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Sea-Girt Yezo

Glimpses at Missionary Work in North Japan.

By John Batchelor

London: Church Missionary Society, 1902.

Chapter XI. The Harvest.

"First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."--St. Mark iv. 28.

EVERY missionary feels that the work of sowing the Gospel seed in the hearts of the Heathen is a very glorious occupation. How delightful then must his feelings be, think you, when he is permitted not only to sow, but to reap as well! When he sees the souls for whom Christ died being gathered in, partly through his own instrumentality, he is overwhelmed with joy. I intend now in this last chapter to give some short account of the seed which is sown springing up and sending forth "first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear." And to begin with, I will tell of a curious way in which the seed was sown quite unintentionally, and yet sprang up and bore fruit.

Among my acquaintances in Yezo there is a certain good man whom I consider it to be a great privilege to know somewhat intimately; for though a Heathen at one time, he has become a [114/115] splendid Christian, and is leading a most consistent Christ-like life. When he first began to go to hear the Gospel preached, his wife, who was a firm believer in Buddhism, was very angry and scolded him very much. One day, as he was going to a service, she said to him,--

"Why ever can you want to go to listen to the stuff and rubbish those missionaries and their abominable helpers come to preach? What can your object be? If you want to hear sermons, why don't you go to our own temples? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, for you know as well as I do that those foreigners have only come here to deceive us. It would be much better if you were to stay at home and read, or help look after the baby while I attend to my housework and sewing. I haven't patience with you men-folks. I believe it is just laziness and curiosity on your part."

The husband--who himself told me of this--said that he took no notice of these remarks, but continued to go to the preaching-place as usual. It seems that he was quite dissatisfied with his own religion, and was truly seeking after the Truth.

After a few weeks had passed, the wife had another grumbling fit. But this time she said,--

"I really can't make you out. [115/116] Every time there is a preaching-service, away you go, post-haste, to listen, leaving me and the baby here by ourselves. I believe you, like so many other stupid creatures, are being deceived. You are a queer man, to be sure. Those missionaries no doubt say a lot of nice, extraordinary things. Come, now, you please stay at home this evening and mind the baby. I intend to go myself to-night and hear what it is they preach. I haven't patience with you men--you are all as full of curiosity as you can be!"

And so away the poor wife trotted, taking another friend with her, to the service, while the husband was left at home to nurse the baby. The woman said the men were full of curiosity. I think she herself was this time; don't you?

Upon her return after the service, the husband said,--

"Well, how did you get on? Did you understand what was said? Was it a nice address?"

"What," said she, "did I understand indeed! I should just think I did understand. And 'was it a nice address,' did you say? Yes, I should think it was. No wonder you poor men-folk are deceived! That preacher is a very cunning fellow. He said nothing but what he thought would tickle our ears and please us all. It is really quite dangerous to go to hear him. I shall not go again, lest I also be deceived. I advise you, too, never again to go near that place."

The husband only smiled at this, and kept quite silent. And so matters remained for a long time--he attending the service, and she staying at home nursing the baby. But one evening some time after, the wife came to him as he was about to go and hear another sermon, and said,--

"Now, look here, you dreadfully lazy and inquisitive man, I know where you are off to; but just please stay at home to-night. I mean to go myself this evening and hear what rubbish that missionary will [116/117] preach. I don't see why you should always go, and I stay at home."

And so it was arranged that she should go, and he stay at home to take charge once again of the house and baby.

Upon her return that evening she reported that the missionary was not so interesting this time. She said that he spoke "a lot of nonsense about sin and salvation." There was nothing left in her mind but the words, "sin, sin, sin, and Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. What does it all mean? I do not understand it. I am, altogether puzzled to see however you can go to listen to such rubbish. What good can it do?"

This was the way the woman spoke. And so things went on. By-and-by it was noticed that the wife went more frequently to hear the "rubbish" preached! And the end of it all was that both she and her husband became converted and were baptized. Is not this an illustration of what Christ meant when He said of the seed which was sown, "First the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear"? I think it is truly so. The seed was sown by her husband's example, it was watered by the preacher's words, and the Holy Spirit caused it to spring up and bear fruit.

In some cases it takes a very long time for the corn to come to perfection in the ear, even after it is fully formed, though in others it is much quicker. I know one dear Christian woman--she is very old now--who had been baptized for more than twelve years, and who for several years had been a constant attendant at the Lord's Table before she became quite ripe. One day she sent me a small idol, for which she said she had no more use. She had kept this idol carefully hidden away in her private chest of drawers for twelve years after she had become a Christian! She kept it, she said, because she was afraid to part with it. She did not worship it, indeed, for she had quite given up idol-worship; but she was afraid [117/118] some misfortune might happen to her or her household if she got rid of it altogether. However, it was given me at last, and I have it by me now. I do not think I could call this old lady a good, full, ripe ear of the Lord's corn till that idol was quite given up. Could you? But I am very thankful that she parted with it at last. Let us praise God for it. It would have been much better if she had been bold and trusted the Lord Jesus fully. I wonder whether the reader of these pages can say that he or she has quite given up every "idol," or whether there may not be just one hidden away somewhere "in the heart." Think of it, and so try and find out for yourselves whether you have one, and also what it is. Should you discover one, get rid of it at once. Don't wait a single moment longer, but trust the Lord Jesus fully. This is the only safe way. There should be no compromise.

But in some cases the corn ripens in the ear much more quickly. I will now give an example of it. Some eight or nine years ago I baptized a lady who had always been a very firm believer in amulets or charms. Most of the people believe in charms, and there are a great number of them. There are those thought to be suitable for children, and others more especially suited for grown-up people; and while some are used by men only, there are others which are only used by the women. The lady of whom I am now writing had her charms, but as soon as she heard the Gospel preached she gave up her faith in them and accepted the Lord Jesus instead, which is very far better. She is now safe with Him in heaven. Soon after her baptism she brought her charms and gave them to us, at the same time saying that she had no more faith in them at all. The accompanying illustration is a photograph of them. We had no idea that she had any such things till she handed them to us. Perhaps the reader will wonder what charms are, and what they are used for. Well, they are particular objects generally worn on the bosom, [118/119] suspended from the neck by a string, or tied round the waist, and they never leave the body, so it is said, excepting when the possessor is taking a bath. Some of the females, however, carry idols as charms, snugly tied up in their dress under the obi or waistband, while the children carry theirs in small bags made for the purpose.

Let us [tow turn to those given in the illustration, for they have been actually worn and believed in. The dreadful creature with black face and inordinately fat nose is called Suii Tengu, and, I believe, is looked upon more as a demon than a god. When a woman wears one of them about her she imagines that it will, by some means or other, save her from drowning and other dangers! The lady who gave it us had travelled to Yezo by sea, and had come a distance of nearly a thousand miles in a ship; and so, before she started, had provided herself with it as a safeguard from shipwreck. The one with the white face is called, I believe, Aizen, and its special work seems to be to provide good fortune, and to cause one's children to be lovable, kind, and all that is nice. Of course the Japanese mothers are just like English mothers in desiring to obtain the love and affection of their little ones. And surely they ought to have it! Ought they not? But to wear a charm such as that illustrated above, in order to obtain it, is just blindness. The wearing of charms or amulets is nothing else than superstition, and appears to us to be altogether ridiculous. There is no more sense in it than in nailing up a horseshoe before one's door, or in keeping [119/120] a lucky-stone or coin with a hole in it, in order to obtain good fortune. Yet the people believe in charms very firmly, and do not like giving them up. It is a great triumph when the Holy Spirit works in the heart of any one and makes him cease to believe in them. The woman referred to truly became a monument of God's grace when He gave her power so easily to give hers up. Ask God that many others may follow her example in these matters.

Thus, then, some few peeps at missionary work in Yezo have now been given. There are many other such-like matters which one might show the reader, but those now presented will suffice for this book. In conclusion, I will therefore simply commend these pages to the young people of England and ask them each to offer up a prayer for the C.M.S. in Yezo--the Church, ministers, and people. May God bless us all!


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