Project Canterbury

Robert and Louisa Stewart: In Life and in Death

By Mary E. Watson

London: Marshall Brothers, 1895.

Chapter II. Ambassadors for Christ

"Who are these who come among us
Strangers to our speech and ways?
Passing by our joys and treasures,
Singing in the darkest days?
Are they pilgrims journeying on
From a land we have not known?"

"We are come from a far country,
From a land beyond the sun;
We are come from that great glory
Round our God's eternal throne:
Thence we come and thither go;
Here no resting place we know.

"Far within the depth of glory,
In the Father's house above,
We have learnt His wondrous secret,
We have learnt His heart of love:
We have seen and we have shared
That bright joy He hath prepared.

"We have seen the golden city
Shining as the jasper stone;
Heard the song that fills the heavens
Of the Man upon the throne;
Well that glorious One we know--
He hath sent us here below.

"We have drunk the living waters,
On the Tree of Life have fed'
Therefore deathless do we journey
Midst the dying and the dead;
And unthirsting do we stand
Here amidst the barren sand.

"Round us, as a cloud of glory
Lighting up the midnight road,
Falls the light from that bright city,
Showing us where He has trod;
All that here might please the sight
Lost in that eternal light.

"Wherefore are ye come amongst us
Frm the glory to the gloom?"
"Christ in glory breathed within us
Life, His Life, and bid us come.
Here as living springs to be--
Fountains of that life are we.

"Fountains of the life that floweth
Ever downwards from the throne,
Witnesses of that bright glory
Where, rejected, He is gone,
Sent to give the blind their sight,
Turn the darkness into light.

"There, amidst the joy eternal,
Is the Man who went above,
Bearing marks of all the hatred
Of the world He sought in love.
He has sent us here to ell
Of His love unchangeable.

"He hath sent us, that in sorrow,
In rejection, toil and loss,
We may learn the wondrous sweetness,
Learn the mystery of His cross--
Learn the depth of love that traced
That blest path across the waste.

He hath sent us highest honours
Of His cross and shame to win,
Bear His light through deepest darkness,
Walk in white 'midst foulest sin;
Sing amidst the wintry gloom,
Sing the blessed songs of home.

"From the dark and troubled waters
Many a pearl to Him we bear;
Golden sheaves we bring with singing,
Fulness of His joy we share;
And our pilgrim journey o'er,
Praise with Him for evermore."

VARIOUS proposals have been made as to writing a Life of Robert and Louisa Stewart; but they have all been declined.

Lives so truly lived in secret with God are not easy to record. And even if the attempt were successfully made, is there not a danger of exalting the human and losing sight of the fact that "all things are of God?"

It has been thought, therefore, that it is sufficient for God's glory, to print some letters lately received, and supply a few details of the earlier times. Their letters were not kept, at Mr. Stewart's earnest request.

Feeling that anything too personal would have been repugnant to the feelings of our dear brother and sister, we refrain from writing their biographies; but we know their wish would be that we should write and print anything that would awaken their love and sympathy for China and the Chinese--anything that would show the friends who have helped through prayer and by their gifts that the need now is not less, but greater. Their voices seem to plead with us from the glory, "Fill up the ranks." Who will be baptized for the dead?

They went out to Foochow in September, 1876, just after their marriage.

Learning the language was of course the first work.

Then Mr. Stewart was given charge of the school for native catechists belonging to the Church Missionary Society.

Mrs. Stewart, after a time, opened a school to train native Bible-women.

The money to build it was given by personal friends.

Then came the pressing need of English ladies to teach and superintend their Chinese sisters.

After eight years abroad Mr. and Mrs. Stewart came home, and the matter was taken up by the C.E.Z.M.S., who agreed to send ladies to China, arranging that the funds for India and China should be kept separate.

The all-absorbing thought was, "How can the Gospel be preached to this generation of the Chinese?" And visions rose of devoted English ladies residing in every one of the many cities of the Fuhkien province, superintending hundreds of native Bible-women.

These Bible-women cost £6 a year only, travelling expenses included. What a good investment of £6!

Dear readers, you who cannot go to China can have a substitute there for this modest sum; and I know not how many you may have "from the land of Sinim" to welcome you to "everlasting habitations."

Those who met Louisa Stewart at this time will remember the intense interest she felt and communicated to others on this subject of women's work (English and Chinese) in China.

How often she told, with glowing face, of her beloved Chinese women in the school! How at noon each day their lessons were suspended and a prayer-meeting held. So real and earnest were the petitions that the difficulty often was to stop them in time for dinner. They "believed in the Holy Ghost."

The history of one of these women, often told by Mrs. Stewart, was as follows:--

Mr. Stewart had received her husband, Ing Soi, into the C.M.S. school, and he asked that his wife might be under Mrs. Stewart's care to learn "the doctrine," so as to be able to help him when he was sent forth to teach.

Ing Soi was a man of God. Robert Stewart said he loved him as a brother. But the wife, though a Christian in name, showed no sign of true conversion to God. Alas! as her subsequent history shows, she was like many in our own country, who "will not come "at the voice of love, and must experience the goad of trouble, which "it is hard to kick against."

Mrs. Ing Soi wept over the difficult Chinese characters, and said it was impossible for her to learn to read; in fact, she did not care to read the book for whose Author she had no love; but, as the story will tell, at a day not very far distant her greatest desire was to search for herself the written Word, that she might find the living Word of God.

The time having arrived for her husband to go forth, she left the school.

It seemed as if no seed had been sown, and as if prayer were left unanswered. We know that every prayer is answered, though we may not at once see the answer. "Through faith and patience "we "inherit the promises."

After some time of happy work in the far-off city, Ing Soi went to see some converts in another town. They had hitherto visited him, but now they begged for a visit from their teacher.

One day he went. I believe it was a day's journey.

A manifesto from the mandarin greeted his eyes soon after his arrival. The walls were placarded with a notice forbidding any one to teach "the Jesus doctrine," and threatening confiscation of property, and possibly loss of life, to any one teaching "in this Name."

The ostensible reasons for these threats were an outbreak of cholera disease among the cattle, and failure in the crops--disasters usual in China in the fall of the year, but this year utilised by the Chinese authorities as a pretext for persecuting the Christians.

As Ing Soi read, he found himself seized by some men, who, holding his pigtail, said,--

"Do you promise not to speak any more in this Name?"

"No," he answered firmly; "I will preach the Name of Jesus while I have breath. I live only to serve Him."

"Well, we must kill you."

They dragged him off to an opium den, where they beat him cruelly, and, putting a knife to his throat, threatened instant death unless he recanted.

"How did you feel, Ing Soi, when you faced death?" questioned Mrs. Stewart, to whom he recounted this experience after he reached Foochow.

"Oh!" he said--and his face, like Stephen's, shone as an angel's--"I never thought of death; my only thought was, in one moment I shall really see Jesus, and I was so full of joy they thought I was laughing, for they said, 'You needn't laugh; we are really going to kill you.' "

Just then the Mandarin interfered, lest matters should go too far, and with some vague dread of the English government.

With difficulty Ing Soi reached Foochow. He came to die; the injuries he had received were so serious.

For six weeks he lingered in the hospital, lovingly nursed by his wife, and visited daily by Mr. and Mrs. Stewart--not, as they said, for his sake alone; they found it good to be with him in the land of Beulah, and hear him speak the language of that country,.

"Have you any fear of death, Ing Soi? Tell me," questioned Mr. Stewart one day.

"Living is death, dying is life," was the answer.

On another occasion he addressed his dearly-loved teacher,--

"One thing you will promise?"

"That your wife and children may be cared for?"

"Oh no! I know you will do all for them. I trust you and God, and I have no fear for them."

"What then?"

"Those poor people who injured me. God has forgiven them. They did it in ignorance. I have asked the Lord to send them a teacher, and I want you to promise that if there is any inquiry you will not let any one punish them."

The promise was given. The likeness to Stephen was brought again to mind, and, indeed, to a greater than Stephen, who prayed, "Father, forgive them."

Ing Soi fell asleep in the arms of Jesus; but the story does not end here.

The seeds in the wife's heart now began to bring forth fruit.

The Christ-like spirit in her husband had been to her as the early and the latter rain, and she now begged her dear "sing-ang-iong "(teacher) to take her again into the school. God had put into her heart a great longing to be the messenger of mercy and forgiveness to her husband's murderers.

He fulfils "the desire of them that fear Him," and after her time of training she went--a real Bible-woman this time--to reap a harvest in other souls.

So it ever is: the seed is planted, and it grows, we "know not how," and brings forth "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear" (is this the advancing manifestation in John xiv. 16, 21, 23--the Spirit, the Son, the Father?), and after that a harvest in other souls. Oh! is it not worth dying to all of the old self-life that we may "share in the glory of the harvest home"?

But we must return to the school with its twenty inmates.

In this unique boarding school for married women, some of them learning lessons with baby in arms, because baby could not be left behind, Mrs. Stewart spent some hours of every day.

Many of these women, with true heroism known to God alone, had walked weary miles with their "poor little feet," as they called them.

How Mrs. Stewart delighted, when she could find a ready listener, to tell of these dear pupils in China!

Sometimes they made her laugh in winter when it was cold (as it mercifully is in Foochow).

Chinese people think English fires very uncivilized, so destructive to furniture, and so apt to smoke. Their way of getting warm is to add jacket over jacket, and skirt over skirt; and when sitting quiet to embrace a little charcoal burner, hidden by the wide sleeves of the tunic.

Let us imagine Mrs. Stewart surrounded by her class of loving women. Some one gets specially interested, and forgets her unseen warm friend. Suddenly there is a cry that somebody is on fire! All hands haste to the rescue. The fire is put out without much injury, and a hearty laugh succeeds the momentary fear.

One day, early in the school experience, the teacher said in familiar sisterly converse: "You know now that the things said about us--such as that blue eyes see through the ground, and, that you would get harm if you came here--are not true. I am sure that some of the things said about you are not true. For instance, about killing the girl-babies. I do not suppose any of you have done so."

A smile passed from one to the other. Eighteen women out of the twenty present confessed to the crime, explaining that it had to be done immediately, before the little one had won any love! Poor babies--yet happy too. Here again Satan is vanquished. He suggests these cruel acts, but He who was manifested for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil, destroys his power here, for death becomes life to these Chinese baby-girls. God has chosen the weak and despised things, and we praise Him for that third of the human race who die in infancy, saved through the blood of the Lamb.

In one letter Mrs. Stewart wrote (I quote from memory, not having kept the letter):--

"I am glad I believe in the Holy Ghost. Some of the women seem so hopelessly ignorant and stupid. They are brought up to believe that they have no souls, no minds, and that men only can think.

"One woman seemed unable to learn: she wept over the characters. But quite suddenly she brightened up and learned quickly and well. I asked how it was.

"'Did you not tell us that God gives the Holy Spirit to those that ask? '


"'And that when He comes, He shall teach all things?'


"'That is how I learn now. He teaches me, and I cannot forget.'"

One more conversation repeated to us comes to mind. The women were explaining to Mrs. Stewart why marriage, as a rule, is regarded with dread by Chinese women; how they become drudges to the mother-in-law, and slaves, if not beasts of burden, to the husband; so that some young women have committed suicide rather than live to be taken to the husband's home.

Exclamations of surprise, if not of incredulity, arose when Mrs. Stewart said that in England girls who are engaged like to be married.

"Poor Chinese women," she would often say, "it friends at home could only see their hopeless faces, and know of their dark existence, they would indeed do all that they could for the women of China."

The woman--first in the transgression--God told of sorrow and of being under the rule of man.

The woman--mother of Jesus--last at His cross, first at His tomb. She died indeed to all natural goodness, but in Christ has she not been made alive?

As she has borne the image of the earthy, shall she not bear the image of the heavenly? Yes, truly. And as she was used of God in Christ's first advent, she has assuredly her part to fill up before the manifestation of the sons of God.

And when they come, the daughters as well as the sons, from the East and West, the North and South, the sacred Book adds: "And these from the land of Sinim."

"How can you say 'poor missionaries'? said Mr. Stewart in a sermon preached when he was last at home. "I tell you it is a life the highest archangel in heaven might envy."

The touching incidents connected with the leave-taking on their return to China in November, 1884, must be passed over; they both shrank from any personal publicity. They loved to make known far and wide what God had wrought.

To the glory of His grace, one remark must be repeated. Mrs. Stewart said to a relative of hers, "No one seems to understand but Mr. Hudson Taylor. Every one else says, 'When must you go back to China?'" (they were leaving three dearly loved children behind them); "but he said, 'When can you go back to China?' He understands."

And when that leave-taking was over, and a sister and some friends saw them off at Gravesend, the faces of both showed signs of passing through deep waters, but the light shining in the eyes of both also said, louder than any words, that He was with them. As they said themselves, they loved to go to China.

Time would fail to tell of sowing in tears and reaping in joy for two years more; and then again they came home, across Canada this time, because of Mr. Stewart's health.

He fought bravely on as long as the doctor would allow him to stay. First a change to Japan was tried.

There one night--his wife told of it afterwards--he lay insensible. They had gone high up in the mountains, to seek for him invigorating air.

Even the Japanese servants did not sleep in the inn; she was alone--alone with God. I believe that night she became Israel--not Jacob any longer. God became in a deeper sense all in all to her, and she had no fear, even face to face with the possibility that her husband might that night enter within the veil, without another word to her. She thought of the little children in China, the three boys at home, her mother and others in Ireland; and, looking her unknown future in the face, she praised God, telling Him she loved His will whatever it might bring to her. And a marvellous calm came over her whole being, and a joy not of earth!

Her husband was restored to her that time; but it was God's purpose to have him once more in England, and so He permitted the little strength he had gained in Japan to wane again.

Once more they turned homewards--a wonderful journey, as they afterwards said!

Every little detail so lovingly and graciously ordered! The Lord carried His beloved child in His arms halfway round the world, when, humanly speaking, it seemed as if he could not reach home alive.

At first Mr. Stewart had to keep very quiet, but as soon as it was possible he was again in harness, preaching and holding meetings' in the interest of his beloved China--or rather, of his beloved Lord. He was, indeed, a true follower of Him whose meat it was to do His Father's will.

The children, too, had a blessed training. Loving their father, and appreciating his society in a very special way, they were also taught to rejoice in the suffering entailed by his absence, because it was "for China."

In 1893 Mr. and Mrs. Stewart had again the joy of setting off for China, and what was really a joy too (though, perhaps, understood by few), of sacrificing natural inclination that they might embrace God's will.

A call came for missionary meetings in Canada. Who could be more suitable than Mr. and Mrs. Stewart--he to plead the cause of Christ, as he had done in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere; she to call upon her sisters in Canada to hear the cry of crushed womanhood in China?

Again the choice to suffer was put before them. They had faced the good-bye to the three boys, now at a public school; but what about the four wee ones--two little girls and two baby-boys? They could not be taken about Canada with their nurse on deputation.

No; they must take the other way, and go by the Red Sea, in company with some of the dear sisters going out under the C.E.Z.M.S., all of whom were ever cherished as dear sisters, if not daughters.

So it was decided, not grudgingly or of necessity. God loves a cheerful giver.

Dear Robert Stewart! If I have mentioned his wife--my sister--more, it is because we heard her speak more, not in any degree that we think less of him. Oh, no. Good soldier of Jesus Christ, patient, true servant, he never sought the praise of man, and always shrank from any recognition of his services; he pitied those who sought such things. "Verily, they have their reward."

But he, seeing the invisible, and intensely devoted to the Captain of his salvation, ever pressed on, an inspiration to those who came in contact with him, and an example to all who would work while it is day.

From the Sunday morning when he, a young barrister, worldly and full of ambition, as some of us remember him, turned into Holy Trinity Church, Richmond, saying to himself that he knew his mother (then in glory) would be better pleased to see him there than boating on the Thames, as had been his intention when he left the house that morning--from that day until the fiery chariot parted us asunder on August 1, 1895, his course was "straight upward and straight onward to yonder throne." An old friend, alluding to his conversion, remarked, "I never saw a man so completely changed."

Dear Robert Stewart! we shall never see just such another; but what thou wert God made thee, and to Him we give all the glory, as thou wert ever wont to do.

We must leave others to tell of work in Canada, and hasten to conclude this sketch. Christmas Day, 1893, witnessed a happy re-union of the four little ones, Lena the faithful nurse, the beloved parents, and some of the "sisters," whose love in the Spirit had been always a brightness in the Chinese life.

This time they passed through Foochow and went on to Kucheng--another answer to prayer, as their hearts were ever going out to the regions beyond. The name of Hwasang, which has now become sadly familiar to many ears, was first heard of as a sanatorium, where in the hottest part of summer they retreated with the children for refreshment and rest--rest, not only after work, but as a preparation for a fresh campaign.

There on the mountain top the native cottage stood which they bought for themselves.

During the summer of 1894 (last year) the letters from Hwasang were full of descriptions of peaceful rest, tea-picnics with the children, and other delights. In the month of June a new baby had come to gladden the home; they called her Hilda Sylvia. The little life of thirteen months was a bright one; she lived surrounded with love.

It is now known to all Christian friends the wide world over how Mr. and Mrs. Stewart passed through the golden gates together, followed by Herbert and the baby girl a little later.

I remember one day Mr. and Mrs. Stewart were at home, and some of us had gathered, a little family party, by the seaside in Wales. Herbert had had a fall, and might have been seriously hurt.

He said solemnly to his mother afterwards, "God went out to walk with Her to-day, or he would have been killed."

He was only two years old and called himself "Her," as Herbert was too long.

When I heard what had happened on August 1 and the succeeding days, I remembered his baby-words, and I knew that "God walked with Herbert" then too, and with his father and mother, the baby sister, and the faithful nurse Lena. They were not "killed," they were translated. Had He not promised He would never leave them nor forsake them?

"Some were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection."

"Of whom the world was not worthy."

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