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CALCUTTA CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.
I.-- Autobiography of a Native Convert.
To the Editors of the Calcutta Christian Observer. GENTLEMEN,
The young man, who is the subject and indeed the author of the following account, finding that it was not likely that a conveyance by ship to Madras would occur in any reasonable time, was recommended by the friends of the late Rev. Mr. Dawson to visit Cuttack for the purpose of being baptized. He immediately agreed to this proposal, and arrived here about the latter end of September. Besides the following account, he carried with him credentials from Major T. W. Brett, and Mr. W. Dawson of Vizagapatam ; and after a few days' acquaintance, during which, in connection with my colleague Mr. Brown, and the native brethren, I had several opportunities of conversing with him, I could not but entertain the same sentiments regarding him, as are expressed in those “ testimonials." This being the case, Lord'sday, October the 6th, was fixed upon as the day for his baptism. The Circuit Judge readily granted us the use of the large tank near the kutcheree ; which, being in a central place, close to the large road, and near the bazar, was well suited for the administration of the sacred ordinance. We had a hymn, prayer, and an address in the native language ; and there certainly were not fewer than 1,000 people collected. As soon as the previous service was over, the crowd involuntarily placed themselves on the
grassy sloping banks of the fine tank ; and the scene was most interesting. The multitude was silent, and the administrator and candidate descended the steps into the water, and the ordinance was administered. The sacred names were repeated both in the English and native languages. The reasons for so public a place being fixed upon were, first, that a large company might be brought together and addressed ; and then, that by seeing how baptism was administered, the people might be disabused of a number of ridiculous notions which the interested have industriously propagated for the purpose of prejudicing the public against the ordinance. The same evening, our new friend approached the Lord's table, and learned the meaning of that gracious institution. He has since that time, up to this day (when he starts off for his own country), talked and walked, so as to lead us to hope well of him. He is at present humble, diligent in reading and understanding the word of God, and zealous for its diffusion among others. He appears to be the first fruits of the labours of our Independent brethren on the coast; and on his first visit to Vizagapatam, where his intention was to profess the Saviour, Mr. Dawson was, though very ill, still alive. He speaks well of several other persons in his neighbourhood; and it is not unlikely that from henceforth some important fruits will, in that direction, be gathered to the fold of the Lord Jesus. May our brethren from these encouraging considerations make haste and renew their strength there ; that they may gather the increase of the soil they have sown with so much patience, labour, and tears. The young man possesses undoubted abilities for making the Gospel known to the people ; and for exercising them with advantage, he has an excellent education, and an extensive acquaintance with the different books and systems of his own religion.
The case of this young man affords a fresh instance, that while we are mourning over our apparently fruitless labours, and even dying without seeing one single individual turn to the Lord, there may be those who are not only inquiring the way to Zion, but who have by means of some tract or gospel, which we may have distributed, obtained a clear knowledge of the way of life, and are walking joyfully therein. And how cheering the persuasion, that after a life of labour in the Saviour's vineyard, we shall meet, perhaps many, whom we may have been the means of guiding into the path of life! How joyful will the announcement be! How desightful the interview! and how it ought to stimulate us, still to pursue our object, leaving our work with the Lord," either to be rewarded with visible fruit here, or only hereafter, as he shall see most fit, for he best knows what we can bear.
We see also, in this instance, the utility of Tract Societies. Here is a young man enlightened, convinced, and brought to trust and rejoice in the Saviour, and all effected through the instrumentality of religious tracts ; without having once had an opportunity of conversing with a Christian! The distant consequences are still more important; for this young man will henceforth commence the preaching of the Gospel to his fellow-countrymen, and from the grace vouchsafed to him, and the sanctification of his naturally excellent and well-cultivated abilities, he will command great attention and exert great influence, and so may, if he continue faithful, be a means of turning many to the paths of holiness and life.
I conclude these remarks with the testimonials sent with Pooroosutom by Major Brett, which, it will be conceded, speak as well for the piety of the writer, as for the sincerity of the Christian convert whom they commend.
Testimonials from Major Brett. “ I hereby certify, that the bearer of this, Chowdry Pooroosutom, was sent to me from Chicacole, in the month of June last, by the late Lieut. Evelyn, 41st N. I. stating, that he had given up his caste, and was very anxious to be baptized, desiring me to send him to Madras by sea for that purpose.
“During the time he has been here, and from the opportunities I have had of conversing with him, I have not the smallest doubt of his sincerity. He appears fully convinced of the sinfulness of sin, and the need of a Saviour ; and there is a peculiar frankness, affection, and spiritual-mindedness in his character, which I never before witnessed in a native. I gave him the four Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and part of the Old Testament in Teloogoo. He appears to understand what he reads, and to be affected by it. On the whole, I consider him to be an eminent monument of Divine Sovereign Grace, and as one who believes with all his heart that · Jesus Christ is the Son of God,' (Acts viii. 37,) and consequently a fit object to receive the Sacrament of Baptism.
(Signed,) W. T. BRETT, Major, 8c.” “ August 27, 1833.
I remain, Gentlemen,
Your's very sincerely,
Statement of Pooroosutom Deb, of the caste called Shroosta-Kuranum. As soon as they could, after my birth, and while yet an infant, my parents placed me in a school. In this school I obtained some knowledge, and grew up into the state of youth. At this period I observed that my father, as well as others of his acquaintance, who professed the same religious usages with him, were very zealous in their services of the god called Vishnoo, in serving whom they hoped to obtain salvation. They, in the time of making their ablutions, meditated on and prayed unto him, and they also fasted in his name. Observing these things while in my youth, I also made my ablutions, praising Vishnoo, and I moreover fasted in his name, and repeated his name on a mala made of the wood of the sweet basil tree. I also worshipped the sun by prostrations, and repeated stanzas to his praise.
When I arrived at man's state, my heart was distracted with carnal desires, and I fell into fornication; and now, although in my thoughts, and words, and actions I abounded in wicked inclinations and wicked works, yet I contrived pretty much to secrete them, and I appeared gentle and devout in the eyes of the people. My father now became anxious that I should improve in knowledge, and to effect this he sat by my side, and made me read books of various descriptions, explaining the meaning of them himself as we went on; the people around listening to his expositions. The meaning thus given to me, I have ever since retained. One effect of these exercises was to excite in me a great desire to be esteemed learned, both in the Teloogoo and Sunscrit languages; that I might become acquainted with the purport of all kinds of shastras, and that people might say, “What a learned man he is !" To accomplish this design, I applied day and night to the study of these languages, and I afterwards determined on repairing to Benares to finish my education there. With this intention I set out in company with two youths of the class of Cullingas; but after proceeding a few miles, my two companious having declined following me, I returned also. From this period my desire for knowledge subsided, but still by my own application I had acquired sufficient knowledge to enable me to compose a book of hymns and praises, which I dedicated to those idols, who, I supposed, were gods. I became acquainted with a book containing a full account of the religion of Jugurnauthum, and imbibed the sentiments it contained. I now wrote a book myself, in three parts, which contained unheard of and unseen prodigies ; this met the approbation of some learned men, which circumstance transported me with joy. I now received Chocknanketum, a ceremony of printing on the arm-blades with a stamp of silver or some other metal. The intention of this was to cleanse and convert; also I received Muntrum or incantations from a Boistnob or devotee of Vishnoo named Pootacondapāråboostoo Streenevasa Varadaucharloo. I at this time visited Jugurnauthum, Semmachalum, Coormum, Moochealingum, and worshipped the images at these places; and being thus infatuated, I committed several wicked actions, which I am now convinced were sinful in the eyes of God. In the vicinity of my village, the Raja of the place built a temple in Catapilly, and set up in it a brazen idol, Kristna Deb; this image I adored, and often frequented the place for this purpose.
As I was very eager in religious pursuits, I submitted to religious devotees and their persuasions. I applied to the Boiragees who visited the temple of Cattapilly, and employed myself in rubbing their feet, imagining them to be good men. From them I heard accounts of Benares, Brindabunum, &c. and many other things; and was inclined to become a Boiragee myself, in order to visit those places, and obtain happiness. Moreover, supposing I should obtain great merit by making ablutions in the month of November, I, in one year, on all the days of that month, arose at the fourth hour of the night, and washed my head, made only one meal in the day, and associated with intelligent Brahmuns. In the Ooriya books of these Brahmuns, I found a part of a religious work called Nishcaumaprāmabhuckatipunchamnootum, which I wrote on Cadjoor leaves, made in a bundle, and continued to read it; and to the great offence of many people fastened it with a string round my neck, so as to intimate that I had relinquished all the passions of this world. In order to become acquainted with my own spirit, and to become a devotee, I learned to contract all the members of my own body; and became acquainted with some devout Cullingas, smiths,
Brahmuns, and weavers ; was obedient to them, and ministered to them as a slave ; receiving from them gifts and blessings, some stamps for imprinting marks, seals of supplications, and large blowing shells. In this manner 1 with two of my companions practised religious rites. I had also composed hymns in praise of those persons who guided me in what I supposed the ways of god. A certain person now assured me, that I could easily obtain admittance into the kingdom of heaven, if I would eat the unclean excrements of my own body; which, in obedience to his direction, I did, supposing that I should thereby mortify the desires of the flesh. I constantly read those books of legends which I supposed led me into the knowledge of the ways of heaven, such as Bamstraraeyan, Viggārā prādeepeica, Suttwasaunim, Bhagavutghetoloo ; out of the last-mentioned book I committed a few verses to memory, that I might repeat them before any person when required, and for the purpose of satisfying my conscience. I selected some verses from the Bhaghabatum, which treated of religious doctrines, and of the nature and properties of the soul, and studied them well. It is stated in our book, that unless a man minister to the sages, he cannot obtain patience and inherit heaven; consequently I again went to Jugurnauthum, where I prostrated myself at the feet of vast numbers of Boiragees; and after washing their feet, I drank the water, and placed the dust of their feet upon my head, and besides I partook of their leavings as sacred food. I moreover performed many other rites which I cannot now recollect. I desired earnestly to know the source of true religion, and my soul panted after purification, although at this very time I fell into adultery, and several other sins both of word and deed : one thing I now clearly saw, by the truth of the Shastrum, i. e. that the soul was different from, and not a part of, the body. The soul is immor. tal and the body corruptible; the body has a shape, and is composed of elements, but not so the soul. There is an Almighty God who created them both. However I did not know the proper way to serve God, and was much perplexed; but being straightened in my thoughts, by bigotry, I could not obtain light. I do not exactly recollect the date, but I think it was about six or seven years before the period I am now speaking of, that I obtained a printed book from a Cullinga boy of my country ; it was entitled, “ A Precept to the Inhabitants of this part of the World, by the Missionaries.” This book I read, but not discerning the way to save the soul clearly, and not fully labouring to understand the excellent things in this book, I laid it aside in a box.
Some time after, an engineer officer came to survey the hills and lands in my part of the district, and the sight of him put me in mind of the book I had; I took it out once more, and by studying it I found there was a great difference between the notions I had imbibed and the virtuous precepts of the book. I now plainly saw that my former ways were all deception, and this book seemed to point out a better way, and I became convinced by it of many unrighteousnesses which I had committed. I showed the book to seve. ral of my own religion, who said that “ doubtless the book pointed out a