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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

On his first visit to Yamaguchi


RESULTS

OF PROPAGANDISM

It is worth while to recapitulate here the main events during this first epoch of Christian propagandism in Japan. It has been shown that in more than a year's labours in Kagoshima, Xavier, with the assistance of Anjiro as an interpreter, obtained 150 believers. Now, "no language lends itself with greater difficulty than Japanese to the discussion of theological questions. The terms necessary for such a purpose are not current among laymen, and only by special study, which, it need scarcely be said, must be preluded by accurate acquaintance with the tongue itself, can a man hope to become duly equipped for the task of exposition and dissertation. It is open to grave doubt whether any foreigner has ever attained the requisite proficiency. Leaving Anjiro in Kagoshima, to care for the converts made there, Xavier pushed on to Hirado, where he baptized a hundred Japanese in a few days. Now, we have it on the authority of Xavier himself that, in this Hirado campaign, 'none of us knew Japanese.' How, then, did they proceed? 'By reciting a semi-japanese volume' (a translation made by Anjiro of a treatise from Xavier's pen) 'and by delivering sermons, we brought several over to the Christian cult.'

"Sermons preached in Portuguese or Latin to a Japanese audience on the island of Hirado in the year 1550 can scarcely have attracted intelligent interest. On his first visit to Yamaguchi, Xavier's means of

access to the understanding of his hearers was confined to the rudimentary knowledge of Japanese which Fernandez had been able to acquire in fourteen months, a period of study which, in modern times with all the aids now procurable, would not suffice to carry a student beyond the margin of the colloquial. No converts were won. The people of Yamaguchi probably admired the splendid faith and devotion of these over-sea philosophers, but as for their doctrine, it was unintelligible. In Kyoto, the same experience was repeated with an addition of much physical hardship. But, when the Jesuits returned to Yamaguchi in the early autumn of 1551, they baptized five hundred persons, including several members of the military class. Still Fernandez with his broken Japanese was the only medium for communicating the profound doctrines of Christianity. It must be concluded that the teachings of the missionaries produced much less effect than the attitude of the local chieftain."*

*Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition; article "Japan," by Brinkley.

But the Jesuits have not left any misgivings on record. They relate that during Xavier's sojourn in Bungo he had numerous public debates--one continuing for five days--with Buddhist priests, but even Fernandez not being available as an interpreter, these debates must have been either farcical or imaginary, though brilliant results are claimed for them by the Church historians. That Xavier himself was not satisfied is proved by his determination to transfer his ministrations to China, for he said, "if the Chinese adopt the Christian religion, the Japanese also will abandon the religions they have introduced from China."


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