|It is very pleasant when you are in England, and
you see souls being saved, and you see the
conviction of sin, and you see the power of the
Gospel to bring new life and new joy and purity to
hearts. But it is still more glorious amongst the
heathen to see the same things, to see the Lord
there working His own work of salvation, and to
see the souls convicted and the hearts broken, and
to see there the new life and the new joy coming
out in the faces of those who have found the Lord
Jesus.|Rev. Barclay F. Buxton, Japan.
BEFORE putting this chapter together, I have looked long at the photograph which fronts it. The longer one looks the more pitiful it seems. Perhaps one reads into it all that one knows of her, all one has done for her, how one has failed -- and this makes it sadder than it may be to other eyes. And yet can it fail to be sad? Hood's lines reversed describe her --
|All that is left of her
Now is not womanly.|
The day we took her photo she was returning from her morning worship at the shrine. She had poured her libation over the idol, walked round and round it, prostrated herself before it, gone through the prayers she had learned off by heart, and now was on her way home.
[Illustration: A Saivite ascetic. Siva represents the severer side of Hinduism, the Powers of Nature which destroy. But as all disintegrated things are reintegrated in some other form, the two Powers, Destruction and Reconstruction, were united in the thought of the old Hindus, and Siva represents the double Power. The Saivite form of Hinduism is older than the Vaishnavite, and more widely spread over India. There are said to be 30,000,000 symbols of the god Siva scattered about the land. Saivites are instantly recognised by the mark of white ashes on their foreheads, and sometimes on the breast and arms, and often a necklet of berries is worn.]
We had gone to her village to take photographs, and had just got the street scene in the morning light. The crowd followed us, eager to see more of the doings of the picture-catching box; and she, fearing the defiling touch of the mixed Castes represented there, had climbed up on a granite slab by the side of the road, and stood waiting till we passed.
There we saw her, and there we took her, -- for, to our surprise, she did not object, -- and now here she is, to show with all the force of truth how far from ideal the real may be. We looked at her as I look at her now, stripped of all God meant her to have when He made her, deep in the mire of the lowest form of idolatry, a devotee of Siva. She had been to Benares and bathed in the sacred Ganges, and therefore she is holy beyond the reach of doubt. She has no room for any sense of the need of Christ. She pities our ignorance when we talk to her. Is she not a devotee? Has she not been to Benares?
Often and often we meet her in the high-caste houses of the place, where she is always an honoured guest because of her wonderful sanctity. She watches keenly then lest any of the younger members of the household should incline to listen to us.
One of her relatives is an English-educated lawyer, a bitter though covert foe, who not long ago stirred up such opposition that we were warned not to go near the place. Men had been hired |to fall upon us and beat us.| This because a girl, a connection of his, read her Bible openly, instead of in secret as she had done before. He connected this action on her part with a visit we had paid to the house, and so induced certain of the baser sort to do this thing. We went, however, just the same, as we had work we had promised to do, and saw the old gentleman sitting on the verandah reading his English newspaper in the most pacific fashion. He seemed surprised to see us as we passed with a salaam; we saw nothing of the beaters, and returned with whole bones, to the relief of the community at large. Only I remember one of our Band was woefully disappointed: |I thought, perhaps, we were going to be martyrs,| she said.
[Illustration: Street in the Red Lake Village. An ordinary typical village scene, except that just then there were more people than usual before the picture-catching box. The only way to keep them from crowding round it was to show them something else: this explains the group on the stones at the side.]
And so we realise, as so often in India, the power of both extremes; the one with all the force of his education, and the other with all the force of her superstition, each uniting with the other in repelling the coming of the Saviour both equally need.
As one looks at the photograph, does it not help in the effort to realise the utter hopelessness, from every human point of view, of trying to win such a one, for example, to even care to think of Christ? There is, over and above the natural apathy common to all, an immense barrier of accumulated merit gained by pilgrimages, austerities, and religious observances, and the soul is perfectly satisfied, and has no desire whatever after God. It is just this self-satisfaction which makes it so hopeless to try to do anything with it.
And yet nothing is hopeless to God; |Set no borders to His strength,| a Japanese missionary said. We say it over and over again to ourselves, in the face of some great hopelessness, like that photograph before us; and sometimes, as if to assure us it is so, God lifts some such soul into light. Just now we are rejoicing in a letter from the eastern side of the district, telling us of the growth in the new life of one who only a little while ago was a temple devotee.
One has often longed to see Him work as He worked of old, healing the sick by the word of His power, raising the dead. But when we see Him gathering one -- and such a one! -- from among the heathen to give thanks unto His holy Name and to triumph in His praise, one feels that indeed it is a miracle of miracles, and that greater than a miracle wrought on the body is a miracle wrought on the soul. But nothing I can write can show you the miracle it was. In that particular case it was like seeing a soul drawn out of the hand of the Ruler of Darkness. All salvation is that in reality, but sometimes, as in her case, when the whole environment of the soul has been strongly for evil in its most dangerous phase, then it is more evidently so.
Perhaps we should explain. We know that in its widest sense environment simply means |all that is.| We know that |all that is| includes the existence of certain beings, described as |Powers| in Ephesians vi.12. Some of us are more or less unconscious of this part of our environment. We have no conscious correspondence with it, but it is there. Others, again, seek and find such correspondence, to their certain and awful loss.
Such a subject can hardly bear handling in language. Thank God we know so little about it that we do not know how to speak of it accurately. Neither, indeed, do we wish to intrude into those things which we have not seen by any attempt at close definition; but we know there is this unhallowed correspondence between men and demons, which in old days drew down, as a lightning conductor, the flash of the wrath of God.
Here in India it exists; we often almost touch it, but not quite. We would not go where we knew we should see it, even if we might; so, unless we happen upon it, which is rare, we never see it at all. A year ago I saw it, and that one look made me realise, as no amount of explanations ever could, how absolutely out of reach of all human influence such souls are. Nothing can reach them, nothing but the might of the Holy Ghost.
So I close with this one look. Will you pray for those to whom in the moonless night, at the altar by the temple, there is the sudden coming of that which they have sought -- the |possession,| the |afflatus,| which for ever after marks them out as those whose correspondences reach beyond mortal ken. All devotees have not received this awful baptism, but in this part of India many have.
We were visiting in a high-caste house. The walls were decorated with mythological devices, and even the old wood-carvings were full of idolatrous symbols. The women were listening well, asking questions and arguing, until one, an old lady, came in. Then they were silent. She sat down and discussed us. We thought we would change the subject, and we began to sing. She listened, as they always do, interrupting only to say, |That's true! that's true!| Till suddenly -- I cannot describe what -- something seemed to come over her, and she burst into a frenzy, exclaiming, |Let me sing! let me sing!| And then she sang as I never heard anyone sing before -- the wildest, weirdest wail of a song all about idolatry, its uselessness and folly, its sorrow and sin.
So far I followed her, for I knew the poem well, but she soon turned off into regions of language and thought unreached as yet by me. Here she got madly excited, and, swaying herself to and fro, seemed lashing herself into fury. Nearer and nearer she drew to us (we were on the floor beside her); then she stretched out her arm with its clenched fist, and swung it straight for my eye. Within a hair's-breadth she drew back, and struck out for Victory's; but God helped her not to flinch.
Then I cannot tell what happened, only her form dilated, and she seemed as if she would spring upon us, but as if she were somehow held back. We dare not move for fear of exciting her more. There we sat for I know not how long, with this awful old woman's clenched fist circling round our heads, or all but striking into our eyes, while without intermission she crooned her song in that hollow hum that works upon the listener till the nerve of the soul is drawn out, as it were, to its very farthest stretch. It was quite dark by this time; only the yellow flicker of the wind-blown flame of the lamp made uncertain lights and shadows round the place where we were sitting, and an eerie influence fell on us all, almost mesmeric in effect. I did not need the awestruck whispers round me to tell me what it was. But oh! I felt, as I never felt before, the reality of the presence of unseen powers, and I knew that the Actual itself was in the room with me.
At last she fell back exhausted, trembling in every limb. Her old head hit the wall as she fell, but I knew we must not help her; it would be pollution to her if we touched her. The people all round were too frightened to move. So she fell and lay there quivering, her glittering eyes still fixed on us; and she tried to speak, but could not.
Softly we stole away, and we felt we had been very near where Satan's seat is.
Think of someone you love -- as I did then -- of someone whose hair is white like hers; but the face you think of has peace in it, and God's light lightens it. Then think of her as we saw her last -- the old face torn with the fury of hell, and for light the darkness thereof.
Oh, friends, do you care enough? Do we care enough out here? God give us hearts that can care!