Andrew Fuller Friday: An Apologetic for Missionary Work

“There are no such things done as thou sayest; but thou feignest [sic] them out of thine own heart.”—Nehemiah.

“And now, I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this counsel, or this work, be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”—Gamaliel.

Section I

An address to Edward Parry, ESQ., Chairman of the East India company


As in a letter lately addressed to you by Mr. Thomas Twining, on the danger of interfering in the religious opinions of the natives of India, there is a reference to the labours of the Baptist missionaries in that country, you will not consider me, I hope, as obtruding myself on your attention while I offer a few remarks upon it, and upon the important subject which it embraces.

It is true, the principal part of Mr. Twining’s pamphlet is directed against “The British and Foreign Bible Society,” and that this has been sufficiently answered from another quarter; but though he affects “not to know these missionaries,” yet their undertaking, particularly in the work of translating the Scriptures, has, no doubt, contributed to excite his alarm.

If, by “interfering in the religious opinions of the natives of India,” Mr. Twining means nothing more than the dissemination of the Christian faith by the fair methods of persuasion, the Baptist missionaries, and those of every other denomination, must be acknowledged to have interfered; but if he include under that term violence, unfair influence, or any measures subversive of free choice—or any addresses, either in speech or in writing, which have endangered the peace of society—they have not interfered, nor have they any desire of so doing.

Whether Mr. Twining has chosen this ambiguous term, that he may with the greater ease insinuate, as occasion requires, the obnoxious idea of a design to overthrow the pagan and Mahomedan religions by force, I shall not determine; but that such is the use that is made of it, throughout his pamphlet, is clear. “As long,” he says, “as we continue to govern India in the mild and tolerant spirit of Christianity, we may govern it with ease; but if ever the fatal day shall arrive when religious innovation shall set her foot in that country, indignation will spread from one end of Hindostan to the other,”—p. 30. Is giving the Scriptures then to the natives in their own languages, and offering to instruct them in their leading doctrines, opposed to the mild and tolerant spirit of Christianity? If it be, sir, neither the Founder of the Christian religion, nor his followers, have yet understood it. Be this as it may, it is not an “innovation;” the fatal day has arrived more than a century ago. Mr. Twining “hopes our native subjects in India will be permitted quietly to follow their own religious opinions,”—p. 31. We hope so too; but if this gentleman’s wishes could be realized, we should not be permitted to follow ours, nor to recommend what we believe to be of eternal importance to our fellow men and fellow subjects. Yet this is all we desire. If missionaries, or any other persons on their behalf, should so far forget the principles of the gospel as to aim at any thing beyond it, I trust the government will always possess wisdom and justice sufficient to counteract them. The question, sir, which Mr. Twining proposes to submit to a general court of proprietors, whatever be the terms in which it may be couched, will not be, whether the natives of India shall continue to enjoy the most perfect toleration, but whether that toleration shall be extended to Christian missionaries.

I have observed with pain, sir, of late years, a notion of toleration, entertained even by some who would be thought its firmest advocates, which tends not only to abridge, but to subvert it. They have no objection to Christians of any denomination enjoying their own opinions, and, it may be, their own worship; but they must not be allowed to make proselytes. Such appear to be the notions of Mr. Twining and his friends. They do not propose to persecute the Christians of India, provided they would keep their Christianity to themselves; but those who attempt to convert others are to be exterminated. Sir, I need not say to you that this is not toleration, but persecution. Toleration is a legal permission not only to enjoy our own principles unmolested, but to make use of all the fair means of persuasion to recommend them to others. The former is but little more than might be enjoyed in countries the most distinguished by persecution; for few would wish to interrupt men so long as they kept their religion to themselves. Yet this is the whole of what some would wish to allow, both in the East and West Indies. In former times, unbelievers felt the need of toleration for themselves, and then they generally advocated it on behalf of others; but of late, owing perhaps to the increase of their numbers, they have assumed a loftier tone. Now, though for political reasons all men must be allowed to follow their own religion, yet they must not aim at making proselytes. Men who have no belief in the Christian religion may be expected to have no regard for it; and where this is the case, the rights of conscience will be but little respected.

Excerpt from: An Apology for the Late Christian Missions to India in Three Parts with an Appendix, Part I.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Controversial Publications. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 2, pp. 763–764). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |July 31st, 2020|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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