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In this Province are a number of Churches built by the Portuguese, and consequently spacious and adapted to the Roman Catholic mode of worship. In the time of the Dutch, many of them were used as Protestant churches; but now they are in a state of dilapidation and ruin. It was thought advisable to endeavour to raise up schools at these places, to teach the children, and those more advanced in life, the principles of Christianity; visiting the people in the villages as often as possible. Accordingly, a petition was sent to his Excellency, praying for the use of these places for the purposes mentioned; to which we received an encouraging and satisfactory reply from his excellency, who has on this, and every other occasion, evinced the greatest readiness to forward every measure which has for its object the amelioration of the condition of the heathen.
Information was given us that any of the old churches were at our service on a lease of seven years, rent free. As we had established ourselves at Point Pedro, which is distant from Jaffnapatam about twenty one miles, it became very desirable to have the church of Puttoor, nearly midway between the two places, because in this climate it is highly injurious to health either to be exposed to the chilly dews of the night, or the insufferable heat of the sun by day. On the road to Point Pedro, there has been six churches : at Nallour, Copay, Puttoor, Atchavelly, Uddepetty, and Kattavelly, mostly distant from each other three, four, and five miles. Nallour and Copay have little remaining except the foundations, which mark the place where once they stood--At Puttoor and Atchavelly we are fitting up schools. Some of these are very extensive buildings, from one hundred to one hundred and forty feet long, and forty or fifty broad, some built of brick, others coral rock.
Since my arrival, it has fallen to my lot to visit the country villages a little more than my two colleagues have had an opportunity of doing. They are called villages, but differ widely from any thing of that kind in England, being so scattered that we seldom find many houses near each other, and in general the cots or houses are poor, frail, and temporary dwellings, convincing us at the first sight of the poverty of their possessors. Every kind of furniture is dispensed with, and they sleep promiscuously on the hard clod, unconscious of the checks of shame, or the comforts of domestic economy and social happiness. To
give a general view of this part of the island, it may not be uninteresting to remark that the country from Trincomalee northward, is one vast flat or sheet of land, stretching toward the continent till it reaches the straits which divide the island from the Peninsula; and appears very little above the elevation of the
This tract of land is in general coral rock, covered with a thin strata of earth ; and has been more or less cultivated, according to the fluctuating circumstances which have occurred among those who have at different times had possession of the island.
In the time of the Portuguese and Dutch, large tracts of land were cultivated, which are now abandoned and laid waste.Spacious tanks, once filled with water, are now become the scite of villages; and much of that part of the country, stretching from Trincomalee in a direct line across the island, is given up to the undisturbed possession of wild elephants and beasts of prey.
The district of Jaffnapatam is one of the richest on the island. Its staple article is tobacco; rice is also raised to considerable advantage; but not many tropical fruits in abundance, except plantains. In the villages the people live by cultivation, and the mode of leaving the inheritance divided among the children has subdivided their paddy fields and gardens into an almost inconceivable number of small portions. Sometimes many persons are joint proprietors of a small field or a few fruit trees; when the fruits are gathered or fall from the tree, frequent disputes arise among them, and perpetual litigation is the consequence. On some occasions, and, alas! they are very common, the passions, unaccustomed to restraint, take fire, and they are hurried away by violent rage to commit acts of the most awful desperation ; fighting with their knives, cutting and maiming each other in the most shocking manner. On these occasions, all sense of relation and of obligation is lost. Very lately I beheld a man streaming with blood from the gashes he had just received in one of these disputes ; when the perpetrator of this horrid work was brought before the magistrate it proved to be the man's father-in-law.
To persons unaccustomed to scenes like these, the tender feelings receive an involuntary shock; but among a people where God is not known they appear to view them with stupid indifference. The standard of morals is sunk very low, and the
comforts and conveniences of life little cultivated among them. Indeed, the obligation to do right, and to speak the truth, is by some partially acknowledged, while others absolutely deny it; and the very gravely assure you, that lying is necessary in this life, and impossible to be avoided. As far as I have been able to know any thing of their religion, confusion rests upon it. Many appear insensible to any obligations to a superior Being, further than paying a kind of fearful homage to those whom they think capable or inclined to do them some bodily injury. Thousands are reduced to a regular system of Gentooism, which enjoins certain offerings and duties. The Brahmin priesthood is adapted to the poverty of the people, subsisting chiefly on the daily offerings of fruits and milk, which are brought by the people to the temple. Prejudices, handed down from father to son, form a very formidable barrier to their obtaining knowledge; and that indolence which attaches itself to an unoccupied mind, sinks them into a kind of stupor, from which nothing less than the powerful voice of God can ever awaken them. When questioned concerning their religious views, they generally give you a confused account, at the same time making large pretentions to the antiquity of their Shasters. When desired to give some account and proof of their knowledge of their own or any other language which they profess to know, some flimsy evasion is made to avoid it. When appeals are made to their common sense, on the folly and unreasonableness of certain ceremonies, the only answer that can be obtained is—" Their fathers did so; it is a custom, therefore we do it!" So ridiculous are some of these customs that very lately I came up with a number of these votaries conducting their god into the country on a wooden horse, and on inquiry was informed it was customary for their god once a year to to go into the country a shooting !!! I think nothing less than seeing the procession, and hearing the alternate firing of the guns, could have made me give credit to such an absurdity.My blood ran chill within me, and lifting up my soul in prayer to God, cried in the anguish of my spirit “ Deliver these captives from the power of Satan; enlighten their minds that they may see the vanity of idols. And, O Lord, speedily give thy Son the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.”
On visiting the old and ruined churches my mind has sometimes indulged in a train of reflections. So many years ago the
first agitators of these plans and buildings visited these lonely and retired spots. Then there was no place to screen them from the sickening rays of a burning sun, no inviting natives to cheer them with an hospitable reception. Armed with power and conveying but half the gospel, they planted Roman Catholicism; built immense structures, whose perishing ruins convey a sufficient idea of their fatal power. Instead of conveying clear views of the holy gospel, they engaged themselves in senseless ceremonies; and for the simple worship of the “ blessed God," introduced a system differing so little from the worship of Moloch that the overawed heathen readily accepted a religion so much like his own.
But the long succession of priests, where are they? The people that attended, either willingly or unwillingly, have they ceased to live ? Alas, death has destroyed them allGod has taken away their name and place—the place that once knew them, knows them no more for ever. The succession of ministers appointed by the Dutch authority-all--all have disappeared and left the churches in possession of owls and of serpents.
Thus, dear fathers, and brethren, have we been favoured with an open door to the heathen of this place. O that God would open our lips, and inspire our tongues to plead with them in their own language! but this is a barrier not easily surmounted. May the Lord give us courage to persevere, till we finally obtain power to speak with convincing demonstration, and with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven! My personal experience in the things belonging to my peace, and the work of God in my own soul, have increased since I left my native land. God is precious to my soul daily; and were it not for the cheering consolations of his blessed Spirit, this would be a dreary land indeed.
Since I began to write this letter the stations have come to hand. On reading many names dear to me, my heart began to expand, the gushing tear refused to be repressed. I kneeled down and prayed and wept for the prosperity of Zion. May the work of the Lord not only proceed by thousands and tens of thousands, but by millions and tens of millions ; yea, till “ all shall feel he died for them.” We, alas! bear but a small part in the great controversy with the powers of darkness, and may be compared to stragling piongers, endeavouring to sap the foundations of the adversary, among a people of a strange tongue. We need your prayers; and the assurance that thousands are pleading for us in our dear, our happy country, is sometimes like a solid rock on which our minds repose. My paper is done long before I have written what I intended. One thing I must add, which will be gratifying to the feelings of our highly esteemed brother, Mr. Thos. Wood. Having brought, among my other little elementary books, some copies of his excellent catechism, copies were forwarded from Galle to Colombo, and have been translated into Cingalese. We have succeeded in procuring a translation of it in Tamul, which is intended for the press, and will be of the most essential service here. No doubt our brethren will have mentioned in their letters that they have printed it also
in Portuguese, and one edition likewise in English, which I find to be very useful in the schools. We feel very thankful indeed that we had copies with us; such books are much wanted.
Brother M'Kenny has been indisposed, but is recovered. Brother Squance's health, he writes me, is improving. Brother Lynch is at Madras on a visit to inspect the state of the society there. The rest of the brethren, I believe, are well.
Now may the God of all grace bless our dear friends in England, fill us all with fervent zeal in his blessed cause, bring our brethren to our help in safety, and at last crown us with immortality and eternal life, is the prayer of, dear fathers, Your affectionate son, In the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
ACCOUNT OF THE DEATH OF THE REV. DR. COKE.
ALTHOUGH several notices of the “On the 24th of April 1814, the death of this great and good man have ships in which the Missionaries bad taalready been published, as we have ken passage for Ceylon, passed the Isle seed no account so circumstantial as of France. And on the 27th, they were the following Extract froin his Life, within five miles of the little isle of written by Mr. S. Drew, we think it Gallega, yet no soundings could be will be satisfactory to the numerous found with a line of fifty fathoms. friends of the Doctor to have it insert- But they were now brought to the ed in this Miscellany.
margia of an event, wbich was of too