Gibraltar, Algeria, Malta, Egypt, India, Burma, Singapore, China, Japan, Korea, Russia
March 8th, 1889
P&O S.S. "Kaiser-I-Hind" China Seas
My Beloved Angee,
We left Hong Kong on the morning of the 6th and thus far have had a pleasant voyage – fine and smooth but foggy at night necessitating half speed and continual sounding of the fog horn. The cold is not so intense as at Hong Kong for a day or two after our arrival there. D.V. I purpose spending a week or so more at that port on returning from the North and Japan as I soon discovered it would be wise to begin the work from Shanghai that being the great distributing centre for China so I was all packed up and ready to start by this steamer which brought the last English mail. It was very singular that the very arrangements I had made were suggested by P.F.&Co. They wish me to work those parts thoroughly and to visit all the leading ports up the great River Yangtsee Kiang for about 700 miles up – also to call at Formosa – the Philippines and the Celebes Islands and other scattered ports among all the numerous groups as well as to penetrate North as far as Corea[?] and Vladivostok in Russia. The Lord has given great encouragement at Hong Kong – one of the best houses in China having given me a good order as I told you in the last – and as far as His own interests among the saints there, His gracious guidance and ordering have filled me with thanksgiving and Holy fear and now I will tell you about it in the order and way in which it was brought about. The feeling in my mind on nearing Hong Kong was that I was entering a spiritually desolate place in entering China, but I was sure the Lord had His own and my prayer was that I may be led among them. None were however known to me but on entering the Hong Kong harbour I noticed many of H.M. ships and thought it possible that some of the Lord's gathered ones may be on board some of them. In the evening of the day we arrived I was walking through the main street and saw many seamen and I spoke to one company inquiring if they knew any Christians on board their ship but got nothing definite from these.
H.M.S. Impereuse as commissioned [Image source: Wikipedia]
Afterward met another company and called one of them aside making a similar enquiry and gathered that there were a few true Christian men on his ship the "Imperieuse", so I gave him my card pencilling the number of my room at the hotel and also adding "To any on board gathered to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" which he promised to deliver. The following evening a brother in fellowship called and gave me a hearty greeting – he had received the card the night before – he is the ship's steward on board the "Imperieuse" and called G.L.C Binmore not long since received into fellowship at Devonport and from this dear fellow I was soon in the midst of the Lord's interests in Hong Kong. The same evening I accompanied him to a Scripture reading where about a dozen were assembled and prominent among them was a German gentleman called Dr. Eibel (Dr. of Philosophy) who was speaking very nicely from the epistle of Jude. It was manifest that he had some acquaintance with the truth – it was a good meeting and although all except Binmore were strangers to me yet I felt the Lord and His Truth had their place among them. The following night Binmore called again with another brother in fellowship called James Ede from Portsmouth where I remember to have met him and who is now residing in Hong Kong; also a brother called James Butland a gunner on board H.M.S. "Leander" who is with the open brethren, but much loved and esteemed by the others in fellowship.
H.M.S Leander in 1897 [Image source: Wikipedia]
From these I heard of the Lord's gracious work for years past in dealing with Dr Eitel a distinguished Chinese scholar, formerly a missionary and now the government Inspector of Schools and not long since he compiled a Chinese dictionary. He is highly esteemed as a scholar and a Christian and it has been said of him for a long time that he was a Plymouth brother. A brother in fellowship called Saunders who was residing in Hong Kong many years seems to have been specially used to helping him in the truth. Our brother Saunders has recently returned to Devonport – and at his suggestion a brother in Belfast has presented Dr Eitel with all J.N. D[arby]'s collected writings. He is now reading them and appears to value the teaching very highly – indeed he is simply rejoicing in the liberty wherewith Christ doth make free and is full of thanksgiving and praise for the grace that has delivered him from the traditions of men. I felt the seriousness of the position Butland was in and while he appeared in heart with us yet his associations were with those we could have no fellowship with. He had the stamp of being a noble fellow and was evidently taught of God. Those of us in fellowship produced our letters of commendation and I suggested that it would be well-pleasing to the Lord if we broke bread together on Lord's day. They have not been doing this and felt one great hindrance was that it would offend Butland. I told them before Butland that I did not think it was faith to allow this to hinder their meeting the desire of Christ's heart to do this in remembrance of Him. Faith's place was to obey and leave results of this with God. Binmore wished me to see the Dr about it as he knew his heart had desired to take his place at the Lord's table on the ground of the one Body for a long time. The following night (Saturday) Ede called again with Butland and we went into the whole matter. Butland partly owned the seriousness of the "letter of the ten" and that its principles were a denial of the truth of the one Body. I pressed the necessity of judging the association he was in before he could endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit. He received it all in a nice manner and I was full of hope about him because it was evident there was an apprehension of what the church is in his soul and hence some understanding of the conflict that now and again issued among those who sought to be faithful to Christ in maintaining a feeble expression of it.
The following Lord's day morning we accompanied Dr Eitel to a company of Chinese Christians (about 40) he was in the habit of addressing. It appears this little meeting had been shepherded by a missionary who has gone away for a time to some other part of China and before leaving had asked the Dr. to take charge of them. To this he at first demurred telling the missionary that God had shown him something better than the traditions of men and that if he accepted the responsibility he could only minister the truths God has been making known to him and this may bring them outside all man's orderings. The missionary replied that he was quite satisfied the Dr would not teach anything unscriptural. It was deeply interesting to see this little company, many of whom had a slate and pencil taking notes of all that was said. The Lord had laid a few thoughts on the first four chapters of Ephesians on my heart and I spoke for about an hour – I considered at first how I should get on with an interpreter but was soon quite at home with it. I should speak a short concise statement and then Dr Eitel would interpret the same. They were much interested and I was indeed thankful for the privilege of thus addressing them and for the goodness and mercy of God that had so wonderfully raised up this beloved man Dr Eitel who could speak the truth of God to them in their own language. One of the Chinese brethren prayed before the meeting and another after – the sense of course I could not understand but felt it was of the Spirit. Dr. E. at the beginning told them who I was and that I was engaged in selling biscuits for a large manufacturer in London but that I ministered the bread of life without charge. They are pleased to have the truth in this way as most of them are rather sick of paid ministers, and are believed to be exercised as to divine ground. We had arranged to break bread in the afternoon and on speaking with Dr. E. on the Saturday he said his heart had long desired to do so only he felt the difficulty about Butland too. After the Chinese meeting some of the English brethren returned with me, also Butland and when seated together in my bedroom the dear fellow frankly owned and with much feeling that the Lord had been exercising him for years past about the whole question and last night he was brought to a point and did not get much sleep for the night and while it involved the severing of many links that were dear to his heart he was bound to own that the association of open brethren was not on the ground of the one Body. He was now convinced that Exclusives so-called were upon this only true ground and he desired to take his place that day at the Table of the Lord and judged himself and the association he had been connected with. We are all bowed before the Lord with chastened spirits – and filled with thanksgiving at this manifest deliverance the Lord had Himself in His tender mercy granted. In the afternoon we came together at the Dr's. Offices which he and all the brethren were happy in using and spread the table in the faith of that word that "wheresoever two or three are gathered together to my name there am I in the midst of them" – there were present Dr Eitel, our brethren Binsmore and J. Morley on aboard the Imperieuse – A. Farmer on board the "Wivern" – James Butland on board the Leander – James Ede residing in Hong Kong and myself.
HMS Wivern [Image source: Wikipedia]
Well the gracious Lord Jesus did give an answer to the faith that this surrounded Himself to remember Him and to shew forth His death until He come. Dear Butland's breathings in worship were full and sweet. After the meeting the Dr. said his heart had at length found what it had long desired. It was beautiful to see what the grace of God had wrought in him giving such child-like simplicity of heart and mind. His office was very near the hotel and so he often came in to see me and when I had a few minutes to spare I ran in with him. He has a great mind but the subjection to the word of God is really beautiful and delight in it too; he contemplates translating many extracts from J.N.D[arby]'s writing for circulation among Chinese believers. The hearts of all the other dear brethren were simply filled to overflowing. May God graciously preserve and sustain them so that in their joy in the Lord they may be a testimony to all around of that blessed One once in death but now alive again and alive for evermore.
Have now spent three days in Shanghai – a Lord's day and two working days and God has graciously given encouragement and I hope to do a good business here – the weather is bitterly cold – dull and damp – the regular English winter weather and I am glad to get into my room which is very comfortable and where a nice fire has been kept ever since my arrival – on our entering the mouth of the great river Yangtsee Kiang last Saturday morning the cold simply intense and I hardly know what I should have done had I not had my Ulster overcoat. When within 10 miles of Shanghai the steam launch came alongside for the mails as the steamer had to wait for some hours for the tide over the bar, so many of us came up bag and baggage in the tender and on reaching the landing stage and for some times before we had regular downpour. There was no kind of shelter for us and it was very trying I can tell you to stand for about half an hour in that rain while the baggage was being landed and then to see the coolies huddle it together for carrying it in their patent way to the hotel. Fortunately this was not far and when I saw my quarters my sorrows were lost in the presence of the comforts around me – the European settlement is a fine town. I met one of my missionary friends yesterday that I came out on board the "Ganges" with and we were glad to see one another – one of the three is however with the Lord – a dear young fellow I was much drawn to. Well I must now close and with much love to dear Harry and Emma and the darling children, dear Eunice and a double portion for yourself believe me my dearly beloved Angee.
Being very affectionate Husband