The American Church Review. London: 1878, pp 590-600
[Note: Pinyin used in this Internet edition. Author belonged to Anglican clergy sympathetic towards the Orthodox Church]


The occasion of the writer's first acquaintance with the Missions of the Russian Church, was his meeting, in Naples, in Eastertide, 1866, with the Archimandrite Goury, then on his return from Beijing, where he had been for many years at the head of the Russian Mission. He had been summoned home to be made a Vicar (or Assistant) Bishop to the Archbishop of Kazan. The following year he was made Bishop of The Taurida and Simpheropol. This large and interesting diocese, in charge of which he yet remains, includes in its limits the Crimea.

The story of the Russian Mission in China, as learned by the writer in conversation with the venerable Goury, and from trustworthy information since received from various sources, is briefly as follows:

In the latter part of the seventeenth century, over the country along the Amoor River, the border-land between China and Siberia, ranged Russian hunters and Siberian Cossacks, who built, here and there, fortresses, in which to defend themselves against Manchoos and Chinese, who at times came against them in vast armies. One of these strongholds, Albazin, defended by about five hundred brave men, withstood many attacks, but at last succumbed to a siege, maintained by an overwhelming number of Chinese, and these aided by famine and disease. Albazin was razed to the ground, and its people carried captive to Beijing. Among the prisoners was the priest of the church, Maximus Leontieff, who was permitted to take with him the requisites for divine service. When they reached Beijing, the Russians asked that a place might be assigned them for worship. The Chinese Government granted them a heathen temple, which was afterwards dedicated by the priest Maximus, by direction of his bishop, Ignatius, Metropolitan of Tobolsk, under the title of the Church of the Divine Wisdom. For fifteen years, until his death, Maximus labored most faithfully for the good of his fellow-captives. In 1704, a priest named Raphael was sent out to fill his place, followed, in 1707, by another, Hilarion Lejaisky.

In 1713, being again without religious services, the Russian captives, or colonists as we may call them, seeing that a new generation was sprung up, looking on China as home, and identified in nearly every way with the people of that land, petitioned the Emperor of China that arrangements might be made, with his sanction, whereby their religious privileges might be continued to them. The petition was favorably received by the Emperor Kangxi, and the Chinese Ambassador Toulishan, who was just setting out to visit the Calmuck Khan Ayuk, on the Saratoff steppes, was directed, as he passed through Tobolsk, to express to the Governor General of Siberia the wishes of the Emperor, his master, in this regard. In fulfilling his commission, Toulishan went on, further, to offer to take with him to China, on his return, Russian priests and a physician chosen for that purpose. Prince Matthew Gagarin, the Governor General, immediately wrote to the Czar, Peter the Great, what had been said to him. As might be supposed, the Government and the Church authorities were alike interested and gratified. Hilarion Lejaisky, who was then in Russia, was made an Archimandrite, and sent again to China, not now to labor single handed, but having under him another priest, a deacon, and seven students. This mission party reached Beijing, April 20,1716, and was warmly received, not only by their countrymen, but by the Chinese. The Emperor conferred upon the clergy the rank of Mandarin, assigning to each a salary, and also made an allowance for the support of the students. After two years, Hilarion died. Influential persons were anxious that a bishop should be put at the head of the Mission at Beijing, which then promised great results. The Chinese Emperor continued to show favor to it, and there were even strong hopes that he would yet be a convert to Christianity. Innocent Koutchintsky, Chaplain General of the Navy, was designated to be the Episcopal Head of the Chinese Mission, and was consecrated March 5th, 1721, with the title Bishop of Periaslav. Both the Holy Synod and the Senate of Russia bade him show "the greatest prudence, in order not to give any advantage to the enemies of the Orthodox faith, counting especially among these their ancient enemies, the Jesuits, who were used, in the midst of the orthodox grain, to sow the tares of discord and slander, in order to hinder a good work."

Innocent set out promptly for his distant field, which he was destined never to see. For when, after a long and weary journey, he reached Irkutsk, not far from the borders of China, he found that the Emperor Kangxi was dead, and that his son, Yongzheng, who reigned in his stead, was of far different mind towards Christianity; and, besides, the Jesuits were straining every nerve to prevent the entrance into China of a Russian Bishop—unfortunately their machinations were but too successful. All negotiations in Innocent's behalf were fruitless, and, in 1727, a priest, who had been in temporary charge, was put definitely at the head of the Mission.

It would appear to have been a great misfortune that Innocent was not allowed to enter upon the work for which he was consecrated. For he was a man of remarkable devotion, energy and zeal. While awaiting permission to enter China, he was busily employed in his Master's work, laboring untiringly at Irkutsk, and in all the country around, for the conversion of Buriat and Tungese heathen; and when it was found that he could not go to Beijing, he devoted the rest of his life to labor for and with pagans of Siberia, preaching to them the Gospel of Christ, and establishing schools for the instruction of the young. The Russian Church honors his memory on the anniversary of his death, November 26. "He was," we are told, "as it were a new apostle of Christ, carrying the Gospel to multitudes of heathen ignorant of it, spreading the perfume of Divine truth to the farthest bounds of the Russian dominion. He endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ; had much wearying toil and many trials, and bore all with the greatest, patience."

The subsequent history of the Chinese Mission has not been an eventful one. It has had what might seem an advantage, in being supported by its own Government, and at times, indeed, in being favored and aided by that of China. But while thus enabled to provide for the spiritual needs of the descendants of the captives of Albazin, a most important work, its liberty of action for aggressive missionary labor among the Chinese has been, in times past, interfered with. Of late, however, the work has been considerably enlarged. Some years since, services were set up in Ourga, in Mongolia, in the northern part of the Chinese Empire, one of the principal centres of Lamaism. Says the Report of the Ober-Procurator:

There resides the Kontoukta (tho incarnation of Buddha Gighen), held in high consideration by the Mongols, and with him ten thousand Lamas. Thither come, continually, fanatical worshippers in thousands. The setting up of the symbol of Christianity, in such a centre of Lamaism, cannot fail to produce a salutary impression on the minds and hearts of the pagans, particulary of those who, established in the Transbaikal region, and in that of the Altai, profess the same religion, and venerate as a holy place the residence of their divinity. And, beside, the founding of an orthodox church in Mongolia may make it possible for our missionaries of the Altai to penetrate further into that country, and in this way facilitate the difficult task of turning to the only true and salutary religion, men wandering in the thick shades of idolatry and the grossest superstition."

The Report of the same official for 1875, speaks of services held in the village of Dongding'an, not far from Beijing, and in the city of Tianjin. It also speaks of a recent convert, a Chinese official, be longing to the Sou family, regarded by the head of the Mission as the most important acquisition which the Mission had made for the past ten years. Judging from his character, his devotion to the Orthodox faith, and his recognized social position, it is hoped that he will be a great aid in the work of the Mission."

Considerable attention has been given to the translation of Holy Scripture, and other religious books. The Archimandrite Goury, already spoken of, during his residence at Beijing translated into Chinese the New Testament, and six other works treating of religion and morals; and the last Report of the Holy Synod which has been received, that for 1876, says:

The members of the Mission at Beijing, for the past year, consisting of the Archimandrite Palladius, two regular, and one secular priest, besides the discharge of their regular duties, have, for the most part, been engaged in some special work, bearing on the extension of missionary operations. The head of the Mission began, last year, the preparation of a "Chinese and Russian Phraseological Dictionary," for the use of Russian missionaries in China. This useful and important work he hopes to complete by another year. The monk Flavian, with the assistance of the Archimandrite, has composed in Russian and Chinese a brief commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, and has finished the translation into Chinese of the Lenten Series of Scripture Lessons. The priest John Rachinsky, has begun the preparation, in the Chinese language, of 'Brief Instructions for the Sundays and Holy Days.' The two schools for Albazinian children, girls and boys, are reported as doing very well In the boys' school, to the two teachers previously employed, a third has been added— person educated in the school, and who is preparing to be a catechist.

Coming over from China to Japan, we find that in the latter country the Russian Church has a most active and successful mission. A chapel was set up, in connection with the Consulate at Hakodadi, in 1859. This was intended more especially for the Russians resident or visiting there. But almost at once an influence began to be exerted on the Japanese. The Consular Chaplain, Father Nicholas, grew more and more interested in missionary work, and devoted much of his time to it. The Report of the Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod, in 1870, mentions that before the opening of a regular mission in Japan, Nicholas had been the means of the conversion of twelve Japanese to the true faith; that as many more had come to him for religious instruction, and yet others manifested a desire to be taught. With the aid of a Japanese scholar, the chaplain had translated the Gospels into Japanese, and begun the translation of other religious books. The more he labored, the more he felt how little one man, and he with many other cares, could do. He reported to the Holy Synod the very encouraging prospects for the implanting of Christianity. The Japanese had attained, in many respects, a high state of development, and were now beginning to recognize the insufficiency of their native beliefs, and to feel the need of something better. They were now well inclined towards Christianity, and the Government, without annulling the old laws against Christianity, had solemnly announced that it did not intend to put them in force. Father Nicholas urged so strongly for the establishment of a mission, and gave such forcible reasons in favor of what he proposed, that in 1869 the Holy Synod resolved; (1) To take steps for the proclamation of God's Word amongst the heathen Japanese, by a special Russian Mission in Japan, consisting of a Head of the Mission, three clerical fellow laborers, and a reader. (2.) That the four clerical members of the mission be assigned to duty at the following places: (a) at Nagasaki, the cradle of Christianity in Japan; (b) at Yokahama, or at Yeddo, the eastern capital of Japan; (c) at Hiogo, the capital city of central Japan, and (d) at Hakodadi, the seat of the Russian Consulate, where there already was a Russian Church, and whence it would be easy to labor in the northern part of the Island of Niphon. It was not until the following year, 1870, that the mission was organized. Father Nicholas was made an Archimandrite, and put at the head of the mission. At the first, but one clerical colleague was assigned him, the priest Gregory Vorontchoff, who had volunteered for work in Japan. The Archimandrite was directed to correspond freely with the Holy Synod, and to make suggestions, from time to time, based on what he might observe, for the enlargement of the work. To the Bishop of Kamchatka, as the nearest bishop, was assigned the oversight of the new mission.

The Archimandrite was, for the first year or so, practically alone in his work,the priest Vorontchoff being taken seriously ill soon after his arrival in Japan, and forced to return to Russia. The priest Anatolius, an alumnus of the Spiritual Academy at Kieff, appointed in his place, did not reach the scene of his labors until January, 1872. The time of the Archimandrite was, of course, greatly taken up in the discharge of the duties of his consular chaplaincy. But he had earnest native helpers from among the converts, and knew how to make them useful. Through these he was enabled to exert a far-reaching influence. Of these catechists, three seem to deserve special mention. One, Paul Savabe, had been a priest of the Sintoo religion, and had been connected with a temple at Hakodadi; another, John Sakaia, was, until his baptism, a physician, but then quite gave up the practice of his profession, that he might spend all his time in the study of Christianity, and in making it known to his fellow-countrymen. "The third, Jacob Ourano, was also a physician. These catechists taught their countrymen the first principles of Christianity, and very often succeeded in bringing them to the good Archimandrite for further instruction in its truths. We are told that persons sometimes came for this purpose from great distances, entirely without means, and spent their days laboring for their livelihood, that they might in the evenings go to the missionary and listen to his teachings.

The Archimandrite also opened, at Hakodadi, a school for the children, and after considerable search for some one who could assist him in it, found in Jacob Ourano, whom we have mentioned above, a very competent helper. The indefatigable missionary, besides attending to his duties as chaplain, instructing the Japanese who came to him for religious teaching and supervising his school, made time to prepare for the press quite a number of works in Japanese.

The priest Anatolius came, as we have said, in January, 1872, to the assistance of the hard-worked Archimandrite, and now it must have seemed as if the work of the mission would go on more prosperously than ever. But, very soon, dark clouds appeared in the sky. Friendly as the existing Government was to Christianity, there stood on the statute books an unrepealed law, threatening death to those who should embrace Christianity. The Government did not see its way clear to abrogating the law at once, but meant that it should be a dead letter. Some of the local authorities, however, were not so well disposed, and felt that something must be done to hinder the progress of the new religion, which was so rapidly displacing the old beliefs. And so, in March, 1872, a persecution broke out against the Christians at Sendae, in the island of Niphon. Here the faithful catechist, Paul Sevabe, and eight others of the leading Christians, were thrown into prison, about one hundred and and twenty more were brought up for examination and released on bail. It is noteworthy that while among these latter there were some who were not yet baptized, and who had received but little instruction, not one denied his faith. On Easter Eve, trouble came at Hakodadi. The frequent services of Holy Week, with their oft-ringing bells, had attracted many of the Japanese to the chapel there; as many, it was estimated, as three thousand during the week. The native catechists embraced the opportunity to give what instruction they could to the multitude, and numbers of them came to the mission house in the evening for further teaching. The Governor General of the island of Yesso, on which Hakodadi is situated, had the catechists arrested; two of them, Matthew Kangot and Paul Tsura, belonging to a privileged class, were shut up in the fortress; the third, John Sakaia, was put in prison. Many Government officials, who had either embraced Christianity or were known to be favorable to it, were removed from office. But, on the protest of the Russian Consul, aided by representations made at Yeddo by the Head of the Mission, and by a very decided expression of opinion on the part of the local press, the persecution of the Christians was brought to an end by the last of June, all the Christians who had been imprisoned were set free, and an order was issued by the Government, forbidding the local authorities taking any action against the Christians without the express sanction of the central Government. And so all happened "to the furtherance of the Gospel." The presence of Christianity, which had been ignored by the Government, was openly recognized, and the further propagation of Christianity was defended against arbitrary acts of ill will on the part of local authorities which might be unfriendly. Soon after his arrival in Japan, the priest Anatolius took charge of the work at Hakodadi, and the Archimandrite Nicholas went to Yeddo, where, in August, 1872, he secured several Japanese houses in the centre of the city, for the headquarters of the mission. The next year he was able to begin a stone building—having in it a chapel, a school for fifty scholars, and rooms for the missionaries and teachers. But without waiting for this he established two schools for adults—one with twenty students, for the training of catechists; the other, with ten students, was meant to prepare men, through careful instruction in languages, for the important work of translating into the Japanese tongue the religious books so needed.

In 1874 two additional clerical members of the mission were sent out from Russia; the priests Euthymius and Moses, from the Petchersky Lavra at Kieff. The Orthodox Missionary Society was founded to aid missions within the bounds of Russia. But, in February, 1875, by a decree of the Holy Synod, approved by the Emperor, the mission in Japan was put under the charge of the Missionary Society, a change on several accounts for the better. There were now four Russian priests laboring in Japan. But, not only were the laborers too few to gather in the abundant harvest, but there were places where foreigners were not allowed to go. So that there was imperative need of a native ministry. Paul Sevabe had, as catechist, shown wonderful zeal and aptitude for the missionary work. The Right Reverend the Bishop ot Kamchatka therefore made a visitation to the mission in July, 1875, and ordained to the diaconate Paul Savabe and John Sakaia, advancing the former afterward to the priesthood; appointing also, as readers, Paul Tanno and John Katakoura. Savabe immediately set out upon a missionary tour over the northern part of the island of Niphon, and had the happiness of baptizing many hundreds of persons who had been well instructed by himself and his brother catechists, and many of whom had waited long for an opportunity of receiving that holy sacrament.

An "Appeal to the Russian Church in behalf of the Russian Mission in Japan," sent out by the Archimandrite Nicholas, March 15-29, 1876, thus sums up the results to that time:

It has a priest and a deacon from the Japanese, thirty native catechigts and assistant catechists laboring in different parts, and proclaiming the word of God— more than a thousand Christians, a school for catechists with fourteen students, a theological school with forty-five students and with a separate department for training eight persons to be translators, a small girls' school at Yeddo, with 10 pupils, a school for boys with 25 pupils, and one for girls with 24 pupils at Hakodadi. A large number of converts are preparing for Holy Baptism, in different parts of Japan which Paul Savabe has not yet been able to visit, for since his ordination to the Priesthood, in July last, it has only been possible for him to go, in a nearly direct course, through the upper part of the island of Niphon, down as far as Yeddo.

Last year four Japanese catechists were sent over to Siberia for ordination by the Bishop of Kamchatka. But before they could reach Blagovaischensky they learned of the Bishop's death, and returned to Japan. Immediately after Easter of this year they were again to set out, with the priest Anatolius, to seek ordination at the hands of Bishop Paul's successor. It is to be hoped that they may prove as faithful and successful laborers as Paul Savabe has been.

Not only are laborers raised up amongst the Japanese, but the natives are exerting themselves to support the institutions of religion amongst them. A year or two ago, it was stated that they had built chapels in three cities, and were supporting their priest, Paul Savabe, and the greater part of their religious teachers. And there is reason to think that, ere long, a large staff of native clergy will be sustained entirely from native resources.

March 12-24 of this year the Archimandrite Nicholas wrote to the most Reverend Innocent of Moscow, as follows:

"Thank God, our mission continues to prosper. More than 3,000 orthodox Christian Japanese are connected with it, more than 70 catechists and teachers are scattered over the different provinces, from Northern Japan down to, and including, Osaka. The mission station which has been established in Osaka has been in view from the very opening of this mission. Osaka and Miako near it are the very heart of Japan, as Moscow is of Russia. And what success can we look for from this mission? Jacob Tachaia, one of the candidates for the priesthood, was sent to Osaka on his return from Siberia, and already there are more than thirty Christians. Father Anatolius has recently visited it, and held a baptism. By Easter it would seem that the church there would have 100 members. There are also many converts at Miako. And when Anatolius comes back from Siberia with the newly ordained Japanese priests, please God, a mission will be opened at Nagasaki.

The facts stated in this paper will suffice to show the character of the work carried on in the far East by Russian missionaries. A few words in conclusion, from an English clergyman, the Rev. Wm. B. Wright, the first missionary of the S. P. G. in Japan. In a letter dated Tokio, Japan, March 12, 1877, published in the "Foreign Church Chronicle" of December last, he speaks of the pleasure of meeting there missionaries of "the daughter church in the United States," and adds:

Here is a most successful mission of the Russian Church. There are only three foreigners, the archimandrite (who is also chaplain to the Legation). Father Euthymius, and a choir-master. At Hakodadi, up north, there is a priest, Father Antolius and about 600 baptized converts. Here, over 200 are baptized. These Russian brethren are on terms of the greatest intimacy with me. The liturgy of St. Chrysostom and other service books and Scripture history are translated into Japanese. They also freely circulate and use the Scriptures. Only two or three days ago Father Nicholas bought from me 100 Chinese Bibles, and got me to order a large number of English theological works. He hopes to have, eventually, one Japanese church with different rites, and said "Let us leave disputes to the theologians at home to settle and be like brothers out here."

How pleasant it is to see that members of Churches dissevered through mutual misunderstandings are animated with like zeal to make God's "way known upon earth, His saving health among all nations." May He hasten the time when we can present a united front against heathenism and unbelief.