Page images

without proof, will not consistently reject—"the Baptist Missionaries of Serampore have determined formally to contradict whoever shall dare to express the slightest doubt regarding the success of their labours; and, indeed, have on different occasions given the public to understand that their proselytes were not only numerous, but also well conducted. But the young Baptist Missionaries at Calcutta, although they are not second to any other class of Missionaries, in India, in ability and in learning, or in zeal in the cause of Christianity, have the sincerity publicly to confess that the number of their proselytes, after six years of grievous labour, do not exceed the number of four. The Independent Missionaries also of this city, who have greater means at command than the Baptists, own with sincerity that their labours, as Missionaries, in the course of seven years, have not produced above one proselyte.”

Such, therefore, seems to be the result of the labours of another of the most important societies for the conversion of Natives in India ; and not to have to return again to this society, I may briefly notice, the Mission which they endeavoured to establish in the Burmese empire by means of Judson and his lady, who were there a number of years. They have published their own Journal, and consequently those results which I shall give you are taken from their own confessions. They acknowledge that, after being seven years, they had not a single convert; that, in the seventh year, they receive one ; that he afterwards brought another, so that in the end, they had made four proselytes ; when, in consequence of the war, the Mission was broken up. Here let me add again, there is this same mystic number of seven years which seems to mark the fruitless exertions of every society again spent in the task of conversion, and at the end only one convert is made, and that in the seventh year, and the number is in one or two subsequent years increased to four. Now we have described in the Journal of these persons how they proceeded in the work of conversion ; and we find that it was by presenting the Bible to the Natives and desiring them to read it; and hoping, consequently, in that way, that they would come to the doctrines of Christianity.

Now, coming therefore to the general conclusion, with regard to the whole of India, we find again, on the subject of conversion, that considering India altogether, not with reference to one religion or another, one society rather than another, it must be acknowledged that there has been little or no result. In a work which appeared in 1822, entitled Considerations on the State of British India, which was well known to the writer, Mr. White, he gives us his experience on the subject of Indian conversions. “ The extraordinary conversions,” he says, “announced in the Quarterly Review, may have taken place, but in the East they are unknown. The individuals who have embraced the Christian religion are for the most part considered as persons driven away from their own

caste for their crimes, and drawn to the new religion by its less severe morality.” Thus, therefore, again the same circumstance is mentionedthat all those who have been converted were persons of the lowest caste ; and we have this very severe remark, one which I hope is not correct, that persons were drawn to embrace the religion preached to them, because, by embracing it, they adopted a laxer code of morals. A Journal also about the same period, a periodical, and one certainly as far as I have noticed, which does not seem to be adverse to the cause of Missionaries, expresses itself in this manner. “ It is a fact that may be unpalatable to those who may be looking for the conversion of Hindostan, but which ought not to be dissembled, that up to this day Christianity has made little or no progress among that people. Thirty years have passed since the Missionaries commenced their labours, and it may be confidently asserted that more than three hundred converts have not been made in that long space of time, among whom it may be doubted whether any Brahmins or Rajahs can be named;" that is, persons of the higher class.” Again, another authority which I will just quote, before leaving this point. The Asiatic Journal for 1825 observes that, “In the actual state of the Hindoos, the difficulties which are opposed to the progress of Christianity, are altogether insuperable. There is not the slightest reason to believe that the sweet and mild truths of Christianity will make them renounce their errors.” This Journal again, which has considerable sources of information, declares that, “So far as experience goes, there is no reason to think that it is impossible to convert the Hindoos; but that hitherto obstacles completely insuperable have been found.”

So much, therefore, for the propagation of Christianity in India. You have seen how it is acknowledged by the very persons who are interested in the success of these Missions, by persons who have all the means for arriving at correct information regarding them—and I have not quoted one single Catholic writer-you have seen from such authorities as these therefore, that hitherto, at least, nothing has been done which can be considered at all as demonstrative of the divine blessing upon the labours of those who have undertaken the task. Their labours may be considered as completely unsuccessful, because that after all, one or two, or even some hundreds, should join the Christian religion, would not be wonderful in any case in whatever form presented to them, because there will always be local and personal interests, there will also be individual minds which will be led to embrace almost any system of opinions presented to them out of such an immense number of persons; and consequently this is not what we understand, or what the church has ever understood by the work of converting heathen nations to Christianity.

Now we will go to North America. Here we have circumstances of another character, but still of a very interesting nature. It is necessary

carefully to distinguish the work of conversion, when undertaken alone and upon its own merits, and the work of civilization. In India, the case is such as to admit of a very fair test. The people are in possession of the arts of life, sufficient at least to make them satisfied with their own condition, even perhaps inclined to look down upon European civilization as of a lower character than their own. They consider themselves in possession of literature; they have sacred books; they bave other documents which they consider to rest upon grounds sufficiently demonstrable ; and consequently they are not so easily led by anything but by the presentation of the truth itself, as truth preferable to these opinions in which they have till then believed. But when you go among savage nations you present to them not merely religion, but also the arts of life. When the Missionary bears in one hand, indeed, the Bible; but with the other presents to them the plough, and the arts of life, and all that can make them comfortable, and put them on a level with those persons that they see around them, and whom they are obliged to acknowledge to be superior to them, there is immediately brought a motive of such a different character, that it is extremely difficult to decide whether it is the doctrines that are presented on the one hand, or the result of those doctrines on the other, as visibly illustrated in the amelioration of the condition of man, which is the influencing motive. Now if to this you add a still farther consideration, which is, for instance, that the people so addressed are actually reduced to a small and insignificant number, that they see themselves completely surrounded and amongst, while they are absolutely incorporated with, persons of a different way of living; they see by this difference in their opinions they have been enabled to overcome them,and have become their masters; they know that it is thus that civilization which goes hand in hand with religion, that in reality makes them so superior to themselves, and we cannot be surprised that, after struggling for years against them, they at length give way, and yield up their old habits, and also those religious opinions and feelings that can no longer be maintained without them. This I consider important to the proper estimate of the only two scenes in which it can be said that Protestant Missionaries have at all succeeded; and, I think, when you have followed me in the slight history which I will sketch of them, you will acknowledge there is great truth in this observation.

No sooner was the Society for the Propagation of Christianity, and the other for Promoting Christian Knowledge, founded in this country, than it was determined to establish Missions among the Natives of North America The first attempt, which took place in South Carolina, completely failed ; it was renewed a few years after, and very nearly about the same period Archbishop Tennison undertook the task of commencing the work by sending Missionaries. Accordingly one was


He went in 1704; but, after a very short time, finding all his efforts unsuccessful, in consequence, as he says, or at least those who have written of the mission say, in consequence of the French Catholic clergy being on the field before them, and having already gained the minds of the Natives, he was obliged to return to England. The attempt was resumed in 1709, and the Missionary made use of was one calculated every way for the task : for be possessed the language of the Natives among whom he went perfectly, and to aid him in bis labours, he bad a translation of the New Testament sent at the same time among them, which was made also by a person fully competent to the task. This Mission then was founded in 1709, and in 1719, that is after ten years, it was again given up, and the reason is, that the society could no longer maintain such an expensive Mission. Some years after, it was once more renewed under Mr. Milne, and at that time it may be said that the Mission appeared to be attended with some success.

It is necessary to observe the historical circumstances connected with these tribes. The Missionary of whom I spoke had been sent to the Mohawks, who were then in the neighbourhood of New York. The Mohawks formed a part of the six nations. During the American War they took part, with the exception of two of the tribes, with England, and in 1770 they received a most bloody defeat from the tribes of the United States. The consequence was,

that the confederacy was put an end to, and the Mohawks, with a portion of the other troops, emigrated from the territory of New York under the guidance of Sir John Jobnson, to whose family they had been particularly attached, and George the Third gave them a tract of land of one hundred miles in length and twelve in width on the Grand River. I mention this fact, to shew how the circumstances of the Mission to which I am going to allude are essentially the same as those first established in the vicinity of New York, so that it may be said that these Missions, more or less, have been continued for about one hundred years; and as a link between the two Missions it may be sufficient to observe, that at this day they preserve the church plate which had been sent by Queen Anne to their former settlement. Here, therefore, there has been a Mission among these Native Indians. The first person whom I will quote to you is one who has written expressly the History of the Missions in AmericaMr. Brown. In order not to give you merely my own impressions of the results of the work in my own words, I will give it you in that of another Protestant writer. “ This history,” he says, “is a continued series of failures, the less to be expected, because some circumstances seemed to point out these nations as peculiarly prepared for the reception of the Gospel. They generally believed in the unity and spirituality of the divine Being; they are not idolaters; their religion is free from those obscene and bloody rites which are the usual attendants of superstition,

and, amid all the vices which ignorant and restrained passion produces, they are characterized by great good sense, and correct moral feeling, which might make more civilized nations feel remorse from the neglect of their own advantages. To such a people, therefore, it might be expected that Christianity would have been a welcome guest; and, indeed, Missionaries have, in almost all cases, been kindly received among them, and heard with respect and attention; so that, in many places, the first appearances promised a permanent establishment of Christianity, without a single exception. However, these appearances have proved fallacious.” Such is the result therefore of Mr. Brown's history of these Missions at the early part of the present century.

But to enter into a few details. We have a letter published in the Report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1831 from Mr. Leeming, who gives an account of his Mission, he being the resident Missionary among these Mohawks. He says, He has still the care of the Mohawk Indians on the Grand River, and that he has great pleasure in being able to state that they are very attentive during the time of divine service. He has twenty-five communicants, and baptizes at least fifty children a year. His schoolmaster also has twenty-five scholars. So that the extent of his labour for so many years in this tribe is twentyfive communicants and twenty-five scholars. Again, the same year, the Rev. Mr. Stewart, who afterwards removed to Quebec, went there on a species of visitation. He says, that on his arrival he found a new village, inhabited by the English, and two miles from the church of the Mohawks. On the 5th of June he baptized twelve children, and administered the Lord's Supper to twenty-four communicants, precisely within one of the number stated by the Missionary, in the village of the Tuscarora tribe, which was the tribe, a portion of which I said emigrated with the Mohawks. I baptized,” he says, “five adults and eight children.” He then goes on to say after of the Mohawks: “ 'This tribe is now going on with retrograde steps, in the knowledge and exercise of Christian principles. These Indians were anciently the most attentive of all the tribes to public worship, to the use of our Liturgy, and the instructions of their church ; but now the light of the Gospel is becoming more dim amongst them, it is not however entirely extinguished, and I hope, with necessary assistance, it will be so revived as to shine brilliantly before the neighbouring nations.” Thus, again, is one of the oldest Missions in a retrograde state, and in a state falling into decay, and Christianity almost extinguished.

In the year 1827, we have another Report of the Missionary Hough. Speaking of this very people, the Mohawks, dated 17th September, he says,

" After a residence of some months in this country, I have paid attention to the character of the greater part of the Indians who have professed Christianity. I hope that many of them are really Christians ;

« PreviousContinue »