A Letter to His Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.
By John Shaw Burdon.
Hong Kong: St. Paul's College, 1877.
ST. PAUL'S COLLEGE, HONGKONG,
TO HIS GRACE
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,
MY DEAR LORD ARCHBISHOP,
It is exceedingly difficult--it is almost impossible--to make friends at home, who have no knowledge of Chinese, understand all the merits of the controversy about the right word for God in Chinese, to which I alluded at the end of my last letter. At the same time, there are certain points in it which may be understood as readily by people in England as by Missionaries in China, if only they are presented in a right light. I hope I may be able to set before Your Grace those points in the controversy of which you can judge, and to do it in such a way as to enable you to form an opinion, and perhaps to help us in our difficulties.
Among those sent out as Missionaries to China from the different Churches, Episcopalian and non-Episcopalian, there is sure to be a very wide variety in the mode of presenting Christian Truth in a language like the Chinese, so uneducated to express the ideas of our Christian Scriptures. A large number of terms has to be employed, and, as is natural, grave difficulties will present themselves as to the proper way of rendering those terms in Chinese. Protestant Missionaries are made up of so many different organisations, that it has always been difficult even to discuss together a complete system of terminology. Hence there is sometimes a considerable difference, and there seems no way of arriving at anything like an agreement. So long [1/2] as these points of difference are comparatively unimportant, controversy is never heard outside the Missionary Body. Bat if the expression of certain terms involves some fundamental principle, a controversy is almost sure to arise on the point, and if so, it cannot but spread beyond the circle in which it first arose.
Of such a nature is the question respecting the terms to be employed in Chinese for GOD, god, gods: Spirit, spirits. This does involve a very important matter of principle. These terms lie at the very root of our Religion. Without a good and true terminology here, we cannot, it seems to me, teach Christianity aright. The very first question we have to answer to ourselves before we begin to teach is, "By what term in this language am I most likely to be understood when I want to speak of what the Bible calls God?" I cannot, in speaking to the heathen at least, use Hebrew or Greek, or English words to convey this idea. I must employ Chinese words, and if so, what words? Have the Chinese in their worship a term which either exactly answers to the name of our God, and may therefore be adopted just as they use it, or which from being used in a lower sense may be educated to mean the true God; or must we avoid all the names connected with the Chinese worship, and make up a term which has no idolatrous association in the minds of the people, and may be safely employed for the name of the Most High?
In accordance with the answer given by each to these questions has been the term used in Chinese for God. Hence difference of opinion, even on theological grounds, and hence controversy, which has existed among Christian Missionaries for about two centuries.
There have been three principal terms in use among both Roman Catholic and Protestant Missionaries around which the controversy has chiefly raged. These are Shangti, Tien Chu and Shin. There have been three almost distinct periods of the controversy:--the first among the Roman Catholics between Shangti and Tien Chu, finally decided by a Papal Bull in favour of Tien Chu somewhere about A.D. 1720:--the second among Protestant Missionaries between Shangti and Shin, which began say about [2/3] 30 years ago, and which, though never really set at rest, was practically settled by the British and Foreign Bible Society adopting and printing the Bible with the term Shangti, as that held by most of the English Missionaries; and the American Bible Society adopting and printing the Bible with the term Shin, as that held by most of the American Missionaries. Each of these parties, too, held different principles of translation, so there were not only two sets of terms for Got and Spirit, but there were also, and are still, two translations of the Word of God. A third phase of the controversy has been presented during the last 10 or 12 years, in the revival of what is now known as the Roman Catholic term Tien Chu, so that the controversy among Protestant Missionaries may now be said to be between Shangti, Shin and Tien Chu. The occasion of this revival of Tien Chu as a term proposed to be used among Protestants, was the translation, by certain Missionaries of Peking, of the New Testament in Mandarin, the spoken language of the North and West of China, a much simpler style than that adopted in the other two translations already mentioned.
I shrink from beginning to try to tell Your Grace the meaning and force of these three terms. It is exceedingly difficult to be perfectly impartial in a matter involving so much as this question does, but I will try.
Shangti is a term found in the ancient classics of China. These classics are said to have been compiled by Confucius, who lived in the 6th and 5th centuries before Christ, but the classics existed long before Confucius. The Historic Classic in which the name Shangti occurs very frequently takes us back to the earliest times, some think the mythical times, of the Chinese Empire. la this classic, and in other parts of the classics, including those that were added after the time of Confucius, Shangti is spoken of as a Great Power--the Ruling Power in Heaven and Earth. The Emperors in ancient times worshipped, and were held accountable to, this Power. This is true still. Very high attributes are ascribed to Shangti, and in consequence of this, some Chinese Scholars believe Shangti to be "God over all blessed for ever," and unhesitatingly take the name and apply it to the true God as revealed in the Bible.
 Before this can be done with safety, however, it seems to me that a very important question has first to be answered, and answered in accordance with the Word of God. Has the knowledge of the true God been retained by any of the nations now in existence, so that we are justified in using the name of the chief god of a nation as equivalent to Jehovah? It strikes me that the whole tenor of Scripture goes against our answering this question in the affirmative. If so, Shangti cannot be Jehovah, however high the attributes ascribed to that name. The Bible certainly seems to me to teach, that all nations early lost all trace of the first revelation, and in their worship substituted either Heaven or the Heavenly Bodies for the true God. The Jews, as we all know, derived their knowledge of the true God from a fresh revelation after the first had been lost. Abraham was originally an idolater (Josh. xxiv. 2, 3). All the nations that we acknowledge in the West as monotheistic, derived their knowledge of the true God either directly or indirectly from the Jews. "Out of Zion went forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” “It has been said with truth," says Bishop Harold Browne in his commentary on Genesis, "that the Semitic nations, and especially the descendants of Abram, were from the time of Abram to Christ, the only believers in the unity of the Godhead, and that ever since the Christian era they only have taught monotheism to mankind."
There are but two instances recorded in Scripture, which show a knowledge of the true God outside of, and possibly independent of, Abraham's family. These are Melchizedec and Balaam. We know too little of Melchizedec to build any theory whatever on the account given; and Balaam may have acquired his knowledge from the very people whom he wished to injure. It is Hengstenberg's opinion that "Balaam's acknowledgment of the true God had been derived from the knowledge of the God of Israel, which had been widely diffused in the Mosaic age among the surrounding heathen nations." Others hold "that this knowledge had been excited and developed on heathen soil by the traditions from monotheistic antiquity, and by isolated sounds from the revelation to the patriarchs which had resounded into the heathen world and had not then entirely died away."
 It is then by no means certain whence this knowledge proceeded, but even if it came in the case of Balaam from "traditions of monotheistic antiquity," an isolated and uncertain case like this can never prove, or even make probable, the view that the Chinese in their National Books and worship retain not only the monotheistic idea, but the very name of the one living and true God.
Christ's word to the woman of Samaria goes directly against any such theory. “Ye worship that which ye know not," said He to her, "we know what we worship, for Salvation is of the Jews." In the term "Salvation," spoken of in this connection, there is clearly involved the knowledge of the true God ("what we worship"). If our Lord would not admit that the Samaritans had this knowledge without the assistance of the Jews, still less would He have admitted it in the case of the Chinese.
St. Paul on Mars' Hill taught the same doctrine. In his speech to the Athenians he took hold of one of the instincts of our nature, and commended his hearers for showing they possessed it so fully. He does not go so far as to say that they were then actually worshipping, or that their ancestors ever had worshipped the true God under the name of Jupiter or Heaven, or any other of the different names in use. He compliments them on the manifestation of the religious spirit, but tells them plainly that they were wrong in the direction in which it was manifested. In this worship he tells them that they were "feeling after" the true God, but that by their own admission they had not found Him. The preacher then declares Who He is. "What (not Whom) ye ignorantly worship, that (not Him) declare I unto you." "The change to "Whom" and "Him" has probably," says Dean Alford on the passage, "been made from reverential motives. The neuters give surely the deeper and the more appropriate sense. For Paul does not identify the true God with the dedication of, or worship at, the altar mentioned; but speaks of the Divinity of whom they by the inscription (Agnoswtw qew) confessed themselves ignorant. But even a more serious objection lies against the masculines. The sentiment would thus be in direct contradiction to the [5/6] assertion of Paul himself--”The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils and not to God."
By what law are the Chinese, whether ancient or modern, to he excluded from this category?
This view, however, of Shangti, that it means and is "God over all blessed for ever," is held by comparatively few. Indeed those who use it to designate the true God are very divided in their opinions. In addition to the extreme view just presented, some think that it meant the true God only in the remote past of the nation, some that though "not Jehovah of the Jews nor the qeoV of the Greeks, nor the God of English Christians," though it be "a little like Jove," it is yet as near to the trim God as we could expect, and that “we could do many worse things than use it."
(A principle like this for settling a great question, I may say in passing, is not very likely to satisfy any one.) Others again, rejecting the idea that any of the gods of the heathen are to be identified with Jehovah, yet use the term as made up of characters having a good meaning in themselves (Supreme Ruler), and hope that in time it may come to mean the true God.
Without stopping to enquire whether a satisfactory system of theology can be built up on such varying views of the foundation question,--What is God?--I content myself with pointing out that the chief thing to be determined in this matter is: Is Shangti the true God or not? If Shangti is the true God, there can be no difficulty in using it, it would be wrong not to use it: if Shangti is not the true God, and is plainly definable as something else, then it is contrary to the whole spirit and letter of the Bible to apply the name to Jehovah.
In the Chinese classics, Shangti has a definite meaning, and that meaning is, Heaven. Shangti is throughout the classics interchangeable with Heaven. It may be said that Heaven is God in the Chinese--that is heathen--point of view, but it is not God in the Bible view, and we come here expressly to teach the latter. Heaven has in the mouth of the Chinese a materialistic, moral and philosophical meaning, but whether it means the "blue vault of Heaven" or that "principle" which pervades and governs all things, it amounts to nothing more than either a [6/7] "creature" or a "law," and is therefore unsuitable as a constant name for the Creator and the Lawgiver.
The Chinese moreover have a double system of cosmogony, of which Shangti or Heaven is one part, and Earth is another. Heaven is, according to this, male, and Earth is female. Shangti or Heaven, therefore, becomes in the language of the common people, "Old Father Heaven" or "Father Heaven," and Earth is "Empress Earth" or "Mother Earth." Both are regarded as "alive" and actively generating all things. One of the commonest expressions heard after a Missionary has been preaching, is that all his talk is about "the living Heaven and the living Earth." In complete accordance with this (showing that it is not a mere popular superstition found only among the ignorant), we find two altars in Peking, where both these Powers are worshipped by the Emperor alone, in their appropriate places, and at their appropriate times. One is the altar of Heaven, where Shangti is worshipped by the Emperor of China at the winter solstice, the other the altar of Earth, where "Mother Earth" is worshipped by the Emperor at the summer solstice. The altar of Heaven or Shangti is in the South, that is the male, quarter of the city, that of Empress Earth is in the North, that is the female, quarter of the city. A well-known book, which gives a description of the various branches of the Chinese Government, lays down in one part the details of the worship carried on at these altars. The same rites and ceremonies are observed at one as at the other. At the altar of Heaven where Shangti is worshipped, the tablets of the Emperor's ancestors, tablets of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and other forces of nature, are placed in order on each side of that of Shangti, who is simply "primus inter pares." All the tablets receive equal honour and worship, the Emperor performing before each in turn the three kneelings and nine prostrations. There are two other altars in Peking, one on the East of the city to the Sun, and one on the West to the Moon, both of which (San and Moon) are as much personified as Heaven or Shangti and Earth. Underneath all this no doubt there is just as much the "feeling after" the God of nature as there was among the Greeks, but there is the same absence of the knowledge of the true God. It is [7/8] highly probable, moreover, that this present worship by the Emperor is the same as that of the ancient Chinese, and that they too worshipped Heaven, Earth, the Sun, Moon, Stars, and ancestors just as is done now. Shangti is but the chief god in this Pantheon, and as such the name is, in my opinion, utterly unsuitable to be applied to "Jehovah of Hosts." Shangti, Jupiter, Baal are according to this of the same general kind. The question of the difference of degree--whether Shangti may or may not be nearer in conception to the Supreme than Jupiter or Baal--is a matter of small importance. Not one of them is Jehovah, but is easily definable as something else, and cannot therefore be employed for Jehovah.
With such associations in the minds of the Chinese as I have described, and seeing the definiteness of the idea attached to the term, it is hardly needful to say anything about the inadvisability of using the name simply because the characters of which it is composed have a good meaning.
In view of all this, I consider that the use of the name Shangti for the true God is, as is said by Dr. Williams, a layman, for 40 years a resident of China, and a Chinese Scholar of no mean reputation, “attended with dangerous risk of serious error." The Chinese have had associations with the name for about 3,000 years. The name has in course of centuries been lowered even beneath that which the Chinese Classics give, and is applied now to idols of different kinds, but both in the Classics and in the superstitions of the people, Shangti has associations of an idolatrous nature. I apply the word "idolatrous" to the worship of Heaven, although there may be no image, for the worship of any created thing with or without an image is idolatrous in the Scriptural sense. To take a name then which in the classics is interchangeable with Heaven, in the state worship of the Emperor is placed on an equal footing with his ancestors, the Sun, Moon, and all the host of Heaven, and in the mouths of the common people means an image of clay, and apply it to Him, who says He is a jealous God and will not give His glory to another, is, in my opinion, running a serious risk of introducing Heathenism into the Church of God, as it gets planted in China.
 The Missionaries who use it are of course, personally, free from danger. To us, it may be, the use of any name (even that of "Lucifer" himself which a Missionary once said in my hearing he was ready to take if his fellow Christians preferred it) would bring no risk, for our education would enable us to distinguish between a heathen conception and a Scriptural Revelation. But in this matter we have to consider not ourselves, but the people among whom we have come preaching the Gospel; and the very fact that we find amongst a heathen people a name like this, so common in their Sacred Books, in the State Religion, and in the idolatry of the masses, should make us shrink from employing it to designate the One living and true God as revealed in the Bible.
It is urged by those who use this term that the Chinese themselves prefer it, and that surely they are the best judges of a term in their own language.
This is a very plausible theory, but it is nevertheless a most unsound one. The use of this term for the God that Christians worship is a glorification of their Classics and their native usage. Any one can see what a compliment it is to them to say: "I bring you no new God: the God revealed in my Bible and which I received from what is to me a Foreign Nation, is the Shangti worshipped by your ancestors, who knew the true God independently of any nation in the West." A people might well be proud of the honour of having retained intact the original revelation of God to the first parents of the human race, an honour to which we have no parallel in the West. Whatever may be said about this theory itself, are the Chinese good judges of its truth or falsehood? I humbly think not. They are accustomed to their own ideas of Shangti and the traditional teaching about Shangti. They of course know not the idea of God presented in the Holy Scriptures, nor the great contest which that God had with His ancient people about not confounding Him with any of the gods of the heathen, or calling Him by their names. It is enough for them that some of us, to whom in all matters connected with the Doctrines of the Bible they naturally look, when they become Christians, for teaching and guidance, and who know all about the question as laid down in our Sacred Books, it [9/10] is enough for them that some of us deliberately tell them that their Shangti is the true God, and they accept this teaching with eagerness, and cling to it with tenacity. They do this all the more, since they know that there are differences among ourselves on the point. Without intending or feeling the slightest disrespect to the Native Christians, I believe that on this point they are incapable of forming a true and impartial judgment. Moreover the vast body of the converts belonging to the different Protestant Bodies are taken, as is natural in the early stage of Missionary labour, from the illiterate classes, who have not even the advantage--such as it might be--of knowing the merits of the question from a Chinese point of view.
The converts of China, as a rule, follow their Foreign Teachers in the term or terms used.
Where the opposite has been the case, it could easily be shown that the change was brought about by a counter influence brought into the Mission from without. This did actually occur among the converts at Foochow, where native Christians who had been in the habit of using Shin for God, changed under such influence as I have mentioned to the use of Shangti. I have always understood, and was indeed informed on the occasion of my late visit to Foochow, that the change was mainly the doing of a Foreign Missionary, who really did not belong to Foochow and was simply there on a visit. He was a man most highly and deservedly respected for his earnest piety and self-denying labours. His influence told powerfully on the native converts in this one matter of the terms; but his Christian character, however excellent, proved nothing about the suitability or otherwise of Shangti as a term for God. The change in the usage of the Missions that he (if I am informed rightly) inaugurated simply showed, that he himself was very strong in his belief that Shangti ought to be taken as the term for God, and that he was a roan capable of exerting a powerful influence on others.
In addition to all that has been said, I cannot but regard it as a weighty consideration, that until Protestant Missionaries came to China, no class of Believers in the true Gocl who came to this country from the West, either as Missionaries or as Settlers, over used Shangti [10/11] for the true God, except the Jesuits, whose principles of action are entirely different from those of the great body of Protestants. The Jesuits wished to adapt Christianity to the Chinese not only by taking the name of Shangti for God, but by allowing their converts to continue the worship of Confucius and of their ancestors. This was resisted first by men of their own order, and then by Dominicans, Franciscans and others in the Roman Catholic Church, on the ground that it was heathenising the Church instead of Christianising the heathen. The struggle was long and often doubtful, but it ended in the condemnation of all three adaptations to heathenism. With reference to the first, a term for God was chosen, which had been felt by others to be the safest, namely the word for Lord, Chu, in the compound expression Tien Chu (Lord of Heaven). The Nestorians, who came to China in the 6th century, avoided Shangti, and either transferred Elohim or Jehovah or used the word Chu (Lord). The Greek Christians followed the example of the Roman Catholics and adopted their term "Tien Chu" (Lord of Heaven). The Mahommedans, who derive their knowledge of the true God from our Scriptures, avoid Shangti, believing it to be the "god of the infidels," and use either Chu (Lord) or Chan Chu (True Lord).
This is, as I have said, a very weighty consideration. It was from no lack of learning, whether Western or Chinese, that the Nestorians, Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, Mahommeclans rejected Shangti, and took up either the single term Chu (Lord), or made up a compound term such as Tien Chu (Lord of Heaven), or Chan Chu (True Lord). The rejection of Shangti and the choice of these latter terms had--have--nothing to do with "idiomatic purity.” [See Statement to Religious Tract Society by Rev. Dr. Eitel given in enclosed papers.] The rejection of Shangti arose simply from the fact, that all those different bodies of believers in the true God realised the danger of taking the name of the highest god of this heathen nation and calling it GOD. They all felt the force of the word of inspiration, "ALL the gods of the heathen are idols, but Jehovah made the heavens." The very fact that the Jesuits were the first to introduce Shangti into the Church of God, is of itself, one would think, sufficient to cause suspicion and enquiry, and especially as we find it was joined with two permissions to the converts which, on the face of [11/12] them, were concessions to heathenism. Protestant Missionaries have never had any question about the advisability of allowing these two: time will show whether the first shall not also be condemned as unworthy a place in Christian theology.
Christianity has invariably swept away all idolatrous names, honoured by the nations it has converted. No name of any heathen god is retained in the Church for God. Neither Zeus nor Jupiter, nor Wodin, nor Brahma, nor Siva, is found in our Christian nomenclature. In India, so far as I can find out, the names of heathen gods are avoided. [A controversy evidently very similar to our controversy in China exists among the Santhal Missionaries.] Either a compound word is used, in some respects apparently answering to our "Lord of Heaven," or "True Lord" or "Supreme Lord" in China, or a word is used (Deva) which is simply another form of Deus, and is equivalent to our God, god, gods. Why is China to form an exception to the rule observed with regard to the heathen deities of all other nations? Why is Shangti to be retained when all other heathen names have been carefully excluded?
This is my case as against Shangti. I feel I am on the right side, though my cause may stiffer from my being but a weak advocate. I am on the side of Christianity as against heathenism. I take my stand on the Word of God, and press the argument from Scripture. AN the gods of the nations are distinctly declared in the Bible to be idols, and are constantly placed in direct contrast to Jehovah. The Israelites are forbidden to mix up the worship of these "gods of the nations," by which they were surrounded, with the worship of Jehovah, or to apply their names to Him. Any mixture of this kind that had found its way into the Jewish Church through contact with heathenism was to be purged away. "Thou shalt call me no more Baali. I will take away the names of Baalim out of thy mouth." Would all this mode of speaking have been in any way modified, if the Israelites had had the Chinese for their neighbours instead of the Ammonites, the Phoenicians, Canaanites and Egyptians? Would Shangti have been excepted from the list of heathen gods, against which they were warned? I cannot think so. Rather can I imagine Hosea, if he were now in China, looking forward to the [12/13] future of the Chinese Christian Church, and saying, "Thou shalt call me no more Shangti. I will take the name of Shangti out of thy mouth."
It will not be necessary to say much about Shin, the alternate term of many Protestant Missionaries. If there is a generic word in the language which answers to god, gods, certainly this is the word. The expression in Chinese for "colere deos" is undoubtedly pai shin. It is used to designate the presiding god of different things or regions. There is a ts'ai shin, which can only be fairly translated in English by the term "god of wealth." And so they speak of the Shwei Shin, the god of the waters Hwo Shin, the god of fire, Shan Shin the god of the hills, &c., &c. It is however felt by many--myself among the number--a difficult matter to take this term by itself, and apply it to GOD. It is vague, indefinite and either singular or plural, perhaps, in its original use, only plural. This last objection, however, may be met by saying that "Elohim" was plural, and it cannot be said that the answer is without force. At the same time Shin has, in my opinion, a tendency to degenerate into pantheistic ideas, and I am unable to employ it by itself for God. I have never been able to do so. I use it some times, however, in this sense, as it is the only word in the language that will suit in certain cases, but as a rule I use it for god or gods. There is an additional objection to this word in the sense of God, that, from whatever cause, the word does undoubtedly mean, or is used in the sense of, Spirit. It is constantly used for the human spirit, and the expression "My God" if translated by Shin, would be in danger of conveying to the Chinese the meaning "my spirit." The word has, in nay opinion, both senses. Those who advocate the use of Shangti for God, have always strongly opposed the idea that Shin means anything but spirit, and they have used Shangti in the sense of god, gods, which has led to certain very peculiar combinations. True, there are many Shangtis, as there were many Jupiters, but nevertheless Jupiter would have been a strange adjunct to Diana in order to describe her as a goddess. Yet Diana is called in this (Brit. and For.) translation of the Bible, Shangti, which certainly seems to me somewhat forced! Many of the advocates of Shangti are beginning to see this, and to turn to Shin as the best word [13/14] for god, gods. This at once admits the principle that Shin is used in Chinese in the sense of deity. It has been for years my habit to use the word in the two senses as deity and spirit as I think the Chinese do. Those who have used Shin for God have had another word Ling in use for Spirit, which I believe to be equally intelligible for our purposes with the other. I do not see why this matter at all events should not be compromised in a general agreement either to use Shin or Ling for Spirit.
As for Tien Chu, I have already indicated the grounds on which it has been employed, first in the Roman Catholic Church, and now by many Protestant Missionaries.
Bishop Smith (first Bishop of Victoria, Hongkong) seems to have been the first to suggest the Roman Catholic term, as the best way out of the difficulty, in a letter to Dr. Miller then Secretary of the B. and F. Bible Society. He said: "Tien Chu (Lord of Heaven) the Roman Catholic term for God has doubtless many things to recommend it as preferable, being strengthened by nearly a century and a half of usage, iii a religion which numbers its tens of thousands of converts in every province of the Empire, and whose religious nomenclature Protestant Missionaries have adopted in most other points Glad should I be if the able pen of Dr. Medhurst" (then the leading English Missionary in China, belonging to the L. M. S.) "could induce the Protestant Missionaries to accept Tien Chu as the basis of compromise."
In 1864 a proposition emanated from certain Protestant (American) Missionaries in Foochow to agree upon Tien Chu for God, but not being taken up by others it fell through.
In 1865, the following paper was drawn up and circulated in Peking. It was prepared at a breakfast given to Dr. Mullens (now Secretary of L. M. S. in London) by Dr. Edkins, and no doubt met with his (Dr. M.'s) approbation. It was first brought forward and urged by Dr. Alexander Williamson, once a Missionary of the L. M. S., at the time spoken of Secretary in China of the Scottish Bible Society.
 The following is a copy of the paper:--
"In preparing and circulating a new Mandarin Version of the New Testament we are unanimous in desiring uniformity in the use of terms, and propose to employ those which we find to afford the only practicable basis of union, viz:--Tien Chu for God and Shin for Spirit. In conforming to this basis in the version referred to, we do not propose to restrict ourselves in any other respect for the present."
JOSEPH EDKINS, London Missionary Society.
W. A. P. MARTIN, formerly Missionary of American Presbyterian Church, (now, as at time of signing) Principal of Peking College.
S. W. WILLIAMS, formerly Missionary of American Board of Missions, at time of signing and for many years, Secretary of American Legation in Peking.
H. BLODGET, American Board of Missions.
W. H. COLLINS, Church Missionary Society.
JOHN DUDGEON, London Missionary Society.
C. GOODRICH, American Board of Missions.
JAMES WILLIAMSON, London Missionary Society.
Two more names would have appeared on this list but for temporary absence from Peking; one that of Rev. Dr. Schereschewsky (co-translator with myself of the Prayer Book) and my own. We both heartly fell in with the compromise and should have signed if, had we been in Peking.
Many of those who signed this paper, were disappointed and discouraged by the want of favour it met with at the South, and did not consider themselves bound by it. Others were hampered by not finding in it liberty to use Ling for Spirit, and so this further effort at compromise fell to the ground.
And what was the objection to Tien Chu? I believe it arose partly (perhaps chiefly) from unwillingness to give up Shangti on one side, Shin on the other; and partly because of Tien Chu being the term employed by the Roman Catholics.
 The latter objection stated fully is to the following effect: that it is "so identified with the Church of Rome that its present adoption by Protestants would be productive of serious injury to Protestantism, and lead to the identification of these two forms of Christianity as being one and the same." [See the enclosed Protest by the German Missionaries of Hongkong and its neighbourhood.]
I have dealt with the theory here set forth in my letter to the Protestant Missionaries of China which I enclose with this (pages 10 and 11). I need not therefore say much more on the subject.
We, as Protestants, are originally the same as the Roman Catholics. We have the same origin, the same Bible, worship the same God, rely on the same Saviour, &c., &c. Do as we will we never can in the estimation of the heathen either appear or be entirely different from them, and therefore it has always seemed to me the most childish reasoning to object to using one particular term employed by the Roman Catholics, with the idea that the heathen will be led to suppose by our not using it that we Protestants have nothing to do with the Roman Catholics. This really is nothing better than the old story of the Ostrich' hiding her head in the sand and supposing that no body will see her.
Moreover this foolish dread of being confounded with the Roman Catholics is quite of recent growth, and is not entertained, so far as I am aware, by any of those who have hitherto been the most scholarly and the most strenuous advocates of Shangti. It does not appear to have occurred to Bishop Smith whom I have already quoted.
Indeed it is difficult to treat the objection seriously. Every one knows that the Roman Catholics and Protestants are originally the same, and even now, though we differ widely on certain points we consider vital, we are at one with them on the nature of God, and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It is most unfortunate that the names by which Roman Catholics and Protestants designate themselves in Chinese give a false idea of our differences to this people. The use by us of the Roman Catholic term for God would, I believe, help us to explain better our [16/17] differences to the heathen. The Roman Catholics are called the Tien Chu Kiau, that is, Sect (or Religion) of Tien Chu (Lord of Heaven), Protestants are called Ye-su Kiau, that is, Sect (or Religion) of Jesus. From such names the Chinese think that Tien Chu and Ye-au are two rivals, and yet they see that both Sects believe in Ye-su. How would the matter be simplified if we could tell them, that so far as Tien Chu and Ye-su are concerned, both sides hold the same views, that these are not the names we go by in the West, and that the differences refer to other things altogether, of which they cannot judge by simply hearing the Chinese names of the two Religions. It would be better still if we could give new names to the two Bodies of Christians, that would better express the differences between them--such as "Old Christian Religion" and "Reformed Christian Religion"; but this is impossible now. The best we can do now is to use all the Roman Catholic terms (where they are not wrong), as we already use most of them, and this will at all events lessen the difficulty. If there is anything radically wrong with Tien Chu as a term for God, as I have tried to show is the case with Shangti, then by all means let it be condemned: but let us not stultify ourselves by refusing to use a good thing simply because it is used by the Roman Catholics.
I have now done. I hope I have said enough to enable Your Grace to understand some of the most important points of this great controversy. I have been blamed for feeling too strongly on this subject. I leave Your Grace to judge whether I have shown sufficient cause for entertaining strong feeling with reference to this matter. God forbid that I should impart strong feeling into this controversy, if there is no cause for it. The difference existing between the Missionaries does harm to themselves, and to the cause of Missions. It separates chief friends, it hinders the progress of the work, it prevents all co-operation worth the name. But this is true of all great controversies in the Christian Church. It is true as between the Roman Catholic and the Protestant, between the Unitarian and the Trinitarian, between the Conformist and the Non-conformist, between the Ritualist and Non-ritualist within the Church of England itself. Where principle is felt to be at stake, [17/18] controversy must exist, and the more important the principle, the deeper will be the feeling excited by the controversy. Let all passion and prejudice and bitterness be condemned, but let it not be supposed that vital questions can be discussed without strong feeling. I consider the question discussed in this letter a vital one. It touches the very foundation of our faith. Not to feel strongly on such a subject would be impossible: to allow oneself to be prejudiced or biassed by mere party consideration would be wrong.
My dear Lord Archbishop,
Your most faithfully,
Bishop of Victoria, Hongkong.