Originally from outside of Glasgow, Gilmour (1843–1891) decided to dedicate his life to bringing the gospel to the people of Mongolia. His giftedness and zeal were evident to his friends in college, and some were surprised that he would choose to work in obscurity in a physically difficult place. From his base in Peking (Beijing), Gilmour repeatedly went into Mongolia with little equipment, encouragement, few or no companions, but strong conviction:
“I have been thinking lately over some of the inducements we have to live for Christ, and to confess Him and preach Him before men, not conferring with flesh and blood. Why should we be trammelled by the opinions and customs of men? Why should we care what men say of us? Salvation and damnation are realities, Christ is a reality, Eternity is a reality, and we shall soon be there in reality, and time shall soon be finished; and from our stand in eternity we shall look back on what we did in time, and what shall we think of it? Shall we be able to understand why we were afraid to speak to this man or that woman about salvation? Shall we be able to understand how we were ashamed to do what we knew was a Christian duty before one whom we knew to be a mocker at religion? Our cowardice shall seem small to us then. Let us now measure our actions by the standard of that scene, let us now look upon the things of time in the light of eternity, and we shall see them better as they are, and live more as we shall wish then we had done. It is not too late. We can secure yet what remains of our life. The present still is ours. Let us use it. It may be that we can’t be great, let us be good; if we can’t shine as great lights, let us make our light shine as God has made it to shine. Let us live lives as in the presence of Christ, anxious for His approval, and glad to take the condemnation of the world, and of Christ’s professed servants even, if we get the commendation of angels and our Master. The ‘well done!’ is to the faithful servant—to the faithful, not the great. Let us watch and pray that we may be faithful. It is a little hard to be this, and to care little for man.” (James Gilmour of Mongolia, 40–41)
Of course, Gilmour did care much for man; that was what led him to leave a comfortable life in the U. K. and dedicate himself to a people who did not ask him to come. But he cared little for man’s good opinion or approval if he thought it conflicted with God’s, and that showed clearly in his ministry.