« PreviousContinue »
De Nobili studied thoroughly the language, customs, philosophy, and religion of the Hindus; and, with the approbation of his Provincial, and the benediction of the Archbishop of Cranganore, he proceeded to put in practice the plan he had devised. Avoiding the society of Europeans, he adopted the customs and the dress of the Brahmins ; declared himself of an illustrious caste; assumed the name of Tattuva Podaga Swami, or, “ Teacher of the Divine Attributes;" and, by adapting himself to the prejudices and traditions of the people, he soon acquired their reverence and respectful attention. By such means, De Nobili was wonderfully successful in ingrafting an outward profession of Christianity upon the stock of heathenism : in a short time, seventy Brahmins had been baptized, and become followers of the new Guru. In spite of the expressed disapprobation of many influential members of his own Church, and “a letter full of reproaches” from his uncle the cardinal, le still persisted in the plan he had entered on; and after having, according to some authorities, converted nearly one hundred thousand persons to the faith, he died, “ venerated as a saint, at the age of seventy-six.”
Stimulated by this extraordinary example, Beschi, on mature consideration, determined to pursue the same method. He studied the languages, science, and religion of the people; familiarized himself with their modes of thought; entered into their prejudices ; and, after full preparation, assuming the name of Viramāmuni, he adopted their habits, and imitated their customs and costume. As regards the latter, well knowing the influence of outward impressions on simple minds, he affected a showy and imposing magnificence. His dress was of a light purple colour, with a waistband of the same ; his turban was white, veiled with purple ; embroidered Turkish slippers covered his feet ; in his hand he carried a long cane, which aided him in displaying a mysterious ring, composed of five metals, which he wore upon his finger. His ear-rings, of rubies and pearls, were beautiful and custly. When he travelled, his palanquin was preceded by a man bearing an umbrella of purple silk, surmounted by a golden ball; while at each side ran men with magnificent fans of peacocks' feathers. The holy man reclined, in the midst of all this splendour, upon a tiger's skin, remarkable for its beauty ; which, when he alighted, was placed upon the ground for
him to sit upon.
Beschi was very highly skilled as a linguist. In addition to Italian, his mother tongue, he had mastered Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, and French ; and, of the Oriental languages, he was learned also in the Sanserit, Tamil, Teloogoo, Hindustani, and Persian. The two latter he is stated to have acquired in the short space of three months, for the express purpose of obtaining an interview with Chunda Saib, the Nabob; who was So astonished at his genius, that he presented him with a palanquin; bestowed on him the name of Ismatti Sunnyasi ; and gave him for his maintenance the four villages, Bakalum, Malwai, Arasur, and Nullur, in the Trichinopoly district, which yielded a revenue of twelve thousand rupees per annum. In addition, the Nabob made him his Dewan, or Prime Minister. In this character Beschi occasionally made official journeys, on which occasions he rode a white or black horse, richly caparisoned, and was accompanied by men with silver staves, an escort of thirty horsemen, camels, drums, fifes, elephants bearing his tents, &c., &c. Inconsistent as all this worldly magnificence was with the humble character of a Christian Missionary, Beschi's indefatigable energies enabled him to render it conducive to the end he had in view. He was always liberal to the poor; attentive to the education of youth ; and most ready to promote the temporal welfare of his dependents,
REVIVALS, ANCIENT AND MODERN.* To judge of revivals, or, rather, to gather the information necessary for such a judgment, a survey of a very large range of facts is necessary, in connexion with a deep study of the physical, mental, and moral laws of human nature. Other religious excitements, beyond those which are called evangelical, should be examined. Comparisons should be made between outbursts of religious feeling outside what we consider to be the church, and those which have occurred inside. A rigorous examination of parallel facts should be entered into.. They should be placed side by side, and their resemblances carefully ticked off. What is mere excitement, or worse, must be thrown away; and only the spiritual results, attributable to truth and the Spirit of God, must be accepted with honour, and extolled to the glory of Divine grace.
Immense has been the range of religious excitement. I once thought of indicating those which lie more or less distant from such as good people generally include under the name of revivals ; running them over from the Budhist to the Monastic-from the dancing Dervish to the Welsh Jumper. But time and space forbid. I will take only one instance.
Amidst the alarms which prevailed in the North of Italy in 1400, people were suddenly seized with a desire to go on religious pilgrimage. They dressed in white. They journeyed forth, usually for ten days, living all the time on bread and water. The excitement was said to descend from the Alps to Lombardy, and then to spread over the Italian peninsula. The people of Lucca came in a body to Florence. The citizens forsook trades and politics, crowded the marble churches, and then joined the pilgrim bands. “During the two months that this devotion lasted, war was never thought of; but no sooner had it passed away, than the people resumed their arms, and the previous state of agitation was renewed.”
There, and elsewhere, in the Middle Ages, was deep religious fervour, calling people away from their business, leading them to gather together
* From a publication, bearing this title, by Mr. Stoughton, of Kensington. We gladly insert these paragraphs, as representing the views of an able, thoughtful, and truly Christian friend, who looks at the question from a point somewhat different —though, happily, not far remote-from our own. The foot-notes are now added.EDITOR,
in large assemblies, and to spend much time in what they called devout exercises. I do not say there was no good, even in this excitement. I think there was ; but it is not what we should pronounce a revival. Consequently, neither does an equal amount of religious feeling, detaching men from secular occupations, and even inducing them to think of the wrath of God against sin, and of the approaching end of the world, constitute a revival. Some considerable amount of like excitement—that of fear, of terror at the thought of death—10 doubt occurred in connexion with what took place in London during the Plague year. Then, as now, such fear might be preparatory to love. The still small voice might follow. But then, as now, there might be a great and strong wind reading the mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks, and the Lord not be in the wind,an earthquake, and the Lord not in the earthquake,-a fire, and the Lord not in the fire. In some of the American revivals, preachers have indulged in the terrific to an extent perfectly unjustifiable. The effects have been according to the instrumentality. They have sown the wind, and reaped the whirlwind. Justly said Dr. Beecher, during the revival of 1828 : “I have not found mere terror do much, either as the means of awakening men, or of producing submission. It is the law in the hands of a Mediator -the uplifted sword of justice, while the Saviour invites, and entreats, and draws with the bands of love-which alarms, convinces of sin, and subduos the heart." *
Fanaticism in connexion with the excitements of false religions, and of the Roman Catholic Church, we unsparingly condemn. We must not be less severe against funaticism when it appears along with evangelical revivals. We must not censure the doings of Mendicant Friars in the Middle Ages, when, by noisy and terrific preaching, they gathered crowds around them, or put down as fanatical the raving of priests in Italian churches, who, for the time, make wonderful impression on their hearers,--and then estol, or even excuse, boisterous declamation on very crude and partial views of the Gospel, calculated to call forth a shriek or a sigh, and to leave the soul afterwards ignorant of the chief end of the Lord's mission.
Methods of preaching, of conversation, and of writing, have been adopted at times of revival, and are always at such times likely to be so, which are, to my mind, very exceptionable. I allude to one-sided views of salration. There is, alas ! as in some quarters, a sad neglect of that side of salvation which consists in pardon, justification, acceptance, adoption, peace. But the danger on that side dues not belong to times of revival. The other, the moral side, that which consists in personal spiritual goodness,-is in danger of being forgotten. When souls are shaken with terror under alarming appeals, and cry out, “ What must we do to be saved ?” we are likely to think more of the way to comfort and peace, than of the way to holiness and Christ-like living. We run a risk of falling into the notion that the Gospel is meant mainly to soothe the conscience, to pacify the spirit; whereas its highest end is to renew the soul in righteousness, and
* This is a matter for careful scrutiny in the light of facts.
to make it good-good like God. It is not a true revival which ends in merely giving men peace. That only is a true revival which ends in making men good. *
The truth being maintained, -the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,—the manner of exhibiting it is of minor moment. Each man must be left, under God, to his own genius and the impulses of his own mind; and, while preachers follow their own bent, people will follow their own cravings. What seems coarse to one will be refined enough for another; what may shock my sensibilities may only wake to healthful attention my next-door neighbour; what to the educated and accomplished is becoming may to the rougher sort be tame, spiritless, insipid. I have done finding fault with the manner of preaching, if only the truth be proclaimed. Let not the silver cup look with disdain on the iron pot, por the iron pot rudely bruise the silver cup. There is use for both in the “great house" of our common Master.
As to certain paraphernalia of revivals-such as “anxious pews," and the like,—and certain proceedings in some quarters, such as calling people out to give some public visible sign that they seek peace or have found it, or praying for individuals by name, and entering into particulars about their character and history,-I must say that to my mind such things seem adapted to promote unhealthy excitement, and to foster false notions of religion, as if it were a matter of momentary feeling, rather than of intelligent and lasting principle. I do not see how they can minister to the final and grand end of all revivals, which is to make men good.+
I now come to a vexed question,—that of the pathological phenomena of revivals, the physical convulsions, especially the "striking down,” we have heard of so often in connexion with Irish excitements.
I have endeavoured carefully to collect and arrange the leading facts bearing on the question of physical manifestations ; and I must now dis
* True. But the former is the way to the latter.“ The grace of God, that bringeth salvation,” accomplishes what no scheme of ethics could ever profess to do;" teaching us to “live soberly, righteously, and godly." In beautiful accord with this, it is " the very God of peace " whom an apostle invokes to “sanctify” us “wholly ;" yea, to “make" us “ perfect in every good work to do His will, working in "us" that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ,” (1 Thess, v. 23; Heb. xiii. 21.)
+ Stop a little. Let us consider what all this implies, and meanwhile hold our judgment in suspense. On the one hand, anything that brings a man to religious decision must be of unspeakable value in the particular case. On the other hand, anything that encumbers the way of salvation, or fosters low views of Christianity, or fixes the sole attention on the work of an hour, or of a day, is not to be admitted. The last of these particulars recalls the language of our wise Methodist fathers :
“Who of us is now accepted of God ? He that now believes in Christ, with a loving, obedient heart....... Does not talking of a justified or a sanctified state tend to mislead men ? almost naturally leading them to trust in what was done in one moment ? whereas, we are every hour and every moment pleasing or displeasing to God, according to our works ; ' according to the whole of our inward tempers, and our outward behaviour.” (Minutes of Conference, 1770.)
tinctly state, that I cannot see the slightest ground whatever for attributing them to the operation of the Spirit of God. To exalt them to a miraculous position—to bring them into comparison with the early wonders of the Gospel
, to which they are totally dissimilar-is, in my mind, seriously to entangle and perplex the Christian evidence derived from miracles, and seriously to injure the cause of truth. Nor can I, for a moment, ascribe them, as some have seemed to do, to demoniacal possessions, in any sense. Their connexion and effects are entirely irreconcilable with that theory. That there are natural causes at the bottom, I have no doubt; by which I mean, causes in harmony with our physical, and mental, and spiritual constitution. A satisfactory explanation of them I have never seen. Medical men learnedly tell us of " hysteria, regular and irregular ;” of “morbid conditions of the emotional nature, seeking for outlets ;” of “pent-up forces producing paroxysmal fits ;” and the like. They leave the matter enveloped in mystery. The more I reflect on the history of human nature, the more I am convinced that at present it is but partially understood. Physiologists have not explored all, nor nearly all, which it comprehends. There is in it -as, no doubt, there is still in other realms of nature—occult power. Electricity was occult till discovered. Is electricity the last discovery man will ever make ? A large number of facts relating to human naturedreams, trances, nervous diseases, sympathize, &c.--rest on occult laws. I assign such physical phenomena as we have glanced at to that general class. The principles at the foundation of them are natural ; but then nature awaits discovery and explanation. But, while I take this view of the subject, I by no means sympathize with anti-revivalists, who imagine that when they have resolved the physical convulsions into natural causes they have disposed of the whole case. I look upon these facts as, for the most part, lying outside the great spiritual revival realm ; but when they do enter it, I have no doubt that He who is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in working” subordinates laws, to us occult, but to Him known, so that they minister to His own gracious purposes.
And all these things I have said about objectionable accompaniments to revivals, not only that you may be warned against what we should all avoid and discourage, but in order that it may be seen I have striven to be thoroughly honest and impartial in my investigation of the subject. And my purpose in so doing has further been, to give some character and force to the opinion I would now deliberately and solemnly express,-that the history of revivals, with all their objectionable accessories, with whatever of drawback they may present, is a series of Divine and gracious manifestations, before which Christians ought to bow with reverence, and in which they should rejoice with exceeding joy. The earlier, as well as the later, have their circumstances of evil; and the later, as well as the earlier, have their evidences of good. Of a real work of God most signally
* Have these strange things been permitted, in order to compel (as it were) the attention of the outside world?