THERE must have been others who came to Jesus by night, as well as did Nicodemus; and in the Old Testament story it is evident that Naaman was not the only one who worshipped Jehovah, and yet remained outside of the inner circle of Israel. In all Mission fields the experience has been similar. In the days of persecution, of intolerance, and of open hostility toward the religion of Christ, those who were afraid to confess Him before men, and yet believed in Him secretly, came by night. Missionaries among Moslems all testify to the fact that under the law of apostasy it is exceedingly difficult to urge a convert to make open confession, when such open confession inevitably would mean martyrdom. Here, for example, are four recent instances from one corner of the great Moslem world. All of them come within the experience of one worker; and such cases could be multiplied from many fields:-
"This summer I met X who was educated in a little mission school on the borders of the desert near Damascus. With other Arab Moslems he heard of Jesus, studied His teaching; and he is to-day a Christian, but not baptized. He is looking for a place to teach under Christian influences. He has been asked to go back to his home village, which he left when in danger; but if he does so he will risk his life, for he is marked. So he remains in Beirut as a silent believer waiting for God's guidance. Would you urge X to return, confess Christ in his own village, and be ready to die there?
"In a nearby girls' school a Turkish woman came to an American teacher secretly, asking her to read a Book which she did not understand. It was the Gospel. After a year she openly confessed that Jesus was her Master, and said she would become a Christian if the teachers could protect her. She did not dare to confess Christ before her own people, for that would mean
death or suffering. No protection could be guaranteed, and she had no money to take her out of the land. She drifted back, was married to a Turk; and somewhere behind these veils a Turkish woman is looking silently to the Master and longing. What would you have told her?
"A sixteen year old boy is to-day in a mission school. His Arab father has divorced the Turkish mother. After several years of intimate contact with the teachers and with the word of God, he has accepted the teachings of the Master. But he is not a baptized Christian. Should he confess openly to-day, he might not be alive when this letter reaches you. And he is not a Moslem; the love of Christ has changed him. Silently he lives a quiet, good life-an example of purity and morality both to Christian boys and Moslem boys-loved and respected by all. Silently he receives the life-giving power from the Master. What would you urge him to do?
"One of our teachers is an elderly Arab lady, called 'the Stranger,' because she left her own land years ago to come here. As a girl she learned of Christ, accepted Him, confessed Him, was thrown out of the home and found a refuge in a mission school. For thirty years she has been a quiet faithful teacher, respected as a Christian. After the first violent outbreaks she has suffered little persecution; but in her new home, where her Moslem childhood is not known so well, she quietly continues to witness for Christ." Such are the problems that face missionaries among Moslems in every land. Nor is their solution as easy in experience as it might prove on paper.
During my early missionary experience in Arabia I remember hearing of a company of Arabs in the city of Hofhuf in Hassa, who met together night after night to read the Scriptures. One of them came to our dispensary and showed a marvellous acquaintance with the contents and the teaching of the New Testament. He told me that the others in this group were also convinced that Jesus Christ was superior to Mohammed, that His character and life were the highest example, and that He died and rose again, a Living Saviour. Yet to reveal the existence of such a group to enemies of the Gospel would disperse them and endanger them.
The entrance of God's word always gives light and often gives
life. The real pioneer missionary is, in nearly every case, the colporteur, and it is my conviction that no Societies have been so greatly used of God in the Moslem world, both extensively and intensively, during the past quarter of a century, as have the British and Foreign, and the American Bible Societies. The changed attitude towards the Scriptures and the Christian Message has been largely due to the output and the outreach of these agencies. In their annual reports we often read of a number of secret believers among Moslems. In Muscat, Arabia, not a few know that the Gospel is true and the only Word, but few are willing to make the all-surrender, as it involves too much loss in this world."1 Regarding the Delta in Egypt, we read that many of the Moslems purchase the Bible and are studying it, searching for the way of salvation. Some of them in the villages invite the colporteurs to come and explain to them things they have read in the Bible, but could not understand or reconcile with what they had been taught.
A colporteur in Albania gives the following incidents. "One day I entered a coffee-house, where I found a Moslem whom I had known for many years. After the usual greetings, he began to talk about our Lord Jesus Christ and His Gospel. He had been a violent and bad man in his youth, but now in his old age he was different. He spoke respectfully about the teachings and parables of the Gospels and gave Jesus Christ the name, 'Our Lord,' although when speaking of Mohammed he merely spoke of him as 'Mohammed.' The other Moslems present listened to him attentively. I then learned from him that he had bought a Turkish New Testament when he was at Constantinople. Some time ago I met a man in the street with a book under his arm. I asked him what it was. He showed it to me, and I found it was a New Testament, evidently well read, for it was much marked. The man said, 'I have had this book for many years, and it is my guide for the present life and also for the future and everlasting one.' "2 Such examples, which could be multiplied, show that the Holy Spirit is continually working through the Word of God and bringing men to repentance.
1 Report of the American Bible Society, 1923.
2 Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1923.
1 Report of the American Bible Society, 1923.
2 Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 1923.
In Persia a Moslem priest entered the Society's depot at Teheran seeking an English primer. As he could not obtain what he wanted he bought a Gospel in English. Later he returned and bought a Persian Bible. A week later he came again and said: "For a long time I have been seeking the truth, and I think I have found it now. Can this book save me?" "No," replied our agent, "the book cannot save you, but the Saviour can of Whom it speaks." A fortnight passed and again he entered the depot. "I have now found what I was seeking for," he said, "and I intend to pass on to others the good news of salvation." A Persian Moslem of good family made this confession : "The Injil (Gospel) is the best of all books. I have read it and found that it brings peace and love and salvation."1
Where thousands of copies of the Gospel are circulated every year we may well expect that there are secret believers. The Rev. J. H. Boyd, of Tanta, writes mentioning six of them; and says his list could be greatly enlarged. "One in Alexandria, who was one of the best informed in the Scriptures of any man I have known, frequently attended church, and did not hesitate to let it be known before others that he was a Christian. However, he never dared make public profession. Another is a teacher in a government school who freely confesses Christ before others, and hopes to be baptized soon. He is a fine young fellow. Then there is a telegraph operator who has acknowledged Christ as His Saviour before different ones, and whom I believe to be a saved man. A fourth is a Sheikh who is attending one of our village meetings and is a thorough believer. He made a beautiful explanation of the way of salvation in a recent conversation with me; and he also told of an Azhar man who had spoken out at 'a mourning,' calling upon all to read the Bible as the book of God, and telling them that it was their loss not to do so. Some of his hearers wrote to the chancellor of the Azhar, and he was dropped in the last year. Another Sheikh, a teacher in one of our schools, speaks of himself as a Christian. He is of good family; a nice, clean, straight fellow. Christ, looking on him, would love him; as would any of His followers. Finally, a rich
1 Ibid, 1924.
1 Ibid, 1924.
planter in a discussion before many others on the train acknowledged the merits of Christianity; then added, 'Get me, and you will get five hundred with me.' Later he vigorously protected another who was being beaten for his Christian tendencies, and encouraged him to hold his new faith, telling him that he was in the right way."
Here such questions arise as conditions of baptism. May it be privately administered, or must we always insist on public profession? What preparation is necessary? Are there cases where outward conformity to Islamic customs or the demands of homelife may be countenanced? It is difficult to answer such questions. But when a man has been moved by God's Spirit and earnestly strives to enter in at the strait gate, we ought not to make harder for him what is already hard enough. We ought not to make demands of him which according to the circumstances in which God has placed him he cannot fulfil; but look to the main point, namely, faith in Christ and prayerlife in Him. We may leave the incidental and external for his own conscience. This surely is the lesson of Elisha's reply to Naaman, the secret of his holy moderation in demands for conformity to the laws of Israel. God will complete His work of grace. The pure in heart will not lose the vision once granted them if they continue to seek God.
Yet the problem remains difficult and requires much prayer. We dare not forget the demands of discipleship. Never were they put more sternly and more plainly than by Christ Himself.
"Whosoever shall deny Me before men. . . . "Except a man forsake all that he hath he cannot be My disciple."
At the first Missionary Conference on behalf of the Mohammedan world, held at Cairo, April 4-9, 1906, one of the topics discussed related to conditions of baptism. And although all present insisted that this holy rite should not be administered to those who were simply intellectually convinced of Christ's Deity and His atoning work, yet it was felt that to demand a public confession involved enormous difficulties. Baptism in private in the presence of a few friends seems to have been the practice in a number of Missions where persecutions or possibly the death penalty might prove the result of public baptism. "To baptize publicly in Damascus or Teheran or Morocco,
where the government is purely Mohammedan and the population ignorant and fanatical, would be a serious mistake. In countries under Christian rule, English, French, German or Dutch, it may be both safe and wise to advise a convert to profess Christ boldly in baptism, as a proof of his sincerity and a testimony to others. The battle for religious liberty must be fought and won at some time, but no one can decide for another when that time has come."1
A Moslem convert who was present at the Conference above-mentioned gave it as his opinion that baptism should not be postponed. It is a means of grace. He quoted the example of Peter with the centurion and Philip with the eunuch. "I see no reason why a Moslem convert should not be baptized as soon as he professes his faith in Christ as the Son of God and a divine Saviour and Redeemer, for it is on this ground that he is baptized."2 If baptism is postponed too long, even the missionary may regret it. There have been instances where this privilege was withheld for fear of persecution; and yet did not prevent it, or even martyrdom.
A few years ago a young Egyptian came to my study in Cairo and expressed his desire to receive instruction in the Christian faith. He seemed bright and intelligent and apparently belonged to a good family, so that he immediately captivated my interest. I was the more surprised, therefore, when, on asking his name, he pulled out his pocket-book and presented me with a card on which I read, "William Famison." I said: "You are not an Englishman, are you? " He said, "No, but I have changed my name and wish to become a Christian." He then told me that his father held a good position under the Egyptian Government and was an enlightened Moslem, but very devoted to Islam, and deeply grieved that his son had been reading Christian books. He first became interested in the message of the Gospel through some of the illustrated leaflets of the "Nile Mission Press," especially one on "The Black Stone and Rock of Ages," which he carried in his pocket.
We had prayed together, and I advised him to keep on good
1 Methods of Mission Work Among Moslems, p.146.
2 Ibid. p.151.
1 Methods of Mission Work Among Moslems, p.146.
2 Ibid. p.151.
terms with his father if possible. This, he said, was very difficult, and a few weeks later he came and told me that an attempt had been made on his life by his own people. He showed me a knife which he was carrying to protect himself. I read with him that part of the Sermon on the Mount which speaks of loving our enemies and of non-resistance, and told him it were better to die than to resist those who attacked him only for his religion. He was persuaded to leave the knife with me, and after a few weeks said that he had no desire any more to use that kind of weapon. He faithfully attended church services and made rapid progress in reading such books as I gave him. From the outset he expressed his ambition to become a preacher of the Gospel, and said he desired to win his own people to the truth. Constantly, however, his face had a haunted look. He was living at home and had to do his reading and praying in secret. One day he came to me greatly excited and said his father had received a letter which he had also seen, and of which he gave me this copy:
CAIRO, January 19, 1916.
"For the love of Islam and Moslems I venture to tell you that your son is about to become a Christian or has already done so, as many assert. Make haste, by Islam and its prophet, and take steps to bring your frivolous son back to his religion or else you will expose him to danger, not because we have any feeling for him, but because we love our religion and desire to defend the honour of the believers. Make haste, by God, the Koran and the Apostle.
Written by a lover of his religion, an ardent and severe revenger for its sake."P.S.-(i) To be certain that you receive this letter I dropped it by my hand into your box during the absence of the doorkeeper.
P.S.-(2) The relation that existed between your son and me caused me to tell you this. That you may be assured that I am telling the truth I would say that he goes daily to the house of the accursed Zwemer. He has gone to the American Mission also and spent a day with the Theological students.
Then he went out accompanied by a cursed Christian, whose name I learn to be S.F."
After receiving this letter we both felt that it was the part of wisdom that he should leave Cairo. I thought he might find work as a teacher or tutor of the new missionaries at Assiut, and so, with a glad heart, and yet with many misgivings as to his family, he left for upper Egypt. William was twenty years of age, and so I felt that, not only according to Moslem law, but in every other way, he was entitled to choose for himself.
At Assiut he secured work as teacher, but this did not satisfy him. He tried to fit himself for baptism, was bold in confessing Christ and made friends both among Moslems and Christians in quite a remarkable way. In one of his letters he wrote in English as follows (this letter is typical of his style and of what he was trying to do)
ASSIUT COLLEGE, Novemer 5, 1916.
"I humbly ask apology for my delay in answering your last letter dated 1st inst. There happened two things that depressed on my idle time. The first concerns that Moslem whom you met here in Church after service. The second is my trying to find work in the Oases whatever the temperature may be."
But as for the Moslem, I dare say he is one of the most inteligent and pious young men I have ever seen. I accompanied him to a native cafe and there stayed from 9.40 a.m. until 2 p.m. In the course of this period we discussed Christianity and Islam until I overcame him generously. While we were talking he meditated a moment and then stood up quickly and asked to go to a certain place and come back soon. After nearly five minutes he came back accompanying a sheikh teacher of the ---- , with whom I conversed for nearly an hour or more, in the course of which I prevailed on him, which circumstance caused him to apologize and go. I am sorry to tell you that he asked me to explain to him, but I could hardly convince him perfectly, although I mentioned - and others; so please explain the former to me.
"Our Moslem asked me to pay him a visit in his house; but
I answered the purpose accompanying the fellow who introduced the Moslem to you in church. I found there a junior brother and two seniors as well as a friend of theirs. We began conversation about intercession and crucifixion, but I heartily thank God for my victory, the circumstance that compelled the friend of the opponent to strongly ask me to pay him a visit the next day in his house there in the middle of the native districts. You know that that friend called A. A invited my companion, L. D., too. The next day I called B and reminded him of the promise but, alas, he refused for fear of any expected harm from those Moslems and so I went accompanying God's Might. At 5 p.m. I was at the door of A. K., who came out and took me into a large room in which I found two sheikhs, an engineer, another carrying the Bible, our Moslem of the Church and his brother and three other Effendies. I think they are employees. I entered and saluted them and shook hands with every one. We started from 5 p.m. until 10.10 p.m. We discussed nearly every fundamental point irregularly according to their irregular character. When they failed, they began to mock and make fun of me and my false religion, as they say. My Moslem of the Church cut the conversation quite soon and rebuked them, later on they would have done wrong. We then separated. When I see I will tell you some important things about this meeting. Now I often meet my Moslem and have many long chats with him. In reality, I love him very much for he is wise and impartial. "Now let us go back and speak about me. You know that I have no relation with anyone in Alexandria as well as with that missionary. I am ready to do any work, even an interpreter, but remember my will to be a missionary and also that the school-year will be over on the 18th inst. I can stay some days in Cairo on condition that I never leave the room except late at night. Do you agree? I pray to God day and night so that you may consider me as one of your humble boys and not a foreigner come to ask for refuge and help. Don't you know that you alone are my family, friends and relatives? Oh! I beg you to remember this please. I'm expecting a long letter soon." I remain, yours obediently,
The last paragraph in this letter requires a word of explanation. I was hoping to find him permanent work in Alexandria, but he preferred to be at a greater distance from Cairo.
When I visited Assiut in the spring of 1916, William was delighted and welcomed me as a son would a father. The delight of meeting seemed to have so excited him, however, that early on a Sunday morning at two o'clock he came running from the college building to the place where I was staying and said that he had seen a vision (or had a dream) in which Christ appeared to him wrapped in white, and said: "You must preach to the Moslems," and that he felt he must come instantly and tell me of it. When he had talked and prayed he slept in my room, and the next morning went about his duties as usual; but there is no doubt that the dream had made a deep impression upon his mind. As I refused to give him any financial aid and always advised him to work for his own support, he made friends with one of the Christians at Assiut, and when the college closed, worked, in company with others, at a Y.M.C.A. Canteen in the Kharga Oasis. He wrote at that time:
"I felt very ashamed of myself for ceasing writing to you since a long time, although I have been confined to bed exactly after leaving Assiut. Can I apologize? Am still feeling unwell because of the excessive heat.
"I left Assiut on the 29th of May for Markaz el Sherika and suffered the greatest trouble since then, especially in the last few days. I did not hear from my family for a very long time and for this am anxious to know all about them.
Hoping to hear from you soon,''
The summer was indeed trying for one who had been brought up, as Egyptian young men are, without work, sitting in the cafes and having a "good time," but William never flinched. At one time he wrote to me:
"Everyone on this little globe of earth is exposed to the world's sufferings and temptations, either God's or devil's; but the hero is he who knows a word called 'endurance.' That is, he must persist and struggle for victory. Life is but strife.
"I venture to say that the success of a man depends upon temperament and faith notwithstanding the sayings of others, as no one in the whole world is able to please all the people of the world.
"God only knows how I behave, and as long as I pray, read the Bible, and live a pure Christian daily life, I give up almost caring entirely for the different opinions of others. No one can point out the right way to God. If you remember that I ever disappointed or disobeyed you, be sure that what you heard is true or that I am to blame. When I was newly put into touch with you, you were a foreigner to me as well as all who are here. The reason is that you are accustomed to treat others as sons or brethren."
Again he speaks of his future, and of his desire to find a place where he would be safe. He wrote:
In regard to returning to Cairo and settling in it I can tell you plainly that this is beyond my power as long as I live with you. You know well that I introduced myself to you to shelter and strengthen me as well as to advise me; for this I started to Assiut, escaping persecution. Then how can I come back to Cairo? It is undoubtedly true that I must be back at Cairo when I am unable to find a vacancy far away. In this circumstance I will be exposed to a great many dangers the least of which to live among a Mohammedan family again, the thing I abhor.
"Of course I will yield and bear bitter persecution uncompared with the previous; as I am powerless to withstand such fanatic and severe people. . . . My religion or rather worship is encircled in (1) Studying the Bible, (2) Prayer, (3) Dealing with others according to the Bible; notwithstanding trifles." (He means contradictions.)
Finally he determined to come to Cairo. As soon as he arrived he went to his father, and, as far as I know, they were reconciled to the fact that he had become a Christian, for he told me that his father had taken the Oath of Divorce, which is one of the strongest oaths, that he would not hurt his son or attempt to interfere with his attendance at Christian services.
It was at this time that he made definite application to join a class of evangelists at the Theological Seminary of the
American Mission. He was even anxious to enter the theological classes, so keen was he on devoting his life to the work of preaching. Time and again he brought other Moslems to see me, and was never happier than when he sent inquirers and we engaged in prayer together. Owing to the shortness of his stay at Assiut, the pastor of the church there had not deemed it wise to receive him for baptism, although this was his earnest desire. There were obstacles in the way to his joining the regular seminary classes. According to ecclesiastical order, it seemed almost an absurdity to have an unbaptized Moslem, although he professed to be a Christian, study theology. I, therefore, advised him to wait another year and to find some work. He made application to one of the government departments and was on the eve of receiving an appointment as interpreter with the British Army for Mesopotamia. On November 29 he came to me with this good news, and said:
"Now you will surely baptize me before I start on my long journey." I assured him that I would. We had prayed together, and he left very happy. The next news I received was through a Christian friend who came on Saturday morning, December 2, saying that William had met with a tramway accident. Street traffic in Cairo is often so badly regulated that accidents are frequent, but we were all shocked when we heard the news. It was confirmed by the newspaper the following day, which stated that a young student, aged 21, was coming down from Heliopolis to Abbassia on Thursday evening at eight o'clock. He descended from the car on the wrong side, was hit by another car coming from the opposite direction and thrown on the sidewalk with bruises on his head. A policeman arrived immediately on the spot, and, instead of calling for assistance, he took the unfortunate youth to the police station where a full "roces verbal" was made. From the police station the youth was taken to the Cairo Governorate to be visited by the medical officer of the police. He had to wait there some time before the doctor made his appearance, and another cross-examination followed similar to that made at the police station. He was at last sent home about 11 p.m., without any medical assistance being given him.
Two days after the "accident" I received a telephone
message from a young Copt, a mutual friend who raised the question whether William had been killed in an accident or whether his death was due to foul play. It is not necessary to give details, but when we visited the Chief of Police, he admitted that there was every indication that the "accident" had been arranged by those who preferred to have him die as a Moslem rather than confess Christ openly. During the war, conditions were such in Cairo that any further investigation of such a case would have been unwise. I am convinced that William Famison died a martyr, and that those who had a hand in his death were "foes of his own household."
Two weeks before his death he came to me with a beautiful poem, written in Arabic, on the character of Jesus, which he begged me to print in our Christian Arabic paper. The short story of his life gives encouragement. A number of his friends were led to study the Scriptures through William's bold witnessing. Only two days after the accident one of his Moslem friends came and gave me a comforting letter, as he expressed it, to console my heart at the great loss.
The young men of Egypt were never more ripe for personal evangelism than they are to-day; they have lost their grip on the old faith of their fathers, and are both morally and intellectually adrift. Modern education is preparing the way for agnosticism and unbelief unless we forestall this result by the message of the living Christ.
Is it not a rebuke to our apathy and to the weakness of our forces that a Moslem should baptize himself with a new name and bear witness to Christ even before he entered the circle of missionary influence? "Say not ye, there are yet four months, and then cometh the harvest? Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest."
As in Egypt so in Turkey there are seekers after God.
We owe the following account of the confessions of two Turkish mollahs to Dr. Johannes Lepsius of Potsdam, Germany. "Our forefathers sprang from the conqueror of Rumelia. Our own father left the world and gave himself day and night to religious meditation. To him were vouchsafed remarkable signs and miracles of grace. He left us no earthly possessions,
but we cannot thank him enough, for he turned our course to the quest for truth. We are unmarried, and have never engaged in worldly occupations, having devoted ourselves to searching after truth.
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Lord God, King of worlds, Thou Who art lifted above time and space, the source of all and in truth our Father, take from our eyes and from those of Thy other children the veil of deep ignorance, that our hearts may rejoice in the knowledge of the truth which Thine only begotten Son, our Lord Christ, has revealed. Make dear to the hearts of all men the glorious teaching of Thy holy gospel that they all may have a share in its blessings and may be one in spirit and belief; that they may live and walk in the light of Thy glory. Amen.
"I, Kuth Oghlu Sheikh Achmed Keschaf, was born in 1864. For many years I studied and then became a soldier. When the Turkish troops were called out against Greece I was appointed chaplain in the second battalion of the 18th Regiment of Reserves. After the war I returned home to undertake with my brother thorough investigations as to what the real truth was. We became convinced that it was the religion of Christ. This we freely preached among the Moslems of our land, awakening their violent hostility. We were obliged to leave our home country and set out for Arabia. On the journey my brother preached for some time in the mosques of Eskidhe and Gornuldhene."
In the Hissar Mosque of Smyrna he zealously taught the holy gospel. That he could preach daily four or five hours without notes called forth the greatest astonishment and admiration. It was said that such learning could not be the fruit of study, but must be God-given. From all other mosques the multitudes streamed to him. The other mollahs were envious. They saw that his teaching would destroy the foundations of Islam, for he exposed the weakness and falsity of the Koran in a way that proved its utter perversity. None of his hearers could fail to realize that Mohammed was a false prophet, that his miracles were spurious, that the stories about his watering the earth with his fingers or splitting the moon were pure fables. He set forth mighty proofs that neither the Koran nor Moslem
traditions were trustworthy. Then he passed to the Moslem view of Christians. These he said were not Kafirs. It was folly and nonsense to hold them to be lost souls. Moslems must be friendly with them, for there were no grounds for hatred. The New Testament was a beautiful, useful and holy book.
"Great numbers, as a consequence of this teaching, found their faith in the Koran destroyed. To the numerous learned mollahs in his audience he would turn with the challenge:'If my words are false disprove them. Then you will see how many additional arguments against your views I can produce.' But they feared to take up the gauntlet and many who were taught in modern knowledge said, 'The words of the young Rumelian preacher are true.'
"After a time he was threatened by fanatics. Then he stopped preaching. But great crowds assembled and waited hours in the hope of his reappearance. A fanatic arose and cried out: 'Why wait ye on this preacher? Have ye not heard all he spoke against Islam? It is written in the books,
"When the Lord of Time, Imam Madhi, shall come then will all Moslems in the world unite and fall on the Christians." Then there shall be but one religion in the world. But the preacher denies all this. He has taken away from us our courage and hope of a future victory.'
"Numerous refugees from Crete, Russia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzogovina were present at the meetings. They said:
'Alas! We have left our homes because of the Christians, enemies of our faith. We await Imam Mahdi, sword in hand, to lead us back and to revenge us on our enemies.' Then arose a Bosnian, Hadji Mustafa, and cried out: 'Where is the preacher? I will hew him down and send his soul to hell.' "'The two brothers from Rumelia are Kafirs,' said a Mudarris (religious teacher) from Magnesia named Sabri Effendi, 'and whoever denies it is a Kafir himself. They deny that a man named Judas took the form of Jesus and was crucified in His stead; they deny that Gabriel in the shape of an Arab boy revealed the Koran to Mohammed; they deny that Mohammed's footstep left an imprint on a stone in Jerusalem; they deny that the earth is 500 years' journey in length and that it is seven storied and that oxen bear up these
stories. They deny that in paradise are Huris and Ghilman, marrying and feasting. They deny that Jesus in the last day will come from heaven, die, and be buried in the grave of Mohammed. They have said a thousand things against the Koran and are apostates.'
"The people, however, gathered around my brother to such an extent that the government, fearing a mass movement to Christianity, put us on a steamer and sent us to Mecca into banishment. But we did not cease to preach Christ and won many to a knowledge of the truth. When freedom was proclaimed we came back to Salonika. In Adrianople my brother preached during the thirty days of the Ramadan the Moslem Lent, each day for five hours in the Altan Mosque. In his sermons he explained and proved Christian truth on the grounds of reason and science. Many were convinced. Later we travelled to Philippopel in Bulgaria, to make open confession of our Christian faith."
'We have,' writes the brother, 'worked through hundreds of books to get at the truth. We have examined every word in the Koran and the Hadith with the greatest care, and have detected numberless errors. We saw that it was wrong to continue Moslems. We have both therefore accepted Christ. We hope to lead our people to the same end and are preparing to publish much for this purpose. We have seen in our journeys in Rumelia, Anatolia, and Arabia that the Moslem learned ones have always been put to silence. We confess our weakness, but are determined to work with what we have to wake the children of Islam out of error."
SHEIK ACHMED KESCHAF,
SHEIK MOHAMMED NESSENDI."
A German missionary tells of his experiences in the days before the world war among Moslems in the Sudan and in Palestine. He enumerates several instances of "hidden disciples" who dared not openly confess Christ.
"On a thirty days' missionary journey by camel through two provinces of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in the autumn of 1913, our Nubian evangelist and I arrived at K , and were heartily welcomed by the Ma'mur who invited us to meet him
and his friends that evening at the so-called 'club' under the palm trees. We accepted the invitation and talked on religious subjects for almost three hours. Our friend, the Ma'mur, was most interested, as he had studied religious and scientific questions. Finally, he told us that he was convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in a figurative way, and that He has become a Saviour of men and of Moslems. Then, while all listened attentively, we sketched the whole life of Jesus Christ; and when we had finished, all were deeply impressed by our Lord's life and atonement. When we left K we gave the Ma'mur a New Testament; and later he wrote us that he had studied it day and night and was confident that Jesus Christ is the true and only Light. Amongst the Bishareen tribe there is a mother and daughter who earn their bread by keeping cattle. One day they came to our dispensary at A ; and while the girl's eyes were being treated she heard Bible teaching for the first time in her life. She listened so attentively that the following day, when her turn came, she repeated the Bible story she had heard word for word. Later she lost her eyesight, but her inner eyes were opened. By means of Arabic type for the blind, she learned to read the Gospel and to give her testimonies to patients in the hospital. She was really a converted girl, but her mother would never agree to her baptism for fear the tribesmen would kill her. A Nubian Sheikh of high position, has been coming regularly to our Mission. He is very anxious to know more about the Gospel, and has even acknowledged some of the essential doctrines; but he is a' Nicodemussoul' who does not dare to confess Christ openly, as he would lose caste. In a little mountain village of Palestine, whose inhabitants are predominantly Mohammedans, a young Syrian-Arab told us that he had married a Christian girl and that he himself was inclined to accept Christ; but that he would never dare to confess Him openly as he feared the results from the bigoted Moslems of his village."
More than twenty-six years ago I received a letter written in Mecca but post-marked at Aden and addressed to me at Bahrein, asking me to send a Bible dictionary and a Bible commentary to the writer who lived in Mecca and whose brother carried on business at Aden. Similar cases of the word of God
finding eager readers in isolated places are given in the reports of the Bible societies. In 1914, Mr. C. T. Hooper, of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and I made a journey down the Red Sea to Jidda to open a Bible depot. On our return we landed at Yembo, the port of Medina. At first there was considerable difficulty about our landing. We were told that Hejaz was sacred soil and no Christians were allowed to land. Suddenly one man in the curious crowd that gathered around the jetty interceded for us, and said, "They sholud land because they are my guests." He made a way for us through the crowded, narrow streets, invited us to his home, and, after the usual Arab hospitality, said that he was a secret believer in Christ. "Call me not Mohammed," said he, "my name is Ghergis" (George). We said, "How can your name be Ghergis when you are of Moslem parentage and living here among Mohammedans?" He showed us his Bible, and then told us how, after reading Matthew's Gospel, he had baptized himself in obedience to the command of Christ before he ever met a missionary or a Christian worker! Afterwards this man proved his faith by his works; not only by kindness shown to strangers, but by his willingness to distribute Gospels and Christian books sent to him by post. During the war we utterly lost trace of him.
I shall never forget my experience with a Circassian officer in the Turkish army who accompanied our caravan into the interior of Arabia in 1897, at the time of my first visit to Hassa. During the first halt on our journey I was called to see him, his friends telling me that he was suffering greatly from dysentery. I found him nigh unto death. As soon as I sat by his side, he said, "I am not anxious to have you give me remedies for my disease because it is too late; but I wish you to show me the way Home." Then, reaching under his pillow in the tent, he handed me an Arabic Testament, which he said he had found in the home of one of the Christians at the time of one of the Armenian massacres. This book had been his constant companion, and he begged me to read him a message and to offer prayer. His mother and daughter listened to his confession and were cordial in their gratitude to me. The next morning there was a hasty Moslem funeral. The Imam of the caravan muttered the usual prayers, and when we moved on, a low
mound of sand in the desert was all that remained to testify of this secret believer in our Lord.
Miss Dora J. Snelson of the Church Missionary Society at Meerut, India, gives the following touching story of another secret disciple. "One day last year an Indian Christian lady asked me to go with her to see a Mohammedan neighbour whom she had been visiting, and who was anxious to become a Christian. When we reached the house, we were taken to a room where a beautiful woman was sitting with her brother and his wife. After the usual introductions, the brother explained the reason of their wish to see me. Briefly told, his story was as follows: 'Long ago, when we lived in Lahore, we gave permission for a Christian missionary to come to the house to teach my sister to read. It was an ordinary thing; many girls were being taught in this way. My sister learned very quickly. After some time we discovered to our alarm that she was taking too much interest in the religious part of her lessons, and we forbade the visits of the missionary. But the seed had been sown only too well. Left alone, my sister's faith in this new religion only grew stronger and stronger. I did not know what to do. She was like a bit of myself, for I had brought her up. She had been my mother's legacy to me and my elder brother. And now here she was, practically a Christian. Then I began persecution. I starved her; I locked her up for days together. Look at her now-her weakness and her loss of flesh are due to my treatment of her. But nothing shook her determination to be a Christian. At last, strenuously as she opposed it, we made a marriage arrangement for her, and it was carried out. But very soon her husband returned her to us, saying that he did not intend to keep her, as she was a Christian. It was an added disgrace to us to have a deserted wife on our hands. The very intensity of our love for our sister made us renew our persecutions in order to induce her to come back to her own faith. But all to no purpose. Patiently she endured all the indignity and the ridicule and the suffering. Months before this we had destroyed all her Christian books, so she had nothing to encourage her in this obstinacy. Now I have to own myself beaten. We can fight no longer, and my brother and I have decided to let her have her way and be admitted into your faith;
but on certain conditions. Her baptism must be kept as secret as possible, so that no further disgrace can attach itself to our good name. After she is baptized you must not induce her to leave home; she must return and live as usual, keeping her seclusion just as she has always done.'
"An evening or two later she came, and she corroborated all that the brother had told me, and also revealed the depth of her love to her Saviour. There was no doubt that she had been deeply taught of the Holy Spirit. Thus began her definite preparation for baptism. Two or three times she whispered:
'This is the first step; I shall come right out some day.' Her brothers visited me, to insist that all the arrangements for the baptism should be as private as possible, and they promised to attend the service themselves. On the day of the baptism her two brothers brought her in a closed carriage to the school. The brothers walked to our little mission church and a Christian friend went with the sister and myself in the carriage. The sister was closely veiled all the time. She told me that her brothers were taking her away that evening for a visit to relatives, where the lady of the house was also a secret believer in Christ. I gave her the address of our missionaries in the place. I have never seen her since the day of her baptism. She has not returned to Meerut, and she has for the time being disappeared. Is it that God has provided for her some 'better thing' than remaining in contact with us? Some day we shall understand."1
Giovanni Papini says in his wonderful book, The Story of Christ: "It was not by chance that Jesus chose His first followers among fishermen. The fisherman who spends the greater part of his days in solitude and encompassed by pure waters is the man who knows how to wait. He is the man of patience who is not pressed for time; who casts his net and leaves the rest to the Almighty." This is the great lesson all missionaries among Moslems have to learn. The patience of unrewarded toil, the patience of unanswered prayer, the patience of waiting for results always invisible except to the eye of faith. A Swedish lady who has done brave pioneer work among out-cast Moslem girls at Port Said, and has gathered
1 Church Missionary Outlook, September 1, 1922.
1 Church Missionary Outlook, September 1, 1922.
over a hundred of them into a Christian school, where some confessed and afterwards seemed to grow cold, hopes on:
"We have, I believe, no real reason to think that they have altogether forsaken Christ. There were those in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal - yet Elijah did not know them. I am sorry I cannot tell you anything more definite. Personally I have an assurance that the Lord Jesus is going to find many on that day when He makes up His jewels."
Mary Caroline Holmes, for many years a missionary in the Near East, gives such remarkable testimony regarding these hidden disciples that we condense what she wrote in the Moslem World (April, 1923) on this subject. "Perhaps to many it will come as a surprise that these hidden believers are in such numbers that they have an organization with a supreme head residing in a certain city, to whom I once had a letter of introduction, but unfortunately did not find him at home when I called to present it. But these believers find each other wherever they go by means of a key-word upon which I stumbled one day, and which I have used many times, and thus discovered other Jesus-lovers in Islam. A rug merchant exclaimed at one of their secret meetings which I was invited to attend, 'Of a truth thou art our sister,' after satisfying himself that I had understood the very beautiful hymn they had sung. that little group of believers behind the locked door, all about the broken bread and poured out wine, symbolic of the sacrifice on Calvary. 'Thou art the first to understand us. We are Christian Christians,' he continued with a look of conviction and exaltation. I sat in that meeting scarcely able to credit my senses, and witnessed a fervour of devotion rarely seen, an orderly type of worship, hymns, Christian hymns used only by themselves, and sung from memory throbbing with love for the Saviour of men. And women were there, Moslem women addressed as 'sisters' and unveiled!
Are there others like you?' I queried, incredulous. 'Many,' was the reply. 'And where? 'I next asked. 'Everywhere!' was the answer. I knew one of those present, a Government official, has been expelled from one of their sacred cities, and he was a Turk, because his religious attitude did not satisfy every one. This had happened some years previously,
and he had found his Saviour away up in old Turkestan, whither he had gone to get away from the appeal from Jesus, Who won him in the end. He came week after week to talk religion with us, puzzling me by the very evident knowledge he had of Christianity and of the Bible, for as yet I had not learned to spot these hidden disciples. But one day when he asserted there was but one Nur al talam (Light of the World), I asked, 'Do you mean that as I do? You know I believe, too, there is but one Light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.' 'I mean just what you do,' was his simple answer. I once saw him pick up from the ground a fragment of bread some careless hand had dropped, carefully wipe from it every trace of soil, and then reverently kiss it, saying as he did so,' I never can see bread on the ground to be trodden under foot. Our Lord said of bread, "This is My body broken for you." It is sacred tome.'
"And the candy-seller who lived among little children, to whom he sold his sweets. Never can I forget his words, ringing, clear, and with strong conviction as he asked me, as though to satisfy himself that I was a true believer in Jesus, 'Ya Sitt, have you ever seen Him?' 'Whom do you mean?' I enquired. 'Jesus. Have you ever seen Him?' I knew I was disappointing his simple faith when I said,' No, only with the eye of faith,' 'No, no, not that way. With these eyes, these eyes I have seen Him,' uttered with such conviction, such assurance, that I felt, somehow, I had missed something very wonderful in my Christian experience. And he is not alone in his belief that Jesus visits these hidden believers in bodily presence. Every one of them will tell you that he has had a vision of the Christ. And who am I to say it is not true? Such a knowledge of the Scriptures as they have would put many a one to shame who was born and reared in the Church, so to speak. The majority of those I have known found Him through the study of the Word, and not because of direct missionary activity. As an example, take the grave, long-robed official, who as he walked the deck of a steamer on which I was travelling, when he came near where I was sitting, without turning his head or glancing in my direction, quoted a verse from the Bible and continued his walk. But I understood and knew what he wanted, and when I saw him standing apart, waiting, I approached and made
friends with him through the Book; and such an exposition of Holy Scriptures as followed, book, chapter and verse accurately quoted and well understood by this seemingly devout Moslem, who in reality was an ardent adorer of our Lord. He told me that he was sent as a young man to Al Azhar, the great Moslem university in Cairo, where he lost all faith, even in the existence of God Himself. 'But,' he added, 'I was the most unhappy of men, and finally I cleared my room of everything but a mat upon which I seated myself, and raising imploring hands to heaven, I cried," Oh God! If there be a God, reveal Thyself to me." Then I took the Bible, not the Koran, and found not only my God, but my Saviour as well.
'Many of these secret believers are from the higher walks of life, like the two officials mentioned, and a Pasha whom I saw when making a round of calls during one of the great Moslem feasts. There were two brothers present, one a Pasha, and member of the old Ottoman Parliament, the other the Governor of an important province. The Pasha, being the elder, took the lead in the conversation, and suddenly began to speak in perfect English on religious subjects. There were not less than twenty other Moslem men present, all relatives, and the Pasha was speaking with such earnestness and conviction, that I turned the conversation back into the Arabic that the others might have the benefit of it, and said, 'You appear to know our Book,' for even in English he had quoted freely from it. 'I know it very well,' he replied. 'I have made a profound study of it,' mentioning certain missionaries to whom he had turned for guidance in his studies. 'You never found anything bad in it, did you?' I inquired. 'On the contrary, I found but one theme, like a scarlet thread, running through the entire Book, beginning in Genesis and ending in the third verse of the Seventeenth Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, "And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." That is what the whole Bible teaches, and to have eternal life is to know our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,' using the Christian phraseology, not the Moslem." Miss Holmes finally tells of a young lad who learned to love Jesus at school, but was restrained from any public confession. "In his second year at college he was
stricken with typhoid fever, and although he seemed to get better, a relapse came and it was soon evident that he was leaving us. He seemed to realize his condition, for he prayed constantly to Jesus in the presence of his family, and without opposition from them. His mother, perhaps the most remark-able Moslem women I know, did say to him once, but with no show of anger, 'Oh, my son, pray to our saints. Pray to Ah and Mohammed.' 'No, mother,' the dying boy replied, 'I want Jesus and Jesus only.' When the end came, he suddenly lifted his arms as though welcoming someone near and dear, crying, 'Yes, dear Jesus, I see You. I am coming,' and passed to be for ever with Him he had secretly loved and openly acknowledged at the last. And there are those who tell us no Moslem is ever really converted.
Do not these hidden disciples in these many lands make a strong appeal for intercession?
O'LEARY, in Islam at the Cross Roads.
The words of the Prophet are final; There shall be no interference with their (Christian) faith, or their observances: nor any change in their rights and privileges. So runs the charter given by the Prophet to the Christians of the Najran, and its terms are such as to leave no shadow of a right for a Moslem ruler to interfere with the personal or religious liberty of his non-Moslem subjects. The Turkish Sultan cannot disregard this charter as successor to the Prophet and I cannot conceive what these much-talked-of Christian minorities can, in reason, demand from the Turks more than the rights and privileges that came within the purview of the charter."
KEMAL-UD-DIN, in The Islamic Review.
The Law of Apostasy
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