Johann A Schürmann ~ Correspondence

Missionaries and Natives

Early 1838 | Letter | J A Shurman, Benares, India to London Missionary Society Board.

The Rev JA Schurmann ... sent home a specimen of his method of discoursing on the truths of the Gospel to the Natives the kind of preaching best suited to the Natives.

Kind of Preaching best suited to the Natives.

It wants exceedingly great skill to preach effectually to the Natives. Our minds have by our European education, become very prone to generalizing but this will not do with the Natives. A Sermon of the best European Preacher, translated into Hindustani would not be listened to Every doctrine stated must be explained by a figure or case, taken from the sphere of their own observation. Whenever I intend to preach a doctrine which I have not preached before, I first sit down and consider by what figure, or allegory, or parable, I shall explain it: when I see that this representation does not strike their minds, I think of another; and go on in this way, till I find one which is quite according to their taste and ideas. Every striking figure passes with the Natives for argument. Europeans look to the truth of the figure itself first, and then whether it be applicable to the case in hand. Not so the Natives. By a striking figure you may convince their minds at once.

Objections of the Natives

I am now so well acquainted with all their ideas and objections, and the answers which will satisfy them, that I never get into perplexity. There is no subject more difficult to treat than the political relation in which Englishmen stand to the Natives; and they are exceedingly fond of touching upon it. In the first year, I never entered on this subject; but said that I, as a Minister of the Gospel, could not discuss with them political questions, but only the politics ofthe kingdom of God. I now enter fully the subject. Often, after preaching, Brahmin will come forward and the matter in this way:--

Manner of answering Objections.

"Well, all you say is very good; but you act not according to it - if you go your neighbor's house and rob him of all has--."

I asked him whether he any thing against my character.

"No, but you are an Englishman, and the Englishmen have first taken our country, and will take our religion likewise.

I tell him that he is entirely wrong, in the first place, taking me for an Englishman; secondly saying, in saying that the English have robbed of their country; and, thirdly, supposing in that the English wish to take their religion.

"If you tell this in Persia or China," I say, "would the Natives not ask how many millions of Englishmen came over to a nation of 120 millions? And would then not be obliged to state the truth viz. that sin and corruption had thrown the country into such confusion that you wre obliged to call some few English Merchants residing in the village of Calcutta to over you?  Who were the soldiers? Were and are they not almost all Natives? Do you think that you could conquer England this way? No! there is no caste: all have a common interest all are one."

This satisfies every native mind.

I go on to tell them that Governmentwill not take their religion, as it would not be political.

"As long as there are castes, there is no common interest. If you had been Christians and Brethren, neither the English nor any nation could have conquered you. Government is now neutral, but would formerly not suffer any Missionary to preach to you that we are all one. Gods formerly came, according to your belief to dethrone oppressive Princes — God has now sent the English. And why are you dissatisfied with Government? Were you ever ruled so well? Look to Oude, and other States, where Natives reign. Do the people not now long for the English Government, as you did formerly? You, being a Brahman, are perhaps displeased that there is no Hindu King, who would oppress the lower castes, and feed you daily in his palace, and hear your cantations, and burn, according to your Shasters, with a hot iron, every low caste man who would dare to seat himself on the same bank with you."

After I have spoken for some time in this way, the congregation is entirely on my side, and the Brahman gets quite ashamed.

Formerly when I did not enter on the subject, the Brahmans took great advantage of my silence.

"You see," they would say to the congregation, "he can give no answer. Of what use is all his preaching?"

In this way, they quite estranged the affection of the people from me, and did away with all the effect which my Sermon hid made on their minds. I give now a full reply whenever I am attacked in this way. We generally separate in good understanding and pleased with one another.


Published in:
The Foreign Missionary Chronicle Containing a Particular Account of the Proceedings of the Board of Forein Missions of the Presbyterian Church and a General View of the Transactions of Other Similar Institutions. Volume VI. Published Monthly under the Direction of the Executive Committee. New York: Robert Charter. 1838 Page(s): 335-336.

Online: Google Books. Viewed: 15.12.2014.

For reference:

Administrator. Johann A Schürmann ~ Correspondence :: Early 1838, in: Pirltawardli Research Website. Adelaide 2020.
(Created: 15.11.2014. Last updated: 25.01.2015.)
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