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A Sketch of the S.P.G. Mission at Delhi

By C. J. Crowfoot

From Mission Life, Vol. III (new series) (1872), pages 206-211.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2006



TO Englishmen who have not been to India, Delhi is probably known only in connection with the mutiny of 1857. The name unpleasantly recalls the shudder which they remember to have passed through them when first they heard the tales of horror, the deeds of massacre and bloodshed, which happened in that terrible outbreak; or else it awakens a feeling of pride as they remember the gallant siege, by which a mere handful of Englishmen won back the city at fearful odds, and re-established the fallen prestige of the English name, making it more dreaded and more powerful than ever.

Very different are the thoughts which the name of Dilli (for so natives always pronounce it) calls up in the minds of a Hindoo, or a Mussulman. There is no place more rich in historic association than the city and neighbourhood of Delhi. "The pilgrim who wends his way from the modern city of Delhi to pay a visit to the strange relics of the ancient world, will find on either side of his road a number of desolate heaps, the debris of thousands of years, the remains of successive capitals, which date back to the very dawn of history; and local tradition still points to these sepulchres of departed ages as the sole remains of the raj of the sons of Pándu, and their once famous city of India prasthra." [Jalbois Wheeler's "History of India," vol. i. p. 141.] To the Hindoo the soil of Delhi is sacred, because it recalls to him the glorious era of Hindoo independence, the heroic age of Hindoo chivalry, which loses none of its glory from the distance and dimness of the centuries which passed between the mythical age of the Pandavas, and the historic times of Prithui Raja, the last Hindoo king of Delhi, the gallant prince who won the battle of Tirouri, and still lives in the memory of Hindoos as the hero of a hundred tales.

To the Mussulman, Dilli is yet dearer than to the Hindoo. It awakens the memory of a greatness and splendour, the shadow of which has passed away only in the recollection of men still living, and is therefore all the dearer, because it has so recently ceased to be. To the Mussulman, Delhi is still the capital of the Great Mogul, the proudest city of the proudest monarch of the world. And as a city, modern Delhi, built by the Emperor Shah Khan, is not unworthy of the place which it has filled in history. Its massive walls extending over a circuit of five miles, its stately mosques, its broad, long streets, and its strong fort with its marble palace, give to Delhi a grandeur worthy of its imperial character. In the eyes of the Mussulman its chief glories are the central mosque, called the Jáma Musjid, and the marble palace of the Emperor. The Jáma Musjid stands in a commanding position in the middle of the city; it is built in [206/207] the form of a square, the western end being occupied by the mosque, with its lofty minarets and three massive domes of solid white marble; in the centre is an open quadrangle, surrounded on three sides by a cloister. Facing north, south, and east are three turreted gateways, to which lofty flights of steps lead up. The whole is built of red sandstone, and presents a very grand and solid appearance. A Mahomedan may well be proud of the ceremony which takes place in it once a-year. On the last Friday in the month of Ramzán all the Mahomedans from all the mosques in Delhi assemble for prayer in the quadrangle of the Jáma Musjid. They take up their places, in regular lines, like the files of an army. I have seen as many as 12,000 men present. In the palmy days of Delhi the numbers were much greater. During a perfect silence you hear suddenly the words, "God is great!" shouted out by the Imám--there is a whirring sound as if a large flock of birds were passing overhead, and you see the army of heads bow themselves, as with one motion, to the ground. Probably no more striking act of outward reverence for the name of God takes place in all the world.

The Emperor's palace is no longer what it once was, yet enough remains to give one some idea of its extreme beauty. It is built throughout of white marble; the doors and windows are beautifully perforated and fretted into various designs; the whiteness of the marble is relieved by gilding and bright colours; the walls are covered with patterns of flowers, made of inlaid precious stones, the stalk, the leaf, and each petal of the flowers being a precious stone. The ceiling was of silver filigree work; the throne on which the Emperor sat was the far-famed peacock throne, the back being formed in the shape of a peacock's tail outspread, and the tail made of jewels. These ornaments have been carried off by the many plundering bands who have looted Delhi. When the bright sun of India shone upon the palace, and the river Jumna flowed at its feet, it must have seemed a very wonder of delight and joy--so, at all events they thought it; for round the ceiling of the private hall of audience these words, in Persian letters, still remain: "If there is a paradise upon earth,
it is here! it is here! it is here!" The words read like a strange parody, for, deluged in blood as the city of Delhi has been again and again, there is not probably one spot which has been so stained with sin, so polluted with every sort of abomination which it can enter into man's heart to conceive, as those same marble halls on which the words are
written: "If there is a paradise upon earth, it is here! it is here! it is here!"

How can Paradise lost become Paradise regained? What efforts has the Church of Christ made to preach the Gospel in this stronghold of heathendom? The heading of this paper will in part answer this question.

The Delhi Mission is not yet twenty years old; it owes its origin to a [207/208] little knot of pious men and women who happened to be stationed at Delhi just about twenty years ago. Two or three civilians, two or three officers, and a few ladies, were in the habit of meeting at the house of Mr. Jennings, the Chaplain of the station, for prayer, and for reading the Bible. Living in this great city, seeing the people on all sides wholly given up, either to idolatry, or to the corrupting influences of Islam, with one or two nobler spirits here and there trying to grope their way in the dark towards the light, they felt their spirits stirred within them, and they resolved by the grace of God to do what they could. In the way of direct Mission work they could do little; but they could pray, they could collect money, they could assist any native who might come to them for instruction, and all that they could do they did. In order to lay a good foundation, they wisely determined not to start the Mission until they had collected money enough to support two Missionaries from England.

They began their work in 1850, and its gradual progress may be traced from the pages of The Missionary. In a paper, dated October 22nd, 1850, the proposed Mission is introduced in these words: "Amid the many (and in human estimation) great historical associations which gather round the name of Delhi are none connected with the Gospel. On its plains 'the battles of the warrior, with confused noise and garments rolled in blood' have been many, and empire has passed as a toy from hand to hand; but that which is with burning and fuel of fire from above has not yet commenced. No Missionary is yet known to have accomplished his silent, lifelong martyrdom, there preaching the kingdom that cometh not with observation." This last sentence was a mistake, and is corrected in the next number. Mr. Thompson, a Baptist Missionary, had spent a "silent lifelong martyrdom" there, but he had died, and no trace of converts won by him remained. His memory still survives. I have heard the name of "Padri Thompson" mentioned with respect by old men in the villages near Delhi.

By the end of 1853 Mr. Jennings and his fellow-workers had collected a sufficient fund to start the Mission. Meanwhile God had heard their prayers, and had blessed their efforts. Before the foundation had been laid the Mission began.

On the 11th of July, 1852, two native Hindoos, well-educated men, holding high positions in the city, were publicly baptized in the station church. The name of one was Ram Chandra, at that time Professor of Mathematics in the Government College; the name of the other was Chimmum Láll, the Sub-Assistant Surgeon of Delhi. Both had received an English education, and partly through books which they had read, partly from instruction given by Mr. Jennings and others, partly through the workings of their own mind, they had been led to embrace the Faith of Christ. Mr. Jennings sent an account of their baptism to The Missionary, from which the following is an extract:-

[209] "After their minds were fully made up, there appeared no necessity for much delay before their baptism; and so Sunday, July 11th, was selected as the day on which to administer the sacrament to them. Many of the congregation have felt it to be a very solemn event, and especially as connected in their thoughts with the Mission to the heathen, which it has been so long in contemplation to plant in this city, and for which
funds are being gathered. It was like God giving these men to their faith and prayers as the first-fruits of a future abundant harvest. On the Friday and Saturday preceding the Sunday, prayers were offered by many, by mutual understanding, both at Church and at home, in their behalf; and on Sunday morning many received the Holy Communion with their thoughts full of what was to be done in the evening.

"In the evening, after the Second Lesson, the converts were baptized and received into the Church, and were thus separated from their former temptations, through Hindooism, for ever. The announcement of their intention to become Christians caused an excitement throughout the city of Delhi greater than it is possible to imagine; and at the time of the baptism the Church of St. James was literally surrounded by natives, and the vacant spaces inside which were not used by the congregation were allowed to be filled by them. More than 150 were thus inside the church. All behaved with the greatest decency and order; and there being also a full congregation, the sight was a very moving one, as may be imagined. After the Second Lesson, and during the time occupied in moving up to the font, there was sung, as an introit, Rev. iv., latter part of the 8th and 11th verses, and, after the baptism, the Doxology. The chosen witnesses were some of the principal members of the congregation. The behaviour of the converts was such as we should have anticipated from men who had embraced Christianity on full conviction, and had deeply considered the importance of the step which they had taken. Altogether, Sunday was a joyous day, having a happy prestige of the future."

Lala Ram Chandra is still alive, and is now Director of Public Instruction in the State of Putteala. Dr. Chimmum Láll died a martyr's death five years afterwards. We look back to the day of their baptism as the birthday of our Mission.

It was not, however, founded as a Mission until February, 1854. In that year Mr. Jackson, a Fellow of Caius College, Cambridge, and Mr. Hubbard, of the same college, came out to start the Mission. They at once set to work to establish schools, and in less than three years they succeeded in gathering together a flourishing school. The influence of Ram Chandra brought to them very promising inquirers from amongst the students at Government College. A few baptisms had taken place, a little Christian congregation was growing up, and all seemed full of hope and promise, when suddenly a terrible storm burst upon them--in a [209/210] moment the Mission was destroyed, the Missionaries killed, and their work, as it seemed, wholly blotted out.

In 1857 the mutiny broke out at Delhi. The mutiny was distinctly a religious rising; and so Christians, both English and native, as representatives of the hated creed, were especially sought out, and fell as their first victims. Mr. Jennings, the Chaplain, the real founder of the Mission, with his daughter, Miss Jennings, and Captain Douglas, warm supporters of it, were almost the first persons killed. All the Missionaries--Mr. Hubbard, Corrie Sandys, and Lewis Koch--were massacred. Mr. Jackson was in England at the time, and so escaped. But not only were Englishmen, with their families, murdered; native Christians, too, were sought out. Ram Chandra, after many hairbreadth risks, managed to escape out of the city alive; but Dr. Chimmum Láll and a converted Mahomedan, a Baptist Christian, who had come from Agra to Delhi, were seized by the mutineers. They were offered their choice--to deny Christ and live, or to confess Him and die. In that hour their faith did not fail, and they died a martyr's death.

Thus in 1857 the Delhi Mission, after but three years of life, was quenched in blood. It seemed wholly effaced; but in reality, as has been the case again and again in the history of the Christian Church, the blood of martyrs was found to be the seed of the Church.
One of the resolutions passed by the Committee of S.P.G., when the news of the mutiny reached them, is in these words: "That although the Delhi Mission, so blessed of God in its commencement, seems to be annihilated for the present by the death or dispersion of its Missionaries and lay teachers, the Society is resolved--God being its helper--to plant again the cross of Christ in that city, and to look in faith for more abundant fruits of the Gospel from the ground which has been watered by the blood of those devoted soldiers of Christ."

From that baptism of blood the little Mission rose as out of its grave into a new life. Those who died in the mutiny left behind them the legacy of their example--they left a martyr's name. The Mission was re-founded in 1859 by Mr. Skelton, a Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge; and after its baptism it was re-christened, and received a new name. Mr. Skelton, when he re-established his school, called it St. Stephen's College. In a few years a church, built to the memory of those who fell in the mutiny, was dedicated to St. Stephen, and the Missionaries formed a body, which went by the name of St. Stephen's Mission.

I have before me the annual reports of the Mission from 1859 to 1870, but I will not trace its history in detail. "One by one" is the motto by which all Missions in North India must be content to mark their progress, probably for some years to come. Conversions have been few and far between, yet the Church has grown steadily, if slowly. In his report [210/211] for 1859 Mr. Skelton says: "On my first Sunday there were five people present." Before the end of the year the five had increased to thirty-three. In the report for 1870 we read of a breakfast given by Lala Ram Chandra on St. Stephen's Day, when all the Christians, containing in their body converts from every caste--Brahmans, Kshatryas, Banyas, Mehtars, Chamars, and Mlechas, to the number of 120, sat down to a common meal. And on Christmas Day that year, as many as fifty-five, of whom no less than fifty were native Christians, received together the Holy Communion of our Lord.

The character of the work which has been done between 1859 and 1870 can, perhaps, better be brought before you by separate papers, which, with your permission, I will send you on the following subjects:--(1) work amongst the educated classes; (2) work in the district round Delhi; (3) work amongst women; (4) work amongst the adult population.

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