I HAVE reached at length that period of Lefroy's life work which will be considered by most as of central interest. Reverence for the testimony he gave will grow as they read of his courage, temper, and devotion. They breathe throughout his own letters, albeit unconsciously. In no heroic mood but as a simple piece of ordinary duty George Lefroy prepared himself for his mission to Moslems in the Lord's name. He continued the study of Hebrew, and added Arabic to it. He had already become an eloquent speaker in Urdu: he studied the Koran, and many Moslem classics, as well as the best and most generous books on the Christian side. Then he flung himself into the hottest part of the fight, namely, the bazaars, for preaching and disputation, till he won the distinction, surely almost unique, of being invited to meet thousands of Moslems in their own mosques. We shall also accord him our full sympathy when he sadly reflects on the fact that the most arduous and responsible work he had to do should come of necessity at the end of the day, of days too often crowded with numberless details of business which would seem, on the surface at least, to be mere serving of tables.
As regards his views of the Mahommedan religion it is not to be expected that he would have anything new to say, but I will presently summarise the chief points in two important printed papers of his own on the subject. It is the letters which will be read with deep feeling, written as they were to his home circle, and often directly after his return from the bazaar, almost worn out. One difficulty I have had to face, and in the true interest, as I believe, of the Church of God, I have had to consider whether I ought to print so many letters of Lefroy's referring to a brother beloved, whom we have long known as the blind Maulvi. After much anxious thought I have decided that it is impossible to keep from the Church, any more than St. Paul could keep back the story of his conversion, and of his own previous persecutions of Christians, the steps which led our brother finally, and for ever, to the feet of Christ. Without question the letters I print will not bring one word of reproach to him, who is now a standard-bearer among us. All I publish will be read with instructed sympathy, at times almost with tears. We shall be taught once more, and in a signal manner, how hard is the path of those who continue to show forth the miracles of grace in our own day, and after conversion, by winning their crown through much tribulation, and after many a stumble. No history of George Lefroy would be complete without such a record. Moreover, we shall also note how his open-hearted, generous, and courteous nature won for him the respect of thousands of Moslems who, so far as we know, remained unmoved by his presentation to them of the Faith of Christ. The fact is, and it should be widely known, that a Moslem respects a religious man who is not only not ashamed of his belief, but is also prepared to stand up for it, and spread it. Only let his Christian protagonist be generous, fair-minded, and ever courteous, and he will give him reverence. The histories of British soldiers and civilians in India, quite as much as of missionaries, have emphasised this fact over and over again. The few Englishmen who actually became objects of worship among some of the Indian race were all godly Christians, and fervently attached to the cause of Christian missions, being also respectful gentlemen. The earliest letter is specially interesting:
"April 22, 1884.
"Just before leaving Delhi I had some interesting talks with a Mahommedan Maulvi--though I regret to say they came to nothing--which I should like to tell you a little about. The way I came across him was this. I was standing one day in the Bazaar listening to a Catechist discoursing on the two parts of the Jewish Law--the Ceremonial from which we are freed, and the Spiritual which we still hold. It is a common point out here, naturally, where the 'Law' is one of the points we hold in common with Mahommedans, though we take a widely different view of it. At the same time the subject is a difficult one, and I have rarely heard the distinctions brought out in a way that seemed to me wholly satisfactory. When he had done a Mahommedan--and this, too, usually follows--stood forward, and proceeded to show the people that while we in words respect the Law yet in fact we obey no part of it, while the Mahommedans respect both the Ceremonial and the Spiritual. The position is, of course, hopelessly absurd, and merely means that they have not got the least conception of what the Old Testament contains. After he had talked a bit I stepped forward, and said I wanted to ask him a question. Of course he was quite prepared to answer it, so I asked him how often he had been to Jerusalem? Jerusalem! why never, of course; he had been to Mecca, and that was enough for any good Mahommedan, etc. Of course the poor man did not, in his ignorance, even see the drift of my question. Then I read him the verse directing that every male should present himself three times a year in Jerusalem, and asked how he had observed this. That, of course, was the end of him; but then a very superior looking man stepped forward and said he didn't want to make a fool of himself as his brother in the faith had been doing (candid and complimentary I thought), but had some difficulties which he would gladly talk to me about if I would name some suitable place and time. This, of course, is just what we want most of all to get; so I gladly agreed, only stipulating that as I supposed he wanted not an argumentative victory but the truth on definite points, he should send me his questions in writing beforehand so as to enable me to talk them over with my friends, and reply to him to the best of my power. To this he gladly assented, and in a few days a paper appeared containing several points but chiefly three, (a) Is our Gospel corrupted in its text?--a common point springing but of critical exegesis, and specially stimulated just now by the New Version, which they take to be a new edition of the Bible! (b) The Divinity of our Lord. (c) The Trinity--these two being of course the stock Mahommedan objections. On one point we had a little dispute: he wanted to have a number of people present 'in order that the more souls might be benefited and a larger number be brought to a saving knowledge of the truth;' while I entirely refused on the ground that such saving knowledge comes not from an intellectual discussion but in answer to a humble and earnest spirit, and that this was a qualification in which crowds so collected were for the most part singularly lacking. I was firm, so he gave way. The first day I met him we took his first point, the various readings of the New Testament. There were about half a dozen of his friends there, but all perfectly quiet and well-behaved, and singularly fair in their attitude towards the argument, recognising a point of mine if sound, or refusing one of his if the reverse with equal readiness. I was much pleased. The question, however, was so entirely technical and scholastic that it was really, at least so I found it, hopeless to try and discuss it with those who have no idea of the very first rules of the critical sciences, and after about two hours we separated, he recognising some of what I had said but stating that he was not satisfied, which was fair enough. For the next meeting I proposed that I should be the interlocutor, for I pointed out that attack is, in these matters, far easier than defence; that it is often far easier, especially in the mysteries of religious faith, to make objections than to answer them, and therefore it was only fair we should occupy these positions alternately, more especially as I had some difficulties about Mahommedanism I should be glad to have removed. The question I propounded may seem rather a strange one, for it was the origin of evil; and that it is a point that we Christians do not profess to be able to teach much on; but therein lies the point, the Mahomme-dans do profess to understand it, and put it down without hesitation to God; the absolute sovereignty of the God of Islam makes it inconceivable to them that anything should happen in the world otherwise than according to His will, and by His direct command. Hence their teaching about Kismet or fate, which has so fearfully sapped the distinction between good and evil, and has led to the necessary and essentially logical belief that since all alike is by God's decree, the difference of virtue and vice, etc., can be only apparent and superficial. It is this, I believe, which more than anything else hinders our work in this country. There is, and under predestinarianism of this type there can be, no consciousness of sin. In one way he beat me, for he declared it was taught in the Gospel, which he knew well, and quoted Romans ix., to which I could answer nothing; for, however from a Christian standpoint one may reconcile the teaching there with the simple original and instinctive belief which such teaching seems to contravene (God is good, and cannot therefore be the Author of evil), yet I felt that to have attempted an explanation to them would have seemed mere equivocation, an attempt to escape the obvious teaching of the passage. So I conceded it, and then getting back as far as possible to the original question, I tried to make him say how God can be good if He is really the Author of all the horrible evil we see around us, and which we so loathe: and to show you what Mahommedanism in the logical outcome of its teaching does necessarily lead to (and I believe no learned Mahommedan would dissent from his conclusion) he said, when pressed, though he had sufficient moral instinct not to like to say it, that God was no doubt really responsible for all the evil, but escaped, so to say, the imputation, because there was no higher tribunal which could call Him to account. If there were such, he admitted that he did not see how God's character could be cleared. Is it not an awful position, cutting away the very fundamentals of religion beneath us? ... All he could do was to insist with great earnestness that we poor worms have no right to presume, even in thought, to judge God for a moment, and that we must regard Him as pure. Certainly human nature is better than its creeds sometimes as here: though when I asked him honestly to say whether he thought it possible to love a God of whose inmost character we must thus conceive, he had nothing to say, and could only deprecate the whole question as one beyond our grasp, and here I agreed with him, only asking that we should admit it really beyond our grasp rather than dishonour God by attempting an explanation which leads to such dire conclusions."
"Nov. 18, 1884.
"I have just this moment come in from a long and excited Bazaar preaching. I think it is perhaps the one of our 'experiences' that I should most entirely despair of ever bringing home to you; the whole line of thought and style of objection, not to speak of the temper and genius of the people is so wholly Oriental, for the most part Mahommedan, and unlike anything you know. I have a good deal of fun with them sometimes, and on the whole it is, I think, a very good weapon, if not used unkindly. This evening there was a tremendously impetuous little chap, an old friend of such occasions, who would insist on pouring out torrents of objections and defying me to answer them, supremely regardless of the fact that I had expressly said that I did not intend to try to do anything of the kind: at last I could only bring home my position to him and the crowd, which was a large one, i,e. some seventy or eighty, by stopping my ears or rather one, for I could not get at the other: but it did as an illustration and really did make them understand that I was not going to listen. I got the mass of them quite on my side by the end, and the poor little objector was treated with rather scant ceremony. It is perhaps the hardest work of any we have to do, if it is to be done well; and I do think that, well done, it is about the best, and badly done very much the worst of all we do. We do indeed stand in need of very many and diverse gifts to go through with it successfully, though of course one quality is a necessity, temper and good humour, and this is not always easy."
"Delhi: Oct. 20, 1885.
"I am just this moment in from Bazaar preaching, from which fact, if you know anything at all of our work, you may safely predicate that this epistle is not likely to be a long one. I think nothing takes it out of one like Bazaar preaching. .. . To-day the famous Brahman Christian, Nehemiah Goreh, came to us to spend a couple of nights. You probably know him by name, as he has been once at least in England, oftener, I think. He is supposed to be about the best Sanskrit Christian scholar there is and, I believe, a very fine man.
"We have been in a great deal of anxiety about one of our young converts lately, and indeed are not out of it yet. It is ------, that is, 'dedicated to Christ,' the young Mahommedan convert of whom A. wrote an account some time ago in a letter for private circulation, which you have, I hope, seen. In August the college holidays began, and he asked leave to go down and see his old Mahommedan relations a long way off beyond Patna. It meant a very serious risk and a very severe strain to the boy's Christian principle, as, like all Mahommedans, his people are tremendously keen against Christianity and we know they would do their utmost to seduce him from his faith. However, the wish to go was so entirely his own, and his reliance on Christ for help and guidance in all his difficulties seemed then, as it always has been, so entire that we did not like to dissuade him, and so let him go. He himself was confident that family love would prove stronger than religious differences, and that they would at any rate receive him warmly and listen to what he had to say. This, however, was not what Christ seems to foretell when He says that a man's foes shall be they of his own household, nor did it prove so with him; for very soon after he got there he began to write in a tone which showed that he was beginning to see that he had underrated the difficulties of his task, and that, though he was still looking humbly and confidently to the right quarter for help, yet he was beginning to feel the strain very severe. And soon the news got worse, for he wrote in great distress of mind and sickness of body; he spoke of a betrothal with a heathen girl into which they were trying to force him in order to form a fresh bond with Mahommedanism, and which, though thoroughly disliking it, he did not seem to have strength left to resist as he ought. It happened that A. was taking his holiday not very far from where the boy was. C. accordingly wrote to him to ask him to go and try to see the boy and get him away at once before he was fatally involved. A. accordingly set out for the place. From various reasons, however, chiefly extensive floods, he did not succeed in reaching the village or seeing the boy, but he got one or two letters from him of a tone which reassured him very much and which enabled him to return to Delhi, where college work was needing him very much, without having accomplished his object and yet fairly happy in mind and believing that the boy would follow in a few days. I do indeed trust and hope it may be so."
In 1890, and in the ensuing years, the letters deal more and more with the work to which he was specially devoting himself. The Bickersteth Hall also was about to be opened for discussions.
"June 10, 1890.
"Just at present I am specially interested in some work of which I wrote to F. a couple of weeks ago. I have been meeting some Mahommedans in a much more intelligent and reasonable way than I ever did before in one of their mosques, and really trying to get them to understand our creed. I must say they have been on the whole wonderfully courteous and willing to understand, which is to me a wholly new experience of them. I had a close set-to of three hours last Friday morning with one of their leading teachers here, and am pledged to go back again and renew it next Friday morning at six o'clock. I hope in this way I may keep it up, for it is exactly the kind of work which I most long for, but which only a short time since seemed so difficult, almost impossible to attain. It is, however, as you may imagine, terrible work arguing on the Trinity and such-like subjects in Hindostanee. One has to tackle such questions with them, for they are just like the Greek Church of old and must deal with such matters. It involves a terrible danger to them, for maxims like "the pure in heart shall see God," are apt to be wholly lost to sight, and to become very distasteful. Still I believe we must meet them on such ground and try to draw them on. This work has been accompanied by another and less welcome experience; whether connected as cause and effect in any way, or a pure coincidence, I do not know. We are encountering in our open street Bazaar preaching, a degree of bigoted opposition such as I have never been through before. One more especially, a blind Mahommedan preacher, about whom I told you I think when I was at home, but who has become much more violent since, jumps up on the footpath alongside of me, as I am preaching, and simply begins to bawl out a sermon of his own, or rather for the most part a declamation against the Christian faith, so as simply to drown my voice and make preaching impossible. If I shift my place, he comes after me, though hitherto he has always stopped at a certain point, and I have been able eventually to shake him off and go on. It seems as if his conscience did come in somewhere, though I certainly could wish its intervention were a little bit more speedy! I believe I could have such purely boisterous opposition stopped by the police, but I am most anxious not to have recourse to them but if possible to live it down by patience and forbearance. I am sure if one can, the victory so gained is worth much more. Even now many, usually I think a majority of the crowd, are definitely on our side and resent such purely factious disturbance and try to shut them up; but this is not easy, and it is hard for them to take very active measures when the taunt is hurled at them of being Christians in heart themselves. I do fully believe that if we can bear it in the right spirit, 'the mind of Christ,' it will do more to win people to us than a great deal of purely passive listening to uninterrupted preaching. And we always hold that any kind of opposition is a better sign than stolid indifference. I do really hope it means that they are beginning to feel we are a power which has to be definitely reckoned with, and this is the way the coarser spirits take to deal with us. It is, however, terribly trying on judgment and temper, especially in an atmosphere of 105 or sol Do use that Confirmation Collect especially for me in this difficulty. I have promised to meet a lot of the more boisterous men in my room in the town next Sunday to try to talk a little with them. It will be a trying scene I suspect, and I do not know whether any good will come of it, but I want in any and every way to meet them, to get across the great gulf which separates us."
"Delhi: June 24, 1890.
"The other night I went to the Bazaar at 6.15 p.m. and got into discussion with a man and only came away at five minutes to midnight. This is of course exhausting. It was also disappointing, for I only did it because being a most violent and factious opponent he promised not to interrupt us again if I gave him one good talk. At the end he refused to ratify his promise. I know, however, that many of the Mahommedans are themselves very indignant with him fof his faithlessness; and as he has not come for two nights since, perhaps he is thinking better of it."
The Bickersteth Hall.
"Delhi: July 22,1890.
"I don't know whether you will remember a scheme Bickersteth had very much at heart and for which he collected money (some probably from you), of building a Preaching Hall on one of the main streets, so that we might have preaching very much of the present type, i.e. addressed to the same kind of miscellaneous and chance audience, but carried on under rather more favourable conditions of quiet, order, shelter, etc. It has been hanging fire for a long time, chiefly because none of us were strong enough for such Bazaar preaching as this would seem to involve. But in my present spasm of energy I have pushed it on (the money has been lying funded in my name ever since), have secured, I hope, a good site, and propose to begin building very soon. I hope the message may come home to some empty and weary hearts there too some day, though they are about as little conscious of any emptiness or weariness (so far as we can see) as well can be."
"CM.D.: Aug. 12, 1890.
"I am just getting in for another bit of building to which I think I recently referred, the Preaching Hall which B. had so much at heart, but which has hung fire ever since he went. We are pushing it on now, partly because bricks and mortar are catching, partly because of the trouble we have been having in the Bazaar preaching. I purchased a site on Saturday last. Think of having to pay £600 in florins, i.e. rupees! no notes or anything of the kind accepted. I had to take my carriage (a grand word for a very simple vehicle) to carry it to the spot, and the process of weighing it out (they fortunately did not insist on counting) took about three-quarters of an hour. The site I have got is not first class, not being in one of the best or most crowded thoroughfares, but it is getting increasingly difficult to get any property in Delhi, we having slept during the years when it would have been easy, and now we must take what we can. I hope it will prove an onward step.
"In the Bazaar we are having sore trouble. I accept it all as a sign in various ways of progress, as well as a means of disciplining, but it is not easy to rejoice in it. After last Friday, I am sorry to say, I had at last to write to the police authorities and ask for their interference. I have never had to do this before, and was very loth now; I am now not more than half convinced that it was right to do so; but the provocation was great and especially hard on our native agents. They are both more exposed to abuse, etc., and have less power of forbearance, and knowing we had the law at our backs and could get saved from the worst of the trouble any time, if we would apply for it, they could not understand or appreciate our not doing so. The police officer himself did not much care for the job. He is not the least sympathetic in our work, and extremely afraid of the Mahommedan rowdy population that is so prominent in Delhi. The D.C., however, who is the supreme executive officer, took a very strong line as to the lawfulness of our occupation, and therefore our right to protection from anything like gross abuse or open violence (not that the latter has been in any real sense attempted), and issued orders accordingly. I am going down now in a few minutes for the first time to preach, and shall see what the effect will be. If the blind Maulvi, of whom I have spoken before, and who is our only really strong antagonist, elects for martyrdom, which is just possible, we shall have probably a bad quarter of an hour. He may think it good value to pose as oppressed by the English strong arm on behalf of the faith. Probably, however, he will more or less draw back. I will tell you before I send this how it goes. . . . It has been very trying again; the opposition was very keen, and so arranged that, while on the one hand it to all intents and purposes stops the preaching, on the other hand I am not sure how far the law will be able to help me in checking it. Well, if not, we must get over it in other ways, and in some ways I should be happier if it were so. God will work out His purposes through it one way or another. It is, however, very killing work."
The invitation to a mosque, and the action of the blind Maulvi.
"C.M.D.: Jan. 7,1891.
"I don't know how far F. and B. have been keeping you informed of what is going on, both in a general way and also in the renewal on a much larger scale of my meetings with the Mahommedans which is just at present an immense interest to me. I have been rather slack in writing myself, partly because I have been looking to them to do most of the correspondence, so I don't know how much you have heard. They commenced just over a chance discussion, as we call it, in the Bazaar one night. A point arose which we could not finish, and they said they would like to go on with it; so I said, 'Why don't you ask me to a mosque? I will come anywhere.' So they did, to the large mosque in which the last few of my previous conversations had been. The day we appointed was not a very fortunate one, for I had been out in the district the night before, and got back to Delhi very hungry indeed at two o'clock, the very time I was due at the mosque! However, good Mrs. Scott was equal to the emergency, and met me at the station with a bottle of soup and some sandwiches. I got to the mosque as soon as I could, and instead of the twenty or thirty men I had been accustomed to meet previously, I found two hundred or three hundred all packed in, a table spread with books for discussion, and all on a grand scale. I felt I was in for it. We were at it for four hours, talking chiefly over internal discrepancies in the Gospel accounts, e.g., did both thieves abuse our Lord or only one? etc., etc. One very interesting incident occurred in the middle, though exactly what it meant we do not yet know. They had dressed up the blind Maulvi, of whom you have heard as our most determined opponent all through the summer, in good clothes and put him in the chair as a President; about halfway through he got excited over something that was said, and got up and said that they might as well know that he had been for some time thinking about Christianity, and he thought there was much in it, and, if no more argument was adduced on their side, he would take the Padre's hand and leave the mosque with him. The words caused, I need hardly say, a profound sensation, and I hardly knew what would happen. They quieted him down, however, promising to prove that there are plenty of prophecies of Mahommedanism in the Old and New Testaments, and so we came away without him; I almost dead. I scarcely know how far he was in earnest, but for some months our preachers have thought there was a decided change in his manner, and since then he has been with me, one day for three hours, definitely expressing his wish to be a Christian. It will be a remarkable instance of the working of Grace if he does come in to Christ in earnestness and humility; but he has much difficulty before him in any case. After that I had two more meetings with the same disputant; one a very large one, over 1000 men packed quietly and listening for three hours. Then these ended, a proclamation appearing in print (I may just say) a few days afterwards to announce the utter defeat in discussion of Rev. G. A. Lefroy, who had been unable to say a word, and who was now invited to take refuge in Islam! This was to be expected as a matter of course, and does not in the least signify. Most of them know perfectly how to value it, and it could not affect the fact that I had an unrivalled opportunity of stating quietly, and at length, various points of Christian doctrine.
"Then in a few days another man, decidedly superior to the previous one (though also not one of the really leading Maulvies in the city, who fight very shy of this kind of thing and will not meet me), said he wanted to have some public meetings. I gladly assented, and we have had two. They will not allow me now to use the mosque, but yesterday we had a tent up in W.'s garden, and carpets laid down, and there were, I should say, 700 or 800 men quietly sitting there for nearly three hours, while we each expounded the position which Jesus Christ occupied in our respective systems. You would be astonished to hear how they speak of Him, putting Him into the very highest place among men, but quite denying the Incarnation and Atonement. We resume next Wednesday. You will understand how much it all means to me."
"Jan. 15, 1891.
"I cannot write more now, but yesterday I had a splendid meeting; far the best so far as my consciousness of strength and effect goes, though perhaps that is not always a reliable test. I do trust good will come. Over a thousand perfectly quiet for three hours. It is an absolutely new experience. Do pray much for us. If only I could be amongst them now night and day! but this seems at present impossible."
"April 30, 1891.
"Ups and downs. I am in one of my lower phases at present. You know that too, don't you? when letters won't get written, and work won't get done, and arrears accumulate, all for no apparent reason, and one feels slack and unsatisfactory within. That's me more or less at present with no ostensible reason. I hope things will mend again soon. I often wonder whether such ebbs ought to be connected with some specific shortcoming, or with a general failure to attribute sufficiently the better times, when they come, to a Power other than ourselves. Or whether we must just accept them as one of the laws of progress in the moral as well as in so many spheres of the physical world (ebbs and flows), without trying to assign them to any specific cause. I suppose two and three really run into each other. I mean if they are a law it is because we all do in point of fact fail in some such direction as No. 2, and therefore need the law. Work is slack. The men whom I hoped I had rather got a hold of from among the Mahommedans a few months back have dropped off again, and don't show up at the preaching or elsewhere. I don't know why. Still I must, and do, hope that what has been done in spite of all its imperfections and much of unwisdom is a step onward. The Preaching Hall is advancing rapidly, and will look very nice, I think. May it also help to another forward move!"
"C.M.D.: June 3, 1891.
"At present it is the Mahommedan question that is developing every day, and becoming to me very absorbing. I am just beginning to get a little bit on to Arabic, and at once feel how much additional force it will give one. It may bring home to you how very far the people with whom we have to deal are from black savages (though I should apologise for thinking you in need of such a correction). These have all the scholar's appreciation of a man who knows the original language of a book, and is able to discourse upon it; and, unfortunately for me, all the scholar's contempt for a man not so situated. I don't mean that they are necessarily all real scholars themselves; in point of fact, in the case of most of those with whom I have to deal the very reverse is the case; but there is enough of the scholar's instinct in the air for them to be able to work on, and hold up to scorn a man who presumes to attack a religious belief without showing his knowledge in a sufficient knowledge of long words. I am only just getting a smattering of it as yet, but even that little helps greatly, and I hope I shall soon shoot ahead. My knowledge of Hebrew stands me in very good stead, as they are very kindred languages. I am writing a small book on prophecy strictly for Mahommedan consumption, in the vernacular: my first literary enterprise, and want very much to get out one or two papers on other disputed points if I have time."
"C.M.D.: June 3, 1891.
"Last night I had a long talk in the Bazaar with a very old antagonist over a specific point in their religious teaching (the formal permission of lying on specific occasions, these including a man to his wife, and a wife to her husband, in the most general and indiscriminate way!), and I have never before had such a complete walk-over. I really think even the Mahommedan crowd that was standing there, and ready to give him tenfold credit for any decent point he could make, felt how complete the breakdown was. Our Preaching Hall is nearly ready, I am thankful to say, and I shall value it enormously; especially for occasions of this kind, when a specific question is being discussed, and books, usually tomes of portentous dimensions, have to be invoked. It will be invaluable. Whether it will be able to take the place of the more ordinary Bazaar preaching is a question; but so far as it can the relief to voice and mind and everything will be great."
"June 10, 1891.
"I am very happy this morning. We had last night the best preaching I think I have ever had. It began about 6.30 poorly enough with constant interruptions, but then I settled down to it with the old blind Maulvi, and God was with me and I got well on to it and we went on till 8 o'clock, when I finished in entire darkness, but with a considerable crowd all around listening in perfect silence while I spoke of the Atonement as the supreme manifestation of the love of God, i.e. of the one power adequate to wean such as us from our habits of sin. The opponent seemed really only to act as a foil for the setting forth of the truth; and what is more I cannot help thinking that the great weakness he has shown recently, in contrast with both the virulence and the skill with which he used to attack, bears witness to some shaking of old convictions within. Of course, if it does mean this, it is tenfold welcome. It is extraordinary how one's experiences at the Bazaar preaching differ. One night one comes away with an almost hopeless sense of having done nothing, got nothing by the right end, and brought out nothing in a way that could really help the listeners; and then again one gets an experience like last night, when I came away tingling all over with excitement and the sense of having got thoroughly home. However, I am quite sure the one thing one ought not to do is to assume that what seems to go best is really most spiritual value and vice versa. If the lessons of our Lord's life are true for us, it is evident that it is rather through apparent defeat and failure than through conscious triumph that victory in the true sense of the word is won; so one believes that all alike, good and bad, defeat and apparent success, is being taken up by Him and knit into the building up of the Kingdom here. The Preaching Hall is nearly ready, and I am longing for it. Every week I seem to be getting a little more into touch with these Mahommedans, and it may possibly please God to give one some real power amongst them during the coming years."
By 1891 the pressure of his special vocation at this time as against other duties begins to tell.
"C.M.D.: July 22, 1891.
"We got through some more or less important business this morning (on the Sanitation Sub-Committee) and I have just got away in time to send this off by the mail. At the same time I feel that probably my days on the Municipal Committee are numbered. For one thing, I am not as happy on it as I was; I mean about my being in place on it. I think this probably means that I have got the good from it I was intended to get (and I believe that to be very great) and now one may lay it aside. Also my more direct preaching work is getting a larger and larger claim on me as the scope for it develops by my getting in touch with the Mahommedans; and this must push out secondary occupations, which were very well in their own time, but never could constitute a primary charge on one's time or thought. Then in the second place, if, as is now very much most probable, I have very shortly to take the Headship of the entire Mission, I should at once resign. It is not so much that the increase of work would make continuance of membership difficult, as that even now I only get to the special meetings, which are held the first Monday of each month; but for the paymaster and general boss of the Mission the first few days of each month are the hardest of all, and are hopelessly blocked. Catechists, readers, et hoc genus omne in from district and villages, each, besides wanting his pay, having some proposal to make, some hardship to be remedied, or some shortcoming to be dropped on for, etc., etc. I never could send them away saying I had to attend a Municipal Committee, for they feel much more strongly about its worldliness than we do. To them, of course, in this country sacred and secular have always been absolutely demarcated. There has never been an attempt at the peculiar secret of Christianity claiming all life for God, refusing to consider anything in one sense secular. The world has been given up to the devil as his natural possession, and those who wished to save their souls did it in as entire separation from the world as was possible. This, so far as I know, is the highest any religion but our own has reached, and therefore as I say these people regard this part of my work with no favour, and it is more or less in violence to their prejudices that I do it. Still one has to do this sometimes to teach lessons."
A typical detail of controversy.
"August 4, 1891.
"To-night we had a very large crowd, 300 I should think, decent, quiet and respectful, while I had another go in with the blind Maulvi. It was not on a point of much importance. To illustrate our work I will tell you. He had urged that the conduct of the Apostles at the time of the death of Christ, the betrayal by one, the denial by another, the defection by all, showed how little power or effect there had been in the teaching of Christ. I replied first of all by showing that the more stress you laid on their weakness at this time (that having also been clearly foreseen and declared by Christ), the greater was the evidence of something wonderful having happened to make those weak disciples the men they were afterwards, ready to go through anything for the sake of Christ, etc., etc. Then turning to Mahomet I said I thought I remembered that the same objection might be laid against him, for at his death there was a defection of a large number of his followers; only I thought the means employed to win them back were not quite the same as those by which the disciples of the early Church rallied round again. This he indignantly denied, saying that no doubt a few who did not like to pay the required tax to Mahomet's family turned from the faith, but the mass were true. I said (this was last week) that it was no good fighting over a question which was simply one of historical fact, and next week I would either bring some authority of theirs to prove my assertion, or admit that it was an erroneous one.
"I found in their most standard Persian history a far more sweeping statement than any I had used, to the effect that on the news of Mahomet's death, the whole of Arabia except his own tribe (the Koreish) abandoned Islam. I went down armed with this, and, of course, though he wriggled, as I think people out here alone know how to wriggle, there was nothing to be said. I pointed out too the very simple means employed to bring the recusants back; not a word of preaching, teaching, or the like; but out of the small body who remained faithful, eleven expeditions were formed and sent out, sword in hand, to various parts of the country with very summary orders."
The serving of tables.
"Delhi: September, 1891.
"It does so terribly grieve me when it happens as it did to-day, that while one has had the whole day at mere machinery and organisation and accounts, and then it comes to the evening, and one is too done to do the true work--what I am here for, and what I long to be about: telling the people of what has enriched my life. It almost seems as if one's whole method must be wrong when such results are possible. It is, of course, just the worst time of all, the first of the month, when all bills have to be settled, and endless interviews with all kinds of people gone through; but it is Tuesday, my favourite preaching evening, and then to feel as the time drew near that it could not be, that one could not keep going much longer, at any rate not for that extra strain, it was sad. It is such a pity that the preaching always comes, apparently must come, at the end of the day, when all kinds of things have had first pull at one, and taken most of the go and life out. However, then also one can bear witness to another Power."
I insert here an account by an eyewitness of a scene never to be forgotten in Christian annals. The Bishop of Nagpur (Dr. Eyre Chatterton) printed it in the Nagpur Division Magazine, from which I extract it. Writing after Lefroy's death of his visit to Delhi in 1892 he says:
"But the crowning memory of my visit was reserved for the last night. For some years previously wherever he had gone to deliver his message, whether in the bazaars of Delhi, or in its surrounding villages, there was one person almost always present and always ready to contradict every word he said. This strange being was a certain blind Maulvi or teacher who had done his pilgrimage to Mecca and was therefore honoured with the title of Hadji. And on this my last night in Delhi, a great event was to take place. For months this blind Maulvi had been wavering in his conviction as a Moslem, and on this night he had decided to openly confess his faith in Christ before his baptism. It was a bold course for the man to take, and perhaps an even bolder one for Lefroy to allow, but, as the blind Maulvi had so bitterly opposed the teaching of the Cross, it was felt that it might strengthen his faith if he passed safely through the ordeal.
"The Bickersteth Hall was crowded to overflowing with Mahommedans long before the meeting started, and it was soon evident that we were not going to spend a quiet evening. First of all an old Pathan Christian Catechist arose--a man who had been a faithful Christian for many years. He was listened to respectfully. Hardly, however, had the blind Maulvi begun to speak than murmurs of strong displeasure were heard on all sides. Certainly there was nothing in the least conciliatory about his voice. Doubtless in the blind the sense of sound is more acute than in those of us who can see, and clearly the loud murmurs of anger and disapproval of his compatriots penetrated more deeply into the Maulvi's soul than one at first realised. Suffice it to say that there was suddenly an ominous pause in his utterances, and during this pause almost immediately Bedlam seemed let loose, and in less than three minutes the Hall was empty, and the blind Maulvi was gone--carried off in triumph by his audience to a neighbouring mosque. For a moment terror had filled his soul and his faith had failed him. It was after all but a short triumph for these Moslems, for a few months later the blind Maulvi returned to the Cambridge Mission in bitter shame and repentance for his cowardice, and after a long and stern probation was eventually baptised. Since then for more than twenty years he has been preaching the faith which he once so bitterly opposed.
"But perhaps even more than this strangely exciting scene, there remains in my memory the picture of our late Metropolitan on that eventful night. We left him before midnight at his special request, and all night long he remained alone in that Hall in prayer. His was a bitter disappointment, and in the silence of the night he found solace alone with his God. Over and over again the memory of that night of January, 1892, has come back to me. Like some bright flash of lightning which reveals for a moment on a dark night what would otherwise be unseen, that night revealed to one the intense devotion for souls which lay at the back of all Lefroy's life's work."
But to return to Lefroy's own account:
"Jan. 27,1892.--We are on the eve of a crisis. The blind Mahommedan preacher who has been the very forefront of all the bitterest opposition to our work for some years, has come to me to express his wish for baptism. He says he will make a public confession of his faith after a lecture I am to give in our new Preaching Hall to-morrow night. In this country motives are terribly difficult to sift, and I had at one time special reason to mistrust his. All I can say is that I have done my very best to test him even to the extent of serious discouragement, and now I feel it would not be right to delay more; and I do myself believe he is true, at any rate in a large measure. If he does come really under the power of the Spirit it will be a remarkable thing, and in all probability will open a new chapter in our work. The excitement will be great, and he fears for his life. I can't say what will happen, but I hope nothing very bad. Pray much for him and for me, for such cases need singular gifts."
"Feb. 18.--There is much more I should like to tell you of, especially about the blind man who has been very near confession of the Faith but failed at the eleventh hour for want of courage. I am writing something about it in our Report which goes home by this mail, so you will see it some time. He is in an extraordinary position at present, vowing allegiance to me and yet living among the Mahommedans and egged on by them to opposition. This sort of thing can't last long. He must either respond to the Spirit and come forward, or quench it and fall back.
"I had an extraordinary two days in an out-station 35 miles off", to which I went last Sunday, and was followed by him and another zealous Mahommedan, partly in friendliness, partly in opposition. We all breakfasted together in the utmost good fellowship, and then adjourned to the bazaar for an argument. I tremble to think of the length my jaw will grow to, but pray for me that my heart may in it all be kept child-like and humble and pure."
"March 9, '92.--More interest than I can well say centres in my heart at least round the now famous blind Maulvi. Since I last wrote he came to a second meeting, declaring he was going to confess Christ, and after another very severe inward struggle he failed. Now the Mahommedans have got him away to Lahore and are doing all they can to prevent his return here. They know that his heart is not with them any longer. I got, however, a short note from him last night saying he would certainly return in a few days and come to me. It is an extraordinary instance of the power of Christ's attraction. I am offering him nothing, and he knows how much of insult and difficulty it will mean. The Mahommedans are offering him anything he likes to keep him happy. Yet it is as though Christ had caught him and was slowly bringing him to land in spite of his struggles. Of course we know He will not land him if the struggles really continue, but I cannot help hoping he may be brought in now. It is essentially a case for prayer. I feel even here on the spot I can give him no other so effectual help as this."
"March 16.--At this moment as I write the blind Maulvi has come in to see me. I believe he is now thoroughly in earnest and that in all probability he will leave the Mosque again, and come to us in a day or two and then be admitted as a Catechumen after a few days' probation. I believe, God knows. Certainly his whole temper and manner have altered for the better in the most remarkable degree. He is quieter and humbler than I should have believed a couple of years ago he could ever be. If it is as I believe really the grace of God working in him, the result ought to be very great. I can imagine him one day exercising a great influence in Delhi. He will have, however, to be largely recreated first; but that is just what he can be in Christ Jesus."
"March 24.--You will be glad to hear that the blind Maulvi is now living in the house of our leading native preacher, having left the Mahommedans (as I believe) in good earnest once and for all. He came three days ago. It has been a long anxious time, when we could do nothing but pray. I was determined not to put pressure on him in any way to come; to let him feel, if I may so say, that I did not want him the least unless he was really being drawn by Christ, in which case he would not want much pressure from me. Of course, in such method of dealing one always risks much, and perhaps sometimes one who might have been brought in by more energetic personal dealing fails altogether. But I think when it does succeed it yields the truest and firmest fruits. I believe he has now thoroughly taken stock of the whole position and came because he felt he could not help it. His manner has changed in the most extraordinary degree. I go to teach him an hour daily, and as he sits before me listening quietly and humbly it sometimes seems almost a dream that it can be the same man as used to rave in the streets two years back. Through it all we have to remember that to feel quite sure of where you are with these people, or to rely on thejr steadfastness, is almost impossible. We have had cases before which we have thought almost as certainly signs of God's working, and they have turned out to be either deliberate hypocrites or quite unstable. So much so that one hardly wonders at the attitude of disbelief which the ordinary Anglo-Indian takes up towards the whole question. Still it is obvious that many failures, while they may legitimately (and I am sure are meant to) teach us great caution and slowness in action, cannot justify us in giving up the conviction that sooner or later God will call them, and really work in them as He has in other countries, and recreate them: and I believe this is such a case. Should it turn out otherwise we must not be unduly discouraged but expect the next. So far the Mahommedans have made no sign whatever. I think it is very likely they will not this time, for I believe during the last months they have felt him gradually slipping away from their power and from the sway of their thought; and having done all they could in every way, bribery, argument, threats, etc., they now feel they may as well accept the inevitable. This is how I at least interpret their present quietude.
"I am having poor nights and that makes poor days. You know I am down in the city house. The mosquitoes are simply magnificent. Last night I went on to the roof, as it is now warming up rapidly, to try and escape them. There was, however, such a chorus of stray dogs making the night hideous with their row all round the house that sleep was difficult, and not rendered easier by the parting message of the man watching the house as I went upstairs, 'You had better take a good stick with you as the monkeys sometimes come round at night.' They are perfectly harmless, I believe, but they are great big brutes and the prospect of a nocturnal visit did not soothe my nerves. However, my nerves are not a delicate part of my organisation, and I don't know that it made much odds.
"There is a leading druggist here, a Mahommedan, who has been my chief antagonist (ever since the blind Maulvi, who was his great ally, lost heart in the cause) in the Bazaar and everywhere; though in a private capacity we get on well together. Yesterday morning Carlyon, myself, and two of the Baptist Mission clergy were in committee discussing the affairs of a new cemetery which Government has recently given us, when a note was brought me from this man with a lump of camphor. The note literally translated ran, 'The market of death is brisk among us to-day; many lives are wrapped up in your life, and the desires of many unsatisfied ones are realised in you. Do take care of your life. May God protect you, and please keep this camphor constantly on your person.' Camphor is the preventive they chiefly believe in. It was touching, wasn't it? Later in the day I went to thank him for it. There was a disreputable old ------ Mission Christian sitting there. The latter addressed me as 'Padre Sahib,' when the Mahommedan said: 'Shut up! What do you mean by calling him Padre? He is our Padre Sahib,' as though he had an infinitely prior claim on me to a-- Mission man, at any rate such a disreputable specimen of the genus. I don't know what it means, but I believe something is working in his heart too; anyhow, it is a gift of God to be very grateful for that he has allowed me to have this kind of intercourse and popularity with the Mahommedans; and cause for infinite sorrow and humility that I use it so little to the glory of His Name. Pray for us.
"I was reading with the blind Maulvi yesterday when a respectable Mahommedan, an official in the mosque in which he used to live, came to the door. When admitted we found out, after a little beating about the bush, that he had come to ascertain the truth of a report that is about the city that the Maulvi had repented again of his action and wished to rejoin the Mahommedans, whereupon I, with laudable promptitude, had poisoned him and sent his body to Lahore for burial! They are an interesting folk in many ways. I sent very respectful thanks to those who had formed so high an idea of my capabilities and decisiveness as a religious teacher. I think the rumour expresses what they would uncommonly like to do if they got the chance. The Maulvi's reply was nice. After saying that on the whole he felt rather alive and kicking, he added, 'There is this element of truth in it, that I have no doubt died to you and to my old life.' I had been reading Romans vi. with him the day before. He had been greatly struck by it, and I expect this had stuck in his mind. After much hesitation we have decided to baptise him on Saturday, Easter Eve. I hope there won't be a row. I don't think there will, but on such occasions there is rather apt to be. In all such cases, after the experience we have had, we cannot but rejoice with trembling, but I do rejoice. So far as any judgment can go he is being really laid hold on by God's Spirit, the rest the future will show.
"We hope also another nice fellow, a Brahman clerk in the D.C.'s office at Rohtak with two or three little children, may be baptised at the same time. He has been thinking of it for some long time, but recently got very much more decided, and has now taken a month's leave and come into Delhi to be baptised. He was all right and very firm and happy the day before yesterday, though his wife was in a very sad state, opposing him utterly and almost ready to kill herself. Yesterday morning, however, we heard that late the night before he had heard that his wife's people were very ill at a town some hundred miles off, and had gone with her to see them. I do not think there is anything wrong on his part but I have no doubt the report of sickness was only got up to get him away, and one cannot tell what will happen."
A fine train incident.
"May 5,1892.--The blind man, Ahmed Masih, is no longer here. I took him to Karnal last Wednesday to spend a month with Papillon to try to really master the characters of the Bible for the blind. I have one volume of it in Urdu. It is, of course, difficult for him, but if he can once acquire it the gain will be enormous, and I think now he will acquire it. We had rather an amusing scene in the train going down. I took him with me in what is called an intermediate class carriage, above the very crowded third class and below the second, chiefly used by respectable natives. The whole carriage is open throughout, the different compartments being only separated by iron bars. We were immediately recognised by several persons and the keenest questioning began. One man said, 'Come now, Hafiz' (literally, a man knowing the whole Koran by heart and always a term of honour), 'tell us what it all means. I heard a rumour in Delhi of your having become a Christian, but I utterly refused to believe it, for I had heard you preaching and arguing with the Sahib before, and I thought you were the most obstinate individual in Delhi.' The questioner was a Hindu, and did not mince his words. The Maulvi replied very simply that it was perfectly true whether they could understand it or not; that he was a Christian and hoped to live and die as such. Then there was a pause, after which the same questioner coming close up to the bars said to me: 'Now, Sahib, do give us a discourse. I don't want controversy or anything. Just preach to us and tell us what it all means. We are all men of one faith in this compartment' (I found they were Jains, degenerate descendants of Buddhism), 'and we want to know what it all means.1 I tried, of course, in response to such an invitation, but could not get far. As an Oriental he was bound to begin controversy and propound speculations, and I found they really were to all intents and purposes hopeless and avowed atheists with whom it was almost impossible to get any common ground at all. However we got on well together, and when we neared the station, a respectable town of 12,000 or 13,000 inhabitants between Delhi and Karnal, they said: 'Now you must get out and stay the night with us. There are plenty of people here interested in these things; and in the morning we'll get up the biggest meeting ever you saw, and we'll put a Hindu, a Jain, and a Mahommedan, and you can all talk and things will go on like a house on fire.' They were very keen and it was not easy to refuse them, but I felt pledged to Papillon, and besides I did not want the new convert to get plunged at once in the waters of controversy; so I said I had an appointment which I must keep so could not stop then, but would try to come back as I should enjoy such a meeting very much. Now I have written to ask whether they will arrange for one next Tuesday."