On this day in 1782, Robert Morrison was born in Buellers Green, England to a devoted, Christ-loving family. When he was seventeen years old, Robert’s heart was set aflame by reading of God’s work around the world. More than anything, he desired to be a missionary. But when he told this to his sickly, elderly mother, she begged him not to go abroad as long as she was alive. Robert, though sad to do so, agreed to stay by her side until the end. After the death of his mother, he applied to the London Missionary Society and was immediately accepted. Soon, he was setting sail to China.
Once in China, Morrison did everything to try to fit in with the nationals. He learned to use the chopsticks, grew long fingernail, wore a pigtail, and dressed in Chinese garb. However, he felt that by trying so hard to become Chinese, the people began to mistrust him, thinking that he was trying to stealthily sneak his religion on them. So he picked back up some of his old English habits, but never ceased to become the best at the Chinese language. He worked at it ceaselessly, even praying in broken Chinese instead of English. By the end of his life, he had accomplished his goal. He was able to publish and print the entire Bible in Chinese, as well as numerous tracts and writings. His printings and writings became so powerful that the Roman Catholic church attacked him and shut down his printing press. By the end of his life, Morrison could say, “There is now in Canton a state of society, in respect of Chinese, totally different from what I found in 1807. Chinese scholars, missionary students, English presses and Chinese Scriptures, with public worship of God, have all grown up since that period. I have served my generation, and must the Lord know when I fall asleep.”
On this day in 1869, John William Knott was commissioned and sent out for missionary work in India. Henry Venn, the spokesman for the committee, frankly told Knott that it took them a long time to decide to approve him as a missionary. The fact that Knott was forty-six and was giving up an influential and good-paying pastorate to go to India made many on the committee feel that he should stay. But, after much deliberation, the committee decided to send Knott out. Knott, when addressing the committee, said:
“When I offered myself to the Committee for missionary work in India, I felt like Abraham’s servant at the well side wondering whether the Lord would make his journey prosperous or not. But obstacles have been removed. The way has been smoothed and I trust I shall be able for some period of time to devote all the power which God gives me to this great work and I shall rejoice to testify in this way some sense of the special debt I owe to Him for His special favours to me. I feel indeed that the Gentiles may well glorify God for His mercy and I feel that I have in a special manner to glorify God for His mercy to me mercy in bringing me out of serious errors. I owe a deep debt in this respect first to my Lord and I owe a debt also to some of those with whom I was in contact and with whom I lived and acted and I feel that I may in some way be helped to pay that debt of Christian love honestly and faithfully but all must be subordinate to the one great consideration that we have to glorify God for His mercy and for His unspeakable gifts”
French, a friend of Knott, who was also commissioned at the same meeting and would work closely with Knott, wrote this:
“Many were there to whom perhaps any other man that had acted as Knott had done might seem a renegade but in him the unimpeachable honesty, the frank manliness, the strength of conviction the self condemnation before God, blent with so much boldness, yet meekness of wisdom, must have disarmed prejudice and to a great extent taken the sting out of all bitterness of feeling”
Knott’s missionary career was short lived. When he got to India, he threw himself into the work, helping with the mission and also ministering to the English soldiers stationed there, starting Bible schools for them. But, after working so hard in the fever-stricken valley where he was stationed, he became sick and was never able to recover. Just a year and a half after his commissioning, Knott was laid to rest. Was his a life wasted? Should he have stayed in England and enjoyed the wealth and influence there? These are questions we can not answer. But French best summed it up at Knott’s funeral, ” ‘Knott’s death was a strange and almost unparalleled mystery. But it is comforting to rest assured that God is His own interpreter.” Are we afraid to give our best, our brightest, to God because of the uncertainty of the future?
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