COUNTING THE COST
GHULAM was overjoyed at the result of the discussion between the maulavi and Mr. Williams, and he seized the first opportunity to discuss the whole matter with his chum Emarat. The latter had now to reluctantly admit that the maulavi had failed to establish his case, and, as the two friends sat together in Ghulam’s room two evenings later, they talked long and earnestly of what their future course should be. Ghulam had brought with him from Dhanpur, not only his Bible, but also a Bengali translation of The Qur'an, and these he now produced for the inspection of his friend. Emarat was eager to inspect the latter, but Ghulam invited his attention, first of all, to the Injil, and especially to a number of passages which had forced themselves upon his attention during his recent study of that book. First of all he showed his friend the passages which had so impressed him on the night of his departure from Dhanpur.
‘See here’ he said, as he opened the Scripture ‘this book, which has now been vindicated as the uncorrupted word of God, clearly states that the Prophet 'Isa was ordained by God to be the Saviour of the world. Moreover I find that God Himself gave the same Prophet the title ‘Son of God’, and that it was not an impious creation of the Christians as some of our maulavis teach. Then, too, I find that the Prophet ‘Isa announced, over and over again, in the clearest language, that He had been sent into the world to save men from their sins. So long as the integrity of the text of the Injil was in doubt, I could not, of course, accept all these statements as true, but now that I know the Injil is the same to-day as it was in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, I can no longer dare to disregard those claims. For example, look here,’ he continued, as he opened the Injil at the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel by John, ‘in this verse the Prophet ‘Isa says clearly; ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh unto the Father, but by me’. How, then, dare we any longer close our eyes to such claims, which exclude Muhammad and every other prophet from exercising the functions of Saviour; indeed, so far as I can see, no other prophet has ever made such claims. Where, for example, does Muhammad, or any one else, make such claims as are involved in these words of the Lord Jesus; ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ 37 I have not yet read the Qur'an right through from beginning to end, but I must confess that, so far as I have gone, the Prophet Muhammad never claims for himself the power to save sinners; on the contrary, I have already found several passages, such as Qur’an Ghafir (al-Mu'min) 40:55, in which he is commanded to ask pardon for his sins. Again it is clear to me that there are several mistakes in the Qur'an,. and these have greatly puzzled me. For example, Maulavi Ibrahim quoted a passage from the Qur'an the other day which, he said, meant that the Prophet ‘Isa did not die on the cross, but was taken up alive into heaven. But the Injil states clearly, not once, but over and over again, that He did die, and afterwards rose again from the dead. I must confess that the latter seems to me to be the more probable, even if we were not sure of the inerrancy of the Injil, because I find that the Taurat and Zabur, contain several prophecies of the death of the Messiah. It is certain that those prophecies were not inserted by wicked Christians in order to bolster up a pretended death of Christ, because those books are, and always have been, in the hands of the Jews, who do not believe on the Prophet ‘Isa; and yet those prophecies are found in their copies of the Taurat and Zabur, just as they are found in the copies in the hands of Christians. I remember, moreover, that one day when the missionary was speaking to me on this matter, he told me that the death of Christ on the cross was clearly mentioned in Roman history, that is in the history of those times written by men who were not Christians, and who had no object whatever in asserting what was not true. Besides, I cannot get out of my head the words of the munshi about sacrifice and atonement. He, one night, showed me very clearly that the animal sacrifices of the Taurat were simply types of the great sacrifice for the sins of the world which was to be made by the Messiah. To tell the truth, I never could understand the meaning or the value of our animal sacrifices; for it never seemed reasonable to me that the blood of a cow or a goat should take away our sins. Man is of more value than a cow, and you might as well expect to satisfy a rupee debt by payment of a pice 38 as to expect the debt of a man’s sins to be paid by the blood of an inferior animal. The case is quite altered, however, when a great Prophet, whom the Injil calls the ‘Son of God’, and whom the Qur'an calls the ‘Word of God’ and ‘Spirit of God’, gives his sinless life as an atonement for sin. Indeed, I one day noticed, when I was reading the Injil, that the Prophet ‘Isa distinctly asserted that he had come into the world in order to make an atonement for the sins of men. Here is the passage in the twentieth chapter of Matthew's Gospel, ‘Even as the son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’ 39 I have noticed many other passages in the Injil which show clearly that the atoning death of the Prophet ‘Isa on the cross is the one means of salvation for sinful men, and I have no longer any doubt that Jesus Christ is, as the Injil so clearly states, the only Saviour of the world. I dare no longer hide this belief, for what are the fleeting pleasures of the world compared with the great gift of eternal life! and I intend, before returning to Dhanpur to acquaint my father with my decision to become a Christian.’
There was silence for a moment, and then Emarat, with a voice that shook with emotion, turned to his friend, Ghulam and said: ‘Have you counted the cost? Think what your baptism will mean. You will not only be disgraced, but disinherited as well, and all your bright prospects will be ruined. Can't you be a Christian in your heart, and remain outwardly at least, a Muslim? I cannot ask you to do more than that, for I, too, am beginning to think Christianity must be true; but I am far from taking such a decisive step as baptism. My advice to you is to conceal your real faith for the present. Complete your education first, and, then, when your father dies—and remember that he is no longer young—and you inherit his wealth, it will be easy for you to embrace Christianity.’
‘I have already counted the cost’, replied the young student, ‘I counted it last night in my room, and this Bible helped me to a decision, for this is what God said to me through its pages, “What shall a man be profited if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?”. 40 As I pondered over these words of the Prophet 'Isa I met another verse which read, “Seek ye first his (God's) kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you;” 41 then, as if these two passages of the Injil were not enough, I met, as I turned over its pages this solemn warning of the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” 42 No, Emarat, I dare not do as you say. Suppose I should not live to complete my education or to inherit my father's wealth! Death is no respecter of persons, and, only the other day, one of the brightest students in my class in Dhanpur was suddenly taken ill with cholera, and died within four hours. Who knows that it will not be my turn next! Besides, when I think of what the Prophet suffered for me upon the cross, I would be ungrateful indeed, and unworthy of His love, did I refuse to suffer the loss of earthly goods for His sake. No, dear friend, I have counted the cost, and I believe God will give me grace to bear with patience whatever trials and afflictions may come to me.’
‘Well Ghulam’, returned his friend, ‘I can say no more. You know as well as I what awaits you if you announce yourself a Christian. I could almost wish myself with you in this matter, but I dare not. I have not enough of the martyr spirit, even if I were quite sure that Islam were false and Christianity true, to enable me to take such a stand; but if ever you need help in the difficulties which are bound to meet you, remember that you can always rely upon your chum Emarat.’
‘Thanks, dear friend, for your promise of help,’ replied the student, ‘but my trust is in God. I have read many pages of the holy Injil since I saw you last, and from that divine book I have learned much of His promises of grace to help in time of need. I am sure He will not fail me, and I would rather have poverty and persecution with Him, aye and death itself, if such be the cost of obedience, than all the honour and riches this world can bestow, if it must be purchased at the cost of alienation from Him. Why! only this morning I came across a verse in the Injil which seemed peculiarly suited to my case. It was this: “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” 43 So, like the Prophet Moses, who chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, and who refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter 44 for the same reason, I take my stand on God's holy word, the Injil, and by His grace and help shall continue to guide my life by what is revealed there.’
These words of Ghulam, uttered with great deliberation and earnestness, made a deep impression upon Emarat, who soon after rose and took his departure, taking with him, when he left, the copy of the Bengali Qur'an which Ghulam had lent him.
37. Gospel of Matthew 11:28
38. 1 rupee equals 64 pice.
39. Gospel of Matthew 20:28.
40. Gospels of Matthew 16:26 and Mark 8:36.
41. Gospel of Matthew 6:33.
42. Gospel of Matthew 10:32-33.
43. Revelation of Jesus Christ 2:10.
44. Epistle to the Hebrews 11:24-25.