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THE illumination and future happiness of India, must form to the Christian philanthropist a most important object of desire and expectation. Taken in its widest extent as including the countries from the Indus to the extremity of China, it contains a full half of mankind-a portion of the human race, rendered interesting by a variety of circumstances. Of all the nations now embodied, the Hindoos and the Chinese exhibit unquestionably the strongest vestiges of antiquity; and their languages, literature, philosophy, &c. present the most ample field of investigation at present unexplored: while, favored with the richest bounties of Providence, these various countries exceed almost all others in point of natural wealth. Yet a degrading superstition, originating in that corruption of mind through which men “professing themselves wise became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image like unto corruptible man, and four-footed beasts and creeping things," has deluged the whole with ignorance, immorality, and misery. This flood of superstition, forming itself into two branches, above two thousand years ago, Hindoo. ism and Bouddhism, has overwhelmed nearly the whole of Eastern Asia; the former having pervaded the empire of Hindoost'han ; and the latter Bootan and Tibet, the eastern peninsula, the vast empire of China, and the isles of the sea ; and while it has filled these countries with the grossest moral darkness, it has arrested all improvement, and reduced the inhabitants almost to the level of beasts, with whom indeed the monstrous doctrine of the metempsychosis makes them claim a kind of affinity.
For the deliverance of this interesting portion of mankind from this state of moral darkness and wretchedness, Britain seems evi. dently destined by Providence. Placed at the head of the European world in point of influence, and actuated by a concern for
the welfare of mankiud hitherto scarcely known among the natin ons, she has been called to inherit a mighty empire in India, and to dispense to Eastern Asia the choicest of blessings. To the inha. bitants of Hindoost'han she has already imparted that security relative to person and property, never before enjoyed; and after every deduction is made for human imperfection, the rule of Bri. tain has proved one of the greatest temporal blessings yet bestowed on India.
Nor can it be denied, that by removing the counteraction of a rival nation, and by scattering her Indian enemies before her almost like chaff before the wind, the God of provi. dence seems to be confirming to her the power of becoming a general blessing to the various nations of Eastern Asia ; not indeed so much by her power, as by the diffusion of knowledge, since it is not by power and authority that nations are illuminated : when conviction, the basis of all moral improvement, is the object, the interposition of power completely defeats the end'in view. If relative to religion and to knowledge in general, the mind be not left at liberty to reject as well as to receive ideas, mental freedom is destroyed, and investigation stripped of one of its greatest charms. Hence the wisdom of leaving knowledge to its natural course—to the accomplishment of its own work. Britain however cannot exist in India, fraught as she now is with knowledge both human and divine, without shedding forth light on the surrounding darkness ; nor can her genuine sons, acquainted as they are with its value as raising men in the scale of virtue and happiness, behold with an indifferent eye, the blessing evidently granted on the attempts to diffuse throughout India and the whole of Eastern Asia, the light of divine revelation.
Among these the Editors of this work trust it will not be deemed presumption for them to reckon themselves. Drawn from their native land wholly by the hope of thus promoting the wel. fare of India, one of them has spent nearly the fourth of a century, and others a period of time fast approaching thereto, in studying its languages, and making themselves acquainted with the
habits and ideas of its inhabitants, with the view of effectually promoting their highest interests ; and to this important object they are desirous of devoting the remainder of their days. · Interested so deeply therefore in the great work of enlightening India, it will not appear strange that at an early period they corresponded with others on the subject, and endeavoured to encourage their own minds and those of their friends, by narrating whatever tended to nourish the hope that Providence would carry forward this work. It is now above ten years since this monthly correspondence became such, that they were compelled to print it under the name of Circular Letters, to save the labor and expense of repeated transcription. Yet these were so much regarded as letters still, that they were restricted almost wholly to those who contributed to them, and by no means considered as a publication. Two or three years ago, however, certain friends who had occasionally seen them having requested a copy monthly, they were so enlarged as to give a brief view of what was done by those Societies in Europe insti. tuted chiefly for the sake of India.
At the present time howerer," the Institutions in India which bear immediately on its welfare have so increased in number, that it becomes to the Editors a sacred duty, as well as matter of high gratification, so to vary their plan as to include the proceedings of these various institutions, and in general whatever tends to the advancement of knowledge, virtue, and religion. With this view therefore they propose to meet the wishes of those who encourage the work, by including in their small monthly publication, every thing communicated to them either of a religious or literary vature which has any bearing on the future happiness of India. And it being desirable to bring into one view, whatever God in his providence may be pleased to do for the illumination of the whole of Eastern Asia, they by no means intend to confine them selves to what is done in Hindoost'han ; butas all the nations around are in nearly the same state of darkness, to notice as far as they may be able, whatever tends to the promotion of knowledge
throughout the whole of these countries; particularly as these Circular Letters have found their way not only to the various parts of Hindoost'han, but into the Burman Empire, the isles of Ceylon, Penang, Java, Amboyna, &c. and even into China.
Of the various subjects it is intended to notice, it may be in some degree useful to give a brief outline. Details which are immediately of a Missionary nature, the Editors must indeed rather compress than extend, particularly such as relate to their own immediate circle, to make room for what may be more interesting relative to the various Societies and Institutions which have for their object the promotion of knowledge. But respecting the Bible Societies, now so happily brought into operation in the various parts of India, every thing 'will in general be inserted which may be communicated; as nothing can more justly excite hope relative to the future happiness of Eastern Asia, than the circulation of the word of God in its different languages.- -Nor will such information as relates to Education be less welcome : it is evi. dently to Schools that we are to look for the diffusion of ideas contained in the divine word, andof knowledge in general. Whatever intelligence can be obtained therefore of this nature, must necessarily be welcomed by the Editors of a work they wish to designate by the uncouth, but they hope not wholly inapplicable, name of 66 The Friend of India.”
But it is not their intention to confine themselves to articles of merely a religious nature. In the important work of illuminating India, they cannot be insensible to the value of Literature. If learning be at all times the handmaid of religion, how much more so in this work, in which scarcely a step can be taken with. out it? Without an acquaintance with the languages of those vavious countries, hoy is it possible for the word of God to be given in them ? or for ideas of any kind to be communicated? Without some idea of their literature, how can we become ac. quainted with the ideas and modes of expression common to those
whose good we seek ? Whatever information may be communi. cated therefore respecting the Languages of Eastern Asia, or the Characters by which they are expressed, will be gratefully received. Books published in India too, which in any degree bear on its welfare, will be deemed fit subjects for notice. Nor will Original Papers, or short Essays, though less within their design, be altogether rejected, particularly if they contain any plan or hint likely to promote the welfare of the various countries around. The Editors indeed do not pledge themselves for the insertion of every paper which may be sent them, as, in their endeavours thus to promote the welfare of the country whose interests they have so long studied, they wish to be left wholly to their own judgment as to the selection of materials. Political transactions, either as bearing on India or on the nations of Europe, they view as entirely without their province, unless it be necessary to allude to them at any time to illustrate some signal appearance of Providence relative to Eastern Asia.
But it is impossible for those interested in the welfare of India to be indifferent to the operations of the friends of God and man in Britain. From Britain has sprung indeed nearly all that has hitherto cheered our hearts in India, and while those who love man. kind in Europe and America are so constantly employed in studying how to promote the welfare of this part of the human it cannot but be interesting to those here who are actuated by the same spirit, to be made acquainted with what they do;'and although the various periodical publications convey this intelligence to those in the habit of receiving them, to such as are precluded from this enjoyment, it may not be unpleasant to see as early as possible, a brief summary of what is thus done in Europe and America. This will therefore form a part of the work as often as materials are furnished.
Finally, it cannot be uninteresting to the Friends of India to be informed of the progress made by the cause of God in other