The Conversion of a Japanese

For two years in my early ministry I was associated in various places with a Japanese evangelist, Mr. Riuza Kasamatsu, who had been converted in California and afterwards gave himself to ministering the Word among his own people, many of whom were settled in that state.

At one time we spent some weeks in Sacramento, where I was preaching to the occidentals, and he to his oriental brethren after the flesh.

At this time he introduced me to a Japanese fruit contractor, Mr. Yataro Yamaguchi. This man had been brought up in one of the many Buddhist sects in Fukaoka Ken, and at one time had about decided to give up all temporal employment and retire to a Buddhist monastery in order to obtain the salvation of his soul. His father was averse to this, and insisted that as the eldest son it was his responsibility to get into some lucrative business where he could help in the support of a rather large family. So, putting aside the question of his religious longings, he concluded he had best emigrate to America.

Upon reaching Stockton in California he inquired of a friend as to which was the best religion to profess in the United States, so as to make the most friends and accumulate the most wealth. His friend told him the Methodists were probably the most popular. “Take me then,” he commanded, “to a Methodist priest, and tell him I wish to join his church.”

His friend, who spoke English, hunted up a Methodist minister and explained that Yamaguchi desired to be a Christian. It was difficult to make anything very clear, as the “convert” spoke no English and the parson no Japanese; but on the assurance of the other party that all was thoroughly understood, the young man was solemnly sprinkled in the name of the Trinity and received into the church.

He cultivated the acquaintance of Christian people, and through them found many opportunities to turn an honest dollar.

Later he returned to Sacramento, where he became a contractor, using large numbers of his fellow-countrymen to pick, dry and pack fruit—a business that brought in good financial returns.

Hearing Mr. Kasamatsu preach, he became greatly concerned about spiritual matters and the two had many long interviews, as a result of which Mr. Yamaguchi became convinced of the truth of Christianity, but he felt that he could not commit himself to Christ and bear testimony to his changed convictions, as it might interfere seriously with his money-making, which had now become an obsession. He did not see how he dared take issue with his countrymen, and he realized, too, that the Christian ethical standard was so high he was afraid he could never live up to it.

In vain Mr. Kasamatsu pressed the claims of God and His Christ. At times it seemed the contractor was about to yield, then he drew back and resisted the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. I had many conversations with him myself, but both Mr. Kasamatsu and I came at last to the conclusion that the sin of covetousness stood between Yamaguchi and his soul’s salvation and we feared he might never be saved.

After three months we left Sacramento and went elsewhere to labor.

It was about a year later that I returned, this time with a Mr. William M. Horsey, an evangelist from the East. We secured a hall and had nightly meetings for some weeks. On Saturday evenings we went out upon the street and preached the gospel to large crowds at the corner of 4th and K streets in the business district, which was also near the part of the city where the Japanese congregated.

One Saturday night I was pleased to see Mr. Yamaguchi in the crowd, and I noticed that he seemed to be listening intently. At the close he came right over to me, shook me warmly by the hand, inquired kindly after Mr. Kasamatsu, and then asked as to our indoor meetings. He surprised me by eagerly inquiring if we had “a meeting where you eat the bread, drink the wine, show how Jesus Christ die for sinners?”

I knew he meant the Communion and told him we observed the Lord’s Supper each Sunday at eleven in the morning.

“May I come?” he asked.

“Certainly,” I replied, “we do not shut anyone out, though only those who know and love the Lord participate at His table.”

The next morning he appeared at that service. There were less than twenty of us, so he was quite conspicuous as he sat throughout with the most intent look imaginable upon his face, watching us carefully and following all the hymns, prayers and Scriptures read.

Just after the elements had been replaced upon the table he rose to his feet exclaiming, “I like to pray!”

I felt sorry I had not explained that strangers such as he were not expected to take part and I greatly feared a disturbance which would be in the nature of an anti-climax to what had been thus far a very precious remembrance of the Lord.

But I need not have feared. He prayed much as follows: “O God, I all broke up. One whole year I fight you. I fight hard against your Holy Spirit. O God, I cannot fight any more. I see your people eat the bread, drink the wine, tell how Jesus die for sinner like me. O God, I give up. I take Him now for my Saviour. Forgive all my sins. Save me now for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Needless to say, it did not spoil our meeting. As he concluded there was not a dry eye in the little assembly. Fervently we thanked God for manifesting His grace to this one of another race and a pagan religion.

As we crowded about him to express our joy in his decision for Christ, he turned to me and said, “I read in Bible about bury with Jesus when we trust Him. Before I sprinkled with water, but not mean anything to me. Now I like bury under water, show that old life all gone and new life begun.”

I told him we would endeavor to make arrangements for his baptism by the following Lord’s day. He looked up surprised and said, “Mr. Kasamatsu tell me Jesus Christ coming back again. So?”

“Yes,” I answered, “He is to return again?”

“Mr. Kasamatsu tell me He coming soon. So?”

“Yes, He says, ‘Surely, I come quickly.’”

“He not come before next Sunday?”

“I cannot say that.”

“Maybe He be back before next Sunday?”

“Yes, He might come at any time.”

“Then I no like to wait till next Sunday. I like do today what He want me to do. I fight too long already. Now I like obey at once.”

“Forgive me!” I exclaimed. “We will arrange your baptism for today. Can we meet, brethren, at the Sacramento River at 2:30 this afternoon?” All agreed to this. “Then if you meet us there we will see that you are baptized at once.”

At about two o’clock Mr. Horsey and I were on our way to the river when we saw a procession of some forty Japanese merchants, all in their best clothes, who with Mr. Yamaguchi, and another known as “the Mayor of Japan town” at their head, were marching two by two in regular order to the trysting-place at the riverside.

When all were gathered there I gave an address on the meaning of the ordinance, which Mr. Yamaguchi interpreted to his Japanese friends; then he gave his own personal testimony, and Mr. Horsey led him into the river, where he solemnly immersed him in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

During the years since he has demonstrated the reality of his Christian profession. I have met him frequently and always been refreshed in spirit by his fervor and evident love for Christ. Mr. Kasamatsu has long since gone to heaven, but I cherish his memory as that of a beloved fellow-laborer with whom it was a joy to have fellowship in service for our adorable Lord.