It was July, 1868—the warmest month of that year for Hankou, China.
The streets were busy, the worn ground underfoot baking in the afternoon sun. Amongst the crowds could be seen a familiar face. The face held a stern look of determination, defying the heat and the crowds, and yet, every passerby the face engaged seemed to be held by its gaze, even if only for a moment.
The face belonged to Griffith John. He was well known in this area, having spent most of his missionary efforts in China calling Hankou his home.
When he was not preaching and teaching in the far flung villages, helping his wife at the girls school, resolving some conflict at the boys school, or praying in solitude at home, he could be found here; pacing the streets of his beloved city, distributing tracts to any who would stop.
Selling tracts was not always a pleasant experience. The crowds would push in as the streets heaved with people. It had to be done in the midst of a great deal of shouting and rough handling. What’s more, the Chinese looked down upon such missionaries who would demean themselves to such a menial task, thinking instead that such tasks should be left to the lower class locals in need of work. Even so, like so many other missionaries of his day, Griffith stood out in the streets, day after day.
On this particular July afternoon, he approached a man who seemed in less of a hurry than the others in the crowd. Griffith pulled out a tract and tried to persuade the man to take one with him on his way.
His reply came as a surprise. The man looked at the tract in his outstretched hand and said, with a smile: “I know all about it. It is a very good book.”
“What does it talk about?” Griffith quizzed.
“Oh,” said he, “it talks about this,” pointing to his tongue. And he was right, for the little book was no other than a translation of Mark Guy Pearse’s The Terrible Red Dwarf.
The Terrible Red Dwarf is a tract long forgotten, but made its impact more than 100 years ago. Written in Cornwall, buried in the south of England, this book made its way to the other side of the world; its message reaching thousands in China. It tells a tale of caution, warning against the downfall that can be swiftly brought about by the words that so easily escape our mouths.
Perhaps today, the tract is a forgotten art. Griffith knew that the tract can go where the missionary cannot. The missionaries come and go and their words are regrettably forgotten, but the tract remains—ever bearing witness to the Truth.
You can read The Terrible Red Dwarf for yourself on its release date on our website – October 31st.