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that, in common with the noble comptroller, they attribute a great part of our national calamities to these ugly images of deities on the , other side of the world. We again repeat, that upon such subjects, the best and ablest men, if once tinged by fanaticism, are not to be trusted for a single moment.
2dly. Another reason for giving up the task of conversion is the want of success. In India, religion extends its empire over the minutest actions of life. It is not merely a law for moral conduct, and for occasional worship, but it dictates to a man his trade, his dress, his food, and his whole behaviour. His religion also punishes a violation of its exactions, not by eternal and future punishments, but by present infamy. If a Hindoo is irreligious, or, in other words, if he loses his caste, he is deserted by father, mother, wife, child, and kindred, and becomes instantly a solitary wanderer upon the earth : to touch him, to receive him, to eat with him, is a pollution producing a similar loss of caste; and the state of such a degraded man is worse than death itself. To these evils a Hindoo must expose himself before he becomes a Christian ; and this difficulty must a missionary overcome before he can expect the smallest success; a difficulty which, it is quite clear, that they themselves, after a short residence in India, consider to be insuperable.
As a proof of the tenacious manner in which the Hindoos cling to their religious prejudices we shall state two or three very short anecdotes, to which any person who has resided in India might easily produce many parallels.
“In the year 1766 the late Lord Clive and Mr. Verelst employed the whole influence of Government to restore a Hindoo to his caste, who had forfeited it not by any neglect of his own, but by having been compelled by a most unpardonable act of violence to swallow a drop of cow broth. The Brahmans, from the peculiar circumstances of the case, were very anxious to comply with the wishes of Government; the principal men among them met once at Kishnagur, and once at Calcutta ; but after consultations and an examination of their most ancient records they declared to Lord Clive that, as there was no precedent to justify the act, they found it impossible to restore the unfortunate man to his caste, and he died soon after of a broken heart."-Scott Waring's Preface, p. lvi.
It is the custom of the Hindoos to expose dying people upon the banks of the Ganges. There is something peculiarly holy in that river ; and it soothes the agonies of death, to look upon its waters in the last moments. A party of English were coming down in a boat, and perceived upon the bank a pious Hindoo, in a state of the last imbecility-about to be drowned by the rising of the tide, after the most approved and orthodox manner of their religion. They had the curiosity to land ; and as they perceived some more signs of life than were at first apparent, a young Englishman poured down his throat the greatest part of a bottle of lavender-water, which he happened to have in his pocket. The effect of such a stimulus, applied to a stomach accustomed to nothing stronger than water, were instantaneous
and powerful. The Hindoo revives sufficiently to admit of his being conveyed to the boat, was carried to Calcutta, and perfectly recovered. He had drank however, in the company of Europeans ;-no matter whether voluntary or involuntary—the offence was committed : he lost caste, was turned away from his home, and avoided, of course, by every relation and friend. The poor man came before the police, making the bitterest complaints upon being restored to life ; and for three years the burden of supporting him fell upon the mistaken Samaritan who had rescued him from death. During that period, scarcely a day elapsed in which the degraded resurgent did not appear before the European, and curse him with the bitterest curses-as the cause of all his misery and desolation. At the end of that period he feil ill, and of course was not again thwarted in his passion for dying. The writer of this article vouches for the truth of this anecdote ; and many persons who were at Calcutta at the time must have a distinct recollection of the fact, which excited a great deal of conversation and amusement, mingled with compassion.
It is this institution of caste which has preserved India in the same state in which it existed in the days of Alexander; and which would leave it without the slightest change in habits and manners, if we were to abandon the country to-morrow. We are astonished to observe the late resident in Bengal speaking of the fifteen millions of Mahomedans in India as converts from the Hindoos—an opinion in support of which he does not offer the shadow of an argument, except by asking whether the Mahomedans have the Tartar face? and if not, how they can be the descendants of the first conquerors of India ? Probably not altogether. But does this writer imagine that the Mahomedan empire could exist in Hindostan for 700 years without the intrusion of Persians, Arabians, and every species of Mussulman adventurers from every part of the East, which had embraced the religion of Mahomet ? And let them come from what quarter they would, could they ally themselves to Hindoo women without producing in their descendants an approximation to the Hindoo features ? Dr. Robertson, who has investigated this subject with the greatest care, and looked into all the authorities, is expressly of an opposite opinion; and considers the Mussulman inhabitants of Hindostan to be merely the descendants of Mahometan adventurers, and not converts from the Hindoo faith.
“The armies (says Orme) which made the first conquests for the heads of the respective dynasties, or for other invaders, left behind them numbers of Mahomedans, who, seduced by a finer climate and a richer country, forgot their own.
"The Mahomedan princes of India naturally gave a preference to the service of men of their own religion, who, from whatever country they came, were of a more vigorous constitution than the stoutest of the subjected nation. This preference has continually encouraged adventurers from Tartary, Persia, and Arabia to seek their fortunes under a Government from which they were sure of receiving greater encouragement than they could expect at home. From these origins time has formed in India a mighty nation of near ten millions of Mahomedans,”-Orme's Indostan, I., p. 24.
Precisely similar to this is the opinion of Dr. Robertson, Note xl.Indian Disguisition.
As to the religion of the Ceylonese, from which the Bengal resident would infer the facility of making converts of the Hindoos, it is to be observed, that the religion of Boudhou, in ancient times, extended from the north of Tartary to Ceylon, from the Indus to Siam, and (if Foe and Boudhou are the same persons) over China. That of the two religions of Boudhou and Bramá, the one was the parent of the other, there can be very little doubt; but the comparative antiquity of the two is so very disputed a point, that it is quite unfair to state the case of the Ceylonese as an instance of conversion from the Hindoo religion to any other; and even if the religion of Brama is the most ancient of the two, it is still to be proved that the Ceylonese professed that religion before they changed it for their present faith. In point of fact, however, the boasted Christianity of the Ceylonese is proved by the testimony of the missionaries themselves to be little better than nominal. The following extract from one of their own communications, dated Columbo, 1805, will set this matter in its true light:
“The elders, deacons, and some of the members of the Dutch congregation came to see us, and we paid them a visit in return, and made a little inquiry concerning the state of the Church on this island, which is, in one word, miserable! One hundred thousand of those who are called Christians (because they are baptized) need not go back to heathenism, for they never have been anything else but heathens, worshippers of Budda : they have been induced, for worldly reasons, to be baptized. O Lord ! have mercy on the poor inhabitants of this populous island !”—Trans. Miss. Soc., II., 265.
What success the Syrian Christians had in making converts, in what degree they have gained their numbers by victories over the native superstition, or lost their original numbers by the idolatrous examples to which for so many centuries they have been exposed, are points wrapped up in so much obscurity, that no kind of inference as to the facility of converting the natives can be drawn from them. Their present number is supposed to be about 150,000.
It would be of no use to quote the example of Japan and China, even if the progress of the faith in these empires had been much greater than it is. We do not say it is difficult to convert the Japanese or the Chinese, but the Hindoos. We are not saying it is difficult to convert human creatures, but difficult to convert human creatures with such institutions. To mention the example of other nations who have them not is to pass over the material objection and to answer others which are merely imaginary and have never been made.
3dly. The duty of conversion is less plain and less imperious when conversion exposes the convert to great present misery. An African or an Otaheite proselyte might not perhaps be less honoured by his countrymen if he became a Christian ; a Hindoo is instantly subjected to the most perfect degradation. A change of faith might increase the immediate happiness of any other individual ; it annihilates for ever all the human comforts which a Hindoo enjoys. The eternal
happiness which you proffer him is therefore less attractive to him than to any other heathen from the life of misery by which he purchases it.
Nothing is more precarious than our empire in India. Suppose we were to be driven out of it to-morrow, and to leave behind us twenty thousand converted Hindoos, it is most probable they would relapse into heathenism, but their original station in society could not be regained. The duty of making converts, therefore, among such a people, as it arises from the general duty of benevolence, is less strong than it would be in many other cases; because, situated as we are, it is quite certain we shall expose them to a great deal of misery, and not quite certain we shall do them any future good.
4thly. Conversion is no duty at all if it merely destroys the old religion without really and effectually teaching the new one. Brother Ringletaube may write home that he makes a Christian, when, in reality, he ought only to state that he has destroyed a Hindoo. Foolish and imperfect as the religion of a Hindoo is, it is at least some restraint upon the intemperance of human passions. It is better a Brahman should be respected than that nobody should be respected. A Hindoo had better believe that a deity, with an hundred legs and arms, will reward and punish him hereafter, than that he is not to be punished at all. Now, when you have destroyed the faith of a Hindoo, are you quite sure that you will graft upon his mind fresh principles of action, and make him anything more than a nominal Christian ?
You have 30,000 Europeans in India, and 60 millions of other subjects. If proselytism were to go on as rapidly as the most visionary Anabaptist could dream or desire, in what manner are these people to be taught the genuine truths and practices of Christianity? Where are the clergy to come from? Who is to defray the expense of the establishment? and who can foresee the immense and perilous difficulties of bending the laws, manners, and institutions of a country to the dictates of a new religion? If it were easy to persuade the Hindoos that their own religion was folly, it would be infinitely difficult effectually to teach them any other. They would tumble their own idols into the river, and you would build them no churches : you would destroy all their present motives for doing right and avoiding wrong without being able to fix upon their minds the more sublime motives by which you profess to be actuated. What a missionary will do hereafter with the heart of a convert is a matter of doubt and speculation. He is quite certain, however, that he must accustom the man to see himself considered as infamous, and good principles can hardly be exposed to a ruder shock. Whoever has seen much of Hindoo Christians must have perceived that the man who bears that name is very commonly nothing more than a drunken reprobate, who conceives himself at liberty to eat and drink anything he pleases, and annexes hardly any other meaning to the name of Christianity. Such sort of converts may swell the list of names and gratify the puerile pride of a missionary ; but what real discreet Christian can wish to see such Christianity prevail? But it will be urged if the present converts should become worse Hindoos and very indifferent Christians, still the next generation will do better; and by degrees, and at the expiration of half a century, or a century, true Christianity may prevail. We may apply to such sort of Jacobin converters what Mr. Burke said of the Jacobin politicians in his time—“To such men a whole generation of human beings are of no more consequence than a frog in an airpump.” For the distant prospect of doing what most probably after all they will never be able to effect, there is no degree of present misery and horror to which they will not expose the subjects of their experiment.
As the duty of making proselytes springs from the duty of benevolence, there is a priority of choice in conversion. The greatest zeal should plainly be directed to the most desperate misery and ignorance. Now, in comparison to many other nations who are equally ignorant of the truths of Christianity, the Hindoos are a civilised and moral people. That they have remained in the same state for so many centuries is at once a proof that the institutions which established that state could not be highly unfavourable to human happiness. After all that has been said of the vices of the Hindoos, we believe that a Hindoo is more mild and sober than most Europeans, and as honest and chaste. In astronomy the Hindoos have certainly made very high advances ;some, and not an unimportant progress in many sciences. As manufacturers, they are extremely ingenious; and as agriculturists, industrious. Christianity would improve them (whom would it not improve ?), but if Christianity cannot be extended to all, there are many other nations who want it more.
The Hindoos have some very savage customs which it would be desirable to abolish. Some swing on hooks, some run kimes through their hands, and widows burn themselves to death : but these follies (even the last) are quite voluntary on the part of the sufferers. We dislike all misery, voluntary or involuntary ; but the difference between the torments which a man chooses, and those which he endures from the choice of others, is very great. It is a considerable wretchedness that men and women should be shut up in religious houses, but it is only an object of legislative interference when such incarceration is compulsory. Monasteries and nunneries with us would be harmless institutions, because the moment a devotee found he had acted like a fool he might avail himself of the discovery and run away, and so may a Hindoo if he repents of his resolution of running hooks into his flesh.
The duties of conversion appear to be of less importance when it is impossible to procure proper persons to undertake them, and when such religious embassies in consequence devolve upon the lowest of the people. Who wishes to see scrofula and atheism cured by a single sermon in Bengal? Who wishes to see the religious hoy riding at anchor in the Hoogley river, or shoals of jumpers exhibiting their nimble piety before the learned Brahmans of Benares? This madness
* We are here, of course, arguing the question only in a worldly point of view. This is one point of view in which it must be placed, though certainly the lowest and least important.