Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

although he declares the number of professed infidels was inconsider. able. Still later, Bishops Middleton and Heber inform us that AngloIndians were distinguished from natives, not by the difference of their religion so much as by the absence of any. Our readers will perhaps remember the ludicrous question put to the former, whether or not the habit of whistling, unknown to the seda Hindu, was a method of invoking the Christian's God. An officer, when sailing in the Straits, was asked by the boatman if the English had any religion. He knew that the Portuguese and Dutch were Christians, but he could never discover whether the English had any faith at all. There can be little doubt of the profligacy and irreligion of the laity; and when Christianity appeared in such a dress, we need not wonder that it had few admirers. May we not, on the contrary, view it as a matter of congratulation that conversions did not take place? If they had, we should have infallibly had a daughter Church which it would have been a disgrace to own, and a set of converts who would have been libels on the name of Christian.

The matter bears but a slightly altered phasis when we turn to the clergy. Indeed, in all cases, they are a sort of types of the laity; and it is scarcely possible that the one should be for long devoted or negligent, without the other being affected. Now, as before, we find here but few exceptions, although those are brilliant ones. The name of Schwartz is justly cherished by Churchmen, for it has few deserving companions; and, after him, there is a dark hiatus before we come again to such men as Martin and Corrie. Government thought it unnecessary to provide Priests, except, perhaps, one or two at a Presidency. As late as 1790, Dr. Bell combined in his own person eight offices, seven of which were clerical. Besides the Chaplainship of the Army, he held that of five regiments stationed, neither he nor they probably cared where, and the Junior Chaplaincy of Fort S. George. In addition to all these he was engaged in the invention and completion of his school system, and in the accumulation of a fortune, which in eight years was raised from £128. 10s. to £25,900. In 1806, Dr. Buebanan thus wrote:-“I am informed that there are at this time above twenty English regiments in India, and that not one of them has a chaplain. The men live without religion, and when they die they bury each other.” And the same writer declares that our Bengal and Madras Governments, so far from patronising Christianity, appointed Mussulmen or Hindùs to official situations in preference to native Christians. It would appear from these and similar statements, that the East India Company did not think it necessary to provide clergy for their European servants, except when the services of such a person as Bell, who came out as a mere adventurer, were engaged; and he, in the genial atmosphere, became a pluralist and devoted servant of Mammon.

But a natural consequence of such a state of things was, that Christianity was not presented as at unity in itself, but as made up of the conflicting interests of clergy of different sects. When the Church neglects her duty, she must expect that her own peculiar ground will be occupied by others. Zeigenbalg, ordained by the Bishop of Zealand, is said to have been the first missionary to India not a Romanist. He arrived in 1705, and since that time the Tranquebar Mission has been increasing; so that now there are more Christians in those districts than in any other part of India. George the First and Archbishop Wake addressed letters to him and to his brother missionaries, in which the flourishing condition of the mission is alluded to; and so sanguine was the Archbishop, that he confidently declared that God would, by their means, subdue to himself “ the whole Continent of Oriental India. Miserably indeed have his pious hopes been frustrated. Although these Churches have increased in numbers, and Buchanan, when he visited them, spoke highly of the vigour and purity in which the Christian virtues were found amongst them; yet he himself admits that they suffered much from European infidelity, and in the present day there is too much reason for adopting the commonly-received opinion that they are composed of persons of the most indifferent characters. The Baptist Mission in Bengal stands foremost for the zeal and intelligence of its missionaries. Its success, indeed, has been trifling, compared with the efforts which have been made; but such appears probable, if the weak claims which Dissent must have upon credibility are taken into consideration. The early devotion, however, of its supporters to the missionary cause, will ever be a severe reflection upon the English Church, which has been provided with such more abundant resources. Viewing, then, the depravity of the laity, the state of the elergy, and especially the sectarianism of missionaries, we need not hesitate to affirm that Christianity was not only without attractions, but that even to a heathen it might have been made actually revolting.

Now, in opposition to all this, we have much that is cheering at the present time.

We cannot, indeed, yet say, “ This is the day that we looked for;" but we may assert with gratitude, “ The LORD hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice." A comparison between the Anglo-Indian and the English laity would not be much to the disadvantage of the former. It must be admitted, indeed, that there are still amongst them many causes at work to produce irreligious tendencies, and more especially amongst the military. To see this, we have only to consider how their lives may probably be led. At the age of sixteen, perhaps fifteen, a boy is removed from school, fitted out and sent to India. He may at once be sent to a station, at which religious services are rarely or never publicly performed : for such stations are still numerous. At his mess he generally meets with persons a few years older, or the same age as himself. After a while, perhaps, he is ordered on detachment duty; and, by the time he again mixes in society, he has ceased to attach any value to religious observances, and he finds them both new and wearisome. If, on the contrary, he joins his regiment at a large station, he merely meets with the ordinary temptations which befal every boy when first launched into the world; whilst, in the case which we first supposed, he has the additional one of being drawn from the sight and practice of holiness. And let any reader consider what his character was at the early age which we have here mentioned, and then see if the wonder is that any men, situated as this boy, should be Christians, rather than that many should be unchristian. Few had, at that time of life, acquired a taste for worthy pursuits ; and if they had, they would probably have been selected for another destiny than that of a soldier's life. But, at any rate, they were far from being formed characters; and the probability is, that if they had been removed from the teaching of books and living examples, they would have fallen into those incurable habits of idleness which cause half the vices of the Indian laity.

The position of civilians is somewhat different. They frequently are compelled to lead more retired lives than the military, but they have the advantage of coming out a few years later in life; and if the duties of their profession are faithfully discharged, they have little room for idleness. Still they are often withdrawn from the Church service, and from that salutary check, the frown of offended society.

Now the disadvantages here enumerated, operated with much greater force in former times than now; and the consequence was that AngloIndians were unchristianized. And as they are still at work, although with diminished power, it is marvellous that there is so much decorum as there is in India. At the Presidencies the Churches are tolerably well attended; and the subscriptions for charitable purposes are creditable. But, with very few exceptions indeed, religion is confined to people who have arrived at a certain age. It is, indeed, a rare spectacle to behold anything like active, spiritual devotion in a young person. They wait for that until they are older, and can marry; and when they have no longer to resist the temptations of single life, or the opinion of the mess, they become really very decent religionists.

We should, indeed, be grateful that matters are no worse than this; but it is obvious that this is not a sort of faith which is calculated to have much effect upon the surrounding heathen. There is here little of the power of the Spirit exhibited. Resistance is given up when temptations are fiercest; and, instead of the Gospel entering into any severe struggle with corrupt nature, it keeps at a respectful distance whilst there are passions to be opposed; when, in the course of things, fleshly affections leave the heart, God's Spirit is with a bad grace permitted to occupy the deserted tenement.

The clergy have been increased in a remarkable manner. The salaries of one hundred and three are paid by Government, and there are three bishops. These have all the means of mingling with all ranks of society, and of more or less benefiting the natives by their pecuniary resources. But here again there is little which is calculated to have any great moral effect. The clergy are decorous, but it would be quite out of place for them to show any of that enthusiasm which the Apostles manifested, and which awoke corresponding feelings in the people, and convinced them, far more than evidence and argument, of their sincerity; and, what is far worse, religion is rendered unsightly by schism. Romanists, Presbyterians, Free Church, Baptists, American and London Missions, afford a delightful treat for the Brahmun who dares to sneer at the dominant faith. The Bishop of Madras, indeed, gives most encouraging accounts of the progress of the Church in Southern India; no less than 90 villages having declared their

willingness to receive Christian instruction, But where Christianity first took root, and where, as Bishop Heber declared, the strength of the Christian cause in India is, here Dissent rears its many heads. In Bengal and the Upper Provinces, after many years of labour, an unsatisfactory list is shown : 6156 converts in the Church, 3200 Baptists, 1200 London Missionary, and 1000 Presbyterian and other converts.

In Bombay the numbers are very insignificant, and decidedly preponderate in favour of Dissent. It is startling and impressive to compare with this the account of the Roman Church. In Bengal it has 20,000 members; in Madras the numbers are variously stated between 20,000 and 100,000; in Bombay, 20,000 ;- in Pondicherry, which may be said to be in the Diocese of Madras, 230,000; and in Ceylon, which has been so neglected by the English, 200,000. After, then, allowing for a very large number of converts to the English Church in Madras, she must fall far short of the Roman. It is said that in the Tinnevelly districts alone there are 50,000 converts under the mission. aries of the Propagation of the Gospel Society, the Church Mission and London Mission ; but there is no doubt of the vast preponderance of the Roman Communion.

It is indisputable, then, that in one hundred and forty years (the Tranquebar Mission was established in 1705) little has been done; and that at Bengal and Bombay, at least, little is doing. We trust we may now, without presumption, suggest the causes of this slow and doubtful growth ; but first let us notice those which are commonly assigned without sufficient reason.

In the first place, it is argued with some truth, that we have to contend with a system which has all the force of prescription and the venerableness of antiquity. This is the case if we compare the natives of India with the red men of America, with Sandwich Islanders and New Zealanders. Hindúism has not only its traditions, but its regular Scriptures, which it asserts are Divine Revelations. If certain portions of these are taken they are attractive and calculated to attach the affections of a people. These speculative notions of the Supreme Being are sublime,* although their practical ones are contemptible. They have a history, which, although inextricably entangled in falsehood, records, as they believe, transactions which took place thousands, and hundreds of thousands of years ago, and their superstition is associated with the charms of poetry and philosophy. All this is true, but precisely the same may be said of the Zoroastrian and of the ancient Egyptian

Take the following passages in illustration of this. In the Adhyatina Ramy. ana, a favourite Purana of the Hindùs, Shewa informs his wife Parbuttee, thus, “Rama is a Spirit separate from nature, there is none greater, He is happy, One, Greatest of Beings. When He had created all these things by Maya, He remained like the air within and without; He is the hidden Spirit, who, being in every thing, creates and destroys. Worlds are constantly revolving in his presence, as the steel round the loadstone." Again, Seeta addresses Hunooman thus, “ Know Rama the Highest, the Brahm, the True, the Intellectual, the Happy; having no second, altogether free from pain, invisible, pure existence, the blessed, the spotless, the quiescent; without form, without passion; who dwells everywhere, who is spirit, who is his own light, who is without sin !"

religions, both of which are now defunct.* Greece and Rome indeed were singularly deficient in pretended Scriptural Revelations, but the want of these was made up by their philosophy and poetry, and by an elegance and taste which the Hindùs do not possess. But in reality the Hindù writings do not exercise that influence which might be supposed, not one person in a hundred thousand is able to read them : and the only portions which they hear are such as are connected with their debased system of idolatry. Their legendary lore, then, their monstrous fables, are what the Christian Missionary has to contend with; and the obstacle presented by their written theology is little more than imaginary. Moreover, it has been overcome and may be overcome again.

Again, it is also truly argued that there is such a darkness of the moral sense in Hindùs as to render them incapable of appreciating truth. And it does seem a work of peculiar difficulty to awaken them to a consciousness of their demoralized condition, and to a desire for purity of belief. If they can be said to believe anything sincerely, it is that which their Shastres teach, that a man should never change the religion in which he was born, however bad it may be. A Brahmun, then, will hear the beautiful morality of the New Testament stated, and declare at first that such is the teaching of his own books : and when this is disproved he will remain listless-silenced but not convinced. And the same man will at another time defend the degrading tenets of his own religion with the most paltry arguments and an utter recklessness of principle. But there is no reason for supposing that in this respect Hindùs are worse than other idolaters. They have, at least, as much morality as the savage who feeds upon human flesh, and glories in the scalp which he has taken from his unsuspecting foe. They can scarcely outrun in crime those who formerly lived under the wide-spread reign of horror which the Book of Wisdom so vividly depicts ;t or surpass in sin what those Corinthians had been who were subsequently “washed, sanctified, justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God."| The depravity of idolaters is now what it was ; “ for the worshipping of idols not to be named is the beginning, the cause, and the end of all evil.” Christianity has for an object the ennobling of the human mind, and to say that Hindùs are depraved is merely to say they are not Christians.

Heathens who have been in all points situated similarly to the Hindùs have acknowledged the power of the Gospel ; how is it that in these modern days they have stoutly resisted it? This is a question which we presume not to think ourselves capable of answering completely, but we believe the following suggestions will in part afford a solution.

At the commencement, we remarked, that the Indian Church has certain supposed advantages. One of these is, that the Hindùs are under our government and influence. This is not a real advantage, it

• If the Parsees of India are descendants of the ancient disciples of Zoroaster, they are so few in number and have so lost all claims to importance, that they do not invalidate what is said above. † Wisdom xiv. 22–31.

1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.

[ocr errors]
« PredošláPokračovať »