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Title: Religion in Japan
Author: Cobbold, George A. (George Augustus), 1857-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            Religion in Japan:



                         George A. Cobbold, B.A.

                         Pembroke College, Oxford

                           With Illustrations.

           Printed Under The Direction of the Tract Committee.


                Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge,

       Northumberland Avenue, W.C.; 43, Queen Victoria Street, E.C.

                       Brighton: 129, North Street

                          New York: E. S. Gorham



I. Shintoism.
II. Buddhism.
III. Buddhism In Japan.
IV. Buddhism And Christianity.
V. Christianity In Japan.
Publications Of The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.


It may well be questioned whether, in the course of a like period of time,
any country has ever undergone greater transitions, or made more rapid
strides along the path of civilization than has Japan during the last
quarter of a century. A group of numerous islands, situated on the
high-road and thoroughfare of maritime traffic across the Pacific, between
the Eastern and Western hemispheres, and in area considerably exceeding
Great Britain and Ireland,—Japan, until thirty years ago, was a _terra
incognita_ to the rest of the world; exceeding even China in its
conservatism and exclusiveness. And now, within a space of some
five-and-twenty years, such changes have come about as to have given birth
to the expression,—“the transformation of Japan.” The more conspicuous of
these changes are summed up by a recent writer in the following
words:—“New and enlightened criminal codes have been enacted; the methods
of judicial procedure have been entirely changed; thoroughly efficient
systems of police, of posts, of telegraphs, and of national education have
been organized; an army and a navy modelled after Western patterns have
been formed; the finances of the Empire have been placed on a sound basis;
railways, roads, and harbours have been constructed; an efficient
mercantile marine has sprung into existence; the jail system has been
radically improved; an extensive scheme of local government has been put
into operation; a competitive civil service has been organized; the whole
fiscal system has been revised; an influential and widely-read newspaper
press has grown up with extraordinary rapidity; and government by
parliament has been substituted for monarchical absolutism.”(1) At the
present day, an Englishman travelling in Japan is constantly meeting
numbers of his countrymen, intent on either business or pleasure; while at
all the principal cities and places of resort, handsome new hotels, fitted
in Western style, are to be found. The Mikado may be seen driving through
his Capital in a carriage that would not be out of place in the Parks of
London or Paris; and at Court ceremonies European dress is _de rigueur_.
English is taught in all the better-class schools, and at the Universities
the works of such authors as Bacon, Locke, Macaulay, Darwin, John Stuart
Mill, Herbert Spencer, are in constant request with the students. In
short, on every side evidence is afforded, that be it for better or for
worse, the old order is fast changing and giving place to new.

The circumstances which have brought about these wonderful changes can
only be very briefly indicated here. It was towards the middle of the
sixteenth century that Japan first came into contact with the Western
world; the first traders to arrive being the Portuguese, who were followed
some sixty years later by the Dutch, and in 1613 by a few English ships.
To all of these alike a hospitable reception appears to have been
accorded; nor is there any doubt that Japanese exclusiveness was a thing
of subsequent growth, and that it was based only on a sincere conviction
that the nation’s well-being and happiness would be best consulted by
refusing to have dealings with the outer world. And indeed, that the
Japanese should have arrived at this decision is by no means to be
wondered at; their first experience of foreign intercourse having been
singularly unfortunate. The unhappy breach, which eventually led to Japan
entirely closing her ports to foreign traffic, was, it would seem, due
partly to the attitude of harsh intolerance and general interference
adopted by certain of the Roman Catholic missionaries, who by this time
had arrived in the country: and partly to the insinuations made by the
Dutch that the Portuguese were aiming at territorial aggrandizement.
Anyhow, in 1624, Japan was entirely closed to foreign trade, save for some
concessions,—accompanied by the severest restrictions,—permitted to the
Dutch; no foreigners were allowed to enter, and no natives to leave, the
empire; the missionaries were expelled, and Christianity was prohibited
under pain of death. The Japanese, as has been said, “suspected everybody
and shut out the world.” Previous to this crisis the English had retired;
but when, in 1673, our country sought to resume friendly relations, the
connexion existing between the English and Portuguese courts proved an
insuperable obstacle.(2) Subsequent overtures made in 1849, were
courteously but firmly rejected; though the period of Japan’s isolation
was, as later events proved, almost at an end. In 1853, the Government of
the United States despatched a fleet across the Pacific, under the command
of Commodore Perry, to insist upon the surrender of a policy which, it was
urged, no one nation of the world had a right to adopt towards the rest.
Whether the arguments with which this position was advanced would of
themselves have prevailed, is impossible to say; but since it was evident
that should words fail, sterner measures would be resorted to, Japan had
no choice but to submit. Treaties were accordingly concluded, first with
the United States, and subsequently with England and other European
powers; by virtue of which a few ports were grudgingly opened, and
Japanese subjects permitted to engage in commercial transactions with the
outside world. For the first few years, it is certain that a strong
feeling of suspicion and dislike towards foreigners was rife; but in 1868
events occurred which brought about a complete change in the whole
situation. For some six hundred years a dual system of government had
existed in Japan. On the one hand, was the Mikado, supposed to trace a
lineage of unbroken descent from the gods, and accorded a veneration
semi-divine, but living in seclusion at the city of Kyoto, with such
powers of administration as he still retained confined to matters of
religion and education. On the other hand, was the Shogun, or Tycoon, the
acknowledged head of a feudalism, which, while nominally recognizing the
Mikado’s authority, had usurped the sovereign power, and really governed
the country. But in 1868, the altered circumstances in which Japan found
herself brought about a revolution. The ancient nobility were filled with
indignation and disgust at the Tycoon so far violating Japanese tradition
as to enter into treaties with foreign countries; and, as a consequence of
this rupture, the Shogunate, whose power had for some time been waning,
completely collapsed. The Mikado was restored to imperial power, and at
once entered upon a policy which has been consistently adhered to, and
received with favour by the people generally, who had grown impatient of
the restraint which environed them. That policy may be termed the
Europeanization of the Empire; and in it we have the explanation of the
Japan of to-day.

It is not surprising that the interest excited in England, with regard to
a country which has experienced such remarkable changes, should be of the
greatest—especially when it is remembered in how large a degree English
influence has contributed to produce them. We may be certain, also, that
the still further developments the future has in store, will be followed
in our own country with a close attention. Equally natural is it that, in
these days of so great fashion and facility for travelling, increasing
numbers of English people should avail themselves of the opportunity of
exploring a country so entirely unique, and so rich in its attractions of
nature and of art. These circumstances have combined to call into
existence a large number of books on Japan, from which any, who are unable
to visit it in person, may obtain as good an idea as is possible by
reading of the country, its people, and its customs. Indeed it is by no
means easy for any writer now to fasten upon an aspect of the subject, in
which he does not find himself forestalled. That, however, on which, so
far as I understand, least has been written, is precisely that towards
which my own main attention was directed from the time of my leaving
England, and throughout the period of my visit to the country,—namely, the
_religious_ aspect. That the following pages must be very imperfect in the
statement they supply, I am well aware; and that, despite my efforts to
obtain trustworthy information, they will not prove free from inaccuracy
or mistake is extremely probable. But I was induced to enter upon their
preparation by a series of circumstances that appeared to favour such a
task, and need not be specified here. For the material supplied to me,
however, by one kind friend in particular, without whose assistance these
articles would never have been attempted, I must express my special
obligation. I would gladly refer to him by name, did I feel at liberty to
do so without obtaining his permission, which I have not, at the time of
writing, the opportunity of asking. Also, among the books I have consulted
on the subject, I must acknowledge my great indebtedness to Messrs.
Chamberlain and Mason’s excellent _Handbook for Japan_ (Murray, 1891); and
to a copy of Dr. E. J. Eitel’s _Lectures on Buddhism_ (Trübner, 1871),
given me by the author, at the close of a most interesting day spent under
his guidance. The sketch Map of Japan is inserted by the kind permission
of the “Guild of St. Paul.”

_November, 1893._


When, in the sixth century of the Christian era, Buddhism was introduced
into Japan from China, by way of Korea, the need was felt of some term by
which the ancient indigenous religion of the country might be
distinguished from the new importation. The term thus adopted was
_Shinto_, or _Kami-no-michi_; the former being a Chinese word, and the
latter its Japanese equivalent. The meaning of either, in English, is the
“Way of the Genii, or Spirits.”(3) It will, accordingly, be seen that the
_word_ “Shinto” has only been in use for some thirteen centuries, while
the creed it designates claims to trace its origin from the remotest
antiquity. Indeed, the investigation of Shintoism takes us back not merely
to the earliest annals of Japanese history, but to the fabulous legends of
a mythological period. The history of Japan is commonly reckoned to
commence with the accession of the Emperor Jimmu Tenno, the date of which
is given as February 11, 660 B.C.; and when, in 1889, the new Constitution
was promulgated, the anniversary of this event was the day selected—the
idea evidently being to confirm the popular belief in the continuity of
the country’s history. This Jimmu Tenno—accounted by the Japanese their
first human sovereign—is supposed to have been descended from Ama-terasu,
the sun-goddess, who was born from the left eye of Izanagi, the creator of
Japan; and this it is that accounts for the semi-deification in which the
Emperors of Japan have ever been held. It is, then, the countless heroes
and demi-gods of the mythological age referred to—the children of Izanagi
reigning over Japan, generation after generation, for many thousands of
years—that are the chief objects of Shinto veneration; for while it is
usual to speak of Shintoism as being a combination of ancestor-worship and
nature-worship, it would seem that the latter of these elements was
largely due to the contact of Japan with the Taouism of China, and with
metaphysical Buddhism. Thus the essential principle of Shintoism, it will
be seen, is closely akin to that filial piety, which forms so conspicuous
a feature in the religious, political, and social life of China, and
which—deserving as it is, in many ways, of respect and
admiration—presents, when carried to excess, so vast a hindrance to
development and progress.

“Shintoism,” in the words of Diayoro Goh, Chancellor of the Japanese
Consulate General in London, “originated in the worship offered by a
barbarous people to the mythological persons of its own invention.” To
speak accurately, it is not so much a religion as patriotism exalted to
the rank of a creed. It is a veneration of the country’s heroes and
benefactors of every age, legendary and historical, ancient and more
recent; the spirits of these being appealed to for protection. Interwoven
with this, its fundamental characteristic, and to a great extent obscuring
it, is a worship of the personified forces of nature; expressing itself
often in the most abject superstition, and, until lately, also in that
grosser symbolism with which the religion of Ancient Egypt abounded. This
latter feature was widely prevalent in Japan at the time that the country
was first opened to foreigners; but after the Revolution in 1868, it was
everywhere suppressed. It would appear that the personal cleanliness for
which the Japanese, as a nation, are celebrated, had its origin in the
idea of the purification of the body symbolizing the cleansing of the
soul; and in a vague and hazy sort of way, Shintoism would seem to
recognize a future state of bliss or misery, for which the present life is
a period of probation. Practically, however, this is the only world with
which Shintoism concerns itself; nor does it inculcate any laws of
morality or conduct, conscience and the heart being accounted sufficient
guides. It provides neither public worship, nor sermons; while its
application is limited to subjects of the Mikado. “It is the least
exacting of all religions.” When this is once understood, there ceases to
be anything surprising in the fact of two religions—of which Shintoism was
one, and the other a creed so accommodating as Buddhism—running, side by
side, for centuries in the same country, and being professed
simultaneously by the same people, until the two were so closely
interwoven that it became scarcely possible to distinguish their
respective elements. In the eighteenth century an attempt was made to
restore Shintoism to its primitive simplicity, and to mould it into a
philosophical system which might minister to the higher aspirations of
humanity. But the movement was a failure, and the Ryobu-Shinto, or “double
religion,”—the combination, that is to say, of Shintoism and
Buddhism—continued as before. It was only so lately as the year 1868 that
any important change took place in the religious history of Japan. In that
year, Shintoism—for reasons wholly political—was adopted as the State, or
“established” religion; Buddhism having always been the religion favoured
by the Shogunate, and the ancient nobility whom the Shogun represented.
Upon this, every temple was required to declare itself either Shinto or
Buddhist, and to remove the emblems and ornaments peculiar to the
discarded cult, whichever that might be. That no little excitement and
dispute followed upon this proclamation, will be readily understood;
especially when we bear in mind that, for several hundred years, Buddhist
and Shinto clergy had taken their turns of officiating in the same
buildings and at the same altars.(4) A grant of some £60,000 a year was
made by the Government for the maintenance of the Shinto temples and
shrines, which are said to number in all about 98,000, and to be dedicated
to no less than 3,700 different Genii, or Kami. Already, however,
Shintoism has lost the greater part of the importance into which it was
brought at the time of the Revolution; and, apart from the fact that it is
supported out of the imperial revenues, and that the presence of its
principal officials is required at certain of the state functions, its
general position has in no way improved. The people still practise the
observances of both religions alike; the only difference being that, to
effect this, they have now to visit two temples instead of one. A new-born
child, for instance, is taken by its parents to both Shinto and Buddhist
temples, for the purpose of solemn dedication. Another of the changes
brought about is that, instead of all funerals being conducted by Buddhist
priests, as was the case until 1868, the dead are now buried by either
Shinto or Buddhist clergy, as the relatives may prefer. Of the many signs
which indicate that Shintoism has well nigh run its course, not the least
remarkable was the announcement made last year (1892) by the Government
itself, to the effect that its rites were to be regarded as simply
traditional and commemorative, and devoid of any real religious
significance. The relief thus afforded to the minds and consciences of
Christians in Japan was, as might be supposed, very great.

Of the various sects the _Zhikko_,—founded 1541 A.D.,—is, perhaps, the
most influential. This sect—as indeed do Shintoists generally—recognizes
one eternal absolute Deity, a being of infinite benevolence; and here—as
in other heathen religions—we find vague references to a Trinity engaged
in the work of Creation.


                   Group of Shinto Priests With Torii.

Despite the dissociation of the two religions, many of the Shinto temples
still retain traces of the Buddhist influence. Of Shintoism proper the
prevailing characteristic is a marked simplicity, which, however, is often
found combined with great artistic beauty. Sometimes the shrine consists
only of a rude altar, situated amid a grove of trees; but, even in the
case of large temples with a complete group of buildings, the architecture
is extremely plain, the material employed being unornamented white wood
with a thatch of chamaecyparis. The entrance to the temple grounds is
always through gateways, called _Torii_; these are made sometimes of
stone, but more properly of wood, and consist of two unpainted
tree-trunks, with another on the top and a horizontal beam beneath. Near
the entrance are commonly found stone figures of dogs or lions, which are
supposed to act as guardians. The principal shrine, or _Honsha_, is
situated at the further end of the sacred enclosure, and is divided by a
railing into an ante-room and an inner sanctuary. Within the sanctuary an
altar is erected, on which, however, no images or adornments are seen, but
simply offerings of rice, fruit, wine, &c. Above the altar, in a
conspicuous position, a large mirror is generally placed; and in a box
beneath are usually kept a sword, and a stone. These three,—the mirror,
the sword, and the stone,—constitute the Japanese regalia, and they are
all connected with the early legends. One of the traditions respecting the
sacred mirror deserves quotation.

“When the time was come that Izanagi and his consort should return
together to the celestial regions, he called his children together,
bidding them dry their tears, and listen attentively to his last wishes.
He then committed to them a disc of polished silver, bidding them each
morning place themselves on their knees before it, and there see reflected
on their countenances the impress of any evil passions deliberately
indulged; and again each night carefully to examine themselves, that their
last thoughts might be after the happiness of that higher world whither
their parents had preceded them.” The legend goes on to relate with what
faithfulness “the children of Izanagi, and afterwards their descendants,
carried out these injunctions; erecting an altar of wood to receive the
sacred mirror, and placing upon it vases and flowers,—and how, as a reward
for their obedience and devotion, they became in their turn, the spirits
of good, the undying Kami.”(5)

Another of the most common of the Shinto emblems is a slim wand of
unpainted wood, called _Gohei_, to which strips of white paper—originally
they were of cloth—are attached. These are thought to attract the deities,
and are held in great veneration.

Leaving the principal shrine, and proceeding to make the tour of the
grounds, the visitor comes, in turn, to the buildings where the business
arrangements of the temple are transacted, and where the priests, in some
cases, reside; to smaller shrines and oratories; to cisterns for the
purpose of ceremonial ablution, &c. Sometimes, also, at the more important
temples is found a long covered platform, called the _Kagura-do_, where,
on festivals and special occasions, a number of girls—those I saw at Nara
were still quite children—perform the _Kagura_, or sacred dance. The
dancing is in honour of the divinity to whom the temple is dedicated; and
commemorates a supposed incident of the mythological period. In the
grounds of Shinto and Buddhist temples alike are frequently found numerous
stone-lanterns, erected by way of votive offerings, and lighted on any
great occasions.

It has already been remarked that Shintoism has nothing corresponding to
our public worship; but every morning and evening the priests—whose office
seems held in no particular sanctity, and who are at liberty, at any time,
to adopt a more secular calling—perform a service before the altar, vested
in white dresses, somewhat resembling albs and confined at the waist by a
girdle. The service consists of the presentation of offerings and of the
recital of various invocations, chiefly laudatory. The devotions of the
people are remarkable for their brevity and simplicity. The worshipper, on
arriving at the shrine, rings a bell, or sounds a gong, to engage the
attention of the deity he desires to invoke; throws a coin of the smallest
possible value on to the matting within the sanctuary rails; makes one or
two prostrations; and then, clapping his hands, to intimate to his patron
that his business with him is over, retires—it not being considered
necessary to give to the petition any verbal expression. The making of
pilgrimages, however, still occupies a prominent place in the Shinto
system, and though of late years the number of pilgrims has considerably
decreased, long journeys are still undertaken to the great temple of the
sun-goddess at Ise—the “Mecca of Japan,”—and other celebrated shrines. The
chief object of the pilgrimage is the purchase of _O-harai_, or sacred
charms, which can only be obtained on the spot. These, when brought home,
are placed on the _Kamidana_, or god-shelf—a miniature temple of wood,
found in every Shinto house, to which are attached the names of various
patron deities, and the monumental tablets of the family. His purchase of
the O-harai completed, the pilgrim betakes himself to the enjoyment of the
various shows and other amusements provided for him in the neighbourhood
of the temple.

To conclude this brief sketch of Shintoism. Such influence as the cult
still possesses may be attributed to the superstition of the poor and
illiterate; and to a reluctance, on the part of the more educated, to
break with so venerable a past. The latter, however, though they continue
to conform to them, do not regard its observances seriously; while the
importance attached to them by the State is, as we have seen, wholly
political. In the words of Diayoro Goh, spoken in the course of a lecture
delivered in London two or three years since: “Shintoism, being so
restricted in its sphere, offers little obstacle to the introduction of
another religion,”—provided, as he added, that the veneration of the
Mikado, which has always formed the fundamental feature of Japanese
government, is not interfered with. The truth of this statement has
already been abundantly exemplified in the position which Buddhism for so
many centuries held in the religious life of Japan. In the same way, when,
three hundred years ago, Christianity was introduced into the country by
the Portuguese, it was largely owing to the attitude which some of the
missionaries adopted towards these national rites, that the complications
arose, which eventually led to the expulsion of foreigners, and the
persecution of Christians. And surely, when we think of it, it is not
strange that an intense jealousy should be exhibited on behalf of
observances and ceremonies, traceable back to such remote antiquity, and
so intimately bound up with the whole political and social life of the
nation. It is, indeed, highly probable that, in the great changes Japan is
undergoing, she will find other methods of cherishing the continuity of
her, in many ways, illustrious past. But meanwhile, Christians in Japan
may rejoice that they are permitted, with a quiet conscience, to manifest
a respectful regard for a system that is by no means destitute of
praiseworthy features.


It is quite possible that to some of the readers of these pages the very
name of Shintoism was unknown; whereas all will have heard and read at
least something of Buddhism, one of the four most prevalent religions of
the world, and claiming at the present day considerably more than four
hundred millions of adherents.(6) At the same time, our inquiry into
Buddhism cannot be comprised within such narrow limits as sufficed for our
examination of the indigenous religion of Japan; the subject being one of
the vastest dimensions. Perhaps, then, it may be better if, at the outset,
I allude to some of the literature, published within the last few years,
which has been most instrumental in attracting attention, both in England
and America, to the subject. Nor, in this connexion, can all reference be
omitted to the writings of the late Madame Blavatsky, Mr. Sinnett, and
their school; though I refer to them only in order to caution my readers
against forming from them any estimate of Buddhism. The only literature,
as far as I know, that has appeared in England from what claims to be an
enthusiastic Buddhist stand-point, these writings are, I believe,
calculated to convey a curiously erroneous idea of the great system with
which we are now concerned, to any who would turn for information to them
exclusively. This, indeed, becomes obvious when it is understood that the
Buddhism, of which these books profess to treat, is not the Buddhism of
history and the sacred books, not the Buddhism which forms the popular
religion of hundreds of millions of Asiatics at the present day, but an
“esoteric” Buddhism, a knowledge of which, it is admitted, is confined to
a comparative few, even in the country where it is said to be most
prevalent.(7) In short, the “esoteric Buddhism” of Mr. Sinnett and his
friends would seem to be scarcely, if at all, distinguishable from the
movement which has recently acquired a brief notoriety in England under
the name of Theosophy; and with this, Buddhism proper—i.e. the historical,
popular Buddhism with which we have to do—can hardly be said to have
anything in common.

With the book, however, which probably more than any other work of the day
has been the means of drawing the attention of English-speaking people to
Buddhism, we cannot deal in so summary a fashion. For in Sir Edwin
Arnold’s poem, _The Light of Asia_, we have a work which is simply a
rendering of the life of Buddha, in general accordance with the received
traditions, and one, moreover, which has met with a cordial welcome at the
hands of Buddhists. Nor can it be questioned that the book is a production
of great power, or that it appeals altogether to a very different class of
readers from that likely to be influenced by the _Occult World_, or _Isis

It is indeed, the great beauty of its poetry, and the book’s consequent
popularity, that only make the more necessary a reference which must to
some extent take the form of a protest. To put it briefly, the case is
this:—Men and women have risen from a perusal of the _Light of Asia_ with
a sense of damage done to their Christian faith, and with a
feeling—confused, perhaps, but not the less real—that in Gautama Buddha
they have been confronted with a formidable rival to Jesus Christ. How far
the poem is responsible for this result we will not attempt to determine;
and that such was no part of the author’s intention we may readily
believe. But that the minds of not a few have been perplexed and disturbed
by the reading of this book is a certain fact; making it neither
surprising nor regrettable that its publication should have been followed
by works on the subject, written from an emphatically Christian point of
view. To the fullest and ablest of these,—the Rev. S. H. Kellogg’s _The
Light of Asia and the Light of the World: a Comparison of the Legend, the
Doctrine and the Ethics of the Buddha, with the Story, the Doctrine and
the Ethics of Christ_ (Macmillan, 1885),—I would refer those desirous of
investigating fully the points at issue; contenting myself now with a few
brief observations.

It is, then, important to bear in mind that Sir E. Arnold’s poem is
written in the person, and from the stand-point of an imaginary Buddhist.
This is indicated plainly on the title-page, in the preface, and in the
course of the poem itself; and when the book comes to be read by the light
of this explanation, a limitation is cast about much of its more startling
language. To take, for instance, such expressions as “Our Lord,”
“Saviour,” “come to save the world,” constantly assigned to Buddha in the
course of the poem. However accustomed Christians may be to associate such
terms with One only, and however pained they may feel at their being
referred, under any circumstances and with any restrictions, to another,
still it is obvious that their use becomes less open to objection, when
placed in the mouth of a disciple, singing the praise of his Master,—and
that Master, one who, it can hardly be disputed, wrought no mean work of
deliverance on the earth. Far less admitting of satisfactory explanation
are passages in the book in which we find transferred to Buddha and
Buddhism ideas and language distinctively Christian; the solemn saying of
Simeon to the Holy Mother, “A sword shall pierce through thine own soul
also,” and the still more solemn, “It is finished” of the Cross, being
made to supply particularly distressing instances of such treatment.(8)

Or once again: but what I would say now has already been urged by Dr.
Eitel, in words which I cannot do better than quote. “I believe,” he says,
“it would be unjust to pick out any of those queer and childish sayings
with which the Buddhist Scriptures and especially popular Buddhist books
abound, and to lead people to imagine that Buddhism is little better than
a string of nonsense. It is even doubtful whether the earliest Buddhist
texts contained such statements at all; for, unlike our Bible, the
Buddhist canon has undergone wholesale textual alterations.... As to the
popular literature of Buddhism, and its absurdities, we might as well
collect those little pamphlets on dreams, on sorcery, on lucky and unlucky
days, on the lives and miracles of saints, which circulate among Roman
Catholic peasants,—but would that give us a true picture of Roman
Catholicism? Thus it is with Buddhism.”(9) In other words, Dr. Eitel would
urge that in order to deal fairly with such a subject, we must try to
distinguish the essence of the thing itself from the abuses and follies
that may, from time to time, have gathered round it; and this, it is to be
feared, has not always been done by English writers, in treating of

For the sake of clearness, we may next proceed to trace a brief outline of
the life of Buddha, according to the belief of Buddhists generally, and
stripped of such legends and superstitions as find no credence with the
more educated and intellectual. It is true that a doubt has sometimes been
expressed as to the existence of Gautama Buddha at all; while even so
eminent an authority as Mr. Spence Hardy declares his conviction that,
owing to the lack of really authentic information, “it is impossible to
rely implicitly on any single statement made in relation to him.”(10) But
even supposing the Buddha of the commonly-received traditions to be,
whether in part or in entirety, a mere creation of Indian thought, the
case undergoes no vital alteration; seeing that it is with the religion of
Buddhism that we are mainly concerned, and only in quite a subordinate
degree with the person of its supposed founder. The point is one that
deserves careful attention, suggesting as it does at once the essential
difference between Buddhism and Christianity, and the immeasurable
distance which divides the two. For of Christianity it is no exaggeration
to say that upon the truth of the received accounts of its Founder’s Life
and Person its whole position absolutely depends; whereas, could it be
proved that Gautama never even lived, the system associated with his name
would suffer no material loss,—and this, because in Buddha we are invited
to contemplate only a teacher and a guide, one who would have men seek
purification and deliverance by the same means as he himself needed to
employ, and one who never claimed to be more than human. Most persons,
however, will prefer to accept as, in the main, historically correct the
commonly accepted outline of the life of Buddha which may thus be given—

The reputed founder of Buddhism was one Siddhartha, known in later life as
Gautama, and later still, by the title of Buddha, or the “Enlightened
One.” Siddhartha was a prince of the Sakya tribe, whose territories were
situated some hundred miles north-east of the city of Benares. Hence he is
often spoken of under the name of _Sakya-muni_, or the “Sakya sage.” As
regards his date, widely different opinions are held; sometimes it is
placed as early as the tenth, and sometimes as late as the third century
B.C. The most competent authorities, however, agree in following the
Buddhists of Ceylon, and take 543 B.C. as the date of his death.(11) His
father’s name was Suddhodana; his mother was called Maia. Of the earlier
years of Siddhartha’s life we have little information that is at all to be
relied on; but his early manhood appears to have been spent amid the
luxury and self-indulgence customary with Oriental princes. Gautama,
however, was a man of great benevolence, and we are told that, while still
quite young, he pondered deeply on the mystery of the pain and suffering
which held the human race in bondage. Presently, becoming dissatisfied
with his own life of ease and pleasure, he made the “Great Renunciation;”
turning his back, at the age of thirty, on wife and parents, home and
wealth. After spending some years in travel, he retired to the forest,
where he attached himself to a little band of ascetics, and practised
severe forms of discipline and self-mortification; hoping thus to discover
the secret of release from suffering. But meeting with no success, and
still fast bound by the trammels of ignorance, he betook himself to
contemplation; until one day, as he was seated beneath the
Bo-tree,—henceforth to be accounted sacred(12)—the struggles of his soul
prevailed, and he passed out of darkness into light. He was now Buddha, He
who Knew, the Enlightened. The four truths to the knowledge of which
Gautama thus attained, and which form the very foundation of the Buddhist
doctrine, are these—(i) That man is born to suffering, both mental and
physical: he experiences it himself, he inflicts it upon others; (ii) that
this suffering is occasioned by desire; (iii) that the condition of
suffering in which man finds himself admits of amelioration and relief;
(iv) the way of release, and the attainment to Nirvana.

Here we must pause to make the inquiry, What is meant by _Nirvana_,—the
goal of the Buddhist’s hope and aim? Literally, the word means
“extinction”; and hence it has often come to be regarded as a mere synonym
for annihilation. The variety of opinions held by European scholars as to
its meaning is, there is little doubt, due to the fact that Buddhists
themselves are by no means agreed as to its precise significance. Is
Nirvana a state of consciousness or unconsciousness? Is the personality
perpetuated, or is the _ego_ absorbed,—i.e. into Buddha? Such questions
are differently answered by the different schools. Concerning the nature
of Nirvana, Buddha himself, in his agnosticism, would seem to have been
almost wholly silent. He appears to have simply taught that by the
suppression and “extinction” of the natural passions and desires—anger,
avarice, sorrow, and the like(13)—it was possible even here to enter upon
a state of tranquillity, rest, and peace, which should attain hereafter to
more perfect fulfilment. Of the various meanings attached to Nirvana by
the different Buddhist sects, one extreme makes it scarcely
distinguishable from complete annihilation, while the opposite extreme
introduces us to the doctrine of the Paradise of the West, the Pure Land
presided over by Amitabha Buddha, the abode of perfect happiness and
delight. This remarkable development of Buddhism will claim our attention


                          Daibatsu At Kamakura.

To return. After his enlightenment, it is said that Gautama was seized by
the temptation to enter at once into Nirvana, without proclaiming his
doctrine to the world. But putting the temptation from him, he began his
ministry by announcing the tidings of release to the companions of his
ascetic life, who, after scoffing for awhile, were at length convinced. In
the course of this, his first sermon, Buddha proceeded to enunciate the
eight steps on the path which leads to Nirvana—(i) Right faith, (ii) right
resolution, (iii) right speech, (iv) right action, (v) right living, (vi)
right effort, (vii) right thought, (viii) right self-concentration. As
time went on, Gautama began to gather round him a number of disciples, who
became his constant companions. Part of each year he spent in rest and
retirement; teaching and training his disciples, and receiving such as,
attracted by his growing reputation, sought him out. The remaining months
he occupied in travelling from place to place, proclaiming the good news
of deliverance in the towns and villages through which he passed. Soon we
find him establishing a Society or Brotherhood; the members of which
severed their connexion with all worldly things, handed over their
property to the Order, adopted the tonsure and a distinctive dress, and,
following the Master’s doctrine with strictness themselves, devoted their
lives to its propagation. Any member, however, was at liberty to leave the
Brotherhood, should he wish to do so. It is noticeable that Buddha’s
earliest followers were chiefly drawn—not, as in the case of a Greater
than he, from the ranks of the poor and simple—but from the upper classes.
Indeed, Gautama seems to have regarded the weak and ignorant as incapable
of receiving his teaching. Children are hardly mentioned in the early
Buddhist writings; and with regard to women, it was only with great
reluctance that Sakya-muni eventually consented to the formation of a
Sisterhood, the members of which were, as far as possible, to observe the
same rules as the men—together with several additional ones, chiefly
concerned with their subjection to the Brethren. In the same way, it is
still the teaching of Buddhism that it should be a woman’s highest
aspiration to be reborn as a man, in a future state of existence. When,
however, the two Orders—for men and for women—had been formed, there still
remained a large number of either sex, who, without leaving their places
in the world, were desirous of being reckoned among Buddha’s followers.
These were admitted as lay-adherents, one of their chief obligations being
to contribute to the maintenance of the Brethren.

Having exercised his public ministry for forty years—without, as would
appear, encountering any great opposition—and having committed his work to
the Brotherhood, to carry on after his decease, Buddha died, aged about
eighty, and was buried with great pomp. It is recorded that, as the time
of his departure drew nigh, he replied to his disciples’ expressions of
apprehension and sorrow, by saying that when he should no longer be with
them in person, he would still be present with them in his sayings, in his
doctrine. Another point on which he laid great stress before his death was
that the Brotherhood should regularly assemble in convocation. Hence it
came about that from very early times, the declaration, “I seek refuge in
Buddha, Dharma (the Law), Samgha (the Brotherhood),” was adopted as the
formula which any one, desirous of becoming a Buddhist, was required to
profess. And it is the Trinity thus formed, which, represented to-day by
the three great images above the altar of many a Buddhist temple, has its
multitude of ignorant worshippers, who doubt not that three several
divinities are the objects of their adoration and their prayer.

Such, then, as would appear, was the origin of Buddhism. Strictly
speaking, and apart from its later developments, Buddhism is a religion
which knows no God, which attaches no value to prayer, which has no place
for a priesthood. Nowhere, perhaps, is its agnosticism more conspicuous
than in the five main prohibitions, which are addressed alike to clergy
and laity. The _first_ of these forbids the taking of life,—human life
chiefly, but other life as well; the _second_ is against theft, whether by
force or fraud; the _third_ is against falsehood; the _fourth_ forbids
impurity, in act, word, or thought; the _fifth_ requires abstinence from
all intoxicants. The whole idea of _GOD_, it will be noticed, is entirely
absent from the Buddhist Commandments. Infinitely removed above that other
agnosticism, which cries, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,”
Buddhism starts with the idea of the entire abnegation of self. But a
self-denial that is undertaken, not for God, and in God for man, but
merely to secure one’s own peace and well-being—what is this but
selfishness after all? Enjoining a rule of life that is essentially
negative—the natural product of that blank despair of the world and of
human nature which led to the Great Renunciation—Buddhism, as a religious
system, has yielded but scanty fruits of positive holiness, of active
benevolence. And yet,—wholly inadequate as such a system as this, even at
its purest and best, must be to meet the needs of humanity,—false and even
debased as are sometimes its teachings,—the one great message that
Buddhism proclaims is a message of undeniable, if most imperfect, truth:
the truth that would have man cultivate self-reliance, and attain to
self-deliverance by means of self-control. “Work out your own salvation”
is the injunction of Christianity. “By one’s self,” taught Sakya-muni,
“the evil is one; by one’s self must come remedy and release.” So far the
two systems are at one; the difference between them lies in the fact that
the one places in our hands those supernatural weapons which alone make
real victory possible, and that these the other knows not how to supply.

Hitherto, we have made no reference to the relation of Buddhism to
Brahmanism. And yet we can no more hope to understand the work of
Sakya-muni, without observing its connexion with Brahmanism, than we could
afford to omit all mention of the Jewish Law and of Jewish Pharisaism, in
speaking of the liberation wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ. The work and
doctrine of Gautama Buddha,—with their mean between an ascetic severity,
on the one hand, and a licentious self-indulgence on the other—their
disregard of caste distinctions—their rejection of burdensome and
profitless traditions—may be said to bear to the heavy yoke of Brahmanism
a relation not dissimilar to that which freedom has to bondage. Laying
hold of that which was ready to his hand, if so be he might mould and
purify it, Buddha was a liberator and reformer in respect to what had gone
before. Let us take, for example, the doctrine of metempsychosis, or, as
it is commonly called, the “transmigration of souls.” No doubt, there is a
great deal connected with this doctrine in the Buddhist books that cannot
but appear to us puerile and shocking; but still, we do not well, we do
not justly, if, as do so many, we fasten such strange fancies on Buddha,
or on Buddhism, as though it were from these that they sprang. So far from
Sakya-muni being the originator of the theory of transmigration, a belief
in it had, for centuries previously, been almost universal throughout the
East; and his doctrine of Nirvana supplied an antidote to the belief in a
practically interminable series of metempsychoses current at the time.
With the theory of transmigration accepted on all sides, Buddha seems to
have made use of it to the extent that he did, as affording a convenient
solution of the difficulty presented by the unequal distribution of
happiness in this life, and the absence of any satisfactory exercise of
justice in the way of reward or punishment.

That the doctrine of metempsychosis should have been applied by Buddhists
to their great Master himself, is only what we should expect to find.
Gautama is accredited by Buddhists with some five hundred previous
existences, in the course of which he passed through numerous stages of
vegetable, animal and human life, until at length he attained to the
highest degree of manhood. Throughout the changing circumstances of his
being, he is said to have exhibited a transcendent and ever-increasing
unselfishness and charity, which culminated in his freely giving himself
to be re-born as Buddha for the world’s deliverance. And it is this
belief, probably, which has been the most potent factor in exalting the
Philosopher and the Guide to a height, which is scarcely, if at all,
distinguishable from the Throne of God.

I may conclude this chapter by quoting a passage from the late Dean
Stanley’s _History of the Jewish Church_, where he is referring to Gautama
Buddha: “It is difficult for those who believe the permanent elements of
the Jewish and Christian religion to be universal and Divine not to hail
these corresponding forms of truth and goodness elsewhere, or to recognize
that the mere appearance of such saint-like and god-like characters in
other parts of the earth, if not directly preparing the way for a greater
manifestation, illustrates that manifestation by showing how mighty has
been the witness borne to it even under circumstances of such
discouragement, and even with effects inadequate to their grandeur.”(15)


In the last Chapter we sketched in outline the life and teaching of
Gautama Buddha; omitting the many fanciful legends that have gathered
round his name, and confining ourselves to what would be accepted by
Buddhists generally. Of the long period that divides the death of
Sakya-muni from the introduction of Buddhism into Japan about 550 A.D., it
is no part of our purpose to treat in detail. But enough must be said to
connect in some intelligible way these two events.

After the death of Gautama, his disciples are said to have gathered
together, and recited all that they remembered of his teaching, arranging
it in three divisions. This was the origin of the sacred books known as
the _Tripitaca_, i.e. the “three baskets,” the “three receptacles.” The
first of these—consisting of sayings, aphorisms, parables, &c., attributed
to Buddha, together with his first sermon addressed to the ascetics, (the
“Wheel of the Law,”)—is known as the _Sutra_ or “Canon;” the second is
called the _Vinaya_ or “Book of Discipline;” and the third, the
_Abhidharma_, i.e. the “Book of Metaphysics,” the “Further Doctrine.” Of
the three books, the Sutra, being mainly ethical, would have a more
general application than the other two; while the Vinaya would be chiefly
applicable to the Brotherhood, and the Abhidharma concerned with abstruse
philosophical dissertations. The Tripitaca, of which the Buddhists of
Ceylon are the custodians, are written in Pali, an early modification of
Sanskrit, and the sacred language of Buddhism; and they are, undoubtedly,
the oldest and purest of the numerous Buddhist scriptures. The Sutra, in
particular, is believed to be a faithful record of the actual teaching of
Gautama. At the same time, it must be remembered that for some centuries
after Sakya-muni’s death, there is no proof of the existence of any
written Canon; the probability being that his teaching was, for the most
part, transmitted orally from generation to generation, and that it
underwent in the process considerable alteration and addition.

With regard to the history of Buddhism, from the time of its founder’s
death until the middle of the third century B.C., we are practically
without information. It appears, however, that parties and schools were
already beginning to be formed. But about 260 B.C., India, from being
divided into a number of petty kingdoms, became almost wholly united under
the rule of one Asoka. Asoka’s grandfather—the founder of the empire that
was soon to assume such vast proportions—had revenged himself for the
contempt in which, for his low birth, he was held by the Brahmans, by
patronizing Buddhism; and Asoka, in turn, bestowed upon it all possible
support. He made Buddhism the state religion, founded an immense number of
monasteries, and sent forth missionaries in all directions. China was one
of the countries visited; while a mission to Ceylon, in which Mahendra,
Asoka’s own son, took a prominent part, resulted in the conversion of the
whole island.

Shortly, however, after Asoka’s death, his empire collapsed, and Buddhism
never afterwards exerted the same influence in India; though it remained
widely prevalent until the eighth century A.D., and it was not until four
centuries later that it became practically extinct. The Brahmans now
regained their former ascendency; declared Gautama to be an “avatar”—or
incarnation—of their god Vishnu; proceeded to incorporate into their own
creed some of the most popular features of the Buddhist system; and then
entered upon a destruction of the monasteries, and a severe persecution of
all Buddhists living in India. But, as in the history of the Christian
Church, persecution only resulted in the Gospel being afforded a wider
area, so was it now with Buddhism. “They that were scattered abroad went
everywhere, preaching the word.” Among other countries to which the
doctrine of Sakya-muni penetrated was Cashmere, whose king, Kanishka, a
contemporary of Christ, extended to it his enthusiastic support.

At this point was reached an important crisis in the history of Buddhism.
Already controversies about discipline and various minor questions had
called into existence several different schools; but now a breach
occurred, of such magnitude and destined to prove so lasting in its
results, as to often have suggested comparison with the schism between
Western and Eastern Christendom. A council was held under king Kanishka,
which the Ceylon Buddhists refused to recognize; and from that time
Buddhism has been divided into two main branches, known as the _Mahayana_
and _Hinayana_,—the “Greater and Lesser Vehicles.” The division thus
brought about became, to a great extent, a geographical one; the Hinayana
having its home in Ceylon, and, somewhat less exclusively, in Burmah and
Siam, while the schools of the Mahayana predominate in Cashmere, Thibet,
China and Japan.

Let us glance, for a moment, at their respective characteristics. The
Hinayana and the Mahayana, then, are the names given to two great systems,
or “schools of thought,” which offer to “carry” or “convey” their
followers to the rest of Nirvana.

Of the two, the Hinayana, or Lesser Conveyance, presents a much closer
resemblance to early Buddhism. The distinguishing features of the Hinayana
may be declared to be its adherence to the strict morality of primitive
Buddhism, its greater simplicity of worship, its smaller Canon of
scripture, and the fact that it appeals rather to the comparatively few,
to those, that is to say, who are able and willing to make the surrender
it requires. Whereas, in the Mahayana, or Greater Vehicle, we see a system
characterized by that increased ease and laxity, which too often accompany
a season of repose and the cessation of the enthusiasm that attends the
establishment of a new movement. The chief features of the Mahayana may be
pronounced to be its less exacting standard of practical morality, its
willingness to descend to the level of the multitude, its subtle
metaphysical distinctions, its meditative inactivity, its elaborate
ceremonial, and its more extensive Canon of scripture.

We are now, at last, in a position to examine the history of Japanese
Buddhism. If an apology seems needed for the length of our digression, I
can only say that it appeared to me necessary for any profitable treatment
of our subject. We have already seen how, as early as 250 B.C., China was
visited by Buddhist missionaries from India. These are said to have been
eighteen in number; and their effigies may be seen in many a Chinese
temple, where they are held in great veneration. In the first century
A.D., Buddhism in China began to receive imperial patronage; some of its
books being about the same time translated into the language of the
country. The spirit of accommodation and adaptation, which has always
formed so conspicuous a feature of Buddhism, manifested itself now in an
association with Taouism which has continued ever since.

552 A.D. is the date assigned to the introduction of Buddhism into Japan,
by way of Korea. At first, it appears to have made little progress, until
the diplomatic action of one of its clergy brought it into favour with the
Court. Prostrating himself one day, before the little son of the Mikado,
the priest declared that he recognized in him the re-incarnation of one of
the disciples of Buddha, and one who was destined to effect a great
spiritual work in Japan. The Mikado was prevailed upon to confide the
boy’s education to the Buddhist priests; with the result that, when he
grew up, he supported their cause with such zeal as to cause him to be
sometimes spoken of as the “Constantine of Japanese Buddhism.” Shotoku
Taishi—for such was his name—acted for some time as regent, but never
himself ascended the throne.

There is no doubt that the progress of Buddhism in Japan was largely
facilitated by the adoption of tactics, which had been successfully
employed in dealing with the barbarous tribes of India, and—as we have
just noticed,—with China also. Indeed, its readiness to adapt itself to
the circumstances, instincts, and prejudices of the people, with whom it
has to do, is, as has already been implied, one of the most powerful and
most striking peculiarities of Buddhism. In Japan, the Shinto demi-gods
were Buddhaized, and declared to be manifestations of Gautama; while
practices borrowed from the ancient national creed were introduced into
the Buddhist ceremonial. In the eighth century, we find orders issued for
the erection of two temples and a pagoda in every province; until, about
the twelfth century, the two religions became associated in the manner
indicated in our first chapter,—Buddhist and Shinto clergy officiating by
turns in the same buildings, and the Shinto temples becoming filled with
images, alike of their own demi-gods, and of Buddha and his companions.
This state of things continued until 1868, when the Shinto cult was chosen
to receive the exclusive recognition of the State, many of the Buddhist
monasteries at the same time suffering spoliation. Within the last few
years, however, Buddhism has been making strenuous efforts to recover its
former power and position, and there is little doubt that it still exerts
a real influence in Japan; while the collapse of Shintoism is, as
certainly, a matter of no distant time. At Tokio, the capital, where the
number of temples is enormous, the proportion of Buddhist to Shinto is in
the ratio of ten to one; and on several occasions during my stay in Japan
I noticed handsome new Buddhist temples in course of erection, or old ones
being redecorated and restored. On the other hand, numbers are closed, or
falling to pieces, for want of funds to maintain them.

At the present time, there are some twelve or more _principal_ Buddhist
sects in Japan, several of these being subdivided. The distinction between
the various schools is much more closely preserved than in China; and, at
least in the larger cities, each sect will be found represented by a
temple of its own. The difference between the schools consists not only in
the varied attitudes adopted towards some controverted question, but
frequently also in the degrees of importance attached to some point which
is held by all in common. For, as cannot be too emphatically stated,
Buddhism is a _many-sided_ religion.(16) The following extract from Sir
Monier Williams’ _Buddhism_, for instance, draws attention to the variety
of aspects, from which it may, and indeed needs to be regarded by the

“In different places and at different times, its teaching has become both
negative and positive, agnostic and gnostic. It passes from apparent
atheism and materialism to theism, polytheism, and spiritualism. It is,
under one aspect, mere pessimism; under another, pure philanthropy; under
another, monastic communion; under another, high morality; under another,
a variety of materialistic philosophy; under another, simple demonology;
under another, a mere farrago of superstitions, including necromancy,
witchcraft, idolatry, and fetishism. In some form or other it may be held
with almost any religion, and embraces something from almost every creed.”

To the same effect writes Dr. Eitel in his _Lectures on Buddhism_ (pp.
1-2): “Buddhism is a system of vast magnitude, for it comprises the
earliest gropings after science throughout those various branches of
knowledge which our Western nations have long been accustomed to divide
for separate study. It embodies in one living structure grand and peculiar
views of physical science, refined and subtle theorems on abstract
metaphysics, an edifice of fanciful mysticism, a most elaborate and
far-reaching system of practical morality, and finally a church
organization as broad in its principles and as finely wrought in its most
intricate network as any in the world.”

It would hardly be worth while to attempt any detailed description of the
many Buddhist sects represented in Japan. To observe the main
characteristics of the principal ones, and their points of difference from
one another, will be amply sufficient for our purpose. The greater number
of the schools were introduced from China, but a few are Japanese

Let us take, first of all, the schools of the Hinayana, or Minor Vehicle,
which, as we should expect, is not extensively represented in Japan. The
Hinayana is represented by four philosophical schools, in two of which the
materialistic element predominates, and in the two other the idealistic;
while eschatological questions afford further ground for difference. The
points in dispute between these philosophical schools of Buddhism are
altogether so subtle and abstruse as to be extremely difficult of
comprehension to any not thoroughly versed in such distinctions. Of the
four sects referred to, one, called the _Kusha_, has for its
characteristic the fact that it bases its teaching on the Abhidharma

To the Minor Vehicle belongs the curious system known as the “Holy Path.”
This has been described as a “debtor and creditor account kept with divine
justice.” Much less common than in China, the system of the “Holy Path” is
yet widely practised in Japan. Elaborate tables are drawn up, containing a
list of all good and bad actions it is possible to perform, with the
numbers added which each counts on the side of merit or demerit. The
numbers range from one to a hundred, or even more; and the tables afford
an insight into the relative importance in which all kinds of actions
present themselves to the Oriental mind. He who would tread life’s journey
along the Holy Path must, at least, aim at setting off his bad deeds by a
corresponding number of good acts of equal value. At the end of each year,
the account is balanced, and the overplus or deficit is transferred to the
succeeding one. That such a system is liable to the gravest abuse,
especially in the case of the more ignorant, is obvious; though, when
conscientiously practised, it need not be supposed to be unproductive of

At present we have made no mention of the _Madhyameka_, or Middle Vehicle,
which, as its name implies, occupies an intermediate place between the
Greater and Lesser Conveyances. A compromise between these two great
systems, the Madhyameka may be said to be characterized by a marked
moderation, i.e. between an excessive strictness, on the one hand, and a
too great liberty on the other. But though it is thus a faithful exponent
of Sakya-muni’s original doctrine, the Madhyameka has never attracted any
extensive following. It is represented in Japan by the sect called the

We pass on to examine the schools of the Greater Vehicle. In the same way
that the Kusha sect regards as its chief authority the Abhidharma Pitaca,
there are two schools belonging to the Greater Vehicle, which base their
teaching on the Sutra and Vinaya Pitacas respectively. The _Kagon_ make
the parables and sayings of Buddha contained in the Sutra their especial
study; while the _Ritzu_, as adhering to the more ascetic side of
Buddhism, have for their favourite book the Vinaya, or “Discipline.”

The _Dhyana_ or _Zen_ sect is a Chinese school with numerous
sub-divisions. Its distinguishing feature is the prominence it assigns to
the life of contemplation. Mysticism is represented by the _Shingon_, the
Mantra school of India transferred through China to Japan; and also by the
_Tendai_, so called from a mountain in China, where the head-quarters of
the sect are situated. The temples of the Shingon may usually be
recognized by the two guardian figures at the entrance, with open and shut
mouths, suggesting the mystic syllable A-UM. A peculiarity of both of
these sects is the use of the prayer-wheels and cylinders so common in

An element of mysticism also pervades the influential _Hokkai_ sect, a
Japanese offshoot of the Tendai, founded in the thirteenth century by a
priest named Nichiren, who is said to have been born supernaturally of a
virgin mother. The Hokkai are most jealously attached to their own ritual,
and to other observances peculiar to themselves; and, inheriting the
disposition attributed to their founder, exhibit a narrowness and
intolerance rarely met with in Japan. Their characteristic may be said to
consist in an emotional fanaticism; and a visitor to one of their temples
will generally find a number of devotees,—who thus remain engaged for
hours at a time,—chanting the invocation of the sect, “Adoration to the
Lotus of the Law,” to a deafening accompaniment of drums.

Two sects only now remain, but these by no means the least interesting or
least popular: the _Jodo_ and the _Shin-Jodo_ (i.e. the New-Jodo). The
distinguishing features of these sects,—which also find a place in the
system of the Hokkai,—are their acknowledgement of the need of external
aid, and their doctrine of the Western Paradise, presided over by Amitabha
Buddha. How marked a departure from the original teaching of Sakya-muni,
as observed by us, these schools present is sufficiently obvious;
nevertheless, it is alleged that the revelation of the Paradise in the
West was first made by Buddha himself to one of his principal disciples.
In the distant West is said to dwell one named Amida, or Amitabha, that is
to say “Illimitable Light.” Immortal himself, immortal also and freed from
all the trammels of transmigration are the vast multitudes of men(18) who
inhabit the boundless regions which he rules. In that “Pure Land,”(19)
that “Undefiled Ground,” everything beautiful and enchanting has a place,
neither is pain or sorrow known; and thither nought that is evil or that
defileth can come. Whosoever would attain to this heavenly country must
rely, most of all, on faithful invocation of the name of Amida; he having,
as is recorded, made a vow that he would only accept Buddhahood on
condition that salvation should be placed within reach of all sincerely
desirous of achieving it. Such is the doctrine of the Western Paradise,
some of the descriptions of which read almost like echoes of the last
chapters of the Bible. Unknown to the Buddhism of Ceylon, Siam, and
Burmah, it can be traced back as far as the second century A.D., when it
was certainly known in Cashmere, though it was not until three centuries
later that it began to spread widely over Northern Buddhism. But the whole
question of its origin remains wrapped in obscurity. At the present day,
the devotion to Amida is very widely practised in Japan, and it is
extremely popular. No doubt, the more educated and intellectual
Buddhist,—and the distinction thus suggested needs constantly to be
insisted on,—would explain the Paradise of the West as being a mere
allegory, and regard Amitabha, as he was originally conceived to be, as
merely an ideal personification of boundless light. But to the people
generally the Undefiled Ground and its presiding deity are actual,
literal, realities.


                          Kiyomizu-Dera, Kyoto.

We have said that the two sects in which the doctrine of the Western
Paradise appears in greatest prominence are called the Jodo and Shin-Jodo.
The former of these is Chinese in origin, but was established in Japan
about 1200 A.D. by a priest, Enko Daishi by name, who was also a member of
the imperial family. The head-quarters of this sect are at Kyoto, where
the magnificent monastery of Chion-in forms one of the principal sights of
that most interesting of Japanese cities. But of all the temples of Japan,
those of the New-Jodo (or _Monto_) sect are at once the most handsome, the
most frequented, and the most attractive to the European traveller.
Everything here, too, is of a dignified and stately character; there is a
striking absence of the tawdry and the puerile. Founded in the year 1262,
this sect is, at the present day, foremost in learning, influence, and
activity. Another purely Japanese development, it is—owing to differences
about “church government”—composed of two sub-divisions, the
_Nishi-Hongwanji_ and the _Higashi-Hongwanji_, or the Eastern and Western
Divisions of the True Petition,—the reference being to the vow of Amida.
In most of the larger towns, handsome temples of either branch are to be
found, situated usually in the poorer districts.

It is in the temples of the Shin-Jodo that the remarkable similarity, of
which every one has heard, between the Buddhist ceremonial and that of the
Roman Church is most conspicuous. Nowhere, perhaps, did the resemblance in
question,—to which I shall have occasion to refer again,—impress me more
forcibly than it did in the New-Jodo temple at Nagasaki, at the first
Buddhist service at which I was ever present. The day of our visit chanced
to be the founder’s anniversary, and from a raised lectern in the chancel,
a venerable priest, of benign countenance,—wearing a rich vestment not
unlike a dalmatic, and a cap resembling a biretta,—was recounting to a
congregation, composed chiefly of women, old men, and children, the
virtues of their deceased benefactor. Presently, the sermon came to an
end, and the colloquial delivery of the discourse was changed for the
monotone of a litany recitation: the people answering with ready response,
and many of them employing the aid of their rosaries. The fragrance of
incense filled the air; tapers and flowers adorned the altar, above which
was the statue, not—as one entering by chance might almost have expected
to see—of a Christian saint, but of some manifestation of Gautama Buddha.
Despite, however, its elaborate ritual, the Shin-Jodo sect has been called
the “Protestantism of Japan;” the reason being that it sanctions the
marriage of its clergy, approves the reading of the scriptures in the
“vulgar tongue,” permits a wider freedom in respect to food and drink, and
affords other indications of a “reforming spirit.” The priesthood in this
sect is, practically, a hereditary office.

In the _Great Indian Religions_ of the late Mr. Bettany, there is given a
summary of the Shin-Jodo Belief, in the words of one of its principal
teachers. I will take the liberty of re-quoting it here. “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 as an expression of
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.” The mutual relation of faith and works is especially to
be noticed; and indeed the strikingly _evangelical_ character of the whole


                  Statues of Kwannon, San-Ju-San-Gen-Do.

Vast, however, as is the power attributed to Amitabha, and great as is the
merit to be acquired by the invocation of his name, there is found in the
temples in which he is worshipped an image which receives even more
veneration than his. That colossal female effigy, with the many heads and
countless hands, before which a number of votaries, composed largely of
women, are kneeling in prayer, is meant to represent the mighty
Avalokitesvara, or—to substitute for the Sanskrit the less formidable
titles by which she is known in China and Japan,—the all-powerful Kwanyin
or Kwannon. Here, again, we are confronted with a devotion the origin of
which is wrapped in uncertainty, but which, closely connected with the
doctrine of the Western Paradise, seems to have arisen some three
centuries after the commencement of our era. At the present day, it is
spread extensively over Thibet, Mongolia, China, and Japan; but it is
unknown to the countries of Southern Buddhism. With regard to the meaning
of this great image before us, Kwannon is commonly explained to be the
reflex or spiritual son of Amitabha Buddha, sent by him to earth to
preside on earth over the Buddhist faith, and appearing, at first in male
and subsequently in female shape. But the probability is that the various
personages, with whom Kwannon is supposed to be identified, had merely a
fictitious existence; and that in her statues, we see simply an apotheosis
of Mercy, an allegorical _Mater Misericordiae_, whose many eyes and hands
are intended to signify the unremitting vigilance and the untiring energy
with which she ministers to all sorrow and distress.(20)

The island of Pootau, off Ning-po, in the Chusan Archipelago, is the great
centre of Kwannon worship; the most popular of the many legends concerning
her associating her with this locality, and offering an explanation of her
thousand heads and hands more clumsy even than is the manner of such
myths. The island belongs to the Buddhist priesthood, and is a great
resort of pilgrims. In Japan, the shrines and statues of Kwannon are to be
met with everywhere: many of her images being of enormous size, richly
gilt and beautifully wrought. Sometimes the statues are kept concealed
from view, either on account of alleged miraculous properties, or for some
other reason of special sanctity. The highly-venerated image, for
instance, at the Asakusa temple, Tokio, is never shown; it is only two
inches high, and is accredited with supernatural qualities. But of all the
shrines of Kwannon, it may be doubted whether the impression created by
any is greater than by her temple of San-ju-san-gen-do at Kyoto, where no
less than 33,333 images of the goddess may be seen. Of these a thousand
are gilded statues, five feet in height, and ranged in tiers along a vast
gallery. The remaining effigies are depicted on the foreheads, hands and
nimbi of the larger ones. The temple and its contents originated in the
votive offering of a Mikado of the twelfth century for recovery from


                     The Altar of San-Ju-San-Gen-Do.



                              Guardian Nio.

The Buddhist temples in Japan are for the most part built on a much
grander and more elaborate scale than those belonging to the Shinto
worship. The roofing is not of thatch, but of tiles; and instead of the
torii, the entrance is through a _Sammon_, or two-storied gateway, in the
recesses of which stand two huge figures of ferocious appearance. These
are called _Nio_, and their office is to guard the sacred precincts from
the approach of evil spirits. These images are commonly seen spotted all
over with pellets of paper. “A worshipper writes his petition on paper, or
better still, has it written for him by the priest, chews it to a pulp,
and spits it at the divinity. If, having been well aimed, the paper
sticks, it is a good omen.” Passing through the Sammon, and proceeding in
a straight direction—often between rows of votive stone-lanterns—the
visitor soon arrives at the two largest buildings of the temple group. One
of these is the _Hondo_, or main shrine; while the other may be either the
Hall of the Founder of the particular sect to which the Temple belongs, or
it may contain a colossal image of Amida, and be specially dedicated to
his worship. Sometimes, again, this second building is known as the
Refectory, from the spiritual nourishment supplied there in the form of
sermons, for which the preacher takes as his text some passage of the
Sutra, or, it may be, some saying of Confucius.(21) Removing our boots,
which we leave at the foot of the wooden steps, we ascend to the Hondo,
and, if need be, push aside the sliding-doors of paper-covered woodwork,
which afford access to the building. Should no service chance to be in
progress, a little company of priests, acolytes, &c., will probably be
found, seated on the matting with which the floor is covered,—engaged in
the perusal of book or newspaper, or chatting together over miniature cups
of tea, and, if it be winter-time, spreading their hands to receive the
grateful warmth of the hibachi.(22) Beside them, on the floor, is arranged
a miscellaneous assortment of sacred pictures, leaflets, candles,
incense-sticks, charms, and other articles; any of which may be purchased
by a very modest expenditure. As we enter, we observe that several pairs
of eyes are fastened on us in undisguised curiosity; but our low
salutation is promptly responded to, if indeed it has not been
anticipated, and one of the group will courteously come forward to supply
us with any assistance or information we require. Before the railing,
which encloses the sanctuary, two or three worshippers are kneeling in
prayer; and these also examine us for a while with close attention. Or, it
may be that at the time of our visit some religious function is
proceeding. If so, the clergy with their servers are found within the
chancel, clad in gorgeous yellow robes, and genuflecting now and again
before the images which stand above the richly-vested altar. Outside the
sanctuary rails, the congregation is assembled in greater or less numbers,
according to the importance of the day. Around is a profusion of lights
and flowers; while the air is fragrant with the fumes of incense. The
prayers, which the officiating priest recites in monotone, are in Pali, a
form of Sanskrit; and if an air of perfunctoriness pervades his devotions,
let it be remembered that every day, month after month, and year after
year, he may be found chanting these same litanies, of the significance of
which he has but the vaguest idea. Not, however, that he is without belief
in their efficacy; nay, it may be that his very ignorance of their meaning
causes the words he utters to have, in his eyes, a transcendent value.
Above the high altar, in seated posture on lotus-blossoms,(23) are three
colossal images, cunningly wrought and richly gilded, and bearing on their
countenances an expression of placid repose. Perhaps, it is the
_Triratna_, or Three Jewels, that these represent, the Trinity of Buddha,
the Law, and the Order. Or, possibly, this is Buddha, in his triple forms
of existence:—as Sakya-muni, the form under which he lived as man among
men; as Amitabha, his metaphysical existence in Nirvana; as
Avalokitesvara, his reflex in the world of forms, his spiritual son,
generated to propagate the religion established by him during his earthly
career. Or once again, these three images may portray the Buddhas of the
Past, Present, and Future:—Gautama who _was_, the historic founder of
Buddhism; Kwannon, or Avalokitesvara, the head of the present Buddhist
hierarchy, the Buddha who _is_; and Maitreya, or Meroku, the deliverer yet
_to come_, the rehabilitation of past Buddhas foretold by Sakya-muni. Now
and again one may meet with a Buddhist of superior intellectual
attainments, who would explain the acts of worship he offers to these
images, as signifying merely reverence for Gautama’s teaching; but to the
multitude, as has been seen already, the images represent distinct and
all-powerful deities. Indeed, the people are encouraged thus to regard
them by their ecclesiastical superiors; it being one of the methods of
Buddhism thus to adapt its teaching to the capacity of dense and ignorant
minds. And thus it comes about that a religion, commencing with
agnosticism, meets the “craving for divinity,” so deeply implanted in the
nature of our race, by passing into what is, practically, a deification of


                             Pagoda at Nikko.

Leaving the Hondo, we next proceed to explore the grounds and remaining
buildings connected with the temple. This lofty _Pagoda_, for instance,
several stories high, is erected over some holy relic,—perhaps the
vitrified remains of the founder, after cremation. A little further on, we
come to the _Rinzo_, or Revolving Library, containing an entire set of the
Buddhist scriptures. As these consist altogether of some 6,700 or 6,800
large volumes, it is clearly impossible for any one person to read them
all. This, however, need not be regretted seeing that whatever merit might
be obtained by a complete perusal, is freely extended to all, who will
take the trouble to make this huge stand revolve; the structure being so
arranged that a single push is sufficient for the purpose! The Rinzo was
an invention of a Chinese priest, and is said to date from the sixth
century. Owing to their costliness they are rarely met with; and the only
two I remember seeing were at Asakusa, Tokio, and at Ikegami, the
head-quarters of the Hokkai sect. Elsewhere in the grounds we come upon
the _Shoro_, or Great Bell,—used not for summoning the faithful, but for
the purpose of invocation and worship;—the _Koro_, or Drum-tower; the
_Emado_, or “Ex-voto” Shed, the walls of which are covered with pictures,
charms, and other offerings; cisterns for the purpose of ceremonial
purification; a printing and publishing department; and, perhaps, a grotto
with ghastly representations of the sufferings endured in the Buddhist
hells. Usually, too, to be found in the sacred precincts, is a specimen of
the _Ficus religiosa_, or sacred tree, under which Sakya-muni attained his
enlightenment. At the rear of the temple buildings are situated the
priests’ apartments,—often a quadrangle enclosed by a colonnade,—the
reception-rooms of which are beautifully decorated with _kakemonos_. Here
the visitor is sometimes invited to a light repast of tea, cake, and
fruit; the priests waiting on him the while with the most courteous
attention. And here may I be permitted to say a word about the Buddhist
priests of Japan as I found them? They are commonly spoken of as lazy and
ignorant, mercenary and corrupt; and it is to be feared that with regard
to many, especially of the lower orders of the clergy, this witness is
true. But speaking of those with whom I came into direct contact—the
priests, for the most part, attached to the more important temples—I feel
bound to say, that the impression I formed of them was, on the whole, a
distinctly favourable one. With countenances often indicating close
spiritual application, they appeared to perform their sacred duties with
reverence and attention; while of the disinterested kindness and
hospitality I received at their hands, as well as of the courtesy and
patience with which they replied to my numerous questions, I would speak
in terms of grateful appreciation.


 Plan Of Buddhist Temple At Ikegami, Near Tokio.  (_Head-quarters of the
  Hokkai or Nichiren sect._) The path to the left from the Entrance Gate
leads to the Main Temple; that to the right to the Founder’s Hall. To the
right of the plan are the Drum-tower and Pagoda. Behind the Main Temple is
 the Rinzo or Revolving Library; and in the lower left-hand corner of the
 picture is the Reliquary. The two small buildings in the foreground are
 the Belfry and the Emado. In the background are the Priests’ Apartments
                           and Reception-rooms.

A visit to a Buddhist temple, however, can hardly fail to suggest to any,
who are at all familiar with the observances of the Roman ritual, a
comparison to which we have already referred,—I mean the striking
resemblance between the Buddhist ceremonies and such as have found place
in the Christian Church. The high-altar with its haloed statues, flowers,
candelabra, and ever-burning lamps; the side-altars, similarly adorned,
above one of which, it may be, is seen the image of Maia, the mother of
Gautama, bearing her infant-son in her arms; the priests, tonsured,
mitred, arrayed in their rich vestments, and attended by their acolytes;
the people, bending low in adoration, or telling their rosaries as they
pray; the tinkling of bells and the perfume of incense; the dim light of
the sanctuary, and the monotonous chant, in the unknown tongue, of the
litanies uplifted for living and for dead:—these are only some of the
points of correspondence with Roman Catholic observances which meet us in
almost every Buddhist temple. Indeed, to attempt to specify such
resemblances in detail would prove a laborious task. But while the
similarity to which I refer is far too close and remarkable to be
accounted for by mere coincidence, its explanation is by no means easy.
Some would solve the difficulty by referring to the unquestionable fact
that many of the ceremonies practised in the Christian Church are
adaptations of ancient heathen rites: a leading captive of captivity of
which, as it seems to me, Christianity has far more reason to be proud
than ashamed. But though the Buddhist observances are, without doubt, of
considerable antiquity, this explanation cannot be said to be adequate to
the requirements of the case. Far more satisfactory is the theory that
ascribes the phenomenon to an early contact of China with some form of
Christianity—probably Nestorianism—and to the readiness which Buddhism has
ever exhibited to extend its influence by a conformity to other faiths.
The problem, however, is one which we must, to a great extent, be
satisfied to leave unsolved; the most eminent authorities in Orientalism
having confessed themselves baffled. It is only the fact of the
resemblance that admits of no dispute.


                            A Buddhist Priest.

It is curious to notice the different effects produced by an observation
of the Buddhist ceremonial on the minds of Roman Catholic missionaries
upon their first arrival in the East. By some its likeness to their own
ritual has been regarded as a manœuvre of Satan, designed for the
hindrance of Christian truth; while others have regarded the resemblance
with satisfaction, as calculated to diminish the difficulties of their
work. Without entering further into this question, I may be allowed to
express the conviction that an elaborate ceremonial forms at any rate no
necessary factor of Christian work in Japan. So far from this being the
case, I was informed, on no prejudiced authority, that, the breach once
made with the old associations, converts are disposed to regard anything
tending even remotely to suggest them as more of a hindrance than a help;
and this view finds support in the large number of adherents gained by
several of the Protestant Missions, with whom anything in the way of
ceremonial is reduced to a minimum. On the other hand, must be remembered
the very successful work accomplished in Japan, alike by the Roman and
Orthodox Churches, whose combined total of some 65,000 adherents is more
than double that of the various Protestant sects,—the Churches of England
and America, with 4,000 members, not being included in this computation.

Hitherto, I have referred only to the resemblance outwardly existing
between the ceremonies and observances of Christianity and Buddhism. But
an extension of the comparison results in what is, at first sight, an even
more startling similarity between incidents recorded of Gautama Buddha,
and events in the life of Jesus Christ, as narrated in the Gospels. Thus,
we are told that Gautama was born of a virgin mother; that angels appeared
at his nativity; that an ancient seer prostrated himself before him, and
saluted him as one come down from heaven; that, as a child, he confounded
his teachers by the understanding he displayed, and the questions which he
asked; that, assailed by the Evil One(24) with the keenest
temptations,—including the offer of Sovereignty over all the world, if he
would renounce his mission,—he yet emerged victorious from all; that once,
being on a mountain, he was enveloped in a cloud of heavenly light; that
he went down into hell; and that he ascended into heaven. Indeed, the
Christian may be pardoned if, for the moment, he feels completely
staggered at all that he finds advanced on behalf of Sakya-muni; and if
his perplexity only begins to give place to relief, when he discovers that
there is absolutely no trace of such extraordinary coincidence in the
early Buddhist writings, and that there is no reason for supposing that
these alleged events in the life of Gautama were ever heard of until the
Christian era was already several centuries old.

We have now, as far as our limits permit, made an examination of Buddhism
with especial reference to Japan. But before leaving this part of our
subject, I would humbly, but very earnestly, submit the question, Is there
in Buddhism generally,—is there in Buddhism as it exists in Japan at the
present day,—nothing upon which Christianity may profitably fasten,
nothing to which Christianity may properly appeal? Is that great
proclamation of Christian tact, which, eighteen centuries ago, the Apostle
Paul delivered on the Areopagus at Athens, “Whom ye ignorantly worship,
Him declare I unto you,” one that cannot, more often than it does, find a
place on the lips of our missionaries of to-day? Is the position a useless
one to take, that both the faiths of Jesus Christ and of Buddha agree in
this, that either has for its object the amelioration of man’s lot, here
and hereafter, and his release from the curse of suffering; only, as we
believe, with this great difference, that the founder of Christianity was
possessed of resources to which Sakya-muni laid no claim? These are
questions which were constantly presenting themselves to my mind during my
visit to Japan; but they are questions also which I heard asked more than
once by men who had closely studied the whole subject and were deeply
interested in mission work. But whatever the true answer to these
questions be, of this we may be certain: that by no reckless denunciation
of a creed, of the very elements of which the denouncer is content to be
in ignorance, will any victory of Christ’s Cross be achieved. Be the
errors and shortcomings of Buddhism what they may,—and we must, to be
honest, pronounce them in our judgment to be many and great,—it is, at
least, a system of very great antiquity, in whose strength thousands of
millions of our fellow-creatures have lived and died, both better and
happier. Men cannot be expected lightly to abandon their allegiance to
such a faith as this, nor would it be to their credit if they did; while
in Christianity, even when faithfully represented, there is very much
calculated to perplex and estrange one who has been trained in the tenets
of Buddhism. Moreover, however little he may agree with them, the Buddhist
holds that the religious convictions of others are entitled to respect,
and that their feelings should never be wounded, if this can be avoided;
it is only natural that he, in his turn, should be quickly alienated by
unsympathetic treatment. I was told by an English resident of long
standing that infidelity is largely on the increase in Japan, especially
among the men of the upper and middle classes; and that among the causes
of this was certainly to be reckoned the contemptuous and merely
destructive attitude towards Buddhism, with which some—let us hope they
are the very few—would think to serve the cause of Jesus Christ. “Depend
upon it,” it was said to me, “it is irreligion that commonly succeeds to
the vacant place, not Christianity. Carlyle was right when he said,
‘Better even to believe a lie than to believe nothing.’ ” And Buddhism is
not all a lie!

“The perishing heathen.” Many of us have been revolted by such expressions
when heard at home. But it is only when one is living in the midst of the
people of whom they are spoken, that it is possible to realize the full
horror of their meaning. That men, women, and little children, who are
distinguished by so many good qualities,(25) and who—with, as we believe,
such immeasurably inferior opportunities—present, in many points, so
favourable a contrast to ourselves, should be condemned to a future of
hopeless and unending misery, for not believing that of which, it may be,
they have not even heard, or heard only in crude, distorted statement—can
any man _really_ think this, who recognizes the providence of a Father of
Love; nay, I will dare to say, of a Deity of bare Justice? And yet
language thus fearfully misrepresenting the Faith of Christ is still used
by some who are called by His name; and that it is used is known by the
people of Japan.(26)

But again. There is, I have observed, much in the scheme of Christianity
calculated to prove a stumbling-block to those who have been educated in
the doctrines of Buddhism. Let me proceed to state some of the
difficulties that would be experienced, some of the objections that would
be raised, by a Buddhist of a certain amount of intellectual capacity,
when confronted with the claims of the Christian Faith.

Thus, (_a_) _the Bible_. “We are unable,” the Buddhist would say, “to
recognize in your Old and New Testaments an inspired revelation. Why
should we accept your Scriptures, with all their alleged miracles and
supernatural occurrences, when you reject ours? Besides, you are not
agreed among yourselves as to inspiration, authenticity, translation,
interpretation. Some of you, again, are for diffusing the Bible broadcast,
others would keep it in the background. Again, the Christian doctrine of
immortality appears to us entirely absent from the pages of the Old
Testament; while even the Jews, ‘God’s chosen people,’ refuse to see in
the New Testament the fulfilment of the Old.”

(_b_) _The Old Testament._ “We cannot regard the story of Creation, as
given in the Book of Genesis, as anything more than a myth, containing a
germ of truth. Neither can we accept, as historically true, the story of
the temptation in the Garden of Eden. And yet, upon this is made to rest
your whole theory of the Fall, of Original Sin, and of Christian
Redemption. As for the history of the Jewish people, we can see in it
nothing but one long story of cruelty and bloodshed; how can a Creator, a
God of Love, be supposed to have permitted and approved such things?”

(_c_) _The Incarnation._ The whole doctrine of the Incarnation is full of
difficulty to the mind of an Oriental; _not_ because of its strangeness
and novelty, but owing to his very familiarity with stories of miraculous
birth in his own legends.

(_d_) _The Atonement._ “Why should Jehovah require the sacrifice of His
own Son?” This is a difficulty that would present itself with especial
force to the Buddhist; by whom all life is held sacred, and whom such
texts as “Without shedding of blood there is no remission,” fill with
repugnance. The explanation offered by Buddhists themselves of the
Christian doctrine of Atonement is, that its origin must be sought in the
fact that, from the most ancient times, the idea of sacrifice, and of
human sacrifice, has existed; and this explanation they go on to apply to
the Holy Eucharist.

(_e_) _Eternal Punishment._ “How,” it is asked, “is your doctrine of
Everlasting Punishment consistent with that of the Remission of Sins? And
how, on the other hand, is not your scheme of salvation ethically wrong,
if it allows people, after sinning all their lives, to be forgiven on
their death-beds, that so they may enter a Paradise, wherein good and bad
alike have a place?”

(_f_) _Faith and Belief._ “What right have you to ask us to believe
anything that does not accord with science and experience, when you have
no better opportunities of knowing than we?”

(_g_) _Christian Ethics._ “Some of these—e.g. the doctrine of the Sermon
on the Mount—we admit to be good; but they are not peculiar to
Christianity—our own teaching is very similar. In other of your ethics, we
see only an ignoble and selfish storing of treasure; it appears to us that
a good action, done for the sake of reward or gain, must entirely lose its

(_h_) _Missionary Work._ “We do not claim that our religion is the only
way of salvation, but readily recognize the good points in other systems
as well. You, on the contrary, appear to hold that there is no other way
but your own; and indeed it is only on this supposition that we can
understand the strenuous efforts which you make to bring us to abandon our
religion for yours.”(27)

It forms no part of my purpose to discuss these objections; which, let me
add, are merely representative, and by no means exhaustive. With many of
them we are already familiar at home; and the Japanese, I would mention,
are fully aware of the unbelief prevalent in England, and well acquainted
with its arguments. Indeed, few English people, it is probable, have any
idea how closely their history and their literature are studied by nations
living at the other side of the globe, who are to them simply “the
heathen.” Some, again, of the above objections would seem to have been
suggested by imperfect and distorted statements of Christian truth. I have
thought it worth while to refer to them, in the hope that the fact of such
questions being raised may serve to impress upon us these two important
points:—(i) the need of missionaries, at the present day, being not only
men of holy and devoted lives, but also fully equal in intellectual
equipment and culture to our home clergy; and (ii) the fallacy of trusting
to the circulation of the Bible, as an instrument of mission work, unless
it be accompanied—or rather preceded—by the teaching of the living agent.

It must not, however, be imagined that the obstacles to the progress of
the Gospel in Japan are wholly, or even mainly, of the character I have
referred to. Another great hindrance is most unquestionably presented in
the large number of competing sects and organizations, which, here as in
other countries where mission work is being carried on, address the people
in the name of Christianity. It is true that Buddhists themselves are
divided into numerous sects and schools; but between these there can
scarcely be said to be anything of party animosity and strife. It will,
indeed, be heard with satisfaction that the feeling towards one another of
the various Christian bodies in Japan is, speaking generally, free from
bitterness; and that each would appear desirous of doing its own work, in
the wide field before it, without interference with the efforts of others.
“The feeling here,” it was observed to me, “is nothing like so bad as it
is at home.”(28) And as in England bigotry and suspicion are steadily
giving place to mutual toleration and respect, so may we hope that, both
in our colonies and abroad, counsels of charity may more and more prevail.
Still, at the best, so long as Romanists, Orthodox, Anglicans, and
Sectarians adhere to the positions they at present occupy, so long must
any real unity of action be impossible; neither can peace be sought by
surrender or compromise of principle. But meanwhile there is, of course, a
lamentable want of compactness among the converts—as a recent writer in
the _Japan Mail_, remarked “they are more like scattered groups of
soldiers than an army”;—while the perplexity occasioned to those we are
seeking to convince is terrible and great.

The following extract from Miss Bickersteth’s recently-published _Japan as
we saw it_ (Sampson Low, 1893), draws an able contrast between the
religious condition of Japan at the present day and the position of
Christianity in the time of St. Francis Xavier. “It was impossible not to
be struck with the present complication of religious matters in the
country as compared with the days of Xavier. Then, on the one side, there
was the Buddhist-Shinto creed, undermined by no Western science, still
powerful in its attraction for the popular mind, and presenting a more or
less solid resistance to the foreign missionary; and, on the other,
Christianity as represented by Roman Catholicism, imperfect truly, but
without a rival in dogma or in ritual. Now the ranks of Buddhist-Shintoism
are hopelessly broken; the superstition of its votaries is exposed by the
strong light of modern science, and their enthusiasm too often quenched in
the deeper darkness of atheism. Christianity, though present in much
greater force than in the days of Xavier, is, alas, not proportionately
stronger. The divisions of Christendom are nowhere more evident than in
its foreign missions to an intellectual people like the Japanese. The
Greek, the Roman, the Anglican churches, the endless ‘splits’ of
Nonconformity, must and do present to the Japanese mind a bewildering
selection of possibilities in religious truth.”

To refer to but one other hindrance to Christian progress in Japan—which,
although the last mentioned, is by no means the least serious—I mean the
estimate formed by the natives of the practical influence of the Christian
religion upon English people and upon other nations professing it.
Applying to Christianity the test of its results, they urge that it has,
at any rate, only very partially succeeded. For instance, the Japanese
comment upon the fact that numbers of Englishmen in Japan never attend the
services of their Church; and that the lives of many of them display a
flagrant disregard for the principles which should regulate the conduct of
Christians. Without, however, denying either the justice of these charges,
or the reasonableness of the mood which advances them, I think it may be
urged with fairness that the influence of Christianity on us as a nation
cannot rightly be estimated in this particular way. As a rule, the
Englishman can scarcely be said to appear to advantage abroad. Too often
he assumes an attitude of insolent superiority to the people whose guest
he is; while the position in which our countrymen are placed in a country
like Japan—coupled with the freedom from restraint, so much greater than
at home—has, for reasons which we need not now enter into, its peculiar
difficulties. Neither is it by any means certain that a Japanese, paying a
short visit to England, will gather any just impression of what hold
Christianity has on us as a people. In all probability the range of his
observations will be very limited and superficial; his wanderings will be
chiefly confined to the great thoroughfares of the principal cities; while
the circle of his acquaintance will, it is likely, be equally restricted,
and equally unrepresentative of English life. Not that, in saying this, we
would seek to excuse ourselves, or deny that there is far more truth than
we could wish, and than there ought to be, in the charges brought against
us. We would merely submit that there is another side to the picture which
ought not, in fairness, to be overlooked. Admitting as we must, for
instance, the great prevalence of infidelity in our England of to-day,
there is yet to be placed over against it,—and may I not add, drawing it
out into the light?—the increased activity of the Church during this last
half-century, the remarkable power she has exhibited of adapting herself
to meet the needs of her times, the influence for good that she has not
only been in the past, but remains at the present day, in the nation at
large, and in thousands and thousands of English homes. “By their fruits
ye shall know them”: and Christianity must not and need not deprecate the
application of that test to herself. Only, we would urge, that is not a
fair judgment, which takes account only of what the Church of Jesus Christ
has failed to do, without recognizing also all that, in the strength of
her Divine Head, she has been permitted to accomplish.


I propose now to place before my readers some account of the various
Missions at work in Japan. I am enabled to do this the better from having
obtained, in the course of my visit, a useful table, compiled by the Rev.
H. Loomis, of the American Bible Society, Yokohama, giving statistics of
the different organizations up to the beginning of the year 1893. The plan
adopted by Mr. Loomis is to arrange his statistics into three classes: (1)
“Protestant Missions,” (2) “Catholic Missions,” and (3) “The Greek Church
in Japan.” Under the head of “Protestant Missions,” are included the
Church of England, the Episcopal Church of America, a large number of
other American denominations, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the
Swiss Evangelical Protestant Mission, the Society of Friends, U.S.A.,
Universalists, Unitarians and others; while under the head of “Catholic
Missions” we find particulars of only one branch of the Holy Catholic
Church—the Church of Rome. This is not the arrangement I should have made
myself; but, as a matter of convenience, we will follow it more or less
closely.(29) It is right to add that of the thirty “Protestant Missions”
seven are grouped together under the title of the “Church of Christ in
Japan,” and work, it would appear, in general harmony on Presbyterian
principles. In the same way, the American Episcopal Church, the Church of
England—represented by both the Church Missionary Society and the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel—and the Mission of Wyckliffe College,
Canada, are associated together; leaving some twenty sects working

Before, however, proceeding to an examination of Mr. Loomis’ table, we
must briefly observe the past history of Christianity in Japan. This dates
from the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in 1549, seven years after the
country was discovered by the Portuguese. For some while the missionaries
were permitted to prosecute their work without molestation, and
considerable progress was being effected. A deputation of native priests
appealed to the Tycoon, but their remonstrances were unheeded. With
thirty-five religious sects already represented in Japan, the country, he
answered, might very well find room for a thirty-sixth religion, viz.
Christianity. Presently, however, the Jesuits being followed by the
Dominicans and Franciscans, mutual factions broke out; while, elated by
their success, some of the missionaries began to adopt an attitude of
high-handed intolerance and interference. For the first time in their
history, the Japanese found themselves entangled in all the turmoil and
animosity of religious strife. In 1587 the first persecution of the
Christians took place, but apparently soon subsided. The warning, however,
was disregarded; and the fatal policy of arrogance and oppression was
still persisted in. Native priests were put to death; Buddhist monasteries
were destroyed; the Inquisition was set up. In 1614 we find a Japanese
embassy despatched to Rome, in order, so it is said, to make an act of
submission to the spiritual supremacy of the Pope. Meanwhile the Dutch,
jealous of the position that was being gained by the Portuguese traders,
accused the Roman propagandists to the Japanese authorities of aiming at a
territorial ascendency; and that intrigues were actually being carried on
by the Jesuits for the overthrow of the Shogun there seems little doubt.
In the massacre which ensued several thousand Christians were put to
death. “Their unflinching devotion compels our admiration. One may search
the grim history of early Christian martyrology without finding anything
to surpass the heroism of the Roman Catholic Martyrs of Japan. Burnt on
stakes made of crosses, torn limb from limb, buried alive, they yet
refused to recant. We are told of one Jesuit priest, Christopher Ferreya,
who, after enduring horrible tortures, was at length hung by his feet in
such a way that his head was buried in a hole in the ground from which air
and light were excluded. His right-hand was left loose that he might make
the sign of recantation. He hung for four hours, and then made the sign;
whereupon, with a rare refinement of cruelty, he was appointed the
president of the tribunal before which Christians were brought for
condemnation. Then, after a lull, in 1637 thousands of Christians rose in
armed rebellion. After two months they were forced to surrender, and
37,000 were slaughtered. Stern decrees were then issued, forbidding the
admission of any foreign vessel; an exception being made in favour of the
Chinese and Dutch. For more than two hundred years, notice-boards stood
beside highways, ferries, and mountain-passes, containing, among other
prohibitions, the following:—‘So long as the sun shall warm the earth, let
no Christian be so bold as to come to Japan; and let all know that the
King of Spain himself, or the Christians’ God, or the great God of all, if
he violate this commandment, shall pay for it with his head.’ For
centuries the name ‘Christian’ would blanch the cheek and pale the lip.
Christianity was remembered only as an awful scar on the national annals.
But in the Southern Island the smouldering fire was never quite
extinguished; while, as recently as 1829, six men and an old woman were
crucified at Osaka.”(31)

At the time of the closing of the country to foreigners, an exception was
made of the one port of Nagasaki, the scene of the final great massacre,
when thousands of native Christians were hurled from a rocky islet into
the sea. Here, however, as has been already mentioned, the Dutch were the
only Europeans permitted to trade; they being closely confined to the
small island of Deshima. In addition to having pay a heavy rental, they
were subjected to the closest espionage, not being suffered, under any
circumstances, to pass beyond the narrow limits assigned to them. Several
times in each year they were summoned before the authorities, and required
to tread under foot the Crucifix, and other symbols of the Catholic Faith.
Several of the trampling-boards employed on these occasions are still to
be seen at the Ueno Museum, Tokio. The Dutch, it would appear, quieted any
qualms of conscience by regarding their action as amounting to an
abnegation, not of Christianity, but of Romanism. It was not until thirty
years ago that intercourse between Japan and other nations began to be
resumed; and that, after a short period of ill-feeling and suspicion,
circumstances were brought about which enabled both Roman Catholics and
other Christians to work without hindrance. In 1872 the interdict against
Christianity was formally removed; and the release from imprisonment and
return from banishment of hundreds of Christians took place.

Such is the past history of Christianity in Japan. It has, indeed, its
elements of glorious and heroic martyrdom, but it has elements, also, on
which few of us can look back without a deep sense of shame. Let us trust
that by this time the people of Japan have come to understand that the
conflict of their forefathers was not with Christianity, but rather with
Christians who had forgotten “what spirit they were of.”

Turning now to the condition of Christian Missions at the present day, it
seems right to commence with those of the Roman Church. Not only has the
Roman Church in Japan a history which extends over three hundred years,
but it reckons at the present time considerably more than double the
number of adherents claimed by any other Christian body. The Roman
influence has been particularly successful in the Goto Islands, in the
neighbourhood of Nagasaki, where the devoted labours of the missionaries
have won over a considerable portion of the population.

To come to the statistics. These give one Archbishop, three Bishops,
seventy-eight missionary, and fifteen native priests, with over 300
(native) minor clergy and catechists; 185 churches and chapels, with 244
congregations. Seventy-six sisters of the Order of St. Paul de Chartres
are stationed in Japan, and there are further nineteen native novices.
Other statistics include seventeen orphanages, with an average of over 100
children; twenty Industrial Schools; eight Nursing establishments; a
Hospital for the Aged; and a Hospital for Lepers, with sixty-two inmates,
situated at Gotemba, at the foot of Fuji-san. The number of infant
baptisms for 1892 is given as, children of Christian parents 1,337, and
Heathen parents 1,166; these, with 2,806 adult baptisms, and forty-five
“conversions of heretics,” bringing the total of baptisms and conversions
for the year to 5,354. The work that is being done by the Roman
missionaries is commended on all sides; a prominent feature in their
methods being a consideration for, and adaptation to, the habits and
prejudices of the people, that greatly facilitate their progress,
especially among the poor of the country districts. The whole number of
Roman Catholics in Japan amounts, as has been said already, to about

I pass on to speak of the condition of the Greek, or Orthodox Russian,
Church in Japan; whose relations with the Church of England are here, as
elsewhere, of a friendly though not, of course, of a very intimate
character. Its head-quarters are at Tokio, where an imposing Cathedral,
situated on high ground and in a central position, has recently been
erected. Unfortunately our information in this case is very incomplete;
but assuming the correctness of the numbers before us, one is struck by
the paucity of missionary clergy, viz. one bishop and three priests. To
these must be added eighteen native clergy, and 128 unordained teachers
and workers. There are in all 219 congregations. The number of adult
baptisms in 1892 is given as 952; and the total membership at the present
time exceeds 20,000. Scanty as these details are, they indicate much
activity and progress. The proximity of Russian territory to
Japan—Vladivostock being only some 700 miles N. of Nagasaki—is, of course,
a circumstance highly favourable to the Orthodox Mission.

Coming now to the various bodies arranged by Mr. Loomis under the title of
“Protestant,” we will take first the _Nippon Sei Kokwai_, or Church of
Japan, which is the name given to the union formed by the Missions of the
American Episcopal Church, the Church of England, and the English Church
in Canada. It is, however, only fair to say that the total number of
adherents of the Nippon Sei Kokwai are greatly less than half the number
claimed by the Presbyterian Churches, as also by the Churches of the
American Board’s Mission. The Missions, then, of the American Church and
of the Church of England are to a great extent worked independently of
each other, each being under its own Episcopal control; but at the same
time, the two Churches enjoy, of course, full intercommunion, and are
practically one,—often taking counsel together, and dividing the various
districts by mutual arrangement in such a way as to make the best use of
their resources. To the American Church belongs the honour of being the
first body to commence Christian work in Japan in the present century; the
Rev. C. M. Williams, afterwards Bishop for Japan and China, establishing
himself at Tokio in 1859, and proceeding at once to translate portions of
the Bible and Prayer-Book, hold services for the benefit of
English-speaking people, and set on foot schemes for the study of our
language. There are now twelve missionary clergy at work, and twenty-one
female missionaries; together with seven native clergy and nineteen
unordained workers and preachers. Of the twenty-seven organized churches
only one is wholly self-supporting. The number of baptisms in 1892 was,
adults 208, children fifty-eight; while the total membership amounts to
over 1,400, with a like number of children receiving instruction in Sunday
Schools. In 1873, Dr. Henry Laming was appointed missionary physician, and
arrived at Osaka, where he has done and is still doing an excellent work.
A good deal of secular educational work is also carried on in connexion
with the mission.


                           Sketch Map of Japan.

We next come to the work of the Church Missionary Society, which commenced
operations in Japan in 1869. The Society has now twenty-two missionary and
seven native clergy engaged; forty-two female missionaries, and sixty
unordained preachers. Of its sixteen organized churches one is
self-supporting. The number of baptisms in 1892 was, adults 267, children
121; and the total membership at the present time amounts to 2,126, with
600 children in Sunday Schools.

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel commenced work in 1873; and
has its headquarters at Tokio. The work of the two Community Missions,
founded by Bishop Bickersteth in 1887, is apparently included in the
statistics assigned to the S. P. G. in the table before us. At St.
Andrew’s University Mission, five clergy—all of whom are University
Graduates,—live in community with several native students preparing for
Ordination, while at St. Hilda’s Mission, a staff of English ladies is
engaged in work, which includes schools, a hospital, and a home for
mission women. Both these Missions are supported by the “Guild of St.
Paul,”—a society which has branches all over England,—whose occasional
papers are full of interesting information. Several other priests of the
S. P. G. are engaged at various mission stations; and these, with seven
native ministers, make in all some nineteen clergy at work in Japan. The
adult baptisms in 1892 numbered 151, and the membership at the present
time is given as 784.

The Wyckliffe College Mission was sent out by the Canadian Church in 1888.
At present it provides only three clergy, who are engaged at Nagoya, a
flourishing commercial city situated about midway between Kyoto and Tokio.
Bishop Bickersteth, however, in his recent Pastoral Letter, refers to its
work in hopeful and appreciative terms.

The total number of adherents of the Nippon Sei Kokwai will thus be seen
to be about 4,300 (with upwards of 2,000 Sunday Scholars); and of these
the Church of England can claim barely 3,000. At the same time evidence is
by no means lacking that the work is being carried on upon thoroughly
sound principles and along right lines; and there are many reasons for
believing that, with adequate resources, a future awaits it, under God,
far exceeding the calculations that might be suggested by its present
numerical strength. Some of the readers of these pages may, possibly, be
in greater sympathy with the general position of the S. P. G. than of the
C. M. S; but no consideration of this sort should allow us to be
inappreciative of the splendid work which the C. M. S. has done in the
past, and is still doing in non-Christian countries. Its chief centre in
Japan is at Osaka, another huge commercial city, some twenty miles from
Kyoto where there is a considerable European settlement. Bishop
Bickersteth—as does also the American Bishop, Dr. Williams(32)—resides at
Tokio, the capital; where the services at St. Andrew’s Church, adjoining
the Episcopal residence, are such as may well gladden the heart of an
English Churchman, who finds himself 11,000 miles from home. They include,
I may mention, a Daily Celebration. A striking feature of the Nippon Sei
Kokwai is presented in its Biennial Synods, three, if not four, of which
have already been held. The Synods are composed of clergy and laity, every
congregation of twenty persons being entitled to send its representative;
and they indicate a stage of organization rarely, if ever, attained to by
so youthful a Church. In a word, what is being aimed at throughout is not
to Europeanize, but to Christianize; not to form a “branch of the Church
of England,” but to establish, on those lines of Catholic and Apostolic
Christianity which we believe the Church of England faithfully represents,
a _Japanese Church_, which may be committed, as soon as ever circumstances
allow, entirely into the hands of the Japanese themselves.

The Bishop’s Pastoral Letter to his Clergy (Advent 1892) treats, among
other matters, of the Marriage Law of the Church, of Old Testament
Criticism,—in the course of his comments upon which, he makes the
quotation, “The central object of our Faith is not the Bible, but our
Lord”—and of the Bishop of Lincoln’s case. It exhibits throughout a tone
of earnest Catholicity, of sanctified prudence, and of Apostolic charity.
The Bishop’s observations on the confirmation by the Privy Council of the
Lambeth Judgment will be read with satisfaction by many:—

“The principle of allowed variety in matters of ritual has now been
authoritatively recognized. Such recognition is essential to the welfare
of a great and living Church in our day. Among other good results which
may follow from the decision, I cannot but hope will be the liberation of
the energies and interests of a great and historic party, hitherto far too
closely confined within the boundaries of our own country, for wider and
more extended work, above all in eastern countries. Its own position is
now legally secured. Any outstanding questions of ritual could be speedily
settled by the application to them of the same principles which are
embodied in the recent judgments. This is so plain that probably no such
decisions will be challenged. May it not then be hoped that there will
shortly be a marked cessation of controversy at home, as for some years
past we are told there has been in our sister Church in the United States,
and coincidently a far more determined effort on the part of the whole
Church than has yet been known, inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit
of Truth, to win the East to the Faith of Christ?”

We come next to the _Church of Christ in Japan_, another amalgamation of
religious bodies; comprising, in this case, the Presbyterian Church of the
United States, two or three other American sects, and the United
Presbyterian Church of Scotland. By far the greater number of
denominations engaged in Japan are of American origin; and this is,
practically, an American work; the Scotch Presbyterians being represented
by only two missionaries with a single station, and only joining the
Mission in 1875—fifteen years after two of the American bodies had
commenced their work. The number of male missionaries in connexion with
this movement amounts to fifty-two; and to these must be added fifty-three
native ministers, 100 female missionaries, and over 100 lay preachers and
workers. Of the seventy-four organized churches no less than one-third are
wholly self-supporting. Baptisms in 1892 were, adults 789, children 100;
and the total present membership amounts to 11,190, with over 2,000
children in Sunday Schools. The fact that the Presbyterians of Japan have
recently adopted the Apostles’ Creed as their Confession of Faith, in
place of the formularies with which their bodies have hitherto been
associated, is hardly the occasion for satisfaction that would at first
sight appear; the course in question being, I understand, to some extent
due to the prevalence of views similar to those held by a large number of
the Congregationalists of Japan, to which I shall presently refer. The
work of the Presbyterians however, must be accounted among the most
successful efforts for the evangelization of the country; while they have
had from the beginning the advantage of being supported by men of national
reputation and position.

We come now to the _Kumi-ai Churches_ in connexion with the American
Board’s Mission; i.e. the Congregationalists. This work owes its
foundation to a Japanese gentleman,—a Mr. Neesima,—who was converted to
Christianity, whilst on a visit to America. Its head-quarters are at
Kyoto. Starting in 1869—several years after the Presbyterians, their
relations with whom are of a cordial character,—the Congregationalists
very closely approach them in numerical strength. The Mission is worked by
twenty-six missionary and twenty-eight native ministers; with fifty-seven
female missionaries and 100 lay agents. Of ninety-two organized churches
one half are self-supporting; a large proportion of the converts belonging
to the middle and upper classes. 1,096 adults were baptized in 1892 and
sixty-six children. Total adherents 10,700, with upwards of 6,000 children
in Sunday Schools. In connexion with this Mission is a large college, in
which the greater number of the students are Christians, and many of these
candidates for the ministry; and mention must also be made of two
hospitals under the care of missionary physicians. The above figures,
without doubt, bear witness to great energy on the part of the
Congregationalist body; and it is with regret that we find ourselves
compelled to regard them with somewhat modified satisfaction.

“Speaking generally, it cannot be too clearly felt that systems which do
not definitely teach the truths contained in the Apostolic and Nicene
Creeds, whatever benefits may accrue to individuals from the moral
teaching which they impart, are not merely negative in tendency and
results, but retard the progress of the Kingdom of Christ in Eastern
lands.” Such are the weighty words of Bishop Bickersteth,(33) the occasion
which drew them forth being the adoption by the Congregationalists of
Japan of the following Declaration of Belief:—“We believe (i) in the One
God, (ii) in Jesus Christ who came on earth to save sinners, (iii) in the
Holy Spirit from Whom we receive new life, (iv) in the Bible which shews
us the way of salvation, and (v) in Baptism and the Holy Supper, in
punishments and rewards given by God according to our merits, in
everlasting life if we are righteous, and in the Resurrection of the
Dead.” Several of the clauses in this statement are open to grave
objection; but the fact that the second clause was deliberately adopted in
place of the words, “in Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who
suffered and died to atone for the sins of the world”—an alteration which
was heartily welcomed by the Unitarians of Japan—is full of painful
significance. The Bishop, while expressing his thankfulness that there are
large numbers in the Congregationalist body, who have no share in the
prevailing scepticism, points out that in dealing with others, with whom
this is not the case, nothing can be gained by any attempt at
co-operation. “At such times a severe exclusiveness may be the truest
exhibition of a heartfelt sympathy.”

To the remaining Missions at work in Japan we can only very briefly refer.
The American Methodist Episcopal Church has eighteen missionaries and
twenty-nine native ministers; fifty-eight churches; and a total following
of nearly 4,000, exclusive of children in Sunday Schools. The Canadian
Methodists number over 1,800 adults; and the Baptist Missionary Union
(U.S.A.) about 1,300. Two other American sects place their total at 500
each. The German Swiss Protestants number 240; the “Universalists”
seventy-eight; and the Society of Friends (U.S.A.) forty-three. The
Scandinavian Church, whose mission has only recently commenced its work,
has seven clergy engaged; and the Unitarians are represented by two
ministers—my only reason for mentioning these last-named bodies together
being that no further particulars of either are to hand.

But it is time to be bringing these remarks to a conclusion. We may, then,
declare the total number in Japan of those professing Christianity in any
form—[I should, by the way, have mentioned that the number of male
converts would appear to exceed by about one-third the number of
women,]—to be not more than 100,000; while the entire population of the
country is estimated at from thirty-eight to forty millions. In other
words, not more than one person in every 400 can be said to be, in any
sense, a Christian. I emphasize this fact, not because I think it
discouraging, but because it seems becoming the fashion for the cause of
Christianity in Japan to be spoken of as already won. That Japan has still
great changes and developments to undergo in the near future scarcely
admits of question. “The nation is working out its spiritual redemption;”
and, as Mr. Loomis well says in his letter to _The Christian_ before
referred to, “As Japanese society advances, there will be all the more a
place for Christian influence. _The social problems of the people can only
find solution through religion._” We may well believe and hope that, as
time goes on, the true faith of Jesus Christ and of His Church will more
and more prevail. So, too, we may rejoice that the foundations have been
laid, and that some real and steady progress has been effected; we may
hope that more is, even now, being accomplished by the leaven of influence
than can at present find place in tables and statistics. And yet, as we
look the position boldly in the face, we must see that elements to
occasion anxiety are by no means lacking; and especially must we see how
much more remains to be done that has already been achieved. The
possibility of some form of Christianity being adopted as the national
religion, is a matter as to the desirability of which it is extremely
difficult to express an opinion, until the proposition assumes a more
definite shape than is likely for some time to be the case.

That both Christianity and Christians are subjected to searching criticism
at the hands of the more educated natives we have already seen; while,
from time to time, tidings are received of bitter opposition encountered
by those engaged in the work of evangelization among the poor of the
country districts. Moreover, in that spirit of accommodation to which we
have several times referred, as forming so striking a feature of the
system, Buddhism appears now to be striving to maintain its position in
Japan, by a re-statement of its doctrines in such terms as to place itself
in accordance with the modern systems of philosophy, which have found such
favour and acceptance with the educated classes. At the same time, there
is, without doubt, a widespread persuasion throughout Japan—in many cases
most reluctantly arrived at—that the former ascendency of Buddhism has for
ever passed away. “A dull apathy as regards religion has settled down upon
the educated classes of Japan. The gods of heathenism have crumbled to
nothing before modern science and civilization, and the glimmer of light
and truth to which they pointed has gone as well.”(34) Sometimes, again,
Christianity is spoken of by Buddhists in terms which encourage us to hope
that there are those who, while they have not as yet taken the decisive
step, are still “not far from the kingdom of God.” Take, for examples,
these words of a Mr. Nakanishi. “It is the glory of mankind that Jesus
lived. Much that Christ taught will never decay. Did Christ’s teaching
come from man, or from above man? Every word, every phrase, of Christ
should influence us. In the Four Gospels, the noblest and wisest morality
of the world appears. So simple is it, so easily understood and applied.
‘Love God and love man,’ as central principles, suffice to regenerate
society and lead men to heaven. Christ’s character and teachings stand for

With a brief reference to one or two further points suggested by Mr.
Loomis’ table, I will bring this, my last chapter, to a close. One of
these is the distinction he draws—and it is a distinction quite worth
drawing—between married and unmarried missionaries. Of course, the Roman
clergy are all unmarried, as are also the four missionaries of the
Orthodox Church; but when we come to the “Protestant Missions,” we find
the numbers of married and unmarried clergy to be 205 and thirty-seven
respectively. Indeed, with the exception of the Church of England, the
Scandinavian Alliance, and the American Methodist Episcopal Church, which
supply six each, there is no mission with more than two unmarried clergy,
and several have not even one. Now it is certain that this is not the way
in which great mission work has been done in the past; but is the newer
way better than the old? Beyond observing that the presence of female
missionaries is in a very special degree needed in Japan, be they the
wives of the clergy or not, I will not presume to answer that question
myself; but I may, perhaps, be allowed to record the opinion, emphatically
expressed to me, of one who has lived in the East for a great many years,
and is by no means in sympathy with the compulsory celibacy of the Roman
priesthood. “It is,” he remarked, “far too hastily assumed that the fact
of the married missionary usually bringing another valuable ally to the
work sufficiently determines the question. But I am convinced that,
speaking generally, it is to the unmarried missionary that wider
opportunities of usefulness are extended. Nor is it merely that his
movements are entirely free and unhampered—that he is exempt from domestic
obligations and anxieties—that he has more time for study—and that he is
thrown more in the society of his brother clergy. As a man’s children
begin to grow up, educational and other considerations in connexion with
these, urge upon him the desirability of returning home, with the result
that, just as he has begun to master the difficulties of language, and to
enter into the thought and habits of the people, his place is taken by a
tyro, who, however well-meaning, cannot but have all his experience to
gain.” No doubt, there is plenty of room for both married and unmarried
clergy in the mission field; but the great preponderance of the married in
the case before us may well serve to suggest the consideration:—Might not
more of that large and possibly increasing number of unmarried clergy in
England be drawn to take part in a work of such fascinating interest—“_a
work_,” if I may once more quote the words of our Bishop in Japan, “_that
must be done at once if it is to be done at all_.”

Another point that can scarcely fail to strike us as we examine Mr.
Loomis’ statistics, is the large number of “dismissals and exclusions”
made by those bodies which supply information under this head, and
amounting in some cases to several hundreds in a year. That such measures
are not resorted to without grave reason may be assumed, and that some
exercise of discipline is especially necessary in dealing with a young and
nascent church admits of no dispute. There is indeed every reason to hope
that by far the greater number of converts are actuated by an intense
sincerity, and evidence of this is afforded in the self-sacrifice to which
they, in many ways, readily submit for the Faith they have embraced. But,
at the same time, it is probable that the numbers in question indicate an
even larger proportion of “failures,” than is the case with mission work
generally; and that they point not only to losses through “back-sliding,”
but to many instances of insincerity on the part of those professing
conversion. It has been remarked that it does not belong to the Japanese
temperament to “take things _au grand serieux_;” and this characteristic
extends to matters of religion. The young fellow, for instance, who, for
some reason or another, thinks it “worth his while” to conform to
Christianity for a time, will have the very smallest scruples about doing
so; and that, with a semblance of earnestness that will baffle, at any
rate for some time, the careful scrutiny to which candidates are rightly
subjected by most, if not all, of the missionary bodies. The missionaries,
I fear, are often imposed on; and yet—anything, surely, is better than
being over suspicious and severe. After all, what we want to do is to show
these different nations to whom we go, that Christ and His Church, and we,
His members, do really care for them, alike in things temporal and
eternal. Our Faith, to be really preached, needs to be boldly, hopefully
practised. And especially in Japan, where the only idea that such a phrase
as “eternal life” would commonly suggest is that of a series of painful
and endless transmigrations, must Christianity be ready to prove herself
man’s friend in the things of this life, if she would be looked to with
confidence for the things that lie beyond.


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    1 Sir Edwin Arnold’s _Seas and Lands_, chap. xxvii.

    2 Charles II’s queen, it will be remembered, was Katharine of

    3 This rendering seems preferable to the more usual “Way of the Gods.”
      The term _Polytheism_ is not, strictly speaking, applicable to

    4 One of the great temples at Shiba, Tokio, was burnt by the Buddhists
      to prevent its falling into the hands of the Shinto priests. It may
      be mentioned here, as an instance of the liberal feeling of the
      present (Shinto) government, that one of this same group of
      buildings was lent for the Church of England services, before St.
      Andrew’s church was built. It is the old nobility who have been
      throughout the uncompromising opponents of Christianity, and indeed
      of all change; and the most zealous supporters of Buddhism.

    5 Eden’s Japan, Historical and Descriptive.

    6 Even an approximate total is difficult to calculate. At the lowest
      estimate we have a number considerably exceeding the whole mass of
      Christians. But it is important to bear in mind that in China,
      _which supplies more than three-fourths of the total number_, both
      Taouism and Confucianism are professed in conjunction with Buddhism.
      See Rhys Davids’ _Buddhism_, chap. I (S.P.C.K.).

    7 Thibet.

_    8 Light of Asia_, i. 142, and vi. 688.

_    9 Lectures on Buddhism_, pp. 62-3.

_   10 Legends and Theories of the Buddhists_, p. 187.

   11 Prof. Max Müller, however (_Hibbert Lectures_, 1878, p. 134 note),
      gives weighty reasons for regarding 477 B.C. as the year of Buddha’s

   12 “The Buddhists look upon the Bo-tree as most Christians have looked
      upon the Cross.”—Rhys Davids’ _Buddhism_, p. 37 note.

   13 It is, no doubt, owing largely to the influence of Buddhism that the
      passion of _anger_ is almost unknown in Japan. In the same way, a
      Japanese, though the heart were well-nigh breaking, would consider
      it a most unworthy thing to let his grief betray itself.

   14 Miss Isabella Bird (Mrs. Bishop), authoress of _Unbeaten Tracks in
      Japan_, well describes the impression produced on the spectator by
      the Daibutsus, or colossal images of Buddha, so common in Japan:—“He
      is not sleeping, he is not waking, he is not acting, he is not
      thinking, his consciousness is doubtful; he exists,—that is all; his
      work is done, a hazy beatitude, a negation remain. This is the
      Nirvana in which the devout Buddhist may aspire to participate.”

      The Daibutsu at Kamakura, of which an illustration is given
      opposite, is one of the largest in Japan. It is fifty feet high,
      and, as a work of art, is without a rival. The boss protruding from
      the forehead is supposed to represent a jewel, and to symbolize

_   15 History of the Jewish Church_, Vol. iii, Lecture xlv.

   16 This is scarcely less true of Christianity; and it _must_ be true,
      in some measure, of every religious system which attempts to
      minister to the needs of beings, so differently constituted, and so
      dissimilarly circumstanced, as are the members of the human race. As
      we proceed in this chapter to refer to the various schools of
      Buddhism and their characteristics, we can hardly fail to have
      suggested to us, more than once, those different aspects of
      Christianity, which have been the occasion of all our “schools of
      thought,” and, alas, of how many of our divisions!

   17 Those who would investigate the subject further are referred to
      Alabaster’s _The Modern Buddhist_ (Trübner, 1870).

   18 For it is men only who inhabit this Celestial Region: women, worthy
      of attaining to it, have changed their sex.

_   19 Jodo_ means the “Pure Land.”

   20 Avalokitesvara=“The Lord who looks down from heaven.” The female
      form taking the place of the male is, no doubt, due to the idea of
      the woman’s being supposed to be the more compassionate nature; just
      as, too often in the Christian Church, the Blessed Mother has, for a
      like reason, been made to encroach upon the prerogatives of her
      Divine Son. Instances are recorded of the Chinese, when conversing
      with Europeans, giving the name of _Kwanyin_ to the statues of the
      Blessed Virgin in the Roman Churches. (Davis’ _The Chinese_, chap,

   21 I have not thought it necessary in this little volume to introduce
      the subject of Confucianism. Even in China it is less a religion
      than a system of philosophy—political, social, moral. It may,
      however, be remarked that the writings of Confucius are highly
      esteemed in Japan, and that, in the past at any rate, they have had
      a considerable influence in forming the thought and character of its
      people. The ethics of Confucius being materialistic, i.e. concerned
      with the things of this present life, and the Buddhist ethics being
      mainly spiritualistic, the two mutually supplement each other. The
      great Confucian Temple at Yeddo was until 1868 the chief University
      of Japan. Now,—so entirely have the Western systems of education
      supplanted the teaching of the Chinese sage,—the building has been
      converted into a Museum.

   22 Charcoal-brazier.

   23 “The only reason I can ascertain for the constant recurrence of the
      lotus in Buddhist art and ceremonial is the idea of its being the
      symbol of purity. Its scent and aspect are alike delightful, and
      though rooted in mud and slime it abhors all defilement. If,
      therefore, men would but take it as their model, they would escape
      all the contamination of this corrupt world. Every man, it is said,
      has a lotus in his bosom, which will blossom forth if he call in the
      assistance of Buddha.” _Unbeaten Tracks in Japan_, Vol. i. p. 292.

   24 Buddhists believe in the existence of a personal wicked spirit,
      named Mara, whose object is to solicit men to evil.

   25 Cf. the following extract from the speech of the Bishop of Exeter at
      the Annual Meeting of the C.M.S. 1892:—“If you had been asked to
      sketch an ideal land, most suitable for Christian Missions, and when
      itself Christianized more suited for evangelistic work among the
      nations of the far East, what, I ask, would be the special
      characteristics of the land and people that you would have desired?
      Perhaps, first, as Englishmen or Irishmen, you would have said,
      ‘Give us islands, inseparably and for ever united, give us islands
      which can hold their sea-girt independence, and yet near enough to
      the mainland to exert influence there.’ Such is Japan—the Land of
      the Rising Sun. ‘Give us a hardy race, not untrained in war by land
      and sea; for a nation of soldiers, when won for Christ, fights best
      under the banner of the Cross—for we are of the Church militant here
      on earth: give us brave men;’ and such are the descendants of the
      old Daimios and two-sworded Samurai of Japan. ‘Give us an industrial
      race, not idlers nor loungers, enervated by a luxurious climate, but
      men who delight in toil, laborious husbandmen, persevering
      craftsmen, shrewd men of business;’ and such are the Japanese
      agriculturists, who win two harvests a year from their grateful
      soil—such are the handicraftsmen there, whose work is the envy of
      Western lands; such are the merchants, who hold their own with us in
      commerce. ‘Give us men of culture, with noble traditions, but not so
      wedded to the past that they will not grasp the present and salute
      the future;’ and such are the quick-witted, myriad-minded Japanese,
      who, with a marvellous power of imitation, ever somehow contrive to
      engraft their own specialities upon those of Western lands. Witness
      their Constitution, their Parliament, their 30,000 schools in active
      operation; witness their museums and hospitals; witness their
      colleges and universities. ‘But,’ you would also have said, ‘give us
      a race whose women are homespun and refined, courteous and winsome,
      not tottering on tortured feet, nor immured in zenanas and harems,
      but who freely mingle in social life, and adorn all they touch;’ and
      such, without controversy, are the women of Japan. Above all, ‘give
      us a reverent and a religious people, who yet are conscious that the
      religion of their fathers is unsatisfying and unreal, and who are
      therefore ready to welcome the Christ of God;’ and such are the
      thoughtful races of Japan.”

   26 See on this subject Study VI in the late Dean Plumptre’s _The
      Spirits in Prison_. The Christian can scarcely doubt that Gautama
      has, long ere this, fallen at the feet of the Crucified,—knowing at
      last the Name whereby he has been saved,—and has heard from the
      Divine lips the gracious approval, waiting to be bestowed on all men
      of good-will, of whatever age, of whatever land, who have “worked
      righteousness,” and have faithfully responded to whatever measure of
      light and opportunity has been accorded them by God.

   27 I may observe that the language, not only of the New Testament, but
      of the _Athanasian Creed_, was quoted to me in this connexion by a
      Buddhist priest in Japan. I endeavoured to point out to him,—how far
      convincingly I cannot say,—what at the present day at least is
      generally recognized amongst us; that for the Christian Church to
      warn her own children, in terms the most emphatic just because the
      most loving, against becoming entangled in the deadly errors
      prevalent at the time when the Creed was drawn up, is a thing wholly
      distinct from passing any sentence of eternal condemnation on, or,
      indeed, expressing any opinion as to the future state of, such as
      live and die without ever having been brought to a knowledge of the
      Faith. I added, of course, that any acquaintance with the claims of
      Christianity is a responsibility for which we believe all will have
      to give account.

   28 I doubt if the speaker, in his long absence from England, quite
      realized the extent to which, of the last few years, bitterness and
      intolerance have effaced themselves, at any rate within the limits
      of the Church of England; or was aware of the marked improvement
      that is exhibited amongst us in dealing with such matters of
      controversy as still remain.

   29 In the course of a letter appearing in _The Christian_ of April 20,
      1893, the Rev. H. Loomis writes, “Let the _forty thousand_
      Christians of Japan but dedicate themselves to the welfare of the
      country in all its relations, and the true new Japan will be
      founded.” But Mr. Loomis himself has placed the total membership of
      “Protestant Missions” at 35,500, of the Orthodox Church at 20,300,
      and of the Roman Church at 44,800. To which sixty thousand of these
      does Mr. Loomis—presumably—refuse the title of “Christian”? and are
      we justified in acting thus towards any who believe in the Holy
      Trinity, and have accepted Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the World,
      Very God and Very Man?

   30 Even Mr. Loomis’ list does not appear to be exhaustive! The
      “Plymouth Brethren,” e.g., are certainly represented at Tokio.

   31 The above is an abridgement of a passage in the _Conquests of the
      Cross_ (Messrs. Cassell & Co.).

   32 In the course of the present year (1893), the Rev. J. McKim has been
      raised to the American Episcopate in Japan; Dr. Williams continuing
      to reside at Tokio. It is also announced that two new Anglican
      Bishops are to be consecrated for the Islands of Kyushu and Yezo
      respectively. One of these is the Rev. H. Evington, Examining
      Chaplain to Bishop Bickersteth, who has been connected with the C.
      M. S. Mission to Japan since 1874.

_   33 Pastoral Letter to his Clergy_, Advent, 1892.

_   34 Occasional Paper_, Guild of St. Paul, Oct. 1893.

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