Слике страница

a Gentoo sovereign, but they were governed even in temporal concerns by the Bishop of Angamala. He still asserted his ancient title of Metropolitan of India, but his real jurisdiction was exercised in 1400 churches, and he was intrusted with the care of 200,000 souls. Their religion would have rendered them the firmest and most cordial allies of the Portuguese, but the Inquisitors soon discerned in the Christians of S. Thomas the unpardonable guilt of heresy and schism. Instead of owning themselves the subjects of the Roman Pontiff, the spiritual and temporal monarch of the globe, they adhered like their ancestors to the communion of the Nestorian Patriarch, and the Bishops whom he ordained at Mosul traversed the dangers of the sea and land to reach their dioceses on the coast of Malabar. They measured with scrupulous avarice the honours of the Virgin Mary. When her image was first presented to the disciples of S. Thomas they indignantly exclaimed, “We are Christians, not idolaters ;' and their simple devotion was content with the veneration of the cross. Their separation from the Western world had left them in ignorance of the improvements or corruptions of a thousand years; and their conformity with the faith and practice of the fifth century would equally disappoint the prejudices of a Papist or a Protestant."

Under the Portuguese rule these Christians suffered much persecution, but since the expulsion of the Portuguese the Nestorian creed has been freely professed on the coast of Malabar. Three years ago an English nobleman put forward, in a letter to the newspapers, the astonishing assertion that the Secretary for India had no right to subscribe to an English cathedral in that country, as by encouraging Christianity we trespassed on the prior rights of the Moslem and the Brahmin. It is as well to remember that India possessed Christianity long before the existence of Mahomet, and there is no doubt that modern Brahminism and Buddhism is the fruit of semi-converted Christians falling back into their original errors. Just as the Chinese mandarins, who were converted to Christianity in the seventh century, “cherished and confounded,” says Gibbon, “the gods of Palestine and of India ;" so in India itself, where Christianity had obtained more hold, and where the Gospels had been more freely circulated; the narratives of the Evangelists were weaved into the sacred poems of the Bhagavat, and are the foundation of the story of Krishna and of some of the moral sentiments, which the Hindu sacred writings more than those of any other heathen nation contain. The aborigines

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of India are, indeed, neither Brahmin nor Mahometan. They in some instances worship a serpent, in others are idolaters of the grossest description, while the Christians of S. Thomas appear to come from a race as long established in India as any of those which now profess Brahminism.

If a copy of the Book of Job, transcribed five hundred years ago, was shown to an unbeliever, and he was assured that it had really been composed more than three thousand years, we should hardly expect him to accept our bare statement of its great antiquity without further evidence ; yet this is exactly what Europeans are very apt to do in judging of the records of Indian history. The Chinese and the Hindus are accustomed to speak in hyperbole, and the Chinese date the commencement of the first dynasty of their emperors eighty thousand years before the Jewish date of the creation of the world. The Hindus are just as prone to exaggeration ; and when we consider that there is no European MS. in existence older than the fourth century, is it likely, we may ask, that in India, periodically ravaged by a tide of invaders, writings should exist of any year approaching to that date? This is so obvious that it would be hardly worth alluding to, were it not that sceptics have endeavoured to make of the Hindu sacred writings a handle against Christianity, while on the contrary they are only an additional testimony to it.

The Chinese historians give a curious account of the introduction of Buddhism into China. In the year A.D. 65, (to reduce their chronology to our own,) the Emperor Mingte dreamed that he saw a giant, and this bringing to his recollection the prophecy of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confutzee, that “the Holy One should appear in the West,” he sent a deputation of eighteen Mandarins into Hindustan to make inquiries about a great prophet who was said to have recently arisen in that country. The Buddhists whom they encountered explained that the prophet was Buddha, who had lately appeared on earth in a new form, and some of their priests accompanied the mandarins back to China, and first propagated their faith among the Chinese. There is a difference of opinion as to which is the oldest, Brahminism or Buddhism, as each claims priority, and looks upon the other as an beretical sect, but there is no doubt that in the course of centuries both have acquired great developements, much as Romanism has developed dogmas since the apostles first preached Christianity; so that it is difficult to tell now, what Buddhism was, when it first travelled over to China, as it has been constantly sustained and recruited by priests from its native soil. It was probably derived from the Deism which was inherited by the early descendants of Noah, and received some accessories from the astrologers of Central Asia and from the Jewish worship, which was extended to the Himalayas by the Jewish colonies planted at the time of the captivity in different parts of the Assyrian Empire. In the year A.D. 65 it had certainly come into contact with Christianity, and as S. Paul preached to the Athenians of the Unknown God, whom they ignorantly worshipped, so S. Thomas must have preached to the Hindus the real truth of the Divine Incarnation, which they subsequently worshipped under the name of their old deities Buddha and Vishnu, on whom they conferred the additional title of Krishna, a word obviously derived from CHRIST.

In modern times the Brahmin faith has taught that there is one eternal and omnipotent Being, without body or form, whose spirit pervades the whole universe, and whose attributes are represented by the creatures and phenomena of the earth. From him proceeded Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Siva, the Destroyer, each possessing the three grand qualities of their author,—wisdom, mercy, and power; and their votaries believe in transmigration, and a state of future rewards and punishments. The highest object to be attained in another world is absorption into the Deity. Buddha was the same as Vishnu in his ninth incarnation or appearance on the earth, when he was clothed in a squalid mantle and forbade the sacrifice of animals. Krishna was another incarnation of Vishnu. He was tempted by evil spirits in a desert. Buddha is said on one occasion to have appeared in the form of a cripple, hence crippled persons meet with respect in India. This legend is probably derived from the teaching of an early Christian sectarian, that our LORD Himself assumed that form, founded on the passage in Isaiah liji. 2, “He hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."

This bare outline of the Brahmin and Buddhist creed is filled in with innumerable romances, some of which appear to have come from the ancient Egyptian and Grecian mythology; and others which have doubtless been invented at a much later date. To mix up true theology with idolatry is not by any means peculiar to India. A Mahometan who read Paradise Lost, or even the hymn to the Nativity, might be excused if he were bewildered by some of the old Grecian deities whose names Milton introduces ; and if he fancied they were intended to be

[ocr errors]



as real as the angels, and as Adam and Eve. The German stories for the amusement of children bring in the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, and even the CHRIST Child to play a part in fictitious incidents, and this kind of writing is but an imitation of Homer, or of the Oriental mode of improving on the histories of their sacred beings; so that in the course of ages, the romances mingle with the original faith, till it is difficult to separate them.

In backward or ignorant Christian countries, the ancient heathen superstitions of the natives will often spring out; as in the fairy legends among the Irish ; the reported fantastic tricks of the wood and water spirits, and of Nipen in Norway; and even some ideas of witchcraft and the evil eye in remote parts of England. It is not therefore surprising that cut off from other Christian nations, conquered by idolaters and Mahometans, and surrounded by still active Brahminism and Buddhism, the ancient Christianity in India should have merged into the old native superstition, except on the coast of Malabar, of which the remote situation to any but maritime nations enabled it to hold its ground against heathen oppressors. It has in fact become merged into the old native superstitions, till it has built up the modern creed of Brahminism and Buddhism such as existed when the English first conquered India; the more difficult to overcome, perhaps, from its caricature of some points in Christianity. If we deprive Mahometanism of its Koran, its coarse traditionary laws, and its veneration for Mahomet, we should find a belief in one God, a reverence for the Bible, and the Prophets, and for our LORD as the greatest of the Prophets, something in short much like Arianism. In the same way if we strip Brahminism and Buddhism of the legends and additions with which it has been overloaded during the last thousand years, and of the Egyptian and Greek mythologic traditions, which perhaps were known there nineteen hundred years ago; we find traces of the Christian faith as it was taught by the Apostles, and a moral disci. pline inculcated, by no means adverse to the laws of Christianity.

This ought to make us hopeful for the evangelization of India. With education, wild traditions and absurd superstitions fall into disrepute, and Christianity is the only faith which has held its footing among a highly cultivated and civilized community. The Turks and Egyptians who are educated in Western Europe go back only bad Mahometans; in China the educated classes are infidels. In the same way the educated Brahmins and Buddhists are relinquishing their idolatry; and if with



them a period of infidelity sets in, the reaction, the craving of human nature for a higher philosophy such as was felt by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who had discarded the Pantheon of Mount Olympus, will assuredly follow, and then may they be drawn to the most ancient religion in their native country, Christianity as preached by the Apostles. Most nations are more favourably disposed to customs and principles of native than foreign growth; and an Englishman who has lived many years in Syria, and a very staunch Protestant, has declared that the only form of Christianity for which the Mahometan Arabs have any respect is the Eastern Church, because they regard it as the ancient religion of the country and of their forefathers, before the rise of Mahomet. He affirms that they look upon all other branches of the Christian Church settled in Syria, as mere dissenters and interlopers, and that if the Turks are ever to be converted he is convinced it must be through the Eastern Church, when they no longer have to feel that they would undergo degradation if they adopted the religion of their slaves. In the same way the natives of India will be probably most effectually reached through Hindu converts, and it is very im

. portant to impress upon them that Christianity and the Catholic Church, is no plant indigenous to England; but took root in India, even before it was established in Great Britain. Romanism is singularly unsuccessful in Egypt, Turkey, and Syria, and centuries ago was ignominiously expelled from Abyssinia. It is too local, too essentially European in its traditions to attract an Asiatic, and will never make much way in India; but no such difficulty stands in the path of Anglo-catholicism, the fairest daughter of Apostolic Christianity, and which, even if others have done gloriously, has so far excelled them all.

C. L. J.




[ocr errors]

“The king will follow CHRIST, and we the king.”

TENNYSON. THEKLA, wife mine, I bring thee news of sorrow,—we must quit our happy forest home, and fly, ay, fly while there is yet time, with the royal duke and his retinue, to some place of safety.”

« ПретходнаНастави »