|First love is the abandonment of all for the love which has abandoned all.| -- Dr. G. CAMPBELL MORGAN.
|. . . such men
Carry the fire, all things grow warm to them.
Their drugget's worth my purple, they beat me.|
MRS. HSI'S GIFT
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE OPENING OF THE STATION OF HWOCHOW
MRS. HSI was in great mental distress. The blow she feared had fallen, and her husband was a prey to the bewitching power of the |foreign devils.| How cleverly the trap had been laid. Firstly, the offer of a monetary prize for a classical essay -- which he had won; secondly, the insistence of the foreigner on a personal interview with the writer, on the occasion of which, certain as her husband had been that he had tasted neither food nor drink under his roof, some means had certainly been found to introduce into his system some of that subtle foreign drug which, as every one knew, must eventually compel the victim to embrace Christianity and follow the |foreign devil| to the world's end. Thirdly, he had been invited to become the teacher of this dreaded man (Rev. David Hill), and she had foolishly yielded her consent. She had taken every precaution and had, on three occasions, sent for him on plea of her own illness during the time he was an inmate in the foreigner's household. His clothing had been carefully searched for traces of the magical compound, but in vain; nothing had come to light, and now here was her husband, one of the leading Confucianists of the district, declaring that, of his own free will and action, he had determined to follow -- not the foreign devils -- but this Jesus, around Whom all their preaching centred. He attributed this change of mind, evidently quite irrationally, to the reading of a book printed under the strange title of Happy Sound, -- but perhaps even the sacred Chinese character might become a snare in their hands! Nothing but the influence of some powerful magic could have worked so complete a transformation. Even his intense craving for opium was gone, the Confucian writings which had been his constant companion were now neglected, and in spite of her entreaties and fears, the family gods were destroyed.
During his stay at home he spoke constantly, both to her and in her hearing to many visitors, of the teachings of this Jesus Who, he explained to all comers, was the Son of the only True God.
* * * * *
Time passed, and gradually her fears were somewhat allayed, so that she even consented to repeat certain sentences which, he told her, were to be used night and morning, kneeling, and with closed eyes. Her inclination to favourably regard what he told her grew, especially during his absences from home; for, strange to relate, she soon began to find herself under the influence of an unaccountable external power, which compelled her on each occasion of a visit from her husband to fly into an uncontrollable rage at the sight of him, and this despite her most determined resolution to the contrary. To her husband it was most distressing to see so gentle a woman thus transformed. As his own spiritual experience increased, he recognised in this an onslaught of the devil, and betook himself to prayer and fasting in order to discover how they had laid themselves open to the attack. It was then that there was brought to his remembrance the fact that, in a room at the top of the house, there stood a small idol responsible for the health of the family, whose existence Mrs. Hsi had been careful not to bring to his remembrance, and which had been overlooked in the general destruction. The shrine was instantly destroyed, and Mrs. Hsi was free of the tormenting spirit, and shortly afterwards openly confessed Christ.
From that time their home in the Western Chang village was a centre of Christian activity. Through intense suffering Mr. Hsi had freed himself from the craving for opium, and he felt that, for the evangelisation of his native province, some means might be devised whereby the treatment of opium patients might be combined with widespread preaching of the Gospel.
The more he thought of this the stronger the conviction grew that it was of God, and when, through the agency of a dream, a system of treatment was revealed to him, he accepted it as a revelation and at once prepared the medicine which proved successful beyond his highest expectations. After a time, men who had been delivered from the opium vice and led to Christ through the Refuges, were gathered into his home (which he called the Middle Eden) and trained for the work.
This community life for so large a number was only made possible by Mrs. Hsi's enthusiastic devotion. The extension of the opium refuge work was rapid and widespread, and necessitated frequent absences from home on the part of Mr. Hsi, during which time a heavy burden fell upon his wife.
Houses were rented in many towns and villages, and patients entering the |heavenly called refuges| were numerous.
The burden of one city, however, lay heavily upon the heart of Mr. Hsi, and he and his household constantly prayed together that Hwochow might be opened to the sound of the Gospel; but funds which seemed essential for the initial expenses of the venture were not forthcoming. His itinerant journeys frequently took him through this important centre, which was situated sixty miles north of his home.
Day after day prayer was made, and Mrs. Hsi often heard her husband in the night watches, as he knelt alone in the court, plead with God that nothing might hinder what he strongly believed to be the Divine Purpose.
One Sunday night she was wakened by the familiar sound. She knew that her husband, like herself, had gone to bed tired out by a long day of preaching, during which large numbers had joined their household from more or less distant villages. According to their custom, they had spent the day fasting; it was Pastor Hsi's habit to refer to the Scriptures direct for guidance on matters of daily conduct, and in the early days of his faith he feared to sin against the law of God by allowing fires to be lighted and meals to be prepared on Sunday. In accordance with his habit, he had arisen soon after midnight to give himself to prayer, and her ear caught the murmured sentences, |I beseech Thee, O Lord, open a way for Hwochow to hear the Gospel.| As she listened, the sound of his voice brought conviction to her own mind that she was to be the human agency by which the Divine Will should now fulfil itself. In a flash, the path of duty was clear.
At the back of her cave were large painted cupboards which contained the whole of her worldly possessions: bundles of handsome silk, satin, and embroidered garments, and a box holding the heavy jade and silver ornaments, which had been her husband's marriage gift. Leaving her kang Mrs. Hsi unlocked the cupboards and spent the rest of that night in sorting their contents. All except a few cotton gowns were put to one side, and as the voice in the courtyard still pleaded for Hwochow, even the earrings were taken from her ears, the rings from her fingers, and the ornaments from her hair.
He Who is worthy to receive accepted the offering, and her heart sang a song of thanksgiving as she murmured to herself, |Hwochow shall have the Gospel.|
Morning prayers at Middle Eden was an hour of joyful worship, and on this day Mrs. Hsi's heart was so full of happiness that she could scarcely wait until the full congregation had assembled before she, laden with her bundles, entered the room and placed them on the table, saying, |I think God has answered our prayers; I can do without these, let Hwochow have the Gospel.|
Every heart present must have been moved, for all could judge accurately what the sacrifice must be. She had offered her only worldly treasures, articles which her husband could not ask her to sacrifice, ready as he was to use in God's service all that pertained to their home.
Surely the angels joined their song to that of the little Christian community that morning, as the words of their own pastor's hymn ascended with the sacrifice of praise:
|I hung for thee on Calvary, what dost thou still withhold from Me? Thy strength, thy time, thy goods?
Oh say, what dost thou yet deny, My heart of love to satisfy?|
Heavenly Invitation Office (|Pastor Hsi's| translation).
The raised brick or mud platform, heated by a fire, used as a bed in North China.