Images de page
PDF
ePub

they are life” (John vi. 63). We want Christ's spirit in our souls, not His flesh in our bodies. We need faith, and love, and holiness; and these we obtain by having Christ in our thoughts, and affections, and motives. Christ's bodily presence in the bread and wine, and our receiving Him thus into our bodies, would "profit us nothing.” But that real presence which is promised to all who seek, we do possess. “Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of you.” Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." In our private retirements, at our family altars, in our public 'assemblies, in praise and prayer, and meditation of the Word, as well as at the Lord's Supper, we do experience the real presence of the Lord. That presence is manifested by many infallible signs; by indubitable evidence that Christ Himself is working on human souls. Wherever the tear of penitence is falling and the prayer of faith ascending, wherever sinners renounce their sins and the self-righteous their pride, wherever the throne of the heart is yielded up to Christ, and believers joyfully consecrate themselves to Him, there is the real presence of the Lord.

As regards the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ is present in no other manner than He is present in all the means of grace. By faith that presence is actually felt and enjoyed. “According to your faith be it unto you.” It is not according to the power of the officiating minister, or any mystic virtue in the words of consecration. It is not dependent on any authority in him who "dispenses” or “ administers” the rite. Indeed, such terms are unscriptural, and misleading. The Lord's Supper is a mutual feast in commemoration of Christ's death by Christ's friends and followers. It is not something dispensed and administered by one, but a mutual act performed and participated in by all. Thus viewed, the very standing ground is removed from the Ritualists; for not merely have they no exclusive claim to dispense this sacrament, but it is a sacrament equally valid whether there be any church-officer to dispense it or not. For the sake of order it is fitting that the pastor or president of a church should preside at this as at other religious services; but such presidency secures no validity for a means of grace which, less than preaching or teaching, needs the help of any “minister” at all.“ “ The disciples came together to break bread.” Thus, for example, two or three pious women on a long journey, deprived of the services of any organised church, might celebrate the Lord's Supper together, and be certain that Jesus was as really present, and that they were by faith feasting on His body and blood, as if the bread and wine had been “administered to them ” by an ordained pastor, apostolically descended priest, consecrated bishop -or even the Pope himself,

and that tud and wine had been descended prie

MISSION WORK IN THE ZENANAS.

BY MRS. LEWIS, OF THE CALCUTTA BAPTIST MISSION.

WHAT is Zenana work ?-this new work of which such frequent mention is made in connection with missionary operations in India ? To answer this question in many private circles has been the pleasure and privilege of the writer of this short sketch; but she has been induced to adopt the present mode of giving information on the subject by the earnest desire of several on whose judgment she could rely, as well as by her own anxiety to enlist as widely as possible the interest of English ladies in their less favoured yet most interesting Indian sisters.

It is not very easy to describe to persons in this country the condition of Hindoo domestic society. Here, as a rule, every family sufficiently opulent possesses a habitation peculiar to itself, and on marriage, a son literally leaves his father and mother to establish a home of his own. The house of a respectable Bengali, on the contrary, is seldom the abode of one couple only. It is rather the home of an aggregation of families : father and sons, and even cousins and grandsons, often dwelling together in one domestic community. The family inheritance even is not divided amongst the sharers; but a patriarchal bond unites the several members of the household, and preserves the deference and subordination which nature and custom dictate to them.

In every respectable 'Hindoo house a range of apartments is to be found set apart for the occupation of the women. This is called the Zenana, from the Persian word “ Zen," woman. To this part of the house no man has access, except the fathers, husbands, or sons of the family, and from it no female member of that family beyond the age of childhood is allowed to pass unguarded. The apartments of the Zenana are usually dreary, ill-lighted, ill-ventilated, and miserably furnished rooms, so constructed that no curious eye can overlook them, and that their inmates may see as little as possible of the outer world. In some households the number of women thus immured is very great, and the same patriarchal system which regulates the relation of the men of the family prevails also amongst the women. The aged, mother of the household is supreme, and the other women rank according to their husbands' relative positions. How monotonous and wretched a life passed in such circunstances must be, need hardly be remarked. These poor women enjoy little of their husbands' society—they do not even sit or eat with them; and, having received no education-unable to read books—having no knowledge of any useful or elegant art of needlework or other pleasant 'occupation to beguile the wearisomeness of their lot—they are shut up to utter indolence. The survey of such jewels as they may possess, the care of their little ones, and the discussion of any family gossip, or of such items of news as may find their way to them from the outside, are their only amusements; and great is their delight when some marriage takes place, or when some idolatrous festival or ceremony is celebrated, and they have their share in the stir, the feastings, and the illuminations which attend it. Such occurrences are their gala days and form the only breaks in their monotonous lives.

According to Hindoo custom a girl must be married before she is ten years of age, but usually the ceremony takes place at a much earlier period. Though married, she generally remains with her parents until she is twelve or thirteen years old, when she is regarded as quite fit to take her place in the family of her husband, and henceforth she remains in his Zenana, never being allowed to leave it but on very special occasions, and then only in a carefully closed carriage or palanquin, and with the additional protection of the darkness of night. Such a position as this is sufficiently revolting to our English ideas of social comfort and domestic bliss. What then must be the condition of the widows in such households? In former times it was customary to burn the widows with the dead bodies of their husbands, and many a poor creature, with the knowledge of the misery that would inevitably be her portion in life, willingly accepted the fearful alternative.* Though this inhuman practice has been prohibited by our enlightened government, and the widow now may not voluntarily or by compulsion be immolated, yet her life is usually rendered as bitter as possible. If she is a mother of sons she has a status which preserves her from many of the petty degradations and annoyances which fall to the childless widow-often herself a child. Should a girl become a widow before she has entered her husband's dwelling, she is yet transferred to that home so soon as she has reached the age when, had her husband been alive, she would have gone there. Unwelcome to the family who henceforth have to support her, she becomes but too often the drudge and servant of all;

* Before the prohibition of the rite of Suttee, it was computed that in · the province of Bengal alone 10,000 widows were thus annually sacrificed.

painfully maited to one mea an ornamen

and, being subject to all, has the desolation of her lot but too painfully and perpetually kept before her. By Hindoo law, her food is limited to one meal a-day, and that of the coarsest kind, and she may never wear an ornament of any kind whatsoever, The re-marriage of widows is now sanctioned by legal enactment, but the sentiment of the people is against it; so that, desolate and hopeless, in numerous instances, they fall an easy prey to the seductive arts of wicked men, and abandon the dwellings in which they cannot find a home.

It has been said above that the Hindoo women are wholly uneducated. It does not appear that they were always so. In the literature of the country mention is made of women who were proficient in all departments of learning. For ages past, however, custom has denied all instruction to the daughters of India. It has even been thought disreputable for a woman to be able to read and write. Only those who had no character to lose, it was said, could turn such knowledge to account; and to impart it to female children was supposed to be demoralizing, inasmuch as it was a qualification for illicit correspondence. Thus it was that when missionary enterprize found its way to India, and efforts were made to give to the people the blessings of Christian knowledge, for a long time it was impossible to teach any but the lads and young men of the community. They might be benefited by learning; it would be to them an introduction to profitable employment; but to girls it would be nothing but an injury and degradation. So the Hindoos reasoned, and thus the efforts of Christian philanthropy were baffled for many years. It was the honour and privilege of the agents of the Baptist Missionary Society to make the first successful attempts towards native female education, in 1819; but the children of the poor alone could be reached by these efforts, and the results did not go far to alter the national feeling. That it has now been altered, is, we think, attributable to the influence of education upon the men.

Western literature has been now so effectually taught to the young men of India in the many Government and Missionary schools, that their minds have been to a wide extent enlightened by it. The dense ignorance of the women was no disadvantage to their husbands whilst they were themselves untaught, or instructed only in the absurdities of Hindooism, but now that their minds have been stimulated by the possession of true knowledge, and Are prepared to enjoy intelligent conversation, they find it to be no small evil that, in their homes, there can be no sympathy with their pursuits, as there is no power to appreciate their choicest acquisitions. Besides, with knowledge, there has come to the young Bengali an impatience of the restraints of caste, and

a disregard of the prescriptions of idolatry, which are leading him on to great, and it is hoped salutary social reforms, but for which his household, while uninstructed, must be altogether unprepared.

Thus the sentiment of the people has for some years past been undergoing a great change. National prejudice, however, is not easily defied; and though many have been ready to acknowledge the advantages to be derived from educating women, until lately, comparatively few have had the moral courage to brave the odium attaching to such an innovation.

It is about sixteen years since an establishment was opened in Calcutta for the education of native young ladies by the Hon. W. Drinkwater Bethune, one of the members of the Supreme Council of India, and not only was education given gratuitously, but covered carriages were provided to convey the children daily to and from the school. After Mr. Bethune's untimely removal by death, the Government, in honour of his memory, further endowed this school, and it has ever since had a goodly number of girls attending it; but so utterly was the necessity of the mothers being taught ignored, that it was not until one lady-superintendent (well known to the writer) had had charge of this institution some three years, that even she was allowed to pay friendly visits to the Zenanas, from which her pupils came, and in no instance that we are aware of was she allowed to impart instruction.

About seven years ago, some ladies connected with the Church of England and Baptist Missions were invited by native gentlemen to come to their houses and teach the female inmates. The ease with which these women acquired the power of executing fancy work, as well as of reading and writing, led the Baboos with much pride to display the work accomplished, and thus others were induced to seek the same advantages for their female relatives. From that time to the present, the work has continued to advance; but even now, in many instances, ladies are admitted to these Zenanas rather as a concession to the wishes of the women than by the desire of the husbands. At present, there are more than one hundred houses in Calcutta in which instruction is being given, and every house is a centre of influence promoting the further extension of the good work.

It will be readily understood that the work of instructing Hindoo women in their own homes, under the circumstances above described, is encumbered by not a few difficulties. Labour cannot be economized by collecting the inmates of several houses together, and each family presents pupils differing widely amongst themselves, in age and capacity. Visits, too, must be adjusted to the family convenience; and it has

she alloweseven yearstist Missiona teach th

Hindo will be readiher extensvery house Calcutta in

« PrécédentContinuer »