We have now passed another stage in our journey. From the decks of the “Clyde” we view with regret the vanishing shores of this strange world.
Regret? – Yes, because in the brief time during which we have associated with the people of India, we have come to love them as belonging to the great human brother hood and family of God. Those we have met of our own race have been unstinted in their kindness and hospitality. Meeting them as strangers, they have proved to be brothers and sisters.
No one could be insensible to the faults of the natives, but let it be remembered that faults are the universal characteristics of humanity wherever it is found. From their standpoint they are not more faulty than other people. They are genial, docile, and grateful for the smallest favors. Kind and attentive to the wants of strangers, they seem to take delight in pleasing those whom they serve. In their social relations, impurity is rare. Among themselves the family ties are held sacred, and for degraded womanhood we must look to the low haunts of vicious white people.
For more than three hundred years, reputed Christianity in some of its forms, true or false, has been proclaimed in India. And although something has been done, we often wonder that more has not been accomplished, until we obtain an understanding of the relation of the teachings of those who advocate Christianity to the minds of the Hindus. When we have obtained this, our wonderment is sure to be considerably modified.
For the purposes of this discussion, it will be best to divide the people into two classes, the learned and the ignorant. This is by no means an imaginary classification, but it is a significant reality in that country, for while under favorable circumstances the ignorant classes are affected in some districts in a remarkable manner, there are but very few of the educated Hindus who accept Christianity. It is certainly very desirable that these should be reached, for thus both classes would be brought under the direct influences of the gospel.
No doubt the principal reason why the higher classes look so indifferently or so contemptuously upon Christianity, is that they see no use for it. Could they be convinced of the superior utility of that religion, no doubt many would lay aside prejudice and embrace the better faith. The religion of the Bible needs to be faithfully represented in order to be appreciated by the Hindus. They are not an irreligious people, groveling in fetichism, but an intensely religious people, having what is to them a philosophical and symmetrical faith, one which their ancestors have held for ages past. Therefore their first inquiry is apt to be, What will Christianity do for us more than our own religion is doing? What has it done for the people in your country ? Have you atheists there ? We have none. Do you hear profane oaths in Christian lands ? We hear none. Do you have drunkenness and uncleanness ? We have them, but to a small degree except as we receive them from Christendom.
It will not be admitted that any of these pertain to Christianity, they are directly opposed to its spirit and teaching yet the fact that they prevail in what we call Christian lands, and do not exist in what we call heathendom, causes Christianity to appear at a great disadvantage to the informed Hindu. The enemy has sown tares in the Master’s field, and both wheat and tares are growing together, for which reason it is but natural that critics and opposers should point to the tares as the legitimate fruit of the gospel seed. These evils would not be so great if they were confined to our home countries, but wherever the cross is carried, Satan goes also, to plant his ensign of darkness. Much could be done if professed Christians would carefully and consistently avoid all appearance of evil, and show that Christianity is something altogether distinct from these forms of indulgence. But many professed Christians make the exigencies of the climate an excuse for doing things that are not consistent with pure religion. No excuse for intemperance or the indulgence of appetite exists. The religion of the Bible is adapted to all climatic conditions, its pure principles are everywhere conducive to life and health.
The next great obstacle that exists we believe to be the imaginary similarity between Christianity and the false religions. We are often told by Indians of supposed education and culture, that there is but little, and no very essential difference between the system taught by Christians and that which they hold. Nor are the Indians the only ones who so regard this matter. Prominent men of our own race have expatiated upon this discovery with particular delight, and nothing could please Satan any better than to have the opinion prevail that Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster, and Keshub Chunder Sen, all taught the same truths – that they occupy a common platform, moreover, that the Bible, the Vedas, and the Koran are all equally inspired.
It is true that there are points of resemblance which strike the casual observer, even as a counterfeit resembles the genuine. But in reality there is no more resemblance than there is between a brass and a gold coin. Hence it is a fatal weakness upon the part of Christianity to allow that a real similarity exists.
Furthermore, it may be claimed that most, if not all, of these points of resemblance grow out of erroneous interpretations of scriptural doctrines by Christians. For instance, the generally accepted theory of the natural immortality of man forms the main link of this imaginary chain of sympathetic likeness. If Christian teachers rightly apprehended the truth of no life beyond the present,- no immortality except through faith in Christ,-they would possess a weapon with which to deal effectual and deadly blows at the whole system of demonology, transmigration, hero-worship, and false gods.
It must be acknowledged that there is but a step between the teachings of Plato, which have substantially been adopted alike by many Christians, and those of more modern heathen philosophers upon this point, but between the true Biblical doctrine and the vagaries of philosophy, so-called, there is a gulf so wide and deep that there can be no confounding them.
Another serious obstacle to the Hindus’ receiving Christianity is the fact that those who profess the latter kill and eat the sacred cattle. All cattle are sacred to them, consequently to kill a cow is a crime compared to which the killing of a man of the poorer classes is but an insignificant offense. And to eat the flesh, is, if possible, still worse. Not infrequently the missionary gathers a crowd of listeners, when a priest coming along will cry out, “This man eats the cow and swine, why do you hear him ? ” That is enough, his crowd melts away, and they hear him no more. Now the fact is, thatafter a long period of history, we find permission given in the Bible for the eating of certain animals, it was, however, not in the original plan, nor is it taught or advised by the Bible. Had sin never entered, none would ever have shed blood to obtain food. Nor is it a necessity now, and if Christian teachers in India would adopt and teach vegetarian principles, there is no doubt that their influence for good would be greatly enhanced. It would in that climate be beneficial to themselves, as well as disarm the strongest prejudice against Christianity that exists.
Other points might be specified in which a consistent adherence to the literal teachings of the Scriptures would help greatly to pave the way for Christianity. The Bible, taken in its entirety, with its truths faithfully reproduced in the lives and teachings of the missionaries, is exactly what India needs, such a representation would meet with a far more effectual reception than is now accorded to its misinterpretations.
But even with all these and all such obstacles removed, India would not freely accept the gospel. Satan, the adversary of the truth, is still at work. However, all will ap preciate the fact that the nearer the laborers come to living and teaching the simple truth, the more they can expect of God’s blessing to accompany their efforts. And after all, the want of this blessing is the greatest obstacle to the success of missionary efforts in India and elsewhere.