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Notice of the Abbé's representation, that no genuine Converts have been made from among the Hindoos.
In the very first page of his book, the Abbé begins to develop the scepticism of his mind, as to the sincerity of Hindoo converts, by the manner in which he proposes his primary question. "Is there a possibility," says he, "of making real converts to Christianity among the natives in India ?"
In the third page of the work, he represents the Catholic missionary, Xavier, as disheartened by the "apparent impossibility of making real converts," and consequently "leaving the country in disgust."
He afterwards thus enlarges on the subject:"From this short general sketch of the several missions in the Peninsula, you will perceive that
the number of Neophites, although reduced to no more than a third of what it was about seventy years ago, is yet considerable; and it would afford some consolation, if at least a due proportion amongst them were real and unfeigned Christians. But, alas! this is far from being the case; the greater, the by far greater number exhibit nothing but a vain phantom, an empty shade of Christianity. In fact, during a period of twentyfive years that I have familiarly conversed with them, lived among them, as their religious teacher and spiritual guide, I would hardly dare to affirm that I have any where met a sincere and undisguised Christian." (pp. 62, 63.)
The preceding paragraphs, and other passages in the Abbé's book of a corresponding complexion, are plainly written for the purpose of exciting a doubt in the reader's mind, whether any genuine converts have been made among the Hindoos.
To counteract the evil tendency of the author's representation, I would in the first place remark, that he, being a Roman Catholic, has of necessity moved principally among those of his own communion; and to them I apprehend he particularly refers. Now the Protestant reader will not be greatly surprised if, after the representations the Abbé himself has given of the
practices of the Roman Catholic missionaries, the Romish church should have few, if any, heathen converts to boast of, as brilliant ornaments to the religion they have espoused. Nor will he marvel that many of them should act inconsistently with a profession of Christianity.
In the next place, the reader, of whatever denomination, will see the propriety of refusing credit to any representations or insinuations the author of the letters might make respecting converts in Bengal, because the great distance from that province at which he lived has of necessity precluded the possibility of his being a competent witness respecting them; and this one thing is plain, that the inconsistent conduct of Roman Catholic, or other professed Christians, dwelling in the south of India, cannot affect the reputation of converts obtained in other districts, at a distance from southern India of from five hundred to a thousand miles. Their character must stand or fall by the testimony of persons who have lived amongst them.
I humbly submit that, respecting missionary transactions in Bengal, my own statements are entitled to attention above that of the Abbé Dubois-for this plain reason, that I can speak of them as an eye-witness, and he cannot. My own testimony to the reality of Hindoo conver
sions in that district of India wherein I was appointed to labour, I have already given; and to that, for the sake of avoiding unnecessary repetition, my reader is referred.*
In connexion with this subject, I would quote one more paragraph from the letters of the Abbé. "In justice to truth I must add," says he, alluding to native converts, "that I am acquainted with many among them, who are in their morals, probity, and general behaviour, irreproachable men, enjoying the confidence even of the pagans, and into whose hands I should not hesitate to intrust my own interests." (p. 83.)
It is not plain whether the author is here referring to Catholic converts, or to those effected by the instrumentality of Protestant missionaries. But whichever it be, the inference is satisfactory. If to Protestants, the testimony from the pen a Roman Catholic will by some be deemed the more conclusive. If to Catholics, my Protestant reader will not have much difficulty in believing, that Protestant converts rise yet higher in the scale of morality and Christian excellence, than those of the opposite persuasion.
This testimony, coming from one seemingly under the influence of so much scepticism, and
* See Chapter VIII.