On this day in 1890, Alexander Williamson, missionary to China, died in the city of Yantai, China.
Williamson was born in Falkirk, Scotland. The eldest of seven sons, he worked at a large mercantile establishment as he grew up. He attended Glasgow University when he was in his twenties with the aim of going to China as a missionary. He completed his studies and offered himself to the London missionary society for the mission field in China.
For three years, Williamson and his wife labored diligently in China, learning the language and culture and engaging in heavy evangelism. But the stress and pressure, combined with the difficult atmosphere, caused severe health issues for this faithful young couple and they were forced to return to Scotland. But even there, their burden to reach the Chinese with the Gospel burned within them. He began to work with the National Bible Society of Scotland to prepare Bibles and other literature to distribute in China. After he recovered from his medical issues, he was sent out by the National Bible Society of Scotland as their first overseas agent. In this position, he traveled extensively in Bible distribution and preaching in north China, Mongolia, and Manchuria. His time in Scotland was also used to recruit numerous other missionaries to come to China. One of the men he recruited was his own brother, who would serve several years in China before he was murdered in the city of Tianjin by anti-missionary gangs.
After six more years in China, Williamson was again forced to return home over medical issues. But like the time before, he took this as a time to redirect his ministry and not to get discouraged. He traveled around to many churches, presenting the need for more Bible and literature in China. Using the funds he raised, he founded the “Book and Tract Society for China” (later renamed: “The Society for Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese”.) He built a publishing house and printing press in Shanghai, where a large number of Bibles were printed for distribution.
Williamson’s vision was for his society to influence the higher classes in China through literature on the Christian faith.
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