A Century Of Foreign Missions In India -- By: Delavan L. Leonard

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 051:202 (Apr 1894)
Article: A Century Of Foreign Missions In India
Author: Delavan L. Leonard

A Century Of Foreign Missions In India

Rev. Delavan L. Leonard

THE missionary history of this greatest of mission fields divides naturally into three portions. The first includes whatever was undertaken for the gospel before the advent of William Carey, just a hundred years ago, and may be termed the period of preparation, or of waiting for the fulness of times to appear. The second was the period of exploring and pioneering, of experiment and laying of foundations, and closed in 1858 with the dissolution of the East India Company. The third extends to the present hour, and is the brief day of enlargement on every side, of vigorous and thorough aggressive work, and of reaping the first fruits of the blessed harvest.


No violence is done to the facts in the case by affirming that the evangelization of India had its beginning only a century ago. For not until then did forces begin to operate, which ever since have been working without interruption, with conquering might steadily increasing. All antecedent attempts were at the best but premature and isolated, and so unfruitful. After running their course for a limited time a serious decline set in, from which there was no recovery. But more especially, no vital connection can be traced between them and the missionary movements of to-day. Nevertheless, to find the date when Christianity was first proclaimed in the land of the Hindus, we must needs go far back towards the early days of the church. When, or by whom, this was done,

none can say, though tradition affirms that it was by one of the apostles, and others suggest the Nestorians as more likely. But at an early day numerous converts were made and gathered into organizations in Southern India, upon the Malabar coast, and though later they became exceedingly corrupt in doctrine and life, and thus lost entirely the ability and disposition to make further encroachments upon the realms of heathendom, still they have maintained their existence to the present, and now number some two hundred thousand.

The second assault on this mighty stronghold of Satan was made about a thousand years later, when the Portuguese were powerful in the East Indies, with the truly apostolic labors of Xavier (1541–49) as the most notable passage. From Goa as a centre he went out, preaching and baptizing, in all directions, gathering proselytes by the ten thousand. But, during the century following, the Dutch and English entered into competition for the trade of the Orient with a determination and prowess which the Portuguese could not at all resist, and for this, and other reasons, the Catholic missions in India fell into a decay which continued until times quite recent. The chief cause o...

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