The Relation Of England’s Opium Policy To Christian Missions In China -- By: James Brand
BSac 42:168 (Oct 1885) p. 708
The Relation Of England’s Opium Policy To Christian Missions In China
Professor Legge, of Oxford, reports, in his Religions of China, the following conversation between himself and the Chinese ambassador at London in 1877: “‘You know,’ said the Chinaman, ‘both England and China. Which country do you say is the better of the two?’ I replied, ‘England.’ He was disappointed, and added, ‘I mean, looking at them from a moral stand-point, — looked at from the stand-point of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, which country do you say is the better?’ After some demur and fencing I again replied, ‘England.’ I never saw a man more surprised. He pushed his chair back, got on his feet, took a turn across the room, cried out, ‘You say, that, looked at from the moral stand-point, England is better than China! Then how is it that England insists on our taking her opium?’”1
It is easy for the Christian reader to spring to the conclusion that this is only another instance of the conceit and ignorance of the Chinese people. But, if we distinguish between the English people and the English government, and remember that the Chinaman has known England chiefly as a great commercial power, a different conclusion is at least possible. At any rate, the Chinaman’s opinion starts some questions which cannot be settled by simply saying that he is a heathen. Of what degree of intelligence is he possessed? What facts of experience constitute the grounds of his conclusion? Does England’s opium policy represent Christian civiliza-
BSac 42:168 (Oct 1885) p. 709
tion? And if so, what are its points of superiority over Chinese civilization? Viewed in the light of the last hundred years of intercourse between the two powers, what relation does English civilization sustain to the “golden rule”? What is to be the influence of that intercourse upon the spread of Christianity in the Chinese Empire? These, and many other kindred questions in which all Christendom is interested, force the subject at the head of this paper anew upon public attention. A moral evil affecting the destiny of millions of men, and sustained by the government of one of the most powerful empires of Christendom, would seem to be always a timely theme. But there are two or three special reasons why it should be discussed anew at this time. The fact that, in the providence of God, China has become one of the chief mission fields of the world, brings that country into special prominence. If England has had the monopoly of the opium trade, she cannot have the monopoly of interest in its consequences to China. All Christian people are now on the alert for China’s redemption. Whoeve...
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