« PreviousContinue »
ple, and as thinking it better that the vulgar should profess, or conform to idolatry, rather than to nothing.
The public worship of Buddhism is well described by Mr. Fortune in his elegant and instructive volume, The Tea Districts of China :
* Anxious to see the whole of the Buddhist service, I took my station at one of the passages leading to the large temple a few minutes before the priests assembled. I had not been there long before an old priest walked past me to a huge block of wood, carved in the form of a fish, which was slung from the roof of one of the passages. This he struck several times with a wooden pole, and a loud hollow sound was given out which was heard over all the building. The large bronze bell in the belfry was now tolled three times; and the priests were observed coming from all quarters, each having a yellow robe thrown over his left shoulder. At the same time an old man was going round, beating on a piece of square board, to awake the priests who might be asleep, and to call the lazy ones to prayer.
. The temple to which the priests were hurrying, was a large building, fully 100 feet square, and about 60 feet in height. Its roof was supported by numerous massive wooden pillars. Three large idols—the Past, the Present, and the Future, each at least 30 feet in height-stood in the middle of the temple. An altar was in front of them, and more than a bundred hassocks were on the floor in front of the altar for the priests to kneel on during the service. Ranged on each side of this spacious hall were numerous idols of a smaller size, said to be the representatives of deified kings, and other great men, who had been remarkable for piety during their lifetime.
• Entering with the priests, I observed a man lighting the candles placed upon the altar, and burning incense. The smoke of the incense as it rose in the air filled the place with a heavy yet pleasing perfume. A solemn stillness seemed to pervade the temple. The priests came in one by one, in the most devout manner, scarcely lifting their eyes from the ground, and arranged themselves on the right and left sides of the altar, kneeling on the hassocks, and bending down lowly several times to the idols. Again the large bell tolled, -slowly and solemnly at first, then gradually quicker; and then everything was perfectly still.
• The priests were now ali assembled, about eighty in number, and the services of the temple began. I took a seat near the door. The priest nearest to the altar now rang a small bell, another struck a drum, and the whole eighty bent down several times upon their knees. One of them then struck a round piece of wood, rather larger than a man's skull, and hollow inside, alternately with a large bronze bell. At this stage of the ceremo. nies, a young priest stepped out from amongst the others, and took his station directly in front of the altar, bowing lowly and repeatedly as he did so. Then the hymn of praise began. One of the priests, apparently the leader, kept time by beating upon the hollow piece of wood, and the whole of the others sang or chanted ihe service in a most mournful key. At the commencement of the service, the priests who were ranged in front of the altar, half on the right side and half on the left, stood with their faces to the large images. Now, however, they suddenly wheeled round and faced each other. The chanting, which began slowly, increased in quickness as it went on, and when at the quickest part suddenly stopped. All was then silent for a second or two. At last, a single voice was heard to chant a few notes by itself, and then the whole assembly joined, and went on as before.
* The young priest who had come out from amongst the others now took
his station directly in front of the altar, but near the door of the temple, and bowed lowly several times upon a cushion placed there for that purpose. He then walked up to the altar with slow and solemn steps, took up a vessel which stood on it, and filled it with water. After making some crosses and gyrations with his hand, he sprinkled a little of the water upon the table. When this was done, he poured a little from the vessel into a cup, and retired slowly from the altar towards the door of the temple. Passing outside, he dipped his fingers in the water and sprinkled it on the top of a stone pillar which stood near the door.
. While this was going on the other priests were still chanting the service. The time of the music frequently changed :-now it was fast and lively,– now slow and solemn,—but always in a plaintive key. This part of the service being ended, all knelt lowly before the altar, and when they rose from their knees a procession was formed. The priests on the right of the altar filed off to the right, and those on the left to the left, each walking behind the other up the two sides of the spacious hall, and chanting as they went a low and solemn air, time being kept by the tinkling of a small bell. When the two processions met at the further end of the building, each wheeled round and returned in the same order as it came. The procession lasted for about five minutes, and then the priests took up their stations in front of the altar, and the chanting went on as before. A minute or two after this the whole body fell upon their knees, and sang for a while in this posture. When they rose, those on the left sang a part of the service by themselves, then knelt down. The right side now took up the chant, and, having performed their part, also knelt down. The left side rose again, and so they went on for ten minutes, prostrating themselves alternately before the altar. The remainder of the service was nearly the same as that at the commencement.
* This striking ceremony had now lasted for about an hour. During the whole time a thick screen had been hanging down in front of the large door, to keep out the sun's rays. Just before the conclusion of the service the curtain was drawn aside, and a most striking and curious effect was produced. Streams of ruddy light shot across the temple, the candles on the altar appeared to burn dimly, and the huge idols seemed more massive and strange than they had done before. One by one the priests slowly retired as solemnly as they came, and apparently deeply impressed with the services in which they had been engaged. Nearly all the priests adjourned to the refectory, where dinner was served immediately. The Buddhists eat no animal food; but they manage to consume a very large quantity of rice and vegetables. I have been perfectly astonished at the quantity of rice eaten by one of these priests at a meal. And yet, generally, they look poor and emaciated beings, wbich is probably owing as much to the sedentary lives which they lead as to the nature of their food.'— Tea Districts of China, pp. 304–309.
It has been said or thought, that the toleration of different sects is a promising omen for missionary work in Japan : and it has actually been proposed, should an entrance ever be forced or yielded in the great barrier against national intercourse which these singular islands have for so many centuries maintained, that the Christian Missionaries should place themselves under the protection of the spiritual Emperor. If, it is said, Christianity would come down from its transcendental and exclusive position, if it would renounce the right of total inde
pendence, the cross might once more triumph over the centimanous deities of Buddhism. Now we are far from saying that the Portuguese mission was without its faults, or that we should not do well, did the occasion offer, entirely to avoid that interference with secular politics, which, sooner or later, becomes the bane of all Jesuit missions; and through which in Japan, the Church planted by Xavier fell. But there are two especial difficulties connected with any Japanese Mission. In recognising the government of the country, and in submitting to its ordinances, it is difficult to see how a mission could distinguish between the co-ordinate secular and ecclesiastical authorities. While the Mikado or Daïri claims to be the son and representative of Deity, so long as the spiritual Emperor is not only protector of the sects but himself inherits the theocracy, so long as an innate holiness is ascribed to his person, and so long as he claims to exercise the attributes of Divinity, the power of causing famine and pestilence, and the like, it seems all but impossible for any Christian Mission to recognise the Mikado at all, or his authority.
The separation of the state authority into two (theoretically) independent functions, and the necessity of recognising both, is then one especial difficulty in the way of evangelizing Japan; and it is one of recent growth, for in Xavier's days it had not taken its present definite form. Add to this that Christianity has been tried and rejected : an apostate country is harder to reclaim than a simply heathen one. The Gospel is a savour of death unto death. It is hoped, however, that if Christianity were presented with simpler rites, and in direct antagonism to that form of it against which the Japanese are so prejudiced, 'a troop of reformed missionaries might again have a chance of success:' so we are told ; but we must not forget that Japan has received and rejected the Gospel, under Roman Catholic auspices : it has in the person of the Dutch seen something of its reformed aspect. If the one has repelled, the other would not be likely to attract, either the philosophizing from his supersensual contemplations, or the vulgar from his sensual idolatries. The Christians of Xavier's church might provoke a popular tumult, by insulting the Dii minorum gentium of Sintooism or Buddhism: all that the Japanese know of Christianity, under any other form, is that presented by the Hollanders, who helped the Japanese idolaters to massacre the Japanese Christians. These are ill omens for the evangelization of Japan ; and though we do not, and dare not, for a single moment, doubt of the ultimate success of our own Church, in the great work of Oriental missions, if fairly presented in its
own principles, yet what has already been detailed of Japan will serve to show what especial hindrances it must encounter, if the work of planting the cross in Niphon should be reserved
-or for our American brethren. Of late years the subject of missions has been taken up with some better approaches to philosophy and common sense.
But we shall never succeed in Missions, if we suppose that an ordinary gentleman, of less than ordinary capacity, with nothing to offer to the subtle professors of Brahmanism and Buddhism, than the Bible, and the Prayer Book, with its unvarying ritual, constructed for England, and English tastes, will make the least impression on the great Oriental mind. Few of our readers have, perhaps, realized the vastness of the system to be attacked; Buddhism and Brahmanism combined far exceed in numerical strength Christianity under its varied forms. The statistics of religion combine in representing Buddhism alone as nearly equalling the Gospel in point of numbers : some accounts give Buddhism a clear superiority. The ordinary computation of the population of the globe, according to religious profession-we take that adopted by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel-is :Christians
96,000,000 Idolaters of all sorts . 500,000,000=860,000,000 This table does not vary very fatally from the more scientific enumeration furnished by Mr. Keith Johnstone, in his ' Physical Atlas,' which, adopting the above method of division, would stand thus :Christians
484,000,000=891,000,000 It is frightful, however, to remember, that this awful aggregate of the sum of idolaters, is made up, according to Mr. Johnstone, in particulars of Buddhists
106,000,000=484,000,000 An unauthoritative and anonymous table, given by Mr. Mac Farlane, shows still more alarming proportions : we believe them to be an exaggerated statement of Oriental religion :Mahometans
But anyhow, we have nearly four hundred millions of religionists not strictly worshippers of wood and stone, but under its Brahmanical and Buddhistic varieties, professors of a religion which claims to have a deep and commanding philosophy, which numbers educated and thoughtful men in its ranks, which is old, venerable, full of great associations, and abounding in lofty pretensions. Against all this we have to offer Christianity, externally crippled, and internally weakened by divisions. In the plenitude of his heathen scorn, when the Japanese emperor was once asked to proscribe Christianity, he replied, “We have already thirty-four sects of our own; the Christians will make the thirty-fifth ; this will do no great harm ; let them remain.'
! But when Christianity is next proffered to the proud feudality of Japan, it will not be in the shape of a thirty-fifth faith, one compact and intelligible, but in the perplexing form of twice thirty-five denominations of Christians, repeating with exaggerations the terrible warning of the strife between Portuguese and Dutch. The enmity between two bodies of Christian professors destroyed Japanese Christianity once; what we have next to try is, whether the Japanese will be indifferent to the sight of eight or ten rival Missions, all proclaiming the Gospel, and all 'thoroughly convinced, and thoroughly proclaiming their convictions, of the difference between the Church of Rome, and the reformed Churches. To this obstacle we must reconcile ourselves as we may; it is one common in days of division, to every Church, and to all denominations ;' it is no especial hindrance to the Church of England. We make up our minds to it, and expect it, and fight it as we can.
All that we can do is either to face it, or to abandon missionary work altogether.
There remain, however, certain specialties, which account for the little success which our recent Missions have had in grappling with the Oriental mind. We do not undervalue the Tinnevelly successes, and the like; they are, however, recent and partial. And they, which is most thankworthy, show that 'the common people hear the Gospel gladly.' But as regards the great labyrinth of Indian metaphysics, and Buddhist theosophy, have we penetrated even the outskirts of the jungle ? What impression has been made upon those hundreds of millions of souls? Can we expect any impression ? Passing by that deadliest curse upon missionary purposes, the evil lives of Christian professors, what machinery have we to grapple with the systematic unbelief of the East ? What with Islam ?
It is comparatively easy for very common-place people, and with very ordinary means, to displace Fetichism, or to substitute the worship of Almighty God for that of a black stone; but