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
ery 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.