« PreviousContinue »
Art. XI. Brief Memoirs of Four Christian Hindoos, lateby deceased.
Published by the Serampore Missionaries. 12mo. pp. 120. Price 3. Serampore, printed; London, reprinted. Gale and Fenner, ,
1816. WHEN predictive arguments relative to the practicability
of some great good, are verified in facts, benevolent men who advanced them, have a gratification infinitely superior to that arising merely from the proof that they were right in their judgement, and their opponents and contemners wrong. Certainly, the recollected scorn and revilings under which they proposed their projects, and maintained the reasonableness of their hopes, will bring some temptation to indulge their triumph on the lower ground; a ground bigh enough to enable them, if they were governed by selfish regards, to fling down, in their turn, contempt on the vaunted intelligence of their adversaries. But it is indispensable to the character of worthy agents and advocates of the best cause, to disdain the scorner's retaliation. Their triumph should be, that good is done : and, in the present instance, good of almost a new, and of an exceedingly difficult kind-if there be any even partial truth in the previous representations of their opponents'; good, also, which has completely cleared the way into a field of good interminable.
We have had many occasions of observing, though we have hardly taken any of remarking so palpable a fact, that the members of the Indian mission, whose head-quarters are at Serampore, have constantly displayed this spirit in an eminent degree. It is true, indeed, that whatever their feelings might have been, the obvious policy, for their situation, would dictate a guarded and temperate language. But the actual moderation uniformly displayed is of a character evincing a much higher principle than a calculating discretion : it is the simple genuine expression of the temper of their minds. Their entrance on the great design was not prompted, and their perseverance in it has never been sustained, by any poor ambition of proving that it could be accomplished, and that they were the proper agents; it is the great object itself that has absorbed and actuated them; it is the pure value of the suceesses attained that has delighted them; and therefore the exulting emotions they cannot but sometimes have felt, have been of a far different kind from a miserable selfcomplacency, gratifying itself in scornful retorts on refuted disappointed adversaries. They have repeatedly adverted, in their public statements and more private communications, respecting their successes and hopes, to the enmity that has so loudly raged in abuse, and so confidently predicted not only utter failure, but enormous mischief'; but it has always been in the tone of inen very little anxious about the opinion entertained of themselves,
and rejoicing only for the sake of the cause that facts were going to shew the world it was a “ lying spirit' that had spoken in the inouth of all the prognosticators. It would goad the now silent Major Scott Waring to rave afresh, if he were compelled to read, collectively, their occasional calm references to such vituperative predictions as those uttered by him and his more formidable coadjutors, as brought to the test of the actual effects of the missionary labours. But to these devoted labourers it would be no gratification to see the abusive fury of these oracles turned to the vexation of disappointment. As they never wished for success as a matter of honour to themselves, they can have no pleasure in its being the cause of mortification to their adversaries.
In attributing a gratifying measure of success, we hardly need say that we are speaking in a special reference. The success which, measured by a certain scale, the numerical scale, for instance, of an immense population, is small, is at the same time signal and triumphant, as placed against the assemblage of positive, arrogant, and contumelious assertions on record, that the design was altogether impracticable; that none but madmen could project and pursue it, and that unless speedily arrested in its course by a decisive mandate, it must infallibly lead to some frightful catastrophe. It has been asserted, too, that the direct success is small, as compared with the measure of exertion and cost. But to rest any weight on this objection, would betray a wilful inattention to the most important part of the operations of the Mission. A large share of them has indeed been in dircet application to dark and superstitious minds, but the grand labour has been prospective ; it has been employed in preparing, if we may so speak, the apparatus which is to work with a multitudinous agency. The translations of the Scriptures will, within a very few years, he read and heard read by millions whom the translators can never address or see, on earth. Supposing, therefore, that, in the progress of future years, the measure of effect were to be but in the same proportion to the means in operation as during the time thus far, even so the amount of success would be very great within half a century, during which the means will be extending and multiplying in an incalculable ratio. But no devout believer in revelation has the smallest fear that the progressive efficacy of the system will be limited by any such rule of proportion. That it should be so limited, would he contrary even to the ordinary principles, according to which a cause that has begun to make a progress among mankind, acquires an impulse, and creates to itself facilities for accelerating that progress; though it must indeed be confessed, that so good a cause has less the benefit of this self-promoting force than a bad one. But there is Another Power that knows the world too well to leave the Truth to fight its way by the inere strength of any energies of its own.
These Memoirs of several Christian Hindoos are introduced by a very brief advertisement, dated Serampore, March, 1810, and a preface by the present Secretaries to the Society, Dr. Ryland and Mr. Hinton, written in the same mild unostentatious spirit as that which charecterizes the Missionaries. The names of the deceased converts are, Pitamburu-Singhu, Rughoonat'h, Futika, and Krishna Prisada.
Pitamburu-Singhu, a man of the writer cast, died at Serampore, in 1805, at the age of about sixty, and only four or five years after the time that he met with the first means of Christian knowledge. During a considerable part of his life, he appears to have wandered about the country among the Viragees, a sort of religious mendicants, so pumerous, that some of them may be seen in every town, making high pretensions to sanctily, which their general profligacy does not altogether prevent the deluded people from admitting: at least their demands are complied with. But it seems that Pitamburu had a higher object in his wanderings. He was of a speculative, inquisitive, and observant disposition ; lad rather early in life become sceptical as 'to the fables and dogmas of the prevailing superstition ; was compelled by beholding the depravity of the Brahmins, to despise their lofty assumptions, and felt he could not venerate deities to whom the sacred books themselves ascribed all manner of vices and crimes. Yet there must be such a thing as truth; and in the desire to obtain it be sought the conversation, wherever he went, of the persons pretending, or reputed,' to have soine peculiar knowledge of
God, or some revelation inade to thein of the right way.' - Nor, it is added, “is this peculiar to him : many of the Hin« doos talk of some manifestation of the Deity, which they are in - the habit of expecting; and seek after men who, like Simon
Magus, are reported to be “the great power of God." In
this way they seem to be feeling after God, if haply they may 6 find him.' A great number of plain proofs of this fact bave been furnished by the Missionaries, and a few other inquiring and honest reporters ; so totally ignorant or consciously false have been those consenting testimonies given in England, in a confident and arrogant tone, by persons professing to be intimately acquainted with the Hindoos, that these heathens are universally, complacently, unshakenly, invincibly, fixed in the notions of their superstition.
Pitamburu, nevertheless, during this state of scepticism, suffered himself to be looked up to as a great teacher, in which capacity he had skill enough to act his part with great effect: it is not said what it was that he thought proper to dictate to the · disciples who listened to his discourses, prostrated " themselves at his feet, and deemed him their oracle ;' possibly some of those very legends and absurdities which he disbelieved and despised. And if so, the moral state of his mind was little enough adapted to the reception of Christianity, notwithstanding bis inquisitiveness after truth. In this state, however, the truth found and seized him. It was in 1801 that a tract, written by Mr. Ward, was offered him by one of his countrymen; he rejected it with disdain ; "he had no idea of
holiness coming from an Englishman. In the night, however, "he reflected bow foolish it was to send the book a way without looking at it, and in the morning he went and obtained it.' The effect was immediate ; he felt a strong impression that this must be, at last, the truth he had been seeking so long. He went without delay to Serampore, to make further enquiries; after remaining there awhile, le avowed himself a proselyte, and after a short interval was baptized. It would have been pleasing to have had any record of the precise manner and train in which his mind, proceeded to the decided final conviction and determination. But it is most gratifying to see, in all that followed, the demonstration that it was genuine. He took up the new profession in the most deliberate, systematic, discreet, and yet intrepid manner. He committed himself, in every point, without reserve, with a perfect anticipation of consequences, and without any time-serving calculation concerning them; and in the sequel he appeared to care nothing for the opprobrium which inevitably came upon him; that opprobrium wbich the scholars, and officers, and merchants, and senators, and even clergymen, in this Christian country, were at that very time declaring, with lofty airs of contempt for the folly that could believe the contrary, that no respectable Hindoo could eyer be brought to brave. Too firm and too happy ever, for a moment, to waver or shrink under this ignominy, he constantly challenged both the scoffers and the reasoners to the encounter, and bore • himself so bravely,' that the proud Hindoo doctors endeavoured to avoid the combat. But the knowledge and acuteness which were of such excellent service in the precincts of the temples, against the advocates of the gods, did not make him the less willing to serve the good cause in any humbler way; and it seemed indifferent to hiin whether he was appointed to fight the Brahmins, or teach the children in the mission school. He did these alternately, till at length his health sunk in a protracted and painful disease, which he endured with uniform and exeinplary patience; and he died in tears of joy, and with a smile which lingered on his countenance after the spirit was fled, while the native converts were singing a byin of whieh the chorus was, “Eternal salvation through the death of « Christ.' The impression was so great on his affectionate
wife, in reinforcement of the earnest persuasions which he had often addressed to her, that soon after his death she decidedly adopted the only religion which could produce such a scene.
We have dwelt so long on this example, because we think it questionable whether Pitamburu was not the individual of most intellectual character of any of the Hiudoo converts that have yet rewarded the missionary exertions. He was a man not governed by his passions; a man to whom the imputation of enthusiasm would be simply impertinent and ridiculous. We must more briefly notice the other memoirs.
Rughoo, who was baptized in December, 1805, and died March, 1808, also about sixty years of age, was a weaver, poor and illiterate, but an exceedingly zealous idolater; insomuch that his back was filled with scars, from the hooks by which he had been so frequently suspended in swinging on the
churuka.' It is not strange that such sacrifices to the pagan deities should have been combined with an imitation of some of their vices. But the new religion rendered hiin chaste, conscientious, humble, diligent, and affectionate. After his baptism, he worked in an inferior situation in the Brethren's printing-office at Serampore; and, though he had no talents to preach, yet on all occasions he recommended the Gospel, by a humble behaviour, and a grateful sense of kindness.'
. With respect to the general state of our deceased brother's mind, he appeared to be, as far as his knowledge went, a happy Christian. Talk to him whenever you would of the love of Christ, exclamations of astonishment escaped his lips, while the tears filled his eyes, and ran down his cheeks. During the singing of hymns, or while listening to the story of redeeming love, and not unfrequently at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, his tears testified his sense of the deep interest he was conscious he possessed in the Gospel.'
His happy death corresponded to such a state of mind.
The account of Futika is much longer, and it contains more of incident than any of the other memoirs. He, too, was of a humble rank in life. His devotion to the god Krishna, was combined with a certain idea of cultivating 'universal love,' which made him, secretly, little regardful of the distinctions of cast. He and his mother were pestered by a number of Brahmins, each insisting to be the exclusive spiritual teacher, and each requiring them to adopt and pay for his respective muntra, or mystical form of incantation, for securing Divine favour and good fortune. Futika was an active reveller in the orgies of the religious worship, which consists essentially in the most abominable licentiousness. The interest excited in him and one of his friends by several tracts, brought them to Serampore, when, however, they could find no one person there or at Calcutta, that would tell them in what part of the town the