« ÎnapoiContinuați »
ness. The improvement that has taken place in this respect shall be given in his own words.
“ It has been remarked, with equal sagacity and truth, that the progress of the Gospel in India is opposed by discipline and system, and that by discipline and system alone can it, under the divine blessing, ever make its way *.' That these essential requi. sites are supplied by the two measures to which I have already alluded, the formation of an Ecclesiastical Establishment, and the ipstitution of a Missionary College, and that they could be effectually supplied by no other human means, will, I think, be admitted by all who have reflected on the subject. But these measures will be attended by another and most important benefit; they will tend to confer upon the Missionary that authority, which alone can predispose the minds of the natives to the cordial reception of the doctrines which he teaches. We have remarked that the learned Brachmin secretly disbelieves the established worship of his country, and regards it as a mere political institution devised in accommodation to the weaknesses and prejudices of the illiterate vulgar. If, therefore, he were inclined to lend an attentive ear to the truths of the Gospel, he would still demand a system of external rites and discipline, which might command the reverence of the multitude and secure that subordination which he deems necessary to the existence of society. This demand the Missionary is now enabled to satisfy; he may now say, ' I come not to you, like my predecessors, impelled only by the suggestions of my own feelings and by my anxiety to impart knowledge in which I am convinced that your eternal salvation is involved. I address you on the part of the people to whose government you are subject;: whose pre-eminence in all the arts of civilization you yourselves admit; and to whom you are indebted for that blessing, which it is the chief end of human society to secure, the equal administration of justice. They commission me to offer to you a religion, to the influence of which they ascribe their own moral and intellectual superiority; a religion, which is founded on the justest and most elevated conceptions of the divine nature, affords at once the most rational and consolatory views of the dealings of God with man, and enforces a system of worship and external rites, not calculated like your own, to degrade the mind by the sensual indulgencies which it allows, but to enlighten the understanding, and purify the heart.' Can we doubt that the Brachmin will be more willing to investigate the claims of the Gospel to his attention, when recommended by an authority to which he has long been accustomed to look up with deference, than when proposed to him by a few individuals, invested with no public character, and able to urge only the strength of their own conviction as the ground on which they demand his assent?
* Bishop Middleton's Letter to the Secretary of the Society for Propagating the Gospel.
“ Nor would the effect upon the mind of the illiterate Hindoo be less favourable to the cause of the Gospel. Not accustomed in his view of the national worship to look beyond the external ceremonies which it prescribed, he saw nothing in the new religion, as it had previously been offered to him, to recompense him for abandoning the faith of his ancestors. But the Missionary can now add weight to his exhortations, by pointing to a visible Church, which holds out its arms to receive the new convert, and to shelter him from the taunts and injuries of the professors of his former faith ; while, by supplying a system of external worship, it satisfies his grosser conceptions of religious duty. Formerly, in embracing the Gospel, the Hindoo appeared to separate himself from the world—to tear asunder the bands by which he was united to his fellow-men-to become a destitute and solitary being. Now he seems only to pass from one society to another, to suhstitute new relations, new ties, new duties, in the place of those which he has voluntarily abandoned.” Bishop of Bristols Sermon,
This view of the subject is then successfully vindicated from the charge of doing injustice to the pure and spiritual cha-, racter of the Gospel, and the influence of a Church Establishment upon the lives and habits of the European inhabitants, is shewn to be another source of the success of the Missionary's labours. Respecting the period at which that success may be expected, the Bishop makes the following judicious remarks, which serve as an introduction to his eulogy upon the character and success of the first Bishop of Calcutta.
“ We approve not that idle curiosity which would pry into • the times and seasons which the Father has put in his own power *.' The Scriptures indeed assure us that the hour will come, when the Church of Christ shall know no other limits than those by which the habitable globe is circumscribed; but whether we, who now live, are destined to witness its triumph over the powers of darkness even in our Indian Empire, would be an inquiry no less presumptuous than unprofitable. Yet while in all humility we commit to God the consummation of his own designs for the salvation of mankind; while we patiently await the hour when, by the effusion of his Holy Spirit, he shall be pleased to give effect to our efforts for the conversion of the natives of Hindostan ; we may not only innocently, but laudably, employ our minds in reasoning concerning the probable result of the human means which we adopt for the accomplishment of this great ob ject. Anong those means the formation of a Church Establishment holds the most conspicuous place. That this measure was the offspring of a wise and enlightened policy, and dictated by a comprehensive and accurate knowledge of the obstacles which had previously opposed the communication of Christianity to our Eastern Empire, has, if we have not formed an erroneous estimate of the correctness of our reasonings, been sufficiently proved in the present discourse. Shall we then be deemed too sanguine, if we indulge a confident hope, that a new æra in the history of Hindostan has already commenced ; and that the great work of evan. gelizing its native inhabitants, though exposed, like all human undertakings, to the occasional shock of adverse events, will henceforward be continually, if not rapidly, progressive ?
* Acts i. 7.
" To one of those adverse events I feel it now my duty to call your attention-to the unexpected death of the pious and able Prelate, to whom the charge of superintending the Indian Establishment was committed. To me he was personally unknown: I must therefore leave to others the pleasing, though melancholy, task of delineating his private character and recording his domestic virtues. But his public conduct has been open to general observation ; and assuredly the tribute of our praise is not more justly due to the wisdom of our rulers in giving a Church Establishment to India, than to their judgment in selecting the individual whom they placed at its head. In him appear to have been united all the qualifications requisite for the successful discharge of his high office; a temper at once firm and conciliatory-an ardent yet enlightened zeal--a superiority to passion and to prejudice-an entire dedication of his thoughts and exertions to the cause of the Gospel-and, above all, a just sense, not only of the arduous nature, but also of the pre-eminent importance and dignity of the work in which he was engaged. He felt that, compared with the object which he was pursuing, the loftiest speculations that can occupy the statesman's mind sink into insigni. ficance. He felt that on him depended the success of the first national attempt to communicate the blessings of Christianity to eighty millions of his fellow creatures; and the consciousness of this awful responsibility, which would have bewildered and overwhelmed a common mind, served only to strengthen his resolution and animate his efforts. Stedfastly fixing his eye on the bright reward which would crown the end, he disregarded the difficulties which threatened to oppose
the progress of his labours. « In no circumstances of the visible Church could the loss of so distinguished a Prelate fail to be lamented as a great calamity, How much more severely must it be felt in the case of a new Establishment like that of India! Yet, while we feel the severity of the dispensation, let us not be insensible to the mercy by which it has been tempered. He might have been cut off at an earlier period of his career, when the infant Church would have been less able to withstand the shock. Thankful, then, ought we to be, that the blow was delayed till he had in some degree matured his plans ; till he had imparted to the new Institutions their present consis
tency and strength; and, what is most important, till by his instruction and example he had rendered others capable of regulating and directing the movements of the vast machine, to which he had himself given the primary impulse. Most arduous still will be the duties of him who has succeeded to the superintendance of the Indian diocese: but he will not be compelled to begin the work anew; he will find the foundations of the building already laid; and his only task, will be accurately to fill up the plan which has been traced by the commanding genius and skilful hand of his predecessor.
“ But I will trespass no longer on your patience. In paying this tribute of respect to the memory of the first Protestant Bishop of India, I have consulted at once my own feelings, and what I conceived to be the expectations of the audience before whom I stand. To human applause, if it were at any time the object of the deceased Prelate's solicitude, he is now no longer sensible ; nor do I hope, by any praise, which I can bestow, to add lustre to a name, which will be handed down in inseparable connexion with the rise of our Ecclesiastical Establishment in India, and be pronounced with reverence by multitudes in after times, when that, which was but now a small seed * and is still a tender plant, shall have become a mighty tree, and all the inhabitants of our Eastern Empire shall rejoice beneath its shade." Bishop of Bristol's Sermon, p. 20.
This eloquent testimony to the merits of Bishop Middleton reflects equal credit upon its author and its object, and is calculated to animate and direct the living not less than to honour the revered dead. Those who were personally acquainted with the deceased Prelate had already declared their opinion of him. The Society for Promoting Chris; tian Knowledge with which he was so intimately connected, had hailed and adopted the words of the venerable Archdeacon of London, who told them that "he had never witnessed parer motives operating on the mind of any man than those which, swayed the resolutions of bis departed friend, and determined him to count all things little in this life in comparison with the charge which was devolved upon him ;” and who consoled them under their irreparable loss, by aserting that the services which Bishop Middleton had effected were worth the life of any man, however highly valued, however dear to others, and whatever under other circumstances might have been the term of its duration." These animated declarations are now confirmed by more unprejudiced judges than the Prelate's friends could be considered. They are ratified by the most venerable assemblages of clergy and churchmen, and re-asserted by a Prelate of remarkable acuteness and impartiality, who came to the subject without a bias, and expressed himself after due enquiry without doubt or qualification. Similar sentiments are daily gaining ground. The Directors of the East India Company have not hesitated to declare that the loss of Bishop Middleton is one which will not be supplied. His successor who spared no pains to acquaint himself with all the occurrences in his new diocese, has expressed himself on the subject in glowing and evidently heart-felt language. And the public who had been silent, principally because they had been ignorant, are beginning to adopt the sentiments of those by whom it is so honourable to be influenced. We have the satisfaction of feeling that the exertions of Bishop Middleton cannot now be thrown away, that his sentiments will always be heard with the attention which they deserve, and that the system which he had so admirably commenced runs no risque of being set aside. His character stands so high with the Church and the country that such an experiment would not be permitted.
* Mark iv. 31.
We must now endeavour to furnisb the reader with some account of the Valedictory Address, the Bishop of Calcutta's Reply, and Mr. Wrightson's Sermon at his Lordship’s consecration. They tend, one and all, to confirm the general opinion respecting the character and conduct of Bishop Middleton, and lead us to anticipate the happiest results from the labours of his excellent successor. The Bishop of Bristol, among many other remarks of equal justice and beauty, adverts, in the following terms, to the progress that bas been already made, and to the expectations reasonably entertained, from the appointment of Bishop Heber.
“Yet, I trust, that you, my Right Reverend Brother, and that the rest of this respectable Assembly will not charge ine with im. properly digressing from the immediate business of the day, if I briefly advert to the change, which has been effected in the prospects of the Society, since a similar Address was delivered in this place. Strongly as the Society were impressed with the conviction that the formation of a Church Establishment afforded the only secure mode of communicating the blessings of Christianity to our Eastern Empire-firm and deeply-rooted as was their confidence in the zeal, the discretion, the ability of Him to whom the government of that Establishment was to be committed --they were, still, too sensible how short-sighted are the views of man, and how frail the nature of all his expectations, not to feel some anxiety and apprehension respecting the success of the newly-adopted measures.