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A history of Christianity in Japan online

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philosophy are the most read by the educated Japanese? "
was the following from Tokyo:

" Buckle's * History of Civilisation ' (translated), John
S. Mill's works (his * Essays on Religion and Utilitarian-
ism,' translated), Huxley on 'Protoplasm' (translated),
Draper's * Conflict between Science and Religion ' and
*The Intellectual Development in Europe,' Thomas
Paine's * Age of Reason ' (translated), IngersoU's * Lec-



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PLOUGHING AND SEED-SOWING 163

tures on Gods' (translated), Herbert Spencer's works,
Bain's works."

The question, " By what aspects of Christian truth
are the most conversions made?" was answered from
Tokyo :

" (a) The great comfort which Christianity gives to
the afflicted.

" (b) Excellency of Christian morals."

The answer to the same question from Kyoto was :

" (a) The excellence of the Christian ethics.

" (b) The reasonableness of Christian system.

" (c) The doctrine of the New Birth.

" (d) The doctrine of the Atonement.

" (e) The doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul." *

The statistics of Protestant Missions for 1882 include
the following items:

Married male missionaries 81

Single male missionaries 8

Single female missionaries 56

Organised churches 93

Of these wholly self -supporting 13

Adults baptised in the year 796

Children baptised in the year 99

Membership, adults 4,367

Membership, children (where reported) 620

Mixed schools 39

Pupils 1,520

Boys' schools 9

Pupils 454

Girls' schools 15

Pupils 566

Theological schools 7

Pupils yi

Sunday schools 109

Pupils 4,132

Ordained preachers 49

Assistant preachers, catechists, etc 100

Bible women ...» 37J

Hospitals t. ..1 5

In-patients treated in year 795

Dispen^ries 8

Patients treated in year ,

Contributions of native churches for year Yen I2,c

* New York Independent, October 25, 1883.



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VI
RAPID GROWTH

f
I883-I888

WE have now reached the time when the growth
of the Protestant churches and the eagerness
of the people to learn about Christianity were
such as to arouse the highest hopes of the missionaries,
and to excite the wonder of the whole Christian world.
Many persons were led to ask the old question with
a tone that implied an affirmative answer : " Shall a
nation be bom m a day ? "

Though there is no one point that specifically marks
the beginning of this period of rapid growth, the year
1883 has usually been considered as opening a new
chapter in the history of the Protestant churches. This
is partly because it was the year when important con-
ventions were held, and partly because it saw the be-
ginning of a series of revivals that exerted a powerful
influence upon the Christians, and through them upon
unbelievers.

The first of the meetings was the Second Conference
of the Protestant Missionaries of Japan.* It was held
in the Municipal Hall of the Foreign Concession in
Osaka, from Monday, April 16, to Saturday, April 21,
1883. One hundred and six missionaries (fifty-eight
men and forty-eight women) were in attendance; repre-
senting sixteen missionary societies, four Bible societies,
and two societies working for seamen.

The first morning Rev. J. H. Ballagh of the Reformed
Church Mission, preached a sermon on " The Need and
Promise of the Power of the Holy Spirit in Our Work

*The first was held in 187a.
X64



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RAPID GROWTH 165

as Missionaries/' the text being Acts i. 8. " By the
thought pervading this sermon," wrote Dr. G. W. Knox,
** the conference was borne aJong ; it showed itself at
every devotional meeting and found expression again
and again in the various addresses."

The Conference was organised with three Chairmen : —
J. C. Hepburn, M.D., LL.D., of the American Presby-
terian Mission; Rev. R. S. Maclay, D.D., of the Metho-
dist Episcopal Mission; and Rev. C. F. Warren of the
Church Missionary Society. The first of these, in re-
plying to an address of welcome, referred to the fact
that twenty-four years ago that month he and his wife
had started from New York on their way to Japan. They
knew not whether the^ would be allowed to land; and
when, in October, thetr ship entered the Bay of Yedo,
they knelt down to pray that in some way a home might
be provided for them, and that they might be guided in
the work they were about to tmdertake. He did not
then know whether he should ever see one Japanese
brought to Christ; he little thought that he would ever
be privileged to preside over such a meeting as was
now being held.

The first paper presented to the Conference was a
*' History of Protestant Missions in Japan," by Rev. G.
F. Verbeck; a paper that has been the authority for
many of the statements contained in the present work.
Other papers dealt with the different forms of mis-
sionary activity, the obstacles to the reception of Chris-
tianity by the Japanese, and other allied themes. One
day was given to the consideration of " Self-support of
the Native Churches," the most radical views being
those contained in a paper by Rev. H. H. Leavitt of the
American Board Mission, who contended that no aid
from mission funds should be given to churches, evange-
lists, or schools. In the evening the subject was further
considered at a united Conference of Japanese and For-
eign Workers. Rev. Paul Sawayama, who had been
closely associated with Mr. Leavitt, and whose own
church had been conducted on the principles he advo-
cated, read a paper in which he took the ground that
the Japanese Church should ''provide money sufficient



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i66 A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN

to cover the whole expense of the evangelistic, pastoral,
and educational work of the Church, without receiving
any pecuniary assistance whatever from foreign mission-
ary societies," the latter providing only for the support
of the missionaries. A paper by Rev. Paul Kanamori
advocated that, while the church expenses and the sup-
port of native evangelists should be provided by the
Japanese, foreign help should be given for schools and
for the production of Christian literature. Other Japa-
nese that joined in the discussion were not ready to take
so radical positions as these speakers.

The evident spirit of imity among the missionaries
present at this Conference made a great impression on
the Japanese that attended the meetings or heard of
them through the reports in the Christian papers.' The
missionaries had come together full of courage and hope.
The remarkable success attending past latours led to
a strong belief that, under God's "blessing, Japan would
in a few years be a Christian nation. Some went so far
as to say that, if the call sent out by the Conference
asking for re-enforcements was heeded by the churches
at home, the work of evangelising Japan could be ac-
complished within ten years, or at least before the close
of ^ the century. Lastly, there was a deep devotional
spirit. Some had come with hearts warmed by revival
scenes among foreigners and Japanese at Yokohama
and Tokyo. The Conference had for weeks been made
the subject of much prayer. During the sessions, sev-
eral Japanese churches in different parts of the land
held special meetings to ask God's blessing on all that
was done. The devotional meetings held in connection
with the Conference itself, were pervaded with an earnest
desire that those present might receive power from on
high to fit them for the work to which they had been
called.

^ Among the acts of the Conference was the prepara-
tion of a letter addressed to the Convention of the
Japanese Churches, which was to meet the next month
m Tokyo. It told of the unity of spirit and harmony
of opinion that had prevailed among the missionaries in
their meeting, expressed sympathy with the Japanese



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RAPID GROWTH 167

workers, and prayed that a blessing might rest upon them
during their deliberations, and in all their work.

The Convention of the Japanese churches had been
preceded by events that prepared the way for making
it a meeting full of power and enthusiasm. A deep re-
ligious interest that began among the foreign sailors in
Yokohama had spread to the churches of that city and
Tol^o. During the Week of Prayer at the beginning
of the year, great earnestness in seeking a blessing from
God and in carrying the Gospel to non-believers, had
been manifested among the churches. Dr. Maclay of
the American Methodist Episcopal Mission^ wrote early
in the spring:

"A spirit of religious revival, bringing times of refreshing
from the presence of the Lord, is spreading in Japan, both among
the foreign community and among Japanese Christians. I have
not before seen anjrthmg like it since coming to Japan, and trust
we are about to witness signal displays of divine mercy in the
conversion of souls."

Just before the meeting of the Convention, Rev. H.
Kozaki, the pastor of a Kumi-ai* church in Tokyo,
wrote :

"Thank God! He is doing a mighty work among us. The
Day of Pentecost is now being realised here. Many churches
about Tokyo are just now undergoing the baptism of the Holy
Spirit. Our church and the Methodist church are espedall;^
blessed. We are holding prayer-meetings every evening this
week through. Every evening many were blessed with the Spirit,

* Though the designation " Kumi-ai " did not come into general
use until a later date, it is convenient to employ it when speaking
of the churches that afterwards adopted it as their name. These
churches, which had grown up in connection with the work of
the American Board Mission, had at first no distinctive name.
They woijd gladly have continued to be known simply as Chris-
tian churches; but some convenient way of designating them be-
came almost a necessity. It became evident that, if they did not
choose some name for themselves, one would be fastened upon
them by others; and at last, with considerable reluctance, they
formally adopted the title " Kumi-ai." Though it might be more
convenient for most readers of this book to have the term
"Congregational" used for these churches, their own prefer-
ences in the matter make it better to keep the Japanese word.



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i68 A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN

and man^ new ones confessed their faith in Christ, while all were
undergoing the most extraordinary experience. I now realise
the prophecy of the prophet Joel : ' And it shall come to pass in
the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit,' etc The
last night I could not sleep till one o'clock because of the anxious
enquirers after the truth ; this morning about half-past five, they
came again to see me."

In Osaka a few Christians began to meet daily, to
pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Their
earnestness extended to others, so that the churches of
diflFerent denominations soon tmited in daily prayer-
meetings. "There was no excitement, but intense fer-
vour and definiteness, both in prayer and exhortation."

The Osaka Conference of Missionaries exerted a help-
ful influence upon the Convention in Tokyo. Japa-
nese Christians in attendance at the former gathering
had been impressed by its spirit of harmony and earnest-
ness. They were thus the better prepared to promote a
similar spirit in their own meeting. Those of them that
were connected with the Kumi-ai churches were fur-
ther helped by a meeting of their Missionary Society
held in Kyoto the last of April.

Perhaps the Tokyo Convention will be best described
by extracts from a letter sent by Mr. Neesima to the
missionaries of the American Board who were at the
same time holding their annual meeting in Kyoto. He
wrote May ii:

" I am anxious to write vou a few lines telling how the Lord
blessed us in our great fellowship meeting. We commenced it
on Tuesday with a one-hour prayer-meeting. It was the most
impressive service I ever attended in my life. A spirit of union
was greatly manifested in that meeting. In the afternoon we had
reports from the delegates. It was a most enjoyable part of the
conference. I can assure you that the Lord blessed us far more
than we asked for. On Wednesday we had a prayer-meeting
from eight to nine a. m.; public meeting for speaking in the
afternoon. About seven hundred were present. Thursday's
programme was just the same. I preached this morning at the
communion service. There was an hour of prayer-meeting before
the communion. Mr. Okuno served at the communion table. It
was the richest part of the meeting. All the people burst into
tears. For this afternoon, topics on personal faith, education
of preachers, and self-support were brought out for discussion,
but I found myself so exhausted I did not attend There is



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RAPID GROWTH 169

perfect union between the native brethren and the missionariea,
and these two united parties are happily united in the Lord.

" May 12, I will add a few more lines to my yesterday's note
to you. I attended the union prayer-meeting last ni^ht The
house was completely filled for the largest prayer-meetmg I ever
attended in Japan. It commenced promptly at eight p. u,, and
closed at ten p. m. No vain and useless words were uttered
either in remarks or prayers. Three or four persons stood up at
once» and the leader of the meeting was obliged to ask others
to wait until one finished. At the same time they seemed calm
and serious. There was no undue excitement. The spirit of
union was wonderfully manifested then. Numbers of our native
brethren confessed that they have been very ungrateful toward
the missionaries, and begged their pardon for it. A few mis-
sionary brethren made very impressive remarks, and seemed
so glad and happy."

The delegates in Tokyo hastened to inform their
churches by letter or telegram of the blessings that were
being received. Though most of the pastors and evangel-
ists were in attendance on the O)nvention, the Oms-
tians, whom they had left behind, continued with new
earnestness the daily prayer-meetings that had been al-
ready inaugurated, or began them where they had not
previously been held. Hitherto the acceptance of
Christianity had, with many, been only an intellectual
acknowledment of its truth; but now there came to
them a real sense of personal sin, an acceptance of Qirist
as a personal Saviour, and an earnest desire for the
spiritual welfare of others.

Soon the delegates returned to their churches. " They
were like new men. They had evidently received fresh
light, grace, and power from on high." Ere long the
letters of the missionaries began to he filled with joyful
accounts of the revival. Rev. C. F. Warren, of the
Qiurch Missionary Society, wrote from Osaka:

"During the whole of my ministerial experience of nearly
twenty years, whether in China, England, or Japan, I never be-
fore witnessed such tokens of the presence and power of the
Spirit of God. It was a blessed time of refreshing, and, thank
God, the results have not been transient."

Rev. C. S. Long, of the Methodist Episcopal Mission,
reported :



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170 A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN

** The Lord is doins a glorious work in Nagasaki The Holy
Spirit is being poured out upon the missionaries and natives in
marvellous showers. Scores are being genuinely converted,
testiMng to the truth and power of the new religion. Persons
who have been members of the Church for years are being bom
into the kingdom of grace and glory, and for the first time are
realising the joy of sins forgiven and adoption into the spiritual
kingdom of Christ. The Lord is certainly doing a wonderful
work among us. The news is spreading through the dty, and
hundreds are flocking to the church. The members of other
churches are becoming interested, and there is every indication
that the glorious work will spread in evei^ direction, and that
hundreds will be brought to a knowledge of the true God. It is
marvellous indeed. I never saw anything more striking at
home."*

In Atigust Rev. M. L. Gordon, of the American Board
Mission, wrote from Kyoto :

" The sense of sin, and the need of the Holy Spirit, and Hia
actual working also, have been experienced as never before and
to an extent which mere words, even the words of Scripture, could
not effect, but which, when effected by the Spirit, most naturally
find expression in the words of Scripture. A great many touch-
ing inadents have occurred. I heard one of our most devoted
and self-denying pastors . . . tell how one night aftej; they had
retired, a brother sprans on him the question : ' If ambition were
subtracted from your heart, what would the remainder be?'
' It pierced,' he said, ' like an arrow : for my heart told me that
the true reply would be sero' He told, in the same address, how
reading the life of Luther had done him great harm by filling
his mind with thoughts of doing great and astonishing work
rather than attending to the humble and faithful performance
of the work God gave him to do.

"Mr. Neesima went to the great meeting in Tokyo prepared
to advocate very strongly the necessity of union and harmony,
first among the Japanese Christians themselves, and also between
them and the missionaries; but he found no need of the speech
he had prepared, for the whole assembly were already enthu-
siastically conmiitted to the idea of union, f

In nearly all places where Christian work had been
established the churches were crowded with eager
listeners. Requests were constantly coming to the mis-
sionaries, urging them to visit cities where people de-

"*" Quoted by Mis, Herald, September, 1883, from Northern
'Christian Advocate.
t Mis. Herald, November, 1883,



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RAPID GROWTH 171

sired instruction. There were large accessions to the
membership of the churches. The pastors and the mis-
sionaries were filled with the highest hopes. An
editorial in the Independent (New York) of September
6, 1883, fairly represents the feelings of those that were
interested in the evangelisation of Japan. It says :

" It is not an .extravagant anticipation that Japan may become
a Christian nation in seventeen years. The Christian mission-
aries in Japan are now working with a strong hope that the
twentieth century will open upon that island empire no longer a
foreign mission field, but predominantly Christian, converted
from shadowy paganisms and vague philosophies which now
retain but a feeble hold upon the people, and received into the
brotherhood of Christendom. A Japanese Constantine is not
far off."

The year 1884 saw the movement in favour of Chris-
tianity extending and deepening. It was about this time
that the word rebaiburu (revival) gained a place in the
vocabulary of the Christians; and there was constant oc-
casion for its use in connection with the spiritual awak-
enings that took place in the churches and Christian
schools. One of the most marked of these was in the
Doshisha. About the first of March, several of the
Christian students began a daily meeting, which was held
at half-past nine in the evening at the close of study-
hours. The numbers in attendance and the interest con-
stantly increased until, on Sunday, March 16, the whole
school showed that it was greatly moved. The different
classes held meetings in which for hours they engaged
in prayer, confession of sins, and praise. Through the
following week the young men could think of hardly
anything else than their relations to God. But few in
the school remained unmoved. The students were eager
to go out and tell others of the blessings they had re-
ceived. It was with difficulty that they were induced
to be satisfied with choosing three representatives who
should carry the report to the churches, while the others
should wait until the approaching vacation. To those
that know the excitable nature of the young men of
Japan, it will not seem strange that there were some
extravagances. The teachers, and especially the mission-



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1 7a A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN JAPAN

aries, endeavoured to guard against excesses ; urging " as
strongly as they knew how, that the regularity of school
life be maintained as regards studies, meals, exercise,
and sleep; that the prayer-meetings be held early in the
evening and be rigidly restricted to one hour; and that
special pains be taken to secure quiet during the
evening."

Among the churches there were many revivals. We
read of prayer-meetings " full of tears, sobbings, and
broken confessions of sins." In theatres and other
buildings large audiences listened quietly and earnestly
to the preaching of the Gospel. In Tokyo, where for-
merly such meetings had been subject to disturbance,
four thousand people assembled in one of the theatres
and showed no signs of opposition.

The rapid growth of the churches at this time is ex-
emplified by that of the Kumi-ai body. In the year
ending March 31, 1884, the total membership increased
sixty-eight per cent.; and in the next year, fifty-three
per cent

It will be remembered that so late as 1881 Mr. Fuku-
zawa Yukichi had published essays in which he opposed
Christianity as dangerous to the nation, and had even
gone so far as to urge that the Government take meas-
ures to prevent its extension. It seems very strange
to find this leader of public opinion publishing only
three years later an essay entitled "The Adoption of
the Foreign Religion is Necessary." After speaking of
the way in which some animals protect themselves from
danger by ts^king on the colour of their surrotmdings,
he said:

" It is an undeniable fact that the civilised countries of Europe
and America excel all other lands not only ia political institu-
tions, but also in religion, in customs, and manners. It is natural
therefore that they should be inclined to despise nations that
differ from them in these particulars, as that other nations should
appreciate their superiority and strive to imitate their example.
Thus these features of a superior civilisation in Europe and
America constitute a certain social distinctive colour world-wide
in its character. Any nation therefore which lacks this dis-
tinctive badge of Western civilisation stands in the position of an



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RAPID GROWTH 173

op^ntnt, and is not only unable to cope with the superiority of
enlightened Americans and Europeans, but is directly or in-
directly exposed to their derision. Hence one of the disad-
vantages under which inferior nations labour when they present a
different colour from that of Western nations. The adoption
of Western religion, along with institutions and customs, is the
only means by which the social colour can become so assimilated
as to remove this bar to intercourse and this cause of opposi-
tion. • • .

"The civilised nations of Europe and America have always
held that non-Christian countries could not be treated as en-
lightened nations. Such being the case, if we desire to maintain
our intercourse with Western nations on the basis of international
law, it is first of all absolutely necessarv that we remove com-
pletely the stigma from our land of being an anti-Christian
country, and obtain the recognition of fellowship by the adoption
of their social color.

"Our suggestion may seem to imply a base currency and a
subordination of our country to the sway of foreign powers, but
such is by no means the case. According to the natural principle
of all mundane intercourse, the inferior party can never hope to
exercise a superior influence over the stronger. ... To yield
to enlightenment and to adopt civilised manners would not by
any means indicate the policy of a sycophant, but simply a policy
of self-defence by adopting the protective color of civilisation
among civilised nations.

"Looked at from this point, it would appear that we
ought to adopt a religion which, prevailing m Europe and
America, exerts so considerable an influence over human affairs
and social intercourse, so that our country may become a part of
Christendom, presenting the- same social appearance as Western
powers, and sharing with them the advantages and disadvantages
of their civilisation. We believe that the diplomatic adjustment
of international intercourse with the outer world can be effected
only by pursuing the course here suggested.

As before stated, if we are not mistaken in our arguments,
there is no alternative for our own country but to adopt the social
colour of civilised nations in order to maintain our independence
on a footing of equality with the various powers of the West
As an absolutely necessary preliminary, however, the Christian



Online LibraryOtis CaryA history of Christianity in Japan → online text (page 16 of 33)