A PARSON’S HOLIDAY

 

Tinnevelly, Palamcottah, A Drive in a “Bandy,” Nazareth, Sunday in a Native Christian Village, Mission Life, Orphanages, Evangelistic Work, Life of a INIissionary, Sir R. Temple on Missions, Mudalur, Mengnanapuram, A Self denying Life, “Society Bishops,” Tuticorin, Leave India…. Page 183-207 

From Madura I travelled southwards into the district of Tinnevelly. This is the name most often heard at Missionary meetings at home, and when the Christian Missions of India are referred to, it is this district which is generally mentioned. For here may be seen whole villages entirely Christian, built round the Church, and the villagers themselves support a resident clergyman, who is often a native. It is the one part of India where Christianity is the religion of a distinct proportion (6 per cent.) of the population. Instead of being professed by a few converts, it is here the faith of thousands, who have been brought up from childhood within its borders. I had seen many missionaries in various parts of India struggling with the overwhelming masses of heathendom. I was now to see that district where even the most sceptical as to the good done by missionaries must confess that a modicum of success has crowned their labors. After having seen the efforts made to evangelize the heathen, it was pleasant to anticipate the sight of Christian villages where temples and idols were unknown.

The district of Tinnevelly extends from a little south of Madura to Cape Comorin. It is bounded on the east and south by the coastline of India, and on the west by the native States of Travancore and Cochin. The soil is sandy and poor, and the chief wealth of the district comes from the Palmyra palms, which are very numerous. It is a district away from railways. The line from Madras has its terminus at the town of Tinnevelly, but those who desire to penetrate further into the country must be content with the slow progress and jolting motion of the “bandy” or bullock waggon. The people are quiet and inoffensive, originally very ignorant, and prone to devil worship. They were the aboriginal inhabitants of the land, and had never heartily embraced Hinduism, but preferred to combine with it many of their old superstitions.

More than a hundred years ago the district was visited by Schwartz, but it was not till fifty years later that any great effort was made to evangelize this people. From the very first the idea of the missionaries was to found villages entirely Christian, where the tumults and seductions of heathenism should be unknown. This idea has never been lost siijht of, and now it has been realized in numerous instances. In 1841 Mr. Caldwell (now Bishop Caldwell) began his great work, and his name will always be associated with the Tinnevelly Mission. He not only succeeded in adding greatly to the number of  Churches, and schools, and clergymen, and catechists in the district, but he started a scheme of local Church government and self-sustentation which has answered admirably. There is a Church council in every district, which the clegyman consults in all matters of local interest, and which assists him in collecting and distributing the offerings made by the congregation. So well has the Church been organized, that nearly every congregation supports its native pastor, and also subscribes largely to spread the Gospel news to the neighbouring heathen villages.

These poor Christians of Tinnevelly set an example worth noting by richer congregations in England. The rise of the native pastorate is one of the most interesting facts in connection with the Tinnevelly Mission. In 1841 there were in the whole district seven European clergy and only one native. In 1869 there were fourteen European and forty-seven native clergymen. This number has since then been largely increased. In 1877 ^ fresh departure was made.  The Tinnevelly Missions were put under the joint charge of Dr. Caldwell and Dr. Sargent, who were together consecrated Assistant-Bishops to the Bishop of Madras. Bishop Caldwell was to have charge of the Missions under the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, while Bishop Sargent was to exercise oversight over the Church Missionary Society’s Missions. Thus the district of Tinnevelly has two Bishops resident within its borders, both of whom know the native languages, and are able to foster the growth of the native Church.

The same year was marked by the terrible famine which devastated all Southern India, and was grievously felt in Tinnevelly. The failure of the rain caused loss of crops; bullocks died and wells dried up; the people looked out on bare fields and no food; the heavens were brass, and the earth iron; and multitudes died before relief could be brought to their doors. Numbers of half-starved, emaciated people, men, and women, and children, crawled to the relief camps, where grain was distributed. Numbers more were found in a dying state by the roadside, and were carried to places where food could be obtained. All England was stirred by the news which was sent home. Large sums were given for the relief of distress, and thousands of lives were saved by the labors of an army of almoners. The after-result in Tinnevelly was most striking. When the heathen saw this flood of charity poured out on them from strangers in a far distant land, they could not but feel grateful to their unknown benefactors. Then followed a desire to know more about this religion, which inculcated such beneficent charity. So there was a movement and a stirring all through the land, and in 1878 there was a marked desire to hear more about Christianity. Numbers of villages placed themselves under Christian instruction, and the accessions from heathenism were so marked, that it was rightly called a “harvest of souls.” The numbers of those under instruction suddenly increased from 23,000 to 43,000. And “the principal cause of the movement was undoubtedly the conviction that generally prevailed, that whilst Hinduism had left the famine-stricken to die, Christianity had stepped in like an angel from heaven, to render them in their distress the sincerest sympathy and the most effectual succour.” So Bishop Caldwell writes, and he also notices that in no case was an agreement to become Christians made a condition for the receiving of relief. Indeed the great accession of converts took place after the season of famine was over, and when all relief had stopped. The distribution of money and grain during the distress was made without any conditions, and in every place men could obtain relief without changing their religion. Every witness seems to agree that the movement towards Christianity was quite spontaneous and arose simply from the fact that the hearts of the people had been touched and softened by the extraordinary kindness shown to them in their distress by the Christians of England.

Since 1878 the tide of accessions to Christianity has continued to flow, and the increase has been regular and unceasing. Probably now the total number of Christians in Tinnevelly under the care of the various societies in connection with the Church of England does not fall short of 100,000. There is of course an immensity more to be done. Missionaries returning home and wishing to interest apathetic audiences are inclined to magnify their success and dwell much on the immense strides which have been made in the last few years. All this is perfectly true, and worthy to be remembered. The increase of the Christian population in the province of Madras in the ten years

1871-8 1 is 165,682, or 30*39 per cent. This is a fact which should make us thankful and hopeful. But we also need to remember how small is the number of Christians when contrasted with the multitude of heathen amongst whom they live. The total numbers for the whole of India are, Hindus about 188 millions, and Mohammedans 50 millions. The number of Christians is only 1,853,426, not much more than a half per cent, of the total population of India. Even in Tinnevelly, where Christians apparently abound in far greater numbers than elsewhere, where there are native Christian villages, and native clergy, and numerous native Churches, even there the Christians number barely 6 per cent, of the population. Thus out of every hundred people in Tinnevelly there are still 94 who worship idols, or profess some false religion. The numbers in India are so enormous that it is difficult to realize what multitudes of people there are who have never heard a sound of the Gospel message.

Chapter X

 My journey from Madura to Tinnevelly was hot, and tiring, and dusty. I started at 5 a.m., but I did not arrive at my journey’s end till noon, and by that time the sun had great power. Although it was the middle of the cold season, being January 20th, yet in these Southern plains the heat is always great, as Tinnevelly is’ only nine degrees from the Equator. The platforms on the line were crowded with dark faced crowds of natives, whose heads were shaved as far as the top of the crown, but their hair was allowed to grow in a long rough mane behind. Sometimes it was tied up in a knot, and covered with a turban, but more often it hung down their backs in an untidy fashion. I was very hungry before I arrived at my destination, as I had neglected to carry a luncheon basket, and refreshment rooms were noticeable by their absence. However, I brought some plantains, and bread, and obtained a draught of the “milk” of the green cocoa-nut. This is a most delicious beverage. The vendor cuts off the top of the nut with a sharp sickle shaped knife, and then pours the liquor into your glass. It is nearly white in colour, almost clear, and not in the least like milk. Its taste is sweet, and a drink of it is most refreshing. When the nut ripens this liquor becomes more like milk, but when the nut is in a green state the juice is far nicer to drink.

 I arrived at Tinnevelly Station about noon, and drove from there to Palamcottah, about two miles distant. This was my first experience of a “bandy” or bullock waggon, which is the common conveyance of Southern India. The horse “gharri” of the North gives way to the bullock “bandy,” and everyone hires it for long journeys. The “bandy” is a two-wheeled waggon, about six feet long and three feet wide. It is entered from the back^ and the seats can be so arranged as to form a bed. There is a tilt or covering over the top, made of plaited palm leaves, and the driver sits it front. Good bullocks will trot about six miles an hour, but the hack “bandy” does not travel so fast. Indeed on the sandy tracks away from the towns, two miles an hour is the average pace. My “bandy” soon brought me to the Church Missionary College at Palamcottah, where I was most kindly received, and arrangements were made for my further journey into the country district. I had been advised to go to the Christian village, of Nazareth, which is twenty one miles distant from Palamcottah. The only means of reaching this village is by “bandy.” During the heat of the day I stopped at Palamcottah, and saw a little of the work going on there. The town is the head-quarters of the Church Missionary Society’s Mission; it is here that Bishop Sargent resides, and here is also a Training College for native catechists and teachers, with a practicing school attached. The buildings were plain and substantial, and seemed well fitted for their purpose. The Rev.T. Kember, who is in charge of this college, was most willing to show me everything, and to explain his plans for the spiritual, mental and physical training of the students. The dormitories were built in native fashion; the students slept on mats spread on the floor, and in no way were they over Europeanizcd.

They were encouraged to play games, and go in for athletics; the lecture rooms were large, clean, cool, and well fitted with all kinds of apparatus; and the course of study seemed everything that could be desired. There is no work which tends more to the edifying of the native Church than this work of training native agents. If India is ever to be entirely evangelized, it must be through her own countrymen. A large supply of native teachers is absolutely necessary to the growth of the Church. It is good economy to spend much time, and pains, and money, on training picked specimens of the race, who will afterwards be able to teach others. The Missions in Tinnevelly have always been pre-eminent in this branch of the work, and the agents that have been trained in these schools and colleges are now forming the resident clergy and schoolmasters in many Christian villages. The higher the standard held up to the natives who are under instruction, the more will they edify their congregations when they become teachers of others. No pains are too great to be bestowed on those who are to be sent forth, often alone, to bear witness for Christ amongst their heathen neighbours. They have to be taught to be courageous, consistent, pure minded Christians, not afraid of responsibility, and yet not arrogant and presumptuous. There is need of much wisdom and watchfulness amongst those who try to train the future clergy of India, and on the whole the success has been great. Failures there must be at times. Some fall away from the promise of their youth. But on the whole there is much reason to thank God, and take courage. Those who are sent out from the Training Colleges do hold up a high standard, and often shine like lights amongst those with whom they live. 

There seemed to be no jealousy between the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society and those of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Tinnevelly. I certainly was most kindly welcomed by the agents of both Societies. Everyone seemed glad to receive a parson from England, and they all did their best to make my stay pleasant and instructive. I was passed on from one to the other, arrangements were made by which I was to see as much as possible in the short time at my disposal, and there was an amount of kindness shown to me which I can never forget nor in any way repay.

At 4 p.m., when the sun was less powerful, I started in my “bandy” for a drive of twenty-one miles to Nazareth. For the first part of the way there was a good road, which enabled us to make fair progress.The bullocks trotted along at about five miles an hour, and I was not jolted as much as I expected. But soon we had to turn off the main road, and then our progress was not so rapid. The bullocks required many objurgations to induce them to break into a trot at all, and for the latter part of the journey we had to be content to proceed at a walking pace. The sun had long set, and the road seemed endless. The track seemed to get fuller and fuller of ruts, and I was jolted unmercifully. However, about 9 p.m., we saw the lights of a bungalow. The bullocks quickened up into a last attempt at a trot, there were shouts and cries of welcome, and we drew up at the door of a long, low house with a broad verandah, which seemed crowded with kindly faces. My host and his companion had everything ready for me, and after supper I was ready to ask questions and to hear as much as possible about Mission work.

My first experience of Nazareth was quaint enough. Strangers are so seldom seen in these country villages, that the news of my advent had created quite a stir. If I had been an important Church dignitary, instead of a poor country parson, I could not have caused more excitement. These simple villagers look upon England as such a far off and marvellous land, that they feel complimented by a visit paid to them by any European. They thus are ready to pay honour to anyone who comes to them from abroad, however unimportant his real position may be. I found that the choir boys wished to show me a native dance, that the native clergy had heard of my coming and wished to see me, and that I was expected to preach on the morrow, which was Sunday, to the native congregation. The estimate that they had formed of one unknown and insignificant personage shows how gladly they would receive visits from better known and more illustrious people. I mention this over-appreciation of myself in Nazareth in order that others may visit this interesting village, where they are sure to receive a hearty welcome.

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