The Protestant Missions — November 1, 2010 at 10:08 pm

The Day of Pentecost for Japan! (VI RAPID GROWTH I883-I888


On March 14, 1905, Hepburn's 90th birthday, he was awarded the decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun, third class. Hepburn was the second foreigner to receive this honor

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 born in 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 conventions were held, and partly because it saw the beginning 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; representing 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 as Missionaries’ the text being Acts 1. 8. ” By the thought pervading this sermon,” wrote Dr. G. W. Knox, the conference was borne along; it showed itself at every devotional meeting and found expression again and again in the various addresses.”

Rev. Robert Samuel Maclay, D.D. (simplified Chinese: 麦利和; traditional Chinese: 麥利和; Pinyin: Mài Lìhé; Foochow Romanized: Măh Lé-huò; February 7, 1824 - August 18, 1907) was an American missionary who made pioneer contributions to the Methodist Episcopal missions in China, Japan and Korea.

The Conference was organized with three Chairmen: —J. C. Hepburn, M.D., LL.D., of the American Presbyterian Mission; Rev. R. S. Maclay, D.D., of the Methodist Episcopal Mission; and Rev. C. F. Warren of the Church Missionary Society. The first of these, in replying 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 they would be allowed to land; and when, in October, their 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 undertake. 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 missionary activity, the obstacles to the reception of Christianity 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, evangelists, or schools. In the evening the subject was further considered at a united Conference of Japanese and Foreign Workers. Rev. Paul Sawayama, who had been closely associated with Mr. Leavitt, and whose own church had been conducted on the principles he advocated, read a paper in which he took the ground that the Japanese Church should ”provide money sufficient to cover the whole expense of the evangelistic, pastoral, and educational work of the Church, without receiving any pecuniary assistance whatever from foreign missionary 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 support of native evangelists should be provided by the Japanese, foreign help should be given for schools and for the production of Christian literature. Other Japanese that joined in the discussion were not ready to take so radical positions as these speakers.

The evident spirit of unity 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 labours 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 evangelizing Japan could be accomplished 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, several 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 preparation of a letter addressed to the Convention of the Japanese Churches, which was to meet the next month in 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 workers, and prayed that a blessing might rest upon them during their deliberations, and in all their work.

Paul Sawayama

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 religious interest that began among the foreign sailors in Yokohama had spread to the churches of that city and Tokyo. 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 anything 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 realized here. Many churches about Tokyo are just now undergoing the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Our church and the Methodist church are especially blessed. We are holding prayer-meetings every evening this week through. Every evening many were blessed with the Spirit, and many new ones confessed their faith in Christ, while all were undergoing the most extraordinary experience. I now realize the prophecy of the prophet Joel : ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out My Spirit…’. 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.”

(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 would gladly have continued to be known simply as Christian churches; but some convenient way of designating them became 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 preferences in the matter make it better to keep the Japanese word.)

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 different denominations soon united in daily prayer- meetings. “There was no excitement, but intense fervour and definiteness, both in prayer and exhortation.”

The Osaka Conference of Missionaries exerted a helpful influence upon the Convention in Tokyo. Japanese Christians in attendance at the former gathering had been impressed by its spirit of harmony and earnestness. 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 further helped by a meeting of their Missionary Society held in Kyoto the last of April.

Joseph Hardy Neesima (新島 襄, Niijima Jō?, 12 February 1843—23 January 1890) was a Japanese educator of the Meiji era, the founder of Doshisha University and Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts.

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 11th:

“I am anxious to write you 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 am; public meeting for speaking in the afternoon. About seven hundred were present. Thursday’s program 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 perfect union between the native brethren and the missionaries, 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 night. The house was completely filled for the largest prayer-meeting I ever attended in Japan. It commenced promptly at eight pm, and closed at ten pm. 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 missionary 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 evangelists were in attendance on the Convention, the Christians, 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 acknowledgment of its truth; but now there came to them a real sense of personal sin, an acceptance of Christ 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 be filled with joyful accounts of the revival. Rev. C. F. Warren, of the Church Missionary Society, wrote from Osaka:

“During the whole of my ministerial experience of nearly twenty years, whether in China, England, or Japan, I never before 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:

The Lord is doing 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, testifying to the truth and power of the new religion. Persons who have been members of the Church for years are being born into the kingdom of grace and glory, and for the first time are realizing 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 city, 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 every direction, and that hundreds will be brought to a knowledge of the true God. It is marvelous indeed. I never saw anything more striking at home.”

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

“The sense of sin, and the need of the Holy Spirit, and His 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 touching incidents have occurred. I heard one of our most devoted and self-denying pastors . . . tell how one night after they had retired, a brother sprang 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 zero’ 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 enthusiastically committed to the idea of union.”

In nearly all places where Christian work had been established the churches were crowded with eager listeners. Requests were constantly coming to the missionaries, urging them to visit cities where people desired instruction. There were large accessions to the membership of the churches. The pastors and the missionaries 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 evangelization of Japan. It says:

“It is not an extravagant anticipation that Japan may become a Christian nation in seventeen years. The Christian missionaries 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 paganism 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.”

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