out by the minister, who usually interjects little comments of his own to make the matter quite plain, and then the whole congregation together bear the petition in prayer to the Throne of Grace. The wonderful thing is, there is no sense of discord. On the other hand, there has sometimes been the most striking harmony. It sounded indeed like the most beautiful music, as of a wind-swept æolian harp. Not Infrequently seven or eight hundred people were taking part. No human ingenuity could have produced it. Then came a short interval of hymn-singing, and Mr. Li gave his address. “He is the man for the hour,” was the remark of one of our missionary ladies after hearing his first address. If we had searched China through we could not have found a man whose message could more exactly fit the psychological moment. The first thing that struck us was the great humility of the man. “I have come to you,” he said, “not that I can hope to give anything to you, but to get a little of this gracious fire that has fallen upon you, to inspire my own heart, and to take some back to Paoting-fu.” His spiritual discernment seemed to enable him to know at once the sort of treatment the congregation required. His addresses have been marked by great ability, being clear, spiritual, evangelical, upbuilding, rich in Scripture illustrations and practical in the highest degree. Again we were thrown back on first principles by a sermon on the text
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.”
The troubled in soul were led to look to Christ in addresses from the texts “Sir, we would see Jesus,” and “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” The despairing got hope from the words “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” There was the call to duty from the texts “As we forgive our debtors,” “Take ye away the stone,” “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” “ Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” “ Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse,” &c. The congregation listened with the most earnest attention, many were busy filling up their notebooks, and Mr. Li’s expositions and apt illustrations will do service in many places for many days to come. Those days of Mr. Li’s ministry amongst us cannot be better described than in the words which Jonathan Edwards used in regard to a somewhat similar movement which took place a hundred and seventy years ago “The goings of God were then seen in His sanctuary, His tabernacles were amiable, our public assemblies were then beautiful. The congregation was alive in God’s service, every one earnestly intent upon the public worship. Every hearer was eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth.”
During this third week some notable things happened. Among others, one young fellow confessed that in the year I900 he had joined the Boxers, and undergone a regular course of drill in the south suburb. He told us how he became uneasy, in his conscience when he saw how far things were going, and had begged the Boxer chief to allow him to return home, on the pretence of getting a change of clothing. He then escaped, but ever since then he had been miserable, and he literally cried for, mercy. With unusual fervour the congregation prayed for the man who had been a blasphemer and a persecutor. Another confessed that when Mukden was burning, at the Boxer time, he had stolen money and goods, and now repented his ill-gotten gains. Many confessed to having denied Christ at the Boxer time. A poor woman after praying with great earnestness and fervour, came forward with an offering of two dollars to buy books for inquirers as she could not speak to them herself.
The most notable incident was when an old member, excommunicated for several years, who in the meantime had become a man of influence in the city, and president of the Chamber of Commerce, came forward and told us how during these days his sin had been revealed to him, and he besought the prayers of the congregation on behalf of himself and his family. But the most striking development of the week was that of the thank-offerings. Letters were received in great numbers offering gifts of money, ornaments, goods, and voluntary service. During the first fortnight many offerings were made — land, houses, money, goods, ornaments, grain — all sent by penitent men, as tokens of repentance But the later gifts took the form of thank-offerings for blessing received. Many gave notice of their purpose to devote a tenth of their income to the Lord’s work.
Out of a handful I select one or two of these for translation.
The Misses Li, Liu, and Chang, dispensers in the women’s hospital, having heard the teaching of these past days, have thought in our hearts if the Lord has loved us with a love like this, it would be little if we gave a half instead of a tenth to Him. If the Lord has appointed us to do this work for Him in the hospital, why should we not be willing to do it freely? We do desire to devote our whole lives to the Lord, always to be His servants. But we have no strength of our own, and we ask prayer that the Holy Spirit may help us in this our earnest purpose, and that we may be kept from forsaking the Lord. We also desire to give a tenth of our salary to His service. And now it is our earnest desire that we may have faithful hearts to serve Him. Please pray for us.”
A young merchant writes thus “As one who has received grace from the Lord, and as a token of faith and love towards the Lord Jesus Christ, I desire to devote a tenth of my property to Him. I estimate roughly that my capital amounts to 7,000 dollars. So I have placed a tenth of this sum to the credit of the Church in the bank, to be applied thus Men’s Hospital, I00; Women’s Hospital, I00; Missionary, and Bible Society, 100; Education, 200; Evangelistic agencies, 200.”
A member who had the reputation hitherto of being very close-fisted, who indeed had never been known to give anything to the Church before, received such an uplift that he wrote offering a fifth of his income to the Lord’s service. A firm wrote that they proposed to increase their annual subscription by 120 dollars. One of the partners gave 60 dollars in addition, and ended the letter by stating “The firm have decided to close their place of business on the Sabbath.”
One poor man wrote that he had received a great blessing, and had nothing to offer by way of expressing his gratitude except a black calf with a white stripe, and he begged the minister, elders, and members to pray the Lord to accept the black calf with the white stripe. There were many other offerings of definite sums, or of a tenth part of income. Scores of such letters were received.
About this time also we were receiving earnest appeals from our country members, and almost daily requests for prayer on behalf of this and that outpost, so that we had to face a mission to all the out-stations connected with Mukden. This was no easy undertaking, as there are, roughly speaking, from twenty to twenty-five towns and villages containing groups of Christians in embryo Churches, drawing their members and adherents from four times that number of places. A call for volunteers was given, and seventeen men responded. The session met for the purpose of dealing with these offers of service.
The various out-stations were grouped into seven districts, and it was decided to send two or three men together to each district. It turned out that the number of volunteers exactly corresponded to the number of men required for the various districts. The next question to decide was who was to go where?, “Don’t send me to Changtan,” pleaded one of the men. Others had their own ideas of where they would like to go. Some districts were more desirable than others, the soil more promising, the conditions altogether more favourable. Other districts were remote, the soil hard, the members cold, the whole outlook uninviting. The names of the volunteers were all written out on separate slips of paper and thrown into the minister’s hat. Each district was then called out, and two or three names drawn by Mr. Liu. The first district to be called was Changtan and the first name drawn was the man who didn’t want to go. “Ai Ah!” said the man; “this is surely God’s doing.” There were others who were sent where they, certainly would not have elected to go, but there was no jealousy, shown; all felt there was no doubt about the call. On the Sabbath morning, at the beginning of the fourth week of the meetings, after the usual service, the volunteers one by one answered to their names and took their stand in front of the pulpit. They, were then solemnly sent forth, the minister giving an address full of wise counsel and encouragement, and offering earnest prayer on their behalf. Then, on the Monday, morning and evening, many prayers were offered up for them and their great mission, the whole congregation rising at the close and singing with great fervour, “God be with you till we meet again.” So, on the morning of Tuesday, March I0th, a cavalcade of carts left the church premises at dawn, bearing these messengers of good tidings north, south, east, and west.
“The Lord gave the Word great was the company of those that published it.”’
THE Revival in the country districts round about Mukden was not less remarkable than that in the city itself. It was my privilege to have a share in it, and I shall attempt to describe it as I myself saw it and as I have heard of it from, others who took part in it.
To begin with, let me tell you a little about these out-stations. There are over twenty such stations, established in villages or market towns round Mukden — in all directions, from seven to thirty English miles from the city. They have each a place of worship of one kind or another, and an embryo congregation of believers gathered from many villages around. They all date from the period of the great ingathering which followed after the Chino-Japanese War of 1894. During those memorable years the missionaries had so much work to do among the multitudes who were seeking admission into the Church that there was little time available for teaching or organising the young converts.
When the I900 tribulation descended upon them it came like a thief in the night. They were not prepared. Their sufferings during that terrible Their sufferings during that terrible time can never be told. Many denied their Lord. They were Christians — in name at least — hence their bitter sufferings, but they were Chinamen. A lie was a little thing to them then, and life was sweet. So they lied — and lived. Meanwhile, all their property was taken from them, their houses and chapels burned down, and, to all outward seeming, the vine was torn up by the roots. But it revived again. The people returned to their old homes after the terror was over; they built up their ruined homesteads, and sowed and reaped as in former years. Better still, many of them repented their lie, and once more vowed allegiance to their Lord. The waste places were restored, and a time of prosperity, temporal and spiritual, seemed to have dawned.
Then, the Russo-Japanese War broke out. The contending armies swept the fields and farmyards bare. The Christians, sharing in the common lot of all, were driven from their homes. Public worship was impossible. Missionary visitation was prohibited. Churches and chapels were used as barracks by the Russians, and torn down for fuel by the Japanese. It was indeed “a terrible day,” following so hard upon the blight of I900. “That which the palmerworm had left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten.” It was with them as in Joel’s day, and the people said Is not meat cut off before our eyes, yea, joy and gladness from the house of our God? “ For a time the people were soured. Faith and hope withered and almost died out. But gradually a change came. Temporal prosperity returned with a succession of good harvests after the war. Once more they gathered for the worship of their common Lord; their meeting-places one by one were restored, and although there was much coldness, formality and general spiritual stagnation to be deplored, still the out-stations of Mukden at the beginning of this year of grace (I908) had at least “a name to live.’’
I mention these things by way of preface to what follows, and to show the sort of preparation which our out-stations had undergone for this special mission.
It was my lot to be sent, along with our minister’s son, Dr. Liu, and another, to a district thirty miles south-east of the city. We had three stations to visit — Tuerto, Szefangtai, and Panchiapu. They were said to be the most backward of all.
At dusk on Tuesday, March I0th, we arrived at the village of Tuerto. Dr. Liu at once suggested sending messengers to all the villages where there were Christians, telling them of the meetings, and inviting them to come. This was done, and on Wednesday morning sixty people had gathered. We told them the story of the past three weeks in Mukden — nothing more. They listened with an air of wonderment and thoughtfulness. At the evening meeting one noticed a troubled look on many faces, but when we called for prayer only one responded, formal, stereotyped. Next morning Dr. Liu and I walked out together. He was greatly troubled, thought he had made a mistake in coming, that he was not the man for this sort of thing. We came to a wooded copse, and the doctor suggested prayer. We knelt by an old willow, and he poured out his heart to God. “Guide us,” he prayed, “as to who shall speak, what we shall say, or whether we should speak at all.” He seemed like one inspired.
We returned to the meeting. We sang a hymn. Dr. Liu said we might have a time of silent prayer, and if any one felt disposed he might pray aloud. Presently came a sob from a man in the front seat, and a broken-hearted prayer for mercy. Another followed in the same way. Several men and women were weeping. Then a man came up from the back seat, saying “I wish to speak.” He was the principal deacon of the place. His first few words were spoken with difficulty. But presently he gained control of himself, and said “You all know me. I have been passing as a good, sincere Christian man among you. I am nothing of the sort. Formerly I was delighted when a missionary or an evangelist came here, but when I heard they were coming on this occasion I was not pleased. I felt this was no ordinary visit. Yesterday, when hearing of the Mukden meetings, I was greatly troubled. Last night I could not sleep, thinking of my sins. I cannot bear the burden any longer.” He then fell on his knees in an agony of weeping, and poured out his confession in prayer, beseeching us also to pray for him.
Immediately the whole meeting broke down, and for a considerable time every one continued to pray aloud. Afterwards, one after another rose and besought prayer. For three hours this went on. Once in a while Dr. Liu or I would repeat a text, or point a distracted soul to the Saviour, or sing a verse of a simple hymn. But there was no formal address, only prayer. One dare not write what those broken and contrite hearts poured out before the Lord. It were sacrilege so to do. The sense of guilt was sometimes overpowering. For the first time in their lives they seemed to feel that they were face to face with a holy God, and, however painful the process, they must make full confession of their sins. What seemed to trouble many was the memory of what they did in the Boxer riots. How many times did we hear this memory recalled, and see men and women weeping bitter tears as ‘they confessed how they had at that time denied Christ! “Not only did I worship the idols myself,” sobbed one poor fellow “but I led my old mother to the temple and made her do the same, and she is dead!” And he refused to be comforted. It was the same at the evening meeting.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” and on Friday
the tone changed. The spirit of praise, as well as prayer, had taken possession of them. Everybody wanted to pray. Not the old prayers, the well-known, oft-repeated formula they had been babbling for many years. New petitions offered with a new reverence, a new solemnity, a new humility, and a new assurance of faith, as children to a father, having had their “hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.” In the matter of praying, as in much else, “old things are passed away all things are become new.”
On the afternoon of that Friday I left Dr. Liu to continue the meetings at Tuerto, and proceeded to Panchiapu, whither my second companion had gone the day before, to prepare the way. It was arranged that I should rejoin the doctor at the third village on the following night. Some sixty people gathered in the evening at Panchiapu. I told them our story. They were interested — nothing more. The following morning another large meeting was convened. I proposed a short time of prayer. Several took part, quite in the old orthodox style. They had not understood. One felt sorry, and wondered if the foreigner’s hands were marring the work. Before leaving I strongly urged them, as many as were able, to go to Tuerto for the thanksgiving service on Sunday. Many consented.
I reached Szefangtai — eight miles further — towards evening. A meeting had been held in the morning by Dr. Liu. A number of the folk had been to Tuerto, and had been blessed. The house was packed when I arrived. We lit our candles as it grew dark, and the meeting began. What a meeting that was! It needed no conducting, or very little. Occasionally it seemed well to sing a verse of a hymn, or repeat a Divine promise that was all. Yet there was no excitement, nothing calling for repression. There was plenty of weeping. The house was full of men and women with broken and contrite hearts, and the floor was simply watered with their tears. One had heard of such meetings. Our fathers had told us of their having been eye-witnesses to something similar in their day, in Scotland — long ago, but we had never seen it in this fashion. It was truly GREAT, writ large. The house where we were gathered was a humble enough one, mud-walled, mud-floored, and smoke-begrimed; but it was for the moment transfigured, and became the House of God and the very Gate of Heaven.
“Now I saw in my dream that by this time the pilgrims were entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant. Here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear in the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. In this country the sun shineth night and day. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to, also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof, for in this land the shining ones commonly walked, because it was on the borders of’ heaven.” One felt good to be there. We could have remained on and on, and we did remain on until our candles burned out in their sockets. And long afterwards men stood round an oil-cruse, getting their thank-offerings written out. It was a poor village. The people were all poor. And yet, next morning, we found the thank-offering amounted to £6 sterling. If there had been a night like that night in some of our city congregations at home, what a thank-offering it would have been!
Sabbath morning saw us back at Tuerto for the thanksgiving service. I had told Dr. Liu about the Panchiapu luke-warmness, and he was much distressed. There was a great gathering, and the Panchiapu men were there in force, and their womenfolk too, although it was ten miles away. After praise and prayer, Dr. Liu said he had been grieved to hear that there had been no blessing at Panchiapu. It was very distressing for the brethren there, who were greatly to be pitied if they were passed over. So he said and then proposed that first of all we should have a time of earnest prayer on behalf of Panchiapu. And with one consent the whole congregation besieged the Throne of Grace on its behalf. That was indeed a great chorus A hundred people or more were earnestly praying for Panchiapu. Panchiapu was the one sound that was unmistakable. When this united prayer ceased the voice of the leading deacon of that unhappy place began to pray. He had not gone far before he seemed to realise that the old stereotyped formula was a dead letter now, so he just let himself go. “O Lord,” he said, “ don’t leave out Panchiapu.” And then he added, apologetically, “ There’s nothing really wrong with Panchiapu, only we are just deadly cold.” The thanksgiving service was the crowning meeting of the series in that village, and at its close the Panchiapu deacon and members came forward and implored us to go back to them. They would take no denial. They had seen the blessing others had got, and they must have it too. So Dr. Liu went back with them and held a three days’ mission. They got what they sought, and they said at the close of the meetings, “We must never get into this deadly cold state again.” Then and there they raised half the salary of an evangelist, got friends to help them with the other half, and sent an urgent letter to the Mukden session asking an evangelist to be sent at once to teach and preach among them. The session appointed a man, and ever since the congregation of Panchiapu has been ministered to by its own evangelist.
When Dr. Liu went to Panchiapu, I travelled eight miles in the opposite direction to Tutaitze, to meet two other deputies who had been conducting a series of meetings at Changtan. I met them on the Monday morning. They had the bearing of men who had been at the wars and had returned victorious. It was the joy of the Seventy over again. “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy Name!” They told me that on the evening of the third day of the mission, the whole congregation began to cry aloud for mercy. The village magnates came to find out if any one had died suddenly! They could not understand such sorrow on any other ground. Men had voluntarily confessed to crimes that not even torture could have made them reveal. They had a book with them in which the names of those who had confessed were entered, and the nature of the confession. It was a terrible list. Some of the men were in the room when it was submitted to me. I said to the leading elder “If the Lord has blotted out these terrible things from the Book of His rememberance why should we keep a record of them. Better burn the whole handwriting.” He looked at me for a moment reproachfully. He had meant to take it back to Mukden as a spoil of war. It was only for a moment. The next, the leaves were torn out and the record committed to the flames. And the men whose names were there fell down on their knees and wept.
After a three days’ mission at Tutaitze, where a similar awakening took place, we arranged a thanksgiving service. Representatives from six stations came together to render praise to Almighty God for His gracious blessing. There was a gathering of over two hundred Christians. The short reports we heard from the various stations all told the same tale of blessing. Not one of them had been passed by. And after our return to Mukden we met the deputies from all the other places, and the stories they told were simply echoes of what we heard that day. The blessing which came to us in Mukden had fallen on all the out-stations, marked by the same awakening of the Christians, the same profound conviction of sin. Everywhere they had looked on Him whom they had pierced, and mourned, as one mourneth for his only son, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Everywhere had been the same spirit of contrition, confession, restitution, thanksgiving; the same remarkable spirit of prayer had been evidenced all along the line. The Boxers, the war, the persecution, famine, peril, sword — all were forgotten now. The years that the palmerworm, the locust, and the caterpillar had eaten were restored. And after such things it had been, as promised “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit.”
At the close of the thanksgiving meeting short parting words of counsel were given. My companion, Dr. Liu, who is quite a young fellow, and had undergone a deep spiritual experience during the previous month, has developed a wonderful gift as a leader in this movement. He gave the last address, and at its close he asked all those present who had received blessing during the meetings to rise. The whole congregation rose as one man. While they stood he continued “All those who are resolved henceforth to follow the Lord fully hold up the right hand.” And every hand went up. Standing thus, with uplifted hands, we sang our consecration hymn
My body, soul and spirit,
Saviour, I give to Thee.”
And how they sang! It was a great, solemn, gladdening sight! Nothing but a psalm seems fitting here
“When Zion’s bondage God turned back,
As men that dreamed were we,
Then filled with laughter was our mouth,
Our tongues with melody.
They ‘mong the heathen said, the Lord
Great things for them hath wrought.
The Lord hath done great things for us,
Whence joy to us is brought.”
This joy I am sure will be shared by many of the faithful in the home Church, who have, for many years, been praying for this which we have seen and heard in Manchuria.
Introduction: Brief Sketch Of The Life And Service Of William C. Burns, Of Kilsyth And Dundee.
Chapter 1. The Wonder At Mukden
Chapter 2. The High Tide Of Revival
Chapter 3. A Memorable Week In Mukden
Chapter 4. Revival In The Villages
Chapter 5. Mr. Goforth’s Mission—The Man And His Message
Chapter 6. Mr. Goforth’s Mission (Continued)
Chapter 7. Outposts Catch The Flame
Chapter 8. Reconsecrated Ruins
Chapter 9. Revived Bible And Prayer Interest
Chapter 10. The Revival And Woman’s Work
Chapter 11. Retrospect
Chapter 12. Impressions Of Results After Eighteen Months
Date unknown 127pp