Page images
PDF
EPUB

they were to share it with rather unwelcome visitors, as we had scarcely seated ourselves when Osman Pasha arrived, accompanied by thirty horsemen, on their way from Bagdad to greet the new Pasha of Kharpoot. These gentry made themselves at home without any ceremony, and soon procured forage for their horses and food to satisfy their own hunger, either by fair means or by foul, from the unresisting Curds. Osman Pasha was accommodated with the division of the Aga's tent next to ours, and every attention was lavished upon him, the Aga himself condescending to act as his servant. On hearing that some English gentlemen were in the tent, he sent and requested me to dine with him. It being Ramadan, he was particular not to break his fast by tasting food before the legal hour; and in order to do this, he kept his eyes intently fixed on his watch until the hand traversed the appointed minute. He then ate in good earnest; and after meals, the time of prayer having arrived, waiving all ceremony, he begged me to amuse myself while he performed his devotions. A lesson this, I thought to myself, worthy of being remembered by all Christians.

The Curds at the encampment of Bektash Aga belong to a branch of the large Omanayan tribe, well known in these parts.

(To be continued.)

Correspondence and Documents.

MISSIONARY PROCEEDINGS IN INDIA.

“ Ma per trattar del ben ch' io vi trovai,

Dirò dell'altre cose ch' io v' ho scorte." -- DANTE.

LETTER XII.

TENDENCY OF DEISM.

MY DEAR

I see that in No. XXIX. of the “ Colonial Church Chronicle,” you have gained insertion for my crude ideas on the question of The Intellectual Character of Modern Missionary Operations.I wish you had had something better on the subject; but seeing you have published that letter, I send you now some reflections on the other topic propounded in the first of my letters which you published, viz., on the question, Does Deism tend to Belief or to Unbelief?” I do so, not from any conceit in them, but in the hope that they may suggest something better to others more able than myself to deal with the subject. You will see, at a glance, that they are mere aitooxediáo uata, requiring some joints and hinges to be worked in.—“ Valeant quantum.”

The question is——“Does Deism tend to Belief, or to Unbelief?” On which I remark as follows:

There is, perhaps, no axiom more generally received in India than this,—that Deism is a step in advance from Idolatry towards Christianity. When it is objected that the schemes for the education of the natives, now so rife and extensive, tend to produce but a race of Deists at the best, it is very commonly replied, that these Deists will, or may—or, at any rate, that their children will, or may-embrace Christianity; that Deists are more hopeful characters for the preacher of the Gospel than Idolaters. The fact that the progress of Missions, such as it is, has been in the conversion of the Idolaters in rude rural districts, and that scarcely a convert has been gained from the ranks of the infidel progeny of the education schemes, is wholly ignored, and the axiom doggedly repeated that Deism tends to Christianity. It is purposed, in the following pages, then, to deal with this abstract question, “ Does Deism tend to Belief, or to Unbelief ?”

Let me begin by defining our terms. By belief, then, I mean the reception of the Christian faith ; by unbelief, I mean the rejection of it; and by the Christian faith, I mean, concisely, the Apostles' Creed. And as this may be considered as consisting of two great divisions, viz. 1. The doctrine of the ever Blessed Trinity in Unity, and the doctrine of the Church as resulting from that, I may yet further simplify the term, and say, without any disparagement to, or diminution of its idea, that Christian faith is, kar' étoxò, faith in the Ever Blessed Trinity ; whereupon the question before us resolves itself into the following equivalent, but more simple expression, viz.-Does Deism tend to the reception or to the rejection of the doctrine of the Ever Blessed Trinity ?

But what is to be understood by Deism ?

What is Deism ? Is Unitarianism Deism ? Is Socinianism Deism ? Is Mahommedanism Deism ? One can hardly say that they are severally simple Deism ; and yet it surely cannot be denied that they are,

; severally, forms of Deism, being, in all three cases, Deism, with the doctrine of a Revelation superadded—a revelation of a certain economy; whereas the Deism with which we have now to deal, seems to be a socalled acknowledgment of a God, without the recognition of a Revelation from Him. All the three above-named forms of misbelief admit, in the main, the genuineness of the Bible, and in the right and the fancied light of their private judgment, make of it what they please. Ignoring the second division of the Creed, viz., the doctrine of the Church, they make what they please of the first part, the doctrine of God.

Since, however, they do so far receive the Bible, and do acknowledge a Revelation, one cannot set down either Unitarianism, or Socinianism, or Mahommedanism, as the same with the simple Deism with which we have to deal. This, as it is now met with, means, I apprehend, the belief in a God without belief in a Revelation from

a

a

God, of Himself, His lans, or His providence. Such seems to be the distinctive feature of the Deism now resulting from the un-religious education of the Heathen around us in India. That another-and that, it is submitted, a more hopeful-form of Deism is conceivable, and has existed, I shall have occasion to show before concluding ; but, for the present, the above is the Deism to be dealt with.

Does this, then, tend to a reception of the doctrine of the Ever Blessed Trinity in Unity, or does it not?

First-does it logically tend to it?
Secondly-does it morally tend to it?

I conceive that it cannot logically tend to it, for this one obvious reason, viz., that the truths constituting the doctrine of the Trinity are pre-eminently of the character of first truths; above, because prior to, all logic; matters to be received and believed, but not to be reasoned out, and so essentially matters of Revelation. But this Deism rejects all Revelation. Wherefore, the first of these two questions may be set aside, at once and for all, as far as our present subject is concerned.

If it be said hereupon, but the doctrine of only One God opens the way to the well-known argument, that if so, then it is most probable that He should have given a revelation of Himself—the reply is obvious, that, be it so, still we are not thereby a whit in advance of the Heathenism which assumes revelations, however false and absurd.

But-Does Deism morally tend to the reception of the Doctrine of the Trinity ?

This is a question which, I submit, can be answered only from experience. Is any one, then, prepared to show that the history of the Deism in question, or even of Deism in the general, proves such to be its moral tendency? Is the Deist's heart found, practically, to be a better soil than the Idolater's for the implanting of Gospel truth?

Hereupon, however, an objection may be urged as obvious. It may be said-Two cases are not to be confounded. And there are two cases of even the kind of Deism to which you for the present profess to restrict your argument. There is the case of the man who has passed from Christianity to this Deism, or, at any rate, has grown up in, or into it, amid the light of the Gospel, although he himself never received that Gospel.

And there is the case, apparently very different, of the man who has passed from Idolatry, or any form of Heathenism, into this Deism.

The first mentioned may be, nay, most likely always will be, and possibly must be, a very unpromising--an almost hopeless case ; because it has been attended with, if not the wilful abuse of gifts, hiding of talents, or rejection of privileges, yet with the neglect of them. But the latter may surely be considered a hopeful case.

He that, not having had the opportunity of learning the Gospel, is yet not an Idolater, nor a Polytheist, nor an Atheist, but a Deist, even the modern Deist you speak of, has, at all events, this one fundamental truth to start with, to be worked upon-the doctrine of One God.

answer.

Now, as we have known this distinction to be thus urged, despite the definition of our terms which would seem to preclude it, we will try to deal with it as though we were fairly open to it.

Admitting, then, the distinction as a real one in itself, we find the two following questions to demand answers.

First–Does Deism, under the conditions first mentioned, morally tend to a reception of the Doctrine of the Trinity, or does it not?

The cases of Socinianism and Unitarianism would seem to indicate the sufficient reply, both being forms of Deism that have grown up in modern times among Christian nations, in the face of established Churches, and are so perpetuated. They are instances of the thing,

. and of its hopelessness. Mahommedanism, however, which was but just now coupled with these, seems to require a somewhat different

For, though its first rise was, in many respects, and in many countries, parallel to that of Socinianism and Unitarianism as to the conditions above specified, it has long ceased to be so by the virtual, and, indeed, in many places, literal and total, extinction of Christianity ; so that it now has no longer that witness against itself where it has so prevailed. In other parts of the world, again, it has never been so in collision with Christianity, but has overthrown Idolatry, and supplanted Polytheism. And is not this a gain?-it

? may be asked. The question becomes, then, yet further complicated in respect of Mahommedanism ; and, before entering on it, I will attempt to dispose of the second form of the question as it is now before us, viz. ;-Does the Deism of our day, if it have been (not a growth out of, or in defiance of Christianity, but) a growth out of Idolatry, or Polytheism,-does this Deism morally tend to belief or to unbelief ?

Here, again, I submit, the appeal must be to experience. Will, then, those who have been, or who are, engaged in the Missionary calling, attest that the inculcation of the doctrine of the Trinity has had or has greater success among those who have been reasoned or educated out of Idolatry or Polytheism into the Deism we speak of, than among the ignorant and superstitious Idolaters and Polytheists?

Who the more readily believe upon hearing? Among whom do we find faith come by hearing? Among the un-religiously educated Hindoos, taught to think for themselves, having access to English literature and western science, all the wisdom (copia) of the European world, or among the ignorant superstitious ryuts, not able to even read or write ?

What other inference than the one now pointed to is to be drawn from the fact of the success of the plain preaching of the Gospel to the poor of this world in the districts of Barripûr, Tallygunge, Kishnaghur, and Tinnevelly, and its non-success amid the education and enlightenment of Calcutta?

If the hindrance where the latter is found be not in the Deism which is avowedly generated along with it, if not by it, then one must fear that there is something exceedingly faulty in the Missionary method of our day which seems so powerless in this case, whatever

success it may be blessed with—as we thankfully believe it to be-in the other. Either the wisdom of this world is too strong for the wisdom that is from abore, or we have yet to learn how to make this bear effectually on that. Judging by the present aspect of things, experience is, then, against the position that even by educating Hindoos into Deists, you increase the probability of their conversion to the true faith-that Deism tends to belief rather than to unbelief.

What makes the case worse, is, that the mere fact of their undergoing that process at the hands of Christians, puts them, perforce, and of itself, very much in the case which was above laid down as that of the Socinian, Unitarian, and Mahommedan.

And here the particular case of Mahommedanism, which a little way back, under the new aspect of the question, was excepted from the sentence of Unitarianism and Socinianism, seems to come in and furnish an argument in support of our present position,—and that, too, an argument

66 à fortiori." Mahommedanism was exempted from the same sentence with Unitarianism and Socinianism, on the ground, that, whatever may have been the case at its first rise, it no longer, at least in very many places of the earth, exists in collision with, and in defiance of, Christianity. And in others it has never at all come into conflict with it, as in the case of the Heathen tribes, which it has converted from Heathenism to itself, i. e. to Deism ; and that Deism, with belief in a Revelation, and even an acknowledgment, after a sort, of the true Revelation which we have.

Forster observes, and it is thought by many, shows, that Mahommedanism has been notoriously successful in winning idolatrous nations to itself. Yet, has it not itself proved hitherto the most impenetrable of all systems to the preaching of the Gospel ? although—and this, I submit, is remarkable in respect of our subject—although it acknowledges our Scriptures in the main, and contains some great doctrines of Christianity explicitly, and others implicitly.

How, then, are we to account for the fact that this form of Deism, when it has reformed Idolaters to Deists, renders them more impenetrable to the truth-as far as experience goes—than sheer Idolaters

are ?

Such being, as far as I can see, the result of a transition from Heathenism to Mahommedanism, what is the conclusion indicated as to the moral tendency of a transition from Idolatry or Polytheism to Deism of any kind ?-above all, to the Deism of this our day in India, which commonly rejects Revelation altogether, both the fact and the idea of one : has no outward acknowledgment of God: no public acknowledgment of the need of an atonement, such as all (even Heathen) sacrifice is : no acknowledgment of the need of a Mediator between God and man ;-—such as is, if not kept up, yet involved by every order of priesthood under every creed, however in other respects debased and faulty: nor any doctrine of a judgment to come, resulting necessarily from those of the need of an atonement, and of a ministry of mediation, whether by one mediator, or by many.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »