Morrison’s missionary work had a profound influence on China

Robert Morrison, right.
Robert Morrison, right.

A couple of years ago, on a visit to Malacca, in Malaysia, my wife and I were visiting the very old 17th century Protestant church. Inside the church I read a marble plaque on the wall, which was in dedication to Robert Morrison.

I knew of Morrison, the missionary and his work, being the first Protestant missionary to China, the man who translated the bible into Chinese.

He also founded the first Anglo/Chinese College in Malacca along with his co-worker, William Milne.

What I did not know was that he was born in Morpeth and grew up in Newcastle. That was of special significance to me.

My family were living in Heddon on the Wall, Northumberland, when I was born, and I grew up in the area and have spent the last 35 years of my life living and working in South East Asia.

So suddenly I developed a special interest in Robert Morrison.

Robert Morrison is not nearly so famous as the likes of David Livingstone, but there can be no doubt to the profound influence that the lad from Morpeth had on the most populous nations on earth.

I often wondered if the people of Morpeth and the area knew that such a great man came from among them, and I was wondering when someone would write to them about him.

The article never appeared so I thought that maybe I should write one.

I hope that the readers will have the pleasure in reading it that I had in researching it.

The rest of the story is taken from a translation of a tablet erected in his honour.

Eric Gibson

l In 1934, on the 100th anniversary of Morrison’s death, the Chinese Christian Church of Guang-Dong erected this tablet next to Morrison’s grave. Below is an English translation of the tablet.

“Dr Robert Morrison 100-year remembrance memorial stone epitaph.”

The story of a Christian Protestant who came to China to evangelise.

Mr Robert Morrison, in preparation for ministry, studied astronomy, medicine and Chinese prior to his journey to China in 1807.

Passing through the continent of America, a journey totalling 222 days, he arrived safely at Yang-Zhi. He stayed in a commercial market, secretly doing Christian mission work.

The situation was hostile. The Chinese Qing Government made missionary activity illegal, and they were under constant surveillance by the Roman Catholics. Nevertheless, Dr Morrison was not discouraged, but established a printing press in Macau, he printed his hand-translated Bible, prayers, holy hymns and pamphlets.

Afterwards he moved to Malacca and established the Ying-Wa College to educate the next generation to face a dark and dictatorial age.

Though his works were dangerous, he went forward courageously. He certainly received the help of God since Mr Morrison was physically weak and the working environment was poor and full of trials. Only his eldest was with him as the rest of his family stayed behind.

He wrote over 200 communiqués home to notify that the environment was challenging, but he was not giving up.

Through his dedication his biggest achievement was to successfully establish a solid foundation for the church in China.

On August 1, 1834, he passed away in sickness. Countless believers of all kinds cried in remembrance at the death bed of Mr Morrison. He died in the hope that, 100 years later, the Gospel he planted would grow 10,000 fold to places the eyes can see, to reach out to all the peoples.

We erect this stone on the 100th anniversary of the passing of Mr Morrison. From all the members of the Chinese Christian Church of Guang-Dong Association, in remembrance of a past giant, to express our highest admiration and sincerest, humble sadness, and to express our eternal gratitude.

The great Mr Morrison had a Christ-centered heart. Through the will of God he spread the Gospel.

By the guidance of the Holy Spirit he went through dangers to arrive at his destination.

Through him came many blessings to the Chinese people, like the rains are to the ground.

In suffering and trails he remained firm. He never gave up and was always dedicated.

Great is his humbleness beyond any past generations. The memory of him will last in eternity.”