The Protestant Missions — August 15, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Prayer Meeting in Yokohama in 1866!


A 1634 Japanese Red seal ship, during the Edo period

In 1866, there was sent forth from Yokohama the following address:

“Yokohama, Japan, 14th Jan., 18661.

”Brethren in Christ:

“A little company of believers of several nationalities residing here have for the last seven days been observing the concert for prayer with you of other lands, and whilst assembled this evening to supplicate the throne of grace in behalf of this heathen nation it was unanimously resolved to appoint a committee to issue an address to God’s people throughout the world, asking their prayers in a special manner for Japan.

“In order that the ground of this request may be better understood, permit us succinctly to state the circumstances in which we find ourselves here at the present time. There are now Protestant missionaries representing three or four branches of the Church of Christ in this country. Two of these are at Nagasaki and the remainder at this port. Most of these have been here since 1859, or more than six years. They see marked changes in many things since their arrival.

“At first, the prejudice and suspicion of the rulers of this country led them, for some time, frequently to send posses of officers to the houses of the missionaries, ostensibly as friends calling upon friends, but really as spies, to find out for what object these non-trading people had come to Japan. But for more than three years past, such domiciliary visits have entirely ceased. The first decisive symptom of the abatement of suspicions on the part of the Government was the sending of about a dozen young men of rank from Yedo to Kanagawa to be taught English by one of the missionaries. More recently the Governors of Nagasaki and this place authorized schools to be opened for a similar purpose under their auspices, and the Protestant missionaries were invited to take charge of them. ‘One missionary at Nagasaki has, during the last year, devoted three or four hours a day to the school there. The school at Yokohama has over fifty members, and for more than two years past, three and sometimes four of the missionaries have been engaged in it, teaching an hour or two each day. A large supply of American school-books has been imported by the Governor for this school, and the teachers have in no wise been restricted as to the manner or matter of their teaching. Through the use of these foreign school-books more or less of Christian truth is almost daily brought into contact with the minds of the pupils, and has been freely made the subject of explanation and remark in classes. The effect of this is manifest in the unhesitating manner in which the pupils make enquiries and seek information on religious subjects, and in the frequent expression given to Christian facts and doctrines in their school exercise. Four years ago, when copies of a book entitled the ‘ Christian Reader ‘ were bought of a missionary by some young men who were desirous to learn English, they at once erased the word * Christian ‘ from the title-page and cover, for fear that it would be noticed by others and bring them into trouble. Now a considerable number of those who have been under instruction have purchased copies of the Scriptures for their own use. In the schoolrooms and in our houses there is no reluctance to speak, and men do speak from day to day, of God, of Christ, and Christianity. The name of Jesus is no longer uttered with bated breath. Some of the wives of missionaries also have interesting classes of Japanese boys under their instruction in English, with great success.

“A medical missionary has a dispensary thronged with patients from day to day, where the Ten Commandments and passages of Scripture in Japanese are hung upon the walls and read by the patients.

Folding screen depicting scenes of the attendance of daimyo at Edo Castle in 1847.Hasuike-Tatsumi-Sanjū-yagura is at the center,Kikyō-mon (the inner Sakurada-mon) on the right side. Signs alongside the moat are written with the words "geba" (dismount). The attending daimyo were required to reduce their number of attendants before entering the inner castle compound. Signs with the family names of each entourage identify them (counting from the right side the first panel) from the Okayama Domain, Fukuoka Domain (fourth panel), Kurume Domain (fifth panel), Tottori Domain (sixth panel), Satsuma and Izumo Domains (seventh panel) and the Sendai Domain (eighth panel).

“Again, the Gorojiu or Council of State at Yedo is now making arrangements to erect extensive buildings in that city for a school in which some hundred young men of the higher classes are to be taught in English and a French department, and the Protestant missionaries have been requested to take charge of the former.

These facts will enable you to see to what extent the Japanese have come to repose confidence in the missionaries. Meantime the members of the several missions have applied themselves to the study of Japanese, endeavouring to make their labours in this direction available to those who may come after them, by publishing works for this purpose, and a Japanese-English Dictionary containing some 40,000 words is now nearly ready for the press. Most, if not all of them, have for a good while past been at work upon the translation of the Bible, so that, by a few months of co-operative labour, they would be ready to publish at least the four Gospels in Japanese.

“Contrary to the general expectations, it has been found that the Japanese generally do not entertain a feeling of hostility to foreigners, nor are they bigoted in religious matters. They even pride themselves upon being less stiff and more liberal in the latter respect than the Chinese. Those who belong to the class called samurai, who alone are eligible to civil or military office, manifest much eagerness to gain a knowledge of Western languages, sciences, and arts. Some of those who have been or are now studying English are in the habit of going daily to the missionaries’ houses, in groups of from two to three to six or seven, to read the English Bible, preferring this to the study of school-books. These intelligent young men frequently express their earnest desire that the day may soon come when all their countrymen shall have the Holy Scriptures and the free political institutions of which they are the basis. They despise the Buddhist creed and the Buddhist priest “One of the first teachers employed by the missionaries in 1860 recently died in the assurance that he was about to be with Jesus. He had, at his own request, been baptised in his own house and in the presence of his own family, with their full consent. Thus the first fruit of the Gospel in Japan, at least in our time, has been gathered into the chamber of God.

Here, then, we are, in the presence of this great heathen population, estimated by themselves to number 32,000,000 and you may ask: ‘What hinders the Gospel from being freely and publicly preached?’ This is the question that presses us at this moment and urges us to ask your prayers for this people.

“This Government is in some respects a strong one. In consequence of what occurred with the Jesuits and monks of former times it took the most stringent measures to efface the very name of Christian (Kiristan) as that of a crafty usurper from the memory of its subjects, or else to make it the symbol of whatever is dangerous and detestable. Unfortunately the Jesuits did not leave the Bible in Japan when they were banished from the country, else the condition of things here now might have borne more resemblance to that in Madagascar. But now, every man, woman, and child must be registered at some Buddhist or Shinto temple, or be denied a decent burial. Thus every Japanese is in the grasp of an iron hand, the hand of the Government.

There is no evidence that the old edicts against Christians have been revoked; no proclamation from the Government as yet assures the people that they would not be treated as criminals worthy of the death-penalty, should they be suspected of favouring the Christian religion. The missionary might or might not suffer from the offence of preaching, but his hearers would. Here then we hesitate, and desire to know the divine will and our duty. We would neither be cowardly nor rash. We call upon our brethren in Christ to pray that this last obstacle may be removed,— that the Treaty Powers represented in Japan may be inclined to do what Christian governments ought to do in this behalf,— that the spirit of God may move the rulers of Japan to proclaim liberty to their subjects, liberty to hear and read the word of God» — and thus that speedily these everlasting doors may be lifted up and the King of Glory may come in. May we not hope that those whom this address reaches will remember this object in their families, and closets, and meetings for prayer, and that it will be especially inserted among the subjects forming the program for the Week of Prayer in the opening of the year 1867?”

One result of this address was that great interest was aroused among supporters of the Church Missionary Society of England. One person, who withheld his name, sent to the Society a contribution of four thousand pounds to form the nucleus of a special fund for Japan, and three years after the address was issued, the Society sent out its first representative. Rev. George Ensor, who arrived at Nagasaka in January, 1869.

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