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of England, it may be hoped that the “hoaryheaded nation,"China, is approaching a great crisis. If Christians do their duty, they will pour forth the word of truth on the right hand and on the left throughout that vast empire ; and thus the long struggle between the two powers will be made subservient to the glory of God and the salvation of immortal souls. China out of its superabundant population shall then present a scene never before witnessed-a people serving and worshipping the one true God. Its idols shall be cast to the moles and the bats; its flimsy webs of philosophy rent asunder ; and its inhabitants shall flock to the temple of the living God as 66 doves to the windows." And that such a consummation shall one day take place, the sure word of prophecy testifies. Every nation and every kingdom under heaven--and the vast and populous empire of China included — shall become “ the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.” All shall own his gentle sway!
Ir absolute and extended power could impart happiness to the human breast, then the emperor of China might prove the object of envy to all monarchs. He reigns over almost one-third of the human race, and throughout his dominions
his will is law. Arrogating to himself the title of “ Interpreter of the decrees of Heaven,"* he issues his edicts as he pleases, and his subjects bow submissively at his feet. However arbitrary, cruel, and unjust they may be, none venture to oppose him. He is even worshipped with Divine honours throughout the empire. He professes to worship Heaven, and the people blindly worship him. This will be clearly seen from the testimony of an eye-witness to the celebration of the emperor's birthday at Pekin :
“ The first day was consecrated to the purpose of rendering a solemn, sacred, and devout homage to the supreme majesty of the emperor. The princes, tributaries, ambassadors, great officers of state, and principal mandarins were assembled in a vast hall, and upon particular notice were introduced into an inner building, bearing the semblance of a temple. It was chiefly furnished with instruments of music, among which were sets of cylindrical bells, suspended in a line from ornamented frames of wood, and gradually diminishing in size from one extremity to the other, and also triangular pieces of metal, arranged in the same order as the bells. To the sound of these instruments, a slow and solemn hymn was sung by eunuchs, who had such a command over their voices as to resemble the effect of musical glasses at a distance.
The performers were directed in * This is only one among the numerous titles of the emperor of China. He is also designated the Son of Heaven ; Imperial Supreme ; Holy Lord ; Most High ; Lord of Ten Thousand Years; King of Kings, etc. One of his most appropriate titles is, King of Ten Thousand Islands, inasmuch as the mainland of China is surrounded by islands in great numbers, which he governs.
gliding from one tone to another, by the striking of a shrill and sonorous cymbal ; and the judges of music among the gentlemen of the embassy were much pleased with their execution. The whole had, indeed, a grand effect. During the performance, and at particular signals, nine times repeated, all the persons present prostrated themselves nine times, except the ambassador and his suite, who made a profound obeisance : but he whom it was meant to honour continued, as if it were in imitation of the Deity, invisible the whole time. The awful impression made upon the minds of men by this apparent worship of a fellow-mortal was not to be effaced by any immediate scenes of gaiety, which were postponed to the following day."
This ceremony is universal and simultaneous through the chief cities of China. All worship the creature in the person of their emperor; and yet it would not appear that the emperor, or his court, think that such honours are rightly due unto him. The homage is apparently exacted as a trick of state, for every device is called into action to perpetuate the impression of awe. Thus no person is allowed to pass before the outer gate of the palace, either on horseback or in a vehicle; the vacant throne is worshipped when the emperor does not occupy it; an imperial despatch is received in the provinces with offerings of incense and prostration, looking towards Pekin; and there is a paved walk to the principal audience hall on which none may walk but the emperor: to such miserable expedients will man resort to gain power over his fellow-man, and to oppose his Maker. It is in vain that the assertion is put forth that the emperor has received such authority in order to show compassion, maintain peace, and promote civilization
amongst all tribes : actual practice denounces such a declaration to be a vile subterfuge, and history confirms the fact. The love of power alone has stimulated the emperors of China to climb such a giddy height over their subjects.
The sovereign of China has the absolute disposal of the succession. If he pleases, he can name his heir out of his own family, several examples of which are given in the preceding chapter. Generally, however, as is natural, the Chinese emperors have sought to perpetuate their dynasties by the succession of the members of their own family—the eldest son, if deemed worthy; if not, a younger, or some more remote branch of the
As in most oriental countries, the imperial sanction to all public acts is conveyed by the impression of a seal. Any remarks or directions made by the emperor himself are written in red, commonly styled "the vermilion pencil." The whole appears to be dictated by him, for he neither proposes questions, nor asks advice of his ministers. They remain mute while he promulgates his will as the " Son of Heaven.” It is probable, however, that in secret he frequently has confidential counsellors. In public he acts alone, in order to maintain his self-importance. The history of the Chinese declares, indeed, that but few emperors among them have been sufficiently sage to rule without counsel.
All edicts of a special nature, after being addressed to the proper tribunal, are promulgated