CHAPTER X – 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.
An account of the Persecutions in Japan.
Christianity was first introduced into the idolatrous empire of Japan by some Portuguese missionaries in the year of our Lord 1552, and their endeavours in making converts to the light of the gospel met with a degree of success equal to their most sanguine wishes.
This continued till the year 1616, when the missionaries being accused of having concerned themselves in politics, and formed a plan to subvert the government, and dethrone the emperor, great jealousies subsisted till 1622, when the court ordered a dreadful persecution to commence against both foreign and native christians. Such was the rage of this persecution, that, during the first four years, no less than 20,570 christians were massacred. The public profession of christianity was prohibited under pain of death, and the churches were shut up by an express edict.
Many who were informed against, as privately professing christianity, suffered martyrdom with great heroism. The persecution continued many years, when the remnant of the innumerable christians, with which Japan abounded, to the number of 37,000 souls, retired to the town and castle of Siniabara, in the island of Xinio, where they determined to make a stand, to continue in their faith, and to defend themselves to the very last extremity.
The Japanese army pursued the christians, and laid siege to the place. The christians defended themselves with great bravery, and held out against the besiegers for the space of three months, but were at length compelled to surrender, when men, women and children, were indiscriminately murdered; and christianity, in their martyrdoms, entirely extirpated from Japan.
This event took place on the 12th of April, 1638, since which period no christians but the Dutch are allowed to land in the empire, and even they are obliged to conduct themselves with the greatest precaution, and to carry on their commerce with the utmost circumspection.
An account of the Persecutions against the Christians in Abyssinia, or Ethiopia.
Towards the conclusion of the fifteenth century, and soon after the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, some Portuguese missionaries made a voyage to Abyssinia, and were indefatigable in propagating the Roman catholic doctrine among the Abyssinians, who professed christianity before the arrival of the missionaries.
The priests, employed in this mission, gained such an influence at court, that the emperor consented to abolish the established rites of the Ethiopian church, and to admit those of Rome. He soon after consented to receive a patriarch from Rome, and to acknowledge the pope’s supremacy.
Many of the most powerful lords, and a majority of the people who professed the primitive christianity, as first established in Abyssinia, opposed these innovations, and took up arms against the emperor.—Thus, by the artifices of the court of Rome, and its emissaries, a most furious civil war was begun, and the whole empire thrown into commotion. This war was carried on through several reigns, its continuance being above 100 years, and the court constantly siding with the Roman catholics, the primitive christians of Abyssinia were severely persecuted, and multitudes perished by the most inhuman means.
An account of the Persecutions against the Christians in Turkey.
Mahomet, (the impostor) in the infancy of his new religion, tolerated christianity through a political motive, as he was sensible, that even in those early times it had several powerful espousers among the princes, who were his cotemporaries. As a proof that this was his sole view, as soon as he found his doctrine was established on a more permanent situation, he altered his forbearance to a system of the most rigid and barbarous persecution; which diabolical plan he has particularly recommended to his misguided followers, in that part of his Alcoran, entitled The Chapter of the Sword; and as proofs of the blind zeal his followers have adopted from his infernal tenets, the many bloody battles of the Turks with the whole of the professors of Christ’s gospel, and their cruel massacres of them at various periods, sufficiently evince.
Constantine was, in the year 1453, besieged in Constantinople, by Mahomet the Second, with an army of 300,000 men, when, after a bloody siege of about six week, on the 29th of May, 1453, it fell into the hands of the infidels, after being an imperial christian city for some centuries; and the Turks have, to this day, retained possession of it, as well as of the adjoining suburb of Pera.
On entering Constantinople, the Turks exercised on the wretched christians the most unremitting barbarity, destroying them by every method the most hellish cruelty could invent, or the most unfeeling heart could practise: some they roasted alive on spits, others they flayed alive, and in that horrid manner left to expire with hunger; many were sawed asunder, and others torn to pieces by horses.—For full three days and nights the Turks were striving to exceed each other in the exercise of their shocking carnage, and savage barbarity; murdering, without distinction of age or sex, all they met, and brutishly violating the chastity of women, of every distinction and age.
During the year 1529, Solyman the First retook Buda from the christians, and showed the most horrible persecution of the inhabitants; some had their eyes torn out, others their hands, ears, and noses cut off, and the children their privities, the virgins were deflowered, the matrons had their breasts cut off, and such as were pregnant had their wombs ripped open, and their unborn babes thrown into the flames. Not content with this, he repeated these horrid examples all the way on his march to Vienna, which he ineffectually besieged, during which, this diabolical barbarian, having made a body of christians prisoners, he sent three of them into the city to relate the great strength of his army, and the rest he ordered to be torn limb from limb by wild horses in sight of their christian brethren, who could only lament by their cries and tears their dreadful fate.
In many places the tender children were in sight of their wretched parents torn to pieces by beasts, others dragged at horses’ heels, some famished with hunger, and others buried up to their necks in earth, and in that manner left to perish. In short, were we to relate the innumerable massacres and deplorable tragedies acted by the infidels, the particulars would at least make a volume of themselves, and from their horrid similarity be not only shocking, but disgusting to the reader.
Persecutions and Oppressions in Georgia and Mingrelia.
The Georgians, are christians, and being very handsome people, the Turks and Persians persecute them by the most cruel mode of taxation ever invented, namely, in lieu of money, they compel them to deliver up their children for the following purposes.
The females to increase the number of concubines in their seraglios, to serve as maids of honour to sultanas, the ladies of bashaws, &c., and to be sold to merchants of different nations, by whom the price is proportioned to the beauty of the purchased fair one.
The males are used as mutes and eunuchs in the seraglio, as clerks in the offices of state, and as soldiers in the army.
To the west of Georgia is Mingrelia, a country likewise inhabited by christians, who are persecuted and oppressed in the same manner as the Georgians by the Turks and Persians, their children being extorted from them, or they murdered for refusing to consent to the sale.
An Account of the Persecutions in the States of Barbary.
In Algiers the christians are treated with particular severity; as the Algerines are some of the most perfidious, as well as the most cruel of all the inhabitants of Barbary. By paying a most exorbitant fine, some christians are allowed the title of Free christians, and these are permitted to dress in the fashion of their respective countries, but the christian slaves are obliged to wear a coarse gray suit and a seaman’s cap.
The punishments among the Algerines are various, viz.
1. If they join any of the natives in open rebellion, they are strangled with a bowstring, or hanged on an iron hook.
2. If they speak against Mahomet, they must either turn Mahometan, or be impaled alive.
3. If they turn christians again, after having changed to the Mahometan persuasion, they are roasted alive, or thrown from the city walls, and caught upon large sharp hooks, where they hang in a miserable manner several days, and expire in the most exquisite tortures.
4. If they kill a Turk, they are burnt.
5. Those christians who attempt to escape from slavery, and are retaken, suffer death in the following manner, which is equally singular and brutal: the criminal is hung naked on a high gallows, by two hooks, the one fastened quite through the palm of one hand, and the other through the sole of the opposite foot, where he is left till death relieves him from his cruel sufferings.
Other punishments, for trifling crimes committed by the christians, are left to the discretion of the respective judges, who being usually of malicious and vindictive dispositions, decree them in the most inhuman manner.
In Tunis, if a christian slave is caught in attempting to escape, his limbs are all broken, and if he murders his master, he is fastened to the tail of a horse, and dragged about the streets till he expires.
Morocco and Fez conjointly form an empire, and are together the most considerable of the Barbary states. In this empire christian slaves are treated with the greatest cruelty: the rich have exorbitant ransoms fixed upon them; the poor are hard worked, and half starved sometimes murdered by the emperor, or their masters, for mere amusement.
An Account of the Persecutions in Spanish America.
The bloody tenets of the Roman catholic persuasion, and the cruel disposition of the votaries of that church, cannot be more amply displayed or truly depicted, than by giving an authentic and simple narrative of the horrid barbarities exercised by the Spaniards on the innocent and unoffending natives of America. Indeed, the barbarities were such, that they would scarce seen credible from their enormity, and the victims so many, that they would startle belief by their numbers, if the facts were not indisputably ascertained, and the circumstances admitted by their own writers, some of whom have even gloried in their inhumanity, and, as Roman catholics, deemed these atrocious actions meritorious, which would make a protestant shudder to relate.
The West Indies, and the vast continent of America, were discovered by that celebrated navigator, Christopher Columbus, in 1492. This distinguished commander landed first in the large island of St. Domingo, or Hispaniola, which was at that time exceedingly populous, but this population was of very little consequence, the inoffensive inhabitants being murdered by multitudes, as soon as the Spaniards gained a permanent footing on the island. Blind superstition, bloody bigotry, and craving avarice, rendered that, in the course of years, a dismal desert, which, at the arrival of the Spaniards, seemed to appear as an earthly paradise; so that at present there is scarce a remnant of the ancient natives remaining.
The natives of Guatemala, a country of America, were used with great barbarity. They were formerly active and valiant, but from ill usage and oppression, grew slothful, and so dispirited, that they not only trembled at the sight of fire-arms, but even at the very looks of a Spaniard. Some were so plunged into despair, that after returning home from labouring hard for their cruel taskmasters, and receiving only contemptuous language and stripes for their pains, they have sunk down in their cabins, with a full resolution to prefer death to such slavery; and, in the bitterness of their anguish, have refused all sustenance till they perished.
By repeated barbarities, and the most execrable cruelties, the vindictive and merciless Spaniards not only depopulated Hispaniola, Porto-Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahama islands, but destroyed above 12,000,000 of souls upon the continent of America, in the space of forty years.
The cruel methods by which they massacred and butchered the poor natives, were innumerable, and of the most diabolical nature.
The Spaniards stripped a large and very populous town of all its inhabitants, whom they drove to the mines, leaving all the children behind them, without the least idea of providing for their subsistence, by which inhuman proceeding six thousand helpless infants perished.
Whenever the people of any town had the reputation of being rich, an order was immediately sent that every person in it should turn Roman catholics: if this was not directly complied with, the town was instantly plundered, and the inhabitants murdered; and if it was complied with, a pretence was soon after made to strip the inhabitants of their wealth.
One of the Spanish governors seized upon a very worthy and amiable Indian prince, and in order to extort from him where his treasures were concealed, caused his feet to be burnt till the marrow dropped from his bones, and he expired through the extremity of the torments he underwent.
In the interval, between the years 1514 and 1522, the governor of Terra Firma put to death, and destroyed, 800,000 of the inhabitants of that country.
Between the years 1523 and 1533, five hundred thousand natives of Nicaragua were transported to Peru, where they all perished by incessant labour in the mines.
In the space of twelve years, from the first landing of Cortez on the continent of America, to the entire reduction of the populous empire of Mexico, the amazing number of 4,000,000 of Mexicans perished, through the unparalleled barbarity of the Spaniards. To come to particulars, the city of Cholula, consisted of 30,000 houses, by which its great population may be imagined. The Spaniards seized on all the inhabitants, who refusing to turn Roman catholics, as they did not know the meaning of the religion they were ordered to embrace, the Spaniards put them all to death, cutting to pieces the lower sort of people, and burning those of distinction.