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dence at Pekin several of his Chinese friends assured him they had seen the original Tablet preserved in a celebrated temple situate a quarter of a league distant from Seg-nan-foó, and a still more credible authority, Mr. A. Wylie, at present the highly esteemed Agent of the BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY in China, whose researches on the subject have been most scrutinizing, tells us he has seen a Spanish Missionary who had seen the stone in 1850.
M. Pauthier, a distinguished French and Chinese scholar, has given in the Annals of Christian Philosophy (1857) what he considers a certain testimony to the existence of the monument, viz., an account of the place where it is deposited, from the books of the Chinese themselves. He quotes their “ LARGE IMPERIAL GEOGRAPHY,” which declares as follows :
“Outside of the western suburb of Seg-nan-foo is the Buddhist Monastery of the Sublime Humanity. It was founded under the Tangs, and possesses Buddhist inscriptions of their times engraved on sandal-wood ; also the inscription on stone of the Religion of “King," propagated in the Middle Kingdom."
Mr. Wylie also cites no less than thirteen witnesses from among Chinese authors, who make mention of this stone, and give various particulars respecting it. He has added to these researches a most careful and literal translation of the whole inscription, of which we give an abstract.
Some few of our readers might wish to investigate this ancient record word by word, but it will probably satisfy the greater number to be informed of the general particulars to which the stone refers.
It testifies to the existence of the religion of Christ in China for 150 years after the era when Mahomet had spun that web of his which was to ensnare the sons of Ishmael for more than twelve centuries.
The Inscription begins by declaring the Creation of the world to have taken place “ through the Triune-Eternal Lord God, the Elohim, who opened out the heavens and the earth, and caused the sun and moon to produce day and night, and after perfecting all inferior objects, created Man upright, and intelligent, and perfect, and gave him control over all creation.”
The second point stated is, that “after this, Satan employed his wiles, and displaced equity and greatness from Adam's virtuous nature, and introduced discord among mankind, so that there arose among them, one after another, 365 sects, each trying to attract the largest number of votaries, and thus involving every species of doctrinal perplexity. Some pointed to material objects as the source of faith, others said the origin of all things was a vacuum. Some took the creatures for the Creator, others held themselves up as more excellent than their fellows. They were all exhausted and distressed by their distant aberrations from wisdom.'
They lost the path, and after long groping in darkness were unable to return.”
And in the third place, this antique stone goes on to tell the coming of the Lord. “ Then a Divine person of the most holy Trinity, called the MESSIAH, veiling his true dignity, appeared on this earth as a man. Angels carried the good tidings, and he was born of a Virgin in Judea ; a bright star gave notice of the glad event, and Persians observing its splendour, came to offer gifts, thus fulfilling the predictions of the twentyfour prophets.”
It continues to relate that“ nations were now governed on great principles by a new, divine, and spiritual law, without noisy words, that the new religion was established by the silent operation of the pure Spirit of the Triune, producing good works from true faith. The Messiah fixed the boundaries of the eight beatitudes, and opened the door of the three virtues, revealing life and destroying death. Thus, the falsehoods of the Devil were utterly defeated.”
“The mighty works of the Saviour being then completed, at mid-day He ascended to His true station, after which twenty-seven SACRED BOOKS remained, expounding radical conversion for mankind.
“The initial rite of this religion is to baptize in water, to cleanse and purify the neophytes, and as a seal they hold the Cross, whose influence reflected in every direction unites all without distinction. They worship toward the East, hastening on the way to life and glory, they preserve the beard, and shave the crown. They do not keep slaves or amass wealth, but cast all their property into the common stock. They fast for better self-inspection. They strengthen themselves by silent watchfulness. Seven times a day they have worship and praise for the benefit of the living and the dead. They sacrifice once in seven days to cleanse the heart and return to purity." It is difficult to find a name for the true and unchangeable doctrine.
By accommodation it is named “The Illustrious Religion.” Holy men enforce its right principles.
In the time of the Emperor Taetsing arrived the most virtuous OLOPEN from the Kingdom of Syria. He bore the true sacred books. In the year 635 A.D. he arrived at Chang-gau, when the Emperor caused his Prime Minister to conduct him as a guest into the interior. The sacred books were translated in the Imperial Library, and the Sovereign investigated their doctrine in his private apartments, when being deeply impressed with its rectitude and truth, he gave a special order for its dissemination in the seventh month of the year 638 A.D., declaring that “ he found the language free from perplexing expressions, and the principles beneficial to all creatures, likely therefore to survive the decay of the human instrumentality which had first made them known.”
Then followed the building of a Syrian church in the capital, to be governed by twenty presbyters. After the death of the Emperor followed orders for the transference of his portrait to the wall of the church, and it is stated “ that the dazzling splendour of the celestial visage irradiated the illustrious portals.” Information then follows on the localty and products of the Land of Syria, and we are told that the great Emperor Kaon-Tsung “respectfully succeeded his ancestor, and was liberal in his favours towards the institution of truth, until churches were erected in every department, while Olopen was honoured with the dignity of great conservator of doctrine for the preservation of the State.”
While this doctrine pervaded the State tranquillity abounded ; but in 699 A.D. the Buddhists gaining power raised their voices, and some low fellows spread slanders in the western capital against lofty-minded Presbyters. Reverses are, therefore, recorded, followed by the restoration to favour under fresh emperors, who rebuilt the churches which enemies or lapse of time had destroyed.
A particular chamberlain is mentioned by name, Esze, belonging to the Emperor Suh-tsung," who was as claws and teeth, as well as ears and eyes to his master. He practised the discipline of the Illustrious Religion, and distributed his riches in deeds of benevolence. Every year he convoked the Presbyters from four churches, and engaged them for fifty days in the sacred offices of purification and preparation. The hungry came and were fed ; the naked came and were clothed ; the sick were attended to and restored; the dead were buried and placed at rest by these self-denying Christians.”
“The white clad members of the Illustrious congregation desire to engrave a broad Tablet to make known the deeds of these men.”
Much that has been said before is then repeated in the form of an ODE, and from both portions of the inscription, the following general deductions have on the best authority been made
“We here,” it is said, “find reference to most of the Christian tenets, somewhat obscure, perhaps, but still unmistakable. The Eternity and Immutability of the Godhead, the distinct offices of the three persons of the Trinity, the Creation of the universe, the purity and dignity of man at his creation, his seduction by Satan, the progress of sin in the world, and the spread of false doctrines.
“We have, then, the advent of the Messiah and its announcement by the angels ; His being born of a Virgin ; the star in the East; the adoration of the Magi, and the fulfilment of the prophecies. The work of the Spirit is then alluded to; the efficiency of faith, the eight Beatitudes, the three Christian graces, the rise of the sun of righteousness destroying the works of the devil, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Saviour.
“Many of the NESTORIAN practices are also stated at that early era. Baptism, the veneration of the Cross, the call to devotion, the shaven crown and uncut beard, prohibition of slavery and community of wealth, fasting and penance, worshipping towards the East, prayers seven times a day, and above all, the use of the Scriptures.” On this subject, which interests us in this ancient inscription more than all other items, Mr. A. Wylie remarks :
“Some most remarkable notes respecting our sacred Scriptures are found in this inscription.
“After noticing the completion of the Ancient Dispensation it speaks of the preservation of twenty-seven sacred books, exaetly the number we have in the New Testament, that they were brought into China by Olopen from Syria, and translated in the Imperial Library in the chief capital. From the prominent way in which the Scriptures are mentioned on several occasions, it was probably considered a matter of importance by these Nestorian missionaries to have them disseminated among the Chinese. Possibly some portions of this translation may still be preserved among the hidden literary treasures with which China abounds, though no present proof of this has come to light.”
Some very interesting particulars concerning the remnants of the nation of Israel in China have been collected by Mr. Wylie, and must be presented in our next number.
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