THE writer of these thrilling chapters is a Keswick missionary, well known to many friends as the adopted daughter of Mr. Robert Wilson, the much-respected chairman of the Keswick Convention. She worked for a time with the Rev. Barclay Buxton in Japan; and for the last few years she has been with the Rev. T. Walker (also a C.M.S. Missionary) in Tinnevelly, and is on the staff of the Church of England Zenana Society.
I do not think the realities of Hindu life have ever been portrayed with greater vividness than in this book; and I know that the authoress's accuracy can be fully relied upon. The picture is drawn without prejudice, with all sympathy, with full recognition of what is good, and yet with an unswerving determination to tell the truth and let the facts be known, -- that is, so far as she dares to tell them. What she says is the truth, and nothing but the truth; but it is not the whole truth -- that she could not tell. If she wrote it, it could not be printed. If it were printed, it could not be read. But if we read between the lines, we do just catch glimpses of what she calls |the Actual.|
It is evident that the authoress deeply felt the responsibility of writing such a book; and I too feel the responsibility of recommending it. I do so with the prayer of my heart that God will use it to move many. It is not a book to be read with a lazy kind of sentimental |interest.| It is a book to send the reader to his knees -- still more to her knees.
Most of the chapters are concerned with the lives of Heathen men and women and children surrounded by the tremendous bars and gates of the Caste system. But one chapter, and not the least important one, tells of native Christians. It has long been one of my own objects to correct the curious general impression among people at home that native Christians, as a body, are -- not indeed perfect, -- no one thinks that, but -- earnest and consistent followers of Christ. Narratives, true narratives, of true converts are read, and these are supposed to be specimens of the whole body. But (1) where there have been |mass movements| towards Christianity, where whole villages have put themselves under Christian instruction, mixed motives are certain; (2) where there have been two or three generations of Christians it is unreasonable to expect the descendants of men who may have been themselves most true converts to be necessarily like them. Hereditary Christianity in India is much like hereditary Christianity at home. The Church in Tinnevelly, of which this book incidentally tells a little, is marked by both these features. Whole families or even villages have |come over| at times; and the large majority of the Christians were (so to speak) born Christians, and were baptized in infancy. This is not in itself a result to be despised. |Christian England,| unchristian as a great part of its population really is, is better than Heathen India; and in the chapter now referred to, Miss Carmichael herself notices the difference between a Hindu and a Christian village. But the more widely Christianity spreads, the more will there assuredly be of mere nominal profession.
Is the incorrect impression I allude to caused by missionaries dwelling mostly on the brighter side of their work? Here and there in the book there is just a suggestion that they are wrong in doing so. But how can they help it? What does a clergyman or an evangelist in England tell of? Does he tell of his many daily disappointments, or of his occasional encouraging cases? The latter are the events of his life, and he naturally tells of them. The former he comprises in some general statement. How can he do otherwise? And what can the modern missionary do in the short reports he is able to write? Fifty years ago missionary journals of immense length came home, and were duly published; and then the details of Hindu idolatry and cruelty and impurity, and the tremendous obstacles to the Gospel, were better known by the few regular readers. Much that Miss Carmichael tells was then told over and over again, though not perhaps with a skilful pen like hers. But the work has so greatly developed in each mission, and the missions are so far more numerous and extended, that neither can missionaries now write as their predecessors did, nor, if they did, could all the missionary periodicals together find space for their journals.
The fault of incorrect impressions lies mainly in the want of knowledge and want of thought of home speakers and preachers. I remember, thirty years ago, an eloquent Bishop in Exeter Hall triumphantly flinging in the face of critics of missions the question, |Is Tinnevelly a fiction?| -- as if Tinnevelly had become a Christian country, which apparently some people still suppose it to be, notwithstanding the warning words to the contrary which the C.M.S. publications have again and again uttered. Even now, there are in Tinnevelly about twenty heathen to every one Christian; and of what sort the twenty are this book tells. Tinnevelly is indeed |no fiction,| but in a very different sense from that of the good Bishop's speech. Again, a few months ago, I heard a preacher, not very favourable to the C.M.S., say that the C.M.S., despite its shortcomings, deserved well of the Church because it had |converted a nation| in Uganda! -- as if the nation comprised only 30,000 souls. Some day the |Actual| of Uganda will be better understood, and the inevitable shortcomings of even its Christian population realised, and then we shall be told that we deceived the public -- although we have warned them over and over again.
But the larger part of this book is a revelation -- so far as is possible -- of the |Actual| of Hinduism and Caste. God grant that its terrible facts and its burning words may sink into the hearts of its readers! Perhaps, when they have read it, they will at last agree that we have used no sensational and exaggerated language when we have said that the Church is only playing at missions! Service, and self-denial, and prayer, must be on a different scale indeed if we are ever -- I do not say to convert the world -- but even to evangelise it.