THE WORLD'S CONVERSION Edit
We found the Japanese a very interesting people. We traveled nearly seven hundred miles through Japan, and visited various cities aggregating four and a half millions of population, which is about one-tenth of the entire population of Japan. We found the people industrious, peace-loving, polite and kind to each other, and towards foreigners. Although our visit was in the holiday season, when, according to their custom, over indulgence in liquor would be pardonable, nevertheless our entire party, scattered for the purpose of wide observation, noted only twelve intoxicated persons, and three of these were Europeans. Parental love and care were in evidence everywhere. We heard not a harsh expression from parent to child, nor to any one, and witnessed only one altercation, and it trivial. Everybody seemed industrious, minding his own business, and happy. Our united comment was, Would to God as favorable conditions prevailed in Europe and America! We noted nothing resembling profanity, and upon inquiry were told that they use no profanity, and that their strongest expression is "beka"--fool.
We did not, however, conclude that the fretfulness, unhappiness, quarrelsomeness and rudeness and boisterousness frequently in evidence in Europe and America are attributable to Christianity. On the contrary, we surmised that Divine Providence had sent the message of the Gospel in the direction of the more rude or combative race, which received the letter and form of Christianity in a measure, without generally entering into its spirit of meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, brotherly kindness and love. Our comment further was that if the Japanese should receive the letter of the Gospel and its spirit they would have less difficulty than the Europeans and Americans in the development of the fruits of the Spirit, because naturally more disposed toward gentleness, patience and brotherly kindness.
WHAT OF THE MISSIONARY EFFORTS?
These observations of the Japanese gave us the keener interest in our investigation as to how much, if anything, Christianity has to do with these conditions, to what extent Japan is Christianized, etc. Our findings in the matter at Tokio will serve to illustrate. Our Committee attended nine religious services, besides the two addressed by Pastor Russell. The average attendance at the nine meetings was 59, the smallest being 9, and the largest 250, including the ministers. Two of these services were in the English language; the others were in Japanese and addressed by Japanese ministers. One of the sermons in the English tongue was along the line of Evolution. Although many Japanese understand English they rarely attend preaching in that tongue. We saw but one Japanese at the two English services and he, apparently, was a servant in waiting. We were very agreeably surprised to note the deeply reverential attitude of the majority of those attending the Japanese services, and that fully two-thirds were males. We congratulate the laborers in this missionary field on the devout appearance of the 431 Japanese worshipers observed by us at the seven meetings referred to. Of course, it is impossible to tell accurately the attitude of the heart from the outward demeanor, but reverential attitude and attention should count for considerable.
ENCOURAGEMENTS AND DISCOURAGEMENTS
It was plainly evident that the Missionaries are feeling a considerable degree of discouragement, nor can we blame them. So far as we could learn their work made considerable progress until twenty years ago, since which time a wave of unbelief has swept over Japan, just as in Europe and America. Today the Japanese minds, like the minds of their European and American cousins, are full of interrogation points. In other words, the spirit of agnosticism is more and more prevalent. It is affecting the Missions and their work, and also affecting Buddhism and Shintoism. Although Buddhist temples, recently built, are gorgeous affairs, and although a million dollars has just been raised to build a new Buddhist temple near Yokohama, nevertheless, it is admitted that Buddhism is on the wane - that the number who attend the temples to pray and worship are fewer than formerly, and generally of the more ignorant classes. The present trend of the Japanese religious sentiment is toward infidelity, doubt and atheism. An inquiry as to the religious sentiment in three of the Japanese schools (University of Tokio) recently showed the following religious census:
Christians, 4; Buddhists, Confucians and Shintos, 17; noncommittal, 46; atheists, 60; agnostics, 282; total, 409. This is a terrible picture, true also, we fear, of many colleges in America and Europe.
Christianity in Japan is in much the same condition as in America and Europe, in two respects. (1) A certain number are true worshipers, devout believers, but they are few. (2) A larger number associate for the advantages they gain in one way or another--as, for instance, the privilege of night schools, Y.M.C.A. gymnasiums, etc., etc. There is considerable sympathy for Christianity amongst those who are at heart agnostics, and who class Jesus as a great teacher along with Confucius and Buddha, but who see nothing and know nothing respecting His redemptive work. These realize that Christianity has been helping on in the work of Japanese civilization, and would be sorry to know of anything calculated to hinder the work of the Missionaries. Christianity and all other religions in Japan are on the defensive.
JAPANESE DEMAND PROOFS BEFORE ACCEPTING DOCTRINES
The active minds of the Japanese know that Buddhism cannot answer their questions respecting God and the future, and they come to the Missionaries and native Christians with questions, for which they have as yet received no satisfactory reply. In consequence, they are holding aloof and saying, There is some good in all religions, perhaps, but apparently all of them have more or less of error and superstition. We will take advantage of the kindly interest of these foreigners in our welfare. We appreciate the fact that they have invested millions of dollars in churches and colleges in our land. We are confident they have done us good and helped to some extent to break from us the shackles of religious superstition. We will attend their schools and avail ourselves of their kindness, and endeavor to show a kindly disposition toward them; but we do not believe in Jesus as a Savior; we merely recognize Him as a great teacher. We think, therefore, that it is unnecessary that we should be baptized. We see not how this would have anything to do with our character. The fact of the matter is we believe we get as good moral teaching from Buddhism as from Christianity. We will stand aloof, doubting if there is any positive truth on these subjects. Thus it will be seen that the attitude of the Japanese toward Christianity is very much the same as the general attitude of the public throughout Christendom. We should note that considerable educational work is being carried on at Tokio by the Methodist brethren.
Dr. Spencer informs us that they have an attendance of about 350 girls and 550 young men in their college. They seem to be well equipped. We could wish that the youths of the middle and lower classes in Europe and America were as well provided for.
The Missionaries themselves appear to be an earnest band, but considerably discouraged. And no wonder! Outsiders report that they have considerable denominational conflict and jealous competition, but that steps are now being taken for a general religious Federation. The Missionaries freely admit that in their schools and other work it is necessary to lay stress chiefly upon moral conduct and to say little or nothing about Jesus' redemptive work and other doctrines--otherwise they would lose their hold upon the pupils, who evidently attend the schools chiefly for the educational advantages they offer. We repeat that the Missionaries of Japan have our congratulations upon the work done years ago and our sympathy in respect to the discouragement of the present, and the unfavorable outlook. What the Japanese need is "the Gospel of the Kingdom," announcing the second coming of Jesus as the Messiah of Glory, to rule, heal and instruct all the families of the earth. Pastor Russell's sermons gave them more food for thought than they had ever before enjoyed.
... Your Committee found no time in which to visit Burmah, Africa and Australasia, and suggest that it might be wise to send another Committee to investigate those fields. In harmony with your suggestions, Pastor Russell arranged for the publication of free literature in the six principal languages of India, viz.: Hindustani, Guiarati, Malayami, Tulugu, Marotti and Tamil. This work is already under way, as is also a similar work of the Chinese and Japanese. The entire cost of producing three million copies, and circulating them through willing natives, will, he believes, be kept within the seven thousand dollars authorized by the Association.
In conclusion, your Committee assure you that they have done their very best to accomplish the purpose of their appointment. They thank the Lord, and also the Association, for the great privileges enjoyed in connection with the service.
C. T. RUSSELL, Pres. Adj.-Gen'l W. P. HALL
F. H. ROBISON, Sec'y J. T. D. PYLES
E. W. V. KUEHN R. B. MAXWELL
DR. LESLIE W. JONE