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The New Zealand Evangelist



The Chinese are altogether a singular and wonderful people; their number is astonishing, being about 250 or 300,000,000; they constitute a third part of the entire population of the globe; their national policy is peculiar: though multitudinous they are an isolated people; they have dwelt alone, and had little or no intercourse with the rest of the world; Commerce and Christianity were alike interdicted from approaching their shores or crossing their borders. For many long years the Merchant and the Missionary had cast wistful looks to this important people, but no prospect of a free unfettered opening appeared to either; the portion of both was that hope deferred that makes the heart sick; when lo! a time the least expected, and by a means the least likely, the wall of China fell down, the celestial empire was laid open, and its teeming population were accessible not only to the civilizing influence of commerce, but also to the sanctifying and saving influence of the Gospel of the Son of God. The written language of the empire is one; the sounds of the language vary in different districts, but the signs are every where the same; rendering the press an engine of prodigious power. Their laws, manners and customs are every where alike, and have continued so from time immemorial; they thus present a perfect contrast to the mixed, many-tongued, and ever-changing nations of the West. It was long believed that the Chinese, though isolated, were a highly civilized and well-educated people: this delusion is being fast dissipated; every new investigation has furnished an additional discovery, that education is lamentably deficient; only a small proportion of the people can read—that infanticide, especially of the females, is awfully prevalent,—and that immorality and barbarity are greater than any one supposed to exist. Christianity was first introduced into China, probably by the Nestorians, in the sixth or seventh century, and continued till the sixteenth. In 1551 the companion of Loyola, Francis Xavier, the first, best, and most renowned of Jesuit Missionaries, undertook a voyage from the East Indies to China, to propagate the Romish faith, but died on his passage hither. Some time after Ruggiero, Ricci, and Schaal, learned page 134 Jesuits, conducted active missionary operations in China, with considerable success. They were followed by the Dominicans and Franciscans. For nearly 300 years the adherents of the Church of Rome have maintained a footing in China, and with a zeal and fidelity worthy of a purer faith, they have even suffered martyrdom in its defence. The labours of Morrison, Milne, Gutzlaff, Medhurst and others, have greatly prepared the way for protestant missionaries, and almost all protestant societies have been exerting themselves with great activity to improve the present favourable and unexpected opening. The direct labours of foreign missionaries are restricted to the five commercial cities, but full toleration is granted to all the Chinese throughout the empire to embrace Christianity and God has already blessed the labours of the missionaries with some success. About two years ago Dr. Legge, one of the London Missionary Agente, brought three Chinese youths to Scotland, and in October 1847, baptized them in his native place, Huntley, in presence of a number of ministers of all denominations, and a very large audience. The three youths made a very distinct profession of their faith. After improving their education in Britain they were about to return to their own land. “Behold these shall come from far, and these from the land of Sinim!”