AMERICAN MISSIONS IN INDIA
About 5,000 missionaries of various religions and cults are working among the people of India; two-thirds of them Protestants, and about 1,500 Americans, including preachers, teachers, doctors, nurses, editors and all concerned. Their names fill a large directory, and they represent all grades and shades of theology, philosophy, morality and other methods of making human beings better, and providing for the salvation of their souls. India is a fertile and favorite field for such work. The languid atmosphere of the country and the contemplative disposition of the native encourage it. The Aryan always was a good listener, and you must remember that India is a very big country - a continent, indeed, with a mixed multitude of 300,000,000 souls, some striving for the unattainable and others hopelessly submerged in bogs of vice, superstition and ignorance. There are several stages of civilization also. You can find entire tribes who still employ stone implements and weapons, and several provinces are governed by a feudal system like that of Europe in the middle ages. There are thousands who believe that marriage is forbidden by the laws of nature; there are millions of men with several wives, and many women with more than one husband. There are tribes in which women control all the power, hold all the offices, own all the property and keep the line of inheritance on their side. There are vast multitudes, on the other hand, in India who believe that women have no souls and no hereafter, and advocate the murder of girl babies as fast as they are born, saving just enough to do the cooking and mending and to keep the race alive. Communities that have reached an intellectual culture above that of any nation in Europe are surrounded by 250,000,000 human beings who cannot read or write. There are thinkers who have reasoned out the profoundest problems that have ever perplexed mankind, and framed systems of philosophy as wise as the world has ever known, and many of their wives and daughters have never been outside of the houses in which they were born; all of which indicates the size of the field of missionary labor and the variety of work to be done.
India contains some of the most sublime and beautiful of all the non-Christian religions, and perfect systems of morals devised by men who do not believe in a future life. More than 60,000,000 of the inhabitants accept Jesus Christ as an inspired teacher and worship the same God that we do under another name, and more than three times that number believe that the Ruler of All Things is a demon who delights in cruelty and slaughter and gives his favor only in exchange for suffering and torture. A tribe in northwest India believes that God lives on the top of a mountain in plain sight of them, and up in the northeast are the Nagas, who declare that after the Creator made men He put them into a cellar from which they escaped into the world because one day he forgot to put back the stone that covers a hole in the top. More fantastic theories about the origin and the destiny of man are to be found in India than in any other country, and those who have faith in them speak 167 different languages, as returned by the census. Some of these languages are spoken by millions of people; others by a few thousand only; some of them have a literature of poetry and philosophy that has survived the ages, while others are unwritten and only used for communication by wild and isolated tribes in the mountains or the jungles.
Christian missionaries have been at work in India for four hundred years. St. Francis Xavier was one of the pioneers. Protestants have been there for a little more than a century, and since 1804 have distributed 13,000,000 of Bibles. During the last ten years they have sold 5,000,000 copies of the Scriptures either complete or in part; for the Gospels in each of the great Indian languages, like two sparrows, can now be bought for a farthing. In 1898, 497,000 copies were issued; in 1902, more than 600,000; and thus the work increases. More than 140 colporteurs, or agents, mostly natives, are peddling the Bible for sale in different parts of India. They do nothing else. More than 400 native women are engaged in placing it in the secluded homes of the Hindus among women of the harems, and teaching them to read it. No commercial business is conducted with greater energy, enterprise and ability than the work of the Bible Society, in this empire, and while the missionaries have enormous and perplexing difficulties to overcome, they, too, are making remarkable headway.
You frequently hear thoughtless people, who know nothing of the facts, but consider it fashionable to sneer at the missionaries, declare that Hindus never are converted. The official census of the government of India, which is based upon inquiries made directly of the individuals themselves, by sworn agents, and is not compiled from the reports of the missionary societies, shows an increase in the number of professing Christians from 2,036,000 in 1891 to 2,664,000 in 1901, a gain of 625,000, or 30 per cent in ten years, and in some of the provinces it has been remarkable. In the Central Provinces and United Provinces the increase in the number of persons professing Christianity, according to the census, was more than 300 per cent. In Assam, which is in the northeastern extremity of India, and the Punjab, which occupies a similar position in the northwest, the increase was nearly 200 per cent. In Bengal, of which Calcutta is the chief city, the gain was nearly 50 per cent; in the province of Bombay it was nearly 40 per cent, and in Madras and Burmah it was 20 per cent.