Abeel, David

   Reformed Church minister and pioneer missionary to China
   David Abeel was instrumental in establishing American Protestant missions in China. His travels and his writings also helped establish and strengthen missionary organizations in the United States and England.
   Abeel was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on June 12, 1804. He had decided on a career as a doctor, but a religious experience sent him into the ministry. He attended Rutgers College (now University) and completed his studies at the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Church in New Brunswick. Ordained in 1826, his first call to the pastorate was from Athens, New York. After two years, his health failed, and he moved to the West Indies.
   Abeel had felt a growing call to foreign missions, and once he had recovered his health, he applied to the Seaman's Friend Society for a position. They appointed him a chaplain and sent him to China in 1829. He sailed on the same ship that took Elijah Coleman Bridgman, the first American missionary to China, and arrived in Canton early in 1830. He worked with the society for a year, then traveled widely in Southeast Asia picking up some knowledge of Malay, Tahi, and Fukienese. in 1832, he received an appointment, from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as their second missionary to China after Bridgman.
   Poor health soon overtook him, and in 1833 he returned to the West. Stopping in England, he became a cofounder of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East. As health allowed, he continued to promote foreign missions, especially in his own Reformed Church in America, in no small part through his books The Claims of the World to the Gospel, Journal of a Residence in China, and The Missionary Convention at Jerusalem.
   He returned to Asia in 1839 just as the opium War was heating up. in 1842, he settled in Amoy, one of five ports newly opened to Westerners, and made it the center of Reformed Church activity in China. After three years, ill health again forced him home. He died in Albany, New York, on September 4, 1846. The first Protestant church erected in China was dedicated in 1848 by the Reformed Church in Amoy.
   Further reading:
   ■ David Abeel, Journal of a Residence in China (New York: Leavitt, Lord, 1834); , The Missionary Convention at Jerusalem (New York: John S. Taylor, 1838); G. R. Williamson, Memoir of the Reverend David Abeel, D.D.: Late Missionary to China (1849; reprint, Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1972).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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