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Revival In China
D. Z. Sheffield. Tungchow, North China, April 7th, 1894.
A religions work of unusual depth and power has been accomplished in the mission schools and the Church of this mission station during the past ten days. Rev. J. H. Pyke, of the Methodist Mission, had been holding religious services at various stations in his own mission and in other missions with very marked and gratifying results. The missionaries of Tungchow extended to him an invitation to hold a short series of meetings with the native Church of this place, and he consented to do so. Preparatory meetings were held, which from the ﬁrst were of deep interest. Mr. Ament, of our own mission, came down from Peking a little in advance of Mr. Pyke, and for two days conducted meetings of very marked spiritual power. Mr. Pyke then joined in the work.
Meetings were held morning, after noon and evening. The usual Gospel truths were presented in simplicity and in quiet earnestness. Long formal prayers were discouraged and occasionally strangled, until that type of hindrance to real heart-fellowship with God was banished, may we hope never to return. “Think of your spiritual needs, ask for what you want. Believe that God is true to His promises. Stop when you are done.” Old forms of worship were broken up, but nothing new or startling was introduced. Mr. Pyke gave much care to the after-meetings. Searching, but gentle questions, were occasionally addressed to those who gave testimony without any deep religious experience. The work of heart-searching grew more deep and serious from hour to hour.
On Friday the missionaries were astonished and distressed to discover that the leading students in the college and theological school, our most mature Christian young men, were setting themselves against the brethren who had been invited to labor with us. In the midst of a meeting of deep spiritual interest, and of confession for sin, three theological students rose in their places and made short addresses, ambiguous in language, but meaning that they would follow Christ, “but who are these men that we should follow them?” One student said later, privately, “We expected that two angels would come among us, but they have proven to be two inquisitors.” We were deeply humbled at this type of opposition to the Lord’s work so evidently in progress. On Sunday morning Mr. Pyke preached a sermon of great gentleness, but it was searching, loving and bold in the Lord. He urged that no one should make the great mistake of losing the spiritual blessing that God was now waiting to give, because they did not like the vessel in which the blessing was brought.
There was a succession of addresses on the work of the Holy Spirit in converting, in purifying, in strengthening, in enlightening, in giving joy and hope. All day Sunday the Spirit was working in our midst with great power. Old roots of bitterness were being pulled up and committed to the Lord to burn up with His purifying ﬁre. Many public confessions—sharp, clear and with a broken heart—were made, and yet more were made in private. Lurking sins that had been excused by easy consciences now assumed large proportions, as they were seen to stand across the way of hearty approach in to the divine presence.
Monday morning the native pastor of the Church, a man greatly beloved by us all, gave an address on the Holy Spirit that will never be forgotten in this Church. It fell as gently as the evening dew, but it was the dew of the Spirit, full of life-giving power. He had seen in one of our recently built foreign mission houses speaking tubes connecting the various rooms. He laid hold of this for an illustration. He said there were three speaking tubes through which God addresses us by His Spirit. One is the Bible, through which divine truth is revealed to us. A second is the conscience of each one, witnessing to the truth of Scripture and emphasizing its importance and urgency. The third is the testimony to divine truth given by the lips of the servants of God who are set to declare to men the way of life and urge men to walk in it. Following this address Mr. Pyke conducted the after-meeting. The power of the Spirit was upon the entire audience. The prayers were short and largely the words of victory and hope in Christ. Numerous testimonies were given, confessions made and resolutions announced. The students who had set themselves against the Lord's messengers now wakened to a realization of the fact that they were setting themselves against the Lord Himself and were excluding themselves from the blessing that others were receiving. Their prayers were shorter, and were prayers of confession and spiritual hunger.
Early in the meetings the Christian women were asked to take part in prayer and in making known their wants. This was really a great innovation in a Church in China, but no one thought of the innovation. The spirit of unity in Christ was upon us, and the prayers of brothers and sister went up together to the common throne of grace and source of blessings.
During the week about twenty persons were received into the class of probationers. A good number will soon be received into the Church. But the importance of this work is not at all to be measured by additions to the roll of Church membership. Probably not a few members of the Church have for the first time really entered into the Christian life. Many others who had little more than a name to live, have now their first conscious experience of the life that is hid with Christ in God.
When the spirit of confession was upon the Church it was a matter of astonishment to the missionaries to listen to the revelation of so many secret reserves standing in the way of a life of full consecration to the divine will even among our mature Christians. The entire Church has now, as it would seem, fixed its purpose on being "holiness to the Lord." This we dare to believe is not a temporary enthusiasm, but an enthusiasm begotten of the spirit of the Lord. This work is being built upon long years of careful instruction in the word of God, in the college, the theological school and the Church. The divine Interpreter has now come to reveal to many hearts the hidden, spiritual meaning of truths which had been long understood in the letter. We can only praise the Lord and commit the future to His keeping.
God has taught us many things by His Spirit. He has taught us that the door of access to the divine grace is never locked except on the human side, and that it is always thrown open to every soul that truly knocks for entrance. He has also taught us that our beloved Chinese Christians can drink as deeply from the fountains of divine grace and love as can we who are set to minister to them.
Taken from the Chinese Recorder, May, 1894, p. 253-255