Page images

cloaks or commands crime, or outrages fundamental morality, or offers an insuperable obstacle to the progress of necessary civilisation. We cannot suffer infanticide to be practised, or human sacrifices to be offered, or electric telegraphs to be forbidden or destroyed, in the name of any god, or in deference to the prejudices of any sect; but apart from such matters, we are bound to let every religion have perfect freedom of worship and of action. As to questions of decency, we must bear in mind that these are to a great extent conventional; and that the ideas of purity and impurity are very different in the European and the Asiatic mind. As to questions of proselytism, our course seems very clear. We should allow full liberty of preaching to Brahmin, Mussulman, or Christian missionary; but sternly refuse to employ or to permit the slightest exercise of influence, whether by favour or disfavour.

And first, let us do full justice to the tenacious grasp which religious feelings, such as they are, hold over the native mind. Their faith shames ours. The creed of the Hindoos is a filthy and degrading superstition, indicating a low intelligence, breathing a low morality; but such as it is, they believe it, cling to it, and obey its ordinances, with an undoubting conviction and a simple devotion, which we, the pupils of a better teaching and the votaries of a nobler creed, may indeed envy, and should do well to imitate. If there had been any reason for questioning this, the whole details of the mutiny would suffice to prove it. Of all the thousands of natives who have been shot, hung, or blown from guns, for their share in the revolt and its attendant crimes, not one has entertained the faintest shadow of a doubt that he was dying for (deen) his religion, and would go straight to paradise scarcely one has flinched, or prayed for mercy; all have believed that they were martyrs and certain of the martyr's crown. For fanaticism so genuine and so deep as theirs death has no terrors. Such fanaticism it is at once unsafe and foolish to provoke. It can be conquered by no violence, and can be undermined only by the slow process of indirect enlightenment. People in England find it hard to believe that the greased cartridge was really the immediate cause of the revolt. People in India know better. They are well aware that while ambition and intrigue are ever at work to arouse and turn to use the religious excitability of the Hindoo, that excitability is a permanent and a most formidable reality. How such a wide-spread and sudden panic should have arisen from so slight a cause, the following remarks by "Indophilus" may serve to explain:

"Hindooism and Mahometanism, especially the former, are religions not of rational conviction, but of meats and drinks and outward observances. The religion of a Hindoo may therefore be taken away'

from him by force or craft, without any voluntary action on his part. There are large communities of Mahometans in India whose ancestors were Hindoos; and if you inquire into their religious history, they tell you that Aurungzebe, or some other potentate, made them' Mahometans. The process was a very simple one. Their Hindooism was put off by Mahometans eating with them; their Mahometanism was put on by the symbol of admission to the faith which the Mahometans have in common with the Jews. Pouring cow's blood down the throat was reserved for special cases of recusancy. On the other hand, the unclean beast is the abomination of the Mahometans as of the Jews; and the feeling is heightened by the associations of caste which the Mahometan minority in India have contracted from the Hindoo majority. To bite a cartridge greased with cow's or pig's fat was, therefore, more to Hindoos and Mahometans than eating pork to a Jew, spitting on the Host to a Roman Catholic, or trampling on the Cross to a Protestant."

In saying that we must scrupulously abstain from outraging the religious or caste notions of the natives, when not compelled to do so by paramount considerations of public morality or public safety, we by no means wish to insinuate that we have been in the habit of offending in this manner. On the contrary, in former times we have erred in the opposite extreme. We have deferred too much and too degradingly to native superstitions. We have done dishonour to our own faith; and, as might be anticipated, have gained no credit by so doing. Europeans very generally give to Asiatics the impression that they are an irreligious race; and, compared with themselves, there is some truth in the belief. It is true that our religion, like our nature, is less demonstrative and more retiring-more sacred, and therefore more hidden-than that of Orientals, and that we have a great deal more faith and feeling on these subjects than we care to show; but it must be admitted that, as a rule, our religion is both less pervading, less intense, less firmly held, less proudly and openly avowed, than that of Eastern nations. Now to an ordinary Asiatic, the apparent want of religion in his European masters excites both amazement and disgust. Of real liberality in such matters they have little comprehension; and the deference which of yore we paid to their idolatry they interpreted into indifference to our own creed. It is important that in future our conduct should be such as systematically to correct this delusion. All unworthy compliances, all countenance to idolatrous ceremonies, should be (as, indeed, we believe they are) consistently avoided and forbidden. We should act as men who, while willing to respect and tolerate the religious convictions of a "weaker brother" and a fellow-citizen of equal rights, yet feel the immeasurable superiority of our own assured belief. Thus only shall

we secure their respect to our character and our faith:-grave deference to their childish etiquettes, offerings and concessions to their nasty shrines, excite only contempt; they see through the hollow sham, and despise the unmanly nonsense.

Then as to missionary efforts: it is a great mistake to fancy that the natives of Hindostan, especially the more intelligent among them, look with any dread or dislike upon our well-meant attempts at their conversion-using that word, in its proper and European sense, to signify change of conviction by argument and persuasion. What they fear is, not preaching, but government influence and force. Religious controversy they rather enjoy; they have a decided pleasure in gravelling the holy men who come out to instruct and convince them; they are amused at their impotent benevolence, and feel, or fancy, that they are more than a match for nine-tenths of the missionary body. If there were any doubt on this head, it would be removed by a very remarkable speech delivered by a cultivated Hindoo at a meeting of a native association at Calcutta, who, in commenting on Lord Ellenborough's attack upon the governor-general for having subscribed to missionary efforts, declared that, while they respected the missionaries much, they had not the slightest fear of them, nor objection to the utmost latitude of speech which could be given them, so long as Lord Canning in his official capacity lent them no sinister aid. It would be monstrous indeed, if, while we allowed the Mussulman and the Hindoo priest to preach, and convert, and proselytise at pleasure, we were to deny a similar right to the priest of our own religion. It could not be done; it ought not to be done; it need not be done. We have no idea that missionaries will do any harm in India; neither have we any idea that they will do much good. By exhibiting examples of a pure life, and by disseminating useful information around them, they may, indeed, be indirectly serviceable to the cause of morality and truth. But in the matter of conversion-i. e. of inducing the natives to abandon Hindooism and embrace Christianity-we do not anticipate, nor, to say the truth, do we much desire, any very rapid result from their exertions. It is time to speak plainly on this subject. Nations may be spiritually and intellectually elevated out of heathenism and savage ignorant atheism; but in general only by the slowest and most circuitous process can one elaborate form of religion be substituted for another long established and rooted in all the popular feelings and traditions. Among a civilised people, those who are willing to exchange the faith of their forefathers for that of strangers are usually the very dregs of the population. This is notoriously the case in Hindostan. Those who by moral or intellectual reasoning and research become convinced of the error

of their old religion, and the intrinsic truth of that which is offered them instead, are at all times incalculably rare and few. Every thinker whose mind has sufficient philosophy in its composition to understand how much of assumption and hereditary innate prejudice lies at the root of all creeds, will be conscious that this must be so. Then, again,-and this it is peculiarly important to bear in mind, every religion partakes to some extent of the character of the soil in which it is sown. It is pure or impure, noble or degrading, an elevated faith or an abject superstition, just according to the nature of the men who adopt or profess it. If by some strong act of force, or by some command from authority, or some external contrivance, the whole of Hindostan could be brought to declare itself Christian, and to be baptised, what would have been gained by the nominal change? Would the native mind have been metamorphosed by the tergiversation? Wherein would the new superstition differ from the old? The old ignorance, the old impurities, the old senseless fanaticism, the old low morality, would still exist in the artificial convert; and would be simply imported by him into his new creed, instead of being eradicated by it. Let those who doubt this look at Europe and look at history. Christianity, we all feel, is a pure, a noble, a mild, a rational, an elevating faith, acceptable to the finest minds, fitted to raise man to the grandest heights. Is it such among all nations? Has it been such at all times? In what nation and in what age do we find it such? All Europe is Christian: all Europe was Christian in the middle ages. Compare, then, the Christianity of England with the Christianity of Russia or of Spain. Compare the Christianity of Fenelon and Hooker with the Christianity of Cortez or of Bonner, of Philip or of Alva. Compare the Christianity of Wesley with the Christianity which expressed itself in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. No, it is useless to pour new wine into old bottles; the bottles will burst, and the wine be spilled. If you wish to plant in Hindostan any genuine Christianity, you must be content to prepare the soil by the painful and judicious husbandry of generations. It is only men of much egotism, or of little faith, who are in a mischievous and ineffective hurry to propagate the Word. God has an eternity before Him for the accomplishment of His purposes; they never fail, and are never imperfectly performed. We are hasty and impetuous, because we have only "this narrow sand and shoal of Time" whereon to work-because we want to see the harvest as well as to sow the seed-because too often, also, we are anxious to inscribe our names upon the mite which we cast into the treasury of the Most High. "La Providence (says Guizot) a ses aises dans le temps: elle ne s'inquiète pas de tirer aujourd'hui

la conséquence du principe qu'elle a posé hier; elle la tirera dans des siècles, quand l'heure sera venue; mais pour raisonner lentement selon nous, sa logique n'est pas moins sûre."

In this case, as in most others, the fairest and most righteous mode of attaining our end is also the speediest, the surest, and the safest. We are bound to give to the inhabitants of India the best education, direct and indirect, that circumstances permit, and that their nature will enable them to receive. We are bound, so far as may be, to make them participators in our knowledge, to open to them the sciences and discoveries of Europe, and, in the way of ascertained facts, to teach them no error, and as much truth as we can. In a word, we are bound to extend and improve the secular instruction of all classes among them. We have accepted this responsibility, and prepared to act upon it. We have established universities at the three presidencies, where the English language and English sciences are taught; and we have established schools and inspectors of schools all over our dominions. The system as yet is new, and of course partial and imperfect; but its operation is steadily extending, and will soon bear fruit. The Hindoo systems of religion and of caste are so blended with error and ignorance on physical matters, that a purely scientific and secular education is the most formidable enemy we can send into the field against them. In Lower Bengal it has already proved so. By the time we have fairly imbued two generations of Hindoos with sound notions of geography, astronomy, and chemistry; when for a few years we have explained to them the operation of the electric telegraph; when for half a century we have rattled them across the country on the railway at the rate of thirty miles an hour, and shaken Brahmin and Pariah together in the same car, we shall have effectually undermined the foundations of their own creed, and produced that intermediate period of scepticism which is often, though not always, the necessary step towards the introduction of a purer faith. Throughout a considerable portion of Lower Bengal, by the instrumentality of our schools and intercourse with us, this stage has been produced already. All that is ambitious and sacerdotal among the higher class of natives sees this menacing result, and will move heaven and earth to hinder it. But if we simply persevere, abstain from the slightest attack on, or disrespect towards, their beliefs, but continue quietly to teach those dry scientific facts with which their beliefs cannot co-exist, we shall have secured at no distant day an object really worth a struggle the formation, that is, of a national intellect, in which a pure and not a superstitious, a genuine and not a nominal, a deep and not a superficial, Christianity can more easily take root and flourish.

« PreviousContinue »