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An Account Of The Persecutions In China And Several Other Countries

Christianity was first established in China by three Italian
missionaries, called Roger the Neapolitan, Pasis of Bologne, and Matthew
Ricci of Mazerata, in the marquisate of Ancona. These entered China
about the beginning of the sixteenth century, being well circumstanced
to perform their important commission with success, as they had
previously studied the Chinese language.

These three missionaries were very assiduous to the discharge of their
duty; but Roger and Pasis returning to Europe in a few years, the whole
labour fell upon Ricci, who aimed to establish christianity with a
degree of zeal that was indefatigable.

Ricci, though much disposed to indulge his converts as far as possible,
made great hesitation at their ceremonies, which seemed to amount to
idolatry. At length, after eighteen years consideration, he began to
soften his opinion, and tolerated all the parts of those customs which
were ordered by the laws of the empire, but strictly enjoined his
Chinese christians to omit the rest.

This was the condition of christianity in China, when the christian
church established there was governed only by Ricci, who, by his
moderation, made innumerable converts. In 1630, however, his tranquility
was disturbed by the arrival of some new missionaries, these being
unacquainted with the Chinese customs, manners, and language, and with
the arguments on which Ricci's toleration was founded, were astonished
when they saw christian converts prostrate before Confucius and the
tables of their ancestors, and condemned the custom accordingly.

A warm controversy now ensued between Ricci, seconded by his converts,
and the new missionaries; and the latter wrote an account of the whole
affair to the pope, and the society for the propagation of the christian
faith. The society soon pronounced, that the ceremonies were idolatrous
and intolerable, and the pope confirmed the sentence. In this both the
society and the pope were excusable, as the matter had been
misrepresented to them; for the enemies of Ricci had affirmed the halls,
in which the ceremonies were performed, to be temples, and the
ceremonies themselves idolatrous sacrifices.

The sentence above mentioned was sent over to China, but treated with
contempt, and matters remained as they were for some time. At length, a
true representation of the matter was sent over, setting forth, that the
Chinese customs and ceremonies alluded to were entirely free from
idolatry, being merely political, and tending only to the peace and
welfare of the empire. The pope, finding that he had made himself
ridiculous, by confirming an absurd sentence upon a false report, wanted
to get rid of the affair, and therefore referred the representation to
the inquisition, which reversed the sentence immediately, at the private
desire of the pope, as may be naturally supposed.

The christian church, for all these divisions, flourished in China till
the death of the first Tartar emperor, whose successor was a minor.
During this minority of the young emperor Cang-hi, the regents and
nobles conspired to extirpate the christian religion. The execution of
this design was begun with expedition, and carried on with severity, so
that every christian teacher in China, as well as those who professed
the faith, were struck with amazement. John Adam Schall, a German
ecclesiastic, and one of the principals of the mission, was thrown into
a dungeon in the year 1664, being then in the seventy-fourth year of his
age, and narrowly escaped with his life.

The ensuing year, viz. 1665, the ministers of state publicly and
unanimously resolved, and made a decree specifying, viz.

1. That the christian doctrines were false.

2. That they were dangerous to the interest of the empire.

3. That they should not be practised under pain of death.

The publication of this decree occasioned a furious general persecution,
in which some were put to death, many were ruined, and all were, in some
manner, oppressed. This decree was general, and the persecution
universal accordingly throughout the empire; for, previous to this, the
christians had been partially persecuted at different times, and in
different provinces.

Four years after, viz. 1669, the young emperor was declared of age, and
took the reins of government upon himself, when the persecution
immediately ceased by his order.

Next: An Account Of The Persecutions In Japan

Previous: An Account Of The Persecutions In Lithuania And Poland

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