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JAPAN. Ladak is one of those dark regions of our world where Missionary operations have hitherto been unknown. One of our Missionaries from the Punjab has lately visited it, and on some future occasion we shall present to our readers the result of his observations.
JAPAN. The knowledge of the true God is a liberating principle. He who knows God as his reconciled God and Father in Christ Jesus is a free man : all other men are slaves. “If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Where this greatest of blessings has not been received, the man is in bondage to that which is hurtful to him, and must surely lead him into the midst of trouble and danger. He is the slave of sin and superstition. His passions are not under control. They rule him, instead of being kept under and constrained to submission. His understanding, unenlightened with the true knowledge of God, is filled with superstitious notions which cause him much groundless uneasiness; so that of persons in this condition it may be said, “ There were they brought in great fear, even where no fear was: for God is in the generation of the righteous.” Like a man whose sight is imperfect, and who mistakes the objects which meet him as he goes along, so the simplest occurrences of every-day life, and trifling accidental circumstances, are invested in their eyes with a supernatural aspect, and bear some mysterious meaning, which they distress themselves in trying to discover. The enslavement to sin of the Japanese we shall speak of on another occasion. In this paper we shall confine ourselves to the subject of superstition, and the powerful influence that it exercises over a people who are considered to be the most civilized of the modern heathen.
Captain Golownin, of the Russian navy, who was a prisoner some time amongst the Japanese, draws a curious comparison between the popular superstitions of Russia and Japan. It will serve to show us that the influence of superstition, like that of sin, is not confined to heathen countries, although it may be most powerful there; that corrupt Christianity, such as prevails in Russia, does not protect from it; that in such a murky gloom it prospers and prevails; nay, more, that Christianity, although of the purest kind, if it be not seated in the heart, and exercise from thence a holy influence on the life, does not protect from it; and therefore that in our favoured country, also, popular superstitions, as well as popular vices, find room to dwell.. “The people in general," writes Golownin, “are not only extremely bigoted, but very superstitious. They believe in sorcery, and love to converse on miraculous stories. They put great faith in amulets of all kinds. To keep off all distempers and misfortunes from their families, they place a monstrous picture over their doors of a human figure covered with hair, with a sword in each hand; also dragons' and devils' heads, with large mouths wide open, huge teeth, and fiery eyes. In some cases the branch of a sacred tree is hung at the door, or long slips of paper, with necromantic characters supplied by the priests. .... According to Russian superstition, thunder kills with a stone arrow: in Japan it is a cat which is hurled down by the lightning. In Russia, when you praise any one, you must spit three times, lest he should fall sick; and if you hand any one salt at table you must smile, to avoid quarrelling afterwards. In Japan nobody 68 A WORD OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT FROM RUPERT'S LAND (JUNE, goes over a new bridge, for fear of dying, till the oldest man in the district in which the bridge is situated has been conducted over it. Among us, the ends of wax tapers, which are left at the morning mass on Sunday, are a protection against lightning: among the Japanese, peas, roasted in a pan, which they eat at a great winter festival, and of which they preserve a part for the summer, possess the same virtue. They affirm, that if, during a thunder storm, some of these wonder-working peas are thrown against the walls of a house, the lightning cannot enter, and consequently every thing in that house is safe.”*
Thus we see that in neither Russia nor Japan is there any lack of superstition; and this is the element on which priestcraft feeds. It takes advantage of the fears of the people, and has a variety of objects at its disposal, such as the scapular amongst the Romanists, the charms of the Mahommedans, the wax tapers of the Russians, and the peas of the Japanese. These vanities are sold, and the priesthood is enriched by the produce, and thus priestcraft thrives on the ignorance of the people. Hence, when the gospel comes in to give light to a dark land, the priests of false religions are usually found to be amongst its most bitter opponents, because it interferes with their worldly interests, and, in dispersing ignorance and superstition, dries up the sources of their gain.
Local deities, in Japan as in China, have been indefinitely multiplied by the credulity of the people. Every mountain and hill has its presiding genius; and at every place thus invested with an imaginary sanctity the traveller must pause to utter the “vain repetitions” called prayers. As these consecrated places are numerous, and the prayers long, the journey might in consequence be very seriously retarded, bad not the Japanese, with much ingenuity, devised a way of abbreviating the proceedings. Posts are set up, on which are inserted flat round iron plates, which turn like sheaves in a block. On each plate is engraved a prayer. Turning the plate round once is equivalent to saying the prayer, and as often as the plate revolves, so often is the prayer supposed to be repeated. Thus the traveller, as he passes by, has only to give the iron plate a strong impulse, and, as he goes forward on his way, it will not fail to discharge on his behalf the debt of prayer which he owes to the presiding deity of that particular spot.
In the temples prayers are repeated three times a day: they are preceded by much ringing of bells. In front of the temples are basins of stone or metal, filled with water, in which the Japanese wash their hands before they enter. Before the images which Buddhism has introduced into the temples lamps and candles are kept burning, and offerings of natural and artificial flowers presented, together with money, fruits, rice, &c.; but, not content with these, the priests traverse the streets and villages requesting offerings, carefully consigning to a sack, which they carry on their shoulders, the gifts which they receive.
A WORD OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT FROM A FAR-OFF MISSIO
NARY IN RUPERT'S LAND TO THE CHRISTIAN LADIES OF ENGLAND. It appears that there is a growing number of Christian Ladies in the British nation, in ones and twos and “working parties," who intend
* Golownin's “ Japan and the Japanese.”
1855.] TO THE CHRISTIAN LADIES IN ENGLAND.
69 not exactly to “turn the world upside down,” but to convert its magni. ficent, omnicircling crystal dome into an “Exhibition of Industry for all Nations.” I have sometimes thought that England's prince and England's merchant princes had the honour of the Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations, in return for the honour they so justly and appropriately paid to God by that dedicatory inscription upon their Royal Exchange, “ The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof;" which, as it were, wrote “Holiness to the Lord' upon the forehead of the building, and on the gold and silver, and the merchant flags of Britain. “Them that honour me I will honour.”
The day of that great exhibition is over, and “the gorgeous palace" has vanished, whether to be reconstructed in greater glory and beauty, we, in this far-off part of the new world, do not yet know; but we are sure that the Church Missionary Society's Exhibition of Industry for all Nations has not “ melted into air, into thin air," for this north-west meridian of the exhibition has lately received a liberal supply of the useful products of its industry, and we hear that more are coming. Christian friends, in happy, highly-favoured England, honoured by these deeds, that praise her at these almost utmost gates of the building, we gratefully thank you. At this moment, when we are experiencing cold about forty degrees greater than you felt last winter, our school-children are rejoicing in the warm garments you have sent them; and many a poor Indian is lying on the snow in comparative comfort, “ warmed and clothed” by your charity, after the station has been benefited by the able-bodied doing some work for their clothing, to the improvement of their habits, as well as their circumstances. My dear wife has written personally to thank those whose addresses we know; and to thank them and the other kind friends, I take this means kindly offered me by one of the Secretaries of the Society.
Dear Christian friends, we are exhibiting your patient industry and self-denying liberality in the useful and profitable manner I have alluded to. We have also formed and organized a little “ brigade" of Indian working girls, who might formerly have taken a degree in something below a "ragged school:" you have clothed them in red and blue stout flannel livery. We give them each their daily appointed work about the station. Some of them are little maids in the Mission servants' houses and school, &c.; two of them we have advanced to our kitchen, and clad them in the garb of European servants; and all of them are employed with great benefit to themselves. Most welcome as are stout, warm, durable clothes to our dear poor people, thankful as we ourselves feel for them, more grateful still are we for the kind, warm sympathy and prayers that accompany them, and so opportunely and refreshingly cheer our hearts and strengthen our hands.
Dear friends, we do not forget that yours is an Exhibition of Industry for “all Nations ;” neither do we wish to have all your prayers; but these we do wish to have always: clothes for our dear people we want as often as you can spare them, but your prayers we absolutely need unceasingly; and the more you give us of these, the richer you and we all shall be. And for all these works of charity and industry the great exhibition day is coming, and it will be eternal. The Prince Himself will present you each with tokens of His favour, and I have His permission to show you beforehand some of the gracious expressions
70 CONVERSIONS IN INDIA.
(JUNE which will fall from Him. Our “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”
" I was naked, and ye clothed me.”
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." I am your faithful servant,
ROBERT HUNT. Rupert's Land-Missinipi, or English River, Jan. 1, 1855.
We have only to add, that this communication from Mr. Hunt is, at the present moment, most appropriate. We have reached the season when the proceeds of work intended for the Rupert's Land stations require to be collected, in order that they may be duly for. warded to that distant Mission-field. We trust they will be such as to prove that none have grown wearied of this good work, and that time has been found for the discharge of these Dorcas efforts, which are productive of so much benefit to our Missionaries, and are not overlooked by Him who has promised that even a cup of cold water, given in the name of a disciple, shall not lose its reward.
CONVERSIONS IN INDIA. We have recently met with the following notice of conversions in connexion with the Missions of the Free Church of Scotland
Two young men, Mahommedans by birth, but brought up in the Roman-Catholic faith, well educated as physicians-one of them having gained a silver medal by an Essay on Fever-have renounced what they found to be “their half-heathen state," and joined the Church at Madras.
A woman, who seems to be savingly taught by the Spirit of God, has renounced heathenism at Puna, and been received into the Church, of which her husband has been a member since 1851. “I know notbing," said she; “I am as dull asa clod ; but I embrace the feet of Jesus, and clasp them to my breast.” Hindu women are in the habit of singing when engaged in their avocations, but their songs are almost always idolatrous, and often licentious. This convert keeps up the practice of singing, but how changed the strains! The following is the commencement of one of them, as written down by her husband at the request of the Missionary, as she poured it forth extempore while at her work
To my poor house a stranger has come-
I run to bid Him welcome.
My soul clings to Jesus.
I shall not want.
MANSUK. It is probable that most of our readers have remarked how slow the trees have been this season in putting on their beautiful robe of green. How tardy the bud has been in resigning its hidden treasure, and making our eyes glad with the bright fresh foliage. Very gradually the process has been going on, and trees that commenced to bud weeks ago are not in full leaf yet. There have been ungenial influences abroad-cold winds by day, sharp frosts at night, while the grey clouds which have drifted along from the north-east have brought no rain. Still, however, there is progress, and when the south-west wind brings up the rain, and the refreshing showers, having saturated the arid soil, are followed by a warm sun, summer will burst forth in all its rich beauty, and we shall enjoy the change the more because of the harsh season which preceded it.
Human hearts are often just as slow in opening to the knowledge of God and faith in Jesus Christ. They have endured a long and dreary winter of ignorance, and, when the gospel comes, they do not at once open beneath its influence. They have much to contend with : old habits and associations, the fear of man, and the love of sin, which ever now and then, as if unwilling to let go their hold, put forth increased efforts to prevent the heart from opening to receive the truth. They, however, who labour to win souls to Christ, must not be “ weary in welldoing.” Let them look up to God for help, and continue, in dependence on Him, to make mention of the name of Jesus, and wondrous changes shall be produced, very slowly and imperceptibly it may be, but still, in God's time, they shall take place, and the most prejudiced and apparently discouraging and hopeless, under the influence of gospel truth, will be found to yield and open and break forth in the manifestation of gracious affections towards God..
It was very slowly indeed that gospel truth acquired influence over old Mansuk. He had many hindrances. During a long life spent in darkness, he had formed his own views about himself, and they were just what we might suppose the natural heart, which is deceitful beyond measure, and desperately wicked, would have suggested. Gravely did he assert that he was not a sinner. Once, indeed, he admitted that he had very nearly committed one sin, that of poisoning a woman with bad medicine at the instigation of another, but his mother had prevented him. To have entertained the thought of such a crime, and consented to it when suggested to him, of that he thought nothing. He had not carried it into execution, and that was enough for him. In fact, the discernment between what is sinful and what is not, except in matters of great and glaring wickedness, is unknown among the heathen. “The term "sin,'” says Mr. Budd, “ as we understand it, is not used by the heathen Indians : it is made use of by the Christian Indians only. Astonished at the reply of the old man, I asked him,What do you call sin ? When an Indian murders another do you call that sin ?' He said, 'Yes.' But when an Indian steals, and speaks bad words, is that not sin ?' He said,