China Mission

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On the Spirituality of the Church—A Real-Life Example.

In his History of Columbia Theological Seminary, William Childs Robinson wrote:

DuBose, HampdenC_02Among the sons of Columbia sent out by the Southern Presbyterian Church, perhaps none has a deeper hold on the affectionate memory of the church than Hampden C. DuBose—the biographer of Dr. J. L. Wilson. Dr. DuBose was a South Carolinian, a Confederate Soldier—and for almost fifty years a soldier of the Cross, claiming for his King the city of Soochow, China (1872-1910). He preached indefatigably in the market and the street. He used his pen in translating and in writing a religious literature for the Chinese. Among these works he translated a book by his old Seminary professor, Dr. Wm. S. Plumer The Rock of Our Salvation. He was made President of the Chinese Anti-Opium League, and wrought so effectively in that endeavor that the movement to suppress the opium traffic became “the strongest movement in China.” Rev. DuBose died on September 30, 1910.

The Minutes of the China Mission of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (aka, Southern), provide many interesting insights into that work and time. We find one particularly noteworthy feature in their Minutes for 1899, when a stand was taken by the Mission in regard to the Mission’s relationship with the Chinese government. This would just prior to the time of the Boxer Rebellion, perhaps even only in the months prior.

The paper adopted by the PCUS China Mission, while a response to the pending crisis that faced them, also provides a good insight in the practical outworking of the doctrine of the spirituality of the Church, at least as held by Southern Presbyterians:

“This Mission overtures other Presbyterian bodies laboring in China to meet in conference the day previous to the General Missionary Conference, in 1901 [I presume here they were looking ahead two years to this then future meeting], to discuss the following questions: (1) Presbyterial union. (2) The establishment of a Presbyterian theological seminary. (3) The establishment of a weekly Presbyterian newspaper in Chinese. (4) The observance of the Sabbath.”

But, next to the division of the Mission, perhaps the most important action taken by the Mission was that defining the political status of missionaries. This paper is as follows:

“With regard to the political status of missionaries in China, and the regulations which should control their intercourse with Chinese officials,

Resolved, That the members of the Southern Presbyterian Mission ask nothing more than the rights of private citizens of the United States.
“This resolution is based upon the following considerations:

“1. That functions of a missionary are spiritual. His great work is to care for souls. To assume political power in reality, or even in appearance, is inconsistent with the nature of his office.

“2. Right relations between church and State forbid missionaries to claim ‘equal rank with viceroys and governors,’ ‘demand interviews,’ with them, and with them ‘negotiate and conclude affairs.’ The missionary is not an officer of the State. The United States’ Minister and the Consuls are in China to protect, and do protect, all their fellow-citizens, and the missionary must not usurp or disregard their authority. For a missionary to interfere int he government of China is wrong in principle and pernicious in practice.

“3. Whatever rights of appeal to local officials, or to officers of high rank, may be secured for all citizens of the United Stats, may, with propriety, be used by missionaries, who should, in exercising their rights, be on an equality with other private citizens, and in no way claim to be officers of the United States, or to be equal in rank with any Chinese officials.

/signed/

J.W. Davis,
S.I. Woodbridge,
J.L. Stuart.
Committee.”

Source: The Missionary, vol. 33, no. 2 (February 1900): 81-82.

Words to Live By:
Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’ ”—John 18:36, ESV.

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How Many of You Know . . .

BuckPMention the name of Pearl Buck and countless Americans will immediately think of the award-winning book “The Good Earth.”  And indeed Pearl Buck did write that famous work and many other novels which earned her both a Pulitzer prize as well as a Nobel prize for literature.  But how many Americans, and even church folks, know that she was instrumental in bringing about the original Presbyterian Church of America in 1936?  And yet she was.

Born of missionary parents in China associated with the Southern Presbyterian church in West Virginia, Pearl Buck returned with her husband to China as missionaries under the Board of Foreign Missions of the northern Presbyterian Church.

In 1932, the book “Rethinking Missions” was published. It stated that its aim was to do exactly what the title suggested, namely, to change the purpose of sending foreign missionaries to the world.  Its aim was to seek the truth from the religions to which it went, rather than to present the truth of historic Christianity.  There should be a common search for truth as a result of missionary ministry, was the consensus of this book.  Pearl Buck agreed one hundred per cent with the results of this book.  She believed that every American Christian should read it.

To her, Jesus ceased to be the divine son of God, virgin born, and conceived by the Holy Spirit.  There was no original sin in her belief structure.  All these truths of historic Christianity made the gospel to be a superstition, a magical religion, and should be done away with by the church, and subsequent mission boards.

Machen_ModernismObviously, with beliefs like this, Pearl Buck became the focus of men like J. Gresham Machen, who published a 110 page book on the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.  That treatment was freely presented to the congregations of the Northern Presbyterian Church.  The result was that Pearl Buck was forced to resign from the China mission, though the Presbyterian Board accepted that resignation with regret.

Eventually, the situation of the China Mission was a powerful basis for forming the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions in 1933. True Bible-believing Presbyterians needed to have one board which would only send missionaries to foreign lands who believed that Jesus was the only way, truth, and life to God.  Pearl Buck did not believe this biblical truth.

Pearl Buck passed into eternity on March 6, 1973.

For further study:
“Pearl Buck’s Comments upon the death of J. Gresham Machen.”

Words to Live By: The New Testament author,  Jude, writes about those who “creep in unnoticed” into the church, who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”  As long as the church is on earth, there will be a need for Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered unto the saints.” (ESV  – James 3, 4)

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