Baptist Missionary Society
Quarterly Papers, July, 1834
As a great deal of public attention has been lately directed towards our Missionary stations in Jamaica, we have this quarter given a Map, for the purpose of showing you the situations of them all. You will observe that this large and beautiful island is divided into twenty parishes, in sixteen of which our Mission has found, more or less, an entrance. The parishes where we have no stations are, St Elizabeth's, Manchester, Clarendon, and Portland. But measures are now in progress for occupying more than one of these parishes, and we trust, at no distant period, all will be provided with faithful men from our Society, who, in connexion with fellow-labourers of other denominations, will be diligently employed in giving to the liberated negroes instruction in the great truths of our holy religion. We are happy to state that the Society has been aleady able to re-occupy the whole of the stations formerly supplied, though some are not furnished as fully with the means of grace as it is desirable they should be, nor will they till other Missionaries go out.
The chapels are still in ruins, which greatly hinders the progiess of the work. The Government have so far listened to our urgent applications on this subject as to grant so much of our claim as will discharge the debts outstanding on the late chapels at the time of their demolition. This is a relief so far: but the amount thus given is not a third part of the whole loss, and we are thus left without any funds applicable to the re-building these houses for God. This is a great disappointment, and the long delay which took place before even this partial measure was resolved on, aggravated the disappointment. The claim, however, is in itself so righteous, that measures will be taken to bring the subject before the legislature at large, by whom we trust justice will not be refused. Should we be mistaken in this reasonable expectation, there will be no alternative but to resort to Christian liberality, and this has been proved too often to allow us to fear it will prove unsuccessful.
We have learnt, with great satisfaction, that the British and Foreign Bible Society have determined to show their concurrence in the general feeling of delight at the approaching emancipation of the negroes, and then earnest concern for the spiritual welfare of that long oppressed people, by presenting a copy of the New Testament, with the Book of Psalms, to each individual who can read, "as an appropriate means of calling his thoughts to that better freedom with which Christ makes free them that are his; and without which earthly liberty is but of little value."
We subjoin a copy of the Resolutions, on this interesting subject, as read and confirmed at a Meeting of the Committee in Earl Street, held on Monday, June 2, the noble president, Lord Bexley, in the chair.
That the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society desire to unite in the general feeling of satisfaction, expressed in so many quarters, at the approaching termination of Slavery in the British Colonies.
That this Committee, while they rejoice in the extension of civil freedom to their fellow-men, cannot but be reminded of that freedom of which the Scriptures speak, and on which the Scriptures lay so great a stress: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John viii. 31, 32. "Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Romans vi. 18.
That it appears a religious duty to embrace so appropriate a moment for calling the attention of those about to be liberated from earthly bonds, to this heavenly freedom and that to present, in an affectionate manner, to such persons at the present juncture a copy of the Scriptures, would be calculated to produce beneficial impressions on their minds.
That, with these views, a copy of the New Testament, accompanied by the Book of Psalms, in a large type and substantially bound, be tendered to every person receiving the gift of freedom on the approaching 1st of August, who can read or who, though not able to read, is the head of a family in which there are readers, or children learning to read; such parties receiving a recommendation from a minister, teacher, or employer.
We cannot doubt that, as the Secretaries remark in Circular accompanying the
above Resolutions "the gift will be accompanied by many prayers that the blessing of God may attend the perusal of his own Holy Word, and that multitudes may be led by it into the possession and enjoyment of the glorious liberty of the children of God."
We cordially rejoice to state that the Indian Government have resolved to abolish the Pilgrim Tax, and to prohibit all Europeans from taking any part in the festivals, processions, &c, made in honour of Juggernaut and the other pretended deities of the country. This is an important and most salutary measure; but there is another which, we trust, will soon follow, of still greater importance. We mean, a revision of the Hindoo law of inheritance, we are aware of the piactical difficulties attending such a step, but how urgently it is demanded for the protection of those among the natives — the female sex particularly — whom the mercy of God may lead to embrace the Gospel, the following narrative, furnished by our brethren of the General Baptist Missionaiy Society, will show:-
In November, 1832, the Rev. C. Lacey, of Cuttack, received from Radhoo, a converted Hindoo, an interesting account respecting two married females in Koojebur, a place a few miles from that city, whose minds were deeply impressed with the truths of Christianity. They were persons in easy cucumstances and of respectable caste. They desired to see one of the Missionaries and to be admitted to Christian Baptism. A few days afterwards Mr. Lacey, accompanied by the Rev. W. Brown and several native Christians, visited their neighbourhood, and had an interview with them, which was of a very satisfactory character. For the sake of illustrating the good sense and feeling of these converted females, we extract, from Mr. Lacey's journal, a part of the conversation he had with them.
"Q. How do you know that you are a sinrner? A. Because I know that I have committed sin. Q. How do you hope to be saved from sin? A. By Jesus Christ. Q. What did Jesus Christ do for sinners? A. He died on the cross for them: his hands and feet were pierced with nails, and his head with thorns, and his side with a spear. Q. But how do you know that Jesus Christ died for you? A. He died for all the world, and so I know he died for me, for I am one in the world. Q. Your forefathers worshipped idols, and why do you leave the gods of your fatheis? A. They cannot either see,or hear, or think, or eat, or stand, or go; they cannot save me therefore. Q. But after jebunjasa (the possessing them with the divine spirit by certain brahminical muntras) the shastras say the divinity resides in them; what think you of that doctrine? A. Even when they cannot see, or hear, or talk, &c and it is all deception. Q. Many of the great, and rich, and learned, both of the brahmuus[?] and all other classes reverence these idols, and therefore why do you, who are much inferior in wisdom to them, reject them, and wish to worship and serve Jesus Christ? A. Because God has been gracious to me, and has called me. Q. Should you be baptized, you must live a regular and holy life; you must daily pray to God, and think on his love and grace and must continue doing so till death, can and will you do this? A. God having given me stiength, I will. Q. Your profession of Christ will involve your loss of caste, relations, husband, children, and your comfortable curcumstances of life it may be and will involve you in disgiace and persecution, and perhaps poverty: had you not better consider well whether you can endure these things? A. I have thought of all this, and am willing to bear all; I came out of my house after having made up my mind to do so. I wish now to sacrifice myself to my Lord; I cannot bear any thing compared with what he bore."
After this conversation the Missionary felt himself placed in circumstances of no ordinary responsibility. He perceived that if he admistered baptism to these individuals it would involve the loss of their relatives and domestic comforts, yet being satisfied with their acquaintance with sacred truth, on their application, he was bound by a higher than any earthly authority to receive them into the bosom of the Christian church. He felt that not Christianity but Hindooism must bear the blame of any painful consequences that might follow their avowal of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour. He accordingly baptized them in the presence of many heathen and native Christian spectators. These females were mother and daughter, and the younger had an infant she was desirous of retaining. The heathen relations presented a petition to the magistrate at Cuttack, praying not only that the infant might be delivcied to the father, but that both the women might be deprived of their personal ornaments, which are represented as forming a resource by disposing of which a little relief may be obtained in time of extremity. The women presented a countered petition to the following effect, which, from its simplicity and propriety, we shall take the liberty of inserting.
"May it please your honour. Having received the Christian religion, our husbands refuse to receive us into their houses, and have moreover presented a petition to your honour, to obtain the child, and our personal ornaments. We humbly present this petition therefore, to beg of your honour, to be pleased to order that the mother may retain the child, for as it is but nine months old, it will die if it be deprived of its proper nourishment. We beg moreover to inform your honour, that there is a girl of four years of age with the father, and therefore the mother hopes she
may be allowed to retain the infant she holds in her arms. We moreover beg to be allowed to retain those of our personal ornaments which were presented to us by our parents and husbands at the time of our marriage. We also beg to assure your honour, that we are ready to return to our husbands and wait at their feet as heretofore."
The mother further begged that if not allowed permanently to retain the child, she might keep it for three months, promising then to deliver it up to the father, but no attention was paid to this request, and the child was forced from her arms.
On an appeal to the British magistrate, that gentleman produced the inheritance law as affecting those Hindoos who become Mussulmen, prostitutes, leave their own husbands to live with others, who are blind or lame, or go enraged or mad, &c, &c. By this law such persons are stripped of all; and he decided that the two female converts had incurred the penalties of that law. The order was given for them to be stripped of the little property they had remaining on their persons in the form of ornaments. These they gave up, but the very clothes they had on their backs were taken away, and they borrowed clothing of their native Christian friends. The females behaved throughout the trying scene with a gentleness, firmness, and modesty, which greatly recommended their profession, and could not but produce the most salutary impression on all who witnessed their conduct.
Thus we have practical evidence of the nature of the Hindoo law of inheritance as it respects native converts. The conversion of Hindoos to Christianity forms the recompence for the sacrifice of much treasure and many valuable lives on the part of British Christians, and, according to the decision of a British magistrate, we now see with whom those converts are classed. We find that the female who in her self-devotion to the Saviour manifests a martyr's spirit, is placed on the same level with the most degraded of her sex. Piety and crime meet with the same reward. Surely a liberal and Christian government ought not to allow such a state of law to continue, but should give that religious liberty to India which is enjoyed in other parts of the British empire. Nor should the progress of our common Christianity be obstructed by pains and penalties virtually imposed on those who embrace that divine religion.
N. B. These papers are intended for distribution (gratis) to those friends who contribute a penny a week or more for the Baptist Missionary Society.
[From the Baptist Missionary Society, Quarterly Papers, July, 1834, pp. 202-204; via Internet by the University of Manchester, John Rylands University Library. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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