São Paulo


THE State of São Paulo is about ninety-five leagues wide from north to south and 170 from east to west, and has an area of 299,876 square kilometers. The greater part of it is elevated, but not mountainous except in the southeast. The climate is in general temperate and agreeable, and, except in the lowlands near the seacoast very healthy. The soil is rich and productive and besides an excellent quality of native timbers, produces many European plants, but the great agricultural products are coffee, sugar, cotton, tea, rice and corn. Cattle, horses, mules and swine form important items in the trade of the State. Minerals of various kinds exist in different sections, though the mining interests are not well developed. Except Rio de Janeiro, this is the best served with railroads of any Stat in the Republic. The finest railway in the country is that under English management, running from Santos on the seacoast to Jundiahy through the city of São Paulo. At this point it connects with the Paulista, going on to Campinas, and the interior.

In many respects this is the most advanced State in the Republic; and while much of this advancement is due to natural conditions the character of the early settlers has had great influence. The Paulistas, as they are known, are descended from European colonists. These early inhabitants were bold, enterprising adventurers who thought no hardship or toil too great to be endured in their search for gold and slaves and later generations have inherited something of this spirit. The early educational efforts of the Jesuits have also been a factor in the development of the people.

The first college in Brazil was established in 1583 by Nobrega, the chief of the Jesuits, on the plains of Piratininga. As the first mass was celebrated on the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, they gave the college his name. The spot has become famous in Brazilian history, and both the city and the State have the name of São Paulo. One of the first teachers was the famous Anchieta, who taught the savages Latin, and learned from them their language. As there were no books he wrote for each one his lesson on a separate sheet. He composed a vocabulary and a grammar of the dialect of these natives, parodied into hymns in Portuguese many of their profane songs, and devised terms for teaching them the principles of the Catholic faith. Had the basal principles of this remarkable and heroic teacher been chosen in accord with the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, the intellectual, moral and religious condition of Brazil to-day would doubtless be vastly better than it is. There can be no doubt, however, that this early movement exercised a most beneficial influence over the social system of Brazil, especially in the life and character of the Paulistas.

The capital of the State, distant from Rio by rail about 300 miles, may also be reached by taking steamer down the coast to Santos and from there by rail. On an October morning of 1890 in company with a Presbyterian missionary, the Rev. J. B. Rodgers, now in Manila, and a colporteur, Sr. André Cayret, I started on the coast trip. To save time we took train to Santa Cruz on the Central and then went across the country on a small tram car to the seacoast where we anticipated catching a steam launch which would land us at the village of Mangaritiba in time for the coasting steamer. We were, however just one hour too late, and after a short time spent in Bible work among the fishermen at that village, we engaged a canoe to take us to Mangaritiba, on the chance of finding the steamer. For an hour and a half we made good speed; then a calm set in and our men had to take the oars, a novel and not especially pleasing ocean experience. We had failed to supply ourselves with provisions after breakfasting at 10:30 and were not prepared to appreciate the disappointment when at eight o'clock at night, after seven hours of tossing on the waves, we landed and were informed that there was nothing like a hotel in the village, and that no one could furnish us anything to eat at that hour of the night. After considerable effort we succeeded in obtaining permission from one of the fishermen to occupy a small room in his mudhut. The only thing in the shape of a bed in the room was half a dozen poles placed upon a piece of wood stuck into the wall and resting in a fork driven into the ground, the mattress being a kind of mat made of coarse grass and reeds plaited together, and the covering a thin spread. One of us took the bed, and the other two tried to sleep on a similar mat spread on the very uneven dirt floor. It was hard work, but the next morning we ate heartily of a breakfast prepared by the fisherman's wife, sold quite a number of Scriptures in the village, and engaged boatmen to take us on down the coast to the town of Angra dos Reis, as our steamer had gone. At 9:30 A. M. we rowed out to sea and from then until 6 P. M. we were tossed about by the heavy swells. The colporteur suggested singing as a remedy for sea-sickness; we got out our Portuguese hymn books and did our best for awhile, and there seemed for a little to be some virtue in the remedy, but at last it was of no avail. Whether the difficulty was in the inefficiency of the remedy or in our ability to keep up the singing, I leave the reader to say.

We spent five days in the town of Angra dos Reis where we made good sales of Scriptures and preached several times to audiences of 400 or 500 persons in the theatre. From there we ran down by steamer to the town of Ubatuba, with a population of a few thousands and found a very interesting congregation of about seventy-five members who had bought a house and modelled it into a church. A Bible had been left there on a colporteur's visit; someone became interested in reading it; he heard of a missionary who was being persecuted and driven out of a town not far away, sent for him to come and preach in his town, was converted and opened his house for worship. By and by a church was organized and truly it might have been designated as the "church that was in Faustino's house." We visited two members, who were respectively ninety and eighty-three years of age. They had enjoyed the knowledge of the Gospel only a few years, but were full of joy and hope. On entering the house of the jailer, one of the first things to greet my eyes was his Bible, hymn book, and other religious works in the oratory where once he had kept the images that he so devoutly worshipped. The Bible entered and drove out the idols.

On another occasion I made the voyage from Rio to Santos and began work from that point. In recent years, this has become a very important port and at several different times there has been tentative evangelical work. Now there is a movement which promises to be more lasting. I was warmly welcomed by Mr. William Porter, manager of the coffee house of Hard, Rand & Co., and comfortably entertained by him and his Christian family. If all American business men and their families residing abroad were devoted servants of God, they would be a mighty influence and an incalculable blessing to the missionaries and their work. I preached in their house and he opened his offices in the city where I preached in Portuguese to a goodly number of Brazilians. A small contribution box kept in the family was opened on Sunday and their offering, amounting to about ten dollars, was given to me for the Bible work. The city is noted for its wickedness and religious indifference, and my friends thought I had a zeal without knowledge when they saw the size of the box of Scriptures I was confidently expecting to dispose of during my short stay. I sold thirty-six copies one day, eight copies in about two hours another morning, and so on until my supply was all gone. During these years our colporteurs have frequently visited Santos and have generally sold a number of Bibles. The seed has been sown and we shall hope to see some day a large harvest of souls gathered from that field.

After leaving Santos the railroad runs over a swampy and almost unpopulated country for a distance of thirteen and a half miles to the foot of the Serra, then climbs a deep mountain gorge, ascending 2,600 feet in five miles, by means of four stationary engines, placed at intervals of a mile and a quarter. The scenery is majestic and wild, one ravine more gloomy than the rest, being called the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell).

At the time of my first visit the city of São Paulo had a population of about 65,000 The increase for the last ten years has been phenomenal and the census of 1900 gives the entire municipality a population of more than 250,000. Modern improvements, enterprise, and educational developments have in a measure kept pace with the growth of the population and made it more like a modern European or American city than any city in Brazil. The city has always played an important and leading part in the history and development of the country, and the Paulistas have always been among the most prominent of Brazil's leading statesmen, educators, agriculturists, and merchants. They are sociable, intelligent, and more kindly disposed toward the investment and development of foreign capital and enterprise than the people have been in other sections of the country. Foreigners have not been slow to recognize the natural resources and advantages possessed by this province. They have generally been kindly received and their influence has done much socially, commercially and politically for the advancement of the people. Protestant missionaries have been less kindly welcomed than any others; but the value of their work is now being appreciated and the Protestant element is becoming a recognized and highly appreciated factor in the intellectual and religious life of the people.

The early missionaries recognized the advantages offered for establishing their cause in this centre; and their work has prospered from the beginning. The most thoroughly equipped Protestant educational institution in the Republic is the American school and McKenzie College of the Presbyterian Church, with a charter from the University of New York, presided over by Dr. Horace Lane. The native self-supporting churches have reached a very gratifying degree of development from this point and are spreading the Gospel throughout the State. Some of the more important centres being Campinas, Piracicaba and Botucatú. The Methodists have likewise a prosperous congregation, but for lack of a proper church building, their growth is being greatly retarded. The Baptists have more recently begun work also in the city. These all take an active part in Bible distribution. This is the most highly favoured of all the States as regards the distribution of Christian forces, having by far the largest number of missionaries and native workers, and being the centre of more educational work than has yet been done in any other State. All these labourers have during these years most heartily cooperated with the Bible agent and colporteurs, have followed up the fields sown by them, gathering up the fruits, and bearing witness to the value of Bible distribution and the power of the Written Word to enlighten and lead souls to Christ.

The editor of one of the Missionary journals in the United States not long since wrote: "Among the many evidences of direct divine interposition in the evangelization of Brazil, there are none more noticeable than the almost miraculous results attending the simple reading of the Bible, without note or comment. There are scores of cases on record of individuals converted by the perusal of copies of the Scriptures which had come into their possession, and several of our important churches had their origin in the conversion of individuals by the unaided study of the Bible and their subsequent reading of the same to their relatives and neighbours, until whole neighbourhoods had accepted the Gospel before ever hearing or seeing a Protestant preacher."

The following is a case in point, similar to many others which have from time to time appeared in our missionary magazines:

A member of the church in São Paulo had a brother who was a seller of lottery tickets and annually canvassed large sections of the country on horseback, going from house to house with his wares. Before he started out on one of his journeys, his sister, with a prayer for God's blessing, put a copy of the Bible in his saddlebags. It remained unnoticed for some time until, being storm-stayed for some days at a plantation-house he brought it out, and as a matter of curiosity showed it to his hostess. As soon as the lady had glanced over its pages she became deeply interested in it, and said, " Why, this is just the book that I have been longing for for years." She not only read it eagerly herself, but kept calling the attention of other members of the family to passages which she thought especially beautiful or important. Finally she began to ask the owner for some explanation. He, however, replied that he did not belong to that religion, and did not pretend to understand it, but that his sister who had given him the Bible did. "Then I will send at once for your sister to come and teach us about this new religion," she replied, and accordingly addressed a letter to the sister urging her to come and explain to them this new and strange book, signing herself, "Your sister in the Gospel."

The lady went as was requested, and upon her arrival was delighted and embarrassed to find more than sixty people gathered in the large dining-room of the plantation-house to hear her explain the Gospel. She did the best she could for two or three nights, and then wrote to her pastor that he must come at once or send some one to preach to the people. A young native preacher was sent, and he conducted services for several successive nights with large and most attentive audiences. The result was the organization of a Presbyterian church, which now bears the name of Itatiba, and numbers fifty communicants. The young man who introduced the Bible into that community also became converted, and he has been for years a most faithful and successful colporteur, selling hundreds of Bibles and penetrating in many cases far into the interior where no minister or missionary has ever been.

Little nuclei of Christian believers have thus been established all over the country, in the most unexpected places, and naturally without any reference to the location of the organized churches or settled pastors.

The wife of a missionary writes thus of what one copy of the New Testament accomplished: "Some years ago, Rangel visited Santa Cruz do Rio Pardo, but found no one desirous of possessing the Word of God. After much persuasion he induced one woman to buy a New Testament. He offered some tracts to the husband, who would have refused, but the wife urged him to take them, so as not to seem rude. This woman after a few months, found the Saviour, but the man continued indifferent, refusing to read the Bible. One day, as she was sitting in her hammock, reading her Testament, her husband came and sat down by her. She read aloud for awhile, and then, saying that she must go to see about something, handed him the book. She went to her room, and remained there, pleading for his conversion, while he continued reading for several hours, declaring as he closed the book, that he was convinced, and, as his after life showed, converted.

"This man—a self-taught physician—had, on account of his intelligence, good judgment, and pleasing manners, long been one of the most influential men of the community. After his conversion, whenever called to visit a sick person, he would, before inquiring into the symptoms, first read a chapter of the Bible, saying that it was important to cure the soul before doing anything for the body, and that Christ was the great physician of the body, as well as of the soul. Since following his system he has had remarkable success in the treatment of all kinds of disease.

"The daily testimony of this man and his wife, together with their earnest efforts to spread the knowledge of the Gospel, resulted in the establishment of a church, of which the first thirty-nine members were gathered within two years. In 1889, the membership was seventy-one. In one trip through the district in which this church lies, Sr. Braga received fifty-eight persons into communion."

As the reader may readily infer, the work in this State, while it has been blessed with such a marked degree of success, has likewise suffered much opposition and persecution. While Catholic prelates in Baltimore in 1884 recommended that the Holy Bible should have a conspicuous place in every family library, and be frequently and lovingly read, and Roman Catholic authorities in China and Japan are doing something to provide the New Testament for their adherents, in Brazil they burn the Bible as if it were a breeder of pestilence. There is now in the possession of the Bible Society a remnant of a Portuguese Bible literally snatched from the flames into which it had been cast in Batataes, São Paulo, by order of a Roman Catholic priest and rescued by the Society's colporteur, who had sold it to a man only a few days before. The interesting fact is that while this burning of Bibles is frequent, it invariably leads to a larger demand and increased sales. In illustration of the truth of this an interesting work has since sprung up in that very town of Batataes. The colporteur has several times visited the place and sold considerable numbers of Scriptures and the missionary and native worker stationed there have also from time to time disposed of a number of copies.

A few years ago one of our colporteurs was sent from Rio de Janeiro by rail to begin work as soon as he entered the State of São Paulo. The first place visited was Cruzeiro, the station on the Central railway, whence begins the railroad running through southern Minas Geraes. The people living immediately around the station number only a few hundred: but the town of Cruzeiro a short distance away numbers a few thousands. From there the colporteur wrote: "On Monday I sold ten Bibles, four Testaments, and five Gospels more than on Saturday. The priest has torn up five Bibles and four Testaments. The street was perfectly white with the leaves of the Word of God. He said much against me, but I went and offered him a Bible and he was very angry, saying, I was a false man. I told him he was a Pharisee, deceiving the people, and that God was waiting to bring him to judgment for the way he had torn up His Word. He said he was ready to give account for what he had done, and meant to search for others that he might destroy them also. Many of them he cannot get as the men have taken them home to their farms.

About seven years later I sent another colporteur, Manoel P. de Lacerda, to go over the same ground. He was blessed with very large sales, and wrote frequently of the readiness with which many purchased the Scriptures, and even spoke of the eagerness of some to read the Bible in this section where the priest had torn up so many only a few years ago. From the next station on the railroad, he made visits to a number of neighbourhoods round about, and found some persons who had been reading the Bibles sold by the former colporteur. The priest did not destroy them all; and those remaining were bearing fruit in the enlightenment and salvation of souls. Sr. Lacerda, recently visiting that section wrote: "As regards my work here (in the State of São Paulo) I am more satisfied, for I see every day the love of God being manifested in many ways. I was on a small farm near Cachoeira and there I met a young man who was an enemy to the Gospel, and who said the Protestants were false and enemies of God. I spoke to him openly of Jesus Christ and His love, of His doctrine and will, and of our obligation to Him. After a long time he showed that he was becoming interested, but insisted that he had the true Holy Scriptures. He finally sent to get it from a person to whom he had lent it; and what was my surprise when I opened the book and showed him that it was not the word of God. It was a little book written by the Sellician priests, who are the Jesuit Inquisitors under another mask. After further conversation he said to me that he was convinced that the Bible is the Word of God, and that the Protestants are right. He bought a Bible, as did also another young man who had heard the conversation.

These statements show that it is not without much effort that the Scriptures are sold in Brazil. Many have to be persuaded that they have even a right to read the Word of God; others have to be convinced that the little Catholic books they have are not the inspired Holy Scriptures, and with nearly all we have to labour hard and long to prove to them that our Bible is not false, but that it is genuine, the true and revealed word of God. The work of a colporteur is by no means a light and easy task. To do successful work one needs to be well instructed in the Holy Scriptures and in the arguments necessary to refute such objections and opposition as we meet with constantly: and he must likewise be a man of strong faith and earnest prayer, a man of courage and consecration.

When I first went to São Paulo, my attention was attracted to the large numbers of Italian immigrants to be seen on every hand. They were already coming in considerable numbers to the State even before the emancipation of the slaves: but after the emancipation act, the coffee planters contracted for them in much larger numbers. They had been arriving in Brazil at the rate of 10,000 or 12,000 annually, and the year of the emancipation 104,000 came: in the year 1891 more than 132,000 were admitted. Within the last twenty years about 1,000,000 Italian immigrants have entered Brazil, and the great majority of them have located in the State of São Paulo, proving valuable substitutes for the slaves who when freed began at once to leave the plantations and drift to the towns and villages.

In our colportage work we have given special attention to the distribution of Scriptures among these people in their own language; and our efforts have been fruitful of good results: many of them have been converted and a few valuable workers have risen up among them.

At the time my attention was first directed to them, I had a most interesting visit and work at the immigrant station, where were one thousand and eighty-three Italians, just from the ships. I went to the station-house in company with Sr. João Bernini, our colporteur in São Paulo, himself an Italian. The people were drawn to him at once by the fact that he could speak their language, and he doubtless had a peculiar interest in them because they were his own fellow-countrymen. The meeting and the manner of his address to them were deeply interesting to me. I knew nothing of their tongue, and could do little else than pray while he talked to them out of the Scriptures. Many of them became interested, and those who had money bought copies of the Scriptures; to those who had no money we gave copies. Near by the station is a police post. Just as soon as the people began to collect around us, three policemen came up to know what we were doing. I apprehended they were going to interfere with us and while Sr. Bernini continued talking to the Italians, I undertook to explain to the policemen our business. I showed them copies of the Scriptures in their tongue. Two of the three became interested and bought copies. Very soon they returned to their house and continued reading, gathering around them some of their own people who knew the Portuguese language. During the time we were there one family came up, in which only a bright-eyed little girl of about eleven years could read. They were very poor, but seemed anxious to learn more of the Gospel. We gave the little girl a copy of the Scriptures, and told her to read it to her parents. A similar case was one in which only a boy of twelve years could read; his mother gave him money, and he bought a copy. The last I saw of these the girl and boy were reading to their parents and others who had gathered around them.

Some of the fruits of this sowing have already been gathered into the Protestant churches scattered over the State while some have gone back to Italy carrying the knowledge of the truth with them. The Italians are still coming into Sao Paulo in large numbers annually, and might give the State great trouble should there be an occasion for their uprising. At present they are industrious and seemingly quite contented. We distributed thousands of Scriptures among them in their native language, some of our colporteurs in ordering Scriptures, asking for as many in Italian as in Portuguese.

The city of São Paulo has become a dumping ground for the Jesuits expelled from the Philippines and Cuba. The monasteries and churches are full of them, and more are continually arriving. The newcomers are terrible fanatics, and are a real menace to the nation. Their influence is seen in the following from one of the colporteurs: " I am sending you another small order for books. The padres are making a very active contrapropaganda here, and doing all in their power to keep the people from buying the Word. It is only lately that we have met with such tremendous opposition, as though the padres had all been specially advised to warn the people. The lines are getting more finely drawn every day, and it is interesting to follow the rapid developments. The anarchists also, of whom there are very many here, are busy with their propaganda. We meet them everywhere, and they are nearly always rank atheists, thinking that all religion is as foul and false as the Roman Catholic. However, the Lord is still with us in the distribution of the Word and in testimony to its saving power." On the other hand a Christian lawyer in the city has recently become deeply concerned about the circulation of the Scriptures among his people, and has opened a small book store at his own expense with a view to the sale of Bible and Testaments.

Fairly systematic and regular canvassing is carried on in most of the towns and villages and country settlements, but still there are many districts remote from railroads and main thoroughfares where little or nothing has been done. In the western part of the State there is an almost unexplored region inhabited by wild tribes of Indians. As yet there has been no opportunity for an effort to give them the Written Word. These red men, so near, will furnish a magnificent field for the zeal and enterprise of the native church which is developing so rapidly into a self-supporting and self-propagating institution.

We recognize the many advantages the Bible work derives from the enlightenment and education of the Paulistas, but it is abundantly evident the Bible itself has helped to produce these favourable conditions. We must bear in mind also that by no means has all opposition disappeared. The Roman Catholic Church and priesthood are just as persistent in their efforts as they have ever been to prevent the circulation of the Written Word of God. The more enlightened and liberalized condition of the people may prevent them from much physical violence, but their denunciations of us and our work, and their threats to excommunicate all who read the Bible, are in a measure more bitter. Fondness for outward show is unquestionably a prominent Brazilian characteristic. It is marvellous how much they are influenced in matters of dress, social customs and religious practices by those things that make brilliant and great displays before the eye. This has been utilized by the clergy to entice the masses to their churches, and to dissuade them from buying and reading the Bible, by giving prominence to repeated popular festivals, processions, pilgrimages, and gatherings where crowds, ritualistic performances, and the like could not fail to impress the people.

In this connection mention should be made of a translation of the Book of Psalms into the choicest Portuguese language, preserving the blank verse style of the original, by a talented Brazilian scholar, Sr. Saraiva, an ex-priest, who was for several years professor in the McKenzie College at São Paulo. We anticipate a large circulation of this little book. It is a notable fact that the spirit of praise is wanting in the Roman Catholic worship. Doubtless this book of Psalms will do much to show the people the spirit of real devotion and praise. It will be another of the uplifting influences that have emanated from the city of São Paulo to be felt throughout the entire country.