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dras, on a special mission to Malabar and Travancore, (before Dr. Buchaman visited those countries), in order to investigate the state of the
Syrian and other Christians; and that
the official Report which this esteemed and much-lamented clergyman made to Lord William Bentinck, was afterwards published under the authority of the Supreme Government of India. If they had paid the slightest attention to this Report, it would probably have prevented their present publication. It would, at least, have preventcd their charging the Syrian church of . Malayala with the errors of Rome; for it would have clearly pointed out to them the distinctions which exist among the Christians on the Malabar coast, and must have convinced them that the account which they have given to the world, under the sanction of their authority, referred principally, if not wholly, to the Syrian Roman Catholics, and not to the true Syrian Church of Malayala. An extract from the Report of Dr. Kerr will prove this point. “In the creeds and doctrines,” he observes, “ of the Christians of Malabar, internal evidence exists of their being a primitive church; for the supremacy of the pope is denied, and the doctrine of transubstantiation never has been held by them. They also regarded, and still regard, the worship of images as idolatrous, and the doctrime of purgatory to be fabulous. Moreover, they never admitted as sacraments, extreme unction, marriage, or confirmation. All which facts may be substantiated on reference to the Acts of the Synod, assembled by Don Alexis de Meneses, Archbishop of Goa, at Udiamper, in the year 1599.’ “The Christians on the Malabar coast,” he proceeds to state, “are divided into three sects; 1. The St. Thomé, or Jacobite Christians. 2. The Syrian Roman Catholics. 3. The Latin Church.” “1. The St. Thomé Christians still retain their ancient creed and
usages, and consider themselves as the descendants of the flock established by St. Thomas, who is generally esteemed the Apostle of the East. Their ancestors emigrated from Syria, and the Syro-Chaldaic is the language in which their church service is still performed. They admit no images within their churches, but a figure of the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus in her arms, which is considered merely as an ornament, and not a subject of idolatrous worship.” “It has been long believed, that these Christians held the tenets of the Nestorian heresy, and that they were obliged to leave their own country in consequence of persecution. However, it appears, that the Creed they now hold denies that heresy, and seems to coincide in several points' with the Creed of St. Athanasius, hut without its dammatory clauses. The service in their church is performed very nearly after the manner of the Church of England; and when the Metropolitan was told, that it was hoped that one day an union might take place between the two churches, he seemed pleased at the suggestion. —The character of these people is marked by a striking superiority over the heathens in every moral excellence; and they are remarkable for their veracity and plain dealing. They are extremely attentive to their religious duties. They are respected very highly by the Nairs; and the Rajahs of Travancore and Cochin admit them to rank next to the Nairs. Their number, it is generally supposed, may be estimated at seventy or eighty thousand. The direct protection of the British Government has been already extended to them; but as they do not reside within the British territories, I am doubtful how far it may be useful to them. To unite them to the Church of England would, in my opinion, be a most noble work; and it is most devoutly to be wished, that those who have been driven into the Roman pale might be recalled to their ancient church; a measure
which it would not be difficult to accomplish, as the county governments would be likely to second any efforts for that purpose. Their occupations are various as those of other Christians; but they are chiefly cultivators and artizans; and some of them possess a comfortable, if not a splendid independence. Their clergy marry in the same manner as Protestants. Their residence is entirely inland.” “2. The Syrian Roman Catholics are those who were constrained, after a long struggle,to join the Latin church, and who still continue in her pale, though distinguished from her in this, that they are allowed, by a dispensation from the pope, to
perform all services of the Church
of Rome in the Syro-Chaldaic language.” “ The Hindoos have a much greater respect for the Christians of the original church, than for the converts of the Latin communion.” “Their priests,” we are also told, “act under the direction of the Church of Rome, and leave no means unessayed to draw over their primitive brethren to the Romish communion.” ese priests are spoken of as being very ignorant. “They read prayers in §. according to the ritual of the Church of Rome.” Dr. Kerr closes his Report with some general observations.—“It appears,” he observes, “from the foregoing statement, that pure Christianity is far from being a religion for which the highest cast of the Hindoos have any disrespect; and that it is the abuse of the Christian name, under the form of the Romish religion, to which they are averse.” No candid man can read the above Report, without perceiving that the Syrians spoken of by the Society's missionaries in their journals, are identified with the Roman Catholic part of the Syrian Christians described by Dr. Kerr; and it would be just as fair to judge of the Church of Ireland by the sentiments of those
who had apostatized from her communion and joined the Romish church, as to judge of the Syrian church of Malayala by the opinions or conduct of those who had quitted her pale and conformed to the Roman Catholic ritual. The journal of the missionaries accords entirely with the Report of Dr. Kerr, if we allow that they refer, not to the Syrian church of Malayala, but to the Romish converts from that church; but otherwise these documents are directly at variance. But Dr. Kerr's Report is not the only recent and authentic information we possess on this subject, and with which the Society might have collated the obsolete and unsatisfactory hear-say statements of their missionaries. An account of the Syrian Christians was published in India in 1807, by the Rev. Dr. Buchanan, after his return from Travancore, part of which was afterwards re-published in England by the late Bishop of London. It also appeared in the Christian Observer for 1807, p. 654. The following is an extract from this account, which contains some particulars not mentioned in the Christian Researches. “The number of Syrian churches is greater than has been supposed. There are at this time fifty-five churches in Malayala, acknowledging the Patriarch of Antioch. The last church was erected by the present Bishop in 1793. “ The Syrian Christians are not Nestorians. Formerly, indeed, they had bishops of that communion, but the liturgy of the present church is derived from that of the early church of Antioch, called ‘Liturgia Jacobi Apostoli.” They are usually denominated Jacobita, but they differ in ceremonial from the church of that name in Syria; and, indeed, from any existing church in the world. Their proper designation, and that which is sanctioned by their own use is ‘Syrian Christians,' or ‘the Syrian church of Malayala.’ The old Syrians have continued till lately to receive their bishops from Antioch #.” We have understood from Dr. Buchanan's private communications, since he came to this country, that he had found a few of the Syrian priests who held that tenet of Eutyches, which asserts, that Christ had but one, and that a divine nature ; but even these seemed to explain it away in words, for they spoke of Christ's human nature like Protestants. Their bishop never once mentioned the subject, although he knew that Dr. Buchanan held a contrary opinion ; and, as for the bulk of the people, they seemed to
know no more of Eutychian doc
trine than the common people in England; and they are probably as little acquainted with it as our population is with the Arian or Socinian doctrine. In his discussions with the Syrians, Dr. Buchanan appears not to have thought it fit to canvass with them disficult points of doctrine. He wisely made it his chief object to forward the translation of the Bible, knowing that this was the fountain of light; and that if they were once possessed of this, it would be easier to adjust particular doctrines. Under the peculiar circumstances, indeed, in which this people are placed, it is impossible that their minds should not be in a somewhat fluctuating state with respect to doctrinal points. The nation in general are called St. Thomé Christians. This is their name in all parts of India, and it imports an antiquity that reaches far beyond the Eutychians or Nestorians, or any other sect; but in process of time certain Nestoriati, and after them certain Eutychian, bishops obtained the supremacy among them t ; and now the Roman Catholics constantly
* Account of Syrian Christians, p. 3. Calcutta, 1807.
t It surely would be unfair to infer the character of any church ; of our own, for example, frou the character and doctrinal sentiments of individual bishops or priests. What say our Articles? What says our Liturgy?
assail them whenever an opportunity offers. Much allowance was, therefore, to be made for them; and Dr. Buchanan, finding them placed in such interesting circumstances, holding fast the few Bibles and fragments of Bibles they possessed, and resisting the antichristian spirit “ which had deceived the nations,” he appears rather to have sought, in what things they might agree, than in what they might differ; how he might do them good by the communication of scriptural light, than how he might find reasons to justify his exclusion of them from the pale of Christian fellowship. In following such a conduct, we think Dr. Buchanan acted wisely and well. In giving an account of them in his Christian Researches, he has chiefly confined himself to his conversations with their most learned men on important subjects. In regard to the state of the people generally, he has observed “ that he perceived all around symptoms of poverty and political oppression ; that in the churches and in the people there was the air of fallen greatness; and that they appeared like a people who had known better days;” to which one of their priests replied, “We are in a degenerate state, compared with our forefathers; the learning too of the Bible is very low amongst us.” Dr. Buchanan also notices, that “they have some ceremonies nearly allied to those of the Greek church;” and in his conversation with the Bishop, he remarked, “ that there were some rites and practices in the Syrian church which our church might consider objectionable or nugatory.” Had the Society thought proper to examine this living witness, they might have found reason to qualify, if not entirely to withhold, their statements. But the most competent authority on subjects relating to the Syrian Christians, is Colonel Macaulay, This is the only fair test. Even supposing that all our bishops and all our clergy are now orthodox, have they always been so?
late Political Resident for the Bri
tish Government, in Travancore;
who is now in this country. This officer, we are informed, resided for about eight or ten years in the vicinity of the Syrians, had constant official intercourse with them, saw them very frequently, and often visited and received visits from their metropolitan and chief priests. We also understand this officer to have declared, that the account which states the Syrian Christians in Malayala, who are not in the connection of Rome, to be Nestorians, and that they worship the Virgin Mary, is utterly groundless; for that the metropolitan Mar Dionysius (whom he is said to describe as having been a man of great piety and respectability) had sent to him the Creed of his Church, which disclaims the errors of Arius and Nestorius by name *. Dr. Kerr has stated in his Report, that “ the direct protection of the British Government had been extended to the Syrians.” This was done through this British Resident (Colonel Macaulay), who, if we are
* This information appears to be confirmed by a statement in our volume for 1807, p. 655, where there is the following note : “In a written communication to the Resident of Travancore, the Metropolitan states their creed" (viz. that of the Syrian church of Malayala) “to be as follows: “We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, three persons in one God, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance; one in three and three in one; the Father generator, the Son generated, and the *Holy Ghost proceeding. None is before or after other in majesty, honour, might, and power, coequal; Unity in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity.’ He then proceeds to disclaim the different errors of Arius, Sabellius, Macedonius, Manes, Marcianus, Julianus, Nestorius, and the Chalcedonians, and ends with repeating their belief in the doctrine of the Trinity, and that “in the appointed time, through the disposition of the Fatherand the Holy Ghost, the Son appeared on earth for the salvation of mankind ; that he was born of the Virgin Mary, through the means of the Holy Ghost, and was incarnate God and man; so that in this union of the divine nature, there was one nature and one substance.’”
not misinformed, constantly exerted his influence with the Rajahs of Travancore and Cochin, to defend the old Syrian Christians, and also the Syrians of the Romish Church, against the oppression of the Rajah's officers, and particularly of the Dewan of Travancore, the chief who afterwards fomented the war of 1808–9 against the English, which ended in the humiliation of the Travancore power. It was to Colonel Macaulay, also, that the Syrian Bishop entrusted the portions of the New Testament, as he translated them into Malayalim; and the printing of them afterwards at Bombay was conducted under the direction of the same officer. As Colonel Macaulay possesses such indisputable means of communicating to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge and to the public at large the most authentic accounts of the present state of the Syrian Christians, we trust that he will be induced by the importance of the points which have been mooted, to the interests, not only of the Syrian Church, but of Christianity itself, to come forward with a statement on the subject, which may serve to remove all farther doubts respecting it. If the charge brought against the Syrian church be, as we believe, unfounded, he will thus assist in rescuing from an unmerited stigma, a body of Christians, whose constancy through so many ages in the profession of a comparatively pure faith, while almost every other church yielded to the overwhelming power either of the Latin or Greek superstition, is well fitted to command our highest veneration. In one important particular, the journals of the missionaries confirm the more recent intelligence; we mean, as to the respectable character of the Syrian clergy in their own nation. It is stated, “ that the priests claim an equality with the highest cast of that country, the Nairs.” It may be expected, that when such shall be led to turn their attention to biblical literature, they should make some proficiency in it.
As to their incompetence to instruct the poor on account of their difference of rank, such an objection would apply equally to the clergy of England. Give them the means of studying the Bible in their vernacular tongue, and let them imbibe its spirit, and we have no doubt that any difficulties arising from difference of rank will speedily vanish. We have already alluded to the defence made by Messrs. Kolhoff and Horst against what they call a charge of Messrs. Cran and Desgranges, that they had “allowed the cast— i. e. the difference between nobility, clergy, gentry, and common people —to subsist.” This charge they pronounce to be “highly uncharitable.” They admit, at the same time, that they, the missionaries, never did “ insist on any person, who wished to embrace Christianity, to renounce his cast. To desire a man to renounce his cast,” they proceed to argue, “signifies, for example, to require a man of the high Seyva, or Wellaler cast, who is accustomed from his infancy to live only upon vegetables, to eat meat, to enter into a close connection or to level himself with the lower classes, or to intermarry with one another, e.g. with the Pariars;”— “ and we do not feel ourselves warranted to require of the higher ranks such an unscriptural surrender of their birthright, to which no nobleman or gentleman in our own country would ever submit.”—Society's Report for 1810, p. 104. Now if all this be sound reasoning, as it respects the converts made by the Society's missionaries, why should it not be good when applied to the Syrian Christians? We can see no difference in the two cases; nor, indeed, is there any proof in the journals of the missionaries, that the attachment to cast on the part of the Syrian priests, or their separation from the lower classes, was, in the very slightest degree, greater than what they themselves (be it right or wrong) allow and justify in their own congregations.
These journals also, as far as they go, shew that there was no unwillingness on the part of the Syrian Christians, not in connection with the Church of Rome, to listen to proposals for an union with Protestants. The only person mentioned in these journals, who appears not to have been of the Romish communion, is one of the bishops with whom the Rev. Valerius Nicolai corresponded on the subject of the Eutychian heresy”, and whom he invited to unite “ in the true orthodox doctrine.”
The bishop, Mar Thomas, did not receive this invitation in an ungracious manner; he merely answered, “ that he could not reply to the subject until he had received permission from his patriarch in Syria.”—Now, if the Syrian bishop was willing to give the subject a consideration at the suggestion of an individual, the Dutch minister at Cochin, what might not be expected if our Church were to use her influence to conciliate, and instruct, and reform that nation ? If it be true that they are in the low state which has been alleged, the proper inference from this is, that we should use the opportunity, if such be offered, of instructing them. It does not seem possible to be entirely indifferent to a people in their circumstances, who notwithstanding their having had, from time to time, spiritual heads who held erroneous opinions; and notwithstanding the cruel persecutions they have had to sustain from their Romish brethren in former ages, and their no less prejudicial arts of seduction in the present; to say nothing of the sufferings they have experienced from the native powers to whom
* This bishop seems not to have been aware that he was an Eutychian, until he was informed of it by Mr. Nicolai. The words of the journals are, “The Rev. Valerius Nicolai wrote, on the 11th July, 1729, both to Mar Gabricl and to Mar Thomas, and pointed out to them that Mar Gabriel is a Nestorian, and Mar Thomas an Eutychian, and offered his mediation, for to unite them both in the true orthodox doctrino.”