Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

as their enemies; and their enemies were fools or hypocrites. They despised every thing and every body (themselves excepted); and at last they despised one another. It is quite amusing to see how by continually living in their own little circle of antipathies they acquired the true sectarian spirit; and though they began with exclaiming against want of charity in the churchmen, learnt to discard even the appearance of charity towards all but men of their own party. It was thus towards Frenchmen, it was thus towards foreigners. Hume and Gibbon were tolerated, but Johnson was “a superstitious dog ;” and Mr. Burke complains that there was an air of contemptuousness about them which greatly detracted from the pleasure of their society. Among ak the European communities they seem to have respected none but this country; and one of the principal reasons for this partiality appears to have been given by the learned Marquis de Condorcet, who tells us, that “the philosophy of Bolinbroke commented on by Pope had established in England a system of rational theism, with morals suited to firm and reflective spirits.” However, as Frenchmen are apt to ridicule without reason, so for once they applauded without knowledge: for Bolinbroke's pompous in anities never deceived any body but his scholar, who was frightened out of his wits when he heard they meant infidelity; and in spite of Bolinbroke, and of men much abler than he, Christianity has at all times been heartily believed and loved by the mass of the population in this country.

Christianity, considered apart from its divine credentials, was a great experiment upon mankind; and no one, we think, wili deny that it materially exalted the general tone of morals, and produced the best specimens of individual excellence which the world has witnessed. The rejection of Christianity and return to a more natural condition was also an experiment; and it was fairly made, though upon a smaller scale. Let its value he estimated by its results. "Revelation was first rejected in France by men of education and reflection; by the literary and scientific inembers of the community. Can a single individual of the body be mentioned who accredited his principles by a strict and consistent morality? We have never heard of one; and all the most considerable characters among them were notoriously sullied with great and flagitious vices. Voltaire told the most deliberate falsehoods, which even his biographer, M. de Condorcet, does not attempt to excuse; though (to shew the severity of his own morals) he inaintains that lying is justifiable if oppression makes its expedient. Rousseau abandoned his own off. spring. D'Alembert insulted his Creator. Diderot cheated his patroness; and his writings are an outrage on all decency. Marmontel deserted the object of his early affections, who had been faithful to him through years of absence and silence; and he had the heartlessness to put his infamy upon record for the amusement of his grandchildren, without breallıing a single sigh of contrition or regret. In the midst of all these things they continued to applaud each other abundantly, and talked loudly of reason and virtue. By degrees the principles of the philosophers were diffused among the people, and at length the whole nation, by a general effort, threw off the yoke, and publicly renounced Christianity. What ensued? What bright gleanis of opening glory and happiness illuminated the auspicious enterprise? What new constellations arose to shed their influence on a happier æra? All was darkness and horror. The heavens seemed to be “hung with black.” France was for a moment blotted out of Europe; and then reviving, like a Bedlamite from his trance, poured out her frantic rage on every surrounding nation. The fall of Christianity, instead of being hailed like its birth by angelic voices, speaking peace and love, was proclaimed by the groans of widow's and orphans, and the savage howlings of demons. The Gospel descended upon earth attended with a heavenly train of graces and virtues, with the charities which soften and embellish this life, and prepare us for a better. The religion of natura ascended from beneath with a company suited to her character; murder, profligacy, proscription; and civil anarchy and military despotism.

And yet some feelings of compassion are due to the men and to the nation whom we have condemned. They saw not the religion of Christ such as it proceeded from the hands of its divine Author, lowly and self-denied, benevolent and spiritual, separated from sin, and superior to the vanities and the sufferings of this transient scene. They saw it debased by its alliance to a superstitious establishment, and sustained by a civil authority at once arbitrary and contemptible. They saw the profession of Christianity often united to the practice of vice, or the policy of a worldly ambition; its dogmas peremptorily enforced, and its precepts habitually relaxed. The rapid progress of infidelity in France sufficiently proves the decay in that country of essential religion. The Gospel in all its power, appealing to the consciences of men, and carrying its credentials in the practice of those who acknowledge it, is alone capable of contending long against the pride and passions of a people who have once thrown off the bondage of an ignorant and implicit faith; and those who bave the weakness to place their reliance on the authority of ancient institutions, or the seemly pomp of rituals and services, will assuredly discover, when it is too late, that these are but the perishable forms in which religion is enshrined, not the living and immortal spirit which can alone protect itself and us in the hour of danger. This is a truth which the guilt and the sufferings of France are peculiarly calculated to enforce. While we reprobate the men who conspired against Christianity, and deplore their success, let us never forget that there were other conspirators still more formidable, and to whom that success is chiefly to be attributed the unfaithful ministers and professors of religion, who rendered it weak by their dissensions, odious by their bigotry, and coutemptible by their crimes.

Art. XVII.--An Apology for promoting Christianity in

India ; containing Two Letters addressed to the Honourable East India Company, concerning the Idol Juggernaut, and a Memorial presented to the Bengal Government in 1807, in Defence of the Christian Missions in India; printed by Order of the Honourable the House of Commons. To which are now added, Remarks on the Letter addressed by the Bengal Government to the Court of Directors, in Reply to the Memorial: with an Appendix containing various official Papers, chietly extracted from the Parliamentary Records relating to the Promulgation of Christianity in India. By the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D. London. Cadell and Davies.

1813. There are some instances in which the Vor populi takes the philosophic part of a nation by surprise; and, while the few thinkers are anxiously elaborating a new principle, or hammering out a reformation upon their tardy anvil, the multitude at once elicit the principle, and carry the reform into execution in a

Such has been the case with the great question so recently determined in parliament, of (if for convenience we may coin the word) christianizing India. National prejudice had for a long time set strongly against any plans of active religious operations in India. Men, at once devout and philosophic, were slowly discussing the subject in their closets, and now and then throwing a sort of hesitating' pamphlet on the tables of the literary. Little impression, however, was made. The opinions of Anglo-Indians, till some of these gentlemen were better known, were suffered to have much weight in the argument. But, on a sudden, the tide of popular opinion rose to an almost unexampled height, and bore down every obstacle, Parliament was inundated with petitions, of which not less than 900 found their way to its tables. Members began to reconsider their decisions upon a point on which the mass of their constituents appeared to think so differently from themselves; and the practical wisdom, and, perhaps, we may add, the enlightened piety of the administration placing them on the side of the petitioners, the church of God rejoiced to find a new patent put into its hand to dispatch its emissaries to the sixty millions of India. Instead of the reluctant progress in which a nation usually moves towards its emancipation from prejudices and low passions, the country sprang towards its object, and took by assault the fortress it might have been impracticable to gain by sap. The change was really astonishing: The advocates of the missions went to sleep at night, and found, when they rose in the morning, their opponents, like the troops of Sennacherib, "all dead men!" We rejoice in the event as the victory of the national church, which is virtually enlarged by every accession to the church of Christ. It is usual for the defeated party, who, like the Parthians, shoot their arrows in their flight, to attribute all the efforts in this cause to what is called, by way of derision, an evangelical fervour. In whatever degree this charge may associate us with the first evangelists, in our zeal for the conversion of the heathens, we gladly plead guilty to it. But if it be meant to impute to us either a headlong determination to convert, at all risks, and by all means

moment.

; or an indifference as to the character of the religion, or the discipline of the church, which shall be established in India; we hope, before this essay is finished, to vindicate our understandings and our temper. But it is now time to inform our readers what is the specific object of this paper. It is not, then, our intention to retread the ground with which every foot in the nation is now familiar, or to re-examine the objections which have been so often advanced and still oftener confuted. But having met with this little document of Dr.- Buchanan's, which sleds much new light on the subject, and establishes points of wbich there was before a deficiency of evidence, we think it due

him and to the cause to ass:st in making it known. Our readers will not be surprised that we are influenced in part by a desire of dischargiug what is due to Dr, Bucharian. The fact is, that this great cause owes perlaps more to him than to any other human being. The very peculiar circumstances of his lite almost authorize us to speak of bim as “called” to this apostleship. Carried by a succession of truly singular

events to India, he no sooner planted his foot on its burning soil, than he seems to have strained every faculty of his soul to pour over these parched plains the waters of life. By day and by night, in public and in priyate, in the college and in the cavern, on

[ocr errors]

every point from east to west of this vast peninsula adapted to his purpose, at the risk of fortune, health, and even life itself; anidst Jews at Cochin, native Christians in Malabar, and inquisitors at Goa, we find him unceasingly active in prosecuting the great end to which he had consecrated himself. Nor, indeed, was his activity confined to one hemisphere. In the midst of his own successful career he looked round to his native country; and feeling that all efficient movements must be made here, that in English bosoms alone existed the zeal, and in English hands the power, to fulfil his great designs, he endeavoured, by the proposal of princely prizes to our seats of learning, to kindle a spirit corresponding with his own : and he has lived to see in part the fruit of his virtuous labours. Every day yields some fresh point to his wishes, some new trophy to his peaceful banners. There are few men whose lot we should be more disposed to envy. It has been his happy privilege to project and execute, to plan the battle and to win the triumph. A destiny not often theirs, the weapons of whose warfare have been the instruments of human suffering and a dubious glory.

It is a singular fact, that the account given by Dr. Buchanan of the temple of Juggernaut in Orissa, of the miseries encountered by the pilgrims in their march to the temple, of the horrors and indecencies by which the rites were detiled, far from establishing the facts, had served, with some individuals, to shake the authority of the relater. Many found it easier to dispute his accuracy than to admit his facts. Now one principal benefit of the work before us is, that it incontrovertibly establishes the accuracy of Dr. Buchanan's relation, and produces a body of facts more decisive, as we think, of the general controversy than any as yet laid before the public. It is our deliberate judgment that, had no other facts been adduced, enough are here stated to set the question at rest for ever. Added, as these are, to the mass before collected, they constitute a body of evidence too strong, we hope, for any candid mind to resist. It will be our endeavour to give an account of the particular controversy between Dr. Buchavan and others, and to shew the bearing of the whole work ou the general question.

The history of the controversy is this. · At a time when, as we have intimated, the extraordinary nature of the facts with regard to. Juggernaut had in a measure brought Dr. Buchanan's veracity into question, Mr. Buller, a member of parliament, judged it expedient to lay on the table of the House a letter addressed to the East India Company, containing his own representation of the rites practised at the festival of Juggernaut. Mr. Buller had many claims to be heard. He had been high in authority in India,

« AnteriorContinuar »