William Elliot Griffis.

A maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work online

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" Dr. Brown was a pioneer, then, in the idea of
the unity of Christian work and effort in Japan.
He was ably seconded by the American church-
man Mr. E. W. Syle, sometime rector of Christ's
Church, Yokohama, who urged * the recognition
of the validity of each others' ministry and of
the administration of the ordinances.'

" All went well until the report on the organi-
zation of the hypothetical church for Japan was
presented, when much opposition was shown
and apparently insurmountable obstacles con-
jured up.

" At the meeting, next morning. Dr. Brown
brought in a short set of resolutions constructive
and so characteristic of his own personality that
I copy it complete.

" 'Whereas the Church of Christ is one in him,

Era of Enlightened Civilization 243

and the diversities of denominations among
Protestants are but accidents which, though not
affecting the vital unity of beHevers, obscure the
oneness of the Church in Christendom and much
more in pagan lands, where the history of the
divisions cannot be understood; and whereas we,
as Protestant missionaries, desire to secure uni-
formity in our modes and methods of evangel-
ization so as to avoid as far as possible the evil
arising from marked dififerences; we therefore
take this earliest opportunity offered by this
Convention to agree that we will use our influ-
ence to secure as far as possible identity of name
and organization in the native churches in the
formation of which we may be called to assist,
that name being as catholic as the Church of
Christ, and the organization being that wherein
the government of each church shall be by the
ministry and eldership of the same, with the con-
currence of the brethren/

" To this fidelity to principle, whatever steps
had been made in this direction both in the
Church of Christ so called and in the principle
of union among the Episcopal, the Methodist,
and other bodies of believers (besides the Pres-
byterial) may be said to be due."

Dr. Brown had some time before this written
to his Board:

" Now, from the ingathering of converts from
this land, it seems as if all who love the Lord
Jesus must wish to see such a foundation laid as

244 ^ Maker of the New Orient

that the Church here shall be one and undivided,
the ' Church of Christ in Japan,' rather than a
church here of one name, others of another, con-
fusing the heathen by its divisions, and weaken-
ing the power of the church thereby."

Again he had recorded his convictions and
prayer :

" May God incline all who are interested in
the progress of Christianity in Japan to the same
catholicity of sentiment and unity of aim, so
that the divisions that mar the beauty of the
Church in Christendom may as far as possible be
excluded from this country."

Dr. Berry tells how Dr. Brown arose and
offered this resolution, " so happily worded and
so gracefully presented as to allay all opposition.
He seemed to me the very ideal of a missionary.
I shall never forget the impression made upon
me as he stood before us reading that resolution ;
his face strong, manly, and winsome, his manner
gracious and dignified, his language refined, and
his voice rich and mellow. He seemed a veri-
table father in Israel, a leader and teacher whom
all were ready to honor."

The resolutions were passed unanimously.
Dr. tout says : " All contained in this broad,
catholic set of resolutions has not been real-
ized, but at the same time in spirit it has been
acted upon in whatever could practically be
done. Dr. Brown's conciliatory disposition was
the directing influence that saved a great prin-

Era of Enlightened Civilization 245

ciple from total wreck, in those early days of
mission work, and it has resulted in the drawing
together of the different families of missions and

To all of this the biographer can bear witness,
for he was present, saw and heard all, and took
part in sustaining the resolution.

One of the interesting events of 1872 was the
formation of the Asiatic Society of Japan, of
which Dr. Brown was made vice president. He
took a lively interest in the meetings, often pre-
siding with felicitous introduction of speakers,
and making luminous additions to knowledge in
the discussions following the papers read.
Thirty volumes of " Transactions," forming a
storehouse of invaluable information concerning
the Japanese and their country, are now among
the treasures of literature in English.

A Spiritual Engineer


A Spiritual Engineer

IT was a glorious day in the history of Chris-
tianity in Japan when on March lo, 1872, the
first native Protestant Christian Church was
first organized in the Httle stone edifice stand-
ing on the Perry treaty ground. It grew out of
a class taught by Rev. J. H. and Mrs. Ballagh.
The church consisted of twenty-four members,
twenty-one of whom were men. Dr. Brown was
present and took part, when nine young men
were baptized, an elder and deacon ordained,
and the first administration of the Lord's Supper
in the Japanese language was enjoyed. Five
Christian women, all Americans, were also

Dr. Brown took charge of the Sunday evening
meeting, which was for prayer and study of
the Bible, at the American Mission Home of
the Woman's Union Missionary Society, No. 212
Bluff. Thirty or forty men and a few women
were usually present.

He wrote : ** The Japanese have lived under
such a system of government that it is no wonder
they should at first tremble with fear of the con-


250 A Maker of the New Orient

sequences that might follow their embrace of
Christianity. But there is a heroic vein in them
after all, and such stuff as martyrs are made of
often shows itself in persons who might before
have been accounted timid."

The editor of the Japan Mail declared that the
translation of the Bible into Japanese was like
" building a railway through the national intel-
lect." Still at this work of spiritual engineering,
Dr. Brown wrote on June 7, 1872, that he hoped
to leave the Japanese educational service August
I, and to devote himself wholly to translation.
There were only three men then on the committee
with sufficient knowledge of the vernacular for
thorough work.

By help of his native teacher Dr. Brown
brought five block-cutters down from Yedo who
began work upon the blocks of the Gospel of
Mark, which was to cost 80 or 90 dollars for
the cutting work. This Gospel of Mark in
Japanese went into circulation in the autumn,
some copies going to Kobe and some to Nagasaki.
Dr. St. George EUiot, the well-known American
dentist, paid for the printing, amounting to $200.
The first edition consisted of 1000 copies, and
it was customary to print 10,000 impressions
from one set of blocks. Already many earnest
natives were reading the Book of Books. The
Governor of Yokohama had an English Bible,
and also such parts in Japanese as were available.

On June 24, 1873, at sixty-two years of age.

A Spiritual Engineer 251

twenty of them having been spent in eastern
Asia, Dr. Brown was in vigorous health, teach-
ing, sermon-writing, preaching, and Bible-class
teaching. While the faithless and ungodly were
busy in informing the Japanese that Christianity
was a religion that science has exploded, the faith
of this believer and worker was but strength-
ened. So has it always been. To the unbeliever
Christianity is always " discredited," while to the
man of faith it is the power of God, ever work-
ing. He wrote : " Send your choice men here,
men of brains, and men of common sense, men
who not only know what to do, but also how not
to do a thing when occasion requires; men well
balanced, non-explosive, and self-contained; men
of culture as well as men of piety. Here is also
a sphere of action for the best women that Chris-
tendom affords. The nation is waking up to
its want of education in both males and females."
A newspaper in Tokio, published in hira-kana,
declared that there were 50,000 pupils in the
government schools, and that half of them were

Miss Kidder had 27 pupils, among others the
vice governor's wife and two married ladies
whose husbands were attached to the Japanese
embassy, now in Europe, and one young lady
from 250 miles north. Miss Kidder also super-
intended the Sunday School of over 60 children,
including a dozen or more of Japanese pupils.
Rev. E. W. Syle, a dear old friend of China days,

252 A Maker of the New Orient

was with him. When the clock had struck
twelve it was in midnight silence, but not in
midnight darkness, for it was the day after the
full moon. " So too the darkness of heathenism
is beginning to be broken by the entrance of the
light that shines in the face of Jesus Christ."

On the 4th of August, 1872, Dr. Brown had the
great happiness of baptizing a gentleman named
Okuno Masatsuna, formerly officer in the house-
hold of the Miya, or uncle of the present em-
peror, who took sides with the Shogun's fol-
lowers, or rather was set up as a puppet-em-
peror. Okuno fell with his master, and the Miya
was sent to England to study.

In later years Dr. Verbeck, in his " History of
Christian Missions in Japan," showed very clearly
the benefit of defeat upon many of the brave
men who, having lost all their earthly estate with
the fall of the Tycoon and the Tokugawas, in
the hour of their grief turned their thoughts to
the great Captain. In his distress and want
Okuno's relatives advised him to try fasting and
prayers, with lustrations at the most celebrated
shrines in Yedo, and the sending of substitutes
to Hakone and Nikko. To aid him, they paid
the expenses of these vicarious pilgrimages,
amounting to three hundred dollars. Okuno
went through the dreadful penance of standing
naked in mid-winter before the gods of each
shrine and pouring cold water upon his person,
hiring proxies to do the same on his behalf in

A Spiritual Engineer 253

different places. In fifty days he had made ten
thousand douches, " having fasted sometimes for
seven days, eating absolutely nothing and only
sustaining life by drinking water. Sometimes
he would go in weakness so great that he
required a friend or two to hold him up as
he crawled slowly along, and then, standing
before the door of the shrine, poured bucket-
ful after bucketful of water cold as ice over
his head, until his skin turned black, and his
emaciated body was scarcely able to keep him
from falling. When his bamboo tallies were all
used up, showing that his vow was fulfilled, his
friends would help him to go to some house, and
seating him by a charcoal brazier, persevered in
restoring the vitality of his poor, almost frozen
body." After going thus to five hundred shrines,
great and small, and performing all the pre-
scribed penance, he went back to his family, but
no compassionate answer had, after all, been
given by the gods to his earnest prayers and

Some of his friends undertook, by cross-ques-
tioning Okuno, to ascertain why the gods were
so silent and irresponsive. These inquisitors
found that, on account of exhaustion, he had
failed to be at this or that shrine at the time
promised in his vows. They therefore pro-
nounced this to be the probable cause of his
failure to get relief. As a last hope Okuno vis-
ited many of the shrines again, but failed to get

254 A Maker of the New Orient

any answer. He then told his friends that, come
what might, he should visit the shrines no more.

Okuno's penance was not merely for himself,
but for his prince and his fellow-retainers. He
had starved himself to a skeleton and almost
destroved his own life, but had not one word of
consolation, nor had one comforting response
been vouchsafed from any of the gods. Travel-
ing to Yokohama, he became a teacher of Dr.
Hepburn and was for eight months in his Bible
class. He then aided Dr. Brown in the transla-
tion of the Scriptures. At his own instance, he
made a version of Rev. W. A. P. Martin's famous
book, '* Ten-do-saku-den," or '* An Examination
of the Principles of Christianity, or the Heavenly
Way." For the first six months, under his new
teachers, he manifested no special interest, except
an occasional expression of admiration, but in
the early summer of 1872 his enthusiasm awoke.
He often paused to give expression to the
thought awakened by reading the New Testa-
ment, and finally asked to be baptized.

I remember after coming from a year's exile
from English-speaking people, in the province
of Echizen, but when my ears were well attuned
to the rhythm of the musical language of Japan,
hearing Okuno preach on the parable of the
Prodigal Son. I had heard missionaries, aliens,
grumble and groan over " this unspiritual pagan
language " (this was in the days before the Bible
in Japanese, and before the vernacular had been


A Spiritual Engineer 255

made plastic by a generation of regenerated and
Christian Japanese), and I came to the American
Mission Home on " the Bluff " on Sunday even-
ing in March, 1872, expecting an ordinary dis-
course. Every available foot of room was
crowded by men, women, and children as they
sat around Dr. Brown, drinking in his instruc-
tion in Bible truths. When he had finished
Okuno arose and opened his mouth. I was en-
thralled. The Japanese language seemed to
have been as fully filled with the Holy Spirit as
the preacher himself certainly was. I seemed to
understand what was meant by the gift of
tongues. Whether or not, whereas I had before
seen only a stone, now I saw a flashing jewel.
" Until polished the precious gem has no splen-
dor." Dr. Brown's theory was here demonstrated
that the best way to evangelize Japan would be
through her own sons, and he wrought master-
fully to raise up a native ministry. He lived to
see " twenty Browns," and many more, on the
way to the pulpit and pastorate.

Behold here, after thirty years of the preaching
of the gospel by Okuno to his countrymen and
his feeding of the lambs of Christ, his letter to
the biographer, written in 1902, and part of his
poem in memoriam to his teacher :

" Though I cannot behold your beloved face
with my bodily eyes, I can see it well in my heart,
for I am ever mindful of you. Yes, often your
solemn form with the Bible in hand rises before

256 A Maker of the New Orient

me, and I can hear, even with my deafened ears,
the voice which used to teach me.

" You did not speak much, but you have taught
me many truths. You have warned me, ' Do
not pray long nor preach long, for it pleases not
the Lord nor men either. Beware of this, for it
is not a slight matter.' I can hear the oft-re-
peated words even now.

" You have preached to many, but you baptized
only three, of whom I was the first. The others
are also God's faithful servants.

" You taught me the way to preach. It was a
way that many people would never think of.
One night I was very much troubled, for there
were two voices contending in my heart. One
was saying:

" ' Go and preach the gospel at once, for many
souls are perishing,' but the other said :

" * Oh, no ! You are yet to study a long while,
or else you will teach many mistakes.'

" I knew not which to obey. So I went and
asked you:

"'What shall I do?'

" You just gazed at me and said :

" ' Obey both, for they are both reasonable.'

" I was astonished and asked again :

" ' Dr. Brown, how can I obey two voices at
one time ? '

" You told me, smiling :

" * It is an easy thing. Teach while you study,
and study while you teach.'

A Spiritual Engineer 257

" And so I have been obeying you from that
time вАФ preaching while I study, studying while I
preach. I am always thinking of you through
all these thirty years, and so I can see you in my
heart as clearly as though you were still living."

Most felicitously, Dr. S. Wells Williams of
China was present at the baptism of Okuno, and
told the story of how, years ago, in 1837, at
Macao, the shipwrecked Japanese were led to
love the Light of the World, and how they held
prayer meetings for Japan, and about the send-
ing of the ship Morrison, to return Japanese
waifs, only in Yedo Bay to be fired on and driven
away. Now, after so long a time, when Okuno
received the waters of baptism in the presence
of forty or fifty Japanese, S. Wells Williams,
who was on the Morrison, sat at communion
with his Japanese friends. Dr. Hepburn, just
back from China, whither he had gone for the
printing of his dictionary, was also present, so
that three of the American gospel pioneers in
China, survivors of many who had gone to their
reward, were together on this notable day.

Okuno Masatsuna became not only an eloquent
orator and preacher of the gospel which had
healed his soul, but also an admirable hymnist
and poet.

Meanwhile we in Tokio, English-speaking
Christians, had subscribed money to build the
edifice of the Union Church, in Tsukiji (filled-
up land), the foreign quarter, and late in July,

258 A Maker of the New Orient

1872, it was dedicated to the worship of Almighty
God. As the oldest missionary in Japan, Dr.
Brown was invited to preach the sermon. Rev.
E. W. Syle opened the services with invocation,
Apostles' Creed, and Psalm. Dr. Peter V.
Veeder read the Scripture, and Professor J. H.
Seelye, president of Amherst College, then visit-
ing Japan, offered the concluding prayer and
benediction. The congregation consistea of 43
persons, 22 men and 8 women (foreigners), and
13 Japanese. A collection of three hundred dol-
lars was taken up, to pay the debt of nine hun-
dred dollars on the building. Altogether it was
a very happy occasion. Dr. Brown was in the
best of spirits, and all of us who had heard the
sermon were cheered.

This was the second time that Dr. Brown
preached in this great city, the first being on
the nth of March, i860, at the American Lega-
tion, his audience being made up of nine gentle-
men from the British and American legations.
He had dwelt upon the shortness of the longest
life, as suggested by Genesis v. 25. It was a
time of murder and incendiarism. Within a
twelvemonth Mr. Heuskcn, one of his hearers,
was cut to pieces by Japanese assassins, but on
this day in 1872 all assembled, without fear of
molestation, to consecrate a house of worship to
the living God, in the capital of this heathen
empire. What had God wrought !

Nevertheless religious freedom had not yet

A Spiritual Engineer 259

come, and a good many people who loved " the
name that is above every name " were still pining
and dying in prison. Probably three thousand
native Christians from the region around Nag-
asaki, descendants of seventeenth-century be-
lievers, were still in the prisons of Japan.

For fourteen years Dr. Brown had not asked
for nor received a dollar for house rent from the
Board of Missions, and had borne that expense
himself. As neither Mr. Verbeck nor Dr. Brown
were of any expense to the Board, both receiving
support by their own efforts elsewhere, he plead
for two new missionaries to be sent out by the
Reforrmed Church. Of twenty now at Yoko-
hama, only three were with the Reformed
Church. One man was needed to train a native
ministry. As the Reformed mission was the
only one that had a native church, its oppor-
ity to inaugurate this enterprise seemed a golden
one. A good scholar and one apt to teach was
wanted. So wrote Dr. Brown on November 19,
1872, when just returned from a month's trip to
Shanghai, visiting Kobe and Nagasaki on the
way. As the Reformed Church in America
was still unable to pay his salary, as it had been
unable for years past, he proposed to take ten
pupils in his own house, for the rent of which
he was paying twelve hundred a year. The
pupils were to pay some portion of their expense,
so he would be self-supporting. He hoped to
translate the Scriptures and do good in teaching.

26o A Maker of the New Orient

He thrilled at the report of the meeting of the
Evangelical Alliance in New York, and plead
for money to erect the new Union Church build-
ing. He was now sixty-three years old, feeling
that he had " accomplished little in life," but
saying, " I want to accomplish something for
Japan that shall live after me when I am gone.
This incites me to work at the translation of the
Scriptures." To him all his varied work was
Christian work, that is, he was earnest in all he
did to the glory of his Saviour. He felt that
" all service ranks the same with God."

In the year of our Lord 1873 the Christians
in Japan, though so few in number, felt a glow of
hope, for the anti-Christian edicts had been re-
moved. There was no law of Japan prohibiting
the religion of Christ. The Mikado's empire
was open to the gospel. Dr. Brown's letters con-
trast the years 1859 and 1873. What hath God
wrought! A meeting was held by the native
Christians on Washington's Birthday to celebrate
religious freedom. Tell the American Christians,
they said through their teacher, " to send more
and better men to this country." This was the
burden of Dr. Brown's urgent appeal to Miss
Hequemborg, who, after some months of noble
service in Japan, was going home on account of
failing health. " Tell the churches to send their
best men and women to Japan. We must have a
native ministry soon." Yet there were tares
also. Besides the churches of Rome, of Russia,

A Spiritual Engineer 261

and of the Reformed faith based on the Bible,
there are many missionaries of the synagogue of
Satan teaching the Japanese that Christianity is
a reHgion fit only for women and fools, and much
of the port journalism was not of a sort to
recommend either Christianity or civilization to
the Japanese.

In another interesting visit to Tokio in Febru-
ary, 1874, he preached again in the Union
Church, wherein the day before Mr. Thompson
married two native couples in the Christian way.
On Sunday afternoon, with Mr. Edward Warren
Clark, he visited the private school of Mr. Naka-
mura, who had visited Europe, written a famous
memorial to the government on freedom of
religion, translated Mill " On Liberty " and
Smiles' ** Self Help," the Constitution of the
United States, and other standard works in
English literature. He was a Christian and a
profound scholar in Chinese. His school of one
hundred pupils was situated near the Kiristan-
zaka or Christian Slope. Dr. Brown talked to
eighteen young men on the first chapter of
Romans, one of the teachers in the ordinary
Bible class of the more advanced pupils being
one of his former pupils.

Referring to the translation which he had
made of the manuscript work of the famous
Confucian scholar and philosopher Arai Haku-
seki, concerning the Italian priest, Jean Baptiste
Sidotti, who in 1607 landed in Japan as a Chris-

262 A Maker of the New Orient

tian missionary and was taken to Yedo and here
imprisoned until he died. Dr. Brown wrote:

** Now on the site of the prison is a school of
one hundred young men with Christian teachers,
and a lot near by is already secured for a Chris-
tian church. . . Thus the time may not be far
distant when the place that once was a prison to
those called Christians and intended to stamp
out the last vestiges of the religion of Christ,
shall be distinguished as a site for a temple to
the living God, and crowds of this people shall
resort to the house of prayer on the Christian
slope in the capital of Japan. May the name,
which that locality has retained for more than
two centuries and a half, prove to have been a
prophecy of better days coming."

Training a Native Ministry


Training a Native Ministry

THE time was ripe for the formation of a
native ministry, of men who could speak
of the wonderful works of God in their
own tongue. By vote of the Church, eight
young men under Dr. Brown's instruction,
and studying English preparatory to theo-
logical study, were selected. Two more, one
of them recommended by Mrs. Pruyn, of
the American Mission Home, were added, mak-
ing ten in all. Their future was not yet
without clouds, for pagan bigotry was still
rampant, and not a few government officials
hated with perfect hatred the idea of free-
dom of conscience. One of these was the
old conservative Shimadzu Saburo of Satsuma,
a cabinet minister. Democracy, Christianity,
and the new ideas of the West were not to come
in without bitter opposition by men reared in the
ferocious virtues of Bushido. Although " Sat-
suma " had extirpated Buddhism in his own prov-
ince, yet any stick would do to beat a Christian
with. Okuno and Ogawa, elders of the Yoko-
hama church, and other Christians of the Tokio

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Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 11 of 14)