Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Life of John Wilson
Chapter XVII. The Krishna Orgies — Dr. Wilson among the Educated Natives


1862-1865
THE KRISHNA ORGIES—DR. WILSON AMONG THE EDUCATED NATIVES.

Brahmanism opposed to Rational Humanity—The stages of its Corruption— Krishna Worship—The Four Krishna Reformers—Young Bombay— Vallabh the Royal Teacher of Deified Adultery—Trade of Bombay taxed for the Maharajas—A Courageous Editor—The Trial—Mr. Chisholm Anstey—Dr. Wilson’s Evidence—Sir Joseph Arnould’s Judgment—Public Opinion—Advice to Hindoos to travel—Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy’s Benevolent Institution—Influence of Dr. Wilson in Hindoo and Parsee Families—Rai Bahadoor Tirmal Rao—“ Uncle ” Wilson—A Hindoo Lady learning to read at sixty—Intercourse with Native Princes—Raja Dinkur Rao—The Converts’ Address to Dr. Wilson on the Thirtieth Anniversary of his Landing—Reviews his Missionary Policy—Building of the Native Church and Manse—The Drowning of Stephen Hislop.

The late Canon Mozley, a Christian philosopher who has been pronounced, with some justice, the Bishop Butler of this generation, published an Essay on “Indian Conversion,” twenty years ago. Writing before the comparatively rapid development of the Church of India, the Protestant sections of which already form a varied community of more than three hundred thousand souls, he argued, on the ground of reason alone, that Brahmanism will be gradually but completely demolished by the fair and solid contact of Christianity with it. For Brahmanism is at disagreement with the original type of rational humanity; with the religious type and the moral standard in human nature; with physical truth, and with the ends of society. Xot less convincing is the historical argument; and when both are looked at together in the light of time, as the factor in the world’s changes, the conclusion is overpowering, apart from Scripture. From the monotheism and nature-worship of the early Yedic hymns and Zoroastrian gathas, to the polytheism and sacerdotal caste which provoked the Buddhist reform, what a change ! And yet it is spread over, at least, twelve centuries. Arrested for a time by men like Asoka, the Brahman-ical corruption leavened the whole lump of Asiatic life, whether Hindoo or Buddhist, till, at the close of the next twelve centuries, the faith of Gautama was wiped out in blood all over the peninsula, and only the conforming Jains remained to tell of the impotence of the creed that had cut its temples and monasteries out of the living rock, that had subdued Tibet and China, Burma and Ceylon. Triumphant Brahmanism entered on the third stage of its descending progress ten centuries ago, with all its evils intensified, and afterwards but little checked by the iconoclastic fanaticism of the Muhammadan invasion. Ceasing to spread, save among the aborigines it had long scorned when it did not reduce them to the worst slavery, Brahmanism was driven in on itself. For nearly a century it found a protection alike against Mussulman intolerance and Christian light in the encouragement of the East India Company, which Charles Grant and Wilberforce first stopped by the Charter of 1833.

After the persecution of Buddhism there arose the latest development of the Hindoo system in the worship of Krishna. Thenceforth Brahmanism was to act on the elastic policy of finding a place for every sect, every sentiment, every god, every deified hero or saint, that would consent, even indirectly, to affiliate itself. Like the Paganism of the Roman empire, the Brahmanism which emerged from the struggle with Buddhism, wounded and wise, would have included Christianity itself, if that had consented to be dragged at its chariot wheels. Krishna, on his best side, it was not difficult to identify with Christ, sufficiently to satisfy the uneducated. The Jesuits of the Madura Mission themselves favoured the identification, and forged Yedas to prove it. So saturated is the Bhagavat Puran of this period with Christian-like sentiment, that it is still a subject of discussion whether the similarity was not designed.

Krishna, the god of love in the Oriental sense of lust, has ever since marked the accelerating corruption of popular Hindooism. At first, like Buddhism, a concession to the discontent with caste, sacerdotalism, exclusiveness, and rigidity, the Krishna worship seems to rest on the idea of brotherhood including even Muhammadans. From the teaching of Ramanuj and Ramanand there arose four reformers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in each of the great provinces of Hindooism. Kabeer, the weaver, was the Hindee; Nanuk, the herd-boy, was the Punjabee or Sikh ; Chaitunya, the Brahman, was the Bengalee; and Tukaram, the shopkeeper, was the Marathee teacher, singer, and priest. Each was the Vates of his countrymen. Dr. Wilson early became familiar with their teaching, especially with that of Tukaram, a poet who has of late been frequently translated into English, while the whole Adi Gmnth, or scriptures of Nanuk, has been recently turned into English by Dr. Trumpp. All wrote in the vernacular; all proclaimed the brotherhood of Vishnoo in his Krishna form; and all, as developed by their followers, ended in the deification and practice of lust and intolerant cruelty. The Jugganath car-worship, on which a lurid light has been thrown by the trial and banishment to the Andamans of its deified representative, the Raja of Pooree, for murder by torture, is of the same reformed school.

Gradually Brahmanism found that its subtle policy of widening the bonds of Hindooism so as to include all apparently conforming sects, though on the whole successful, encouraged low-caste fanatics to claim, as pontiffs, the adoration and very substantial revenues of the people. The Vaishnava brotherhoods have thus honeycombed the old sacerdotalism with secret, and generally filthy and execrable, cults all over India south and west of the Ganges. Their leaders have established the most frequented shrines, for which whole armies of debased recruiters tout for pilgrims; and they have become wandering popes, who travel with all the pomp and pride of the gods they represent. The regular Brahmans resent this, not on moral but on pecuniary grounds, and strive to compete with their rivals. Thus the deterioration goes on, till India presents the same state of things which is so accurately pictured in the second or third century romance of The Clementines, the same crowd of Antinomian sects, like the Nicolaitans, through which the paganism of the empire vainly tried to compete with the only Faith that has ever enforced continence and purity. He who would learn what Hindooism now is, whether Brahmanical or Vaishnava, will find the materials in the great treatise of Dr. Norman Chevers on Medical Jurisprudence in India, and in the collection of libri execrancli in the Bodleian, made by the late Horace Hayman Wilson for his work on The Religious Sects of the Hindoos.

Against such teaching and practices there has always been that outraged native opinion which will yet cast forth the whole system responsible for them. So far as the class of educated reformers, in the true sense of the word, has not yet found its way into the Christian Church, but has become known as “Young Bombay” or “Young Bengal,” they are indirectly the offspring of the education and influences of the cultured missionaries. In Bombay Dr. Wilson was the teacher, the adviser, the friend, of all such non-Christian or almost Christian natives. To them, in a hundred ways, the most precious portion not only of such morning leisure as he could claim, but of his working hours, was gladly given up. By the press, the college, lectures, the Asiatic Society, public meetings, discussions, social intercourse, and often substantial patronage, he made himself their example and their guide. Poor and rich, low and high caste, pundit and English-speaking, they all knew him; for they, and their fathers, and their children, sat at his feet during nigh half a century. In the light of the future, we believe his work among and for the non-Christian natives who resided in or passed kthrough Bombay, to have exceeded in influence that which created the native church. It extended even where he was not personally known; it returned to him in the most unexpected ways. How he was to the natives as to the Europeans of Bombay a great and recognised moral force, all the more because of his Hindoo and Muhammadan discussions and Parsee controversies, was seen in what is popularly known as the Maharaj libel case.

When, at the end of the fifteenth century, Nanuk was gathering his Sikhs or disciples in the Punjab, Yallabh, son of a Brahman of Bijanuggur, went to the north of India as acharya or religious teacher. “To Krishna,” he taught his followers, “dedicate body, soul, and possesions”—tan, many clhan. Krishna is to be worshipped in the person of the gooroo or teacher, who himself becomes the god. The teacher is therefore to be addressed as a King or Maharaj  his followers are to worship him by sexual intercourse, or by witnessing such intercourse. While gods, the Vallabacharyas are also gopees, or herd-women devoted to Krishna, according to the scandalous legend; and hence they dress as women, with long hair, female ornaments, and toe-rings. The union with the Maharajas of the wives and daughters of the devotees according to the vow of dedication, is union with Krishna, as in the Kas Lila. Hence, like the parallel sect of the Shaktees, or worshippers of the female principle in Bengal, the carnal love-meetings of the married followers, known as Has Mandalis. Hence every Vallabacharya temple becomes the scene of adultery under so-called divine sanction. This faith is professed, these practices were followed, by the largest and wealthiest of the Hindoo communities of Western India, whose scripture is the tenth book of the Bhagavat Puran, translated from Sanskrit into the Brijabasha dialect as Prern Sagur, or the Ocean of Love. The Bhattias, Marwarees, and Lowanas—the men who, as clerks and partners in mercantile houses, as capitalists and shopkeepers, come most closely into contact with Europeans—were the men who adored the Maharajas, and whose wives and daughters were thus publicly debauched. Numbering probably not fewer than half a million in Western India, they paid the Maharajas’ dues, according to a fixed tariff, on every article they sold, the real payer being the consumer of course. Thus these pontiffs of Krishna waxed fat with organised adultery and an ever-increasing tax on half the trade of Bombay. The impost of a farthing on every ten pounds’ worth of Lancashire goods sold, yielded two temples alone £5300 in one year. Not one important article of trade escaped a similar impost.

The Brahmans of the Island, being beggars chiefly, receive alms from the Vaishnava as well as Shiva sects; and this the Maharaj pontiffs in 1355 determined to stop, as an interference with their rights. Their followers consented, on the condition of reforms in the temple abuses, such as the cessation by the Maharajas of adulterous intercourse with their females at the winter service at four in the morning, and the pollution of young girls, the ever-increasing extortion, the taking of bribes in cases of arbitration, the summoning of worshippers to the shrines at all hours to attend the idol, and the beating of the crowds to hasten their passage through the temple. The promises were given but never carried out. The ignorant Maharajas were defeated in a public discussion with the Brahmans who knew Sanskrit; and their dignity was lowered by the order of the Supreme Court that they must attend when parties in a case, although they objected to sit lower than a European.

Editing the Scitya Prolcash, or “Light of Truth,” one of the sixteen Goojaratee newspapers, was a youth Kursundass Mooljee, who was one of their followers and familiar with their practices. He became the centre of the reformers ; and against him the Maharajas hired a Parsee, the editor of our old friend the ChcibooJc, or “Whip” Kursundass welcomed the arrival of Judoonath Brizruthunjee from Surat, as a Maharaj who -was said to have himself espoused the cause of reform so far as to establish a female school. But one of the reforming party having caught the new-comer in the very act of adultery in the temple, it became necessary to expose that Maharaj also. Formerly the principal men of the community had signed a “slavery bond,” vowing to excommunicate Kursundass, and to procure the passing of an Act to exempt the Maharajas from attendance in courts of justice. Only when that had been signed were the temples opened and the enforced fasting ceased. Kursundass then published an article headed “The Primitive Religion of the Hindoos and the present Heterodox Opinions,” in which not only the whole sect but Judoonath Maharaj by name was charged with doctrines and practices involving “shamelessness, subtlety, immodesty, rascality, and deceit.” This appeared on the 21st October 1860. Seven months after the Maharaj brought an action for libel in the Supreme Court against the editor and printer, laying the damages at Rs. 5000. At the same time he induced his leading followers to refuse to give evidence under pain of excommunication. Two of these were sentenced to heavy fines for conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice, and then the main case proceeded. From the 26th January 1862 it lasted forty days, for twenty-four of which it was before Sir M. Sausse, the Chief Justice, and Sir Joseph Arnould, Puisne Judge.

The success of the defendant, who pleaded justification, was due to two men. Mr. Chisholm Anstey, his senior counsel, supplied the forensic skill with all that persistence which, when not erratic as too often in his case, made him an antagonist to be feared whether in Parliament, at the bar, or on the bench. Dr. Wilson contributed the learning and the * uprightness required to convict the Maharaj out of his own books. Some thirty other witnesses on either side were heard, including Judoonath himself, and the expenses amounted to £6000, of which he had to pay the greater part. Of Dr. Wilson’s evidence the accomplished Judge remarked—

“Dr. Wilson, who has studied this subject with that comprehensive range of thought (the result of varied erudition) which has made his name a foremost one among the living Orientalists of Europe—Dr. Wilson says : ‘ The sect of Val-labacharya is a new sect, inasmuch as it has selected the god Krishna in one of his aspects, that of his adolescence, and raised him to supremacy in that aspect. It is a new sect in as far as it has established the jpusthti-marg, or way of enjoyment, in a natural and carnal sense.’ I agree with Dr. Wilson in thinking that, ‘ all things considered, the alleged libel is a very mild expostulation,’ involving an ‘ appeal to the principle that preceptors of religion, unless they purify themselves, cannot expect success to attend their labours.’ ”And the author of the volume which contains a history of the whole sect and trial1 expresses native opinion when he writes: “ Dr. Wilson’s labours in this trial deserve special notice. He placed at the disposal of the defendant his rich and multifarious stores of learning, which proved of surpassing value. Throughout the whole trial this learned missionary ably sustained the character which he fills in the estimation of the natives of India—that of a philanthropist.” All the journals of India, native and European, ^rejoiced at the vindication of morality and purity.

Dr. Wilson himself suggested and drew up the appeal for a public recognition of “ the disinterested efforts of Kursundass Mooljee to improve the state of Goojaratee society, and especially of his courageous conduct, truthfulness, and singleness of purpose in the management of the Maharaj libel case.” His name is followed by that of the Parsee reformer, Ardaseer Framjee. Christianity, Hindooism, and Zoroastrianism were thus seen happily allied in the cause of morality and humanity. The result, with all that it involved, was worth Dr. Wilson’s thirty years’ strivings. On the same day he assisted Sir Bartle Frere, the Governor, in examining the hundreds of Parsee youth, boys and girls, who crowded the classes of the Benevolent Institution endowed by Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy. The learned controversialist, whose uncompromising but tolerant zeal for his Master had years before excited a panic among the community when several of their ablest youths were baptized into Christ, hailing the pursuit of truth in every form, “referred to the intelligence and enterprise of the Parsee community, who would not only be patrons of learning in India, like the noble Jeejeebhoy family, but participants of its great advantages.” The Governor followed, congratulating the dowager Lady Jamsetjee 011 the results of her encouragement of female education.

The subtle influence of Dr. Wilson and his teaching, permeating generations of non-Christian native society, not only in the capital but in distant cities and stations, may be best seen if we select one of the many Hindoo families to whom he always was, in the childlike language of the grateful people of India, “Kaka” or Uncle Wilson; just as soldiers and administrators like Nicholson, Edwardes, and Abbott, were among the wild Afghan tribes of our north-west frontier. For forty years, and with four of its generations whom he educated, Dr. Wilson and his wife maintained a closer personal intercourse and more affectionate correspondence with the family of the Hindoo Tirmal Bao, than we have any example of. The judge, whom in 1836 his father took from Dharwar in the far south, to be educated in Bombay, tells the story. This communication is introduced by his son, the Bombay High Court Interpreter and Senior Canarese and Marathee Translator, who writes to us—“He knew four generations of our family. He loved me and my brother Venkut Bao most tenderly. He very often remarked, in the meetings of his friends, that our father completed his education under him, that we had been his pupils, and that he looked upon us as his grandchildren. You heard the same observation from his lips when he formally introduced us to you in one of those meetings convened by him for your sake.”

From Rao Bahadoor Tirmal Rao Venkutesh,

Pensioned Judge and First Class Honorary Magistrate.

“10th February 1878.—As my country is situated at tlie distance of about 350 miles from Bombay, no one in those days sent their children to Bombay to be educated. In 1836 my late father had occasion to go to Bombay on some business, and was struck with the English education that was imparted to the young men in the Government school there, and his European friends advised him to send me to Bombay. It was determined that I should be placed under the care of the then Rev. Dr. J. Wilson, in preference to being put into the Government school. I went to his house to pay my respects to him for the first time. I remember perfectly well how kindly he received me and what encouragement he gave me. He directed me to see him in his house both in the mornings and evenings every day, besides meeting him in the school. For some time Mathematics seemed to me to be a dry and useless study. He therefore, on one occasion, passed his hands over the figure of the 5tli proposition of the first book of Euclid in such a peculiar manner, and explained matters to me so clearly, that from that moment I began to take great great liking for Mathematics. He taught me more of Geography, Astronomy, Zoology, general History, and Scripture, in course of his conversations in his house than in the regular classes in the schools. He appointed the late Rev. R. Nesbit to teach me literature specially, in addition to what I learnt in the classes, and permitted me also attend the lectures given in Logic, Geology, Botany, and Chemistry in the Elphinstone College by Professors Orlebar, Harkness, and Bell. Dr. Wilson’s mode of teaching was so entertaining that we never felt that we were studying, but we used to think that we were playing with him. He treated us more like our father than any one else. He attended upon us during our sickness personally. In those days my wife was quite illiterate. He impressed upon my mind the advantages of female education, and made me teach her to read and write. At the same time he got his sisters-in-law, the Misses Anna and Hay Bayne, to undertake the education of my wife.

“During nights Dr. Wilson took me out in open air, and made me acquainted with the different planets and constellations. He used daily to pray to God in my behalf, and direct my mind towards God. On Sundays he regularly took me to his church to hear him preach. In fact the trouble that he took to educate me and the students of his classes was really inconceivable. After leaving his school he brought me prominently to the notice of the then Governor, Sir R. Grant, and other officers of the State, and it was in a measure owing to his recommendations that I obtained the offices that I held afterwards. Dr. Wilson always looked upon me as one of his earliest scholars, and loved me to excess. Twenty years afterwards it pleased God to enable me to place several of my children under the personal care of the Rev. Dr. Wilson and his late partner, Mrs. Isabella Wilson, for educational purposes. It would be impossible for me to express adequately the peculiar pleasure with which they undertook the task, and how well they executed it. Dr. Wilson had the charge of the education of the boys, and Mrs. Wilson that of the girls. It was owing wholly to Dr. Wilson’s prayers, training, trouble, and exertions that my two boys, Jayasattia Boohrao Tirmal, and Venkutrao Rookmangad (now my legal nephew), have been so well educated. The former now holds a very responsible office in the Honourable the High Court of Judicature at Bombay. The latter obtained the degree of B.A. during Dr. Wilson’s lifetime; and it is a pity that the latter did not live long enough to see Venkut Rao become an LL.B. also, which degree the University of Bombay has just conferred upon him.

“The above is a partial account of Dr. Wilson’s dealings with my family alone. He treated several hundreds of other families in a similar manner. After leaving his college and returning to my country I continued to visit him once in two years or so, and spent several days with him. The whole of his time used to he occupied in doing some public good or other. He wrote and published hundreds of tracts, and several books on religious, educational, historical, and other subjects in English, Marathee, Goojaratee, and other languages. He assisted people of all classes in various ways. His dealings with all were kind, considerate, and honourable throughout; so much so that natives of all classes and creeds feared and honoured him more than they did any other person. In course of time he had won the hearts of the people so much that they were convinced that nothing could go wrong with him. His very name, or, as the natives called him, ‘ Wilson Kaka ’ (i.e. Uncle Wilson), was sufficient to inspire any one with the fullest confidence.

“He first arrived in India in 1829-30. Since that time, up to his death in 1875, no less than eighteen Governors ruled over the Western Presidency. Each, in his turn, did what good lay in his power to the country. There is no wonder in that, as all of them were invested with official power, and had at their command money and men. Dr. Wilson was a poor man, without power or money. Nevertheless, he did more good to India, and still more so to the Presidency of Bombay, in the way of educating people, composing books suited to their wants, in various languages and on different subjects, inducing them to be loyal subjects of the British Crown, collecting ancient manuscripts and histories of the country, etc. etc., than all the eighteen Governors put together. He was the father of several religious and educational Institutions. Dr. Wilson was held in the greatest esteem by the successive Governors, Commanders-in-Chief, members of Council, Judges of the High Court, and almost all the other officers of the State, and the native nobility. I know of no one to whom greater respect was paid than to Dr. Wilson. It may be considered that I am exaggerating his virtues and usefulness, but there are thousands and thousands of Europeans and Natives who would be glad to corroborate my assertions, and I challenge every one and all to contradict me if they possibly can. Dr. Wilson was an extraordinary man. Of his learning, travels, and other good deeds in England and elsewhere, I leave it to better hands than myself to describe. I only say what I have seen and known. It is difficult to find another man like him. I am really sorry that my knowledge of the English language is so limited that I am not able to express more vividly the varied learning and usefulness of Dr. Wilson.”

In all the offices of friendship and affection common to men and women of all countries, save that intercourse from which Hindoo caste alone shuts out its votaries, Dr. and Mrs. Wilson, and the Misses Bayne for a time, were one with this Hindoo family. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, came successively to the Ambrolie Institution, and to the Girls’ School, while they spent their holiday and leisure hours in the missionary’s home, as English youths would have done. Of all he wrote in 1857, “I know of no instance of any family residing at such a distance from the seat of the Western Presidency making such judicious arrangements for the culture and training of its young members.” At the frequent social gatherings of old students in the mission-house, as in the grateful support of the college and schools, they were foremost. When the aged mother of Tirmal Rao passed away, Dr. Wilson wrote, amid the hurry of his duties in England, to her son, his student of 1836, “I deeply sympathise with every one of you. Your mother was no common woman. It tells much in her favour that she was assiduous in her endeavours to promote your well-being, and that of all the members and connections of your family; that she encouraged you all in the acquisition of knowledge; and that she encouraged the work of female education in India by learning to read herself, when she had in her life numbered threescore years. The day must come when we ourselves must make the great transition and appear before the omniscient and. righteous Judge. May God in His mercy impart to every one of us that salvation from the curse and pollution of sin of which we stand in need, and which is freely offered to all who confide in the great atonement of the Son of God. Of this atonement your dear mother had heard, though not so fully as you yourself have done.” Such cases as this are by no means rare in the varied transition states of thought and progress through which India is passing under British rule and missionary agencies of all kinds. In Bengal whole families or clans, like the Dutts, have together taken the step which seals all, and have publicly professed Christ.

Very similar to this among the Parsees were Dr. Wilson’s relations with another Judge, Mr. Manockjee Cursetjee, lasting over forty years. So with Dadoba Pandurang since 1834, one of the University Examiners and an early reformer. The Native Princes, Muhammadan and Hindoo, rarely visited the capital without seeking an interview with one who had been a welcome preacher in their durbars; and on such occasions of rejoicing as marriages, they sent him khureetas, or letters of honour, illuminated with the perfect taste of the Oriental, and delicately besprinkled with gold dust. When a distinguished Native statesman like the Raja Dinkur Rao, who did so much for Gwalior and for Lord Canning’s Administration in 1858-62, visited Bombay, he carried an introduction to Dr. Wilson from Sir Richmond Shakespeare. Lord Canning testified of that astute Marathee:—“Seldom has a ruler been served in troublous times by a more faithful, fearless, or able minister, for his counsel saved the Maharaja of Gwalior in 1857. When still more distant potentates, like Sultan Abdou of Joanna, repeated his visit to India, the Government, changed every five years, turned to Dr. Wilson for information regarding him.

But dearest of all to John Wilson were his children in the faith, gathered out of every kindred, and tribe, and tongue ; barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, from all the lands around the Indian Ocean. On the thirtieth anniversary of his landing at Bombay the whole adult community, of more than two hundred souls, presented him with a loving address, and a copy of the Hexajrfa, as best typifying his work and the tie which bound them to him and to each other. The address was signed in their name by the representative Parsee and Brahman now ordained Christian ministers, the Bevs. Dhunjeebhoy Nowrojee and Narayan Sheshadri. Its tenor is seen in his reply, which is full of suggestiveness alike to the Church of India and to those Western Churches which have been privileged, all too slowly and coldly, to lay its foundations :

“The love and affection which, you have ever borne to me since before my delighted eyes you one by one, and two by two in some instances, passed from the darkness of heathenism and error into the light and grace of the Lord, has, next to your steady and consistent adherence to the cause of Christ and your advancement in usefulness, proved the greatest ministerial solace and comfort which I have enjoyed in the hallowed evangelistic enterprise in which it is my privilege, under a deep sense of personal unworthiness, to engage in this great and promising though still benighted land. I feel that the bond "which unites us together in mutual respect and confidence is of a permanent character, and I earnestly pray that it may be more and more sanctified to us all by the spirit of the glorious Saviour by Whom we have been redeemed and Whom we seek to serve.

“You express your belief that good has followed my labours in India. This, as you see and acknowledge, is, to any extent that it may have been realised, the consequence entirely of the divine blessing, which I ever desire to acknowledge with humility and praise. I thank God on all occasions for bringing me to the shores of India, on which my affections were strongly set from my youthful days, though I was ready to be sent as a Missionary of the Cross to any part of the world which might be selected for me by the wisdom of the Church seeking for divine direction. I bless God for my appointment to found the Scottish Missions at the seat of the Western Presidency of India, the peculiar importance of which I had begun to discern before I left my native land, and for the great and effectual door of usefulness which His gracious providence here opened for myself, and for the esteemed brethren in the ministry—particularly my dear brother Mr. Nesbit—who came to my assistance after a considerable number of years had been passed by me in solitary but not unfruitful labours in this mission. I have constantly sought to use all available instrumentalities and opportunities for the prosecution of the work in which I have been engaged ; and while I more and more earnestly pray the Lord to pardon my numerous shortcomings and offences in His work, I more and more seek to give Him the undivided praise for what has been accomplished. It is in His name that I have sought to advance His cause by speech and writing, and by teaching and preaching, both among young and old, in schools and seminaries of learning both for males and females, in the lecture-room of this house, and in places of public concourse both in this city and neighbourhood, and in distant districts of this land. A similar assurance I can give you in behalf of the Lord’s devoted ministerial servants in Bombay and in the contiguous Presidencies, many of whom we have been privileged to welcome to this land, and some of whom, as our dear brethren of the Irish Presbyterian, to introduce in the first instance to the field of their labours.

“While I thank God for the multitudes near us and afar off in India, who by the labours of all His servants in this land have become ashamed of the gods and idols, and doctrines and rites of their varied superstitions ; and while I see many, particularly of the young in this place and neighbourhood, apparently not far from the kingdom of God, I especially rejoice, with thankfulness to God, in those who, like yourselves, have altogether entered the Christian fold, and who by their spirit and temper, as well as their walk and conversation, give good evidence that they belong not only to the visible but invisible Church of Christ. I view you emphatically as, under God, the hope of this mission. You are the first fruits into Christ in this locality, and have the Christian character to exhibit to those who are bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. You have the truth of Christ to declare to multitudes from whom, both privately and publicly, you may obtain a hearing. In this work some of you, who have been called to the ministry, have been honoured yourselves to win souls to Christ; while others of you have brought some of your relations and connections under the sound of the Gospel, and in a good degree aided in their Christian instruction. In the work of personally endeavouring to promote the enlightenment and conversion of your countrymen I trust you will all more and more abound. This work must not be suffered to devolve wholly, or even principally, on the officials of the Christian Church, necessary though they be for its advancement. What would you think of a regiment of soldiers who would be content to trust to its officers for the whole fighting against the common enemy ? I should be glad to see in you all the activity and zeal of the Christians of apostolical times, not only in your own mutual edification and comfort, but in your efforts to convey to those around you the knowledge of the true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

“My dear brethren Messrs. Dhunjeebhoy and Narayan, in handing me your address and request, have expressed to me their special gratitude for what I have from time to time sought to do for the native missionary in the matters, as I take it, of his being called to labour as an evangelist, set apart for his great work by the solemnities and vows of ordination—God’s own ordinance, and in his being permitted to share in the common councils and deliberations of the Christian ministry and mission with which he is connected. For one to have done less than I have done in this matter would have been to sacrifice the deepest convictions of my judgment and conscience, both as far as Christian right and Christian expediency are concerned. You know that our mission in general fully concurred in the views which I have been led to take of the questions raised, and that no serious opposition was ever offered to the principles which they recognised in the headquarters of presbytery in Scotland. While we seek for the due probation of entrants into the holy ministry, abroad as well as at home, we must remember that when the probation has "been satisfactorily rendered, all due privileges should not only be greatly but joyfully and thankfully accorded. Probation in such a land as India, filled with people of a strange countenance and a strange tongue, and what is more, a strange heart, is needed certainly as much by the missionaries from the West as those raised up in the field of labour in the East. They cannot, without the greatest injury to themselves and the enterprise in which they are engaged, be free of the judgment and experience of those who may be supposed best to know the people and languages, and creeds and customs of India. A common council is the essential characteristic of presbytery. While it gives full scope to the judgment and conscience of all, it gives the fullest scope to the gifts of all for the information of that judgment and conscience. There is even peculiar potency in its administration, because from time to time it can select its own agencies for work to be done by individuals and committees.”

The practical outcome of this address was the erection of that ecclesiastically becoming church, in which the native congregation under a native minister have worshipped since 1869. Aided by friends like Dr. Hugh Miller and Mr. James Burns in the west of Scotland, and themselves contributing ten thousand rupees out of their scanty income, the native church raised the structure at Ambrolie, of which Mr. Emerson was architect, with a manse, at the cost of £6000. In this, as in every Christian and philanthropic movement which he advocated, Dr. Wilson’s personal subscriptions were almost lavishly generous, for he knew the force of example. The converts who, as elders and members, bestirred themselves to erect this memorial of their gratitude, were—Manuel Gomes, Mikhail Joseph, Yohan Prem, Baba Pudmanjee, Bapu Mazda, Behramjee Kersajee, Khan Singh, Mattathias Cohen, Kashinath Vishvanath, Wasudeva Pandu-rang, Shapoorjee Eduljee, and Rewa Ramjee. More significant than any statue of John Wilson is this Christian temple of his converts from many races, on the spot where he lived and laboured for nigh half a century.

In 1863 the Christian civilisation of India suffered a loss second only to that of those other pioneers Wilson and Duff. The Rev. Stephen Hislop of Nagpore had proved himself worthy to stand beside them, alike in the intensity of his devotion and the breadth of his culture. Aided by Mr. Hunter, he had built up the mission to the Hindoos and Gonds of Central India, through all the difficulties of bad feudatory rule, annexation, caste disputes, and the misgovern-ment even of British officers for a short time. The Rev. J. G. and Mrs. Cooper, who still carry on his work in his spirit, helped him. How when he was mistaken for another in 1853 he was nearly put to death by a riotous mob in Nagpore, and how he was the means of preparing the Government against the mutiny and projected massacre by the sepoys and Mussulman rabble of Nagpore, Mr. Hunter has told.1 Were it becoming so long as some of the actors are alive, we could add the details of his service which, through the Friend of Indict and privately, opened the eyes of Lord Canning to the misrule that followed the Mutiny, and resulted in the creation of the Central Provinces under Sir P. Temple as first Chief Commissioner. In all that related to the neglected territory, its varied people of five tongues, its simple but savage hill Gonds, its geology and unparalleled mineral resources, its schools, native officials, and administrative needs, Sir R. Temple found Hislop his counsellor. The missionary was more to the country than ten regiments or a whole establishment of civil officers were to it. Dr. Wilson rejoiced in his work, so like his own—spiritual, scientific, philanthropic.

But all too soon Hislop was removed suddenly, while the Chief Commissioner and the Bombay philanthropist, each in his own way, published unavailing lamentations and eulogies. It was on the 4th September, after a long break in the latter rain, when Hislop and Sir R. Temple had gone out to study the Scythian stones at Takulghat, and Hislop remained behind to examine a Government school, that the missionary disappeared. In the interval between Sir R Temple crossing a stream and the missionary reaching it on his way to the camp, the water had been swollen by sudden rain, and Stephen Hislop was drowned. His riderless horse told the tale too late to do more than rescue the dear remains. Another martyr to duty had his name written in the great roll of Christian men who have died as well as lived for the people of India. Foremost among his supporters was the friend of Judson, Sir Henry Durand, when, for a time, that officer was the Political Resident at Nagpore.


Return to Book Index Page


 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast