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Reply to the Abbé's Argument founded on the Native Converts being made from among Persons of low Caste and bad Character.
On this subject the Abbé thus expresses himself. "The very small number of proselytes who are still gained over from time to time, are found among the lowest tribes; so are individuals who, driven out from their castes, on account of their vices or scandalous transgressions of their usages, are shunned afterwards by every body as outlawed men, and have no other resource left than that of turning Christians, in order to form new connexions in society; and you will easily fancy, that such an assemblage of the offals and dregs of society only tends to increase the contempt and aversion entertained by the Hindoos against Christianity." (p. 13.)-And to the same effect in other parts of his book.
I would reply, that the Abbé's statement is
very incorrect. In the third volume of the periodical accounts relative to the Baptist Missionary Society, there is a list of persons baptized at Serampore, down to the year 1804.-From this it appears, that in the years 1800 to 1804 inclusive, the Missionaries baptized forty natives. Of these, thirty-four were Hindoos, and six Mahomedans. Of the Hindoos it is stated, that six were Brahmins, six more were Kaists (a very respectable denomination of Hindoos), thirteen were of inferior castes, and nine were women. Against seven of the thirty-four Hindoos there are notes put in one column of the Schedule, militating against their character; one Brahmin is spoken of as having been excluded from communion, at the Lord's Supper; another Brahmin is spoken of as of doubtful character; one Kaist and three Hindoo women have notes opposite their respective names, intimating that they had been suspended from communion; and one Hindoo of inferior caste is animadverted upon, as having excited fear that he was " gone back." Out of the six Mahomedans, one is reported as having been suspended from communion at the Lord's Table.-One of the thirty-four Hindoos is particularized as "a Hindoo who had lost caste ;" and of the six Mahomedans, one is distinguished from the rest as a Mussulman having lost caste by marriage with a Feringu."
From the preceding epitome it appears, that out of thirty-four Hindoo converts, six were Brahmins, six more were Kaists, and only two were antecedently outcasts; and, as far as my information extends, the subsequent.conversions effected by the instrumentality of the Baptist missionaries, have been of a corresponding stamp.
But I would further remark, that were there no Brahmins, or Kaists, or other Hindoos of superior caste among the number of those who had embraced the gospel, yet let it not be imagined that there would be any weight in an objection raised on that account. To object to converts on the ground of their previous degraded character, is to revive the old cry made against our Lord himself, and his apostles. "Have any of the rulers believed on Him?" In our Saviour's days, publicans and harlots went into the kingdom of heaven before the Scribes and Pharisees; and the poor had the gospel preached to them, and received, it before the Rabbis and members of the Sanhedrim. It would be no ground of marvel or objection, if as it was in Judea, so it should be in Hindostan also-the first become the last, and the last first. The usual progress indeed of the gospel, is from the lower orders upwards; First, Peter the fisherman-afterwards, Constantine the Emperor
The Scriptures say, "The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, do not magnify themselves against Judah." (Zech. xii. 7.) The humble dwellers in the tents of the field, should take precedence of the illustrious inhabitants of the city, that the latter might have no room to boast.
"Ye see your calling, brethren," says the apostle Paul, "how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are that no flesh should glory in his presence." (1 Cor. i. 26-29.)
The last quoted text brings to my mind part of an address, which I heard a native convert (who had originally belonged to one of the lowest classes of Hindoos) deliver to his own countrymen, among whom were some of the superior castes. It was to the following effect:-" I am, by birth, of an insignificant and contemptible caste;--so low, that if a Brahmin should chance
to touch me, he must go and bathe in the Ganges for the purpose of purification; and yet God has been pleased to call me, not merely to the knowledge of the gospel, but to the high office of teaching it to others. My friends, do you know the reason of God's conduct? It is this;-if God had selected one of you learned Brahmins, and made you the preacher, when you were successful in making converts, by-standers would have said, it was the amazing learning of the Brahmin and his great weight of character that were the cause; but now, when any one is converted by my instrumentality, no one thinks of ascribing any of the praise to me: has all the glory."
and God, as is his due,
The address was well received; the sentiment it contained was tacitly recognized as being just; and an impression in the poor native preacher's favour was produced.
With respect to the Abbé's conclusion, that the contempt and aversion entertained by the Hindoos against Christianity, have only been increased by the conversions still from time to time effected, I reply, that this conclusion, like the premises from which it is derived, is in opposition to fact. In justification of such reply, I beg to make a further quotation from a document already once referred to.
"The labours of these brethren," say the