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This event proved the last blow to the interests of the Christian religion. No more conversions were made; apostacy became almost general in several quarters; and Christianity became more and more an object of contempt and aversion, in proportion as the European manners became better known to the Hindoos.
Nearly at that period the suppression of the order of the jesuits took place in Europe; and there being no longer a sufficient number of missionaries, a national black clergy was formed, and the attendance on the remaining congregations entrusted to their care. Those native missionaries not having the advantage of a proper education, and many amongst them shewing themselves more attached to their own interest than to those of religion, enjoy but little consideration even among their flocks, and none among the natives of any other description.
"Such is the abridged history of the rise, the progress, and the decline of the Christian religion in India. The low state to which it is now reduced, and the contempt in which it is held, cannot be surpassed. There is not at present in the country (as mentioned before) more than a third of the Christians who were to be found in it eighty years ago, and this number diminishes every day by frequent apostacy. It will dwindle to nothing in a short period; and if things continue as they are now going on, within less than fifty years there will, I fear, remain no vestige of Christianity among the natives.
"The Christian religion, which was formerly an object of indifference, or at most of contempt, is at present become, I will venture to say, almost an object of horror. It is certain that during the last sixty years no proselytes, or but a very few, have been made. Those Christians who are still to be met with in several parts of the country, and whose numbers (as I have just mentioned) diminishes every day, are the offspring of the converts made by the jesuits before that period. The very small number of proselytes who are still gained over from time to time, are found among the lowest tribes; so are individuals who, driven out from their castes, on account of their vices or scandalous transgressions of their usages, are shunned afterwards by every body as outlawed men, and have no other resource left than that of turning Christians, in order to form new connexions in society; and you will easily fancy that such an assemblage of the offals and dregs of society only tends to increase the contempt and aversion entertained by the Hindoos against Christianity." P. 11.
This is an outline of the Abbé's work. It is filled up with considerable spirit, and many of his details are lamentably accurate. But the theory by which he would explain what has happened is little less than ludicrous. Because the
Jesuitical missionaries failed to convert the Hindoos, the Abbé believes them to be in a state of reprobation! Practices for which there is not the slightest sanction in Scripture; practices which have been condemned by the Catholic church, and forbidden by his own infallible Pope; practices which involved gross deception and fraud, and permitted
superstition and idolatry, have not succeeded in the propagation of the Gospel, and therefore the idolaters are blinded by an irreversible decree, and we must leave them in their ignorance and their sins! Truly the superstructure is worthy of the base! If there is any judicial blindness in the business, it must be imputed to the Abbé, and to those who think and act as he does, rather than to those who, by his own confession, have not yet heard the Gospel preached, and whose errors are for the most part inevitable. The Abbé dwells with evident complacency upon the number of converts added by his predecessors to the church, but not a word is said about their proficiency in Christian knowledge or practice. We are told that the morals of the native Christians in Southern India are now at a low ebb; but we are not told that they were in a different state before the downfal of the Catholic faith. In one word, it is evident that Jesuitical Christianity has been tried, and found wanting; and the inference is, that it never should be resorted to again. It is equally evident, that Protestant Christianity is yet upon its trial, and the result of the experiment remains to be ascertained.
The Abbé indeed contends, in anticipation of the answers, that the Danish and other Protestant missions in the South of India have been unsuccessful, and that consequently Protestantism, as well as Jesuitism, has failed. The argument is plausible, but admits of an easy answer; for, in the first place, until the erection of the see of Calcutta, the Protestant missions were the work of private individuals. The Church of England regarded them as an interesting experiment, but an experiment conducted upon too small a scale, and destitute of the proper superintendence and controul. The entire failure of such an undertaking would furnish no objection to a renewal of our efforts under the sanction of a Protestant bishop. In the second place, no such failure has occurred. Until the breaking out of the last war, both the Danish and the English missions had been blessed with a fair portion of success: that war interrupted the communication between the continents of Europe and Asia. The supply of new missionaries was cut off, and the Protestant congregations dwindled away, not from the invincible prejudices of Hindoos, but from the want of a Protestant clergy. The return of peace, and the presence and encouragement of Bishop Middleton, produced an immediate and an important change. And Mr. Hough, an unprejudiced eyewitness, bears testimony to this effect. If he has any bias upon the subject, it is against the old missions; for the less
they were able to effect, the more must the new missionaries be wanted and praised.
"There is a body of Christians in South India to which I have not referred. They are the fruits of the labours of the Danish missionaries at Tranquebar, and the German missionaries of the Christian Knowledge Society, and have been converted at different periods during the last century. They occupy eight principal stations-Vepery, Tanjore, Tranquebar, Trichinopoly, Tinnevelly, Cuddalore, Madura, and Ramnad. They are to be found also, in small numbers, scattered through many of the villages of South India. M. Dubois has some acquaintance with these people; and will, perhaps, know, that when I state them at twenty thousand, I estimate them far below their actual number.
"But he entertains a low opinion of their character: (p. 17-20.) I have visited all these stations, except Cuddalore; and from what I have observed, and the accounts I have received from the missionaries, I know them to be much superior, in a moral point of view, to the description which the Abbé gives of his own people.
"Of a considerable number of these native Christians I can speak more particularly, having lived amongst them for some time, and had the management of their spiritual affairs (under the direction of the Madras District Committee of the Christian Knowledge Society), and not unfrequently the adjustment of their temporal difficulties.
"The Abbé describes these people in the following terms:There are, besides, a few Protestant Christians dispersed chiefly in the Tinnevelly district; but in such small numbers, that they do not deserve the name of congregations:' (p. 19.)
"I cannot reply to this better than by giving a brief description of these people. Their number is about four thousand, and they are scattered through sixty-three villages. Some of the congregations are too small to deserve the name:' but there are several amounting to near and upwards of one hundred, one of three hundred, and another of four hundred souls! The last two congregations form two distinct villages: in each is a church, a boys and a girls school, a native priest, catechist, and two schoolmasters. There is not an
Idolater or Papist among them; nor is a Popish image, a Heathen idol, or an altar, to be seen in any corner of their streets. I have addressed them several times, when the churches were always crowded. The transition from the noise and idolatrous symbols of Pagan towns, to these peaceful abodes, was more refreshing to my spirit than any thing I ever remembered to have enjoyed out of my native land.
"Such are the fruits of the missionary Janické's labours, assisted and succeeded by the country-priest Sattianaden, and other servants of the Christian Knowledge Society!-The reader will now judge of the accuracy or candour of the Abbé's description of these interesting people.
"He will probably ask, Are they not of low castes?' Some of them are persons of respectability, but the majority are Shanaars
(cultivators of the palmyra and cocoa-nut trees). But does their humble origin and occupation affect their Christian character? This objection has always been raised against the lowly disciples of Jesus, by those who glory more in secular distinctions, than in the name and service of God. The common people' have always heard the Gospel 'gladly' in every age it has met with a more ready reception from them, than from the mighty, the noble, the learned, and the rich: and the soul of a Shanaar, or even a Pariah, is as precious, in the Redeemer's sight, as that of a Namboory or Poorohita Brahmin... "But he advances a more serious objection against them: then moral character, he asserts, is worse than that of the Roman Catholic Christians: this, therefore, demands a more particular reply."
I leave him to extricate himself from these dilemmas as he may, while I proceed to affirm, that his charge is not applicable to the native Protestants. I have proved the integrity of some: others I know, who have held places of trust under Europeans, and fulfilled their duties to the satisfaction of their employers: and nothing can be more satisfactory than the testimony borne by the Serampore Missionaries to the character of several in their service*.
"I can give an instance of a Heathen, also, who knew how to appreciate their character. When I was at Tanjore, in 1821, the Rajah of that fort was gone on a pilgrimage to Benares, attended by a retinue of Brahmins and others. Whom did he select for his purse-bearer on the journey?-I was informed, by a gentleman there, that a Native Protestant was appointed by him to this responsible office!
"But, supposing the Protestants, as a body, deserved one-half of the reproach which M. Dubois so unsparingly heaps upon them, they would at least prove this point, in opposition to his assertions, that the Hindoos may be weaned from their idolatrous practices. Though he will not allow that the 23,000 Protestants in India have attained to Christian perfection, yet, since not one of them is allowed to retain any Pagan superstitions, he can no longer maintain his position, that their prejudices, &c. are insurmountable.'
"If he object to this conclusion, that they are persons from the lowest castes, and that therefore they had less to relinquish than those in the higher ranks of society, I reply, that many of them are from the most respectable castes. I myself am acquainted with several Moodalyars and Pillays, and I know of some Brahmins. These, though they form the minority of native Christians, are more than enough to support my argument, in favour of the possibility of converting the Hindoos. But even were the assertion, that all the native Protestants are from the lowest castes, correct, it would not form an objection against my position; for the Abbé himself admits, that the low-born Pariah' is tenacious of the childish distinction
* Vindiciae Seramporianæ, pp. 49, 50.-See also pp, 24, 25.
+ This is the Heathen Prince who some years ago gave an endowment of land, producing an annual revenue of 500 pagodas, towards the support of the Protestant Mission in his dominions.
of the Right and Left Hand,' lays much stress' upon it, and considers it the most honourable distinction of his tribe;' and says, that if you try to persuade him to lay aside that distinction, as wholly incompatible with the first duties imposed upon him by the Christian religion,' your lectures, your instructions, your expostulations, on such subjects, will be of no avail; and your Christians will continue the slaves of their Anti-Christian prejudices and customs: (pp. 64, 65.) This, we are to conclude, is the experience of himself and other Jesuit missionaries: and any one who has read with candour the description, given in these pages, of the means which they have employed to convert the Hindoos, or to establish them in the faith, when converted, will not be surprised at their failure. But Protestant missionaries have met with better success. I could have shewn the Abbé, when in India, some devout Pariah Christians, who have entirely renounced the childish distinction of Right and Left Hand,' and are leading exemplary lives. Indeed, I know not the Pariah Protestant that has not renounced that distinction: and though all the 23,000 native Protestants in India were of that low caste-(they form, however, the minority of the 4,000 in Tinnevelly!)they would still furnish ample grounds for my conclusion, that the Protestants have found it possible to convert the Hindoos to the faith of Jesus Christ." P. 190.
This is a triumphant answer, and Mr. Hough is entitled to our warmest thanks for the able manner in which he has brought it forward. His reply to several other parts of the Abbe's letters is equally satisfactory and convincing. He shews that the prejudices of the Hindoos are not invincible, by adducing various instances in which they have been overcome. He very properly ridicules the idea that the Bible must be concealed or misrepresented, lest it should give offence by describing the sacrifices of the Mosaic law, or by the mention of the fatted calf in the parable of the prodigal son. Such objections, and there are many of them in the work before us, savour of that old prejudice which Papists are so unwilling to relinquish-the prejudice which cannot, or will not remember, that the Gospel was preached to the poor. Such arguments may have their effect at Rome, at Madrid, or at Dublin, but it is a waste of powder and shot to point them against the English public. Even Mr. Hough's exposition of their absurdity might have been spared. The very statement of the Abbé is its own refutation.
There is, however, a portion of the field on which he maintains himself with more effect, and on which his opponents are forced to manoeuvre, in order to keep their ground and prevent an overthrow. It is the question, not of the Bible, but of the Bible Society; not whether the Hindoos will be hurt by reading the Scripture, but whether Scripture can