Project Canterbury

Mankind and the Church
Being an Attempt to Estimate the Contribution of Great Races
To the Fulness of the Church of God

Edited by H. H. Montgomery

London, New York, Bombay and Calcutta: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

V. Mohammedan Races: Their Contributions to the Body of Christ
The Right Rev. G. A. Lefroy, D.D., Bishop of Lahore

Chapter II. Suggestions for Work among Moslems

Urgent need of specially trained workers amongst Mohammedans--Feasibility of such training from literary point of view--Result in increased sympathy and comprehension.

But the Mohammedan world--broadly speaking, and not forgetting the considerable firstfruits which have already been gathered in--has still to be won to the Faith of Christ, and in order to hasten this great consummation, I want to lay stress on the urgent need of a much more careful and systematic intellectual preparation, on the part of those whose lives are to be given to work amongst Mohammedans, than has hitherto been the rule. [Out of 115 clergy in the Lahore diocese, 18 are of Indian birth, and of these latter 11 are of Mohammedan extraction. As the standard of ordination has always been kept high in the diocese, the latter fact is significant, and shows that the firstfruits already gathered in are much more considerable in quantity, as well as in quality, than is usually recognized. The substance of the following passage is taken, with but little change, from a paper on the "Preparation of Workers for Work amongst Mohammedans," which I recently contributed to the Conference for Mohammedan Workers held at Cairo in April, 1906.] This, I would say, in the first place, is incumbent upon us, just because it is so essentially practical and possible. Of the study of Hinduism I myself know nothing, and of course I may in my ignorance be exaggerating the difficulties which it really presents to a wise and methodical student. But I confess that, viewing it thus from outside, I always feel appalled at its vastness--shall I say [301/302] its vagueness?--and at the supreme difficulty of really coming to grips with it. But I do not think that this objection can be urged with any truth whatever with regard to the study of Mohammedanism.

First of all, of course, there is the study of the Quran itself--I mean the simple mastery of the Arabic. It must be assumed that this is not beyond the intellectual ability of those who intend to devote themselves to this work, but in and by itself the power which it gives us in dealing with Mohammedans is extraordinary. I speak with reticence on the point, lest it should be thought that I know Arabic myself. I know practically nothing of it, having forgotten the little I once knew. But during the short time at Delhi in which I was giving myself to the careful literary study of Arabic, hoping to become really acquainted with it--before the call came to me to enter on other and all-engrossing pursuits--I used to be astonished at the increasing power which one seemed to get with every fresh Sura--it is scarcely too much to say every fresh verse--that one read. Some opportunity of using it seemed invariably to come almost at once, and the fact that one was able thus to refer to it instantly strengthened the hold that one was able to get on one's listeners. This study, of course, comes first of all.

But then, in the second line, the really authoritative books are comparatively so few, so universally recognized, and so manageable, for any real student.

If, as Commentaries, one had got some real hold of two--Beidhawi and Jalalain; if in addition to them one was fairly well acquainted, on the side of traditional lore, with just two principal collections--Bokhari and Moslim--I cannot help thinking that one would occupy a position of very great strength indeed, and be able, at any rate, to secure for the truth which we bring a measure of respectful consideration which would be of supreme value.

[303] I cannot elaborate the point, but it is this conviction which I entertain of the entire practicability of some real acquaintance with Mohammedan literature and theology, that has in my mind accentuated the importance of securing it, and has also made me so deeply deplore the widespread absence of it among so very many of those who have hitherto given themselves to this work. Not infrequently during my years in Delhi, when I wanted to refer to some tradition which I knew existed in one of the well-known collections, but the exact source of which I did not know, it was a cause of real pain to me--and, as I thought, a reproach to the missionary cause--that there was scarcely a single missionary, so far as I knew, in Upper India, to whom I could turn for the needed reference--not more than two or three indeed in the whole of India, and to them I sometimes turned in vain. Surely this reproach ought to be wiped away.

Secondly, there is the fact that some scholarly study of this kind is essential as the intellectual counterpart of that general moral attitude of sympathy and fairness, which, it is becoming year by year increasingly recognized, is a necessary condition of any really effective work for the souls of others. In order to be able to lead effectively, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the full truth as it is in Christ Jesus those to whom we are sent, it is of immense importance that we should understand clearly the point which, in the providence of God, they have already reached, the elements of truth which they already hold, and the general texture and colour of their thought. It is, for the most part, only by having done this in some true measure that we shall be able to present to them the sacred message with which we ourselves are charged, in a "tongue understanded of the people."

I cannot say how lamentably great has been, in my [303/304] opinion, the failure in the past to do this--to put ourselves, I mean, first by some degree of brotherly sympathy, love and insight, on to the platform which they occupy, in order thus to lead them on with us up to the apprehension of the truth in Christ Jesus.

Most of the older controversial literature, on the Christian side, is, I think--with all that it contains of valuable and true material--very hard in its tone, as though intended rather to confute the enemy than to win the disguised friend. Similarly, much of our preaching seems to me rather as though we were hoping to convert men by throwing brickbats at them, in the form of truth. You may knock a man down by this process--you often do--but I much doubt whether the resulting frame of mind is very favourable to conversion. I certainly do not think it would be in my own case.

I, however, most thankfully recognize that a new spirit--and, in this respect, at any rate, a more Christlike one--is making itself felt in our literature, and, as I fully believe, in much of our preaching as well. In the department of literature I would call special attention to the two most valuable little books, as I esteem them, "Sweet First-Fruits" and "The Beacon of Truth." Alike in spirit and in method, they seem to me to be quite admirable. I know of no books that I believe may be more wisely, and with greater hope of allaying prejudice and winning a favourable consideration for the truth, given to Mohammedan inquirers than these.

In this connection I should like also to refer to Archbishop Trench's invaluable course of Hulsean Lectures for 1846, on "Christ the Desire of all Nations." Would that every Christian apologist working amongst non-Christian people were steeped alike in the spirit and in the method of those lectures! I can scarcely imagine any more valuable preparation for the work we have in view.

[305] For more adequate preparation, therefore, on the intellectual and scholarly as well as on the moral and spiritual side, on the part of those whose high privilege it is to carry the gospel of our Risen Lord and Saviour to the Mohammedan world, I most earnestly plead.

Project Canterbury