MR. CHANG'S SEARCH
Chang Wan Nung was born, if I remember correctly, in a village some hundred and fifty miles north of Nanking in Central China. His parents worshipped idols, and of course young Chang did the same. As far as I know, not one in that village had ever heard of JESUS, or had ever seen a Bible, or even a Gospel portion.
When Wan Nung was about 16 a stranger passed through the village, and told a wonderful story of God come down as Man. He told the people that God loved them. How strange and different to the gods of wood and stone that those villagers worshipped horrible images with cruel and lustful faces, ready to harm any who might not worship and burn incense to them.
But LOVE: that was the last thing their gods would do. Wan Nung listened; and he heard that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Wan Nung had never heard anything like this before; and eagerly drank in every word, and I think he got a little Book from the stranger, that told him even more. I do not know who that stranger was, and I do not know that he ever passed that way again: but the heart of the boy was won; and from that day he loved and served the GOD Who had so loved him.
In course of time Wan Nung went to Nanking, the great Southern Capital, to look for work. There he heard more of this lovely story of old, and he met others who believed and loved his Lord. He also got a Bible, and earnestly and diligently he read and pondered the words that became so dear to him. He joined a church, and week by week he listened to the minister expound the Scriptures; but his heart was not satisfied. In vain he searched the New Testament for authority for all he saw and heard around him. In vain he searched for the choir and the organ used by the Apostles. In vain he searched to find the minister, like the one in the church he attended. The more earnestly he searched, the more questions were raised. He read of two or three gathered together unto the name of Christ alone. Why did his church and his mission use another name? He could find no answer, nor could the minister himself satisfy his hunger for the truth, as he found it in the Word.
So he left that church and attended another; but it was much the same. He went to every church and mission in Nanking, but it was a fruitless search. He found not one that seemed to have thought of following the teaching of the New Testament. I will go to Shanghai thought Mr. Chang, in that great city, with so many Christians, I will find somebody who is seeking to follow the Word of God. And so Mr. Chang came to Shanghai; but he had no better success. He visited every church and chapel and mission-hall that he could hear of, but he found not one that met in the way he felt sure the Christians used to meet, in the early days, when the Apostles lived. Sad and discouraged he returned to Nanking, to the church he had attended at first; wondering and praying what he should do. It seemed that nobody any longer had any desire to follow the Word of God, but all did what was right in their own eyes.
Mr. Chang was an honest man, and because of this his employers gave him most trying and difficult work, that could only be done by an absolutely trustworthy man. The pay was good, but it was particularly trying for a Christian. So life was full of trouble for Mr. Chang, within and without, until he was at his wits end.
About this time, a young missionary moved to Nanking, intending to go to the Language School to study Chinese. Circumstances, however, prevented him from entering on time, and he had, instead, to engage a private teacher. A kind friend introduced him to the most honest man in China, who (he said) would make a good teacher. Thus is was that Mr. Chang and Mr. Lee first met, and a warm love soon grew up between them that lasted until death did them part.
Mr. Chang spoke not a word of English, and Mr. Lee knew very little Chinese, so it was not always easy to make each other understand; but Mr. Chang endeared himself to the whole family, and Mr. and Mrs. Lee and the children were soon able to manage ordinary conversation.
Just before Chinese New Year, Mr. Lee had an urgent invitation to visit missionary friends some distance away; it was a difficult journey by boat, and he did not feel he could face it alone, so he asked his friend and teacher if he would accompany him. Mr. Lee can still remember the tender care he received on that journey, and the lessons he learned by the way.
There were a good number of Christians in the city to which they went. Special meetings lasting several days had been arranged over the holidays, and on the Lords Day quite a number sat down to remember the Lord. Mr. Chang watched in astonishment. He looked for the minister, but there was none. He looked for the pulpit, but it was not there. Instead all the Christians sat down in a large circle, several rows deep, and in the center was a table with a simple white cloth, and on it a loaf of bread and a cup of wine. There was a reverent silence, and after a time a Christian gave out a hymn, which all sang together. The choir and organ, to which Mr. Chang was accustomed, were absent; but to Mr. Chang's soul the singing was perfectly beautiful. He thought: Can it be I have found what I have been seeking so long? Then another brother prayed, and one and another took part with a Scripture, hymn, or a prayer. Mr. Chang thought to himself: At last I have found those who seek to meet according to the Word of God. His heart was overflowing with joy: disturbed by only one sorrow; he missed his friend Mr. Lee.
Between the meetings Mr. Chang was filled with questions, which the Chinese brothers sought to answer to the best of their ability. Who arranged the speakers? Who guided and ordered the meetings? Was it the Holy Spirit, or did the Christians arrange it beforehand? To his grief he found that although it outwardly appeared that the Lord alone presided, and the Holy Spirit was given liberty to guide, that actually the Christians had drawn up a program beforehand, which he saw written out in a book. To his grief he found that the Holy Spirit had little more place in the meetings than his own church in Nanking.
After their return home lessons went on as usual for a few days, though Mr. Lee could see that his teacher was troubled and distressed. At last one morning, looking Mr. Lee full in the face, Mr. Chang said: Mr. Lee, when we were up at the city together, you did not eat the Lord's Supper. Why? It was hard for Mr. Lee to say even the simplest sentences in Chinese, and how could he tell his friend why? He gazed for a minute in helpless silence, while he sent a prayer to Him Who alone could make the Truth clear. Then with faltering, stammering lips he tried to explain. At last Mr. Chang broke in: I know Mr. Lee. I understand. You seek to do in reality, what they profess to do. Now Mr. Lee had also seen the book with the program in it; and he felt almost as sad as Mr. Chang, but he had no idea that Mr. Chang had entered into these things in this way. But then the story of his search for what he knew was the Truth in Nanking and Shanghai, and how at last he had given up in despair, concluding that nobody in the world today cared whether they followed the teaching of the New Testament or not; that now there was nobody satisfied to meet, two or three gathered to the Lords name alone; giving the Lord His own proper place in the midst, and giving liberty to the Holy Spirit to lead and guide in worship. These things I have learned in the Bible; but I have never seen it done. I thought the other day that I had found what I have sought so long; but I only discovered it was the outward form only, without the reality. I want the reality.
And then came another question. Where do you and Mrs. Lee remember the Lord, on the Lord's Day? Mr. Chang, we remember the Lord just here in our own house. Then I want to remember the Lord with you next Lord's Day. O Mr. Chang, you would never want to do this. There are only three of us, and you know how little Chinese I know and the singing is terrible. You have been accustomed to a beautiful church, and lots of people, and good singing. You would never be satisfied with our poor little meeting. Mr. Lee can still remember the look of pain on Mr. Chang's face as he listened, and how he exclaimed: Mr. Lee, this is what I have been seeking for years. Do you think I care if there are only three? Is not the Lord Himself there in the midst? Do you think the beautiful singing can make up for His presence? No! Let me meet with you, according to His Word, to remember my Lord!
And so the next Lord's day in that house in Nanking there were four gathered around their Lord unto His Name; and He Himself was in their midst. One was an old Chinese woman who could not read or write a word. One was a Chinese scholar, a perfect gentleman. Their dialects were so different they could not understand each other. And the other two were foreigners, who could only lisp a few words of either dialect. They had no Chinese hymn book, except a tiny book with a dozen or two verses of Scripture put to music. Many a time the only hymns they could manage would be God so loved the world.. or, There is none other Name. But as Mr. Lee looks back over the years and thinks of great gatherings where hundreds have been present, the singing beautiful, the addresses powerful, yet he cannot remember a time when the presence of the Lord was more manifestly present than in those days of feebleness and weakness in Nanking. And not long ago Mr. Lee met an old missionary who had been present at some of those meeting, nearly thirty years ago, and with tears in his eyes, he remarked: As I look back over my life, the happiest moments in it, were those simple little meetings in your house, soon after I came to China.
No Beloved, it is not the beautiful music; it is not the lovely singing; it is not the gifted speakers; it is not the great crowds; it is not the nice building: No, all these things together can never, never take the place of having the Lord Jesus Himself in the midst. Men have added many things: man's ways have been substituted for God's ways: but nothing, nothing, nothing can ever make up for JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH¨ The LORD is There.
from a BTP pamphlet