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In The Heart of the Temple
by Colonel Edward H. Joy

This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
'Our Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The Salvation Army

In the course of an association which lasted many years I gathered more than one old-time Army story from a certain comrade, now in the Glory-Land, who from the first day of his Officership until the day of his death retained a high enthusiasm for the things of God, and never went back on his dedication to the purposes of The Army.  The following is a story with which he regaled a company of us at a lunch-table half-hour in his officer.  I will try to set it down pretty much as he then told it.

He had not long been in India, whither he went in the earlier days of our work there, before he had acquired such a knowledge of the local language as to be known far and wide as the ‘White Tamil’.  He had been sent by his leaders to reconnoiter one of the largest cities of the South-West of India and to report on possibilities for Army work there.  This city is famous for its ancient Rock Temple, a place of heathen worship hidden in the recesses of the rocky hill on the confines of the town.  A place regarded as one of the most sacred shrines of the country, and therefore severely forbidden to any of a differing faith. 

He was accompanied by a native Army comrade, and the two had spent their time selling ‘War Crys’ and speaking to the people in the bazaar, and so attracting great crowds, who listened eagerly and responsively to their preaching.  My friend’s knowledge of the language and customs and religions of India (of which he had made a thoughtful study) greatly impressed his audiences, - that an Englishman should be so obviously educated in them.

Towards mid-day, however, being tired with their exertions, and anxious to escape from the throng, and find a place where could take their simple meal away from the gaze of the populace, they found themselves, quite without intention, at the outskirts of the city and at the foot of an inviting hillside path.  Never knowing that it led to the forbidden sacred spot, and that it was only trodden by devout followers of the Hindu religion, they began the climb.

Those who saw them evidently did not recognize as the preachers who had been in the city; neither was there much to distinguish them from the ordinary worships in the temple above.  They were wearing the usual Indian Salvation Army uniform, turban, dhoti, and sandals.  The colour of their faces did not call for remark, for among the darker coloured Indians of the South a man of a fairer countenance is often taken for a visitor from the North, - and y friend was of a decidedly dark complexion.  So he and his native colleague continued in their peaceful way up the Temple slope, and found a place for their meal.

This finished they essayed a further climb, and eventually arrived at a turn in the road where saw a white-bearded native.  He invited them to continue their walk beyond the barrier of which he was the obvious guardian.  Thinking no wrong they went on, finding that for several yards the road was hewn out of the solid rock, and then that it led into a series of galleries, which, finally, brought them to the inner Holy of Holies of this famous heathen shrine.

The two young fellows continued their way, past the dancing-girls in their horrible quarters, the idol-makers at their tasks – making relics for the pilgrims, and the numerous attendants engaged in their various temple duties.  With others they went forward, not knowing now what else to do, but gravely aware of their danger, and presently found themselves face to face with the immense images of the great god Deva and his equally famous spouse, Devee.  The priest in charge himself came forward to give them welcome. 

They were aware they were in a place where they were never expected, and in a position of the gravest danger.  Their aimless wandering up the hill side path had brought them hither, but how to return they knew not.  It was not long before they became aware that, in some way or other, they had become the objects of suspicion.  My friend saw he had been recognized as a white man, and hateful and excited glances began to meet them at every turn.  A false move on their part might let forth an avalanche of fury.  It came when they refused to make the expected offering of all pilgrims to the shrine. 

There was a loud shout of ‘Christians!  Christians!”  Yells, shrieks, shouts, curses rose on the air, and the rushing of attendants and worshippers and the excited commands of the priests made them feel that the hour of death was perilously near.  They were in the dark recesses of the inner temple, and not a friend at hand.  If they disappeared they would never be traced.  Conscious, however, that they were unwilling trespassers they could do nothing else than commit themselves to God’s gracious care.

The rioting continued, indeed, it increased, and they were as two hunted animals.  Fortunately, however, the Englishman kept his presence of mind, and remembered some of his bearings.  He saw one of the attendants rushing across the floor, and heard him calling, “Shut the gates!  Shut the gates!”

Realising this was a plan to shut off their way of escape, he clutched at his comrade, just managed to elude the attendant and pass the gates before they clanged together.

But there remained the intricacies of the passages to be traversed.  Trusting to God to lead them aright they raced on, with the yelling crowd at their heels, who had only been restrained for a few moments by the temporary shutting of the gates.  The whole temple was now alive to the desecration of the shrine.

Quick as was the mob, our comrades were quicker, and the Captain’s knowledge of Tamil stood him in good stead, for the keepers of each gate instantly swung open all barriers at his imperiously worded command.

Eventually, they emerged into the open, and, with not too much show of a hurry because of ascending pilgrims, they descended the path and came to the town.  But soon the city was in an uproar, the streets were crowded with a searching mob.  Unobtrusively the Salvationists made their way to their lodgings, and by God’s mercy were received by their host, who, being a Mohammedan, had no sympathy with the people who temple had been invaded.  Indeed, he was inclined to treat the whole affair as a huge joke.

Not so later on, when the Chief of the Police took the matter in hand, and in order to pacify the excited populace arrived at the hostel and demanded our two friends be handed over to him.  Here, too, good fortune was on their side, for the magistrate before whom they were brought was also a Mohammedan, and inclined to give full regard to the Salvationists’ plea that they were not guilty of a deliberate offence, and that His Worship dare not in that circumstance detain or sentence one of Her Majesty’s British subjects.

In giving evidence the priest of the temple, a very high dignitary, expressed his horror of the Christians’ presence in the Holy Place.  “Why,” he said, “the Prince of Wales himself offered me a great sum to be allowed to enter, but I refused him.  Yet these men have both seen it and defiled it!”

The magistrate’s refusal to convict our friends did not do much to allay the excitement, and it was only by strategy the police managed to smuggle them out of the city, taking them by a back way to the railway station and seeing them off on the night train. 

Grateful for his escape, and conscious that it was in answer to his fervent prayers, the Captain gave himself to the cause of the Indian people with an abandon which characterized all his service, and should be counted among those who laid the foundations of The Army in that land.  I remember, however, that his humour added the final touch to this exciting story: “I never prayed more movingly than I did when I was racing along those temple passages with the yelling crowd at my heels!”








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