Education in mission

Daily Reading for October 14 • Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, Bishop of Shanghai, 1906

Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky, who had lived in Peking for several years laying the foundations of a deep knowledge of the Chinese language, was elected Bishop of Shanghai in 1875, after Bishop Williams’ withdrawal to Japan. He declined the bishopric at first, but yielded his wish when elected a second time in 1876. He was one of many remarkable men who came to China in those early years of mission work. By birth a Jew, by training a student, by nature an accomplished linguist, it was only natural that the bent of his mind should be towards translation work. He had done much while in Peking, but it seemed possible that the claim of his episcopal work would put a stop to his literary activity. His brief episcopate saw the founding of one of the best-known missionary institutions in China, namely, St. John’s College at Jessfield, close to Shanghai, and the kindred institution of St. Mary’s Hall, for women and girls. But hardly had these institutions been opened, ere their founder was laid aside by sunstroke, resulting in paralysis. To many men such an affliction would have been the signal for retirement from the mission-field. The Bishop, however, was a man of a different stamp. He relinquished the episcopal burden which had been laid upon him against his will, only to take up again the work of translation which he had been forced to lay aside for a few years. With indomitable courage and energy, paralyzed as he was, so that he could only use a typewriter with one finger, for sixteen years he persevered with his work, completing a translation of the entire Bible under circumstances which fairly entitle his labours to be called heroic. . . .

The first feature of the American Church Mission, which cannot fail to impress every student of Missions, is the attention given to education. Education seems to be, if not the prerogative of American Missions, at least their speciality; and the Church Mission is no exception to the rule. We have already noted the foundation of the two colleges round which this branch of the work centres. . . . Another mark of American courage is the endeavour to make the curriculum in all their schools as closely conformable to modern educational ideas as possible. That this involves a comparative slight upon the Chinese Classics is certain; and it may be doubted whether the latter will not have to secure greater alteration in the future than they have done hitherto. There has been some temptation to think that the reign of the celebrated Classics is already over; but signs are not wanting that they will come to take their place even among such modern subjects as mathematics, science, English, and the like, as firmly as English literature has taken its place with ourselves. There has been a reaction from the old traditional view which confined all education to the Classics: but patriotism and a knowledge of their native language alike demand that the students of to-day should not altogether ignore the literary treasures of their own land.

From “The Church in the Yangtse Valley,” in China by Frank L. Norris (London and Oxford: A. R. Mowbray, 1908).

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