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INDIAN RECOLLECTIONS.—No. II.
[Tinder this head we propose occasionally inserting papers on important topics connected with the welfare of our Indian empire. They will be by different writers. The initials affixed to the present communication will, we feel assured, command the interest and attention of all our readers.—Ed.]
THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA AND CHRISTIAN EDUCATION.
Mb. Editoe,—Having resided some years in India, and being often in contact with educated natives, and constantly co-operating with Christian Missionaries, I have read the paper in your number for May, on Government Education in India, with peculiar interest. I go entirely with all which your able correspondent advances as to the inconsistency of our present course in dealing with the native mind, and as to the urgency with which the question now rises, in view of the extension of the government system to the lower classes and to females, whether we are to continue to abstain from moral training hased on religious truth. Moreover, I quite concur in what is remarked as to the fallacy of putting secular education in India on a level with secular education among ourselves. Among ourselves, let religious teaching be altogether wanting in a school, some light will still obtain entrance from the reflex influence of Christianity around. It is not so in India. There, if the lamp of divine truth be withheld, all is darkness; and the effect of a merely secular education must be an infidelity all the more malignant, and to our own political interests all the more dangerous, from its being blended with a considerable amount of intellectual culture.
The question however recurs, What can be done? And it is in answer to that question that I take the liberty of offering a few remarks.
Now, as Christian men, what we would wish for India is nothing short of a thoroughly sound institution of the native mind in the rules of Gospel faith and duty. But, if such a wish is to be realized, I venture to say that measures must bo promptly taken, and yet not taken without due regard to circumstances. Let it be considered how far Christian instruction under the direction of the British Government in India is practicable.
For no one, I presume, would recommend that Government should make an acquaintance with the facts and principles of the Christian religion compulsory in its schools. Our past policy has put this out of the question, quite independently of any other consideration. For a long time to come, whatever is done must be done on the principle of voluntary concurrence on the part of the natives.
But next, supposing it were determined to offer Christian knowledge to all who were willing to receive it, how far can Government go? Its teachers must be almost wholly natives. Europeans of course can only superintend. But if natives are to be instructors in Christian truth and Christian morals, then they must be Christians themselves. And where are we to look for these? I fear we are far off the day when Christian natives, educated up to the standard of Government schoolmasters, will be forthcoming in sufficient numbers to meet the demand.
And then there is this difficulty, How could Government confine its schoolmasterships to Christian natives only? As things now are, the Idea would not be entertained for a moment; while a further difficulty would arise from the circumstance of these Christian natives being members of varying religious communions, and in not a few places this would also be the case with some at least of the pupils. From all these causes, the project of Christian instruction in India by any government system must be liable to long delay. That is to say, if by Christian instruction is meant the exposition of definite truth and duty.
If, then, I may be permitted to express my own conviction, I should regard it as a mistake for the Government of India to constitute itself the teacher of Christianity by such means. I see no possibility, under present circumstances, of its assuming this character. A time may come when the whole subject shall be reconsidered. What turn things may take at some future day, under a gracious providence, cannot now be foreseen. We can only deal with things as they are; and doing so, I cannot but believe that a plan is open to the British Government, by which, without any undue interference with the liberty of its native subjects, much may be done to rescue them from the peril to which, as education spreads, they are now exposed.
Why should not the Government offer, without delay, in all its schools, a voluntary reading of Holy Scripture without any comment or exposition whatever? I am well aware how far this will seem to fall short of the desire of some of India's warmest friends. But let them thoughtfully consider what more they could as yet attempt. Go one step beyond, by comment or explanation, and all the difficulties above mentioned, and at present insuperable, must be encountered, and every ray of divine light must still be excluded—and who can say lor how long? —from the Government schools. But let the simple reading of Scripture be allowed, and see what at once is gained—how large an amount of scriptural knowledge will begin forthwith to flow into the native mind; while a moral tone, from the force of Scripture precept and example, will be gradually set up, and everywhere a substratum will be laid for the missionary to build upon, better far than that which, although the result of mere traditionary and imperfect versions of sacred fact, has proved among the Karens in Burmah no small advantage to the Christian cause.
I apprehend no serious objection on the part of the natives themselves, if the reading of our Scriptures be strictly voluntary. Rather, they would be glad, I believe, of the opportunity of knowing, simply as matter of information, what our sacred books contain. And with many of the more advanced and influential classes it would be esteemed a moral advantage that the youth of India should be familiarized with histories and sentiments so different from what they find in the legendary tales of their own mythology. The Rajah of Travancore is a remarkable example of this, in that, although no convert to Christianity, he recognizes the reading of the Bible as part of his own educational system. It is too possible, perhaps, after the loud outcry which many Europeans have raised in India against any action of Government favourable to the evangelization of the natives, or any introduction of the Bible into Government schools, some opposition may at first be shown. But my persuasion is, that ere long we should see the youth of the country, from mere curiosity, and an eagerness for knowledge of all kinds, of their own accord expressing their desire to become acquainted with the Old and New Testament.
The most serious objection which has presented itself to my own mind is this, that if our Scriptures are read in schools with masters themselves unconverted, holy things may be liable to irreverent usage, and looks in school may be provoked, and observations out of school, such as we all should deprecate. But granting that to some extent this might be, yet would not similar abuses be found to attend all wider distribution of the Bible, and that not in heathen countries only, but even at our own doors? Who can answer for the treatment which, at times, the blessed book of God may undergo? Yet is this a reason to deter us from its universal circulation? I do not think that we have more to fear on this head in India than elsewhere. Meanwhile, the marvellous instances accumulating upon us, from all sides, of the power which the Holy Spirit vouchsafes in accompaniment of his own word, when left in its solitary grandeur to speak to the human mind and heart, seems surely to bid us have no fear, but, trusting God with the results, to bring His truth to the eye and to the ear of His creatures throughout the world.
I confess that I am sanguine of incalculable good, if this voluntary reading of Scripture in the Government schools, without anything beyond, were wisely arranged. Nor do I see
that, at present, the Government could do more. Bat thus much it could do, and without delay. There would be no need to wait for Christian teachers, nor would there be any embarrassment from religious differences. Let Government but tread in the steps of the Rajah of Travancore, and an antidote might at once be set in motion to the theism and the infidelity which now is too likely to follow in the wake of our educational progress.
And now I cannot but press the consideration of the responsible position of England towards India, which that progress has created. During the last fifteen years a change has begun in the native mind, of the most momentous consequence. Mere science is overthrowing India's ancient misbeliefs and superstitions. The benevolent statesmen who instituted the Government system of education told the natives not to be afraid,—that they would not touch the question of religion,—that all which they contemplated was the mental and social elevation of the country, and that matters of creed and worship should be ignored. And they meant what they said. But surely they looked very little ahead of their own course; otherwise they would have seen that it was impossible for them to impart sound instruction in history, in astronomy, in geography, and other branches of general knowledge, without cutting away the very foundations of India's popular beliefs. And so it has come to pass. The educated youth of India are fairly being shaken out of their traditional creeds by the simple force of secular instruction. A vacuum has thus been created, and that vacuum either truth or error must fill. But who is to bring in the truth? Who only can do it? And who, above all others, is bound to do it? I appeal to England's conscience. She it is who has created the vacuum. She it is who has forced general knowledge upon India, and by that knowledge has undermined all the old religions. And unless she now replaces them with truth, hers will be the responsibility of India's exposure to a deism which can never be the basis of sound morals, or an atheism which must be destructive of all moral sense. We have come, therefore, to a crisis—a crisis eminently owing to England's educational work in India; and if she now leaves her pupils as they are, and does not invite them to acquaintance with revealed truth, and that speedily, the burden of a rapidly spreading alienation from all serious belief, and therefore from the only habit of mind to generate good morals, will lie at England's door.
Some men, unhappily, there are, who will not much lay this thought to heart. But there is one view of the matter which minds the most mundane can hardly afford to despise. We may rely upon it, that India, educated but unprincipled, will never be a willing subject to England's rule. Her young men arc already asking why they should be governed by a foreign power? Their education too often puffs them up exceedingly; and proud of their acquirements, they fret against the yoke of an alien race. Let it be that they fret in vain; still there is no saving what amount of anxiety, and more than anxiety, may arise to a governing power from a population impatient of restraint, when throughout the cities, towns, and even villages of its land, the children have grown up to mock at their fathers' faith, and to own no faith beside.
J. H. Bp.
INSCRIPTIONS IN ANCIENT KARAITE HEBREW MSS.*
It is satisfactory to know that the more the Hebrew inscriptions on the Crimean tombs are examined into, the mora is their genuineness confirmed and established ; and even points, which at first sight appeared suspicious, have, on investigation, proved strongly in their favour. Of scarcely less interest. are the epigraphs or inscriptions found in the ancient Hebrew MSS. discovered in the Crimea. In many respects these epigraphs themselves are strongly confirmatory of the genuineness of the records on the graves of Tshufutkale, and the other Jewish burying places in the Crimea, and in them appear the same eras of the Israelitish or Samaritan exile, the old era of the Creation, and the more modern Jewish computation.
Neubauer, in his most interesting little volume, remarks with truth, that these Crimean discoveries have made us acquainted with several novelties. Inscriptions on rolls of the Law were unheard of, till many such were discovered on these Karaite rolls, and the directions of the Rabbins as to the mode of writing have in these MSS. been utterly set at nought. The MSS. exhibit also other striking peculiarities, and yot it is utterly impossible to conceive any fabrication, even in the case of the inscriptions found in them. Before the discovery of the Karaite MSS., the oldest Hebrew MSS. known were of the tenth or eleventh centuries; but among the Karaite ^ISS., now at St. Petersburgh, are several of much older date, one of the sixth, and even one belonging to the fifth century.
In proof of the statement that the various eras mentioned in
• Achtzehn Hebraische Orabschriften Aus der Petersburgcr Bibliothck
aus der Krim. Ein Beitrag zur bibli- Beitriige und Dokumonte zar Ge
schen Chronologic, semitischen Palao- schichte des Karaerthama und der
graphie u. alten Ethnographic. Von karaischen Literatnr. Von Adolf
D. Chwolson. Mit 9 Tafeln. St. Peters- Nenbauor. Leipzig, 1866. burg, 1865.
Vol. 68.—No. 379. 3 T