ePub 版

the Ryots, or cultivators of their estates. Politics and government do not enter, under any form, into our plans; but it may not be altogether irrelevant to add, that all the members of the Committee, Native as well as European, unite in the strong conviction, that no greater misfortune could happen to India, than the dissolution of its connexion with Great Britain, and that, as private individuals, they most earnestly desire to see the bonds of union even more closely drawn, and the principles of British law more fully engrafted on its institutions, than they are at present.

The labors in which the Committee have hitherto engaged, have been chiefly preparatory; and while they have therefore little positive success to boast of, they yet see much in the ac- <tual state of European and Native society to encourage them to continued and increased zeal. Calcutta has as yet received, and will probably long continue to receive, the principal share^ , of their attention; for although they do not limit the operation of their plans to this city, yet it is here that they will principally labor to sow the seeds of useful knowledge and rational religion, and it is from its intelligent and growing population, that they hope to derive the greater part of that pecuniary support, by which, in addition to the foreign aid they expect, they may be able to accomplish the objects they have in view. For this purpose the first thing necessary is, by a conciliatory but uncompromising course of well doing, to remove the opprobrium, which it has been attempted to attach to the name of Unitarian, among the christian population; and having assumed our place among the acknowledged sects of Christianity, if, in conjunction with the prudent efforts of other denominations, we can succeed in making a deep and extensive impression in favor of our religion on the influential classes of the native community of Calcutta, we shall consider that one of the most important steps has been made towards the ultimate moral regeneration of the whole of India. Such anticipations may be regarded as too sanguine, but it is not supposed that they will ever be realized except by a long course of persevering and well directed exertions; and no place can be chosen for the focus and centre of such exertions, with a better prospect of success, than this great and populous city, which, as the seat of the supreme government and judicature of British India, as the emporium of Eastern commerce,and as the mainspring of every enterprise for developing the resourses and capabilities of the country, is the constant resort of all classes and descriptions of men from its remotest provinces, and would thus be eminently fitted, under

an improved state of society, to diffuse the most healthful influences among its numerous tribes.

With these views, it may not be improper to attempt an analysis of the actual state of the public mind in Calcutta, with reference to Unitarianism, which, although it may not perhaps be altogether free from mistake, will, in some measure, assist us in estimating both our strength and our weakness, and show what we have to hope and to fear, to encourage and to discourage us in our future labors.

With regard to the christian population, the principal opponents of Unitarianism are to be found among the Calvinistic Dissenters, the Evangelical, or more properly speaking, the Calvinistic party in the Church of England, besides other individuals who do not appear to belong to any distinctive class. The Calvinistic Dissenters have conducted their opposition, through the legitimate organs of the press and the pulpit, with some zeal and perseverance if not with very distinguished ability or success; and the spirit in which they have used these means, is shown by the more questionable instruments which they have thought fit to employ, the expulsion of heretical members from their communion, and the attempt to destroy their usefulness, and to banish them from all respectable society, by slandering their characters, misrepresenting their principles, and persecuting those who associate with them. The clergy of the Church of England have not hitherto availed themselves of the press to oppose the rising heresy, except by giving circulation to the old threadbare arguments contained in some of the pamphlets and tracts of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. They have not, however, been silent in the pulpit, but have raised their voices loud and deep in pastoral warnings to their flocks against 'an imperfect Christianity, derogatory to its divine author, and to his cross and sacrifice.' From the adherents of that party which assumes the appellation Evangelical, we differ Mo casio; and whether they belong to the established churches or to the dissenting communions, they are to be viewed in effect as one sect,—one in sentiment and interest, and as contributing their united efforts to bring back, or to introduce the reign of a gloomy and intolerant fanaticism, tending to place religion chiefly in modes of feeling and of faith, to the partial and sometimes total disregard of its great moral purposes. Their number is not great, but their zeal and activity have an imposing effect, and will be uniformly directed against Unitarianism. The nondescript individuals to whom I have referred, are such as from a love of notoriety, the force of example, and similar motives, have attempted with the aid of cabalistic lore, pagan mythology, popular prejudice, and invincible effrontery, to raise a hue and cry against Unitarians and Unitarianism, in the newspapers and at public meetings. Of the virulent opposition of these persons, I will only add, that it operates its own cure by the rebound of public feeling which it occasions, and that the regular defendants of Orthodoxy would, I have reason to believe, gladly dispense with the aid of such supernumeraries; non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis. There is, as far as 1 am aware, only one other means which has been employed against Unitarianism, and it deserves to be more known than it is. Bible Societies have professed, and have been commonly considered, to aim at an object, which is common to all Christians. But it should be generally understood, that the Calcutta Bible Association is not so catholic in its principles; for in its Reports it has, not by assumption and insinuations, but in the most direct terms, declared its hostility to the principles of Unitarians, although they avow their belief in the divine origin and authority of the gospel. I content myself with mentioning this anomaly here, but I may perhaps recur to it at greater length on some future occasion. Upon the whole I am satisfied that the opposition, which Unitarianism has received from the advocates of Orthodoxy in Calcutta, has tended to place it on higher ground than it would otherwise have occupied, and to render it a subject of greater inquiry, and more serious investigation than it would otherwise have been made.

With these views, we certainly do not deprecate the hostility of other denominations, from any apprehension of the effects it may have upon the particular interests of our own sect. But when it is considered that the combined labors of all Christians will probably long be insufficient to make a sensible impression in favor of Christianity on the numerous native population of India, we see abundant reason for lamenting that any part of the resources applicable to such a purpose, should be wasted in mutual altercation and recrimination. If, as has been apprehended, great evil will arise from the jarring efforts of different Christian sects to propagate their peculiar tenets in this country, that evil will be incalculably increased, if the teachers and adherents of each sect, instead of zealously endeavouring to propagate what they believe to be truth, should turn aside to refute the supposed errors of their fellow Christians. While therefore the friends and agents of the Unitarian mission, as they have already had occasion to show, will not hesitate to vindicate the plans which they may adopt, by pointing out the imperfections of those which have been hitherto pursued, to explain their principles when they have been misunderstood or misrepresented, and to defend their characters when they have been attacked and calumniated, they will,with still greater pleasure, reciprocate every indication of a conciliatory spirit received from the members of other christian denominations, and, as far as they can with justice to the cause they have espoused, limit themselves to the simple and direct propagation of what they regard as the pure and uncorrupted gospel of Christ. Such a course, if steadily pursued by the various missionary bodies in India, while it fully accords with the spirit of the religiou they profess, would in no small degree conduce to the attainment of their main object, and would be the best proof they could give that that object is not the extension of the mere doctrinal belief or profession of Christianity, but of its practical and salutary influences.

It is more difficult to convey to you a correct idea of the different classes of professing Christians, who are in a greater or less degree well affected towards Unitarianism. Of these, the first place is due to those, who, notwithstanding all the odium which has been cast upon Unitarianism, have given their public countenance and support to its principles. Nor must it be supposed that the members of the Committee are the only individuals of this description. There are others also, although their number is not great, who either move in too retired or too humble a sphere to be known as Unitarians except to their immediate connexions, but who, in proportion to their means and opportunities, are not less zealous in the promotion of Unitarian Christianity. The next class that requires to be mentioned, consists of those who, although known to be opposed in their sentiments to the popular modes of christian belief, have hitherto not identified themselves with the public professors of Unitarianism. Their number is considerable, and they hold respectable places in society; but it is difficult in most cases to ascertain the motives by which they are influenced. Some may have been discouraged by the tardiness of foreign Unitarians in affording us their assistance, joined with the improbability, without such assistance, of succeeding in our plans, which would naturally produce an unwillingness on their part to pledge themselves to the support of a scheme, the eventual failure of which seemed almost unavoidable. Others may have been prevented from attaching themselves to a proscribed sect from a dread of notoriety, or from a regard to the peace of their Orthodox relatives; feelings in themselves amiable, but in their effects injurious to the cause of truth. And there may also have been others, who, although Unitarian Christians by education and pro fession, have acquired a practical indifference to the interests of the sect to which they nominally belong, from the want of that religious culture, for which unhappily there has hitherto been no public provision on behalf of Unitarians residing in this country. Whatever may be their motives, we are not much disposed to condemn their conduct, when we consider the circumstances in which Unitarians have been and still are placed. We rejoice that although not with us, neither are they against us, and hope that the causes now in operation will gradually lead to a more general and decided profession of Unitarianism, by those who sincerely approve of its principles. There is another and still more numerous class composed of those,who,without reference to sect or party, whether Trinitarian or Unitarian,—distinctions to which they attach little if any importance,—will cheerfully give their aid for the general diffusion of education, useful knowledge, and rational religion. Most of those, however, who belong to this class, would leave religion, under any form, out of the question, and would limit their support to those other means I have mentioned, for improving the character and condition of their fellow creatures. The existence of such a class bears a decidedly favorable aspect upon our exertions, for although the spread of education is not the exclusive object of our attention, it is an essential part of our plans, which it is therefore believed will, at least to this extent, receive their countenance.

I have already attempted to estimate the extent to which other protestant denominations are hostile to our views, and have shown that the Calvinistic party in the Church of England may be regarded as uniformly opposed to them. I have now to add, that the Arminian party in that church, although as diligent and earnest in their vocation against Unitarianism as the former, are in general so much more tolerant, without being less firm, in their opposition to what they disapprove, and so much more sober and rational in most of their views respecting the practical, devotional, and what have been called the experimental parts of religion, that they may be considered as in some degree fellowworkers with ourselves. This remark applies also to the members of the Church of Scotland in Calcutta, who, without swerving in one iota from their own principles, know how to tolerate difference of sentiment in their fellow Christians, and to appreciate the sincere endeavours even of Unitarians in the cause of a common Christianity. Every one, whether Trinitarian or Unitarian, who inculcates in his teaching, or exemplifies by his life, the mild and liberal spirit of the gospel, will be hailed by us as a fellow laborer in the cause, which we are desirous of promoting. Of the Roman Catholics, Armenians, and Greeks, the only other classes of Christians in Calcutta, I have little to say. The Roman Catholic priests, I believe, in general decline all int

vol. III.—No. Iv. 44 v

« 上一頁繼續 »