Project Canterbury

Mankind and the Church
Being an Attempt to Estimate the Contribution of Great Races
To the Fulness of the Church of God

Edited by H. H. Montgomery

London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

IV. The Contribution of the Church of China to the Body of Christ
The Right Rev. J. C. Hoare, D.D., late Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong

Chapter II. Chinese Christianity

Non-Roman missions and statistics--Sectarian Divisions--Use of foreign money--Characteristics of Chinese Christianity-Steadfastness under persecution--Diligence in Evangelization--Practical nature, of Chinese Christianity--Church discipline--Practical nature of Chinese thought--Unity in variety.

When we turn from Roman to Protestant missions, we are met at once with a great disparity in the number of converts. But this admits of a very simple explanation. Roman missions have been at work in China for more than three hundred years; Protestant missions have not been seriously at work in that field for much more than half a century. The London Missionary Society, the American Board of Foreign Missions, the Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, which commenced operations in 1807, 1830, and 1835 respectively, are the only three Protestant missionary societies which were at work in China before the year 1842. Since that date Protestant societies have multiplied rapidly, and we see now some twenty-three British, thirty-three American, and twelve continental societies which have missions, more or less strong, in China; but the establishment of many of these missions is of very recent date, and the results of their work are consequently at present very meagre. According to statistics compiled by Mr. Harlan P. Beach, of New York, in 1903, the total aggregate of European and American agents at work in [252/253] China were as follows: Ordained men, 610; unordained men, 578; wives of missionaries, 772; other missionary women, 825; whilst the native workers, ordained and unordained, and of both sexes, numbered 6388. As Mr. Beach does not reckon in his statistics baptized children and converts who are not communicants, it is impossible to state exactly the number of those who have been baptized; but his figures show a total of 112,808 communicants, and 91,864 adherents who are not communicants. Later statistics, published by the same gentleman, show that in January, 1904, the total number of communicants was 131,000.

At first sight it might seem that the increase of some 18,000 in the figures given for 1904 over those published in 1903 must indicate some error of calculation. But I venture to think that this is not the case. The progress of Protestant missions in China has, almost from the first, been remarkably rapid. This is owing, under God, to the zeal of the Chinese converts in spreading the gospel. Of this" characteristic of Chinese Christianity I propose to treat at length hereafter; at present it is my purpose to call attention to the rate at which converts are being gathered in. The common belief is that progress in China has been, and is, very slow; but the statistics collected by Mr. Beach would show that the contrary is the case. I quote his own words:--

"Between 1865 and 1875 the yearly increase averaged about 1000. During the next decade it averaged 1500. Between 1886 and 1889 it was at the rate of about 3000 per year. From 1889 to 1893 it averaged 4500, and from 1893 to 1900 the average growth was over 8000 per year. After the Boxer outbreak there was, of course, a temporary arrest in the growth, which lasted for nearly two years. In spite of this, however, the growth between the 1st of January, 1900, and the same date in 1904, was nearly [253/254] 19,000. It will be noted that since 1886 the number of Christians has doubled about once in seven years. It would not be surprising if, on account of the Boxer interruption, this same rate failed to hold good between 1900 and 1907, yet there are signs that the communicant membership on January 1, 1907, is not likely to fall short of 200,000. One of these signs is the fact that the statistics available for last year, though incomplete, are sufficiently full to warrant us in believing that the numerical growth in 1904 alone was as great as during the whole four years preceding, making the total communicant membership on January 1, 1905, probably not less than 150,000."

[The latest statistics, to the end of 1905, are as follows:--

Number of societies 63

Missionaries-- 3445

Men 1443
Wives 1038
Women 964

Chinese workers--9904

Ordained 345
Unordained 5722
Bible women 887
Hospital assistants 367
School teachers 2583

Baptized Christians 178,251

Counting the baptisms for the time from December, 1905, to the present, and bearing in mind that the returns are confessedly incomplete, there are probably now (May, 1907) fully 200,000 Christians.

The rate of progress here indicated is truly amazing. In a paper written by the late Bishop Lightfoot, of Durham, in 1872, on "The Comparative Progress of Ancient and Modern Missions," the bishop showed that, so far as could be argued from the available statistics, in the year 250 A.D., when Cornelius was Bishop of Rome, the Church in Rome, after more than two centuries from its foundation, numbered some 50,000 Christians, being [254/255] about one-twentieth of the population of the city. He also showed that four hundred years after Christ, the Church at Antioch, after Christianity had had the favour of imperial sanction for some sixty years, numbered about 100,000. The present rate of progress in China would lead to far greater results than that, both in the great cities and in the country districts, in a much shorter period. It has been estimated that it is good progress if a mission doubles the number of its converts in twenty years. In China, according to the statistics above quoted, the number of Christians is doubling itself once in seven years. And the most encouraging feature of this progress is that the momentum steadily increases. Missionary work is, of course, not a mere matter of arithmetic. Many causes may intervene, many causes are sure to intervene, some of which may retard, some accelerate the work; but so far as numbers of converts can be taken as evidence of success, we have every cause to be thankful; and the steadiness of the progress, with its steadily increasing momentum, afford great encouragement with regard to the future.

The one point which may lead us to hesitate with regard to the future of Protestant Christianity in China is as elsewhere, the number of different sections into which Protestant missions are divided. There are altogether sixty-three different missionary societies at work. These do not, of course, all represent different forms of religious belief, or of Church organization. The Anglican Communion, for instance, is represented by agents of five different societies, which work in various parts of China, but which are united in principles and in practice. [At a representative Conference of the Anglican Communion in China, held at Shanghai in April, 1907, the eight dioceses, English and American, were unified, and the work of formal organization into one general Synod is to be completed at the next Conference, to be held in March, 1909.] But [255/256] in spite of the fact that God has manifestly blessed our work, and that the progress made by the missions, both of the Church of England and of the Protestant Episcopal Church of America, will compare well with that of any other missions; nevertheless, we are but few in the land, and the united total of the communicants of the Anglican Communion, as stated in the statistics published in 1903, referred to above, did not at that time reach 10,000 or about one-twelfth of the total number of communicants. [In December, 1905, there were 22,055 Christians of the Anglican Communion ("A Century of Missions in China," p. 674).] The Presbyterians, again, are represented by several different societies, and have founded very strong Churches in various parts of the country. [The Presbyterian missions in China, British and American, have this year been federated in one body.] And so it is also with other English, American, and continental Churches. And whilst we may differ from these missions in some points of doctrine and of Church order, we cannot but recognize the fact that they do impress upon their converts the importance of sound teaching and of the maintenance of order. The same cannot be said of all the missionary societies at work. There are some who seem to allow their zeal for the proclamation of the word of salvation to overstep all limits, and who, by their example, would seem to teach the Chinese converts that all regular forms of ordination, or administration of sacraments, are of little, if of any, importance. Such a method of procedure cannot but give rise to grave misgivings with regard to the future. My own view as to what the outcome of this strangely heterogeneous evangelization of China is likely to be, I hope to state hereafter. For the present, it will serve for our encouragement to quote a passage from the essay by Bishop Lightfoot, to which reference has been made above. He writes (" Historical Essays," p. 89):--

[257] "We hear much of the obstacles thrown in the way of missionary success by the divisions between Christian and Christian. We may, indeed, quote the high authority of Sir B. Frere for saying that this hindrance is much less on the spot than it appears at a distance. But let it be granted that we have here a most serious impediment to our progress. Was there nothing corresponding to it in the first ages of the Church? We need only recall the names of Ebionites, Basilideans, Ophites, Valentinians, Marcionites, and numberless other heretical sects--differing from each other, and from the Catholic Church, incomparably more widely in creed than the Baptist differs from the Romanist--to dispel this illusion at once. The sectarian divisions of the early Christians supply their heathen adversary Celsus with a capital argument against the claims of the gospel and the Church. Nos passi graviora. We have surmounted worse obstacles than these of the day." [Since this passage was written more has happened than the writer could have anticipated. The Centenary Conference, consisting of four hundred and forty delegates from all the missions in China, has met, and a unity of purpose and of belief has been developed beyond what was dreamed of as possible. Sectarian differences sank into the background before the assertion of the Conference of its desire to found "one Church in China," and its acknowledgment of the faith contained in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds. See Report of Conference, First Day's Proceedings.]

Prom this brief sketch of the progress of Christianity in China, it will be seen that those who have the cause of missions at heart have no cause for despondency, but rather for encouragement and thanksgiving. God hath done, and is doing, great things. But, nevertheless, when we put the Christian population in China, or even all those who are influenced by Christianity, into numerical comparison with the heathen population, they form but a very small fraction of the whole. It is not large enough [257/258] to have any perceptible influence on even the small numbers of emigrants who are now to be found in Australia, South Africa, America, and other parts of the world. The Christian Chinese who are to be found in those parts have, for the most part, become Christian after they have left their own homes. The future world influence of the yellow race, therefore, for a long time to come, must be reckoned with as non-Christian.

It is, however, possible that the Chinese Christian Church may exert an influence elsewhere, long before it has effectually leavened the Chinese race. At present it is in its infancy, but we must not think that it is necessary to wait for the conversion of the whole race, even to a nominal Christianity, before we may hope to see the Chinese Church entering the comity of Churches, and in fulness of independent strength, bringing its influence to bear upon the life and thought of Catholic Christendom. I speak of this as a hope, and a reasonable hope, though I confess that sometimes the prospect is disheartening. Of the spread of the gospel in China, of the conversion of thousands, and tens of thousands, of Chinese to faith in Christ in the near future; of the rapid formation and growth, by God's grace, of countless Christian congregations in China, we need have no doubt. But real independence seems at present to be beyond the range of our sight. For our modern missions, whilst manifestly effective in the spread of the gospel, seem to fail very markedly in the establishment of independent native Churches. Nor are the causes for this failure far to seek. In the first place the multiplicity of sects, though not antagonistic to evangelization, militates strongly against independence. The European missionary seems to consider that he must plant his own particular form of Christianity, and Church government, and order, amongst his converts. He is jealous of any departure from that [258/259] form. Consequently he is not content to plant a Church and let it develop on its own lines, "giving it," to quote a dictum of a former bishop in Japan, "the Bible and the Nicene Creed;" but he and his successors must watch over it and guard it, lest others should come in and introduce any deviation from the tenets in which they have been brought up. The native Christians are considered as babes; it is not thought safe to let them try to walk alone; the continual presence of a European overseer is considered to be essential. [Here again, the rapid changes that have taken place in China, require that a note should be added. The spirit of the Centenary Conference was wholly against the perpetuation of sectarian divisions. The growing independence of the native Church was freely recognized and is everywhere being provided for. Men look to seeing the Chinese taking their full part in the support and government of the Church. For instance, in the next Conference of the united Anglican Communion Chinese representatives will sit and vote equally with the English and American clergy. These were things which Bishop Hoare looked forward to longingly, and which he would specially have rejoiced to see.]

Then, again, the modern missionary has his own standard of Church life, a standard which is the outcome of nineteen centuries of Christian development in the West. Oblivious of the fact that for more than two centuries the Christians under the Roman Empire were not allowed to build churches, and therefore had to meet for worship in private houses, he considers that the first essential of a mission station is the erection of a church, with all the nineteenth-century accessories of public worship. And each small cluster of Christians must have its own paid pastor or reader. The result is that a standard is put before the infant Church which is entirely out of its reach; and a burden of expenditure is laid upon it which necessitates the lavish use of foreign money. And in our own Communion we teach the native Church [259/260] to regard a bishop as one who must have the oversight of a vast diocese; one who must in isolated dignity bear the ultimate responsibility of government over congregations scattered over an area often greater than that of the whole of the British Isles. Could we but revert to the ancient practice of having a bishop in every city, who, being one among many, could confer with his brethren from time to time, a great step would have been taken towards the establishment of independent native Churches. Then, again, it is considered necessary to plant the whole machinery of nineteenth-century Christian social organization in these infant Churches. Schools and colleges for imparting Western science, hospitals and dispensaries, asylums for the blind and the leprous, orphanages, charitable institutions of all kinds spring up, erected by foreign money, all over China. Far be it from me to depreciate works of charity; but, regarding the matter from the point of view of the development of independent native Churches, it is certainly possible to go too far in these matters. It is a remarkable fact, and one which calls for very serious consideration, that on our modern system the growth of a native Church, instead of leading to a diminished expenditure of foreign money, and the gradual withdrawal of European missionaries, almost invariably entails a greater demand both for foreign money and men for the carrying on of the Church work.

In spite of the development of a native pastorate, and of the increase of competent native evangelists and readers, a Church of ten thousand Chinese Christians is, through modern methods, often further from independence than in the very early stages of its growth. There are large areas in China in which the seed of the gospel has been planted, in which the Church is sufficiently developed to carry on its own work, and to act, as in ancient times, as leaven on the masses of heathen around it; but in [260/261] which sectarian jealousy, nineteenth-century standards and the burden of a steadily increasing number of expensive charitable institutions, render the reduction of the staff of foreign labourers, and of the use of foreign money, impossible. These things may be conducive for the time to the spread of the gospel in China; they must certainly hinder the development of independence in the Chinese Church. [Nothing is more noticeable in the latest statistics than the great increase in the amount of money which is being contributed by Chinese Christians for Church support. It amounted in 1905 to Mexican $301,263, at present rates £32,757.]

Under these circumstances it is no easy task to attempt to forecast what the influence of Chinese Christianity will hereafter be on Catholic Christendom. That, in spite of hindrances, the Chinese will ultimately have their own independent Church (or Churches) we may consider certain; and the influence of that Church will make itself felt in the Body of Christ, even as the influence of the race will make itself felt in the world. But in the present state of tutelage and dependence, whilst the influence of the foreigner is apparent at every turn, it is not easy to discriminate between those features of Chinese Christianity which are the outcome of national characteristics, and those which are due to foreign influences. But in studying this question we have one method which may help us to arrive at a right conclusion. The foreign influences are many and various, the Chinese race is singularly homogeneous. Foreign missionaries of various races, with widely differing habits of thought, learned and unlearned, male and female, are busily employed in teaching Christianity under various forms, and with differing standards of faith and practice, to the Chinese. This is going on in all parts of the empire; sometimes in one prefecture we find several [261/262] bodies of Christians, developing side by side in close contiguity; sometimes we find districts in which one body has the field to itself. [In the Centenary Conference a scheme of federation was adopted by which, while the independence of the different bodies in doctrine and discipline is not infringed, the evils noted in this article will be minimized by mutual consultation, and common action so far as is practicable. See Report of Centenary Conference, "Comity and Federation."] Under these circumstances, amidst all these varieties of form, both of Christian teaching and of Church government, which are offered to, and accepted by, the Chinese, is it possible to trace any common features, characteristic of national Christianity, which assert themselves in spite of all these differences? Does the groundwork of Chinese national character, when brought under the influence of Christianity, exhibit itself in such a way as to enable us to forecast what the future characteristics of the Chinese Church are likely to be? I think that even now we have sufficient common features exhibited throughout the empire to afford data for an induction of the kind indicated, though it must, of course, be but an imperfect one.

The first marked characteristic, then, that I would notice is the steadfastness of the Chinese Christian under persecution, the willingness to endure hardship, and even death, for the sake of Christ. There has never been a time in the history of missions to China when the profession of Christianity did not entail the risk of persecution. Never was a more gross calumny invented than that which condemns the body of converts in China as being "rice-Christians." Even allowing for the fact that there may be some who join the Church in Treaty Ports, or in the immediate neighbourhood of the European missionary, in the hope of gaining some material advantage; yet it must be remembered that the vast majority [262/263] of converts are men and women who live far away in country districts, who are, as a rule, called out one by one, not in mass movements, from heathenism; and who, consequently, have to face individually the obloquy and contempt which are freely bestowed upon those who desert the ancestral religion and ally themselves with the religion of the "foreign devils." Nor is contempt the only weapon used against them. Bitter opposition in the family, exclusion from the clan and from the rights of clan-membership in property, loss of clan protection, which leaves the Chinaman like a tortoise without his shell, a prey to any one who chooses to attack him--these are some of the disabilities to which a Chinese convert is exposed. There can be but very few missionaries, if any, in China who have not personal knowledge of men and women who have seen their property destroyed, their trees cut down, their crops injured, their land stolen, or who have suffered personal violence, because they have become Christians. Nay, there must be many missionaries in China who have had personal knowledge of, and friendship with, converts who have been faithful unto death, and have laid down their lives for the gospel in as true a spirit of martyrdom as St. Stephen laid down his. Even before the year 1900 the blood of martyrs had been continually shed in China. And in that year it is beyond question that some thousands of Christians were slain in the Boxer rising. No doubt many of those were slaughtered like sheep, without the option of saving their lives by a denial of Christ; but this was far from being the case with all. In the autumn of that year a European gentleman came to my house in Hong Kong--a man who held an official position in the north of China. In the course of conversation he said to me, "If any one had asked me my opinion about missions in the beginning of this year, I should have said that missions were 'humbug, [263/264] and the converts 'shams;' but I have entirely changed my mind now." I said that I was glad to hear this, and asked him what had led to this change of mind. He said, "I have, as you know, been living as consul at------.

Whilst there I have seen men and women brought down from the interior--some dead, brought down to be buried; others, mangled and wounded, brought down to be healed or to die in the hospitals. In my official capacity I had the opportunity of making inquiry as to the circumstances of their sufferings. In a large proportion of cases I found that these people had had the alternative put to them, ' Deny Christ, or die,' and they had deliberately chosen death. And never again will I say that the Chinese converts are shams." Numerous facts have been published, by eye-witnesses and others, from various parts of China, to the same effect; instances of noble steadfastness in the face of torture and death, or of heroic daring exhibited by weak men and women, in order to save the lives of the missionaries or their fellow-Christians. My own diocese was, in the mercy of God, untouched by massacre. There were some riots, and all the missionaries were, by order of the consuls, compelled to withdraw to the coast. The native clergy, catechists, and congregations were left to themselves, with the full knowledge that they were in extreme danger, that a word from the viceroy would cause a general conflagration and massacre. The clergy, being marked men, ran, of course, the greater risk. It had been easy for them to leave their posts, to move quietly to some place where they were unknown, and so make sure of their own safety. But not a man left his post; the congregations continued to meet for worship; the pastoral work was steadily carried on; and in the face of all the terrible danger some hundreds of converts were found ready to come forward and confess Christ in Holy Baptism. These facts certainly justify the statement, [264/265] which would, I think, be indorsed by every missionary in China, that steadfastness under persecution is a marked feature of Chinese Christianity.

The second feature that I would notice is the diligence of the Chinese Christians in spreading the gospel. The gospel certainly spreads rapidly; the number of converts annually gathered in is very large. The statistics quoted above show that the number of Christians in China is doubled in every seven years. In the Fuh-kien Province alone, where the number of baptized members of our Church amounts to some ten or twelve thousand, I have confirmed annually over a thousand candidates, most of them adult converts from heathenism. And this ratio of increase is, I believe, common throughout the empire. Now, it is a noticeable fact that these converts are almost invariably brought out of heathenism, under God, through the instrumentality of Chinese Christians. Candidates for Baptism, when questioned as to whence they received their first impulse towards Christianity, will almost always say that the first impulse has come from a Chinese. Nor must we think that the Chinese who thus spread the gospel are the clergy and paid agents only. Large numbers of converts are brought in through the influence of the ordinary Chinese Christian, sometimes working in combination with the clergyman or catechist, sometimes working alone. The farmer talking with his fellows, the travelling tinker talking in the towns whilst he mends the pots and pans, the field labourer talking with his friend on the way to his work, the woman telling her husband or her neighbours of the new message of salvation which she has learned--these are the evangelists of China by whom the gospel is being spread. I am personally familiar with districts in which there are now strong and prosperous Churches, which have been planted and fostered entirely by native evangelists, with but scant [265/266] superintendence on the part of the European missionary, who may be living in some far distant station. The gospel certainly works like leaven in China; those who are leavened become themselves leaven, and in their turn influence those around them.

And as regards the nature of the leaven, we have here also a very marked, though I hope not a distinctive, feature of Chinese Christianity. Christianity is with them a matter of practical life. They will not tolerate wickedness in the Church. Of course I do not mean to say that all Chinese Christians are holy; I do not even mean to say that the standard of holiness in the Churches is a very high one, though I do know many, very many, men and women whose life and conversation will compare well with the best and holiest in our Western Churches. But the mass of the Christians are but babes in Christ, new converts just emerging from heathenism, with old habits still clinging to them, and beset with temptations of all kinds owing to their heathen environment. We have therefore often to regret failures, especially in the matter of straightforwardness; and not infrequently have we to sorrow over lapses into grievous sin. But this sorrow is not felt only by the European missionary; the native Church itself is strong in its insistence that the life of its members must correspond with the faith they profess. This is shown very markedly in the exercise of discipline. Not infrequently have I known individual Christians to discipline themselves, and, rightly or wrongly, abstain from coming to the Holy Communion, because they are conscious that they have, in the matter of temper or in some other way, shown inconsistency. In the matter of admission to Holy Baptism, the Chinese Church is very strict. They will not knowingly admit any one whose conduct is such as might bring reproach upon the gospel. Where unsuitable persons have been [266/267] admitted, it is more often than not owing to the action of the European, who, of course, has not similar facilities for testing the life of candidates. And with regard to those who have been admitted into the Church, strict watch is kept and careful discipline exercised, and the notorious sinner, whatever his position may be, will be suspended from the Holy Communion, or forbidden attendance at the Church services. In many respects the standard set by the native Churches is higher than that which prevails in Western lands. No opium-smoker, even in moderation; no drunkard; no one who plays cards for money, or gambles in other ways; no one who allows the marriage of his children with heathen, will be allowed to partake of the Sacraments. In fact, the danger is lest the Chinese Church should overburden itself with safeguards, and it has sometimes been found necessary to disallow rules of discipline which the native Christians had formulated, because they "fenced" the Lord's table too strictly. I have known cases in which the European missionary, pleading for leniency, has been overruled by the unanimous voice of the native Christians. I do not, of course, say that the Chinese Christians are always right in this matter; but it is a cause for great thankfulness that, to the Chinese, Christianity is so much a matter of practical life, and not merely a profession of belief.

And this leads us to a fourth characteristic of Chinese Christianity, one which underlies and in great measure explains the three which have already been noted. The Chinese are essentially practical in thought; they care but little for abstract speculations or theories. This is a race characteristic, and it finds its expression strongly in the Chinese Church. Their great philosopher Confucius deliberately declined to speculate on matters about which he had no certain knowledge; his teaching is essentially practical, and is directed to the ordering of [267/268] life on moral principles. Mencius followed in his steps; but, though more interesting than Confucius to the Western mind, he is less so to the Chinese, because he indulges more in speculative theories. The Chinese Christian is of the same mind as his fellow-countrymen; it is the practical side of Christianity that attracts him, he cares little for abstract theology. It was my privilege for more than twenty years to have the training of the picked young men, candidates for Holy Orders and others, in the Mid-China Mission. In the course of that time I had perforce to ascertain what those students would assimilate, and what they would not. I found that it was invariably the practical side that appealed to them. Were we studying Scripture, they demanded the lessons that bore on practical life and conduct. They cared nothing for a disquisition on miracles, or distinctions drawn between "signs" and "wonders" and "powers;" they loved to study the miracle, and to learn what it taught them about the power and love of Christ, and its practical bearing upon themselves. That which could be proved to them, whether from Scripture or otherwise, they accepted gladly; that which rested on speculation they listened to without interest. The same characteristics are very noticeable throughout the Churches in China. They all accept the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. That "The Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God," the Chinese Christians all believe; they can prove it from Scripture. They have been led to see the sin and folly of idolatry, and have turned from idols to serve the living and true God. They have learned of the mediatorial work of God the Son, they trust in the Atonement wrought by Him, and in the fulness of His salvation; therefore it is that they are willing to suffer and die rather than lose their part in that salvation; [268/269] therefore it is that they feel that they must tell others of the blessings which they have found. They believe strongly in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. But into the mystery necessarily involved in the doctrine of the Trinity they do not wish to inquire. Controversies such as occupied the Greek mind, and which disturbed the Church during the first five centuries, with regard to this doctrine, would, I think, be impossible in China. It is difficult for the Chinese mind to understand how the Church should have been brought to a breach of unity by such a question as that of the "Filioque." In his religious thought, as in his religious life, the Chinese Christian is essentially practical.

This very practical view of Christianity produces another very marked characteristic in the Chinese Churches. In spite of the immense variety of teaching which they receive; in spite of the fact that converts are being gathered in by missions of many different nationalities and great variety of sects, there is a very great and very real sense of unity, of the oneness in Christ, of all who are called by His Name. Here, again, we see reproduced in the Church a marked national characteristic. The Chinese race, though spread over an immense territory, the whole of which is densely populated, exhibit in an extraordinary way a unity in the midst of variety. The man from Shantung differs widely both in appearance and in habits from the man in Chekiang. The Chekiang man differs from the Fuh-kienese; the Fuh-kienese, again, differs very widely from the Cantonese. Nevertheless, they are all markedly Chinese, not only in their physical features, but also in their main national characteristics. Their dialects vary. Of the four types which have just been mentioned, each one would be entirely unintelligible to the other in speech, but the same written language is read by all, and [269/270] forms the basis of every variety of dialect. Differences of character, of course, exist in infinite variety, yet the same virtues and the same vices seem to underlie them all. Each province, each district, is broken up into a vast number of families and clans. Bach family, each clan, has its own system of clan government, by which their villages are ruled. Nevertheless, the system of clan government is identical throughout the empire. National sentiment may not be strong in the sense in which Western nations understand it. The south may remain almost unmoved, whilst the north is in the agonies of a disastrous war, as was the case in the war between China and Japan in 1895-1896; but yet the nation is one, and the race feeling against foreigners is the same throughout the whole country. Wherever he lives, whatever his rank in life or occupation may be, in spite of great variety the Chinaman is a Chinaman, linked together with the rest of his race by strongly marked characteristics.

And so it is with the Chinese Christians. They have been taught by various teachers. One man has been taught that this form of Christianity is right, another that that form is right; one man has been taught that Episcopacy is the one true form of Church government; another has been taught that the Baptist system alone is Scriptural; another has been taught that all systems of Church government are wrong. In some oases the missionaries themselves have endeavoured to brand, and to lead their converts to avoid, members of other communions, as being aliens to the truth. But in spite of all these things, when Chinese Christian meets with Chinese Christian, he welcomes him as a brother in Christ; he ignores the differences of denomination, and recognizes him as being equally with himself a member of the Body of Christ. In the midst of variety the sense of unity triumphs.

[271] Is it not possible that this may be the chief lesson which the Church of China in the future may have to teach Christendom? In speaking of the future it is, of course, impossible to speak with any kind of certainty; but looking on Chinese Christianity as we see it now, it seems by no means improbable that, before many decades have passed, the Chinese Christians may turn round upon their teachers and say, "We will have none of these artificial differences interposed between us and our brethren." Already we see tendencies in that direction. Members of different denominations are drawing together for purposes of education, and even training of agents. Chinese Christians of all denominations are banding themselves together for common work independent of sectarian differences. Others have even united to form a Church of their own, which, drawing members from all bodies, shall organize and maintain its own form of government on Chinese lines. I mention these things, not as being in agreement with all that is done, but as indications of a tendency towards a realization of unity which are already apparent.

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