On this day in 1801, Elijah Coleman Bridgman, the first American Protestant missionary appointed to China, was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

As a young man, Elijah attended Amherst College and Andover Theological Seminary.  Upon completion of his education, Elijah applied to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for mission work.  At the time he had applied to the Board, Robert Morrison had also written the Society, begging them to send men to get involved with the work in China.  The Board decided to send their new recruit, Elijah Bridgman, to join the great fight for the souls of China.

Generous ship captains provided Elijah a free trip aboard a ship named “The Roman” to China.  At the age of 29, Elijah set foot in Canton, China, where he was met by Morrison.  Working with Morrison, Elijah soon became an expert at the Chinese language.  He wrote several books in Chinese and was one of the main men who translated the Chinese Bible.  Elijah started a missionary press, which printed hundreds of copies of the Chinese Bible and other books to be distributed among the Chinese people.

Aside from his work among the Chinese people, Elijah’s other great achievement was the promoting of China in America.  When he first arrived in China, very few Americans knew anything about this great land.  He wrote and published The Chinese Repository, the world’s first major journal of sinology (this word simply means the study of China and things pertaining to it).  The book became a classic and Elijah was seen as the foremost authority on Chinese culture in America, both  among the churches and even the government.  Several times, he was called upon to advice the government in relation to their dealing with China.

Elijah’s The Chinese Repository dealt with a wide range of issues, from political to education to religion. In his book, in regards to the printing of the new Bibles, he wrote:

Finally, to every department of this work—to the revision, printing, and circulating of the oracles of the true God, the most constant and unwearied attention should be given, until the millions of this empire, with all those in the surrounding countries who understand the same written character, shall each and all read of the condescending love, the perfect justice, and the almighty power of the King of kings, the Father of the fatherless, and the eternal Judge of both the living and the dead. The night is far spent, and it is high time to awake out of sleep. The welfare of millions of our race, and the word and providence of God call on the disciples of Emmanuel to put on their armor, and come up to the help of their Lord against the mighty, remembering that the battle is not to the strong, nor the race to the swift, that it is Jehovah alone who can make truth, righteousness, and peace everywhere victorious, and fill the whole earth with praises to the great I AM.


Elijah Bridgeman

The Chinese Repository

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