The Sevilles in China

The Sevilles in China, 1899-1919

Jessie Maude Merritt was born into a Baptist household in Newburgh, New York in 1874. The Merritt family owned a farm near that downstate city and that is where she grew up. Her hair was a light auburn which looked over blue eyes. One of the subjects in which she excelled at high school was mathematics. This may have had something to do with her getting the job she took after graduating. At the Sweet Orr Overall Company she was employed to perform clerical and accounts work. Just a few years into this job, in 1894, aged twenty, she married Walter Greene. The couple resolved before or shortly after the wedding to do missionary work together. But first they had to save up money to fund this activity. So, Jessie continued her job at Sweet Orr in hopes of accumulating enough money to enter Toronto Bible College. That was the institution that could prepare them for mission work in China. Jessie and Walter had read of Hudson Taylor’s interdenominational Christian project, the China Inland Mission (CIM). Both felt led to join up. But before they went anywhere, Jessie became pregnant and expected their first child at the end of 1894. Although the boy had developed perfectly in the womb, and no defect whatever could be found in his body, the umbilical cord strangled him during delivery. Just a few weeks later, as Jessie was still recovering, yet another loss fell down upon her. Walter Greene died of tuberculosis. In her twenty-first year she was a widow of a husband and bereft of a child.
Robbed of her partner, she clung to her plan to go to China. The next year, in 1895, she went north to attend Toronto Bible College. Four years later, in 1899, she sailed from Vancouver to Shanghai. This turned out to be the eve of China’s Boxer Rebellion, an anti-foreigner and anti-Christian outbreak of violence in 1900 which left 58 CIM missionaries dead as well as 21 of their children. At first Jessie, either in Shanghai or Wenzhou (southern Zhejiang province), covered herself in a blanket and hid underneath a window. Just outside the house, some were slain in the open. The violence had not passed, so in the middle of the night Jessie fled with other possible prey. They were disguised and tucked into a vehicle that brought them to a port where they embarked for Japan. Jessie stayed there for some months, waiting for the rebellion to end. On returning she resumed her language study. She had to learn both Mandarin and the Chinese dialect of Wenzhou, for she was to teach at a girls school in that city where she would have to use the latter.
At that school in Wenzhou George Hugh Seville turned up one day. Seville was born in 1876 and grew up a Presbyterian. He attended Shadyside Academy in Pennsylvania before going to Westminster College in New Wilmington in the same state. He matriculated at Westminster in 1895, the same year in which Jessie had gone up to Toronto Bible College. Seville’s major was Latin and Greek. Upon graduating from Westminster in 1898, he immediately applied that major in teaching those languages at a boys prep school. But soon he too heard a calling to join the Chinese missionary project organized by Hudson Taylor. As Jessie had to attend Toronto Bible College first, so Seville had first to receive some training. This requirement led him to Allegheny Theological Seminary, run by the United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. So, in the year of the Boxer Rebellion and Jessie’s flight to Japan, in 1900, Seville began his theological study. In 1902 he completed his education at the seminary, and in early November of that year he boarded the Japanese steamship Maru at Vancouver. Seville got off the boat in Japan and stayed a week before traveling further south, arriving in Shanghai 2 December 1902. But Seville was assigned to Wenzhou, so from Shanghai he took a boat which stopped at Ningpo before floating down the coast and then up the Wenzhou River. Soon Seville was perfecting a pigtail because Hudson Taylor had made wearing one a requirement of all the men working in the CIM.
The mission compound is probably where Jessie and George met. That compound contained the main mission house, a two-story house with verandah, a garden of grass and bamboo trees, as well as separate girls and boys schools. When Seville arrived in late 1902 or early 1903 Jessie was already teaching at the girls school. The compound was large enough not only to accommodate those two schools but also dormitories attached to them. There was a Chinese church within the compound, which offered services for people both inside and outside. People from all parts of Wenzhou attended. On the compound there was a Chinese pastor who had his own house, and there were small dwellings for Chinese employees such as teachers, the cook, Wong, and the gatekeeper, Adjipah. A gatekeeper was needed because there was a high wall around the compound.
If not immediately, soon Seville was attracted to Jessie, the young widow and bright teacher. She may also have been a stern one: Jessie firmly rejected his wooing at first. Perhaps her memory of Walter Greene was still strong enough for her to feel disloyalty. Or maybe Seville didn’t seem mature enough: he was two years younger than she was. In any case, it took a few years for Jessie to agree to marry Seville. In the diary he kept during these years, Seville beseeched God to instruct him in the way that would win Jessie. He also noted his intention to write his brother Dade, a physician in Pittsburgh, to commission him to procure a diamond ring, just in case he would have to reply to a yes from Jessie. The yes did come after some more pursuit. Dressed in Chinese robes, Jessie (31) and Seville (29) wed at the Mission Headquarters of CIM in Shanghai on 29 March 1905. Shortly afterwards Jessie conceived, and their first child, Janet Elizabeth, was born 13 January 1906. Seville later recalled: “The other missionary couples of Wenzhou had no children, and the local Chinese church people were a bit curious about Westerners because of that. When Jessie and I had a child we realized our ‘stock had gone up’; we were considered to be really normal human beings.”
About two years later, another child was born to Jessie and George. Jessie was thirty-three and George was twenty-nine when John Eldridge was born, 7 November 1907. But before he had lived a year, on 25 July 1908, he died of gastroenteritis and diarrhea. The experience of his death may well have reminded Jessie of her first loss of an infant, in 1894—as well as the loss of her first husband which had swiftly followed that one. But her second husband, George Hugh Seville, was in excellent shape and was to remain fit all of his many years. Two years after the ill-fated John Eldrige was born, Janet Elizabeth, now three-years-old, was joined by a little sister. Elsa Ruth was born 24 October 1909 in Wenzhou. Jessie was now thirty-five and George thirty-three. The couple and their two daughters lived in the large house in the mission compound. There were two stairways on opposite sides of it. One led to the bedrooms of the Sevilles, the other led to the bedrooms of the female teachers at the school.Janet and Elsa got another sister in 1914. Edith Rachel Merritt was born 3 November, at Flower Garden Lane, Wenzhou, delivered by Dr. E.T.A. Stedeford, of the United Method Mission in Wenzhou. Janet was now eight and Elsa five years old. Jessie was forty and George thirty-eight. Since both Jessie and George continued to teach, their girls were cared for by a Chinese amah. The amah spent much time with them and taught them some Chinese. Each of Seville girls got Chinese names: Janet was Mei Oe, Elsa was Mei Yong, and Edith was Mei Fuh. When the girls were of age, they were sent to a boarding school up north.
On the coast of Shandong province’s northeast peninsula, in Yantai, CIM had established a school mainly for children of its missionaries. In 1894 there were over 200 students of missionaries at Chefoo School. But this school wasn’t an elementary school. In 1895 CIM opened a school for children aged 5-10. It was built at Tong-Hsin, three miles away from the first Chefoo building. Janet and Elsa were sent to this primary school of Chefoo. Janet probably went there in 1912. Elsa began attending when she was six, in 1916. Janet and Elsa usually returned to Wenzhou during breaks: they would take a coastal steamer to Shanghai and then a smaller boat to Wenzhou. Both Janet and Elsa were voracious readers, so their little sister Edith often found them engrossed in books. However, Elsa liked to read to her baby sister.Janet and Elsa wrote home every week. Elsa often asked after “little Edith” in her letters. Most of Elsa’s weekly letters were addressed to her mother. She sometimes signed them “Sunbeam” or “Sunbeam Elsa”. In a letter dated Chefoo, 12 Sept. 1917 (a little over a month before her eighth birthday) she reports that a teacher measured her as four feet one-and-a-half inches tall. The letters show that Elsa followed the events of World War I. She asks about her cousins fighting in it. In a letter from Chefoo, dated Nov. 6, 1918, she asks her father: “It is very good news, is it not, that Turkey has surrendered?” Evidently one of Elsa’s favorite adjectives was “ripping” to describe something excellent or first-rate. So in one letter she reports to her mother: “The tea was ripping.” Just a few lines later in this letter of June 18, 1919 she writes about a concert: “First, Miss Jeffrey played an absolutely ripping [double underline of those two words] pianoforte solo, then Miss Copp sang and lots of other ripping things were done.”While her sisters were away at Chefoo Edith was the center of attention at the compound in Wenzhou. She often walked around with the amah and flew kites with a girl named Bang Tsau. On other occasions she was taken in a rickshaw across the city to another compound, where she played with Nina, whose mother was Chinese but whose father was an official in the French consulate. When Elsa was home, the amah would lead her and Edith around, sometimes atop the Wenzhou city wall. Those promenades along the top of the wall were very entertaining for the two Seville girls. There were little dwellings, tiny shops, and even smaller enterprises scattered around it. As for the scene within the city, we can form some impression of what they experienced from a reminiscence, “Early Morning in a Chinese City”, penned by Elsa just several years after returning to America:

"Imagine the sounds of a slaughter-house, the confused babble of the subway rush hour, the varied odors of a garbage-collecting truck, and the appetizing aroma of a hot-dog stand combined, and you have an idea of the atmosphere of early morning in Wenchow.The air is hazy with smoke, sifting through the tiled roofs, of grass, straw, and twigs which are burning to cook the family breakfasts. The women, with their hair uncombed, in untidy contrast to the smooth, polished-ebony appearance it will present later in the day, are sweeping the dust and dirt out of the front rooms into the street. The pigs, kept in lieu of garbage cans, are let out for the day. The chickens, each marked with a splotch of bright-colored dye to distinguish it from members of the neighbors’ flocks, are shooed out to add their chicks and squawks to the grunts and squeals of the pigs, and the growls of the fierce-looking yellow dogs who are lying out in the middle of the street awaiting some passerby on whom to exercise their bark. On a few doorsteps there are children eating their morning rice, they are already handling the chopsticks expertly, although Americans at their age are clumsy and inefficient in managing the civilized spoon and fork.Two men trot by with a pig slung by its four feet to a pole over their shoulders, on the way to market: the protestations of the unlucky animal can be heard long after it is out of sight. Shopkeepers are taking down the wooden fronts of their shops: beggars are starting on their rounds to collect their daily portions of rice or cash from what we might call the “subscribers” on their routes. The sun climbs higher, and the comparative silence of early morning merges into the tumult of a Chinese city at business."

The Sevilles did not live in China uninterruptedly from 1905 to 1919. During those years they took furloughs which brought them back to America for short periods. One of these furloughs was scheduled for the fall of 1919. Having completed another year at Chefoo, Janet and Elsa took a boat south to rendezvous with their parents and Edith. The family then embarked at Shanghai, boarding The China in September. Elsa kept a little journal of the voyage, “Shanghai to San Francisco”:

“Sept. 14th [1919]. We left Shanghai on a launch. It was very late, and the launch, though supposed to leave at 4 P.M. never left till 6 P.M. There was a family on the launch, no, two families, who are missionaries on furlough.
Sept. 17th. We are in Nagasaki now. We arrived yesterday. Just now we are coaling.
Sept. 20th. Arrived in Yokohama.
Sept. 21st. Left Yokohama. It seems kind of countrified, compared with what I thought it would be. Everybody here rides bicycles it seems to me. We got out and saw the shops. We bought some sweets there, also two Damascene brooches, one apiece for Janet and me.
Sept. 25th. Guess what happened today?!! Mother’s cabin is on the corner of the deck. And Mr. Anderson, a judge, was just coming around the corner, when the boat tipped way way over, and he fell over, plumb into Mother’s lap! We laughed and so did everyone. But he was so confused! He should have laughed it off but he stammered and blushed so, that I felt sorry for him.
Sept. 26. We are on our way to Honolulu.
Sept. 27. We have two (2) Saturdays this week, because we are crossing the 180th degree of longitude.
Oct. 1. Today arrived at Honolulu! We got out and took an auto. We traveled all around. We went up onto the [Paly?]: a big high cliff, with rocks towering about it, flat on the top. This was where a battle was fought. The enemy tried to clamber up the side. When you look down you can see all over the plain. There is a magnificent view there. It is always windy there, and going across to the side, we all had to link arms going across to the edge to keep from falling over. On the way back we saw the place where the Queen lived. We dismissed the auto and got out. We went down to Waikiki Beach and saw the Aquarium. It was wonderful. There were beautiful fish there. I never have seen nor hope to see, any more beautiful fish.”

When the Sevilles left China, Elsa was almost ten years old. Janet was thirteen and Edith was only five. Edith could not have kept any journal, but years later she still vividly remembered their passage across the Pacific: “Each of us had a deck chair with their name on it, and they each had brought a steamer rug to keep them warm on deck. Every morning after breakfast I sat in my deck chair, and someone tucked me in. Everyone else sat in their chairs, too. Then a waiter in a white jacket brought each passenger beef tea in a white china cup. Then another waiter brought salted crackers. In the afternoon, at four o’clock, everyone got back on their deck chairs and the waiters brought tea and cookies.”
About a month after leaving Shanghai they landed in San Francisco Harbor. When George, Jessie, Janet, Elsa, and Edith had departed China in September 1919, they all expected to return after a short period. Not long after their arrival in San Francisco, Jessie was informed that she could not be granted the medical approval she needed to go back to Wenzhou. Thus, the Sevilles spent the next two years on the west coast before moving to the other side of the United States, where a grandchild of Elsa would one day take it into his head to become a missionary of English. Now returned, whether just on furlough or not, his curiosity was sufficiently piqued to research the events this narrative has described—and his curiosity sufficiently frustrated to regret his youthful indifference to the story of his grandmother’s life.



1914年11月3日,一名女婴在来温的美籍传教士家庭里诞生,父亲给她起了个中国名字——美福。 1919年,美福随家人离开中国,温州的记忆装满了她的童年,温州的风土人情,从此一直留在她的梦里。 1995年,八十一岁的美福携家人重访温州,返回美国后撰写了一本书——《来自中国的回忆》。今年3月30日,美福在瑞士去世,享年九十八岁。

  周过境香港,与一位在内地会(China Inland Mission,现称OMF International)工作的朋友喝下午茶。“听说你家祖上与Seville还有渊源。Seville的女儿叫Edith ,出生在温州,有个中国名字叫美什么?” “叫美福,她是薛华Schaeffer的太太。” “Edith Schaeffer今年3月30日在瑞士去世,享年九十八岁。”“她去世了?!”我一时愕然。

  内地会是1865年由英国人戴德生发起,专门服务中国的一家基督教传教机构。1867年便派遣传教士曹雅直到温州,曹氏由此成为温州近代史上第一位西来的新教传教士。从1867年至1951年,该会累计派遣数十位传教士到温州。美国人夏时若(George Hugh Seville)便是其中一员。他于1903年5月抵达上海,当时年仅二十七岁。

  夏时若是在温州认识后来成为他夫人的另一位美国传教士江孟氏(Jessie Maude Merritt)。江孟氏,1874年出生于美国纽约州,1899年来到上海,当时正是义和团运动高潮期。1900年前往温州,任内地会育德女校教师。在温州并肩的工作,让这两个年轻人结下一生的缘分, 1905年3月29日,他俩在上海结婚。

  夏时若与江孟氏有四个孩子,长女Janet Elizabeth,1906年出生。长子John Eldridge,1907年出生,不幸次年7月25日因痢疾夭折。接下来的两个孩子都是千金,老三Elsa Ruth ,1909年10月24日出生于温州;老四Edith Rachel,1914年11月3日也出生在温州,时为白累德医院院长施德福(E.T.A. Stedeford)所接生。

  夏家三女都生于中国,因此她们都有中国名字——美好(Mei Oe)、美顺(Mei Yong)与美福(Mei Fuh)。当时内地会在烟台办有传教士子弟学校,美好与美顺都在那里接受教育,逢寒暑假才能回到温州父母身边。美福最小,在1919年全家离开中国前,还未到入学的年龄,因此她的童年几乎都在温州度过。当时她与父母住在花园巷教堂后的大院里(现县学前军分区军属大院),院子里静谧的竹林、宽大的木头楼梯、友善的看门老伯及院子外的温州风土人情,从此一直留在她的梦里。1995年,八十一岁的美福曾携家人重访温州。返回美国后,她还撰写了一本书——《美福:来自中国的回忆》(Mei Fuh: Memories from China),以儿童的视角回忆温州生活,堪称温州版《城南旧事》。

  夏时若夫妇在温州生活了近二十年,直至1919年9月返美。离开时他们还计划不久就重返中国,但因江孟氏有心脏病,于是中国行没能继续。夏时若后来在美国费城一神学院担任希腊文及实践神学教授。美福后来则成为著名作家,撰写了大量作品,其中《家庭是什么》(What is a Family?)《家政的隐藏艺术》(The Hidden Art of Homemaking)《苦难》(Affliction)影响巨大,后者还获得福音派基督徒出版者协会(ECPA)金书奖。她的夫君薛华(Francis Schaeffer,1912-1984)在西方更为出名,是公共知识分子、哲学家、神学家。1955年美福夫妇还一起在瑞士创立独立福音机构“庇荫所”(L'Abri),开放家园,以实践“看得见的爱”。作为“互补主义”运动里程碑式的人物,用文字及行动关注妇女、家庭与基督教的美福曾被评为“改变二十世纪的一百位基督教女性”。

  今年4月7日的《纽约时报》报道这位“撰写了两打著作,在福音派基督徒,特别是妇女受众中拥有全球影响力”的多产作家去世时,称她为“帮助定义保守基督教家庭价值观的人”。当然,《纽约时报》亦不忘提及她1914年11月2日出生于中国温州。其实,美福是11月3日在温州出生,她在《美福:来自中国的回忆》书中特别提到,因父母是美国人,所以她必须在华盛顿登记出生。那时跨海电话还没发明,她爸爸发了一个电报,因时差的缘故,电报抵达华盛顿时那里才11月2日。 “从此我有两个生日,但是我所有的生日聚会都会在3日举行。”



Rev. & Mrs. George H. Seville


女宣教士江孟氏(Mrs. Jessie Merritt Greene)1900年到溫州,義和團亂時往上海避難,亂平後再回。1904年回國述職。夏時若牧師和江孟氏相遇於溫州,大家志趣相投,於1905年3月在上海成婚後同返溫州。1906年1月女兒(Janet)出生。










建造和擴大會堂事工:近年會堂在守聖餐時有人滿之患,今年主日崇拜人數續有增加,必須擴建會堂,增加三百座位,約需 一千二百墨西哥銀元,溫州教會捐了五百墨西哥銀元。12月豐收節舉行獻堂禮,在主日崇拜時,便可看到擴堂的效果,因管堂的報告,聚會人數接近一千人之多!下午兒童崇拜,由男女學堂之學生特別獻詩。還有在外南溪地區,也進行建堂工作,已有足夠的認捐奉獻,若找到適合地點,便可以買下來,盼明年成交。
















至於1914年其他統計是:150處聚會點,四十位受薪傳道人,161位義務傳道人,全年399人受洗,教會會員共2,775人,參加聚會人數全年約達7,400人,在溫州宣教站有夏牧師夫婦、榮姑娘和慕姑娘等四人,在平陽宣教站有衡教士夫婦和王教士夫婦等四人。另有一喜事,11月3日,夏牧師夫婦生下三女拉結(Edith Rachel Merritt)3。







(2)China’s Millions,LondonEdition,London:ChinaInlandMission.中國內地會月刊英倫版《億萬華民》1900年第47.80,155和166頁;1901年第62頁;1902年第45頁;1903年第22和56頁;1907年第4頁;1908年第34,35,132,144和145頁;1909年第53,75和168頁;1910年第170頁;1911年第22,58,122和142頁;1912年第114,126,170和175頁;1914年第78,79和114頁;1915年第46頁;1917年第31和92頁;1918年第29和35頁;1921年第6,7,83和93頁;1922年第12,44,45,48,112,156和157頁;1923年第78,139,157和190頁;1925年第160至161頁;1926年第6,80,93和110頁;1927年第59和174頁;1928年第40,41和138頁;1929年第43和56頁;1934年第38和232頁;1935年第109和216頁;1936年第238頁;1937年第192頁。















1.據《溫州基督教》第4頁所載有關溫州內地會:「先後負責的外國傳教士有:曹雅植(英人)、夏士爵(英人)、衡秉鈞(英人)、王廉(英人)、伊賽士(美人)。」惟據China's Millions和 China Inland Mission: Register of China Inland Mission Missionaries and Associates,1854-1948。《內地會宣教士及夥伴宣教士註冊名錄》的紀錄,夏時若(美人)之音與夏士爵同,又王廉是新西蘭人,並非英人。

2.據溫州吳迦勒弟兄註釋: South Gate南門堂(Sa-zie山前)即山前街,最東邊有(Zie-die上田)。

3.夏牧師夫婦育有長女Janet,次女Elsa Ruth和三女Edith Rachel Merritt,第三女之名Merritt是夏師母之娘家姓「孟」。

4.據MacGillivray, D.: A Century of Protestant Missions in China, 1807-1907一書第23頁之中文名稱安立甘教會,也即聖公會。




Minced Oaths
In Bible Presbyterian Church, George H. Seville on 26/07/2012 at 10:36

The Rev. George H. Seville wrote this little tract, found among the Papers of the Rev. Albert F. (“Bud”) Moginot, Jr.

Born, 19 March 1876, near Bellevue, PA, he later graduated from the Shadyside Academy in Pittsburgh, from Westminster College, New Wilmington, PA, and from Allegheny Seminary (UPCNA), Pittsburgh. He served as a high school teacher for a brief time before taking additional studies at the Moody Bible Institute, in preparation for ministry in China, beginning in 1902, serving under the auspices of the China Inland Mission. While stationed there, he met and later married a fellow missionary, the former Jessie Maud Merritt Greene, in 1905. [Mrs. Seville, born 15 Oct. 1874, died on 2 Jan. 1960 in Wilmington, Delaware.]

The couple had four children, all born in China. Three daughters, Janet (Mrs. Ralph M. Bragdon), Elsa (Mrs. Roger B. VanBuskirk) and Edith (Mrs. Francis A. Schaeffer), and a son, John, who died in infancy.

The Seville family returned from China in 1919, whereupon Rev. Seville studied at Gordon College and then served as pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian church, Newburgh, NY, from 1923-1930. From 1931-1935, Rev. Seville served in the publishing department of the China Inland Mission, based initially in Toronto, Ontario and later in Philadelphia, PA. It was during this period that his alma mater Westminster College awarded him the Doctor of Divinity degree, in 1932. He was next one of the founding professors at the Faith Theological Seminary, teaching Greek and Practical Theology. Retiring from that service in 1955, this was also about the same time that Francis and Edith Schaeffer founded the L’Abri ministry, and Dr. Seville served as treasurer for the ministry from 1955-1967.  Dr. Seville lived to be 101 years of age, and died on 21 March 1977.

Minced Oaths
Rev. George H. Seville, D.D.

A visiting minister was asked to lead in prayer in Sunday school, and when he had finished, a teacher heard one of her girls whisper, “Gosh, what a prayer!” Such an exclamation seems incongruous in expressing one’s appreciation of a prayer, but a little thought will lead anyone to the conclusion that “gosh” is not an appropriate word for a Christian to use on any occasion whatsoever. When we look into the original meaning of such interjections, we may be surprised that even some Christian people are habitual users of expressions which the dictionary terms “minced oaths.”

A very commonly used interjection is “Gee.” It is capitalized in Webster’s New International Diction­ary and given this definition: “A form of Jesus, used in minced oaths.” This derivation is even more ap­parent when the form “Geez,” now frequently heard, is used. Two other common words and their defini­tions are these: “Golly—a euphemism for God, used in minced oaths; gosh, a substitute for God, used in minced oaths.” “Darn, darned, darnation” are said to be “colloquial euphemisms for damn, damned, dam­nation.” Persons who allow their lips to utter “Gosh- darned” quite freely would be shocked if they realized the real meaning of the word.

A certain minister, professor in a sound seminary, when he was a child was not allowed to use “good­ness,” “mercy,” or “gracious” as exclamations. He was inclined to think the restrictions a family peculi­arity, merely a parental overcarefulness, but now he can see that it had a sound Calvinistic basis. The Shorter Catechism asks, “What is required in the third commandment?” and then gives this answer: “The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordi­nances, words, and works.” Certainly goodness is an attribute of God. That this is so is recognized by Webster in the latter part of his definition: “The word is used colloquially as an exclamation, or in various exclamatory phrases, as “for goodness sake! goodness gracious 1”—the reference being originally to the goodness of God.”

The use of minced oaths is quite contrary to the spirit of the New Testament teaching. For example, our Lord Jesus said: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all. . . . But let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one” (Matt. 5:34, 37, R. V.). The phrase “whatsoever is more than these” suggests the mean­ing of expletives, or exclamations: an expletive is defined as “something added merely as a filling; especially a word, letter, or syllable not necessary to the sense, but inserted to fill a vacancy.”

James in writing his Epistle repeats almost exactly the words of the Lord Jesus quoted above: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment” (Jas. 5:12). That last word recalls our Lord’s declaration: “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). The result of this judgment is given in the following verse, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be con­demned.”

If we try to excuse ourselves by saying that these exclamations slip through our lips unawares, we need to heed the Holy Spirit’s warning in the Epistle of James: “If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth [or, curbeth] not his tongue, but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain” (1:26). Even though we do not intend these minced oaths to bear the meaning the words originally had, we certainly cannot truthfully say that the use of them accords with Christ’s command, “Let your speech be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.”

James seemed puzzled by the same anomaly that puzzles us, namely, the presence of minced oaths on the lips of Christians. Writing of the tongue as “a restless evil . . . full of deadly poison,” he said: “Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and there­with curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Jas. 3 : 8-10).

While no attempt has been made to give a complete list of all the words in the vocabulary of near-pro­fanity, enough has been said to indicate that present- day speech has fallen below that standard which Christ Jesus set for his disciples.

The tendency in the use of expletives is to find the milder ones becoming less expressive of our feel­ings, to discard them, and use stronger ones in their stead. A careless following of others in the use of these common minced oaths will dull our own spiritual sensitiveness, and will weaken our Christian testimony.

To gain the victory in this matter of full obedience to our Lord Jesus, we need to make the prayer of David our daily petition: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” (Psa. 19: 14).

Image source : Sixteenth Annual Catalog of Faith Theological Seminary, Elkins Park, PA, Summer 1953, page 7.

We have two different printings of this tract preserved at the PCA Historical Center, both indicating that the tract was originally self-published; one tract gives Rev. Seville’s address in Wilmington, while the other lacks any address, indicating that it was probably distributed among closer associates and thus this latter example is probably the first printing. Subsequently, the tract was reprinted as “Minced oaths : a vital message for every Christian.” by the Good News Publishing Company, in 1944  and then again by the same publisher in the 1960s. It has additionally been reprinted in at least one periodical: The Projector. (Spring 1989). The tract remains in print to this day, currently available from Bible Truth Publishers [http://bibletruthpublishers.com/minced-oaths-leaflets/george-h-seville/communication-speech/pd5591]

The bulk of Dr. Seville’s published writing, so far as I’ve been able to discover, appeared on the pages of The Bible Today, a publication of The National Bible Institute in New York City. These articles appeared during the years when Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. was serving as president of that school. The PCA Historical Center has a complete run of this periodical from May 1941 to September 1951, and is currently searching for issues prior to May 1941. Dr. Seville appears to have written exclusively on the subject of missionary biography, and the articles included the following titles:

Hugh Adoniram Judson : The Apostle of Burma, 38.4 (January 1944) 75-80.
“And Some, Evangelists” Charles Grandison Finney, 41.3 (December 1946) 563-574.
“And Some, Evangelists” Dwight Lyman Moody, 41.4 (January 1947) 585-597.
“And Some, Evangelists” George Whitefield, 40.9 (June-September 1946) 486-495.
“And Some, Evangelists” Henry Moorhouse, 41.8 (June-September 1947) 719-729.
“And Some, Evangelists” J. Wilbur Chapman, 41.7 (April 1947) 672-681.
“And Some, Evangelists” John Wesley, 41.2 (November 1946) 544-555.
“And Some, Evangelists” Reuben Archer Torrey, 41.5 (February 1947) 608-617.
“And Some, Evangelists” William Ashely Sunday, 41.8 (May 1947) 686-697.
Bartholomew Ziegenbalg : The Apostle of India, 39.2 (November 1944) 42-47.
Christian Friedrich Schwartz : The Founder of the Native Church in India, 39.3 (December 1944) 68-74.
George and Grace Stott : Pioneers in Wenchow, China, 39.1 (October 1944) 14-20.
Glimour of Mongolia, 39.6 (March 1945) 158-167.
James Chalmers, 38.7 (April 1944) 164-171.
James Hudson Taylor, Part I : The Apprentice, 38.5 (February 1944) 120-124. [author's name not provided]
James Hudson Taylor, Part II : The Master Workman, 38.6 (March 1944) 139-146.
John Evangelist Gossner : the Father of Faith Missions, 40.1 (October 1945) 284-287
John Williams : The Apostle of the South, 39.8 (May 1945) 217-226.
Mary Slessor of Calabar : Pioneer Missionary of Okoyong, 38.9 (June-September 1944) 227-235.
Men We Should Know : Adolph Saphir: Hebrew Christian Preacher, 43.8 (May 1949) 249-258.
Men We Should Know : Albert B. Simpson: Founder of the C. and M. Alliance, 45.3 (December 1950) 68-77, 87.
Men We Should Know : Charles Simeon, Leader of the Low-Church Party, 42.7 (April 1948) 188-192; 42.9 (June-September 1948) 268-273.
Men We Should Know : Francis Asbury, the Homeless Bishop, 44.1 (October 1949) 5-12, 27, 32.
Men We Should Know : George Fox: Founder of Quakerism, 43.3 (December 1948) 77-84.
Men We Should Know : John Nelson Darby, 43.5 (February 1949) 139-144.
Men We Should Know : John Newton: a Brand from the Burning, 42.3 (December 1947) 89-93; 42.4 (January 1948) 103-109. Men We Should Know : Richard Baxter: a Protestant Saint, 43.4 (January 1949) 107-112, 136.
Men Worth Knowing : August Hermann Francke: Pastor, Professor, Philanthropist, 42.5 (February 1948) 137-147.
Men Worth Knowing : Philipp Jakob Spener, 42.1 (October 1947) 27-31; 42.2 (November 1947) 46-50.
Missionary Builders : Guido Verbeck : A Pioneer in New Japan, 40.7 (April 1946) 427-433.
Missionary Builders : John Wilkinson : Founder of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, 40.8 (May 1946) 475-483.
Missionary Builders : Pastor Louis Harms : Founder of a Unique Enterprise, 40.3 (December 1945) 350-354, 364.
Missionary Builders : Robert Moffat: Builder of the Bechuana Missions, 40.5 (February 1946) 396-402.
Missionary Builders : Robert Morrison: The Pioneer of Modern Missions in China, 39.9 (June-September 1945) 251-258, 264, 267.
William Carey : Founder of a Missionary Society and a Mission, 38.2 (November 1943) 36-40.
William Carey : One of the Serampore Brotherhood, 38.3 (December 1943) 54-59.
William Chalmers Burns: Evangelist and Missionary, 39.4 (January 1945) 89-95; 39.5 (February 1945) 126-129.