Canadian View of the Doukhobors.

Republished from the Friends' Intelligencer and Journal

The event of the past week, which has interested Christians of all denominations in Winnepeg, Portage la Prairie, Brandon, and other centres, and indeed it may be said throughout Manitoba and the Northwest generally, has been the arrival from the Caucasus, south-eastern Russia, of the Doukhobors, spirit-wrestlers, or Russian Quakers, as they are variously called. Their appearance, the history of their persecutions, and the peculiarities of their religion have been discussed in articles, original or quoted, in every paper in Canada. A point, however, which may well be placed in greater prominence, and kept there permanently, is the stress which they lay upon Christian living. To live right, to have the truth in the heart, and obey it, is with them the main thing.

Mr. Leopold Sulerjitzky, who is with them as Count Tolstoy's representative, tells how he was impressed with their consistent living, when he became acquainted with them, and during his stay among them for the past four years. His observations of nominal Christians in Moscow and elsewhere had made him skeptical as to the fact or the possibility of any one living in strict accordance with the teachings of Christianity; but close study of the Doukhobors showed him nothing in their lives to which he could take any exception. Not only do the adults live as brothers and sisters, treating one another with the utmost love and deference, but even the children are free from angry passions, quarreling and fighting being unknown. A German woman, whose home was in the Caucasus, not far from the Doukhobors, on being asked what she knew of their religion, answered, "They have a very holy religion." She went on to explain that they decline to associate with people who drink intoxicating liquor, or do other bad things.

Mr. Sulerjitzky makes the remarkable statement, that in the large settlement of two thousand people in which he is personally interested, that of those now here, a printed or written Bible had been, up to the time of his going among them, a thing unknown. They had never seen the book, or heard any portion of it read. When, for the first time in their lives, and apparently in their history from an indefinite period, he read passages of Scripture to them, their comments were, "That is true; that is good; that is just what we believe: just like our religion." They maintained, however, that it was better to have their religion in their hearts and heads than to have it in a book. A similar conclusion was expressed by them last Sunday. The choir of a neighboring city church visited the immigration hall last Sunday, and sang hymns for the Doukhobors. The latter, in return, sang (or chanted) some of their Psalms, and on being congratulated by Immigration Commissioner McCreary, replied, "Your people sing from a book; we sing from our hearts and heads."

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March 16, 1899

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