Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

stripts in the Syriac language: and I have been successful in procuring some old and valuable copies of the scriptures and other books, written in different ages and in different characters.

[ocr errors]

"Cande-nad, a Church of the Syrian Christians,

November 23, 1806. "This is the residence of Mar Dionysius, the Metropolitan of the Syrian church. A great number of the priests from the other churches had assembled by desire of the bishop, before my arrival. The bishop resides in a building attached to the church. I was much struck with his first appearance. He was dressed in a vestment of dark red silk; a large golden cross hung from his neck, and his venerable beard reached below his girdle. Such, thought I, was the appearance of Chrysostom in the fourth century. On public occasions, he wears the Episcopal mitre, and a muslin robe is thrown over his under garment: and in his hand he bears the crosier, or pastoral staff. He is a man of highly respectable character in his church, eminent for his piety, and for the attention he devotes to his sacred functions. I found him to be far superior in general learning, to any of his clergy whom I had yet seen. He told me that all my conversations with his priests since my arrival in the country had been communicated to him. "You have come,” said he, "to visit a declining church, and I am now an old man: but the hopes of its seeing better days cheer my old age, though I may not live to see them.” I submitted to the bishop my wishes in regard to the translation and printing of the holy scriptures. “I have already fully considered the subject,” said he, “and have determined to superintend the work myself, and to call the most learned of my clergy to my aid. It is a work which will illuminate these dark regions, and God will give it his blessing.” I was much pleased wherr I heard this pious resolution of the venerable man; for I had

H

now ascertained that there are upwards of two hundred thousand Christians in the south of India, besides the Syrians who speak the Malabar language. The next subject of importance in my mind, was the collection of useful manuscripts in the Chaldaic and Syriac languages; and the bishop was pleased to say that he would assist my inquiries and add to my collection. He descanted with great satisfaction on the hope of seeing printed Syriac bibles from England; and said they would be a treasure to his church."

[ocr errors]

Cande-nad, 24th November, 1806. "Since my coming amongst this people, I had cherished the hope that they might be one day unit. ed with the church of England. When I reflected on the immense power of the Romish church in India, and on our inability to withstand its influence, alone, it appeared to be an object of great consequence to secure the aid and co-operation of the Syrian church, and the sanction of its antiquity in the east. I thought it might be serviceable, at least, to lay such a foundation by the discussion of the subject, as our church might act upon hereafter, if she should think it expedient. I was afraid to mention the subject to the bishop at our first interview; but he himself intimated that he would be glad I would communicate freely upon it with two of his clergy. I had hitherto observed somewhat of a reserve in those with whom I had conversed on this matter: and now the cause was explained. The bishop's chaplains confessed to me that they had doubts as to the purity of English ordination. "The English," said they, "may be a warlike and great people; but their church, by your own account, is but of recent origin. Whence do you derive your ordination?" From Rome. “You derive it from a church which is our ancient enemy, and with which we would never unite.". They acknowledged that there might be

salvation in every church where "the name of Christ was named;" but in the question of an union, it was to be considered that they had existed a pure church of Christ from the earliest ages; that if there was such a thing in the world as ordination by the laying on of hands, in succession from the apostles, it was probable that they possessed it; that there was no record of history or tradition to impeach their claim. I observed that there was reason to believe that the sanre ordination had descended from the apostles to the church of Rome. "It might be so: but that church had departed from the faith.” I answered that the impurity of the channel had not corrupted the ordinance itself, or invalidated the legitimacy of the imposition of hands; any more than the wickedness of a high priest in Israel could disqualify his successors. The church of England assumed that she derived apostolical ordination through the church of Rome, as she might have derived it through the church of Antioch. I did not consider that the church of England was entitled to reckon her ordination to be higher or more sacred than that of the Syrian church. This was the point upon which they wished me to be explicit. They expected that in any official negotiation on this subject, the antiquity and purity of Syrian ordination should be expressly admitted.

"Our conversation was reported to the bishop. He wished me to state the advantages of an union. One advantage would be, I observed, that English clergymen, or rather missionaries ordained by the church of England, might be permitted hereafter to preach in the numerous churches of the Syrians in India, and aid them in the promulgation of pure religion, against the preponderating and increasing influence of the Romish church. And again, that ordination by the Syrian bishop might qualify for preaching in the English churches in India; for we had an immense empire in Hindostan, but few preachers:

and of these few scarcely any could preach in the native languages. The bishop said, “I would sacri. fice much for such an union; only let me not be called to compromise any thing of the dignity and purity of our church.” I told him, we did not wish io de grade, we would rather protect and defend it. All must confess that it was Christ's church in the midst of a heathen land. The church of England would be happy to promote its welfare, to revive its spirit, and to use it as an instrument of future good in the midst of her own empire. I took this occasion to observe that there were some rites and practices in the Syrian church, which our church might consider objectionable or nugatory. The bishop confessed that some cusioms had been introduced during their decline in the latter centuries, which had no neeessary connexion with the constitution of the church, and might be removed without inconvenience. He asked whether I had authority from my own church to make any proposition to him. I answered that I had not: that my own church scarcely knew that the Syrian church existed: but I could anticipate the wishes and purposes of good men. He thought it strange that there was no bishop in India to superintend so large an empire; and said he did not per-iectly comprehend our ecclesiastical principles. I told him that we had sent bishops to other counAries; but that our Indian empire was yet in its infancy. Next day, the bishop, after conferring with his clergy on the subject, returned an answer in writing to the following effect: "That an union with the English church, or at least, such a connexion as should appear to both churches practicable and expedient, would be a happy event and favorable to the advancement of religion in India." In making this communication, he used his official designation, “Mar Dionysius, Metropolitan of Malabar.” I asked the bishop if he would permit two of the young Cassanars to go to England to finish their education,

and then return to India. He said he should be very happy to give his permission, if any should be found who were willing to go. I have accordingly made the offer to two youths of good abilities, who are well skilled in the Syriac language."

"Cande-nad, 25th November. “The bishop was desirous to know something of the other churches which had separated from Rome. I was ashamed to tell him how many they were. I mentioned that there was a kasheesha or presbyter church in our own kingdom, in which every kashee-sha was equal to another. “Are there no shimshanas?” (deacons in holy orders.) None. “And what, is there nobody to overlook the kasheeshas?” Not one.

“There must be something imperfect there," said he.* This led to the mention of the different sects. Those which most interested him were the Quakers and Baptists. He said it was an imposing idea to wash the body with water, to begin a new life. He asked whether they were baptized again every time they relapsed into sin and known apostacy. "Are there good men among these sects?” Excellent men almost in all. “I see it is with you as it was in the first ages; new sects were produced by true piety, but it was piety founded on ignorance. But do not good men in these sects relax a little when they grow old?” Yes, they speak in general less frequently and less dogmatically of their peculiar forms when they are old: one reason of which is, that the smaller sects, who are, for the most part, poor, generally acquire their competence of learning in advanced life. We next had some conversation

• It is proper to state for the satisfaction of those who may diffor in opinion with the venerable bishop, that in the Syria, translation of the New Testament, there is no proper word or bishop other than Kasheesha. The words kahde. sha and shumshana, or properly Me-shum hana, are the two terms for the two orders of bishop and deacon in the third chapter of 1st Timothy The terms Episcopos and Metropolita have been introduced into the Syrian church fruna the Greek. The bishop soemed

to be more surprised

at the striking out the acred order of deacon, than at the not inding the order of a superintendios priest or bishop.

« EdellinenJatka »