The Protestant Missions — June 17, 2011 at 2:20 am

War with China and golden opportunities! 1894.


Prince Komatsu Akihito

The outbreak of the war with China made the year 1894 an important one in Japan’s history. This war affected in many ways the progress of Christianity. In the first place, the Christians had an opportunity to disprove the charge that had so persistently been brought against them of being deficient in loyalty. Those in the army were eager to prove their devotion to their country, and some of the most noteworthy deeds of personal valor were performed by them. An interdenominational society was formed through which money was raised and supplies contributed to furnish comforts for the soldiers.

The war opened a way for carrying the Gospel into the army. It will be remembered that soldiers had often been warned not to attend Christian services or to read Christian books. Even so late as the spring of 1894, a prince of the blood, who was in command of a garrison, gave what was practically an order that Christian soldiers must give up their religion. In a branch of this garrison, about a dozen of the common soldiers and a few officers formed an important part of the church in the city where they were stationed. The privates decided that it would be necessary for them to conform outwardly to the command, and asked to have their names erased from the register of the church.
Some of the officers felt obliged to take the same course. Now, however, a great change came. Rev. H. Loomis, the agent of the Bible Societies, obtained from the Vice-Minister of War permission to visit all the garrisons in Japan in order to supply the men with copies of the Gospels. Letters were sent to the commanding officers instructing them to give Mr. Loomis the necessary assistance for distributing the books. In some places regiments were drawn up in line that they might be addressed by a missionary before the books were given out. In other places the officers received the books and themselves distributed them to the men. A similar work was done in the navy. The Scriptures and other Christian literature were distributed to soldiers in the hospitals and even to the Chinese prisoners that were sent to Japan. In nearly every case the books were thankfully received, and many of the officers wrote letters expressing their appreciation of what had been done.
Prince Komatsu, who was next in command to the Emperor, expressed in person his gratitude to Mr. Loomis.
Five prominent Japanese ministers went to the seat of war as chaplains. They were sent by the Christians, but were recognized by the military authorities, so that they had their quarters with the army. When they were to deliver addresses, the officers usually gave out notices of the meetings and came themselves with the men. In addition to direct religious work, the chaplains, whose official designation signified “comforters,” tried in various ways to cheer the men by sympathetic ministrations to their welfare. Occasionally they came in contact with Chinese Christians. Notwithstanding the difference in language, they could communicate with these in writing. One of the chaplains says of a prayer-meeting held with the Chinese: “Though we could not talk together, the tunes of the hymns we sang, the name of Christ, and the word ‘ Amen ‘ were equally familiar to all.”

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