Forty Years in South China by Rev. John Gerardus Fagg

Produced by David Newman in honor of Barbara Talmage Griffin (1918-2004), great-granddaughter of the subject of this biography. FORTY YEARS IN SOUTH CHINA The Life of Rev. John Van Nest Talmage, D.D. by Rev. John Gerardus Fagg Missionary of the American Reformed (Dutch) Church, at Amoy, China 1894 INTRODUCTION. BY REV. T. DE WITT TALMAGE,
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  • 1894
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Produced by David Newman in honor of Barbara Talmage Griffin (1918-2004), great-granddaughter of the subject of this biography.


The Life of Rev. John Van Nest Talmage, D.D.


Rev. John Gerardus Fagg
Missionary of the American Reformed (Dutch) Church, at Amoy, China




Too near was I to the subject of this biography to write an impartial introduction. When John Van Nest Talmage went, my last brother went. Stunned until I staggered through the corridors of the hotel in London, England, when the news came that John was dead. If I should say all that I felt I would declare that since Paul the great apostle to the Gentiles, a more faithful or consecrated man has not lifted his voice in the dark places of heathenism. I said it while he was alive, and might as well say it now that he is dead. “He was the hero of our family.” He did not go to a far-off land to preach because people in America did not want to hear him preach. At the time of his first going to China he had a call to succeed Rev. Dr. Brodhead, of Brooklyn, the Chrysostom of the American pulpit, a call with a large salary, and there would not have been anything impossible to him in the matters of religious work or Christian achievement had he tarried in his native land. But nothing could detain him from the work to which God called him years before he became a Christian. My reason for writing that anomalous statement is that when a boy in Sabbath-school at Boundbrook, New Jersey, he read a Library book, entitled “The Life of Henry Martyn, the Missionary,” and he said to our mother, “Mother! when I grow up I am going to be a missionary!” The remark made no especial impression at the time. Years passed on before his conversion. But when the grace of God appeared to him, and he had begun his study for the ministry, he said one day, “Mother! Do you remember that many years ago I said, ‘I am going to be a missionary’?” She replied, “Yes! I remember you said so.” “Well,” said he, “I am going to keep my promise.” And how well he kept it millions of souls on earth and in heaven have long since heard. But his chief work is yet to come. We get our chronology so twisted that we come to believe that the white marble of the tomb is the mile-stone at which a good man stops, when it is only a mile-stone on a journey, the most of the miles of which are yet to be travelled.

The Dictionary which my brother prepared with more than two decades of study, the religious literature he transferred from English into Chinese, the hymns he wrote for others to sing, although himself could not sing at all, (he and I monopolizing the musical incapacity of a family in which all the rest could sing well), the missionary stations he planted, the life he lived, will widen out, and deepen and intensify through all time and all eternity.

I am glad that those competent to tell of his magnificent work have undertaken it. You could get nothing about it from him at all. Ask him a question trying to evoke what he had done for God and the church, and his lips were as tightly shut as though they had never been opened. He was animated enough when drawn out in discussion religious, educational, or political, but he had great powers of silence. I once took him to see General Grant, our reticent President. On that occasion they both seemed to do their best in the art of quietude. The great military President with his closed lips on one side of me, and my brother with his closed lips on the other side of me, I felt there was more silence in the room than I ever before knew to be crowded into the same space. It was the same kind of reticence that always came upon John when you asked him about his work. But the story has been gloriously told in the heavens by those who through his instrumentality have already reached the City of Raptures. When the roll of martyrs is called before the Throne of God, the name of John Van Nest Talmage will be called. He worked himself to death in the cause of the world’s evangelization. His heart, his brain, his lungs, his hands, his muscles, his nerves, all wrought for others until heart and brain, and lungs and hands, and muscles and nerves could do no more.

He sleeps in the cemetery near Somerville, New Jersey, so near father and mother that he will face them when he rises in the Resurrection of the Just, and amid a crowd of kindred now slumbering on the right of him, and on the left of him, he will feel the thrill of the Trumpet that wakes the dead.

Allelujah! Amen!

BROOKLYN, June, 1894.


The accompanying resolution of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church in America, November 16, 1892, explains the origin of this volume:

“Resolved, That the Board of Foreign Missions, being firmly convinced that a biography of the late John V. N. Talmage, D.D., for over forty years identified with the Mission at Amoy, would be of great service to the cause of Missions, heartily recommend to the family of Dr. Talmage the selection of an appropriate person to prepare such a memoir, and in case this is done, promise to render all the aid in their power in furnishing whatever facts or records may be of service to the author of the book.”

The writer raised his pen to this task with hesitancy. He had known Dr. Talmage only little more than a year; long enough, indeed, to revere and love him, but not long enough to tell the story of so rich and fruitful a life.

Dr. Talmage was a man of unconscious greatness. If he could have been consulted it is doubtful whether a public record of him would have ever seen the light. His life to him would have seemed too commonplace and unworthy. He was exceedingly careful in the use of language. He could not endure exaggeration. Nothing so commanded his admiration as honesty and accuracy of statement. That ought to be sufficient to guard any one who speaks of such a man against indiscriminate eulogy.

We have endeavored as far as possible to make this memoir an autobiography. To carry out this purpose has not been without difficulties.

Dr. Talmage did not keep a continuous diary. He did not preserve complete files of his correspondence as if anticipating the needs of some possible biographer.

The author’s enforced retirement from the mission field in the midst of collecting and sifting material, has been no small drawback.

It is hoped, however, that enough has been gleaned to justify publication. Sincerest thanks are due to those brethren who contributed to the concluding chapter, “In Memoriam.”

If these pages may more fully acquaint the Church of Christ with a name which it should not willingly let die, and deepen interest in and hasten by the least hair-breadth the redemption of “China’s Millions,” the author will feel abundantly rewarded.


October 1, 1894.


Rev. John Van Nest Talmage
Chinese Clan House
Buddhist Temple, Amoy
Pagoda near Lam-sin
Chinese Bride and Groom
Traveling Equipment in South China
Pastor Iap and Family
The Sio ke Valley
Glimpse of the Sio-ke River
Scene in the Hakka Region
Girl’s School; The Talmage Manse; Woman’s School. (Kolongsu, opposite Amoy) Pastor Iap


I. The Ancestral Home
II. Call to China and Voyage Hence
III. The City of the “Elegant Gate” Description of Amoy and Amoy Island
Ancestral Worship
Is China to be won, and how?
Worship of the Emperor
IV. Light and Shade
The Chiang-chiu Valley
Breaking and Burning of Idols
The Chinese Boat Race and its Origin The Chinese Beggar System
Two Noble Men Summoned Hence
V. At the Foot of the Bamboos
Romanized Colloquial
Chinese Sense of Sin
Primitive Lamps
Zealous Converts
The Term Question
What it Costs a Chinese to become a Christian Persecuted for Christ’s Sake
“He is only a Beggar”
Printing under Difficulties
Carrier Pigeons
VI. The “Little Knife” Insurrection How the Chinese Fight
VII. The Blossoming Desert
Si-boo’s Zeal
An Appeal for a Missionary
VIII. Church Union
The Memorial of the Amoy Mission
IX. Church Union (continued)
X. The Anti-missionary Agitation
XI. The Last Two Decades
Forty continuous Years in Heathenism Chinese Grandiloquence
XII. In Memoriam
Dr. Talmage–The Man and The Missionary By Rev. W. S. Swanson, D.D.
Venerable Teacher Talmage
By Pastor Iap Han Chiong
Rev. John Van Nest Talmage, D.D.
By Rev. S. L. Baldwin, D.D.
The Rev. J. V. N. Talmage, D.D.
By Rev. Talbot W. Chambers, D.D., LL.D. Rev. John Van Nest Talmage, D.D.
By Rev. John M. Ferris, D.D.


John Van Nest Talmage was born at Somerville, New Jersey, August 18, 1819 He was the fourth son in a family of seven brothers and five sisters.

The roots of the Talmage genealogical tree may be traced back to the year 1630, when Enos and Thomas Talmage, the progenitors of the Talmage family in North America, landed at Charlestown, Massachusetts, and afterwards settled at East Hampton, Long Island.

Dr. Lyman Beecher represents the first settlers of East Hampton as “men resolute, enterprising, acquainted with human nature, accustomed to do business, well qualified by education, circumspect, careful in dealing, friends of civil liberty, jealous of their rights, vigilant to discover, and firm to resist encroachments; eminently pious.”

In 1725 we find Daniel Talmage at Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Daniel’s grandson, Thomas, during the years between 1775 and 1834 shifts his tent to Piscataway, New Jersey, thence to New Brunswick, thence to Somerville, where the stakes are driven firmly on a farm “beautiful for situation.” Thomas Talmage was a builder by trade, and erected some of the most important courthouses and public edifices in Somerset and Middlesex Counties. He was active in the Revolutionary war, holding the rank of major. It was said of him, “His name will be held in everlasting remembrance in the churches.” He was the father of seven sons and six daughters.

The third son, David T., the father of John Van Nest Talmage, was born at Piscataway, April 21, 1783. He was married to Catharine Van Nests Dec. 19, 1803. David T. Talmage was rather migratory in his instincts. The smoke of the Talmage home now curled out from a house at Mill stone, now from a homestead near Somerville, then from Gateville; then the family ark rested for many years on the outskirts of Somerville and finally it brought up at Bound Brook, New Jersey. Though the family tent was folded several times, it was not folded for more than a day’s wagon journey before it was pitched again. The places designated arc all within the range of a single New Jersey county.

In 1836 David T. Talmage was elected a member of the State Legislature and was returned three successive terms. In 1841, he was chosen high sheriff of Somerset County. Four of his sons entered the Christian ministry, James R., John Van Nest, Goyn, and Thomas De Witt. James R., the senior brother, rendered efficient service in pastorates at Pompton Plains and Blawenburgh, New Jersey, and in Brooklyn, Greenbush, and Chittenango, New York. He received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Rutgers College, New Jersey, in 1864. John Van Nest gave his life to China. Goyn, a most winsome man and eloquent preacher, ministered with marked success to the churches of Niskayuna, Green Point, Rhinebeck, and Port Jervis, New York, and Paramus, New Jersey. He was for five years the Corresponding Secretary of the Board of Domestic Missions of the Reformed Church. Rutgers College honored herself and him by giving him the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1876.

Thomas De Witt, the youngest son, still ministers to the largest church in Protestant Christendom. What a river of blessing has flowed from that humble, cottage well-spring. The wilderness and the parched land have been made glad by it. The desert has been made to rejoice and blossom as the rose. The courses thereof have gone out into all the earth, and the tossing of its waves have been heard to the end of the world.

In November, 1865, Dr. T. De Witt Talmage preached a sermon on “The Beauty of Old Age”[*] from the words in Eccles. xii. 5, “The Almond Tree shall flourish.” It was commemorative of his father, David T. Talmage. He says: “I have stood, for the last few days, as under the power of an enchantment. Last Friday-a-week, at eighty-three years of age, my father exchanged earth for heaven. The wheat was ripe, and it has been harvested. No painter’s pencil or poet’s rhythm could describe that magnificent sun setting. It was no hurricane blast let loose; but a gale from heaven, that drove into the dust the blossoms of that almond tree.

[Footnote *: This sermon gives so graphic and tender a portrayal of the father of one of America’s most distinguished ministerial families, that the author feels justified in making so lengthy an extract.]

“There are lessons for me to learn, and also for you, for many of you knew him. The child of his old age, I come to-night to pay an humble tribute to him, who, in the hour of my birth, took me into his watchful care, and whose parental faithfulness, combined with that of my mother, was the means of bringing my erring feet to the cross, and kindling in my soul anticipations of immortal blessedness. If I failed to speak, methinks the old family Bible, that I brought home with me, would rebuke my silence, and the very walls of my youthful home would tell the story of my ingratitude. I must speak, though it be with broken utterance, and in terms which seem too strong for those of you who never had an opportunity of gathering the fruit of this luxuriant almond tree.

“First. In my father’s old age was to be seen the beauty of a cheerful spirit. I never remember to have heard him make a gloomy expression. This was not because he had no conception of the pollutions of society. He abhorred everything like impurity, or fraud, or double-dealing. He never failed to lift up his voice against sin, when he saw it. He was terrible in his indignation against wrong, and had an iron grip for the throat of him who trampled on the helpless. Better meet a lion robbed of her whelps than him, if you had been stealing the bread from the mouth of the fatherless. It required all the placidity of my mother’s voice to calm him when once the mountain storm of his righteous wrath was in full blast; while as for himself, he would submit to more imposition, and say nothing, than any man I ever knew.

“But while sensitive to the evils of society, he felt confident that all would be righted. When he prayed, you could hear in the very tones of his voice the expectation that Christ Jesus would utterly demolish all iniquity, and fill the earth with His glory. This Christian man was not a misanthrope, did not think that everything was going to ruin, considered the world a very good place to live in. He never sat moping or despondent, but took things as they were, knowing that God could and would make them better. When the heaviest surge of calamity came upon him, he met it with as cheerful a countenance as ever a bather at the beach met the incoming Atlantic, rising up on the other side of the wave stronger than when it smote him. Without ever being charged with frivolity, he sang, and whistled, and laughed. He knew about all the cheerful tunes that were ever printed in old ‘New Brunswick Collection,’ and the ‘Strum Way,’ and the sweetest melodies that Thomas Hastings ever composed. I think that every pillar in the Somerville and Bound Brook churches knew his happy voice. He took the pitch of sacred song on Sabbath morning, and lost it not through all the week. I have heard him sing plowing amid the aggravations of a ‘new ground,’ serving writs, examining deeds, going to arrest criminals, in the house and by the way, at the barn and in the street. When the church choir would break down, everybody looked around to see if he were not ready with Woodstock, Mount Pisgah, or Uxbridge. And when all his familiar tunes failed to express the joy of his soul, he would take up his own pen, draw five long lines across the sheet, put in the notes, and then to the tune that he called ‘Bound Brook’ begin to sing:

‘As when the weary trav’ler gains
The height of some o’erlooking hill, His heart revives if, ‘cross the plains, He eyes his home, tho’ distant still:

Thus, when the Christian pilgrim views, By faith, his mansion in the skies;
The sight his fainting strength renews, And wings his speed to reach the prize.

“‘Tis there,” he says, “I am to dwell With Jesus in the realms of day:
There I shall bid my cares farewell, And he will wipe my tears away.”

“But few families fell heir to so large a pile of well-studied note-books. He was ready, at proper times, for all kinds of innocent amusement. He often felt a merriment that not only touched the lips, but played upon every fibre of the body, and rolled down into the very depths of his soul, with long reverberations. No one that I ever knew understood more fully the science of a good laugh. He was not only quick to recognize hilarity when created by others, but was always ready to do his share toward making it. Before extreme old age, he could outrun and outleap any of his children. He did not hide his satisfaction at having outwalked some one who boasted of his pedestrianism, or at having been able to swing the scythe after all the rest of the harvesters had dropped from exhaustion, or at having, in legislative hall, tripped up some villainous scheme for robbing the public treasury. We never had our ears boxed, as some children I wot of, for the sin of being happy. In long winter nights it was hard to tell who enjoyed sportfulness the better, the children who romped the floor, or the parents who, with lighted countenance, looked at them. Great indulgence and leniency characterized his family rule, but the remembrance of at least one correction more emphatic than pleasing proves that he was not like Eli of old, who had wayward sons and restrained them not. In the multitude of his witticisms there were no flings at religion, no caricatures of good men, no trifling with things of eternity. His laughter was not the ‘crackling of thorns under a pot,’ but the merry heart that doeth good like a medicine. For this all the children of the community knew him; and to the last day of his walking out, when they saw him coming down the lane, shouted, ‘Here comes grandfather!’ No gall, no acerbity, no hypercriticism. If there was a bright side to anything, he always saw it, and his name, in all the places where he dwelt, will long be a synonym for exhilaration of spirit.

“But whence this cheerfulness? Some might ascribe it ail to natural disposition. No doubt there is such a thing as sunshine of temperament. God gives more brightness to the almond tree than to the cypress. While the pool putrefies under the summer sun, God slips the rill off of the rocks with a frolicsomeness that fills the mountain with echo. No doubt constitutional structure had much to do with this cheerfulness. He had, by a life of sobriety, preserved his freshness and vigor. You know that good habits are better than speaking tubes to the ear; better than a staff to the hand; better than lozenges to the throat; better than warm baths to the feet; better than bitters for the stomach. His lips had not been polluted, nor his brain befogged, by the fumes of the noxious weed that has sapped the life of whole generations, sending even ministers of the Gospel to untimely graves, over which the tombstone declared, ‘Sacrificed by overwork in the Lord’s vineyard,’ when if the marble had not lied, it would have said, ‘Killed by villainous tobacco!’ He abhorred anything that could intoxicate, being among the first in this country to join the crusade against alcoholic beverages. When urged, during a severe sickness, to take some stimulus, he said, ‘No! If I am to die, let me die sober!’ The swill of the brewery had never been poured around the roots of this thrifty almond. To the last week of his life his ear could catch a child’s whisper, and at fourscore years his eyes refused spectacles, although he would sometimes have to hold the book off on the other side of the light, as octogenarians are wont to do. No trembling of the hands, no rheum in the eyes, no knocking together of the knees, no hobbling on crutches with what polite society terms rheumatism in the feet, but what everybody knows is nothing but gout. Death came, not to fell the gnarled trunk of a tree worm-eaten and lightning-blasted, but to hew down a Lebanon cedar, whose fall made the mountains tremble and the heavens ring. But physical health could not account for half of this sunshine. Sixty-four years ago a coal from the heavenly altar had kindled a light that shone brighter and brighter to the perfect day. Let Almighty grace for nearly three-quarters of a century triumph in a man’s soul, and do you wonder that he is happy? For twice the length of your life and mine he had sat in the bower of the promises, plucking the round, ripe clusters of Eshcol. While others bit their tongues for thirst, he stood at the wells of salvation, and put his lips to the bucket that came up dripping with the fresh, cool, sparkling waters of eternal life. This joy was not that which breaks in the bursting bubble of the champagne glass, or that which is thrown out with the orange-peelings of a midnight bacchanalia, but the joy which, planted by a Saviour’s pardoning grace, mounts up higher and higher, till it breaks forth in the acclaim of the hundred and forty and four thousand who have broken their last chain and wept their last sorrow. Oh! mighty God! How deep, how wide, how high the joy Thou kindles” in the heart of the believer!

“Again: We behold in our father the beauty of a Christian faith.

“Let not the account of this cheerfulness give you the idea that he never had any trouble. But few men have so serious and overwhelming a life struggle. He went out into the world without means, and with no educational opportunity, save that which was afforded him in the winter months, in an old, dilapidated school-house, from instructors whose chief work was to collect their own salary. Instead of postponing the marriage relation, as modern society compels a young man to postpone it, until he can earn a fortune, and be able, at commencement of the conjugal relation, to keep a companion like the lilies of the field, that toil not nor spin, though Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these–he chose an early alliance with one, who would not only be able to enjoy the success of his life, but who would with her own willing hands help achieve it. And so while father plowed the fields, and threshed the wheat, and broke the flax, and husked the corn, my mother stood for Solomon’s portraiture, when he said, ‘She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet. Her children arise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.’ So that the limited estate of the New Jersey farmer never foundered on millinery establishments and confectionery shops. And though we were some years of age before we heard the trill of a piano, we knew well about the song of ‘The Spinning-wheel.’ There were no lords, or baronets, or princes in our ancestral line. None wore stars, cockade, or crest. There was once a family coat of arms, but we were none of us wise enough to tell its meaning. Do our best, we cannot find anything about our forerunners, except that they behaved well, came over from Wales or Holland a good while ago, and died when their time came. Some of them may have had fine equipage and caparisoned postillion, but the most of them were only footmen. My father started in life belonging to the aristocracy of hard knuckles and homespun, but had this high honor that no one could despise. He was the son of a father who loved God, and kept His commandments. What is the House of Hapsburg or Stuarts, compared with being son of the Lord God Almighty? Two eyes, two hands, and two feet, were the capital my father started with. For fifteen years an invalid, he had a fearful struggle to support his large family. Nothing but faith in God upheld him. His recital of help afforded, and deliverances wrought, was more like a romance than a reality. He walked through many a desert, but every morning had its manna, and every night it’s pillar of fire, and every hard rock a rod that could shatter it into crystal fountains at his feet. More than once he came to his last dollar; but right behind that last dollar he found Him who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and out of the palm of whose hand all the fowls of heaven peck their food, and who hath given to each one of His disciples a warrantable deed for the whole universe in the words, ‘All are yours.’

“The path that led him through financial straits, prepared him also for sore bereavements. The infant of days was smitten, and he laid it into the river of death with as much confidence as infant Moses was laid into the Ark of the Nile, knowing that soon from the royal palace a shining One would come to fetch it.

“In an island of the sea, among strangers, almost unattended, death came to a beloved son; and though I remember the darkness that dropped on the household when the black-sealed letter was opened, I remember also the utterances of Christian submission.

“Another bearing his own name, just on the threshold of manhood, his heart beating high with hope, falls into the dust; but above the cries of early widowhood and the desolation of that dark day, I hear the patriarch’s prayer, commending children, and children’s children, to the Divine sympathy.

“But a deeper shadow fell across the old home-stead. The ‘Golden Wedding’ had been celebrated nine years before. My mother looked up, pushed back her spectacles, and said, ‘Just think of it, father! We have been together fifty-nine years!’ The twain stood together like two trees of the forest with interlocked branches. Their affections had taken deep root together in many a kindred grave. Side by side in life’s great battle, they had fought the good fight and won the day. But death comes to unjoint this alliance. God will not any longer let her suffer mortal ailments. The reward of righteousness is ready, and it must be paid. But what a tearing apart! What rending up! What will the aged man do without this other to lean on? Who can so well understand how to sympathize and counsel? What voice so cheering as hers, to conduct him down the steep of old age? ‘Oh’ said she in her last moments, ‘father, if you and I could only be together, how pleasant it would be!’ But the hush of death came down one autumnal afternoon, and for the first time in all my life, on my arrival at home, I received no maternal greeting, no answer of the lips, no pressure of the hand. God had taken her.

“In this overwhelming shock the patriarch stood confident, reciting the promises and attesting the Divine goodness. O, sirs, that was faith, faith, faith! ‘Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory!’

“Finally, I noticed that in my father’s old age was to be seen the beauty of Christian activity. He had not retired from the field. He had been busy so long you could not expect him idle now. The faith I have described was not an idle expectation that sits with its hands in its pockets idly waiting, but a feeling which gathers up all the resources of the soul, and hurls them upon one grand design. He was among the first who toiled in Sabbath-schools, and never failed to speak the praise of these institutions. No storm or darkness ever kept him away from prayer-meeting. In the neighborhood where he lived for years held a devotional meeting. Oftentimes the only praying man present, before a handful of attendants, he would give out the hymn, read the lines, conduct the music, and pray. Then read the Scriptures and pray again. Then lead forth in the Doxology with an enthusiasm as if there were a thousand people present, and all the church members had been doing their duty. He went forth visiting the sick, burying the dead, collecting alms for the poor, inviting the ministers of religion to his household, in which there was, as in the house of Shunem, a little room over the wall, with bed and candlestick for any passing Elisha. He never shuddered at the sight of a subscription paper, and not a single great cause of benevolence has arisen within the last half century which he did not bless with his beneficence. Oh, this was not a barren almond tree that blossomed. His charity was not like the bursting of the bud of a famous tree in the South that fills the whole forest with its racket; nor was it a clumsy thing like the fruit, in some tropical clime, that crashes down, almost knocking the life out of those who gather it; for in his case the right hand knew not what the left hand did. The churches of God in whose service he toiled, have arisen as one man to declare his faithfulness and to mourn their loss. He stood in the front of the holy war, and the courage which never trembled or winced in the presence of temporal danger induced him to dare all things for God. In church matters he was not afraid to be shot at. Ordained, not by the laying on of human hands, but by the imposition of a Saviour’s love, he preached by his life, in official position, and legislative hall, and commercial circles, a practical Christianity. He showed that there was such a thing as honesty in politics. He slandered no party, stuffed no ballot box, forged no naturalization papers, intoxicated no voters, told no lies, surrendered no principle, countenanced no demagogism. He called things by their right names; and what others styled prevarication, exaggeration, misstatement or hyperbole, he called a lie. Though he was far from being undecided in his views, and never professed neutrality, or had any consort with those miserable men who boast how well they can walk on both sides of a dividing line and be on neither, yet even in the excitements of election canvass, when his name was hotly discussed in public journals, I do not think his integrity was ever assaulted. Starting every morning with a chapter of the Bible, and his whole family around him on their knees, he forgot not, in the excitements of the world, that he had a God to serve and a heaven to win. The morning prayer came up on one side of the day, and the evening prayer on the other side, and joined each other in an arch above his head, under the shadow of which he walked all the day. The Sabbath worship extended into Monday’s conversation, and Tuesday’s bargain, and Wednesday’s mirthfulness, and Thursday’s controversy, and Friday’s sociality, and Saturday’s calculation.

“Through how many thrilling scenes had he passed! He stood, at Morristown, in the choir that chanted when George Washington was buried; talked with young men whose grandfathers he had held on his knee; watched the progress of John Adams’ administration; denounced, at the time, Aaron Burr’s infamy; heard the guns that celebrated the New Orleans victory; voted against Jackson, but lived long enough to wish we had one just like him; remembered when the first steamer struck the North River with it’s wheel buckets; flushed with excitement in the time of national banks and sub-treasury; was startled at the birth of telegraphy; saw the United States grow from a speck on the world’s map till all nations dip their flag at our passing merchantmen, and our ‘national airs’ have been heard on the steeps of the Himalayas; was born while the Revolutionary cannon were coming home from Yorktown, and lived to hear the tramp of troops returning from the war of the great Rebellion; lived to speak the names of eighty children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Nearly all his contemporaries gone! Aged Wilberforce said that sailors drink to ‘friends astern’ until halfway over the sea, and then drink to ‘friends ahead.’ So, also, with my father. Long and varied pilgrimage! Nothing but sovereign grace could have kept him true, earnest, useful, and Christian through so many exciting scenes.

“He worked unwearily from the sunrise of youth, to the sunset of old age, and then in the sweet nightfall of death, lighted by the starry promises, went home, taking his sheaves with him. Mounting from earthly to heavenly service, I doubt not there were a great multitude that thronged heaven’s gate to hail him into the skies,–those whose sorrows he had appeased, whose burdens he had lifted, whose guilty souls he had pointed to a pardoning God, whose dying moments he had cheered, whose ascending spirits he had helped up on the wings of sacred music. I should like to have heard that long, loud, triumphant shout of heaven’s welcome. I think that the harps throbbed with another thrill, and the hills quaked with a mightier hallelujah. Hail! ransomed soul! Thy race run,–thy toil ended! Hail to the coronation!”

At the death of David T. Talmage the Christian Intelligencer of October 25, 1865, contained the following contribution from the pen of Dr. T.W. Chambers, for many years pastor of the Second Reformed Church, Somerville, New Jersey, now one of the pastors of the Collegiate Church, New York:

“In the latter part of the last century, Thomas Talmage, Sr., a plain but intelligent farmer, moved into the neighborhood of Somerville, N.J., and settled upon a fertile tract of land, very favorably situated, and commanding a view of the country for miles around. Here he spent the remainder of a long, godly, and useful life, and reared a large family of children, twelve of whom were spared to reach adult years, and to make and adorn the same Christian profession of which their father was a shining light. Two of these became ministers of the Gospel, of whom one, Jehiel, fell asleep several years since, while the other, the distinguished Samuel K. Talmage, D.D., President of Oglethorpe University, Georgia, entered into his rest only a few weeks since. Another son, Thomas, was for an entire generation the strongest pillar in the Second Church of Somerville.

“One of the oldest of the twelve was the subject of this notice; a man whose educational advantages were limited to the local schools of the neighborhood, but whose excellent natural abilities, sharpened by contact with the world, gave him a weight in the community which richer and more cultivated men might have envied. In the prime of his years he was often called to serve his fellow citizens in civil trusts. He spent some years in the popular branch of the Legislature, and was afterwards high sheriff of the County of Somerset for the usual period. In both cases he fulfilled the expectations of his friends, and rendered faithful service. The sterling integrity of his character manifested itself in every situation; and even in the turmoil of politics, at a time of much excitement, he maintained a stainless name, and defied the tongue of calumny. But it was chiefly in the sphere of private and social relations that his work was done and his influence exerted. His father’s piety was reproduced in him at an early period, and soon assumed a marked type of thoroughness, activity and decision, which it bore even to the end. His long life was one of unblemished Christian consistency, which in no small measure was due to the influence of his excellent wife, Catherine Van Nest, a niece of the late Abraham Van Nest, of New York City, who a few years preceded him into glory. She was the most godly woman the writer ever knew, a wonder unto many for the strength of her faith, the profoundness of her Christian experience, and the uniform spirituality of her mind. The ebb and flow common to most believers did not appear in her; but her course was like a river fed by constant streams, and running on wider and deeper till it reaches the sea. It might be said of this pair, as truly as of the parents of John the Baptist, ‘And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’ Hand in hand they pursued their pilgrimage through this world, presenting an example of intelligent piety such as is not often seen. ‘Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their death they were not (long) divided.’ Exactly three years from the day of Mrs. Talmage’s death her husband received the summons to rejoin her on high.

“These parents were unusually careful and diligent in discharging their Christian obligations to their children. The promise of the covenant was importunately implored in their behalf from the moment of birth, its seal was early applied, and the whole training was after the pattern of Abraham. The Divine faithfulness was equally manifest, for the whole eleven were in due time brought to the Saviour, and introduced into the full communion of the Church. Years ago two of them were removed by death. Of the rest, four, James, John, Goyn, and Thomas De Witt, are ministers of the Gospel, and one is the wife of a minister (the Rev. S. L. Mershon, of East Hampton, L.I.). Without entering into details respecting these brethren, it is sufficient to say that, with the exception of the late Dr. John Scudder’s, no other single family has been the means of making such a valuable contribution to the sons of Levi in the Dutch Church.

“Mr. Talmage was not only exemplary in the ordinary duties of a Christian, but excellent as a church officer. Shrewd, patient, kind, generous according to his means, and full of quiet zeal, he was ready for every good work; one of those men–the delight of a pastor’s heart–who can always be relied upon to do their share, if not a little more, and that in things both temporal and spiritual. He was a wise counselor, a true friend, a self-sacrificing laborer for the Master.”

We find the following allusion to the life and death of his mother, in a sermon by Dr. T. De Witt Talmage:

“In these remarks upon maternal faithfulness, I have found myself unconsciously using as a model the character of one, who, last Wednesday, we put away for the resurrection. About sixty years ago, just before the day of their marriage, my father and mother stood up in the old meeting-house, at Somerville, to take the vows of a Christian. Through a long life of vicissitude she lived blamelessly and usefully, and came to her end in peace. No child of want ever came to her door, and was turned away. No stricken soul ever appealed to her and was not comforted. No sinner ever asked her the way to be saved, and was not pointed to Christ.

“When the Angel of Life came to a neighbor’s dwelling, she was there to rejoice at the incarnation; and when the Angel of Death came, she was there to robe the departed one for burial. We had often heard her, while kneeling among her children at family prayers, when father was absent, say: ‘I ask not for my children wealth, or honor; but I do ask that they may all become the subjects of Thy converting grace.’ She had seen all her eleven children gathered into the Church, and she had but one more wish, and that was that she might again see her missionary son. And when the ship from China anchored in New York harbor, and the long absent one crossed the threshold of his paternal home, she said, ‘Now, Lord, lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.’

“We were gathered from afar to see only the house from which the soul had fled forever. How calm she looked! Her folded hands appeared just as when they were employed in kindnesses for her children. And we could not help but say, as we stood and looked at her, ‘Doesn’t she look beautiful!’ It was a cloudless day when, with heavy hearts, we carried her out to the last resting-place. The withered leaves crumbled under wheel and hoof as we passed, and the setting sun shone upon the river until it looked like fire. But more calm and bright was the setting sun of this aged pilgrim’s life. No more toil. No more tears. No more sickness. No more death. Dear mother! Beautiful mother!

“‘Sweet is the slumber beneath the sod, While the pure soul is resting with God.'”


The known facts in regard to John Talmage’s boyhood and youthful days are few. Of the known facts some perhaps are too trivial, others too sacred to bear mention. The sapling grew. Of the inner and outer circles of growth there is but brief record.

He spent his boyhood at a quiet country hamlet, Gateville, New Jersey. On the ridge swung the toll-gate, and a little beyond might be heard the hum and rattle of the grist-mill. His father kept the toll-gate. John was a fine horseman, and found great sport in jumping on his horse and chasing the people who had “cheated the gate” by not paying their toll. John knew the law and was not afraid to go for them. He went to a private school under the care of a Mr. Morton at the village of Bound Brook, two miles from home, and generally stood at the head of his class.

He early became the judge and counselor among his brothers and sisters. In any little dispute which arose, John’s verdict was usually accepted as correct and final.

During all his missionary career in China, he was an adviser and arbitrator whom foreigners and Chinese alike sought and from whose advice they were not quick to turn away.

In the midst of the tumult among the men of Medina when they met to elect a chief to take the place of Mohammed, who had passed away, the voice of Hohab was heard crying out, “Attend to me, attend to me, for I am the well-rubbed Palm-stem.” The figure Hobab used represented a palm-trunk left for the beasts to come and rub themselves upon. It was a metaphor for a person much resorted to for counsel. John Talmage never called attention to himself, but the Arab chief must have counseled many, and well, to have taken a higher place than did this messenger of Christ at Amoy.

By the time John Talmage’s school days at Bound Brook were completed he had determined to prepare for college. Preparatory schools then were few and far away. They were expensive. John made an arrangement with his senior brother, Rev. James R. Talmage, then pastor at Blawenburgh, New Jersey, to put him through the required course. Here he joined the Church at the age of seventeen. From Blawenburgh his brother Goyn and he went to New Brunswick, New Jersey, joining the Sophomore class in Rutgers College. John and Goyn roomed together, swept and garnished their own quarters and did their own cooking. Father Talmage would come down every week or two with provisions from the farm, to replenish the ever-recipient larder. Both John and Goyn were diligent students and graduated with honorable recognition from Rutgers College in 1842, and from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in 1845.

John Talmage had made such substantial attainments in Hebrew and Greek, that when some years afterward the distinguished Dr. McClelland resigned as professor of these languages in the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick, he was talked of as Dr. McClelland’s successor, and but for the conviction that he ought not to be removed from the Amoy Mission, his appointment would have been earnestly advocated by the General Synod.

John Talmage had read missionary biographies when a boy in the Sunday-school at Bound Brook. He had been specially touched by the life of Henry Martyn. While at college he kept himself supplied with missionary literature. His parents were already interested in foreign missions. In secret before God his mother had devoted John to this very work. John did not know it. The determining word for him was that spoken in a missionary address, by Rev. Elihu Doty, one of the pioneers of the Amoy Mission. It was plain that he must go to the “regions beyond.” He must break the news to his mother. John’s love of missionary literature and his eager attendance upon missionary meetings had filled the family with a secret fear that he thought of going. One day he invited his younger sister, Catharine, to take a walk with him across the fields. He began to talk about missions to foreign lands. Finally he said, “Catharine, you must help me prepare the way to tell mother that I want to go to China.” Too overcome with emotion was the sister to reply. They walked home in silence. John sought opportunity when he could quietly tell his mother. Said he, “Mother, I am going to China.” In the intensity of a mother’s love she replied, “Oh, John, it will kill me.” But the grace of God triumphed and again she said, “I prayed to God for this, how can I object?”

In October, 1845, he applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, through Dr. Thomas De Witt, the Secretary for the Reformed Church. The letter is still in possession. An extract from it reads:

“I was twenty-five years of age last August, reside at Somerville, New Jersey, have been blessed with Christian parents and enjoyed an early religious education. By the assistance of friends and the Church, I have been enabled to pursue the usual course of study preparatory in our Church to entering upon the duties of the Gospel ministry. I graduated at Rutgers College in the summer of 1842, pursued my theological studies in our seminary at New Brunswick, and received from the Classis of Philadelphia, July last, ‘license’ to preach the Gospel.

“Owing doubtless in great measure to the religious advantages I have enjoyed, my mind has been more or less under religious impressions from my earliest recollection. About eight years ago I united on confession of faith with the Church (Reformed Dutch) at Blawenburgh, New Jersey, of which my brother, Rev. James R. Talmage, was then and still is pastor. Was living in his family at the time, and studying with him preparatory to entering college. I am unable to decide when I met with a change of heart. My reason for believing that I have experienced such a change are the evidences within me that I love my Saviour, love His cause, and love the souls of men.

“My reason for desiring the missionary work is a desire for the salvation of the heathen. My mind has been directed to the subject for a long time, yet I have not felt at liberty to decide the question where duty called me to labor until the last month. In accordance with this decision I now offer my services to the Board to labor in my Master’s service among the heathen. As a field of labor I prefer China.”

Owing to deficiency in funds the Board could not send him that year. He accepted an invitation to assist Dr. Brodhead, then pastor of the Central Reformed Church of Brooklyn. Dr. Brodhead was one of the great preachers of his day. In Philadelphia, an earlier pastorate, “he preached to great congregations of eager listeners, and with a success unparalleled in the history of that city and rare in modern times.” John Van Nest Talmage might have been his successor. But no sooner was the Board ready to send him than he was prepared to go. The day for leaving home came. Father Talmage and the older brothers accompanied John. They left the house in three carriages. A younger sister (Mrs. Cone) recently said: “When we saw the three carriages driving down the lane it seemed more like a funeral than anything else.” Silent were those who drove away. Silent, silent as they could constrain themselves to be, were mother and sisters as they stood by the windows and got their last look of the procession as it wound down the road. To go to a foreign land in those days signified to those who went, lifelong exile,–to those who tarried, lifelong separation. The only highways to the far East were by way of the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The voyages were always long and often perilous.

When on board the ship Roman, bound for Canton, David Abeel wrote: “To the missionary perhaps exclusively, is the separation from friends like the farewell of death. Though ignorant of the future he expects no further intercourse on earth. To him the next meeting is generally beyond the grave.”

The hour of departure was not only saddened by parting from parents and brothers and sisters, but the young woman in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, to whom he had given his affection, could not join him. Once it had been decided that they were to go together, but during the last days the enfeebled widowed mother’s courage failed her. She could not relinquish her daughter to what seemed to her separation for life. Mr. Talmage had to choose between the call of duty to China and going alone, or tarrying at home and realizing his heart’s hopes. He went to China. By a special Providence it was not much more than two years after he set sail that he was again in the United States. The mother of Miss Abby Woodruff had died, and the union was consummated.

Mr. Talmage kept a diary of the voyage. A few extracts will prove interesting.

“Left Somerville April 10, 1847, via New York to Boston. Sailed from Boston in ship Heber, April 15th. Farewell services on board conducted by Bishop Janes, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The Heber is a ship of 436 tons, 136 feet long, 27 wide. Among the passengers are Rev. E. Doty and wife, and Rev. Moses C White and wife, and Rev. I. D. Collins. The three latter are Methodist missionaries bound for Foochow (China).” They were the pioneers of Methodist missions in China.

On Thursday evening, the cay of sailing, he writes: “I am now upon the bosom of the mighty deep. But I cannot as yet feel any fear. I am in the hands of the Being ‘whose I am and whom I serve.’ In His hands there is safety. I will not fear though the earth be removed. Besides, there are Christian friends praying for me. Oh, the consolation in the assurance that at the throne of grace I am remembered by near and dear friends! Will not their prayers be heard? They will. I know they will. The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much! When I took leave of my friends, one, and another, and another, assured me that they would remember me in their prayers. Yes, and I will remember them.”

April 17th. Speaking of Mr. Collins, he says: “I think we shall much enjoy ourselves. We shall study, read, sing, and pray together, talk and walk together. From present appearances we shall feel towards each other as David and Jonathan did.” Mr. Collins was a man of intense missionary convictions, who declared if there were no means to send him to China he would find his way before the mast, and work his way there.

“April 22. We have now been one week on our voyage. We commenced our studies today. Mr. Doty, Collins, and myself have organized ourselves into a Hebrew class. We expect to have a daily recitation in Hebrew, another in Greek, and another in Chinese.”

“May 8th. Saturday evening. We have been out 23 days. We have had our worship as usual in the cabin. Since then we have spent some time in singing hymns. Have been led to think of home. Wonder where and how my many friends are? Are they happy? Are they well? Are they all alive? Is it strange that sadness sometimes steals over my mind, when I think of those whom I love, and remember their weeping eyes and sorrowful countenances at the time of bidding them farewell, perhaps never again to see them in this world.”

He had decided to take a text of Scripture for daily meditation, following the order in a little book published by the American Tract Society entitled “Dew Drops.”

“The text for today is 1 Pet. ii. 21. ‘Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we should follow his steps.’

“Why should the Christian tremble at the prospect of suffering, or be impatient under its existence? ‘The servant is not greater than his Lord.’ The ‘King of Glory’ suffered, and shall a sinful man complain? Besides, the Christian should be willing to suffer for the welfare of others. If he can benefit his fellow-men by running the risk of losing his own life, shall he hesitate to run that risk?”

“May 11. Since Sunday noon have made little progress.”

On examining the record of the voyage which Mr. Talmage kept faithfully every day, we find that the ship had made only twenty seven knots in two days.

“June 18. For the last month we have not made rapid progress. We have experienced much detention from head-winds and calms. About a week ago we were put on an allowance of water, one gallon a day to each one on board. This includes all that is used for cooking, drinking and washing.”

“Have had quite a severe storm this afternoon and evening. The waves have been very high, and the wind–severe almost as a hurricane. This evening about 8 o’clock, after a very severe blow and heavy dash of rain, ‘fire balls,’ as the sailors termed them, were seen upon the tops of the masts, and also on the ends of the spars, which cross the masts. They presented a very beautiful appearance.

“Brother Collins and myself have this week commenced the study of Pitman’s System of Phonography.” That Mr. Talmage became proficient in the use of it is evident from the fact that much of his journal was written in shorthand.

“On the Sabbath Brother Collins and myself spend two hours in the forecastle instructing the sailors. Many of them seem perfectly willing, some of them anxious to receive instruction.”

“July 17. Saturday evening. Today passed to the eastward of Christmas Island (an island in the Indian Ocean). It is a small island about ten miles square. This is the first land seen since we left Boston. Of course, we gazed with much interest.”

“July 22. About nine o’clock Tuesday evening we anchored off Angier. This is a village off the island of Java, bordering on the Straits of Sunda. Remained at Angier until Wednesday afternoon. Capt. Patterson laid in a good supply of pigs, geese, ducks, chickens, yams, turtles, water, two goats, and fruits of various kinds in abundance.”

“Aug. 6. Friday. Wednesday evening arrived at Macao. This morning set sail for Whampoa, twelve miles below Canton.”

After a few days at Canton and Hongkong, Mr. and Mrs. Doty and Mr. Talmage embarked for Amoy on the schooner Caroline.

“Aug 21. The Caroline is a small vessel of about one hundred and fifty tons burthen. She was built, I suppose, for the opium trade. Our passage from Hongkong was not very pleasant. Our quarters were close and our captain was far from being an agreeable companion. He drank freely and was very profane.”

“We left Brother Collins and Brother White and wife at Hongkong. We had been so long in company with these brethren, that it was trying to part with them. On Thursday, the day before yesterday, we arrived safely at Amoy. The brethren gave us a very hearty welcome. The missionary company at this place consists of Brother Pohlman, of the A.B.C.F.M.; Mr. Alexander Stronach and wife, and Brown, of the Presbyterian Board. Mr. John Stronach also belongs to this station. He is at present at Shanghai.”


[Footnote *: the meaning of the two Chinese characters composing the name Amoy.]

In a letter to the Sabbath-school of the Central Reformed Church, Brooklyn, Mr. Talmage thus describes the southern emporium of the province of Fukien:

“Amoy is situated on an island of the same name. The city proper or citadel is about one mile in circumference. Its form is nearly that of a rhomboid or diamond. It is surrounded by a wall about twenty feet in height, and eight or ten feet in thickness, built of large blocks of coarse granite. It has four gates. The outer city, or city outside of the walls, is much more extensive. Its circumference, I suppose, is about six miles.

“The streets are not so wide as the sidewalks in Brooklyn. Some of them are so narrow that, when two persons, walking in opposite directions, meet each other, it is necessary for the one to stop, in order that the other may pass on. The most of the streets are paved with coarse granite blocks, yet on account of the narrowness of the streets, and the want of cleanliness by the great mass of the inhabitants, the streets are usually very filthy.

“This part of Amoy island is rugged and mountainous, and interspersed with large granite rocks. Some of them are of immense size. It is in such a place that the city has been built. Many of these rocks are left in their natural position, and overhang the houses which have been built among them. The ground has not been leveled as in Brooklyn, consequently the greater part of the streets are uneven. Some of them are conducted over the hills by stone steps. Near our residences, one of the public streets ascends a hill by a flight of thirty-six steps. On account of this unevenness of the streets as well as their narrowness a carriage cannot pass through the city of Amoy. Instead of carriages the more wealthy inhabitants use sedan chairs, which are usually borne by two bearers. The higher officers of government, called ‘Mandarins,’ have four bearers to carry them. The greater part of the inhabitants always travel on foot. The place of carts is supplied by men called ‘coolies,’ whose employment is to carry burdens. The houses, except along the wharves and a few pawn-shops farther up in the city, are one story.

“There are no churches here, but there are far more temples for the worship of false gods, and the souls of deceased ancestors, than there are churches in Brooklyn.

“Besides these, almost every family has its shrine and idols and ancestral tablets, which last are worshipped with more devotion than the idols. In consequence of their religion the people are degraded and immoral. One-third of all female children born in the city of Amoy are slain. In the villages throughout this whole region, it is supposed that about one-half are destroyed. They do not exhibit sympathy for each other and for those in distress, which is enjoined by the Bible, and which, notwithstanding all its defects, is the glory of Christian communities. I have seen a man dying on the pavement on a street, almost as densely thronged as Broadway, New York, and no one of the passers-by, or of the inhabitants of that part of the street, seemed to notice him or care for him more than if he had been a dog.”


Another letter to the same congregation a few months later reads:

“The first impression on the mind of an individual in approaching the shores of China from the south, and sailing along the coast, as far north as Amoy, is anything but favorable. So great is the contrast between the lovely scenery and dense vegetation of many of the islands of the Indian Archipelago, and the barren and worn-out hills which line the southern part of the coast of China, that in the whole range of human language it would seem scarcely possible to find a more inappropriate term than the term ‘Celestial’ whereby to designate this great empire. Neither is this unfavorable opinion removed immediately on landing. The style of building is so inferior, the streets are so narrow and filthy, the countenances of the great mass of the people, at least to a newcomer, are so destitute of intelligent expression, and the bodies and clothing, and habits of the multitudes are so uncleanly, that one is compelled to exclaim in surprise, ‘Are these the people who stand at the top of pagan civilization, and who look upon all men as barbarous, except themselves?’ Besides, everything looks old. Buildings, temples, even the rocks and the hills have a peculiar appearance of age and seem to be falling into decay. I am happy to say, however, that as we become better acquainted with the country and the people, many of these unfavorable impressions are removed. After passing a little to the north of Amoy, the appearance of the coast entirely changes. Even in this mountainous region we have valleys and plains, which would suffer but little by comparison with any other country for beauty and fertility. I also love the scenery around the city of Amoy very much. The city is situated on the western side of an island of the same name. This part of the island in its general appearance is very similar to the coast of which I have spoken. It is rocky and mountainous and barren. There are, however, among these barren hills many small fertile spots, situated in the ravines and along the watercourses, which on account of their high state of cultivation form a lovely contrast with the surrounding barrenness. Wherever the Chinese, at least in this part of the Empire, can find a watercourse, by cultivation they will turn the most barren soil into a garden. The sides of the ravines are leveled by digging down, and walling up, if necessary, forming terraces or small fields, the one above the other. These small fields are surrounded by a border of impervious clay. The water is conducted into the higher of these terraces, and from them conducted into those which are lower, as the state of the crops may demand. Often a field of paddy may be seen inundated, while the next field below, in which perhaps the sweet potato is growing, is kept perfectly dry. Among the hills there is much of picturesque scenery, and some that is truly sublime. The Buddhists have exhibited an exquisite taste for natural scenery, in selecting such places for the situation of many of their temples.”


“Their respect for ancestors is very great, so much so that the species of idolatry which has by far the strongest hold upon their minds is ancestral worship. This is the stronghold by which Satan maintains his supremacy over the minds of the people, and this we may expect will be the last to give way to the power of the Gospel of Christ. One may hold up their gods to ridicule and they will laugh at his remarks, but they do not love to hear the worship of their ancestors spoken against. This worship, after the period of mourning is over, consists chiefly in offering at stated times various articles of food to the spirits of the deceased, and in burning various kinds of paper, as a substitute for money, by which these spirits are supplied with that most convenient article. Natural affection and selfishness unite to strengthen their attachment to this worship. It is as necessary for the happiness of the souls of the dead, in the opinion of the Chinese, as is the saying of the mass in the opinion of a Roman Catholic. Without these attentions the souls of the deceased are in a sort of purgatory; wandering about in want and wretchedness. But if the desire of rendering their ancestors happy be not sufficient to secure attention to these rites, a still more powerful motive addresses itself to their minds. These wandering spirits are supposed capable of bringing misfortune and inflicting injuries on their ungrateful and impious descendants. Thus if a family meet with reverses, the cause is often attributed to the want of attention to the souls of the deceased ancestors, or to the fact that the sites of their graves have not been judiciously selected, and the dissatisfied spirits are taking vengeance for these neglects or mistakes. Another consideration which seems to exert much influence, is that if they neglect the spirits of their ancestors, their descendants may neglect them.

“For the present life they can think of no higher happiness than success in acquiring wealth, and the highest happiness after death consists in having sons to supply the wants of their spirits. These are the two objects that engross the highest aspirations of a Chinaman.”


“This will account in part for the barbarous custom of infanticide which prevails to so lamentable an extent among these heathen. Only female infants are destroyed. While the parents are living the son may be of pecuniary advantage to them, and after their death, he can attend to the rites of their souls, and even after his death, through him the parents may have descendants to perform the ancestral rites. A daughter on the contrary, it is supposed, will only prove a burden in a pecuniary point of view, and after she is married she is reckoned to the family of her husband. Her children, also, except her husband otherwise order, are only expected to attend to the spirits of their paternal ancestors.”

“Some have denied the existence of the practice of infanticide among the Chinese, or, they have asserted that if it does exist, the practice of it is very unusual. Every village which we visit in this region gives evidence that such persons are not acquainted with this part of the empire. A few days ago a company of us visited the village of Kokia. It is situated on the northern extremity of Amoy Island, and contains, perhaps, two thousand inhabitants. After walking through the village we sat down for a short time under the shade of a large banyan tree. A large concourse of people soon gathered around us to see the foreigners and hear what they had to say. In this crowd we found by counting nearly a hundred boys, and but two or three girls. Also when walking through the village very few girls were to be seen. The custom of binding the feet of the girls, which greatly affects their power of locomotion, would account for more boys being seen than girls, but will not account for the disparity noticed. We therefore inquired the cause of this disparity. They answered with laughter that female children are killed. The same question has been asked again and again at the various villages we have visited and the same answer obtained. This answer is given freely and apparently without any idea that the practice is wicked, until they are taught so by us. The result of this one practice on the morals of the people may readily be imagined. It accustoms the mind to acts of cruelty and it prepares the way for impurity and wickedness in forms that are never dreamed of in Christian countries.”

In this connection an extract from Dr. David Abeel’s[*] diary may be of value.

[Footnote *: David Abeel was the founder of the American Reformed Mission at Amoy in 1842.]

“Today had a conversation with one of the merchants who come to Kolongsu for trade, on the subject of female infanticide. Assuming a countenance of as much indifference as possible, I asked him how many of his own children he had destroyed: he instantly replied, ‘Two.’ I asked him whether he had spared any. He said, ‘One I have saved.’ I then inquired how many brothers he had. ‘Eight,’ was the answer. I asked him how many children his eldest brother had destroyed. ‘Five or six.’ I inquired of the second, third and all the rest; some had killed four or five, some two or three, and others had none to destroy. I then asked how many girls were left among them all. ‘Three,’ was the answer. And how many do you think have been strangled at birth? ‘Probably from twelve to seventeen.’ I wished to know the standing and employment of his brothers. One, he said, had attained a literary degree at the public examinations; the second was a teacher; one was a sailor; and the rest were petty merchants like himself. Thus, it was evidently not necessity but a cold inhuman calculation of the gains and losses of keeping them, which must have led these men to take the lives of their own offspring.

“Mr. Boone’s teacher’s sister with her own hand destroyed her first three children successively. The fourth was also a girl, but the mother was afraid to lay violent hands on it, believing it to be one of the previous ones reappearing in a new body.”

“The names of the five districts in the Chinchew prefecture are Tong-an, An-khoe, Chin-kiang, Hui-an and Lam-an. Amoy is situated in the Chin-chew prefect.

“From a comparison with many other parts of the country, there is reason to believe that a greater number of children are destroyed at birth in the Tong-an district than in any other of this department, probably more than in any other of this department, probably more than in any other part of the province of equal extent and populousness. In the Tong-an district I have inquired of persons from forty different towns and villages. The number destroyed varies exceedingly in different places, the extremes extending from seventy and eighty percent to ten percent. The average proportion destroyed in all these places amounting to nearly four-tenths or exactly thirty-nine percent.

“In seventeen of these forty towns and villages, my informants declare that one-half or more are deprived of existence at birth.

“From the inhabitants of six places in Chin-kiang, and of four places in Hui-an, if I am correctly informed, the victims of infanticide do not exceed sixteen percent.

“In the seven districts of the Chiang-chiu prefecture the number is rather more than one-fourth or less than three-tenths.

“There is reason to fear that scarcely less than twenty-five percent are suffocated almost at the first breath.”

It is altogether probable that this vice is just as prevalent now. The scarcity of girls in nearly all the towns and villages and the exorbitant rates demanded for marriageable daughters in some districts, only render sad confirmation to what Drs. Abeel and Talmage wrote two score and more years ago.


Mr. Talmage continues:

“I cannot close this letter without saying a word in reference to our prospects of success. The moral condition of this people, their spiritual apathy, their attachment to the superstitious rites of their ancestors, together with the natural depravity of the human heart, and at the same time their language being one of the most difficult, perhaps the most difficult of acquisition of any spoken language, all combine to forbid, it would seem, all hope of ever Christianizing this empire. But that which is impossible with men is possible with God. He who has commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature, has connected with it a promise that He will be always with us to the end of the world. The stone cut out without hands, we are told by the prophet, became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. The kingdom which the God of heaven has set up ‘shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand for ever.’ Thus, whatever may be the prospect before us, according to human reasoning, we have ‘a more sure word of prophecy.’ Resting upon this we can have no doubt in reference to the complete triumph of the cause of Christ, even over the land of Sinim. In connection with such prophecies and promises we have many facts to encourage us. The people are accessible and friendly, and willing to listen to our doctrines. The superiority of Christianity to their systems of religion, sometimes from conviction and sometimes perhaps only from politeness, they often admit.

“Already a few converts have been gathered into the visible Church, and there are others who are seeking to know the way of life more perfectly. Those who have been received into the Church are letting their light shine. The conduct of some who have heard the truth, reminds us forcibly of the conduct of the woman at the well of Samaria, and of the conduct of Andrew and Philip when they first found the Messias.

“It is thus that this empire and most other heathen countries must be evangelized. The work must be done by the natives. The Church in Christian lands, by her missionaries, can only lay the foundation and render some little assistance in rearing the superstructure. She can never carry forward the work to completion. She can never furnish the heathen nations with missionaries of the cross in sufficient numbers to supply them with pastors, neither is it necessary that she should. The Christian is a light shining in a dark place. Especially is it true among the heathen, that every disciple of Christ is as ‘a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.’ His neighbors and acquaintances must observe the change in his conduct. He no longer worships their gods. He no longer observes any of their superstitious rites. He is no longer a slave to their immoralities. his example must tell. But many of the converts will have gifts to make known the Gospel, and will eagerly embrace these gifts in order to rescue their dying countrymen. Already have we examples of this. Such converts, also, in some respects, may be more efficient than the missionary. They can go where we cannot, and reach those who are entirely beyond our influence. They are better acquainted with the language. They understand the customs of the people more thoroughly. They remember what were the greatest difficulties and objections which proved the greatest obstacles to their reception of the Gospel, and they know how these difficulties were removed and these objections answered. Besides, they have all the advantages which a native must be expected to possess over a foreigner arising from the prejudices of the people.

“Perhaps it may be necessary to guard against a wrong inference, which might be hastily deduced from the facts just stated. The fact that the natives are to be the principal laborers in evangelizing this empire, does not in the least remove the obligation of the Church to quicken and redouble all her efforts, or supersede the necessity for such efforts. It will be many years before this necessity will cease to exist. The Churches in Christian lands, in resolving to undertake the evangelization of this empire, have engaged in great work. In obedience to the command of their Master they have undertaken to rear a vast superstructure, the foundation of which is to be laid entirely by themselves, and on the erection of which they must bestow their care and assistance. This work has been commenced under favorable auspices, but the foundation cannot yet be said to be laid. More laborers must be sent forth. They should be sent out in multitudes if they can be found. They must acquire the language so that they can communicate freely with the people. They must proclaim the message of the Gospel from house to house, in the highways and market-places, wherever they can find an audience,-until converts are multiplied. Schools must be established, and the doctrines of the Gospel be instilled into the minds of the children and youth. We must have a native ministry instructed and trained up from their childhood according to the doctrines of the Gospel before they will be capable of taking the sole charge of this work. Until all this has taken place the churches may not slacken any of their efforts; nay, to accomplish this there must be an increase of effort beyond all that the churches have ever yet put forth.”

During the year 1848 he sent a letter to the Society of Inquiry of the Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

“It is yet a ‘day of small things’ with us. Our work thus far has been chiefly of a preparatory nature. This will probably be the case for some time to come. There have been just enough conversions to teach us that God is with us and will own the instrumentality which He Himself has appointed for the salvation of men, and to encourage us not to faint in our work. We have a vast amount of prejudice and superstition to remove–prejudice and superstition which has been growing and consolidating for forty centuries, and has become an essential ingredient in the character of the people and part of almost every emotion and conception of their minds. At present both officials and people are very friendly, and we are permitted to preach the Gospel without hindrance. But we cannot tell how long this state of things will continue. When the operation of the leaven has become manifest, we must expect opposition. We cannot expect that the great adversary of God and men will relinquish this the strongest hold of his empire on earth, without a mighty struggle. We must yet contend with ‘principalities and, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places.’


“The system of idolatry is as closely connected with the civil government of China, I suppose, as ever it was with ancient Rome. The emperor may be called the great High-priest of the nation. He and he only is permitted to offer sacrifice and direct worship to the Supreme Being. The description which Paul has given of the ‘man of sin,’ with but little variation may be applied to him.

“‘He exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.’ He has arrogated to himself the title which expresses the highest thought of divinity known to the conceptions of the Chinese mind. He is superior to all gods, except the great Supreme. All others he appoints, designates their business and dethrones them at his pleasure. In the city of Amoy is a temple dedicated to the worship of the emperor and containing a tablet as representative of his person. On certain days of the year the officers of government are required to repair to this temple, and offer that religious homage which is due to God alone. Now to remove these prejudices and superstitions and to carry to the final triumph this warfare, which we must wage with those in ‘high places,’ will not be the work of a few years. We might well despair of ever possessing the land, where such ‘sons of Anak’ dwell, were it not that the ark of God is with us and His command has been given, ‘Go up and possess it.’ But we look to you, my brethren, for assistance and reinforcement in this the cause of our common Lord, not only to fill the places of those who fall at their post or are disabled in the conflict, but also that we may extend our lines and conduct the siege with more effect. If you desire a field where you may find scope and employment for every variety of talent, and where you may prove yourselves faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ, I know of no place whence can come to you a more urgent call than from this vast empire.”



Among the jottings in Mr. Talmage’s diary for 1847-1848 we find mention of a tour to Chiang-chiu on September 23, 1847, in company with Messrs. Pohlman, Doty and Lloyd.

Chiang-chiu is a large city of 200,000 inhabitants, situated on a wide river, 30 miles west of Amoy. He writes: “Wherever we went we were accompanied by an immense throng of people. The most of them I suppose had never seen a white face. But few Europeans have visited the city. The city has an extensive wall, wider and I think more cleanly streets, and is larger than Amoy. In the rear of the city there are three watch towers. They are situated on very elevated ground. From these we had a very delightful view of the city and surrounding country. The scenery, it seemed to me, was the most beautiful I had ever witnessed. Within the circle of our vision lay that immense city with its extensive walls, its temples and pagoda, its river, bridges and boats, its gardens, its trees and shrubbery, and its densely crowded streets. Surrounding the city was spread out an extensive valley of some ten or fifteen miles in width and some twenty or twenty-five in length, covered with luxuriant vegetation. Through the midst of the valley might be marked the meandering track of the Chiang-chiu river, the whole region beautifully variegated with fruit trees, shade trees, and villages. Still further on, in every direction, our view was bounded by lofty hills whose cloud capped tops seemed as pillars on which the heavens rested. Nature had done her best to make this region a terrestrial paradise.”

On a subsequent trip to Chiang-chiu, Mr. Talmage writes: “The valley of the Chiang-chiu river is one of the most beautiful regions I ever saw. It is densely populated. In every direction are villages, I might almost say without number, rendered most beautiful by their plentiful supply of large banyans and various other trees of luxuriant foliage. The intermediate spaces between the villages are fields covered with vegetation most dense and beautiful. Through the centre of this scene may be traced the course of the river with its numberless canals, like the Nile of Egypt, giving fertility wherever nature or the art of man conducts its waters.”


“Feb. 27, 1848. Today an old lady and her two sons declared themselves to be worshipers of Jesus by presenting their idols to Bro. Pohlman. On the evening of the last day of their last year they had burnt their ancestral tablets. It was an interesting sight, said Bro. Pohlman, to see the old lady, supported by one of her sons, breaking her idols and making a voluntary and public surrender of them at the chapel.

“March 1st. When the old lady returned from the chapel on Sunday evening she was full of zeal, and began preaching to her neighbors on the folly of idolatry. She was so successful that another old lady living in the same house with her has made a bonfire and burned all her idols except one. This, being made of clay, was not combustible. This she presented to Pohlman today. He asked her whether she gave it up willingly. She said she rejoiced to do it. She said she had not yet destroyed her ancestral tablets. Pohlman told her he did not wish her to do it rashly. She must reflect on the subject, and when she became convinced that the worship of them was a sin against God she must give them up immediately.

“March 29th. This afternoon Bro. Hickok and wife and Bro. Maclay arrived at Amoy on their way to Foochow. They had a long passage from Hongkong, having been out twenty-nine days.” The distance from Hongkong to Amoy is less than three hundred miles, and is made in twenty-four hours by an ordinary coast steamer.


“June 5th. Monday. To-day being the fifth day of the fifth month (Chinese), was the festival of dragon boat-racing. Several dragon boats filled with rowers, rather paddlers, were contesting this afternoon in the harbor. The water was thronged with boats filled with Chinese to see the sport. Many of these boats, and almost all the junks in the neighborhood, were decked with green branches, also with streamers flying. The origin of this festival is said to be as follows: In very ancient times one of the first officers, perhaps Prime Minister of government, gave offense to the emperor. The emperor banished him. He was so downcast on account of the emperor’s displeasure that he went and drowned himself. The emperor afterwards repented of his act, and on inquiry after the man learned that he had drowned himself. He sent out boats in every direction to search for his body, and also to make offerings to his spirit. His body was not found. But from that time to this his body is thus searched for every year and his spirit thus appeased. This celebration is universal throughout the empire and wherever there are colonies of Chinese, throughout the islands of the (East Indian) Archipelago.

“The same good feeling continues to exist at Amoy as formerly. We are on the best of terms, so far as we can judge, with all classes, the officials and people. The mandarins receive our calls and return their cards. All of them but one have visited us at our houses. Some of them call on us quite frequently. This places us on a high vantage ground. The people will not fear to listen to us, attend our meetings, and visit us at our houses, as they would if the mandarins kept aloof from us. The same good feeling towards foreigners seems to extend far into the interior. At least we go from, village to village wherever we please without hindrance, and are always treated with kindness.”


“I have to-day been making some inquiries of my teacher concerning the system by which the beggars of Amoy are governed. The truth seems as follows: There are very many beggars in the city. In each ward there is a head-man or chief called ‘Chief of the Beggars.’ He derives his office from the ‘Hai-hong,’ or the superior local magistrate. Sometimes the office is conferred as an act of benevolence on an individual, who from sickness or other causes has met with reverses of fortune. Sometimes it is purchased. There being eighteen wards in the city of Amoy, of course there are eighteen such head-men. Their office is not honorable, but there is considerable profit connected with it. The head-men hold their office for life, or until removed for bad behavior. They get certificates of office from the ‘Hai-hong,’ and on the change of that functionary it is necessary to get the stamp of his successor attached to their certificates. Their income is derived from various sources. Monthly they call on the merchants and shopkeepers, who by paying down a sufficient amount are freed from the annoyance of beggars during the month. If a beggar enters one of these establishments he is pointed to a card which is posted up in some conspicuous place, and is a certificate from the ‘chief of the beggars’ of that ward that a sufficient amount of beggar money has been paid down for the month. The ‘chiefs of the beggars’ also receive money from a man or his family when he is about to marry, also from the family of the bride. They also receive money after the death and burial of the parents or any old member of a family; also from men who are advanced to literary honors, or who receive official promotion In any of the above cases, if any individual fail to agree with the ‘chief of the beggars’ of his ward and pay what is considered a sufficient amount of money (the amount varies with the importance of the occasion and the wealth of the parties), he may expect a visit from a posse of beggars, who will give him much annoyance by their continual demands. The ‘chiefs of the beggars’ give a part of the money which they receive to the beggars under them. My teacher thinks there are about two thousand beggars in the city of Amoy. There is a small district belonging to the city of Amoy called ‘The Beggars’ Camp.’ The most of the inhabitants of this place are beggars. These beggars go about the city seeking a living, clothed in rags and covered with filth and sores, the most disgusting and pitiable objects I ever saw.”


On the 6th of December Rev. John Lloyd, of the American Presbyterian mission, died of typhus fever after an illness of two weeks. Mr. Talmage makes this record of him:

“Dec. 8, 1848. Rev. John Lloyd was born in the State of Pennsylvania on the first of Oct., 1813, which made him thirty-five years, two months, and five days at the time of his death. He was a man of fine abilities. His mind was well stored with useful knowledge and was well disciplined. He was most laborious in study, very careful to improve his time. He was mastering the language with rapidity. His vocabulary was not so large as that of some of the other brethren, but he had a very large number of words and phrases at his command, and was pronounced by the Chinese to speak the language more accurately than any other foreigner in the place. They even said of him that it could not be inferred simply from his voice, unless his face was seen, that he was a foreigner. He was a man of warm heart, very strong in his friendship, very kind in his disposition, and a universal favorite among the Chinese. I never knew a man that improved more by close intimacy. His modesty, which may be called his great fault, was such that it was necessary to become well acquainted with him before he could be properly appreciated. But it has pleased the Master of the harvest to call him from the field just as he became fully qualified to be an efficient laborer. What a lesson this, that we must not overestimate our importance in the work to which God has called us. He can do without us. It seems necessary that He should give the Church lesson upon lesson that she may not forget her dependence upon Him.”

Early in 1849 the brethren were called to mourn the loss of one of the most devoted pioneers of the Amoy mission, the Rev. William J. Pohlman.

Mr. Talmage writes: “Feb. 8th. On Monday night at twelve o’clock I was called up to receive the sad intelligence that our worst fears in reference to Pohlman were confirmed. He perished on the morning of the 5th or 6th ult. He embarked on the 2d ult. from Hongkong in the schooner Omega. On the morning of probably the 5th, at about two o’clock, she struck near Breaker Point, one hundred and twenty miles from Hongkong. A strong wind was blowing at the time, so that every effort to get the ship off was unavailing. She was driven farther on the sand and fell over on her side. Her long boat and one quarter boat were carried away, and her cabin filled with water. The men on board clung to the vessel until morning. The remaining boat was then lowered. Those of the crew who were able to swim were directed to swim to the shore. The captain, first and second officers, and Pohlman entered the boat end those of the crew who could not swim also received permission to enter. But a general rush was made for the boat, by which it was overturned, and those who could not swim, Pohlman among the number, perished. The captain attempted to reach the shore by swimming, and would have succeeded, but was met by the natives. They were eager for plunder, and seized the captain to plunder him of his clothes. While they were stripping him of his clothes they dragged him through the water with his head under, by which he was drowned. About twenty-five of the crew succeeded in reaching the shore in safety. After being stripped of their clothes, they were permitted to escape. Afterwards, on arriving at a village they were furnished with some rags. After suffering much from fatigue and hunger they arrived at Canton, overland, on the 17th ult. This event has cast gloom again over our small circle. But one month previous to his death, Pohlman with myself had closed the eyes of dear Lloyd. Oh, how deeply we do feel, and shall for a long time feel this loss.”

“Feb. 11th. On Sunday afternoon our new church was consecrated to the worship of the only true God, the first building built for this purpose in Amoy. Mr. Young preached the sermon. It was also a funeral sermon for Mr. Pohlman. The house was crowded with people. Very many could not get into the building. There was some noise and confusion. I think the majority, however, were desirous to hear.”

In a letter to Drs. Anderson (Dr. Anderson was one of the early Secretaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.) and De Witt, speaking of Pohlman’s death, he says:

“Our hearts bleed. God has seen fit to send upon us stroke after stroke. Oh, when will He stay His hand? But we will not murmur. It is God who hath done this. His ways are inscrutable. We gaze upon them in mute astonishment. We may quote as peculiarly applicable to our present circumstances the remarks which this brother made at the grave of him who was called away a month previous. ‘Death,’ said he, ‘is always a sad event, and is often peculiarly distressing. It is so in the instance before us. There is a sad breach in our little circle at this station. Situated as we are here, every member of our small society tells upon the happiness of the whole. Our number is limited and less than a score. We have few bosom friends, few to cheer and encourage us, few to whom to tell our sorrows and our joys. Here we are far away from those we love, away from dear friends and kindred and those tender associations which make society so delightful at home. Hence we feel deeply any breach made in our little circle. In proportion as our number is diminished in the same proportion is there a decrease in the endearments of friendship and love. More especially is this the case when the departed was possessed of social virtues and qualified to make all around him agreeable and happy. We mourn also for these poor deluded heathen. They have sustained an incalculable loss. I feel it impossible to give an adequate description of his character. He felt that in laboring for the heathen he was engaged in a work of the highest moment. Thereto he bent every energy of mind and body. That which, by receiving the word of God, we are made theoretically to acknowledge, by the dispensations of His Providence-we are made practically to feel, that man is nothing-that God is All in All.’

“God’s dealings with this mission would seem to be enough to arouse our Church. Heretofore He has given success to His servants. He has given us favor with the authorities and with the people. The Church has seemed to be satisfied with this. She has thanked God for His smiles, but has made little effort to increase the number of her laborers as fast as the demand for them increased. Now God is trying another plan. Her laborers are dying off and the question comes to her, not merely whether she will advance or not, but, whether she will retain that which she has already gained. She has volunteered in a glorious warfare. Will she hold the positions she has won, and make further conquests, or will she permit her soldiers to die at their posts without being replaced, and thus retire from the field? Important interests are at stake. The honor of our Church is at stake. The salvation of souls is at stake. It is a crisis with our mission. We cannot endure the thought that the labors of those faithful servants who have been called home shall be in a great measure lost by neglect. We have received lately impressive lessons of the uncertainty of human life. The thought steals over us that we, too, are liable at any moment to be cut down in the midst of our labors. This liability is increased by the amount of labor which necessarily devolves upon us. Now we are only two in number. As for myself I am only beginning to stammer in this difficult language. This, too, in a field where there is labor enough to be done to employ all the men you can send us. You will not think it strange then that we plead earnestly.

“Our new church edifice was completed soon after Brother Pohlman left for Hongkong. As he had done so much of the work in gathering the congregation and had originated the idea of the building and had watched its erection with so much interest, we were desirous that he should be present at its consecration. We therefore delayed opening the building for worship until we received the definite news of his death.”

In an address on “Reminiscences of Missionaries and Mission Work,” delivered by Dr. Talmage during his later years, he refers to the early missionaries at Amoy in these words:

“The men God gave the Church were just the men needed to awaken her missionary spirit and shape her mission work. So for laying the foundation and shaping the plan of the structure He would have us erect at Amoy He gave us three men, just the men needed for the work,-David Abeel, William J. Pohlman and Elihu Doty. The more I meditate on what they said and wrote and did and suffered in the early days of that work, and see whereunto it is growing, the more am I impressed with the fact that they were wonderful men, just the men for the time, place, and circumstances, and therefore evidently God’s gift.

“Dr. Abeel was the pioneer of the Amoy Mission. During the greater part of the years of his manhood, he struggled with disease, and his whole life on earth was comparatively short, yet the Lord enabled him to accomplish more work than most men accomplish during a much longer life. His last field of labor was Amoy, entering it in January, 1842, when the port had just been thrown open and while the British army was still there, and leaving it in January, 1845. In that short time, notwithstanding interruptions from sickness and of voyages in search of health, or rather to stave off death till others were ready to take his place, he laid a good foundation, doing a work that told and was lasting. I met him only once. It was at his father’s house in New Brunswick, after his work at Amoy-after all his public work was done and he was only waiting to be summoned home. When I afterwards went to Amoy, I found his name very fragrant, not only among Europeans and Americans, but also among the Chinese. He had baptized none, but a goodly number of those afterwards baptized had received their first impressions concerning Christianity and their first instructions therein from him.”

“Messrs. Doty and Pohlman with their families came from Borneo to Amoy, arriving in June, 1844, about six months before Dr. Abeel was compelled to leave. We have heard of places so healthy, that it is said there was difficulty to find material wherewith to start cemeteries. Amoy, rather Kolongsu, where all the Europeans then resided, in those days was not such a place. It is said that of all the foreign residents only one escaped the prevailing fever. The mortality was very great. In a year and a half from the time of their arrival at Amoy, Mr. Doty was on his way to the United States with two of his own and two of Mr. Pohlman’s little ones. The other members of their families–the mothers and the children, all that was mortal of them–were Iying in the Mission cemetery on Kolongsu; and to ‘hold the fort,’ so far as our Mission was concerned, Pohlman was left alone, and well he held it. He had a new dialect to acquire, yet when health allowed, he daily visited his little mission chapel, and twice on the Sabbath, to preach the Gospel of Christ. He was a man of work, of great activity. When I arrived at Amoy in 1847, he was suffering from ophthalmia. Much of his reading and writing had to be done for him by others. I was accustomed to read to him an hour in the morning from six to seven. Another read to him an hour at noon from twelve to one. He was still subject to occasional attacks of the old malarial fever. Besides all this he was now alone in the world, his whole family gone, two of his little ones in his native land, then very much farther away from China than now, and the others, mother and children, sleeping their last sleep.

“Yet he was the life of our little mission company. Do you ask why? He lived very close to God, and therefore was enabled to bow to the Divine will, to use his own language, ‘with sweet submission.’ Pohlman’s term of service, too, was short. He was called away in his thirty-seventh year. His work at Amoy was less than five years. It, too, much of it, was foundation work, though he was permitted to see the walls just beginning to rise. Two of the first converts were baptized by him, and many others received from him their early Christian instruction. The first, and still by far the best church-building at Amoy, which is also the first church building erected in China expressly for Chinese Protestant Christian worship, may be called his monument. It was specially in answer to his appeal that the money, $3,000, was contributed. It was under his supervision that the building was erected. To it he gave very much toil and care. The house was nearly ready when he took his last voyage to Hongkong, and he was hastening back to dedicate it when God took him. His real monument, however is more precious and lasting than church-buildings, as precious and lasting as the souls he was instrumental in saving, and the spiritual temple whose foundation he helped to lay. There were many who remembered him with very warm affection long after he was gone. Among them I remember one, an old junk captain, who in his later years, speaking of heaven, was wont to say, ‘I shall see Teacher Pohlman there; I shall see Teacher Pohlman there.'”


The sad and sudden departure of Mr. Pohlman so affected a maiden sister, Miss Pohlman, then at Amoy, as to unsettle her mind and necessitate an immediate return to the United States. No lady friend could accompany her. It was decided that Mr. Talmage take passage on the same ship and act as guardian and render what assistance he could. The ship arrived at New York August 23, 1849.

Mr. Talmage made an extensive tour on behalf of Missions in China among the Reformed churches in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

“Jan. 15, 1850. Was married at twelve M. in First Presbyterian Church at Elizabeth, New Jersey, by Dr. N. Murray, to Miss Abby F. Woodruff. Started immediately with my wife on a trip to Seneca County, New York.”

“March 16, 1850. In the forenoon accompanied by many dear friends we embarked on board the ship Tartar from New York bound for China.”

“July 16th. Arrived safely at Amoy, for which our hearts are full of gratitude to Him who has watched over us on the deep and conducted us safely through every danger.”

Though the entire Reformed Mission at Amoy then consisted of only three members, Mr. Doty and Mr. and Mrs. Talmage, still they believed in colonizing. Mr. Talmage secured a Chinese house and shop a mile or more away from the original headquarters and this became the missionary’s home and preaching place. It was on the north side of the city in a densely populated neighborhood known as “Tek-chhiu-Kha,” or “At the Foot of the Bamboos.”

It fronted one of the main thoroughfares of the city. It was near the water’s edge at the mooring-place of junks from the many-peopled districts of Tong-an and Lam-an. The house and shop were renovated and capped with another story. Here Mr. Talmage prayed and studied and preached and planned for nearly twenty years. On this spot to-day stands a flourishing Chinese church.

In a letter to Drs. Anderson and De Witt, dated Dec. 17, 1850, Mr. Talmage thus describes their new home:

“Our house is pleasantly situated, having a good view of the inner part of the harbor, and of several small islands in the harbor. We also have a pleasant view of the mainland beyond the harbor. From our house we can count a number of villages on the mainland, beautifully situated among large banyans. We hope the situation will prove a healthy one. I like the situation most of all because I think it well adapted to our work. We are near the northern extreme of the city along the water’s edge, while the other missionaries are near the southern extreme. Thus on entering the harbor from Quemoy and other islands, near the mouth of the harbor or from the cities and villages on the seacoast, the first foreign residence at Amoy, which meets the eye, is the residence of missionaries. On coming to Amoy from the cities and villages which are inland, again the first foreign residence which meets the eye is the residence of missionaries. We are in a part of the city where the Gospel has not yet been preached.”

In the same letter he refers to the Opium habit–and to the initiatory steps toward the formation of a Romanized alphabet for the Amoy Vernacular. The Chinese character is learned with great difficulty. It requires years of close application. In Southern Fukien not more than one man in a hundred can read intelligently. It is doubtful whether one woman in ten thousand can.

Protestant Christianity wants men to be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them. It urges our Lord’s command, “Search the Scriptures.” It demands not only the hearing ear, but the reading eye.

Hence this early effort on the part of the missionaries to prepare a version of the Scriptures and a Christian literature in a form more readily learned by the people. Those early efforts were doubtful experiments even to some of the missionaries. The Chinese converts at first looked quite askance at what appeared to them an effort to supersede their highly venerated Chinese character.

The Romanized system was gradually perfected. The Chinese were gradually disabused of their prejudices. To-day the most ardent advocates of the system are Chinese pastors and elders. The whole Bible has been translated into Amoy Romanized colloquial. An extensive literature adapted to Christian homes and Christian schools has grown up through the years and is contributing to the strength and progress of the Chinese Church to-day.


“Independent of the reproach which the opium traffic casts on the Christian religion, we find it a great barrier in the way of evangelizing this people. We cannot put confidence in an opium smoker. A man who smokes it in even the smallest degree we should not dare to admit into the Christian church. More than one-half of the men at Amoy are more or less addicted to the habit. Of this half of the population the missionary can have comparatively but little hope. We know the grace of God can deliver from every vice and there have been examples of reformation even from this. Yet from experience when talking to an opium smoker we always feel discouraged. Although this be a discouraging feature in our operations here, it should only be a stimulus to the Church to send more laborers and put forth greater efforts to stem the tide of destruction which the Christian world is pouring in upon the heathen. Independent of the principles of benevolence, justice demands of Christendom that the evil be stayed, and reparation if possible be made for the injury already done. If nothing more, let there be an equivalent for whet has been received from China. It is a startling fact, that the money which Christian nations have received from China for this one article, an article which has done to the Chinese nothing but incalculable injury, far, far exceeds all the money which has been expended by all Protestant churches on all Protestant missions in all parts of the heathen world since the days of the Reformation.


“The question whether there is any way by which this people can be made a reading people, especially by which the Christians may be put in possession of the Word of God, and be able to read it intelligently for themselves, has occupied much thought of the missionaries here. At present most of the church members have no reading for the Sabbath and for private meditation. They may have family worship, but they cannot at their worship read the Holy Scriptures. Some of us are now trying an experiment whether by means of the Roman alphabet the Sacred Scriptures and other religious books may not be given to the Christians and to any others who cannot read, but who take enough of an interest in Christianity to desire to read the Scriptures for themselves. By the use of seventeen of these letters we can express every consonant and vowel sound in the Amoy dialect, and by the use of a few additional marks we can designate all the tones. Dr. James Young, an English Presbyterian missionary physician, has commenced teaching the colloquial, as written with the Roman alphabet, in his school, a school formerly under the care of Mr. Doty. From his present experience he is of opinion that boys who are at all apt in acquiring instruction, in less than three months may be prepared for reading the Scriptures, with understanding. I have a class of three or four adults an hour an evening four evenings in the week, receiving instruction in the colloquial. They have taken some half dozen lessons and are making good progress. At present we have no printed primers or spelling-books, and are compelled to teach principally by blackboard. We are of opinion that almost every member of the church can soon learn to read by this system. Arrangements have been made to print part of the history of Joseph in colloquial. These are but experiments. If they succeed according to our present hope, it may be worth while to have the whole Bible and other religious books printed in this manner. A little more experience will enable us to speak with more confidence for or against the plan.”

“Dec. 23. Yesterday morning my chapel was opened, according to appointment. I preached to the people my first regular sermon from the text, ‘There is one God and one Mediator,’ etc. The room was crowded. It will seat about one hundred comfortably.”


March 17, 1851. To his brother, Goyn.

“I think the Chinese are very different in their religious feelings from many other (perhaps from the most of other) heathen people. We have often heard of the great sacrifices which the heathen of India will make and the great sufferings they will impose on themselves in order to make atonement for their sins and appease the anger of the gods. There may occasionally be something of the kind among the Buddhists of China. But I rather suppose that where there are any self-mortifications imposed (which is very rare in this part of China), they are imposed to secure merit, not to atone for sin. I do not remember ever to have met with an individual among the Chinese who had any sense of sinfulness of heart, or even any remorse for sinfulness of conduct except he was first taught it by the Gospel. It is one of the most difficult truths to convey to their minds that they are sinners against God. We have had a few inquirers who have expressed a deep sense of sinfulness. But this sense of sinfulness has come from hearing the Gospel. The way the most of those, whom we doubt not are true Christians, have been led on seems to be as follows: They hear the Gospel, presently they become convinced of its truth. Their first impulses then seem to be those of joy and gratitude. They are like men who were born blind, and had never mourned over their blindness, because they had no notion of the blessing of sight. Presently their eyes begin to be opened and they begin to see. They only think of the new blessings which they are receiving, not of the imperfections which still remain in their vision. A sense of these comes afterwards. Was not this sometimes the case in the days of the apostles? It was not so on the day of Pentecost. The multitude were ‘pricked in their hearts’ because the moment they were convinced that Jesus was the Christ they were filled with a sense of their wickedness in crucifying Him. So it is with persons in Christian lands when their minds become interested in the truth; they are made to feel their wickedness in so long resisting its influences. But the case seems to have been different when Philip first carried the Gospel to Samaria. The first effect there seems to have been that of ‘great joy.’

“It seems to be thus in Amoy. The conviction of deep sinfulness comes by meditating on the Gospel, the work of Christ, etc.

“It is the doctrine of the cross of Christ, after all, which should be the theme of our discourses.”

March 18, 1851. To his brother, Goyn.

“They say in regard to preaching, that when a man has nothing more to say he had better stop. If this rule were carried out in conversation and letter-writing, there would be much less said and written in the world, than is now the case.

“You seem to think that we missionaries can sit down at any time and write letters, always having enough matter that will be interesting to you at home. This is a good theory enough, but facts do not always bear it out.

“Our missionary work moves on usually in the same steady manner without many ups and downs or interesting episodes (rather a mixture of figures you will say), which we think worthy of note. I wish you folks at home could send us more men to drive on the work a little faster. The door of access at Amoy still continues as wide open as ever, and now seems to be the time for the Church to send her men and occupy the post, which the Master offers to her. But the Church at home cannot, it seems, look at this matter as we who are on the ground….


“We have no good lamps yet for the church, consequently cannot open it in the evening. But I have prepared some lamps for my chapel. I think you would laugh to see them. They are four in number. Two of them are merely small tumblers hung up by wires and cords. By means of another wire a wick is suspended in each tumbler and the tumbler filled with oil. The other two are on the same principle, but the tumblers are hung in a kind of glass globe which is suspended by brass chains. These look considerably more ornamental than the first two. Whether you laugh at them or not, they answer a very good purpose. They do not make the room as light as would be required in a church, in as large a city as Amoy is, in the United States, but by means of them my chapel is open on Sunday evenings and on every other evening in the week except one. The church and chapel are both open almost every afternoon in the week, and sometimes in the mornings. One, two, three, or more of the converts are always ready to hold forth almost every afternoon and evening. Besides this, they go to other thoroughfares frequently and preach the Gospel as well as they are able. For much of the work these converts are perhaps better adapted than ourselves. They understand the superstitions of the people in their practical working, better than we probably will ever be able to learn them.”


“April 14, 1851. There are now in connection with our church thirteen converts. In connection with the church of the London brethren there are eight. Two of our members, although compelled to labor with their hands for the sustenance of themselves and their families, yet devote the afternoons and evenings of almost every day in the week, in making known the way of salvation to their countrymen. They spend the Sabbath also, only omitting their labors long enough to listen to the preaching of the missionary and to partake of their noonday meal, from early in the morning until bedtime, in the same way, publishing the Gospel to their countrymen.”


It was at this time that the translation of the Bible into the Classic Chinese Version, or “Delegates’ Version” as it was afterwards called, was going on. A long and heated controversy had arisen as to the proper terms in the Chinese language to be used in translation of the words “God” and “Spirit.” Missionaries in different parts of the empire took most opposite views and held them with the greatest tenacity. The Missionary Boards and Bible Societies in Great Britain and America were deeply interested spectators. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the American Bible Society became participators. On what they considered satisfactory evidence they declared in favor of certain Chinese words and characters to be used in preaching the Gospel and in translating the Scriptures. They advised their missionaries and Bible distributors of their decision.

The missionaries at Amoy, Messrs. John and Alexander Stronach, London Mission, and Messrs. Doty and Talmage, had very strong convictions on this subject. Their views agreed. Rev. John Stronach was one of the Committee who prepared the “Delegates’ Version.” The views of the brethren at Amoy were diametrically opposed to the decisions of the American Board and American Bible Society. In a long letter of eighty four pages, addressed to Drs. Anderson and De Witt, Oct. 31, 1851, Mr. Talmage sets forth their side of the question. No man can read that document, weighty with learning and charged with moral earnestness, but must feel the profoundest respect for the writer, however he may dissent from his arguments. He concludes as follows:

“Such are our views concerning the use of the words ‘Shin’ and ‘Ling’ as translations of the words ‘God’ and ‘Spirit.’ While we hold ourselves open to conviction, if it can be proved that we are wrong, we at present hold these views firmly. We may not have succeeded in convincing the Prudential Committee that our views are correct, yet we trust we have convinced them that we have given due attention to the subject. We now ask, Can the Prudential Committee expect of us, while we hold such views, to conform to their decision? Would they respect us if we did? We could not respect