|I believe we are in the midst of a great battle.
We are not ourselves fighting, we are simply
accepting everything that comes; but the Powers of
Light are fighting against the Powers of Darkness,
and they will certainly prevail. The Holy Spirit
is working, but the people do not as yet know it
is the Spirit.|Hester Needham, Sumatra.
THE devil's favourite device just now is to move interested people to far-away places. We have had several who seemed very near to the Kingdom. Then suddenly they have disappeared.
There was Wreath, of the Village of the Temple. She used to listen in the shadow of the door while we sat on the outside verandah. Then she got bolder, and openly asked to see Golden, and talk with her. One day, unexpectedly, Golden was led to the Red Lake Village, and to her surprise found Wreath there. She had been sent away from the Village of the Temple, and was now with some other relations, under even stricter guard. But God led Golden, all unknowingly, to go straight to the very house where she was. So she heard again.
Next time Golden went she could not see her alone, but somehow Wreath got her to understand that if she went to a certain tree near the women's bathing-place, at a certain time next week, she would try to meet her there. Golden went, and they met. Wreath told her she believed it all, but she could not then face breaking Caste and destroying her family's name. They had been good to her, how could she disgrace them? Still, she eagerly wanted to go on hearing, and we felt that if she did, the love of God would win. So we were full of hope.
Next time Golden went she could find no trace of her. She has never seen her since. There is a rumour that she has been carried off over the mountains, hundreds of miles away.
In another village a bright, keen boy of seventeen listened one day when we taught the women, and, becoming greatly interested, openly took the Gospel's part when the village elders attacked it. After some weeks he gathered courage to come and see the Iyer. He was a very intelligent boy, well known all over the countryside, because he had studied the Tamil classics, and also because of his connection with one of the chief temples of the district.
A fortnight after his visit here, our Band went to his village. They heard that he was married and gone, where, no one would say. The relations must have heard of his coming to us (of course he was urged to tell them), and they rushed him through a marriage, and sent him off post haste. So now there is another key turned, locking him into Hinduism.
In the Village of the Wind a young girl became known as an inquirer. Her Caste passed the word along from village to village wherever its members were found, and all these relations and connections were speedily leagued in a compact to keep her from hearing more. When we went to see her, we found she had been posted off somewhere else. When we went to the somewhere else (always freely mentioned to us, with invitations to go), we found she had been there, but had been forwarded elsewhere. For weeks she was tossed about like this; then we traced her, and found her. But she was thoroughly cowed, and dared not show the least interest in us. It is often like that. Just at the point where the soul-poise is so delicate that the lightest touch affects it, something, someone, pushes it roughly, and it trembles a moment, then falls -- on the wrong side.
The reason for all this alertness of opposition is, that scattered about the five thousand square miles we call our field, here and there seeds are beginning to grow. Some of the sowers are in England now, and some are in heaven -- sowers and reapers, English and Tamil, rejoice together! This is known everywhere, for the news spreads from town to town, and then out to the villages, and the result is opposition. Sometimes the little patch of ground which looked so hopeful is trampled, and the young seedlings killed; sometimes they seem to be rooted up. When we go to our Master and tell Him, He explains it: |An Enemy hath done this.| But as the measure of the Enemy's activity is in direct proportion to the measure of God's working, we take it as a sign of encouragement, however hindering it may be. Satan would not trouble to fight if he saw nothing worth attacking; he does not seem to mind the spread of a head knowledge of the Doctrine, or even a cordial appreciation of it. Often we hear the people say how excellent it is, and how they never worship idols now, but only the true God; and even a heathen mother will make her child repeat its texts to you, and a father will tell you how it tells him Bible stories; and if you are quite new to the work you put it in the Magazine, and at home it sounds like conversion. All this goes on most peacefully; there is not the slightest stir, till something happens to show the people that the Doctrine is not just a Creed, but contains a living Power. And then, and not till then, there is opposition.
This opposition is sufficiently strong in the case of a boy or young man (older Caste men and women rarely |change their religion| in this part of South India), but if a girl is in question, the Caste is touched at its most sensitive point, and the feeling is simply intense. Men and demons seem to conspire to hold such a one in the clutch of the Terrible.
There is a young girl in Cupid's Lake Village whose heart the Lord opened some weeks ago. She is a gentle, timid girl, and devoted to her mother. |Can it be right to break my mother's heart?| she used to ask us pitifully. We urged her to try to win her mother, but the mother was just furious. The moment she understood that her daughter wanted to follow Jesus, or |join the Way,| as she would express it, she gathered the girl's books and burnt them, and forbade her ever to mention the subject; and she went all round the villages trying to stop our work.
At last things came to a crisis. The girl was told to do what she felt would be sin against God. She refused. They tried force, sheer brute force. She nerved herself for the leap in the dark, and tried to escape to us. But in the dark night she lost the way, and had to run back to her home. Next morning the village priest spread a story to the effect that his god had appeared to him, told him of her attempt to escape, and that she would try twice again, |but each time I will stand in the way and turn her back,| he said.
This naturally startled the girl. |Is his god stronger than Jesus?| she asked in real perplexity. We told her we thought the tale was concocted to frighten her; the priest had seen her, and made up the rest. But twice since then, driven by dire danger, that girl has tried to get to us, and each time she has been turned back. And now she is kept in rigorous guard, as her determination to be a Christian is well known to all in the place.
Do you say, |Tell her to stay at home and bear it patiently|? We do tell her so, when we can see her, but we add, |till God makes a way of escape|; and if you knew all there is to be known about a Hindu home, and what may happen in it, you would not tell her otherwise.
But supposing there is nothing more than negative difficulty to be feared, have you ever tried in thought to change places with such a girl? Have you ever considered how impossible it is for such a one to grow? The simple grace of continuance is in danger of withering when all help of every sort is absolutely cut off, and the soul is, to begin with, not deeply rooted in God. Plants, even when they have life, need water and sunshine and air. Babes need milk.
You find it hard enough to grow, if one may judge from the constant wails about |leanness,| and yet you are surrounded by every possible help to growth. You have a whole Bible, not just a scrap of it; and you can read it all, and understand at least most of it. You have endless good books, hymn-books, and spiritual papers; you have sermons every week, numerous meetings for edification, and perhaps an annual Convention. Now strip yourself of all this. Shut your Bible, and forget as completely as if you had never known it all you ever read or heard, except the main facts of the Gospel. Forget all those strengthening verses, all those beautiful hymns, all those inspiring addresses. Likewise, of course, entirely forget all the loving dealings of God with yourself and with others -- a Hindu has no such memories to help her. Then go and live in a devil's den and develop saintliness. The truth is, even you would find it difficult; but this Hindu girl's case is worse than that, a million times worse. Think of the life, and then, if you can, tell her she must be quite satisfied with it, that it is the will of God. You could not say that it is His will! It is the will of the Terrible, who holds on to his prey, and would rather rend it limb from limb than ever let it go.
We are often asked to tell converts' stories; and certainly they would thrill, for the way of escape God opens sometimes is, like Peter's from prison, miraculous; and truth is stranger than fiction, and far more interesting. But we who work in the Terrible's lair, and know how he fights to get back his prey, even after it has escaped from him, are afraid to tell these stories too much, and feel that silence is safest, and, strange as it may seem to some, for the present most glorifies God.
For a certain connection has been observed between publicity and peril. And we have learned by experience to fear any attempt to photograph spiritual fruit. The old Greek artist turned away the face that held too much for him to paint; and that turned-away face had power in it, they say, to touch men's hearts. We turn these faces away from you; may the very fact that we do it teach some at home to realise how much more lies in each of them than we can say, how great a need there is to pray that each may be kept safe. The names of one and another occur, because they came in the letters so often that I could not cross them all out without altering the character of the whole; they are part of one's very life.
But as even a passing mention may mean danger, unless a counteracting influence of real prayer protects them, we ask you to pray that the tender protection of God may be folded round each one of them; and then when we meet where no sin can creep into the telling, and no harm can follow it, they will tell you their stories themselves, and God will give you your share in the joy, comrades by prayer at home! But let us press it on you now -- pray, oh, pray for the converts! Pray that they may grow in Christ. Pray that He may see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied with each of them. And pray that we may enter into that travail of soul with Him. Nothing less is any good. Spiritual children mean travail of soul -- spiritual agony. I wonder who among those who read this will realise what I mean. Some will, I think; so I write it. It is a solemn thing to find oneself drawn out in prayer which knows no relief till the soul it is burdened with is born. It is no less solemn afterwards, until Christ is formed in them. Converts are a responsible joy.
And now we have told you a little of what is going on. There are days when nothing seems to be done, and then again there are days when the Terrible seems almost visible, as he gathers up his strength, and tears and mauls his prey. And so it is true we have to fight a separate fight for each soul. But another view of the case is a strength to us many a time. |We are not ourselves fighting, but the Powers of Light are fighting against the Powers of Darkness,| and the coming of the victory is only a question of time. |Shall the prey be taken from the Mighty or the captives of the Terrible be delivered? But thus saith the Lord, =Even the captives of the Mighty shall be taken away and the prey of the Terrible shall be delivered=.|