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[Jan. PESHAWUR. Iv our readers will look at a map of Asia, we shall be enabled to point out to them a vast area of country where unbroken darkness rests : it is that part of the Asiatic continent which lies between the Euphrates River and the Persian Gulf on the west, and the Indus on the east, and which comprises Persia, Cabul, and Belochistan. These countries are the stronghold of Mahommedanism, and hitherto there has not been the same opportunity for the efforts of the Christian Missionary in these lands as have been found in the dominions of the Porte. They have been as a fortress straitly shut up.
We are disposed to think that this inaccessibility will soon be broken down. God's providence, in a remarkable manner, appears to be working to this end throughout the world; the breaking down of all barriers and hindrances which interfere with the divine declaration, “ This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” It is in connexion with this that we regard with much attention the British expedition to the Persian Gulf. It is not that war, in any form, or in whatever quarter, can be otherwise than a subject of regret. These storms in the political horizon do, however, occur, and, after the hurricane has passed, doors have often been found thrown wide open, which had been firmly closed before.
It will also be interesting to our readers to be reminded that the Church Missionary Society has already passed the Indus, and commenced Missionary efforts at two places—one at Karáchí, near the mouth of that great river; the other at Peshawur, a city lying between the Indus and the entrance into the Khyber Pass, through which the road lies to Cabul. Peshawur once belonged to the Affghan princes, and was taken from them by the Sikhs, on whose subjugation it fell into the hands of the English.
The division of Peshawur, with the adjacent districts, Hazarah and Kohat, contains, besides the city itself, 1891 villages, and a population of 847,695. The population of the city of Peshawur, where our Missionaries are stationed, amounts to 46,000, less by 9. It is situated in a plain, some 35 miles in diameter; and, except for a small space on the east, is surrounded by mountains, which enclose it in a horse-shoe form. Many streams run through the plain, and water the numerous gardens. The houses are built of brick, generally unburnt, in wooden frames. They are commonly three stories high, and the lower story is generally occupied by shops, which exhibit for sale dried fruits, nuts, bread, meat, boots, shoes, saddlery, bales of cloth, hardware, ready-made clothes, &c., the handsomest shops being the fruiterers', where apples, melons, plums, and sometimes oranges, are mixed in piles with Indian fruits. There are also cook-shops, where everything is served in earthen dishes, painted and glazed, so as to look like china. In the streets are people crying greens, curds, &c. There are also men carrying on their backs leather bags full of water, who proclaim their calling by beating on a brazen cup, and for a trifling piece of money give a draught of water. The crowd in the streets is a mixed one indeed. Peshawur people in white turbans and large white or dark-blue frocks, or else in sheep-skin cloaks ; Persians and Affghans in brown woollen tunics or flowing mantles, and caps of black sheep-skin or coloured silk; mountaineers, with straw sandals and wild dress; Hindús, &c.
1857.] SELIM AGA, THE TURKISH CONVERT.
The frontier position of the town, the extreme point of our Indian empire towards the north-west, and abutting on those great Mahommedan countries of Asia of which we have already spoken, render it, as a Missionary station, of great importance. Our Missionaries are brought into communication with men of various nations, some of whom may carry back to their distant homes the seeds of Christian truth and life.
Our Missionary operations are carried on by bazaar preaching, and our school. Our engraving, copied from a photograph, represents the school premises. They were a ruined building, and were granted by the authorities for Missionary purposes. Zeal and skill changed them into what our readers see. The pupils are often not children, but men, and of different nations also-some Persians, others Affghans, who come with a desire to learn English, and to whom our Missionaries have the opportunity of communicating the knowledge which maketh “ wise unto salvation."
SELIM AGA, THE TURKISH CONVERT. In the pages of the interesting periodical, “ The Book and its Missions,"* there is introduced an account of the above convert, which we will endeavour to abbreviate, so that it may find a place in our “ Gleaner.”
Selim Aga is a native of Saloniki, the modern name for the ancient Thessalonica, the second European city in which Paul preached the gospel, where he met with so much of bitter opposition from the Jews, but where he was the instrument of raising up a Christian Church, so faithful and devoted as to be an example to others. It is singular, that, of the modern Saloniki, one-half the population are of the Hebrew race.
Selim Aga, a Turk, and a Mahommedan in religion, carried on a prosperous trade at this his native place.
Some years ago he had a singular dream, in which he saw Mohammed himself, in the character of high-priest at a mosque, but the prophet took not the slightest notice of Selim. He mentioned this dream to a friend of his, a rigid Mussulman, and was told that he would become one day a Christian.
The impression of this dream remained : as he imagined there was no hope for him from the prophet, he resolved to inquire what other religions might do for bim. He obtained a copy of the Psalms, and afterwards of other books of Scripture; and, becoming convinced of the truths they contained, he ceased to go to mosque, to say Mohammedan prayers, or to keep the Ramazan. His habits and principles underwent a thorough change.
He longed from the first to profess his faith publicly, and to be baptized; but the consideration for his wife and for his children, of the ages of seventeen, fourteen, twelve, and one, who would have been torn from him, made him delay for awhile his profession, till he could wind up his affairs and leave Saloniki. Before this took place, his wife, sister, and
on board. Leave, an Enciks. Provides, and top Meyed in safety to be and his family was ready to s
A LETTER TO THE HINDÚ S.
[JAN. a Turkish maid-servant in their family-came over to the truth. They broke off their Mohammedan connexions, and united with him in his new course. They kept the Sabbath-day strictly, and took every opportunity to cultivate the friendship of Christian brethren.
Finding himself exposed to persecution from the pasha and others, so that he could not remain with safety at Saloniki, and being anxious to reach some place where he might openly profess his faith in Jesus, he went to Constantinople, where he was kindly received by the Missionaries. After some time his family followed him. Here he soon became known and watched. In order to remove him from Christian society, he was appointed to a situation many miles distant from Constantinople; and, when he appeared indisposed to go, a public order was sent, enjoining his departure the next day. He well knew that to do so would be to forego the hope of following out his convictions, and to place himself in the power of the fanatical Turks. Providentially, on the very morning that he was to leave, an English steamer was ready to start for Smyrna, on board of which he and his family were kindly received, and conveyed in safety to Smyrna, and from thence succeeded in reaching Malta. There he, his wife, sister-in-law, and her child, were baptized by the Rev. I. Lowndes, agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society for Malta and Greece. Some of his answers to questions proposed to him before his baptism are deeply interesting. When asked why he left Mahommedanism to embrace Christianity, his answer was—“ In the Mahommedan religion there is nothing that affects and interests the heart; but this I found in Christianity." May Paul's prayers for the ancient Thessalonica Christians, of which his epistles to that church are full, be fulfilled again in these new converts !
A LETTER TO THE HINDÚS. At a conference of Christian Missionaries of all denominations, held some months ago at Calcutta, it was resolved to issue a monthly letter in English, copies of which might be forwarded, by post or otherwise, to such natives as are familiar with English. This is the first of the series
ON THE FOLLY OF ADHERING TO BAD CUSTOMS. My dear Friend
When you open this letter, and begin to read it, you will perhaps be ready to say, “Is not this another attempt to persuade me to embrace Christianity? It will, however, be useless, for I will never forsake the religion of my fathers. How can I, a Hindú, give up the customs which have been observed in this country for thousands of years, and adopt a religion comparatively modern, which would oblige me to forsake our national customs ?"
Permit me to make a few observations on this subject of giving up old customs. We do not wish you to give up any good custom, because it is old. We are quite ready to acknowledge that an old custom may
A LETTER TO THE HINDÚS. be a good one; and, if so, we would advise you, by all means, to adhere to it. But do not suppose that every old custom must of necessity be good, so that it would be wrong to forsake it. Distinguish between good and bad customs: adhere to the former, and forsake the latter.
Do not say, It is impossible for Hindús to alter their customs; for Hindús certainly have, of late years, forsaken some old customs, and adopted new ones instead. Consider the changes that have been introduced in the matter of dress and household furniture. How many Babús now have chairs, and tables, and bedsteads in their houses? How many have watches, and wear English-made clothes, although their forefathers knew nothing of all these things? How many Hindús now pursue occupations which had never been heard of in this country until within the last fifty years ? Fifty years ago, there were no printed Bengali books; and now, thousands and thousands appear annually at Calcutta. Fifty years ago, no Hindú ever thought of learning English, and now there are thousands of them who read, and speak, and write it fluently, and twenty years hence there will be lakhs of them. The Hindús have been in the habit, for many generations past, of travelling either by country-boats, or walking, or in palankíns, or on cow-carts ; but now, great changes are introduced even in this matter. Some travel in carriages drawn by horses; some on steamboats; and if you will go and look at the railway that leads from Calcutta to Raneegunje, you will see, every day, hundreds and thousands of Hindús travelling in carriages propelled by steam-engines, although the railway was only opened two years ago. If there was no other proof than this railway, this alone would be quite sufficient to show that Hindús can forsake old customs and adopt new ones.
Perhaps you will say, In the things which have just been mentioned, adherence to the old customs would be very injurious, whilst the adoption of the new customs is clearly advantageous. Very true : this is exactly what we wish to urge—that you should give up all injurious customs, and adopt advantageous ones in their stead. If you forsake some customs that are injurious, why not forsake all? why will you be your own enemy?
Will you say that it would be a reflection upon your fathers to do so ? that it would look as if you thought yourself wiser than they were ? You cannot say this, because you have already adopted many customs which were unknown to them. If you get a watch, instead of guessing the time from the position of the sun, as your fathers. did, is not this, also, like saying that you are either wiser or more fortunate than they were ? But no; by adopting these new customs you do not intend to reflect upon your forefathers at all: you simply maintain your right to forsake that which is injurious, and adopt that which is advantageous to yourself—a right which your fathers, if they loved you, would not dispute.
Perhaps you will say, that, in temporal things, Hindús may forsake old customs, but that they cannot do it in religious things. This again is not correct. About fifty years ago, thousands of infants were thrown into the sea and drowned at the Saugor melá : no one does it now. About thirty years ago, many widows were annually burnt alive with the bodies of their husbands; but now, most people have ceased to remember that