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!”
In a religious as well as a political point of view, Spain is not devoid of interest. The following extract is from the pen of a shrewd observer, who lately visited the Peninsula on a Missionary tour of observation.
“I have said that Spain is in a transition state. It is obvious from the conversations I have had with those who are acquainted with the state of the country, that an important change in the religious views and character of the people is in process. This change had begun to show itself before the abolition of the conventual establishments, and the recent appropriation of part of the patrimony of the church. These innovations have, however, done much to shake the already tottering fabric of superstition, and to overthrow the already decaying influence of the Romish priesthood. No one can enter Spain now, without being struck with the discrepancy betwixt his preconceived notions of the superstitious reverence of the Spanish lower orders for the mummery of Romanism, and the actual state of the fact. I am not acquainted with any part of Europe, in which popery is acknowledged, where less reverence or devotion is to be observed among the common people in their religious ceremonies; and it is notorious that many superstitious observances have now quite disappeared. Am I gratified with this? I acknowledge that I am. Not that I am prepared to maintain, that no religion at all is, in itself, better than Popery; but because, while the influence of the priesthood over the minds of the people remained unimpaired, the introduction of the Bible, generally, into Spain was almost hopeless. A new era in page 135 the religious history of the Peninsula has begun. Spiritual despotism—the most dangerous enemy which the truth has to encounter—is no more; and civil despotism is quite incapable of excluding the Bible entirely from the land. Now that the anathemas of the priesthood are disregarded, the people are eager to receive the word of God; and experience everywhere proves, that where a people are desirous of welcoming the light, not all the most stringent regulations of the most bigoted and tyrannical of despotisms can keep them altogether in darkness. Bibles are at this moment pouring into Spain, in spite of corregidor, alcalde, and aduanero. The channel of illumination is indeed a strange one, but God often employs strange agents for his holy purposes; and we observe the worst passions of man, yea, the very devices of the devil, invented for very different ends, directly, though unintentionally, working to promote the glory of the Most High, and to advance the Redeemer's kingdom. The fierce and reckless smuggler is at present the instrument in the hand of the Lord, employed for blessing the coasts of Spain with God's precious Word! A strange evangelist! but a successful one. The very fact that he finds the illicit trade in Bibles a profitable one, and capable of repaying the toils and dangers incident to his desporate profession, is a fact which speaks volumes for the desire of the Spanish people to receive this hated and forbidden book—hated by priests, and forbidden by tyrants; but, God be thanked, beloved and cherished by all who know its value; and earnestly sought after by thousands more, who have but a faint and indefinite conception of the infinite worth of the priceless treasue which they seek.
Bless, O Lord, thy holy word, even from such unholy hands,”— [Robertson's Visit to the Peninsula.]
Spread of the Gospel.—It is a remarkable fact that among the Colporteurs employed by the Evangelical Society of France, 102 are converted Roman Catholics. It is estimated by the committee of the Foreign Aid Society, that within the last three or four years 20,000 souls have been rescued from the influence of Romish superstition in France, and gathered into Evangelical congregations.—Scott. Presb.