|The Master said: At first, my way with men was to hear their words, and give them credit for their
conduct. Now, my way is to hear their words, and
look at their conduct.| -- Confucian Analects.
|The Master said: A man should say, I am not
concerned that I have no place, I am concerned how
I may fit myself for one. I am not concerned that
I am not known, I seek to be worthy to be
known.| -- Confucian Analects.
OUR RECEPTION AT HWOCHOW
SHOWING THINGS AS THEY SOMETIMES ARE
IN spite of the valuable help given by study-circles, training-colleges, and other means by which the candidate for the mission field is equipped for his work, I question if many are fully prepared, when they arrive at the station to which they have been appointed, to find themselves studied, summed up, and criticised by the people to whom they have come in the capacity of teachers, and from whom they unconsciously expected some measure of deference.
The Westerner, as such, has no prestige in the eyes of the Chinese, and though his wealth, education, and business capacity may command more or less respect, the deep-rooted feeling is a sense of the intrinsic superiority of the Middle Kingdom and its sons to the barbaric subjects of a vague territory known as the |Kingdom without| -- that is, without the pale of the ancient civilisation. By grace, the Christian will welcome you as a fellow-subject of the Kingdom of God, but on this ground only, and on no preconceived assumption of your superiority, will you be accepted.
The fact that you have come several thousands of miles in order to preach the Gospel, is not sufficient to place you unquestionably on a pedestal. By temperament you are either impetuous or slow, easy-going or exacting, courteous or brusque, and you will prove to be by nature more or less reasonable or unreasonable when the Chinaman seeks to make you understand li, an untranslatable word, which embodies the idea of the complete range of all that it is suitable that you should be and do, on every occasion.
Failure to readjust your mind to such conditions during the first years of your missionary life may prove an eventual fatal barrier to mutual sympathetic understanding, and the establishment of that barrier has been one of the difficulties which has not been much spoken of by those with whom you have conversed, though they have doubtless been keenly conscious of it themselves.
We returned to Hwochow. The house was ready for us, and so were the Church members. |New people,| said some, |we are unaccustomed to each other; they do not understand our circumstances, and we do not know them.|
|Why did they spend months in another district instead of coming at once to make themselves acquainted with us, our affairs, and our homes?|
|It is a case of clear neglect,| said another. |I have been a Church member for fifteen years, and all the notice they have taken of me is to spend one paltry day in my home, whereas they were three whole days in the village of Peace and Harmony, where there are only heathen and not a Christian to receive them.| |I,| complained another, |have been unable to attend Church service for two weeks, and neither of them has been near, as yet, to inquire the cause of my absence.|
|Well,| chimed in an old gentleman, who by reason of his seniority in the Church carried a good deal of weight, |had our beloved teacher of former days been here, our homes would have been visited, and I will take the first opportunity of telling them my mind on the subject.|
The close of the following Sunday morning service found us sad enough. The congregation numbered thirty, and while some were loyally ready to help, there was a section of malcontents who since the early days had been a source of difficulty to Pastor Hsi and his friends, and from whom, in the light of past knowledge, Miss French knew that trouble would come.
The first indication of the brewing storm was the entrance to our guest-room of an aged Church member who, by reason of his rank as military mandarin, was one of the glories of the Hwochow Church. Vigorous and stalwart, his seventy years sat lightly on him, his bearing and the play of his facial muscles affording proof of the brilliancy with which he had passed the necessary examinations for the obtaining of his degree. Unlike the civil mandarin, whose examinations require such arduous study of classical writings, the military honour was conferred as a reward for physical prowess. The competitor was required to exhibit great skill in archery, shooting at the target from the back of a galloping horse, and to lift stones of immense weight; meanwhile throwing the body into such postures as, coupled with a terrifying expression of the countenance and accompanied by blood-curdling yells, would strike such terror into the heart of the opponent that he would flee without striking a blow.
After such training he had little to fear, and felt, no doubt, that a few moments' interview would be sufficient to reduce two young women to reason, and place matters on a more satisfactory basis.
When the old gentleman entered, we invited him to the seat of honour, ourselves taking chairs at the lower side of the table. He asked for an explanation. Had he been informed correctly that we had been appointed to carry on the work in Hwochow? |Yes,| we replied, |that is the case, and also to help the women in the counties of Chaocheng, Hungtung, and Fensi, until such time as lady workers shall be in residence there; moreover, our schools are to be for the women and girls of these counties as well as Hwochow.|
This item of information fell as a severe blow. Hwochow is a curious district, its natives physically and mentally being of a totally different type to all around, in all relationships with whom there exists mutual distrust and suspicion. It was odious to men and women of this exclusive type to hear that the foreigner, in coming, viewed the nurturing of a small band of discontents as of very secondary importance to the opportunity of spreading the news of the Gospel far and wide amongst the heathen. It was at this point of the conversation that the first traces of that terror-striking expression began to flit across his features, and his eyebrows gathered themselves into a most terrifying bunch. |Are you aware that I have been a Christian for twelve years, and that I am known far and wide by Chinese and foreigners alike?| |I am fully aware of it,| said Miss French, and might have added, |known and dreaded of all men.|
|Should not the missionaries' conduct be regulated in accordance with the command, 'Seek the lost until it be found'?| |It should,| acquiesced Miss French. |Then are you aware that during the past three months we have been as sheep without a shepherd, left as prey to wolves, with no one to care for us, our homes have been unvisited, and members who have absented themselves from Church service have had no inquiries made as to the cause of their non-appearance?|
|Did you say twelve years a Church member?| inquired Miss French. |Nearly thirteen,| he replied. |Then no longer a babe in Christ, but yourself able to seek the lost, and to come to our assistance as we take up the responsibilities of our new work. We have come here,| she added, |for the people who need us, whether Chaocheng or Hwochow.|
|Then go to Chaocheng and leave us alone; our missionaries must shepherd our Church.| At this point wrath overcame him, and throwing himself into the classical position of the Chinese brave, |A couple of youngsters,| he yelled, |untaught in the wisdom of Confucius.| With these words he flung himself out of the room. His spirit was too much perturbed to call to mind the wisdom of the sage, |In archery we have something like the way of the superior man. When the archer misses the centre of the target, he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.|
The loud clanging of a gong was shortly heard, and the tones of a well-known voice alternately carolling forth a familiar hymn with a recital of the wrongs needing redress.
|The Gospel way is the best of all, hark! I loud proclaim the same.|
(Loud beating of the gong.) |Call that love! I vow to report them at headquarters!|
|Heaven's joy bestowed on earth, saves poor sinners and sets them free.|
(Again the gong.) |Much they care for our souls! Let them go to Chaocheng!|
The sounds gradually ceased, as those who were truly grieved that we should be thus insulted pacified the old gentleman, begging him to have a care for his aged body, and refresh it with food and rest.
Miss French's mind was made up. |We shall soon make another tour of villages outside this district,| she said, |and it shall be a long one. These old members have stood in the way long enough. New converts will join themselves to the Church; if they be welcomed, all the better, if not, the old ones must go; we can allow them to hinder no longer.|
Miss French's method was fully justified, for when they saw new adherents keen with the flush of first love and enthusiasm they, with very few exceptions, awakened more fully to their responsibilities.
Time heals many wounds, and when we returned from England our old friend, the military mandarin, came in full official dress to welcome us.
|Good to have you back,| he said; |we are accustomed to each other, and you know how to manage this place!|