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regard every idol we worship as the self-existent, eternal, Supreme Being, who is the cause of everything, and into whom everything is finally absorbed.
“Purity of personal character is nothing to many of us: the Gangá (Ganges) and our idols help us to heaven! But, sir, we are not free agents; what we do, we do prompted by the divine essence implanted in us. Yet we enjoy the fruits of our good acts, and suffer punishment for our sins! Our souls pass through a series of births, according to our actions, over which we have no control! If we do everything prompted by the implanted divine essence, and if unreasonably God punishes us for our sins, and rewards our merits, all by carrying our souls through a series of corporeal existences, then what need have we of a God ? Does not this throw us into the dark abyss of atheism? We do nothing of our own accord, not even the act of worshipping our favourite idols! All this nonsense is the fruit of endless and superstitious priestcraft under which we groan.”
Although, in the actual prosecution of Missionary labour, not only in Benares, but also in other places in India, there are many difficulties and discouragements to encounter, both in the opposition of idolaters, and in the not infrequent inconsistency of native Christians, yet the results are most extensive and extraordinary. Considering the small amount of money which has been expended, the limited means which have been employed, and the brief space of time which has elapsed since the Missionary enterprise was inaugurated in the sacred city, and bearing in mind, likewise, the stern fact that Christianity has there met with its
fiercest and most determined opponents, that it is the great seat of caste prejudice and priestly domination, that it is the chief and acknowledged bulwark of idolatry and superstition in all India, and that, in short, Hinduism has there sat enthroned in the midst of
pomp and power, sustained by the learning and subtlety of the Brahmans, and by the wealth and authority of rajas and princes from all parts of the country, for a period stretching over many ages, it is most surprising that so much has been achieved. In appearance, Christianity has been more successful in many places in India than in Benares; yet, when the peculiar obstacles which exist in that city are taken into consideration, I believe it is not too much to say that it has, in the aggregate, accomplished as much there as in any city in the land. It has been proved, too, in Benares, as elsewhere, that, wherever idolatry has come into direct antagonism with the Gospel, it has, together with other acknowledged evils, such as caste, superstition, and false philosophy, in association therewith, fallen before it.
To extend these observations, so as to include within their scope the entire peninsula of Hindustan, and, at the same time, to bring them to a conclusion, I would remark, that the results of missions in India are not surpassed by anything that has been accomplished, of a religious character, in modern times, either in England, or in America, or in any quarter of the globe. These results are both direct and indirect; direct, in the way of conversions from the heathen; indirect, in regard to the general enlightenment and progress of the people,
incident to the operation of Christian Truth and European Civilization upon their minds. It is progress in sound knowledge, in thought, in the quickening of conscience, and in true religion. Christianity is now a power in India, a felt and acknowledged power, which men of all castes and ranks, including Hindus of the strictest sects, respect and fear. What is the great prominent question at this moment agitating no small portion of the millions of India ? Not the increased social happiness and prosperity of the people, nor the augmentation of commerce and trade, nor the vast improvements in the country,—visible on every hand, wonderful as they all are,—but this, What is Truth? What constitutes religion? What is the destiny of Idolatry, and what that of Christianity, in the coming ages ? The people are thinking, comparing, arguing, not knowing exactly what to do. India is much in the condition of Rome previously to the baptism of the Emperor Constantine. Idolatry, here as there, now as then, is falling into disgrace. Men are becoming wiser. Truth, in its clearness and power, is gradually entering their minds, and changing their habits and lives.
India is undergoing an intellectual and also a moral and religious revolution. The Past is slowly losing its bewitching influence over the public mind. The Hindu dares to think, and has ever dared,—though he lacks the courage to act up to new convictions ;-yet the inspiration of earnestness has entered his breast; and, as his convictions become fixed and definite, he will, I doubt not, fling away from him the weight of prejudice and custom, which has oppressed him so cruelly and so long.
Let us not forget what the grace of God can do, and what it has already done. It can change the heart of the polite, metaphysical, idol-loving Hindu, just as it has changed the heart of the savage African and New Zealander. It can bring him, humble, self-abased, stripped of pride and vain-glory, to the foot of the Cross, to crave there meekly the forgiveness of his sins.
Religious controversies and excitements are always the most momentous, and, perhaps, in the end, most productive of beneficial results. The violent mental commotions of the Middle Ages, the extraordinary religious awakening at their close, produced the most stupendous consequences for good. And who shall say what the intellectual and religious awakening of India, which has just commenced, will not produce ? No prophet is needed to tell the issue. It will infallibly produce, for India, all that the Reformation has produced for England and the world. It must extinguish idolatry, must break in pieces its images, must wipe out its distinguishing symbols and signs, must destroy its temples, must cleanse the land of its foulness; so that, perhaps, in many places, as in some of the islands of the South Seas, no traces of its previous existence will be discoverable. It will annihilate caste; it will clear the atmosphere of superstitious and impure rites; and the praises of the Great Creator, the One Living and True God, will be sung, in His sanctuaries, from one end of the land to the other.
India, converted to the Lord, is a subject which the Indian missionary delights to think on. The day is approaching, and may come when many least expect it.
And, when the warm feeling and poetic imagination of the Hindus are directed to our common Christianity; when their hearts have been vitalized by its influence; when they have, as a people, risen into the region of holy thought, and of earnest prayer to their Father above; then may it be expected that they will make sudden and rapid progress in civilization, and in whatever contributes to a nation's greatness, and will share with us in the exalted privilege and honour of extending the kingdom of Christ, and of hastening His universal reign.
I venture, therefore, to predict a Future for India, of unparalleled glory and lustre. And why should not Benares still hold a foremost place in her history? Why should not she take the lead of all Indian cities, as she ever has done, and show, by her own example, and for their imitation, how she can abolish useless social burthens, can abandon exploded errors, and can accept the Truth in all its forms; how she can strive after and attain to the highest and purest happiness, and can bring herself, with God's help, to hate whatever He hates, and to love whatever He loves ?
I will sum up these remarks on the religious and social condition and future prospects of India, by an extract from an article in an American Quarterly Review, from the pen of the Rev. Dr. Thomson, a Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States, who lately journeyed in India, on a tour of visitation to the missions of that body, situated chiefly in Rohilkhand and Oudh. Speaking of British ascendancy in India, Dr. Thomson writes:-“What will this power effect ? Judge