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Christian Missions page 2

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The greatest of all fields of missionary labour is India. Thirty-five societies carry on their operations among the swarming millions who own British rule. Upwards of six hundred foreign missionaries, besides a larger number of Christianized natives, are employed in communicating a knowledge of religious truth. From the printing-presses of the missionaries there have issued during the last twenty years three million copies of the Scriptures, and twenty million school-books and other works.

Early in the history of Indian missions, it was perceived that preaching alone would not yield the results which the missionaries sought. The Hindu clung tenaciously to the religion which his fathers had held for twenty-five centuries, and which was wrapped closely around every detail of his daily life. He preferred it to any new faith which the foreigners offered for his acceptance. The first indispensable step in the process of his conversion was to show him that his religion was a mere aggregate of fables. The missionaries established schools and applied themselves to the work of teaching. At first their instruction was given wholly in the native tongues. But the question arose, and was keenly debated, whether it was not better to teach the youth of India in the English language. In 1829, a missionary from Scotland - Alexander Duff - virtually solved the momentous question. He satisfied himself that English should be substituted for the vernacular; not otherwise could European enlightenment and the Christian religion possess India. In that belief he founded an institution for the training of young men of the better class, and his signal success led to the general adoption of his system. In a few years the governor-general was able to state that Duff's labours had produced "unparalleled results."

For fifty years Hindu youth in increasing numbers have received an English education. A revolution of extraordinary magnitude has been silently in progress during those years, and even now points decisively to the ultimate, although still remote, overthrow of Hindu beliefs and usages. A vast body of educated and influential natives acknowledge that their ancient faith is a mass of incredibilities. A public opinion has been created by whose help such practices as infanticide and the burning of widows have been easily suppressed. Prom time immemorial the Hindu people have been broken by the superstition of caste into innumerable fragments, each of which is taught as a religious duty to despise and shun the others. The missionaries from the beginning declared war against a system which prohibited the free intermingling of men and filled their minds with unreasonable prejudices and antipathies. Their policy was based on. the principle that the followers of Christ are brethren, and they taught the converted Brahman to receive the cup of communion from the hand of a man whose touch he was accustomed to regard as hopeless defilement. The mischievous delusion of caste is gradually losing its power over the Hindu mind. The debasement of Indian mothers enfeebles the Indian character. Irreversible physical as well as moral laws secure the degradation of races who deny to women their rightful position. A desire for female education has sprung up in India. Educated natives seek the companionship of educated wives. The missionaries have entered with eagerness upon the indispensable work of elevating the women of India. Multitudes of women are being taught in their own houses. Native female teachers are being trained to carry on this vitally important work.

Through the open gateway of the English language, English knowledge and ideas and principles are being poured into India. The educational progress already made is large, and the desire for education steadily increases. The Hindu mind is awakening from its sleep of ages. A knowledge of the English language is widely coveted; English usages are regarded with admiration and studiously imitated. A higher moral tone is becoming familiar to the people. In the words of the Indian government, "the blameless example and self-denying labours of the missionaries are infusing new vigour into the stereotyped life of the great population placed under English rule, and are preparing them to be in every way better men and better citizens of the great empire in which they dwell."

The direct results of missionary labour in India are not inconsiderable. In 1852 the number of native Christians was 128,000; in 1862 it had increased to 213,000; in 1872, to 320,000. But the value of missionary labour is not to be estimated by the returns of avowed conversions. Christianity has not, thus far, been accepted by India. It is found that the vanity of the old faith has to be shown before a new faith can gain a footing, and this indispensable work is being successfully accomplished. Hinduism is evidently yielding before the resistless force of Christian education. Large numbers of the people who have enjoyed the advantages of an English education find it impossible longer to believe in their hereditary faith. They have been raised by education to a point at which Hinduism is to them no more credible than nursery tales. This is the first stage in the conversion of a heathen people. The adoption of a purer faith will in due time follow.

These illustrations of missionary success could be multiplied almost indefinitely. They show that already vast progress has been made, although the work is still scarcely more than in its infancy. Every year increases the power of the agencies which are employed and widens the sphere of their influence. In the priceless results already gained, we discover warrant to expect that in some not very remote future the missionary will fulfil his daring and glorious programme - the educating and Christianizing of the whole heathen world.

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