The Protestant Missions — August 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Hundreds of Roman Catholics on their way to exile in Japan!


Group portrait of a woman in a kago, two bearers and a man using a carrying pole, Japan (Felice Beato, between 1863 and 1877)

Some nine months later, Mr. Ensor saw hundreds of Roman Catholics being driven by his house on their way to exile. He says that one night when in an almost despairing frame of mind because of the opposition that was being shown towards Christianity:

“I was sitting by myself in my study and heard in the darkness a knock at the door. I went myself to answer it, and standing between the palm trees of my gate, I saw the dark figure of an armed Japanese. He paused a moment, and I beckoned him to enter: and he came in and sat down, and I asked him what his business was. He replied: ‘ A few days ago I had a copy of the Bible in my hands, and I wish to be a Christian.’ I said: ‘ Are you a stranger in these parts? Don’t you know that thousands of your people are being detained as prisoners for this?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, I know. Last night I came to your gate and as I stood there thinking of the terrible step I was about to take, fear overpowered me and I returned. But there stood by me in the night one who came to me in my dreams and said I was to go to the house of the missionary, and nothing would happen to me, and I have come.’ And drawing his long sword, he held it up to me in a form signifying the Japanese oath, and promised that he would ever keep true to me, and I received him.”

This man was afterwards baptised by the name of Titus; “for God,” says Mr. Ensor,” who comforteth those who are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus.”

Though the persecutions inaugurated by the Imperial Government were directed chiefly against the Roman Catholics, persons who were becoming interested in the teaching of the Protestant missionaries were not free from danger. In Nagasaki a young man named Futagawa Ito had feigned an interest in Christianity with the design of assassinating Mr. Ensor, from whom he requested instruction. The story of Christ’s love made so deep an   impression upon him that he soon came to believe what he had once hated. He became Mr. Ensor’s assistant, and in 1870 was helping in the printing of a tract, when he suddenly disappeared. He had been arrested on a nominal charge of having transgressed a regulation concerning the wearing of swords; but in reality because of his connection with Christianity, as was evident from the fact that he was offered his liberty if he would renounce that religion. After a while he was sent to his native province. About his neck was fastened an iron collar to which were attached five chains. These were used to secure him in his cell, and on the road each chain was held by a soldier. On his arrival at his native village his relatives were in great distress at thought of the horrible crime he had committed. His mother for several days refused to eat any food. His sister, who had been married to a priest, was divorced. The villagers came to gaze at him through the openings of the cage in which he was confined, and to talk about the way in which he ought to be punished. After some time spent in the prison of the prefectural capital, he was taken to Tokyo. Throughout the journey he was confined in a small kago, which was something like a box carried by poles that rested on the shoulders of coolies. There was not room in it for him to lie down, and the top was so low that he could not sit upright. Food was given to him through a small opening in the side of the box. Only once was he allowed to get out from his narrow cell. This was at Osaka, where he was permitted to take a bath; but all the time his chains were held by five men, who also had drawn swords to cut him down if any attempt was made to escape. Mr. Ensor, who on account of ill health had been obliged to return to England before anything had been learned about Futagawa, tells us that after a while, “Like Joseph, he found favour in the sight of the keeper of the gaol, and by-and-by, though still a prisoner himself, he was set over the other prisoners and made the keeper of the dungeon. He began to speak to those around him of the Saviour or whose sake he was bound and incarcerated. The magistrates as well as the prisoners listened to him, and treated him with great kindness; so, like St. Paul at Rome, he preached Christ from his prison, and there were between seven and eight hundred men who heard from him the Gospel, and out of these not fewer than seventy or eighty began themselves to study the Word of God.”

Fukuzawa appears on the 10,000 yen banknote engraved by Oshikiri Katsuzō.

The American Minister finally secured the prisoner’s release. The officials at first made some objection to the removal of the iron collar; but the eminent scholar, Fukuzawa Yukichi, always fertile in expedients, brought a physician, who ordered its removal for the sake of health.

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