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The Life of John Wilson
Chapter XIV. A New Period—Tour in Sindh—The Bombay School of the Catechumens


Empire of British India territorially completed—Lord Falkland—Satara and Nagpore become British Districts—The Conquest of Sindh—Stung nearly to death by Bees—The Sorrows of Missionaries—Non-Christian Teachers in Mission Schools—Anglo-Indian Society about 1848—Sore sickness— Missionary survey of Sindh—The Pool of the Crocodiles—Meeting with Dr. Duff—Through Kutch and Kathiawar to Surat—Bombay Presbytery to General Assembly on extending Foreign Missions—To Captain Eastwiclc on Political and Educational Reform — Almost a Christian—A Gift of Lionesses—On the Relation of the different Races of India to Christianity —Bishop Dealtry—Another learned Parsee Inquirer—The Samaritans at Nablus—Another Habeas Corpus Case—First Fruits from Sindh—Parsee and Muhammadan Converts from the Government College—Renewed Excitement and Government Inquiry—Lord Elphinstone—Government learning the Principles of Toleration—The Goojaratee New Testament and Native Scholarship—Dr. Wilson on Judson and the Karen Christians.

The history of British India begins with the Marquis of Dalhousie. Alike in conquest and in administration, the work of Clive, "Wellesley, and Bentinck, was a foundation— was a prelude. That of Dalhousie was consolidation—was completion. The second Sikh War gave the north-west its natural frontier; the most foolishly ambitious can never make Cabul and Quetta, Balkh and Herat, Merv and Meshed, more than outposts held by subsidised allies. The strategic and commercial railways, the canals, the roads, the cheap postage, the telegraph, the schools and universities of Dalhousie, gave the empire a more secure defence than all the troops, by withdrawing which prematurely against his protests, the governments who fought the Crimean War occasioned the Sepoy mutiny. The lapse from failure of natural heirs of chaotic States, which we ourselves had created, like Satara and Nagpore, not only removed centres of disaffection, but proclaimed the good of the people to be the reason of our existence in India. It also left Lord Canning and Sir Henry Durand a clear space on which to write the new body of international law guaranteeing, by patent, permanence to every feudatory sovereign’s house, on the sole conditions of loyalty to the empire and fair administration of their estates. With the last echo of the artillery cannonade of Guzerat on the 22d February 1849, and when Slier Singh and Chutter Singh gave up their swords to General Gilbert on the spot where Alexander the Great had once conquered, British India became what it now is, save only Pegu afterwards forced upon us.

Wellesley and Bentinck were united in the victories of war and of peace which Dalhousie won before he was forty. Henceforth, whether we look at the events of history or the lives of individuals who worked them out each in his own way, like John Wilson, we are in a new atmosphere. Winter is past; the time of sowing, too, is here and there passing into the blossoming that betokens harvest. Let but the great baptism of blood in 1857 be over, and we shall see the bad as well as some of the good of the Company destroyed—obstruction giving way to rashness sometimes, but always to light; tradition yielding to fickleness often, so that continuity is sacrificed, but never again choking progress. The Mutiny secured a new start at least, and that in the direction which the missionary, from Carey to Duff and Wilson, had never ceased to demand. In Bombay Sir George Clerk was too soon succeeded by Viscount Falkland, of whom the best that can be said is that he had a clever wife who made society bright, and that he kept the place warm for Lord Elphinstone in 1853. But Lord Falkland had as his principal adviser in council Sir J. P. Willoughby, whose minute on the Satara case, which Lord Dalhousie pronounced the text-book on the law of adoption, gives a mark to the administration.

On the defeat of the last of the Peshwas in 1817 we rescued the representative of their master Sivajee from captivity, and created the principality of Satara for the old man. On investing him Sir James Carnac warned him of the possibility of lapse. When, in spite of his treason, we acknowledged his successor, and that successor died childless, the very considerations which had recommended the creation of the State justified its extinction as a failure. Apart from his knowledge of the two Rajas and the people, Dr. Wilson had an interest in Satara, for it was during several years the seat of a branch mission under Mr. Aitken. Satara, however, had less interest for him than the fate of Nagpore. About the same time Lord Hastings had restored it, and with the same melancholy results in the misgovernment of the people, in spite of the control of a Political Resident like Sir R. Jenkins. Aided by Sir W. Hill’s endowment, Dr. Wilson had sent out Mr. Hislop to the military station of Nagpore, Kampthee, and he was afterwards joined by Mr. R. Hunter. But the new missionaries soon found that toleration was not recognised in the native State of Nagpore outside of the British cantonment. Dr. Wilson had successfully established, or helped to set up, missions in other States, such as those of Goojarat, Kathiawar, and Kutch, and was soon to do so in Rajpootana. But the imprisonment of a Brahman convert, afterwards the Rev. Baba Pandurang, in 1848, showed that in Nagpore the rights of conscience and civil liberty could be disregarded, till the very existence of a mission became as impossible as it still is in Russia. When in 1853, the death of the Raja after his persistent refusal to adopt an heir left the fate of Nagpore to the decision of the Government of India, the substitution of British for native rule, and ultimately of a vigorous Chief Commissioner for an incompetent subordinate officer, gave the mission the same fair play which the rest of British India had enjoyed since the Charter of 1833.

During Dr. Wilson’s absence from India the province of Sindh had been added to the empire as a result of the Afghan campaigns. As if the policy of childish interference, directed by military incapacity, had not at Cabul given a sufficient blow to the moral prestige of our Government and the fidelity of its sepoys, Sir Charles Napier was allowed by Lord Ellenborough to repeat the criminal blunder in the desert and the delta of the Indus. Outram’s protests were as vain as the indignation of all whose opinion was worth consideration. Nor was the conquest all. No longer a foreign country, Sindh ceased to be attractive to the sepoys who had looked there for the batta or extra allowances allowed on active service beyond the frontier. First some Bengal and then some Madras sepoy regiments mutinied because the allowances were refused, and then their immediate commander condoned the heinous offence. The experience of 1857 was anticipated on a scale sufficiently large to warn observers like Sir Henry Lawrence, and to lead Lord Dalhousie afterwards to suggest reforms. But the only effect at the time was, in 1844, to hand Sindh over to Bombay to be garrisoned by its army. It fell to Lord Dalhousie, so soon as he had personally received the submission of the Punjab, a few years after, to visit Sindh that he might provide for those administrative and engineering improvements which promise to make young Egypt one day more than rival old, although the Indus can never equal the Nile.

It was natural that John Wilson should not have been long at his old post in Bombay, without turning his eyes northwards to the new province, in the hope of taking possession of it for his Master. The policies of rulers might be evil or good—and on that question too no man could express a more weighty opinion, or one that these rulers themselves more desired to avail themselves of beforehand. But by whatever means a door was opened, he, or some one stirred up by him, must enter in. He was soon to be the first missionary who had delivered the divine message in Sindh. His companion was Dr. Duff, who, having been consulted whether he would succeed Dr. Chalmers in the New College, had agreed merely to go to Scotland in 1850 to advise regarding the needs of the India Mission. The two apostolic men met at Sehwan, on the Indus. Dr. Tweedie had meanwhile become convener of the Foreign Mission committee in Edinburgh.

“Bombay, 1s£ April 1848.

“My dear Mr. Tweedie—Mr. Henderson (he had resigned a Government professorship to join the Mission) and I have experienced a painful affliction—associated, however, with many striking mercies—which unfits us for the use of the pen. When we were engaged with a few friends, and some of the pupils, in making researches into the natural history and antiquities of the adjoining island of Salsette, we were attacked by an immense cloud of wild bees, which had received no sensible provocation from any of our party, and nearly stung to death. Mr. Henderson was the first who was attacked. He soon sank, on one of the jungle roads, in the hopeless attempt to guard himself from injury; and he had lain for about forty minutes in a state of almost total insensibility before he was found by our friends and any relief could be extended to him. It was on my joining him, from behind, when he first gave the alarm, that I came in contact with the thousands of infuriated insects. I sprang into a bush for shelter ; but there I got no adequate covering from their onset. In my attempt to free myself from agony and entanglement I immediately slid over a precipice, tearing both my clothes and body among the thorns in the rapid descent of about forty feet. From the number of bees which still encompassed me and multiplied upon me, and my inability to move from them, I had a pretty strong impression upon my mind that, unless God himself specially interposed in my behalf, all my wanderings and journeyings must then have been terminated, though by the humblest agency—the insects of the air. That interposition I experienced! I had kept my hold of a pillow, with which I had gone to Mr. Henderson ; and tearing it open ou the bushes, when I was unable to rise, I found within it, most unexpectedly, about a couple of square yards of blanket. It was to me, in the circumstances, like a sheet sent down from heaven to cover my head; and, partially protected by it, I lay till the bees left me. When, from the poison of the numerous stings which I had received, violent vomiting and other agitation came on, and my pulse failed and my heart fainted, a native, a Thakoor, one of the aboriginal sons of the forest, who had come up, pulled me into the shade, and made a noise which was heard by our friends, including Mrs. Wilson, who had set out in search of me after they had learned from Mr. Henderson that I had shared in the calamity, and who otherwise would probably never have sought for me in the locality in which I was lying. Among these friends was Dr. Burn, to whose treatment, under God, our resuscitation is in a great measure Owing. We were conveyed to our tents, principally in native carts, and on Saturday we were brought to Bombay. Through the kindness of that heavenly Father to whose grace we gave our signal deliverance, Ave are both doing well, so much so, indeed, that Ave hope in a few days to be free from all pain, if not inconvenience, arising from this affliction. I have known instances of natives losing their lives by such an attack as we encountered ; and our friends from India will explain to you the danger from which we have escaped, nay from which we have been delivered. ‘ They compassed me about like bees,’ is one of the appropriate figures of the Psalmist. The wild bee of India, of a dark chocolate colour, and about an inch and an eighth in length, is of the same variety which I have seen in the Holy Land; and that illustration of the Psalmist has to us an intensity of meaning Avhich Ave had never before realised. When I was a boy I used to think that John the Baptist’s fare of locusts and wild honey was not of a very indifferent character; but I noAv see that at least it must have been somewhat difficult of acquisition.

“The affliction which I have now mentioned is that of the body; but those of the soul, often experienced by Christian missionaries in a heathen land, are still more grievous. One of this latter character I have likewise to bring to your notice. The fond and ardent hopes which we had been led to cherish in connection with the young Parsee whose baptism, in most interesting circumstances at Surat, I brought to your notice in my last letter, have been disappointed. That promising neophyte has, I am most sorry to mention, made shipwreck, for the present at least, of his Christian profession, and returned to the bosom of his caste. This he has done under powerful influences and temptations, arising from Parsees, Hindoos, and Muhammadans confederated together.”


“12th September 1848.

“My dear Dr. Leith—It is certainly to be expected that there should be a difference of opinion among Christians about many subjects connected with the economy of Christian missions. That to which you refer is one connected with which I myself at one time felt great difficulties, as is sufficiently obvious from the first report which I presented to the public; and I can well sympathise with any mind still entertaining these difficulties. I do not think them insurmountable, however, when the real order and procedure of our schools is attended to. Our heathen teachers bind themselves to abstain from teaching heathenism in our schools ; and, from the closest inspection of them, I believe that they do so abstain. We use their services only in the mechanical processes of teaching. The Bible, and Bible truth found in our books, are self-defensory, and to a certain extent self-explanatory. Our whole hortative and explicative teaching of Christianity is by ourselves and native Christian assistants; and it is so full and regular, both at the schools and mission-house, that, in regard to Christian knowledge, our pupils are on a par with the best instructed in our native land. Four of our Bombay teachers have been baptized since the commencement of the Mission, and an encouraging number of the pupils. The young Brahman last baptized by Mr. Mitchell of Poona told me the other day that he owes his first acquaintance with Christianity and good impressions to our vernacular schools in Bombay, and their collateral services.”


“December 22, 1848.

"My dear Friend—I am glad indeed to find that you reserve to yourself the liberty of again returning to India. Relative ties and wants at home will be modified in a few years. India appears to me more than ever to need the presence of faithful witnesses and labourers for Christ. There is a spirit of hostility to true holiness among the majority of our countrymen here, which threatens to have an outbreak. Of this I see many symptoms. The warlike spirit, generated and inflamed by our movements on the frontier since the invasion of Afghanistan, has much deteriorated public sentiment and feeling. Puseyism, by its doctrines of sacramental, ceremonial, and priestly grace, has, in the view of multitudes, obscured the sovereignty of the Father, and the saving work of both the Son and the Holy Spirit, and involved them in mere formalism, imparted to them a delusive peace, and destroyed their charity to those who confide in the Saviour. Plymouthism—the recoil from Puseyism —while gloriously setting forth the sacred duty of every Church availing itself of the gifts and graces of all its members for the edification of the body of Christ, runs counter to Christ's ordinance of a stated ministry, withdraws many from its benefits and blessings who are in great need of them, and sadly neglects the ignorant and perishing multitudes who are | without.’ The disturbances which have occurred, both in the West and East, have intimidated the Government, not resting on the principle that ‘ righteousness is the strength of a nation,’ and made it far more tender and indulgent to heathenism, and inclined to give it support, than it was wont to be even a few years ago. The fruits of the ungodly system of the education of the natives so long pursued by Government, are beginning to be matured in the conceit, pride, infidelity, and insubordination of the more active part of the rising generation. In some Mission Institutions the evangelistic element is in danger of being subordinated to the literary and scientific. The heavenly seed is not so copiously sown at ‘all waters ’ as the promises and performances of God lead us to expect. Pre-millennarianism is more anxious to get old saints out of their graves than to get new ones.”


“Mahableshwar, 27 th December 1848.

“My dear Dr. Tweedie—As you may easily suppose, I have felt it to be a very heavy affliction to experience, so soon after my visit to Europe, the return of the very serious and dangerous complaint which forced me for a time to leave the shores of India, and when the wants of this great country and varied openings of Providence, and encouragements of Christian friends, seemed to unfold to me a wider and more important sphere of usefulness than ever. What has occurred, however, has not happened without the divine appointment, directing it, we cannot doubt, to most important ends, and leading me I trust more and more to value the unspeakable privilege and grace given me to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is a matter of gratitude to me, too, that during my illness I was divested entirely of those cares and anxieties by which I am sometimes harassed in the view of the state of our enterprise in this great land; and that I then saw and felt more clearly than ever the warrant of our hope and peace and joy in the accepted sacrifice of Christ, and the glory of that bliss which He has prepared for the humblest and most unworthy sinner who rests in the righteousness of God as thereby manifested.

‘When languid nature in deep fever burning,
Feels all her vital springs are parched and dry,
From side to side still restless, ever turning,
And scared by phantoms of delirium bye ;

How sweet, but for a moment’s space, to ponder,
Surrounded by those bitter burning things,
Where fresh cool life and gushing health flow yonder
From pure celestial and immortal springs.’”

Accompanied by two of the converts, Bapu Mazda and Malharee, Dr. Wilson reached Kurachee on the first day of 1850, to begin a missionary survey of what he then described as “the Ultima Thule” of British conquest to the north-west of our eastern empire. Two years before one of the American Presbyterian Missionaries to the Protected Sikhs had sailed down the Indus. But Dr. Wilson could, with justice, write thus in his journal: “4th January 1850—I went down early in the morning with Bapu to the bazaar of the native town, and officiated as the first Protestant missionary who has opened his lips in Sindh. Many of the people understood Hindostanee and Goojaratee. We found a Muhammadan and a Brahman able to read the Sindhee in the Nagaree character, and we gave them a copy of the large portion of the Gospel of Matthew as translated by Major Stack. The demand for books in other languages was very considerable.” While in the steamer, where the Bev. Mr. Cotes, the first assistant chaplain sent to Sindh, was his fellow-passenger, he had held discussions in Persian with a Muhammadan merchant from Khelat. Of the friends wrho competed for the pleasure of showing him hospitality Dr. Wilson selected Major Preedy, the Collector or civil administrator, because he could thus have access to all the official facts on the country and people, which, with a map, he set himself at once to compile, as was his custom. Even in far Kurachee, and at this early period of British occupation, he found converts and students from the Christian college of Dr. Duff holding the highest positions and influencing all around them for good. When examining the subscription English school near the native town, attended chiefly by camp-followers and Sindhians proper, and expressing surprise at its efficiency, he discovered the fact thus recorded in his journal:—“It is rather remarkable that the influence of both Bengal and Bombay missions is apparent in this school. Mr. Modoosoodun Seel, the teacher, a convert to Christianity baptized by the Bev. Mr. Jennings,1 at Cawnpore, was for four years a pupil in our Calcutta Institution. One or two of the books used in the school were composed by our Bombay missionaries; while one of the most promising pupils, baptized by myself, is the grandson of the first Hindoo woman who was admitted into the church under my ministry, and who, lately under much trial and affliction, has maintained a consistent Christian profession. She was delighted to see me in this distant part of the world.” With the old chieftain the Jam of the Jokees, who was on a visit to the new port from his native hills, and with Naumahal, the most important Hindoo resident, who had avenged on the Ameers their forcible circumcision of his father by assisting the English army at its first appearance on the Indus, Dr. Wilson had interviews. The former remarked—

“Sir Charles Napier was ‘ altogether a just man.’ If he sincerely holds this opinion, it is not unlikely that his conscience has responded to this straightforward epistle which was addressed to him by that distinguished General on the 15th April 1843: ‘Jam.—You have received the money of the British for taking charge of the dawk (post); you have betrayed your trust, and stopped the dawks; and you have also attacked the troops. All this I forgive you, because the ’Anars were here, and they were your old masters. But the ’Amirs are now gone from Sindh for ever. They defied the British power, and have paid the penalty of so doing. I, as the Governor of Sindh, am now your immediate master. If yon come in and make your salam, and promise fidelity to the British Government, I will restore to you your lands and your former privileges, and the superintendence of the dawks. If you refuse, I will wait till the hot weather has gone past, and then I will carry fire and sword into your territory, and drive you and all belonging to you into the mountains ; and if I catch you I will hang you as a rebel. You have now your choice; choose. C. J. Napier.’ Happily for the Jam he chose submission. It will be a matter of no small difficulty to convey instruction and education to his scattered tribe.”

In the lack of steamers on the Indus, then about to be supplied by Lord Dalhousie, Dr. Wilson followed a track to the ancient town of Sell wan, on camels, through the hilly wilderness which divides Sindh from Beloochistan. At every stage the geology and natural history of the country were carefully observed. His first march led him past the Muggur Pool, or crocodile lake, which is still one of the sights near Kurachee. It is formed from the water of some hot springs within 150 square yards—“the space of a barn-yard pond,”—and accommodated seventy-five monsters of all sizes, from the baby of a cubit long, to the patriarch, Mor Saheb, who was eleven feet long, and was marked with red lead, and worshipped by the Hindoos. “They seemed quite tame, as they allowed us to lay hold of their tails, and turned round at the call of the fakeers, expecting a dainty meal on some unhappy goat. We found the Mor Saheb asleep, but poked him up with our sticks. He opened his jaws about a cubit wide, and then hissed and blew like a pair of smith’s bellows. He had lately had a dreadful duel of it with a competitor for the championship, and as the battle was a drawn one and threatens to be renewed, he is kept apart from his fellows. They are all of the species ‘crocodilus communis.’ The illiterate keepers form a community of Muhammadans more remarkable for the practice of pleasantries than austerities. They both give and get in marriage, and live quite comfortably with the gardens and fields which the popular superstition has permitted them to appropriate, and with the offerings presented at the shrine of their founder, which they take care to keep in good repair.” They could not. read the Injil in Arabic, so that a copy was not put in their hands.

Having reached Sehwan, on the Indus, he thus wrote on the 31st January:—“I translated the two first chapters of one of my tracts into Persian in my tent at the river-side. On the completion of this exercise I took hold of my telescope, and sweeping with it the Indus before me to the north, I discerned what I took to be Dr. Duff’s boat gently dropping down the river and approaching the spot where I was encamped. My ardent hopes and wishes were realised; and we soon embraced one another with the heart as well as with the hand. The emotions of both of us, meeting at the very ends of the earth after an interval of ten years so eventful to our families, our missions, and our Church, and after multifarious labours and sufferings, and extended travel by land and by sea by both of us, were well nigh overpowering. The gracious and faithful providence of God to us both it was impossible for us to overlook.”

By the battlefield of Meeanee and the fort of Haidarabad, where the Governor-General had just before received the homage of the chiefs and landholders of Sindh, the two missionaries went slowly on to Tatta, whence they struck across the delta to Kutch, through the salt desolation of its Bunn, and surveyed the Irish mission stations. At Surat they took steamer to Bombay, whence the presbytery sent home to their Church, by Dr. Duff, a powerful appeal for more missionary agents. In his periodical letter to the home committee Dr. Wilson described the speech of Dr. Duff at the annual examination of the college as exciting a controversy on the subject of the purely secular and often antichristian education in the Government schools, which did not subside till it issued in reform in 1851. He also recorded the death of an old student, Madhavarao Moroji, who had won the admiration of the political officers by his influence as tutor of the chief of Jamkhundee. He lived and died like many since, a Christian in all but the name. Through not a few like him the missionary colleges in India are honeycombing Hindoo society.


“Bombay, 17th April 1850.

“My dear Captain Eastwick—I have just returned from au interesting journey in Sindh, the scene of your important political labours in this distant East. I am of opinion that a good deal may yet be made of that province. The people seem to like the English government. This is some consolation to us amidst the misgivings which exist as to our treatment of the Ameers. I read your able speech in their favour, and the two blue books, on the banks of the Indus. I came to the conclusion that the Ameers at last intended to crush us if they could, but that some palliation could have been found in the fact that they were dogged and driven to desperation. I felt, too, that if Pottinger and yourself had been at your quondam posts, this would not have been the issue. I was sorry that I had not your brother’s Dry Leaves with me during my wanderings and meanderings in Young Egypt. Your friend, the Rev. Mr. Cotes, was my fellow-passenger to Kurachee. He has a very vigorous and energetic mind, and is deeply interested in the improvement ami the conversion of the natives, which I always reckon a good sign in a chaplain. I am just sending off a teacher for an English school which he wishes to establish at Haidarabad. I missed both Mr. Pringle and the Governor-General on their descent of the river by a few hours. By the bye, the Governor-General was very reserved in the Durbar he held at Haidarabad, which is rather to be regretted. He gave great satisfaction to the folks in Bombay.

“You will speedily have a great many questions raised in connection with this great country in the prospect of the discussion of the question of a new Charter to the Company. I hope that every question of importance will be settled without party feeling and prejudice. While I am of opinion that the government of the Company should undoubtedly coutinue, I think that it will be better to shape out a course of administration for it by Acts of Parliament, than to place it under arbitrary control. Encouragement should be given on a large scale to the employment in India of European capital and European enterprise, destitute of which, the country, which may be made so productive, will be involved in fiscal ruin. All the Government contributions to the temples, which are not chartered, I think should be devoted to the support of elementary education through every town and village of the country; and of education not wholly paid for by Government, but partly supported by the people in private Institutions, provision being made only for the teaching of secular knowledge ; while all should be at liberty, on their own responsibility, to supplement that education by religious instruction as they may please.”

In this letter we find one of the too few examples in his correspondence of that political insight as well as information, and those broad economic views regarding European enterprise as well as the prosperity of the natives, with which, in conversation, Dr. Wilson used to delight his friends. These questions, too, no less than his scholarly and scientific researches, he subordinated to the absorbing aims of the Christian missionary and the exacting work of the practical philanthropist. In all respects his programme of reform was soon carried out, save in the disendowment of idol shrines and mosques, but the property rights of these alone are now protected only by the civil courts. The mal-administration of the priestly guardians side by side with the growth of intelligence and Christianity among the people, may yet result in the voluntary application to education of the vast temple lands which cannot be squandered.

The continued success of the mission, and the address on the Christian, as opposed to the purely secular, education of native youth, raised a storm in two quarters. The local press and certain Professors of the Government College waged a bitter controversial warfare against missionaries, urging that these should have nothing to do with education, the effects of the positive moral and spiritual elements of which they did not relish. And communities like the Parsees, still resenting the aggressiveness of truth so as to confine their youth to the Government schools, began to find that even there truth pursued the conscience, and would not leave it alone till many became almost, and some had the courage to profess themselves openly altogether, Christians. It was about this time that the fermenting process was seen to work most evidently, as the first generation of educated youth went forth from the Mission college, on the one hand; and on the other, the persistent discussions, translations of Scripture and other publications, preachings, and tours, began to tell on the varied native communities, already affected by the numerous and often nameless influences of growing western civilisation. Among the educated cases were not unfrequent like that of Victorinus, as described by Simplicianus, the spiritual father of Ambrose, to Augustine. From the unlearned in Bombay, and all the region around the Indian Ocean, of which it is the commercial centre, a small but steady stream of inquirers flowed in to what had become no less a school of the catechumens, spiritually and intellectually, than the famous Didaskaleion Catechumenorum of Pantaenus (the first historical missionary to India), Clement and Origen at Alexandria. Nor does the parallel fail on the female side. For just as that Christian institute made the Egyptian Serapeum the last fortress of decaying polytheism, so the Bombay college stirred up the purely Hindoo and Parsee communities to rival efforts in education. Such passages as this are not infrequent in Dr. Wilson’s missionary correspondence: When, on 10th May 1850, appealing to his home committee for more liberality, and announcing that Mrs. Wilson had been compelled to add two more female schools to the Ambrolie establishment, he adds :—

“The students of the Elphinstone College have been setting up some schools of their own from which all Christianity is excluded, and they have sought to fill them from our schools by prejudicing the minds of their parents. I have got hold of one of their circulars, with which I could easily expose their system; but I think it better to allow them to work it to death themselves. Dadoba Pandurang (the president of their society, and superintendent of Government vernacular schools on a salary of Rs. 300 per mensem) called on us the other evening and offered his own daughter, and those of some of his friends, to Mrs. Wilson as pupils, and they now come regularly under the charge of a peon. When Mrs. Wilson congratulated him on having already taught his wife and daughter to read, he said, ‘This is all the fruit of what I myself learned in Ambrolie many years ago.’ The knitting and sewing here are great recommendations to him. He abhors Hinduism and respects Christianity. You must remember him. His companion, Nana Narayan, is now English translator to the Gaikwar, on a salary of Rs. 175 a month.”


“25th July 1850.—I lately heard from my two young Abyssinian friends, indeed, I may say, ‘ sons in the Gospel.’ They have given to me the two African lionesses presented to them by the king of their country. These are objects of great curiosity to the natives of Bombay, hundreds of whom come to see them in my ‘ compound.’ I find it, however, very expensive to maintain them, as they devour a goat at a meal. I have been offered a thousand rupees for them, and I shall soon part with them, devoting the proceeds to the enlightenment of Abyssinia. I must not forget to-tell the children with you that they are very tame. They followed Gabru and Maricha for several days’ journey like dogs. When they came to a bush, when they were tired, they used to get into it and rest till they -were thumped up with clubs to proceed on the march. Their growl is terrible. I have two other curious animals beside them—a squirrel about the size of a cat, with a tail like a sweep’s brush ; and a pangolin, or ant-eater, with horny scales lying on its back like a covering of tiles on a house. I took home a stuffed specimen of the last-mentioned animal, which some of you may remember to have seen. The natives of this country call it the ‘ tiled cat.’ These tiles prevent it being stung to death by bees, or bitten by the ants, on which it lives.”


“I must make a general remark, not unworthy of the attention of the friends of missions at home. The first races who entered India were undoubtedly from Turania, or the eastern Scythia. They are principally represented at present by the different nations and tribes in India located to the south of the river Krishna, and speaking the Canarese, Tooloo, Telugoo, Malayalam, and Tamul languages, which have still a great affinity with the Tartar dialects. The distinctive peculiarity of the religion of these races is the worship of ghosts and demons whom they seek to conciliate by offerings of blood. The races which, in the second instance, entered India were from Ariana, the eastern part of Iran, or Persia, probably the original seat of the Indo-Teutonic family of nations. They are located in India to the north of the Krishna ; and their languages are all derivatives from the Sanskrit, which is cognate with the Persian, Gothic, Pelasgic, Greek, Latin, and many other European languages. Of these last-mentioned races, in their eastern dispersions, the ‘prayer-bearers,’ or ‘Brahmans,’ by degrees became the hereditary priests. At first their worship, as developed in the Vedas, was directed to the personified agents and elements of nature. Afterwards it assumed the monstrous mythological and sublimated spiritual form, which is developed in the Epics, Law-books, and Puranas. The Aryan tribes in conquering India, urged by the Brahmans, made war against the Turanian demon-worship, but not always with complete success. The mountain and forest aboriginal tribes are still, as far as Brahmanism is concerned, sturdy nonconformists. In many districts, as in Canara, referred to by Shamrao, Brahmanism has been compelled to make a compromise, and now fattens on the abundant offerings made to the devils. It is among the Turanian races, and the devil-worshippers, as in Tinnevelly and other places in the south of India, which have no organised priesthood and bewitching literature, that the converts to Christianity are most numerous. The day of their merciful visitation seems to be at hand. That of the Brahmanical Aryan tribes, with all their pride of caste and systematic creed, seems to be more distant. No equitable comparison of the results of Christian Missions in Iudia can be made with the forgetfulness of this fact.”


“Ambrolie, IQth November 1850.

“The two lions at present here are the Nepaulese ambassador and suite (Jung Bahadoor), and the Bishop of Madras with his wife. He is Dr. Dealtry, who was for a long time at Calcutta as Archdeacon. We have met them several times. He is an excellent, evangelical, liberal-minded man, who abhors Puseyism, and takes every opportunity of lifting up his testimony against the prevailing errors of the present times. I hope his visit to Bombay may do good, as nearly all the chaplains are tinged, more or less, with High Church views and feelings. The Bishop and his party breakfasted with us yesterday morning, along with a few other friends. He kindly examined some of the classes of our Institution, and expressed himself as highly pleased with all he heard and saw. We had also a good many of the girls of our schools collected, about one hundred and forty, who were examined, and the Bishop and Mrs. Dealtry were both delighted with them, and seemed quite surprised to see the intelligent countenances of the little things, and to hear the ready manner in which they replied to the questions put to them. Indeed it was not a little gratifying to hear the Bishop say he had seen nothing like it in India, and it was a scene he could never forget. He never says what he does not feel, and he is not afraid to speak out the truth. He is so much opposed to the Government system of education in India (I mean the exclusion of Bible teaching from its seminaries), that he has never visited one of their schools, though again and again requested to do so. We have been asked to accompany the Bishop and a few other friends to Elephanta this afteruoon. It will be a smaller and in some respects a more congenial party than on the occasion of our last visit to the caves.”


“Bombay, 25th November 1850.

“My dear Friend — I cannot leave this island without offering our warmest thanks to you and Mrs. Wilson for your Christian kindness and attention to us. We can never forget it, I assure you; and both Mrs. Dealtry and myself have formed a most sincere Christian attachment to you, and we shall carry such feelings with us until we trust we may meet in the everlasting kingdom of our Heavenly Father. I hope, however, that we may meet again on earth. If you should ever come to Madras you must be our guests, please; and we shall rejoice to make your stay there as happy, or at least attempt it, as you have made ours here. God bless you, and pour the graces of His grace upon your Mission, and make you the honoured instruments of gathering many precious wandering souls into His fold, and may your crown at last be resplendent with such.—In haste, but ever yours with Christian love,

“T. Madras.”

This period in the history of the mission was fruitful in such cases, as well as in others. Now a father, who thirteen years before had heard Dr. Wilson at Ajunta, seeks him out at Bombay, unable longer to rest in Hindooism, and returns to bring not only his family of eight, but a village friend, into the one fold. Again, his last tour bears fruit at the same time as this his second, in the baptism of Hadjee, a young Beloochee, who had been drawn by his words in Sindh, and becomes “ the first fruit of Sindh unto Christ.” By the hands of Mr. Oust he receives an epistle in Old Testament Hebrew from Amram bin Saleemah, the chief priest of the Nablus Samaritans, and replies in like style, with none the less ardour that Dr. M‘Gown had reported from Jerusalem the “interesting fact that some of them had lately applied to the Bishop for admission into the Christian or rather Protestant Church; that they were first led to inquire after the truth by Dr. "Wilson’s instructions when he visited them, and since then by a Mr. Williams. The Bishop had sent them the Scriptures, and set up schools among them, and hoped soon to do more to find out how far they really were grounded in the truth. Dr. M‘Gown spoke of Dr. Wilson with the greatest enthusiasm.” This leads Dr. Wilson to write to Dr. Graham, from whom Sir Henry Havelock had brought him a letter, projecting a joint tour in Syria to establish a mission in the Lebanon, such as the Free Church subsequently adopted. Again, the drawing of the educated native mind towards Christianity provokes another “habeas corpus” case in the Supreme Court, in which “Sir Erskine Perry, who had handed over Shripat Sheshadri to the tender mercies of the intolerant heathen,” is compelled to allow the girl Sai “ to go where she pleases,” because her Hindoo father preferred the mission. The vernacular schools alone are this time temporarily affected by the native excitement, while nine persons join themselves to the class of catechumens, and “none of them are idlers.” Nor is the excitement lessened when a Parsee youth of the wealthiest family, and himself possessor of Es. 300,000, seeks spiritual instruction.

So Dr. Wilson year by year followed the greatest of missionaries, Paul, in turning the world upside down. In 1853 the agencies of his Church in Western India embraced 2159 students and pupils, of whom there were 1413 in Bombay, 546 in Poona, and 200 in Satara. Of the whole number one-fourth were females ; and one-fourth received the higher education through English as well as the vernaculars. At this time he prepared a course of lectures for his students at Bombay, and for the English society both there and at Mahableshwar, on “ The Apostle Paul in Greece ; or Christianity in contact with the Hellenic faith and manners and the Roman magistracy, compared with Christianity in contact with the Hindoo faith and manners and the British magistracy.” Of the Native Church, consisting of 126 adults, of whom 55 were communicants and 42 baptized adherents, he could write that it was in a prosperous spiritual state. In 1855 the value of the college as an evangelising no less than a pioneering agency, showed itself in the baptism of the best student, Guuputrao Rhogonath, of the respectable Parbhoo caste, and of Ismail Ibraim, the first Bohora who had embraced Christianity in India.

Mrs. Colin Mackenzie, whose journal, The Camp, the Mission, and the Zenana, had been received in Europe as revealing India more fully than any book since Heber’s, had sketched and published lithographs of the converts in Bombay and Calcutta. Of one of the portraits Dr. Wilson wrote:—“The serene piety and devotion of Yohan Prem are well brought out in the likeness. He lives on the word of Cod and prayer, and is mighty in the Scriptures. By many of the natives he is received as a sort of curiosity; and he finds access to circles into which others cannot penetrate. He carries the testimony of Jesus with him wherever he goes, and he brings many parties to the mission-house for religious converse.” Narayan Sheshadri was soon after ordained, and Dhunjeebhoy, who had been evangelising in Coojarat among his countrymen, baptized his first converts from the aboriginal Dheds. In 1854 Dr. Wilson thus reported the conversion of Baba Pudmanjee, the ablest Hindoo student of the college: “Though but a young lad, he is already a Marathee authority of distinction. I know no native so able to wield the press to advantage. His modesty is as remarkable as his ability. We have looked, and laboured and prayed for his conversion for years.”

Not till 1855, twelve years after they had built the first college only to hand it over to others before entering it, were Dr. Wilson and his colleagues able to take possession of the present college buildings, erected to accommodate eight hundred students and pupils, at a cost of £6800. But the joy of the year 1855 was sadly dimmed by the sudden removal by cholera, on the 26th July, of Robert Nesbit, a few months after his union to a lady who has ever since given her life to female education. The most perfect speaker of Marathee, so that even Brahmans could not detect a foreign accent, with an uprightness of judgment which the natives regarded as that of a god, and with a loving fascination which drew all of every sect and class to his feet, Robert Nesbit, in a few hours after he closed his last class at the college, was removed by death. The Bev. Adam White, who was in after years to meet a like fate in the same sort of self-sacrifice, and then Mr. W. Gardner, soon arrived from Scotland to take his place. But who could restore the unique individuality and the experience which, from St. Andrews University, and youthful intercourse with John Wilson on the Border hills, grew into ripeness in the southern Konkan, at the Cape of Good Hope, and amid the upheaving of Bombay for nigh thirty years

The East India Company’s Government, as well as purely English judges like Sir Erskine Perry, were to make another advance in the understanding and practice of toleration. Sir Erskine had in the last “habeas corpus” case decided that fourteen was the age of discretion in the case of a woman, while Shripat Shesliadri had been sent back to Brahmanism against his will because he was not sixteen. The Company’s Government in every province of India had steadily dechristianised the English professors, forbidding them, as well as native teachers, to explain passages in English literature referring to Christianity. Thus, it was thought, the leaven of Christianity would be effectually kept out of the State colleges and schools, while there was no official recognition by grants in aid of even the secular education in the missionary and independent colleges, although it was to men like Wilson and Duff that, as we have seen, the Company owed its educational stimulus, example, and systems.

In 1854 Lord Elphinstone had become Governor of Bombay after a successful experience of educational reform in Madras. It was doubtless due to his personal influence that the Bombay Government in 1856 decided that its teachers did not violate duty when they gave simple explanations of references in English text-books to Christianity. Four Parsee students of the Elphinstone College, in spite of prison bars, which could not shut out the light, astounded Dr. Wilson and Mr. White by addressing a letter to them which thus began :—

“We are fully convinced by the grace of God that Parseeism is a false religion ; and it consists of vague and extravagant principles. It is the invention of man, not the revelation of God. We have found out, after inquiring nearly two or three years after the true religion, that every comfort, joy, hope, success, and every good thing in this world as well as in the world to come, are concentrated in the Lord Jesus. We have now the greatest pleasure to inform you that, as we are fully convinced of the Truth of Christianity, we wish to be baptized, and to be admitted into the visible Church of Christ. . . . Nothing has led us to join the Christian Church but the pure hope and desire of the salvation of our souls.”

Some days after, the youths, all married, appeared at the mission-house, and a legal agent duly noted the circumstances and their ages—from seventeen years and eight months to nineteen years and nine months. A rush of Parsees was made to the spot. For three days the families of the young men, who had free access to them, plied them with the arguments of the devout Zoroastrian, the sober deist, and the arrogant scoffer, in vain. At last the representation that their mothers were dying, and the express pledge that they should have religious liberty at their homes and be allowed to attend the mission for instruction, prevailed at first with Darasha, and a day after with Bhicajee and Nussurwanjee. Bairamjee Kersajee alone remained faithful, and was in' due time baptized, but long required the protection of the law on his way to and from the college. The Hindoos and Muhammadans admitted the right of young men of that age to please themselves. The Parsees began to denounce the Government college in this case, as their fathers had attacked the officiating Governor in that of Dhunjeebhoy. They vilified, especially, one of their own tribe as a Christianiser, Professor Ardaseer Framjee. A formal inquiry by Government resulted in justifying him, and in the concession of liberty to the educational service so far as to explain Milton, for instance, to the pupils, hitherto religiously doubtful, or passages of Shakspere ! The result was seen in the next baptisms, those of another Parsee student of the Elphinstone College, Shapoorjee Eduljee, and a Muhammadan class-fellow, Syud Hussan Medinyeh. About the same time a Sikh, from the Punjab, and a Muhammadan moonshee, were admitted to the Church. Syud Hussan’s family concealed his conversion from their co-religionists as long as they could, but then openly set their ablest Moulvies to argue with him.

All through this period Dr. Wilson carried on his translation work, aided by his scholarly converts. He, Dhunjeebhoy, and Hormasdjee, brought out a revision of the Messrs. Fyvie’s translation of the Goojaratee New Testament. “It contains,” he wrote, “such improvements as the progress of Oriental translation, and the application to it, for the first time so far as we are aware, of competent native Indian Christian criticism, have enabled us to effect.” As his contribution to the public collection of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Dr. Wilson sent a MS. copy of the Four Gospels in Arabic, “evidently prepared for the use of the Eastern Churches. This valuable document I procured in rather remarkable circumstances. Some time ago I observed it in the library of one of the principal fire temples of Bombay, and on my offering ten pounds for it, the priests allowed me to have it on condition of my permitting them to make and keep a copy of it—a proposal on their part in which I immediately concurred.”

To Miss Douglas, who had sent him the Life of Judson and Stier’s JReden Jesu, he replied—“I am greatly obliged to you for the Life of Judson, which I have found most interesting in the illustration of his high Christian character and noble endeavours for the propagation of the truth. I rather wonder at the rash admissions into the Christian Church by the Baptist brethren at Burma. This greatly strikes the attention of a Presbyterian missionary, who knows the ignorance of the Eastern mind, and its proneness in certain circumstances to act from impetus, without real and abiding principle, without the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Though the apostles sometimes baptized on sudden professions, their disciples were tested by providence in an unequivocal manner.

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