Malacca a place of historical interest to missionary and merchant

May 2010    

As presiding elder of the district, Rev W. E. Horley visited Malacca to inspect Methodist work and held a series of Chinese meetings. Satisfied with the work under the Chinese pastor, he was, however, convinced that there ought to be a missionary appointed there and that work should also be started amongst the Baba Chinese, partly because of the historical significance of Malacca.

HISTORICALLY, BOTH FROM A COMMERCIAL AND MISSIONARY STANDPOINT, Malacca is one of the most interesting places in the Far East. Was it not here that the first band of European traders settled in the year 1511 AD, when the Portuguese founded the colony? The Portuguese remained until 1641, when the Dutch drove them out, and the Dutch were in turn superseded by the English in 1795. From Malacca sounded forth the fiery eloquence of Francis Xavier, the “Apostle to the Far East”, and it is said that from that ruined church on the hill he anathemised Malacca and shook the dust from off his feet as a testimony against the wickedness of his countrymen.

Was it not from here that the Word of God was translated into Chinese by Drs Morrison and Milne, before China was opened to Christian missions? Was it not here, too, the first Protestant Chinese converts in the whole world were made, and baptised in the name of the Triune God?

Yes, Malacca is a place full of historical interest to both missionary and merchant!

As we stand on the green in front of the old Dutch Church with the river on one side, and the old Dutch Stadt House with mullioned windows, its steep roof and its old-world appearance on the other, we can fancy ourselves in the same old Dutch market town. Then as we sit amongst the massive granite altar-like tombs in the ruined Portuguese church on the smooth grassy lawn at our feet, and with glimpses of the sea from the doorways, we can fancy ourselves in some old ruined church in dear old England.

Then as we traverse some of the old and narrow Chinese streets near the market, we can fancy ourselves in some of the streets of Canton, or as we walk on the beautiful pier watching the gorgeous tropical sunset and enjoying the sweet afterglow, we can almost imagine we are at some seaside resort in the homeland.

I amused myself for some time with deciphering the old tombs in the Portuguese and Dutch churches, and the dates ranged from 1562 to 1774. Many thoughts pressed upon me as I stood in that quaint Dutch church and read the following inscription over Milne’s grave:

“Sacred to the memory of Rev W. Milne, D.D., Protestant Missionary to China under the auspices of the London Missionary Society. For seven years he resided in this settlement as Principal of the Anglo-Chinese College1 [not to be confused with the unsuccessful attempt to found a Methodist College in Singapore around 1917], superintending the education of Chinese and Malay youths, composing useful and religious tracts in their respective languages, and officiating in this church as a faithful minister of the Gospel of Christ, but the chief object of his labours in co-operation with the Rev Robert Morrison, D.D., was the translation of the earliest Protestant version of the Holy Scriptures into Chinese, in which he rendered most valuable and effi cient service. He was born in the year 1785 in Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire. Left England as a missionary 1812, and died in Malacca June 2nd 1822 at the age of 37.”

As I stood by the grave of this valiant soldier of the cross, my heart went up in prayer to God that I, too, might live such a life of the holy, practical Holy Spirit-filled service.’ – MM, October 1901, p. 2 ff.


1. Founded in 1818, but moved to Hong Kong in 1843.


■ The MCS Archives and History Library is located at #04-01 Methodist Centre, 70 Barker Road, Singapore 309936. Please call 6478-4775 if you wish to make a research visit. Research questions may be sent to: archive.history@methodist.org.sg
■ Web site: http://archives.methodist.org.sg

By W. E. Horley


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