CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH SCHWARTZ, THE COUNCILLOR OF TANJORE.
We must turn from America to the warmer regions of the East, from the patriarchal savage to complicated forms of society, and from the Red-skin to the Hindoo--a man of far nearer affinity to ourselves, being, like us, of the great Indo-European race, speaking a language like our own, an altered, corrupted, and intermingled dialect of the same original tongue, and his ancestors originally professing a religion in which the same primary ideas may be traced as those which were held by our ancient northern forefathers, and which are familiar to us in the graceful dress imposed on them by the Greeks. The sacred writings of the Hindoos form the earliest storehouse of the words of our common language, and the thoughts therein found, though recorded after the branches had parted from the common stock, are nearer the universal germ than those to be found anywhere else, and more nearly represent the primary notion of religion held by the race of Japheth, after that of Shem, to which God revealed Himself more distinctly, had parted from it. These oldest writings are quaint, pure, and simple, but on them the fancies of a race enervated by climate engrafted much that was hideous, monstrous, and loathsome, leading to gross idolatry, and much vice perpetrated in the name of religion. Mythology always degenerates with the popular character, and then, so far as the character is formed by the religious faith, the mythology helps to debase it further, until the undying moral sense of conscience awakens again in some man, or band of men, and a new morality arises; sometimes grafted upon philosophic reasoning, sometimes upon a newly-invented or freshly introduced religion.
Thus, when Hindooism had become corrupt, the deeply meditative system of Buddha was introduced into many parts of India, and certainly brought a much higher theory and purer code than that founded on the garbled nature- worship of ancient India; but both religions co-existed, and, indeed, Buddhism was in one aspect an offshoot of the Hindoo faith.
Christianity--planted, as is believed, by St. Thomas, on the Malabar coast--never became wholly extinct, although tinged with Nestorianism, but it was never adopted by the natives at large, and the learning and philosophy of the Brahmins would have required the utmost powers of the most learned fathers of the Church to cope with them, before they could have been convinced.
The rigid distinctions of caste have made it more difficult for the Church which "preaches the Gospel to the poor," to be accepted in India than anywhere else. Accounting himself sprung from the head of Brahma, the Brahmin deems himself, and is deemed by others, as lifted to an elevation which has no connection either with moral goodness, with wealth, or with power; and which is as much the due of the most poverty- stricken and wicked member of the caste as of the most magnificent priest. The Sudras, the governing and warlike class, are next in order, having sprung from the god's breast, and beneath these come infinite grades of caste, their subdivisions each including every man of each trade or calling which he pursues hereditarily and cannot desert or change, save under the horrible penalty of losing caste, and becoming forsaken and despised of every creature, even the nearest kindred. The mere eating from a vessel used to contain food for a person of a different caste is enough to produce contamination; the separation is complete, and the whole constitution of body and mind have become so inured to the distinction, that the cost of becoming a convert is infinitely severer in India than ever it could have been even in Greece or Rome, where, though the Christian might be persecuted even to the death, he was not thrust out of the pale of humanity like a Hindoo convert who transgresses caste.
The Christians of Malabar are a people living to themselves, and the great Bengalee nations never appear to have had the Gospel carried to them. The Mahometan conquest filled India with professors of the faith of the Koran; but these were a dominant race, proud and separate from the mass of people, whom they did not win to their faith, and thus the Hindoo idolatry had prevailed untouched for almost the whole duration of the world, when the wealth of India in the early days of naval enterprise first began to tempt small mercantile companies of Europeans to form factories on the coast merely for purposes of traffic, without at first any idea that these would lead to possession or conquest, and, in general, without any sense of the responsibility of coming as Christians into a heathen world.
The Portuguese did indeed strive earnestly to Christianize their territory at Goa; and they promoted by all means in their power the labours of Francisco Xavier and his Jesuit companions, so effectually that the fruits of their teaching have remained to the present day.
Neither were the Dutch, who then held Ceylon, entirely careless of the duty of instructing their subjects; and the Danes, who had obtained the town of Tranquebar on the Coromandel coast, in 1746, sent out a mission which was vigorously conducted, and met with good success. Hitherto, however, the English at Madras and Calcutta had been almost wholly indifferent, and it must be remembered that theirs was not a Government undertaking. The East India Company was still only a struggling corporation of merchants and traders, who only wanted to secure the warehouses and dwellings of those who conducted their traffic, and had as yet no thought of anything but the security of their trade; often, indeed, considering themselves pledged to no interference with the religion of the people around, and too often forgetting their own. However, the Danish mission received grants of money and books from the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; and the first Indian missionary of any note, a German by birth, was equally connected with both England and Denmark.
Sonnenburg in Brandenburg, still an electorate at the time, was the native home of Christian Friedrich Schwartz, of whose parents it is only known that they appear to have been in easy circumstances, and that his mother, who died before he could remember, told her husband and her pastor on her death-bed, that she had dedicated her infant to the service of God, imploring them to cherish and forward any inclination towards the ministerial office that might be visible in him. It was, of course, the Lutheran form in which the child of this pious woman was bred up, and in 1734 he was sent to the grammar school of Sonnenburg, where his piety was first excited by a religious master, then cooled by an indifferent one; and he was then taken by his father, walking on foot the whole way, to pursue his studies at Custrin. There he became beset by the temptations that surrounded young students, and after giving way to them for a time, was saved from further evil by the influence of the daughter of one of the Syndics. It does not appear to have been a matter of sentiment, but of honest friendship and good counsel, aiding the young man to follow his better instead of his worse impulses; and thus giving a labourer to the vineyard.
Before residing at Custrin, this lady had lived for a time at Halle, and what she told the young Schwartz of the professors at that university, inspired him with the desire of completing his course under them, especially August Hermann Francke, who had established an admirable orphan house, with an excellent grammar school.
In his twentieth year, Schwartz entered at Halle, but lodged at the orphan house, where he became teacher to the Latin classes, and was put in charge of the evening devotions of the household. At Halle, he met a retired Danish missionary, named Schultz, who had come thither to superintend the printing of a version of the Bible in Tamul, the language of Ceylon and of the Coromandel coast; and this it was that first turned his mind to the thought of offering himself as a worker in the great field of India.
He was the eldest of the family, and his friends all declared that it was impossible that his father should consent to part with him; but when he went home, and earnestly stated his desire, the elder Schwartz, instead of at once refusing as all expected, desired to take three days to consider; and when they were passed, he came gravely down from his chamber, called his son Christian, gave him his blessing, and told him to depart in God's name, charging him to forget his own country and his father's house, and to win many souls to Christ.
And certainly that good old German's blessing went forth with his son. Christian Schwartz next resigned his share in the family property to his brothers and sisters; and after completing his studies at Halle, went to Copenhagen, since it was by the Danish government that he was to be authorized. Two other young Germans, named Poltzenheigen and Hutteman, went with him. The Danes, though Lutherans in profession, have an Episcopal hierarchy, and the three students were ordained by the Danish Bishop Horreboa on the 6th of September, 1749; Christian Schwartz being then within a month of twenty-three.
Their first stage was to England, where they had to learn the language, and were entertained at the cost of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Mr. Ziegenhagen, German chaplain to George II., was very kind to his countrymen, helped them in all their difficulties, and gave them directions for which they were very grateful. He made them preach in the Chapel Royal on Christmas Day. No doubt the language was German, which must have been acceptable to the Hanoverian ears.
Their English studies were not greatly prolonged, for they arrived on the 8th of December, 1749, and sailed on the 29th of January, 1750, in an East India Company's ship, where they were allowed a free passage, and were treated with respect and friendliness. The voyage lasted long enough to improve them in English, for they did not cast anchor at Tranquebar till the 8th of October.
At this considerable Danish factory, they were received into the mission- house of the Danes, and there remained while studying the language, in which Schwartz made so much progress that he preached his first Tamul sermon only four months after his arrival, and by the spring was able to catechize the children who attended the school. This station at Tranquebar formed the home of seven or eight missionaries, who lived together, attended to the services and schools, prepared candidates for baptism, and made excursions by ones and twos into the villages that stood thickly on the coast, where they talked and argued with the natives, hoping to incite them to inquire further. The two greatest obstacles they met with here were the evil example of Europeans and the difficulty of maintenance for a convert. One poor dancing girl said, on hearing that no unholy person could enter into the kingdom of heaven, "Ah! sir, then no European will;" but, on the whole, they must have met with good success, for in 1752 there were three large classes of catechumens prepared and baptized at the station. In the district around there were several villages, where congregations of Christians existed, and, of all those south of the river Caveri, Schwartz was after two more years made the superintendent.
The simple habits of these German and Danish clergy eminently fitted them for such journeys; they set out in pairs on foot, after a farewell of united prayer from their brethren, carrying with them their Hebrew Bibles, and attended by a few Christian servants and coolies; they proceeded from village to village, sometimes sleeping in the house of a Hindoo merchant, sometimes at that of one the brother ministers they had come to see, and at every halt conversing and arguing with Hindoo or Mahometan, or sometimes with the remnants of the Christians converted by the Portuguese, who had been so long neglected that they had little knowledge of any faith.
The character of Christian Schwartz was one to influence all around him. He seems to have had all the quiet German patience and endurance of hardship, without much excitability, and with a steadiness of judgment and intense honesty and integrity, that disposed every one to lean on him and rely on him for their temporal as well as their spiritual matters--great charity and warmth of heart, and a shrewdness of perception that made him excellent in argument. He had also that true missionary gift, a great facility of languages, both in grammar and pronunciation, and his utter absence of all regard for his own comfort or selfish dignity, yet his due respect to times and places made him able to penetrate everywhere, from the hut to the palace.
The Carnatic war was at this time an impediment, by keeping the minds of all the natives in a state of excitement and anxiety, from dread of Mahratta incursions; but Schwartz never intermitted his rounds, and was well supported by the Danish Governor, a good man, who often showed himself his friend. Some of the missionaries were actually made prisoners when the French took Cuddalore, but Count Lally Tollendal was very kind to them, and sent them with all their property and converts safely away to Tranquebar.
The Dutch missionaries in Ceylon had been in correspondence with those of Tranquebar, and had obtained from them copies of their Tamul Bible, and in 1760 Schwartz was sent on a visit to them. He was very well received by both clergy and laity; and though he was laid up by a severe illness at Colombo, yet he was exceedingly well contented with his journey and his conferences with his brethren.
Christian Schwartz had been more than sixteen years in India, and was forty years of age, before his really distinctive and independent work began, after his long training in the central station at Tranquebar.
The neighbouring district of Tanjore had at different times been visited, and the ministers of the Rajah had shown themselves willing to bestow some reflection on what they heard from the missionaries. Visits to this place and to Trichinopoly became frequent with him, and in 1766 the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge having decided on planting a mission station in the latter place, he was appointed to take the charge of it.
About this time he seems to have accommodated his name to English pronunciation, and to have always written it Swartz. It was now that he became acquainted with William Chambers, Esq., brother to the Chief Justice of Bengal,--not a Company's servant, but a merchant, and an excellent man, who took great interest in missionary labours, and himself translated a great part of St. Matthew's Gospel into Persian, the court language of India. From a letter of this gentleman, we obtain the only description we possess of Swartz's appearance and manners. He says that, from the descriptions he had heard, he had expected to see a very austere and strict person, but "the first sight of him made a complete revolution on this point. His garb, indeed, which was pretty well worn, seemed foreign and old-fashioned, but in every other respect his appearance was the reverse of all that could be called forbidding or morose. Figure to yourself a stout well-made man, somewhat above the middle size, erect in his carriage and address, with a complexion rather dark though healthy, black curled hair, and a manly engaging countenance, expressive of unaffected candour, ingenuousness, and benevolence, and you will have an idea of what Mr. Swartz appeared to be at first sight." Mr. Chambers adds that Swartz's whole allowance at Trichinopoly was ten pagodas a year, that is, about 48l. (as Mr. Chambers estimates it). The commanding officer of the English garrison was ordered to supply him with quarters, and gave him a room in an old native building, where "there was just room for his bed and himself, and in which few men could stand upright." With this lodging he was content. His food was rice and vegetables dressed native fashion, and his clothes were made of black dimity. The little brass lamp which he had used for his studies at the University went with him to India, and served him all his life, often late at night, for he never preached even to the natives without much study.
He found the English without church or chaplain, and had very little knowledge of their language, having lived almost entirely among Germans, Danes, and natives; but he quickly picked it up among the soldiers, to whom his kindly simple manners commended him; and, as soon as he could speak it to any degree, he began to read the Church Service every Sunday to the garrison, with a printed sermon from an English divine, until he had obtained sufficient fluency to preach extempore. At first, the place of meeting was a large room in an old building, but he afterwards persuaded them to build themselves a church capable of holding from 1,500 to 2,000. His facility in learning languages must have been great, for the English of his letters is excellent, unless his biographer, Dean Pearson, has altered it. It is not at all like that of a German. His influence with the soldiers was considered as something wonderful, in those times of neglect and immorality, and the commandant and his wife--Colonel and Mrs. Wood--were his warmest friends; and when the Government at Madras heard of his voluntary services as chaplain, they granted him, unsolicited, a salary of 100l. a year, of which he devoted half to the service of his congregation. He was thus able to build a mission-house, and an English and a Tamul school, labour and materials being alike cheap. But, in spite of all his care of the English soldiery, the natives were his chief thought; and he was continually among them, reading and arguing home with the most thorough knowledge and experience of their difficulties. He made expeditions from Trichinopoly to Tanjore, then under the government of a Rajah, under the protection of the British Government. The principal worship of the place was directed to an enormous black bull, said to be hewn out of a single block of granite, and so large that the temple had been built round it.
The Brahmins conversed with him a good deal, and often were all but converted. One plainly said that love of money and pleasure alone kept them from accepting Christianity. In 1769 he had a personal interview with the Rajah Tuljajee, a man of the dignity, grace, and courtesy usual in Hindoo princes, but very indolent, not even rising in the morning if he was told that it was not an auspicious day, though he was more cultivated than most men of his rank and period.
Swartz found him seated on a couch suspended from pillars, and was placed opposite to him, on a seat. The interpreter addressed him in Persian, and Swartz replied in the same; but, perceiving that the man omitted part of his speech, he asked leave to speak Tamul.
The Rajah asked questions, which led to an exposition of the Christian doctrine, and he listened with interest; and he likewise was struck when Swartz uttered a thanksgiving before partaking of the sweets that were carried round on trays. He showed himself so much disappointed when he learnt that the Padre had left Tanjore, that it was resolved that Swartz should return thither again; and for some days there were out-of-door preachings on the glacis of the fort, where, in spite of clouds of dust brought by the land wind, the people collected in crowds to hear him, and expressed ardent wishes that the Rajah would become a Christian, when they all could do the same. The Prince himself was much drawn towards the missionary; but it was the old story,--he was surrounded with ministers and courtiers who feared any change, above all any plain-speaking truth, and therefore did their best to keep the new light at a distance. However, Tuljajee called Swartz "his padre," and gave him free entrance to his fort at Tanjore, where his arguments made a wide impression, and still more his example. "Padre," said a young Nabob, "we always regarded you Europeans as ungodly men, who knew not the use of prayers, till you came among us."
He continued to go backwards and forwards between Trichinopoly and Tanjore, in both which places he began to gather catechumens round him. Unfortunately his Protestant principles brought him into collision with the Roman Catholics at the former place. A young Hindoo, of good birth, seems to have had one of those remarkable natures that cannot rest without truth. He had for seven years wandered to all the most famous pagodas and most sacred rivers, seeking rest for his soul, but in vain. Some Roman Catholics had given him a little brass crucifix, which he used to set up before him as he prayed; but he had learnt little more of them, and he was mournfully gazing at "the pagodas of Sirengam" (in his own words), and thinking, "What is all this? what can it avail?" when some of Swartz's catechists began to speak. "Will this be better than what I have found?" he said to himself. He listened, was asked to remain a fortnight at the station, and soon had given his whole soul to the faith. He was baptized by the name of Nyana Pracasam, or Spiritual Light, and became a catechist. His father and mother were likewise led to Christianity by him, but the Roman Catholics, having begun his conversion, considered that they had a right to him, and on one occasion, when he was found reading to a sick relative, probably a member of their Church, he was severely beaten, and was rescued by the heathen neighbours when nearly killed.
Swartz seems to have regarded the Roman Catholics as in almost as much need of reconversion as the Hindoos and Mahometans; and as in those days their Church shared in that universal religious torpor that had crept over the world, it is most likely that he found them in a very debased condition.
With the Mahometans he had some success, though he found, like all other missionaries, that their faith, being rather a heresy than a paganism, had truth enough in it to be much harder to deal with than the Hindoo polytheism. Besides, they accepted the Persian proverb, "Every time a man argues, he loses a drop of blood from his liver." He was impeded also by the want of a Persian translation of the entire Bible, having no more than the Gospels to give the inquirers, and these badly translated; and with Mahometans the want of the real history of the Patriarchs was very serious. Some, however, were convinced and baptized, though by far the greater number of his converts were Hindoos.
In 1776, a coadjutor, either German or Danish-trained, named Christian Pohle, joined him at Trichinopoly, and thus he became free to reside more constantly at Tanjore, where the Rajah always protected him, though continually fluctuating in feeling towards Christianity, according to the influences of his ministers and the Brahmins who surrounded him, and the too frequent offences given by the godless officers of the European garrison which was stationed in the fort.
Mr. Swartz was anxiously soliciting for means to build a church for the use of this garrison, when he was summoned to Madras, to the governor, Sir Thomas Rumbold, who promised him a grant for his church; but, at the same time, informed him that he was to be sent on a mission to visit the formidable Hyder Ali in Mysore, in order to judge how far his intentions towards the English were pacific. He was selected for the purpose on account of his perfect knowledge of Hindostanee, the simplicity of his manner of travelling, and his perfect immunity from any of the ordinary influences of interest or ambition; and he undertook it, as he tells the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, because he regarded it as conducing to peace, as opening fresh doors to the Gospel, and as a token of gratitude to the Honourable Company for kindness he had received; "but at the same time," he says, "I resolved to keep my hands undefiled from any presents, by which determination the Lord enabled me to abide, so that I have not accepted a single farthing save my travelling expenses."
On the 1st of July, 1779, he set out from Trichinopoly on this journey, taking one of his catechists, named Sattianadem, with him. He travelled in a palanquin, and took six days to reach Caroor, on the Mysore frontier, forty miles off, where he stayed a month with a young Ceylonese Dutchman in Hyder Ali's service, while sending to ask the Nabob's permission to proceed. All this time he and his catechist preached and gave instruction in the streets. It is curious to find him, on his journey, contrasting the excellent state of Hyder Ali's roads and bridges with the careless disorganization of the public works under the Company. An epidemic fever was raging in Seringapatam, and Swartz pitched his tent outside, where he could conveniently visit the many-pillared palace of the sovereign. He was much struck with the close personal supervision that Hyder Ali kept up over his officers, and with the terrible severity of the punishments. Two hundred men were kept armed with whips, and not a day passed without many being scourged, no rank being exempt, the Nabob's two sons and sons-in-law being liable to be whipped like the meanest groom. Swartz was the unwilling spectator of the punishment of the collector of a district who was flogged with whips armed with nails.
A few hundreds of Europeans, English, German, and French, were in Hyder's pay, encamped about the town, and a German captain lent his tent for public worship. No molestation was offered to any instructions that Swartz attempted to give, and he was very courteously entreated by the Prince himself. The conferences with him were generally held in a hall of marble columns, open to a garden adorned with fruit trees, rows of cypresses, and fountains. Hyder Ali sat on rich carpets, covering the floor, and the Padre was placed next to him. He spoke in general terms of his desire to keep the peace, though the British had violated their engagements, referring to an attempt that had newly been made to march troops through his territory without his permission. To Swartz he was gracious in speech, but the letter he entrusted to him was full of threatening for this and other acts which he considered aggressive; and the general impression brought back by the missionary was that a war was to be expected.
Hyder Ali had presented him with a bag of three hundred rupees for travelling expenses, which it would have been a great affront to return. He, however, made it over to the Government at Madras, and when they would not take it, asked leave to use it as the foundation for a collection for an English orphan school at Tanjore. This was granted, and proved a success. Finding that there was an intention of voting a present to him, he begged instead that a salary might be given to Mr. Pohle at Trichinopoly; and, in consequence, both were enabled to maintain catechists and schoolmasters; for of making a home for themselves, these devoted men never thought. Moreover, Swartz obtained bricks and lime for the building of his English church within the fort; and he bought and enlarged a house half a mile from it, for his Malabar Christians to worship in. His own observations of Hyder Ali's warlike intentions led also to his purchasing 12,000 bags of rice as a provision against the scarcity that too surely attends upon Indian warfare.
In the summer of 1780, these apprehensions were realized. Hyder crossed the Ghauts, and passed down into the Carnatic with 100,000 men, directed by a staff of French officers, and plundered up to the very gates of Madras. Everything was in the greatest confusion; the English troops were dispersed in garrisons, and could not easily be brought together; and one small detachment under Colonel Baillie, who were made prisoners at Conjiveram, suffered a frightful captivity. Sir Eyre Coote did, indeed, keep the enemy in check, and defeat him in several battles, but had not at first sufficient numbers or stores effectually to drive him back; and the whole province of Tanjore was horribly wasted. The irrigation of the district had been broken up by the invaders; there was for three years neither seed-time nor harvest, and the miserable peasants crawled into the towns to perish there, often with their sons carried off to form a regiment of youths whom Hyder Ali was bringing up as a sort of Janissaries.
The unhappy creatures lay dying along the sides of the road, and among them moved from one to another that homely figure in the black dimity dress, and his catechists with him, feeding those who could still swallow, and speaking words of comfort to those who could hear. Some of the English sent a monthly subscription, which enabled Swartz to keep up the supply, so that a hundred and twenty a day were fed; but often in the morning he found the dead lying in heaps, and in one of his letters he mentions that his catechists are alive, as though he regarded it as a wonder and a mercy. Indeed he seems to have been a very Joseph to the Rajah, and even to the English garrison. There was absolutely no magazine for provisions, either for the Sepoys or the Rajah's own troops, and twice he was implored, both by Tuljajee and the Company, to purchase supplies and get them brought in, since they were unable to do so, "for a want of good understanding with the natives who still possessed either rice or oxen to transport it." He was enabled to procure the supply, and then there was no place to store it in but his own new English church, so that he was obliged to hold three services on a Sunday in the other: from eight till ten in English, from ten till twelve in Tamul, and from four till five in Portuguese! About a hundred converts were gained during the famine; but he was forced to teach them very slowly, their mental faculties were so weakened by their state of exhaustion. The whole of the towns of Tanjore and Trichinopoly were, he says, filled with living skeletons, there was hardly an able or vigorous man to be found, and in this distress it was necessary to relax the ordinarily wise rule of never giving any assistance to a person under preparation for baptism, since to withhold succour would have been barbarous cruelty.
When the whole country was overrun by the troops of Mysore, the respect paid to the good Padre was such that he travelled from end to end of it without hindrance, even through the midst of the enemy's camp, and on the only occasion when he was detained, the sentinel politely put it that "he was waiting for orders to let him proceed." It was on one of these journeys that a little lad, named Christian David, the son of one of the converts, was attending him one evening, when, halting at a native village, the supper was brought, of rice and curry. The Padre made so long a grace out of the fulness of his heart, that at last the boy broke in with a murmur that the curry would be cold! He never forgot the reproof: "What! shall our gracious God watch over us through the heat and burden of the day, and shall we devour the food which He provides for us at night, with hands which we have never raised in prayer, and lips which have never praised Him?" The missionaries were always safe throughout the war, and, when Cuddalore capitulated to the French and Mysoreans, Mr. Gericke, who was then at the head of the station, concealed some English officers in his house, and likewise, by his representations to the French general, saved the town from being delivered up to be plundered by Hyder's native troops.
In the end of 1782, Hyder Ali died; his son, Tippoo Sahib, assuming the title of Sultan, continued the war, with the same fierceness, but without the assistance of the French, who were withdrawn, in consequence of the peace that had been concluded at home.
This, together with the numerous victories that had been obtained by the English forces, led to hopes that Tippoo would consent to terms of peace, and two Commissioners were appointed, whom Swartz was requested to join as interpreter. He had no taste for political missions, but he thought it a duty to do all in his power for peace, and set off for the purpose, but the Mysoreans complained that the English promises had not been kept, and he was turned back again by the enemy's troops. Colonel Fullarton, who was in command of the army about to invade Mysore, writes, "The knowledge and the integrity of this irreproachable missionary have retrieved the character of Europeans from imputations of general depravity!" He went back to Tanjore, and there, for the first time, experienced some failure in health. He was requested again to join the Commissioners, but would not again attempt it, partly from the state of his health, and partly because Tippoo was far more averse to Christianity than Hyder had been. All the 12,000 Tanjoreen captive boys--originally Hindoos--were bred up Mahometans, and he tolerated nothing else but Hindooism, persecuting the Roman Catholics in his dominions till no one dared make an open profession.
A treaty was, however, concluded in 1784, and there was for a time a little rest, greatly needed by Swartz, who had been suffering from much weakness and exhaustion; but a journey into Tinnevelly, with his friend Mr. Sullivan, seems to have restored him.
There were already some dawnings of Christianity in this district. As long before as 1771, one of the Trichinopoly converts, named Schavrimutta, who was living at Palamcotta, began to instruct his neighbours from the Bible, and a young Hindoo accountant, becoming interested, went to an English sergeant and his wife, who had likewise been under Swartz's influence, and asked for further teaching. The sergeant taught him the Catechism and then baptized him, rather to the displeasure of Swartz, who always was strongly averse to hasty baptisms. Afterwards, a Brahmin's widow begged for baptism. She, it appeared, was living with an English officer, and Swartz was obliged to refuse her while this state of things continued, but he found that the Englishman had promised to marry her, and had begun to teach her his language and his faith. He died without performing his promise, but Christianity had become so dear to her, that she again entreated for baptism, and was then admitted into the Church by the name of Clarinda. She afterwards was the chief means of building a church at Palamcotta, to which Sattianadem became the catechist; and thus was first sown a seed which has never ceased growing, for this district of Tinnevelly has always been the stronghold of Christianity in India.
Meantime Swartz's poor friend, the Rajah Tuljajee at Tanjore, was in a deplorable state. He had suffered great losses during Hyder Ali's invasion of his country, and, moreover, was afflicted with an incurable disease, and had lately lost, by death, his only son, daughter, and grandson: He shut himself up in the depths of his palace, and became harsh and moody, heaping all the treasure together that he could collect, and employing a dean or minister, named Baba, whose exactions on the famished population were so intolerable that the people fled the country, and settled in the neighbouring districts, so that no less than 65,000 were said to have deserted the province.
Sir Archibald Campbell, Governor of Madras, remonstrated, but the Rajah was affronted, and would not dismiss his minister, and as the peasants refused to sow their land without some security that the crops should not be reaped by Baba's emissaries before their very eyes, the Madras authorities decided on taking the management of Tanjoreen affairs into their hands and appointing a committee to watch over the government. Sir Archibald wished to place Mr. Swartz on this committee as the person best able to deal both with Rajah and people, and he accepted a seat, only stipulating that he was not to share in any violent or coercive measures.
When the "good Padre" assured the fugitives in the Rajah's name and his own that oppression was at an end, 7,000 at once returned; and when he reminded them that the season for planting their corps was nearly past, they replied that in return for his kindness they intended to work night and day.
In 1787, the childless Rajah decided on--after the fashion of many Hindoo princes--adopting an heir, who might perform the last duties which were incumbent on a son. His choice fell upon the son of a near kinsman, a child ten years of age, whom he named Serfojee. A day or two after he sent for Mr. Swartz, and said, "This is not my son, but yours. Into your hand I deliver him." "May the child become a child of God," was the answer of Swartz. The Rajah was too ill to continue the interview, but he sent for Swartz the next day, and said, "I appoint you guardian to this child; I put his hands into yours."
Swartz, however, did not think it right to undertake the state guardianship of the lad, and the administration of the province. Indeed, he knew that to do so would be absolutely to put the child's life in danger, from the cabals and jealousies which would be excited, and he induced Tuljajee to confide the charge to his brother, Rama Swamey, afterwards called Ameer Singh.
This was done, and the Rajah soon after died, in the year 1787, leaving the boy and Ameer Singh under the protection of the Company. He had always listened to Swartz willingly, and treated him affectionately, and the result of the influence of the missionary extended so far that no Suttee took place at his funeral, but he had never actually embraced Christianity, though protecting it to the utmost of his power.
The brother, Ameer Singh, was not contented merely to act as regent, but complained that injustice was done to him, and that Tuljajee was too much enfeebled in mind to judge of his own measures when he adopted the boy Serfojee. Sir Archibald Campbell, acting for the Company, came to Tanjore, and, after an examination into the circumstances, decided in favour of Ameer Singh, and confirmed him in the Rajahship, binding him over to be the faithful protector of poor little Serfojee, who, putting the adoption apart, was still his near relation.
Ameer was not a better manager of his province than his brother had been, and he was far from kind to Serfojee, whom Swartz had not been allowed to see for months, when the widows of the late Rajah made complaints that the boy was closely shut up and cruelly treated. On this Swartz applied to Government, and obtained an order to go with another gentleman to inquire into his condition. The Rajah was much offended; but as he reigned only by the protection of the English, he could not refuse, and the Padre was conducted to a large but dark room, where he found the poor child sitting by lamp-light. This had been his condition for almost two years, ever since his adopted father's death, and on seeing the Padre, he asked piteously if it were the way in Europe to prevent children from seeing the sun and moon. Mr. Swartz comforted him, and asked him if he had any one to teach him. The Rajah's minister replied that he had a master, but was too idle to learn; but Serfojee looked up and said, "I have none to teach me, therefore I do not know a single letter." The Rajah was only offended at remonstrance, and at last Government sent orders that could not be resisted, and a Sepoy guard to take charge of the lad. Then, as a great favour, the Rajah entreated that the guard would not enter his palace, but that for the night before Serfojee could be removed, the Padre would remain with him to satisfy them that he was safe. To this Swartz consented, and the guard disappeared, whereupon the Rajah told him "he might go home."
"What! and be guilty of a breach of faith?" was his resolute answer. "Even my father should not be permitted to make me such a proposal!"
They were ashamed, and left him to remain that night with Serfojee, whom he probably thus saved from foul play, since the jealous and vindictive passions of Ameer Singh had been thoroughly excited. The captivity must have been very wretched, for he observed that the poor boy walked lame, and found that the cause was this:--"I have not been able to sleep," said poor Serfojee, "from the number of insects in my room, but have had to sit clasping my knees about with my arms. My sinews are a little contracted, but I hope I shall soon recover."
When taken out, the poor little fellow was delighted once more to see the sun, and to ride out again. A Brahmin master selected by Mr. Swartz was given to him, and he very rapidly learnt both to read his own language and English. Swartz also interfered on behalf of the late Rajah's minister, Baba, who had indeed been extortionate and severe, but scarcely deserved such a punishment as being put into a hole six feet long and four feet broad and high.
For two years Serfojee was unmolested; but, in 1792, the husband of Ameer Singh's only child died without children, and this misfortune was attributed by the Rajah to witchcraft on the part of the widows of Tuljajee. He imagined that they were contriving against his own life, and included Serfojee in his hatred. By way of revenge, he caused a pile of chilis and other noxious plants to be burnt under Serfojee's windows, and thus nearly stifled him and his attendants. He prevented the Prince's teachers from having access to him, shut up his servants, and denied permission to merchants to bring their wares to him. Mr. Swartz was absent at the time, and Serfojee wrote a letter to him, begging that the English Government would again interfere. It was found that any remonstrance put the Rajah into such a state of fury that the lives of the youth and the ladies we're really unsafe while they remained within his reach, and it was therefore decided that they should be transplanted to Madras. It was a wonderful step for Hindoo princesses to take, and was only accomplished by the influence of Mr. Swartz, backed by a guard of soldiers, under whose escort all safely arrived at Madras, where Serfojee's education could at length be properly carried on.
The youth was so entirely the child of Swartz and of the Government, that it is disappointing to find that he did not become a Christian. No stipulation to the contrary seems to have been made by Tuljajee; but, probably, the missionary refrained from a sense of honour towards the late Rajah, and because to bring the boy up in the Church would have destroyed all chance of his obtaining the provinces, and probably have deprived him of the protection of the Company, who dreaded the suspicion of proselytizing. Still it is very disappointing, and requires all our trust in Swartz's judgment and excellence to be satisfied that he was right in leaving this child, who had been confided to him, all his life a heathen. Serfojee learnt the theory of Christianity, was deeply attached to Mr. Swartz, and lived a life very superior to that of most Hindoo princes of his time. His faith in his hereditary paganism was probably only political, but he never made the desperate, and no doubt perilous, plunge of giving up all the world to save his own soul. Was it his fault, or was it any shortcoming in the teaching that was laid before him, and was that human honour a want of faith? It puzzles us! Here was Swartz, from early youth to hoary hairs unwavering in the work of the Gospel, gathering in multitudes to the Church, often at great peril to himself, yet holding back from bringing into the fold the child who had been committed to him, and, as far as we can see, without any stipulation to the contrary. Probably he thought it right to leave Serfojee's decision uninfluenced until his education should be complete, and was disappointed that the force of old custom and the danger of change were then too strong for him; and thus it was that Serfojee was only one of the many half-reclaimed Indian princes who have lived out their dreary, useless lives under English protection, without accepting the one pearl of great price which could alone have made them gainers.
It is just possible that there may have been too much of a certain sort of acquiescence in Swartz's mind, missionary as he was. He did not attack the system of caste, with its multitudinous separations and distinctions. Of course he wished it to be abolished, but he accepted converts without requiring its renunciation, allowed high-caste persons to sit apart in the churches, and to communicate before Pariahs, and did not interfere with their habits of touching no food that the very finger of a person of a different caste had defiled. He no doubt thought these things would wither away of themselves, but his having permitted them, left a world of difficulty to his successors.
He lived, however, the life of a saint, nearly that of an ascetic. His almost unfurnished house was shared with some younger missionary. Kohloff, who was one of these, related in after years how plain their diet was. Some tea in a jug, with boiling water poured over it and dry bread broken into it, formed the breakfast, which lasted five minutes; dinner, at one, was of broth or curry; and at eight at night they had some meal or gruel. If wine were sent them, it was reserved for the communions or for the sick. Swartz only began, very late in life, to take a single glass in the middle of his Sunday services.
Every morning he assembled his native catechists at early prayer, and appointed them their day's work. "You go there." "You do this." "You call on such and such families." "You visit such a village." About four o'clock they returned and made their report, when their master took them all with him to the churchyard or some public place, or to the front of the Mission-house, according to the season of the year, and there sat either expounding the Scriptures to those who would come and listen, or conversing with inquirers and objectors among the heathen. His manner was mild, sometimes humorous, but very authoritative, and he would brook neither idleness nor disobedience.
Over his Christian flock his authority was as complete as ever that of Samuel could have been as a judge. If any of them did wrong, the alternative was--
"Will you go to the Rajah's court, or be punished by me?"
"O Padre, you punish me!" was always the reply.
"Give him twenty strokes," said the Padre, and it was done.
The universal confidence in the Padre, felt alike by Englishmen and Hindoos, was inestimable in procuring and carrying out regulations for the temporal prosperity of the peasantry at Tanjore, under the Board which had pretty well taken the authority out of the hands of the inefficient and violent Ameer Singh. Districts that, partly from misery, had become full of thieves, were brought into order, and the thieves themselves often became hopeful converts, and endured a good deal of persecution from their heathen neighbours. His good judgment in dealing with all classes, high and low, English or native, does indeed seem to have been wonderful, and almost always to have prevailed, probably through his perfect honesty, simplicity, and disinterestedness.
The converts in Tinnevelly became more and more numerous, and Sattianadem had been ordained to the ministry, Lutheran fashion, by the assembly of the presbytery at Tranquebar, there being as yet no Bishop in India; and thus many, the very best of his catechists, served for many years, at Palamcotta, the first Christian minister produced by modern India. On the whole, Swartz could look back on the half-century of his mission with great joy and thankfulness; he counted his spiritual children by hundreds; and the influence he had exerted upon the whole Government had saved multitudes of peasants from oppression and starvation, and had raised the whole tone of the administration. He was once or twice unkindly attacked by Englishmen who hated or mistrusted the propagation of Christianity. One gentleman even wrote a letter in a newspaper calling a missionary a disgrace to any nation, and raking up stories of the malpractices of heathens who had been preached to without being converted, which were laid to the charge of the actual Christians; but imputations like these did not meet with faith from any one whose good opinion was of any real consequence to Swartz.
His strong health and the suitability of his constitution to the climate brought him to a good old age in full activity. He had become the patriarch of the community of missionaries, and had survived all those with whom he had at first laboured; but he was still able to circulate among the churches he had founded, teaching, praying, preaching and counselling, or laying any difficulty before the Government, whose attention he had so well earned. His last care was establishing the validity of the adoption of Serfojee, who had grown up a thoughtful, gentle, and upright man, satisfactory on all points except on the one which rendered him eligible to the throne of Tanjore, his continued heathenism. The question was referred to the Company at home, and before the answer could arrive, by the slow communication of those days, when the long voyage, and that by a sailing vessel, was the only mode of conveyance, the venerable guardian of the young Rajah had sunk into his last illness.
This was connected with a mortification in his left foot, which had been more or less painful for several years, but had probably been neglected. His Danish colleague, Mr. Gericke, was with him most of the time, and it was one of his subjects of thankfulness that he was permitted to depart out of the world in the society of faithful brethren. He suffered severely for about three months, but it was not till the last week that his departure was thought to be near. He liked to have the English children brought in to read to him chapters of the Bible and sing Dr. Watts's hymns to him; and the beautiful old German hymns sung by Mr. Gericke and Mr. Kohloff were his great delight. Indeed, when at the very last, as he lay almost lifeless, with closed eyes, Mr. Gericke began to sing the hymn,
"Only to Thee, Lord JESUS CHRIST,"
he joined in with a clear melodious voice, and accompanied him to the end. Two hours later, about four o'clock in the afternoon of the 13th of February, 1798, Christian Friedrich Swartz breathed his last, in the seventy-second year of his age, and the forty-eighth of his mission service in India.
The cries and wailings of the poor resounded all night around the house, and Serfojee Rajah came from a distance to be present at his burial. It had been intended to sing a funeral hymn, but the cries and lamentations of the poor so overcame the clergy, that they could scarcely raise their voices. Serfojee wept bitterly, laid a gold cloth over the bier, and remained present while Mr. Gericke read the Funeral Service,--a most unusual departure from Hindoo custom, and a great testimony of affection and respect.
A few months later arrived the decision of the East India Company, that the weak and rapacious Ameer Singh should be deposed, and Serfojee placed on the throne. He conducted himself excellently as a ruler, and greatly favoured Christians in his territory, always assisting the various schools, and giving liberal aid whenever the frequently-recurring famines of India brought them into distress.
Three years later, in 1801, Serfojee wrote to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, to beg them to order a "monument of marble" at his expense, to the memory of the late Rev. Father Swartz, to be affixed to the pillar nearest the pulpit. Accordingly, a bas-relief in white marble was executed by Flaxman, representing the death of Swartz, Gericke behind him, two native Christians and three children standing by, and Serfojee clasping his hand and receiving his blessing. It was not exactly fact, but it was the monumental taste of the day; and it so much delighted the Rajah, that he kept it in his palace, among the portraits of his ancestors, for two years before he could resolve on parting with it to the church. The Prince likewise composed the epitaph which was carved on the stone which covers the grave of Swartz, the first instance of English verse by a Hindoo:--
"Firm wast thou, humble and wise, Honest, pure, free from disguise; Father of orphans, the widow's support, Comfort in sorrow of every sort: To the benighted dispenser of light, Doing and pointing to that which is right. Blessing to princes, to people, to me, May I, my father, be worthy of thee, Wisheth and prayeth thy Sarabojee."
Swartz had always been striving to be poor, and never succeeding. Living and eating in the humblest manner, and giving away all that came to him, still recognitions of services from English and natives had flowed in on him; and, after all the hosts of poor he had fed, and of churches and schools he had founded, he was an instance of "there is that scattereth and yet increaseth;" for the property he bequeathed to the Mission was enough to assist materially in carrying it on after his death. Moreover, Serfojee maintained the blind, lame, and decrepit members of his church, and founded an asylum for the orphan children; so that the good men, Gericke, Kohloff, Pohle, and the rest, were not absolutely dependent on Europe for assistance; and this was well, since the Orphan-house at Halle and the Society at Copenhagen had in this long course of years ceased to send out funds.
But Swartz's work under their hands continued to prosper. He had a sort of apotheosis among the heathen, such as he would have been the last to covet; for statues were raised to him, lights burnt before him, and crowns offered up. But about Palamcotta and throughout Tinnevelly there was one of those sudden movements towards Christianity that sometimes takes place. The natives were asking instruction from their friends, and going eagerly in search of the catechists and of Sattianadem, and even burning their idols and building chapels in preparation for the coming of more fully qualified teachers. Mr. Gericke made a tour among them in 1803, and found their hearts so moved towards the Gospel, that he baptized 1,300 in the course of his journey, and the work of Sattianadem and the catechists raised the number of converts to 4,000. This was, however, this good man's last journey. On his return, he found that his only son, an officer in the Company's service, was dying, and, under the weight of this and other troubles, his health gave way, and he died in the thirty-eighth year of his mission. Others of the original Danish and German missionaries likewise died, and scarcely any came out in their stead. Their places were, therefore, supplied by ordinations, by the assembly of ministers, of four native catechists, of whom was Nyanapracasem, a favourite pupil of Swartz. No Church can take root without a native ministry. But the absence of any central Church government was grievously felt, both as concerned the English and the Hindoos. There were more than twenty English regiments in India, and not a single chaplain among them all.