The First Century Of Protestant Missions In India -- By: John Avery

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 039:154 (Apr 1882)
Article: The First Century Of Protestant Missions In India
Author: John Avery

The First Century Of Protestant Missions In India

John Avery

There is nowhere to be found in heathen lands a more interesting field for missionary effort than India, whether we consider the vastness of its territory and the diversity of its races and languages, or the depth of the superstitions and the antiquity of the institutions which it is sought to replace or develop by the purifying and vitalizing power of the gospel.

The history of the efforts put forth by the Protestant church for the evangelization of India falls conveniently into two periods, distinguished by marked characteristics. The first and longest period, which was nearly conterminous with the eighteenth century, was the time of seed-sowing in a strange soil, under discouraging circumstances; of noble, but sometimes misdirected effort; of success, remarkable at

first, but disappointing in the sequel; of incessant political disturbance and personal insecurity; in short, it was such a time of patient working and waiting, of encouragement and trial, as the Lord often makes his servants to pass through before he places himself at their head, and leads them forth conquering and to conquer.

The second period, which extends from the beginning of this century to the present time, is the period of organized and successful effort, made by many branches of the Christian church, to send the gospel to the people of every race and tongue throughout India. The mistakes and consequent failures of the former period have led to wiser plans of action and more permanent success. Government opposition has long since disappeared, and friendly co-operation has generally taken its place. The ill-disguised contempt of snobbish civilians for the toiling missionary has been exchanged for a more respectful bearing, if not for hearty appreciation. The native converts, who are distinguished from those of the first period by the completeness with which they have divorced themselves from heathen practices, are numbered by hundreds of thousands. It is true that they form as yet but a fragment of the swarming population of India; but hoary superstitions are beginning to give way; the people are waking out of an intellectual torpor of ages under the inspiration of modern thought; and if Christians are only ready to seize the critical moment, the day is not far distant when this fair domain shall become one of the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.

The history which we are to recite does not record the first attempts to Christianize the people of India. As early as 1499 a Portuguese squadron visited the western coast, having eight friars on board, who were sent out with the apostolic injunction to preach Christianity to the n...

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