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only one Romish priest, a native of Persia, was a sufficient master of the language to enter upon a work of so critical a nature. As to the Armenian Christians, although they are born subjects to Persia and intermixed with the inhabitants, yet are there very few of them who understand the language fundamentally. It was natural to expect that Mirza Mehdee, and the Persian Mullahs, would be more solicitous to please Nadir, and to support the credit of Mahomedanism, than to divest themselves of prejudices, and become masters of so important a subject. This translation was dressed up with all the glosses which the fables of the Koran could warrant. Their chief guide was an ancient Arabic and Persian translation. Father de Vignes, a Romish priest, was also employed in this work, in which he made use of the Vulgate edition. They were but six months in completing this translation, and transcribing several fair copies of it.
“In May following, Mirza Mehdee with the Persian Mullahs and some of the Christian priests set out from Isfahan for the Persian court, which was then held in encampment near Tcheran. Nadir received them with some marks of civility, and had a cursory view of the performance. Some part of it was read to him; on which occasion he made several ludicrous remarks on the mysterious parts of the Christian religion: at the same time he laughed at the Jews, and turned Mahomed and Ali equally into ridicule.” And after some expressions of levity, intimating that he could himself make a better religion than any that had yet been produced, “he dis. missed these churchmen and translators with some small presents, not equal in value to the expense of the journey."*
This version of the gospels, prepared by command of Nadir Shah, is probably the same with that
which is sometimes found in the hands of the Armenian priests in India. A copy was lately shewn to an oriental scholar in Bengal,* who observed, “ihat if this was the same, he did not wonder at Nadir's contempt of it.”
The number of natives already professing Christianity in Persia, and who are prepared to receive a translation of the scriptures, is very considerable. They consist of four or five classes, viz. the Georgian, the Armenian, the Nestorian, the Jacobite; and the Romish Christians. The Georgians have the Bible in the Georgian language, which was printed at Moscow in one thousand seven and forty-three; but the language is not so generally cultivated among the higher ranks as the Persian. It probably bears the same relation to the Persian, which the Welsh does to the English. The Armenians have a version of the Bible in their own proper tongue, but the copies are few in number. The Nestorian and Jacobite Christians use the Syriac Bible: but it is yet more rare than the Armenian. There are, besides, multitudes of Jews in Persia, who, as well as these different classes of Christians, commonly speak the vernacular language of the country,
The Persian language is known far beyond the li. mits of Persia proper. It is spoken at all the Mussulman courts in India, and is the usual language of judicial proceedings under the British government in Hindostan. It is next in importance to the Arabic and Chinese; in regard to the extent of territory through which it is spoken, being generally understood from Calcutta to Damascus.
Here then is a language, 'spoken over nearly one quarter of the globe, the proper tongue of a great kingdom, in which an attempt has already been made by royal authority to obtain a translation of the Christian scriptures, and where there are, at a low com
• Rey, H. Narty
putation, two hundred thousand Christians ready to receive them. Many of the Persians themselves would read the Bible with avidity if presented to them in an inviting form. The cause of the little jealousy of christianity in Persia, compared with that which is found in other Mahomedan States, is to be ascribed to these two circumstances; first, that christianity has always existed in Persia: the Christian natives forming a considerable part of the population; and secondly, that the Persians themselves profess so lax a system of Islamism that they have been accounted by some Mussulmen a kind of heretics.
It will form an epoch in the history of Persia, when a version of the Old and New Testaments shall begin to be known generally in that country. But the narrative of Nadir Shah's attempt sufficiently proves that no ordinary scholar is qualified to undertake it. The author of such a translation must be a perfect master of the Arabic language, the mother of the Persic, and familiar with the popular and classical Persian. He must, moreover, have access to the scriptures in their original tongues. Such a person, we think, has been found in Sabat of Arabia, who is accounted by competent judges, “to be the first Arabic scholar of the age.”* He has been employed for nearly four years past in translating the scriptures into the Persian and Arabic languages, in conjunction with Mirza Filrut of Lucknow, and other learned natives. Mirza is himself a Persian by descent, and a man of liberal learning among his coutrymen. He visited England some years ago, and was afterwards appointed a Persian teacher and a translator of the scriptures in the college of FortWilliam. These versions by Sabat and Mirza, are conducted under the superintendance of the rev.Henty Martyn, who is himself an Arabic and Persian scholar, and skilled in the original tongues of the
* See Report of Translations by Rer. Heory Partyn, bereafter quoted.
sacred scriptures. He is a chaplain to the honorable the East India company, and is now stationed at Cawnpore in Bengal, where his learned coadjutors also reside. The gospels of St. Matthew and Luke, translated by Sabat into the Persian language, have already been printed; and eight hundred copies are stated in the last report, dated May one thousand eight hundredand ten, to have been deposited in the Bibliotheca Biblica, at Calcutta, for sale.
Arabia was the country in which St. Paul first opened his heavenly ministry. “When it pleased God," said that apostle, "who called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with Alesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem, but I went into Arabia,"--Gal. i. 17. Christianity flourished very extensively in Arabia, during the first centuries. History informs us, that "the disciples of Christ had filled its provinces with the churches of God;"* and frequent mention is made, in the early monuments, of the bishops of Arabia.t This early influence of the gospel in that region might be expected; for Arabia adjoins Palestine;' and the climate of the country, and the manners and customs of the people, are nearly the same.
There are some circumstances which remarkably distinguish Arabia; a recollection of which, in connexion with others, ought now to draw our attention
Θεου γας Εκκλησιων οι Χριστου μαθηται τας χωρας ταυτασ BÀgay... Procopcas Gas. tr. xi 14.
+See them enumerated in Beveridge's Canones Conciliorum. The bishop of Busorah was present at the council of Antioch in A. D 269.
1 Ομορους δη οντας τους Ιουδαιοις εικος και πρωτους το κης ομα δεξασθαι. .
Bring neighbors to the Jews, it was likely that they should first receive ube gospel. Proc. ubi supra,
to it. Arabia was inhabited by the first generations of men. There it pleased the Creator first to reveal himself to his creatures; and in its vicinity the Son of God assumed the human nature. In Arabia, the faculties of the human mind attain to as high a degree of strength and vigor, even at this day,* as in any other country in the world; and the symmetry and beauty of the human person in Arabia are not surpassed by any other portion of the human race.t
Arabia is also remarkable on another account. It was the theatre of the grand defection from christianity, by the Mahomedan delusion, which was to extend to "a third part of men." This predicted apostacy was to be effected, not by returning to paganism, but by a corruption of christianity; that is, by admitting some part of the former revelation of God, and pretending to a new revelation. The delusion itself is aptly compared in the prophecy conçerning it, to "smoke issuing from the bottomless pit;" and its great extent is expressed by its "darkening the sun and the air." And since this defection was to be produced by a corruption of revealed truth, it was necessary that the scriptures should be first corrupted; for where the genuine scriptures are in the hands of men, there is little danger of general infidelity. Accordingly, this preparative for the
•See letter from the rev. Henry Martyn, concerning Sabat, quoted in "The Star in the East." "At intervals I read Persian poetry with Mirza, and the koran with Sabat. These orientals, with whom I translate the scriptures, require me to point out the connexion between every two sentences, which is often more than I can do. It is curious how accurately they observe all the rules of writing. Sabat, though a real Christian, has not lost a jot of his arabian notions of superiority. He looks upon Europeans as mushrooms; and seems to regard my pretentions to any learning, as we should regard those of a savage or an ape." N, B. Mr. Martyn was senior wrangler, or first mathematician of his year, at Cambridge, in 1801; and he had now been two years in society with Sabat.
An intelligent Arabian, who had seen the English in India, observed to tho author, that he thought the minds of the English far superior to their persons. It seemed to him, that there was nothing striking or noble in the English countenance, compared with the dignity and beauty of the Arabians; that the faces were in general flat and torpid, and the eyes wi hout fire. The author informed him, that the English were composed of different nations, and most of these from cold and northern climates; that hence there was a great diversity in their appearance, some being of very ordinary aspect, and others of a dignity and beauty which even an Arabian would aduire.
Rev. ix, ..