A New Evangelism for China—2
After the testing truths had been studied and one by one a number took their stand, the subject of baptism was presented, and these interested ones were given a personal invitation to enter the church as members. Some were hesitant; others were too quick in requesting baptism. It was necessary for those of us directly responsible for the success of the meetings to know the home situation of these people and some of their personal problems. This was all known by one of those who sat on the committee to examine the candidate for baptism.
Our series of subjects followed about the same order followed in other countries. We began with one striking subject that would attract the attention of the largest number of people. We then followed this with subjects on the Bible as the source of authority for all religious doctrine: God as the Creator, Christ as the Redeemer, the plan of salvation, the second coming, and the signs.
Our audience was made up of all classes of people, Christians, superstitious heathen, Buddhists, Confucianists, Taoists, Lamas, rich and poor, ignorant and educated. We had to speak to all. Naturally, some would not understand at first what we were talking about. Although they understood our words they did not understand the meaning. The Christians, of course, understood from the start. We had to talk simply, and every night we made an appeal to accept Christ as the only Saviour. We kept this thought in the forefront. This is language that all can understand.
We had practically no opposition, except from the Christians. There was no disturbance in the meetings, though there was great unrest in the city all during the weeks that the meetings were being conducted. The Christian bodies tried to make our meetings ineffective by scattering lies among their members about us and our church. Attacks particularly were made on Mrs. White. The kind of distortions given out were those so much depended on by our opposers in this land.
A special leaflet attacking us and telling untruths about our teachings was distributed over the city. One thing said in this leaflet that impressed people most was that we depended on the devil for our salvation. This troubled some of the people very much. Others just smiled to themselves and said, "That is a ridiculous charge." One or two who asked their pastor about it were told, "Yes, that is true." But when these people replied, "We have not heard anything like that," the pastor said, "Just wait and listen to them long enough, and you will hear about it."
We paid no attention to the charges. They were too exaggerated. Even the simple people paid little attention to them. Sometimes the devil trips himself up in his strenuous efforts to hinder people in obeying the truth.
However, more subtle reasoning on the part of one preacher did definitely draw away from our meeting a large group of Christians who had been attending. After we had presented the Sabbath truth, a large number of the members of this man's church asked him about the Sabbath. The next Sunday he told his people what he thought about it. This was his reasoning :
"I know all about this Sabbath. Many years ago I studied the faith of Seventh-day Adventists and was greatly impressed by it. I believe many of their teachings. Yes, and I keep the Sabbath myself when it is convenient. There is no other Sabbath in the Bible except the seventh-day Sabbath. If you truly want to keep the law, then you should keep that day.
"However, although I keep it myself, I could not urge my members to keep it. That would make it very difficult for you people. Saturday is a busy day. Many of you work on that day, in banks, on the railroad, in shops, in the government. Think how much trouble you would have trying to keep that day. Why, even students could not go to school on that day. Surely, God does not want to make so much trouble for us. He does not absolutely require anyone to keep the Sabbath. The Jews tried to keep it exactly the way they were told, and failed in keeping it. Christ came and established a new and better way. You can keep the Sabbath in spirit on the seventh day if that is possible for you to do, but you can keep it too on the first day of the week when so many people keep it. Why make trouble for yourself when it is wholly unnecessary ?"
That kind of twisted reasoning worked better than outlandish charges. The ordinary mind is not too logical. When faced with the problem of trying to get Sabbaths off from work, the people were only too glad to hear from a preacher, who seemed very earnest, that it was not necessary to go to that extreme in order to please a loving heavenly Father.
Combating Pull of Other Influences
At first we had a very large group of Christians attending our meetings. Many of them handed in their names to us, expressing belief in the truths that we were preaching and even the Sabbath truth. They were visited personally, and some kept coming to the meetings until the very last. But the pull of their churches was strong. Their closest friends were in those churches. Perhaps they liked the preachers. As soon as they made it evident that they were attending our meetings, the preachers and the members of their churches were even more solicitous of them.
Denominationalism has almost broken down in China. The Christian people are coming to feel that they can attend any church. So they came to our church the same as they would to any church. Many of these people are most earnest Christians. They have prayer and Bible-study meetings in their homes each week. They did not oppose our views as we studied with them. But the sad thing was that they never came to a full acceptance of the Sabbath truth.
About half of those we baptized were Christians. A few of them were active in their churches when they took their stand, but the majority of them were backslidden Christians who seldom went to church. We became attached to many of the active and very earnest Christian people we visited and studied with, and prayed earnestly that they would accept the faith, but some could not bring themselves to the place where it would be necessary for them to make an actual break with the past.
Denominationalism Breaking Down
Two things are coming in to make it hard for people to accept the truth. One is the break in denominationalism. People these days, especially in the mission field, are encouraged to join any church they wish. If they like the way a man preaches, they join his church. The old names of denominations are coming into disuse, and such terms as the Church of Christ or the National Christian Church are used.
One of the largest and most active churches in Peking is an independent church established by a very earnest Christian Chinese, and his church is simply called the Christian Church. He has a large following, chiefly because he is an eloquent speaker, presents many fundamental truths, and keeps up revival services in his churches. The people who came to our meetings said he talked about the same things we did. The only difference they could note was in the Sabbath question, and regarding that, he told them he would be glad to have them keep it if they wanted to.
The other obstacle is the spirit of nationalism. The people like to belong to a church that is disconnected with all foreign interests. It is something all their own. So much has been said of the Christian church in recent years about its being the "running dog" of foreign imperialism, that the people want to be rid of that charge.
This is something for us to think about. Though we must do all we can to bind the hearts of believers everywhere in the blessed Advent message, we must more and more encourage the national churches to work toward the goal of self-support and local autonomy.
It is a new day in China. All classes of people are more ready to listen to the gospel truths and accept them than ever before. This is a day for a new evangelism in mission lands. And the workers in China are pressing forward along these lines with wonderful results.
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