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EDWARD PARRY, ESQ.
CHAIRMAN OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY.
As in a Letter lately addressed to you by Mr. Thomas TWINING, on the danger of interfering in the religious opinions of the natives of India, there is a reference to the labours of the Baptist Missionaries in that country, you will not consider me, I hope, as obtruding myself on your attention while I offer a few remarks upon it, and upon the important subject which it embraces.
It is true, the principal part of Mr. Twining's pamphlet is directed against The British and Foreign Bible Society, and that this has been sufficiently answered from another quarter ; but though he affects “not to know these Missionaries,” yet their undertaking particularly in the work of translating the scriptures, bas, no doubt, contributed to excite his alarm,
If by “interfering in the religious opinions of the natives of India,” Mr. Twining means nothing more than the dissemination of the Christian faith by the fair methods of persuasion; the Baptist Missionaries, and those of every other denomination, must be acknowledged to have interfered; but if he include under that term, violence, unfair influence, or any measures subversive of free choice; or any addresses, either in speech or writing, wbich have endangered the peace of society, they have not interfered, nor hare they any desire of so doing.
Whether Mr. Twining has chosen this ambiguous term, that he may with the greater ease insinuate, as occasion requires, the obnoxious idea of a design to overthrow the Pagan and Mahomedan religions by force, I shall not determine ; but that such is the use that is made of it, throughout his pamphlet, is clear. “As long," he says, “as we continue to govern India in the mild and tolerant spirit of Christianity, we may govern it with ease ; but if ever the fatal day shall arrive when religious innovation shall set her foot in that country, indignation will spread from one end of Hindostan to the other.” (p. 30.) Is giving the scriptures, then, to the natives, in their own languages, and offering to instruct them in their leading doctrines, opposed to the mild and tolerant spirit of Christianity? If it be, Sir, neither the Founder of the Christian religion, nor his followers, have yet understood it. Be this as it may, it is not an “innovation :' the fatal day bas arrived more than a century ago. Mr. Twining “ hopes our native subjects in India will be permitted quietly to follow their own religious opinions.” (p. 31.) We hope so too ; but if this gentleman's wishes could be realized, we should not be permitted to follow ours, nor to recommend what we believe to be of eternal importance, to our fellowmen, and fellow-subjects. Yet this is all we desire. If Missionaries, or any other persons on their behalf, should so far forget the principles of the gospel, as to aim at any thing beyond it, I trust the government will always possess wisdom and justice sufficient to counteract them. The question, Sir, which Mr. Twining proposes to submit to a general court of proprietors, whatever be the terms in which it may be couched, will not be, whether the natives of India shall continue to enjoy the most perfect toleration ; but, WHETHER THAT TOLERATION SHALL BE EXTENDED TO CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES?
I have observed, with pain, Sir, of late years, a notion of toleration entertained even by some who would be thought its firmest advocates, which tends not only to abridge, but to subvert it. They have no objection to Christians of any denomination enjoying their own opinions, and, it may be, their own worship; but they must not be allowed to make proselytes. Such appear to be the notions of Mr. Twining and his friends. They do not propose to persecute the Christians of India, provided they would keep their Christianity to themselves; but those who attempt to convert others, are to be exterminated. Sir, I need not say to you, that this is not toleration, but persecution. Toleration is a legal permission not only to enjoy our own principles unmolested, but to make use of all the fair means of persuasion to recommend them to others. The former is but little more than might be enjoyed in countries the most distinguished by persecution ; for few would wish to interrupt men, so long as they kept their religion to theinselves. Yet this is the whole of what some would wish to allow, both in the East and West Indies. In former times, unbelievers felt the need of toleration for themselves, and then they generally advocated it on behalf of others; but of late, owing perhaps to the increase of their numbers, they have assumed a loftier tone. Now, though for political reasons, all men must be allowed to follow their own religion, yet they must not aim at making proselytes. Men who have no belief in the Christian religion, may be expected to have no regard for it; and where this is the case, the rights of conscience will be but little respected.
So far as my observations extend, these remarks are applicable to Deists in general; and wliere situations are favorable to their views, they may be expected to rise in their demands. In a letter from Mr. Carey, now before me, of a late date, he writes as follows :-" India swarms with Deists; and Deists are, in my opinion, the most intolerant of mankind. Their great desire is to extérminate true religion from the earth. I consider the alarms which have been spread through India, as the fabrications of these
The concurrence of two or three circumstances, in point of time; namely, the massacre at Vellore, the rebellious disposition of the inhabitants in some parts of Mysore, and the public advertisements for subscriptions to the oriental translations, have furnished them with occasion to represent the introduction of Christianity among the natives, as dangerous.”
While Mr. Carey was writing this letter, Sir, he might not be aware that a number of these men were preparing to enbark for Europe, with a view to spread the alarm at home. Assuredly they have a cause in which they are engaged, as well as the Bible Soci
ety; and are not wanting in zeal to support it. Mr. Twining would be thought a Christian: but, if so, in what cause is he engaged? He may pretend that he is only pleading for toleration; but, in fact, he is pleading for the exclusion of what he acknowledges to be light and truth, and for the refusal of toleration to the religion of his Maker.
As “the religious opinions and customs of the natives of India" are a subject on which Mr. Twining's feelings are so “particularly alive,” it may not be amiss to state what a few of these opinions are. It may not be necessary, Sir, for your information; but some persons into whose hands this pamphlet may fall, may be the better able to judge of the question at issue.
In the first place, then, the Hindoos acknowledge one SUPREME GOD: they do not appear, however, to worship Him, but certain subordinate powers, which, they say, proceeded from him. Of these, the three principal are denominated BIRMHA, the creator of all; VISHNOO, the preserver of all; and Seeb, the destroyer of all. Birmba is not worshipped at all: Vishnoo only by a few; but Seeb (the destroyer) by almost all: their worship, therefore, is chiefly the effect of superstitious fears. The foulest vices are ascribed to these subordinate deities in their own shasters; but that, wbich is sin in men, they say, is not sin in the gods. Besides these, they worship innumerable inferior deities, called debtas, chiefly, if not entirely, under an idea that it is in their power to do them harm. The lusts, quarrels, and other vices of these debtas also fill their shasters, as their images do the country. The chief use that they seem to make of the one Supreme God is to ascribe to him all the evil that they commit, and to persuade themselves that they are not accountable beings.
They have a most firm faith in conjuration, in lucky and unlucky days; and in almost all their civil concerns act under its influence.
A considerable part of their religion consists in self-torment. One will hold up a hand till it is grown stiff, and he is incapable of taking it down again: another will lie upon the points of iron spikes, just so blunt as not to pierce him to death, and this for gether; others, on certain days at the beginning of the new year, are suspended in the air by sharp iron hooks, stuck through the skin on each side of their back, and continue swinging round in that position from five to fifteen minutes. At the worship of JUGGERNAUT, whose temple is in Orissa, this massy wooden god is borne in a carriage, drawn by the multitude; and while the air resounds with their shouts, happy are those who throw themselves under the wheels to be crushed to death! This, and every other species of self-torment and self-murder, gains admiration from the spectators.
Besides this, it is well known to be a part of their religion to favour the burning of widows with the bodies of their deceased husbands. Their sbasters pronounce this to be a great virtue, and to render them a kind of celestial beings. And lest the circumstance of absence at the time of the husband's death should
prevent it, their laws prescribe as follows : “If the wife be within one day's journey of the place where her husband dies, the burning of his corpse shall be deferred one day for her arrival. If he die in another country, the virtuous wife shall take any of his effects, a sandal for instance, and binding it on her thigh, shall enter the fire with it.” Thus careful are these sacred laws to secure their victim. And, as if it were meant to outrage every vestige of humanity, and to refine upon cruelty, it is an established law, that the eldest son, or nearest relation, shall set fire to the pile !
Great numbers of infants also are thrown into the river, as offerings to the goddess ; and others, who refuse their mother's milk, are frequently hung up in a basket on the branch of a tree, to be devoured by ants, or birds of prey !
Whether all these stoms be proper objects of toleration, may admit of a doubt. The British government in India seems to bave thought otherwise. The Governor General in Council, on Aug. 20, 1802, is said to have passed a decree declaring some of them to be murder. We leave this, however, to the civil authorities. Our object is confined to remonstrance, persuasion, and the exhibition of truth : and surely, if it be possible by such means to induce a people or any part of a people, to cast away these practices, it must be so far favourable to buman happiness. If, Sir, there