|If we are simply to pray to the extent of a
simple and pleasant and enjoyable exercise, and
know nothing of watching in prayer, and of
weariness in prayer, we shall not draw down the
blessing that we may. We shall not sustain our
missionaries who are overwhelmed with the
appalling darkness of heathenism. . . . We must
serve God even to the point of suffering, and each
one ask himself, In what degree, in what point am
I extending, by personal suffering, by personal
self-denial, to the point of pain, the kingdom of
Christ? . . . It is ever true that what costs little is worth little.|Rev. J. Hudson Taylor, China.
SHE picked up her water-vessel, and stood surveying us somewhat curiously. The ways of Picture-catching Missie Ammals were beyond her. Afterwards she sat down comfortably and talked. That was a year ago.
Then in the evening she and all her neighbours gathered in the market square for the open-air meeting. Shining of Life spoke for the first time. |I was a Hindu a year ago. I worshipped the gods you worship. Did they hear me when I prayed? No! They are dead gods. God is the living God! Come to the living God!|
One after the other the boys all witnessed that evening. Their clear boyish voices rang out round the ring. And some listened, and some laughed.
[Illustration: She picked up her water-vessel, and stood surveying us somewhat curiously.]
Behind us there was a little demon temple. It had a verandah barred down with heavy bars. Within these bars you could see the form of an idol. Beside us there was a shrine. Someone had put our lanterns on the top of this pyramid shrine. Before us there was the mass of dark faces. Behind us, then, black walls, black bars, a black shape; before us the black meeting, black losing itself in black. Around us light, light shining into the black. That was as it was a year ago. Now we are back at Dohnavur, and almost the first place we went to was this village, where we had taken the light and set it up in the heart of the dark. An earnest young schoolmaster had been sent to keep that light burning there, and we went expectantly. Had the light spread? We went straight to our old friend's house. She was as friendly as ever in her queer, rough, country way, but her heart had not been set alight. |Tell me what is the good of your Way? Will it fill the cavity within me?| and she struck herself a resounding smack in the region where food is supposed to go. |Will it stock my paddy-pots, or nourish my bulls, or cause my palms to bear good juice? If it will not do all these good things, what is the use of it?|
|If it is so important, why did you not come before?| The dear old woman who asked that lived here, and we searched through the labyrinthic courtyards to find her, but failed. The girl who listened in her pain is well now, but she says the desire she had has cooled. We found two or three who seem lighting up; may God's wind blow the flame to a blaze! But we came back feeling that we must learn more of the power of prayer ourselves if these cold souls are to catch fire. We remembered how, when we were children, we caught the sunlight, and focussed it, and set bits of paper on fire; and we longed that our prayers might be a lens to focus the Love-light of our God, and set their souls on fire.
Just one little bit of encouragement may be told by way of cheer. Blessing went off one day to see if the Village of the Warrior were more friendlily inclined, and Golden went to the Petra where they vowed they would never let us in. Before Blessing entered the village she knelt down under a banyan tree, and, remembering Abraham's servant, prayed for a sign to strengthen her faith that God would work in the place. While she prayed a child came and looked at her; then seeing her pray, she said, |Has that Missie Ammal sent you who came here more than a year ago?| Blessing said |Yes.| Then the child repeated the chorus we had taught the children that first day. |None of us forget,| she said; and told Blessing how the parents had agreed to allow us to teach if ever we should return. The village had been opened. He goeth before.
Golden's experience was equally strengthening to our faith. In the very street where they held a public demonstration to cleanse the road defiled by our |low-caste| presence, twenty houses have opened, where she is a welcome visitor. But all this is only for Love's sake, they say. They do not yet want Christ; so let us focus the light!
Then there is need for the fire of God to burn the cords that hold souls down. There is one with whom the Spirit strove last year when we were here. But a cord of sin was twined round her soul. She has a wicked brother-in-law, and a still more wicked sister, and together they plotted so evil a plot that, heathen though she is, she recoiled, and indignantly refused. So they quietly drugged her food, and did as they chose with her. And now the knot she did not tie, and which she wholly detested at first, seems doubly knotted by her own will. Oh, to know better how to use the burning-glass of prayer!
There may be a certain amount of sentiment, theoretically at least, in breaking up new ground. The unknown holds possibilities, and it allures one on. But in retracing the track there is nothing whatever of this. The broad daylight of bare truth shows you everything just as it is. Will you look once more at things just as they are, though it is not an interesting look.
A courtyard where the women have often heard. May we come in? Oh yes, come in! But with us in comes an old fakeer of a specially villainous type. His body is plastered all over with mud; he has nothing on but mud. His hair is matted and powdered with ashes, his face is daubed with vermilion and yellow, his wicked old eyes squint viciously, and he shows all his teeth, crimson with betel, and snarls his various wants. The women say |Chee!| Then he rolls in the dust, and squirms, and wriggles, and howls; and he pours out such unclean vials of wrath that the women, coerced, give him all he demands, and he rolls off elsewhere.
Now may we read to the women? No! Many salaams, but they have no time. Last night there was a royal row between two friends in adjoining courtyards, and family histories were laid bare, and pedigrees discovered. They are discussing these things to-day, and having heard it all before, they have no time to read.
Another courtyard, more refined; here the fakeer's opposite, a dignified ascetic, sits in silent meditation. |We know it all! You told us before!| But the women are friendly, and we go in; and after a long and earnest talk the white-haired grandmother touches her rosary. |This is my ladder to heaven.| The berries are fine and set in chased gold, but they are only solidified tears, tears shed in wrath by their god, they say, which resolved themselves into these berries. How can tears make ladders to heaven? She does not know. She does not care. And a laugh runs round, but one's heart does not laugh. Such ladders are dangerous.
Another house; here the men are kind, and freely let us in and out. The Way, they say, is very good; they have heard the Iyer preach. But one day there is a stir in the house. One of the sons is very ill. He has been suffering for some time; now he is suddenly getting worse, and suspicions are aroused. Then the women whisper the truth: the father and he are at daggers drawn, and the father is slowly poisoning him -- small doses of strychnine are doing the work. The stir is not very violent, but quite sufficient to make an excuse for not wanting to listen well. This sort of thing throws us back upon God. Lord, teach us to pray! Teach us the real secret of fiery fervency in prayer. We know so little of it. Lord, teach us to pray!
|Oh, Amma! Amma! do not pray! Your prayers are troubling me!|
We all looked up in astonishment. We had just had our Band Prayer Meeting, when a woman came rushing into the room, and began to exclaim like this. She was the mother of one of our girls, of whom I told you once before. She is still in the Terrible's den. Now the mother was all excitement, and poured out a curious story.
|When you went away last year I prayed. I prayed and prayed, and prayed again to my god to dispel your work. My daughter's heart was impressed with your words. I cried to my god to wash the words out. Has he washed them out? Oh no! And I prayed for a bridegroom, and one came; and the cart was ready to take her away, and a hindrance occurred; the marriage fell through. And I wept till my eyes well-nigh dissolved. And again another bridegroom came, and again an obstacle occurred. And yet again did a bridegroom come, and yet again an obstacle; and I cannot get my daughter 'tied,' and the neighbours mock, and my Caste is disgraced| -- and the poor old mother cried, just sobbed in her shame and confusion of face. |Then I went to my god again, and said, 'What more can I offer you? Have I not given you all I have? And you reject my prayer!' Then in a dream my god appeared, and he said, 'Tell the Christians not to pray. I can do nothing against their prayers. Their prayers are hindering me!' And so, I beseech you, stop your prayers for fourteen days -- only fourteen days -- till I get my daughter tied!|
|And after she is tied?| we asked. |Oh, then she may freely follow your God! I will hinder her no more!|
Poor old mother! All lies are allowed where such things are concerned. We knew the proposed bridegroom came from a place three hundred miles distant, and the idea was to carry the poor girl off by force, as soon as she was |tied.| We have been praying night and day to God to hinder this. And He is hindering! But there is need to go on. That mother is a devotee. She has received the afflatus. Sometimes at night it falls upon her, and she dances the wild, wicked dance, and tries to seize the girl, who shrinks into the farthest corner of the little house; and she dances round her, and chants the chant which even in daylight has power in it, but which at night appeals unspeakably. Once the girl almost gave way, and then in her desperation, hardly knowing the sin of it, ran to the place where poison was kept, drank enough to kill two, straight off, then lay down on the floor to die. Better die than do what they wanted her to do, she thought. But they found out what she had done, and drastic means were immediately used, and the poison only made her ill, and caused her days of violent pain. So there is need for the hindering prayer. Lord, teach us how to pray!
Is India crammed with the horrible? |Picturesque,| they call it, who have |done it| in a month or two, and written a book to describe it. And the most picturesque part, they agree, is connected with the temples.
India ends off in a pointed rock; you can stand at the very point of the rock, with only ocean before you, and almost all Asia behind. A temple is set at the end of the point, as if claiming the land for its own. We took our convert boys and girls to the Cape for the Christmas holidays, and one morning some of us spent an hour under an old wall near the temple, which wall, being full of hermit crabs, is very interesting. We were watching the entertaining ways of these degenerate creatures when, through the soft sea sounds, we heard the sound of a Brahman's voice, and looking up, saw this:
A little group of five, sitting between the rocks and the sea, giving a touch of life to the scene, and making the picture perfect. There were two men, a woman, a child, and the priest. They were all marked with the V-shaped Vishnu mark. The priest twined the sacred Kusa grass round the fingers of his right hand, and gave each a handful of grass, and they did as he had done. Then they strewed the grass on the sand, to purify it from taint of earth, and then they began. The priest chanted names of God, then stopped, and drew signs on the sand. They followed him exactly. Then they bathed, bowing to the East between each dip, and worshipping; then returned and repeated it all. But before repeating it, they carefully painted the marks on their foreheads, using white and red pigment, and consulting a small English hand mirror -- the one incongruous bit of West in this East, but symbolical of the times. The child followed it all, as a child will, in its pretty way. She was a dainty little thing in a crimson seeley and many gold jewels. The elder woman was dressed in dark green; the colouring was a joy to the eye, crimson and green, and the brown of the rock, against the blue of the sea.
It was one of those exquisite mornings we often have in the Tropics, when everything everywhere shows you God; shines the word out like a word illumined; sings it out in the Universe Song; and here in this South niche of Nature's cathedral, under the sky's transparency, these five, in the only way they knew, acknowledged the Presence of one great God, and worshipped Him. There was nothing revolting here, no hint of repulsive idolatry. They worshipped the Unseen. Very stately the Sanscrit sounded in which they chanted their adoration. |King of Immensity! King of Eternity! Boundless, Endless, Infinite One!| It might have been the echo of some ancient Christian hymn. It might have been, but it was not.
They are not worshipping God the Lord. They might be, but they are not. Whose is the responsibility? Is it partly yours and mine? The beauty of the scene has passed from us; the blue of the blue sky is blotted out --
|Only like souls I see the folk thereunder,
Bound who should conquer, slaves who should be kings; Hearing their one hope with an empty wonder,
Sadly contented with a show of things.
Then with a rush the intolerable craving
Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call:
Oh to save these! To perish for their saving,
Die for their life, be offered for them all!|
The picture is made of souls -- souls to be saved. |Oh to save these! To perish for their saving!| That is what the picture says. Picture! There is no picture. In the place where it was, there is simply a pain -- God's world, and God dishonoured in it! Oh to see these people as souls! Refined or vulgar, beautiful or horrible, or just dull, oh to see them |only as souls,| and to yearn over them, and pray for them as souls who must live eternally somewhere, and for whom each of us, in our measure, is responsible to God. Do you say we are not responsible for those particular souls? Who said that sort of thing first? |Where we disavow being keeper to our brother we're his Cain.| If we are not responsible, why do we take the responsibility of appealing to them in impassioned poetry?
|Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball,
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all!|
What is the point of telling people to do a certain thing if we have no concern in whether they do it or not? The angels and the martyrs and the saints, to whom we appealed before, have crowned Him long ago. Our singing to them on the subject will make no difference either way; but when we turn to every kindred and tribe, the case alters. How can they crown Him Lord of all when they do not know about Him? Why do they not know about Him? Because we have not told them. It is true that many whom we have told heard |their one hope with an empty wonder|; but, on the other hand, it is true that the everlasting song rises fuller to-day because of those who, out in this dark heathendom, heard, and responded, and crowned Him King.
But singing hymns from a distance will never save souls. By God's grace, coming and giving and praying will. Are we prepared for this? Or would we rather sing? Searcher of hearts, turn Thy search-light upon us! Are we coming, giving, praying till it hurts? Are we praying, yea agonising in prayer? or is prayer but |a pleasant exercise| -- a holy relief for our feelings?
We have sat together under the wall by the Southern sea. We have looked at the five as they worshipped Another, and not our God. Now let this little South window be like a little clear pane of glass, through which you may look up far to the North, over the border countries and the mountains to Tibet, over Tibet and away through the vastness of Central Asia, on to China, Mongolia, Manchuria; and even then you have only seen a few of the great dark Northern lands, which wait and wait -- for you.
And this is only Asia, only a part of Asia. God looks down on all the world; and for every one of the millions who have never crowned Him King, Christ wore the crown of thorns. What do we count these millions worth? Do we count them worth the rearrangement of our day, that we may have more time to pray? Do we count them worth the laying down of a single ambition, the loosening of our hold on a single child or friend? Do we count them worth the yielding up of anything we care for very much? Let us be still for a moment and think. Christ counted souls worth Calvary. What do we count them worth?