Read CHAPTER IV - CHRISTIAN MISSIONS IN BENARES of Life and Work in Benares and Kumaon‚ 1839-1877 , free online book, by James Kennedy, on

FROM 1816 TO 1839.

It may be well to give, before proceeding further, a brief account of what had been done for the evangelization of Benares up to that time.

Our Baptist brethren were first in the field. All who have read the biography of the illustrious trio of Serampore are aware that they formed, and with ardent zeal and untiring energy prosecuted, great schemes for the evangelization of the millions to whose spiritual good they had consecrated their lives. The translation of the Scriptures into the languages of India was their special service, but it was far from standing alone. They were fully alive to the importance of preparing and sending out men of God to go among the people, and make known to them Jesus as the Saviour of the world. They gladly availed themselves of Europeans, Eurasians, and natives, who seemed qualified for the work by Christian character, zeal for the conversion of the people, and aptness to teach, though, with few exceptions, destitute of any considerable measure of mental culture. Some of these agents had force of character and native talent, and much good and useful work was accomplished by them. One of their number was Mr. Bowley, who afterwards joined the Church Mission, and was for many years located at Chunar. He translated the entire Scriptures into Hindee, and did beside much excellent literary work in the translation and composition of books and tracts. As he had no knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, his translation of the Bible has marked defects, though from his knowledge of Hindee and his good judgment it has also marked excellences. His translation of the New Testament is now largely superseded, but his translation of the Old Testament is the only one yet possessed. The style of his smaller works in Hindustanee, or Urdu, as it is commonly called, is remarkably idiomatic and pleasing.

Missionary work was commenced in Benares by Mr. William Smith, who was sent to it by the Serampore missionaries in 1816. I have already mentioned him as having welcomed me on my arrival. He secured a house for himself at Raj Ghat, the northern boundary of the city, with a crowded population around him, and there till his death he lived with his family, during all the period diligently prosecuting his missionary work. He had been a drummer in the native army, spoke the Hindustanee as his mother tongue, and belonged to the large class who, having European blood in their veins, are professing Christians, but as to their ordinary habits of life are more native than European. Mr. Smith was a man of limited education and of little talent, but of sterling excellence, and secured the respect and love of all classes of the native community by his kindly and consistent life. For years before his death there was in his house the strange spectacle of five generations, and his great-great-grandmother was heard by a friend of mine murmuring, “It looks as if God had forgotten to take me away.” Mrs. Smith, who was, I believe, a pure native, was a woman of remarkable energy, and exercised a powerful influence for good on all connected with her. Owing to the unhappy controversy between the Serampore missionaries and the Baptist Missionary Society, and the separation in which it ended, Mr. Smith was left for a time without any salary; but by the establishment of a Eurasian boarding-school his wants were fully supplied. On to old age he moved about among the people, conversing with them, going to their great religious gatherings and distributing tracts and portions of the Scriptures in a very quiet, unostentatious manner, and succeeded, by God’s blessing, in bringing a few into the fold of Christ.

Among the pioneers of modern missionary work in India the late Bishop Corrie, of Madras, has a high and honoured name. He was one of the small band of Government chaplains who gave themselves heart and soul to the work of diffusing the gospel among the native population. Henry Martyn is the best known of this band, and with him men like Brown, Thomason, and Corrie deserve to be held in everlasting remembrance. Mr. Corrie was, in 1817, the chaplain of the European community in Benares. Previous to that time a rich native, Rajah Jay Narayan, had established and endowed a school in the part of the city inhabited chiefly by Bengalees. This Rajah formed so high an opinion of Mr. Corrie, and of his ability to carry on the school efficiently, that he asked him to undertake its management. Mr. Corrie accepted the offer in the name of the Church Missionary Society, whose sanction to the measure he had obtained, and to it the school was made over by formal deed of gift in 1818. Under the name of Jay Narayan’s School, and afterwards of Jay Narayan’s College, it has continued down to our day; and it has done much for the education, on Christian principles, of successive generations of Benares youth. A Mr. Adlington was the first head-master, and a short time afterwards a missionary was sent. He was succeeded by others, but owing to their failure of health little was done on to the fourth decade of the century, except the securing of suitable ground and the erection of mission-houses at Segra, in the immediate suburbs of the city on its southwestern side. This place had formerly been noted for the thieves and thugs that infested it. In 1839 the two missionaries at Segra were the Rev. William Smith and the Rev. C. B. Leupolt. Mr. Smith reached India in 1830, and after spending fifteen months in Goruckpore, on the borders of Népal, was transferred to Benares in 1832. He was joined by Messrs. Knorpp and Leupolt in 1833. The two Church missionaries in Benares in 1839, Messrs. Smith and Leupolt, laboured for many years afterwards with singular devotedness for the spiritual good of the people. As it is invidious to make comparisons, I will not say that they were foremost in the first rank; but all who knew them will bear me out in saying they attained a high place in the first rank of the missionary band.

The Rev. Matthew Thomson Adam was appointed by the London Missionary Society to Benares in October 1819, and reached his destination in August, 1820. He remained at his post till 1830, when he returned to England, and resigned his connection with the Society. He afterwards went to the United States, where he undertook a pastorate. Mr. Adam was a scholarly and diligent man. He prepared and published a Hindee Grammar, an English and Hindee Dictionary, and some tracts. He secured a site for a mission-house on the border of cantonment towards the city, and erected on it a commodious and substantial structure; and since his day a church, a school-house for girls, and houses for native Christians, have been erected in the mission compound. He also secured a very central site in cantonments for a place of worship for holding English services, and by the liberal help of the English military and civil residents erected on it a building which was called Union Chapel. His services among our countrymen seem to have been greatly valued, but owing to a change in the personnel of the station, a change which is going on incessantly in India, the congregation fell off, Union Chapel was sold, and the money realized by the sale was spent on the erection of a chapel in the city, on a site obtained with great difficulty. Mr. Adam left Benares before this building, erected with a view to native services, could be turned to account. In a brief record of his labours drawn up by himself, he says that he deemed it a high honour to live near such a city, and to testify to his Master by pressing His claims on individuals with whom he had an opportunity of conversing; but he did not think it advisable to attempt the preaching of the gospel in places of public resort. He was at times encouraged by the prospect of persons becoming the followers of Christ, but in every case his hopes were disappointed. No native was baptized by him.

The London Mission of Benares was reinforced in 1826 by the arrival of the Rev. James Robertson. He was a man of linguistic talent, and was full of plans for setting up the standard of the Cross and assailing the idolatry around him. He opened a number of schools in various parts of the city, and organized a system of Bible-reading in the streets. Seven men, chosen from among Hindus, whose sole qualification was ability to read, were appointed to read daily in different parts of the city our Scriptures without note or comment. We have no doubt they took care to tell their hearers that they did their work to please the sahib, and get his pay, but had no intention of accepting the new teaching, and had no wish that others should do so. No other missionary has followed this plan. Mr. Robertson left behind him in MS. translations into Urdu of a part of the Old Testament, which were carefully examined and partly used by Mr. Shurman; but the style was too difficult for any except those who were well acquainted with the Persian language.

The Rev. William Buyers joined the Mission at the beginning of 1832, and Mr. Robertson was carried off by cholera fifteen months afterwards, in his thirty-fourth year. Mr. Buyers was thus left alone, but early in 1834 he was joined by the Rev. J. A. Shurman and the Rev. Robert C. Mather. In 1838 the Rev. W. P. Lyon arrived at Benares, and that year Mr. Mather went to the great commercial Mirzapore, where he established, and for many years afterwards conducted with great efficiency, a very important mission. When I reached Benares I was thus the fourth on its staff, and the seventh from its commencement.

Much good work had been done by the brethren with whom I was to be associated. They had established schools for primary education, but owing to the want of funds all but one had been given up by 1839. They had taken part in preparing tracts and revising the translation of the New Testament in Urdu. A place of worship had been erected, and a few orphans had been gathered. Evangelistic work was being actively prosecuted in the city.

A short time previous to 1839 the Church Mission had undertaken a very benevolent and a very difficult work. In 1837 the North-Western Provinces were desolated by famine. Many thousands perished, everywhere miserable boys and girls were to be seen who had become orphans, or who had been abandoned by their parents. At this terrible crisis missions came forward with the offer of adopting these forsaken children. Fifty were made over to the Church Mission at Benares, and afterwards many more were added to this number. Suitable buildings were speedily erected for their accommodation, and arrangements were made for their education and support. These children were so emaciated that many died within a few days of their being brought to the mission. At the close of 1838 an excellent missionary and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Knorpp, were carried off by a low fever which attacked them while attending to their charge. By the hot weather of 1839 the health of the orphans had greatly improved, and everything was being done which could be done for their temporal and spiritual welfare.

By the time of my arrival, the missionaries of the Church and London Missionary Societies ­Mr. Lyon excepted, who had arrived only the preceding year ­had fully entered on their work. They had been from seven to five years at their posts, had acquired a good knowledge of the native languages, had all the vigour and hopefulness of early middle life, and were giving themselves zealously to the prosecution of the great work for which they had gone to India.