General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries.

Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China (Volume 1890) online

. (page 92 of 103)
Online LibraryGeneral Conference of the Protestant MissionariesRecords of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China (Volume 1890) → online text (page 92 of 103)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to
God." " Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils."
There needs gentleness and skill in detaching the tendrils of human af-
fection from the old, and trailing them around the new. First of all the
thoughts must be lifted from the earthly to the heavenly parent, and to



654 DISCUSSION. [Eleventh day,

His tiBspeakable gift in Christ Jesns. When these have once entered the
heart, ancestral worship and the worship of the idols will easily and
naturally be displaced. It is not unlikely that the cause of truth has
been hindered by the failure to obsei've this order in its presentation.

Bat, however, in dealing with the non-Christian Chinese, these

subjects may be approached with judicious care, so as not to

'''in deafing"^^ repel those whom we would win toChrist ; none the less must

christfaus there be in Christians a complete separation from ancestral

worship in all its forms. Kothing which savors of idolatry
and supersrtition can be allowed to remain in the Christian church.

Conclusion,

XIV". One of the last injunctions of the aged Apostle John to the

early Christians was, " Little children, keep yourselves from

selves from' idols." When a child, I used to wonder that he should

Idols." ]iave thought it necessary thus to exhort those to whom he

wrote. I do not wonder now. The little band of believers, going forth

into the midst of the idolatry of the Roman empire, to win that empire

and all the world to the worship and service of the only true God and

His Son Jesus Christ, needed such an injunction. They were in danger,

if not from the grosser forms of idolatry, yet from those more subtle

aiid insidious.

The church now, in India and China still needs to give heed to the
same injunction. When we see an accomplished scholar employing his
fine poetical gifts to embellish the Buddhist religion and set it before
the Christian nations, and hear him say to a Buddhistic nation that
Christianity has nothing to offer them superior to Buddhism except the
sermon on the mount; when we see those who ought to be Christians form-
ino" themselves into societies for the spread of Buddhism at home and
abroad ; when we remember the long continued and intense strife of the
Jesuits in China to accommodate the Christian faith to the state religion
and national worship of the Chinese, and see indications in our day in
various quarters, both without and within the circle of Christian mission-
aries, of sympathy with their views, and a desire to return to them in
a modified form, do we not well to recall these words of the holy Apostle,
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols," and add the prayer:
" Lord have mercy upoaus and incline our hearts to keep this law."



DISCUSSION.



Rev. E. Faber, Br. Theol. (G-. E. P. M.) :— The principal features ot
ancestral worship, formulated into short paragraphs, may be helpful to
many of us in forming a judgment of our own : —

1. Ancestral worship presupposes the disembodied souls

^pointr'^ to be subject to the same desires and wants as souls living in

the body.

2. Ancestral worship demands real sacrifices (even bloody) ; the idea

of supplying the wants of the departed, of propitiating them, of removing



May LiSth.] EEV. M. gCHAUB. 655

calamities and of gaining special blessings, allows no other interprefcation.
The ceremonial is the same as iu worshipping deities.

S. Ancestral worship presnpposes the happiness of the dead depend-
ing on the eacrificea from their living descendants.

4. Ancestral worship presupposes that the human soul, at the
moment of death, is divided into three portions — one going to Hades, one
to remain at the grave, and one to reside in the tablet at the ancestral
hall.

5. Ancestral worship presupposes that these three souls are attracted
by the sacrificial ceremonial and partake of the ethereal part of the
sacrifices.

6. Ancestral worship presupposes that all departed souls, not favored
with sacrifices, turn into hungry ghosts and cause all kinds of calamities
to the living.

7. Ancestral worship presupposes the welfare of the living to be
caused by blessings from the departed.

8. Ancestral worship is not merely commemorative, but a pi^etended
intercourse with the world of spirits, with the powers of Hades or of
darkness, forbidden by divine law.

9. Ancestral worship, in transgressing the boundaries of human
obligation, evokes evils of a very serious nature. This is as true of its
most ancient form as of its modern development.

10. Ancestral worship is destructive of a belief in future retribution
adjusted by God's righteousness; there are distinguished only rich and
poor, not good and bad.

11. Ancestral worship places the imperial ancestors on an equality
with heaven and earth, and the common gods or spirits (M) are placed
two degrees below.*

12. Ancestral worship is the source of geomancy, necromancy and
other abominable superstitions ; delay of burial for months and years,
stealing of dead bodies, etc.

13. Ancestral worship is the cause of polygamy and of much un-
happiness in family life in China, It stimulates more the animal nature
of man, also selfishness and fear, than the nobler emotions of love.

14. Ancestral worship creates and fosters clannishness, aa each clan
has its own ancestral protectors; frequent disastrous -village wara-are
the result.

15. Ancestral worship has developed an extreme view of paternal
authority which crushes individual liberty.

16. Ancestral worship enchains millions of talented people by an-
cient institutions and prevents sound progress.

17. "Honor thy father and thy mother" is the divine law which
every Christian is bound to fulfil. Thero can be no doubt whatsoever
about our attitude toward ancestral worship. Christianity brings man
into divine relationship through the new birth by the Holy Spirit. An-
cestral worship only knows the natural ties of flesh and blood, which are
supposed to continue after death ; it is, therefore, even witlwvi a moral
lasis.



Rev. M. Schaub (Basle Mission, Li-long) : — We must take care not
to take in hand mere patch-work reforms. Anything that must and
should develop itself from within, is not to be absolutely laid down as
an external command.

* W. F. Mayers, The Chinese Government, pp. 124, 126.



656 DISCUSSION. [Eleventh day,

There is, for instance, the question of the betrothal of infants, which

must be dealt with in much wisdom and patience. We for-

Betrothai merlj hoped to fight with strict church rules against this

native custom, which is especially much in vogue among the

Hakkas ; but wo could not help perceiving that, in many cases, the

fundamental condition for the fulfilment of those rules was lacking. The

breaking with deep-rooted customs must be the out-growth of a living

faith. By dint of positive law and external authority we only introduce

improvements in the outward attire by patching fragments of undressed

cloth upon an old garment, and so often a worse rent is made. But we

should all be united to make it a rule that our native pi-eachers, teachei^s

and elders must break with the custom of the betrothal of infante.



Rev. W. Muirhead (L. M. S., Shanghai):—! was not aware that

. , there were two opinions on the subject of ancestral worship.

proposaUif- Whether we look at the early history of the Chinese or the

jnrious to the present state of things among them, I cannot but think that



the allowance of the practice would be most injurious to
the interests of the Christian church. It seems to be an instinctive
principle with the missionaries themselves that such a thing should not
be permitted, and we do this on very substantial grounds. But, apart
from our own individual opinions, the Chinese converts fully allow that
the practice is inconsistent with the teachings of Christianity. They
endure very much suffering in connection with the subject. Some of
our converts have been placed in most painful circumstances because of
their refusal to conform to the customs of their country in regard to it.

I think Dr. Blodget admits too much in the matter of the
Cat°hoi?cs. Koraan Catholics. I have spoken to several of them about

it, and they seem to adopt a practice which, at least from
our stand-point, is one and the same with the habitual practice of the
Chinese. On one occasion, when I was considering the subject, I went
to our chapel in the city, and the first man who came in turned out to
be a Roman Catholic, belonging to the country on tho other side of the
river. I asked him if he ever practised ancestral worship, and he said,
" At certain times I have the tablets of my five ancestors, who were con-
nected with the Catholic church, brought out, and I ask a priest to come
and perform the services connected therewith." I inquired, " la it a
foreign priest who comes ? " He said, " No, that would be too expensive.
I have a native priest on the occasion, and he does the thing as well, but
much cheaper." At the time when the rebels were round Shanghai, the
French Admiral was killed, and a requiem for his soul was performed at
the French cathedral. A Christian convert came to me and said, " How
is it that the Roman Catholics adopt in this instance the same words
which the Taoists use in similar cases ? " The words are ts'au du tvang
ling, or **to rescuo the soul of the deceased." He thought it most
inconsistent with Christianity. I only mention this to show that in the
practice and expressiong of the Roman Catholics, however much the
Pope may have interdicted it, there is a course of things which according
to all accounts is identical with the heathen superstitions.



Professor Thwing (New York, U. S. A.) remarked that they who navi-
gate crooked streams must, for safety, glance backward now and then.
Centuries ago the Jesuits wore confronted by this gulf between Con-
fucianism and Christianity, aud, with their usual cunning, tried to make



May 18tli.] eeV. j. eoss. 657

the transit by tolerating the idolatry as a civil, rather than a religious

rite. But even Franciscan monks resisted, and Roman popes thundered

their bulls against this attempt to unite paganism and

Christianity. The defeat of the Jesuits, the imprisonment , Defeat of

ni !■» , i-nr Til i'p-r> • 1 Jesuits on the

of the papal legato at Macao, and the expulsion of Itomish point,

missionaries by Yung Cheng, are facta familiar to you. On
JFeb. 11th, 1846, the missionaries of Amoy discussed and decided unani-
mously the question iiow before us : Can the ancestral tablets stand as
tokens of respect for the dead, \if not worshipped ? Every candidate for
baptism must not only renounce idol worship, but the emblems of that
worship must be destroyed or expelled from the bouse, including ancestral
tablets ordinarily placed in juxtaposition with them. As Dr. Yates has
said, to yield this point is to yield everything. Toleration of idolatry is
treason to Christianity !



Rev. J. Ross (S. U. P. M., Moukden) : — I think we are all of one mind as
regards superstition and idolatry in all its shapes, but I wish to state two
interesting facts which came under my observation. A few days before
I returned home, I was waited on by a gentleman, a tao4ai, who I know
was a believer for years and thoroughly well acquainted with the Old and
New Testaments, perhaps better versed than those who are already
evangelists. He stated that there was one thing which
debarred a great many of the mandarins from entering the "^'ie^^s of the
Christian church, viz., the position we take up with regard
to ancestral worship. He stated that as far as he understood ancestral
worship, eliminating the modern idolatrous practices, his conscience was
perfectly clear, and that as a Christian man he could observe these
ancestral rites which have been banded down. He said further that if
we could compromise this matter in some way — I do not say compromise
it with regard to idolatrous practices, or superstitious customs, but a
compromise by which these idolatrous accretions could be eliminated — ■
there were very many of his class who would join us ; but if we take the
absolute stand which we, as a Christian church, have taken, these men
cannot find their way into the Christian church. There are other
literary men in Moukden who agree with bim. They are believers, read
the Scriptures and have family worship, "but" they say, "we cannot
enter the church as long as you forbid absolutely all connection with this
ancient custom." A Oorean prince was lately taken into
China as a prisoner, and he went there with his heart coreau prince.
full of hatred to all Europeans and all forms of Chris-
tian religion "While in banishment he came in contact with Chris-
tian books, and returned to his land — I am sorry to say not in the posi-
tion which his abilities warranted. According to one of his attaches, who
came round by Moukden, Lo said that if Protestant Christians could adopt
ancestral worship — in such a way I mean as excludes all forma and shades
of idolatry — he saw no reason why Corea should not be a Christian
country in three years. I may say that my practice has been the same as
all of us, but my mind is in a state of hesitation — not from Dr. Martin's
paper, but from these facts and others as regarding those who know, not
only the ordinary superstitiona of the common people, bat the meaning
of the ancient ritaal.



658 DISCUSSION. [Eleventli day,

P,ev. T. Ricliard (E. B. M.): — I wish to say a few words on the real
question at issue, the principles to be considered in regard to it, the
Scriptural view of some aspects of it, and the practical view of it.

Xl.) The term *' ancestral worship" prejudges the whole question.
Although the reading of Dr. Martin's essay seems to plead for toleration
of ancestral worship, he really does not plead for any such thing, for he
distinctly says that whatever ^s idolatrous cannot be entertained for a
moment. It follows, then, that the I'eal question is nob toleration of what
is idolatrous, but tolei'ation of such rites in ancestral reverence as are not
idolatrous. (2.) Again, however different the rites in China may be
from the rites of the "West in regard to this subject, that is no reason
for condemning them, unless we can show that they are contrary to the
best interests of man. (3.) Then consider the question of prostration.
This seems to be a matter of national taste and association, and is certain-
ly more sanctioned in the Scripture than our "Western customs, for the
Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, abound in instances of pro-
stration. (4.) Lastly, I refer to the ^practical view of it. The country
people in connection with the English Baptist Mission, after becoming
Christians, have given us little or no difficulty in regard to this subject.
The Christians at once recognise the infinite difference between the wor-
ship of God and the reverence due to ancestors, and easily give tip their
numerous superstitions. Forms of funeral service have been prepai'ed by
various missions in the North, to show to the non-Christians that we are
not wanting in respect to the departed.

The feast of GhHng-ming, when the Chinese visit the graves, so nearly

coincides in time with our Easter that it affords us a very
and ifasterf suitable opportunity to dwell on immortality and the i-esur-

rection of the dead. The Greek church in Russia has settled
this difficulty by holding periodical Christian services at the graveyards.



Rev. Gilbert Reid(A.. P. M., Chi-nan Fu) : — I object to the insinuation

that ancestral worship is altogether idolatry, and that those

•wship'uot ^1^0 defend ancestral worship defend idolatry. This is

altogether unfair to Dr. Martin, who, again and again, acknowledges

1 a rouB. ^^^^ idolatrous and superstitious elements have entered into

the system, and defends, not these elements, but the original system.

He in no way countenances idolatry, and no such insinuation against

iiim should be allowed in this Conference. There is " but one rule," he

says " by which the missionary is bound to be guided, viz., to avoid

"n-ivino- countenance to anything that can fairly be construed as idolatry,"

but he regards idolatry as only an " excrescence" which may be eliminated.

It has been stated by Mr. Muirhead that he did not know there could be

two opinions on this subject, yet the fact of there being two papers showed

there could be two sides. The question will more and more become one

of vital importance, when Christianity comes in contact with the literary

classes. Now, it may seem possible to settle it by a dictum of the foreign

missionaries, but some day the Chinese tliemselves will

Extreme action speak and act, and let us beware of any extreme action that

coudemued. ^,.^ unnecessarily collide with the sentiments and beliefs of

the Chinese. Instead of antagonizing ancestral worship, why may not

the native Christians bo allowed to modify it ? Why may not the

natives be taught that Christianity is only opposed to idolatry, and not

necessarily to the inherent character of ancestral worship? At present,

the Christians are loft without any usage whatever. Why may liot

such changes be made that, while rejecting the evil, they can still say,



Maj ISth.] EEV. J. HUDSON TAYLOR AND EEV. GILBEET EEID. €53

"We reverence our ancestors; we sweep the graves; we honor our
parents ? " If no custom is followed, non- Christians will certainly accuse
the Christians of neglecting their ancestors and ditihouoring their
parents. What, then, is the meaning of the last seat-ence in Dr. Martin's
paper, " Refrain from any interference with the native mode of honoring
ancestors, and leave the reformation of the system to the influence of
divine truth" ? Let me illustrate. Suppose that I become a Chris-
tian of an intense Chinese type, with Chinese ideas and ways. I go to
the West to teach Christianity there. What is my amaze- .^^^ , ,
nient when I find, mcourfc gatherings and military receptions, ship compared
in church sociablea and Sunday school picnics, Christians in'tte west.
dancing? I am offended. The custom seems to me indecent
and wroug. I enter on a crusade against it. Everywhere the theme of
my preaching is, "Thou shalt not dance ; if you dance, you cannot enter
the church; or if in the church, you must be expelled." Some friend, at
last, comes to me and says, "Now jast leave this matter alone; don't
interfere with these Western customs ; the people must be left to their
own consciences, and the influence of divine truth, to decide each one
for himself." So with this ancient custom of China. Train the con-
science on the great truths, but do not dogmatically say,
"Ancestral worship is wrong." Interference in any bigoted, conscience.lDut
loughshod style is what Dr. Martin would deprecate, but he ^ '^'^"°iz
by no means forbids any modification or change, in a cautious,
fair and loving spirit. He himself asks. "Is it not capable of being
modified, in such a way as to bring it into harmony with the requirement
of the Christian faith ? " Missionaries have no more infallible authority
than the Pope of Rome. Reference has been made to the action of the
€arly Jesuits, as if Dr. Martin, or those who agree with him, took their
position. In Abbe Hue's ChristLanity in Ghiiia, he shows that the
"eight permissions^' were prepared by the special legate of Clement XI.,
and that Franciscans, Lazarists and Dominicans, as well as Jesuits,
consented to this effort of a non-Jesuit legate of a non-Jesuit Pope. It
was, therefore, representative, and not a Jesuitical per-
mission. The attitude of the Jesuits was originally an Theeight
extreme one, viz., no modification whatever. The attitude notjesuTucai.
of the succeeding Pope, Benedict XIV., was also an extreme
one, viz., no toleration of ancestral worship whatever. The tolerant
spirit, the via media, was represented by the middle ground taken by
the legate of Clement XT., and all the Roman Catholic
orders. Dr. Martin's paper does not take up the position of Dr. Martin
the Jesuits, but is also a. via media — "a plea for toleration," ma media.
Away with superstition, both in China and in the West!
Make the worship of Christ the foundation, and the Chinese will not
worship ancestors as they worship God.



Rev. J. Hudson Taylor (0. I. M.) :— I trust that all those who wish
to raise an indignant protest against the conclusion of Dr. Martin's
paper will signify it by rising. {Almost the whole audience did so.)



Rev. Gilbert Reid protested against the action just taken: It was not
a fair way to treat such a subject. Dr. Martin was as orthodox as
any member on the floor of the Conference. If any action was to be
taken, ho moved that it be referred to a committee, composed of persons
from both sides, who should fairly consider the question and report^



6S0 STATISTICS OP PROTESTANT HissiON WORK. [Eleventh day,

Bev. J. Hudson Taylor (C. I. M.) : — I have not a word to say against
my friend Dr. Martin. It is against the conclusion of his paper that I
protest, however orthodox a man he may be. (The further discussion of the
eulject ivas deferred to the evening session.)



ESSAY.

STATISTICS OF PROTESTANT MISSION" WORK IN CHINA.
Eev. J. W. Davis, D.D. (A. s. P. M., Soochow).

A FEW words of explanation are needed to enable the reader to understand
the accompanying tables of statistics. In giving the analysis
^aterfafs!*^ according to denominations, I had to leave a considerable
proportion of the materials nnclassified. The reason lies in
the fact that the China Inland Mission cannot be classed with any of the
leading denominations ; it is undenominational. The Basle, Rhenish and
Berlin missions would perhaps belong more properly among the Presby-
terians than elsewhere, but I leave thetn also in the list of unclassified.
If this unclassified material were fully analyzed, it would add to the
percentage of all the denominations, especially to that of the Baptists and
the Presbyterians.

The number of churches is hard to state. If each little company of

believers is called a church, the number of churches would

of^cifu^rdHfE". ^® more than a thousand. By " organized churches " I mean.

those that have some kind of native church officers. If we

thus restrict the meaning of the term, 522 is not far from the true

number.

The matter of self-support is peculiarly hard to present in the statis-
tical tables. " Fully self-supporting" means paying the whole
-supp r . g^jg^yy q£ ^Jjq native preacher. But when we say "ninety-four
fully self-supporting churches," we must not omit to state that in some
of these churches, in exceptional cases, there are foreigners whose contri-
butions aid in paying the native pastor. On the other hand it must
be remembered that in giving the number of half self-supporting and
quarter self-supporting churches, no account is taken of the Basle Mis-

._,,,.. sion endowment scheme. The mission has thirty-eight con-
Basle Mission , , .

endowment gregations, whose contributions, now amounting to several
thousand dollars, are aecmnulating in the hands of the Basle
missionaries. Their plan is to form a general endowment fund contri-
buted by natives only, but administered by the foreign missionaries for
the benefit of all the mission churches or congregations; so that in course
of time all the native churches shall be supported by the income of this
endowment fund. This, though akin to self-support, is a very different



May IStla.] eev. john eoss. C61

tking from self-support sbrictly so-called, which means current expenses
fully met by current contributions. The plan which the Rev.
A. G. Jones, of the English Baptist Mission in Shantung pro- joae's'piaa
■vince, is t^jing to inaugurate is this : Sixty congregations are iiipport".
divided into five groups. lu each of the sixty congi'egatious
33 an elder or preacher, who gives his services to the little church without
any pay. Over each group or circuit is a pastor, who is to be paid by the
contributions of the native Christians in the circuit. The current ex-
penses are to be met by current contributions, which are to be collected and
paid out by natives, all under the general supervision of Mr. Jones. I
might refer to other cases which show that "twenty-two half self-support-
ing churches and twenty-seven quarter self-supporting," falls
short of the amount of self-support, which shoald be placed to n^uifdicated
the credit of the Chinese native Christians. Here is an ^" tabies*^^^^^



Online LibraryGeneral Conference of the Protestant MissionariesRecords of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China (Volume 1890) → online text (page 92 of 103)