The BIBLE in BRAZIL I The Country and People
BRAZIL has an area of about 3,280,000 square miles, its greatest length is approximately 2,600 miles, and breadth 2,500 miles. Topographically it may be divided into three sections; a higher region of plateaus, ridges or mountain ranges; broad open valleys, occupying that portion of the country south of the parallel of Cape St. Roque; and the vast Valley of the Amazon. In so extensive a territory as this, with so diversified a surface, there is naturally a considerable variety of climate. Great heat prevails throughout the northern division, lying near the equator, and its year may generally be divided into the wet and the dry seasons, while the elevation of the central and southern divisions, further removed from the equator, allow greater variety of climate. Beyond the tropic again, in a small section of the country, a temperate zone is reached, with its four seasons, though not so distinctly marked as in central Europe.
Brazil has a seaboard of 4,000 miles; it has many thousands of miles of river navigation, and about 2,700 miles of railroads, chiefly in the central states. In only three of the twenty states is there anything like a connected system. To traverse the great interior and carry the Word of God to the inhabitants spread over this vast region, great dependence must be placed on the faithful pack-mule.
In an effort to thus compass the land one must encounter the heat, sickness, privations, and hardships consequent upon a hot and malarial climate, and upon slow and inferior means of travel. Such a work necessarily involves also a large expenditure of money. When these difficulties have been overcome and the people have been reached, many obstacles arise from their intellectual and moral condition. Official statistics show that only about fifteen per cent of the entire population can read, and it is painfully depressing to one engaged in offering the Scriptures to every person, to hear about three-fourths of them say: "I don't know how to read."
Another obstacle is the religious superstition of the people concerning the Bible we offer them, and the belief so strongly inculcated by the priests that they have no right to read even the version accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. The opposition to our work from that Church and the priesthood is most violent and constant. But among the educated and many of those who can read, there are still other mental conditions which furnish great hindrance to a wide dissemination of the Scriptures. For many years the more enlightened people have been turning away from the superstitions and corruptions of their religious training, and not having the Truth to enlighten and guide them, but with French philosophies and the French novel at hand, they have become positivists, freethinkers, spiritualists, atheists, and one knows not what. Corrupt in moral life and vitiated in mental tastes, many have become enveloped in a dense cloud of incredulity and absolute indifference. They laugh in scorn at the very idea of offering them the Bible. Sin of every kind is prevalent on every side. One of the most common forms of evil is the lottery. Gambling has become epidemic, and hundreds will spend their money for a lottery ticket, or a chance in some other form of gambling, who complain that they are too poor to buy a Bible. The Roman Catholic Church fosters this mania; it is not uncommon for her to establish by government permission lotteries for the benefit of her church buildings and other charitable institutions.
But another view of the case may help the reader to a more intelligent appreciation of the problem and the work to be set forth in this volume. Who are the 17,000,000 inhabitants scattered over this great territory under such intellectual, social and religious conditions? We may answer the inquiry by a few remarks upon the races here mingling together. Let us first consider that element of the population which we may designate as the whites.
By the fortunes of discovery and conquest Brazil began to be settled by the Portuguese early in the sixteenth century. The attention of the higher classes of Portugal at that time was taken up with India, Brazil having been discovered by chance as a Portuguese fleet was endeavouring to make its way to that country by the Cape of Good Hope. As in so many other cases, for years adventurers and criminals composed a large element of the Portuguese settlers. The famous priest, Vieira, said in one of his eloquent discourses, "the settlers who are sent out are criminals taken from the dungeon, and perhaps put on board in irons;" while Southey adds that, "the train of hungry dependents who accompanied the Governor of a Captaincy were perhaps more prejudicial to the community than even these convicts." With some splendid exceptions, in general the principle of official morality was to the last degree relaxed, and the principle of honour in private life seems to have been debased by punctilios, and perverted till it became a motive or a pretext for the blackest crimes. It is true that the Governors were all charged to take care that the lives of the Portuguese should be such as might tend by the force of example to convert the savages; and there was a richly endowed religious institution for counteracting the corruption of morals. But as the civil officers often became avaricious and immoral and the Church contented itself with the husk of superstitious ceremonies and the chaff of superstitious works, and supported its empire by the boldest arts of impudent imposture, there was little check put upon the tendencies and temptations of these early settlers in the new world.
From the time of the first settlement to 1808, when John VI. arrived in Brazil, removing the seat of the Portuguese Monarchy from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, the white population had gradually increased, but at a very slow rate.
The first European settle in Bahia was Diogo Alvares, a young man of noble family, who was the only one of a shipwrecked party to escape death. He succeeded in rescuing from the wreck a few kegs of powder and a musket, and became known as "Caramuru,"--a man of fire. The people were filled with fear, but he soon made the chiefs understand that he would kill their enemies, and in a short time became the sovereign among them. The chiefs counted it a great fortune if he would accept their daughters to be his wives. When he had the opportunity of embarking on a French vessel to Europe he succeeded in persuading the King of Portugal to colonize the delightful country where he already had a numerous family growing up. Many of these settlers, building towns and villages along the coast, followed his eample in their social and domestic intercourse with the natives, and not a few of the best families of Bahia delight to trace their origin to this man.
The first person to take charge of a Captaincy in Brazil was Martin Affonso de Souza, who with a considerable party succeeded in establishing himself on the coast of what is now the State of São Paulo. He succeeded in making a treaty with the chief of the Gyayanazes through a shipwrecked Portuguese, who had been living among the savages, and to whom the chief of this tribe had given his daughter for a wife. This colony prospered from the beginning, and many other settlers of a better class were from time to time brought out. Among the first settlers in one of the Captaincies north of this were fifty fidalgos and men of royal birth, two of them having been banished to Brazil because of their atrocities and cruelties in the spice islands of the East. It is said of a fourth colony that it was headed by Pedro de Campo Tourinho, who was of a noble family, and that he was accompanied by his wife and children and a large body of good colonists. Another expedition was shipwrecked on the coast of Maranhão. One man who survived was a blacksmith. From the wreck he extracted pieces of iron with which he wrought, and thus made himself a great personage with a number of neighbouring chiefs, from whom he obtained their daughters for his wives. From many similar historic incidents recorded of colonial times, it is evident that all classes from the convict to the family of noble blood, from the vilest wretch to the man of high moral and saintly character, were represented among the early white settlers of the country. Reference should also be made to the numbers of Jews, who by the Inquisition of Portugal in 1548, were banished to Brazil; the coming of the French from 1555-1615, and again from 1710 to 1712; the Dutch invasion from 1624-1654, and other smaller elements.
With the arrival of the royal family began a most rapid and continued influx of Portuguese, which greatly increased the population, not only of the city of Rio de Janeiro, but of the entire Brazilian coast and of many interior districts. With these came also a large number of other foreigners. The whole face of the country underwent a great and rapid change. The fashions of Europe, the festive ceremonies of a court, caused antiquated customs to give way, and new modes of life were adopted. All business assumed new aspects, foreign commercial houses were opened and artisans began to establish themselves in many places. Then came the printing press, schools and libraries, all of which brought a more cultured class of colonists. The Prince Regent began to bestow honours upon native Brazilians who had so kindly received the royal family: great excitement sprang up and thousands, by most degrading sycophancy, were soon seeking titulary distinctions. A great battle was waged, so to speak, between the Brazilians and the newly arrived Portuguese. Those knighted would not return to the debasing employment of agricultural and commercial life, and thus has developed during the nineteenth century a serious defect in Brazilian character. To secure government position, "to be clothed with a little brief authority," and secure a support for which very little service has to be rendered, men resort to all manner of intrigues.
We turn now to the red men of Brazil. While the same interest scarcely attaches to the aborigines of this country as has been generally manifested in the Incas of Peru or the Montezumas of Mexico, they form an important element in the study of the history of Brazil and the Brazilians. They are for the most part of a copper colour, of medium height, rather heavy set with muscular chests, thick, straight, black hair; black eyes and broad faces. In disposition they are generally apathetic and undemonstrative. The tribes arc not habitually and widely nomadic, nor can they be said to be permanently settled. Each tribe in a general way keeps within certain limits, unless driven out by a superior force. As the country is well watered and abounds in the plantain, banana, yam, mandioca root, a great variety of vegetable palm, etc., as well as great quantities of fish and game, they have never felt the necessity of that mental effort and exertion which tends to civilization. It is evident that they knew the use of fire for roasting, boiling and drying food before they knew the white man. They used fire also for making signals when hunting in the forests, and its use for warming the body was common. Their method of producing fire was by the friction of two pieces of wood.
Their moral and social characteristics show faint evidences of the existence of the family, marriage customs, etc. The most generally prevailing religious belief among them seems to be that there are three great or chief gods, the Sun, god of the animal kingdom; the Moon, god of the vegetable kingdom, and Ruda, god of love or of all reproduction. Besides these they have a multitude of subordinate and inferior gods for various purposes. Their burial custom of depositing at the grave the bow and arrow and vessels in which they prepare food, would indicate that they have some idea of immortality in the "happy hunting ground" of the future. The curious custom, observed in some tribes when a person dies, of hanging a certain number of his friends and relatives, as nearly as might be of his own age, in order that he might have suitable company in the next world, would also indicate this belief.
On the whole many of the aborigines of Brazil have been found warlike, ferocious, vengeful and bloodthirsty. It is stated that some of them were cannibals, and ate their enemies with great ceremony: some made war for the purpose of obtaining human food: while others ate their relatives as a mark of honour and distinguished consideration.
There was at first considerable friendliness between them and the whites, resulting in the introduction both of the arts of civilization and many vices hitherto unknown to the savages. Then followed efforts on the part of the Europeans to enslave them, resented by the chiefs and resulting in a series of the most cruel and bloody encounters that have ever taken place between civilized man and savage. The Jesuit missionaries did much to ameliorate this miserable and inhuman state of things. Through their efforts and the civilizing influences of the Europeans thousands have been gradually absorbed into the mixed population, and whole tribes have disappeared. It has been a process of absorption and extinction.
The importation of negroes to Brazil began in a general way with the arrival of the first white settlers. As early as 1548 we read of a certain garrison in Brazil which was composed of 90 Europeans and 30 slaves, some of whom were negroes. It is stated also that in 1516 a slave was offered for a hatchet. With the growth of the country in colonial times the importation of blacks constantly increased, and the slave trade continued until 1850. I have seen the statement accredited to a Brazilian author, that "it was considered cheaper on the farms to use up a slave in five or seven years and purchase another than to take care of him." When the slave-trade was abolished it is said that the selfish interest of taking better care of them was greatly increased. The number of blacks given in the census of 1872 was 1,954,452, or 19.68 per cent of the entire population. A Brazilian writer has said that the negroes form the most robust race of Brazil, and that a larger percentage of them preserve themselves pure from intermarriage than of either of the other races.
The features which differentiate them to-day from the North American negroes are doubtless due to the vast differences in the social, intellectual, and religious influences and conditions under which they have been living. They were so numerous in Bahia as early as 1690 that a traveller might have supposed himself in Negroland. They were brought from India and Africa and were preferred to the natives of Brazil, because they were stronger and more industrious, and were not so easily tempted to make their escape, being deterred by the savages around them. The priests have generally been considered the friends of the slaves, and their system of religion has accommodated itself with wonderful facility to the superstitious and idolatrous tendencies of the negroes, as well as of the red men. Our Lady of the Rosary,the peculiar patron saint of the blacks,is sometimes painted as a negress; but while it is true that the mass of the blacks have become Roman Catholics, or rather baptized pagans, yet many of them still follow the superstitions and fetichism of their African ancestors.
The condition of the blacks had its mitigations and ameliorations through the long period of gradual progress and improvement that characterized Brazilian civilization from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the final and complete emancipation of slavery in the year 1888. But their history in Brazil under its very best colouring is a rather dark picture. Since their liberation they have drifted largely from the plantations to the towns and villages, and many are killing themselves with drink. Their number is certainly not increasing rapidly if at all.
The official census taken in the year 1890 gave the following, whites 6,302,198; blacks 2,097,426; Indians 1,295,796, and mixed races 4,638,495. It is generally believed that thousands of quadroons, octoroons and other degrees of mixed bloods were classified as whites. It is not improbable therefore that a strictly correct report would very materially decrease the returns for the white column and increase that for the mixed. If we estimate the population at 17,000,000, at the close of the year 1900, I suppose a fairly correct estimate would be, whites 6,000,000, blacks 2,200,000, Indians 1,300,000, and mixed races 7,500,000. Of the Indians it is estimated that about 500,000 are partly civilized, leaving 800,000 yet in the wild or savage state. In a general way there is free intercourse and marriages are frequent between the whites, blacks and mixed races, and these occasionally intermarry with the domesticated Indians. They all mingle together under one government, enjoying much the same social and religious privileges, and are at peace so far as any colour or race distinctions are concerned. There are class distinctions in society, but they are governed more by wealth, position, and influence than by colour. With a limited few there exists a strong race prejudice, or perhaps I had better say a conviction that it is better for humanity that the races exist separate from each other. At any rate the amalgamation of these three races has been going on in Brazil for four hundred years under climatic, social and religious conditions not conducive to the development of the highest moral tone of character. The influences of priestcraft, the convent, slavery and other conditions have tended to give much seclusion to the family life, or rather to the female portion of the family. Some think, and it may be true in a measure, that this seclusion is traceable to the Moorish manners, relics of which have existed in Portugal and the colonies. The official statistics of 1890 show that 2,603,489 persons, or nearly one-sixth of the population at that time, were born out of wedlock. Certain Catholic institutions have an opening in the wall next to the street, with a kind of wheel arrangement where these illegitimate and abandoned babes may be deposited to be taken in and cared for by the Sisters of Charity. The official statistics above referred to show that 12,265 of the population living in the year 1890 belonged to this class.
It is painful to mention such facts as the above, but the Church of Christ must know the spiritual needs of this people. There are very many pleasant and delightful things to be said about the people in general, as there are many exceptions to these lamentable defects. They are generally warm-hearted, hospitable, and generous in their nature, and show great deference to the stranger who comes into their midst. After fifteen years' residence and labour among them it gives me very great pleasure to record the very cordial reception, hospitable entertainment and thousands of kind attentions I have received from all classes throughout the entire country. What opposition and violence I have suffered has been occasioned by my message of life and salvation, the Word of God. These noble elements of hospitality and generosity under gospel influences become prominent and potent in the development of Christian character. The Gospel is finding a fruitful soil in Brazil, and already the results show the development of some splendid Christian characters.
The moral and intellectual conditions are such that the Evangelical work must begin on the very lowest plane. There seems to be in the average Brazilian character as we see in most Latin countries an absence of the sense of sin. Immoralities are practiced without shame, falsehoods are perpetrated with the boldness of genuine veracity, and crimes are committed without fear of punishment. The three most prevalent forms of sin are mendacity, sensuality, and gambling. These are peculiar to no classes or grades of society, but are common everywhere: they are indulged in without shame or fear by persons in every grade of political, professional, commercial and social standing. So general is this insensibility that there is no public conscience to cry out against these evils: there seems to be no moral sentiment to be scandalized by these atrocities. Well may it be asked what has the Roman Catholic Church been doing in Brazil for these centuries? There can be no doubt that her false system and the corrupt lives of her priests have in a very large measure tended to plunge the Brazilian conscience into this awful abyss of spiritual blindness.
The first work of the Gospel and the missionary then in this country is to instruct the mind by undeceiving it, arouse the conscience from this dreadful apathy, enlighten the sensibilities, and teach men that they are living in sin and incurring the wrath of God day by day, though they may stand well in society and in high favour with the Church.
There has been accumulated in Brazil during the latter half of the nineteenth century a wealth of testimony to the fact that the Written Word of God, the Bible, is a most potent agency for awakening Brazilians out of their spiritual slumber, arousing them to a sense of their awful doom, and leading them to Jesus Christ, the only Mediator between God and man, the only Saviour of sinners.
A few further considerations of a rather his torical nature may be of interest to the reader, and serve to show how the Bible has been shut out from the Brazilians by the Roman Church, and also how the even small efforts made by Protestants to circulate it have been opposed by the priests.
The Holy Scriptures were opened and read on an island in the bay of Rio de Janeiro by French Huguenots in the year 1555. About a year later at the solicitation of Coligny, who has been termed the patron of this colonization enterprise, and at the request of the Genevan clergy, Philippe de Carguilleray took charge of the reenforcements for the colony, and Calvin with his elders in convocation appointed two preachers to this mission. On their arrival a room was prepared and one of the ministers preached that day. Orders were given that they should have prayers every evening after work was done, and that one sermon be preached every week day and two on Sunday. Doubtless the colony was well supplied with copies of Lefevre's New Testament, which at that time was being circulated in France by the thousands.
In 1553, seven Jesuits had been sent out to Brazil to strengthen and extend the work of the Roman Catholic Church, and Loyola, recognizing the importance of their mission, delegated new powers to Nobrega, who was already in charge. This mission was full of that hostility of the Roman Church which sought so vigorously, in Europe, to suppress the Reformation. In the uncultivated soil of the New World it found favourable conditions for the growth and full development of the traditional features of the Council of Trent, so recently enacted in 1546, whose decrees taught that the Christian faith was contained partly in the Holy Scriptures and partly in the traditions of the Church, declared the authenticity of the Latin Vulgate, forbade all private interpretation of it, and ordered that no copies be printed or circulated without authority, under penalty of fine and anathema.
Through the treachery of Villegagnon, these Jesuits soon obliterated, in a most brutal manner, the Huguenot colony, and furnished a striking example of what was desired to be done in all the world with those who dared to assert the authority of the Holy Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice, and to teach and practice the same. Under the influence of those decrees, virtually prohibiting the circulation and the reading of the Scriptures, and establishing the authority of the traditions as containing the Christian faith, began a juggling with the credulity of mankind which has led to the invention and multiplication of fables and legends as monstrous as the wildest fictions of romance.
Robert Southey, in speaking of how the monastic orders vied with each other, wrote: "It would be impossible to say which order has exceeded the other in Europe in this rivalry, each having carried the audacity of falsehood to its utmost bounds: but in Brazil the Jesuits bore the palm."
Of the seven Jesuits sent out in 1553 one was Anchieta, who became their leader, and about whom the greatest number of legends and fables were invented. He has been styled by some "the Thaumaturgus of the New World," being the head of all the inhabitants and having authority over the elements and animals of America as the first Adam had in Paradise. He was also called the Vice Christ, and belief in his miracle-working virtues was carried to such an extent that after his death water that had been poured over one of his bones is said to have worked more than twelve hundred miracles, and that a few drops of it turned water into wine. One of the censors of the press at Lisbon said, that, "so long as the publication of the book in which these assertions are made is delayed, so long will the faithful be deprived of great benefit and God himself of glory." This Anchieta was a leading spirit in the destruction of the Protestant colony and in putting an end to that early effort to introduce the Bible into Brazil. He thus sowed the seed of bitter opposition to the Bible which has produced during these centuries such a widespread rejection of the revealed Will of God, and a consequent harvest of absurd traditions, superstitions and ignorance in matters of religion. Southey, writing in 1810 of the extravagances to which these superstitions were carried in Brazil, says, "Let the Roman Church appeal to its canons and its councils as it may, its practices were those of polytheism and idolatry." Romanism has had an almost undisturbed career of nearly another hundred years in this country since the above statement was made, and a study of the situation to-day abundantly justifies the declaration that its practices are polytheistic and idolatrous. These are the legitimate and inevitable results of that prohibition it has placed upon the reading of the Bible. It has never made an attempt to give the people of this country the Word of God, but on the contrary has constantly and most violently opposed and persecuted all efforts made by the Bible Society to circulate the Scriptures. It is a significant fact that the Bible was not enumerated among the books that might be admitted into Brazil while this country was under the dominion of Portugal.
In Protestant countries the pulpit is constantly exhorting the people to the duty of reading the Scriptures: here in Brazil the missionary has to begin by persuading the people that they have even a right to read the Bible. Pascal has said: "Mahomet established his authority in a prohibition to read, and Jesus Christ His in a command to read." The Pope of Rome has established his authority over the Brazilian conscience by prohibiting the Bible, Jesus Christ now comes to deliver the nation and establish His authority over their souls by commanding them to search the Scriptures which testify of Him.