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Robert and Louisa Stewart: In Life and in Death

By Mary E. Watson

London: Marshall Brothers, 1895.

Chapter VI. Christ Magnified

"Wherefore goest them with Me?"
Said the King disowned--
Said the King despised, rejected,

"As the Lord lives and the King,
Ever Lord to me,
Where in death or life He dwelleth
I will be."

"Go--pass over," spake the King;
Then passed Ittai o'er;
Passed into the place of exile
From the shore.

"Go--pass over"; words of grace,
Spoken, Lord, to me,
That, in death or life, where Thou art
I might be.

Hidden there with Christ in God,
That blest life I share:
Christ it is who liveth in me--
Liveth there.

"He who serves me," spake His lips,
"Let him follow Me;
And where I am shall My servant
Ever be."

Follow, where His steps lead on,
Through the golden street;
Far into the depths of glory
Track His feet.

Till unto the throne of God,
Of the Lamb I come;
There to share the blessed welcome,
Welcome home!

There with Him whom man rejected,
In the light above.
Those whom God, His Father, honours,
Such His love.

P. G.
[In "Hymns of Tersteegen and Others," by Frances Sevan.]

PHILIPPIANS i. 20, was the text Louisa Stewart wrote in a copy of "Daily Light "given by her to a sister before her first journey to China, in 1876. A friend writes:--

"When I first read the telegram, words that I had heard Mrs. Stewart say at a meeting came rushing into my mind with such force, something like this,--'If it should ever be that we meet our deaths by violence, let no one think that God has in any way failed us. We are nowhere promised that His servants may not be called upon to suffer, even to die for His sake, who died for us.

"What we are promised is that, living or dying, we cannot be separated from Him; and that under all circumstances He will be sufficient."

Yes, that was indeed the deep undertone of both their lives--living or dying, they were the Lord's.

"The sting of death is sin." And our Saviour Jesus Christ "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." He has "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel."

An old friend writes, one who knew Louisa Stewart from her early childhood:--

"I well remember dear Louisa's remark to me when I regretfully bid her farewell before her marriage, as I was leaving home.

"She said she had some time before given herself to God, that He might use her in whatever way or place He pleased. Therefore she felt sure His Hand was guiding her, and her sole desire was that His Will should be done in and by her, and that Christ should be magnified in her body, whether by life or death.

"Her beautiful simplicity of character, her self-forgetfulness and unobtrusiveness were remarkable, even in early years.

"Many took notice of the extreme simplicity and earnestness with which she spoke at the enormous meeting at the Pavilion, Brighton, four years ago, when Mrs. Ahok was with her.

"The interpretation was so clearly spoken, and in her usual quiet voice, yet she was heard at the farthest end. Many remarked afterwards with what ease she interpreted each sentence as Mrs. Ahok spoke. She is still remembered in Brighton.

"One loves to think of her, and to praise God for what He accomplished through her, weak in herself, yet strong in the LORD."

I hesitated as to reprinting some of the loving words, knowing how they both shrank from being praised. One of the children said, when shown a letter in which his father was highly spoken of, "Father never liked to be praised"; and this was equally true of his wife. They had been baptized into the same Spirit--the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Wherever we find His spirit, in man, woman, or child, it is ever humble and teachable--the spirit of the little child.

A story is told of the early English Church, when first the Bishop of Rome sent a legate to this country. Those who had been appointed as the deputation to receive him went to seek advice of a "saint," who lived apart with God.

"How shall we know," they questioned, "if he is a true servant of God, and sent by Him?"

The saint answered: "My children, if you find him humble, meek and lowly, like Jesus Christ, then know that he has indeed come among us a true messenger from God.

"But if you find him proud and self-conceited, if he proudly keeps his seat, and does not rise to his feet to receive you, then know that he is no true servant of God. For 'The proud He knoweth afar off.' "

If the Chinese had known of this simple test, I think they would have judged that Robert and Louisa Stewart were true followers of Jesus Christ. Not their own humility, but that of the Christ who lived in them. They had both learned that simple yet deep theology--revealed by God Himself to the babes; hidden (solemn word!) by God the Father from the wise and prudent-- contained in the Apostle Paul's simple testimony, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me."

Not only--though that they also said--"I laboured . . . yet not I, but the grace of God was with me," but, in true humility, ascribing the very life to Him, so that in all things, great and small, it is "Not I, but Christ." Simple creed, contained in four words! Beautiful life, dependent on the "root and fatness" of the tree; for if the root be holy, so are the branches!

"I am the Vine, ye are the branches," said our Saviour Jesus Christ.

"Abide in Me, and I in you."

Oh, wonderful love, that cannot be satisfied until those who once were lost in sin are not only made nigh through the blood of Christ, but brought into such union that they share His very Life.

Only one Life, and that Christ's Life.

"I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me "(Gal. ii. 20, R.V., margin).

Dr. Van Someren Taylor's account of Robert and Louisa Stewart, published in The Life of Faith; and in the same paper (a week later): "Some Recollections of Mrs. Stewart," we feel ought to be preserved. Dr. Taylor was an intimate friend, and he and Mrs. Taylor were fellow-labourers with Mr. and Mrs. Stewart.


To the readers of The Life of Faith, the names of Robert and Louisa Stewart must be well known, and now that God has called them home to Himself, and their names are added to "the noble army of martyrs," a few lines from one who knew them so well may be welcome. To some it is given to follow Christ through the quiet pasture-field, where all is smooth and pleasant. To others it is given to follow the path which lies over the rugged rock, covered with briars and brambles: it was to such a life God called those who have laid down their lives for Him.

As an honour man of T.C.D., Robert Stewart had every prospect of making a name and position in the world. But this, together with a luxurious home, he gave up to become a poor missionary.

I remember he told me that a Chinaman once said to him, "I know why you have become a missionary." "Why?" asked Stewart. The Chinaman's reply was significant. Forming one hand into the shape of a bowl of rice, with the other he worked as if he were holding chop-sticks and cramming rice into his mouth, meaning thereby, "To obtain food to eat." How well do I remember Stewart's comment to me on it; it was, "He little knew." Years afterwards, as I saw him at his father's beautiful house in Ireland, I well understood what, from an earthly point of view, it must have cost Stewart to go to a foreign field; but never did I hear him speak of "giving up" or "hardship." To him a missionary's calling was the noblest calling on earth, and he regarded it as a privilege and an honour to be engaged in it.

Soon after he arrived in China he was placed in charge of the educational work of the Mission, and it was as an educational missionary I knew him. Through his efforts funds were raised for a college (which was afterwards burnt by a Chinese mob), and his whole time was given up to his students and scholars.

It was his wish that they should find in him their friend. He was no distant head, a great personage far above them. No; as their equal he strove to know each one personally and individually. He endeavoured to find out what was the real spiritual life of each one--what really was their aim in becoming theological students. Was it really love to Christ and to their fellow-countrymen; or was it merely to get so many dollars out of the Church? When he felt a man was not fitted for the work he did not hesitate to say so, though by so doing he knew he was drawing down upon himself odium from others. How often have I heard him say, "One bad man may do an amount of harm that three good ones cannot counteract." He was most anxious that only fit and proper men should go out as Christian workers amongst their countrymen. On him the glory of large numbers had no power. "Better no men than bad men," "Better a few good true men than many bad," was always before him.

Another thing that was characteristic of him was, that he was always ready to listen to the Chinaman, whether he were a student or a poor village Christian. No matter what he was doing, no matter how tired he was, he would lay down his pen or book, invite his guest to be seated, and give himself up to him. No wonder that by so doing he won his way to. many a heart, and got to know the Chinese character well. And know it well he did; and this the Chinamen knew too. They were perfectly aware that he was not a man to be deceived.

Another point about him was the great sacrcdness with which he regarded foreign money. He knew with what self-denial such money was given at home, and therefore he was most careful in the expenditure of foreign funds; and the more so because he felt that, if a true native church was to be founded, it was not to be founded on foreign money. He was all the more careful of this lest men should be led to offer for Christian work with the hope of getting money from the foreigner.

He realized most fully that, as a Christian missionary, his life as well as his mouth must speak; that what he had to say to others was "Come," not "Go." He never instructed a Chinaman to do what he was not prepared to do himself; and I know that one reason why he stuck to his post to the last was, that he might by his presence and example cheer and support the Christians in their hour of persecution, and be found standing at their side ready to bear with them whatever might befall; and "he has laid down his life for his sheep."

How well do I remember how his heart's wish was "to be used of God." How he used to end up the grace before his meals (which grace was no mere form, but a real prayer) with these words, "And use us." To be a "vessel fit for his Master's use "was his longing.

Any one who came in contact with Robert Stewart will have experienced that strong personal power that he had over others--a power that arose from his strong yet humble character. One was conscious that he was side by side with a man wholly given up to God; and as he grew in years he grew in grace, and in greater likeness to Jesus Christ.

By many a chastisement from a Father's loving hand, by the bitter fire of affliction--how bitter some who knew him intimately were aware--he was purified. And now that Master, whom he loved so much and longed so much to see, has taken him home to Himself. He has given him what he longed for, a martyr's crown.


Though almost seventeen years have elapsed since first I met Mrs. Stewart, it seems but as yesterday. It was late at night. Following Mr. Stewart, I had walked from the Foreign Settlement into the city of Foochow. All was new to me. I was tired, and wondering wherever I was being taken to All I could do was to follow the form of Stewart in front of me.

Suddenly he stopped and knocked; quickly the door was opened. The darkness was broken by a flood of light, and in the midst of the light, surrounded by the doorway as a frame, stood Mrs. Stewart, her baby on her arm, holding out her hand to welcome us, her face beaming with kindness.

Though we were perfect strangers, she took us to her home and to her heart, ever binding us to her and to her husband by ties of kindness upon kindness. We were always welcome, never in the way. To us always her house was our home when in Foochow, and it always had a home-like feel about it.

All her life she had been subject to fearful headaches, which might have debarred her from taking up mission work in an energetic manner; but it by no means did so. She threw all her energy into acquiring the language and spoke it beautifully, like a native.

Her first object was to gather around her a few native women, whom she might teach to be teachers of their fellow-countrywomen, teaching them to read and understand their Bibles But Mrs. Stewart by no means confined her attention to those who were to be paid teachers. She welcomed any women who were willing to come (provided she was satisfied that they were fit for admission), and taught them, though in all probability they would simply return to their own homes, there to be unpaid centres of light. She began with three, though the number afterwards increased.

It has been my wife's privilege to have had associated with her one of these women, and we can testify to the thoroughness of her training. How often has she told us, "Mrs. Stewart said so-and-so."

How well can I recall Mrs. Stewart's patience, forbearance, and tact with these women! How patiently she would sit down and listen to their little grievances, sympathizing with them, or kindly rebuking where necessary! Calmly and quietly, never losing her temper, she would talk with the distressed till their angry or ruffled look would vanish, and they would go away comforted and quieted.

This women's work always was regarded as Mrs. Stewart's special work. The funds for it came chiefly, if not almost entirely, from her friends, and through her letters home.

A Bible-women's house was erected, and the number of Bible-women greatly increased. Other ladies were sent out from England, and now at Foochow, Kucheng, Hing-hwa, Sieng-iu, Lo-nguong, we have Bible-women's Training Homes, sending out Bible-women into the surrounding districts. They are worked by foreign ladies of the C.E.Z.M.S. and C.M.S.

Mrs. Stewart fully realized that in training these Bible-women one great obstacle was the Chinese written character. It was a great task for these poor, uneducated women to be taught to learn off page after page of Chinese characters, which on their return home they might possibly forget. She therefore adopted the plan of teaching them the system of "Romanized Colloquial," in which Roman letters are used to represent the Chinese sounds. And not merely was this found useful for teaching them to read, but also to write; so that when the women had been trained they might themselves be able to correspond with Mrs. Stewart.

And now we have (thanks to the kind help of the British and Foreign Bible Society) the whole of the New Testament in Romanized Colloquial; and I know much of the work of seeing it through the press in England fell on Mrs. Stewart.

Those who knew her knew how she had always something on hand to extend work amongst the women. Her aim was, as she once wrote to me, and often said, "We must not rest satisfied till every village in China has a Bible-woman in it."

Energetic as she was as a Christian worker, she never forgot she was a wife, a mother, a hostess. Always at the side of her husband, she helped him in everything. She used often to write letters, and, I think, sermons, at his dictation; and many a weary hour she saved her husband by answering letters for him.

How vividly one can recall that fond, proud look with which she regarded him; and how she understood his every look! How her own face would cloud when she saw him perplexed! And as a mother how tenderly she looked after her little ones, nursing them through more than one serious illness! With what pride she spoke of her sons at home! And as a hostess, too, she was most kind, always looking after every little comfort for those who were her guests.

I cannot finish this short sketch without emphasizing how real was the coming of Christ to her, and that He was to come soon. It seemed always in her thoughts, her calculations--"He is coming very soon." Whilst it stimulated her to greater energy, it yet caused a peaceful calm, a freedom from anxiety, to run through all. Like a true hero, she has fallen at her post, and the call comes to us all to carry on the work that she has left. May each one put to herself the question, "Does God call me?"


One subject touched upon by Dr. Taylor, and more fully brought out in the following letters from Dr. Wright (of the Bible Society), and Mr. Stewart's letter addressed to him, is the new method of printing the Bible in Chinese, called the "Romanized" version of the Bible.

Perhaps I shall be only explaining what everybody knows, in saying that the great difficulty in the way of the Chinese people learning to read their own language is the Chinese character.

To those who do not already know, let me say, a character in Chinese does not mean a letter, but each character stands for a word.

Originally these characters were pictures, and some of them were amusing.

I remember being told that the Chinese way of representing "peace," is by a picture of a woman being extinguished!

But these pictures, amusing or instructive as the case may have been, are now mere signs, so like each other, and yet different in some small particular, that it is very difficult to carry the difference in the memory. Yet each one represents a different word, so that to read a book, the Bible for example, in Chinese, means that you know every character used in the book. Of course, the same word recurring, you have the same sign, but for each different word there is a different sign.

Now let us fancy these women, who, before coming to the foreign Singsang long (Singsang means teacher, long his wife), had never learnt anything but to beautify their persons and embroider their tiny shoes. Imagine them having to learn these mysterious signs! No wonder their teachers had to tell of sighs and tears of discouragement. A friend has sent me an old letter, written by dear Louisa soon after her arrival in China:

"Mr.------is getting on so fast learning the characters; he has such a good memory.

"Learning the characters seems to depend purely on memory, Even the characters that I think I know as well as possible I quite forget, unless I keep going over them continually. It is very monotonous work too, and it is hard sometimes not to feel quite tired of it. The servants begin to understand me, but sometimes the man-cook looks surprised and amused, and then I discover that I have been telling him to put carrots in the pudding when I thought I was saying raisins. And another day, I thought I was assuring him that in England we put sugar in our puddings, and found out I had said soap instead of sugar. The word is the same; the tone you say it in makes the difference. Every syllable has seven tones."

This letter was written eighteen years ago.

But the tones were a difficulty to be overcome by the foreigner.

The characters were a real difficulty to their dear native pupils.

The following letters will further explain the importance of the introduction of the Romanized system of writing Chinese.

As Dr. Wright says:--

"Through Mr. Stewart's labours and enthusiasm the New Testament was published in Roman character in the Foochow vernacular."

The practical difference is that now their pupils (men or women) learn to read the New Testament in three months, instead of the tedious business of former days. We have received the following correspondence from the British and Foreign Bible Society:


146, Queen Victoria Street, London, E.G.,
August 6, 1895.


The first letter I opened this morning was from the murdered missionary, the Rev. R. W. Stewart, and as it shows him peacefully at work for the good of his murderers, it will be read with deep interest by many. Through Mr. Stewart's labours and enthusiasm the New Testament was published in Roman character in the Foochow vernacular. The version was to a certain extent tentative, but its usefulness is now fully established, and Mr. Stewart in his letter pleads for the publication of a similar version in another vernacular. Your readers will notice how earnestly he pleads--and I am sure that my Committee will publish the version as the most effective weapon against such awful outbreaks as that which has now brought sorrow to so many homes. Mr. Stewart was one of the strong men in China, but he was gentle and compassionate as well as strong. He was surrounded by a band of gentle and devoted ladies. On them the blow has fallen, ft will be the duty of our Government to take measures against such barbarous outbreaks,--but it is for us to remember that these misguided Chinamen never knew a God who was not as cruel as themselves, and to redouble our efforts that the Gospel of Love may be made a power among them.

I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

KUCHENG, FOOCHOW, June 24, 1895.


You are exceedingly kind offering to print more for us in Foochow. Romanized Colloquial has not been acknowledged sooner because I was waiting for particulars to enable me to make another request on behalf of another of our dialects, that spoken through a large portion of the great North West Prefecture of Kiong-ning. But, before making my petition, I must say a word on the success of the system in this dialect. I always believed in it, and sixteen years ago stood pretty well alone in the matter, and yet I can truly say that the success that we are now seeing surpasses my expectations. The enclosed memo, has this moment been handed to me by a Z.M.S. lady, who has just come in from the country station of Sa-long, and as I myself examined that very class a month ago, I can corroborate what she says. My wife yesterday had in her Sunday class one of these women, naturally distinctly stupid, who for three months had, with the others, learned this system. My wife had not seen her for three or four months; she then could not read a word of her Bible, but now she held aloft one of your New Testaments, and cried, "I can read it all. I can read it all. I am so happy." You have been out here yourself, and know something of the difficulty of the Chinese characters, and so can understand what a wonderful thing this is. I know it has cost your Society a great deal of money, but I truly believe it is well spent. Well, now, instead of printing more just now in our Foochow dialect--for we have a good quantity still in stock--I want to beg on behalf of Kiong-ning. They are even worse off than we were, for they have no colloquial character, and the Z.M.S. five ladies now in the district have, in consultation with our C.M.S. men, drawn up a system, as near as the dialect will allow, to that adopted by us. They (two of them) have also given the last twelve months up to translating the New Testament into this Romanized Colloquial. This means tremendous labour, for they had not, as we had, a character colloquial for guide. They have spared no pains, keeping a special Chinese teacher for the purpose, and testing his colloquial by trying it with the native women. Fortunately too, one of these ladies, Miss Bryer, is peculiarly gifted in language, and speaks herself peculiarly well, so that I think you may without fear accept what she has done. The manuscript is now almost completed, and Miss B. Newcombe, of the C.E.Z.M.S., who has just returned Home, could give you further particulars, and could well be trusted to revise the proof. I have to ask you then if you will comply with their urgent request. I trust you will say "Yes." They have had a sale of work for the purpose, which realized something over 300 dols., and this will go to you with some other little money given themselves. I know of course this will go but a very short way in such an undertaking, but it may perhaps do something towards proving the reality of their belief in its being a good work. The number of copies wanted bound at once would not be large, for the ladies themselves must do all the teaching. I think these numbers would be about right: St. John's Gospel, 200 copies; four Gospels and Acts together, fifty copies; entire New Testaments, 100 copies, and perhaps about the same numbers printed but not bound. Perhaps you might think these latter numbers too small. It is hard to prophesy what the demand will actually be; it may catch hold of the people, and such a number as I have given be in a couple of years exhausted. Miss B. Ncwcombe's address is 12, Peafield Terrace, Black-rock, Dublin. Thanking you again with all my heart for what you have done for us,

Believe me, very sincerely yours,

The Fuh-kien Province is as large as England (not including Wales), and far more populous.

We have told of native Bible-women and catechists, of English ladies and missionaries, of schools for children; but what are they among so many?

From Dublin a friend writes on behalf of the friends of the Irish Church Missions, the Society in connection with which Mrs. Stewart worked in her youth, and received the training and teaching for which her husband often said he felt most grateful.

The Mission workers and friends had subscribed a considerable sum and wished to have a memorial to Mr. and Mrs. Stewart. They proposed that the money should be given to the Bible Society, for printing the Gospel of St. John in the Roman letters. They knew this was very near the hearts of the friends whose work they wished to help forward.

They communicated with the Society, and got for answer that they would go forward in the good work of printing the New Testament in the Kiong-ning dialect, without waiting for funds.

The Dublin Mission friends hope to send sufficient money for the Gospel of St. John. The friend who writes on behalf of the others says: "For myself I should love to think that the Gospel of St. John was being scattered on the hills where little Herbert picked his birthday flowers."

A letter comes to hand to-day where the writer says, "When I close my eyes, I can see Mr. Stewart giving his interesting descriptions, so earnestly and quietly.

"I heard him ten years ago, but I shall never forget that meeting.

"I took some notes. Here is one thing he said; 'If the Chinese held hands, they would make seven circles round the earth as great as the equator.'

"Again, 'If they began to pass a certain point two abreast, it would take seventeen and a half years for them all to pass.' "

Mr. Stewart believed in the necessity of the missionary being filled with God's Holy Spirit.

He did not lightly despise heathenism as powerless, or idol worship as a mere adoring of stocks and stones.

Through personal observation and matured thought, he believed the Chinese worshipped devils, and he knew that when the strong man armed keeps his house no one but the stronger than he, the Almighty One, can cast him out.

"It was for this that Jesus died On the Cross of Calvary."

"He was manifested to destroy the works of the devil."

His way of accomplishing this design is through His own people.

When the disciples asked, "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" His answer seems to me to be as if He said, "I have finished My part. The victory I have gained must be manifested through you--through you, when you are filled with the Spirit. You shall receive power."

May God raise up a band of God-possessed men and women to preach the good tidings--to live the Christ-life in China.

A standard bearer has fallen; who will take up the colours and carry them on to victory?

Robert Stewart speaks to us from the glory, "Fill up the ranks."

Louisa Stewart's life says to us, "Live Christ, and others must be blessed." The Chinese Christians from Kucheng call to us:

"Send us teachers. We have lost our spiritual father and mother."

And God says, "Whom shall We send, and who will go for Us?"

Who will say, "Here am I, send me, send me"?

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