Page images

making of the necessity of translations into the eastern languages, and of a plan of appointing translators, so and so selected, so and so qualified, so and so authorised, and so and so patronised, just as if the fact were not before our eyes that there already are many translations going on with the utmost despatch, a number far advanced, and several very nearly finished; that there already are in full action a set of translators, whose combined industry, fidelity, facility, and attainments in the Asiatic languages, there can be no chance of ever finding men worthy to supersede. And again, in some other instances, where the extraordinary performances of these men have been recognised, we have noticed a mode of expression apparently implying, that they have been employed, or in some way or other patronised, by the College of Fort William; whereas it ought to be understood, that these translators have proceeded under no direction but that of their own judgements, improved and corroborated, as wise men always know how to improve their judgements, by consulting the opinions of all the intelligent persons within their knowledge; and under no patronage or auspices whatever, other than that of the subscriptions of the religious public toward the expences, conveyed to them chiefly through the medium of the Baptist Missionary Society, who sent them to India, aided by a liberal contribution from the British and Foreign Bible So. ciety,-unless indeed, like some of our wretched abettors of paganism, we are to consider it as quite a lavish generosity of patronage barely to have suffered such men to live and study, on the consecrated ground of our Indian territory. Mr. Carey's situation, as a professor in the Bengal College, afforded him, no doubt, many advantages of a literary kind, and also the salary received for his personal services in that situation was an advantage of a pecuniary kind to his grand undertaking; for to that undertaking he has devoted the last rupee that he could spare from his necessary expences, instead of indulging in luxury or making a fortune; this is about the extent of his obligations, (let them be called so, since a Christian and a sectary cannot be supposed to deserve advantages, or to earn a handsome salary) of his obligations to the College; the whole scheme and management of the biblical translations were the concern of the missionaries alone, and independent of that or any other learned institution. Thus supported by no further patronage than a moderate annual subscription, these disinterested and indefatigable men have performed a work which exceeds all former examples in the same department of literary labour. Now we run no hazard in saying, that if the same number of clergymen, commencing under the same difficulties, Vol. V.


without any pecuniary reward for such labours, providing besides, in a great measure, for even the subsistence of themselves and their families by their extra exertions, had acquired such an extent of oriental learning, and executed such a prodigious mass of translation, the preachers on the subject before our Universities would have triumphantly held them up as having gone far already toward executing the great project in question, and as being quite of course the men that ought to form the basis and the soul of any still more extensive scheme, for the same important purpose, which a Christian nation might be inclined or exhorted to adopt. And the reverend preachers would have been highly and, justly indignant at any proposal, which should overlook, or but slightly notice, the great and rapidly advancing performançes of these translators; and which should, we do not say tend to depreciate their labours, but that should do less than most explicitly recognise their works as the more than half accomplishment of the noble design, and the workmen as the persons that ought ever to be at the head of all undertakings or institutions for oriental translations of the bible. Either therefore let it be distinctly and honestly declared, that the circumstance of these translators being sectaries desecrates their attainments, and destroys the value of their labours, destroys even the value of the sacred text if they faithfully turned it into Sanscrit or Hindostanee; or let them be acknowledged as the worthy leaders of the undertaking, the head of the column of biblical assailants of superstition, not to be displaced by substitutes, but reinforced by associates. We have premised these observations, because we thought it more delicate to express them in a general form, than as particular remarks, to be several times repeated on the sermons now before us.

These sermons are the productions of men well known for talents and erudition; and we are pleased that the learned bodies, before whom they were delivered, haye had the subject presented to them with so much elegance, knowledge, and spirit.

Mr. Wrangham's is the first in the order of time. It begins in a pointed and spritely manner, with a quotation from a venerable English prelate, a bishop of Chichester in the sixteenth century, who was of opinion that the most peruicious effects would accrue to the devotion of worshipping congregations, from the prayers being in a language which they could understand. This leads to a brief retrospect of the great contest (more memorable than that about the body of Moses, and between parties of the same character) whether the books of Moses, and all the succeeding inspired writers, should or should not be made known to the people

at large, by means of translations. The preacher exults in the triumph over priestcraft and superstition, the celebration of which victory closes with some friendly and pleasant congratulation of his Holiness, on the benefits he must have derived from the recent discipline of St. Cloud.'

Quitting this view of the fierce resistance made by the priests to the extension of the knowledge of the scriptures, even in any language, and especially to translations into the mother-tongue, as the most effectual mean for that extension, Mr. Wrangham enters on his proper subject, by charging this country with a negligence, at least, of its duty in respect to the communication of divine knowledge to the people of the east; and proposes to consider the subject of translations into their languages under the following topics of inquiry:-With what languages, from moral and political considerations, shall the undertaking begin?In those, which we may prefer, shall we publish the Scriptures collectively, or in separate portions; and in the latter case, what shall be the succession adopted ?-From what text, and by what persons, shall the translation be made?

It will be observed that the mode of expression, in the first of these inquiries, seems to imply that nothing has yet been done, or nothing worth mentioning; though it is proper to add, that there are, in the notes, two or three slight references to the translations already so far advanced under the labours of the missionaries. Supposing that such an inquiry had not been rendered somewhat impertinent-by the fact of a translation of nearly the entire scriptures into the Bengalee, and of a large proportion of them into many other of the languages of India, the question proposed could still have admitted very little doubt or discussion; the vast province which forms, if we may so express it, the head part of our Indian empire, in which we have the greatest extent and familiarity of intercourse with the natives, and in which the translators would almost necessarily be stationed, being very evidently the proper one to begin with. But the preacher has made the proposed inquiry merely a starting point, from which to go into a wide diversity of observations, on our perverse indisposition to impart a privilege to which we are so much indebted as divine truth, to a country to which we are said to be so much indebted as India; on the indications of the will and probable intentions of Heaven in giving us so vast a foreign power; on the nature of the bigotry of the Hindoos, and their wretched condition; on the advantages afforded by the centrality of our eastern empire for diffusing the gospel over all Asia; on the possibility of overcoming the

paganism even of Hindostan; on the inutility of the Roman Catholic mode of proselyting the heathens; on the various dialects of India; on the advantages derived from the institution of an eastern college; and on several other topics. In the course of these observations, our connexion with India is asserted to be so vital to the interests of this country, that the severing of it would open an artery by which we should bleed to death. We suspect Mr. W. would find himself involved in great embarrassment, if reduced to state and prove the prodigious benefits derived by our nation from the possession of India ; and to us it would seem very like a reflection on the arrangements fixed by the Creator, in the economy of the globe, to maintain, that the welfare or ruin of a cultivated people, possessing a cultivated land, can ever, without some monstrous violation of the order of nature, be dependent on a country on just the other side of the planet.

Mr. Wrangham possesses a very liberal mind, and undoubtedly addressed an audience to which nothing could be more grateful than the full display of his liberal sentiments; we are therefore sure that, since the violent outcry which he has heard from bigots and infidels against a disinterested, pious, and indefatigable band of missionaries, he has been sorry for the inadvertency of a sentence like the following, apparently, from the immediate connexion, pointed at those missionaries; we do not, like some of the sectaries of our own church, rely upon either the sincerity or stability of sudden conversions. (p. 15.) Those missionaries, we believe, have been more scrupulous in their examination of professed converts previously to admission, and more strict in their subsequent discipline, than any missionaries that ever went before to any part of the heathen world. Such a reflection will appear also somewhat indiscreet, when it is recollected that none but sectaries have been found in England willing to engage in such a mission.

Under the second head of inquiry it is easily shewn, that it will be better to circulate select portions of the bible, at first, than all at once to communicate the whole, even independently of the consideration how much earlier this can be done; and this has been the method adopted by the missionaries. He recommends such selections to be accompanied by a

Simple abstract of the Jewish story, contrasting their once flourishing, with their now fallen condition; a plain set of canons, teaching the accurate appreciation of historical evidence; a summary exhibition of arguments, establishing the general authenticity of our Scriptures; a naked adduction of dates, evincing the interval between the delivery of the predictions, as stated by Jews, and their fulfilment as proved by Christians

--and such other short elucidations as may be deemed essential to the work.' p. 24.

The third question, From what text, and by what persons shall these translations be made?' is answered, as to the first part, by a recommendation of The authorised English version; with such previous corrections however as, by the concessions of its most strenuous friends, may for this purpose be derived from the modern collations of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the highly advanced state of biblical criticism, and the numerous illustrations of the inspired writings lately discovered in the compositions and customs of the east." This rule of translating from the English version should obviously be meant for such natives of the east, as may be engaged to assist in the translations, and who will be unacquainted with Hebrew and Greek: our preacher however thinks that not very much of this native co-operation will be wanted by such men as Colebrooke and Carey, provided they be encouraged by the munificence of their country, which is never so exhausted as to be wanting to noble purposes, and fostered by the smiles of their sovereign, who in the royal patron of the authorised version has a bright example of sagacity in discovering, and liberality in rewarding, professional talent.' With respect to the liberal reward of professional talent,' Mr. Carey not only does not ask, but would not accept, any such reward as an advantage to himself. This munificence, however, and these smiles,' says our preacher, will first be wanted at home.' But what munificence and smiles does he mean? can he seriously imagine that for such a thing as making the bible better understood at home, or diffusing its light among the people of Asia, any patronage is to be expected, beyond what may arise from the charity of individuals, applied to the object by themselves immediately, or through some of the Christian societies? We have heard of no movements toward the adoption of such a plan as that proposed by our preacher; the dignitaries and the body of the clergy have been still and silent; and even by Her whose liberal ear' he addressed with so much animation, the matter seems to have been dismissed quietly from recollection, though he assumed to say for Her, that She was going to be very active about it.

We find, contrary to what we surmised on reading a former page, that a corrected English text is to be made the authori tative staudard for even the most learned European translators into the Oriental languages, for the Colebrookes and the Careys.' We should think the Colebrookes and the Careys would be very apt to spurn at any such imposition.

[ocr errors]

« PreviousContinue »