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A Casualty of D-Day

The following account comes from THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, Vol. 10, no. 10 (October 1944): 4-7. This was (and is) the newsletter of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

dieffenbacherAJIn the falling of the Reverend Arthur Johnston Dieffenbacher on the battlefields of Normandy, July 5, 1944, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions has lost its first and one of its best missionaries by death. Few details are known even at this writing but in Arthur Dieffenbacher’s passing his family, the Board, China and a host of friends have sustained a very great loss; yet we know that God’s people should view all things from the standpoint of eternity and therefore we can rest assured that God Who knows all things “doeth all things well.”

Arthur Dieffenbacher was born in Titusville, Pa., April 29, 1909; and thus was but a little over thirty-five years of age when the Lord called him home. His early years were spent at Erie, Pa. where he was graduated from high school at the early age of fifteen. Two years of college work at Erie followed, and two years later in 1927 he was graduated from Grove City College. In 1931 he finished his theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in his possession and also credit toward a post-graduate Doctor’s degree. He had proved himself precocious during his school days, but he was also in advance of his years in the things of the Lord, his deep interest in these things showing itself, for instance, in his spending the first night of his college life away from home in a prayer meeting with a group which was destined to aid him greatly to the clear insight into God’s word which his later years so fully exhibited.

In September, 1932, Mr. Dieffenbacher was appointed a missionary of the China Inland Mission and in company with his intimate friend John Stam, who himself was destined to become a martyr, soon left for China. There, after language study and a brief period of work in Changteh, Hunan Province, he met in 1934 Miss Junia White, daughter of Dr. Hugh W. White, editor of The China Fundamentalist. Miss White and he were soon engaged, but because of illness and other causes they were not married until June 1938, joining at about the same time also and with the good wishes of the China Inland Mission, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions with the principles and purposes of which both were in full sympathy.

dieffenbacherMrMrs_1940All the years spent in China were filled with adventure which included a flight from Chinese communists in 1935; and the summer of 1938 saw battles raging all around Kuling where Miss White and Mr. Dieffenbacher had been married. Indeed China had been engaged for a whole year then in the war which was to engulf eventually so many lands and was, for Arthur Dieffenbacher, to end so tragically upon the battlefields of Nor­mandy. On their way from Kuling this young bride and groom had to pass through the battle zone, just behind the fighting lines, but God gave them protection and enabled Arthur even then to point a sore-wounded and dying Chinese lad, a soldier, to Christ as the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.

This trip led to Harbin, Manchuria, the “Manchukuo” of the Japa­nese, where two years of happy, fruitful work ensued, years which saw the beginning of what despite the hardness of the soil of that great cos­mopolitan city might have developed into a much greater work had it not been for the tyranny of Japan and the war which was so soon to bring to an end so much Christian work both in the Japanese empire and in China. In the testings of those years in regard to Shinto and the Japanese demands upon Christians Arthur and his wife remained faithful.

In the summer of 1940, after eight years in China, Mr. Dieffenbacher returned to America with his wife on furlough. There on June 19, 1941, a little daughter, Sara Junia, was born. As war conditions were gradually spreading it was thought that Mr. Dieffenbacher ought to return alone to Manchuria and so passport and passage were obtained but ere he could sail the events of December 7, 1941, compelled all such plans to be abandoned for the time being, and as it proved in Arthur’s case, forever.

In America Mr. Dieffenbacher proved to be a good and effective mis­sionary speaker. He also rendered efficient aid at his Board’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Later he held a brief pastorate in the Bible Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. But when the American Council of Christian Churches obtained for its member Churches a quota of Army chaplaincies, Mr. Dieffenbacher applied for a chaplaincy and was appointed and joined the Army on July 18, 1943.

In the Army Arthur Dieffenbacher won recognition for two things. For one, he took with his men, for example, the whole system of training including the dangerous and difficult “infiltration” course and other things which were not required of chaplains, but which he did that by all means he might win some. This ambition to win men to Christ was the second notable trait of which we speak. Indeed it showed itself not alone while he was in the Army but also throughout all his life. He always preached to convince, convert and win. On his way to England with his unit he with two other God-fearing chaplains, won eighty-four men to Christ. A brief letter home, mentioning this asked, “Isn’t that great?” Truly it was great and not merely in the opinion of his friends, we believe, but also in the sight of the Lord. Some of his friends are praying that from among those eighty-four after the war some may volunteer to take Arthur Dieffenbacher’s place in China. God is able to bring such things to pass.

The time from April to June 24, 1944, was spent in England. There, too, Arthur Dieffenbacher was constantly on the search for souls and also for that which would bring inspiration to his men and to his family and friends at home. Some of the poems he found and sent home testify at once to his love for good poetry and for the things of the spirit, especially for the things of the Lord. He believed thoroughly that he was in God’s will. He longed to see his wife and child and mother again but assured them that “no good thing would the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He rejoiced in full houses of soldiers to whom to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was often tired after a long day of duties done, but preached and lived that we are “More than Conquerors” through Christ. With it all he learned to sew on buttons and patches and to wash his own clothes and his good humor bubbled over into his letters when he said, “Oh, boy, you should see the result!” Up at the front large at­tendances at services were the rule, men searching for help, for strength, for God, as they faced the foe. Perhaps a premonition was felt of what was to come. He wrote, “There are so many chances of getting hurt in war or in peace that which one affects you is by God’s permission. Hence I don’t worry, but take all reasonable precautions and trust the rest to God. His will is best and His protection sufficient.” On July 3, he wondered how they would celebrate the Fourth, and knew not that on the morrow of that day he would celebrate humbly but joyfully in the Presence of God. When killed by German artillery fire his body was recovered by his senior chaplain, Chaplain Blitch, and later an impressive funeral service was held.

“Faithful unto death” are words which characterized the whole life of Arthur Dieffenbacher. The realization of that fact brings an added meas­ure of consolation to his mother, Mrs. Mildred J. Dieffenbacher, to his wife and will, in time, to his little three-year-old daughter as she comes to understand what her father was and what he did. It brings consolation also to The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to all his friends. But as Arthur Dieffenbacher himself would have been the first to say, all he was and did he owed to Christ in whom he was called, chosen and empowered and made faithful till that day when surely he heard the welcome “well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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A Casualty of D-Day

The following account comes from THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, Vol. 10, no. 10 (October 1944): 4-7. This was (and is) the newsletter of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions.

FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH

dieffenbacherAJIn the falling of the Reverend Arthur Johnston Dieffenbacher on the battlefields of Normandy, July 5, 1944, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions has lost its first and one of its best missionaries by death. Few details are known even at this writing but in Arthur Dieffenbacher’s passing his family, the Board, China and a host of friends have sustained a very great loss; yet we know that God’s people should view all things from the standpoint of eternity and therefore we can rest assured that God Who knows all things “doeth all things well.”

Arthur Dieffenbacher was born in Titusville, Pa., April 29, 1909; and thus was but a little over thirty-five years of age when the Lord called him home. His early years were spent at Erie, Pa. where he was graduated from high school at the early age of fifteen. Two years of college work at Erie followed, and two years later in 1927 he was graduated from Grove City College. In 1931 he finished his theological education at Dallas Theological Seminary, with a Master’s degree in his possession and also credit toward a post-graduate Doctor’s degree. He had proved himself precocious during his school days, but he was also in advance of his years in the things of the Lord, his deep interest in these things showing itself, for instance, in his spending the first night of his college life away from home in a prayer meeting with a group which was destined to aid him greatly to the clear insight into God’s word which his later years so fully exhibited.

In September, 1932, Mr. Dieffenbacher was appointed a missionary of the China Inland Mission and in company with his intimate friend John Stam, who himself was destined to become a martyr, soon left for China. There, after language study and a brief period of work in Changteh, Hunan Province, he met in 1934 Miss Junia White, daughter of Dr. Hugh W. White, editor of The China Fundamentalist. Miss White and he were soon engaged, but because of illness and other causes they were not married until June 1938, joining at about the same time also and with the good wishes of the China Inland Mission, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions with the principles and purposes of which both were in full sympathy.

dieffenbacherMrMrs_1940All the years spent in China were filled with adventure which included a flight from Chinese communists in 1935; and the summer of 1938 saw battles raging all around Kuling where Miss White and Mr. Dieffenbacher had been married. Indeed China had been engaged for a whole year then in the war which was to engulf eventually so many lands and was, for Arthur Dieffenbacher, to end so tragically upon the battlefields of Nor­mandy. On their way from Kuling this young bride and groom had to pass through the battle zone, just behind the fighting lines, but God gave them protection and enabled Arthur even then to point a sore-wounded and dying Chinese lad, a soldier, to Christ as the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.

This trip led to Harbin, Manchuria, the “Manchukuo” of the Japa­nese, where two years of happy, fruitful work ensued, years which saw the beginning of what despite the hardness of the soil of that great cos­mopolitan city might have developed into a much greater work had it not been for the tyranny of Japan and the war which was so soon to bring to an end so much Christian work both in the Japanese empire and in China. In the testings of those years in regard to Shinto and the Japanese demands upon Christians Arthur and his wife remained faithful.

In the summer of 1940, after eight years in China, Mr. Dieffenbacher returned to America with his wife on furlough. There on June 19, 1941, a little daughter, Sara Junia, was born. As war conditions were gradually spreading it was thought that Mr. Dieffenbacher ought to return alone to Manchuria and so passport and passage were obtained but ere he could sail the events of December 7, 1941, compelled all such plans to be abandoned for the time being, and as it proved in Arthur’s case, forever.

In America Mr. Dieffenbacher proved to be a good and effective mis­sionary speaker. He also rendered efficient aid at his Board’s headquarters in Philadelphia. Later he held a brief pastorate in the Bible Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. But when the American Council of Christian Churches obtained for its member Churches a quota of Army chaplaincies, Mr. Dieffenbacher applied for a chaplaincy and was appointed and joined the Army on July 18, 1943.

In the Army Arthur Dieffenbacher won recognition for two things. For one, he took with his men, for example, the whole system of training including the dangerous and difficult “infiltration” course and other things which were not required of chaplains, but which he did that by all means he might win some. This ambition to win men to Christ was the second notable trait of which we speak. Indeed it showed itself not alone while he was in the Army but also throughout all his life. He always preached to convince, convert and win. On his way to England with his unit he with two other God-fearing chaplains, won eighty-four men to Christ. A brief letter home, mentioning this asked, “Isn’t that great?” Truly it was great and not merely in the opinion of his friends, we believe, but also in the sight of the Lord. Some of his friends are praying that from among those eighty-four after the war some may volunteer to take Arthur Dieffenbacher’s place in China. God is able to bring such things to pass.

The time from April to June 24, 1944, was spent in England. There, too, Arthur Dieffenbacher was constantly on the search for souls and also for that which would bring inspiration to his men and to his family and friends at home. Some of the poems he found and sent home testify at once to his love for good poetry and for the things of the spirit, especially for the things of the Lord. He believed thoroughly that he was in God’s will. He longed to see his wife and child and mother again but assured them that “no good thing would the Lord withhold from them that walk uprightly.” He rejoiced in full houses of soldiers to whom to preach the Gospel of salvation. He was often tired after a long day of duties done, but preached and lived that we are “More than Conquerors” through Christ. With it all he learned to sew on buttons and patches and to wash his own clothes and his good humor bubbled over into his letters when he said, “Oh, boy, you should see the result!” Up at the front large at­tendances at services were the rule, men searching for help, for strength, for God, as they faced the foe. Perhaps a premonition was felt of what was to come. He wrote, “There are so many chances of getting hurt in war or in peace that which one affects you is by God’s permission. Hence I don’t worry, but take all reasonable precautions and trust the rest to God. His will is best and His protection sufficient.” On July 3, he wondered how they would celebrate the Fourth, and knew not that on the morrow of that day he would celebrate humbly but joyfully in the Presence of God. When killed by German artillery fire his body was recovered by his senior chaplain, Chaplain Blitch, and later an impressive funeral service was held.

“Faithful unto death” are words which characterized the whole life of Arthur Dieffenbacher. The realization of that fact brings an added meas­ure of consolation to his mother, Mrs. Mildred J. Dieffenbacher, to his wife and will, in time, to his little three-year-old daughter as she comes to understand what her father was and what he did. It brings consolation also to The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions and to all his friends. But as Arthur Dieffenbacher himself would have been the first to say, all he was and did he owed to Christ in whom he was called, chosen and empowered and made faithful till that day when surely he heard the welcome “well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

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It apparently began with Anglican scholar, W. H. Griffith Thomas and his trip to China in the summer of 1920. Upon his return, he gave an address before the Philadelphia Presbytery, charging that the PCUSA was sending modernists onto the mission field in China, and that what was being taught on the mission field was heretical. After an initial flurry of debate, countercharges and reassurances, the matter seemed to die down somewhat. But it continued to boil under the surface.

Jumping ahead to 1933, conservatives in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. had by that time decided their only option was to establish an Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, which was officially organized in October of that year. Dr. J. Gresham Machen was elected to serve as the first president of the newly formed missions board. The plan was that this Board would allow conservatives to support theologically orthodox missionaries and know that their contributions were used in a way that would honor the Lord.

But about that same time, the New Brunswick Presbytery, of which Machen was a member, moved to tighten its requirements for men coming to be ordained. Henceforth they would require candidates to affirm their sole support for the Boards and ministries of the denomination. Machen opposed this move, but in the end, the matter turned disastrously against Dr. Machen and all those involved with the Independent Board, for the denomination essentially affirmed and adopted the New Brunswick position. Subsequently an order came down from General Assembly in 1934 that members must support the programs of the Church and no others.

The result of this “Deliverance of 1934” was that, as a matter of conscience, Machen and a dozen or so others refused to step away from their involvement with the Independent Board, and as a result were tried in ecclesiastical court. In each case, they lost. Dr. Machen’s case was particularly grievous, in that he was not allowed to present evidence that would have supported his position.

lairdhsIt was on this day, March 5th, in 1936, that the Rev. Harold S. Laird pled “not guilty” to the charges against him for his involvement with the Independent Board. Rev. Laird was the pastor of the First and Central Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware. He had been charged with “disobedience to the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.” Initially there had been two other charges, that (2) he had failed to subject himself to his brethren, and (3) that he had failed to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel. But Rev. Laird’s character was beyond reproach, and those charges were foolish at best, so the matter was reduced to the one charge their rules could sustain.

Pictured at right, the Rev. Harold S. Laird.

Words to Live By:
Eventually Machen, Laird, Buswell, McIntire, Bennett and about eight others all lost their trials. One result was the formation of the Presbyterian Church of America in 1936, later renamed the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions also continues to this day with its ministry. Those who were tried were men and women of good conscience, who would not step back from what they knew was right as they sought to serve the Lord. Those of us today who would stand for the truth of the Scriptures and not step away, must first prepare. Your resolve in public depends completely upon your resolve in private. If you are not living a faithful life before the Lord in private, now is the time to prepare. Go to Him daily in humble repentance and seek His face. When your life is honest and forthright in private before the Lord, then He will enable you to stand honest and forthright in your public witness.

For Further Study:
W. H. Griffith Thomas, “Modernism in China,” Princeton Theological Review 19.4 (October 1921): 630-671. Reprinted as Modernism in China. Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times, n.d. To read this article, click here.

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lowrieWMWhen God’s Children Come to See Me

Walter Macon Lowrie was born on February 18, 1819, and came to saving faith in Christ while in college, in 1834. Like Lyman Atwater of yesterday’s post, Walter soon determined to enter the ministry. He attended Princeton Seminary in preparation, and during those years resolved to become a missionary. The continent of Africa was particularly upon his heart, but following his ordination, the Board of Foreign Missions determined the need was greatest in China. Lowrie set sail in January of 1842.  By August of 1847, he was dead, murdered by pirates.

God is sovereign, and even when death seems senseless. it is only because we lack the Lord’s wisdom and knowledge. Especially in such cases is it wrong to try to attach a reason; we can only trust in God’s goodness.

A few years after Walter died, his father assembled his son’s letters and writings and published a Memoir. Reading some of that Memoir in preparation for this post, the following letter gave a good insight into the character of Walter’s Christian faith. Note too how the Lord used a godly woman, insignificant in the eyes of the world, in confirming and resolving Lowrie’s interest in missions :

Letters While At College

Jefferson College, September 14th.

My dear father–

Yesterday was our communion here; and though it was so near to the end of the session, that we could not have much time for preparation, and no fast day was appointed, yet it was about as profitable a day as I ever spent. True, at the table, and whilst partaking of the elements, I was not happy; nay, before I rose from the table, I was almost as miserable as I ever was. Yet it was profitable. A temptation came across my mind to this effect: “I am not now enjoying communion with Jesus Christ; and therefore I am not a Christian. I may as well now give up all pretensions to religion, and quit acting the hypocrite any longer.” And although not willingly, I felt as if I ought to do so; but the thought rushed into my mind, “If I am so miserable under the hidings of God’s face only, how shall I bear His eternal wrath?” It was the first time I had ever been influenced more by fear than by other motives. I was miserable, however. But see the goodness of God and of Jesus Christ. After church, I was thinking of my conduct during the session, and meditating on the two verses, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God;” and all my anxious cares vanished. I had been impressed deeply with a sense of my sinfulness, and was wishing to make some resolutions; hereafter to live more to the glory of God, but felt almost afraid to do it. I knew I should fall away; and I felt that it would but aggravate my guilt, were I to sin against such renewed obligation. But the sentence, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” calmed my heart. I felt that it was my duty to follow present duty, and leave the future to God, without any anxious cares; and I was enabled to do so, and roll all my cares upon the Lord. Oh, the peace I at that moment possessed! I could scarce refrain from laughing, I was so joyful.

I determined then to live every day as if it were to be the last I should have to live, and to do my duty accordingly;—in reality, “to live by the day.” At secret prayer I was more full of God’s presence, and comprehended more of that view of Christ’s character, which is so great, grand, and incomprehensible, that I could scarcely proceed for joy, and from my own experience during the day, I could tell something of the difference between God’s presence and his absence. Today, I cannot say I feel, or have felt, as I could wish—not so much life and animation; but I have been enabled to mourn for it. During the sermon (Mark xvi. 15), I was enabled to see more of the greatness of the Christian religion than I ever did before, and to feel, too, that man could not be the author of such grand ideas as I saw there held out.

This evening I was walking out into the country for exercise and on my return I passed the cottage of a negro woman, commonly called “Old Katy.” She was out in the road, when I passed her. I shook hands with her, and spoke a few words to her. Before we had spoken three sentences, she was was talking about religion. She is a most eminent Christian, and we stood about ten or fifteen minutes there talking. She soon got to speaking about the missionary cause. Her heart was in the matter, and she said, “I am very poor, but as long as I live I will be something to it. I have often given a little to it, and I never laid out any money better. I could not do it. I never lost a cent by it.”

I wish I could give you some idea of the emphasis she used, but pen and ink cannot express her manner and the feeling she manifested. She very cordially asked me to call in and see her; “for it is food to me when any of God’s children come to see me; it is food.” She went on thus for some time, talking about various matters, but all of them religious. Oh! how little I felt when I heard her talk thus, and compared my attainments in the Christian course with hers.

Words to Live By:
Give yourselves wholly to the Lord, in all you say and do. See the Lord as your only gain in this life. See Him as your All in all. You will not regret it. You will not suffer true loss, but will only gain true eternal riches.

For Further Study:
Memoirs of the Rev. Walter M. Lowrie, Missionary to China.

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Many of our readers will know of Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who has served so faithfully for so many years as a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. But you may not know that his parents were missionaries to China, sent out under the auspices of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. For all the glorious news of the growth of the Church in China in recent years, it is good to remember those who were greatly used of the Lord in plowing the ground, and planting the seed some seventy and eighty years ago.

gaffinFamily_1935MR. AND MRS. RICHARD B. GAFFIN and their daughter Margaret have just arrived in China. [Ed. – The Gaffin’s son Richard was born about a year after this photograph was taken].

The Presbytery of Milwaukee refused to ordain Mr. Gaffin, a graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary, because he would not pledge allegiance to a missionary program which he could not conscientiously support. He chose to remain unordained rather than to submit his conscience to men. Does that suggest Hebrews 11: 25, 26?

The following extracts from the Gaffins’ letters reveal some of their first impressions upon reaching China:

“In the first place, my reaction to things physical was that of surprise, in that things in Shanghai, Chinkiang, Tenghsien, and Peiping are much better than I had expected, especially the way in which the Presbyterian missionaries live. It appears to me that a great deal of good mission money has been put into expensive foreign houses, which means that money which could have been used for direct evangelization was put into wood and stone; and that for missionaries to live in so distinctly a foreign style has not helped them to get as close to the people as they might. . . .

“In the second place, I was very much distressed to see how strong Modernism is out here. Surely all that Dr. Machen and Mclntire have exposed is all too true and more too. . . .

“In the third place, I was astonished when I learned how much territory there is that is unevangelized up and down the coast of China. I had imagined that we would have to go far inland to find any untouched territory; instead I learn that after all very few of the millions of people in Shantung have been reached, not to mention other provinces.

“We are very happy here and we thank the Lord that He has sent us to this great land. We thank Him that He has given us His assurance at every turn. We thank Him for our health and strength and we pray that we may always be found in Him. We are so happy in our new home, and have met such good people at Mr. Kok’s. . . .”

“I never dreamed of the density of the population nor of the immensity of the unfinished task of evangelizing China.

“Would that we could paint a vivid picture of the need of the gospel to those at home. I am going to try to make all my correspondence prevail to that end. I know that words are incomplete but I pray that the Holy Spirit may add the needed vividness.”

[excerpted from The Independent Board Bulletin, 1.12 (December 1935): 10.]

Richard B. Gaffin, Sr. died on February 4, 1996. To read more about his life and ministry, click here to view an historical memoir written by John P. Galbraith (see pages 19-20).

Words to Live By:
There was great sadness when the War forced missionaries to return home from the field. But the God never left the side of His Church in China. Through a great many trials the Church was sifted and purified and now stands stronger than ever. Not ten years before the Gaffins moved onto the mission field, a PCUSA missionary by the name of Henry G.C. Hallock wrote of the tense situation on the field even in 1927, clearly recognizing, almost in a prophetic way, how the Lord was at work despite all appearances:

But amid the deep gloom there appears a bright cloud still. God will overrule it all to His glory—is doing so. The church is being tried as by fire. The true Christians will remain true—will become more “loyal and true—and the dross will be removed. The “rice Christians” and all who are not true will desert and so the church will be refined. The church needs purging and it is being purged “with a vengeance.” And then, too, the scattered loyal Christians, as in the times of the Acts of the Apostles, are preaching the Gospel wherever they flee. The Bolshevists try to beat out the fire; but they only scatter the sparks. The flames spring up in numbers of unthinkable places. The missionaries have had to leave their stations; but it casts their Chinese Christians wholly into the loving arms of the dear Lord where they renew their strength, running and not weary, walking and not faint. Now is the time to bear the Christ­ians up in the arms of prayer as you have never done before.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

A New Method of Missionary Work

For centuries, the work of foreign missions all over the world  had been done by faithful missionaries going from nations like England or America, serving the Lord in some field white unto harvest, and then going off the scene back to their sending agency.  That method was in need of changing, and the Rev. John Livingston Nevius would be the one who would change foreign mission methods forever.

Born on March 4, 1829 in western New York, John Nevius attended Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1850’s.  Called while in seminary to the foreign mission field, he found the perfect mate in Helen Coan in 1853. Marrying her, they set sail for China.

At first they traveled, setting up missions and schools. Then they settled down in one province of that vast land.  Observing the work of other missionaries in that nation, this Presbyterian missionary began to see the need to establish “self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-governing indigenous churches from the very beginning of a missionary’s work on the field.  Interesting, even though this approach, which was eventually crystallized in a book, was first developed in China, it never really matured into reality there. But when broaching the same method in the land of Korea, it was received completed by the Korean church. And today, that land and its churches have taken the three “self’s” and followed them religiously.

John Nevius also in his plan suggested that Christian missionaries should only begin programs which the national church desired and supported.  Further, the national church should call out and support their pastors.  Intensive beliefs and doctrinal instruction should be provided each year by the missionaries.  It is clear that the focus would not be on some Western culture and church, but rather on the mission field’s culture and church.  Indeed, the missionary’s “job” was to work themselves out of that “job,” and leave it to the Christian church people to win their nation to Christ.

Countless church bodies have followed the Nevius plan.  The Mission to the World agency of the Presbyterian Church in America employs this plan, often setting deadlines for establishing a Presbytery of pastors and churches, and then sending the missionary to some other field to continue the process.

John Livingstone Nevius died while in China on October 19, 1893 and is buried in China.

It is deeply interesting to ponder the Lord’s sovereign hand in the affairs of China, from that time until now, how the Lord has purified that Church. To read another missionary’s account, from 1927, click here.

Also this day:
Dr. Robert B. Tweed, former professor and chair of the Bible and philosophy department at Geneva College, went to be with the Lord on Monday, October 19, 2009.

Words to live by:  When I hear of a church which has closed down when a pastor has left by moving on or by death, I reflect that this John Nevius plan wouldn’t be a bad one for our local American church scene.  For reasons known only to the pastor and people, the work to equip the saints to do the work of service, as Ephesians 4:11, 12 states,  had been missing in that closed church.  Now it was the pastor’s fault.  He wanted to think that he was irreplaceable.  Or maybe the members resisted that Scriptural methodology.  But whatever the reason was, the work came to an end when the pastor was removed from the scene.  So here is my question?  Pastors, are you equipping the saints to do the work of ministry?  And members, are you zealous to be equipped to do the work of ministry?  It is important to ask and answer these questions.

Through the Scriptures: Matthew 16 – 19

Through the Standards: Benefits of communion with Christ in Grace

WLC 65 — “What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
A.  The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.”

WLC 66 — “What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
A.  The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.”

WLC 69 — “What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.”

Image Source : Photo found on page 72 of The Church at Home and Abroad, Volume 23, no. 133 (January 1898). Scan prepared by the staff of the PCA Historical Center.

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