[Transcriber's Notes: vowels with macrons are shown by an equals sign before the vowel in brackets. ā
Bold is surrounded by equal signs.
Italics are shown by underscores.]
[Illustration: Old India. "You think you know us; you know nothing at all about us!" and the old eyes peer intently into yours, and the old head shakes and he smiles to himself as he moves off. Every bit of this picture is suggestive: the closed door behind,—only a Brahman may open that door; the mythological carving,—only a Brahman has the right to understand it; the three-skein cord,—only a Brahman may touch it. Even the ragged old cloth is suggestive. In old India nothing but Caste counts for anything, and a reigning Prince lately gave his weight in gold to the Brahmans, as part payment for ceremonies which enabled him to eat with men of this old man's social position. Look at the marks on the baby's forehead; they are suggestive too.]
THINGS AS THEY ARE
MISSION WORK IN SOUTHERN INDIA
Keswick Missionary C.E.Z.M.S.
AUTHOR OF "FROM SUNRISE LAND," ETC.
WITH PREFACE BY
LONDON: MORGAN AND SCOTT (OFFICE OF "The Christian") 12, PATERNOSTER BUILDINGS, E.C. And may be ordered of any bookseller 1905
FIRST EDITION April 1903 Reprinted August 1903 " January 1904 " November 1904 " January 1905
To the Memory of My Dear Friend,
Whose last message to the Band, before her translation on June 16, 1901, was:
"YOU WILL BE IN THE THICK OF THE FIGHT BY THE TIME THIS REACHES YOU, "
WITHIN a few weeks of the publication of Things as They Are, letters were received from missionaries working in different parts of India, confirming its truth. But some in England doubt it. And so it was proposed that if a fourth edition were called for, a few confirmatory notes, written by experienced South Indian missionaries, other than those of the district described, would be helpful. Several such notes are appended. The Indian view of one of the chief facts set forth in the book is expressed in the note written by one who, better than any missionary, and surely better even than any onlooker at home, has the right to be heard in this matter—and the right to be believed.
And now at His feet, who can use the least, we lay this book again; for "to the Mighty One," as the Tamil proverb says, "even the blade of grass is a weapon." May it be used for His Name's sake, to win more prayer for India—and all dark lands—the prayer that prevails.
AMY WILSON-CARMICHAEL, Dohnavur, Tinnevelly District, S. India.
From Rev. D. DOWNIE, D.D., American Baptist Mission, Nizam's Dominions, S. India.
I have felt for many years that we missionaries were far too prone to dwell on what is called the "bright side of mission work." That it has a bright side no one can question. That it has a "dark" side some do question; but I for one, after thirty years of experience, know it to be just as true as the bright side is true. I have heard Miss Carmichael's book denounced as "pessimistic." Just what is meant by that I am not quite sure; but if it means that what she has written is untrue, then I am prepared to say that it is NOT pessimistic, for there is not a line of it that cannot be duplicated in this Telugu Mission. That she has painted a dark picture of Hindu life cannot be denied, but, since it is every word true, I rejoice that she had the courage to do what was so much needed, and yet what so many of us shrank from doing, "lest it should injure the cause."
From Rev. T. STEWART, M.A., Secretary, United Free Church Mission, Madras.
This book, Things as They Are, meets a real need—it depicts a phase of mission work of which, as a rule, very little is heard. Every missionary can tell of cases where people have been won for Christ, and mention incidents of more than passing interest. Miss Carmichael is no exception, and could tell of not a few trophies of grace. The danger is, lest in describing such incidents the impression should be given that they represent the normal state of things, the reverse being the case. The people of India are not thirsting for the Gospel, nor "calling us to deliver their land from error's chain." The night is still one in which the "spiritual hosts of wickedness" have to be overcome before the captive can be set free. The writer has laid all interested in the extension of the Kingdom of God under a deep debt of obligation by such a graphic and accurate picture of the difficulties that have to be faced and the obstacles to be overcome. Counterparts of the incidents recorded can be found in other parts of South India, and there are probably few missionaries engaged in vernacular work who could not illustrate some of them from their own experience.
From Dr. A. W. RUDISILL, Methodist Episcopal Press, Madras.
In Things as They Are are pictured, by camera and pen, some things in Southern India. The pen, as faithfully as the camera, has told the truth, and nothing but the truth.
The early chapters bring out with vivid, striking, almost startling reality the wayside hearers in India. One can almost see the devil plucking away the words as fast as they fall, and hear the opposers of the Gospel crying out against it.
Paul did not hesitate to write things as they were of the idolaters to whom he preached, even though the picture was very dark. It is all the more needful now, when so many are deceived and being deceived as to the true nature of idolatry, that people at home who give and pray should be told plainly that what Paul wrote of idolaters in Rome and Corinth is still true of idolaters in India.
Miss Carmichael has given only glances and glimpses, not full insights. Let those who think the picture she has drawn is too dark know that, if the whole truth were told, an evil spirit only could produce the pictures, and hell itself would be the only fit place in which to publish them, because in Christian lands eyes have not seen and ears have not heard of such things.
From Rev. C. W. CLARKE, M.A., Principal, Noble College, Masulipatam.
I have worked as Principal of a College for over seventeen years amongst the caste people of South India, and I entirely endorse Miss Carmichael's views as to the actual risks run by students and others desirous of breaking caste and being baptized. While the teaching of the Bible and English education generally have removed a great deal of prejudice, and greatly raised the ethical standard amongst a number of those who come under such influences, Hinduism as held and practised by the vast majority of caste people remains essentially unchanged. To break caste is held to be the greatest evil a person can inflict upon himself and his community, therefore practically any means may be resorted to to prevent such a calamity. It is a commonplace amongst missionaries, that when a caste man or woman shows any serious intention of being baptized,—in any case, where caste feeling is not modified by special circumstances,—the most stringent precautions must be taken to protect the inquirer from the schemes of his caste brethren.
From KRISHNA RAN, Esq., B.A., Editor, Christian Patriot, Madras (himself a convert).
The question is often asked whether a high caste Hindu convert can live with his own people after his baptism. It is only those who know nothing of the conditions of life in India, and of the power of caste as it exists in this country, who raise the question.
The convert has to be prepared for the loss of parents and their tender affection; of brothers and sisters, relatives and friends; of wife and children, if he has any; of his birthright, social position, means of livelihood, reputation, and all the power which hides behind the magic word "caste"; of all that he is taught from his childhood to hold as sacred.
From Miss READE, South Arcot, South India.
I am not surprised that anyone unacquainted with mission work in India should be staggered at the facts narrated in Things as They Are. But as one who has worked for nearly thirty years in the heart of heathenism, away from the haunts of civilisation, I can bear testimony that the reality of things far exceeds anything that it would be possible to put into print. One's tongue falters to tell of what is custom in this country. I know a case where a young girl of ten was placed in such a position that her choice lay between two sinful courses of life, no right way being open to her. I think one of the most distressing things we have to meet in caste work in this country is the fact that often as soon as a soul begins to show interest in Christ he or she disappears, and one either hears next that he is dead, or can get no reliable information at all.
Extract from a letter to Miss CARMICHAEL on Things as They Are. (The writer is a veteran American missionary.)
I could duplicate nearly every incident in the book; so I know it is a true picture, not alone because I believe your word, but because my experience has been so similar to yours. Many times, while reading it, the memory of the old heart-break has been so vivid that I have had to lay the book down and look round the familiar room in order to convince myself that it was you, and not I, who was agonising over one of the King's own children who was being crowded back into darkness and hurled down to destruction, because Satan's wrath is great as he realises that his time is short.
I wish the book might be read by all the Christians in the homeland.
From PANDITA RAMABAI.
While I was reading Things as They Are, I fancied I was living my old life among Hindus over again. I can honestly corroborate everything said in regard to the religious and social life of the Hindus. I came from that part of the country, and I am very glad that the book has succeeded in bringing the truth to light.
From Miss L. TROTTER.
There is hardly a phase of all the heart-suffering retold that we have not known: page after page might have been written out here, word for word.
THE writer of these thrilling chapters is a Keswick missionary, well known to many friends as the adopted daughter of Mr. Robert Wilson, the much-respected chairman of the Keswick Convention. She worked for a time with the Rev. Barclay Buxton in Japan; and for the last few years she has been with the Rev. T. Walker (also a C.M.S. Missionary) in Tinnevelly, and is on the staff of the Church of England Zenana Society.
I do not think the realities of Hindu life have ever been portrayed with greater vividness than in this book; and I know that the authoress's accuracy can be fully relied upon. The picture is drawn without prejudice, with all sympathy, with full recognition of what is good, and yet with an unswerving determination to tell the truth and let the facts be known,—that is, so far as she dares to tell them. What she says is the truth, and nothing but the truth; but it is not the whole truth—that she could not tell. If she wrote it, it could not be printed. If it were printed, it could not be read. But if we read between the lines, we do just catch glimpses of what she calls "the Actual."
It is evident that the authoress deeply felt the responsibility of writing such a book; and I too feel the responsibility of recommending it. I do so with the prayer of my heart that God will use it to move many. It is not a book to be read with a lazy kind of sentimental "interest." It is a book to send the reader to his knees—still more to her knees.
Most of the chapters are concerned with the lives of Heathen men and women and children surrounded by the tremendous bars and gates of the Caste system. But one chapter, and not the least important one, tells of native Christians. It has long been one of my own objects to correct the curious general impression among people at home that native Christians, as a body, are—not indeed perfect,—no one thinks that, but—earnest and consistent followers of Christ. Narratives, true narratives, of true converts are read, and these are supposed to be specimens of the whole body. But (1) where there have been "mass movements" towards Christianity, where whole villages have put themselves under Christian instruction, mixed motives are certain; (2) where there have been two or three generations of Christians it is unreasonable to expect the descendants of men who may have been themselves most true converts to be necessarily like them. Hereditary Christianity in India is much like hereditary Christianity at home. The Church in Tinnevelly, of which this book incidentally tells a little, is marked by both these features. Whole families or even villages have "come over" at times; and the large majority of the Christians were (so to speak) born Christians, and were baptized in infancy. This is not in itself a result to be despised. "Christian England," unchristian as a great part of its population really is, is better than Heathen India; and in the chapter now referred to, Miss Carmichael herself notices the difference between a Hindu and a Christian village. But the more widely Christianity spreads, the more will there assuredly be of mere nominal profession.
Is the incorrect impression I allude to caused by missionaries dwelling mostly on the brighter side of their work? Here and there in the book there is just a suggestion that they are wrong in doing so. But how can they help it? What does a clergyman or an evangelist in England tell of? Does he tell of his many daily disappointments, or of his occasional encouraging cases? The latter are the events of his life, and he naturally tells of them. The former he comprises in some general statement. How can he do otherwise? And what can the modern missionary do in the short reports he is able to write? Fifty years ago missionary journals of immense length came home, and were duly published; and then the details of Hindu idolatry and cruelty and impurity, and the tremendous obstacles to the Gospel, were better known by the few regular readers. Much that Miss Carmichael tells was then told over and over again, though not perhaps with a skilful pen like hers. But the work has so greatly developed in each mission, and the missions are so far more numerous and extended, that neither can missionaries now write as their predecessors did, nor, if they did, could all the missionary periodicals together find space for their journals.
The fault of incorrect impressions lies mainly in the want of knowledge and want of thought of home speakers and preachers. I remember, thirty years ago, an eloquent Bishop in Exeter Hall triumphantly flinging in the face of critics of missions the question, "Is Tinnevelly a fiction?"—as if Tinnevelly had become a Christian country, which apparently some people still suppose it to be, notwithstanding the warning words to the contrary which the C.M.S. publications have again and again uttered. Even now, there are in Tinnevelly about twenty heathen to every one Christian; and of what sort the twenty are this book tells. Tinnevelly is indeed "no fiction," but in a very different sense from that of the good Bishop's speech. Again, a few months ago, I heard a preacher, not very favourable to the C.M.S., say that the C.M.S., despite its shortcomings, deserved well of the Church because it had "converted a nation" in Uganda!—as if the nation comprised only 30,000 souls. Some day the "Actual" of Uganda will be better understood, and the inevitable shortcomings of even its Christian population realised, and then we shall be told that we deceived the public—although we have warned them over and over again.
But the larger part of this book is a revelation—so far as is possible—of the "Actual" of Hinduism and Caste. God grant that its terrible facts and its burning words may sink into the hearts of its readers! Perhaps, when they have read it, they will at last agree that we have used no sensational and exaggerated language when we have said that the Church is only playing at missions! Service, and self-denial, and prayer, must be on a different scale indeed if we are ever—I do not say to convert the world—but even to evangelise it.
CHAPTER PAGE I. ABOUT THE BOOK 1 II. THREE AFTERNOONS OFF THE TRACK 5 III. HUMDRUM 18 IV. CORRESPONDENCES 26 V. THE PREY OF THE TERRIBLE 33 VI. MISSED ENDS 41 VII. "THE DUST OF THE ACTUAL" 57 VIII. ROOTS 71 IX. THE CLASSES AND THE MASSES 83 X. THE CREED CHASM 91 XI. CASTE VIEWED AS A DOER 96 XII. PETRA 105 XIII. DEATH BY DISUSE 111 XIV. WHAT HAPPENED 118 XV. "SIMPLY MURDERED" 124 XVI. WANTED, VOLUNTEERS 132 XVII. IF IT IS SO VERY IMPORTANT. . . ? 141 XVIII. THE CALL INTENSIFIED 145 XIX. "ATTRACTED BY THE INFLUENCE" 160 XX. THE ELF 171 XXI. DEIFIED DEVILRY 188 XXII. BEHIND THE DOOR 194 XXIII. "PAN, PAN IS DEAD" 203 XXIV. "MARRIED TO THE GOD" 217 XXV. SKIRTING THE ABYSS 223 XXVI. FROM A HINDU POINT OF VIEW 236 XXVII. THOUGH YE KNOW HIM NOT 249 XXVIII. HOW LONG? 256 XXIX. WHAT DO WE COUNT THEM WORTH? 262 XXX. TWO SAFE 273 XXXI. THREE OBJECTIONS 277 XXXII. "SHOW ME THY GLORY!" 289 APPENDIX. SOME INDIAN SAINTS 303
AN OLD BRAHMAN Frontispiece BANDY CROSSING A POOL Facing page 5 A YOUNG TAMIL GIRL 11 A POTTER AT HIS WHEEL 24 A DEVOTEE OF SIVA 26 THE RED LAKE VILLAGE 28 DEATH SCENE 51 WAILING 53 THREE CEREMONIAL MOURNERS 54 CEREMONIAL BATHING 56 AN ANCIENT PARIAH 58 VELLALA WIDOW 66 TYPICAL OLD WIDOW 73 HINDU SCHOOLMASTER AND BOYS 87 SHANAR MOTHER AND CHILD 91 COOKING IN A SHANAR HOUSE 98 FAIRLY TYPICAL VELLALAR 105 CHRISTIAN WIDOW 112 BRAHMAN GIRL 118 THREE TYPES OF BRAHMANHOOD— KEEN 132 THOUGHTFUL 134 DULL 138 AN OLD WOMAN AND BABY 143 BRAHMAN WIDOW 145 BRAHMAN STREET 147 SHEPHERD-CASTE HOUSE 151 VELLALA CHILD 161 "UGLY DUCKLING" 178 DESIGNS IN CHALK 194 HANDMARKS ON THE DOOR 202 A "HOLY BRAHMAN" 221 WOMAN AND WATER-VESSEL 262
AGNI God of Fire.
AIYO Alas! "Ai" runs together almost like "eye." The word is repeated rapidly, Eye-eye Yō Eye-eye Yō!
AMMĀ Mother! (vocative case). "A" is pronounced like "u" in "up." The word is also used by all women in speaking to each other, and by girls in speaking to women.
AMMĀL Lady or woman. "A" is pronounced like "u" in "up."
ANNA One penny.
ARECA NUT Nut "eaten" by the Indians with betel leaf or lime.
BETEL Leaf of a creeper.
BANDY A bullock cart.
BRAHMA The first person in the Hindu Triad, regarded as the Creator.
BRAHMAN The highest of the Hindu Castes.
BRAMO SAMAJ A sect of Hindu reformers who honour Christ as a man, but reject Him as a Saviour.
CHEE! Exclamation of derision, disgust, or remonstrance.
COMPOUND A piece of ground surrounding a house.
COOLIE A paid labourer. "Coolie" is the Tamil word for pay.
CURRY A preparation of meat or vegetables made by grinding various condiments and mixing them together.
FAKEER Religious beggar.
GURU A religious teacher.
IYER Title given to Brahmans and Gurus.
PADDY Rice in the husk. Paddy fields = rice fields.
PARIAH A depressed class.
PŪJAH Worship. "ū" is pronounced like "oo."
RUPEE Value 1s. 4d.
SAIVITE A worshipper of Siva.
SALAAM A salutation meaning "peace," used in greeting and farewell, and often in the sense of "thank you." The right hand is raised to the forehead as one says salaam.
SEELEY Tamil woman's dress of silk, muslin, or cotton.
SHANAR A Caste of Palmyra-palm climbers.
SIVA The third person in the Hindu Triad. The Destroyer.
TOM-TOM An Indian drum.
VAISHNAVITE A worshipper of Vishnu.
VELLALAR A Caste of landowners and cultivators.
VISHNU The second person in the Hindu Triad. The Preserver.
THINGS AS THEY ARE
MISSION WORK IN SOUTHERN INDIA
About the Book
"We can do nothing against the Truth, but for the Truth." St. Paul, Asia and Europe.
"There is too little desire to know what is the actual state of mission work in India, and a regard to the showy and attractive rather than to the solid and practical. I will try, however, to avoid being carried away by the tide, and to set myself the task of giving as plain and unvarnished a statement as possible of what is actually being done or not done in the great field of our foreign labour." Bishop French, India and Arabia.
THREE friends sat Native fashion on the floor of an Indian verandah. Two of the three had come out to India for a few months to see the fight as it is. And they saw it. They now proposed that the third should gather some letters written from the hot heart of things, and make them into a book, to the intent that others should see exactly what they had seen. The third was not sure. The world has many books. Does it want another, and especially another of the kind this one would be? Brain and time are needed for all that writing a book means. The third has not much of either. But the two undertook to do all the most burdensome part of the business. "Give us the letters, we will make the book," and they urged reasons which ended in—this.
This, the book, has tried to tell the Truth. That is all it has to say about itself. The quotations which head the chapters, and which are meant to be read, not skipped, are more worthful than anything else in it. They are chosen from the writings of missionaries, who saw the Truth and who told it.
The story covers about two years. We had come from the eastern side of this South Indian district, to work for awhile in the south of the South, the farthest southern outpost of the C.M.S. in India. Chapter II. plunges into the middle of the beginning. The Band Sisters are the members of a small Women's Itinerating Band; the girls mentioned by translated names are the young convert-girls who are with us; the Iyer is Rev. T. Walker; the Ammal is Mrs. Walker; the Missie Ammal explains itself.
The Picture-catching Missie Ammal is the friend who proposed the book's making. This is her Tamil name, given because it describes her as she struck the Tamil mind. The pictures she caught were not easy to catch. Reserved and conservative India considered the camera intrusive, and we were often foiled in getting what we most desired. Even where we were allowed to catch our object peaceably, it was a case of working under difficulties which would have daunted a less ardent picture-catcher. Wherever the camera was set up, there swarms of children sprang into being, burrowed in and out like rabbits, and scuttled about over everything, to the confusion of the poor artist, who had to fix focus and look after the safety of her camera legs at the same time, while the second Missie Ammal held an umbrella over her head, and the third exhorted the picture, which speedily got restive, to sit still. So much for the mere mechanical.
Finally, I should explain the book's character. "Tell about things as they actually are"; so said the Two with emphasis. I tried, but the Actual eluded me. It was as if one painted smoke, and then, pointing to the feeble blur, said, "Look at the battle! 'the smoking hell of battle!' There is the smoke!" The Poet's thought was not this, I know, when she coined that suggestive phrase, "The Dust of the Actual," but it has been the predominating thought in my mind, for it holds that which defines the scope and expresses the purpose of the book, and I use it as the title of one of the chapters. It does not show the Actual. Principalities, Powers, Rulers of the Darkness, Potentialities unknown and unimagined, gathered up into one stupendous Force—we have never seen it. How can we describe it? What we have seen and tried to describe is only an indication of Something undescribed, and is as nothing in comparison with it—as Dust in comparison with the Actual. The book's scope, then, is bounded by this: it only touches the Dust; but its purpose goes deeper, stretches wider, has to do with the Actual and our relation to it.
But in touching the Dust we touch the outworkings of an Energy so awful in operation that descriptive chapters are awful too. And such chapters are best read alone in some quiet place with God. For the book is a battle-book, written from a battle-field where the fighting is not pretty play but stern reality; and almost every page looks straight from the place where Charles Kingsley stood when he wrote—
"God! fight we not within a cursed world, Whose very air teems thick with leagued fiends— Each word we speak has infinite effects— Each soul we pass must go to heaven or hell— And this our one chance through eternity To drop and die, like dead leaves in the brake!
. . . . . . .
Be earnest, earnest, earnest; mad if thou wilt: Do what thou dost as if the stake were heaven, And that thy last deed ere the judgment day."
Three Afternoons off the Track
"They are led captive by Satan at his will in the most quiescent manner." David Brainerd, North America.
"Oh that the Lord would pour out upon them a spirit of deep concern for their souls!" Henry Martyn, India.
"I ask you earnestly to pray that the Gospel may take saving and working effect." James Gilmour, Mongolia.
THE Western Ghauts sweep down to the sea in curves. Dohnavur is in one of the last of these curves. There are no proper roads running under the mountains, only rough country ruts crossing the plain. We were rolling along one of these at the rate of two miles an hour.
Crash and tumble went the bandy, a springless construction with a mat roof; bang over stones and slabs of rock, down on one side, up on the other; then both wheels were sharp aslant. But this is usual. On that particular First Afternoon the water was out, which is the South Indian way of saying that the tanks, great lake-like reservoirs, have overflowed and flooded the land. Once we went smoothly down a bank and into a shallow swollen pool, and the water swished in at the lower end and floated our books out quietly. So we had to stop, and fish them up; and then, huddled close at the upper end we sat, somewhat damp, but happy.
At last we got to our destination, reached through a lane which then was a stream with quite a swift little current of its own. Cupid's Lake the place is called. We thought the name appropriate. Cupid's Lake is peopled by Castes of various persuasions; we made for the Robber quarter first. The Robber Caste is honourable here; it furnishes our watchmen and the coolies who carry our money. There is good stuff in the Robber Caste people: a valiant people are they, and though they were not prepared for the thing that was coming towards them, they met it with fortitude. A little girl saw it first. One glance at my hat through the end of the cart, and she flew to spread the news—
"Oh! everyone come running and see! A great white man is here! Oh what an appalling spectacle! A great white man!"
Then there was a general rush; children seemed to spring from the ground, all eyes and tongues and astonishment. "She isn't a man!" "He is!" "She isn't!" "He has got a man's turban!" "But look at her seeley!" (Tamil dress.) A woman, and white—it staggered them till the assurances of the Band Sisters prevailed; and they let me into a neighbouring house, out of the sun which made that hat a necessity. Once it was off they lost all fear, and crowded round in the friendliest fashion; but later, one of the Band was amused by hearing me described in full: "Not a man, though great and white, and wearing a white man's turban, too! Was it not an appalling spectacle?" And the old body who was addressed held up both her hands amazed, and hastened off to investigate.
An English magazine told us lately exactly what these poor women think when they see, for the first time in their lives, the lady missionary. They greatly admire her, the article said, and consider her fairer and more divine than anything ever imagined before—which is very nice indeed to read; but here what they say is this: "Was it not an appalling spectacle? A great white man!"
And now that the spectacle was safe in the house, the instincts of hospitality urged clean mats and betel. Betel (pronounced beetle) is the leaf of a climbing plant, into which they roll a morsel of areca nut and lime. The whole is made up into a parcel and munched, but not swallowed. This does not sound elegant; neither is the thing. It is one of the minor trials of life to have to sit through the process.
We took a leaf or two, but explained that it was not our custom to eat it; and then we answered questions straight off for ten minutes. "What is your Caste?" "Chee!" in a tone of remonstrance, "don't you see she is white? Married or widow? Why no jewels? What relations? Where are they all? Why have you left them and come here? Whatever can be your business here? What does the Government give you for coming here?" These last questions gave us the chance we were watching for, and we began to explain.
Now what do these people do when, for the first time, they hear the Good Tidings? They simply stare.
In that house that day there was an old woman who seemed to understand a little what it was all about. She had probably heard before. But nobody else understood in the least; they did not understand enough to make remarks. They sat round us on the floor and ate betel, as everybody does here in all leisure moments, and they stared.
The one old woman who seemed to understand followed us out of the house, and remarked that it was a good religion but a mistaken one, as it advocated, or resulted in, the destruction of Caste.
In the next house we found several girls, and tried to persuade the mothers to let them learn to read. If a girl is learning regularly it gives one a sort of right of entrance to the house. One's going there is not so much observed and one gets good chances, but to all our persuasions they only said it was not their custom to allow their girls to learn. Had they to do Government work? Learning was for men who wanted to do Government work. We explained a little, and mentioned the many villages where girls are learning to read. They thought it a wholly ridiculous idea. Then we told them as much as we could in an hour about the great love of Jesus Christ.
I was in the middle of it, and thinking only of it and their souls, when an old lady with fluffy white hair leaned forward and gazed at me with a beautiful, earnest gaze. She did not speak; she just listened and gazed, "drinking it all in." And then she raised a skeleton claw, and grabbed her hair, and pointed to mine. "Are you a widow too," she asked, "that you have no oil on yours?" After a few such experiences that beautiful gaze loses its charm. It really means nothing more nor less than the sweet expression sometimes observed in the eyes of a sorrowful animal.
But her question had set the ball rolling again. "Oil! no oil! Can't you even afford a halfpenny a month to buy good oil? It isn't your custom? Why not? Don't any white Ammals ever use oil? What sort of oil do the girls use? Do you never use castor oil for the hair? Oh, castor oil is excellent!" And they went into many details. The first thing they do when a baby is born is to swing it head downwards, holding its feet, and advise it not to sin; and the second thing is to feed it with castor oil, and put castor oil in its eyes. "Do we do none of these things?" We sang to them. They always like that, and sometimes it touches them: but the Tamils are not easily touched, and could never be described as unduly emotional.
All through there were constant and various interruptions. Two bulls sauntered in through the open door, and established themselves in their accustomed places; then a cow followed, and somebody went off to tie the animals up. Children came in and wanted attention, babies made their usual noises. We rarely had five consecutive quiet minutes.
When they seemed to be getting tired of us, we said the time was passing, to which they agreed, and, with a word about hoping to come again, to which they answered cordially, "Oh yes! Come to-morrow!" we went out into the street, and finished up in the open air. There is a tree at one end of the village; we stood under it and sang a chorus and taught the children who had followed us from house to house to sing it, and this attracted some passing grown-ups, who listened while we witnessed unto Jesus, Who had saved us and given us His joy. Nothing tells more than just this simple witness. To hear one of their own people saying, with evident sincerity, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind now I see," makes them look at each other and nod their heads sympathetically. This is something that appeals, something they can appreciate; many a time it arrests attention when nothing else would.
We were thoroughly tired by this time, and could neither talk nor sing any more. The crowd melted—all but the children, who never melt—one by one going their respective ways, having heard, some of them, for the first time. What difference will it make in their lives? Did they understand it? None of them seemed specially interested, none of them said anything interesting. The last question I heard was about soap—"What sort of soap do you use to make your skin white?" Most of them would far prefer to be told that secret than how to get a white heart.
Afternoon Number Two found us in the Village of the Temple, a tumble-down little place, but a very citadel of pride and the arrogance of ignorance. We did not know that at first, of course, but we very soon found it out. There was the usual skirmish at the sight of a live white woman; no one there had seen such a curiosity. But even curiosity could not draw the Brahmans. They live in a single straggling street, and would not let us in. "Go!" said a fat old Brahman disdainfully; "no white man has ever trodden our street, and no white woman shall. As for that low-caste child with you"—Victory looked up in her gentle way, and he varied it to—"that child who eats with those low-caste people—she shall not speak to one of our women. Go by the way you have come!"
This was not encouraging. We salaamed and departed, and went to our bandy left outside ("low-caste bandies" are not allowed to drive down Brahman streets), and asked our Master to open another door. While we were waiting, a tall, fine-looking Hindu came and said, "Will you come to my house? I will show you the way." So we went.
He led us to the Vellala quarter next to the Brahmans, and we found his house was the great house of the place. The outer door opened into a large square inner courtyard. A wide verandah, supported by pillars quaintly carved, ran round it. The women's rooms, low and windowless, opened on either side; these are the rooms we rejoice to get into, and now we were led right in.
But first I had to talk to the men. They were regular Caste Hindus; courteous—for they have had no cause to fear the power of the Gospel—yet keen and argumentative. One of them had evidently read a good deal. He quoted from their classics; knew all about Mrs. Besant and the latest pervert to her views; and was up in the bewildering tangle of thought known as Hindu Philosophy. "Fog-wreaths of doubt, in blinding eddies drifted"—that is what it really is, but it is very difficult to prove it so.
One truth struck him especially—Christianity is the only religion which provides a way by which there is deliverance from sin now. There is a certain system of philosophy which professes to provide deliverance in the future, when the soul, having passed through the first three stages of bliss, loses its identity and becomes absorbed in God; but there is no way by which deliverance can be obtained here and now. "Sin shall not have dominion over you"—there is no such line as this in all the million stanzas of the Hindu classics. He admitted this freely, admitted that this one tenet marked out Christianity as a unique religion; but he did not go on further; he showed no desire to prove the truth of it.
After this they let us go to the women, who had all this time been watching us, and discussing us with interest.
Once safely into their inner room, we sat down on the floor in the midst of them, and began to make friends. There was a grandmother who had heard that white people were not white all over, but piebald, so to speak; might she examine me? There were several matronly women who wanted to know what arrangements English parents made concerning their daughters' marriages. There were the usual widows of a large Indian household—one always looks at them with a special longing; and there was a dear young girl, in a soft blue seeley (Tamil dress), her ears clustered about with pearls, and her neck laden with five or six necklets worth some hundreds of rupees. She was going to be married; and beyond the usual gentle courtesy of a well-brought-up Tamil girl, showed no interest in us. Almost all the women had questions to ask. On the track it is different; they have already satisfied their lawful curiosity concerning Missie Ammals; but here they have not had the chance; and if we ignore their desires, we defeat our own. They may seem to listen, but they are really occupied in wondering about us. We got them to listen finally, and left them, cheered by warm invitations to return.
Then we thought of the poor proud Brahmans, and hoping that, perhaps, in the interval they had inquired about us, and would let us in, we went to them again. We could see the fair faces and slender forms of the younger Brahman women standing in the shadow behind their verandah pillars, and some of them looked as if they would like to let us in, but the street had not relented; and a Brahman street is like a house—you cannot go in unless you are allowed.
There was one kind-faced, courtly old man, and he seemed to sympathise with us, for he left the mocking group of men, and came to see us off; and then, as if to divert us from the greater topic, he pointed to one of the mountains, a spur of the God King's mountain, famous in all South India, and volunteered to tell me its story. We were glad to make friends with him even over so small a thing as a mountain; but he would speak of nothing else, and when he left us we felt baffled and sorry, and tired with the tiredness that comes when you cannot give your message; and we sat down on a rock outside the Brahman street, to wait till the Band Sisters gathered for the homeward walk.
It was sunset time, and the sky was overcast by dull grey clouds; but just over the Brahman quarter there was a rift in the grey, and the pent-up gold shone through. It seemed as if God were pouring out His beauty upon those Brahmans, trying to make them look up, and they would not. One by one we saw them go to their different courtyards, where the golden glow could not reach them, and we heard them shut their great heavy doors, as if they were shutting Him out.
In there it was dark; out here, out with God, it was light. The after-glow, that loveliest glow of the East, was shining through the rent of the clouds, and the red-tiled roofs and the scarlet flowers of the Flame of the Forest, and every tint and colour which would respond in any way, were aglow with the beauty of it. The Brahman quarter was set in the deep green of shadowy trees; just behind it the mountains rose outlined in mist, and out of the mist a waterfall gleamed white against blue.
We spent Afternoon Number Three in the Village of the Warrior, a lonely little place, left all by itself on a great rough moorland—if you can call a patch of bare land "moor" which is destitute of heather, and grows palms and scrub in clumps instead. It took us rather a long time to get to it, over very broken ground on a very hot day; but when we did get there we found such a good opening that we forgot about our feelings, and entered in rejoicing. There were some little children playing at the entrance to the village, and they led us straight to their own house, making friends in the most charming way as they trotted along beside us. They told us their family history, and we told them as much of ours as was necessary, and they introduced us to their mothers as old acquaintances. The mothers were indulgent, and let us have a room all to ourselves in the inner courtyard, where a dozen or more children gathered and listened with refreshing zest. They understood, dear little things, though so often their elders did not.
Then the mothers got interested, and sat about the door. The girls were with me. (We usually divide into two parties; the elder and more experienced Sisters go off in one direction, and the young convert-girls come with me.) And before long, Jewel of Victory was telling out of a full heart all about the great things God had done for her. She has a very sweet way with the women, and they listened fascinated. Then the others spoke, and still those women listened. They were more intelligent than our audience of yesterday; and though they did not follow nearly all, they listened splendidly to the story-part of our message. In the meaning, as is often the case, their interest was simply nil.
But we were sorry, and I think so were they, when a commotion outside disturbed us, and we were sorrier when we knew the cause. The village postman, who only visits these out-of-the-way places once a week, had appeared with a letter for the head of the house. One of the men folk had read it. It told of the death of the son in foreign parts—Madras, I think—and the poor old mother's one desire was to see us out of the room. She had not liked to turn us out; but, as the news spread, more women gathered clamouring round the door; and the moment we left the room empty, in they rushed, with the mother and the women who had listened to us, and flinging themselves on the floor, cried the Tamil cry of sorrow, full of a pathos of its own: "Ai-yō! Ai-yō! Ai-Ai-yō!"
It was sad to leave them crying so, but at that moment we were certainly better away. The children came with us to the well outside the village, and we sat on its wall and went on with our talk. They would hardly let us go, and begged us to come back and "teach them every day," not the Gospel—do not imagine their little hearts craved for that—but reading and writing and sums! As we drove off some of the villagers smiled and salaamed, and the little children's last words followed us as far as we could hear them: "Come back soon!"
Sometimes, as now, when we come to a new place, we dream a dream, dream that perhaps at last it may be possible to win souls peacefully. Perhaps these courteous, kindly people will welcome the message we bring them when they understand it better. Perhaps homes need not be broken up, perhaps whole families will believe, or individual members believing may still live in their own homes and witness there. Perhaps—perhaps—! And snatches of verse float through our dream—
"Oh, might some sweet song Thy lips have taught us, Some glad song, and sweet, Guide amidst the mist, and through the darkness, Lost ones to Thy feet!"
It sounds so beautiful, so easy, singing souls to Jesus. And we dream our dream.
Till suddenly and with violence we are awakened. Someone—a mere girl, or a lad, or even a little child—has believed, has confessed, wants to be a Christian. And the whole Caste is roused, and the whole countryside joins with the Caste; and the people we almost thought loved us, hate us. And till we go to the next new place we never dream that dream again.
"A missionary's life is more ordinary than is supposed. Plod rather than cleverness is often the best missionary equipment." Rev. J. Heywood Horsburgh, China.
"Truly to understand the facts of work for Christ in any land, we must strip it of all romance, and of everything which is unreal." Miss S. S. Hewlett, India.
THERE have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful." Praise God, it does not say "successful."
One evening things came to a climax. We all spent a whole afternoon without getting one good listener. We separated as usual, going two and two to the different quarters of a big sleepy straggly village. Life and I went to the potters. Life spoke most earnestly and well to an uninterested group of women. After she had finished one of them pointed to my hat (the only foreign thing about me which was visible—oh that I could dispense with it!). "What is that?" she said. Not one bit did they care to hear. One by one they went back to their work, and we were left alone.
We went to another quarter. It was just the same. At a rest-house by the way I noticed a Brahman, and went to see if he would listen. He would if I would talk "about politics or education, but not if it was about religion." However, I did get a chance of pleading with him to consider the question of his soul's salvation, and he took a book and said he would read it at his leisure. And then he asked me how many persons I had succeeded in joining to my Way since I began to try. It was exactly the question, only asked in another form, which the devil had been pressing on me all the afternoon. After this he told me politely that we were knocking our heads against a rock; we might smash our heads, but we never would affect the rock.
"Rock! Rock! when wilt thou open?" It is an old cry; I cried it afresh. But the Brahman only smiled, and then with a gesture expressing at once his sense of his own condescension in speaking with me, and his utter contempt for the faith I held, motioned to me to go.
Outside in the road a number of Hindus were standing; some of them were his retainers and friends. I heard them say, as I passed through their midst, "Who will fall into the pit of the Christian Way!" And they laughed, and the Brahman laughed. "As the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things, unto this day."
We walked along the road bordered with beautiful banyan trees. We sat down under their shade, and waited for what would come. Some little children followed us, but before we could get a single idea clearly into their heads a man came and chased them away. "It is getting dark," he said. "They are only little green things; they must not be out late." It was broad daylight then, and would be for another hour. Some coolies passing that way stopped to look at us; but before they had time to get interested they too remarked that darkness was coming, and they must be off, and off they went.
We were left alone after that. Within five minutes' walk were at least five hundred souls, redeemed, but they don't know it; redeemed, but they don't want to know it. Sometimes they seem to want to know, but however tenderly you tell it, the keen Hindu mind soon perceives the drift of it all—Redemption must mean loss of Caste. One day last week I was visiting in the Village of the Red Lake. Standing in one of its courtyards you see the Western Ghauts rising straight up behind. The Red Lake lies at the mountain foot; we call it Derwentwater, but there are palms and bamboos, and there is no Friar's Crag.
That afternoon I was bound for a house in the centre of the village, when an old lady called me to come to her house, and I followed her gladly. There were six or eight women all more or less willing to listen; among them were two who were very old. Old people in India are usually too attached to their own faith, or too utterly stupid and dull, to care to hear about another; but this old lady had been stirred to something almost like active thought by the recent death of a relative, and she felt that she needed something more than she had to make her ready for death. She was apparently devout. Ashes were marked on her brow and arms, and she wore a very large rosary. It is worn to accumulate merit. I did not refer to it as I talked, but in some dim way she seemed to feel it did not fit with what I was saying, for, with trembling hands, she took it off and threw it to a child. I hoped this meant something definite, and tried to lead her to Jesus. But as soon as she understood Who He was, she drew back. "I cannot be a disciple of your Guru, here," she said; "would my relations bear such defilement?" Being a Christian really meant sooner or later leaving her home and all her people for ever. Can you wonder an old lady of perhaps seventy-five stopped at that?
The little children in the Village of the Warrior are not allowed to learn. The men of the place have consulted and come to the decision. The chill of it has struck the little ones, and they do not care to run the chance of the scolding they would receive if they showed too much interest in us. The mothers are as friendly as ever, but indifferent. "We hear this is a religion which spoils our Caste," they say, and that is the end of it. In the great house of the Temple Village they listened well for some weeks. Then, as it gradually opened to them that there is no Caste whatever in Christianity, their interest died.
How much one would like to tell a different story! But a made-up story is one thing and a story of facts is another. So far we have only found two genuine earnest souls here. But if those two go on—! Praise God for the joy on before!
We went again to the potters' village and sat on the narrow verandah and talked to a girl as she patted the pots into shape underneath where the wheel had left an open place. She listened for awhile; then she said, "If I come to your Way will you give me a new seeley and good curry every day?" And back again we went to the very beginning of things, while the old grandfather spinning his wheel chuckled at us for our folly in wasting our time over potters. "As if we would ever turn to your religion!" he said. "Have you ever heard of a potter who changed his Caste?"
Caste and religion! They are so mixed up that we do not know how to unmix them. His Caste to the potter meant his trade, the trade of his clan for generations; it meant all the observances bound up with it; it meant, in short, his life. It would never strike him that he could be a Christian and a potter at the same time, and very probably he could not; the feeling of the Caste would be against it. Then what else could he be? He does not argue all this out; he does not care enough about the matter to take the trouble to think at all. He has only one concern in life—he lives to make pots and sell them, and make more and sell them, and so eat and sleep in peace.
But the girl had the look of more possibility; she asked questions and seemed interested, and finally suggested we should wait till she had finished her batch of pots, and then she would "tell us all her mind." So we waited and watched the deft brown hands as they worked round the gaping hole till it grew together and closed; and at last she had finished. Then she drew us away from the group of curious children, and told us if we would come in three days she would be prepared to join our Way and come with us, for she had to work very hard at home, and her food was poor and her seeley old, and she thought it would be worth risking the wrath of her people to get all she knew we should give her if she came; and this was all her mind.
She had touched a great perplexity. How are we to live in India without raising desires of this sort? It is true the Brahmans look down upon us, and the higher Castes certainly do not look up, but to the greater number of the people we seem rich and grand and desirable to cultivate. The Ulterior-Object-Society is a fact in South India. We may banish expensive-looking things from our tables, and all pictures and ornaments from our walls, and confine ourselves to texts. This certainly helps; there is less to distract the attention of the people when they come to see us, and we have so many the fewer things to take care of—a very great advantage—but it does not go far towards disillusioning them as to what they imagine is our true position. We are still up above to them; not on a level, not one of themselves.
The houses we live in are airy and large, and they do not understand the need of protection from the sun. The food we eat is abundant and good, and to them it looks luxurious, for they live on rice and vegetable curry, at a cost of twopence a day. Our walls may be bare, but they are clean, and the texts aforesaid are not torn at the corners; so, whatever we say, we are rich.
Identification with the people whom we have come to win is the aim of many a missionary, but the difficulty always is the same—climate and customs are dead against it; how can we do it? George Bowen struck at English life and became a true Indian, so far as he could, but even he could not go all the way. No matter how far you may go, there is always a distance you cannot cover—yards or inches it may be, but always that fatal hiatus. We seem so undeniably up, far up above them in everything, and we want to get to the lowest step down, low enough down to lift lost souls up.
On and on, if they will let us, time after time, by text and hymn and story, we have to explain what things really mean before they are able to understand even a fraction of the truth. The fact that this girl had thought enough to get her ideas into shape was encouraging, and with such slender cause for hope we still hoped. But when after some weeks' visiting she began to see that the question was not one of curries and seeleys but of inward invisible gifts, her interest died, and she was "out" when we went, or too busy patting her pots to have time to listen to us.
Humdrum we have called the work, and humdrum it is. There is nothing romantic about potters except in poetry, nor is there much of romance about missions except on platforms and in books. Yet "though it's dull at whiles," there is joy in the doing of it, there is joy in just obeying. He said "Go, tell," and we have come and are telling, and we meet Him as we "go and tell."
But, dear friends, do not, we entreat you, expect to hear of us doing great things, as an everyday matter of course. Our aim is great—it is India for Christ! and before the gods in possession here, we sing songs unto Him. But what we say to you is this: Do not expect every true story to dovetail into some other true story and end with some marvellous coincidence or miraculous conversion. Most days in real life end exactly as they began, so far as visible results are concerned. We do not find, as a rule, when we go to the houses—the literal little mud houses, I mean, of literal heathendom—that anyone inside has been praying we might come. I read a missionary story "founded on fact" the other day, and the things that happened in that story on these lines were most remarkable. They do not happen here. Practical missionary life is an unexciting thing. It is not sparkling all over with incident. It is very prosaic at times.
"It is very pleasant when you are in England, and you see souls being saved, and you see the conviction of sin, and you see the power of the Gospel to bring new life and new joy and purity to hearts. But it is still more glorious amongst the heathen to see the same things, to see the Lord there working His own work of salvation, and to see the souls convicted and the hearts broken, and to see there the new life and the new joy coming out in the faces of those who have found the Lord Jesus." Rev. Barclay F. Buxton, Japan.
BEFORE putting this chapter together, I have looked long at the photograph which fronts it. The longer one looks the more pitiful it seems. Perhaps one reads into it all that one knows of her, all one has done for her, how one has failed—and this makes it sadder than it may be to other eyes. And yet can it fail to be sad? Hood's lines reversed describe her—
"All that is left of her Now is not womanly."
The day we took her photo she was returning from her morning worship at the shrine. She had poured her libation over the idol, walked round and round it, prostrated herself before it, gone through the prayers she had learned off by heart, and now was on her way home.
We had gone to her village to take photographs, and had just got the street scene in the morning light. The crowd followed us, eager to see more of the doings of the picture-catching box; and she, fearing the defiling touch of the mixed Castes represented there, had climbed up on a granite slab by the side of the road, and stood waiting till we passed.
There we saw her, and there we took her,—for, to our surprise, she did not object,—and now here she is, to show with all the force of truth how far from ideal the real may be. We looked at her as I look at her now, stripped of all God meant her to have when He made her, deep in the mire of the lowest form of idolatry, a devotee of Siva. She had been to Benares and bathed in the sacred Ganges, and therefore she is holy beyond the reach of doubt. She has no room for any sense of the need of Christ. She pities our ignorance when we talk to her. Is she not a devotee? Has she not been to Benares?
Often and often we meet her in the high-caste houses of the place, where she is always an honoured guest because of her wonderful sanctity. She watches keenly then lest any of the younger members of the household should incline to listen to us.
One of her relatives is an English-educated lawyer, a bitter though covert foe, who not long ago stirred up such opposition that we were warned not to go near the place. Men had been hired "to fall upon us and beat us." This because a girl, a connection of his, read her Bible openly, instead of in secret as she had done before. He connected this action on her part with a visit we had paid to the house, and so induced certain of the baser sort to do this thing. We went, however, just the same, as we had work we had promised to do, and saw the old gentleman sitting on the verandah reading his English newspaper in the most pacific fashion. He seemed surprised to see us as we passed with a salaam; we saw nothing of the beaters, and returned with whole bones, to the relief of the community at large. Only I remember one of our Band was woefully disappointed: "I thought, perhaps, we were going to be martyrs," she said.
And so we realise, as so often in India, the power of both extremes; the one with all the force of his education, and the other with all the force of her superstition, each uniting with the other in repelling the coming of the Saviour both equally need.
As one looks at the photograph, does it not help in the effort to realise the utter hopelessness, from every human point of view, of trying to win such a one, for example, to even care to think of Christ? There is, over and above the natural apathy common to all, an immense barrier of accumulated merit gained by pilgrimages, austerities, and religious observances, and the soul is perfectly satisfied, and has no desire whatever after God. It is just this self-satisfaction which makes it so hopeless to try to do anything with it.
And yet nothing is hopeless to God; "Set no borders to His strength," a Japanese missionary said. We say it over and over again to ourselves, in the face of some great hopelessness, like that photograph before us; and sometimes, as if to assure us it is so, God lifts some such soul into light. Just now we are rejoicing in a letter from the eastern side of the district, telling us of the growth in the new life of one who only a little while ago was a temple devotee.
One has often longed to see Him work as He worked of old, healing the sick by the word of His power, raising the dead. But when we see Him gathering one—and such a one!—from among the heathen to give thanks unto His holy Name and to triumph in His praise, one feels that indeed it is a miracle of miracles, and that greater than a miracle wrought on the body is a miracle wrought on the soul. But nothing I can write can show you the miracle it was. In that particular case it was like seeing a soul drawn out of the hand of the Ruler of Darkness. All salvation is that in reality, but sometimes, as in her case, when the whole environment of the soul has been strongly for evil in its most dangerous phase, then it is more evidently so.
Perhaps we should explain. We know that in its widest sense environment simply means "all that is." We know that "all that is" includes the existence of certain beings, described as "Powers" in Ephesians vi. 12. Some of us are more or less unconscious of this part of our environment. We have no conscious correspondence with it, but it is there. Others, again, seek and find such correspondence, to their certain and awful loss.
Such a subject can hardly bear handling in language. Thank God we know so little about it that we do not know how to speak of it accurately. Neither, indeed, do we wish to intrude into those things which we have not seen by any attempt at close definition; but we know there is this unhallowed correspondence between men and demons, which in old days drew down, as a lightning conductor, the flash of the wrath of God.
Here in India it exists; we often almost touch it, but not quite. We would not go where we knew we should see it, even if we might; so, unless we happen upon it, which is rare, we never see it at all. A year ago I saw it, and that one look made me realise, as no amount of explanations ever could, how absolutely out of reach of all human influence such souls are. Nothing can reach them, nothing but the might of the Holy Ghost.
So I close with this one look. Will you pray for those to whom in the moonless night, at the altar by the temple, there is the sudden coming of that which they have sought—the "possession," the "afflatus," which for ever after marks them out as those whose correspondences reach beyond mortal ken. All devotees have not received this awful baptism, but in this part of India many have.
We were visiting in a high-caste house. The walls were decorated with mythological devices, and even the old wood-carvings were full of idolatrous symbols. The women were listening well, asking questions and arguing, until one, an old lady, came in. Then they were silent. She sat down and discussed us. We thought we would change the subject, and we began to sing. She listened, as they always do, interrupting only to say, "That's true! that's true!" Till suddenly—I cannot describe what—something seemed to come over her, and she burst into a frenzy, exclaiming, "Let me sing! let me sing!" And then she sang as I never heard anyone sing before—the wildest, weirdest wail of a song all about idolatry, its uselessness and folly, its sorrow and sin.
So far I followed her, for I knew the poem well, but she soon turned off into regions of language and thought unreached as yet by me. Here she got madly excited, and, swaying herself to and fro, seemed lashing herself into fury. Nearer and nearer she drew to us (we were on the floor beside her); then she stretched out her arm with its clenched fist, and swung it straight for my eye. Within a hair's-breadth she drew back, and struck out for Victory's; but God helped her not to flinch.
Then I cannot tell what happened, only her form dilated, and she seemed as if she would spring upon us, but as if she were somehow held back. We dare not move for fear of exciting her more. There we sat for I know not how long, with this awful old woman's clenched fist circling round our heads, or all but striking into our eyes, while without intermission she crooned her song in that hollow hum that works upon the listener till the nerve of the soul is drawn out, as it were, to its very farthest stretch. It was quite dark by this time; only the yellow flicker of the wind-blown flame of the lamp made uncertain lights and shadows round the place where we were sitting, and an eerie influence fell on us all, almost mesmeric in effect. I did not need the awestruck whispers round me to tell me what it was. But oh! I felt, as I never felt before, the reality of the presence of unseen powers, and I knew that the Actual itself was in the room with me.
At last she fell back exhausted, trembling in every limb. Her old head hit the wall as she fell, but I knew we must not help her; it would be pollution to her if we touched her. The people all round were too frightened to move. So she fell and lay there quivering, her glittering eyes still fixed on us; and she tried to speak, but could not.
Softly we stole away, and we felt we had been very near where Satan's seat is.
Think of someone you love—as I did then—of someone whose hair is white like hers; but the face you think of has peace in it, and God's light lightens it. Then think of her as we saw her last—the old face torn with the fury of hell, and for light the darkness thereof.
Oh, friends, do you care enough? Do we care enough out here? God give us hearts that can care!
The Prey of the Terrible
"I believe we are in the midst of a great battle. We are not ourselves fighting, we are simply accepting everything that comes; but the Powers of Light are fighting against the Powers of Darkness, and they will certainly prevail. The Holy Spirit is working, but the people do not as yet know it is the Spirit." Hester Needham, Sumatra.
THE devil's favourite device just now is to move interested people to far-away places. We have had several who seemed very near to the Kingdom. Then suddenly they have disappeared.
There was Wreath, of the Village of the Temple. She used to listen in the shadow of the door while we sat on the outside verandah. Then she got bolder, and openly asked to see Golden, and talk with her. One day, unexpectedly, Golden was led to the Red Lake Village, and to her surprise found Wreath there. She had been sent away from the Village of the Temple, and was now with some other relations, under even stricter guard. But God led Golden, all unknowingly, to go straight to the very house where she was. So she heard again.
Next time Golden went she could not see her alone, but somehow Wreath got her to understand that if she went to a certain tree near the women's bathing-place, at a certain time next week, she would try to meet her there. Golden went, and they met. Wreath told her she believed it all, but she could not then face breaking Caste and destroying her family's name. They had been good to her, how could she disgrace them? Still, she eagerly wanted to go on hearing, and we felt that if she did, the love of God would win. So we were full of hope.
Next time Golden went she could find no trace of her. She has never seen her since. There is a rumour that she has been carried off over the mountains, hundreds of miles away.
In another village a bright, keen boy of seventeen listened one day when we taught the women, and, becoming greatly interested, openly took the Gospel's part when the village elders attacked it. After some weeks he gathered courage to come and see the Iyer. He was a very intelligent boy, well known all over the countryside, because he had studied the Tamil classics, and also because of his connection with one of the chief temples of the district.
A fortnight after his visit here, our Band went to his village. They heard that he was married and gone, where, no one would say. The relations must have heard of his coming to us (of course he was urged to tell them), and they rushed him through a marriage, and sent him off post haste. So now there is another key turned, locking him into Hinduism.
In the Village of the Wind a young girl became known as an inquirer. Her Caste passed the word along from village to village wherever its members were found, and all these relations and connections were speedily leagued in a compact to keep her from hearing more. When we went to see her, we found she had been posted off somewhere else. When we went to the somewhere else (always freely mentioned to us, with invitations to go), we found she had been there, but had been forwarded elsewhere. For weeks she was tossed about like this; then we traced her, and found her. But she was thoroughly cowed, and dared not show the least interest in us. It is often like that. Just at the point where the soul-poise is so delicate that the lightest touch affects it, something, someone, pushes it roughly, and it trembles a moment, then falls—on the wrong side.
The reason for all this alertness of opposition is, that scattered about the five thousand square miles we call our field, here and there seeds are beginning to grow. Some of the sowers are in England now, and some are in heaven—sowers and reapers, English and Tamil, rejoice together! This is known everywhere, for the news spreads from town to town, and then out to the villages, and the result is opposition. Sometimes the little patch of ground which looked so hopeful is trampled, and the young seedlings killed; sometimes they seem to be rooted up. When we go to our Master and tell Him, He explains it: "An Enemy hath done this." But as the measure of the Enemy's activity is in direct proportion to the measure of God's working, we take it as a sign of encouragement, however hindering it may be. Satan would not trouble to fight if he saw nothing worth attacking; he does not seem to mind the spread of a head knowledge of the Doctrine, or even a cordial appreciation of it. Often we hear the people say how excellent it is, and how they never worship idols now, but only the true God; and even a heathen mother will make her child repeat its texts to you, and a father will tell you how it tells him Bible stories; and if you are quite new to the work you put it in the Magazine, and at home it sounds like conversion. All this goes on most peacefully; there is not the slightest stir, till something happens to show the people that the Doctrine is not just a Creed, but contains a living Power. And then, and not till then, there is opposition.
This opposition is sufficiently strong in the case of a boy or young man (older Caste men and women rarely "change their religion" in this part of South India), but if a girl is in question, the Caste is touched at its most sensitive point, and the feeling is simply intense. Men and demons seem to conspire to hold such a one in the clutch of the Terrible.
There is a young girl in Cupid's Lake Village whose heart the Lord opened some weeks ago. She is a gentle, timid girl, and devoted to her mother. "Can it be right to break my mother's heart?" she used to ask us pitifully. We urged her to try to win her mother, but the mother was just furious. The moment she understood that her daughter wanted to follow Jesus, or "join the Way," as she would express it, she gathered the girl's books and burnt them, and forbade her ever to mention the subject; and she went all round the villages trying to stop our work.
At last things came to a crisis. The girl was told to do what she felt would be sin against God. She refused. They tried force, sheer brute force. She nerved herself for the leap in the dark, and tried to escape to us. But in the dark night she lost the way, and had to run back to her home. Next morning the village priest spread a story to the effect that his god had appeared to him, told him of her attempt to escape, and that she would try twice again, "but each time I will stand in the way and turn her back," he said.
This naturally startled the girl. "Is his god stronger than Jesus?" she asked in real perplexity. We told her we thought the tale was concocted to frighten her; the priest had seen her, and made up the rest. But twice since then, driven by dire danger, that girl has tried to get to us, and each time she has been turned back. And now she is kept in rigorous guard, as her determination to be a Christian is well known to all in the place.
Do you say, "Tell her to stay at home and bear it patiently"? We do tell her so, when we can see her, but we add, "till God makes a way of escape"; and if you knew all there is to be known about a Hindu home, and what may happen in it, you would not tell her otherwise.
But supposing there is nothing more than negative difficulty to be feared, have you ever tried in thought to change places with such a girl? Have you ever considered how impossible it is for such a one to grow? The simple grace of continuance is in danger of withering when all help of every sort is absolutely cut off, and the soul is, to begin with, not deeply rooted in God. Plants, even when they have life, need water and sunshine and air. Babes need milk.
You find it hard enough to grow, if one may judge from the constant wails about "leanness," and yet you are surrounded by every possible help to growth. You have a whole Bible, not just a scrap of it; and you can read it all, and understand at least most of it. You have endless good books, hymn-books, and spiritual papers; you have sermons every week, numerous meetings for edification, and perhaps an annual Convention. Now strip yourself of all this. Shut your Bible, and forget as completely as if you had never known it all you ever read or heard, except the main facts of the Gospel. Forget all those strengthening verses, all those beautiful hymns, all those inspiring addresses. Likewise, of course, entirely forget all the loving dealings of God with yourself and with others—a Hindu has no such memories to help her. Then go and live in a devil's den and develop saintliness. The truth is, even you would find it difficult; but this Hindu girl's case is worse than that, a million times worse. Think of the life, and then, if you can, tell her she must be quite satisfied with it, that it is the will of God. You could not say that it is His will! It is the will of the Terrible, who holds on to his prey, and would rather rend it limb from limb than ever let it go.
We are often asked to tell converts' stories; and certainly they would thrill, for the way of escape God opens sometimes is, like Peter's from prison, miraculous; and truth is stranger than fiction, and far more interesting. But we who work in the Terrible's lair, and know how he fights to get back his prey, even after it has escaped from him, are afraid to tell these stories too much, and feel that silence is safest, and, strange as it may seem to some, for the present most glorifies God.
For a certain connection has been observed between publicity and peril. And we have learned by experience to fear any attempt to photograph spiritual fruit. The old Greek artist turned away the face that held too much for him to paint; and that turned-away face had power in it, they say, to touch men's hearts. We turn these faces away from you; may the very fact that we do it teach some at home to realise how much more lies in each of them than we can say, how great a need there is to pray that each may be kept safe. The names of one and another occur, because they came in the letters so often that I could not cross them all out without altering the character of the whole; they are part of one's very life.
But as even a passing mention may mean danger, unless a counteracting influence of real prayer protects them, we ask you to pray that the tender protection of God may be folded round each one of them; and then when we meet where no sin can creep into the telling, and no harm can follow it, they will tell you their stories themselves, and God will give you your share in the joy, comrades by prayer at home! But let us press it on you now—pray, oh, pray for the converts! Pray that they may grow in Christ. Pray that He may see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied with each of them. And pray that we may enter into that travail of soul with Him. Nothing less is any good. Spiritual children mean travail of soul—spiritual agony. I wonder who among those who read this will realise what I mean. Some will, I think; so I write it. It is a solemn thing to find oneself drawn out in prayer which knows no relief till the soul it is burdened with is born. It is no less solemn afterwards, until Christ is formed in them. Converts are a responsible joy.
And now we have told you a little of what is going on. There are days when nothing seems to be done, and then again there are days when the Terrible seems almost visible, as he gathers up his strength, and tears and mauls his prey. And so it is true we have to fight a separate fight for each soul. But another view of the case is a strength to us many a time. "We are not ourselves fighting, but the Powers of Light are fighting against the Powers of Darkness," and the coming of the victory is only a question of time. "Shall the prey be taken from the Mighty or the captives of the Terrible be delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the Mighty shall be taken away and the prey of the Terrible shall be delivered."
"If you could only know what one feels on finding oneself . . . where the least ray of the Gospel has not penetrated! If those friends who blame . . . could see from afar what we see, and feel what we feel, they would be the first to wonder that those redeemed by Christ should be so backward in devotion and know so little of the spirit of self-sacrifice. They would be ashamed of the hesitations that hinder us. . . . We must remember that it was not by interceding for the world in glory that Jesus saved it. He gave Himself. Our prayers for the evangelisation of the world are but a bitter irony so long as we only give of our superfluity, and draw back before the sacrifice of ourselves." M. Francois Coillard, Africa.
"Someone must go, and if no one else will go, he who hears the call must go; I hear the call, for indeed God has brought it before me on every side, and go I must." Rev. Henry Watson Fox, India.
THE tom-toms thumped straight on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:
That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!
Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.
Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could not call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.
Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.
Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their backs turned towards the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them it disturbed them, and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chains yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."
There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge.
Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.
Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively, and it called—but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn.
Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was—the Cry of the Blood.
Then thundered a Voice, the Voice of the Lord: "And He said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brothers' blood crieth unto Me from the ground."
. . . . . . .
The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and the weird wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.
What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it?
God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!
* * * * *
One afternoon, a few weeks after that night at the precipice edge, Victory and I were visiting in the Red Lake Village, when we heard the death-beat of the tom-tom and the shriek of the conch shell, and we knew that another had gone beyond our reach. One can never get accustomed to this. We stopped for a moment and listened.