CHAPTER XIV. THE METTLE OF THE NATIVE CHRISTIAN.

In 1894, Francisco da Silva, soon after his conversion in Bahia, went to Victoria in the State of Espirito Santo to live. He went into the interior with some surveyors, and in addition to the work he was called upon to do, he found time to tell the story of Jesus. Eight people were converted and he wrote Dr. Z. C. Taylor to come and baptize them.

Dr. Taylor was not able to go immediately, and one of the men secured his baptism in a very unique way. He asked Francisco to baptize him Francisco replied that he could not because he was not ordained. The man returned home and examined his Bible and came back a few days later and demanded again that Francisco baptize him. Francisco replied that in order to baptize, one must be ordained. "No," said the man, "I have looked in the Bible and I do not find it necessary for one to be ordained in order to baptize." So catching hold of Francisco, he pulled him along to a river near by, Francisco through it all holding back the best he could and arguing with the man that he could not baptize him. But the man constrained him and forced him into the river. Francisco seeing his zeal, performed the ceremony. Some question afterward was raised about the validity of this baptism, and the man was baptized regularly by the same Francisco, who had in the meantime received ordination.

When he had finished with one party of surveyors another wanted to employ him, and they went to the first party to find out about him. The men said: "He has fine qualifications for the position, but there is one objection to him - he is a Protestant." "Ah, said the second party, "can't we with a little money get that out of him?" "No," replied the first, "it seems to be grown into him." He was taken by the second party, the chief of which and all his family soon became devoted Christians.

The desire to tell the story of Jesus burned in Francisco's heart so warmly that he gave up his lucrative employment with the surveying party, bought a mule and other necessities for his journey and started out to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ to the people of that State. He was remarkably successful and soon gathered about him a little band of believers, who, because of their faithfulness to Christ, were called upon to suffer severe persecution. They were compelled to flee into the distant mountains where Missionary Jackson afterward found them, organized them into a church and baptized seventy-five converts. Later they were able to return to their homes, due to the fact that a more lenient administration was inaugurated in Victoria. Very soon afterward our faithful missionary, L. M. Reno, was sent to this State, and the work from this good beginning has had remarkable prosperity. The pioneer missionary, da Silva, after having gained the title of Apostle to the State of Espirito Santo, was called in 1910 to his reward.

From what we have been saying, you have no doubt made many inferences about the kind of Christians these Brazilians make. If you had seen them face to face, you would have been, as I was, impressed with their appearance. They were the best-looking people I saw. Their countenances were clearer and there was a hopeful, resourceful look upon them that was not noticeable upon the non- believers. Sin and fear always break the spirit of men, and though there may be a brave look assumed, yet there always hangs a cloud over the countenance of the sin-stained and fear-driven man, be he a religionist or atheist. This change in appearance is produced by a change in their way of living. When they are converted they cease drinking, gambling, Sabbath-breaking, and often the men give up smoking and the women cease taking snuff. The fact is they sometimes are extreme upon this subject. I heard of one church that made the giving up of tobacco and another the laying aside of jewelry the test of fellowship. These people coming out from under the domination of a religion of fear into the light and liberty of the gospel are changed from glory to glory, having upon them the light of God's countenance.

They are liberal givers. There is a much larger proportion of tithers among them than among the Christians in the States. Here, too, they often go to extremes. More than one church in Brazil makes tithing obligatory upon its members. Last year the Brazilian Baptists gave as much per capita for foreign missions as did the Baptists in our Southern States. They have set their aim this year higher than the Southern Baptists have. They sustain foreign mission work in Chili and Portugal. They engage in this foreign mission endeavor because the leaders think that the foreign mission principle is vital to the life and development of the churches. This giving to foreign missions is not to the neglect of their home enterprises. They have Home and State Mission Boards which they support liberally. They have am Education Board to which they gave forty cents per capita last year and all of this giving out of such grinding poverty!

Here and there are people of larger means who are munificent in their gifts. It was the generous offer of $5,000 by Captain Egydio that made possible the founding of the Collegio Americano Egydio, which school was established by the Taylors in Bahia. He paid $650 the first installment upon the furniture, but his sudden taking off prevented the college from realizing the whole amount promised, because the family lost so heavily by persecution after the father had been taken away. Col Benj. Nogueira Paranagua, a rich cattleman, built a church, school and library building at Corrente in the State of Piauhy at his own expense and afterward paid the salary of a teacher for the school. When the church in San Fidelis, which was established in the face of trying persecution, was considering how it could possibly build a meeting house, a coffee farmer, who was not yet a member, rose and said: "I am old and useless, but I want to do something for Jesus and His church. I, therefore, offer to erect the church building and the church may pay me six per cent. annually until I die, and then the building will belong to the church as a legacy which I intend to leave." As the work on the house progressed he signified his desire to be the first one to be baptized in the baptistry. This was granted gladly and his thought of charging six per cent on the building until his death disappeared in the watery grave and he made the church a present outright of the beautiful chapel. Not only this chapel has been built by an individual, but others have been built in the same way. Usually, however, the churches are built out of the sacrificial offerings of the people. So well has this church building movement progressed that now about one-third of the 142 Baptist Churches organized in Brazil worship in their own buildings, and with a few exceptions, these buildings have been erected by the gifts of the people and not by the gifts of the Foreign Mission Board. The Presbyterians show a better proportion of buildings than this and the Methodists quite as good.

The subject of self-support is a live one. There has been good progress made in this matter, but, of course, it will require many years to teach the churches their full duty in this regard. Many churches have reached the point where they take care of all local expenses. Some of the missionaries go so far as to advocate not organizing any more churches until the congregations can be self- supporting. The South Brazilian Mission, in its recent meeting, adopted the rule that no church should be organized hereafter until it could pay at last 60 per cent of its own expenses - these expenses to include the care of the house, the salary of the native pastor, etc.

I have already cited instances of personal work. I wish to say more particularly that the great success which has attended the work in Brazil must be in a large measure attributed to the fact that those who have been led to Christ have been zealous in witnessing personally to others of the grace which had been bestowed upon them.

One of the greatest laymen in Brazil is our Brother Thomaz L. da Costa. He is the Superintendent of a very considerable business firm in Bahia. He is a deacon in the First Baptist Church, one of the moving spirits upon the Brazilian Foreign Mission Board and practically superintends the work of the State Mission Board of Bahia.

Years ago he was converted in Rio through the agency of his washerwoman. This faithful woman is a member of the First Baptist Churoh. She decided she would attempt to lead Thomaz to Christ. So on Saturday when she would bring his laundry she would invite him to come to her house on the following day for dinner. I might say by way of parenthesis, that there is not a steam laundry in Brazil. All of the laundry work is done by hand. Sometimes there is quite a considerable firm which employs many laundresses. Thomaz, after declining the good woman's invitation many times, finally one day decided he would accpt. it.

On Sunday he appeared at her house for dinner. After the dinner was over she suggested that they, in company with several of her children, should take a stroll through some of the parks. They passed through the great park in the center of the city, and after a while they found themselves in front of a building in which they heard singing. The good woman suggested that they go upstairs into the hall from which proceeded the sounds of the music. They went in, Thomaz not knowing what sort of place it was. Dr. Bagby, the first missionary of our board to Brazil, was conducting a service and soon began a sermon which impressed Thomaz very greatly. The sermon drew such a picture of his life that he accused the woman of having told Dr. Bagby about him. She had not done so, she declared, and this fact impressed Thomaz even more.

Next Saturday, when she brought his laundry, she invited him to take dinner with her again on Sunday, but he was too shrewd for her and declined, saying that he understood her purpose. The message which he had heard in the sermon, however, stayed with him. On the following Saturday the good woman again invited him to take dinner with her on Sunday. He declined. When the third Saturday came, before she had time to extend her usual invitation, he said: "I am coming to dinner with you tomorrow." He went according to promise, and after the meal had been finished, they did not take a round-about course, but went directly to the church, and there the man listened to the gospel again and gave himself to Christ. He has not missed a service since unless providentially hindered. I asked him if he was sorry of the step he had taken and he replied: "No, indeed. It is as Paul says, 'A salvation not to be repented of.'"

There can be but one inevitable result to such faithful witnessing as this. One of the most hopeful signs in connection with the work in Brazil is the fact that a large percentage of the members of the churches endeavor to lead others to Christ in a personal way. A large percentage of them will conduct public services wherever the opportunity can be found. In the First Baptist Church in Rio there are more than twenty men who will go out and conduct public services. They are not skilled preachers. They may have very limited education, but they can take the Book, read it, explain its message through the light of their own individual experiences, and by this means of witnessing to the power of the saving grace of God in their own lives, they are able to lead many to Jesus. Is not this after all the kind of preaching our Lord has sent us into the world to do?

The severest persecution which these Brazilian Christians are called upon to endure is not that which comes to them when they are stoned, or when their property may be destroyed or when their business may be taken away from them through boycotts or when they may be turned into the streets through the bitter hatred of hard- hearted priests, but the most trying persecution is that which comes from the insinuating remark, the sneer of the supercilious and the doubt of the envious. The taunt of hypocrisy is often thrown into the teeth of native Christians. Their motives are frequently impugned. I was profoundly impressed with the answer they usually give to such persecutions. They reply by saying: "See how we live. Note the difference between our careers now and our careers before we became Christians." And this challenge of the life is the one which will finally answer the ridicule and doubt of all who assail them.