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True civilization springs from pure religion. Where grace touches the heart of a man, it quickens all his powers.
"The transformation of apostate man From fool to wise, from earthly to divine, Is work for Him that made him."
Among a barbarous people the gospel effects changes in one generation which ages without its grace have failed to secure. "In coming back to the station on the Kuruman," says Livingstone, "from the tribes in the interior, I always felt that I had come back to civilization."
It is the Gospel which has made the Kuruman; and what it is, other stations are already beginning to be. Apart from its christian church and christian community; apart from the many who have lived a holy life and died in the Lord; apart from the well studied translation of the Bible to which Mr. Moffat has given the strength of his life,--all over the northern territory the tribes which have heard the Gospel are waking up to new, strange thought; conscience is struggling upward into power; and life is taking for them a new form, and is exhibiting a higher purpose. Peace is desired more than ever; towns and settlements are becoming seats of constant industry; waggons are purchased by chiefs and people; cottages and gardens multiply. When Sechele and five thousand of his people hold a meeting to pray for rain, and gather again to offer thanks for the blessing bestowed, the influence of the rain-maker must be on the decline.
And when the Matebele hope that the successor of Moselekatse, wandering in other districts, will have learned the religion of the gospel, and rule gently according to its precepts, surely the time for their deliverance is nigh at hand.
[Ill.u.s.tration: MAP OF THE COUNTRY 20 MILES AROUND ANTANANARIVO, MADAGASCAR.]
The MADAGASCAR MISSION is peculiarly dear to the friends of the London Missionary Society; and not to them only, but to all the supporters of Foreign Missions. It is the child of their affection; the object of their most tender compa.s.sion, their yearnings, and their prayers. Its long trial of suffering, the grace given to its scattered members, their patience, their fidelity, have drawn to its churches the love, the confidence, the reverence of all christian hearts. Its history is a very simple one. Founded in 1818, it was between 1820 and the death of Radama in 1828, that the Mission Schools, the printing press, and instruction in the industrial arts, laid deep the foundation of that education and enlightenment which have so greatly benefited the population at large. And it was during those brief years the seeds were sown of that true spiritual life and christian principle which produced a native christian church, and enabled it, nourished by Divine grace, to bear the bitter persecution of twenty-six years. No fiercer resolve to maintain an old national idolatry has been witnessed in modern days, than that from which this persecution sprang. It was steadfast, uncompromising, and unrelenting. Maintained throughout the lifetime of the persecutors, it was especially bitter and violent on three occasions. _a_. In July, 1837, when the profession of christianity was forbidden, when all christian worship was stopped, and all books were ordered to be given up, our first martyr, a true christian woman, RASALAMA, was speared.
RAFARALAHY followed her, a year after. In 1840 nine were speared; many hundreds were made slaves; two hundred at least became fugitives.
In 1842 the persecution extended to VONIZONGO, and, of five brethren who suffered, two were executed, and three were poisoned. By this time seventeen had lost their lives: and both christian and heathen had learned the great lesson, that a true faith in Christ enables its followers without fear to meet all penalties for conscience' sake, and even with gladness to lay down life itself. _b_. The second great trial, intended to be more severe, fell on the scattered church with the year 1849. Nineteen confessors were seized, but they answered their persecutors bravely, and looked on death without fear.
Fourteen were thrown over the lofty precipice; the four n.o.bles sang hymns amid the burning flames, while the bright rainbow arched the heavens and inspired them with more than mortal joy. Nineteen hundred of their faithful companions were fined; a hundred were flogged; many others were enslaved, and made "to serve with rigour" in public works, in felling timber and hewing stone. But still was it true of these "children of Israel," "the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied and grew." _c_. The third persecution was more bitter and resolute still. In July, 1857, when mutiny and ma.s.sacre were at their height in Upper India, fourteen were stoned to death at FIADANA, followed by seven others; and sixty-six were loaded with heavy chains.
The church was still more scattered; but many of the leading brethren were securely hidden, and "had their lives given them as a prey."
In 1861 the church obtained its long-lost liberty, and was permitted again to profess its belief in open day. Rich in faith, steadfast in principle, it only needed a wider range of Scripture knowledge and some little guidance in its public affairs. Singularly free from the admixture of foreign elements in its const.i.tution, it had pastors and teachers; the brethren were accustomed to edify one another, and were zealous for the spread of the truth among their fellow-countrymen.
The progress of the churches during the last eight years has been sound as well as rapid. Conviction has ripened where the good seed was sown; thousands have become members; many thousands more have joined our congregations; numerous churches have been organized both in the capital and in the country round. The members of the churches have been true missionaries where they have gone; and thus many, whom public duty or private interest had led far away from home, have been the means of planting churches in the district of Vonizongo, and even in the distant town of Fianarantsoa.
If the measure of our suffering be the measure of our greatness, we cannot wonder that this martyr church is strong in faith, giving glory to G.o.d. Hence all the quiet but solid strength of their present prosperity. Hence the great but not too rapid increase, in their numbers. Hence it is that, though persecution left them poor, they have built nearly a hundred village chapels; that their search into the Word of G.o.d is deep, continuous, and unwearied; that their congregations are crowded; that, at a missionary prayer meeting held early in the day, sixteen hundred persons gather together; and that, when a volunteer preacher finds it inconvenient every Sabbath to visit a distant village, his brethren invite him permanently to reside there, and offer to pay him a sufficient income till that village shall be christianized.
[Ill.u.s.tration: AMBATONAKANGA CHURCH, MADAGASCAR.]
How shall we forget their grateful rejoicings when the first stone church in memory of their martyrs was set apart for worship! By the entire christian population, and even by many heathen, it was felt to be a truly festive day. From early dawn they began to gather around the edifice, eager to secure a place on an occasion so memorable.
You see the little parties of christian villagers making their way across the western plain; coming in from the southward, where many churches lie; or from the north, where, in the sacred village of Ambohimanga, the man who should have been chief guardian of its heathenism, is now the teacher of its christian church. Streaming along the public roads of the city, the many processions, headed by their singers, mount to the n.o.ble platform of rock on which the Church of AMBATONAKANGA stands. The building will hold eleven hundred people, but over four thousand have gathered around it: the doors are opened at eight; sixteen hundred manage to squeeze in, and the remainder wait in patience for five hours more, to get their turn in the afternoon service. Attended by a procession, duly marshalled with music, high officers of the government bear from the Queen a condescending message of congratulation and encouragement. And then the native pastor opens the service. He is one of the earliest Christians in the island; a man of great ability, of n.o.ble, long-tried character. He was a convert in the old chapel that stood on that very ground. For years he was hunted for his life; but the Lord kept him. His n.o.ble wife, a true martyr, died in chains; but, hid in hollow walls, in holes of the rock, in solitary huts and cowhouses, he marvellously escaped. And when at last, like the rest of the "slain" church, after long silence, he walked once more through "the streets of the city," his "enemies beheld him" in wonder.
There he stands in the face of day, honoured and known, the native pastor of that church, and the appointed tutor of the Queen's adopted children.
When the late Queen took her journey to the sea, large numbers of christians attended the camp on official duty, and, by faithfully observing the Sabbath and holding meetings for worship, afforded numerous opportunities to their heathen companions of hearing the gospel preached and of listening to christian prayers. The impression produced was deep and widespread. When the camp returned to the capital, hundreds of new faces were seen in the churches, and the congregations increased so greatly, that chapel building and enlargement were necessitated on a very extensive scale.
With the reign of her youngest sister, the new Queen, all hesitation on the part of the Government respecting christianity seemed to pa.s.s away. The leaders had doubted whether it did not necessarily involve the introduction of purely foreign elements into the general government of the island. But rea.s.sured by the steadfast loyalty of the Protestant missionaries, who have adhered strictly to their position as religious teachers, and whose prudent, sober conduct in difficult circ.u.mstances the Directors consider deserving of high praise, the n.o.bles, believing that christianity had proved itself a great public blessing, began to accept it heartily for themselves.
Kind messages were sent from the Queen to the missionaries on her accession; with a.s.surances of public protection for all their converts. The diviners and idol keepers, who had been so influential in the palace, were dismissed to country villages. Numerous members of n.o.ble families joined the several congregations in the city, and many of the highest rank were baptized. The congregations both in town and country grew larger and larger, and it was most difficult to find them room. Next a law was pa.s.sed, putting a stop to all official work on the Sabbath-day: and was followed by another law, which directed that Sunday markets should be held on some other convenient day. After full consideration, the Council repealed the ancient law, which forbade the erection of stone buildings within the capital, and had sanctioned only palaces, houses and walls of wood. Such a step may appear to be a trifle. It may seem to be a matter merely of economy, safety, and convenience, whether a people shall build in wood or earth or stone. But the repeal meant more than this.
It was a veritable Reform Bill: it swept away old traditions, conservative customs, and those rules and motives of the past which were the b.u.t.tresses of idolatry, and which had hitherto hindered all public progress. It was a sign that this young nation had entered on a new career of life and thought and happiness.
[Ill.u.s.tration: MADAGASCAR--GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE FOR THE MAKING OF LAWS.]
On the day of the coronation three hundred thousand people gathered to meet their sovereign. Preceded by a hundred ladies, and by her Ministers and Council, the Queen was borne to the a.s.sembly in simple state. The old scarlet banners, which were the emblems of the idols'
presence, were wanting in the procession. Around the canopy that shaded her throne, were written the words of the angels which welcomed the Redeemer into the world. In front and to her right stood the table which bore her crown. On another table to the left, was the Bible presented to her predecessor by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Her royal speech contained many elevated sentiments: but it specially announced to all her people liberty of conscience in regard to christianity of the fullest kind. "This is my word to you, O ye under heaven, in regard to the praying: it is not enforced: it is not hindered: for G.o.d made you."
For several weeks in a quiet way worship was maintained, and the Bible read in the palace on the Sabbath-day: the native ministers were invited to conduct the service. In the country districts gratifying advance has been made. Village chapels have increased in number. In the sacred city of Ambohimanga which foreigners may not enter, two churches have been gathered outside the walls: and on one occasion one of the missionary brethren addressed a vast congregation in the open market near. In Vonizongo the churches have increased. Far away to the south of the capital, the visits of our brethren to the BETSILEO awoke new life among the converts; and, among the forests of Ta.n.a.la, the n.o.ble princess Ittovana, one of the ablest among the able n.o.bles of the island, has declared herself a Christian.
The most conspicuous manifestation of the sympathy of the Queen and her leading n.o.bles with this advance of religious opinion appeared in November last, on the opening of the second of the Memorial Churches, the church at AMBOHIPOTSY. Thirty years ago, in March, 1836, on a Sunday morning, the little prison of the capital at Ambatonakanga was opened, and a young woman was led forth to be put to death. She was just thirty, fair to look upon, and of gentle manners; and her face was lit with that bright radiance which springs from the conviction that G.o.d and heaven are very near. She walked forth with firm step; she was surrounded by the guards; and though going to die, she began to sing in a joyous tone the hymns that she had loved. Followed by a crowd, of which some hooted and some were lost in wonder, she pa.s.sed through the city, towards the dreary ditch at the south end of the long ridge on which the capital is built.
The scene before her and on either side was one of unusual beauty.
East, west, and south, the broad green plain of Imerina stretched to the distant horizon, presenting to the eye bright gleams of lakes and watercourses, of fertile fields and wooded hills; amongst which nestled the rich villages, and the flocks and herds were feeding in peace. She saw it not. She saw not the smiling land, the taunting crowd, the cruel executioner: she saw only the face of her Lord.
Descending the hill, she knelt to pray; and so praying she was speared.
No common honour descended upon her that day: she was the first martyr of Christ's church in the island of Madagascar. "Strange is it," said the executioner, "there is a charm about these people; they do not fear to die."
Thirty-two years have pa.s.sed away. Again the crowds gather at the "White Village," and another woman comes down to pray, the object of attraction to all eyes. But this is the QUEEN of Madagascar. On the white ridge which overhangs the ditch where RASALAMA died, stands a handsome church, with its lofty spire, which has been erected to her memory, and will bear her name upon its walls. The church is crowded with christian worshippers, and vast numbers are compelled to remain outside. The Queen, not a persecutor, but a friend, comes to join her people in dedicating the church to Christian worship; and, in special sympathy with the occasion, offers her Bible for pulpit use. The Prime Minister, whose predecessor had a.s.signed christians to death, now urges his countrymen, in stirring words, to believe in CHRIST, because He is the Saviour of the world. To all who are present, ruler and subjects, the occasion is one of unfeigned joy. Once more the Queen and her christian subjects met before the year closed. On Christmas Day the palace court was crowded by converts wishing to present their congratulations, and, at the Queen's request, they sang some of their hymns and offered prayer.
The Report of the Mission speaks of 20,000 hearers added to the congregations during last year; and returns the converts at 37,000 persons, including 7,000 members.
Now we hear, on the very eve of this May anniversary, that the QUEEN herself has been baptized. Humbly and simply, like one of her subjects, she has sought instruction from her Native Pastors; has told the story of the growth of her convictions; and has not been afraid to confess her faith.
All this the Directors of the Society have observed with deepest thankfulness; and they know that many have sympathized with this feeling, and have joined them in recognizing these wondrous answers to prayer. But they feel that heavy responsibilities still rest upon them as christian men; and that continued care and grace are needed from the Spirit of G.o.d to keep these young churches from surrounding perils. They have a very definite work before them, and definite principle to guide them in the doing of it. The third Memorial Church is being completed, and plans have been adopted for the fourth. They are strengthening the country mission among the Betsileo tribes; increased agencies are now at work in general education; and plans have been suggested for the training of a Native ministry. A reprint of the Malagasy Testament has been undertaken by the Bible Society; the general operations of the press are being enlarged; and they are anxious to strengthen the Medical Mission. The missionary brethren are watching with wise and jealous care over the purity, the discipline, and the spiritual independence of the Native churches; and a UNION of those churches for mutual aid has been inaugurated during the year.
With numerous Romanist priests and sisters in the capital, the Protestant ministers, English and Native, are firm in their adherence to the Bible alone as the appointed instructor and guide of their people. And it is because the preaching of vital truth has been so blessed, that the Directors are anxious to prevent the introduction of all minor controversies. Therefore they cannot but consider that, in the absence of any number of converts in the Episcopal missions, the appointment of a Bishop of the Church of England to Madagascar, promoted by one of those missions, is undesirable; that it is calculated to introduce confusion among young converts; to hinder their spiritual progress; and to do them vital and lasting injury. They have therefore very earnestly pressed upon the proposers of the scheme that it shall be reconsidered; and they trust that, as a result of friendly conference, it may be altogether laid aside.
XI.--MISSIONS IN INDIA.
In India two hundred millions of people are placed under the indirect jurisdiction or the direct rule of the Queen of England. The empire is divided into many great provinces, in which are spoken ten princ.i.p.al languages. All along the great rivers are scattered great cities, surrounded by hundreds of large towns, and thousands of populous villages. Many of them are centres of a trade growing greater every year, and many are also headquarters of Mohammedanism and of Hindoo idolatry. The endowments and vested interests of idolatry are of enormous value; the Brahmin families may be counted by millions; the Hindoo religious books were commenced 1200 years B.C., and the system itself goes back a thousand years farther still.
Such a system is a formidable antagonist and the barriers it raises against change are very strong. Yet even Hindooism, so powerful, so rich, so ancient, is giving way at every point. In the external life of the Empire, a just government, providing for every one of its subjects complete security of person and property, and giving them perfect religious liberty, is adapting its public laws and forms of administration more fully to the circ.u.mstances of the time; and is introducing the natives more numerously to those posts of duty and of usefulness for which they become fitted. The order and peace of the country, encouraging production and trade, have raised the wages of labour, and given the peasant a command of comfort which he never knew before. Englishmen have done many wrong things in India, for which they have been justly chastised. But a new spirit has entered into the public government of the Empire, and during the last seven years, a degree of improvement and a solid advance have taken place, in the course of legislation and in the material wealth of the empire, of which none, except men who have seen it, have any idea. Three Universities, whose annual examinations in the English and native languages draw hundreds of native students, stand at the summit of a sound system of education which is spreading more widely every year.
[Ill.u.s.tration: BANGALORE INSt.i.tUTION.]
In the direct religious teaching of the people, nearly six hundred missionaries from Europe and America, sustained by twenty-two Missionary Societies, have planted stations in the most populous and influential cities. Joined by two hundred ordained Native Ministers and two thousand Native Preachers, they carry on a system of christian agency which costs the important sum of 300,000 pounds sterling a year. Many calumnies have been uttered respecting missionaries, and their work, by men who have professed to visit the cities where they labour, and saw nothing of its results. But these are more than answered by the striking fact that, of the money annually expended on these Missions no less than 50,000 pounds are contributed by the English residents in India, who live among the missions and see them with their own eyes.
And what is the result? We can point to 50,000 adult communicants, to congregations of 250,000 people, and to our two hundred native clergy, as fruits of grace and proofs of blessing from above. But one of the greatest fruits of all missionary labour in India in the past and in the present is to be found in the mighty change already produced in the knowledge and convictions of the people at large.
Everywhere the Hindoos are learning that an idol is nothing, and that bathing in the Ganges cannot cleanse away sin. Everywhere they are getting to know that to us there is one G.o.d, even the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all nations. A native scholar, speaking of his own religion, has said of it, "Hindooism is sick unto death: I am persuaded it must fall."
A crowd once asked a Berlin missionary, "Sir, why does not the Government abolish Juggernaut, and save us from the penalties of outcasts if we profess Christianity?" While the new school of educated men, calling themselves Theists, in myriads are seeking for a better way, without encountering the same great penalties. A glorious future is indicated by these "signs of the heaven," which seem to me to prove that in a great Empire in which public opinion is compact and firm, a vast change in preparation for the future may be produced while churches and converts are comparatively few. Like Israel of old in presence of Moab, in the darkness of night we have been digging ditches by Divine command; but when His day of grace shall dawn and the morning sacrifice be offered, He shall fill them in abundance with His Spirit's streams, and the whole Empire be revived.
Shall the children of the world, in these matters, be wise in their generation, and the children of light not go and do likewise? It is the universal conviction of residents in India that it is a wise course not to denationalize its inhabitants, but to keep them a distinct people; merely introducing into their dress and style of living those improvements which are demanded by health or by propriety. To make them Europeans is almost certain to do them irreparable injury. Adaptation is the law of life. Europeans, wherever they go, adapt their houses, their dress, their habits, and their food to the climate under which they live. However strong may be the belief of Englishmen in the excellence of our const.i.tutional government, yet in all our colonies and dependencies the form adopted is one suitable to the knowledge, the power, the training, the degree of self-government attained by the people of that particular place.
In no case do the English rulers force upon a dependency a system of government unsuitable to it, however excellent that system may in itself be.
[Ill.u.s.tration: TEMPLES OF SIVA.]
So ought missionaries and Missionary Societies to act in building up native churches in foreign lands. Nowhere ought we to import and force upon them those systems of church government which amongst ourselves have been largely shaped out by political struggles, by numerous controversies, by local experience, and by the far reaching thoughts of a few great minds. In most cases we are ourselves outgrowing them. In striking instances these systems in Europe are found in certain of their elements to trammel and to cramp the life, the energy, the lofty aspirations of spiritual minds. And among the great problems now before us for the edification and extension of our modern churches, are not all thoughtful men anxious to see how in every case they may be made more elastic, more perfectly adapted in their organization, as well as in their plans of benevolence, to the demands of the present day; and specially how they may be so widened as to draw into the church in largest degree the piety, the experience, the zeal of the lay members of which our churches are chiefly composed?
[Ill.u.s.tration: MRS. CORBOLD'S GIRLS' SCHOOL, MADRAS.]
Why should we put upon the neck of our young disciples a yoke which we and our fathers have not been able to bear? We must teach them some system, and missionaries of different churches will naturally, as well as from conscientious principles, teach their own. But let us teach the systems in their essential elements; let us teach those elements which have stood the test of time, and are found suitable to the spiritual power, the self-management, the general resources, the christian civilization of the churches which we are asked to guide. We may well separate the theory and the principles of our different churches from the churches themselves as shaped out by history and by the conditions and the course of our own national life.
Then will their real worth and excellence be more truly manifested, to the honour of G.o.d and the edification of His children. Let us not only open our alabaster box, let us also be willing to break it, if only the perfume of the Divine ointment may fill the house of G.o.d, and cheer and refresh the weary souls within its walls.
The most prominent feature in the INDIA Mission of this Society has been the ORDINATION of Evangelists to the work of the ministry; either as Pastors of Churches, as missionaries to the heathen, or a.s.sistants to the missionaries. English education continues to extend its influence. The INSt.i.tUTIONS in Calcutta, Madras, and Bangalore, are fuller than ever, and very efficient. The school fees in India during 1868 amounted to 940 pounds. The att.i.tude of the educated cla.s.ses towards christianity has wonderfully changed, and the impression it is making on them is very strong. In the same great cities Female education now occupies a larger place than ever in the labours of the Mission. In two of the missions of South India, seven among the well-trained evangelists of those missions have been ordained as pastors or missionaries during the past two years, and eleven others have been proposed for the same responsibilities. The number in Travancore still stands at eleven, and in North India at six. The total number of Native ordained pastors and missionaries in the Indian Missions of this Society is twenty-eight, of whom fifteen are pastors of churches, and thirteen are employed as missionaries. It will probably ere long amount to forty.
[Ill.u.s.tration: TEMPLE OF SIVA.]
The TRAVANCORE Mission has now been established more than sixty years.
The settled agencies, which have shaped it into its present form, have been at work just half a century. And none who contrast the present state of the province with what it was when the mission began, can fail to mark the wonderful progress which it has made during these sixty years, in every element of true prosperity. The province has enjoyed an increasing degree of security and order under its native rulers, and has made special advance under its present enlightened RAJA and his able minister Sir T. Madhava Rao. While slavery and serfdom have been abolished, the intensity of Brahminical bigotry has been diminished, and a very large measure of religious freedom has been secured for the varied cla.s.ses of the population. Sound knowledge and freedom of thought on the most important subjects prevail to an extent utterly unknown at the commencement of the present century. At the same time, the direct work of the mission has met with the most encouraging success. In the seven districts of the mission, recently reduced to six, the great number of native churches, the large congregations, the number of scholars, the order and general purity of christian society, and the liberality with which the agencies of the gospel are supported, exhibit that success in a striking manner. The crowning proofs of blessing and prosperity are seen in the congregations prepared for complete self-support; in their great liberality; in the large band of well-educated Native preachers and teachers; in newly appointed elders; and in excellent and tried native pastors. In these latter points the Travancore mission has begun to take rank with some of the most advanced missions of all Societies, and to approach the position of rural churches in Great Britain itself.