Read CHAPTER XXV - THE MISSIONARY IN INDIA (Continued) of Life and Work in Benares and Kumaon‚ 1839-1877 , free online book, by James Kennedy, on

It has been already stated that missionaries have an income, which enables them to live in a way conducive to the health of themselves and families. Things which would be luxuries at home are necessaries in India, and all they can do is to alleviate the suffering caused by the climate. As missionaries are often more stationary than European officials, both military and civil, and spend much less than they do on horses, establishments, and entertainments, their houses have an air of comfort which is surprising to those who know their income, and has led to much misrepresentation on the part of those who know not and do not care to know what it is.

Not infrequently young men have gone out to India as missionaries with the firm resolve to live to a large extent in the native fashion, and to eschew what they conceive the undue indulgence of those who had preceded them, but the experience of one hot season has generally brought them to another mind. Individuals have adhered to their resolution, and the result in one case I know was insanity, in other cases utter failure of health, and in others speedy death. A band of Germans determined to live, if not in the native style, at least in the simple style of the Fatherland, as to habitation, food, and service, and with scarcely an exception the plan was soon abandoned. The only successful case I have heard of in our day has been that of Mr. Bowen, a devoted American missionary in Bombay. We have had no William Burns, in Northern India at least. I can say for myself, that so far as the mere comfort of living is concerned I should greatly prefer a humble abode and simple fare in England, to the finest house and the most sumptuous fare in the plains of Northern India. It has been maintained by some that our only hope of success lies in our becoming ascetics, and outstripping by our austerities the Hindu saints. In other words, by acting as if we accepted Hindu principles of religion we are to overthrow Hinduism, and win the people to Christ. The proposal calls for no consideration.

Of late a good deal has been said about the substance of missionary teaching. Missionaries as a class maintain and teach the doctrinal views of the Churches whose messengers and agents they are. In these Churches a sifting process has been going on for a considerable time, which has led in some cases to a reversal of belief in matters of great moment, and in a greater number to the modification and softening of views hitherto entertained. Every one must decide for himself how far the sifting has been wisely done, how far chaff and only chaff has been given to the wind, and precious grain gathered into the garner. Missionaries have unquestionably been affected by doctrinal discussion, in a few instances, I believe a very few, to the reversal of some of their former views, in all, perhaps, though in different degrees, to a readjustment of their doctrinal position, to giving more prominence to some aspects of truth and less prominence to others, under the conviction that such is their relative position in the Word of God.

However much imbued missionaries have been with the views of their respective Churches, their position among the heathen has always led them to the constant and simple presentation of the great facts and doctrines of the Bible. These have been set forth in the manner deemed best fitted to commend them to the understanding, conscience, and heart of the people. Familiar illustrations have been largely used, and elaborate doctrinal discussion shunned. While the missionary finds much in the narratives and teachings of the Old Testament which is helpful to his object, he dwells chiefly on the life of Christ, His deeds, words, living, and holy example; death to redeem men; man’s urgent need of such a Saviour, because guilty and depraved; the claims of Christ on His love, trust, and service; the blessedness of compliance with these claims on character and state; the misery and doom incurred by their persistent rejection. How often have I seen the heathen greatly moved by the parable of the Prodigal Son!

The missionary, like the home minister, has to guard against one-sidedness, if he would keep to the Book which he professes to be his standard. The many-sidedness of the Bible, its appeal to man’s whole nature, is one of the most marked proofs of its superhuman origin. While it addresses itself continually to man’s moral nature, to his sense of right and wrong, while it appeals to his intellect and heart, it also speaks to his fears and hopes. These appeals are made to all, whatever may be their diversity in character and condition. If we were to follow the course of many in our day who condemn appeals to fear, we should be ignoring a large part of Scripture, including many of our Lord’s utterances, and at the same time ignoring that fear of hurtful consequences which the Author of our nature has implanted in us as a great means of self-preservation. To hope as well as to fear much is addressed in the Bible, and the missionary who would approve himself to his Master is bound to appeal to both principles, while, like his Master, he makes his constant and main appeal to the higher part of man’s nature.

While the missionary ought to strive to understand the people among whom he labours, and to discover the most promising avenue to their minds, while he ought to commend himself to every man’s conscience as in the sight of God, he is not to seek acceptance for his message by accommodating it to the views of his hearers. He knows that between their views and his message there is not only a marked discrepancy, but on many points radical opposition, and the one must be displaced if the other is to be accepted. We have here for our guidance the example of our Lord and His apostles.

I have endeavoured to give a faithful description of the tenor of missionary teaching. It appears many are dissatisfied with it. We are told we must part with our narrow traditional views of doctrine, and become imbued with the larger and more liberal views of our times, if we are to hope for success. In the late Dr. Norman McLeod’s “Life” we find him saying, “The chief difficulty in the way of advancing Christianity in India is unquestionably that almost all the missionaries represent a narrow one-sided Christianity.” I cannot conceive what could have been his ground for this astounding statement, except his impression ­it could not have been anything beyond an impression ­that missionaries adhered to the doctrines of the Churches that had sent them out, his own among the rest, and had not followed him in his changes. Every one who comes out with new views, or modification of old views, assures us that success will speedily follow the acceptance and preaching of his phase of doctrine. Some tell us we must preach the moral aspect of the atonement, and part with what has been called the forensic aspect; we must only speak of the love it shows to man, and say nothing of its bearing on the Divine law and government; and then the great cause of so-called failure will be removed. So far as I know missionaries, they accept both aspects of the atonement; they believe both aspects are taught in Scripture, and they are convinced that instead of enfeebling they strengthen each other, while the doctrine thus presented meets man’s deepest wants. Others, again, tell us we must preach what is called Life in Christ ­the utter extinction of impenitent sinners, while others say this is a shocking doctrine, and we must preach universal restoration. This is no place for discussing the teaching of the Bible regarding the great Beyond, which is at present exercising so many minds. All I will say is that neither in the old views nor in the new is there anything which a Hindu or a Buddhist will accept, while he remains a Hindu or Buddhist. So far as I am aware, all students of Hinduism and Buddhism are agreed that eternal conscious existence, with identity of being firmly maintained, is alien from both systems. They do not hold the doctrine of either eternal happiness or eternal misery. To be extinguished, in the sense of being absorbed into Brahm and losing all conscious personality, is the reward of high virtue, while the wicked have to pass many miserable births before they reach this longed-for goal. With them salvation, liberation, is not deliverance from sin, but from conscious existence. They have both heavens and hells ­heavens supernatural in their surroundings but intensely earthly in their character, doings, and strifes, and hells full of everything which is repulsive and painful; but both, after vast lapses of time, will be emptied into the great ocean of being, into the One without a Second. Cessation of conscious existence is not with them the punishment of wickedness, but the eagerly desired consummation of their being, the goal which is quickly reached by the eminently good.

Let missionaries by all means listen to what is said in favour of new views, let them modify or change their views if they think they see scriptural authority for the change, but I am profoundly convinced no shifting of our doctrinal position will secure success. Looking over the whole field of foreign missions since the end of last century, it is undeniable that God has done great things by them, for which we have abundant reason to be glad; and we know the teaching by which the desert has in many places blossomed as the rose. New phases of doctrine have yet to win their triumph. We must look in another direction for a greater degree of success ­to more unreserved devotedness to Christ on the part of both missionaries and those who send them out; closer communion with Him; a higher degree of attainment in the mind which is in Him; a more persuasive deliverance of our message, and a larger effusion of God’s Spirit.

The great obstruction at home and abroad to the acceptance of Christ as the Saviour is moral obtuseness, a dormant conscience. Our Lord’s words throw a steady light on man’s neglect of the great salvation, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Till men know they are sick, and recognize the deadly nature of their sickness, there will be no application to the Great Physician. In addition to the indurating effects of sin everywhere, the people of India have been for ages so drugged, I may say, with pantheistic and polytheistic teaching, that if man’s moral nature had been destructible it must have been destroyed ages ago. Happily it can not be destroyed. Perverted, stupefied, dormant, though it is, it still exists, and to it we can therefore address the message of Heaven, while we look up to God to make it effectual by the teaching of His Spirit. When man knows himself to be a sinner, when he knows what sin is, then, and only then, whether in India or in England, he casts himself with joy into the arms of the Saviour.

I am surprised when Christians speak as if only a modification or a new statement of doctrine was required in order to achieve full and immediate success, as if they had never read such passages as “The carnal mind is enmity against God;” “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God;” as if they were ignorant of the facts by which these statements are so amply and mournfully attested; as if they had never heard of One who appeared, as ancient sages longed to see, clothed with perfect virtue and dwelt among men, and was yet rejected and crucified by them; as if they knew nothing of His apostles, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and yet had to lament over many hearers to whom their message was the savour of death unto death. Musing over the controversies of the day, the wish has often arisen in my mind: Would that the nature of sin was not kept so much in the background! Would that it was seen in its offensiveness to God and injuriousness to man ­persistently daring high Heaven, while corrupting, degrading, disquieting, and ruining man! Would that the scriptural view of sin and sinfulness, which receives such ample confirmation from human experience and history, was more considered in the adjustment of doctrine! All readjustment in which the nature and effect of sin is not kept steadily in view must lead to serious error ­error which misrepresents God’s character and government, is inconsistent with facts meeting us on every side, and must prove most hurtful to man. I am convinced that while on some points there has been progress, and wise modification of doctrine, on the subject of sin the theology of former days was truer to Scripture and fact than the theology of our time.

I cannot conclude these remarks about the Indian missionary without mentioning ­and I can do little more than mention ­the names of loved fellow-labourers who rest from the toils of earth, and have entered into the joy of their Lord above. A feeling of sadness and yet of thankfulness comes over me, as I see before my mind’s eye brethren of our own Mission with whom I was associated ­Buyers, with his intimate acquaintance with the native languages, his large knowledge, and his kindly disposition; Shurman, the keen, impetuous, plodding German scholar, whose great monument is his translation of the Old Testament into Hindustanee; Mather, first of Benares and afterwards of Mirzapore, one of the most enterprising and devoted missionaries ever sent to India, whose peculiarity of temper and urgency with new plans led in his early years to unpleasantness, but who, when well known, was one of the truest and kindest of men, with whom for many years we had an intimate friendship, and whose memory and that of his excellent wife we shall always revere; and Sherring, one of the most amiable of men and most pleasant of colleagues, a man of marked attainments, and an indefatigable worker. The agents of other missions at Benares call for affectionate mention. I have in an early part of my reminiscences spoken of Smith, the founder and for many years the sole agent of the Baptist Mission at Benares, a quiet, diligent, Nathaniel-like man. This mission had for years George Parsons, a man of large linguistic attainments, of most amiable, meek, and devout character, than whom it would be difficult to find a more conscientious labourer. The Church Missionary Society was highly favoured in having had for a long period at Benares two men, Smith and Leupolt, who, in their respective departments, had, I believe, no superiors in India. For many years Smith, with resolute perseverance and great efficiency, often with severe strain on both body and mind, prosecuted evangelistic work in the city and the surrounding neighbourhood. No man was better known and more highly esteemed by the entire community. He had success to cheer him in the form of persons avowing themselves the followers of Christ, but the number was so small that he was often greatly depressed. I cannot doubt that by his ministry seed was sown in many minds which will yet bear fruit. During our later years in Benares, Fuchs was one of the agents of this Mission, an excellent biblical scholar, a diligent labourer, who required only to be known to be loved and esteemed, with whom we had much pleasant and profitable intercourse. He was suddenly called away in the midst of his usefulness, and in the prime of life. I have been confining my remarks to the departed; but I must mention two who survive ­warm-hearted Heinig, of the Baptist Mission, now set aside by age and infirmity, after a long life of great toil in the service of Christ, and our greatly-loved friend Leupolt, of the Church Mission, who is still doing good service now in England, and was for many years the fellow-labourer of his friend Smith. His name and work at Benares will last for many a day.

Our departed brethren had their imperfections; who of us are without them? But I can truly say that in their general character, work, and bearing they were the messengers of the Churches to the Gentiles and the glory of Christ.

Looking beyond our Benares missions we remember a number of faithful labourers, whom we knew and loved, who have joined the majority, such as the learned and kindly Owen, the venerable Morrison, the apostolic Ziemann, and many others besides. I do not use these terms in a conventional sense, but as justly applicable to the men. Those I have named laboured, and others have entered into their labours, men worthy of all esteem, love, sympathy, and help.