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Old Daniel by Thomas Hodson

PREFACE.

I can now, in my mind's eye, see Chickka, the washerman, as if I had met him yesterday; and I can see the mud houses of Singonahully, the mud wall of the village, and the temple of Runga, as if they were all before me. Yet five and thirty years are passed and gone since the afternoon when, in quest of medical aid, I rode past the village, hoping yet to see it the abode of many follower's of Christ, not knowing that I was never to see it more. At that time Chickka was still a heathen. He was then between forty and fifty years of age, a grey-headed, resolute, self-controlled looking man.

At the mission-house of Goobbe we knew Chickka well. He was often present at our family prayer, but gave no signs of any religious conviction; and I cannot remember that he ever expressed more disapproval of idolatry than many did, who to this day have continued in their heathenism. Certainly I had no idea of the processes through which the mind of the washer man had passed. It would have been hard to conceive that one so ignorant and so simple, had as a boy, all untaught, seen as clearly the vanity of idols as well-instructed men could do, and had in his own simple way taken practical and striking steps to convince others of the justice of his views.

In the lifelike narrative of Mr Hodson, -- where every touch is that of one who has lived among the people, till their sayings and their doings, their surrounding scenes and modes of thought, are all familiar, -- the reader will find a very curious light upon the processes of thought which, in the deepest night of paganism, may be passing in the mind of a labourer's lad who knows not a letter. We may feel assured that similar lights are shining in the darkest places now, and that millions of young minds are being prepared, as was the mind of Chickka, to turn from dumb idols to serve the living and the true God. Even were the incidents detailed in the following pages those only of the life of a single boy, they would be of great interest. But it is not as incidents that give interest to the story of an inward change of one mind, or of the outward windings of one life, but as a sign of what is going on in multitudes, and as a foretoken of the changes that are to come, that the highest interest attaches to such scenes as that of Chickka breaking the serpent-gods, turning the sword-gods into plough-shares, refusing to bow to the idol, or speaking lightly of the great god of the vicinity when his car was burned. Even the procession, which in all forms of idolatry, from that of India to that of Rome, forms an important instrument of public impression, failed to command the feelings of Chickka. How many men in countries where weeping Madonnas are exhibited have been tormented with the same curiosity which seized Chickka on seeing the tears streaming down the cheeks of Mari, the goddess of diseases! But seldom have courage and opportunity combined to carry the inquirer to a conclusion so decisive as that which rewarded the research of the poor washerman's son. I seem now as if I could trace the boy, in the struggling grey of the morning, down the gentle slope, till he reached the tank, found the spot where the idol had been cast into it, and, daring to break its head, laid bare all the mystery of the tears. That, too, was a step preparing him for the great change when he was to turn to One who is not the work of men's hands, but is the Maker of the mighty and the weak. And the same influences which prepared Chickka, and which eventually changed him into Daniel, are now at work in, I repeat it, millions of minds, where the influences are as much unseen and unsuspected as were at the time those of which the reader will find the account so striking.

Good Edward Hardey, whose words were the first that were sent home to the heart of the washerman with the power that quickens dry corns into sprouting seeds, and good Matthew Trevan Male, who baptized him as the firstfruits unto Christ in Goobbe, are both gone to their rest. Many others who have sowed on that field are also gone. Daniel has ended his course in peace. And still the harvest is not reaped. But the harvest is to come. In such a work delay, disappointment, and the deferring of hope are to be taken as but a call for more faith and more prayer. If the lights struggling in the heathen mind of Chickka were but an example of what is taking place in the minds of many, so also the change by which Chickka became Daniel, the steadfast Christian, was but an example of thousands of thousands that are yet to come. `Behold, I make all things new,' says He who caused the light to shine out of darkness; and in the Mysore He will yet bring forth a new and glorious creation. In that country, at this present time, a terrible famine is making ravages. Even that calamity may be overruled for good. At all events it gives fresh emphasis to the call for all followers of Christ to enter in and work for God, where the harvest indeed is plenteous and the labourers are few. It may be that even in times of trial the Spirit will be poured out from on high, and that God will yet gladden with tidings of great joy the hearts of some to whom those fields are unutterably dear, and who have long waited for the full corn in the ear.

W. ARTHUR.

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