The Nearest Way to the Moslem Heart

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The Nearest Way to the Moslem Heart
by George J. Herrick

Contents

I[edit]

Like attracts like. The nearest way to the Moslem heart is to use what appeals to the heart, rather than to the intellect. Our individual attainments, or the attainments of the Christian Church and Christian nations, in knowledge, in riches, or in power, are not in themselves persuasive. These things held up as the fruit of Christianity \W11 not lead many Moslems to desire to be engrafted into the True \'^ine. Neither, I think, has oiu' superior theologj^ been the way by which Christ has approached the hearts of most converts from Islam. The Moslem heart is not different from yours or mine. ^Vhat would appeal to us will appeal to him. It must be the heart that touches the heart. The things of the heart — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness and the Hke, are what the heart esteems worth while the world over. The way then for him who would enter the door is to bring of these gifts which the heart always craves. If it were enough to tell of them and of the Source from which they spring, our part would be simple. Bat the human heart demands more than this, else had the Gospel ended for us mth the story of the disciples. There is only one way to prove to our Moslem friend that Christ can and will give to him now these blessings, and that is to show him that He has given them to us. To use an analogy which will be familiar to many, we are as commercial agents, persuading merchants to trade with the Firm which we represent. We have abundance of printed appeal at hand, clear and convincing, but in addition to this, there is need of the living epistle. We must show our samples, and these, for us missionaries, are nothing less than the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We say to him. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and He will give you the blessings of peace and joy and holiness. At once he replies. You have believed ; I will judge of the worth of your belief by what yon have of these blessings. And so we must be ver\' particular about these samples of ours. We are not introducing our goods where there are none Hke them, but rather do we have to show that we have, that our Head can supply a better article than has been known before. The Moslem has something of all these things that we would offer to him with Christianity, and unless he is convinced that we have in our own characters and lives more than he, — more of love and benevolence, more of brotherliness and pity, more of true prayer and true submission to God — our progress will be slow indeed. There are things in the Moslem faith of which he is proud, and justly so. We must show him that in these we are better Moslems than he. There are things in which his faith is lacking. We must show him in these our riches, that he may recognise his poverty. It is in this very way, the evidential value of Christian love and pity, that our hospitals are such a help in reaching the heart. In the opportunity given for brotherly help lies the present value of our schools.

All this means that the nearest way is the hardest way for us. We have first to know the Moslem heart and the things he holds dear. We cannot know, understand, appreciate, without first loving. We have to touch his heart with our hearts, to come into intimate contact with his life. For this we want no faltering tongue nor im- perfect means of communication. We want to enter into his life and forget the things in which we think our own civilisation is superior. In short, we must approach him just as Christ approached the people of Judea and Galilee. And it is only by such a way of self-denial and service that we can get near enough to show, to show forth those things that commend our faith and will lead our Moslem brother in God's providence, to accept of it as his only comfort in life and death. James Cantine.

Busrah, Arahia.

II[edit]

Islam, notwithstanding its simplicity and apparent monotony, is subhme to the average mind. It is urged with impassioned faith and has no monotony under its surface ; much of its teaching is only a restatement of old truths with fresh force. Elements of popular belief and usage are incorporated into it. It inspires a deep sense of brotherhood, aboKshes caste distinction and difference between rich and poor, high and low. Every Moslem is a preacher of its faith. Islam has no organised missions and no propagating organisations. The priest of a mosque is supported by the people round about, and his business is to give their children secular and religious teaching.

Alas, the Christian faith is not presented to Moslems in India in its united form, but as a house divided against itself. The importance of the crucified Christ as the Incarnation of love has been subordinated to that of a limited theological statement and restricted religious sympathies. It has been introduced by people belonging to the ruhng race, whose rehgious Ufe does not appeal to the Oriental mind. Racial pride and race-distinction are often m evidence in church as well as elsewhere. The ordinary European takes exception to being led by a dark-skinned priest in his praj^ers, while the Amir of Afghanistan Tsdll unliesitatingly be led by any Moslem priest. Very often on admission to the Christian fold a convert is disappointed. A lapsed Christian convert from Islam wrote to me thus : "So long as I was not baptised I was respected, I was given an honorable seat, I was introduced to people as a respectable person, but since I have been regenerated through baptism I am suspected, and my visits to the Padri Sahib*s house were considered waste of time ; the poor missionary had no time to see me." So-called Christians in India often indulge in gam- bling, the Derby Sweep, lotteries and drink, all of which are forbidden by Islam. One of the chief sources of revenue is unrighteous, derived as it is from intoxicating drugs and hquors. Religious duties are neglected ; on Sundays the churches are empty, but clubs are overcrowded.

I would therefore suggest the following thoughts on " The Nearest Way to the Moslem Heart." (1) Missionaries particularly set apart for Moslems ought always to be men of the largest intellectual training. They must have a knowledge of Islam, with reference to its weak points and its points of contact with their ovm. faith, and so gradually reach Moslems with sympathy and love, trying to point out the shallowness of Islamic belief in God and directing their attention towards the Son of God, Who died for their sins and is ready to uplift them to Himself. (2) A healthy literature of tracts and leaflets containing no passages giving needless offence should be created. Care should be taken in dealing with all the passages in the Koran which appear antagonistic to our faith, and an analysis be made in how far corrupt Christianity stands responsible for such utterances by Mohammed. (3) The character of Mohammed should not be attacked. If you start by attacking Mohammed, you will find Moslems very sensitive, and thus you will lose your chance of getting them to listen to the love of Christ and His redeeming power. Opinion may vary as to the relative importance of elements of political and social reform or religious motive in Mohammed's career. But of the sincerity of his primal impulses, the force and charm of his character among his own people, and his power to inspire devoted allegiance in very different types of people, no serious student has now any doubt. (4) In conclusion, I wish to say that we must reach them in the love of Christ and bestow upon them the liberty which Christ came to give. We must show them that we are loyal to Christ in following Him by our actions and deeds, and last, though not least, that the life of Christ has made us free from all race prejudices and we are really one in Christ. Ahmad Shah.

Hamirpiirf U.P.

III[edit]

Do you possess in your nature such sympathy as will enable you to put yourself in the place of the person you seek to win, and can you hear your own words as he hears them and view your own ideas as he views them ? If this be your case, you have become acquainted with the first and most important law of evangelisation.

The Moslem has, what we may style, his " Bible." He loves it, he reverences it, he learns it by heart, he regards every letter of it as inspired of God, and he believes that the man who brought it to him was a sinless being, the last of the prophets, and consequently the one who said the final word so far as the way of salvation is concerned. Such is his conception of the Koran and of the " prophet " Mohammed. This Koran, in his opinion, denies the death of Jesus, inasmuch as it says, " They did not kill him, neither did they crucify him, but he was represented unto them " ; i.e., they killed another in mistake for Jesus, and God who de^^sed such a strategem took Jesus to himself without dying. Wliat, then, does the Moslem feel when you testify that our Saviour Jesus died upon the Cross ? Does the testimony appeal to him as truth ? Of course it does not, for he is fully persuaded in his own mind that Christ has not yet died, and your bald statement of the Gospel not only prejudices him, but your insistance upon it angers him, and your suggestion that he has been misled makes him your enemy for long afterwards.

Many years ago I was very wTath at the attitude taken up by certain Christians respecting others of a different opinion. I considered their action narrow and un-Christ-like ; and in the heat of my indignation I rem^arked that I should " let them have it," and shew up the falseness of their position. There stood at my elbow a hardy, solid-looking master-gunner in the artillery. He had been listening with an expression of the fullest sympathy ; nevertheless, in two minutes he knocked the bottom out of my valourous intentions with a simple question. " Don't you want to win them to your opinion ? " " Of course I do," I said. " And do you think that if you ' let them have it ' they will be the more disposed to agree with you ? " I had no answer but one. " Well, then," he said, " try another way.'* Do we want to win the Moslem for Christ ? Of course we do. And do we vainly hope that God will bless to him our naked testimony to a matter not only abhorrent to his own opinions, but, as he reads it, at variance with the " revelation " he has from God ? We will be undoubtedly determined to know nothing among the Moslems save Jesus Christ and Him crucified, or we are unworthy of the Master, but we cannot " let them have it." We have got to walk round their superstitions and find that "altar to the unknown God," which Paul so tactfully laid hold of, and there thrust in the thin edge of the wedge of truth and not unsympathetically force it upon those who all their lifetime hitherto have hugged to their bosoms what they believed was God's gift to them.

Again, his " Bible " tells him that " the Jews and the Nazarenes say verily we are the Children of God, and his Beloved ones say unto them, then why doth he punish you for your sins ? nay, but ye are mortals from those whom he hath created." You want to mn him and so you earnestly testify to him that Jesus, the Son of God, loved him and gave Himself for him. Now you can easily perceive what the Moslem's idea of parental affection is as revealed in the passage quoted. How, then, does your testimony appeal to him ? It appeals to him as absurd ! If Jesus be the Son of God, then how could God have punished him ? Do you want to win him ? then do not put the thick end of the wedge in first, find some other way. But you say, cannot a Moslem see how God could lay upon his Son the iniquity of us all, when that Son said he would willingly bear it out of love to us ? Not a bit of it. A Moslem is taught by his " Bible " that God does what He likes regardless of His own laws, and, should He transgress them, who is he who could question Him ? He sees, therefore, no necessity for redemption, and cannot understand what should hinder God from receiving into His presence the vilest sinner, if He felt so disposed, since he, the Moslem, has never learned that evil cannot dwell with God, and that sin is a disease producing spiritual death, and he even regards sin as an ordinance of God for the accomplishment of his despotic designs.

Again, his Koran tells him that " Jesus, the Son of Mary, said, O Children of Israel, verily I . . . bring you good tidings of an apostle who shall come after me, his name Ahmed " {i.e., Mohammed). Do you wish to sell him a copy of the Scriptures ? Then he will naturally ask you, by way of testing the authenticity of the book, to let him see the passage referred to ! Do you want to win him ? Then what will be the effect upon his mind if you tell him that "it is not there ! " No, you must find another wsly out of the difficulty. Shall I shrink then, you say, to declare to them the whole counsel of God, and forsake the example of Paul, the king of evangelists ? Nay, a thousand times nay ; but in following Paul, to declare fearlessly the whole counsel of God, have sufficient sympathy to become a Moslem to the Moslems, that you may gain the Moslem, becoming Koranically crafty that you try catch him by guile !

I cite these three items from the multitude of embarrassing difficuties that daily cross the path of the evangehst to Moslems, that I may perhaps stimulate my younger brethren to become thoroughly acquainted with the Moslem's Bible and his mind, and to approach the stronghold on the native plane. The course many adopt in these questions is to avoid at all costs contradicting the Koran and rather utihse it as a weapon to either negative their interpretation of the opposing passage or to manipulate it with their own commentators, if necessary, as to render the meaning sufficiently obscure to destroy the force of their quotation. No doubt this appeals to me as the best course, for it allows a hearing for the better things of the Gospel, which, when they take root, will enable one to deal more effectively with the false prophet and his so-called revelation.

In the case of the denial of the crucifixion, not only can we cite contradictory passages from the Koran itself but passages from their own commentators, which make it exceeding^ awkward for them to deny the possibility of our Lord's death ; and this opens a door, otherwise barred, to read the more certain words from the Gospel.

The Koran (if we take the trouble to study it carefully) will supply us with many an altar to unknown truths ; as w^ell as other valuable matter, which, although we cannot for a moment recognise it as truth, will 3^et serve as an estoppel to our opponents' owti pleading. The missionary who can tactfully utilise the Koran, obtains an advantage miobtainable by any other means. He can, with it, effectively avoid awkward questions and dispose quickly of the obstacles which are hurled across his path as he advances. And the Moslem, finding that his owTi weapon can be used against him with such efficacy, becomes bewildered, and, strange to say, develops a respect for the despised Christian and a desire to hear from him truth which a moment previously he would have scorned.

But, says somebody, what can you say when they pose such an awkward question as " Do you believe in Mohammed ? " My usual reply to that is in the words of the " prophet ! " " ye who believe {i.e., in the Koran). Do not inquire respecting things which, if they be declared unto you, may give you pain "; and although they know full well what sinister suggestion lurks in the reply, they will usually accept it, since I have not said definitely what my feelings in the matter actually are any more than did the gentleman himself when he hedged an awkward question by the same means ! Whereas, had I replied " No, I do not," they, however great their desire to hear more, would have felt obliged to rise and leave me. Sometimes they insist, but he who insists forfeits his right to sympathy ; and although one naturally wishes to be gentle, it is not easy to answer such a question without hurting greviously. But during the years God has permitted me to work, I have not been pressed more than three or four times to exceed the " prophet's " repty. J. H. Colpais Pubdon.

Tunis.

IV[edit]

A small volume recently issued in Osmanli Turkish at Constantinople illustrates the writer's view of the true Christian approach to devotees of Islam better than anything else. It is entitled " The Unique Person of Jesus Christ and His Relation to Mankind," and tries to hold up Jesus Christ before their eyes in His unique Personality, teaching, works and claims. This is the way to the Moslem heart. For his heart is very human, and in many cases is not at rest. The book is in three parts. The first part is a continuous narrative, gathered from the Four Gospels, of Jcs\is' life from His birth to His ascension into heaven. It occupies a hundred and eight pages, in seven chapters. About two-fifths of this is Scripture text. For the desire has been to put into a Turk's hands a book which can be intelligently read by itself without a copy of the New Testament in hand, and by one whose familiarity with the Gospel record is Umited. The second part of the book, four chapters, treats of the teachings and works of Jesus Christ. The proportion of text to comment is about the same as in Part I. Some of the principal parables and miracles are cited in detail and briefly annotated.

It is Part III. which makes its o\\ti appeal to the reader ^Wth the briefest possible comment. First it urges that we hold the genuineness and authenticity of the New Testament as a fact granted by all competent critics, and in saying this we mean the New Testament as Christians of all sects receive it. We mean not only the original Greek New Testament but the same book as it has been translated into almost all human languages by Christian scholars. This position of ours has been denied, but those who have denied it have been unacquianted with the weight of evidence for the genuineness and authen- ticity of the Gospel in Christian hands, or b}^ those who have been misled b}^ incompetent instructors. The proofs of the genuineness and authenticity of the Gospel are so many and so strong that we have the right, in our present work, to assume the fact as granted. Tlie Gospel narratives, therefore, are true narratives. The claims made by Jesus Christ in the Gospel, claims wliich we are now to consider, come to us as a part of the attested and universaU}- received Gospel record. I would also Hke to emphasize the tendency among Chirstian scholars of the present day to expend less intellectual acumen in the attempt rigorously to define the confessedly mysterious doctrine of the Trinity and of the unique Person of Jesus Christ than the early Christian fathers did in the fourth century. We direct attention to the fact, plainly revealed in the Gospel, of Christ's unique Person, teach- ing, works and claims, and emphasise its significance. In this way the wonderful hfe and teaching and work of Jesus Christ reveal to men in a unique manner the one all Merciful God, the Holy One, who loves men so much that, for their redemption from sin. He made the greatest conceivable sacrifice. In this way Christ's work of atonement for human sin, and those unique claims which we find in the Gospel record that He made, become intel- ligible to us. These claims are accepted and attested by the consensus of the whole Christian world.

We believe that the study of the New Testament in this way is the true road by which men can arrive at the truth concerning God's justice, holiness and mercy, and concerning human sin and salvation from sin. It is also the road by which we can arrive at such knowledge of the mode of the Divine existence and God's one revelation of Himself to the human understanding as our finite minds are able to grasp. We may well press home the question. What are Jesus Christ's claims ?

1. Jesus Christ announced Himself and His apostles proclaimed Him Saviour of men, and this salvation was wrought out through suffering and death. As has already been shown in preceding chapters of our book, Jesus Christ revealed God to men, and was also Himself the pattern of a perfect human life. His mission, however, was not to reveal God as One, or Creator, or Supreme Sovereign, or as Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient. The Hebrew prophets and the Hebrew sacred writings, historical and poetical, had already made this revelation. More than that, the holiness and justice, and also the mercy of God, were revealed in the Old Testament. The special mission of Jesus Christ as Revelator was to declare and illustrate, in words, in acts, in His life and in His death, the boundless, fathomless love of God the Father towards men. His erring, lost children. His mission was to reveal the fact that while a Holy God hates sin, yet God, as loving Father, yearns for the salvation of men from sin, as a father longs for the return home of his erring, wandering child. The mission of our Lord Jesus involved much more than that. By His own life, teachings, and sacrificial, but voluntary death. He opened the way of return to God for every penitent soul that would trust in Him to lead that soul back into acceptance before God. Jesus Christ was prophet in the proper sense of that term, i.e., one who spoke to men on God's behalf. But that was not the essence and soul of His mission. (Luke ii. 11 ; Luke xix. 10; 1 John iv. 14; Acts v. 31; John xii. 47; 1 Timothy i. 15.) Many other texts might be quoted. We have said above that the unique character of our Lord Jesus' work for human salvation is found in His sufferings and death. The following texts are cited : Hebrew ii. 9, 10. We must never forget that the sufferings which our Lord Jesus endured in His work of saving men was not all, or chiefly, physical suffering. In proof of this we read the following : Matthew xxvi. 36-38 and Luke xxii. 40-44. This is soul suffering, more awful than any suffering of the body. It was because He carried human sin on His sinless soul, because He stood before a Holy God in the sinner's place that He so suffered. ^2 Corinthians v. 21 ; Isaiah liii. 5, 10-12.) Why it was necessary for Jesus Christ to die in order to save men we can but imperfectly know. But He knew perfectly, and He accepted the necessity, though it rent His soul with agony we cannot describe, agony which we cannot even begm to measure.

2. Jesus Christ claimed the authority, in His own name, to forgive sin. (Mark ii. 5-12).

3. Jesus Christ claimed the power in Himself to work miracles. He did not work them in God the Father's name, as the apostles always did in His name. (Acts iii. 6 ; Mark v. 41).

4. Jesus Christ's teaching was with His personal authority.

5. Jesus Christ claims that it is only through Him that men can be restored to a state acceptable to God. {John xiv. 6 ; xi. 25 ; viii. 12).

6. Jesus Christ claims such oneness with God that to truly know Him was to know Grod. (John viii. 56-58 ; xiv. 9-11).

7. In the New Testament divine honours and divine attributes are ascribed to Jesus Christ, just as in the Old Testament they are ascribed to God. In Genesis i. 1 God is declared to be the Creator of all things. In John i. 3 it is written, " All things were made by Him." This means omnipotence. Omniscience also is ascribed to Him (John ii. 24, 25). Christ is to be the Judge of men at the last day (Matthew xxv. 31-46).

Now note a very remarkable fact. No other person, acknowledged prophet or apostle, has ever dared to make one of these claims. Yet the holiest men who have lived during the last 1900 years have, with one consent and gladly, accepted them all as right and true as applied to Jesus Christ. The significance of these claims of Jesus Christ is evident. God became flesh. This is the statement in three words of the great doctrine of the Incarnation. Our inquiry is not how could this be, but why did God become man ? We are not discussing divine omnipotence, but divine compassion and love toward a race of sinful men. We are contemplating an act of infinite condescension, a manifestation of God's love in sacrifice. The appeal of the doctrine is to our hearts, not to our heads ; to our affection, not to our intellect. God loved men so much that He took on our nature that so He might win us from the love of sin to the love of God, the Father of our souls. And then, to impress on our dull minds the meaning of His love, the significance of love's sacrifice. He yielded that human nature which He had assumed to death, that men might love Him and live. Jesus Christ's projection of divine love into human life is the mightiest act in human history, for by that act He made it possible for us to possess spiritual and immortal life, and that life is life freed from the corrupting, destroying power of sin.

In our day the attempt is made to reform society by civilisation, by education, by material progress, by change of policies and organisations. No ! the change needed is vital. It is the change from moral death to moral life. Nor do spiritual life, salvation from sin, the favour of God, fellowship with our Heavenly Father come to us through the acceptance by our minds of sacred writings. But these great blessings come through our faith in Him who is ordained of God to do for those who believe in Him these three things : (1) Trul}^ to reveal God to men. (2) To be the means of restoring men to the favour of God. (3) To break the power and destroy the dominion of sin over the believing soul by means of an atoning work, a divine sacrifice.

This is the way to the Moslem heart.