Project Canterbury

India and the Church
Being Impressions of Some Members of the Mission of Help

Edited by E. Priestley Swain

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1923.
New York and Toronto: Macmillan, 1923.

Essay V. The Intellectual Environment and Its Effects upon Faith, by Philip Napier Waggett, D.D., of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, Oxford, Examining Chaplain to the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

A chapter in a composite book is in effect the answer to an editorial question.

The question put to me is, What is the intellectual atmosphere of English India? How far is it favourable to faith; and, if in any respect it is unfavourable, how is the unfavourable influence to be met and changed?

The challenge of the question awakens memories and regrets: the memories of an intellectual welcome in which India is as generous as in all the other duties of hospitality; regrets that one cannot land again in Bombay equipped beforehand with the sense--as well as the news--of that generosity, awake to the peculiar attraction of India, and free from the tormenting shyness that hinders so much of happy learning and intelligent pleasure.

Looking back I find it difficult to capture and describe any peculiar mental climate in English India, and this is natural enough in a visitor who was there six months, just long enough to destroy the first fine careless rapture of delusive impressions, and very far [82/83] from long enough to form any real appreciation. Add to this that the visitor was, in India as everywhere, not in the least a critic but only a missionary, a street-corner preacher altogether uninterested in analysis and record, and you have the conditions for a most unintelligent account of the intelligence of India.

Still, let us make an attempt. Let us recall those societies, always active, generous, communicative, always ready to learn, to consider; societies widely varying among themselves, in circles of Government, of military life, of law, of learning, of business; but alike, I think, in that forthcomingness of which I have ventured with some hesitation to speak. What then, once more, is the mental atmosphere of English India?


If you try to use a crib for your answer, if you beg opinions from an Indian friend at home, you may easily strike one who tells you there is no intellectual atmosphere in India, no productive energy of thought, no growth, no soil. This he says out of an abundant modesty, while he holds his own among men trained in what he calls the more favourable conditions, say, of an English University; and he makes a fairly good case. If you were to judge London by its most bustling and anxious class, you might think there was no intellectual work in London. And in an Indian city the English world is small, and everyone is expected to do and know everything. It results that the impression of mental inactivity is formed, as it is not formed where we reckon on the existence of some thoughtful and many unthoughtful sections. But your critic [83/84] who has himself passed sixteen hot weathers in Bengal will return to the charge. And he has facts to produce. A hot country is not favourable to mental energy, there is too much that must be done, and it is very hard to do it.

In answer I can only say with great confidence that no lecturer or alleged lecturer on subjects of some difficulty ever had a more alert or a more generous audience than I met in every place I stopped at in India, or an audience more fertile in reply. This was the fact not only in busy places like Calcutta or Bombay, or in Belgaum where a school of senior officers naturally makes a nucleus of study, or in Coimbatore where there are important colleges manned by chosen men from Oxford and Cambridge, but also among the businessmen of Cawnpore or the small community of Indore in a native state. At this place, and also at Agra, Allahabad, and Bangalore, the Indian students have a great appetite for discussion, but that is another story. In general terms, certainly, my small and narrow experience brought a degree of stimulation and mental give and take which a man would, I think, be very exacting to value slightly. Calcutta is an extraordinary place. There they like meeting for discussion, not only in the evening after dinner, but in the middle of the day at luncheon-time. Could you say more of London? But the Indian English still insist that their world is intellectually empty, and their impression is not altogether surprising.

Action and thought are not alternative occupations for men. They do not vary inversely.

At the same time, a man who examines his own life will find that the weeks when he has been incessantly [84//85] occupied with perplexing or with contentious correspondence, when he has been trying to save a house, a business, a life, to clear the character of a friend or get employment for a neighbour, have not been weeks of success in literature, or study, or mental analysis. He has thought, in those days, very hard and very quick, as a man thinks terribly fast when ice cracks under his tread or the bull is nearer than the gate. But this is not the kind of thinking that makes much show as thought, and it is precisely the kind of thinking that must occupy responsible minds in India; and who in India is not responsible? Everyone, be he struggling junior or Buna Sahib, is an indispensable man. There is no leisure class, no retired expert, no extra men or extra days; and what is true of their men is true of the ladies also of that watchful and dutiful community. These pages will not have been quite uselessly filled if they contain just the one statement that the picture of a lazy, dreaming, pleasure-loving English India is a picture with all the modern independence of objective reality. It is art for art's sake. It tells no story. If it records the mood of the artist, it is because English India laid itself out to make his time agreeable.

Well, the thought one thinks so rapidly in times of danger or stress does not get the name of philosophy. It is too strenuous for that, and it leaves too thin a record. It is like the split in darkness that lightning is. "If ever I thought, I thought then," one says of a moment of crisis. But the thought raced too much to make an atmosphere.

What essays, lettered friend, came from your exquisite pen while you watched your wife's long [85/86] illness, or--for I would not be pathetic--while you defeated the project of your business rivals? It is not when his bank is in peril that the banker makes those volumes of reflective thought for which the world looks to bankers. It is not when drafts are delayed and trenches are afloat that the military leader polishes the phrases appropriate to a General's book. There is a sense in which violent and swift action is the other aspect of vigorous thought, but there is another sense in which the pressure of heavy or delicate tasks brings thinking to a low ebb. Schopenhauer would, I think, have described the intelligence of most of us in India as subject to the practical will, engaged in that "compulsory occupation with the particular which is an irksome bondage" for the philosopher. Moreover, in our period there are special anxieties in India.

Our book is not a book about the evolutions or revolutions of the Indian state. But so much as this must be said. A good deal is happening in India, and happening very fast. How much more change is to come, and at what pace, depends really--though the fact is not admitted--upon the will of our masters, the great and thoughtful democracy of England. That will is beyond the influence of the English in India. They can only prepare, under circumstances beyond their control, to do their best for the populations so long served by Britons of their type; and if they lie awake o' nights it is not to examine the problems of faith, but to pray that the countries so hardly raised to a degree of happiness may not become a field for the self-seeking adventure of quite other kinds of men from Europe.

You may add to the social preoccupations the [86/87] endless and constant hindrances of a tropical climate. The effort to live, to keep fit, to get the competence which means getting home, to avoid partings, to provide for the partings that cannot be avoided--all these things absorb a great deal of mental energy. According to some men who speak with the authority of long experience, there is besides all this an unexamined and often unacknowledged sadness at the bottom of many men's hearts; and what their minds require--like the minds of some men on active service--is not exercise but just relief. So they read and talk and play to dilute a mental mixture already concentrated and bitter.

There are many sets of men in England under the difficulties I have suggested. But in India the English world in any place is small, and everyone must take a share in everything. We can leave on one side the marked differences between the worlds of Government, the Army, the law, learning, and business. There is also a scientific set, not everywhere allied with the university. But this world of science is linked with science of other countries without distinction of race.

On the general account we must admit some special Indian difficulties. To balance them there is with respect to affairs the desire of knowledge and the expectation of being allowed to know which are characteristic of people in authority.


So far I have written as if the English world in India existed in vacuo or in real detachment from the Indian life about it, and as if the English Christian mind was [87/88] developed, in mental prosperity or adversity, independently of the Indian Christian mind, and unaffected by the life, worship, and beliefs of the non-Christian peoples.

In some subjects a provisional isolation of certain facts for study is useful; and you can with some profit--a profit always subject to discount later--think about a department "as if" it was really shut off from the rest of the facts.

But exclusive study of this sort is of very little use when you are trying to understand India. It is too artificial. To study Englishmen in India "as if" they were not concerned with Indians is like studying fish "as if" they lived out of water. It is possible, though not easy, to talk to English people over there without talking at the same time to Indians, and without talking about Indians. You can talk to Englishmen without discussing politics--that is to say, the faithful management of affairs common to English and Indians; without discussing economics--that is, the just direction for common profit of English and Indian enterprise and industry; without discussing education or agriculture, or public medicine or transport--that is to say, the movements, the health, the country life, the mental development, of vast populations for the most part Indian. But you cannot preach to English people in India without thinking of these things, or escape failure if you think wrongly about them.

In fact, it is only within strict and narrow limits that a man can safely even make as if the Englishman lived, thought, moved, worked, and worshipped God in a world of his own; and probably if ever there is [88/89] another Mission of Help to India, its messengers will not be very solemnly encouraged to undertake the mental gymnastic required by the convention that the English people and Indians of India live in water-tight compartments.

Specialisation of effort there must be; and in particular the interests of the mixed race demand at this moment a highly concentrated attention.

But the language-barrier for the clergyman who only talks English is safeguard enough against dissipation of interest, and the special needs of English people there and of country-born people of English speech are urgent and manifest enough to engage the energies of anyone whose duty it is to attend to them. He must attend to them as needs plainly special and specially urgent, but not in real fact isolated or unrelated or capable of treatment without regard to the social and religious world they belong to.

In point of fact, the English Christian, or potential Christian, in India is both consciously and unconsciously greatly influenced by the Indian world. Even when he resists constantly the Indian mental forces, he is influenced by them. For to evoke resistance is to exercise influence of a kind, and perhaps in its most typical form. When I say "unconsciously" I mean without full attention, and with every degree of absence of that attention.

So far as conscious attention is concerned, the Englishman is more concerned, more interested, and in that sense more influenced by the vast "heathen" world than by the little world of Indian Christianity. He thinks less of his fellow-Christians who are not English than of his Indian neighbours who are not [89/90] Christian. Even to many liberal minds there is something abnormal and bizarre about the Indian Christian. We dress him, when he is a clergyman, in a collar with the stud behind; when she is a district visitor, in a pith helmet; and the untrained eye sees something like masquerade in these arrangements, as if he had met "a native" dressed up in a foreign mode. The Indian is expected to be a Hindu or a Moslem, excepting when he is the cook, and then he is a Roman Catholic and a tiny bit European.

No one is unaffected by any of his neighbours. But, so far as attention is concerned, the English Churchman over there is affected very little in a positive way by the Indian Churches. While I write this I see that it needs a library of exceptions to make it tolerably true. But the men and women who are best able and entitled to make the corrections will most readily suppose they are not overlooked, and will be inclined to say that, on the whole, the English Christian body is sparingly interested in Indian or missionary Christian life.

But here again the word "interested" needs interpretation. The good missionary is everywhere honoured, and English congregations are in no manner of sense without benevolent interest in Mission work. But in many quarters two things are almost separate--the Church of the English and the Missions for India; and good and wise men are often inclined to a solution of Anglican problems involving the complete "independence" of the Indian Church, while the English congregations remain attached to "Home" with as much as can be kept of the old constitutional nexus. [The word "bond" is avoided as being not neutral.]

The feeling or view here suggested is not found on [90/91] one side only. Indian Christians hold it more constantly and express it--in the Indian way, the least subtle in the world--more exuberantly. Anxious to break down barriers between himself and, say, Indian Presbyterians, the Indian Church-of-England-man seems eager to get something solid to separate him from Englishmen of the same communion. He would pull down several dykes and use the stones to make a Wall of China against England. One of us gladly went to address the united missionaries of all denominations in a southern centre. Being himself an old African missionary, he chose for his subject some general interests of mission work, and received by next morning's post a fierce scolding from an Indian clergyman, the main burden of which was that he, the Mission of Helper, had been sent to English Church people, and must not touch the hopes and difficulties of Indian Christians. Such is life. Full of barriers, classes, different tones of buff--for no one is white--exclusive interests, alternative episcopates, and other inventions of Satan. [Differences of administration make another story: provided always they have a starting-point inside India.]

If we make the division, we shall be sorry afterwards, or our successors in the faith will be, and will spend endless thought and effort to recover the unity that need never have been destroyed. For the Indian Church will have hard work to avoid absorption by the inclusive spirit of Hinduism, and the English Church can reach no full-grown life on a basis of exclusiveness.

It may stand, it will stand, while promoting vicariously and by alms a Mission to foreigners; but it will [91/92] not become adult and productive, it will not become purposeful and march, unless it claims as its very own all in Christ who will accept the brotherhood. Both Indian and English Churchmen must say of their opposite numbers: "Except these abide in the ship we cannot be saved."

Enough of that which is, I daresay, outside my reference.

Turn we to the Englishman's relation to the Hindu and Mahommadan life, the overwhelmingly greater part of the life of India, and the stronger influence under which, whether by concession or resistance, the Englishman in India must do his part.

A subject so familiar must be briefly outlined under two heads, the unmeasured influence of the presence of multitudes not living by our faith, and the effect upon the conscious mind of the arguments and considerations supplied by the spectacle of non-Christian society. Take the last first. The Englishman brought up in a world where Christianity and religion are in effect the same thing is often shaken in conviction when he sees men and systems not in any way depending on Christ but devout to God, and endeavouring to obey what they believe to be God's will. If the non-Christian religion were one rival to Christianity, the disturbance would be serious enough. But it is of endless different forms. And the multiplicity of the rival force makes it more formidable, for it accustoms the mind to believe that no one form of conviction possesses the sovereign claim of truth. This leads some men towards a general scepticism, rather than towards an equally defensible general hopefulness about man's capacity to know God.

[93] In other men--to take only two classes of mind out of hundreds--it leads to a very real personal religion, combined with unwillingness to be pledged to any particular creed or society, even if it be as wide as the universal Church of Christ.

These tendencies present a vast field for Christian endeavour, and may enlist for India the minds in Christendom best endowed and prepared for a work of almost incomparable importance.

And far beyond all arguments or tempers of thought is the effect, quite unmeasured, and perhaps never to be measured, of the mere presence alongside of us of multitudes of minds thinking thoughts different from ours, of multitudes of hearts subject to hopes and fears unlike our own. It is only by a mighty energy of spirit that we can hold fast that we have under conditions spiritually so exciting or so depressing, and persevere in a journey in which we are to be the leaders of many souls needing the God, the salvation, we need.

Coming from the spiritual atmosphere of England, so wholesome still in spite of all our faults, we must be very far from criticising if we perceive in India, as I have not perceived, any unusual degree of spiritual exhaustion or mental weariness.


Time spent upon considerations so general and so negative as these is not wasted: for they lead towards conclusions about the practical presentation of Christianity in India, not certain, but worth considering.

If the English world of India is weary and even sad, [93/94] then Christianity should be presented--let us rather say, Christ should be preached--primarily as a source of strength and of joy. The complaint is made in some lands that men are apt to ask what they can get out of religion and not to ask what they can give to it. In India I do not think the giving spirit will be practically hindered by a constant and urgent proclamation of what men may receive from God. This element of teaching was not unemphatic at the beginning of our faith. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." God is our life, our strength, our peace, our joy. He also gives us hope--that is, the present succour under present burdens of a good not yet attained. Christ is a fountain, the fountain of this Divine life, a fountain opened for pardon, cleansing, relief of guilt, the lifting of the despondency of sin and of sorrow. Life is burdensome, exacting, all but crushing. We cannot do any more. We cannot add to our acknowledged tale of duty. Why make new demands upon the conscience and the will? . . . The strong and busy might, I imagine, feel the demand unbracing, the supply unsatisfying. If you have succours to give, the strong may say, "Mine's the same right with your poorest and sickliest." [Browning, "Christmas Eve," ii.] Your call to new efforts is shrill and unconvincing, tell me how I can meet the calls already accepted.

As an uplifting power, a refreshment that comes home, bread for those who must grow strong, a force of life within, our religion must be preached; as a remedial energy that can order the family, the society, and give hope to a confused country. There would, [94/95] I conceive, be no effective intellectual barriers in the way of a man's joining a fellowship of faith that showed the triumphant love of the first Christian days, love exulting in service.

The service would come, as it comes to-day, wherever the gift of force and life is first known.

We see this often enough now in the welcome the questioning mind quite as truly as the kindly heart gives to the practical Mission work: to the care of the young, the healing of the sick. It is as a force, a force beneficent and available for all, that the Church appeals to burdened men; and I would say, let her not, in this special case, make her first appeal as demanding action, but simply as ready to comfort human life, and as possessing great resources for this work. Does not the attraction that Christian Science exercises consist in this, that its system and its teaching offer help, strength, health? In some strange way it has certainly come to pass that the Church is not known to make this offer, and is presumed to possess only a list of demands, to present only a difficult and unaided mode of being good, a set of precepts which a man is emancipated by neglecting. We have at least to declare that emancipation lies not in rejection, but in acceptance of the power of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It has been impossible not to notice a neglect of Holy Communion among some church-goers. Asked why the sacrament was better than matins, I have said that more energy belonged to Holy Communion, and I was taken to mean that the sacrament was better because it was "more trouble." But for the present I should put first the reason that there we get more strength.

[96] This is the first provisional conclusion I seemed to get. In a weary land, offer refreshment. Let problems of the past go by to make room for a call to prayer by which the hidden spark of faith may be fed to a great fire, and men know God as the rewarder of those that seek Him. The proclamation of a faith which is really a discovery verified by the experience of heavenly power challenges, attracts, and enlists men who could long stave off any conclusion in an argument about creation, design, and even moral responsibility.


There are in my mind three more particular "difficulties" and opportunities for the Christian advocate. These may seem to be included in what has been already said. But they are different for practice. I have spoken of the weariness of life. I distinguish this from its preoccupation.

1. For preoccupation can be delightful, interesting, profitable, and comes to men not yet at all weary but conscious of unexhausted power.

2. Near to this is the mood of specialisation. The preoccupied man does not deny the reality for another man of some contrasted preoccupation. Go your way. he says to the religious man, and let me go mine. The English world of India is indeed a small one, and everyone must bear a hand. But there is definite specialisation within it, a strong departmentalism. In the old Company days a man did not easily pass from one province to another, and it is the same now. The Army is a strong world of its own; different parts of civil life are clearly marked off; and in [96/97] the Government of India there is an ecclesiastical department.

Is there not something a little like this in the world of thought and feeling? Religion is religion, and the rest is something else, and you must be occupied with one or the other.

Now so long as the call of faith is limited, either more or less completely, as a call to the services of the church or chapel alone; so long as the duties of religion are proposed as alternatives to the pursuits of the world, the cause of faith, I submit, is at an unfair disadvantage. I do not mean, of course, that any preacher thinks, or even says, that a Christian man could fulfil his duty by coming to church and neglecting his business. But even in so crude a form as this, the call of religion is sometimes conceived by its outside critics; and by a great many the habit of thought favours the notion that if a man pays his devoir at a given hour to religion he may attend for the rest of his time to interests in which faith has no part. And he has some excuse. There were special Missions lately in some parts of India, and the business man of the town was sometimes reproached because he allowed his business arrangements, or the relaxations necessary for business, to interfere with his attendance at special services.

Now so long as prayer and preaching are set in direct competition with business, business must win all along the line. For business seems more real than religion; and it seems more real because it makes a larger demand upon mind and will. We ought not to wish religion to be an occupation for times when the more important faculties of man are off duty.

[98] Preoccupation will make a man avoid a religion that might distract him. Departmentalism leads him to give to religion only what can be spared from serious pursuits, or, as an English Minister of State once said to me with great injustice to himself... "to get his theology over before breakfast."

Preoccupation grows to so great a perfection that it becomes materialism pure and simple, and the world of sense so absorbing that the man is "without God in the world."

For these kindred evils or disablements, materialism, preoccupation, specialisation, the Christian body has a cure ready and waiting to be used. This cure is a thorough-going and candid sacramentalism, a sacramentalism urging the bold claim that all things are for God, all should serve God, all can be redeemed only by escaping from creaturely isolation into the creature's destined and intended relation to God.

I do not mean by "sacramentalism" the ceremonial system of the Church, though it is from this that the word, I suppose, gets its more extended use. No other word quite serves the same purpose. Let it stand for the belief that spirit and matter are not merely opposed but correlative, that the material does not achieve a reality by itself to which spirit or significance for man's spirit may or may not be added, that, on the contrary, matter has existence as an utterance from Spirit to spirit, and where Revelation is perfect and fully authentic, there "God's Presence and His very self" is manifest in human life.

Such a general conception has illustrations or consequences in many directions, and is independent of the elaboration or the simplicity of religious observance.

[99] But the practice of sacramental worship helps this teaching. See, God to draw us to Himself does not draw us from the creatures of His hand, but so assumes these with us into His service that He makes of them His gift to us, and brings spirit face to face with Spirit in offering and redemption of the material. Man might have been so made and so remained as to rise away from every show of the world to the pure adoration of the Creator. Man being what he is, not accidentally but inevitably preoccupied by many "earthly" duties and worldly ties, the essential and necessary way for God is to meet man there "in the bush," in the nature of man, in the society, the needs, the sorrows and the joys, the efforts, the multiplied failures, the rare but actual successes, of man possessed by God-that is, of God Himself working not otherwise than in man. We do not decline from a better way when we also meet God in man--on the contrary, we then at last submit to God's own direction and invitation, and consent to seek Him upon the path He has made His own, in the tabernacle He pitches among men and builds of men to be the meeting-place of God with every soul.

This is an old story, but I think it needs retelling in India and in England. I believe we need a much simpler, more thorough-going, more courageous return to the old essentials of worship, the breaking of bread and the prayers, in the doctrine of the Person of Christ, and in an apostolic fellowship which is a practical fellowship with one's neighbours.

Those earnest, active, self-sacrificing men are not to be called away from their worldly duties to find God. They are to be encouraged to abide in them for [99/100] God's Kingdom. "Seek first" does not mean--we must tell them--that they must postpone their professional duties to pious thoughts. It means that in all they do and at all times the primary object and the constant inspiration must be the interest of God's sovereignty. Seek first, last, and all the time, the establishment of God's Kingdom, and the vindication of God's righteous law. And if occupations cannot be abandoned merely in favour of an act of special worship, so also cares, troubles, thoughts, hopes--all that frets the heart of man--cannot be left behind always that we may find a wordless peace.

Sometimes we must come, the head a-buzz with thoughts, the heart heavy with cares, and offer this head, this heart, just as it is, to God, whose Spirit knows the way among these thickets, even as in the garden of lilies and roses.

It may be objected that so tolerant a religion will soon be forced to be more tolerant still; that if faith is content to survive in the hum of business, it will be found entangled in the web of selfish pleasure and even of lawless self-indulgence.

The answer is not hard to state. The man who is really--however inconstantly and inconsistently--seeking God everywhere will soon know quite certainly that while the harshest or the most exciting scenes of duty and business are on the path he wants, there are other paths which cannot be his any more, and that to stay in them is an abandonment of that very quest whose greatness constitutes his warrant for going freely and unhampered along the ways of real activity.

[101] V

3. Allied, I think, to departmentalism is what I ask leave to call the static habit of mind. By this I mean the judgment of things as more or less fixed, and not as in a condition of movement and growth.

The static and the departmental habits of mind are akin, because they are both anti-developmental. One of the wonders of our time is that while "development" has so long been a popular word, the principal and really important conception it should convey is so little accepted. People are developmentalist about what they do not care for. They believe, for example, in organic development, in the production of animals and plants by descent with modification; but to what end do they believe this? Only in order to believe that the Bible is statically untrue, untrue as a fixed and unalterable story to be judged at a given moment worthy or unworthy of confidence.

The static man, if I may use the rough word for convenience, does not refuse to believe in change. But he believes in changes with limits of movement and finality of result. This was hot and is now cold. He was rich and has become poor. Religion was credible and has become incredible. And the less acute staticist goes even further. He is half inclined to say, God was supreme and is now dethroned. There are differences for the static, but the differences are soon accomplished and fixed beyond hope or beyond fear. And, moreover, in a world of particulars thus jerkily changeable, there are many particulars always unchangeable--good men and bad men, truth tellers and liars, just as there are live men and dead men. The [101/102] dead men were once indeed alive, but they are now dead. They have passed into an entirely different set, and they have passed by a change which cannot be reversed or expected to go further.

Though the static has an accepted set of changes and knows a change when he sees it, yet he always knows it as a change accomplished, and, for all his vocabulary of alteration, he is not yet of the same habit as the man who sees that change is not an accident, but of the essence of perceived existences, and that however enduring the picture seems to our short-lived observation, it is truly important only as a wave in a stream, or as an instant of life in a living whole.

May I illustrate what is perhaps not perfectly clear in the subject that is familiar to every man, the subject of politics. I do not mean by politics that singular art and practice by which men enter assemblies, get measures passed or prevent their passing. I mean the general view of the way the affairs of the world are conducted, and particularly the affairs of one's own country or group of countries. To the static man the existing condition of any society is an establishment to be valued or despised, it is a collection of objects worth keeping or better discarded. Of course, the collection grew in the sense that collections grow. There was once less of it. It has seen changes like a man's wardrobe or furniture. It is to be known at least under the figure of permanence, or of abolition, sub specie finitatis. Shaw says we do not know it until it is done and done with. He takes no account here of the knowledge that we get of life by living. In the mood of finality we ask of a society, Is it a good society [102/103] or not? Once we had a good state of things. Now we have a bad state of things. And it is too late--"too late" is a favourite word with the static--to recover the old state. That is gone. Where to? The country is here, the people are here. Once, you tell me, everyone was happy, and now everyone is miserable. But cannot they be happy again, and does not the answer to that question depend on themselves, depend on ourselves? Not altogether, alas! But a dose of the developmental habit of mind would do us no harm. If things are very bad and can really never be restored, it can do us no particular harm to suppose that it is worth while to try to make them better. If our course is really and objectively fixed, we cannot be worse off than we are. And so in politics I should certainly myself say that we must never regard the existing society as if it were a collection of vessels or jewels precious or worthless. We must always regard it, and we are thinking truly and scientifically when we regard it, as a living existence capable under favourable conditions of making its own recoveries, its own repairs, as it goes. And what is true of societies on their civil or economic side is true of all the exhibitions of Church life and of the life of every Christian man. While there is life there is hope, and hope is the true temper of life. Why should we mind perishing if the present moment is the revelation of our character? And if there is, after all, a future and possibilities as real as the possibilities of the past, why should we consent to perish? In so far as the creature may be said to do anything, he has just as much power to make his future as he has to judge, to form a just conception of his present, and more [103/104] power than he has to judge another man's present condition.

Well, this static mentality, with its list of changes and its little department of much freer development employed to fix more rigidly the rest of what is known, is very common everywhere. I do not know that it is commoner in India than in other places. If it is, perhaps it is because of the old talk of the "unchanging East," itself depending a good deal upon the superficial judgments that disregard all the more interesting part of life--that is to say, all that belongs to personality. "Never" is a favourite word of this superficiality. "Never the twain shall meet; there was never an Englishman who understood the native; I myself, who am not less sympathetic than most, yet assure you that after thirty years' experience I shall never understand him; there was never a trustworthy Christian servant; and we shall never see again such viceroys as we have seen." This neverness is staticism. It believes there have been changes, but it believes these changes to be unchangeable.

If this temper is at all commoner at Calcutta than in Clapham, may it not be because of the departmentalism that belongs to life out there? There are white men and Indian men--no one is black now, and even the smaller Girl Guides are not Brownies--there are trenchant distinctions among Indians, barriers never to be crossed between Hindus and Mahommadans, between High Caste and Untouchable, and it is worth a moment's pause to reflect on the singular result of departmental fixity which in the Oriental mind has resulted from a religion teaching the unceasing flow of illusion.

[105] And wherever this overstatic state of mind exists, I should think we ought to emphasise, or rather steadily and without emphasis recommend, the doctrine of development in all its phases, the doctrine of life and of hope, the warnings against degradation and descent. As the future is, by our own act, good or bad, so we shall be found some day to have been now good or bad. But all is possible in the now, for it is only now by reason of being a potentiality for the future.

And we might well begin with some zoological developmentalism. If there are still Christians who think their faith depends on what they call "rejecting evolution," let us exhibit those manifold indications that make organic evolution probable. And then let us go on to show, as surely it is not difficult to show, that our theism gains force and gains substance by the necessary adjustment to evolutionary science; that in place of the conception of God as having once acted and then ceased to act, we have that of a God upholding all things always, and originating them by a power which can never be otherwise than present. We can add that such conceptions bring us out into the freedom of the faith of all the ages, restore revelation to its ancient dignity, and put out of date only the unauthorised fashion of the day before yesterday. We can show that it is we who in demanding this freedom are exacting, and stand upon the rights of religion, and that the levity of surrender belongs to the people who accuse us of concession.

And when we have thus led our friends towards the path of scientific integrity, we can beg them not to allow their new-found vision of organic change and the [105/106] world process to drive them to demand that religion, of all ways of life the most living, should be packed tight, frozen, and sealed. A spiritual ptomaine-poisoning comes of sealing what was meant to live.

We shall hope to hear no more that the religion of the English was one day abolished and replaced by a new one, or that the Church is for ever debarred by some order or other from carrying out the principal function of the live man, that is, to be what he finds himself capable of being, to learn what is true, and to do what is right. Above all, let us be delivered from the departmentalism that distinguishes between truth and Church-of-England truth, or from that kind of tolerance and plea for toleration which was expressed by a lady very long ago to a young missionary in Southwark, in this judgment of a visitor's sermon, "What the gentleman said is very true, but I don't hold with it."

The developmental view of existence is not sufficient by itself. It must be balanced by a whole world of truth, the truth of certainty. And to hold this is, indeed, entirely necessary to the intelligent apprehension of change. For how can change be perceived except in relation to an unchangeable, and how can improvement be looked for or deterioration feared except in terms of a certain good apprehended by intuition or revealed by authority? Still, I believe that what needs attention just now is the fact that existence, not excluding moral existence, is moving, growing, living, and is the scene of reasonable hopes and fears.

Such a view leads to courage in difficult times. Will it not also lead to indifference in critical times? Will [106/107] not this trust in "time," which, if it have any meaning, must be trust in process, lead to an obliteration, more or less complete; of the outline of duty, even of the distinction of good and evil? Will not men lazily suppose that what they know to be bad may in time grow recognisable as good, and so the day of endeavour pass unredeemed in the false security that all will go well in the night?

Why, no. Not if the doctrine of development is at all rightly attended to. For this teaches not the unimportance but the importance of crises in the past so small as to be unobservable when they happened. The distance between the haystack and the bull's eye shows how much difference is made by small angles of movement in the gun. The striking contrast between a whale and a whelk shows how momentous small divergences of growth really were long ago, and are in time revealed to have been. If time present is the season of hope, it is also the season for wisdom. If it is never too late to mend, it is also never too late for the neglect of mending to make the gappy foundations of future ruin. The one thing developmentalism can never say is, It does not matter; and her constant assertion is, All may yet be well.

In the great affair of good and evil an extended view of the force of heredity, of circumstance, of training, must always be to enlarge the horizon and intensify the claim of personal duty.

This is not the place to argue out this truth. I set it down not as unanswerably convincing, but as illustrating what to a convinced Christian develop-mentalist is the actual result for moral conviction of the mode of thought he has accepted.

[108] "Mark accurately how ye walk," it seems to say, for every step is full of promise that only goodness can fulfil. And "pray without ceasing," for no step can be good unless it is regulated by the law of that great saving purpose under which we live.

These opinions, unsatisfying as they may seem, are at least the result of an honest self-examination. I believe I have recalled something that is true about India, however true it is of England as well.


I entertained some hours ago the guilty design of filling the pages allotted to me by writing out one of the little arguments about science and revelation, about heredity and duty, which, in the intervals of preaching, came so easily to birth in the favouring atmosphere of Indian clubs and meetings. I am convinced that all these exercises are less important in themselves than as showing the readiness of the English-Indian mind to shake off the fetters of the rigid specialisation which sets theology over against science, piety in conflict with common sense, faith at odds with experience, and so fills with some kind of materialism the mind that ought to grow in the sacramental view of life.

Yes, after the most careful self-examination I can reach, after the sincerest scrutiny of an experience very short but, through the goodness of others, very intense, I am entirely convinced that India, so long familiar to our thoughts, now sends us a new call.

India has been for the English the scene of shining exploits, of honour without end, of the higher courage, of the clearest, humblest Christian faith. And for us at home it has been from our boyhood filled with the [108/109] rumour of famous actions, and peopled by figures of splendour, of gravity^ of tenderness. What English heart has not thrilled from the very beginning of its intelligence to the names of Havelock, Lawrence, Clyde? And if I set here no other names, it is because the list, in so many diverse paths of heroic and selfless endeavour, can never be completed, and because our presently urgent duty is to see the new greatness of which that land of old and just renown must be the scene. We have thought of it as a land of romance, of dignified achievement, of victories for the genius of our race in law, administration, civilization. We have thought of it, in another light, as a land of arduous labour and suffering for the Gospel; and when we visited it we saw at work the strong successors of the old evangelists. It was good to trace the footsteps of St. Thomas, of St. Francis, of Heber and Martyn, and to see the old paths trodden still.

But something new was revealed as well. We saw a land of many needs, of conscious need. What we had reverenced as the great monument of English moral power now shows itself to us little men as wise to use even such help as ours; wise to use it and really needing it. Everywhere that I went in India it was imagined that the home-keeping English thought little of India, and must be persuaded it was worth regard. In real fact the home-keeping Englishman knows of India as stately and famous, and has to learn that India is hard-pressed and scantily supplied. We came to see grandeur, and we found something better. We found humanity, and that need which every man has of what other men can, so mysteriously, supply.

Is it not wonderful if in our time and with our [109/110] small means there is something fresh to do for India? that we have at last been awakened to a real chance of helping--save the word--our distinguished relation? I am sure the chance is real, the need is real.

And if at another time we give ourselves with fresh sincerity to listen to the call of Indian India, and of English-speaking native-born India, on this page let me still insist on the claim--if I may so call it--of our very own men and women upon every ounce of simple, ardent, reverent service we can possibly render from England in the West. These men in the heat are simply ourselves over again. They left us yesterday and will return to-morrow. But somehow in India our English nature has learned a new candour, and exercises a new attraction of appeal.

If only we could answer that appeal now; if only we could speak comfortably to our own folk there, while they are there! We need a tremendous change here "at home" to be fit for any such work. Shall we find power to shake off our own sloth; shall we find healing for our own sicknesses, and wealth for our own deep poverty, and a clear light of deliverance from our own bewilderment? It may be that English England will, by the call of English India, be made whole, and receive to great profit the grace which we always receive in vain when we receive it for our own poor sakes.

Certainly if any gift of "understanding" should arise among us, that operation of the One Spirit will nowhere in the world be more eagerly welcomed than in India by men of every race.

Project Canterbury