Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/141

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85
THE PROVINCE OF KIANGSU

their efforts nor commensurate with their opportunities. One of the Fathers said to me, "Our work in China resembles Penelope's web. What is woven in the day while man can work is ever unravelled in the dark night of persecution." Protestant Missions, though still inferior to the Romanists in the number of their converts, are now for the first time their equals in prestige and equipment. It remains to be seen whether (avoiding the bickerings which ruined the Romanist Mission in the time of its fairest opportunity) they will respond to the call of God, and accomplish the task of Christianising this province—the task in which the Romanists have conspicuously failed.

From 1850 to 1864 the terrible Taiping Rebellion desolated China. The rebels captured Nanking in 1853, and from that time they made that city their capital. It is estimated that 20,000,000 people perished in that awful war, and of this number possibly a third were inhabitants of Kiangsu.

The Taipings professed faith in Christianity, but their deeds were a repetition of the horrors wrought by Attila and Jenghis Khan. Several Protestant missionaries resided for longer or shorter periods in the camps at Nanking and Soochow. Amongst these were Roberts—from whom Hung Siu-ts'üen, the rebel leader, first heard the Gospel, which had such an unexpected influence on his life and through him on China—Griffith John, Muirhead, and Edkins. The hopes entertained by the missionaries that the rebel movement would become a great moral force were sadly disappointed, and, one by one, they withdrew from the Taiping armies.

I have heard ex-Taipings say that the foreigners made a great mistake when they sent General Gordon to crush the rebellion. By so doing, they say, the foreigners prolonged the reign of the conservative and bigoted Manchus and ensured the supremacy of idolatry for many years. Whereas, had the British Government supported the rebels and enabled them to found a new dynasty, China would have been immediately thrown open to the commerce of the world.