« PreviousContinue »
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. 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
effect? Judge by what it has already effected. It has reduced anarchy to order, given law, established justice, protected the land from invasion, and prevented it from being ravaged by intestine wars. It has suppressed suttee and dacoity, forbidden human sacrifices, repressed infanticide, and made slavery illegal. It has woven a network of telegraphs around the empire, from Galle to Peshawur, and from Peshawur to Rangoon. It has established a regular system of postage for letters, papers, and books, at low charges and uniform rates. It has improved old roads, and made new ones, sent steamers up the principal streams, constructed a canal nine hundred miles long, and will, probably, soon construct others in the valleys of the Mahanaddy, the Kistna, and the Godavery. It has commenced a system of railways, embracing about five thousand miles of trunk lines, at a cost of nearly three thousand millions of dollars, which, when completed, will unite the extremes of the Peninsula, open hitherto inaccessible tracts, and bring all parts close to each other and to the civilized world. Already the steam-horse traverses the Gangetic valley from Calcutta to Delhi, crosses the Peninsula from Madras to the western shore, and prances from Bombay to Nagpore.
" It has steadily increased the trade of the country, which, before the days of Clive, could be conveyed in a single Venetian frigate, until it now reaches nearly five hundred millions of dollars annually. It has raised the revenues of the government to two hundred and fifteen millions. It has given India the newspaper, that grcat educator; so that there are twenty-eight newspapers pub. lished weekly in Bengal,—three of them in English, by the natives,—thirty native presses in Madras, and I knov not how many in Bombay and Ceylon, and twenty-five presses among the missions alone. It has established schools in all parts of the land, in which those sciences are taught that undermine the prevailing systems o superstition and error. It has made the English lan. guage classical in the country; and, by this means, it is furnishing the native mind with the rich and Christian stores of which that noble tongue is the medium. It has protected missionaries of Christ, and their converts.
“Look, then, at this great Peninsula, linked to the continent and the world by its languages, commerce, and religions; source of the false faiths which, together, ensnare six hundred millions of the human race, and the stronghold of a delusion that blinds a hundred and eighty millions more
There are more Mohammedans under Victoria's sceptre than under any other on earth. The Sultan has but twenty-one millions ; she has twenty-five millions, at least. There are more heathen under the same Christian Queen than under any sovereign except the Emperor of China. And this mass is, all through and through, and more and more, subjected to Christian influences. The telegraphs are so many ganglia in a great nervous system, diffusing new sensations; the railways are so many iron arteries, pumping Christian blood through the native veins; the newspapers are so many digestive powers, preparing healthful moral food; the schools are so many batteries, thundering at the crumbling battlements of error; the missions are many brains, thinking new and better thoughts.