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perished, enduring indescribable agonies? Had you been there, and been permitted to have yielded to the impulse of your feelings, you would have brought him up out of this horrible pit, and set his feet upon our. Rock; but, alas! there is no pity-no mercy-no tenderness of heart in Moloch's kingdom. . “The custom of burning widows on the funeral piles of their deceased husbands is now very generally known, but I fear that it has not excited all that intense anxiety for its suppression which it ought to inspire in every Christian bosom.* After the widow has declared her resolution to burn, she leaves her house for the last
time, with her children, relations, and a few neighbours. . She proceeds to a river, when a priest attends upon her, and where certain ceremonies are performed, accom-
The author has lately received a letter from India, in which the writer, alluding to the sermon from which these ex. tracts are taken, says, “ It will, I doubt not, afford you a painful satisfaction to learn, from an eye-witnes3 of many of the scenes which are delineated, that though the colouring which is given be vivid, it is not more vivid than accurate. Let the following statement, which was related to me yesterday hy Miss Ward, eldest daughter of the much lamented Mr. Ward of Serampore, be taken as a corroborative evidence of its truth. A man and his wife, whose age was not more than seventeen, resided in the vicinity of a female school which Miss W. and the other junior female branches of the Serampore Mission family, superintended. The man was attacked by a fever, and applied to Miss W. for medicine, which she admi. nistered, and frequently conversed on religion with his wife. The malady proved fatal, and his wife became a widow, and immediately resolved upon being burnt with the dead body of her husband. Her neighbours, her friends, and her relatives urged every argument which they conceived would be oper. ative to dissuade her from her purpose, but in vain. The na. tive Ckristians of Serampore visited her, and expostulated with her, but without effect. Miss W. said she was altogether a different person. Previously to her husband's death she was modest, and very attentive to what they might say; but now there was a fiend-like decision about her which made her appear almost a subject of demoniac possession. Dr. Marshman and Mr. Mack visited her, but their interview was equally inefficacious. Some of her relatives told her, they knew she would shrink from it when it came to the last; to whom she replied, 'Shall I? bring me a light, and I will shew you. A light was brought, which she took, and put one of her fingers. into the flame, and there continued it till it was consumed from her hand. Application was then made by the relatives to the Judge of the Serampore district, for permission to burn
panied by ablution. When these are over, she comes up to the pile, walks slowly round it several times, and at length lays herself down by the dead body, placing her arm over it. Two cords are now thrown over the pile, with which the dead and the living are bound togeTher; a large quantity of faggots are laid upon them, and two levers are used to press down the widow, to prevent her from making her escape when the flames begin to scorch her! Now, mark the pure demoniac cruelty of their system! Thehigh priest of death adthe widow with the body, which permission the Judge absolutely refused. A similar application was then made to the Governor, who also refused; and during the whole day they continued to apply, and receive denials. But when the Governor learned that she had already consumed her finger, and that the whole family would now lose caste if she was not per. mitted, he granted his permission, but attended himself with a party of soldiers, thai no violence might be used in urging her to the act, or in constraining her to endure what she had volun. tarily chosen. She then anointed herself and the body, and both were carried to the brink of the river, where a large pile of wood was heaped up, and the body laid upon it. She re. quested her brothers to lift her up to it, which they did; she lay by the side of the dead body, embracing it, and a quantity of wood, on which they poured ghee, (clarified butter,) was thrown upon them. The torch was applied, and the fame ascended, but not a sigh nor a groan was heard from this wretched victim of superstition. In this depth of misery she perished,' a lower deep still opening to devour her.' This, Sir, is the system which, for so many years, has been palmed upon the religious public in England, as ån enlightened, intelligent, and almost immaculate code of morals; and these are the people, whose whole history does not furnish an instance of an hospital for the sick, or an asylum for the infirin, who have been termed the innocent, thé inoffensive, and hospitable Hindoos;-Oh! cursed be their bigotry, for it is fierce; and their superstition, for it is cruel. My soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united.'
“ Other parts of the sermon I could illustrate from personal observation. Not twenty yards from our door, at one of their religious festivals, they erected a scaffold, from ten to fourteen feet in height, from which many, being stupified with arrack, a deadly spirit, leaped on a number of spikes which were placed on the ground. Others had large spits passed through various parts of the body, as the tongue, the arms, the breast, &c.; with other scenes which, were I to relate, I should shock humanity, and violate the sacred claims of chastity. These are endured to obtain remission of sins. Their rock is not as our rock, our enemies themselves being judges.'
vances, with an averted fạce, bearing the lighted torch in his hand, with which he sets fire to the pile. Who is he? Her eldest son! Hapless mother! doomed to suckle at thy tender bosom thy fell murderer !—Ill-fated son! doomed to imbrue thy hand in the blood of her who bore thee! But on some occasions the strength of the maternal feeling will suspend, at least for a season, the power of superstition; as the following fact will attest:-A widow, when seated on the pile, heard the cries of her lovely infant; she arose, took her child, suckled it, and returned it to a friend.
"True, 'twas hard to part,
She remounts the pile;
And she is gone for ever!' “ In Christian countries the aged and infirm are generally placed under the benign care of others, who feel a high gratification in administering the last draught of human consolation. But beneath the awful frown of paganism, benevolence is not permitted either to sympathize or extend relief. Persons supposed to be dying, particularly if they are aged, are removed. from their beds, and carried to the brink of the Sacred River; where, amidst the agonies of departing nature, they are half immersed, while torrents of water are poured on them, till life becomes extinguished.”
An European, some time since, on passing along the streets of Calcutta, observed a miserable creature wasting with sickness, laid out on a couch at the front
of a house. To his enquiry concerning the wretched object, and why he was in that situation without one attendant to care for him, a native replied, “He is dying." “Dying,” said the European," he must die if he is thus neglected.” To which the native again replied. with equal indifference as at first, “ Oh! he is dying.” How different the conduct of those who live in this country, where the gospel of Christ has brought the sympathies and sensibilities of our nature to such a high degree of refinement !
"While by the bed of languishment they sit, . And o'er their dying friends in anguish hang;
Wipe the cold dew, or stay the sinking head. “ The social affections, which are cherished in civilized countries by the reciprocal kindness of parent and child, are not allowed a spontaneous growth in those countries where Christianity has not softened the dispositions and the manners of the people. In India the demon of superstition inverts the order of nature, by transforming the parent into a devourer of his own offspring. If the tender infant refuse his mother's milk, instead of being nourished by those other expedients with which we are familiar, he is hung up in a basket on a' tree to be devoured by the birds of the air. When the mother of Moses was compelled, by the cruel edict of her monarch, to destroy, her child, she placed him in an ark of bulrushes, and set a guard to keep off the alligators of death ; but in India the tender mother often sacrifices her first-born to conciliate the favour of her guardian deity in behalf of her unborn progeny. When the child is two or three years old she takes it to the river, encourages it to enter as though about to bathe it, but suffers it to pass into the midst of the current, when she abandons it, and stands an inactive spectator, beholding the struggles, and hearing the screams of her perishing infant. Cruel mother! to decoy thy child into the arms of death! but more cruel system, that eradicates from the mother's breast every maternal feeling, and makes that action a virtue which the law of God and of man denominates murder!
“There is one whole tribe in India which destroys every female child which is born amongst them, so that they are obliged to take their wives from the tribe next in rank to them. On one occasion a father's heart recoiled when the ministers of vengeance demanded his daughter; he repelled them from his presence, spared her life, and she grew up, tenderly beloved by her parents. But the sight of a girl rising to maturity, in the house of a Rajpoot, was so novel, and so contrary to the customs of the tribe, that no parent sought her in marriage for his son. The grief-worn father, suffering under the frowns of his own tribe, and trembling for the chastity of his daughter, and the honour of his family, bore her off-Where?-to some orphan asylum, where she was secure from the ministers of death ? Alas, no! Hindooism never erected such a sacred retreat for human misery.He took her to some pathless desert, where he slew her, leaving her body the food of worms, or to be devoured by the wild beasts of
When you look on this scene of moral ignorance and degradation which is visible, with only a few shades of difference, from every part of the world which the gospel of Christ has not yet visited with its enlightening and renovating spirit, can you avoid pitying the poor deluded and wretched people? When you think of the dishonour which they are casting on God-or the enormity of their guilt-on their self-inflicted tortures, when you see them steeling their hearts against the meltings of nature--stopping their ears to the pleadings of parental affection, and giving their first born for their transgression, the fruit of their body for the sin of their soul; when you see them hurried on by the cruel Demon of their own faith, to the verge of self-destruction and after a solemn pause, plunge at once into the invisible world, stained with the blood of their own life, can you suppress the commiserating sigh? Is it possible for you, while such scenes are passing before your eye, not to be convinced that they need that revelation of truth and grace, which it is your unmerited privilege to enjoy, and which by establishing the authority of God, promotes the individual and social happiness of man ? Impossible.
548 • These extracts are taken from a sermon preached before the London Missionary Society in the year 1822.
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