James Morrison, an agriculturist from Scotland, married an English girl, Hannah Nicholson, and had eight children. The youngest, Robert, born in 1782, was a plodder. His schoolmaster uncle viewed him as an average student with a high degree of determination.

He became a Christian at age 15 and joined a praying society that met every Monday night in his father’s workshop. Robert spent weekends studying the Bible, applying his brand of determination to Christian growth. He redoubled his academic disciplines, moving his bed to a corner in his father’s workshop so he could study in solitude through late evenings. He later wrote, “The happiest abode (so far as the house goes) was my father’s workshop, swept clean by my own hands of a Saturday evening, and dedicated to prayer and meditation on Sunday. There was my bed, and there was my study.”

By 1801 he felt he could only be happy by entering the ministry, and in preparation, he began taking Latin. As it turned out he discovered a gift for languages, and he began thinking about missionary service. His mother, hearing of it, was alarmed. She wasn’t well, and felt she couldn’t part from him. Robert agreed to stay by her side as long as she lived.

She died the next year, and on November 24, 1802 Robert applied for admission at a preachers’ college in London. Two years later he sought duty with the London Missionary Society. His father’s protests broke his heart but not his determination. He pursued further training, then boarded ship and sailed from Britain on February 28, 1807, becoming the first Protestant missionary to China.

His plodding, viselike determination served him as well in China as it had in England, for he witnessed no breakthroughs for seven years. Finally he baptized his first convert. He persevered another 18 years, encountering staggering difficulties and seeing fewer than a dozen others follow Christ. At his death there were only three native Christians in the entire Chinese Empire.

But he opened the door, and today there are millions.

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. (Hebrews 12:1,2a)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Feb. 28.

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