200 Years in China, Today

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

On this day two hundred years ago, Robert Morrison boarded the ship, the Trident, in New York to complete his journey to China as the first Protestant Missionary.

He was born in 1782 in Scotland and was brought up in the Scottish Presbyterian Church. He took a dissolute detour from the faith but was converted in 1798 and began to dream of being a missionary. His mother made him promise, however, not to be a missionary while she lived. She died in 1804 and Morrison applied to the London Missionary Society that had been founded in 1795 and was accepted. January 8, 1807 Morrison was ordained in the Scots Church in London. He was appointed for China while still a single man and set sail from England the last day of January, 1807.

The only ships sailing for China belonged to the East India Company. It was the Company's policy not to carry missionaries. Finding no ship bound for China that would carry him, Morrison took passage on board the Remittance, bound for New York. He arrived in New York on April 20. On May 12 he set sail for China. After 113 days at sea, he arrived in Macao on September 4, 1807.

He served for 27 years in China with one furlough home to England. He married Mary Morton in 1809. She died in 1821 when Morrison was 39. He married Eliza Armstrong in 1825. Morrison died nine years later at the age of 52 in his son’s arms in Macao.

After baptizing the first Chinese Protestant Christian on May 14, 1814 (seven years after his arrival!), Morrison wrote prophetically in his journal, “May he be the first fruits of a great harvest, one of millions who shall come and be saved on the day of wrath to come.”

Give thanks today to God for the triumphs of his grace in the lives of ordinary men and women who, by his grace have done amazing things for the glory of Christ. Pause now and be willing to say yes to the stirrings of God in your heart to be a missionary. If he calls, do not stoop to be the CEO of Microsoft or the President of the United States. When Morrison was asked if he expected to have a spiritual impact in China, he answered, “No sir, but I expect God will.”

“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

The best source of information on the web for Robert Morrison appears to be at Bablestone. Also visit Pray for China to help you engage today with the work of God in that great land.

Robert Morrison's gravestone

Centenary memorial for Robert Morrison

(Pictures from Bablestone)