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From Martyrdom to Idolatry

James Landrum Holmes served as one of the first Baptist missionaries in North China. In 1861, when he was only 23 years old, Mr. Holmes went out with another missionary to meet advancing forces of the Taiping Rebellion in an effort to make peace. The two men were killed by the rebels and their bodies were later found and buried. But this sad story does not end here.

"Once, in time of drought the people of Chuki village were begging their gods for much-needed rain. Butchers’ shops were closed. Every one abstained from meat and from the sin of taking life. Boys and girls went about wearing willow wreaths and waving willow branches crying out, ‘Heavenly Mandarin, send rain, send rain.’ A village elder called the leading men together and said, ‘How can you expect Heaven to hear your prayers when you have failed to worship the spirit of the man who gave his life to save you from being butchered?’

"So, to gain the favor of Heaven the men of the town erected a monument to the memory of the Christian martyr. There they prostrated themselves and burned incense invoking Mr. Holmes’ spirit. There today [written in 1938] one will find bunches of flowers, half-burned incense and offerings, made by hungry-hearted Chinese who have a zeal for God, but who have never had a chance to hear the Story that led Mr. Holmes to China."