« PreviousContinue »
Then, standing close to Rama's side,
From every blot and blemish free,
Thy faithful queen returns to thee.'"-Book VI, Canto che Rama receives her, and the happy pair return triumphantly to Ajudhiya, where Rama ascends the throne to the delight of the people : and here the story ends.
The “Ramayan” of Tulsi Das is the popular version, to be found in all the bazars of the great cities of India. Tulsi Das was a Brahman of the highest class. IIe spent the most of his life at Benares, visiting as well the other famous cities of his native land. He began the composition of the “ Ramayan" at Ajudhiya, in A. D. 1575, and died in 1580. Two copies of the poem in his own handwriting are said to be still in existence, the one at Rajapur, the other in the temple of Sita Rama, which he himself founded at Benares. In addition to this his great work, he was the author of six other poems, all in honor of Ram Chandra. In his introduction Mr. Growse says:
The introductory portion of the first book of the “Ramayan" is not only interesting as a resumé of popular Hindu theology and metaphysics, but is also curious as containing the author's vindication of himself against his critics. They attacked him for lowering the dignity of his subject by clothing it in the vulgar vernacular. However just his defense may be, it did not succeed in converting the opposite faction; and the professional Sanskrit pundits, who are their modern representatives, still affect to despise his work as an unworthy concession to the illiterate masses. With this small and solitary exception the book is in every one's hands, from the court to the cottage, and is read or heard and appreci. ated alike by every class of the Hindu community, whether high or low, rich or poor, young or old.
One quotation must suffice—from “Breaking of the Bow:”
Rama first looked at the crowd, who all stood dumb and still as statues ; then the gracious lord turned from them to Sita, and perceived her yet deeper concern ; perceived her to be so terribly agitated that a moment of time seemed an age in passing. If a man die of thirst for want of water, when he is once dead, of what use to him is a lake of water? What good is the rain when the crop is dead ? or what avails regret when a chance has once been lost? Thinking thus to himself as he gazed at Janaki, the lord was enraptured at the sight of her singular devotion, and, after making a reverential obeisance to his guru,* he took up the bow with most superlative ease; as he grasped it in his hands it gleamed
* Religious instructor.
like a flash of lightning; and again, as he bent it, it seemed like the vault of heaven. Though all stood looking on, before any one could see he had lifted it from the ground and raised it aloft and drawn it tight, and in a moment broken it in halves; the awful crash re-echoed through the world.
So awful a crash re-echoed through the world that the horses of the sun started from their course, the elephants of the four quarters groaned, earth shook, the great serpent, the boar, and the tortoise tottered. Gods, demons, and saints put their hands to their ears, and all began anxiously to consider the cause ; but when they learned that Rama had broken the bow they uttered shouts of victory.*
It may be remarked, in passing, that an acquaintance with this poem, “the one common and everlasting possession of the Hindus," is of great help to the missionary as he goes about preaching to these idolatrous millions. As he begins his conversation with a group of villagers seated around the public well, or gathered at some great fair, it helps him amazingly to be able to make a quotation from Tulsi Das; exempli gratia, the following:
“Bhe pragat Kripálá | dina dayála | Kaushalya hitakári,
Harkhit mahtári | muni manhári | adbhut rup Nihári,
Bhushan banmálá | nayun bishálá | shobhásiudu Kharári.” + This stanza is from the “Ram Pariksha," (Ram Tested,) a very excellent and popular vernacular tract written years ago by the Rev. Mr. Sternberg, and widely circulated throughout North India. The tract gives extracts from the “Ramayan," and makes a comparison between Ram Chandra and our blessed Saviour. Some reference to the national epic serves as a fitting introduction to what we have to say about the sinless Incarnation. Ram is being tested. And the day will come when these millions who now yield heartiest homage to the son of Dasaratha and Kaushalya, and worship his image in thousands of temples, shall join in the praise and worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. If only the coming of the glad day could be hastened ! * Growse's “Ramayan,” Book i, p. 145.
+ Literally translated: “Then appeared he who is merciful, pitiful to the poor, the beloved of Kaushalya. Beholding his wonderful form, his mother was de. lighted, and the hearts of the munis were ravished. His eyes most pleasing, his body dark blue like the clouds, in his four hands bearing his special weapons. Garlanded to his feet, his eyes large, a sea of beauty, was the enemy of Khar."
ART. VII.—THE ITINERANT MINISTRY OF THE METH
ODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH. If there had never been such a constitution as that now existing in the Methodist Episcopal Church ; if such a plan of ministerial distribution had been wrought out in theory and submitted for acceptance or rejection without previous successful experiment, there is no reason to suppose that one vote in a thousand would be given for its adoption. Not fotended on the Scriptures, though not contrary to them, not based on any primary or secondary prelatical authority, involving the surrender of abstract rights, and apparently in most, and really in many, particulars incongruous with the spirit of modern democratic institutions, it would be generally and immediately rejected. Those even who might see in it great possibilities if any denomination of Christians could be induced to accept it, would consider it so contrary to the independent temper of the Age as to be utterly impracticable. Yet it exists. Its growth has been contemporary with that of the Republic, its many thousands of ministers and millions of laymen on the one hand submitting to its requirements, and on the other being the stanchest advocates of personal independence in the State. The explanation of the phenomenon is that which solves so many otherwise impossible problems—constitutions and gove ernments, in Church and State, " grow, are not made.”
ORIGIN AND GROWTH OF THE ITINERANT SYSTEM. When John Wesley began to preach the only visible bond of union between his converts was himself. Even the “Society” was not formed. But men heard, believed, were converted, sought association, and acknowledged Wesley to be the head; the work grew, and men of “gifts, grace, and usefulness" were commissioned by him to exhort and preach. They went only where he sent them, did what he directed, and de parted for other fields at his bidding. The numbers increased and formed many Societies; the “helpers ” were called together in conference, but had no power of decision. Wesley heard, and when all had finished announced the policy to be pursued. In process of time the limit of possible connection with circuits and stations (except in the case of ordained ministers of the Church of England) was fixed at three years. But the ministers had become numerous, able, and learned, the Societies selfsupporting and somewhat exacting. Wesley grew old, and saw that, unless provision was made, at his death the body would fall into Congregationalism. To prevent this he executed the famous deed transferring the property and all rights held by him to the “ Legal Hundred.” The success of the Connection, the personal relations of ministry and laity, the property interests invlved, produced a coherence and momentum which carried the great body of adherents in safety over the chasm occasioned by Wesley's death ; and the Wesleyan “ Church” or “ Denomination ” became thoroughly compacted.
Before Wesley died its government was an ecclesiastical monarchy, absolute in theory, but with many concessions granted to ministers and laity, which, as time passed, made it, like the Government of England, a Limited Monarchy. At the formation of the “Legal Hundred " its government became more analogous to that of an “Aristocracy,” though modified by all the rights enjoyed by the people. In the United States, prior to the sending over of ministers with authority from Wesley, there was no legal connection between the different nuclei of Methodism in the North and the South. When Asbury assumed jurisdiction he claimed, and the preachers accorded to him, the same power exercised in England by Wesley. The Minutes of the Conference for 1779 close with these questions:
Quest. 12. Qught not Brother Asbury to act as general assistant in America ? He ought : 1st, on account of his age ; 2d, because originally appointed by Mr. Wesley ; 3d, being joined with Messrs. Rankin and Shadford, by express order from Mr. Wesley.
Quest. 13. How far shall his power extend? On hearing every preacher for and against what is in debate, the right of determination shall rest with him, according to the Minutes.
From that time, with considerable trouble and opposition, he exercised his powers, deciding questions, stationing and removing men, until the Revolution was ended and Dr. Coke had arrived. Then the Societies and preachers adhering to Asbury, with the class-meetings, itineracy, and all the peculiarities of Methodism, formed the Methodist Episcopal Church, the his
tory of which momentous transaction being thus stated in the Minutes for 1785, after the publication of the letter brought from John Wesley by Thomas Coke:
Therefore at this Conference we formed ourselves into an independent Church; and, following the counsel of Mr. John Wesley, who recommended the Episcopal form of Church government, we thought it best to become an Episcopal Church, making the Episcopal office elective, and the elected Superintendent or Bishop amenable to the body of ministers and preachers.
From 1785, as from the beginning until then, the Superintendent or Bishop, with no time-limit except one for each case made in his own discretion, stationed the preachers, until 1792, when the following rule was adopted :
Quest. 4. How long may the Bishops allow an elder to preside in the same district ?
Ans. For any term not exceeding four years successively.
This restriction (for originally there was none) is said to have been introduced in consequence of the evil results of a more protracted term in the case of James O'Kelly, who had been Presiding Elder in the southern part of Virginia ever since the or. ganization of the Church, besides having been stationed there several years before, and who thus acquired a power to injure the Church by his secession which otherwise he would not have possessed.
But there was no restriction on the discretion of the Bishops in fixing the terms of the appointments of ordinary preachers until 1804, when the following rule was passed :
Providing he (the Bishop) shall not allow any preacher to remain in the same station more than two years successively; excepting the Presiding Elders, the Editor and General Book Steward, the Assistant Editor and General Book Steward, the supernumerary, superannuated, and worn-out preachers.
At that time there were no “ Missionary Society," with its “ Corresponding Secretaries," no "editors and assistant editors at Auburn, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Portland, San Francisco, Atlanta, and New Orleans," no “missionaries to Indians, Welsh, Swedes, Norwegians, neglected portions of our cities,” to “people of color, and on foreign stations." There certainly was no call on the Methodist Episcopal Church to furnish
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXXII.-9