BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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IN our Chronicle for March last, we inserted some interesting particulars relative to the NATIVE READERS employed in connexion with the Society's Mission in Travancore. We then stated that the Rev. Mr. Mead had removed from Nagercoil, the head-station of that Mission, to Combooconum, on account of the state of his health, and that he had there several native Readers under his direction. Each of those Readers (or Teachers) records, in the form of a Journal, such leading circumstances as, from time to time, occur whilst he is itinerating in the surrounding country. The following extracts from some of those Journals, transmitted by Mr. Mead, cannot fail to be read with pleasure by the members and friends of the Society in general, and with peculiar interest by those among them who, from year to year, so liberally contribute towards the support of those Readers, and other Native Teachers, or Readers, similarly employed in different parts of the East Indies. That a considerable number of the natives should, in different parts of Hindostan, be constantly passing from town to town, and from village to village, with the Bible in their hands, mildly expostulating with their fellow-countrymen, both Pagan and Roman Catholic, on the folly and sin of idolatry; reasoning with them out of the Scripture, as well as reading its sacred pages for their instruction and edification; exposing the sophistry of their arguments, and contrasting the cruel rites and other abominations of paganism with the pure and merciful religion of Christ, are facts that cannot be contemplated without emotions of lively satisfaction and encouragement by those who, in the various parts of Christendom, are daily praying that the heathen may be speedily given into the hands of the SON for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth his possession.

Extracts from the Journals of Native Teachers, employed in the vicinity of Combooconum, from July to December; 1825.

From the Journal of John Owen's Reader.

Observing some persons at a tank in Combooconum, washing umbrellas, and some other things used in idolatrous worship, I inquired what idol they belonged to? They replied, "the goddess Turobathee; as she is to be brought out in public shortly, we are making them ready for her." I spoke to them of the folly of supposing that an almighty being could be shut up in a temple, and be entertained by a procession, and be pleased with our walking barefooted through a bed of fire, &c. as was about to take place at the feast of this goddess. I spoke likewise, by way of contrast, of the true God and Jesus our Redeemer. A few days after, the public procession of this goddess took place, and I saw her deluded worshippers rush through the bed of fire, which, to excite attention, had been kept burning through the whole of the day. The people, who endeavoured thus to expiate their sins, came with music and dancing, and crowned with flowers. They were greatly caressed by the people, and when they rushed through the fire, I observed there was near it a hole dug in the ground filled with water, into which they went immediately after coming out of the fire. Many of the crowd followed the example, and with one voice shouted "Swamé, Swamé."*[1] It was a painful sight.[2]

Before the ceremony commenced, I and another READER read the Scriptures to many who bad come to the spot. They acknowledged all we said was true, but when the ceremonies began, most present united in them. A moor-man present railed much at the folly of worshipping many gods.

When reading and conversing with some people, they asked, "Who has ever seen God? The Sun and Gunga (the Ganges) are gods; we can see them with our eyes, and we do right to worship them." I replied they are creatures given by God for our use and comfort, and it is our duty only to enjoy them as such. On further asking what profit there was in the worship of creatures or dumb idols, they said none, and acknowledged the Creator alone is to be worshipped. I added, I pray God to teach you to feel this, and to know his son Jesus Christ.

On going to Karupoor school, I noticed some poor women worshipping before the image of Janar Sawmy, (or Jaineswara). They were counting a handful of grain, and performing some ceremony in order to know the will of the god as to their removal to another country for support. They were perplexed because the signs were partly in favour of their removing and partly in favour of their remaining. They threw down the grain in despair, and said it was in vain to consult this god. They were almost starving, and wished to know whether, if they went to another place, they could gain support; and they complained of the idol to me. I exhorted them, hence-forth, to learn to worship the true God; they promised to do so, if any one would teach them. I spoke to them out of the Scriptures.

I saw some (holy) mendicants on the banks of Caveery. I read to them and explained the Scriptures. They observed that there are four religions, six Shasters, and eighteen Poorannus. I endeavoured to show them that there was but one God and one way to heaven. I quoted some of the heathen books, in which this truth is likewise stated. They acknowledged that they put on their ridiculous garb, daubing themselves with (calcinated) ordure, &c. for their bodily support. I exhorted them to seek heaven in the way revealed in the Scriptures.

Journal of Henry Venn's Reader.

I met a young man who appeared to be spending his time in idleness, and read to him and spoke on the importance of spending time well. He replied hastily, and said, "Who can tell what is sin and what is virtue? these things are unknown even to God himself!" Soon after I saw the young man's father; and on telling him of the bad state of mind in which his son was, and that I feared he would have to answer for not instructing him well, he calmly replied, "Every one will be condemned for his own faults, and not for those of others."

Standing near a tank, where many of the idols were brought to be washed, I asked a man what is the advantage of worshipping such gods? He replied, he could not answer my question, and referred me to their learned men saying he had not inquired much into the subject. I gave him a tract, and exhorted him to read it, and forsake the vanities of his forefathers.

I went to Treviar to examine the schools, which I found in very good order, and well attended. Spoke to some Brahmins on the necessity of becoming like little children before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven. One went away saying, Who can obtain such a nature? Meaning none can.

Attended service in a Christian place of worship, spoke to a man who is a candidate for baptism, and recommended the example of the publican to all who wish to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

A Brahmin said, as I was reading, that it was impossible to worship God without the aid of idols. I showed that be must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.

Saw many Brahmins at the Moonsif's,*[3] house, read to them, and exhorted them to strive to know and serve the true and living God. They all acknowledged that that was the only way of escaping the anger and obtaining the favour of Jehovah, Several Brahmins continue to attend Christian instruction on the Sabbath at the Moonsif's house.

Going to the river side, I read to those who came to cross the ferry, and spoke of Christ suffering for our sins. A Brahmin asked whether it was lawful for one to be punished for the crimes of another? I explained that if one wished to undertake and bear the punishment, or pay the debt of another, he could do so lawfully and thus the Redeemer, pitying sinners who were not able to bear the punishment due to their sins, bore it for them, and God accepted this on our account: he assented to what I said.

On the road to Terumanoor, I conversed with a man, who spoke much of the sin of killing animals and eating them. I said that we were unworthy to enjoy any of God's creatures, as we were sinners; but that there was no sin in eating animals, and showed what things are really sinful.

I read to the people on the bank of the Coleroon. One man approving of what was read, at the same time exclaimed, "All gods are alike." I showed him that there could be but one true God, and that those who know him truly will worship no other; and that the Gospel was revealed for the purpose of showing what worship and service he requires.

I examined the school at Tremanoor, on the other side of the Coleroon, and found it in pretty good order, it being recently established.*[4]

Returning to Combooconum, by way of Tanjore, I read part of the Gospel of Mark to some heathens and Christians.

I stopped at the town of Jampettah, and read in the bazar there to many people.

I read to the people in Tharasurahpettah, and spoke to them on their superstitions for some time.

At Terunasalem I read to the heathens in the Weaver's Choultry; I was once interrupted by the common question, Who has seen God? I observed that those who wish to see God must seek him in the way of holiness.

When reading to several heathens, one said, the belly is the principal god, "if that be satisfied nothing is wanting: even Europeans come to India for gain." I acknowledged that most regarded their body too much; yet even gross and ignorant people built temples, and profess to worship some god, thereby showing that they believe they have souls as well as bodies, and that there is danger if they entirely neglect them. I added, if he would read our books he would not remain so ignorant of the true God.

Going to a house where a Roman Catholic woman lay sick, I read the Scriptures and prayed with her; about ten persons were present.

Reading and conversing with some people at Cottyoor, a tax gatherer (a Brahmin) said "God is the author of good and evil, and without him we can do nothing." I replied, that God was holy and just, and hates iniquity. I asked, if he were the author of evil, how could he punish the wicked? No answer was given. I showed, from the Scriptures, that we must be pure in heart to please God.

When reading in a Brahmin street, at Combooconum, one observed, "There is no difference between your religion and ours. We also worship the true God." To which, among other things, I said, if you were worshippers of the only living and true God, you would not consider one place or temple more sacred than another, and say we must go here and there to worship him, since he is every where equally present; the true mode of worshipping him also requires to be known by you.

On another occasion, when reading in the weaver's street, in the course of conversation, a heathen observed, "As you Christians experience joy and sorrow, are afflicted, and die like us, what advantage is there in Christianity which we have not?" I showed that it has many advantages, and especially as it tells how sin came into the world, and how we are to be redeemed from its curse. So (he said) our religion also instructs us about those things, and then suddenly walked away.

Speaking to several persons on the necessity of caring for the soul as well as the body, one present said, "We can do nothing, God must take care of our souls." I said, you can pray to him to enlighten your understandings, and he has promised that those who ask shall receive.

I conducted public worship at the little chapel at Teruvesaloor,*[5] about thirty persons were present; the people appeared attentive. As they are cultivated under Brahmins, they are sometimes persecuted, but have hitherto remained steadfast, and some of the Brahmins are become their friends. Returning home, I conversed with a man on the attributes of God.

As I was reading a tract on regeneration to about twenty persons, one said, "I suppose what is said in our Shasters about being born again (transmigration) is false." I showed the difference between the new birth spoken of in Scripture and the fables on that subject*[6] in the heathen system.

Going to Karupoor, I spoke to some heathens on the evil of idolatry; one man observed, "We do not worship many gods, but only one God. In our sacred places, if a man takes a false oath, he will die immediately, blood coming out of his nose and mouth." He mentioned this as a proof that the knowledge and worship of the true God was not confined to Christians. I replied, that that was no proof, even if such a thing had happened, that the idol was God, or the place sacred, for it does not appear that God always punishes the wicked and rewards the upright, in this world. I said he will, notwithstanding, hereafter, take notice of the actions of men, and punish those who continue impenitent.

I read a tract against the sin of lying, to a merchant, to which he said, "We cannot trade without telling lies." I said, that merchants were seldom believed, even though they spoke truth, but that that arose from the common custom of lying and cheating in the bazars. Then he said, "Here is a man coming, persuade him to believe me and I will speak the truth." I said tell him the true price, and he will purchase from you, and begin from this time to speak the truth always, and see how your trade will prosper, and people will believe you without doubt.

When reading and explaining the Scripture, and exhorting some persons to believe and receive the gospel, they said, "If we embrace this religion, we shall be obliged to beg or starve, for we shall lose all we have." I plainly told them the words of Christ, "If any man love father, mother, house, or lands, more than me," &c. lead us to expect affliction for his sake, but that this would not discourage true Christians from serving him, and professing his gospel.

At Teruvedamarudoor, I was reading in a Choultry to several persons, one of whom asked me, "What kind of religion is this you are talking about? whence came it? I cannot understand what you are reading.'' I explained shortly the historical part of Scripture, and said, as you are a worshipper of the devil, I am afraid he blinds your mind, lest you should see the truth; for what I have read is not difficult to comprehend. Another said, "I know your's is the true religion, but this man knows nothing," and broke off the discourse, and they departed together.

In Semanoor, I read a tract on the history of Naaman to several persons, and asked one who had just returned from bathing in the Caveery, if the water of the tank before us would not cleanse us equally well? He replied, it would not take away our sins. After explaining that water would only cleanse and refresh the body, I spoke of the blood of Christ, which cleanseth from all sin.

l read our Saviour's sermon on the Mount, at the Mamangam Tank,*[7] in Combooconum. One man professed to admire the excellent things contained in this discourse, but said, they were to be found in the Hindoo Shasters likewise, though none walk agreeable thereto. He added, I am become three parts of a Christian, and begged one of each of our tracts, promising that he would read them himself, and make known their contents to others. I had formerly given him one tract and now gave some others, as he requested.

At Teruvellumsooly, when reading to several persons, a Brahmin woman said, "Sir, where did you get this wisdom, and whence do you come? Our Brahmins do not tell us such things." I replied, that it was God's book which he had given to men, that I had been reading, and that to understand it was true happiness. She said with earnestness, "Such truths are excellent."

Journal of George Burder's Reader.

Stopped at a Choultry, where I saw a man who supports many beggars, by going round the town every evening with a cart to beg rice for them, which is considered very meritorious. I had much conversation with him, and the other persons present. I also read a tract which was attentively listened to. They all acknowledged that there was but one true religion. I reminded them that acknowledging this with their lips was not enough; we must do the will of God, and believe on his Son Jesus, and not expect to obtain heaven by ceremonies, alms, bathing, &c.

Reading at Valleapettah, one man appeared very sorrowful on account of the death of his son. I gave him some advice suitable to his state of mind, and spoke to all upon the true way of removing the fear of death, through faith in Christ.

When reading the Scriptures, in the passage-boat at the Arasalar, which was full of people, a Vellala[8] came to me, and seemed interested in what he had heard, and asked several questions as to how he could obtain heaven, which I answered according to the Scriptures. He promised to attend to what I said.

I saw a woman of the Kannar (brazier) caste, who had been fasting from morning till evening, as she had been unable to see a Brahmany Kite*[9] through the whole of the day. At length a kite came to a tank at a short distance. The woman told some little boys to go and throw stones, and endeavor to make it fly near to her; they did so, but the kite flew another way, and the poor woman was disappointed. Then I spoke to her on the folly of believing that bird to be a god, and of fasting till she had seen it. I advised her to return home, and meditate upon what I had told her about the Redeemer of sinners, and eat her food, and praise, God who made and supports her.

Going to read, I saw a woman of the Chetty (merchant) caste, abusing a pariah woman for coming near her, and telling her to go afar off. I reasoned with the Chetty woman, and showed her that in the beginning God made of one man and woman, all the human race. She said "that might be true, but we must keep up our distinction of caste in this world." I asked her some questions, and found her very ignorant. She thought Vishnu was her maker and preserver. I showed the folly of idolatry, by asking her if the image of Vishnu was removed into a filthy or unclean place, whether it would return to the large temple before which we were standing; she appeared ashamed of having said that this was the god she worshipped. I spoke of Christ as the Redeemer of Sinners.

When reading a tract on the banks of the Arasalar, many going and coming stood and listened a while. I was reading about the deluge mentioned in Scripture. One who heard me went away, saying "this man says it will be better for us all to become Christians, or we shall be destroyed in forty days." I called him, and begged him to come and listen more attentively, for he had made a mistake. He returned, and sat down, and I then explained the history of the deluge, and showed that all impenitent sinners will be destroyed if they repent not. He begged my pardon. I entreated him to pray to Christ for pardon of all his sins.

(To be continued.)

*[1] i.e. Divine. [back]

[2] This idolatrous feast, which was attended by all the castes, was revived this season, after an interruption of some years. The cause of this revival was the pecuniary advantage it would bring to the promoters of It. [back]

This and the following notes, under the article, of explanation, are by Mr. Mead.—ED.

*[3] The Moonsif is a Christian and affords much aid in inspecting the schools in Treviar, and in raising subscriptions from his native friends towards their support. [back]

*[4]This is the first Christian school in this part of the country. On that side of the river there is a large extent of country, where Christian light has not at all penetrated. [back]

*[5] This place of worship is very small and confined; a more enlarged place in a better situation, is desirable. This is the only congregation we have at present in connexion with us. The people are simple, and appear sincere, and have the form of Christianity. An Indian Christian, possessing undoubted and ardent piety, is a very rare character. O that a spirit of real Christianity might appear among them! The school contains twenty-two children, several are heathen boys; some of the children are beginning to read the scriptures, The village is about three miles from Combooconum and is populous and fertile. [back]

*[6] Both are called by the same name in the Tamil books. [back]

*[7] A sacred place, to which the waters of the Ganges are believed to flow once in 12 years. The next festival will be in 1826, when people of all ranks will come from every part of India to bath in this Tank. [back]

[8] One of the principal divisions of the Soodra caste. [back]

[9] A kite with a white breast, worshipped by the Hindoos with great reverence, particularly when flying. [back]

Digital Publication Details

Title: “Combooconum”

Subtitle(s): “Extracts From the Journals of Native Teachers, Employed in the Vicinity of Combooconum, From July to December; 1825” | “From the Journal of John Owen's Reader” | “Journal of Henry Venn's Reader” | “Journal of George Burder's Reader”

Creator(s): Anonymous; John Owen's Reader; Henry Venn's Reader; George Burder's Reader

Publication date: (1826) 2022

Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE

Critical encoding: Trevor Bleick, Kenneth C. Crowell, Kasey Peters, Adrian S. Wisnicki

One More Voice identifier: liv_025019

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, John Owen’s Reader, Henry Venn’s Reader, and George Burder’s Reader. (1826) 2022. “Combooconum.” Edited by Trevor Bleick, Kenneth C. Crowell, and Kasey Peters. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-soas/liv_025019_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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