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Things As They Are

From Rev. D. Downie, D.D., American Baptist Mission, Nizam’s Dominions, S. India.


I have felt for many years that we missionaries were far too prone to dwell on what is called the “bright side of mission work.” That it has a bright side no one can question. That it has a “dark” side some do question; but I for one, after thirty years of experience, know it to be just as true as the bright side is true. I have heard Miss Carmichael’s book denounced as “pessimistic.” Just what is meant by that I am not quite sure; but if it means that what she has written is untrue, then I am prepared to say that it is NOT pessimistic, for there is not a line of it that cannot be duplicated in this Telugu Mission. That she has painted a dark picture of Hindu life cannot be denied, but, since it is every word true, I rejoice that she had the courage to do what was so much needed, and yet what so many of us shrank from doing, “lest it should injure the cause.”

Most of the chapters are concerned with the lives of Heathen men and women and children surrounded by the tremendous bars and gates of the Caste system. But one chapter, and not the least important one, tells of native Christians. It has long been one of my own objects to correct the curious general impression among people at home that native Christians, as a body, are—not indeed perfect,—no one thinks that, but—earnest and consistent followers of Christ. Narratives, true narratives, of true converts are read, and these are supposed to be specimens of the whole body. But (1) where there have been “mass movements” towards Christianity, where whole villages have put themselves under Christian instruction, mixed motives are certain; (2) where there have been two or three generations of Christians it is unreasonable to expect the descendants of men who may have been themselves most true converts to be necessarily like them. Hereditary Christianity in India is much like hereditary Christianity at home. The Church in Tinnevelly, of which this book incidentally tells a little, is marked by both these features. Whole families or even villages have “come over” at times; and the large majority of the Christians were (so to speak) born Christians, and were baptized in infancy. This is not in itself a result to be despised. “Christian England,” unchristian as a great part of its population really is, is better than Heathen India; and in the chapter now referred to, Miss Carmichael herself notices the difference between a Hindu and a Christian[xi] village. But the more widely Christianity spreads, the more will there assuredly be of mere nominal profession.




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