Elijah Coleman Bridgman Goes to China

Elijah Coleman Bridgman was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts, USA April 22, 1801.  He was to become the first missionary sent to China by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). It was this Board that had also sent Adoniram Judson to India – America’s first foreign missionary.

Mainly Congregationalist in its denominational make-up, the ABCFM later embraced other denominations – until about 60 years later when “denominations came to feel they could operate more effectively with separate organisations … and left the ABCFM with Congregationalists as its chief supporters” (Encyclopaedia of Modern Christian Missions, page 655).

Elijah Bridgman trained at Andover Theological College and then sailed for China on 14 October, 1829.  Here he met up with London Missionary Society worker, Robert Morrison, China’s pioneer missionary.

Bridgman devoted a year to conquering the Cantonese language – later writing a 730-page manual on it! (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 155). In 1832 Bridgman started a mission press and began publication of ‘The Chinese Repository‘, which he edited until 1847. This monthly magazine was designed to awaken the Christian world’s interest in the spiritual needs of that vast land. This was the world’s first major journal on China, making Bridgman America’s first China expert.

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History Faces Bar

In 1836 he commenced translating the Scriptures into Cantonese, but this task was suspended when the tragic “Opium War” broke out (1839-1842).  But by 1845 the Chinese Emperor pronounced an edict permitting missionary work. The same year Elijah Bridgman married Miss Eliza Jane Gillett. Together they continued to serve the Lord, “on one occasion nearly sacrificing their lives to an infuriated mob” (Great Missionaries, page 102).

They worked together at Guangzhou and adopted two little Chinese girls. Eliza later, in 1850, founded and managed for 15 years the first girls’ school in Shanghai.

Failing health led to Dr Bridgman’s death in Shanghai on 2 November, 1861, and his wife temporarily returned to America. Then, at the age of 59, and alone, she returned to the mission at Peking, where she and her late husband had laboured. Here she secured substantial property and started Bridgman Academy, noted for educating a large number of Chinese women leaders.

Just a decade later she, too, passed into the presence of her Lord, on 10 November, 1871.

To put Bridgman’s work in perspective, Hudson Taylor’s China Inland Mission which directed English missionaries to China, was formed in 1865, four years after Bridgman’s death.

History Faces Bar

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Renewing the Mind

Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by having your mind renewed. Romans 12:2

We each need a complete overhaul in our thinking. That’s not just to deal with the “evil” things in our minds, but to change the very basis by which we think. Transformation does not come by tidying up our thoughts, cataloguing them differently, adding some new ones or finding Bible references to give authority to our opinions. The ‘renewed’ mind is not an ‘educated’ mind, a Biblically literate mind or a re-enculturated mind. It is a ‘new’ mind.

One of the challenges we face in allowing God to deal with our thinking is that we have faith in our own opinions, thoughts and conclusions. Solomon pointed out that people think they are right – “Every way of man is right in his own eyes” Proverbs 21:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes” Proverbs 16:2.

Because we have a high regard for our own mind and thoughts we tend to be protective of long-held beliefs and cherished opinions. We elevate these thoughts as a worthy platform for the rest of our life. Albert Einstein made fun of this tendency when he said, “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen“.

Attitudes, then, are closely linked to our thoughts. That’s why a “check-up from the neck up” (as Zig Ziglar likes to put it) should really be heart surgery. Oh, there I go again, mentioning the “heart“. Well, this is not the last time, so get used to it. You will never achieve a renewed mind without a transformed heart at the same time.

The Bible – Book of Impact

The most valuable book in all your life is the Bible. The Bible is the most Enduring, Authoritative, Profound, Resilient, Enlightening, Impactful, Endorsed and Significant book in all of human history.

Over the past week I have discussed many of these qualities in my posts. Today I will discuss the Impact of the Bible.

The notion of the Bible’s impact has already been discussed in such observations as its ability to convert its critics and transform the communities in which it is allowed to be read. As far back as the days of the New Testament the message of the Bible was blamed for turning the world upside down (see Acts 17:6). The impact of the Christian faith, based on the Bible, was such that it overturned kingdoms and cultures, right through human history.

Alfred the Great, of England, had great personal impact on forging that nation into what it was later to become. He did that by relying on the Bible. He personally taught the Bible to the Viking King who had invaded and settled in the land. Alfred the Great personally baptised the Viking Lord and brought a new unity and destiny to the island nation.Charles Darwin personally noted the impact of the Bible. On his first voyage to the South Seas, in which he visited the Galapagos Islands, he also visited Tierra del Fuego and recorded that the natives of that region were so reprobate that there was no hope for their future. Yet on his second voyage he discovered that those very people had been ennobled and transformed. When he made inquiry he discovered that missionaries had taught the Bible there. Darwin was so impressed that for the rest of his life he donated money to the Bible Society which served that area.

Geisler and Nix summarise the Impact of the Bible by saying, “Civilization has been influenced more by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than by any other book or series of books in the world.

”That’s Impact!

The Bible – Enlightening

This is yet another post on the topic of the Bible – the book I uphold as the most important book in all the world. The Bible is the most Enduring, Authoritative, Profound, Resilient, Enlightening, Impactful, Endorsed and Significant book in all of human history.

The Bible is an Enlightening book. It has the power to “turn the lights on” for people. While many books are filled with information that informs the mind, the Bible has the ability to inform the heart of the reader. As well, the Bible contains information about important things which are not revealed anywhere else. Add to that the experience which the Bible is able to create in its readers of transforming their thinking and their heart.

The Bible is often credited with opening people’s eyes. Even when people read a very familiar passage which they have read even hundreds of times before, it is common to experience a revelational insight. The experience is that of something suddenly making sense on the inside. I have enjoyed this experience many times. And it is not some temporary illusory perception, such as my school friends described from their use of hallucinogenic drugs. Those revelations gave the impression of an insight which was unable to be recaptured or nailed down when the drug-induced state wore off.

Revelation that comes through the Bible is able to be documented, explained, referred back to, built upon and integrated into a person’s whole life. The enlightenment which comes from the Bible is truly a gift to the reader. The Bible’s ability to produce such enlightenment in people of all ages, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds, education levels, and so on, makes the Bible an amazing gift to humanity.

Transform the Parent

During a planning session last week my wife, Susan, caught a statement I made and made a Quote of it. What I said was, “TRANSFORM THE PARENT AND YOU TRANSFORM THE PARENTING!”

Many parents buy our materials or attend our programs hoping to gain some added trick, or key to dealing with their child. The more problems parents face the more ready they are to attend courses, visit websites, read books, etc.

Yet the answer is rarely found in some clever way of handling children. The key is actually found in a transformation process within the parent. The issue is not so much about the “doing” of parenting but the “being”.

Consider such instructions from the Bible as Paul’s directive to the church at Ephesus.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Being “tender-hearted” is not a matter of learning how to do nice things for people. It involves the being of each person – the way they really are, not just the way they act.

The same is true in parenting. A good parent is not someone who has learned a bunch of psychological tricks to use on their child, or a set of strict rules which will work well. A good parent is one who has the right heart toward their child and who carries a level of internal commitment to God and their family, prompting them to make wise choices and create good outcomes.

So, when we “transform” the parent, the automatic result is that the parenting is transformed too. If we make the parent more caring, more loving or more humble, those changes will be reflected in the way they interact with their child.

The most important place to be transformed is the “heart”. The heart is the “heart of the matter”. The way we respond from our heart dictates everything else. If we have a proud heart, or our heart carries jealousy, anger, shame, selfishness, or any such thing, our whole being and the words we speak will reflect it.

Parents, I encourage and challenge you to open your heart to God. Ask Him to reveal to you what is in your heart that needs to be changed. Ask Him to change your heart. Ask Him to give you a heart that is not hard like stone, but is tender and sensitive to Him and others. Your heart is the part of you God is most concerned about.

Take careful note of what God wants to happen to every parent. God prompted one of His prophets to speak about something very important to God – that the “heart” of parents would turn toward their children and that the heart of the children would turn to the parents.

And he will turn the heart of the fathers to their children and the heart of the children to their fathers, or I will come and curse the earth.” Malachi 4:6.

Do you want to transform your parenting? Then make it your aim to have a transformed heart!