THE FIRST NATIVE CONVERTS AND CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS
A carpenter the first Bengali convert–Krishna Pal’s confession–Caste broken for the first time–Carey describes the baptism in the Hoogli–The first woman convert–The first widow convert–The first convert of writer caste–The first Christian Brahman–The first native chapel–A Bengali “experience” meeting–Carey founding a new community as well as church–Marriage difficulties solved–The first native Christian marriage feast in North India–Hindoo Christian death and burial–The first Christian schools and school-books in North India–The first native Sunday school–Boarding schools for the higher education of country-born Christians–Carey on the mixed Portuguese, Eurasians, and Armenians–The Benevolent Institution for destitute children of all races–A hundred schools–English only postponed–Effect on native opinion and action–The leaven of the Kingdom–The Mission breaks forth into five at the close of 1810.
FOR seven years Carey had daily preached Christ in Bengali without a convert. He had produced the first edition of the New Testament. He had reduced the language to literary form. He had laid the foundations in the darkness of the pit of Hindooism, while the Northamptonshire pastors, by prayer and self-sacrifice, held the ropes. The last disappointment was on 25th November 1800, when “the first Hindoo” catechumen, Fakeer, offered himself for baptism, returned to his distant home for his child, and appeared no more, probably “detained by force.” But on the last Sunday of that year Krishna Pal was baptised in the Hoogli and his whole family soon followed him. He was thirty-five years of age. Not only as the first native Christian of North India of whom we have a reliable account, but as the first missionary to Calcutta and Assam, and the first Bengali hymn-writer, this man deserves study.
Carey’s first Hindoo convert was three years younger than himself, or about thirty-six, at baptism. Krishna Pal, born in the neighbouring French settlement of Chandernagore, had settled in the suburbs of Serampore, where he worked as a carpenter. Sore sickness and a sense of sin led him to join the Kharta-bhojas, one of the sects which, from the time of Gautama Buddha, and of Chaitanya, the reformer of Nuddea, to that of Nanak, founder of the Sikh brotherhood have been driven into dissent by the yoke of Brahmanism. Generally worshippers of some form of Vishnoo, and occasionally, as in Kabeer’s case, influenced by the monotheism of Islam, these sects begin by professing theism and opposition to caste, though Hindooism is elastic enough to keep them always within its pale and ultimately to absorb them again. For sixteen years Krishna Pal was himself a gooroo of the Ghospara sect, of which from Carey’s to Duff’s earlier days the missionaries had a hope which proved vain. He recovered from sickness, but could not shake off the sense of the burden of sin, when this message came to him, and, to his surprise, through the Europeans–“Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.” At the same time he happened to dislocate his right arm by falling down the slippery side of his tank when about to bathe. He sent two of the children to the Mission House for Thomas, who immediately left the breakfast table at which the brethren had just sat down, and soon reduced the luxation, while the sufferer again heard the good news that Christ was waiting to heal his soul, and he and his neighbour Gokool received a Bengali tract. He himself thus told the story:–“In this paper I read that he who confesseth and forsaketh his sins, and trusteth in the righteousness of Christ, obtains salvation. The next morning Mr. Carey came to see me, and after inquiring how I was, told me to come to his house, that he would give me some medicine, by which, through the blessing of God, the pain in my arm would be removed. I went and obtained the medicine, and through the mercy of God my arm was cured. From this time I made a practice of calling at the mission house, where Mr. Ward and Mr. Felix Carey used to read and expound the Holy Bible to me. One day Dr. Thomas asked me whether I understood what I heard from Mr. Ward and Mr. Carey. I said I understood that the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life up for the salvation of sinners, and that I believed it, and so did my friend Gokool. Dr. T. said, ‘Then I call you brother–come and let us eat together in love.’ At this time the table was set for luncheon, and all the missionaries and their wives, and I and Gokool, sat down and ate together.”
The servants spread the news, most horrible to the people, that the two Hindoos had “become Europeans,” and they were assaulted on their way home. Just thirty years after, in Calcutta, the first public breach of caste by the young Brahman students of Duff raised a still greater commotion, and resulted in the first converts there. Krishna Pal and his wife, his wife’s sister and his four daughters; Gokool, his wife, and a widow of forty who lived beside them, formed the first group of Christian Hindoos of caste in India north of Madras. Two years after Krishna Pal sent to the Society this confession of his faith. Literally translated, it is a record of belief such as Paul himself might have written, illustrated by an apostolic life of twenty-two years. The carpenter’s confession and dedication has, in the original, an exquisite tenderness, reflected also in the hymn11 which he wrote for family worship:–
“SERAMPORE, 12th Oct. 1802.
“To the brethren of the church of our Saviour Jesus Christ, our souls’ beloved, my affectionately embracing representation. The love of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, was made known by holy brother Thomas. In that day our minds were filled with joy. Then judging, we understood that we were dwelling in darkness. Through the door of manifestation we came to know that, sin confessing, sin forsaking, Christ’s righteousness embracing, salvation would be obtained. By light springing up in the heart, we knew that sinners becoming repentant, through the sufferings of Christ, obtain salvation. In this rejoicing, and in Christ’s love believing, I obtained mercy. Now it is in my mind continually to dwell in the love of Christ: this is the desire of my soul. Do you, holy people, pour down love upon us, that as the chatookee we may be satisfied.12 I was the vilest of sinners: He hath saved me. Now this word I will tell to the world. Going forth, I will proclaim the love of Christ with rejoicing. To sinners I will say this word: Here sinner, brother! Without Christ there is no help. Christ, the world to save, gave his own soul! Such love was never heard: for enemies Christ gave his own soul! Such compassion, where shall we get? For the sake of saving sinners he forsook the happiness of heaven. I will constantly stay near him. Being awakened by this news, I will constantly dwell in the town of joy. In the Holy Spirit I will live: yet in Christ’s sorrow I will be sorrowful. I will dwell along with happiness, continually meditating on this;–Christ will save the world! In Christ not taking refuge, there is no other way of life. I was indeed a sinner, praise not knowing.–This is the representation of Christ’s servant,
Such is the first epistle of the Church of India. Thus the first medical missionary had his reward; but the joy proved to be too much for him. When Carey led Krishna and his own son Felix down into the water of baptism the ravings of Thomas in the schoolhouse on the one side, and of Mrs. Carey on the other, mingled with the strains of the Bengali hymn of praise. The Mission Journal, written by Ward, tells with graphic simplicity how caste as well as idol-worship was overcome not only by the men but the women representatives of a race whom, thirty years after, Macaulay described as destitute of courage, independence, and veracity, and bold only in deceit. Christ is changing all that.
“Nov. 27.–Krishna, the man whose arm was set, overtook Felix and me, and said he would come to our house daily for instruction; for that we had not only cured his arm, but brought him the news of salvation…
“Dec. 5.–Yesterday evening Gokool and Krishna prayed in my room. This morning Gokool called upon us, and told us that his wife and two or three more of his family had left him on account of the gospel. He had eaten of Krishna’s rice, who being of another caste, Gokool had lost his. Krishna says his wife and family are all desirous of becoming Christians. They declare their willingness to join us, and obey all our Saviour’s commands. Gokool and his wife had a long talk; but she continued determined, and is gone to her relations.
“Dec. 6.–This morning brother Carey and I went to Krishna’s house. Everything was made very clean. The women sat within the house, the children at the door, and Krishna and Gokool with brother Carey and I in the court. The houses of the poor are only calculated for sleeping in. Brother Carey talked; and the women appeared to have learned more of the gospel than we expected. They declared for Christ at once. This work was new, even to brother Carey. A whole family desiring to hear the gospel, and declaring in favour of it! Krishna’s wife said she had received great joy from it.
“Lord’s-day, Dec. 7.–This morning brother Carey went to Krishna’s house, and spoke to a yard full of people, who heard with great attention though trembling with cold. Brother Brunsdon is very poorly. Krishna’s wife and her sister were to have been with us in the evening; but the women have many scruples to sitting in the company of Europeans. Some of them scarcely ever go out but to the river; and if they meet a European run away. Sometimes when we have begun to speak in a street, some one desires us to remove to a little distance; for the women dare not come by us to fill their jars at the river. We always obey…
“Dec. 11.–Gokool, Krishna, and family continue to seek after the Word, and profess their entire willingness to join us. The women seem to have learnt that sin is a dreadful thing, and to have received joy in hearing of Jesus Christ. We see them all every day almost. They live but half a mile from us. We think it right to make many allowances for ignorance, and for a state of mind produced by a corrupt superstition. We therefore cannot think of demanding from them, previous to baptism, to more than a profession of dependence on Christ, from a knowledge of their need of Him, and submission to Him in all things. We now begin to talk of baptism. Yesterday we fixed upon the spot, before our gate, in the river. We begin to talk also of many other things concerning the discipled natives. This evening Felix and I went to Gokool’s house. Krishna and his wife and a bràmmhàn were present. I said a little. Felix read the four last chapters of John to them, and spoke also. We sat down upon a piece of mat in the front of the house. (No chairs.) It was very pleasant. To have natives who feel a little as we do ourselves, is so new and different. The country itself seems to wear a new aspect to me…
“Dec. 13.–This evening Felix and I went to see our friends Gokool and Krishna. The latter was out. Gokool gave a pleasing account of the state of his mind, and also of that of Krishna and his family. While we were there, Gokool’s gooroo (teacher) came for the first time since his losing caste. Gokool refused to prostrate himself at his feet while he should put his foot on his head; for which his gooroo was displeased…
“Dec. 22.–This day Gokool and Krishna came to eat tiffin (what in England is called luncheon) with us, and thus publicly threw away their caste. Brethren Carey and Thomas went to prayer with the two natives before they proceeded to this act. All our servants were astonished: so many had said that nobody would ever mind Christ or lose caste. Brother Thomas has waited fifteen years, and thrown away much upon deceitful characters: brother Carey has waited till hope of his own success has almost expired; and after all, God has done it with perfect ease! Thus the door of faith is open to the gentiles; who shall shut it? The chain of the caste is broken; who shall mend it?”
Carey thus describes the baptism:–“Dec. 29.–Yesterday was a day of great joy. I had the happiness to desecrate the Gunga, by baptising the first Hindoo, viz. Krishna, and my son Felix: some circumstances turned up to delay the baptism of Gokool and the two women. Krishna’s coming forward alone, however, gave us very great pleasure, and his joy at both ordinances was very great. The river runs just before our gate, in front of the house, and, I think, is as wide as the Thames at Gravesend. We intended to have baptised at nine in the morning; but, on account of the tide, were obliged to defer it till nearly one o’clock, and it was administered just after the English preaching. The Governor and a good number of Europeans were present. Brother Ward preached a sermon in English, from John v. 39–‘Search the Scriptures.’ We then went to the water-side, where I addressed the people in Bengali; after having sung a Bengali translation of ‘Jesus, and shall it ever be?’ and engaging in prayer. After the address I administered the ordinance, first to my son, then to Krishna. At half-past four I administered the Lord’s Supper; and a time of real refreshing it was…
“Thus, you see, God is making way for us, and giving success to the word of His grace! We have toiled long, and have met with many discouragements; but, at last, the Lord has appeared for us. May we have the true spirit of nurses, to train them up in the words of faith and sound doctrine! I have no fear of any one, however, in this respect, but myself. I feel much concerned that they may act worthy of their vocation, and also that they may be able to teach others. I think it becomes us to make the most of every one whom the Lord gives us.”
Jeymooni, Krishna’s wife’s sister, was the first Bengali woman to be baptised, and Rasoo, his wife, soon followed; both were about thirty-five years old. The former said she had found a treasure in Christ greater than anything in the world. The latter, when she first heard the good news from her husband, said “there was no such sinner as I, and I felt my heart immediately unite to Him. I wish to keep all His commands so far as I know them.” Gokool was kept back for a time by his wife, Komal, who fled to her father’s, but Krishna and his family brought in, first the husband, then the wife, whose simplicity and frankness attracted the missionaries. Unna, their widowed friend of forty, was also gathered in, the first of that sad host of victims to Brahmanical cruelty, lust, and avarice, to whom Christianity has ever since offered the only deliverance. Of 124,000,000 of women in India in 1881, no fewer than 21,000,000 were returned by the census as widows, of whom 669,000 were under nineteen years, 286,000 were under fifteen, and 79,000 were under nine, all figures undoubtedly within the appalling truth. Jeymooni and Unna at once became active missionaries among their country-women, not only in Serampore but in Chandernagore and the surrounding country.
The year 1800 did not close without fruit from the other and higher castes. Petumber Singh, a man of fifty of the writer caste, had sought deliverance from sin for thirty years at many a Hindoo shrine and in many a Brahmanical scripture. One of the earliest tracts of the Serampore press fell into his hands, and he at once walked forty miles to seek fuller instruction from its author. His baptism gave Carey just what the mission wanted, a good schoolmaster, and he soon proved to be, even before Krishna in time, the first preacher to the people. Of the same writer caste were Syam Dass, Petumber Mitter, and his wife Draupadi, who was as brave as her young husband. The despised soodras were represented by Syam’s neighbour, Bharut, an old man, who said he went to Christ because he was just falling into hell and saw no other way of safety. The first Mohammedan convert was Peroo, another neighbour of Syam Dass. From the spot on the Soondarbans where Carey first began his life of missionary farmer, there came to him at the close of 1802, in Calcutta, the first Brahman who had bowed his neck to the Gospel in all India up to this time, for we can hardly reckon Kiernander’s case. Krishna Prosad, then nineteen, “gave up his friends and his caste with much fortitude, and is the first Brahman who has been baptised. The word of Christ’s death seems to have gone to his heart, and he continues to receive the Word with meekness.” The poita or sevenfold thread which, as worn over the naked body, betokened his caste, he trampled under foot, and another was given to him, that when preaching Christ he might be a witness to the Brahmans at once that Christ is irresistible and that an idol is nothing in the world. This he voluntarily ceased to wear in a few years. Two more Brahmans were brought in by Petumber Singhee in 1804, by the close of which year the number of baptised converts was forty-eight, of whom forty were native men and women. With the instinct of a true scholar and Christian Carey kept to the apostolic practice, which has been too often departed from–he consecrated the convert’s name as well as soul and body to Christ. Beside the “Hermes” of Rome to whom Paul sent his salutation, he kept the “Krishna” of Serampore and Calcutta.
The first act of the first convert, Krishna Pal, was of his own accord to build a house for God immediately opposite his own, the first native meeting-house in Bengal. Carey preached the first sermon in it to twenty natives besides the family. On the side of the high road, along which the car of Jagganath is dragged every year, the missionaries purchased a site and built a preaching place, a school, a house for Gokool, and a room for the old widow, at the cost of Captain Wickes, who had rejoiced to witness their baptism. The Brahman who owned the neighbouring land wished to sell it and leave the place, “so much do these people abhor us.” This little purchase for £6 grew in time into the extensive settlement of Jannagur, where about 1870 the last of Carey’s converts passed away. From its native chapel, and in its village tank, many Hindoos have since been led by their own ordained countrymen to put on Christ. In time the church in the chapel on the Hoogli became chiefly European and Eurasian, but on the first Sunday of the year, the members of both churches meet together for solemn and joyful communion, when the services are alternately in Bengali and English.
The longing for converts now gave place to anxiety that they might continue to be Christians indeed. As in the early Corinthian Church, all did not perceive at once the solemnities of the Lord’s Supper. Krishna Pal, for instance, jealous because the better educated Petumber had been ordained to preach before him, made a schism by administering it, and so filled the missionaries with grief and fear; but he soon became penitent. Associated with men who gave their all to Christ, the native members could not but learn the lesson of self-support, so essential for a self-propagating church, and so often neglected in the early history of missions, and even still. On baptism Krishna received a new white dress with six shillings; but such a gift, beautiful in itself, was soon discontinued. A Mohammedan convert asked assistance to cultivate a little ground and rear silkworms, but, writes Mr. Ward bowed down with missionary cares, “We are desirous to avoid such a precedent.” Although these first converts were necessarily missionaries rather than pastors for a time, each preacher received no more than six rupees a month while in his own village, and double that when itinerating. Carey and his colleagues were ever on the watch to foster the spiritual life and growth of men and women born, and for thirty or fifty years trained, in all the ideas and practices of a system which is the very centre of opposition to teaching like theirs. This record of an “experience meeting” of three men and five women may be taken as a type of Bengali Christianity when it was but two years old, and as a contrast to that which prevails a century after:–
“Gokool. I have been the greatest of sinners, but I wish only to think of the death of Christ. I rejoice that now people can no longer despise the Gospel, and call us feringas; but they begin to judge for themselves.
“Krishna Prosad. I have this week been thinking of the power of God, that he can do all things; and of the necessity of minding all his commands. I have thought also of my mother a great deal, who is now become old, and who is constantly crying about me, thinking that I have dishonoured the family and am lost. Oh that I could but once go and tell her of the good news, as well as my brothers and sisters, and open their eyes to the way of salvation!
“Ram Roteen. In my mind there is this: I see that all the debtahs (idols) are nothing, and that Jesus Christ is the only Saviour. If I can believe in him, and walk in his commandments, it may be well with me.
“Rasoo. I am a great sinner; yet I wish continually to think of the death of Christ. I had much comfort in the marriage of my daughter (Onunda to Krishna Prosad). The neighbours talked much about it, and seemed to think that it was much better that a man should choose his own wife, than that people should be betrothed in their infancy by their parents. People begin to be able to judge a little now about the Christian ways.
“Jeymooni. In this country are many ways: the way of the debtahs; the way of Jagganath, where all eat together; the way of Ghospara, etc. Yet all these are vain. Yesoo Kreest’s death, and Yesoo Kreest’s commands–this is the way of life! I long to see Kreest’s kingdom grow. This week I had much joy in talking to Gokool’s mother, whose heart is inclined to judge about the way of Kreest. When I was called to go and talk with her, on the way I thought within myself, but how can I explain the way of Kreest? I am but a woman, and do not know much. Yet I recollected that the blessing does not come from us: God can bless the weakest words. Many Bengali women coming from the adjoining houses, sat down and heard the word; and I was glad in hoping that the mercy of God might be found by this old woman. [Gokool’s mother.]
“Komal. I am a great sinner; yet I have been much rejoiced this week in Gokool’s mother coming to inquire about the Gospel. I had great sorrow when Gokool was ill; and at one time I thought he would have died; but God has graciously restored him. We have worldly sorrow, but this lasts only for a time.
“Draupadi. This week I have had much sorrow on account of Petumber. His mind is very bad: he sits in the house, and refuses to work; and I know not what will become of him: yet Kreest’s death is a true word.
“Golook. I have had much joy in thinking of God’s goodness to our family. My sisters Onunda and Kesaree wish to be baptised, and to come into the church. If I can believe in Kreest’s death, and keep his commands till death, then I shall be saved.”
Carey was not only founding the Church of North India; he was creating a new society, a community, which has its healthy roots in the Christian family. Krishna Pal had come over with his household, like the Philippian, and at once became his own and their gooroo or priest. But the marriage difficulty was early forced on him and on the missionaries. The first shape which persecution took was an assault on his eldest daughter, Golook, who was carried off to the house in Calcutta of the Hindoo to whom in infancy she had been betrothed, or married according to Hindoo law enforced by the Danish and British courts. As a Christian she loathed a connection which was both idolatrous and polygamous. But she submitted for a time, continuing, however, secretly to pray to Christ when beaten by her husband for openly worshipping Him, and refusing to eat things offered to the idol. At last it became intolerable. She fled to her father, was baptised, and was after a time joined by her penitent husband. The subject of what was to be done with converts whose wives would not join them occupied the missionaries in discussion every Sunday during 1803, and they at last referred it to Andrew Fuller and the committee. Practically they anticipated the Act in which Sir Henry Maine gave relief after the Scriptural mode. They sent the husband to use every endeavour to induce his heathen wife to join him; long delay or refusal they counted a sufficient ground for divorce, and they allowed him to marry again. The other case, which still troubles the native churches, of the duty of a polygamous Christian, seems to have been solved according to Dr. Doddridge’s advice, by keeping such out of office in the church, and pressing on the conscience of all the teaching of our Lord in Matthew xix., and of Paul in 1st Corinthians vii.
In 1802 Carey drew up a form of agreement and of service for native Christian marriages not unlike that of the Church of England. The simple and pleasing ceremony in the case of Syam Dass presented a contrast to the prolonged, expensive, and obscene rites of the Hindoos, which attracted the people. When, the year after, a Christian Brahman was united to a daughter of Krishna Pal, in the presence of more than a hundred Hindoos, the unity of all in Christ Jesus was still more marked:–
“Apr. 4, 1803.–This morning early we went to attend the wedding of Krishna Prosad with Onunda, Krishna’s second daughter. Krishna gave him a piece of ground adjoining his dwelling, to build him a house, and we lent Prosad fifty rupees for that purpose, which he is to return monthly, out of his wages. We therefore had a meeting for prayer in this new house, and many neighbours were present. Five hymns were sung: brother Carey and Marshman prayed in Bengali. After this we went under an open shed close to the house, where chairs and mats were provided: here friends and neighbours sat all around. Brother Carey sat at a table; and after a short introduction, in which he explained the nature of marriage, and noticed the impropriety of the Hindoo customs in this respect, he read 2 Cor. vi. 14-18, and also the account of the marriage at Cana. Then he read the printed marriage agreement, at the close of which Krishna Prosad and Onunda, with joined hands, one after the other, promised love, faithfulness, obedience, etc. They then signed the agreement, and brethren Carey, Marshman, Ward, Chamberlain, Ram Roteen, etc., signed as witnesses. The whole was closed with prayer by brother Ward. Everything was conducted with the greatest decorum, and it was almost impossible not to have been pleased. We returned home to breakfast, and sent the new-married couple some sugar-candy, plantains, and raisins; the first and last of these articles had been made a present of to us, and the plantains were the produce of the mission garden. In the evening we attended the monthly prayer-meeting.
“Apr. 5.–This evening we all went to supper at Krishna’s, and sat under the shade where the marriage ceremony had been performed. Tables, knives and forks, glasses, etc., having been taken from our house, we had a number of Bengali plain dishes, consisting of curry, fried fish, vegetables, etc., and I fancy most of us ate heartily. This is the first instance of our eating at the house of our native brethren. At this table we all sat with the greatest cheerfulness, and some of the neighbours looked on with a kind of amazement. It was a new and very singular sight in this land where clean and unclean is so much regarded. We should have gone in the daytime, but were prevented by the heat and want of leisure. We began this wedding supper with singing, and concluded with prayer: between ten and eleven we returned home with joy. This was a glorious triumph over the caste! A Brahman married to a soodra, in the Christian way: Englishmen eating with the married couple and their friends, at the same table, and at a native house. Allowing the Hindoo chronology to be true, there has not been such a sight in Bengal these millions of years!”
In the same year the approaching death of Gokool led the missionaries to purchase the acre of ground, near the present railway station, in which lies the dust of themselves and their converts, and of a child of the Judsons, till the Resurrection. Often did Carey officiate at the burial of Europeans in the Danish cemetery. Previous to his time the only service there consisted in the Government secretary dropping a handful of earth on the coffin. In the native God’s-acre, as in the Communion of the Lord’s Table, and in the simple rites which accompanied the burial of the dead in Christ, the heathen saw the one lofty platform of loving self-sacrifice to which the Cross raises all its children:–
“Oct. 7.–Our dear friend Gokool is gone: he departed at two this morning. At twelve he called the brethren around him to sing and pray; was perfectly sensible, resigned, and tranquil. Some of the neighbours had been persuading him the day before to employ a native doctor; he however refused, saying he would have no physician but Jesus Christ. On their saying, How is it that you who have turned to Christ should be thus afflicted? He replied, My affliction is on account of my sins; my Lord does all things well! Observing Komal weep (who had been a most affectionate wife), he said, Why do you weep for me? Only pray, etc. From the beginning of his illness he had little hope of recovery; yet he never murmured, nor appeared at all anxious for medicine. His answer constantly was, “I am in my Lord’s hands, I want no other physician!’ His patience throughout was astonishing: I never heard him say once that his pain was great. His tranquil and happy end has made a deep impression on our friends: they say one to another, ‘May my mind be as Gokool’s was!’ When we consider, too, that this very man grew shy of us three years ago, because we opposed his notion that believers would never die, the grace now bestowed upon him appears the more remarkable. Knowing the horror the Hindoos have for a dead body, and how unwilling they are to contribute any way to its interment, I had the coffin made at our house the preceding day, by carpenters whom we employ. They would not, however, carry it to the house. The difficulty now was, to carry him to the grave. The usual mode of Europeans is to hire a set of men (Portuguese), who live by it. But besides that our friends could never constantly sustain that expense, I wished exceedingly to convince them of the propriety of doing that last kind office for a brother themselves. But as Krishna had been ill again the night before, and two of our brethren were absent with brother Ward, we could only muster three persons. I evidently saw the only way to supply the deficiency; and brother Carey being from home, I sounded Felix and William, and we determined to make the trial; and at five in the afternoon repaired to the house. Thither were assembled all our Hindoo brethren and sisters, with a crowd of natives that filled the yard, and lined the street. We brought the remains of our dear brother out, whose coffin Krishna had covered within and without with white muslin at his own expense; then, in the midst of the silent and astonished multitude, we improved the solemn moment by singing a hymn of Krishna’s, the chorus of which is ‘Salvation by the death of Christ.’ Bhairub the brahmàn, Peroo the mussulman, Felix and I took up the coffin; and, with the assistance of Krishna and William, conveyed it to its long home: depositing it in the grave, we sung two appropriate hymns. After this, as the crowd was accumulating, I endeavoured to show the grounds of our joyful hope even in death, referring to the deceased for a proof of its efficacy: told them that indeed he had been a great sinner, as they all knew, and for that reason could find no way of salvation among them; but when he heard of Jesus Christ, he received him as a suitable and all-sufficient Saviour, put his trust in him, and died full of tranquil hope. After begging them to consider their own state, we prayed, sung Moorad’s hymn, and distributed papers. The concourse of people was great, perhaps 500: they seemed much struck with the novelty of the scene, and with the love and regard Christians manifest to each other, even in death; so different from their throwing their friends, half dead and half living, into the river; or burning their body, with perhaps a solitary attendant.”
Preaching, teaching, and Bible translating were from the first Carey’s three missionary methods, and in all he led the missionaries who have till the present followed him with a success which he never hesitated to expect, as one of the “great things” from God. His work for the education of the people of India, especially in their own vernacular and classical languages, was second only to that which gave them a literature sacred and pure. Up to 1794, when at Mudnabati he opened the first primary school worthy of the name in all India at his own cost, and daily superintended it, there had been only one attempt to improve upon the indigenous schools, which taught the children of the trading castes only to keep rude accounts, or upon the tols in which the Brahmans instructed their disciples for one-half the year, while for the other half they lived by begging. That attempt was made by Schwartz at Combaconum, the priestly Oxford of South India, where the wars with Tipoo soon put an end to a scheme supported by both the Raja of Tanjore and the British Government. When Carey moved to Serampore and found associated with him teachers so accomplished and enthusiastic as Marshman and his wife, education was not long in taking its place in the crusade which was then fully organised for the conversion of Southern and Eastern Asia. At Madras, too, Bell had stumbled upon the system of “mutual instruction” which he had learned from the easy methods of the indigenous schoolmaster, and which he and Lancaster taught England to apply to the clamant wants of the country, and to improve into the monitorial, pupil-teacher and grant-in-aid systems. Carey had all the native schools of the mission “conducted upon Lancaster’s plan.”
In Serampore, and in every new station as it was formed, a free school was opened. We have seen how the first educated convert, Petumber, was made schoolmaster. So early as October 1800 we find Carey writing home:–“The children in our Bengali free school, about fifty, are mostly very young. Yet we are endeavouring to instil into their minds Divine truth, as fast as their understandings ripen. Some natives have complained that we are poisoning the minds even of their very children.” The first attempt to induce the boys to write out the catechism in Bengali resulted, as did Duff’s to get them to read aloud the Sermon on the Mount thirty years after, in a protest that their caste was in danger. But the true principles of toleration and discipline were at once explained–“that the children will never be compelled to do anything that will make them lose caste; that though we abhor the caste we do not wish any to lose it but by their own choice. After this we shall insist on the children doing what they have been ordered.” A few of the oldest boys withdrew for a time, declaring that they feared they would be sent on board ship to England, and the baptism of each of the earlier converts caused a panic. But instruction on honest methods soon worked out the true remedy. Two years after we find this report:–“The first class, consisting of catechumens, are now learning in Bengali the first principles of Christianity; and will hereafter be instructed in the rudiments of history, geography, astronomy, etc. The second class, under two other masters, learn to read and write Bengali and English. The third class, consisting of the children of natives who have not lost caste, learn only Bengali. This school is in a promising state, and is liberally supported by the subscriptions of Europeans in this country.”
Carey’s early success led Mr. Creighton of Malda to open at Goamalty several Bengali free schools, and to draw up a scheme for extending such Christian nurseries all over the country at a cost of £10 for the education of fifty children. Only by the year 1806 was such a scheme practicable, because Carey had translated the Scriptures, and, as Creighton noted, “a variety of introductory and explanatory tracts and catechisms in the Bengali and Hindostani tongues have already been circulated in some parts of the country, and any number may be had gratis from the Mission House, Serampore.” As only a few of the Brahman and writer castes could read, and not one woman, “a general perusal of the Scriptures amongst natives will be impracticable till they are taught to read.” But nothing was done, save by the missionaries, till 1835, when Lord William Bentinck received Adam’s report on the educational destitution of Bengal.
Referring to Creighton’s scheme, Mr. Ward’s journal thus chronicles the opening of the first Sunday school in India in July 1803 by Carey’s sons:–
“Last Lord’s day a kind of Sunday school was opened, which will be superintended principally by our young friends Felix and William Carey, and John Fernandez. It will chiefly be confined to teaching catechisms in Bengali and English, as the children learn to read and write every day. I have received a letter from a gentleman up the country, who writes very warmly respecting the general establishment of Christian schools all over Bengal.”
Not many years had passed since Raikes had begun Sunday schools in England. Their use seems to have passed away with the three Serampore missionaries for a time, and to have been again extended by the American missionaries about 1870. There are now above 200,000 boys and girls at such schools in India, and three-fourths of these are non-Christians.
As from the first Carey drew converts from all classes, the Armenians, the Portuguese, and the Eurasians, as well as the natives of India, he and Mr. and Mrs. Marshman especially took care to provide schools for their children. The necessity, indeed, of this was forced upon them by the facts that the brotherhood began with nine children, and that boarding-schools for these classes would form an honourable source of revenue to the mission. Hence this advertisement, which appeared in March 1800:–“Mission, House, Serampore.–On Thursday, the 1st of May 1800, a school will be opened at this house, which stands in a very healthy and pleasant situation by the side of the river. Letters add to Mr. Carey will be immediately attended to.” The cost of boarding and fees varied from £45 to £50 a year, according as “Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, or Sanskrit” lessons were included. “Particular attention will be paid to the correct pronunciation of the English language” was added for reasons which the mixed parentage of the pupils explains. Such was the first sign of a care for the Eurasians not connected with the army, which, as developed by Marshman and Mack, began in 1823 to take the form of the Doveton College. The boys’ school was soon followed by a girls’ school, through which a stream of Christian light radiated forth over resident Christian society, and from which many a missionary came.
Carey’s description of the mixed community is the best we have of its origin as well as of the state of European society in India, alike when the Portuguese were dominant, and at the beginning of the nineteenth century when the East India Company were most afraid of Christianity:–“The Portuguese are a people who, in the estimation of both Europeans and natives, are sunk below the Hindoos or Mussulmans. However, I am of opinion that they are rated much too low. They are chiefly descendants of the slaves of the Portuguese who first landed here, or of the children of those Portuguese by their female slaves; and being born in their house, were made Christians in their infancy by what is called baptism, and had Portuguese names given them. It is no wonder that these people, despised as they are by Europeans, and being consigned to the teachings of very ignorant Popish priests, should be sunk into such a state of degradation. So gross, indeed, are their superstitions, that I have seen a Hindoo image-maker carrying home an image of Christ on the cross between two thieves, to the house of a Portuguese. Many of them, however, can read and write English well and understand Portuguese…
“Besides these, there are many who are the children of Europeans by native women, several of whom are well educated, and nearly all of them Protestants by profession. These, whether children of English, French, Dutch, or Danes, by native women, are called Portuguese. Concubinage here is so common, that few unmarried Europeans are without a native woman, with whom they live as if married; and I believe there are but few instances of separation, except in case of marriage with European women, in which case the native woman is dismissed with an allowance: but the children of these marriages are never admitted to table with company, and are universally treated by the English as an inferior species of beings. Hence they are often shame-faced yet proud and conceited, and endeavour to assume that honour to themselves which is denied them by others. This class may be regarded as forming a connecting link between Europeans and natives. The Armenians are few in number, but chiefly rich. I have several times conversed with them about religion: they hear with patience, and wonder that any Englishman should make that a subject of conversation.”
While the Marshmans gave their time from seven in the morning till three in the afternoon to these boarding-schools started by Carey in 1800 for the higher education of the Eurasians, Carey himself, in Calcutta, early began to care for the destitute. His efforts resulted in the establishment of the “Benevolent Institution for the Instruction of Indigent Children,” which the contemporary Bengal civilian, Charles Lushington, in his History extols as one of the monuments of active and indefatigable benevolence due to Serampore. Here, on the Lancaster system, and superintended by Carey, Mr. and Mrs. Penney had as many as 300 boys and 100 girls under Christian instruction of all ages up to twenty-four, and of every race:–“Europeans, native Portuguese, Armenians, Mugs, Chinese, Hindoos, Mussulmans, natives of Sumatra, Mozambik, and Abyssinia.” This official reporter states that thus more than a thousand youths had been rescued from vice and ignorance and advanced in usefulness to society, in a degree of opulence and respectability. The origin of this noble charity is thus told to Dr. Ryland by Carey himself in a letter which unconsciously reveals his own busy life, records the missionary influence of the higher schools, and reports the existence of the mission over a wide area. He writes from Calcutta on 24th May 1811:–
“A year ago we opened a free school in Calcutta. This year we added to it a school for girls. There are now in it about 140 boys and near 40 girls. One of our deacons, Mr. Leonard, a most valuable and active man, superintends the boys, and a very pious woman, a member of the church, is over the girls. The Institution meets with considerable encouragement, and is conducted upon Lancaster’s plan. We meditate another for instruction of Hindoo youths in the Sanskrit language, designing, however, to introduce the study of the Sanskrit Bible into it; indeed it is as good as begun; it will be in Calcutta. By brother and sister Marshman’s encouragement there are two schools in our own premises at Serampore for the gratuitous instruction of youth of both sexes, supported and managed wholly by the male and female scholars in our own school. These young persons appear to enter with pleasure into the plan, contribute their money to its support, and give instruction in turns to the children of these free schools. I trust we shall be able to enlarge this plan, and to spread its influence far about the country. Our brethren in the Isles of France and Bourbon seem to be doing good; some of them are gone to Madagascar, and, as if to show that Divine Providence watches over them, the ship on which they went was wrecked soon after they had landed from it. A number of our members are now gone to Java; I trust their going thither will not be in vain. Brother Chamberlain is, ere this, arrived at Agra…We preach every week in the Fort and in the public prison, both in English and Bengali.”
Carey had not been six months at Serampore when he saw the importance of using the English language as a missionary weapon, and he proposed this to Andrew Fuller. The other pressing duties of a pioneer mission to the people of Bengal led him to postpone immediate action in this direction; we shall have occasion to trace the English influence of the press and the college hereafter. But meanwhile the vernacular schools, which soon numbered a hundred altogether, were most popular, and then as now proved most valuable feeders of the infant Church. Without them, wrote the three missionaries to the Society, “the whole plan must have been nipped in the bud, since, if the natives had not cheerfully sent their children, everything else would have been useless. But the earnestness with which they have sought these schools exceeds everything we had previously expected. We are still constantly importuned for more schools, although we have long gone beyond the extent of our funds.” It was well that thus early, in schools, in books and tracts, and in providing the literary form and apparatus of the vernacular languages, Carey laid the foundation of the new national or imperial civilisation. When the time for English came, the foundations were at least above the ground. Laid deep and strong in the very nature of the people, the structure has thus far promised to be national rather than foreign, though raised by foreign hands, while marked by the truth and the purity of its Western architects.
The manifestation of Christ to the Bengalees could not be made without rousing the hate and the opposition of the vested interests of Brahmanism. So long as Carey was an indigo planter as well as a proselytiser in Dinapoor and Malda he met with no opposition, for he had no direct success. But when, from Serampore, he and the others, by voice, by press, by school, by healing the sick and visiting the poor, carried on the crusade day by day with the gentle persistency of a law of nature, the cry began. And when, by the breaking of caste and the denial of Krishna’s Christian daughter Golook to the Hindoo to whom she had been betrothed from infancy, the Brahmans began dimly to apprehend that not only their craft but the whole structure of society was menaced, the cry became louder, and, as in Ephesus of old, an appeal was made to the magistrates against the men who were turning the world upside down. At first the very boys taunted the missionaries in the streets with the name of Jesus Christ. Then, after Krishna and his family had broken caste, they were seized by a mob and hurried before the Danish magistrate, who at first refused to hand over a Christian girl to a heathen, and gave her father a guard to prevent her from being murdered, until the Calcutta magistrate decided that she must join her husband but would be protected in the exercise of her new faith. The commotion spread over the whole densely-peopled district. But the people were not with the Brahmans, and the excitement sent many a sin-laden inquirer to Serampore from a great distance. “The fire is now already kindled for which our Redeemer expressed his strong desire,” wrote Carey to Ryland in March 1801. A year later he used this language to his old friend Morris at Clipstone village:–“I think there is such a fermentation raised in Bengal by the little leaven, that there is a hope of the whole lump by degrees being leavened. God is carrying on his work; and though it goes forward, yet no one can say who is the instrument. Doubtless, various means contribute towards it; but of late the printing and dispersing of New Testaments and small tracts seem to have the greatest effect.”
In a spirit the opposite of Jonah’s the whole brotherhood, then consisting of the three, of Carey’s son Felix, and of a new missionary, Chamberlain, sent home this review of their position at the close of 1804:–
“We are still a happy, healthful, and highly favoured family. But though we would feel incessant gratitude for these gourds, yet we would not feel content unless Nineveh be brought to repentance. We did not come into this country to be placed in what are called easy circumstances respecting this world; and we trust that nothing but the salvation of souls will satisfy us. True, before we set off, we thought we could die content if we should be permitted to see the half of what we have already seen; yet now we seem almost as far from the mark of our missionary high calling as ever. If three millions of men were drowning, he must be a monster who should be content with saving one individual only; though for the deliverance of that one he would find cause for perpetual gratitude.”
In 1810 the parent mission at Serampore had so spread into numerous stations and districts that a new organisation became necessary. There were 300 converts, of whom 105 had been added in that year. “Did you expect to see this eighteen years ago?” wrote Marshman to the Society. “But what may we not expect if God continues to bless us in years to come?” Marshman forgot how Carey had, in 1792, told them on the inspired evangelical prophet’s authority to “expect great things from God.” Henceforth the one mission became fivefold for a time.