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from Catholicism; and it was wholly owing to the suspicions, justly or unjustly, aroused by the teachings and institutions of western men, that Japan shut herself up from the comity of nations, banished all strangers from her shores, saving a few Dutch and Chinese who were permitted to remain, at her gates, amid most humiliating conditions, and decreed the punishment of death for “any Japanese who should presume to go out of the country.” When first visited by Europeans, the Japanese were found to be not only all-inquiring, as they still are, but large-hearted, liberal-minded, hospitable, and tolerant. Even after the first collisions between Catholicism and the supreme secular will, Japan was proclaimed by her emperor to be asylum for all nations,” in which “even devils from hell would be treated as angels from heaven, so long as they acted in accordance with the laws of the country.” We suspect that the writers of the Acta Sanctorum, Père Charlevoix and other devout sons of Rome, would have us simply reverse the emphatic announcement just quoted, and would have us believe that the ruler who uttered it was eminently the man who treated the “ angels” as if they had been “devils." At present, however, it only concerns us to observe that in 1613 Japanese harbours lay open to the ingress of ships from all nations, and that Japan herself held coinmercial relations with not fewer than sixteen foreign countries, including England among their number.
In consenting, accordingly, to the recent treaties with the Western Powers, Japan was not introducing an altogether new element into her procedure, she was only returning to her ancient habits of free intercourse with the peoples of other lands. In the following pages we shall endeavour to indicate, and as briefly as is consistent with clearness, the train of events by which the Japanese government was induced to abandon that intercourse, and, in Kämpfer's words, to "shut the empire up."
First made known to Europe in 1298, by Marco Polo, who, however, could only speak from report, fruitlessly but ardently sought for by Columbus two centuries later, Japan was at last stumbled on in 1543 by Ferdinando Mendez Pinto.* The tidings of Pinto's discovery were carried, as on the wings of the wind, to the various eastern localities where Portugal was at that time engaged in busy traffic, and where, moreover, under favour of two papal bulls, she had succeeded in establishing tremendous imperial claims. From Goa, from Malacca, from the nearer Ningpo, Portuguese ships followed each other in quick succession to the new-found island-empire. Ere long at Kagosima, the capital of Satsuma, on the south coast of Kiusiu, some Portuguese merchants became acquainted with a resident gentleman named Angeroo. In the dialect of the Puritans, Angeroo appears to have been sorely "exercised” in matters of conscience. In his perplexity he had betaken him, for ghostly counsel, to the various clerical authorities; he had retired for a season into a Buddhist monastery, but he had failed to find what he longed for. The fellow-countrymen of Albuquerque and De Castro listened with interest to Angeroo's story, but could not solve his problems. At a later period, however, another Portuguese made known to Angeroo the name of Xavier, who had lately arrived at Goa, and counselled him to repair to “a man
* We beg to inform the readers of the, alas, many popular books on Japan that the Japanese Annals largely corroborate the statements contained in Pinto's own narrative; and that the portion of Japanese territory first seen by our traveller was the small island of Tanegu, which is separated from Kiusiu by the straits of Van Diemen. Nippon, Von Siebold.
a who was so dear to Heaven, that the charms of his converse and the divineness of his instructions must needs impart to him the light which he had fruitlessly sought for weary years elsewhere." Angeroo hesitated: the voyage was long and perilous, and he could not tear himself from his wife and daughter. But, in the end, he was destined to go. The record of Christianity in Japan is written from the first in blood; for it was in consequence of Angeroo's having slain a man in an engagement that he fled from his country, sailed to Malacca, and there threw himself at the feet of the “ Apostle of the Indies."*
The advent of Angeroo was a great day for Xavier. Words could not utter his joy, his hope. Not in a vision, but amid sober certainties, this Japanese had come to him with the cry, “Come over, and help us.” That cry would in due time be responded to; and already, in his fervid imaginings, Xavier saw the entire population of Polo's Zipangu flocking into the holy fold. Unable himself to accompany the far-come inquirer, the devout Jesuit sent Angeroo with his two native attendants to Goa, where, after due novitiate, all the three were baptised, the master now assuming the name of Paulo da Santa-fé. Paul, as we may now call him, seems to have caught the contagion of Xavier's enthusiasm. You might have seen him standing in the market-place of Goa, and there heard him discoursing in rapt oration on the Catholic mysteries to the surrounding crowd of Indians and Portuguese.
This Japanese possessed, in large measure, the linguistic talent of his countrymen, and altogether impressed the worthier
It may interest some readers to be told that Angeroo, not finding Xavier in Malacca on his first arrival, returned to China, and thence was proceeding to Japan, when a tempest forced him back to the Chinese port. Here he again met with the Portuguese from whom he had first heard of Xavier, and with this merchant he went back to Malacca.
Europeans with genuine admiration of the attributes both of his heart and intellect.
As the days rolled on, Paul showed increasing anxiety to return to Kiusiu. A fugitive from justice, his home-going might prove immediately fatal to himself; for according to Japanese law homicide, even in self-defence (and it does not appear that Angeroo's deed was of a more guilty character), is a capital crime. But the dread of personal consequences had passed away, and had given place to the burning desire of assisting in the rescue of his benighted brethren from the terrors of “the wrath to come.”
From the hour of their first intercourse, Xavier had conceived a wondrous affection for Angeroo. After a brief interval he followed him to Goa; and when the convert, now a member of the Society of Jesus," obtained permission from his superiors to go back to his island-home, Xavier resolved to accompany him, and to undertake in person the mission to Japan. Xavier's resolution struck consternation into the hearts of his associates. They urged the need of his presence in India, where the lives of a large proportion of the Portuguese were a scandal to religion, and had caused the very name of Christianity to be abhorred. They expatiated on the remoteness of Japan, and the certain dangers of a voyage which led through haunts of ferocious pirates, and which was exposed to typhoons that had hurled to swift destruction one in each four of all the vessels hitherto tempted into Japanese waters. But the apostle had chosen his course, or rather, he believed the Sovereign Will had left him no choice in the matter; and, deaf to all remonstrances, he set sail, first for Malacca, taking with him, besides the three Japanese, two Portuguese priests and a few catechists, as auxiliaries. At Malacca there were several Portuguese merchant-vessels preparing for the voyage to Japan. But Xavier's spirit could brook no delay. Were not Angeroo's compatriots daily descending, unbaptised, to the blackness of darkness ? and was it not high time to pre-occupy with Catholic verities the Japanese soil, lest some random wind should blow thither the seeds of Lutheran blasphemies? Any ship, no matter by whom commanded, that would at once weigh anchor and carry Xavier to the land of his desire would be good enough for him. There was only one ready for sea, and that was a Chinese junk belonging to one of the most daring pirates of the Eastern waters. That one was chosen, and to the amazement and dismay of all the Europeans in Malacca, Xavier and his companions embarked on the 4th of June 1549. The voyage proved long and perilous; for this strange ark, in which Christianity was to be borne through gloom and tempest, was scarcely sea-worthy; and her corsair-captain ever and anon changed her course, in obedience to the supposed intimations of his oracle, “a poor idol which he had enshrined in the poop.” It was no hardship to the ardent crusader to sleep uncovered on the bare and dripping deck. The love which burnt within him seems to have rendered him insensible to all outer discomfort, save that of his fellow-men. But the superstition of the pirate, though hardly more irrational and debasing than that of many of the Portuguese in India, was an hourly grief to the soul of Xavier. But at length, “ in spite of the devil and his servants," the shores of Kiusiu were reached; and on the 15th of August - most fateful morningFrancis Xavier entered Kagosima. The day on which Xavier, “happy as a lover,” first set foot on Japanese soil was doubly sacred to him. It was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin: it was also the anniversary of that eventful day—1543—when he and Ignatius, and eight other chosen men, consecrated themselves by solemn oath to poverty, to the study of theology, and to the salvation of their brethren. This coincidence, 'unnoticed, if we rightly remember, by Xavier's biographers, must have been all-significant to himself. It would be a fresh confirmation to his great heart that the vow which he had registered on the “ Martyrs' Hill,” sixteen years before, had been recorded in heaven and was sanctioned there. We do not envy the man who deems himself sufficiently enlightened to be able to smile at the beliefs of Xavier; and dissenting as we very decidedly do from many of these, we dissent still more emphatically from the bigotry which refuses to recognise in the missionary himself the indwelling of a noble, chivalrous nature, in which were united the courtesy of the true gentleman, the accomplishments of the scholar, and the daring and enduring of our world's foremost names. That benignant blue eye commands your trust and love; and that life, which was indeed a “living sacrifice," surely proclaims, that if the church was the highest of earthly entities to him, there was an inner sanctuary, more august by far, which was the true home of his soul.
Xavier's coming to Japan had been heralded by a train of desolating calamities. There had been wasting sickness, rains which quite deluged various districts of the empire, and thundertongued hurricanes which had strewed the country far and wide with the wrecks of many a home and temple. Similar phenomena had been, as they still are, not unfrequent; but by some readers these “signs' will be regarded as nature's overture to the tragedy of Catholicism in Japan. The Japanese annals inform us of these physical distresses; but all that we note in them relative to the first entrance of Christianity is confined to these words : “ In this year ships of the Nan-ban
(i.e. south barbarian, or Portuguese) appear, and the Jesus-sect arrives.”
This 'sect, on its arrival, perceived that, in her isolation, Japan had wrought out for herself a very unique manner of life. As Marco Polo had reported, “ the natives were civilised in
, “ their manners," as civilised, indeed, in many respects as were the Portuguese themselves; while in others we question whether they were not greatly in advance of all contemporary western nations. In the first place, education was universal. There were, again, diversities of theological opinion, but the members of the old Establishment lived on the most friendly terms with the Nonconformist. The family was a sacred institution, though surrounded by very corrupting influencesinfluences which have only become more formidable in later times; and the position of honour and freedom enjoyed by the wife and mother forined a remarkable contrast to the customs of other eastern peoples. Here were cities rivalling in beauty of situation, and in sanitary arrangements, Mexico itself; but these cities were not stained by the blood of a human sacrifice.* Feudalism was the reigning order; but if there were serfs of the soil, it does not appear that any Japanese was in reality a slave. Industry, frugality, honesty, were prevailing characteristics; and the whole empire, as one writer puts it, was a school of courtesy and good breeding. Xavier could write that he had not met with any unbelievers who exhibited such a high character as the Japanese; "a race possessing rare good-nature and integrity, and void of wrath and bitterness.” Of those who became his disciples he says: “I never know when to break off when I speak of the Japanese; they are verily the delight of my heart.” We have to add that the Japanese were not more courteous in the relations of ordinary social life, than they were fearless and valiant in war. The present occupiers of the three chief Japanese islands, Kiusiu, Sitkokf, and Nippon, having driven over to Jezo, Sagalin, and the Kurile group the aboriginal Ainoes, had for long centuries successfully resisted all invasion of their territory. It might thus appear that Xavier had found a nation specially predisposed for Christianity; but there were other elements in the Japanese character and customs. As you find in the country itself, that the hills, clothed to their summits with luxuriant vegetation, are perilously poised on a sea of fire, so beneath the gracious demeanour of the natives there lay a fierce spirit of revenge, which was to break forth terribly one day. As hinted above, the missionaries had to encounter an uncontrolled sensuality; and it is whispered that child-exposure, and other means of checking the growth of population, were largely prevalent.
* Suicide was, however, not uncommon among the Buddhist devotees.