The thing that brought me back to the Protestant faith was not chiefly the controversy between the two great divisions of the Church of Christ, for, by disposition I was never interested in intellectual debates on religious subjects. The thing that really troubled me was the dividing line drawn by the Roman Church between herself and the Protestant
Church. The strict line of demarcation drawn between the two churches, of which my friends had warned me in the beginning, was so hard and fast that it relegated the members of the Protestant Churches to a position of worse than that of unbelievers. Strictly speaking, they were not even recognised as Christians - no religious fellowship being permitted with a member of a non-Roman Church. Any such offence, as entering a Protestant Church for prayer or worship, the use of the Bible published by a Protestant society, the reading of any Protestant literature, joining in prayer with a Protestant, in short any religious or semi-religious fellowship with any non-Roman, not excepting the High Anglo-Catholics, was a sin which should be confessed before the offender can receive the Communion without incurring the guilt of a sacrilegious act.
For four long years I observed these rules very strictly. When received as a guest by any of my Protestant friends I refrained from joining in grace at meal hours, and at the hours of family worship which I had enjoyed before the spiritual fellowship I absented myself or pushed my chair back to a safe distance so as not to be counted among those who were engaged in prayer. At the house of my Methodist friend, Dr. E. Millicans Khan, Civil Surgeon in the U. P, whose hospitality I was privileged to enjoy for a number of years, and whose friendship I continued to retain even after I had ceased to be a member of the Protestant community, and where I had enjoyed spiritual fellowship with his family, I shocked my friends by such behaviour and they refused to believe the fact that I was acting on a religious principle of the Roman Church. They at last requested me to write to the
priest and get special dispensation to lead the family worship. I wrote accordingly to my priest requesting to be dispensed from observing abstinence on Fridays as to the eating of meat and asking his views as to taking part in family worship at a Protestant home. Here is the relevant part from the letter received from the priest in reply:
"Regarding prayers and Friday at Dr. Khan's, I dispense you from the Friday abstinence while you are with him, but wish you to say a rosary instead on those days (Fridays). But as regards prayers, I would ask you neither to join in nor to lead them in prayers, but to remain out altogether, asking them to kindly excuse you, as it is not allowed by the Church. They will respect you for acting on principle. If however they insist on joining you in your Catholic prayers, you may allow them, and may then recite the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed, Acts of Faith, Hope and Charity, the 'I Confess,' Act of Contrition and a prayer to the Sacred Heart.
The content of the letter explains itself for no good evangelical Christian could join in such prayers which are so extremely Roman. With such a mentality, I found myself gradually drifting into that state of mind when I began to regard my former Protestant friends no better than non-Christians. It was during the period of my study preparatory to joining the Catholic Seminary that I began seriously to think over this mental attitude which was the result of the Roman Catholic teachings. How far such an attitude of mind was justified on the basis of my previous experience of fellowship with my former friends. Was I right in regarding my saintly godfather, Mr. J. H. Hickinbotham, every moment of whose life was consecrated
to His Master Christ, as living without Christ? Could it be possible that my dear friend, Mr. F. W. Steinthal, with a perfect Christian life was not a Christian, and that my good Methodist friend, Dr. Millicans Khan, whom I have known so intimately and hence had the opportunity of knowing his blameless life and his love for Christ was beyond the pale of salvation? A host of other good Christians, my former friends, one by one came to my mind, and to think that all these with their Christian experience, as evident from their lives, must be considered as deprived of the means of grace and of salvation, meant nothing less than closing my eyes to obvious facts. Was I justified in the face of such evidences in holding such an attitude to these my friends as was the result of my Roman training? A tree is known by its fruits and if these are the fruits of the Protestant faith, how could they be the result of such a false faith as that claimed by the Roman Church?
Besides, I knew my Bible better than I was taught in the Church, and on the basis of its teachings I could not justify this attitude to my former friends. The signs of a true follower are found in the Holy Scriptures, and the Protestant Christians do possess those marks of a good Christian in abundant measure. Further, has not God blessed the ministry of the Protestant Churches, then who was I to denounce them, as required by the Roman Church, as without Christ and without His Holy Spirit? "Surely" as my godfather had warned me on the eve of my joining the Roman Church "there must be a mistake somewhere." The Lord opened my eyes to see where it lay.
I have already stated that it was chiefly on the ground of personal experience that I decided to leave
the Roman Church, but in such a decision the doctrinal questions are inseparable and cannot be overlooked. I had enough opportunity to study the doctrinal Position of the Roman Church before and after I had joined it. I devoted a good deal of my time to going over the claims of the Roman Church before taking the definite step of severing my connection with it.
It is amazing that the Roman Church discourages and forbids the reading of the Bible. For four years that I was in communion with the Roman Church I never read the Bible, for I never felt its necessity, except such portions that were found quoted in devotional books.
It was the reading of the gospel that had guided me to the knowledge of my Saviour, and it was on the Holy Bible that I was spiritually nourished from the day that I accepted Christ as my Lord till the day of my joining the Roman Church, and now how could I be without it? Thus the Bible which had first showed me my Saviour, now once again proved itself to be my guide in bringing me back to the evangelical faith of the Protestant Church.
I shall be guilty of ingratitude if I fail to add to what I have said, as to my experimental and doctrinal grounds for leaving the Church of Rome, the good that I saw and found within it. In the words of the Bishop of Durham, the Right Rev. H.C.G. Moule, I hasten to say that the Church of Rome "confesses the name of Jesus Christ, and within her fold, beyond question, have dwelt and dwell many of God's saints." I have seen and known them, and have known some of them very intimately, especially among the Capuchin fathers of North India. I have enjoyed their fellowship and
am grateful for their hospitality. Many of them have been good 'fathers' to me, who in all sincerity and truth for the love of Jesus they bore they helped me in my spiritual progress, taught me to hate not only sin but also the occasion of sins, and guided me in my youth through the great temptations which beset a young man's life, and did their best to help me to keep my "garment washed in the blood of the Lamb"; unspotted and unsoiled from the surrounding filth of the time and place. I know some of them even now who are angelic in their character, and fatherly to their people. There are some whose confidence and friendship I still retain.
Thus it was that I decided to come back to the communion of the Protestant Church. Not because I believed it to be holy, infallible and perfect, but because it is, as defined by Maldwyn Hughes: "The Church to be, the fellowship of the redeemed, informed and sustained by the indwelling Spirit of God"; and also because it corresponds to the definition of St. Ignatius: "Wherever Christ Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church." The Protestant Church which is the communion of those who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, has many defects and faults but she is not prevented, like the Roman Church by arrogating to herself the claim to infallibility, from confessing her faults, and seeking to reform herself, and from denouncing her errors as errors.
When I left the Roman Church I was, for some time, without any home, and any place within the Protestant Church. My father by this time was dead, but my mother and brothers welcomed me warmly in the home, and for a year or so I enjoyed their hospitality. They did not interfere with my religious convictions
and practices in any way. In the Roman Church I had acquired the habit of going to Church every morning and so I continued to go to the Roman Catholic Church every morning during the week days when unfortunately the Protestant churches are closed but on Sundays I went to the Anglican Church.
It is awkward for a Christian convert to live in a Muslim home. However warmly a convert is welcomed among his people the situation is not a happy one. At least it is unhappy for those whose hospitality he enjoys, for they have to bear the tauntings and jeerings of their neighbours for entertaining a renegade, a Christian. Muslims when situated thus, either have to face the jeerings and sometimes even persecutions by their neighbours, or surreptitiously have to tell some such story to their friends as that the renegade is now secretly a believer - a Muslim.
The Lord opened the way for me soon to get out of this awkward situation. Through the kindness of my old friend Mr. B. W. Bean, I was introduced to Mr. W. Paton, then of the National Christian Council in India, who put me in touch with my friend, the Rev. Dr. M. T. Titus. After he had examined my knowledge in Islamics he recommended me to the Bareilly Theological Seminary, in Bareilly for the position of the head of its newly founded department of the Islamic Studies. It was a venture of faith on the part of the members of the board of governors of the Seminary to accept me for a responsible post, for I was a total stranger to them and was known to be an ex-Romanist and had no knowledge of Methodism.
On August 1st in 1925 I came to Bareilly to take up my new work. It was my first opportunity in life
strictly speaking, to hold a responsible position. It is true that while in the Church of Rome I had worked as a teacher in St. Peter's College, Agra, but that was never meant to be a permanent work, and I had taken it as a temporary measure till such time as I was to be accepted by the Archbishop as a candidate for priesthood. In Bareilly, as one in charge of the Islamic studies, I was at last at the work which was my life's ambition - the evangelisation of Muslims, though after being for seventeen years at it, I am still far from realising that vision in the way that I desire. I am conscious of my limitations to realise the vision which God Himself had granted me, but I am confident that He who has begun the good work in me will finish it too.
It was a different life that I began in Bareilly from what I had been accustomed to so long. For thirteen long years since I became a Christian, I had hitherto led the life of a boarder, with no responsibility of spending money or of earning a salary. My necessities were met by the people among whom I lived, which was often supplemented by the funds supplied by my mother. Here was my first opportunity to come in close contact with the Christian community.
Shortly after I had taken up my work in the Seminary I decided to enter the state of 'holy matrimony,' and on October 21 in 1926 I married the lady who is now my wife. Miss Dorothy Day, the daughter of one Mr. John Sinclair Day, of a family that had been Christian for some generations, and who had served on the staff of the High School of the Presbyterian Mission in Allahabad. Mr. Sinclair Day's father was from Calcutta and his mother a lady from Scotland, who was married in the days when such unions of an
Indian with a European were rare. Mr. John Sinclair Day was already dead when I proposed to his daughter. The proposal was made at the house of her uncle Mr. Walter Sinclair Day, High Court Advocate who lived and practised in Agra. The marriage however, for some reason was solemnised not in Agra but in Bareilly by Rev. J. N. West and Rev. A. Gulab in the Methodist Church.
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