They have been called the Dream Team of missions, seven young aristocratic athletes from Cambridge who stunned England by renouncing fame and fortune to serve Christ in the back country of Asia as missionaries with the China Inland Mission. The greatest speaker among them was Stanley Smith, who was captain of Cambridge’s rowing team. Charles T. Studd, captain of the Cambridge cricket team, was a poor speaker, but imposing in appearance. Smith, Studd, and their five compatriots toured the British Isles, preaching Christ and promoting missions, prior to their departure for the field. They were a media sensation.
On Tuesday, December 9, 1884, Smith and Studd arrived in Edinburgh to speak to students at the university there. They had been staying up all night at various colleges, praying and talking to students, and were in a “mortal funk,” as Studd later described it. Organizers had rented the Free Assembly Hall, distributed bundles of flyers, and put men in placards on sidewalks. There were two fears. Some worried that few of the skeptical Scottish students would show up; others were afraid the meetings would be disrupted by heckling. Studd and Smith spent the afternoon in prayer, “till they got the victory.”
The building was crammed well before the appointed hour, and when the two athletes entered the hall they were loudly cheered. Studd spoke first. His remarks were halting, but his devotion to Christ melted the crowd. Then Smith spoke about the hypocrisy of Christians lacking full commitment. The atmosphere was tense with spiritual power, and when Smith finished the students surged around him wanting to hear more of Christ and the Great Commission. Later that evening, the two young men arrived at the train station and found it thronged with young people shouting “Speech! Speech!” As the train pulled from the platform, the students ran after it singing, “God be with you till we meet again.”
The Cambridge Seven catapulted the China Inland Mission to the attention of the world. When they arrived in China in 1885, CIM had 163 missionaries there. By 1900 there were 800.
When the good news about the kingdom has been preached all over the world and told to all nations, the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 9.