« AnteriorContinuar »
when Abimelech was commanded to restore Sarah to Abraham, adding, “He shall pray for thee.” So when Aaron had made the golden calf, Moses writes : “I pray for Aaron.” God also said to the three friends of Job: “ Go to him, and he shall pray for you.” Then it can be no mistranslation.
Some, however, may think that if all things have been created through and unto Christ, then he cannot need our prayers. Still, though God is not served by men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life and breath and all things, yet he commissions Moses to build him a tabernacle, and from Solomon he accepts a temple.
If God stoops also to help our infirmities in prayer, and through us draw, sinners to himself, it is not strange that he should allow us also to pray for his Beloved Son. What if the favored three to whom Christ said in Gethsemane, “Abide ye here, and watch with me," had replied, “Thou didst rebuke the seas and it obeyed thee. Lazarus also came forth from the grave at thy call. Why, then, dost thou come to us for sympathy in thy sorrow?” Would that have been a fit return for such great grace? It is infinite condescension that allows us to pray on earth for Him who intercedes for us in heaven, but let us see to it that we appreciate the favor. He who searcheth the deep things of God made no mistake when he inspired these words. He who allowed the Hebrew warrior to ask that the dew should be on the fleece only, and then bore with his request that it alone should remain dry, will never rebuke our sense of unworthiness for so great a privilege.
Some Scriptures seem written on purpose to help us to offer such prayer. One says: “Ask of me, and I will give thee the nations for thy inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession"; not, I will convert the world, but, I will give it thee. Is it not fitting that we, the members of his spiritual body, should remind God that he made this promise to our Head? Another says : “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death and made intercession for the transgressors." Is it not beautifully fitting that the transgressors for whom Christ made intercession should pray for him ? that those who through him are made sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty should plead this promise in behalf of their Elder Brother? Christ says :
« Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”; and what is asking in his name, but praying for the fulfilment of such promises on the ground that we are one with him, as the branch is one with the vine? And how better can we offer such prayer than in his own words : Glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee; even as thou gavest him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever thou hast given him, to them he should give eternal life"? This is not merely praying for the heathen or even for the world, but it is praying that Christ may be glorified as the Saviour of men and that God also may be glorified in the salvation of the world through Christ. And if it is said that even so the whole race will not be saved, because at last some will be found on the left hand, the answer is that Christ will save every one who consents to be saved, and, more than even that, he will save every one who is capable of being saved. We need never doubt that he who so loved
them as to give his life for theirs will see to it that that ransom avails to the greatest possible extent; for has he not authority over all flesh for that very purpose ? Even God can ask no more than Christ shall accomplish, for does he not give eternal life to as many as God has given him to be saved ?
Then no prayer can be more comprehensive than the prayer that Christ may see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. And what prayer can give better expression to Christian feeling, whether we regard our personal cause for love to Christ or his relations to our race? Is he not the propitiation for the sin of the whole world? Did he not send his disciples to tell of his love to every human being in it? And does not prayer for Christ ask that he may enjoy to the uttermost the joy set before him when he endured the cross? We know how his sinless nature must have shrank from agony, but we do not know the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory that led him to endure till he could say, “It is finished.”
But prayer for Christ brings in the fulness of that glory. Tell me the complete results of his redemption, and I will tell you the blessedness of praying for its coming. This prayer for Christ also unfolds the glory of our union with him. He suffers to bring about that glory, and we pray for its bestowment by the only Being competent to appreciate his worthiness and confer upon him his reward.
Inspiration assures us that this prayer shall be offered continually, and ever since those words were written they have been in process of fulfilment. All through the decline of the Jewish nation, during its long captivity, the heroic struggles of the Maccabees, even down to the birth in Bethlehem, prayer was made continually for his coming, and, after he had come for our redemption, Apostles prayed without ceasing that it might be made known to all nations. Then a remnant, now smaller, now more numerous, took up the prayer, and never once has it been silent before God. Often the closet whence it arose had no door to be shut, for it was a cave in the earth or a den of wild beasts. Still it went up, bringing down the Reformation and subsequent revivals, and still it goes on, more earnest and more general from age to age. The Church may backslide, but "men shall pray for him continually. They shall bless him all the day long” (new revision), until he comes again, no more a man of sorrows doomed to die, but King of kings, to receive a kingdom that cannot be removed but abideth forever.
It is said that “ideas rule the world,” but ideas exert their highest power only when embodied in a person. The ideas that led to the war of the Revolution were great, but to us their greatness appears most impressive in George Washington and his compatriots. The poet tells us how
The breaking waves dashed high
Their giant branches tossed; but the interest centres in the lines that tell us why
A band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore. So in prayer ; petition in behalf of a person has more heart to it than that
which asks for a thing, however great, and our interest in prayer for a person grows with his greatness, or his excellence, or the preciousness of his relations to us.
Who, then, can measure the interest called forth by prayer for Christ? Who is greater or better than he? Who sustains such relations to us? Though all others perish, leave us Christ and our hearts are strong. Moreover in all others, however excellent, there is some defect, so that hope of an answer falters or fails entirely; but even to the all-seeing eye Jesus Christ reveals no shadow of a stain. So not only is the way open for unlimited love on our part, but we know that the Father heareth us also always when we approach him in prayer for his Beloved Son.
THE PROTESTANT BUDDHISTS OF JAPAN.
BY REV. M. L. GORDON, D.D., OF KYOTO. It is a just criticism upon Sir Edwin Arnold's “ The Light of Asia" that he puts Christian thoughts in the mind and Christian words in the mouth of a Buddhist. Unfortunately this practice is not confined to poets. Travelers, editors, theologians, and missionaries even, constantly speak of the ethnic religions in Christian terms. To a certain degree this is unavoidable. Religion to us is Christian, and we are forced to use Christian terminology in describing other religions and the experiences and beliefs of their devotees. But when some slight similarity to Christianity is seized upon and made a peg upon which to hang a whole system of theology, we naturally hesitate before giving our approval. When, for example, we read of “Reformed Buddhists” in China or “ Protestant Buddhists” in Japan, or that the latter are “reducing Buddhism to pure theism, such as is taught in the Old Testament,” and hold to “the old Christian doctrine of justification by faith,” we are impelled to ask: "Are we dealing with genuine Buddhistic ideas or only with Christian ideas which are fancied to belong to Buddhism ?"
To get at the true beliefs and teachings of these so-called Protestant Buddhists we need to remember that Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, was both an atheist and a materialist. He recognized neither the existence of God nor gods, nor of anything imperishable in the nature of man. Prayer is useless; the future a blank; extinction of one's own desires by self-exertion is the summum bonum. This teaching could not for any length of time satisfy the masses.
As early as the beginning of the Christian era there was a wonderful development of this original Buddhism. Shut off by the teaching of their master from belief in a Creator and Preserver of the universe, the humanity within them, which in every age and clime cries out, “Show us the Father !” imagined an unlimited number of universes, each one presided over by a buddha to whom infinite attributes were given. Under these buddha were myriads of bodhisattva, who were messengers of light and mercy to men and other sentient beings. The different sects gave prominence to different buddha and their universes, but Amitabha, or Amida.
and his Western Paradise, of which the splendors of the setting sun were looked upon as the image and reflection, have long been distinguished by their popularity in Tibet, China, Japan, and other countries of Central Asia. In this Western Paradise are crystal lakes which wash shores of golden sands, from which staircases of gold, silver, beryl, etc., lead up to terraces where precious-gem trees gave protection and refreshment to the happy dwellers. Entrance to this “Pure Land” is obtained, not by self-exertion, but by repeating the formula, ‘Namu Amida Buddha (Save Amitabha Buddha).” This is what is sometimes spoken of as the “Reformed Buddhism ” of China, because it substitutes for self-exertion, “Salvation by the power of another."
In Japan, however, the development has been carried a step further. The disciples of this “Pure Land ” school were not worshipers of Amida exclusively. Furthermore they had the idea that the oftener they cried “Namu Amida Butsu,” the surer they were of being reborn into the “Pure Land,” and so devout priests and people spent much time -- as they do to this day — simply in its repetition. In the thirteenth century of our era a new sect was founded by Shinran Shõnin, who taught that Amida alone should be worshiped, and that calling upon him in sincerity even once was enough to secure rebirth (at the end of this life) into the Western Paradise. The following statement, prepared by Priest Akamatsu, of Kyoto, a gentleman who has studied in Oxford and Edinburgh, may be accepted as authoritative :
“ Buddhism teaches that all things, both abstract and concrete, are produced and destroyed by certain causes and combination of circumstances; and that the state of our present life has its cause in what we have done in our previous existence up to the present; and our present actions will become the causes of our state of existence in the future life. As our doings are good or bad and of different degrees of excellence or evil, so these produce different effects, having many degrees of suffering or happiness. All men and other sentient beings have an interminable existence, dying in one form and being reborn in another; so that if men wish to escape from a miserable state of transmigration they must cut off the causes, which are the passions, such, for example, as covetousness, anger, etc.
The principal object of Buddhism is to enable men to obtain salvation from misery according to the doctrine of .extinction of passion.' This doctrine is the cause of salvation, and salvation is the effect of this doctrine. This salvation we call Nirvana, which means eternal happiness, and is the state of Buddha. It is, however, very difficult to cut off all the passions, but Buddhism professes to teach many ways of obtaining this object. Nagårdjuna, the Indian saint, said that in Buddhism there are many ways, easy and difficult, as in worldly ways, some painful like a mountainous journey, others pleasant like sailing on the sea. These ways may be classed in two divisions, one being called “self-power,' or help through self, and the other called the power of others,' or help through another.
“Our sect, called Shinshiu,' literally meaning • True doctrine,' which was founded by Shinran Shõnin, teaches the doctrine of · help from another.' Now what is the
power of another'? It is the great power of Amida Buddha. Amida means 'boundless,' and we believe that the life and light of Buddha are both perfect; also, that other Buddhas obtained their state of Buddhaship by the help of Amida Buddha, therefore Amida Buddha is called the chief of the Buddhas. Amida Buddha always exercises his boundless mercy upon all creatures, and shows a great desire to help and
influence all people who rely on him to complete all merits and be reborn into Paradise (Nirvana).
“Our sect pays no attention to the other Buddhas, and putting faith only in the great desire of Amida Buddha, expect to escape from this miserable world and to enter into Paradise in the next life. From the time of putting faith in the saving desire of Buddha, we do not need any power of self-help, but need only keep his mercy in heart and invoke his name in order to remember him. These doings we call • Thanksgiving for salvation.' In our sect we make no difference between priest and layman, as concerns their way of obtaining salvation, the only difference being in their profession or business; and consequently the priest is allowed to marry and eat flesh, which is prohibited to the members of other Buddhist sects.
“ Again, our sect forbids all prayers and supplications for happiness in the present life, to any of the Buddhas, even to Amida Buddha, because the events of the present life cannot be altered by the power of others; it teaches the followers of the sect to do their moral duty; loving each other, keeping order and the laws of the government. We have many writings stating the principles inculcated by our sect, but I give only the translation of the following creed, which was written by Rennyo Shõnin, who was the chief priest of the eighth generation from the founder.
“Rejecting all religious austerities and other action, giving up all idea of self-power, we rely upon Amida Buddha with the whole heart for our salvation in the future life, which is the most important thing; believing that at the moment of putting our faith in Amida Buddha our salvation is settled. From that moment invocation of his name is observed to express gratitude and thankfulness for Buddha's mercy; moreover, being thankful for the reception of this doctrine from the founder and succeeding chief priests, whose teachings were so benevolent, and as welcome as light in a dark night, we must also keep the laws which are fixed for our duty during our whole life.”
Comparing this with Christianity we note that the salvation spoken of is salvation from misery rather than from sin; that it cannot be called justification, because Amida is not a ruler or judge of men; that sin, repentance, and righteousness are not mentioned at all.
There is no doubt but that we see in this form of Buddhism the human heart in its strong sense of need breaking away from the unsatisfying teachings of Sakyamuni; there is no doubt but that to many ignorant people in the Orient Amida stands in the place of the Father of Spirits ; — but when we see that he is not a Creator or a Preserver; that “the events of the present life cannot be altered” by his power; that he is supposed to have become what he is by his own exertions ; that he is not the judge or justifier or righteous ruler of men, his salvation being “escape from this miserable world” and rebirth into the Western Paradise in the next life, we feel that we are not in the company of Isaiah or Paul or Jesus of Nazareth.
The sect is one of the most popular in Japan and flourishes especially among the unlearned. Japanese scholars, who are prone to exalt morality at the expense of all religion, speak very disparagingly of this as immoral in its tendencies. It is asserted that a larger proportion of this sect are found among the criminal classes than from any other sect, though the large number of its adherents relatively to other sects makes the fact — if it be a fact — less significant than it at first seems. By a recent census its temples numbered 19,208, and its priests 24,395