Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Only the Help of God" - Pioneer Missionary Charles Gutzlaff

Take a look
Robert Davey has put together an excellent book on China and missions - The Power to Save - A History of the Gospel China - which I have lately begun reading.

The third chapter tells the story of Charles Gutzlaff, a pioneer missionary to China the fame and significance of whose work Davey compares to David Livingstone's later work in Africa. I had never before heard of this man. The excerpts that Davey shares of his writings are full of spiritual truth and zeal, and worthy of being re-quoted many times over.

Gutzlaff had His Saviour's burden for the lost souls of the world. This is clearly seen fom a plea Gutzlaff wrote for the Missionary Register:

"Are the bowels of mercy of a compassionate Saviour shut against these millions? Before him, China is not shut! He, the almighty conqueror of death and hell, will open the gates of heaven for these millions.  He has opened them. Neither the apostles nor reformers waited until governments were favourable to the gospel, but went on boldly in the strength of the Lord. We want no gentleman missionaries here but men who are at all times ready to lay down their lives for the Saviour and can wander about forgotten and despised, without human assistance but only the help of God."

Here is a missionary spirit that is nothing less than beautiful. "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!...who say unto Zion, 'Your God reigns!'"

Charles Gutzlaff had close biblical philosophy of missions that I admired. Davey summarizes the philosophy:

The mission was based in Hong Kong and grew out of Gutzlaff's daily Bible teachings. Recruits were to go forth, two by two, into inland China as colporteurs [literature distributors] and evangelists. They were to distribute the Scriptures, tracts and also an essay on the nature of saving faith. Each had to learn whole chapters of the Bible, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. The principles of the mission were advanced for their day...China could only be evangelized fully by the Chinese themselves. The function of foreign missionaries was only to train, as servants of the Chinese church...Foreign missionaries must dress and live like Chinese as far as possible and must live and work among them.  Chinese churches should autonomous form the beginning. Anglo-Saxon culture most not be imposed on the Chinese churches. Charles Gutzlaff urged Christians everywhere to pray for a thousand native evangelists to reach all China.

Gutzlaff believed firmly in the necessity of self-supporting missions work. He wrote, "As no worldly prospects are attached to their profession, we have had very few of the most necessary things to introduce true Christianity is to keep the idol of the world - money - entirely out of view."

I want to close this sketch of a newly-beloved hero with his statement of vision for Christian life and work:

"Nothing can be done without the Spirit of God, and unless the prayer for His powerful assistance is constant and earnest there can be no success...The love of Christ in and through us must actuate all our thoughts and must be love from first to last, real ardent, never-failing love, flowing from the great fountain, Jesus Christ."

Is this not the heart of all that a Christian will ever do in this world? True, constant prayer and real, Christ-like love will accomplish much for Christ's kingdom in any circumstance, and without them, our labors are in vain.

Thank God for you, Mr. Gutzlaff.

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