The Optical Magic Lantern Journal (November 1900)

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140 The Optical Magic Lantern Journal and Photographic Enlarger. to the theatre to see the ‘‘ shadow pictures.” These meetings are not solely preaching services. The subject of my sermon is always announced and the fact impressed upon all that the chief purpose of these gatherings is to tell about Christ. But in order to allure as many as possible, and especially to draw a class, who under no other circumstances would listen to a word about Christianity, I entertain them for about half-an-hour with moving ships, dissolving views, chromatropes and scenery. This also helps to forestall any disturbance which men of the baser sort might plan for. In _ the educational centres the student class is much in evidence, and their exuberance of feelings is allowed full utterance while these preliminary pictures are being shown. Any disposition to rowdyism is always transformed during this half hour into a feeling sympathetic with the object of the meeting. Then when sympathy has been awakened, I quietly pass on to the pictures which illustrate the topic of the evening. On one occasion only has any attempt been made, under the cover of the darkness, to break up the meeting. It is a marvel to everyone that ‘such crowds of people remain so quiet and attentive in theatres where there is ordinarily so much noise and confusion. The object being to attract and instruct the masses whose religious ideas are perverted by heredity, education and environment, the subjects of the sermons are selected with great care. The Japanese are steeped either in superstition or atheism. To tell such a people about the miracles of Christ and to give them their first ideas of Christianity through such a medium is not the most favourable way to approach them. Since it is true that about onethird of Christ’s sayings which have been preserved to us consists of parables, we have a hint as to the best form in which to present the truths of God to those who are strangers to it. The parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan have formed my best topics, because they convey lessons unlimited by nationality, | and their teaching is as broad as the earth and universal as humanity. The former is especially instructive, because the pictures are drawn from Japanese life and the lesson adapted to their circumstances. Two suitable tracts on these topics are sold at the door for one cent each, and the reading of these helps to deepen the impressions made by the pictures and the sermon. Next to the parables, religious biography furnishes fruitful subject matter. The lives of Paul, Joseph, and Bunyan show the power of Christianity to elevate men. A special feature which I am fortunately able to introduce is the singing of a hymn or two at a fitting time in the sermon. The people listen with breathless attention to the singing, while following the words thrown upon the screen. One stolid looking coolie once said that the song alone was ‘‘worth the whole trouble of going to the meeting and getting in.” His closing words have a special meaning, for it often occurs that the doors are closed after the place is comfortably filled and scores refused admission. The ‘‘ Prodigal Son lecture” ran three nights in one city, and closed up the other theatres for lack of an audience. Such crowds may not indicate any widespread yearning to bear the Gospel, but they are the missionary’s opportunity. It would be a most serious blunder to fritter away this opportunity by merely showing pictures. The better classes, especially officials, are habitually late and often arrive after the mechanical views have been shown and the sermon already commenced. Often am I requested, under these circumstances, to repeat the preliminary pictures at the close. But this request is always declined. The chief object of my visit is to stir the conscience and to open the mind to Christian truth, and therefore the people must be dismissed with the sound of the Gospel ringing in their ears. Everything is planned to produce and fix serious impressions. The people, most of them, have come for the pictures and not the sermon; but they must leave with the ‘still small voice” speaking to their hearts. No efforts on my part, nor time, nor expense are spared to procure the best pictures and to make the sermon as complete as possible ; and the missionaries and Christians into whose fields I go exert themselves to the utmost to secure a full house, whether the meeting be held in @ church, school-house, private dwelling, clubroom or theatre. Only on one occasion did I consent, much against my judgment, to the sale of tickets. In no other way could the large fee for the use of the theatre in that city be met. Strange were my feelings that night as I faced an audience of 800 non-Christian people who had paid to hear the Gospel. The usual method is to distribute free tickets plentifully among the people whom it is desirable to reach. Physically, touring with a lantern is the hardest work I ever performed. There are the ordinary discomforts of a touring missionary who lives in Japanese hotels, upon native food,