Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

THE

CALCUTTA CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.

March, 1833.

I.- A few general Thoughts on the Nature of Missionary

Labour in India. A longer period of exertion has now passed, and more wealth has been expended than were required in the first age of Christianity to raise the standard of the Cross with triumph in every land; and yet, on close inspection, we are met with the appalling fact, that the stupendous citadel of Hindooism stands on a basis that has not been shaken. A few scattered outposts only have been carried, sufficiently important to raise the hope of ultimate success, but sufficiently insignificant to lay prostrate the gloryings of the assailants, and arouse them to a sense of the necessity of increasing the number, the vigour, and the discipline of their forces ; unless they wish to continue the humiliating spectacle of an inveterate enemy, sitting at his ease, and, for ages onward, watching from his high towers, the distant and puny efforts of a feeble, toiling foe.

It is not our intention in this place to expatiate on the wretched condition of the Hindoos, with a view to excite commiseration, and justify an overflowing of zealous benevolence in their behalf. To enter into particulars would outstrip our limits, and after all, not meet the reality. To deal in a profuse variety of general terms, would neither inform nor satisfy the mind, though, in the case of many, such generalities might serve to render the picture more awful, by leaving the imagination to supply the deficiency. From the personal experience we have had, it were to belie the serious conviction of the understanding, did we not assert that those representations of the Hindoo character and condition appear to approach nearest the truth, that are shaded with the darkest colours. At the same time, it must be owned, that there never was a case in which mistake was more excusable, and mis-statement less reprehensible, as there never was a people that could more readily assume a fictitious character, and throughout sustain it with more admirable art. In the presence of men of wealth and influence, who have favours to bestow, or whose ample expenditure is the source of ceaseless emolument, never did Aattery assume a form so insinuating, nor duplicity such an air of natural integrity, nor vice such

P

a cloak of impenetrable secrecy. And hence, judging from these specimens of deceptive artifice, we hear men gravely talk, aye, and write too, of the amiable, the gentle, the innocent, the moral Hindoos ! But before those from whom no worldly favours can be expected, old nature frequently appears without a covering, and the exterior surface of Aimsy moralities, at once sinks into hideous deformity. And were it only possible to remove the darkening veil of artificiality or distance, and expose the inmost recesses of Indian moral scenery, and bring the vision and the hearts of Christians into immediate contact with the childish fooleries, the meaningless rites, and inhuman brutalities that are constantly practised under the venerable name of religion, and above all the self-complacent infatuation with which multitudes dream of ascending by such steps to the throne of the High and the Holy One, before whom the heavens are not clean, and who charges even his angels with folly-ah, methinks, the spectacle were enough to cause those eyes to flow that never shed a tear over the degradation of fallen humanity, and those hearts to be inflamed with jealousy for the honour of the Lord of Hosts, one chord of which had never vibrated to the touch of religious affection.

It is one thing however to discern so much of the symptoms of a malady as to prove that it is truly alarming, and quite another to trace it to the proper source, discover the mode and extent of its operation, and prescribe a suitable remedy. A general conception will not suffice : it wants precision and particularity—and wanting these, any proposed remedy must be gratuitous in principle, and, in reference to the production of specified effects, the sport of accident.

On the present state of Hindoo society, viewed in its civil and religious aspect, it might be easy, as on most other subjects, to furnish a rough outline. And if intended merely to supply a literary blank, and not a chart for practical guidance, an outline might afford all the satisfaction required. It might be weighed by the judgment, contemplated by the understanding, and its details enriched by the suggestions of analogy ; but in practice, might it not prove wholly delusive ? From certain peculiarities of time, place, and circumstance, may not the very outline be so modified as to become useless or indistinct, and the analogical details unnatural or false? How eminently has the truth of this remark been verified, whenever the home, or preconceived, picture has been contrasted with the realities of every thing Indian ? How often have even the choicest and most significant terms been found to mislead ?-How often has the mind at first been made to wonder that the same words seemed to bear one meaning in India, and quite another in Great Britain, until made TO FEEL that the things represented are only in some respects analogous, not identi

cal ?--Still, much more might be done, than has ever yet been achieved, in conveying lively pictures of the moral and physical condition of the natives of India. The scantiness of minute and accurate information all regret : the deficiency no one has yet endeavoured fully to supply. This circumstance has excited the surprise of many, and called forth the violent vituperations of others : hut all such expressions of surprise or censure betray more or less the ignorance of individuals who entirely overlook, but can never adequately comprehend, the nature and amount of those difficulties that impede the progress of inquiry in this hostile clime. The resources of government alone seem commensurate to the undertaking. And a master mind, possessed of all the advantages of penetration and experience, the philosophy of facts and the philosophy of principle, and all the facilities which a vigorous administration could afford, with hundreds of subordinate agents of various gradations, scattered throughout the provinces, would probably find the task of directing the different agencies, of collecting, discriminating, and arranging the mass of collected materials, no sinecure employment. It is much to be desired, that the real glory of the achievement should stimulate some highly-gifted and qualified individual to the attempt : and its vast utility when accomplished, would more than compenstate an enlightened government. Be this as it may, it is the fact, that no Sir John Sinclair has yet arisen in the eastern world—that of Calcutta and its neighbourhood, there is no proper statistical account, far less of the various provinces of India*. Now, since the main burden of useful practical inquiry must fall to the share of each individual, after his arrival in this country, and more especially to the share of those who wish to make the result of their inquiries to bear on the intellectual and spiritual regeneration of a mighty mass, whose properties are but partially known, every new labourer in the Missionary field, who is guided by the dictate of heavenly wisdom, must conclude it to be better by slow but certain measures, to disappoint the hopes of the sanguine, than by precipitate and unstable plans, involve in disastrous ruin the well-founded expectations of the prudent, and patient, and judicious.

In referring to measures, it must be obvious, that we intend not primary measures viewed abstractly, such as, the circulation of Scripture and works of useful knowledge, preaching the Gospel, education of the young, &c.—since of the abstract propriety of resorting to one and all of these methods, most intelligent Christians

* The only regular attempt of the nature described is that which has been made by Dr. Buchanan, and the results of which have been published in successive numbers of “the Journal of the Asiatic Society.” But the sphere of this gentleman's observations, and the objects contemplated by him, are comparatively circumscribed.

seldom entertain a doubt. The reasoning applicable to each is simple, but conclusive. God has in times past blessed the reading of Scripture ; he may again bestow his blessing : let the Scripture therefore be circulated in the mode most eligible, and to the extent most practicable. God has already given efficacy to the preaching of the word; he may do so again : let therefore the word be preached at those seasons, and in the manner best suited to the convenience and capacities of the hearers. God has frequently smiled on the diligent prayerful training of the young ; let therefore children receive the rudiments, and youth the higher principles of useful instruction, in the way which experience may prove best adapted to secure the desired end. So far, all who sincerely profess the Christian faith are agreed. And the grand source of difference in opinion arises from the relative prominence that is due to the various modes of disseminating truth—the proportion of interest, and resources, and labour, that should be lavished on each, and the distinctive forms which these must assume from peculiarities of climate, locality, and government, as well as the social, religious, and hereditary opinions, habits, and prejudices of the people.

At certain stages of the progress of society towards a more elevated state of refined enjoyment, the practicability of different plans that tend to accelerate the progression, must vary with the parts that have already sent forth the most vigorous shoots, and the ability to meet efficiently the peculiar exigencies of each. In India, books cannot yet be supplied in sufficient numbers in the native languages; and the imperfection of many of the present translations may for some time convert the zeal for distribution, into a zeal for careful and laborious revision. Again, the inhabitant of a cold country can never expect an enlarged freedom in “preaching,” when transported to this burning clime ; and even before any profitable intercourse can be maintained with the Natives, much time must necessarily elapse in acquiring an idiomatic form of speech, in gaining such an intimate acquaintance with their habits of thought and long cherished opinions, as may enable him to address them with effect: and few, very few of the native converts possess any adequate qualifications for such employment. But, at present, there is in Calcutta, in particular, and throughout India generally, a great thirst for education, and any European Missionary may, on his first arrival, to a certain extent, find means for organizing schools on Christian principles, and, with a high degree of probability, expect an immediate reward for his labours. Consequently it is at once reasonable and natural that that which, in the first instance, is found to be most practicable, should first of all engage the attention, and call forth a portion of individual exertion. And when plans have been matured, and systems established, and trains of operations are in progress, the mind will not only be more at

liberty, but much better prepared to enter upon other connected or separated departments.

At the same time when measures of a particular description prove very successful, there is a danger of entertaining an overweening estimate of their importance, and a corresponding danger of neglecting others of a higher degree in the scale, though incapable of being moulded to the designs of expediency, or reduced within the range of ordinary calculation. When schools are seen every where to flourish, and send forth fruits with a rapidity characteristic of the very soil of these southern regions, while the preaching of the cross” may appear to have failed a thousand times, the latter is apt to be overlooked as unimportant, or despised as utterly inefficient.

The circumstances that accompany and distinguish each species of labour tend also greatly to affect the views and practice of the labourer. Should he appear merely as a promoter of education, the Natives may appreciate his object, hail his presence, and extol his benevolence: and a reception like this, the cold hearted misanthrope alone can despise. But let him once propose to rear and educate souls for eternity, and the name of his God may be wantonly blasphemed, and himself may become the scorn of the rabble, or the laughing-stock of the profane: and no one can say, that there is any inherent predilection in human nature for such galling treatment.

The opinions likewise of many who merely call themselves Christians are apt unconsciously to prey upon the mind. By such persons, oral instructions, with a view to conversion, are held in absolute derision, as being symptomatic of a weak enthusiasm in desiring, or of foolish ignorance in attempting to conquer impossibilities. Or is the reference made to the mode of the attempt? Then are the river's bank, and the secluded field, and the lonely tree appealed to for the consummating proof of fanatical delusion. And have terms of reproach ever been wanting, when the spirit of calumny has been goaded on by inveterate hatred ?

Now, the Missionary is a man, and as such, subject to all the frailties of humanity. His sensibilities not being blunted, his feelings not frozen, his heart not hardened into stone, he, like other men, must account harsh judgments, unjust censures, and cruel treatment to be “ grievous to flesh and blood.” But though felt to be grievous, it is his prerogative to prove that these things are not intolerable—that they may affect, but never change his determinations. Still, the man of God, who can most effectually resist their influence, must be eminent in faith, that he may be great in power. He must be no ordinary soldier: he must be a prince and a leader in the army of the faithful. No magnitude of threatened danger must quell his courage; no frequency of failure damp his zeal ; no rudeness of insult blunt the edge of his benevolence. Partaker,

« ZurückWeiter »