Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

murks. Such to those Whave wiselya ken them to in

1857.]
FAKÍRS IN INDIA.

11 been moved by the expectation, that if they were formed, according to the privileges granted by the recent firman of the Sultan, into a Protestant community, they would escape the exactions of their oppressors, the Turks. Such a movement the Missionaries, aware how uncertain and hurtful, to those who make it, is a profession grounded on mere temporal motives, have wisely discouraged, while, at the same time, they anxiously seek to awaken them to a sense of spiritual need, and a desire for the salvation which is in Christ. The first difficulty is the language, as the work of instruction must be carried on in Turkish; and faithful men, who can effectively use that language, are few in number. Were it the Armenian language, the case would be altogether different. There are many of that nation who experimentally know the truth as it is in Jesus; but there are not many of them who are good Turkish scholars. Two young men, however, have been selected, and sent amongst them. They went forth, after the manner of the seventy, on foot, and taking no money with them, in order that it might be seen whether they would be well received for the sake of the message which they brought with them. After an absence of ten days, they returned, having visited sixteen villages, at all of which they had met with hospitality and kindness, the people listening to the reading of the Scriptures, and giving an outward assent to the truths which were placed before them. Everywhere men wished to know what they expected to get in return for the gospel which they read and preached, and could not comprehend their doing it freely. When they come to understand, as we trust they will, the free gift of God to man, they will be enabled to understand how there can be free love from man to man.

FAKÍRS IN INDIA. There is no class of persons under the sun more deserving of human sympathy and Christian prayers than the fakírs in India. The word fakir is used in two different senses. The first represents seclusion from the world, and the second is synonymous with the English word beggar. To both classes is applied the word yogis, from yog, signifying devotion. Sometimes they receive the appellation “sitters in a corner,gymnophists, or naked philosophers. It is their religious views and acts, principally, from which they derive their notoriety. They profess entire contempt of life and the world. Not satisfied with rejecting luxury, they inflict upon themselves penance, and covet all manner of trials and self-denial. Their avowed object is to divest themselves of every human passion, and detach the feelings from every means of pleasure and gratification. Whilst some prefer to spend their days in solitude, amid the great jungles inhabited by wild beasts, and sometimes by still wilder men, others, more degraded if possible, roll their naked skeleton forms in the dust and offal of the streets of cities, and on the highways, throughout the whole land. Some dwell among the tombs of the dead, cutting and lacerating their bodies with stone, as in the days of our Saviour : others

12
FAKÍRS IN INDIA.

TJAN. betake themselves to long pilgrimages, and no persuasion can deter them from executing their purpose. Many of these persons give undeniable testimony of insanity; but, strange as it may appear, they are permitted to wander about every large city, with scarce a hand's-breadth of clothing to cover their loathsome bodies. By the lower castes they are extolled for their meritorious acts, and are considered the most holy and virtuous of God's creatures. They would not dare to oppose their will in the least matter : if they did, they think surely the most dire calamities would inevitably follow. Both classes live principally on charity, and their clamour and entreaties for money meet you everywhere.

It would be impossible to give any thing like a correct estimate of the number of these devotees; yet I think I may safely say, without the fear of contradiction, that there are many thousands. It is difficult to conceive of a more shocking or humiliating spectacle than these poor deluded souls present in their acts of worship. Some expose themselves for days, naked, to the rays of the sun, which in this tropical climate are very powerful and unhealthy. Others, not contented with what nature has done for their ease as well as their comfort, hold one or both arms in an upright position, until the muscles become stiffened, and it is impossible to restore the limb to its proper position. Some sit in one posture until their limbs lose their power, and they are maimed for life. Others besmear their bodies with the most filthy offal, and clot their hair with the excrement of the cow. Some go almost naked, in order to show that they have subdued their passions, and have no reason to be ashamed. Others, with their great propensities to make beasts of themselves, are clothed in tiger skins, or have their bodies tattooed to resemble that animal, to show that they reside chiefly in the jungles. Some abstain from food until they become frightful moving skeletons; others must drink their water from a human skull; with many more acts too revolting to be recorded. Even women are to be found among these misanthropic mendicants, and present even a more degraded spectacle than the men. There is every reason to believe that these unfortunate outcasts are often really sincere in what they do, and that they really consider this the only sure path to eternal bliss.

I fear but little can be done directly to better the condition of this class, owing, in part, to their seclusion, and besotted ignorance of every thing reasonable ; yet we have every reason to believe, judging from the past, that their numbers will gradually decrease as the light increases.

Oh, that the Lord would cause His people in Christian lands to realize the corruption and the self-debasing practices of thousands of their fellow creatures; that they are dying of hunger, whilst there is bread enough, and to spare, in our Father's house above-for then might we expect a cheerful and universal response to the many entreaties sent forth from this land. Let us hope- let us work-let us pray, remembering what God has promised—“Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession."*

A. O. JOHNSON.

*“The Foreign Missionary” (New York) Oct. 1856, pp. 146, 147.

A HOPEFUL EFFORT.-BING-00, CHINA. CHRISTIAN men are observing the efforts which are being made to introduce the gospel to the Chinese, with the solicitude of a physician as he administers medicine to a patient suffering under

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed]

“I CREPT LIKE A THIEF INTO MY NEW AND STRANGE QUARTERS."-Vide p. 15.

Vol. VII. NEW SERIES.

14

A HOPEFUL EFFORT.-BING-00, CHINA.

FEB. dangerous disease. China is in a diseased state. “ The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.” Their heathenism, dark and cold, because, amidst its gloom, God is altogether forgotten and lost sight of, shuts them up in much misery. But to this is now added the vice of opium-smoking, which, amidst the inhabitants of the seaboard cities, has spread fearfully, besides the mischief going on in the interior, which it is impossible fully to calculate. This vice, as our readers are aware, brings upon those who indulge in it fearful calamities. Every vice brings with it more or less of suffering, as a foretaste of worse sufferings beyond the grave, unless it be repented of.

For this and all the other evils which afflict this great empire, there is one true corrective—the gospel of Christ; and this Missionaries of various denominations are earnestly endeavouring to introduce among the Chinese. Latterly, their opportunities of intercourse with them, and of doing them good, have much increased. They can use the language more effectively, they have been enabled to journey further into the interior, to visit new towns and cities, and have been well received by the people.

As facilities for travelling have increased, our Missionaries have been anxious, not merely to pay occasional visits, but to take up some eligible places, where nothing has been yet attempted in the way of evangelization, and thus spread abroad throughout the land, instead of remaining cooped up at the free ports. In Shanghae, for instance, there are many Missionaries, belonging to different Societies. Looking abroad on the destitution of the country, we cannot be surprised if they have felt anxious to push onward ; and an attempt of this kind has been made by our own Missionary, the Rev. J. S. Burdon, the particulars of which have been thus related by him

I have been enabled, by the Lord's blessing, to effect an entrance into one city, in the way I have been so long desiring to do. To-day, September 30th, I have been nearly a fortnight residing in my own hired room, only a few hundred yards outside the gate of a city containing, with its suburbs, somewhere about 100,000 souls. The name of the city is Bing-oo : it lies to the south-west of Shanghae, from which it is distant about seventy miles. The dialect, though differing from that of Shanghae, is intelligible, and will become more so to me as I mingle with its people. They, of course, have no difficulty in understanding the Shanghae dialect. It is in the province of Che-keang. Its situation is very pleasing, and, I hope, healthy, and its people seem, on the whole, very well disposed. But I must now give you some account of how I have been permitted to gain a footing amongst them, and to live, so far, without molestation, either by the people or the authorities.

I have already mentioned to you, that one of our church members was employed in the service of the Bible Society as colporteur. I thought it would be well to use him as a pioneer, and to try if he could not prepare the way for my obtaining a footing in some place when the cool weather began.

[ocr errors]

1857.1 A HOPEFUL EFFORT.-—BING-00, CHINA.

15 But I need not here repeat how difficult we have all found this in China. Only two or three years ago, moving up and down the country in boats, preaching and distributing the word of God, was thought to be doing a great thing; and as to tbe idea of living in a village, or near a large city, in a foreign dress, it never, I suppose, entered the mind of any one amongst us. This latter has, however, lately begun to be tried by Protestant Missionaries, dressed in the Chinese costume; but it cannot be said to have succeeded. Mr. Taylor was driven from Dzoong Ming about a year ago, and Mr. Edkins, whom I mentioned in a former part of this letter, was obliged to return to Shanghae a few weeks after Mr. Aitchison and myself.

Where we have delicate ground to walk upon, we must tread warily and softly; and therefore, in July last, the colporteur was sent by us to this city of Bing-oo, prior to my going, which, from its situation, its size, its importance, was thought a good place to try the experiment at. I told him to hire a room for himself, and at the same time to keep in view the opening the way for me. He went in July; in August was settled in his new apartment; and in September, as the weather began to cool, I determined to follow, to see what could be done. I left Shanghae on the 16th of September, in the same boat that I used all last winter, which turned up again for me just in the right time, and arrived here on the morning of the following day, after an extraordinarily quick passage. On arriving, I found out the colporteur, and consulted with him as to what was to be done. He very soon introduced me to his landlord. The room he had hired for himself was certainly a very miserable one; small, damp, dark, with a brick floor which had been probably new and clean some day, in generations gone by, with his bed in one corner, consisting of his matting placed on a door-leaf, a table with a few books on, and a chair or two. I thought I could hardly manage to carry out my original idea of taking possession of his room, and sending him on board my boat. I asked the landlord what was to be done, for I wanted to live on shore. He said he had a house in a quieter part of the place, that he would take me to see. We went, but it was almost as bad as the one that I have attempted to describe. However, the terms were all agreed to, and I was to take possession in a day or two; but he afterwards found there was a serious difficulty in the way, for a person was lying dangerously ill in the house, and she could not be removed on such short notice. I told him, then, that he must manage the matter another way, for I would not take the place; for fear, if any thing happened to the sick person, a still greater prejudice would be formed in the minds of the people against me, and, as a consequence, against my message. He then offered me the room over the one the colporteur had been occupying; and, as this was the very thing I had been wanting, the matter was soon settled. He asked a very trifling sum for the first month, and agreed to settle about the rent, &c., at the end of that time, if all things went on peaceably.

On the 19th, the second night after my arrival, and the second day of my fourth year in China, I crept like a thief into my new and strange quarters, and have, till now, remained in them without any inquiry from the authorities, or molestation by the people. I say I crept into my quarters, for I shall not easily forget the way in which I was ushered

« AnteriorContinuar »