The Personal Testimony Of Mr. Pandian’s Conversion To Christ And Call To The Gospel Ministry
Conversion To Christ
“I was born a Hindoo of the Maravar caste, in the year 1861, at Perurani, Tinnevelly District. I belong to the family of Maniashi, Zemindar (a petty prince). My father was a wealthy man, and as I was his only son, he employed a Brahmin teacher to instruct me, in the Hindoo religion. Many a time I accompanied my grandmother in her pilgrimages to sacred places, and on our journeys she used to tell me about the fearful and avenging gods and goddesses whom we were going to pay our vows to. Nothing but fear induced me to worship these gods, and I had no idea of love towards them. My father also would take me to sacred places. Besides these we had our home gods, which were idols kept up in certain parts of our house, and before which we every morning and evening used to burn incense and offer sacrifices in the shape of cocoa-nuts, plantains, rice, &c., &c. We were so zealous, that none would take meals before duly sacrificing to these home gods. About the year 1875, my father had to go to Madras on account of certain civil suits. During his stay in Madras, he met with some Christian people and books, and being impressed with the truths of Christianity, when he returned to our native place there was a marked change in him, and he began to teach the truths of Christianity to the people at home, and especially to me. Great opposition and troubles were raised by our relatives and friends against my father, to avoid which he removed to the nearest missionary station in Tinnevelly. this time I was a boy, and though I had been taught the Bible stories, yet I had not tasted the ‘sincere milk of the Word.’ It was only on my father’s account that I had professed Christianity (not in the true sense). Then I was recommended by the local missionaries to be sent to alamcottah to study in the Mission Seminary. Still I had experienced no change of heart. After finishing my course there, I married a Christian girl, and went to Trichnopoly.
I was then attending my own church, S.P.G., at Trichnopoly, but the ritualism of its worship caused me to feel very uneasy, when I witnessed again such ceremonies as I had once given up in Hindooism. I could not bear to see such heathenish ways of worshipping God. I therefore was very anxious to find out some other place where I could worship God in spirit and in truth. Since I was not aware of any other church at Trichnopoly, I ceased to attend the church, and was praying to God in my own house. While I was in this state of uneasiness I was informed that there had been started one reformed (Wesleyan) church in the cantonment of Trichnopoly. One Sunday evening I went to that chapel, and to my joy I found what satisfied my longing soul. At the close of the service I had a conversation with the minister, John Dixon who taught me good Christian principles. Then I regularly attended the chapel, and became a member of the Church. In the year 1881 I suddenly fell sick, and was very ill for two months. I was afraid to think of the future, and began to be troubled for my soul, and prayed earnestly to God to wash me in the blood of Christ; but soon afterwards I obtained the assurance of complete forgiveness from the third verse of the 103rd Psalm, which was read to me by my wife. I well remember how happy I felt. I spoke to my wife and to my aunt of the Lord’s goodness to my soul.” (Earthen Vessel 1893, Page 231)
Call To The Ministry
“When on my sick bed, in March, 1881, and feeling peace and happiness because Christ Jesus had pardoned my sins, I made resolutions that I would devote myself to God, and that if I recovered I would serve my Lord by preaching the Gospel to my countrymen, who were in the darkness of heathenism. By God’s providence and mercy I recovered, and began with constraining love to carry out my resolutions. The first Sunday after my recovery, when I went to chapel to praise the Lord for His goodness to me, I had the privilege of bearing a sermon on the text, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.’ This made me understand and feel that I was specially called by God to do His work. Then I opened my mind to the local missionary, Mr. Williams, who was very glad to hear of my willingness to preach the Gospel. He afterwards took me as an assistant preacher to himself. Next year he recommended the District Committee to take me as a divinity student, and I had to undergo a regular theological course for two years. On finishing my studies I accompanied the missionary, Messrs. Gosteck, Boulter, Dixon and Williams to Southern India on their preaching tours. Afterwards I was in charge of a substation in the Tanjore district. While there I was puzzled with conflicting doctrines, such as free-will and free-grace. I could not see the real meaning of them, owing to the prevailing opinions of the Church. While my mind was troubled with these doctrinal points, I had the pleasure of meeting one Mr. Ingram, of the 30th regiment, M.N.I., and a Mr. Paul at Trichnopoly. From these friends I received much information and instruction about baptism and free-grace, salvation and election, which I found cleared away the doubts I had on these doctrinal points in searching the Scriptures. Afterwards God, in His providence, directed my steps towards the north. During a few months’ stay in Madras, I heard of the Baptist denomination. I went to see Mr. H. F. Doll, the Superintendent of the Strict Baptist Mission, and opened my mind to him. I visited him several times, and received further instruction, and being fully persuaded of the truths as believed by the Baptists, I was immersed and received into the Baptist Church. It is a joy to me to be reviled for Christ’s sake who has borne away my sins, and for the free doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, as believed and taught by the Strict Baptists. I am fully convinced that the doctrines and ordinances as held and practised by them are according to the teaching of the Bible. Mr. Doll, temporarily employed me as a preacher, as I told Mr. Doll, that I determined, God helping me, to serve Christ while I had breath in my nostrils: for I had a great desire to preach the Gospel. From the time of my conversion, soon after my recovery from illness, I have been preaching the Gospel, and glorying in nothing but the cross of Jesus Christ. The love of Christ which called me from nature’s darkness into the marvelous light of the Gospel, has enabled me to proclaim the whole counsel of God boldly and plainly in this city for the last two years of my connection with the Strict Baptist Mission; and much good and encouraging work is being carried on in the Lord’s name and strength. “As for my doctrines of faith, they are exactly those of the Strict Baptist Mission. I have searched, examined, and proved them to be the doctrines of the Bible. All these doctrines I intelligently believe, teach, and shall teach and advocate, God helping me.” (Earthen Vessel 1893, Page 231)
A Report From The Strict Baptist Mission
“Having received and begun to read a ‘living epistle’ from the mission fields of Southern India, I feel stirred to take up my parable on the evidently God-honoured service of our native brethren there. That noble specimen of a high caste native, with emphatic capabilities of natural gift and spiritual life and force, brother J.B. Pandian, pastor of the Strict Baptist Church in Madras City, gave us two fervent and clearly honest addresses at our meetings of the Suffolk and Norfolk Association, and was most intently listened to and cordially welcomed. His special mission to this country—the upraising and emancipation of the shamefully down-trodden Pariahs—in no way interfering with, but the rather aiding his zealous work as an ambassador of Christ for the salvation of men.
Very touching was his reminiscence of the effect on him of feeling the Mediterranean gale, the same “Euroclydon” which wrecked Paul’s vessel.
One thought possessed the mind—what a gracious and powerful influence a deep practical interest in foreign missions is calculated to have on our Churches at home! The reflex awakening beam from the brighter zeal, facing far greater obstacles in preaching and teaching Jesus Christ than His servants evidence or have to encounter in our own land. We are convinced that there would be nothing more stimulating for our Churches to take up and practically promote the preaching of the same Gospel in heathen lands. The ever increasing readiness to hear, meditate on, and receive the plain, homely preaching of the Word in India and other distant lands. There is certainly nothing like it in our own country. And proof is not lacking where this interest is already shown of the faithfulness of Scripture testimony, “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.” History is full of this proof, and “our gospel” is not changed. God is not slack concerning His promise. That He has a people in the dark places of the earth is evident, and these are included in His assertion, “Them also I must bring.”
The Divine raising up and employment of native agency is delightful in its effect, but these crave for sympathy, and are greatly cheered by knowing they have it. “One hundred and twenty-nine converts baptised and received into fellowship” in the Tinnevelly district alone, and these, after long waiting, watching, and testing, would be startling if the promises were not so large! No indiscriminate or scattered results were these. Those baptised believers have received careful teaching, after confessing their faith, testing as to their changed character, and either received into already established churches, or formed into little growing groups on New Testament principles, showing also strong desire to spread the knowledge of their salvation, that others may hear the same word of life and share the same blessing. Would that we could say the same of all our churches at home!—S. K. Bland, Ipswich.” (Earthen Vessel 1893, Page 214)
The Thirty-Second Annual Meeting Of The Strict Baptist Mission
During the thirty-second Annual Meeting of the Strict Baptist Mission, Mr. Doll was honored as a representative of the Mission in India. Mr. Gray, giving the address, spoke of Mr. Doll’s ministry, also making reference to the gospel labours of Mr. Pandian. Also mentioned in the address is the denunciation of duty-faith, which was one of the leading features which set the Strict Baptist Mission apart from similar organizations. (See page 372, Earthen Vessel 1893)
The Substance Of Mr. Gray’s Address
“Mr. Gray…coming at once to the real object of his address, he would deal with it under three heads—I. The Master. II. The Mission. III. The Man.
I. Concerning the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, much has been said, but the best word that could be said has not yet been uttered and the last word never will be said. He is the great Redeemer, the great Conqueror, the great Benefactor. His redemption is a fact, not a fiction real as the redemption of Israel from Egypt. His work God-ward was atoning, man-ward delivering, and in it we find substitution and satisfaction, and both are necessary, and we can sing:—
“Ere since by faith I saw the stream,
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.”
Then He is the great Conqueror. Over the· gates of a mosque in Constantinople, which was once a Christian place of worship, the words are inscribed, “Jesus Christ conquers.” Let all our music be set to this key; let this be the motto of our lives, Jesus conquers: He conquered the devil in the wilderness, He conquered on the cross, in the sepulchre, in His ascension on high, He led captivity captive. Pompey in the year 61 B.C. had a triumphal procession in which he was proclaimed “conqueror of the world”; but we claim that high title for our Lord alone, who conquered when He fell, and lives to conquer still; He hallows or He humbles men according to His will, and He will go on conquering till He is hailed from shore to shore the wide world over, and men of every nation shall crown Him Lord of all. He has not “had His day,” as sneering cynics tell us; He is having His day now, Prophecy has become history, and again history is prophecy, and as His name has been mighty, so shall its power extend, till earth’s darkest place has seen the light of His salvation. He is the great Benefactor. A good man once said to his minister, “Ah, sir, Jesus left one part of His work unfinished. He led them out to Bethany, He stretched on His hands to bless them, and in the very act of blessing He was caught up to heaven, and ever since He has kept on blessing His people, and will not finish it until He comes again.” He has blessed us beyond our calculation and all declaration, and, as Mr. Cheyne beautifully sings:—
“When I stand with Christ in glory,
Looking o’er life’s finished story,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then how much I owe.”
II. Our Mission. Its sphere is heathendom; cultured and uncultured alike are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death; but who doubts the power of the Gospel to save them? Newton said, “I never doubted the possibility of God converting the heathen since he converted me.” A good man once affirmed, “Could I write a book that should fully portray the evils of idolatry, it would be read with eyes filled with crimson tears of blood.” But there the Gospel has won its glorious victories. William Carey preached, heard, and was converted, and wrote the beautiful hymn—
“O thou, my soul, forget no more,
The Friend who all thy miseries bore,”
and thousands more have since received the glad tidings and joined to Praise the Savionr’s name. Caste is rampant in India, but not in India alone. It exerts its influence elsewhere in different ways. Nicodemus was once a slave to Pharisaic caste, but the bonds were loosed a little and he came to Christ by night; a little more and he spoke a timid word for Him in the council, and at length they were completely burst as he joined in the reverent burying of the crucified One. Yes, Jesus is superior to caste, and we have a living witness to the fact here in our brother Pandian. Our mission—its aim, salvation, not the natural and social good of the heathen only, but their eternal life.
“Salvation, let the echo fly,
The spacious earth around.”
And the preacher of salvation is important because of his work. A son of William Carey who went out as a missionary became an ambassador in the Burmese Court, and when Carey heard it he exclaimed, “O Felix, hast thou shriveled into an ambassador?” Ours is the “Strict Baptist Mission.” To me there is music in the title; We baptize on the authority of Jesus; that is the root of our “dogged dogma,” our persistency is but a persistent following Christ’s command. We are not like Cowper’s dubious man who
“Knows what he knows as if he knew it not;
What he remembers seems to have forgot;
His sole opinion, whatsoe’er befall,
Centering at last in having none at all”
A Roman Catholic priest fell on a canon’s grave and prayed for the repose of his soul. Rising, he remarked to a Protestant companion, “I daresay you wondered what I was doing.” “No,” was the answer, I did not wonder what you were doing, but I wondered why you did it.” And so to those who sprinkle infants we say, “We wonder why you do it.” Anyhow, the only hope for sinners is a baptized Saviour, and the New Testament is pre-eminently a Baptist Book. Then we are Strict! Why not? Should we not strictly follow what is right and true? Never mind hard names. Elijah was called “the troubler of Israel,” and Luther “the trumpeter of rebellion.” But let us have the cream, not skim milk, and be altogether what we believe to be right. Erasmus, in theRoman Catholic controversy, took first one side and then the other, until he was caricatured in the public prints as being half in heaven and half out; and though we may be called bigots, let us dare to be true to the convictions of our hearts.
III. Then the Man. Concerning himself, he would only say that he was going as their commissioner in the Lord’s strength. One said, he that runneth before the cloud of Divine guidance goeth a fool’s errand”; but he felt the Lord was guiding him. The Scotch have a proverb, “Set a stout heart to a steep brae.” He had to leave a loving wife and nine children, and a Church which he loved above all other churches, whose deacons and members were the kindest that any pastor could desire; but they felt with himself that it was the Lord’s will, and, one of them said, “We must lend him to the Lord for four months.”
He was going as the jealous servant of the Lord and the impartial agent of the Mission. He held the doctrines of saving grace firmly, and could not tolerate the preaching of duty-faith. The Lord’s due is the measure of man’s duty, and if saving, gracious faith be man’s duty, we are saved by duty, by works; but all is of sovereign grace. The first time Mr Balfern and I met I told him how much I had enjoyed his little book, “Glimpses of Jesus,” and what union of heart I had felt with him as I perused it, but I added that I could not get on at all with his views on duty-faith. I said, “You from your standpoint assume three positions—1st. You tell men it is their duty to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; 2nd. You assure them they are dead in sins and can’t do it; and (3rd) you tell them that God will condemn them eternally for not doing what they cannot do.” “Well,” was his reply, “that is putting the matter pretty strongly.” But I answered, “That is the true statement of the case. You drape it with beautiful language, you garnish it with lovely flowers, but it just amounts to what I have said after all. You do preach the Gospel, I know, but when you do so you leave your own premises and come on mine-viz., salvation is of the Lord from first to last.” And as the agent of the Churches, he would fairly observe and faithfully report. He fully believed that he should find all satisfactory. A good man, a Presbyterian, since departed, once incidentally told him that he knew Mr. Doll and his work; but said, “Brother Doll could do more if he were not so high-doctrined and strict principled.” This was good testimony! and he went with a lofty hope. Lord Shaftesbury, when appointed President of the Bible Society, wrote in his diary: “I am not indifferent to the honour, or the utility of my position.” Thus he felt, and desired that God’s blessing would rest upon his enterprise. We sometimes wish for a thousand tongues to sing our Saviour’s praise, but every soul brought to Jesus is another tongue to sing, and other hands and voices may through our instrumentality be devoted to the Saviour’s cause. And he hoped that the result of his journey would be stimulated effort, increased interest, and that the case of the boy would be repeated, who, eating an apple, and seeing a little fellow looking hungrily at him, said, “Take a bite,” and when the apple was given back with only a little piece eaten he good-naturedly said, “Take a bigger bite.” Let us all do our utmost; we know that our Lord Jesus Christ will do His utmost, until all His ransomed ones from earth remotest bounds are gathered home, and there we hope for ever to record the wonders of redeeming, sanctifying love—“ourselves the astonished talkers and the tales.”—P. Barrell” (Earthen Vessel (1893), Page 360)
The Testimony Of The Strict Baptist Church In Friston
Mr. Pandian was invited to minister the gospel to the Strict Baptist church in Friston, in August 1893. Robert Frankland submitted a report to the Earthen Vessel:
“FRISTON. The anniversary of the Sunday-school was held July 16. Our dear brother Mr. Roe preached in the morning from Job 38:35, latter part (‘Here we are”). In the afternoon dialogues and recitations were given in excellent manner, which reflects great credit to the superintendent, brother Burrell, and others, for teaching the children. Our singing was excellent. Lord’s-day, August 13, every available space in the chapel was filled to welcome pastor T. B. Pandian, now becoming the well-known brother from Madras, and we did welcome him with all our hearts. Having secured the loan of the Congregational Chapel at Leiston for the evening service we wended our way thither; the chapel was well filled, seats had to be placed in the aisles, Mr. Pandian, who was full of the Spirit of his Master, preached Christ to the great joy of his hearers. May the abundant blessing of the Lord accompany his efforts. We hope to baptize a dear sister this month, which will be ten added to our number this year. May showers of blessing come on all the church.—Robert Frankland” (Earthen Vessel 1893, Page 292)
J. B. Pandian (1800’s) was a nineteenth century Strict and Particular Baptist preacher and humanitarian. A native of India, he was appointed the pastor of a Baptist church in Pursawalkam, Madras, a station of the Strict Baptist Mission. Although he was raised by a wealthy father, he invested a large portion of his time to the “upraising and emancipation of the shamefully down-trodden Pariahs—in no way interfering with, but rather aiding his zealous work as an ambassador of Christ for the salvation of men.” That he belonged to the gallant men and women often maligned as Hyper-Calvinists is evidenced by his association with the Strict Baptists. When bringing a report to one of the annual meetings of the Strict Baptist Mission, he confessed before the delegates, “As for my doctrines of faith, they are exactly those of the Strict Baptist Mission. I have searched, examined, and proved them to be the doctrines of the Bible. All these doctrines I intelligently believe, teach, and shall teach and advocate, God helping me.” Indeed, during the thirty-second Annual Meeting of the Mission, Mr. Gray delivered an address which denounced the pernicious doctrine of duty-faith, a leading feature belonging to the Hyper-Calvinists. Referring to the gospel ministry of Mr. Doll, who also represented the Mission in India, Mr. Gray commented, “He held the doctrines of saving grace firmly, and could not tolerate the preaching of duty-faith. The Lord's due is the measure of man's duty, and if saving, gracious faith be man's duty, we are saved by duty, by works; but all is of sovereign grace.”