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is generally spoken, cannot be doubted; and that the means of acquiring the language of a country so adjacent as Malacca, may also be obtained there, it should seem, may be fairly presumed. Hence a singular facility will arise to the undertaking Missionaries may be fully prepared in Hindostan itself, by a perfect knowledge of the languages, the laws, and the customs, of the surrounding nations, for entering upon the various scenes of their labours.
Nor do our countrymen in India possess inconsiderable means for executing the grand design. Strangers will always judge of the excellence of any new system proposed to their approbation or adoption, by the influence which it shall appear to have upon its professed votaries. Let then the sailors, and other servants of the Company, be instructed to recommend, by their spirit and deportment amongst foreign nations, Christianity to the reception of those they may visit ; and let some person, who knows how to write for them, compose a brief address, illustrating the importance of the object, and enforcing their duty in the most persuasive manner. In every ship’s company there will usually be found, it is to be presumed, one or more who are at least seriously inclined: let such persons be intrusted with the dispersion of Bibles and evangelical tracts, previously trans
lated into the languages of those countries at which they are to touch. To facilitate and insure this distribution, in trading with the inhabitants of foreign countries, let such good books, as often as possible, be given away in exchange; and where this cannot be done, let proper persons be selected, and if necessary, engaged to circulate them in the course of business, or to carry them on purpose into the interior, and give them away in the progress of their excursions. Let every factory, which the British may possess in foreign countries, become an evangelical depot; and a person be either appointed with this sole design, or those stationed there principally with another view, be invited by such considerations as may prove successful, to exert themselves in scattering abroad the “ word of life” amongst the natives. By and by a chaplain might be attached to each considerable trading station, with orders to endeavour, by all means in his power, particularly by mingling and conversing with the inhabitants, and by making such journies into the country as circumstances will permit, to avail himself of the elementary information previously diffused by the written word, and to impress the natives with a sense of the truth of Christianity, and of the importance of salvation. Besides, itinerant preachers might be sent forth to take a
wider range of labour, and pervade the country in all directions. For such persons the British government will be able easily to procure passports and letters of protection, if not direct countenance, from the ruling powers of at least several of the countries of the East. And let all who go forth under such sanction be strictly enjoined not to intermeddle with affairs of government; not to entangle themselves even with mercantile transactions, when this might retard their progress, or throw suspicion upon the purity and dignity of their motives; not even rudely and unnecessarily to shock the prejudices of the natives. To facilitate the accomplishment of these purposes, and promote in general the grand design, it might be expedient to erect one or more missionary seminaries in Hindostan, where persons, who are destined for the good work, might be instructed in the language, laws, customs, superstition, &c. of that country, which may be allotted to each, as the scene of his future labours.
Where it might be expedient to begin such evangelical exertions, is an inquiry, which must depend for its decision upon a great variety of circumstances. In general, if other things be equal, that scene which is nearest the centre of movement, for obvious reasons, ought to be preferred. A
well-informed writer*, however, who seems to have taken great pains in investigating the point, and whose memoir is now before the public, has strenuously recommended China. How far his arguments, upon a fair comparison, shall appear conclusive, it is for others to determine. Unquestionably, while several adverse and unpromising circumstances will suggest themselves to all who are acquainted with the subject, it must be admitted, that the degree of previous illumination which the Chinese enjoy, the state of civilisation they have attained, the correspondence of their worship with the Hindoo superstition, the singular fact, that almost all the New Testament has already been translated into the language of that country, and is preserved in one of the public repositories of this island, and the assurance, that success there would open up an easy access to several of the surrounding countries,--all present strong incitements to comply with the wishes of the benevolent author, and commence the holy enterprise among that distant people, who, yielding to a very exceptionable form of our religion, had once almost assumed the dignified appellation of Christian.
May the writer of this Essay be permitted, without incurring the charge of invidious arrogance, to suggest another scene of evangelical labours ? Various concurring circumstances seem to him to point out the Burman empire as, in the case before us, perhaps not less eligible. It is nearer than China; and vicinity of situation affords many facilities. But this is not its only recommendation. This extensive kingdom * contains no fewer than eight thousand towns and villages. Though living under the same parallels, the Burmans, unlike to their lethargic neighbours the Hindoos, are active, ardent, and inquisitive. Their sacred language, denominated Palli, from which the letters in common use are derived by an easy process, is evidently only a form of the Shanscrit. What is singular, though not a scientific people, yet so widely diffused is a certain portion of learning, that almost every man can both read and write. In spirit and manners they are courteous, obliging, and kind to strangers. The established religion of the country, the worship of Boodh, is more closely allied to Braminism than any other superstition. The government is extremely tolerant, and the adherents of all other religions, provided they conduct