Missionary Robert E. Chamers' Biography: Hailed as "Pioneer of Literature Evangelism by Baptist Mission in China"

A cross.
A cross.
By CCD contributor: Paul Wu August 20th, 2019

Robert E. Chamers, a missionary in China from the American Baptist Church, was known as a "pioneer of Baptists' literature evangelism in China", specifically for missions in the Guangdong and Guangxi regions.

Born on April 24, 1870, Maryland, USA, to a devout Christian family, Robert E. Chamers was determined to do a mission overseas from an early age. After graduating from a seminary, he served at his local church, and then asked the church to send him overseas.

In 1895, Robert E. Chamers was sent to the two Chinese regions of Guangdong and Guangxi to carry out missionary work.

After coming to China, Robert E. Chamers went to preach in Wuzhou, Guangxi, in 1896. At that time, the Wuzhou people were quite conservative and blindly secluded; the local gentry (high-born class of people just below the noble class) were extremely opposed to the Gospel. They incited the people to persecute the church on several occasions, so the Baptist ministry was greatly damaged. After several twists and turns, Robert E. Charmers and his Chinese co-worker, Tan Baode, finally bought a house in Wuzhou. The house was converted into a preaching venue. Knowing that the social conditions did not allow for a mission, they came up with an alternative. He took advantage of the opportunity to chat with the workers who built the house and passed the Gospel on to them. Four of them accepted the gospel. After the anti-missionary tide subsided, the gospel had finally taken root in the land.

At that time, the Baptist Church in Guangzhou had a wonderful testimony. In the early 1880s, Chen Jinsheng, an overseas Chinese in New York, was walking down the street when he got a gospel leaflet. After carefully reading it, he believed in the Lord. After being baptized at a Baptist church, he returned to China to preach. As he preached the gospel in Guangzhou, he felt that the Baptist Church in China did not have the same well-established publishing institutions as its U.S. headquarters. This experience made him more aware than many about the enormous power of the writing ministry, so he repeatedly called for the Chinese Baptist Society to be able to set up a publishing house and create journals. He prayed for this for many years until the day of his death.

In 1899, Chamers returned to Guangzhou from Zhangzhou. At this time Brother Chen had been laid to rest for eight years. He was so moved by this testimony that he set up the "United States and China Baptist Publisher" at the Guangzhou East Stone Point Baptist Church. In 1902, the Publisher was moved into a new building in Guangzhou Shamian. In 1915, under the planning of Chamers, the Baptist Publisher purchased land in the center of Guangzhou. It was again moved to Shanghai in 1932 and changed its name to "Chinese Baptist Publisher". In more than thirty years since the establishment of the Publisher till the death of Chamers, there have been about 400 kinds of books published, of which sales reached more than 100,000 copies, including Recognition of the Truth, The Righteousness and Jesus and Confucianism. These publications are not only popular throughout the country, but also among Chinese churches all over the world.

In 1902, Robert E. Chamers founded the "True Light Magazine", one of the earliest journals founded by the Chinese Christian Church, which became the most influential journal of the Chinese Church at that time. In the 1920s, a huge wave of anti-Christianity was set off in China; many famous scholars and students blindly held up the banner of pragmatism, socialism, nationalism and so on, to slander the Gospel. In the face of this fierce anti-Christian movement, Robert E. Chamers' close co-worker, "True Light" editor, brother Zhang Yijing, stepped forward and started a fierce pen war against anti-Christian people. Zhang Yijing's articles caused a great response among intellectuals, correcting many people's misunderstanding of the Gospel, and some people even turned from opponents to believers.

In order to accomplish a good writing job, Robert E. Chamers recruited a lot of excellent Chinese co-workers and nurtured several talents for the church, including writers and proficient experts in typographic technology.

Chamers was also a productive writer. His works include both short and concise Gospel leaflets, and great books with hundreds of thousands of words. They also included both simple spiritual skits and esoteric theology theory. A piece he co-authored with Zhang Yijing entitled China's Today Needs was the most popular; its sales reached 1.5 million copies. His book The Biography of The Good Times was one of the most excellent biographies of priests who came to China at that time. The book also depicts a lot of Chinese social customs at the time, and provides many references for future generations to study the modern history of China. In addition, in consultation with Chinese customs, Robert E. Chamers had reduced import duties on foreign books.

In 1932, shortly after the completion of the building of the Chinese Baptist Publisher in Shanghai, he died at the age of 62.

- Translated by Charlie Li


related articles