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who are acquainted with the principles
things at which the understanding re-
Moreover, these same people have a religion, which they can trace back many centuries anterior to the coming of the Saviour, and which is rooted in their minds by all that is imposing in the records of their ancestry, by the countenance of popular opinion, by the force of instruction, by the authority of sacred books, by all that is venerable in a long-established priesthood, by every thing, in short, which attaches them to their customs, builds up and sustains their institutions, and stamps the features of their character. They have a formal and systematic religion, taught in books of great antiquity, in which habit and conscience equally incline them to put implicit credence. They have their Veds and their Shastrus, their Poorans and Tuntrus, and to these are appended commentaries on commentaries, which have been the result of the wisdom and study of ages. Now, whatever may be the absurdity or the defects of the system, which these contain, it cannot be doubted, that there is something in it adapted to the better principles of the human mind, something which is upheld by plausible arguments, and the appearance of consistency. On no other grounds can you account for its being maintained for so long a period of time, by a people in many respects enlightened and polished.
We infer that the errors of such a religion, under circumstances in which this is embraced, cannot be successfully combated by any other weapons, than those of plain sense and argument. To preach mysteries will only thicken the darkness; to enforce
Rammohun Roy has become a Christian, in spite of the Missionaries, by the force of his own mind, examining the Scriptures with a determination to find and understand their meaning. He is convinced of their truth and divinity, although he has never been able to discover in them the mysterious doctrines, which for twenty years the Missionaries have been endeavouring with great industry and zeal to inculcate. Other natives would not be long in following his steps, if they could be allowed to inquire, like the honest Bereans, why these things are so, and could be favoured with a frank and ready answer. And, surely, it cannot be thought a difficult task to prove the superiority of the Christian religion over that of the Hindoos. It is no doubt difficult to prove inexplicable and contradictory propositions either to a Hindoo, or to any other rational man; but if we cannot prove the superiority of all that is valuable and commanding and true in the Christian religion over every system of idolatry, we have no reason to boast of our privileges as the disciples of one who came from God, and who had power to enlighten and save an erring world.
We know well what obstacles the amiable and enthusiastic Henry Martyn encountered on this very ground. He attempted to argue, and his was a mind of no ordinary vigour and acuteness. The purity of his soul, his disinterestedness, his piety, did not surpass the strength of his intellect and the variety of his attainments.
come to hand. It is printed in Ben-
But he ingenuously confessed, that he
It seems that, in a periodical work established by the Missionaries at Serampore, called the Sumachar Durpun, an article appeared attacking different parts of the Hindoo religion. Several distinct charges were made, and the editor stated, that if a reply were sent, it should be published in the same paper. The Bramuns accordingly furnished a reply, defending their religion, but when it was forwarded for publication it was rejected. Thus disappointed, the Bramuns resolved to publish what they had written in a separate form, and in this resolution originated the Bramunical Magazine. The two first numbers are occupied in replying to the article in the Sumachar Durpun, and the third is devoted to the discussion of another subject.
To exhibit the mode which the Missionaries adopt in discharging their duties, and the views and feelings of the natives respecting it, we select the following passages from the introduction to the first number.
A paragraph in Rammohun Roy's First Appeal is so appropriate in this place, that we insert it, although it has appeared in our work on a former occasion. He states that,
"He has seen with regret, that the Missionaries have completely counteracted their own benevolent efforts, by introducing all the dogmas and mysteries taught in Christian churches, to people by no means prepared to receive them; and that they have been so incautious and inconsiderate in their attempts to enlighten the natives of India, as to address their instructions to them in the same way as if they were reasoning with persons brought up in a Christian country, with those dogmatical notions imbibed from their infancy. The consequence has been, that the natives in general, instead of benefiting by the perusal of the Bible, copies of which they always receive gratuitously, exchange them very often for blank paper; and use several of the dogmatical terms in their native language as a mark of slight in an irreverent manner, the mention of which is repugnant to my feelings."
But it is time to speak of the Bramunical Magazine, printed at Calcutta, and mentioned in Rammohun Roy's letter. We consider this work, in many respects, one of the most curious of the present day. It contains a set controversy between the Bramuns and Missionaries on the principles of their respective religions. We believe this is the first regular written controversy which has ever been commenced for a similar purpose. Three numbers of the work only have
During the last twenty years, a body of English gentlemen, who are called Missionaries, have been publicly endeavouring in several ways to convert the Hindoos and Mussulmans of this country to Christianity. The first way is that of publishing and distributing among the natives various books, large and small, reviling both religions, and abusing and ridiculing the gods and saints of the former. The second way is that of standing in front of the doors of the natives, or in the public roads, to preach the excellence of their own religion, and the debasedness of that of others. The third way is, that if any natives of low origin become Christians from the desire of gain, or from any other motives, these gentlemen employ and maintain them as a necessary encouragement to others to follow their example."
"It is not uncommon if the English Missionaries, who are of the conquerors of this country, revile and mock at the religion of the natives."
"If, by the force of argument, they can prove the truth of their own religion and the falsity of that of the Hindoos, many would of course embrace their doctrines; and in case
manifest a rebellious spirit; a circumstance which is well known to the compiler from several local facts, as well as from the following occurrence.
they fail to prove this, they should not undergo such useless trouble, nor tease Hindoos any longer by their at tempt at conversion. In consideration of the small huts in which Bramuns of learning generally reside, and the simple food, such as vegetables, which they are accustomed to eat, and the poverty which obliges them to live on charity, the missionary gentlemen may not, I hope, abstain from controversy from contempt of them; for truth and true religion do not always belong to wealth and power, high names or lofty palaces."
Whether the mode of proceeding, above described, is the best way of recommending the pure principles of Christianity, and of converting the Hindoos from their errors, will at least admit a question. To revile, and mock, and abuse, and ridicule the opinions and customs of others, especially when these are connected with religious sentiments and feelings, does not seem the readiest method of gain ing attention, winning esteem, convincing of mistake, or proving by example the efficacy of any system of doctrines to promote humility, soften the temper, and amend the heart. It is not commonly found, that people become more willing hearers by being abused and vilified; or that they are the more likely to admire and adopt the principles of him who commends himself to them by such conduct.
"About three years ago, the compiler, on a visit to an English gentleman, who is still residing in the vicinity of Calcutta, saw a great number of Christian converts with a petition, which they intended to present to the highest ecclesiastical authority, stating that their teachers, through false promises of advancement, had induced them to give up their ancient religion. The compiler felt indignant at their presumption, and suggested to the gentleman, as a friend, the propriety of not countenancing a set of men who, from their own declaration, seemed so unprincipled."
The article published by the Mis sionaries in the Sumachar Durpun relates to some of the peculiarities of the Hindoo theology. It is copied entire into the Bramunical Magazine, and consists chiefly of quotations from the Shastrus, and other religious books, collected with a view to point out their absurdities and inconsistencies. Much is said on both sides, which is not very intelligible to us. The discussion runs deeply into the metaphysical and superstitious notions of the Hindoos, which are but imperfectly unfolded; and it is replete with allusions, which can be understood only by such persons as are acquainted with their writings.
One point, however, seems to be clearer than some of the others. The Missionaries quote many passages from the Hindoo books to prove what false and degrading ideas the Hindoos entertain of the Supreme Being, and of the nature of divine worship. They are charged with assigning to God various forms, and other properties peculiar to created beings, but which could not belong to a spiritual, uncreated and perfect God. Against this charge, the Bramuns defend themselves in two ways; first, by quoting and explaining their own books, and proving them to have a different sense from the one fixed on them by the Missionaries; and, secondly, by attempting to shew, that the Christian Scriptures ascribe the same properties to the Deity, as are found in the Veds
and Shastrus. One specimen of their reasoning on this subject is all for which we have room. To the Missionaries they say,
"You find fault with the Poorans and Tuntrus, that they have established the duty of worshiping God for the benefit of mankind, as possessing various forms, names and localities,and that, according to this, in the first place, it appears that there are many Gods, and that they enjoy the things of the world; that, secondly, the omnipresence of a being, possessed of names and forms, is incredible.
all their false notions, the Hindoos still discover the unity and perfections of God shadowed forth amidst the rubbish of their perverted metaphysics and idolatrous practices. This is a great point gained, for whilst they can be kept to a defence of the absolute unity of God, they must in no long time be brought by their own reflections to see the inconsistency of this doctrine, with a thousand others which embarrass and degrade their system. They will yield up these indefensible parts by degrees, and, if properly instructed, they cannot but be prepared to receive the pure doctrines of Christianity.
"I answer, the Poorans, agreeably to the Vedant, represent God in every way as incomprehensible and without forms. There is, moreover, this in the Poorans, that, lest persons of feeble intellect, unable to comprehend God as not subject to the senses, and without form, should either pass their life without any religious duties whatever, or should engage in evil works, -to prevent this, they have represented God in the form of a man and other animals, and to possess all those desires with which we are conversant, whereby they may have some regard for a Supreme Being. Afterwards, by diligent endeavours they become qualified for the true knowledge of God. But over and over again, the Poorans have carefully affirmed, that they give this account of the forms of God with a view to the benefit of persons of weak minds, and that, in truth, God is without name, form, organ, or sensual enjoyment."
We are not to conclude, however, that all the Hindoos have the same rational notions of the Deity, as above expressed. The great mass are still Polytheists. In a late excellent letter from Calcutta, to the Unitarian Fund Society in England, Mr. Adam observes, that "a large majority are idolaters, but that there is a small and increasing minority of Theists." This latter class comprises those who hold to the unity of God in the same sense as the Editors of the Bramunical Magazine.
After confuting the Missionaries, as they think, from their own books, the Bramuns take their turn in becoming the assailants. They say,
"We humbly ask the missionary gentlemen, whether or not they call Jesus Christ, who is possessed of the human form, the very God; and whether they do not consider that Jesus Christ, the very God,' received impressions by the external organs, eyes, &c. and operated by means of the active organs, hands, &c.? And whether or not they consider him as subject to the human passions? Was he angry or not? Was his mind afflicted or not? Did he experience any suffering or pain? Did he not eat and drink? Did he not live a long time with his mother, brothers and relations? Was he not born, and did he not die?
After this statement, the writer quotes the following passages from some of the sacred books, which he mentions by name.
"Weak and ignorant persons, unable to know the supreme and indivisible God, think of him as possessed of certain limitations."
For the assistance of the worshipers of the Supreme Being, who is pure intellect, one, without divisibility or body, a fictitious representation is given of his form.”
According to the nature of his qualities, his various forms have been fictitiously given for the benefit of those worshipers who are of slow understanding."
These are remarkable testimonies, and would seem to indicate, that with
If they acknowledge all this, then they cannot find fault with the Poorans, alleging that in them the names and the forms of God are established; and according to them God must be considered as subject to the senses, and as possessing senses and organs,
authority, they always represent the Hindoo religion as very base." Instances of this practice are given.
It is now nearly two years since this controversy was begun in Calcutta, and we cannot but express surprise, that our orthodox brethren, whose intercourse with all the missionary establishments is so direct and constant, should never have favoured the public with any notice of its progress. If a Missionary goes a day's journey from his post, and leaves ten tracts in one village, and five in another, and talks to half a dozen ignorant natives in another, every orthodox journal and paper in the country is sure to tell the tale, with all the formality of time, place and circumstance. But when a controversy is commenced on subjects of the utmost importance, between the learned men of the College at Serampore, and the no less learned natives around them, not a whisper do we hear of so remarkable an event from the sources whence, on all other occasions, we are made acquainted with the minutest details of missionary transactions in every corner of the world. We forbear to ask any questions. Let our readers judge of the merits of the case by the extracts we have made from the Bramunical Magazine.
and as not possessed of omnipresence on account of his having a form. Because all these errors, namely, the plurality of Gods, their sensual indulgence, and their locality, are applicable to themselves in a complete degree.
"To say that every thing, however contrary to the laws of nature, is possible with God, will equally afford a pretence to Missionaries and Hindoos in support of their respective incarnations. The aged Vyas has spoken truth in the Muhabharut; O`king, a person sees the faults of another, although they are like the grains of mustard seed, but although his own faults are as big as the Bel fruit, seeing them he cannot see them.' Moreover, the Poorans say, that the names, forms, and sensual indulgence of God, which we have mentioned, are fictitious, and we have so spoken with a view to engage the minds of persons of weak understanding; but the missionary gentlemen say, that the account which is given in the Bible of the names, forms, and sensual indulgence of God is real. Therefore, the plurality of Gods, their locality and subjection to sensual indulgence, are faults to be found in a real sense only in the system of the missionary gentlemen."
Here we perceive how completely the Missionaries, by preaching the dogma of the Trinity, as the essence of Christianity, contravene all the good purposes which they might accomplish by adhering to the strict unity. They render useless their own exertions; they bring disrespect on the religion itself; and actually encourage the Hindoos to retort the charge of Polytheisin and idol worship as existing in reality only against the Christian scheme. By such a process how can it be hoped, that any attempts will be successful in diffusing the truths and blessings of Christianity?
The Bramuns complain of what they call an unfair artifice of controversy employed by the Missionaries. They quote books of no authority, and call these quotations the Hindoo faith. "Having translated those works," say the Bramuns, "which are opposed to the Veds, which are not quoted by any respectable author, and which have never been regarded as
spondence, p. 432. When we there acknowledged it, we had no idea of making any public use of it; but having since had an interview with Mr. BUCKINGHAM, the highly intelligent and patriotic Editor of the Calcutta Journal, who is now in England, we put it into his hands, and have received from him the following letter in reply, which will be gratifying to our readers. To render Mr. Buckingham's communication intelligible, it is necessary to publish the letter that gave rise to it, though it contains one passage at least which we are the reluctant instruments of circulating, and which we could not have admitted into our pages if it had not been followed by Mr. Buckingham's satisfactory confutation.