The Protestant Missions — August 9, 2010 at 2:49 pm

First Protestant missionaries in Japan.


James Curtis Hepburn, M.D., LL.D. (March 13, 1815 – June 11, 1911) was a physician who became a Christian missionary. He is known for the Hepburn romanization system for transliteration of the Japanese language into the Latin alphabet, which he popularized in his Japanese–English dictionary.

EARLY in 1859, the Mission Board of the American Episcopal Church appointed Rev. John Liggins and Rev. C. M. Williams, both of whom were missionaries in China, to open work in Japan, “requesting them to remove to that empire and to enter upon the missionary work there immediately after receiving these instructions.”

Mr. Liggins found that the teaching of English afforded one of the best opportunities for usefulness. He soon had a class of eight government interpreters. As the Christian Scriptures were prohibited, he thought that “missionaries must be content to circulate scientific works containing an admixture of Christianity.” By August he had sold or given away one hundred and fifty copies of such books. He wrote:

“I look upon these geographical, historical, and scientific works prepared by the missionaries in Chinese as the pioneer literature for Japan; and as works in Chinese are understood by all well-educated Japanese, these works are destined to be eminently useful in doing away with this people’s misconception of Christianity and preparing the way for the circulation of the Scriptures.”

October 18, 1859, J. C. Hepburn, M.D., of the American Presbyterian Board, landed with his wife in Kanagawa; and in November, Rev. Samuel R. Brown and D. B. Simmons, M.D., both of the Reformed Church in America, reached the same port. Mr. Brown and Dr. Hepburn had, several years before this, been for short periods missionaries in China.

The three boards that had been urged by Dr. Williams, Mr. Syle, and Chaplain Wood, to begin work in Japan had thus quickly responded to the appeal. Dr. Williams after wards wrote: “I do not know that better men could be found to begin missionary efforts than Brown, Hepburn, and Liggins.”

One reason why it had been deemed appropriate that the Reformed (Dutch) Church in America should engage in this new enterprise was because it was thought that it would be able to profit by the relations that had previously existed between Holland and Japan. This consideration made the missionary board of that church desire to send out someone whose birth in Holland made Dutch his mother tongue. Such a person was found in a young man named Guido F. Verbeck, who was about to graduate from the theological seminary in Auburn, N. Y. He accepted the invitation of the Reformed Board, accompanied Messrs.  Brown and Simmons as far as Shanghai, and reached Nagasaki, November 7. The families of Messrs. Brown, Simmons, and Verbeck, remained for a while in Shanghai, whence they proceeded in December to Japan.

Though the names of some of the first missionaries will frequently appear in the following narrative, it may be well to add here a few notes concerning the six men to whom was given the honor of inaugurating the work of Protestant missions in Japan.

around 1859-1873!

Rev. John Liggins was born at Nuneaton in Warwick-shire, England, May 11, 1829. In 1841, he removed to Philadelphia, Pa. He graduated in 1855, from the Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church at Alexandria, Va. In November of the same year he sailed for China. The ill health that had led him to visit Japan permitted him to remain there only about ten months. Returning to America, he engaged in literary work. Among his publications were, “England’s Opium Policy,” “A Missionary Picture Gallery” and “The Great Value and Success of Foreign Missions.”

While in Nagasaki, he prepared a book entitled “One Thousand Familiar Phrases in English and Japanese,” which was the first book of the kind written in Japan.

Channing Moore Williams, (17 July 1829 – 2 December 1910) was an Episcopalian missionary to China and Japan and later bishop. His saint's day on the Anglican calendar is 2 December.

Right Rev. Channing Moore Williams was born in Richmond, Va., July, 1829. He went to China at the same time with Mr. Liggins. In 1866, he was made Bishop of China and Japan. The growth of the work in the two countries, and the increasing difficulty of properly caring for so large a diocese, led to the appointment, in 1874, of another bishop for China, while Bishop Williams remained in Japan. In 1889, he resigned this charge, but continued in active work as a missionary until 1908, when he returned to America.

James Curtis Hepburn, M.D., LL.D., was born in Milton, Penn., March 13, 1815. He graduated from Princeton College in 1832, and from the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1836. In 1840, he married Miss Clara M. Leete. After graduation he practiced medicine in America for a few years, and in 1841, went to Singapore as a medical missionary. Two years later he removed to Amoy. The ill health of Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn made it necessary to relinquish this work, and in 1846, they returned to America, settling in New York, where he established a lucrative practice. When Japan was opened, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions asked him to take up work in that land, and thus it was that, as we have seen, he went there in 1859. Hereafter there will be occasion to speak not only of his medical work, but also of his literary labors in the preparation of tracts, in the translation of the Scriptures, and in lexicography.

In 1892, he retired from the work and returned to America. Perhaps no other missionary in Japan gained to so great a degree the esteem of all classes of people, Japanese and foreign. The Japan Mail spoke of him as “a man whose name will be remembered with respect and affection as long as Yokohama has annals . . . •

The beauty of his character, his untiring charity, his absolute self-negation, and his steady zeal in the cause of everything good, constitute a picture which could not fail to appeal to the Japanese people.” On his ninetieth birthday, in 1905, the Emperor of Japan conferred upon him the decoration of the Third Class of the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun.

Guido Verbeck、Samuel Robbins Brown、Danne B.Simmons.

Rev. Samuel Rollins Brown, D.D., was born in East Windsor, Conn., June 16, 1810. His father was a carpenter; his mother wrote the well-known hymn, “I love to steal awhile away.” While he was still young, his parents removed to Monson, Mass., where his childhood was spent. He graduated from Yale College in 1832. He was accepted by the American Board for service in China; but as lack of funds made it impossible to send him, he went in 1838 to that country as a teacher for the Morrison Education Society, which had been established there by Christian merchants. After eight years he returned to the United States on account of Mrs. Brown’s poor health. He took with him for education in America three Chinese lads, one of them being Yung Wing, who afterwards did so much to promote education among his countrymen. Dr. Brown established a private academy in Owasco Outlet, N. Y., and also was pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in the same town. Going to Japan in 1859, he remained until 1879. He died at Monson, June 20, 1880. Besides other literary work, he was the chairman of the committee that had in charge the translation of the New Testament, and he shared with Drs. Hepburn and Greene the chief responsibility in that work. He will, however, be specially remembered as a teacher; for in Japan, as previously in China, he taught many young men who have since held prominent places in the religious, official, and business worlds. He inherited his mother’s poetical genius, and was also a gifted musician.

His biography has been published by Rev. W. E. Griffis, D.D., under the title, ” A Maker of the New Orient.”

D. B. Simmons, M.D., resigned from the mission of the Reformed Board in i860. He continued to practice Medicine in Yokohama until 1882.

Guido Herman Fridolin Verbeck (born Verbeek) (28 January 1830 – 10 May 1898) was a Dutch political advisor, educator, and missionary active in Bakumatsu and Meiji period Japan. He was one of the most important o-yatoi gaikokujin (foreign advisors) serving the Meiji government and contributed to many major government decisions during the early years of the reign of Emperor Meiji.

Rev. Guido Fridolin Verbeck, D.D., was born January 23, 1830, in Zeist, Province of Utrecht, Netherlands. His father was burgomaster of Zeist. The son was educated as a civil engineer, and about 1852 went to pursue his profession in America. Believing, after a time, that he was called to the ministry, he entered the Theological Seminary at Auburn, N. Y., where he graduated in 1859. In April of the same year he was married to Miss Maria Manton of Philadelphia, and soon after sailed from New York for Japan. Like the other early missionaries, he found that the teaching of English afforded the first opportunities for usefulness. His success with his pupils led to his being invited to take charge of an English school that the Government established in Nagasaki. With the consent of his Board, he accepted the position, and in 1869 removed to Tokyo, where for four years he was connected with what later became the Imperial University. During this period and afterwards, he was constantly called upon to advise the Government in educational matters. His connection with the Government continued until 1878. All of this time he continued to preach and engage in other forms of religious work. In 1877, he received the Third Class decoration of the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun. In 1891, the

Government showed its further appreciation of what he had done by granting a special passport that gave him and his family the right to travel or reside in any part of Japan in the same manner as subjects of the country.

One reason for this was that Dr. Verbeck was “a man without a country,” having lost his citizenship in Holland and never having been naturalized in America. Hence, he could not claim protection from any foreign legation. After leaving the employ of the Government, he taught in a theological school, engaged in direct evangelistic work, and helped in the translation of the Scriptures. The excellent translation of the Psalms is a monument to his industry and ability. He died March 10, 1898. The Emperor sent a gift of five hundred yen for the expenses of the funeral, which was attended by a representative of the Imperial Court and many other officials. The city government of Tokyo presented his family with a perpetual lease of the plot where his body was buried. Dr. Verbeck’s biography has also been published by Dr. Griffis.

The wives of those of the above missionaries who were married deserve mention; but, as is so often the case, the materials for such notice are not easily found, and their work was not of such a kind as obtained much public record. Whatever success attended the labors of their husbands was doubtless due in large part to these noble women, and they should share with their husbands the honor that belongs to these missionary pioneers.

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