« AnteriorContinuar »
GAIN and again has India asked me : “ Art
thou an inspired Prophet ?" Dictated in the first instance by a purely captious spirit, and directed exclusively against the character of an individual, the question appeared unworthy of serious attention, and hopes were entertained that, like all passing questions of the hour, it would set itself at rest in the course of time. But unfortunately the question gathered force year after year, and its interest, like rising and swelling surges, rushed on from province to province, from town to town, and from presidency to presidency, till a purely personal question assumed the formidable proportions of a natural problem. Nay, what was altogether speculative in the beginning eventually assumed the form of a practical remonstrance, and began to affect the interests of my country, and hinder the progress of my Church. The question having arrived at this point, reticence was no longer warrantable. I felt I was bound to speak; but I must say that, in addressing myself to the task before me, I feel some degree of reluctance, for who would readily lay bare the most cherished and valued principles of his life? Who would expose to the gaze of a promiscuous crowd the main-springs of his spiritual life ? Are not the guiding principles of one's character dear and sacred to him? But I feel I must overcome my reluctance in the interests of public duty. This solemn question must be solemnly answered-Do I regard myself as an inspired prophet? It seems strange, however, that a living man, whose practices and speculations have been before the public for a
considerable length of time, should have his creed and his character so wantonly misrepresented. Am I not accessible to all ? Is it not possible to apply crucial tests to my character and conduct ? Is my theology a hidden thing? Is my creed an enigma and a mystery ? Is it not possible for the public to understand who ard what I am ? Perhaps I have peculiarities of my own, and I am not as other men are. Perhaps my singularity imposes upon me a penalty which I must pay in the shape of a public explanation. I must assure you I am not here this evening to vindicate myself. I am simply going to draw my inner self out of myself, in order that you may see and understand it. I am not going to justify my conduct, nor to defend my recent movements and actions. Judgment belongeth to the Lord. It is not possible for you to convict nor to acquit
I am here this evening as one who has been arraigned before the bar of public opinion, and I must speak honestly, candidly, fearlessly, and truthfully, whatever the consequences may be. I will tell you what I think of myself. Whether I shall be able to throw any fresh light upon the contested subject is more than I can say. It is possible I shall aggravate my unpopularity by what I am going to say. I may increase public dislike ; I may mystify the subject more and more by attempting to explain and elucidate it. Without any regard to consequences, let me then attempt to discharge my humble duty, leaving the issues in the hands of God Himself. We shall all be judged by Him, and we must all abide by His decision. If you acquit me, I am not acquitted ; if you condemn me, I am not condemned. The main issues of this great question lie in the hands of the Heavenly Judge, and to His verdict I must humbly bow,
Before proceeding to describe what I am, it would perhaps be more logical to say what I am not. The world has always honored its prophets. Prophets !-who are they? Without entering into a philosophical or theological analysis of the elements of a prophet's character, we may for our present purpose take a prophet to be as he is generally represented in popular theology. Each religion has its prophets, each church recognizes one prophets, and honors them. They are mediators in a certain sense, and saviours too. They are Avatars, or Divinity Incarnate in human flesh, as in the Christian Church and the Hindoo religion. Or they are only spiritual guides and mediators, as in Mahomedan theology. But all churches agree in honoring prophets as heaven-sent and heaven-inspired apostles, destined to help a sinful world to obtain salvation. Whatever their character may be, they are always invested with a certain degree of holiness, or they would not be honored. The world falls at the feet of these prophets, and gives them homage which it does not give to others. They are holy men. Their precepts and examples are calculated to help men in attaining purity and salvation. They must be holy. An unholy prophet—that is morally impossible. There may be certain errors and shortcomings in the lives of prophets, but as for purity of character no prophet who wins the esteem and allegiance of the world can be without it. Whoso aspires to be a prophet must show his credentials, and prove by his sanctity that he is worthy of the name of a prophet. He must show that there is an extraordinary amount of purity in his inmost soul, before he would be accepted and honored by the world as a prophet. Am I fit to be ranked
as à prophet? The solution of the question lies in a nut-shell. I am not holy. There is impurity ingrained and established in my constitution ; in my very blood and bones there is iniquity; there is wickedness in the depths of my heart. Therefore it is clear—the inference is irresistible, that this man, having no holiness in him, is wholly unworthy of the honor due to prophets. Where there is impurity, there can be no gift of prophecy. There is no prophetic character where there is no moral purity. A man may be an extremely good theologian, a lous philanthropist, a sincere patriot, but he cannot even make an approach to the high position of a prophet unless he is thoroughly regenerated in holiness and heavenly purity. The question before us, then, is easily settled.
It is evident that one must himself be first saved before he undertakes to save others. Can I be a guide unto others when I feel that I am myself blind ? If I myself am wicked and heavy-laden with iniquity, can I go forth to deliver others from the bondage of iniquity ? That is not possible. Far from being a prophet, I am myself in need of prophetic guidance and help. I, too, like others, must fall down at the feet of the world's prophets, and ask them to sanctify my life. If it is true that they have been sent down by God to teach the world faith, and love and purity, I have as much need of learning these things from them as any one else. Heaven's apostles and saints-they are not of the earth, earthy ; they are not born of the flesh.
Pure-minded, purehearted men, I believe they can teach me purity through the redeeming grace of God if I humbly fall at their feet, and place myself under the influence of their teachings and examples. I say again, the question is settled. I am among
the sinners of the world, not among its saints. I am not saved ; and who tells me that? My own conscience, my inmost consciousness. But pause awhile. Some of you may say, this is only adding to the claims I already possess to the distinction of a prophet. I shall probably be told,
You are so humble and modest ; you are only making an exemplary confession of your own unworthiness. I am no sentimentalist. I am not given to fancy or imagination. I have never had a religious vision in my life. It is all reality. I see with my own eyes the roots of all manner of vice in my heart. I am conscious of them. They are not imaginary but actual vices. Shall I name them ? They are pride selfishness, jealousy, envy, lust, ingratitude, anger, résentment. Shall I say more ? Lying, perjury, forgery ; yea, even manslaughter. The roots of all these vices I see in me as clearly as I see you here. I see them in the depths of my heart. Whenever I go to my God to pray,
I see that there is something terribly foul in me which must be cleansed. Actually I may not have committed all these sins. But what of that? A sinner is judged not by his actual performance of sinful deeds, but by his sinful propensities. He is judged not by what he has actually done, but by what he is capable of doing, and what he is susceptible of. The Lord judges not from outward actions, but from capabilities and susceptibilities. The seat of corruption is not in the hand but in the heart. Not what is actual, but what is potential, shows our real character. I take into account not only what I am to-day, but what I may be to-morrow. I see the roots of all vices and iniquities in my mind. Tell me not, then, I am amongst you as a prophet that can by his own holiness redeem wicked India. That is not my