An enemy's battle-ships off
the coast of Formosa! During all the
spring rumors of trouble had been coming across the channel from
the mainland. France [War in 1844.] and China had been quarreling over a
boundary line in Tongking. The affair had been settled but not in
a way that pleased France. So, without even waiting to declare
war, she sent a fleet to the China Sea and bombarded some of her
enemy's ports. Formosa, of course, came in for her share of the
trouble, and it was early in the summer that the French
battle-ships appeared. They hove in sight, sailing down the
Formosa Channel or Strait one hot day, and instantly all Formosa
was in an uproar of alarm and rage. The rage was greater than the
alarm, for China cordially despised all peoples beyond her own
border, and felt that the barbarians would probably be too feeble
to do them any harm. But that the barbarians should dare to
approach their coast with a war-vessel! That was a terrible
insult, and the fierce indignation of the people knew no bounds.
Their rage broke out against all foreigners. They did not
distinguish between the missionary from British soil and the
French soldiers on their enemy's vessels. They were all
barbarians alike, the Chinese declared, and as such were the
deadly foe of China. This Kai Bok-su was in league with the
French, and the native Christians all over Formosa were in league
with him, and all deserved death!
So hard days came for the
Christians of north Formosa. Wherever
there was a house containing converts, there was riot and
disorder. For bands of enraged heathen, armed with knives and
swords, would parade the streets about them and threaten all with
a violent death the moment the French fired a shot.
In some places near the
coast the Christian people dared not
leave their houses, and whenever they sent out their children to
buy food, often a heathen neighbor would catch them, brandish
knives over the terrified little ones' heads and declare they
would all be cut to pieces when the barbarian ships came into
Every hour of the day and
often in the night, letters came from
all parts of the country to Dr. Mackay. They were brought by
runners who came at great peril of their lives, and were sent by
the poor Christians. Each letter told the same tale; the lives
and property of all the converts were in grave danger if the
enemy did not leave. And they all asked Kai Bok-su to do
something to help them.
Now Kai Bok-su was a man
with great power and influence both in
Formosa and in his far-off Canada, but he had no means of
bringing that power to bear on the French. And indeed his own
life was in as great danger as any one's.
He wrote to the
Christians comforting them and enthusing them
with his own spirit. He bade them all be brave, and no matter
what came, danger or torture or death itself, they must be true
to Jesus Christ. He went about his work in the college or
hospital just as usual, though he knew that any day the angry mob
from the town below might come raging up to destroy and kill.
The French had entered
Kelung harbor and the danger was growing
more serious every day when Mackay found it necessary to go to
Palm Island, a pretty islet in the mouth of the Kelung river. It
was almost courting death to go, but he had been sent for, and he
went. He found the place right under the French guns and in the
midst of raging Chinese. Some of the faithful students were
there, and they were overcome with joy and hope at the sight of
him. Tile gathered them about him in a mission house for prayer
and a word of encouragement. Outside the Chinese soldiers paraded
up and down. Sometimes indeed they would burst into the room and
threaten the inmates with violence should the French fire. Kai
Bok-su went on quietly talking to his students. He urged them to
be faithful and reminded them of what their Master suffered at
the hands of a mob for their sake. But, in spite of their brave
spirits, the little company could not help listening for the boom
of the French guns. It was fully expected that the enemy would
soon fire, and when they did, the Christians well knew there
would be little chance for them to escape.
But God had prepared a
way out of the difficulty. The meeting was
scarcely over when a messenger came in, asking for the
missionary. A Christian on the mainland was very ill and wanted
Kai Bok-su to visit him. Mackay with his students left the island
at once and went to the home of the sick man.
They had been gone but a
short time when the thunder of the
French cannon broke over the harbor. The guns from the Chinese
fort answered, and had the missionary been on Palm Island he and
his converts would surely have been killed.
The Chinese were no match
for the French gunners. The bombardment
destroyed the fort and killed every soldier who did not manage to
get away. A great shell crashed into the magazine of the fort,
and the explosion hurled masses of the concrete walls an
incredible distance. The city about the fort was completely
deserted, for the people fled at the first sound of the guns.
As soon as the firing was
over, the rabble broke loose and a
perfect reign of terror prevailed. The mob carried black flags
and swept over town and country, plundering and murdering. The
Christians were of course the first object of attack, and to tear
down a church was the mob's fiercest joy. Seven of the most
beautiful chapels were completely destroyed and many others
In the town of Toa-liong-pong
was the home of Koa Kau, one of Kai
Bok-su's most devoted students. Here was a lovely chapel built at
great expense. The crowd tore it to pieces from roof to
foundation. Then, out of the bricks of the ruin they erected a
huge pile, eight feet high; they plastered it over with mud, and
on the face of it, next the highway where every one might see it,
they wrote in large Chinese characters:
MACKAY, THE BLACK-BEARDED
LIES HERE. HIS WORK IS ENDED.
They knew that the first
was not true, but they firmly believed
the latter statement, for they understood little of the power of
At Sin-tiam the crowd of
ruffians smashed the doors and windows
of the church. Then they took the communion roll and read aloud
the names of the Christians who had been baptized. As each name
was announced, some of the murderers would rush off toward the
home of the one mentioned. Here they would torture and often kill
the members of the family. The native preacher and his family
barely escaped with their lives. One good old Christian man with
his wife, both over sixty, were dragged out into the deep water
of the Sin-tiam river. Here they were given a choice. If they
gave up Jesus Christ, their lives would be saved. If they still
remained Christians, they would be drowned right there and then.
The brave old couple refused to accept life at such a cost.
"I'm not ashamed to own
my Lord," was a hymn Kai Bok-su had
taught them, and They had meant every word as they had sung it
many times in the pretty chapel by the river. And so they were
"not ashamed" now. They were led deeper and deeper into the
water, and at every few feet the way of escape was offered, but
they steadily refused, and were at last flung into the river--
faithful martyrs who certainly won a crown of life.
These were only two among
many brave Christians who died for
their Master's sake. Some were put to tortures too horrible to
tell to make them give up their faith. Some were hung by their
hair to trees, some were kicked or beaten to death, many were
slashed with knives until death relieved their pain. And on every
side the most noble Christian heroism was shown. In all ages
there have been those who died for their faith in Jesus Christ;
and these Formosan followers of their Master proved themselves no
less faithful than the martyrs of old.
And where was Kai Bok-su
while the mob raged over the country?
Going about his work in Tamsui as of old. Only now he worked both
night and day, and the anxiety for his poor converts kept him
awake in the few hours when he might have snatched some sleep. He
was here, there, everywhere at once, it seemed, writing letters
to encourage the Christians in distress, visiting those who were
wavering to strengthen their faith, teaching his students,
praying, preaching, night and day, he never ceased; and always
the mob surged about him threatening his life.
The French ships now
sailed out of Kelung harbor and took up
their position opposite Tamsui. Every one knew this probably
meant bombardment, and Dr. Mackay and Mr. Jamieson, standing on
the bluff before their houses, looked at each other and each knew
the other's thought. Bombardment would mean that the mob would
come raging up and destroy both life and property on the hill.
But just as they expected
the roar of guns to open, there sailed
into Tamsui harbor a vessel that flew a different flag from the
French. Mackay, looking at her through a glass, made out with joy
the crosses on the red banner of Britain! England had nothing to
do with this Chinese-French war, but as a British vessel can be
found lying around almost any port in the wide world, there of
course happened to be one near Tamsui. She gained a passport into
the harbor and sailed in with a very kindly mission; it was to
protect the lives of foreigners, not only from the French guns,
but from the Chinese mobs.
The ship had been in the
harbor but a short time when a young
English naval officer, carrying the British flag, came up the
path to the houses on the bluff. Dr. Mackay was in the library of
Oxford College, lecturing to his students, when the visitor
The missionary made the
sailor welcome and the young man told his
errand. Dr. Mackay was invited to bring his family and his
valuables and come on board the vessel to be the guest of the
captain until the disturbance was over.
It was a most kindly
invitation and Dr. Mackay shook his
visitor's hand warmly as he thanked hiffi. He turned and
translated the message to his students, and their hearts stood
still with dismay. If Kai Bok-su, their stay and support, were to
be taken away, what would become of them? But Kai Bok-su had not
changed with the changing circumstances. He was still as brave
and undaunted as though trouble had never come to his island.
He turned to the officer
again with a smile. "My family would not
be hard to move," he said, "but my valuables--I am afraid I could
not take them." He made a gesture toward the students standing
about him. "These young men and many more converts scattered all
over north Formosa, are my valuables. Many of them have faced
death unflinchingly for my sake. They are my valuables, and I
cannot leave them."
It was bravely said, just
as Kai Bok-su might be expected to
speak, and the English officer's eyes kindled with appreciation.
The words found a ready response in his heart. They were the
words of a true soldier of the King. The officer went back to his
captain with Mackay's message and with a deep admiration in his
heart for the man who would rather face death than leave his
So the British man-of-war
drew off, leaving the missionaries in
the midst of danger. And almost immediately, with a great
bursting roar, the bombardment from the French ships opened.
Sometimes the shells flew high over the town and up to the bluff,
so Dr. and Mrs. Mackay put their three little ones in a safe
corner under the house; but they themselves as well as Mr. and
Mrs. Jamieson, went in and out to and from the college, and the
girls' school as though nothing were happening.
Every day Mackay's work
grew heavier and his anxiety for the
persecuted Christians grew deeper. He ate very little, and he
scarcely slept at all. It was not the noise of the carnage about
him that kept him awake. He would have fallen asleep peacefully
amidst bursting shells, but he had no opportunity. The whole
burden of the young Church, harassed by persecution on all sides,
seemed to rest upon his spirit. Anxiety for the Christians in the
inland stations from whom he could not hear weighed on him night
and day, and his brave spirit was put to the severest test.
Only his great strong
faith in God kept him up and kept up the
spirits of the converts who looked to him for an example. And a
brave pattern he showed them. Often he and A Hoa paced the lawn
in front of the house while shot and shell whizzed around them.
During the worst of the bombardment they came and went between
the college and the house as if they had charmed lives. One day
there was a great roar and a shell struck Oxford College, shaking
it to its foundations. The smoke from fort and ships had scarcely
cleared away when, crash! and the girls' school was struck by a
bursting shell. Next moment there was a fearful bang and a great
stone that stood in front of the Mackays' house went up into the
air in a thousand fragments.
But when the firing was
hottest, Kai Bok-su would repeat to his
students the comforting Psalm:
"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the
arrow that flieth by day."
But in spite of his brave
demeanor, the strain on the shepherd of
this harassed flock was beginning to tell. And when the
bombardment ceased and the intense anxiety for his loved ones was
over, Kai Bok-su suddenly collapsed. Dr. Johnsen, the foreign
physician of Tamsui, came hurriedly up to the mission house to
see him. His verdict sent a thrill of dismay through every heart
that loved him, from the anxious little wife by the patient's
side, to the poorest convert in the town below. Their beloved Kai
Bok-su had brain fever.
"Too much anxiety and too
little sleep," said the medical man.
"He must sleep now," he added, "or he will die." But now that Kai
Bok-su had a chance to rest, he could not. Sleep had been chased
away too long to stay with him. Night and day he tossed about,
wide awake and burning with fever. His temperature was never less
than 102 during those days, and all the doctor's efforts could
not lower it. The awful heat of September was on, and the great
typhoons that would soon sweep across the country and clear the
air had not yet come. The glaring sun and the stifling damp heat
were all against the patient. At last one day the doctor saw a
crisis was approaching. He stood looking down at the hot, flushed
face, at the burning eyes, and the restless hands that were never
still, and he said to himself, "If the fever does not go down
to-day, he will die."
The doctor went along
"College Road toward his home, answering
the eager, anxious questions that met him on all sides with only
a shake of his head.
A Hoa followed him, his
drawn face full of pleading. Was he no
better ? he asked with quivering lips. It was the question poor A
Hoa asked many, many times a day, for he never left the house
when not away on duty. The doctor's face was full of sympathy and
his own heart weighed down as he sadly answered, "No."
"If I only had some ice,"
he muttered, knowing well he had none.
"If there was only one bit of ice in Tamsui, I'd save him yet."
Over in the British
consulate Dr. Johnsen had another patient.
Mr. Dodd lay sick there, though not nearly as ill as the
missionary, and the physician's next visit was to him. When he
entered he found a servant carrying a tray with some ice on it to
the sick room.
"Ice!" cried the doctor,
overjoyed. "Where did it come from?"
The servant explained
that the steamship Hailoong had just
arrived in Tamsui harbor with it that morning. The doctor entered
Mr. Dodd's room. Would he give him that ice to save Mackay's
life? was the question he asked. To save such a life as Mackay's!
That was an absurd question, Mr. Dodd declared, and he
immediately ordered that every bit of ice he had should be sent
at once to the missionary's house.
The doctor hurried back
up the hill with the precious remedy. He
broke up a piece and laid it like a little cushion on poor Kai
Bok-su's hot forehead; that forehead beneath which the busy
brain, resting neither day nor night, was burning up. It had not
been there a great while before the restless eyes lost their
fire, the eyelids drooped and, wonderful sight, Kai Bok-su sank
into a sleep! The doctor hardly dared to breathe If he could only
be kept asleep now, he had a chance. Dr. Mackay had never been a
sleeper, he well knew. He was too restless, too energetic, to
allow himself even proper rest. When Dr. Fraser, his first
assistant, had been with him, he had struggled to persuade him to
stay in bed at least six hours every night, but not always with
success. But now he was to show what he could do in the matter of
sleeping. All that night he lay, breathing peacefully, the next
day he slept on from morning till night, and little by little the
ice melted away on his forehead. He did not move all the next
night, and A Hoa and Mrs. Mackay and the doctor took turns at his
bedside watching that the precious ice was always there. Morning
came and it was all finished. The patient opened his eyes. He had
slept thirty-six hours, and a thrill of joy went through every
Christian heart in Tamsui, for their Kai Bok-su was saved!
But though the crisis was
over, he was still very weak, and such
was the state of affairs through the country that he was in no
condition to cope with them. Riot and. plunder was the order of
the day. News of churches being destroyed, of faithful Christians
being tortured or put to death, were still coming to the mission
house, and no one could tell what day would bring Kai Boksu's
And now came an order
from the British consul which the
missionaries could not disobey. He commanded that their families
must be moved at once from Formosa, as he could not answer for
their protection. So at once preparations for their departure
were made, and Mr. Jamieson took his wife and Mrs. Mackay and her
three little ones and sailed away for Hongkong.
But once more Kai Bok-su
stayed behind. It cost him bitter pain
to part with his loved ones, knowing he might never see them
again; he was weak and spent with fever, and his poor body was
worn to a shadow, but he stubbornly refused to leave the men who
had stood by him in every danger. The consul commanded, the
doctor pleaded, but no, Kai Bok-su would not go. If the danger
had grown greater, then all the more reason why he should stay
and comfort his people. And if God were pleased to send death,
then they would all die together.
But he was so weak and
sick that the doctor feared that if he
remained there would be little chance for the mob to kill him:
death would come sooner. So he came to his stubborn patient with
a new proposition. The Fukien, a merchant steamship, was now
lying in Tamsui harbor. She was to run to Hongkong and back
directly. If Mackay would only take that trip, his physician
urged, the sea air would make him new again, and he would return
in a short time and be ready to take up his work once more.
It was that promise that
moved Mackay's resolution. His utter
weakness held him down from work, and he longed with all his soul
to go out through the country to helps the poor, suffering
churches. So he finally consented to take the short journey and
pay a visit to his dear ones in Hongkong.
He did not get back quite
as soon as he intended, for the French
blockade delayed his vessel. But at last he stepped out upon the
Tamsui dock into a crowd of preachers, students, and converts who
were weeping for joy about him and exclaiming over his improved
The voyage had certainly
done wonders for him, and at once he
declared he must take a trip into the country and visit those who
were left of the churches.
It was a desperate
undertaking, for French soldiers were now
scattered through the country, guarding the larger towns and
cities and everywhere mobs of furious Chinese were ready to
torture or kill every foreigner. But it would take even greater
difficulties than these to stop Kai Bok-su, and he began at once
to lay plans for going on a tour.
He first went to the
British consul and came back in high spirits
with a folded paper m his hand. He spread it out on the library
table before A Hoa and Sun-a, who were to go with him, and this
is what it said:
British Consulate, Tamsui,
May 27th, 1885.
To: THE OFFICER IN CHIEF
COMMAND OF THE FRENCH FORCES AT KELUNG:
The bearer of this paper,
the Rev. George Leslie Mackay, D.D., a
British subject, missionary in Formosa, wishes to enter Kelung,
to visit his chapel and his house there, and to proceed through
Kelung to Kap-tsu-lan on the east coast of Formosa to visit his
converts there. Wherefore I, the undersigned, consul for Great
Britain at Tamsui, do beg the officer in chief command of the
French forces in Kelung to grant the said George Leslie Mackay
entry into, and a free and safe passage through, Kelung. He will
be accompanied by two Chinese followers, belonging to his
mission, named, respectively, Giam Chheng Hoa, and Iap Sun.
Her Britannic Majesty's
Consul at Tamsui.
They had all the power of
the British Empire behind them so long
as they held that paper. Then they hired a burden bearer to carry
their food, and Mackay cut a bamboo pole, fully twenty feet long,
and on it tied the British flag. With this floating over them,
the little army marched through the rice-fields down to Kelung.
It was an adventurous
journey. But, wonderful though it seemed,
they came through it safely. Poor Kai Bok-su's heart was torn as
he saw the ravages the mob had made on his churches. But what a
cheer his heart received when he found that persecution had
strengthened the converts that were left and everywhere the
heathen marveled that men should die for the faith the barbarian
missionary had taught. They were taken prisoners once for German
spies, and led far out of their way. But they came back to Tamsui
safely, having greatly cheered the faithful Christians who still
were true to their Master, Jesus Christ. It was early in June,
just one year from the opening of the war, that the French sailed
away. They were disgusted with the whole affair, the commander of
one vessel told Dr. Mackay, and they were all very glad it was
Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson and
Dr. Mackay's family returned to their
homes on the bluff, and work started up again with its old vigor.
But everywhere the
heathen were in great glee. Christianity had
been destroyed with the chapels, they were sure. Wherever Mackay
went, shouts of derision followed him, and everywhere he could
hear the joyful cry "Long-tsong bo-khi !" which meant "The
mission is wiped out!"
But strange though it may
seem, the mission had never been
stronger, and it soon began to assert itself. Dr. Mackay went at
the work of repairing the lost buildings with all the force of
his nature. First, he and Mr. Jamieson and A Hoa sat down and
prepared a statement of their losses. This they sent to the
commander-in-chief of the Chinese forces, who had been
responsible for law and order. Without any delay or questioning
of the missionaries' rights, the general sent Dr. Mackay the sum
asked for--ten thousand Mexican dollars.[About $5000.]
The next thing was to
plan the new chapels and see to the
building of them. And before the shouts of "Long-tsong bo-khi"
had well started, they began to be contradicted by walls of brick
or stone that rose up strong and sure to show that the mission
had not been wiped out. Three of the chapels were commenced all
at once--at Sintiam, at Bang-kah and at Sek-khau. Before anything
was done Dr. Mackay and a party of his students went up to
Sintiam to look over the site. They stood up on the pile of
ruins, surrounded by the Christians, and a crowd of heathen came
around gleefully to watch them in the hopes of seeing their
But to their amazement
the little company of Christians led by
the wonderful Kai Bok-su, suddenly burst into a hymn of praise to
God who had brought them safely through all their troubles:
Bless, O my soul, the
Lord thy God,
And not forgetful be
Of all his gracious
He hath bestowed on thee!
The heathen listened in
wonder to the words of praise where they
had expected lamentation, and they asked each other what was this
strange power that made men so strong and brave.
And their amazement grew
as the chapels, the lovely new chapels
of stone or brick, began to rise from the ruins of the old ones.
And not only did the old ones reappear, new and more beautiful,
but as Dr. Mackay and his native preachers went here and there
over the country others peeped forth like the hepaticas of
springtime, until there were not only the forty original chapels,
but in a few years the number had increased to sixty.
The triumphant shout that
the mission had been wiped out ceased
completely, and the people declared that they had been fools to
try to destroy the chapels, for the result had been only bigger
and better ones.
"Look now," said one old
heathen, pointing a withered finger to
the handsome spire of the Bang-kah chapel, that lifted itself
toward the sky, "Look now, the chapel towers above our temple. It
is larger than the one we destroyed."
His neighbors crowding
about him and gazing up with superstitious
awe at the spire, agreed.
"If we touch this one he
will build another and a bigger one,"
remarked another man.
"We cannot stop the
barbarian missionary," said the old heathen
with an air of conviction.
"No, no one can stop the
great Kai Boksu," they finally agreed,
and so they left off all opposition in despair.
Yes, the cry of "Long-tsong
bo-khi" had died, and the answer to
it was inscribed on the front of the splendid chapels that sprang
up all over north Formosa. For, just above the main entrance to
each, worked out in stucco plaster, was a picture of the burning
bush, and around it in Chinese the grand old motto:
"Nec tamen consumebatur"
("Yet it was not consumed.")