Two hundred years ago, China was without the Gospel. A little secret was that William Wilberforce, a Christian credited with pioneering the fight to abolish the British slave trade, was key in helping to get the first Bible into the Chinese language.
The crazy untold story, and many more like it, can be found in our newest book BURY ME IN CHINA – Robert Morrison – The Man Who Dared to Bring the Gospel to China.
200 years ago, the most populated nation on earth, China, did not have a Bible in their own language. A young Christian named Robert Morrison, the very first Protestant missionary to China, was ready and eager to learn the language and translate the Bible into the Chinese language. There was just one problem. It was illegal for anyone in China to teach foreigners the Chinese language. Anyone Chinese found guilty of teaching foreigners the language would be executed.
To find someone to teach Robert Morrison the Chinese language was next to impossible until one day, a preacher by the name of Rev. Moseley believed God was calling him to find a Chinese language teacher for Robert.
Without having ever met a Chinese person before, Moseley instantly sprang into action with a feeling that he believed was nothing less than the Spirit of God, telling him to go directly to London to look for a man from China.
If there was a man from China, he was going to find him. Rev. Moseley was sure of it. Where his certainty on the matter came from was a quandary, because the hopes of finding a Chinese man in all of the people of London was an impossible proposal. The reverend didn’t have a clue where to start or what to do. He just prayed to God to lead his steps.
Moseley stepped out of his house at 18 Bloomsbury Street, ran down the steps leading away from his door, and walked through the streets aimlessly. He thought he would go to the quarters that had the most foreigners and look for anyone who looked Asian.
He went to the train station and prayed, “God I know that this is Your will. Lead me. Help me to listen to You. Help me to lean on You.”
The situation looked hopeless. At the end of the first day, Moseley felt rather foolish.
On the second day Rev. Moseley was walking down Leadenhall Street on his way to the Minories when he looked up and saw an Asian man. Having never actually met anyone from China before, Moseley lit up and just assumed that, of course, the man was Chinese! At this point in the reverend’s life, perhaps any Asian would do.
Moseley immediately moved to block the man from walking past him on the street. The man, with very determined steps, looked as if he were on his way to an appointment and was not in the mood to entertain fools.
“Sir, I am sorry,” Moseley said, trying to capture the Asian man’s attention. “Excuse me. Can I beg your pardon for a moment?”
The Asian was an elderly man of apparent respectability, only pausing because Rev. Mosely stood firmly in front of him. “I am looking for a young man from China that can teach Chinese. Do you know where I can find such a young man?”
It was such an odd and embarrassingly awkward question.
The old man stopped and began to engage. “You? You want just a random Chinese man?”
“You want to learn Chinese?”
“Not me, good sir, but I know someone who is ready.”
The old man looked up into the air as if to think for a moment and stroked his chin and then answered, “I know such a man.”
“You do?!” Mosely was filled with excitement. He could barely contain the dignity of a proper British minister.
“There is such a young man here in London. He is from Canton. His name is Sam Tak.”
“Great! How can I meet him?”
If you go to this address and call on a man that goes by the name Mr. Grieves, he will lead you to the place where he is taking temporary shelter at the moment.
“Yes. Mr. Grieves runs a boarding school where Sam is staying. Sam has not been in England long, but he has come here to learn the language. He was brought here by my friend Captain Wilson, who gave him passage from China. After Sam arrived here in England, there was no one to meet him, and he did not have a way to support himself. Captain Wilson could not take responsibility for him, but was not content to allow the young boy to be homeless. So a man by the name of Mr. Wilberforce and some of his acquaintances were so kind as to relieve Captain Wilson of the responsibility and looked after the boy.”
“Mr. Wilberforce?” inquired Moseley. “Yes, do you know him?” the Chinese man replied. “Yes, I know of him,” Moseley answered.
William Wilberforce was a British politician from Yorkshire who became a radical Christian and led the movement to abolish the slave trade. The same evangelical abolitionists formed a network that now made up the new mission societies that were dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the most unreached tribes.
“Yes, well, Mr. Wilberforce helped cover Sam’s education and living expenses at the boarding school.”
The Rev. Moseley contacted Robert Morrison, the first missionary to China, and together they met with Sam Tak. Sam taught Robert Morrison Chinese and even traveled to China to be with Robert during the years that he translated the first Bible into the Chinese language – an effort that might have never been possible without the help and support of William Wilberforce.
This story is one of the few untold stories found in “Bury Me in China”.
You can find it below, or order the print version from Amazon: