“To the Joy of the Church, and the Honour of Christ”: A Case Study of Personal Evangelism in Early Chinese Mission
The year 2007 marked the bicentennial of the arrival of Robert Morrison (1782–1834)—the first Protestant missionary to China—at Macau. As part of its celebration, many Christian churches and academic institutes, both in China and overseas, organized conferences and publications. Dis- appointedly, in the year 2013 very few remembered and celebrated the bicentennial of the arrival of Morrison’s close friend and missionary partner—William Milne (1785–1822)—who was China’s second Protestant missionary, and under whom the first ordained Chinese evangelist, Liang Fa (1789–1855), was evangelized and mentored. Though William Milne would agree with Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (1700–1760) that his mission was to “preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten,” it is still unfortunate for the church, especially Chinese churches, to forget such a faithful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only recently has academic interest in Milne and his contribution to Chinese church been renewed.
Prior to Morrison and Milne’s arrival, in China’s five-thousand-year history, twice have the Christian churches in the West attempted to bring the gospel to China, but all failed. The Nestori- ans failed by being unable to communicate the orthodox faith to their Chinese converts with providing them Scriptures translated in Chinese. The Nestorians also failed by practicing syncretism in their missiological methods, which was to adopt Buddhist and Taoist terminology and symbols. The Roman Catholic missionaries, on the other hand, were sent as political ambassadors, and by their moral wickedness, they became a stumbling stone for the gospel.
Hence, the essential question to answer is: how was the gospel finally being planted in China by the first and second Protestant missionaries, i.e. Robert Morrison and William Milne? Undoubtedly, the final author of church history is the sovereign and gracious God. Nevertheless, throughout redemptive history, God uses human means to make his name known and glorified. This paper particularly aims to look at William Milne’s personal evangelism of Liang Fa through analyzing Milne’s famous Chinese tract, Dialogues Between Chang and Yuen (1819).
2. From a Swearing Shepherd Boy to God’s Ambassador
William Milne was born in April 1785 (possibly on April 26 or 27) at Braeside of Cults, in the parish of Kennethmount, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and was baptized on April 27, 1785. Milne’s father, William Milne, Sr., who was a farm labourer, died when Milne was six years old (1791). His mother “gave [him] the education common to others in the same condition of life.” Possibly the oldest of his siblings, Milne had to work as a shepherd boy at a very young age. During this period of his life, Milne learned to swear while shepherding the sheep; later he comments that “the natural depravity of my heart began very soon to [discover] itself” and this led him into many other sins, like “lying, swearing, and blaspheming God’s holy name.” As Milne grew up in the parish church, he memo- rized the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) and John Willison’s (1680–1750) Mother’s Catechism in order for him to “be equal with [his] neighbours, and avoid the displeasure of the minister of the parish.” For Milne, “religion was very grievous.” As Milne later recorded, he once foolishly imagined that, by the age of sixteen, he would “attain great celebrity as a vain and trifling youth.”
What happened to Milne at the age of thirteen, both physically (i.e. almost drowned while cross- ing a river) and spiritually (i.e. fear of death), brought Milne to attend Sunday evening schools taught by George Cowie (1749–1806). In the Sunday schools, Milne’s knowledge of the Scriptures increased but this made him very proud.
By the age of sixteen, Milne had left his mother and moved into another house, whose own- ers Milne described as “strangers to religion.” But during this time, Milne frequently visited the house of a poor Christian man. In this house, Milne was first introduced to family worship, and as Milne joined with prayers, he was taught and encouraged to pray and read pious books. Milne later recalled:
From this time my enjoyment and pursuit of pleasure in the world were marred; and abeauty and excel- lence discovered in religion, which I had never seen in any past period of my life, and which led me to choose and follow after it as the only object deserving the chief attention of an immortal creature.
With this awakening experience, there were two books that deeply shaped Milne’s spiritual life: a Scottish martyrological book entitled Cloud of Witnesses (1714) and Thomas Boston’s (1676–1732) Human Nature in Its Fourfold State. As Milne was eagerly seeking the salvation of Jesus Christ, two sermons moved Milne forward to conversion: Thomas Boston’s published sermon, “The Soul’s Espousals to Christ” (2 Cor 11:2), and George Cowie’s sermon on Revelation 22:21. Milne was then led to reason:
If pardon and salvation were offered, ‘without money and without price,’ to those who had killed the Prince of Life, and thereby committed the greatest possible crime; then, surely that grace which could triumph over all their guilt, and so richly abound where sins of the highest aggravation once abounded, may be extended to me—pardon my sins, and renew my nature—heal and save my soul. By these two things I was led to discover a glory and suitableness in the Gospel—as displaying the lustre of the divine perfections, and as preserving the honours of the divine law, while at the same time it conferred eternal life on the guilty sinner believing in Jesus. This discovery captivated my heart, and made me willing to devote myself, soul and body, to God for ever.
By having such “earnest desire of devoting [himself] to God,” Milne was encouraged to make a personal confession. This conversion experience was accompanied with radical changes in his lifestyle. In Robert Morrison’s words, Milne had a “very ardent impetuous determined mind; yet softened by mildness of manner,” and after Milne’s conversion, “it retained its natural ardor and impetuosity, but [was] directed to new and very different objects from what it previously was.”
Soon after Milne’s conversion, he felt it necessary to leave the Church of Scotland, as he disliked the shallow sermons preached by the minister. Because of opposition from his relatives, Milne stayed in his old church for two years before moving to George Cowie’s Congregational church in Huntly, where he became a member one year later.
Milne’s missionary interest was deepened as he read Jonathan Edwards’ (1703–1758) missionary biography of David Brainerd (1718–1747) and the stories of missionaries that were published in magazines like the Evangelical Magazine. Milne later explained his missionary calling in his or- dination service and stated that when he read the missionary stories, he “felt deeply concerned for the coming of Christ’s kingdom among the nations.” With many prayers for the confirmation of his missionary calling, Milne sent in his application to the London Missionary Society (LMS) in about 1809. While waiting for the committee’s response, Milne devoted himself to prayer and read- ing books like the LMS published Transactions of the Missionary Society, and Andrew Fuller’s Life of the Rev. Samuel Pearce. A month later, the Aberdeen committee called Milne for an interview. Being moved by Milne’s servant-heart, the committee accepted Milne’s application and supported him to receive missionary training from the Edwardsean theologian and educator, David Bogue (1750–1825) at Gosport. It was from Bogue that both Robert Morrison and William Milne learned that “the sole business of a missionary is to promote the religion of Jesus,” which is the same task as that of a local minister of the gospel.
On July 16, 1812, Milne was ordained at John Griffin’s (1769–1834) church at Portsea, Portsmouth. On August 4, 1812, William Milne married Rachel Cowie (1783–1819) at St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, by the curate Robert Crosby (1769–1837).
A month later, on September 4, 1812, William and Rachel Milne sailed from Portsmouth for the Cape of Good Hope (today’s Cape Town, South Africa). On July 4, 1813, William and Rachel Milne arrived at Macao and were “most cordially welcomed by” Robert and Mary Morton Morrison (1791–1821). On that night, Morrison prayed, expressing his deep longings, “Thus far (blessed be the great Disposer of events) the door has been opened. O that the Lord’s servant [referring to Milne] may be spared in health, may soon acquire the language of the heathen, and be a faithful missionary of Jesus Christ.”
Early in the morning on July 9, 1813, a sergeant from the Portuguese Governor, Bernardo Aleixo de Lemos e Faria (1754–1826), came to Morrison with the command that Milne “must leave in eight days.” Though Morrison was friendly to the Governor, “the Governor’s position was clear, and ‘unanswerable.’” The Governor’s coldness was influenced by the Roman Catholic bishop and clergy, “who were alarmed at the arrival of a Protestant missionary, to whom they could show no indulgence, notwithstanding, at the same time a great number of their own body were hospitably entertained, and even kindly fostered in the heart of England.” Meanwhile, Morrison asked if the East India Company (EIC) would hire Milne, which had hired Morrison, but the EIC refused to hire Milne permanently. Morrison was disappointed by the EIC, since he felt “betrayed by friends in the English community.” Morrison then sent Milne to Canton for the winter. On July 20, leaving a pregnant Rachel with Mary Morrison at Macao, Milne “went in a small boat to Canton, where [he] remained the ensuing season; enjoying that hospitality among the heathen, which had been denied in a Christian colony.” Christopher Hancock concludes that this event “set them [Morrison and Milne] in good stead for the future,” as Milne would become “a close friend,” “intellectual peer,” and “constant help” to Morrison.
Life for Milne in Canton was not easy since Milne had to hide himself in a factory at the port, which cost him “500 Spanish dollars for the season,” as the Chinese government was very cautious about foreigners. While he was in Canton, Milne followed Morrison’s principles in learning Chinese. Within six months, Milne’s Chinese had improved dramatically, yet Milne still described the language study as “a work for men with bodies of brass, lungs of steel, heads of oak, hands of spring-steel, eyes of eagles, hearts of apostles, memories of angels, and lives of Methuselah! Still I make a little progress.”
As early as September 1814, both the Portuguese colonial government and Chinese government made resolutions to the disadvantage of Protestant missionaries. Seeing their situation change for the worse, both Morrison and Milne agreed to establish a missionary station outside of Macao and Canton, where Protestants would be welcomed both by the officials and within Chinese settlements. They found Malacca to be the best place for such a station, since at the time Malacca was a British colony, governed by the friendly Scottish-born Major-General William Farquhar (1774–1839). On April 17, 1815, William and the again-pregnant Rachel Milne sailed to Malacca with their young daughter Amelia. Liang Fa also went with the Milnes as a printer. On April 22, Rachel gave birth to twin boys at sea, named William Charles and Robert George. The Milne family arrived at Ma- lacca, on the Malay Peninsula, on May 21, 1815, and was once again warmly welcomed by Farquhar.
Soon after the Milnes arrived and settled at Malacca, Morrison laid out some significant prin- ciples for Milne’s mission at Malacca in a letter on July 15, 1815. First, “their vision is to expand the scope of the Mission in keeping with the ‘conversion of the Chinese, and of all who speak their language.’” For Morrison and Milne, they understood that their primary missionary task was to reach the Chinese; they were not to be sidetracked by establishing a station outside of China. Second, “their vision is to establish a headquarters for the work,” which they wanted to be “a head-quarters at which to meet and consult, from which to commission persons to go forth on every hand,—a home to which to retire in case of sickness or declining years.” In other words, the station at Malacca was a temporary harbor from the persecutions. Third, “their vision [was] to set up a school ‘for the instruction of Native and European youth; for the reception and initiation of young missionaries from Europe.’” The Anglo-Chinese College opened in 1818.
According to these three principles, Milne took charge of the missionary station at Malacca. So scholar Ching Su summarized the various works for which Milne busied himself at Malacca:
In addition to these six labours, Milne also devoted time to discipling and mentoring his printer Liang Fa, leading him from being a heathen to a believer, and from a new convert to a solid gospel apologist and evangelist.
3. “Before I Came Hither, I Knew Not God; Now I Desire To Serve Him.”
Liang Fa, or Leang Kung-Fa, was born in 1789, in Gulao village, Sanzhou (“three islands”) town, Gaoming (“lofty clearness”) county, Zhaoqing Fu, about seventy miles from Canton, in Guangdong province. Like Morrison and Milne, Liang’s “origins were humble but his achievements remarkable.” Liang’s parents were poor, yet they sent him to a village school at the age of eleven. During his four years of school, Liang “committed to memory the Four Books, the Five Classics, and the Sacred Edict, [which] the two former sets bring the ancient Confucian classics and the last a series of moral maxims written by the second emperor” of the Qing dynas- ty. In 1804, Liang left his village for Canton where he “found work with a maker of Chinese brush pens, but very soon left this occupation and apprenticed himself to an engraver of wooden printing blocks.” In 1810, Liang was called home on account of the death of his mother and soon returned to Canton and was employed at a printing house around the Thirteen Factories. In September, Morrison was looking to publish his translation of the book of Acts, and Liang was hired to carve its wooden printing blocks. It is because of Liang’s steadiness and excellent skills in carving that he soon gained Morrison’s trust and continued being employed in Morrison’s Chinese translation of the New Testament during 1811 and 1812.
In April 1815, when Milne sailed to Malacca, Liang was with him, “to assist in printing Chinese books.” Shortly after arriving in Malacca, Liang “fell into deep despair over his years of gambling and intemperance in Canton,” and Liang “saw his anxiety in spiritual terms.” In a sense, like his mentor Milne, Liang was raised in a religious culture. Though he had participated in Buddhist Pure Land rites, which are commonly practiced by the Chinese focusing on AmitaÌ„bha Buddha, Liang had later “regarded religious matters with careless indifference.” For Liang, at Malacca, there were many uncertainties, as to whether to stay far away from home and whom he would marry. Accord- ing to Chinese traditions, Liang went to the local temple of the Overseas Chinese community in Malacca on the first and fifteenth day of every month to burn incense and “to implore Kuan-yin’s compassionate intercessions for protection, blessing, and eventual entrance into AmitaÌ„bha’s West- ern Paradise.” One conversation with a Chinese Buddhist monk made Liang start to detest Buddhism, as the monk advised him to “accumulate sufficient merit to outweigh his misdeeds,” which is obtained through “joining the sangha (by which he could remit the sins of himself and his entire family), donating money for temple repair . . . , and the daily recitation of sutras.” For Liang, the monk was carrying on a business, rather than helping him to save his soul.
Meanwhile, William Milne had finished his 71-page tract, “Life of Christ” (), which was a booklet that “notices the creation, providence, sin and misery of man.” Liang was hired to carve the blocks for printing this tract. Later, before Liang’s baptism, he told Milne that, while he was labouring on the carving, the text brought to him some new ideas about Christianity. Liang then began to read Morrison’s New Testament, attend Milne’s preaching, and seek Milne’s help on certain difficult biblical passages. P. Richard Bohr states “Christianity’s greatest attraction for him [Liang] was the notion of filiality and moral seriousness emerging from the concept of monotheism.”
In the summer of 1816, Milne wrote in his journal that Liang “professed his determination to take up his cross and follow Christ.” After private conversations, testing his faith and prayers, William Milne baptized Liang Fa on November 3, 1816. Milne recorded in his journal that “the service was performed privately, in a room of the Mission-house. Care had been taken, by private conversation, instruction, and prayer, to prepare him for this sacred ordination.” Milne found clear spiritual change in Liang’s life as “he was formerly stiff and obstinate, and occasionally troublesome,” but now “there has been scarcely any thing of this kind to complain of.” As Milne found no reasons to delay baptism, he posed five questions to Liang at his baptism:
Question 1: Have you truly turned from idols, to worship and serve the living and true God, the creator of heaven and earth, and all things?
Answer: This is my heart’s desire.
Question 2: Do you now feel that you are a sinful creature, totally unable to save yourself?
Answer: I know it.
Question 3: Do you really, from your heart, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and Saviour of the world; and do you trust in him alone for salvation?
Answer: This is my heart’s desire.
Question 4: Do you expect any worldly advantage, profit, or gain whatever, by your becoming a Christian?
Answer: None: I receive baptism because it is my duty.
Question 5: Do you resolve from this day till the day of your death, to live in obedience to all the commandments and ordinances of God; and in justice and righteousness of life before him?
Answer: This is my determination; but I fear my strength is not equal to it.
Milne later wrote in his journal, “since his [Liang’s] baptism, some private means have been used to increase his knowledge; to impress his heart more deeply, and to strengthen his faith.” Milne began his discipleship and mentorship with Liang. Under Milne’s supervision and editing, Li- ang wrote a 37-page tract, “Miscellaneous Exhortations,” which contains “a preface concerning God as the Creator, and object of worship, to which the Ten Commandments are attached,” along with some New Testament passages, and “three hymns and prayers.” Under Morrison’s approval, 200 copies of Liang’s tract were printed so that he could distribute them to his relatives and neighbours.
In 1819, Liang went back to his home village and married a woman whose maiden name was Lai. While at home, this “new-born” Liang was burdened with his friends’ sin, especially their idolatry, and decided to share his tract with them. Possibly, some printer secretly reported him to the police, and both his tracts and blocks were destroyed. Liang was put in prison. As soon as Morrison re- ceived this news, he tried to ask the Thirteen Factory traders to help obtain Liang’s release, and as a result, Liang received “thirty blows with the bamboo, and had seventy dollars extorted from him,” with the charge of having been overseas. Liang was then released. Later, after Liang’s release, his wife was converted and baptized by him.
In the spring of 1820, Liang went back to Malacca to study and work with Milne, until Milne’s death in 1822. On November 20, 1823, Liang’s son was baptized by Morrison, and named Liang Jinde. Liang now was employed by the LMS as a native teacher. In 1827, Liang was ordained by Morrison as China’s first evangelist. For many years, Liang “continued zealously to compose, print and distribute Christian books among his countrymen in the province of Guangdong, frequently attending at the literary examinations for that purpose, as well in the district cities as in the pro- vincial capital.” Though Milne was not able to witness Liang’s contribution to the early Protestant mission in China, especially in places where Morrison and Milne were not able to visit, God listened to Milne’s prayer that Liang would “be faithful unto death; and as he is the first fruits of this branch of the Mission, may an abundant harvest follow, to the joy of the church, and the honour of Christ.” On April 12, 1855, Liang died at home at the age of sixty-seven. By this time, due to the labour of Morrison, Milne, and other missionaries who had laboured, the seed of the Gospel was deeply plant- ed in China. For Liang Fa, he also left a pious legacy to both the Chinese church and his family.
4. But Only God Who Gives the Growth
As Edwardsean missionaries, Morrison and Milne understood the core task of their mission was to make disciples of Jesus Christ among the Chinese, and as a result, they sought opportunities to evangelize both large groups of people and individuals such as Cai Gao (or Tsae a-ko, who was the first Chinese Protestant convert, baptized on July 16, 1814 by Robert Morrison), Cai’s two brothers, and Liang Fa, whom Morrison and Milne hired for the printing press. By faithful presentation of the gospel in both their words and life examples, Morrison and Milne eagerly hoped that God might let them see the fruits of Chinese conversion, which is the work of the Holy Spirit.
From this brief biographical sketch, it is clear that Liang Fa became a seeker of Christian faith under Morrison’s influence and through his own labor in making the New Testament blocks; this was soon after he arrived in Malacca with Milne. After rejecting Buddhism, Liang “began to re- cite the prayers” and sat under Milne’s sermons. McNeur records Liang’s testimony of his journey toward the recognition of his sin and of his need of Jesus the Saviour:
. . . I heard the missionary [William Milne] preach the doctrine of atonement through Jesus,and at my leisure I examined the Scriptures ... Then I thought ‘These are good books, exhorting men to depart from iniquity. Moreover the doctrines are attested by the miracles of Jesus, therefore the book must certainly be true.’ I then listened to the expounding of the Scriptures, and on the Sabbath read the Bible more at- tentively, requesting the missionary [Milne] to explain it to me. I asked what was meant by Jesus making atonement for sin. The missionary [Milne] told me that Jesus was the Son of God sent into the world to suffer for the sins of men in order that all who believe in Him might obtain salvation. Feeling myself to be a sinner I asked how I was to obtain pardon. Themissionary [Milne] said ‘If you believe in Jesus Christ [he] will receive you as His adopted son, and in the world to come bestow on you everlasting life.’ ... On returning to my room I thought with myself ‘I am a great sinner, and if I do not depend on the merits of Christ how can God forgive me?’ I then determined to become a disciple of Jesus and requested baptism.
Though there is no recorded report of the conversations between Milne and Liang on questions Liang had about God, Scripture, sin, and salvation, it is certain that Milne spent time answering Liang’s questions concerning the gospel truth with patience, and walked with Liang along his way as he sought his Saviour. Liang was baptized by Milne in 1816. Three years later, in 1819 at Malacca, Milne wrote and published Dialogues Between Chang and Yuen, a novelistic and catechistic tract based on the conversations of a Chang, who is a Christian, and a Yuen, Chang’s heathen neighbor. Milne summarized these dialogues between these two friends:
1. Questions proposed by Yuen concerning Christian principles and character; the being of God. 2. Evan- gelical repentance. 3. Character of Christ, and faith in him. 4. Good men seek their chief happiness in heaven; annihilation of the soul considered. 5. Chang relates his first acquaintance with the New Testament. 6. Yuen having retired, is struck with horror at his own neglect of the true God; visits Chang and finds him with his family at prayer; the resurrection of the dead. 7. Nature and qualities of the raised bodies; doubts and objections. 8. Yuen on visiting Chang in the evening, finds him in his closet, which leads to a discussion on the object, and kinds of prayer; worshipping the dead, &c. 9. The awful judgment to come; a midnight prayer under the Woo-tung tree. 10. Yuen objects to Chang’s last night’s prayer, be cause he confessed himself to be a sinner; 11. Yuen deeply impressed with the ideas of eternity of sin, spends a whole night in his garden, bewailing his miserable condition. 12. Chang explains to him the method of salvation by Jesus Christ; the felicity of heaven; and misery of hell.
Historically, Milne’s Dialogues constituted the first missionary novel in common Chinese, and be- came the most famous and best-selling Christian tract in China. The work received a wide arrange of reading, since it was not only famous among the Chinese, but also was translated and sold in Korea, where it had significant influence upon the church.
Although Milne’s Dialogues had been reprinted and revised various times after its first publica- tion, until recently there have been few academic studies done on the tract. Most of these studies are conducted from a literary perspective. In other words, scholars are interested in the literary value of the tract. By neglecting Milne’s and the tract’s historical and theological context, they assume that this tract is completely fictional, and that by choosing to use this kind of genre, Milne aimed at attracting Chinese readers. Comparing Milne’s Dialogues with Liang’s personal testimony concerning his conversion, it is not hard to notice the similarities between them. In many cases, Liang was in a similar situation to Yuan, as both of them were interested in Christianity, burdened with sin, and were counseled by Christian friends (especially compare Dialogues chapter ten: Yuen’s reflection on sin). Thus it is clear that Milne’s Dialogues is not completely fictional; it rather communicates the method of personal evangelism, Milne used in leading Liang to Christ. Milne’s Dialogues is evangelistic in its nature.
On the basis of the conversations of Pan Chang and Cao Yuen, three evangelistic characteristics can be observed that are possibly applied by Milne in conversing with Liang. First, there is clear communication of the gospel in conversation. In Dialogues chapter one, after a very brief introduction of the setting, Milne wrote about Chang’s explanation of the uniqueness of Christians in their ways of worshipping the one true and only God (lit., “true and only supreme ruler” ), and acknowledgement of one’s depraved nature which leads to one’s eager desire for redemption. For Chang, it is clear that “there is but one only living and true God,” who is the Creator, the origin of all things (lit., “origin of everything in heaven and on earth”). The attributes of God are his sovereignty, omniscience, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and grace. In nature, the true living God is one God in three persons (lit., “the supreme ruler is only one, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons”), namely the Father (lit., “Holy Father”), Son (lit., “Holy Son”) and Holy Spirit (lit., “Holy Spirit”). These three persons are not three gods, but one God. The second person of the triune God is called Jesus, which is a “foreign” name that means “save.” This name was given to the Son of God since he came into the world to save people. Chang clearly points out that Jesus and God are one in nature and Godhead (or “wholeness;” ), and share in the same divine attributes ( , lit., “he is most holy and sovereign”).
Concerning humanity, Chang points out in the conversations, that people are morally depraved, which means, that man’s heart is evil and, what is worse, men do not know their iniquities. Chang further tells Yuen that “all have sinned against God,” and that the destiny for sinners is to suffer the eternal punishment of hell. Chang points out that “repentance is the path to the Truth,” and for those who believe in Jesus, God is gracious, and their sins are forgiven. Chang further explains in chapter two that it is only through the atonement of Jesus, that sins can be forgiven; Jesus’ atonement is penal and substitutionary ( lit., “[he] suffered as a substitute for many;” lit., “in order to redeem man from sin;” lit., “[he] willingly takes the place of my suffering”). Chang clearly teaches Yuen that conversion is the work of God, the Holy Spirit in particular. Overall, for Milne, it is essential to communicate the gospel faithfully to people, regardless of whether it is contradictory to their worldviews or not.
Second, Chang witnessed to Yuen by a Christian example, which means Chang’s lifestyle was coherent with his faith. Though Milne chose the catechistical genre in writing this tract, Dialogues is not a catechism, since the gospel was not simply communicated verbally in the conversations of Chang and Yuen; the gospel is also witnessed by the way Chang lives both in public and in pri- vate. In public, Chang has an excellent reputation, since “everyone knows he is a good and honest person,” and is known to “do good daily.” Chang also comments on the change that follows his conversion, he no longer does things that do not please God, for instance, idolatry, drunkenness, adultery, lying, and fraudulence. When approaching people, Chang was not only “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks ... for a reason for the hope that is in [him]” (1 Pet 3:15), he also does it “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:16), as is demonstrated by his humble tone of expression, and several special words which were used repeatedly, such as junjia (, lit., “honoured sir,” which is a very respectable way to address “you” in classical Chinese) and qigan (, lit., “you flatter me”).
In private, Chang devotes himself to pursuing growth in God. In chapter four, Chang shares some things that affected him from his reading of Scripture. In chapter twelve, toward the end of the tract, Chang introduced Yuen to reading the New Testament, and held a small Bible study with Yuen on John 3:15. Chang is also a man of prayer. Through his personal devotion and public prayers (Chang leads a prayer with Yuen in chapter eight), Chang sets up a model for Yuen. Another practice that influenced Yuen was Chang’s family worship (chapters five and seven). This second evangelistic characteristic of the Dialogues reflects Milne’s understanding of how to witness to unbelievers, that is to live the message he wanted others to believe, and to approach people in love.
Third, in Chang’s conversation with Yuen, whenever he comes to apologetic matters, Chang uses a presuppositionalistic method. Though the term “presuppositionalism” was not yet used during Milne’s time, in the dialogues between Chang and Yuen, it is clear that Milne understood and applied what is today called presuppositionalism in apologetic practices. First, Milne understood that no one is neutral, since everyone is committed to a worldview. In Dialogues, Milne clearly distinguished the Christian worldview from heathen worldviews. For those who follow Jesus, they worship the one true living God, but for the world, they worship “manmade useless idols” (lit., “made by man’s labour, useless and disabled idol”). It is also because of this unique theocentric worldview that Chang cannot tolerate the idea of making heaven—a crea- ture—equally to be called God, who is the Creator. Even though Milne borrowed some heathen terms to make the message understandable to the Chinese, his core message of the gospel has never been affected, changed, or watered down.
Milne also understood that divine revelation is the foundation of all knowledge. In Dialogues chapter two, when explaining the meaning of faith, Chang points out that “God issued the Holy Book, expressing to us the understanding of our sins, knowing our unrighteousness, sincerely have faith in Jesus in order to be saved, that we do not rely on ourselves ... but on Jesus alone...” By such understanding, Chang used both general revelation (for instance, Chang used a bird as an illustration to explain the difference between spirit and body in chapter three, and used the stars to explain God’s work of creation in chapter four) and special revelation (quoting from the Scripture, and leading Yuen to read the Scripture) to help Yuen to establish a worldview, for which the “primary ontological axiom is the one living God, and [the] primary epistemological axiom is divine revelation.”
Furthermore, it is clear that Chang converses with Yuen with the conviction that all people are without excuse for their rebellion against God, since all people know God by means of general revelation. Chang points out from the beginning that all have sinned in failing to worship the only true one and living God. Though Yuen warns Chang that people might not be pleased with what he is saying about sin, Chang maintains his conviction. This conviction of total depravity is hard for Yuen to understand, since he thought Chang was righteous for living a moral life. However, Chang replies, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). This conviction asserts what is proven in Milne’s Dialogues demonstrates that a heathen worldview is not and cannot be self-consistent.
In conclusion, through this brief study of the evangelistic characteristics of Milne’s Dialogues Between Chang and Yuen, it can be seen that Milne understood the importance of conversion. Milne followed the Pauline example in evangelism, that is “going out in love, as Christ’s agent in the world, to teach sinners the truth of the gospel with a view to converting and saving them.” Such evange- lism acknowledges the sovereignty of God, which according to David Bogue, implies missionaries are honored to be God’s “instruments for conveying the knowledge of salvation to those miserable nations, which are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
When William Milne died on June 2, 1822, at the age of 37, he had labored for the sake of the gospel among the Chinese people for about eight years. In these eight years, Milne only baptized two converts, Liang Fa (on November 3, 1816), and a Malay woman called Johanna (on July 1, 1821). Compared to later missionaries, such as J. Hudson Taylor (1832–1905), Milne harvested little, Milne understood David Bogue’s statement:
People consider missionaries going forth among the heathen as mere men, with nowisdom superior to their own, with no strength above human, and they are greatly dispirited; but did we view a missionary as we ought, and as he is, with Jesus his Master at his right-hand, accompanying him on the way, and the Holy Spirit resting on him like a flame of fire, with all his powerful energies, we could not be cast down, but maintain a cheerful hope amidst the [dark] appearances of Pagan ignorance and obstinacy, and persevere, trusting in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Such a statement vindicates the glory of the sovereign God of history, and testifies that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
Certainly, God prospered Milne’s discipleship of Liang Fa, as Milne had prayed, in making the gospel take root in China. Many scholars today are attracted to the political and cultural impact of the Taiping Rebellion (December 1850–August 1864) led by Hong Xiuquan (1814–1864), which was influenced and inspired by Liang Fa’s Good Words Exhorting the Age. Yet, behind Hong’s Taiping Heavenly Kingdom there was a religious conviction, an eschatological agenda—to establish the heavenly kingdom on earth, in replacement of the Manchurian Qing dynasty. Theologically speaking, Hong Xiuquan and his Taiping Heavenly Kingdom movement is a form of syncretism, and therefore a heresy as far as the Christian church is concerned. However, the Taiping Rebellion in its religious nature reflected the fact that the Chinese intellectuals then considered Christianity to be a third philosophical option in addition to the established Confucianism and Buddhism in imperial China. This, the Nestorians and the Roman Catholics were not able to achieve.
Moreover, Morrison and Milne also followed the Edwardsean root they had inherited from Bogue, and planted Chinese churches characterized by their self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagat- ing nature, which was later coined by Henry Venn (1796–1863) and Rufus Anderson (1796–1880) as the “three-self ” formula. In the historical and social context of the Qing dynasty, with Morrison and Milne, it is far more important to make a spiritually matured Chinese convert who would be able to deliver the faith, than to baptize a thousand yet failed in making them disciple-makers. A gospel foundation had been established in China, from which the later missionaries (such as Walter Henry Medhurst [1796–1857], Karl Friedrich August GuÌˆtzlaff [1803–1851], etc.) were able to reap a vast harvest in the mission field of China.
2 Soon after Milne’s death (1822), several denominational periodicals published eulogies for this significant mis- sionary, such as the American Baptist Magazine (“Death of Dr. Milne,” The American Baptist Magazine, and Missionary Intelligencer 4.3 : 109.). A year later (1824), Robert Morrison simply collected Milne’s English writings, including his journals, selected correspondences (especially with Morrison), theological writings, etc., and published them with very little editing, entitled (Memoirs of the Rev. William Milne, D.D. Later Missionary to China and Principal of the Anglo-Chinese College; Compiled from Documents Written by the Deceased; To Which are Added Occasional Remarks [Malacca: the Mission Press, 1824]).
In 1832, The Chinese Repository published a brief sketch of Milne’s life and works as a missionary, which was the first brief biographical sketch of Milne’s life and work. ([Bridgman, Elijah Coleman,] “A Brief Sketch of the Life and Labors of the Late Rev. William Milne, D.D.” The Chinese Repository 1.8 : 316–325). In 1840, Milne’s close friend, Robert Philip (1791–1858), published Milne’s first biography, which is also the last biography on Milne (Life and Opinions, [London: John Snow, 1840]).
In 1979, Brian Harrison published his Waiting for China, in which he explained that he had no interest in the missionary’s pastoral ministry, rather, he focused simply on the history of the Anglo-Chinese College. (Waiting For China: The Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca, 1818–1843, and Early Nineteenth-Century Missions [Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1979]).
In the twenty-first century, there seems to be a revival of academic interest in early Protestant missionaries to China, but such interest is only limited to Robert Morrison. Scholars like Christopher Hancock (Robert Morrison and the Birth of Chinese Protestantism [New York: T&T Clark, 2008]), Christopher Daily (“From Gosport to Canton: A New Approach to Robert Morrison and the Beginnings of Protestant Missions in China” [PhD diss., University of London, 2010]; Robert Morrison and the Protestant for China [Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2013]), and Ching Su (“The Printing Press of the London Missionary Society Among the Chinese” [PhD diss., University of London, 1996]; Su, Open Up, China! [Hong Kong: Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture, 2005]) have devoted works to Morrison. As part of their study on Morrison, each of these three scholars also included brief studies of Milne in their works. Not long ago, a academic work devoted to William Milne had been produced by this author on Milne’s contribu- tion to Chinese church through his mentorship of Liang Fa (Baiyu Andrew Song, “Training Labourers For His Harvest: A Historical Study of William Milne’s Mentorship of Liang Fa,” [Magister Thesis, Toronto Baptist Seminary, 2014]).
3 Based on Morrison’s Memoirs, Su Ching argues that Milne was born in the parish of “Henethmont,” instead of Kennethmont (See, Su, Ching, Open Up, China! Studies on Robert Morrison and His Circle , Ching Feng Series 14 [Hong Kong: Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture, 2005], 130, n. 2). Though the name “Henethmont” was used in Morrison’s Memoirs (2), according to Milne’s first biographer, Robert Philip, Milne was born in the parish of Kennethmont, where Philip himself grew up (Life and Opinions, 1, 5, 42, 65, 116). Su argues for Morrison’s spelling, since he said that “Henethmont” appeared in Milne’s application to LMS, but Su did not cite the reference of this application. This writer argues that it was in the parish of Kennethmont that Milne was born. Morrison’s “Milne’s Account of Himself” was originally published as a tract, entitled The Ordination Services of the Rev[erend] William Milne and the Rev[erend] George Thom; Missionaries to the East 1812 (Aberdeen: D. Chalmers, 1813). In the preface of this document, its editor explained that this is a record of Milne’s ordination service, which means this document was not in a written form where Milne gave his account of himself, rather this document was steno- graphically reported. This writer argues, that since the letters “K” and “H” are very similar, it is possible for both the reporter and editors to make a mistake in confusing “K” with an “H.” Historically, according to Scotland Places (http:// www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/), there is no parish named “Henethmont” in Scotland. Geographically, Kennethmont is few miles away from Huntly, where Milne attended church. Therefore, it is certain that Milne was born in the parish of Kennethmount, Aberdeenshire. Robert Morrison, Memoirs of the Rev[erend] William Milne, D.D. Late Missionary to China, and Principal of the Anglo-Chinese College (Malacca: Mission Press, 1824); Robert Philip, Life and Opinions of the Rev[erend] William Milne, D.D., Missionary to China (London: John Snow, 1840);
According to the discovery of a file entitled as “O.P.R. Births 212/0000100227 Kennethmont” in the Old Parish Registers from ScotlandsPeople (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk),William Milne was born to William Milne, Sr. in Braeside of Cults, and was baptized at the parish church on April 27, 1785. The entire entry is “April 27—Milne, Wil- liam in Braeside of Cults had a son baptized, named William—3 [shillings].” H. Withngton, Old Parochial Regs. County Aberdeen Par. Kennethmount, vol 212/1, New Register House Edinburgh (Edinburgh: Genealogical Society, 1978), text- fiche, 12, 02C186. In a journal entry dated on April 27, 1820, Milne wrote, “This is, so far as I have learnt, my birth day.” Morrison, Memoirs, 84.
4 Morrison, Memoirs, 2.
5 Morrison, Memoirs, 2; Philip, Life and Opinions, 7.
6 Morrison, Memoirs, 2; Philip, Life and Opinions, 7. The full title of John Willison’s catechism is The Mother’s Catechism for the Young Child; or a Preparatory Help for the Young and Ignorant (Edinburgh: Thomas Lumisden and John Robertson, 1747).
7 Philip, Life and Opinions, 7.
8 Morrison, Memoirs, 3; Philip, Life and Opinions, 8.
9 Morrison, Memoirs, 5.
10 Robert Philip in Life and Opinions states that he was not able to identify which family Milne stayed at the time and referred to here. Philip, Life and Opinions, 12.
11 Robert Philip records that when at the poor man’s place, Milne always went “the sheep-cote, because he would have been disturbed in the barn, by his fellow-servants; and he carried a turf with him to kneel upon, because the floor was foul as well as damp,” and prayed. It started there that Milne became a man of prayer. Philip, Life and Opinions, 13.
12 Morrison, Memoirs, 5; Philip, Life and Opinions, 13.
13 Milne in his account, named Thomas Boston’s sermon as “The Believer’s Espousals to Christ,” which should be “The Soul’s Espousals to Christ,” according to Samuel M‘Millan’s Complete Works of Thomas Boston. Philip, Life and Opinions, 16; Morrison, Memoirs, 8. Samuel M‘Millian, ed., Complete Works of the Late Rev[erend] Thomas Boston, Ettrick (1853; repr., Wheaton, IL: Richard Owen Roberts, 1980), 4:22–31.
14 Philip, Life and Opinions, 16–17.
15 Philip, Life and Opinions, 17.
16 Morrison, Memoirs, iii.
17 Philip, Life and Opinions, 33.
18 See Morrison, Memoirs, 14; Philip, Life and Opinions, 36. Though in the text, the spelling is “Samuel Pierce,” it is a spelling mistake of “Samuel Pearce,” (1766–1799) the Baptist minister of Cannon Street Baptist Church, Birmingham.
19 Andrew F. Walls, “Missions and Historical Memory: Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd,” in Jonathan Edwards at Home and Abroad: Historical Memories, Cultural Movements, Global Horizons, eds. David W. Kling and Douglas A. Sweeney (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2003), 251.
20 David Bogue, Objections Against a Mission to the Heathen, Stated and Considered; A Sermon, Preached at Tottenham Court Chapel, Before the Founders of the Missionary Society, 24 Sep[tember] 1795 (Cambridge: Hilliard and Metcalf, 1811), 11.
21 At the service, John Hunt of Chelmsford, one of the directors of the LMS, offered opening prayer and Scrip- ture reading. David Bogue made the introductory discourse. John Griffin asked four questions concerning Milne’s conversion, missionary calling, missionary strategy, and theology. After answering these questions, Bogue offered an ordination prayer, which was followed by a sermon preached by James Bennet (1774–1862) from Jeremiah 49:14, entitled, “An Ambassador is Sent to the Heathen.” William Scamp (1774–1860) concluded the service with a prayer.
The entire ordination service was recorded and published under the title, The Ordination Services of the Rev[er-end] William Milne and the Rev. George Thom; Missionaries to the East 1812 (Aberdeen: D. Chalmers, 1813). Morrison in his Memoir only kept the questions and answers on Milne’s account. Morrison, Memoirs, 1–28.
22 William Milne, A Retrospect of the First Ten Year of the Protestant Mission to China (Malacca: Anglo-Chinese College, 1820), 103. After his theological training under David Bogue, Robert Morrison was ordained in the Scots Church on Swallow Street in London on January 8, 1807. Sailed from England, Morrison had to seek the American Counsel’s protection in New York, and sailed again on May 12, 1807. After 113-day’s voyage, Morrison arrived Macao on September 4, 1807. Three days later, Morrison was expelled by the Roman Catholic authorities, and was forced to sail to Canton. Due to Morrison’s unique linguistic gift and knowledge of Chinese, Morrison was hired by the East India Company as a translator and later served as a linguistic and cultural assistant to Lord Amherst (1819) and Lord Napier (1834), when they visited the Qing Emperors in Beijing. At the early stage of Morrison’s mission in China, the LMS directors worried if Morrison would damage the mission due to a cultural clash with the indigenous people. As a result, the LMS directors only viewed Morrison’s mission as “a preliminary endeavor” and “instructed him to make no attempt to preach the Gospel openly” (Suzanne W. Barnett, “Silent Evangelism: Presbyterians and the Mission Press in China, 1807–1860,” Journal of Presbyterian History 49.4 : 288). Rather, the directors instructed Morrison to devote his time to studying the Chinese language and translating the Bible and Christian literature to help future missionaries.
23 Eliza Morrison, Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison, D.D. (London: Longman, 1839), 1:365. As early as April 29, 1807, Morrison wrote to the LMS directors requesting sending another missionary to China. Though the LMS accepted Morrison’s request, it took six years for the LMS to send William and Rachel Cowie Milne to China (Hancock, Robert Morrison and the Birth of Chinese Protestantism, 88–90).
24 Morrison, Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison, 1:365.
25 Hancock, Robert Morrison and the Birth of Chinese Protestantism, 94. According to Morrison, under his negotiation the Governor would decide to “extend the eight days to eighteen,” is different than Edwin Stevens’ account that Milne had to leave in “24 hours.” Morrison, Memoirs of the Life and Labours of Robert Morrison, 1:366; Edwin Stevens, “A Brief Sketch of the Life and Labors of the Late Rev[erend] William Milne, D.D.,” Chinese Repository 1 (Dec 1832): 319. 26 Anonymous, “Memoir of the Late Rev[erend] William Milne, D.D., Missionary to the Chinese,” Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle (April 1823): 137–138.
27 The EIC offered to hire Milne for only two seasons as assistant to Morrison to complete the English-Chinese dictionary. To this offer, both Morrison and Milne refused.
28 Hancock, Robert Morrison and the Birth of Chinese Protestantism, 95.
29 On October 14, 1813, Rachel delivered their first child, a daughter, named Amelia. At this time, William was able to have a brief trip back to Macao to visit his Rachel and Amelia. Amelia was not baptized until January 23, 1814. Milne, Retrospect, 105, 107.
30 Hancock, Robert Morrison and the Birth of Chinese Protestantism, 96, 93.
31 Milne, Retrospect, 107. William Milne described Canton as “like the New Jerusalem only in one thing; that strangers are not permitted to enter. I have once peeped in at the gate; and I hope yet to enter. A few days ago, I went to the top of a little hill to view this land, ... My thoughts were ‘O that God would give this land to the churches, that we, their Messengers, might walk through the length and breadth of it, to publish the glory of His salvation! ... I think them [Chinese] exceedingly corrupted in their morals. They are a civilized and industrious people; but their land is full of idols!” Philip, Life and Opinions, 111.
32 Philip, Life and Opinions, 137.
Concerning the translation of the name “Holy Spirit,” Milne did not follow the Nestorian and Roman Catholic translation, which translated literarily means, “original/abstruse wind,” or “pure wind.” Rather, Milne used the word “.” When “” is used as a noun, there are multiple possible meanings in classical Chinese, which are (1) deity, (2) spirit, mind, or vigor, and (3) look or expression. The use, which refers to the Holy Spirit, then carries a meaning of a combination of “deity” and “spirit and mind.” Milne, Dialogues, 10. On the translation of theological terms in Chinese Bible versions see Toshikazu S. Foley, Biblical Translation in Chinese and Greek: Verbal Aspect in Theory and Practice (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2009), 5–34.
78 Milne, Dialogues, 10.