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people were formerly in a low social condition ; if he has had the opportunity of seeing villages where all, or nearly all, the people have become Christians, and where it has been possible, in consequence, for Christian ideas of things to acquire a public manifestation ; if he has compared the Christian villages with villages in the neighbourhood inhabited by people of the same castes and classes who have not become Christians, he cannot but have been struck with the fact that the Christian village is greatly superior to the non-Christian village in cleanliness and order, in signs of comfort and marks of progress. He cannot fail, in consequence, to have concluded that the adoption of the Christian religion by any class of people in India, especially by any class of people in a low intellectual and social condition, is not to be regarded as a mere change of religion, in the sense in which changes of religion are commonly supposed to take place; that is, that it is not to be regarded as the substitution of one set of opinions for another, or of one set of observances for another ; but that, on the contrary, it is to be regarded as the adoption of better principles of action and a higher aim in life; that it is a change from a lower to a higher civilisation, from ignorance to knowledge, from neglect to culture, from apathy to progress ; that, in short, it is • life from the dead.
This being the case, the advantages which native Christians, especially those belonging to the lower classes, derive from the missionary's labours amongst them being so great, the wonder is, not that some persons become Christians in the hope of sharing in those advantages, but that a much larger number of the people do not do so, that the mass of the people, that the mass of the poorer classes at least, do not follow the example set them by a few. The wonder is, that any of the lower castes and the aboriginal tribes, seeing what Christianity, as taught by European Protestant missionaries, has done for those of their own class who have embraced it, should be content to remain idolaters and demonolaters, when they might, by becoming Christians, take their promotion to a higher style of man. Their not taking this course must be owing, we suppose, to the circumstance that people who are in a low condition of morals and culture are often found to be perfectly satisfied with that condition. The worst result of their degradation is that they do not feel themselves degraded. Whatever the cause may be, the fact is certain that there are multitudes of people in India, especially in the remoter, ruder districts, and amongst the poorer classes, who would be greatly benefited in a temporal point of view, and ultimately benefited in every respect, by becoming Christians, but who do not see it in this light, and
remain uninfluenced by this or any other consideration. There is another circumstance which it is important to remember. Whatever be the motives by which any of those who have placed themselves under Christian instruction have been induced in the first instance to listen and learn, and how unpromising soever the condition of some of them may be supposed to be, their children, at all events, are in the schools connected with the mission from the very first, and are brought up from the first in right principles of action. As the parents, moreover, are under Christian oversight, no less than the children, there is reason for hoping that the lessons of truth which are taught in the schoolroom during the day will not be obliterated at night when the children return home, as is too often the case when the parents have not become Christians. The condition of the parents, also, though often very unsatisfactory at first, is capable of improving, and is generally found to improve. Of the people who have embraced Christianity from mixed motives, partly religious, partly secular, the majority are found to adhere to it after all excitement from without has passed away, and learn to value Christianity for higher reasons. From time to time also the missionaries discover amongst them a few simple-minded truthloving persons, whom Providence had been preparing, even in the times of their ignorance, for the reception of the truth and for bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. The congregation, consisting perhaps of the inhabitants of an entire village, had been brought in, as it were, by the tide ; and yet after a time amongst the sand and sea-weed a few pearls of great price are discovered, fitted to shine hereafter in a kingly crown.
Now that the possibility of the conversion of the Hindus to Christianity has been proved by the actual conversion of a considerable number of them of all classes, the line adopted by persons who are unfriendly to missions in general and Indian missions in particular has been changed, and it is usually asserted that the conversions that have taken place are valueless. This is the line most commonly adopted by persons of this class who have been in India, and their opinion is often echoed by persons who cannot be regarded as intentionally unfriendly. It has often been remarked with surprise that English people who have been in India and returned to this country (with the important exception of those persons whose opinion is of the highest value) generally bring with them an unfavourable report of the results of Indian missions, particularly in regard to the character of the native converts. The prevalence of this unfavourable opinion seems
at the present time the chief objection to Indian missions with which we are called upon to 2 B 2
deal. Is the opinion so generally expressed to be accepted as correct? or are there valid reasons for regarding it as incorrect and unfair?
We are not disposed to consider the existence of defects in the character of the Indian converts to Christianity as in any way à priori an improbable thing. On the contrary, we should be prepared to find in Indian converts many serious defects. should be prepared to find in them not only such defects as are common to human nature everywhere, but also certain special defects peculiar to the country and race to which they belong, and the style of character formed or fostered by the religion in which they were brought up. When Hindus have become Christians, they have not at the same time become English people, and that means a great deal. It means that they have not ceased to be timid, and that they have not become self-reliant, high-spirited, and manly. They have inherited the fatal legacy of a hundred generations of heathenism, and it will probably take a considerable time, perhaps many generations, before they unlearn the evil habits and tendencies, the evil conversation, received by tradition from their forefathers. It may take a still longer time before they acquire the style of character which Christian Europe approves. Christian Europe itself has not universally learnt to practise what it approves. The religion of many people in this old Christian country is still too much an affair of doctrines
, views, sentiments, observances; too little an endeavour to live a Christ-like life. We need not wonder, therefore, that the character of the new Christian community in India has not all at once been renovated, though it has been considerably modified, by its Christianity.
After making all due allowance, however, for the defects, of whatever nature they may be, with which the native converts are really chargeable, whether as individuals or as a community, are decidedly of opinion that they neither justify nor account for the sweeping assertions some Anglo-Indians are accustomed to make. Doubtless those persons are in error, if any such persons there be, who look at the bright side of the picture alone and ignore the dark side ; but they are equally, and far less amiably, in error who endeavour to induce people to believe that the picture has no bright side at all. Much of the prejudice with which native Christians are regarded is owing, we are convinced, to ignorance. It is sometimes taken for granted that all English people who have been in India have sufficient acquaintance with Indian missions and Indian Christianity to be able to speak about them with authority; but this is undoubtedly an error. The great majority of the English
in India know no more of mission stations, of native congregations, of the social life of native Christians, or of the real condition of the native Christian community, than if they had never been out of England. Some of them have never had an opportunity of seeing a mission station, such stations being few in number and scattered over a wide area : a larger number have not cared to avail themselves of the opportunities they have enjoyed. As a rule, indeed, whatever they may know of other matters, they are content to remain profoundly ignorant of what missionaries are doing. The only native Christians most English people have ever seen are a few persons belonging to the class of domestic servants, whose character is generally unfavourably affected by their position, or perhaps a few waifs and strays, disowned by their own community, who endeavour to make a living by their wits in military stations and seaport towns. The great mass of the native Christians live quiet, unobtrusive lives in remote rural districts, and the only Europeans they ever come in contact with are missionaries, and those few persons who, though not missionaries, are sufficiently interested in missions to be willing to go and see for themselves what a native Christian community is. A considerable portion of the prejudice with which native Christians are often regarded is owing, we believe, to pride of race. If caste pride prevails largely amongst natives, pride of race prevails quite as largely amongst Europeans. Many of the English in India, especially at the outset of their career, regard all natives with indiscriminate aversion. After a time their ideas become enlarged ; their prejudices are mollified; they learn to tolerate the natives; not unfrequently they learn even to like them ; but it often happens that they make amends for their adoption of more charitable sentiments towards the natives generally by disliking native Christians worse than ever. They learn to speak of them with unreasonable contempt, and, if they happen to come in contact with them, to treat them with unjustifiable contumely. Pride of race has not disappeared ; in reality it has only taken a new shape. Instead of Aowing in many channels, it now flows only in one, and consequently the current which flows in that one channel has become peculiarly deep and strong.
Unfortunately, Anglo-Indians are encouraged in this feeling by the very people who at first suffered most from their intolerance. The Hindus and Muhammedans, by whom they are surrounded, and who have their own reasons for disliking converts from their own creeds to any other, and for endeavouring to prevent them from gaining influence, do their utmost to create a prejudice against them, or to foster any prejudice which
already already exists. English society in India is thoroughly pervaded with the notion that it is an ungentlemanly thing for a man to change his religion, and this is a notion which high-caste Hindus in particular take care to encourage. Their religion makes no proselytes and their caste accepts none. Consequently they are apt to regard such of their fellow-countrymen as have adopted a foreign religion, particularly if they have been guilty of the additional crime of being of lower caste than themselves, as
the filth of the world and the offscouring of all things.' And hence English people, who occupy official positions in India, who are surrounded by high-caste subordinates, and breathe every day of their lives an atmosphere of high-caste blandishments
, are too often led to mistake the prejudices instilled into their minds by Brahmans for results of their own observation. It is a significant fact that when Englishmen of this class come to take an interest in religion on their own account, when they become Christians themselves in a truer and deeper sense, they make the discovery that there is a reality in missionary work and results, and a sincerity amongst native Christians, notwithstanding their defects, which they had not expected to find. The most direct testimony to the reality in the main of the Christianity of the native converts is that which is borne by the missionaries to whose congregations they belong; and though it is true that their testimony may be said to be open to exception, in consequence of the interest they may naturally be supposed to take in their own converts, yet it is to be remembered on the other hand that the Indian missionaries are not the credulous, ill-informed class of people they have sometimes been supposed to be. The proceedings of the Allahabad Missionary Conference show that they are capable of forming a careful, sober, impartial estimate of the results of the different modes of work they have been led to adopt. Irrespective, however, of the testimony of the missionaries, it may be regarded as certain from the very nature of the case, that the character of the native Christians, as a body, must be superior to that of the non-Christians around belonging to the same classes and conditions. A mission congregation may be regarded as a school of conduct, in which young and old are taught not only the best religious doctrines, but the best moral precepts. They are taught the highest morality, to be good and to do good; and they are taught the highest motive for practising this morality, divine love. They have the benefit also of pastoral oversight, guidance, and discipline. The native Christian community must necessarily, therefore, by its superiority in moral qualities to the non-Christian community, bear witness to the moral efficacy of the truth. Probably it