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to idolatry, and yet prepared for something better, if only a movement were commenced, and if some one of courage, of force of character, and of enthusiasm, would lead the way.
“We need,” he said, “ a Luther amongst us ;” as who should say, that, under the guidance of a Martin Luther, he himself, with the rest, would break away from Hinduism; that, led by such a man, a new era of religious reformation would be inaugurated in the land; and that all who were longing for reform, who were ready to be free, but not daring to be so, would rush eagerly to his standard, from every quarter.
This brings us to the constructive process at work in this city, and in other places in the country. It was no easy task, but one of gigantic difficulty, to awaken a desire for knowledge, or for any improvement whatever, amongst a people so confident in their own creed, so satisfied with their own condition, and so profoundly unconscious of the necessity of any change in the one or in the other. Nevertheless, the task has been performed, and with astonishing quickness. And it may be affirmed, with perfect truth, that the desire for knowledge, for an advanced civilization, for a thorough conformity to some of the enlightened usages of life practised by European nations, and for the possession of nobler principles than idolatry inspires, is the most important and noticeable feature among all the changes now taking place in native society. In accomplishing this result, the liberal legislation of an upright Government, the education imparted in the Government and Missionary Schools, and the various influences, of a more or less salutary character, produced by the great mate
rial improvements which British enterprise and skill have introduced into the country, have lent their aid; but the most potent and efficacious instrument of all, it must be confessed, has been the direct and indirect teaching of Christianity in many places, the patient and persistent exhibition of its divine principles, the preaching of the Word to all classes, in the city and in the village, in the streets and in the lanes, and in all places, and at all practicable times, perseveringly and unintermittingly.
Putting together all the favourable circumstances connected with the Hindus in relation to the progress of Christianity among them, I consider that there is every reason for encouragement and hope in the future. Indeed, I feel that it is incumbent on the Church to render special thanksgiving to God for the wonderful change in the sentiments of the people generally which He has already graciously effected. To cherish doubts and fears in the prosecution of this great work, or in regard to its ultimate issue, would be significant of unbelief, and of distrust of God's all-powerful grace. It is one of the most gratifying features of the spirit of inquiry now manifest among the natives, that it has spread to the most unlikely and unpromising members of the community. I will give an illustration of this assertion. It is well known, that a large number of priests are engaged in temple and other religious services in Be
They are a very bigoted people, and, in fact, with the pandits, are the main stay of Hinduism. Of this entire class, the most prejudiced and most strongly attached to idolatrous rites are the Gangá-putras, or
sons of the Ganges, men who gain their livelihood by the offerings made by worshippers at the gháts of the sacred stream and at certain sacred pools in the city. There is a celebrated reservoir in Benares, where some forty thousand pilgrims, from all parts of India, annually present sacrifices to their ancestors, and bathe. Not more than five or six head-priests direct the religious ceremonies of this host. And it must be borne in mind that the ceremony, once performed, need never be repeated here; so that the pilgrims are renewed every year. It has been the custom, for several years past, for this tank to be visited, occasionally, by missionaries and native evangelists from the missions in the city, for the purpose of preaching to both priests and pilgrims. In this way several of the priests became well acquainted with Christianity, and also personally attached to ourselves. But I must confess that we were greatly astonished, one day, at receiving a visit from two head-priests, accompanied by some seven or eight disciples. These had come to the mission, professedly for the purpose of confessing their belief in Christianity, and of making arrangements for publicly abandoning Hinduism and embracing the true religion. I regard the circumstance as one of incalculable significance, as indicative of the influence which the Christian religion is exerting on the people, even on that class most difficult to reach and most wedded to superstition. Nor is its significancy at all diminished by the fact that not one of these persons persisted in his determination, and that all, startled by the obstacles in the way,—not raised by the missionaries, but entirely by themselves, -after a short interval, re
turned to their temples, and to their idolatrous practices, as before.
On the 24th of December, 1866, a lecture was delivered before the Benares Institute by a Hindu,-not a Christian, nor a member of the Brahmo Samáj, named Pandit Lingam Lakshmají Pantlu Garu, private secretary to his Highness the Maharaja of Vizianagram, on “The Social Status of the Hindus,” in which some very remarkable statements were made on a great variety of topics connected with the social usages and inner life of his fellow-countrymen. It is astonishing that a Brahman, before a company of Brahmans and others, forming the élite of native society in the holy city, should have had the courage to utter sentiments like the following, striking at the root of the prevalent philosophy and religion of the land. At page 27, the
“Then we come to the Augean stables of our religion the never failing source of all our misery, of all our demoralization, of all our deterioration, in short, of our ruin and fall. Our faith, as all of you are aware, is of two kinds, one idolatrous and the other monotheistic; yet both are so intermixed that it is impossible to treat of the one without touching the other. We have, indeed, a trinity, to represent the creating, the preserving, and the destroying powers; and we are charitable enough to give to each of these gods a wife. Then we have the ten incarnations of the preserving power
Then we have idolized and deified everything possible; giving, at the same time, with sedulous care, a wife to each god. This is the Puranic account of our popular faith. In
the superior system, which is generally called the Vedanta philosophy, there is but one self-existent, eternal Supreme Being, who is the cause of all, and into whom everything is finally absorbed. In both systems, man is not a free agent: prompted by the within-himselfseated divine power, he acts; yet, inconsistently, he enjoys the fruit of his good actions, and suffers pain for the bad ones. In the Vedanta system, heaven and hell are not formally recognized. In both, our souls pass through many bodies, not only human, but also those of all sorts of animals,—nay, even through different parts of inanimate creation. We cannot blame our ancestors for building such a system of theology for us; but, as intelligent and rational beings, it behoves us to examine whether our present religious ideas are consonant with reason, and whether they are calculated to give us happiness both here and hereafter. Idolatry is denounced by our own texts; it is, indeed, intended for small intellects. If we attribute to God the creation of this world ; if we endow Him with the qualities of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience; if we call Him the regulator of every mundane thing, how can we, without inconsistency, represent Him as a small idol ? Is it not the greatest insult that we can offer to the Almighty, by representing Him in any shape ? Can we represent him ? ... The shape in which we worship Mahadeva is most revolting to all who have any sense of decency and personal respect left in them. Not to say that we regard the numerous idols as monuments of some bygone powers, and no more; this would be something reasonable, at least.
On the contrary, we