Atonement of Christ as possessing some quality by
virtue of which God can excuse and overlook sin in
the Christian, a readiness to look upon sinning as
the inevitable accompaniment of human nature
'until death do us part,' and to look upon
Christianity as a substitute for rather than a
cause of personal holiness of life."
Rev. I. W. Charlton, India.
"From many things I have heard I fancy many at
"You may not like my writing so plainly, but
"Fifty added to the Church sounds fine at home,
"Oh for the Fire to set the whole alight, and melt
THE lamps were being lighted, the drums beaten, the cymbals struck, and the horns blown for evening pujah in all the larger temples and shrines of the "Strong City," when we turned out of it, and, crossing the stream that divides the two places, went to the Christian hamlet, which by contrast at that moment seemed like a little corner of the garden of the Lord. Behind was the heathenish clash and clang of every possible discord, and here the steady ringing of the bell for evening service; behind was all that ever was meant by the "mystery of iniquity," and here the purity and peace of Christianity. This is how it struck me at first; and even now, after a spell of work in the heart of heathendom, Christendom, or the bit of it lying alongside, is beautiful by contrast. There you have naked death, death unadorned, the corpse exhibited; here, if there is a corpse, at least it is decently dressed. And yet that evening it was forced upon me that death is death wherever found and however carefully covered.
[Illustration: "I do feel so shy!" she was just on the point of saying to me, by the way of appeal to be released, when the camera clicked and she was caught. Widows do not wear jewels, as a rule, among the Hindus of the higher Castes, but Christians do as they like. She is a village woman of fairly good position.]
The first of the Christians to welcome us was a bright-looking widow -- this is her photograph. We soon made friends. She told us she had been "born in the Way"; her grandfather joined it, and none of the family had gone back, so she was sure that all was right. We were not so sure, and we tried to find out if she knew the difference between joining the Way and coming to Christ. This was only a poor little country hamlet, but everywhere we have travelled, among educated and uneducated alike, we have found much confusion of thought upon this subject.
"God knows my heart," she said, "God hears my prayers. If I see a bad dream in the night, I pray to God, and putting a Bible under my head, I sleep in perfect peace." Could anything be more conclusive?
There were numbers of other proofs forthcoming: If your grandfather gave six lamps to the church, value three and a half rupees each (the lamps are hanging to-day, and bear witness to the fact); if your father never failed to pay his yearly dues, besides regular Sunday collections (his name is in the church report, and how much he gave is printed); if you freely help the poor, and give them paddy on Christmas Day (quite a sackful of it); if you never offer to demons (no, not when your children are sick, and the other faithless Christians advise you); if you never tie on the cylinder (a charm frequently though covertly worn by purely nominal Christians); and finally, if you have been baptised and confirmed, and "without a break join the Night-supper," surely no one can reasonably doubt that you are a Christian of a very proper sort? As to questions about change of heart, and chronic indulgence in sins, such as lying -- who in this wicked world lives without lying? And when it pleases God to do it He will change your heart.
We took the evening meeting for the villagers, who meanwhile had gathered and were listening with approval. Privacy, as we understand it, is a thing unknown in India. "That is right," they remarked cheerfully; "give her plenty of good advice!" And we all trooped into the prayer-room.
Once in there, everyone put on a sort of church expression, and each one took his or her accustomed seat in decorous silence. The little school-children sat in rows in front on the mats with arms demurely folded, and sparkling eyes fixed solemnly; the grown-up people sat on their mats on either side behind, and we sat on ours facing them. We began with a chorus, which the children picked up quickly and shouted lustily, the grown-ups joining in with more reserve; and then we got to work.
Blessing spoke. She had once been a nominal Christian, and she knew exactly where these people were, and how they looked at things. Her heart was greatly moved as she spoke, and the tears were in her eyes, for she knew none of these friends had the joy of conscious salvation, and she told me afterwards she had thirst and hunger for them. But they listened unimpressed. Then we had prayer and a quiet time; sometimes the Spirit works most in quiet, and we rose expectantly; but there was no sign of life.
After the meeting was over they gathered round us again. They are always so loving and friendly in these little villages; but they could not understand what it was that troubled us. Were they not all Christians?
Shortly afterwards they came, as their kindly custom is, to bring us fruit and wreaths of flowers on New Year's Day. I missed my first friend of that evening, and asked for her. "That widow you talked to?" said the old catechist, "three days ago fever seized her, and" -- He broke off and looked up. Then I longed to hear how she had died, but no one could tell me anything. Oh, the curtain of silence that covers the passing of souls!
We went soon afterwards to the village, sure that at last the people would be stirred; for she had been a leader among the women, and her call, even in this land of sudden calls, had been very sudden. But we did not find it had affected anyone. They all referred to her in the chastened tone adopted upon such occasions, and, sighing, reminded each other that God was merciful, and she had always been, up to the measure of her ability, a very good woman.
We felt as if we were standing with each one of those people separately, in the one little standing space we were sure of, before that curtain, and we spoke with them as you speak with those whom you know you may never see again on this side of it. But they looked at us, and wondered what was the matter with us. Were they not Christians? Did they not believe in God? Did they not pray regularly night and morning for forgiveness, protection, and blessing? So they could not understand.
Was it that the power to understand had been withered up within them? Was the soul God gave them dead -- "sentenced to death by disuse"? Dead they are in apathy and ignorance and putrefying customs, and the false security that comes from adherence to the Christian creed without vital connection with Christ. These poor Christians are dead.
"Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" Lord, it is not a thing incredible. Thou hast done it before. Oh, do it again. Do it soon!
I have told you how much we need your help for the work among the heathen; but often we feel we need it almost as much for the work among the Christians. Over and over again it is told, but still it is hardly understood, that the Christians need to be converted; that the vast majority are not converted; that statistics may mislead, and do not stand for Eternity work; that many a pastor, catechist, teacher, has a name to live, but is dead; that the Church is very dead as a whole -- thank God for every exception. We do not say this thoughtlessly; the words are a grief to write. We humble ourselves that it is so, and take to ourselves the blame. It is true that the corpse of the dead Church is dressed, just as it is at home, only here it is even more dressed; and because the spirit of the land is intensely religious, its grave-clothes are vestments. But dressed death is still death.
This will come as a shock to those who have read stories of this or that native Christian, and generalising from these stories, picture the Church as a company of saints. God has His saints in India, men and women hidden away in quiet places out of sight, and some few out in the front; but the cry of our hearts is for more. So we tell you the truth about things as they are, though we know it will not be acceptable, for the best is the thing that is best liked at home; so the best is most frequently written.
This may seem to cross out what was said before, about the darker side of the truth being often told. It does not cross it out: read through the magazines and reports, and you will find truth-revealing sentences, which show facts to those who have eyes to see; but though this is so, all will admit that the sanguine view, as it is called, is by far the most in evidence, for the sanguine man is by far the most popular writer, and so is more pressed to write. "People will read what is buoyant and bright; the more of that sort we have the better," wrote a Mission secretary out in the field not long ago, to a missionary who did not feel free to write in quite that way. Those who, to quote another secretary, "are afraid of writing at all, for fear of telling lies" -- excuse the energetic language; I am quoting, not inventing -- naturally write much less, and so the best gets known.
This is nobody's fault exactly. The home authorities print for the most part what is sent to them. They even call attention sometimes to the less cheerful view of things; and if, yielding occasionally to the pressure which is brought to bear upon them by a public which loves to hear what it likes, they take the sting out of some strong paragraph by adding an editorial "Nevertheless," is it very astonishing?
Do you think we are writing like this because we are discouraged? No, we are not discouraged, except when sometimes we fear lest you should grow weary in prayer before the answer comes. This India is God's India. This work is His. Oh, join with us then, as we join with all our dear Indian brothers and sisters who are alive in the Lord, in waiting upon Him in that intensest form of waiting which waits on till the answer comes; join with us as we pray to the mighty God of revivals, "O Lord, revive Thy work! Revive Thy work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make known!"
 See Appendix, p.303.