American Presbyterian Missions to China

The missionary endeavor has always been important to Calvinists as evidenced, for example, by John Calvin sending the first Protestant missionaries from Geneva, Switzerland to the New World (Brazil, 1557). In the 19th century, American Presbyterians began to send missionaries to the Far East. Log College Press is assembling the works of some of these missionaries, and the stories of the lives and labors is fascinating to read. To give a few examples:

Nathan Robinson Johnston (1820-1904) was a Reformed Presbyterian minister who labored as a missionary to the Chinese in California, as he notes in his autobiographical memoir, Looking Back From the Sunset Land; or, People Worth Knowing. He records his joy at finally seeing Covenanter ministers sent to China, and notes their motto: "China for Christ."

William Speer (1822-1904) was another Presbyterian missionary both to the Chinese in California, and to China itself. After serving as a medical missionary to Canton, China, for five years, Speer came to San Francisco in 1852 with a call from the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions to evangelize to the city's Chinese population, where he labored until 1858. He was the founding minister of the Presbyterian Chinese Mission Church ("North America's Oldest Asian Church"). He started what became the first public school for Chinese children and youth; published The Oriental, America's first English-Chinese bilingual newspaper; and helped bring about the repeal of a California law that imposed a tax targeting Chinese miners. Some of his works include China and California; An Humble Plea, Addressed to the Legislature of California, in Behalf of the Immigrants from the Empire of China to This State; and The Oldest and Newest Empire: China and the United States.

Absalom Sydenstricker (1852-1931) was a Southern Presbyterian missionary to China. His life story is told by his daughter, Pearl S. Buck, the famous prize-winning author and noted liberal who played a role in J.G. Machen's conflict with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., in The Fighting Angel and The Exile. Sydenstricker authored An Exposition of the Construction and Idioms of Chinese Sentences, in Colloquial Mandarin.

Hampden Coit DuBose (1845-1910) was another Southern Presbyterian missionary to China, who went on to found the Anti-Opium League in China. He authored Preaching in Sinim; or, The Gospel to the Gentiles, With Hints and Helps for Addressing a Heathen Audience; The Dragon, Image, and Demon, or The Three Religions of China: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism; and “Beautiful Soo,” the Capital of Kiangsu.

 Hunter Corbett (1835-1920) was a Princeton graduate who served as a missionary in China for many years, where he established an academy for boys which became China's first university. He also helped to established the Shandong Presbytery, and would later serve as a moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. He authored A Record of American Presbyterian Mission Work in Shantung Province, China; and Opening of Presbyterian Hospital, Chefoo, Shantung China.

Divie Bethune McCartee (1820-1900) was a medical missionary to China, who established the first Protestant congregation in that country in 1845. He served as a diplomat as well, and authored works on science, history and politics.  Robert Elliott Speer (1867-1947) paid tribute to him in A Missionary Pioneer in the Far East: A Memorial of Divie Bethune McCartee

Click on the author links above to learn more about these remarkable 19th century American Presbyterian missionaries to the Chinese. And remember the motto: "China for Christ."