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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Yet an uncommon steadfastness in the faith must


It

is on record that the menace of a Spanish invasion seemed so imminent to Matsukura and Takenaka that they proposed an attack on the Philippines so as to deprive the Spaniards of their base in the East. This bold measure failed to obtain approval in Yedo. In proportion as the Christian converts proved invincible, the severity of the repressive measures increased. There are no accurate statistics showing the number of victims. Some annalists allege that two hundred and eighty thousand perished up to the year 1635, but that figure is probably exaggerated, for the converts do not seem to have aggregated more than three hundred thousand at any time, and it is probable that a majority of these, having embraced the alien creed for light reasons, discarded it readily under menace of destruction. "Every opportunity was given for apostatizing and for escaping death. Immunity could be secured by pointing out a fellow convert, and when it is observed that among the seven or eight feudatories who embraced Christianity only two or three died in that faith, we must conclude that not a few cases of recanting occurred among the vassals. Remarkable fortitude, however, is said to have been displayed." Caron, one of the Dutch traders of Hirado, writing in 1636, says:

At first the believers in Christ were only beheaded and afterwards attached to a cross, which was considered as a sufficiently heavy punishment. But when many of them were seen to die with emotions

of joy and pleasure, some even to go singing to the place of execution; and when although thirty and sometimes one hundred were put to death at a time, and it was found that their numbers did not appear to diminish, it was then determined to use every exertion to change their joy into grief and their songs into tears and groans of misery. To effect this they were tied to stakes and burned alive; were broiled on wooden gridirons, and thousands were thus wretchedly destroyed. But as the number of Christians was not perceptibly lessened by these cruel punishments, they became tired of putting them to death, and attempts were then made to make the Christians abandon their faith by the infliction of the most dreadful torments which the most diabolical invention could suggest. The Japanese Christians, however, endured these persecutions with a great deal of steadiness and courage; very few, in comparison with those who remained steadfast in the faith, were the number of those who fainted under the trials and abjured their religion. It is true that these people possess, on such occasions, a stoicism and an intrepidity of which no examples are to be met with in the bulk of other nations. Neither men nor women are afraid of death. Yet an uncommon steadfastness in the faith must, at the same time, be requisite to continue in these trying circumstances.

The intrepidity of the native converts was rivalled by the courage of their foreign teachers. Again and again these latter defied the Japanese authorities by visiting Japan--not for the first time but occasionally even after having been deported. Contrary to the orders of the governors of Macao and Manila, nay of the King of Spain himself, the priests arrived, year after year, with the certainty of being apprehended and sent to the stake after brief periods of propagandism. In 1626, when the campaign of persecution was at its height, more than three thousand converts were baptized by these brave priests, of whom none is known to have escaped death except those that apostatized under torture, and they were very few, although not only could life be saved by abandoning the faith but also ample allowances of money could be obtained from the authorities. Anyone denouncing a propagandist received large reward, and the people were required to prove their orthodoxy by trampling upon a picture of Christ.


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