The Religions of Japan From the Dawn of History to the Era of Meiji
William Elliot Griffis author
TWO CENTURIES OF SILENCE
The Japanese Shut In.
Sincerely regretting that we cannot pass more favorable judgments upon the Christianity of the seventeenth century in Japan, let us look into the two centuries of silence, and see what was the story between the paling of the Christian record in 1637, and the glowing of the palimpsest in 1859, when the new era begins.
The policy of the Japanese rulers, after the supposed utter extirpation of Christianity, was the double one of exclusion and inclusion. A deliberate attempt, long persisted in and for centuries apparently successful, was made to insulate Japan from the shock of change. The purpose was to draw a whole nation and people away from the currents and movements of humanity, and to stereotype national thought and custom. This was carried out in two ways: first, by exclusion, and then by inclusion. All foreign influences were shut off, or reduced to a minimum. The whole western world, especially Christendom, was put under ban.
Even the apparent exception made in favor of the Dutch was with the motive of making isolation more complete, and of securing the perfect safety which that isolation was expected to bring. For, having built, not indeed with brick and mortar, but by means of edict and law, both open and secret, a great wall of exclusion more powerful than that of China's, it was necessary that there should be a port-hole, for both sally and exit, and a slit for vigilant scrutiny of any attempt to force seclusion or violate the frontier. Hence, the Hollanders were allowed to have a small place of residence in front of a large city and at the head of a land-locked harbor. There, the foreigners being isolated and under strict guard, the government could have, as it were, a nerve which touched the distant nations, and could also, as with a telescope, sweep the horizon for signs of danger.
So, in 1640, the Hollanders were ordered to evacuate Hirado, and occupy the little "outer island" called Déshima, in front of the city of Nagasaki, and connected therewith by a bridge. Any ships entering this hill-girdled harbor, it was believed, could be easily managed by the military resources possessed by the government. Vessels were allowed yearly to bring the news from abroad and exchange the products of Japan for those of Europe. The English, who had in 1617 opened a trade and conducted a factory for some years,1 were unable to compete with the Dutch, and about 1624, after having lost in the venture forty thousand pounds sterling, withdrew entirely from the Japanese trade. The Dutch were thus left without a rival from Christendom.
Japan ceased her former trade and communications with the Philippine Islands, Annam, Siam, the Spice Islands and India,2 and begun to restrict trade and communication with Korea and China. The Koreans, who were considered as vassals, or semi-vassals, came to Japan to present their congratulations on the accession of each new Sh[=o]gun; and some small trade was done at Fusan under the superintendence of the daimi[=o] of Tsushima. Even this relation with Korea was rather one of watchfulness. It sprang from the pride of a victor rather than from any desire to maintain relations with the rest of the world. As for China, the communication with her was astonishingly little, only a few junks crossing yearly between Nankin and Nagasaki; so that, with the exception of one slit in their tower of observation, the Japanese became well isolated from the human family.
This system of exclusion was accompanied by an equally vigorous policy of inclusiveness. It was deliberately determined to keep the people from going abroad, either in their bodies or minds. All seaworthy ships were destroyed. Under pain of imprisonment and death, all natives were forbidden to go to a foreign country, except in the rare cases of urgent government service. By settled precedents it was soon made to be understood that those who were blown out to sea or carried away in stress of weather, need not come back; if they did, they must return only on Chinese and Korean vessels, and even then would be grudgingly allowed to land. It was given out, both at home and to the world, that no shipwrecked sailors or waifs would be welcomed when brought on foreign vessels.
This inclusive policy directed against physical exportation, was still more stringently carried out when applied to imports affecting the minds of the Japanese. The "government deliberately attempted to establish a society impervious to foreign ideas from without, and fostered within by all sorts of artificial legislation. This isolation affected every department of private and public life. Methods of education were cast in a definite mould; even matters of dress and household architecture were strictly regulated by the State, and industries were restricted or forced into specified channels, thus retarding economic developments."3
Starving of the Mind.
In the science of keeping life within stunted limits and artificial boundaries, the Japanese genius excels. It has been well said that "the Japanese mind is great in little things and little in great things." To cut the tap-root of a pine-shoot, and, by regulating the allowance of earth and water, to raise a pine-tree which when fifty years old shall be no higher than a silver dollar, has been the proud ambition of many an artist in botany. In like manner, the Tokugawa Sh[=o]guns (1604-1868) determined to so limit the supply of mental food, that the mind of Japan should be of those correctly dwarfed proportions of puniness, so admired by lovers of artificiality and unconscious caricature. Philosophy was selected as a chief tool among the engines of oppression, and as the main influence in stunting the intellect. All thought must be orthodox according to the standards of Confucianism, as expounded by Chu Hi. Anything like originality in poetry, learning or philosophy must be hooted down. Art must follow Chinese, Buddhist and Japanese traditions. Any violation of this order would mean ostracism. All learning must be in the Chinese and Japanese languages—the former mis-pronounced and in sound bearing as much resemblance to Pekingise speech as "Pennsylvania Dutch" does to the language of Berlin. Everything like thinking and study must be with a view of sustaining and maintaining the established order of things. The tree of education, instead of being a lofty or wide-spreading cryptomeria, must be the measured nursling of the teacup. If that trio of emblems, so admired by the natives, the bamboo, pine and plum, could produce glossy leaves, ever-green needles and fragrant blooms within a space of four cubic inches, so the law, the literature and the art of Japan must display their normal limit of fresh fragrance, of youthful vigor and of venerable age, enduring for aye, within the vessel of Japanese inclusion so carefully limited by the Yedo authorities.
Such a policy, reminds one of the Amherst agricultural experiment in which bands of iron were strapped around a much-afflicted squash, in order to test vital potency. It recalls the pretty little story of Picciola, in which a tender plant must grow between the interstices of the bricks in a prison yard. Besides the potent bonds of the only orthodox Confucian philosophy which was allowed and the legally recognized religions, there was gradually formed a marvellous system of legislation, that turned the whole nation into a secret society in which spies and hypocrites flourished like fungus on a dead log. Besides the unwritten code of private law,4 that is, the local and general customs founded on immemorial usage, there was that peculiar legal system framed by Iyéyas[)u], bequeathed as a legacy and for over two hundred years practically the supreme law of the land.
What this law was, it was exceedingly difficult, if not utterly impossible, for the aliens dwelling in the country at Nagasaki ever to find out. Keenly intellectual, as many of the physicians, superintendents and elect members of the Dutch trading company were, they seem never to have been able to get hold of what has been called "The Testament of Iyéyas[)u]."5 This consisted of one hundred laws or regulations, based on a home-spun sort of Confucianism, intended to be orthodoxy "unbroken for ages eternal."
To a man of western mode of thinking, the most astonishing thing is that this law was esoteric.6 The people knew of it only by its irresistible force, and by the constant pressure or the rare easing of its iron hand. Those who executed the law were drilled in its routine from childhood, and this routine became second nature. Only a few copies of the original instrument were known, and these were kept with a secrecy which to the people became a sacred mystery guarded by a long avenue of awe.
The Dutchmen at Déshima.
The Dutchmen who lived at Déshima for two centuries and a half, and the foreigners who first landed at the treaty ports in 1859, on inquiring about the methods of the Japanese Government, the laws and their administration, found that everything was veiled behind a vague embodiment of something which was called "the Law." What that law was, by whom enacted, and under what sanctions enforced, no one could tell; though all seemed to stand in awe of it as something of superhuman efficiency. Its mysteriousness was only equalled by the abject submission which it received.
Foreign diplomatists, on trying to deal with the seat and source of authority, instead of seeing the real head of power, played, as it were, a game of chess against a mysterious hand stretched out from behind a curtain. Morally, the whole tendency of such a dual system of exclusion and of inclusion was to make a nation of liars, foster confirmed habits of deceit, and create a code of politeness vitiated by insincerity.
With such repression of the natural powers of humanity, it was but in accordance with the nature of things that licentiousness should run riot, that on the fringes of society there should be the outcast and the pariah, and that the social waste of humanity by prostitution, by murder, by criminal execution under a code that prescribed the death penalty for hundreds of offences, should be enormous. It is natural also that in such a state of society population7 should be kept down within necessary limits, not only by famine, by the restraints of feudalism, by legalized murder in the form of vendetta, by a system of prostitution that made and still makes Japan infamous, by child murder, by lack of encouragement given to feeble or malformed children to live, and by various devices known to those who were ingenious in keeping up so artificial a state of society.
That there were many who tried to break through this wall, from both the inside and the outside, and to force the frontiers of exclusion and inclusion, is not to be wondered at. Externally, there were bold spirits from Christendom who burned to know the secrets of the mysterious land. Some even yearned to wear the ruby crown. The wonderful story of past Christian triumphs deeply stirred the heart of more than one fiery spirit, and so we find various attempts made by the clerical brethren of southern Europe to enter the country. Bound by their promises, the Dutch captains could not introduce these emissaries of a banned religion within the borders; yet there are several notable instances of Roman Catholic "religious"8 getting themselves left by shipmasters on the shores of Japan. The lion's den of reality was Yedo. Like the lion's den of fable, the footprints all led one way, and where these led the bones of the victims soon lay.
Besides these men with religious motives, the ships of the West came with offers of trade and threats of invasion. These were English, French, Russian and American, and the story of the frequent episodes has been told by Hildreth, Aston,9 Nitobé, and others. There is also a considerable body of native literature which gives the inside view of these efforts to force the seclusion of the hermit nation, and coax or compel the Japanese to be more sociable and more human. All were in vain until the peaceful armada, under the flag of thirty-one stars, led by Matthew Calbraith Perry,10 broke the long seclusion of this Thorn-rose of the Pacific, and the unarmed diplomacy of Townsend Harris,11 brought Japan into the brotherhood of commercial and Christian nations.
Within the isolating walls and the barred gates the story of the seekers after God is a thrilling one. The intellect of choice spirits, beating like caged eagles the bars of their prisons, yearned for more light and life. "Though an eagle be starving," says the Japanese proverb, "it will not eat grain;" and so, while the mass of the people and even the erudite, were content with ground food—even the chopped straw and husks of materialistic Confucianism and decayed Buddhism—there were noble souls who soared upward to exercise their God-given powers, and to seek nourishment fitted for that human spirit which goeth upward and not downward, and which, ever in restless discontent, seeks the Infinite.
Protests of Inquiring Spirits.
There is no stronger proof of the true humanity and the innate god-likeness of the Japanese, of their worthiness to hold and their inherent power to win a high place among the nations of the earth, than this longing of a few elect ones for the best that earth could give and Heaven bestow. We find men in travail of spirit, groping after God if haply they might find Him, following the ways of the Spirit along lines different, and in pathways remote, from those laid down by Confucius and his materialistic commentators, or by Buddha and his parodists or caricaturists. The story of the philosophers, who mutinied against the iron clamps and governmentally nourished system of the Séido College expounders, is yet to be fully told.12 It behooves some Japanese scholar to tell it.
How earnest truth-seeking Japanese protested and rebelled against the economic fallacies, against the political despotism, against the abominable usurpations, against the false strategies and against the inherent immoralities of the Tokugawa system, has of late years been set forth with tantalizing suggestiveness, but only in fragments, by the native historians. Heartrending is the narrative of these men who studied, who taught, who examined, who sifted the mountains of chaff in the native literature and writings, who made long journeys on foot all over the country, who furtively travelled in Korea and China, who boarded Dutch and Russian vessels, who secretly read forbidden books, who tried to improve their country and their people. These men saw that their country was falling behind not only the nations of the West, but, as it seemed to them, even the nations of the East. They felt that radical changes were necessary in order to reform the awful poverty, disease, licentiousness, national weakness, decay of bodily powers, and the creeping paralysis of the Samurai intellect and spirit. How they were ostracized, persecuted, put under ban, hounded by the spies, thrown into prison; how they died of starvation or of disease; how they were beheaded, crucified, or compelled to commit hara-kiri; how their books were purged by the censors, or put under ban or destroyed,13 and their maps, writings and plates burned, has not yet been told. It is a story that, when fully narrated, will make a volume of extraordinary interest. It is a story which both Christian and human interests challenge some native author to tell. During all this time, but especially during the first half of the nineteenth century, there was one steady goal to which the aspiring student ever kept his faith, and to which his feet tended. There was one place of pilgrimage, toward which the sons of the morning moved, and which, despite the spy and the informer and the vigilance of governors, fed their spirits, and whence they carried the sacred fire, or bore the seed whose harvest we now see. That goal of the pilgrim band was Nagasaki, and the place where the light burned and the sacred flames were kindled was Déshima. The men who helped to make true patriots, daring thinkers, inquirers after truth, bringers in of a better time, yes, and even Christians and preachers of the good news of God, were these Dutchmen of Déshima.
A Handful of Salt in a Stagnant Mass.
The Nagasaki Hollanders were not immaculate saints, neither were they sooty devils. They did not profess to be Christian missionaries. On the other hand, they were men not devoid of conscience nor of sympathy with aspiring and struggling men in a hermit nation, eager for light and truth. The Dutchman during the time of hermit Japan, as we see him in the literature of men who were hostile in faith and covetous rivals in trade, is a repulsive figure. He seems to be a brutal wretch, seeking only gain, and willing to sell conscience, humanity and his religion, for pelf. In reality, he was an ordinary European, probably no better, certainly no worse, than his age or the average man of his country or of his continent. Further, among this average dozen of exiles in the interest of commerce, science or culture, there were frequently honorable men far above the average European, and shining examples of Christianity and humanity. Even in his submission to the laws of the country, the Dutchman did no more, no less, but exactly as the daimi[=o]s,14 who like himself were subject to the humiliations imposed by the rulers in Yedo.
It was the Dutch, who, for two hundred years supplied the culture of Europe to Japan, introduced Western science, furnished almost the only intellectual stimulant, and were the sole teachers of medicine and science.15 They trained up hundreds of Japanese to be physicians who practised rational medicine and surgery. They filled with needed courage the hearts of men, who, secretly practising dissection of the bodies of criminals, demonstrated the falsity of Chinese ideas of anatomy. It was Dutch science which exploded and drove out of Japan that Chinese system of medicine, by means of which so many millions have, during the long ages, been slowly tortured to death.
The Déshima Dutchman was a kindly adviser, helper, guide and friend, the one means of communication with the world, a handful of salt in the stagnant mass. Long before the United States, or Commodore Perry, the Hollanders advised the Yodo government in favor of international intercourse. The Dutch language, nearest in structure and vocabulary to the English, even richer in the descriptive energy of its terms, and saturated withal with Christian truth, was studied by eager young men. These speakers of an impersonal language which in psychological development was scarcely above the grade of childhood, were exercised in a tongue that stands second to none in Europe for purity, vigor, personality and philosophical power. The Japanese students of Dutch held a golden key which opened the treasures of modern thought and of the world's literature. The minds of thinking Japanese were thus made plastic for the reception of the ideas of Christianity. Best of all, though forbidden by their contracts to import Bibles into Japan, the Dutchmen, by means of works of reference, pointed more than one inquiring spirit to the information by which the historic Christ became known. The books which they imported, the information which they gave, the stimulus which they imparted, were as seeds planted within masonry-covered earth, that were to upheave and overthrow the fabric of exclusion and inclusion reared by the Tokugawa Sh[=o]guns.
Time and space fail us to tell how eager spirits not only groped after God, but sought the living Christ—though often this meant to them imprisonment, suicide enforced by the law, or decapitation. Yet over all Japan, long before the broad pennant of Perry was mirrored on the waters of Yedo Bay, there were here and there masses of leavened opinion, spots of kindled light, and fields upon which the tender green sprouts of new ideas could be detected. To-day, as inquiry among the oldest of the Christian leaders and scores of volumes of modern biography shows, the most earnest and faithful among the preachers, teachers and soldiers in the Christian army, were led into their new world of ideas through Dutch culture. The fact is revealed in repeated instances, that, through father, grandfather, uncle, or other relative—some pilgrim to the Dutch at Nagasaki—came their first knowledge, their initial promptings, the environment or atmosphere, which made them all sensitive and ready to receive the Christian truth when it came in its full form from the living missionary and the vital word of God. Some one has well said that the languages of modern Europe are nothing more than Christianity expressed with differing pronunciation and vocabulary. To him who will receive it, the mastery of any one of the languages of Christendom, is, in a large sense, a revelation of God in Christ Jesus.
Seekers after God.
Pathetic, even to the compulsion of tears, is the story of these seekers after God. We, who to-day are surrounded by every motive and inducement to Christian living and by every means and appliance for the practice of the Christian life, may well consider for a moment the struggle of earnest souls to find out God. Think of this one who finds a Latin Bible cast up on the shore from some broken ship, and bearing it secretly in his bosom to the Hollander, gains light as to the meaning of its message. Think of the nobleman, Watanabé Oboru,16 who, by means of the Japanese interpreter of Dutch, Takano Choyéi, is thrilled with the story of Jesus of Nazareth who helped and healed and spake as no other man spake, teaching with an authority above that of the masters Confucius or Buddha. Think of the daimi[=o] of Mito,17 who, proud in lineage, learned and scholarly, and surrounded by a host of educated men, is yet unsatisfied with what the wise of his own country could give him, and gathers around him the relics unearthed from the old persecutions. From a picture of the Virgin, a fragment of a litany, or it may be a part of a breviary, he tries to make out what Christianity is.
Think of Yokoi Héishiro,18 learned in Confucius and his commentators, who seeks better light, sends to China for a Chinese translation of the New Testament, and in his lectures on the Confucian ethics, to the delight and yet to the surprise of his hearers who hear grander truth than they are able to find in text or commentary, really preaches Christ, and prophesies that the time will come when the walls of isolation being levelled, the brightest intellects of Japan will welcome this same Jesus and His doctrine. Think of him again, when unable to purify the Augean stables of Yedo's moral corruption, because the time was at hand for other cleansing agencies, he retires to his home, content awhile with his books and flowers. Again, see him summoned to the capital, to sit at Ki[=o]to—like aged Franklin among the young statesmen of the Constitution in Philadelphia—with the Mikado's youthful advisers in the new government of 1868. Think of him pleading for the elevation of the pariah Eta, accursed and outcast through Buddhism, to humanity and citizenship. Then hear him urge eloquently the right of personal belief, and argue for toleration under the law, of opinions, which the Japanese then stigmatized as "evil" and devilish, but which we, and many of them now, call sound and Christian. Finally, behold him at night in the public streets, assaulted by assassins, and given quick death by their bullet and blades. See his gray head lying severed from his body and in its own gore, the wretched murderers thinking they have stayed the advancing tide of Christianity; but at home there dwells a little son destined in God's providence to become an earnest Christian and one of the brilliant leaders of the native Christianity of Japan in our day.
The Buddhist Inquisitors.
During the nation's period of Thorn-rose-like seclusion, the three religions recognized by the law were Buddhism, Shint[=o] and Confucianism. Christianity was the outlawed sect. All over the country, on the high-roads, at the bridges, and in the villages, towns and cities, the fundamental laws of the country were written on wooden tablets called kosats[)u]. These, framed and roofed for protection from the weather, but easily before the eyes of every man, woman and child, and written in a style and language understood of all, denounced the Christian religion as an accursed "sect," and offered gold to the spy and informer;19 while once a year every Samurai was required to swear on the true faith of a gentleman that he had nothing to do with Christianity. From the seventeenth century, the country having been divided into parishes, the inquisition was under the charge of the Buddhist priests who penetrated into the house and family and guarded the graveyards, so that neither earth nor fire should embrace the carcass of a Christian, nor his dust or ashes defile the ancestral graveyards. Twice—in 1686 and in 1711—were the rewards increased and the Buddhist bloodhounds of Japan's Inquisition set on fresh trails. On one occasion, at Osaka, in 1839,20 a rebellion broke out which was believed, though without evidence, to have been instigated in some way by men with Christian ideas, and was certainly led by Oshio, the bitter opponent of Buddhism, of Tokugawa, and of the prevalent Confucianism. Possibly, the uprising was aided by refugees from Korea. Those implicated were, after speedy trial, crucified or beheaded. In the southern part of the country the ceremony of Ebumi or trampling on the cross,21 was long performed. Thousands of people were made to pass through a wicket, beneath which and on the ground lay a copper plate engraved with the image of the Christ and the cross. In this way it was hoped to utterly eradicate the very memory of Christianity, which, to the common people, had become the synonym for sorcery.
But besides the seeking after God by earnest souls and the protest of philosophers, there was, amid the prevailing immorality and the agnosticism and scepticism bred by decayed Buddhism and the materialistic philosophy based on Confucius, some earnest struggles for the purification of morals and the spiritual improvement of the people.
The Shingaku Movement.
One of the most remarkable of the movements to this end was that of the Shingaku or New Learning. A class of practical moralists, to offset the prevailing tendency of the age to much speculation and because Buddhism did so little for the people, tried to make the doctrines of Confucius a living force among the great mass of people. This movement, though Confucian in its chief tone and color, was eclectic and intended to combine all that was best in the Chinese system with what could be utilized from Shint[=o] and Buddhism. With the preaching was combined a good deal of active benevolence. Especially in the time of famine, was care for humanity shown. The effect upon the people was noticeable, followers multiplied rapidly, and it is said that even the government in many instances made them, the Shingaku preachers, the distributors of rice and alms for the needy. Some of the preachers became famous and counted among their followers many men of influence. The literary side of the movement22 has been brought to the attention of English readers through Mr. Mitford's translation of three sermons from the volume entitled Shingaku D[=o]wa. Other discourses have been from time to time rendered into English, those by Shibata, entitled The Sermons of the Dove-like Venerable Master, being especially famous.
This movement, interesting as it was, came to an end when the country began to be convulsed by the approaching entrance of foreigners, through the Perry treaty; but it serves to show, what we believe to be the truth, that the moral rottenness as well as the physical decay of the Japanese people reached their acme just previous to the apparition of the American fleet in 1853.
The story of nineteenth century Reformed Christianity in Japan does not begin with Perry, or with Harris, or with the arrival of Christian missionaries in 1859; for it has a subterranean and interior history, as we have hinted; while that of the Roman form and order is a story of unbroken continuity, though the life of the tunnel is now that of the sunny road. The parable of the leaven is first illustrated and then that of the mustard-seed. Before Christianity was phenomenal, it was potent. Let us now look from the interior to the outside.
On Perry's flag-ship, the Mississippi, the Bible lay open, a sermon was preached, and the hymn "Before Jehovah's Awful Throne" was sung, waking the echoes of the Japan hills. The Christian day of rest was honored on this American squadron. In the treaty signed in 1854, though it was made, indeed, with use of the name of God and terms of Christian chronology, there was nothing upon which to base, either by right or privilege, the residence of missionaries in the country. Townsend Harris, the American Consul-General, who hoisted his flag and began his hermit life at Shimoda, in September, 1855, had as his only companion a Dutch secretary, Mr. Heusken, who was later, in Yedo, to be assassinated by ronins.
Without ship or soldier, overcoming craft and guile, and winning his way by simple honesty and perseverance, Mr. Harris obtained audience23 of "the Tycoon" in Yedo, and later from the Sh[=o]gun's daring minister Ii, the signature to a treaty which guaranteed to Americans the rights of residence, trade and commerce. Thus Americans were enabled to land as citizens, and pursue their avocation as religious teachers. As the government of the United States of America knows nothing of the religion of American citizens abroad, it protects all missionaries who are law-abiding citizens, without regard to creed.24
Japan Once More Missionary Soil.
The first missionaries were on the ground as soon as the ports were open. Though surrounded by spies and always in danger of assassination and incendiarism, they began their work of mastering the language. To do this without trained teachers or apparatus of dictionary and grammar, was then an appalling task. The medical missionary began healing the swarms of human sufferers, syphilitic, consumptive, and those scourged by small-pox, cholera and hereditary and acute diseases of all sorts. The patience, kindness and persistency of these Christian men literally turned the edge of the sword, disarmed the assassin, made the spies' occupation useless, shamed away the suspicious, and conquered the nearly invincible prejudices of the government. Despite the awful under-tow in the immorality of the sailor, the adventurer and the gain-greedy foreigner, the tide of Christianity began steadily to rise. Notwithstanding the outbursts of the flames of persecution, the torture and imprisonment of Christian captives and exiles, and the slow worrying to death of the missionary's native teachers, inquirers came and converts were made. In 1868, after revolution and restoration, the old order changed, and duarchy and feudalism passed away. Quick to seize the opportunity, Dr. J.C. Hepburn, healer of bodies and souls of men, presented a Bible to the Emperor, and the gift was accepted.
No sooner had the new government been established in safety, and the name of Yedo, the city of the Baydoor, been changed into that of T[=o]ki[=o], the Eastern Capital, than an embassy25 of seventy persons started on its course round the world. At its head were three cabinet ministers of the new government and the court noble, Iwakura, of immemorial lineage, in whose veins ran the blood of the men called gods. Across the Pacific to the United States they went, having their initial audience of the President of the Republic that knows no state church, and whose Christianity had compelled both the return of the shipwrecked Japanese and the freedom of the slave.
This embassy had been suggested and its course planned by a Christian missionary, who found that of the seventy persons, one-half had been his pupils.26
The Imperial Embassy Round the World.
The purpose of these envoys was, first of all, to ask of the nations of Christendom equal rights, to get removed the odious extra-territoriality clause in the treaties, to have the right to govern aliens on their soil, and to regulate their own tariff. Secondarily, its members went to study the secrets of power and the resources of civilization in the West, to initiate the liberal education of their women by leaving in American schools a little company of maidens, to enlarge the system of education for their own country, and to send abroad with approval others of their young men who, for a decade past had, in spite of every ban and obstacle, been furtively leaving the country for study beyond the seas.
In the lands of Christendom, the eyes of ambassadors, ministers, secretaries and students were opened. They saw themselves as others saw them. They compared their own land and nation, mediaeval in spirit and backward in resources, and their people untrained as children, with the modern power, the restless ambition, the stern purpose, the intense life of the western nations, with their mighty fleets and armaments, their inventions and machinery, their economic and social theories and forces, their provision for the poor, the sick, and the aged, the peerless family life in the Christian home. They found, further yet, free churches divorced from politics and independent of the state; that the leading force of the world was Christianity, that persecution was barbarous, and that toleration was the law of the future, and largely the condition of the present. It took but a few whispers over the telegraphic wire, and the anti-Christian edicts disappeared from public view like snowflakes melting on the river. The right arm of persecution was broken.
The story of the Book of Acts of the modern apostles in Japan is told, first in the teaching of inquirers, preaching to handfuls, the gathering of tiny companies, the translation of the Gospel, and then prayer and waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit. A study of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, followed in order to find out how the Christian Church began. On the 10th day of March, in the year of our Lord and of the era of Meiji (Enlightened Peace) the fifth, 1872, at Yokohama, in the little stone chapel built on part of Commodore Perry's treaty ground, was formed the first Reformed or Protestant Christian Church in Japan.
At this point our task is ended. We cannot even glance at the native Christian churches of the Roman, Reformed, or Greek order, or attempt to appraise the work of the foreign missionaries. He has read these pages in vain, however, who does not see how well, under Providence, the Japanese have been trained for higher forms of faith.
The armies of Japan are upon Chinese soil, while we pen our closing lines. The last chains of purely local and ethnic dogma are being snapped asunder. May the sons of Dai Nippon, as they win new horizons of truth, see more clearly and welcome more loyally that Prince of Peace whose kingdom is not of this world.
May the age of political conquest end, and the era of the self-reformation of the Asian nations, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, be ushered in.