China’s Millions: The Publication that Drove the China Inland Mission

The China Inland Mission, founded with the humblest of beginnings on June 26, 1865, with 10 pounds, a prayer, and the opening of a British bank account, over the course of the following decades grew to become a missionary recruiting and sending “octopus” with tentacles that stretched from London to Chicago to the farthest reaches of the Chinese Empire. It eventually became the sending agency of over 800 missionaries before the turn of the century and over 1000 by the beginning of World War I.

The reasons for its rapid growth and success are many. There are of course the unrelenting passion of its founder, Hudson Taylor; the faithful support of ministry yokefellow noteworthies such as Charles Haddon Spurgeon and George Mueller; and the general missions fervor found in the late nineteenth century Western youth which gave rise to the likes of C.T. Studd, Montague Beauchamp, and Jonathan Goforth. Amid all of these reasons, however, the power of the written page perhaps had the most far-reaching effects.

The impact of the publication of Hudson Taylor’s China: Its Spiritual Needs and Claims fell like a bombshell in the missions world like none felt since the publication of William Carey’s Enquiry some seven decades previous. It was used in the recruitment of the initial members of the CIM in 1865 as well as others who didn’t make it to China until decades later such as Jonathan Goforth.

While China: Its Spiritual Needs and Claims was useful in igniting interest in missions, something had to be done to fan the flames and keep onlookers on the Homefront invested in the work. Hudson Taylor, after all, was a five months journey away in China for years at a time. How were hearts to be continually stirred to consider involvement in missions while those already involved were so far away? To this effect, perhaps no more was done to maintain a consistent stream of support and recruits for the CIM than the proliferation of the steady, faithful, and inspiring monthly publication known as China’s Millions.

In its infant form, China’s Millions, was a quarterly publication that ran from 1865-1875 under the name Occasional Papers. By the time it changed its name to China’s Millions, it had become a monthly magazine that was captivating the minds of both supporters and potential recruits throughout Britain. As the CIM grew to North America, the North American office in Toronto began publishing its own “American” China’s Millions as well. By the year 1919, the North American edition of China’s Millions boasted 4100 subscribers throughout the United States and Canada.

Here is what one historian has to say about China’s Millions:

China’s Millions was not primarily an anti-opium journal or a fund-raiser: it was a devotional text whose goal was to deepen the piety of its readers. Its message was reiterated in a hundred and one different ways: surrender your old life, “exchange” it for a new life of faith — and ‘step out on the promises’ of God. That message determined the type of applicants the CIM attracted. They were young people without “attachments” (engaged to be married) or “obligations” (in debt or looking after parents). Some were “so full of joy, it was the natural outcome of a heart full of the love of Christ that they should want to rush to the darkest unhappiest places in the world to tell it out. To others, and these perhaps deeper natures, the sense of sacrifice was so intense that the offer meant keenest pain…to break away from the tender ties of home.”1

“‘The Millions,’ as it was called, was an ‘effective tool’ with wide circulation among Christian leaders, politicians, and affiliated societies. With Taylor as editor, every issue had ‘a cutting edge, more than one, carrying its messages of many kinds deep into the awareness of readers. It must report to donors, inform and incite to action….It was also the conductor’s baton….So [Hudson Taylor] crystallized his messages in his own mind and re-echoed them in a hundred and one different ways, never tiring of them.’”2

“In 1875, just as he was scattering the Eighteen, Hudson Taylor started a new magazine, China’s Millions, and in its first issue he printed a map of China he had invented so that supporters in Britain could follow their itinerations.”3

“More significantly, [Frost] started a North American edition of China’s Millions that would be ‘more representative of our part of the work.’ The North American Millions was a different magazine, larger and better laid out, with photographs rather than the chinoiserie engravings that typified the British Millions. Canadian and American news was featured, less about England and Australia…Frost described the Millions as ‘ the chief deputation worker of the Mission in North America, being able to go to parts of the continent which missionaries cannot reach.’”4

May we do all that we can to stir up a passion for taking the gospel to China and around the world in our generation!

1 Austin, Alyvn. China’s Millions: The China Inland Mission and Late Qing Society, 1832-1905. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007). p. 203.
2 Ibidp. 25.
3 Ibid. p. 140.
4 Ibid. p. 314.

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