“East Indies. Combooconum”

BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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Extracts from the Journals of Native Teachers, employed in the vicinity of Combooconum.

(Concluded from page 362.)

From the Journal of William Clapham's Reader.

I SAT down to read near some persons who had been ploughing their fields. They listened with attention. Asking them what they understood by my reading, they replied, "we learn, it is in vain to worship idols, but we must know and serve Jesus Christ." I spoke of the necessity of repentance, and said, this was the time of salvation, and that, perhaps, they had never before thought of these things, but now they should begin to think. I said, God also had been long speaking to them providentially, by sending the cholera, and with-holding the usual rain. They said, "Well then, we will give up our idols." I told them, they must pray for strength to be able to do so, and serve God acceptably.

When reading at Attoor, I observed several Roman Catholics, and found they were scarcely able to tell who Jesus Christ was. His sacred name seemed new to them. They prayed, they said, to the Holy Mary to intercede for them with God. I showed that Jesus is our only Mediator. Afterwards, one of the Catholics called me to go with him to his house, where I read to several, and exhorted them.

I spoke to a wood-man from the country, about the way of obtaining pardon for sin: he listened attentively, and said, "I once kept a concubine, who afterwards killed herself, but, before she died, went to the idol, and threw ashes in the air, and imprecated curses upon my head (a heathen custom, inspiring dread)—can such a curse be avoided?" I explained fully the nature of pardon, through the merits of Christ, upon our repentance, &c. The man appeared to be really afraid that as he had been partly the cause of the ruin of this woman, that such a great sin could not be forgiven.*[1]

Going to our English school in the town, I observed a man worshipping an idol; when he had done, I conversed with him on the subject of idolatry: he acknowledged idols were nothing, but said "if we do not worship them, the people of our caste will abuse and punish us." I observed that man could do but little for us in distress and sickness, and if we die suddenly (as many do at this season), our neglect of God will have dreadful consequences. He made the usual reply "what you say is true, we should act according thereto, but who has strength for that?"

Reading in a public place many heard attentively. A Roman Catholic wished to stop the reading and hold a debate; he said "that was the way to make the people acquainted with the Gospel." I said we will also speak on the subject, when he put a number of intricate questions; such as, Who made Satan so wicked? Did not God know that man would sin, and why did he not prevent it? I replied that we were but dust and ashes before God, and like clay in the hands of the potter, and must be humble, and receive God's word, even if we cannot understand it all. Concerning Satan, I explained that God made him holy, and that he and man fell by their own free choice, and that God would not force any to be either good or bad; also, as a servant must do the will of his master, and a child that of his parents, without asking reasons; so it is the will of God, that we should obtain salvation through Christ upon believing. Let us, therefore, believe and obey, and not dispute: but if you wish to hear more on this, or any other subject, you may come to the missionary for information. Several Heathens present took part against the Catholic, when they heard that his questions were all answered.[2]

After reading one day in a place where we frequently resort, I was asked, " What profit do you get by thus reading, and who supports you?" I explained, that we looked chiefly for a reward in heaven, by showing men the way thither; and that we were supported by pious people in England, who pitied the heathen, and wished them to learn the way of eternal life.

Speaking to some country people engaged in the fields, I said, if I were to compare you to a beast, you would be justly offended. But you take a loathsome, frightful image, and say—this is God. Will he not be displeased, and punish you for this? Besides, we know not his shape; and the beasts, birds, and fishes, to which you compare Him, are only the works of His hands. He, therefore, forbids us to make any image or likeness of Him. They said, "we are ignorant, and know no better."

A man brought a part of a broken idol, and begged some charity to repair it. I expostulated with him, and refused his application, at which he was surprised; but at last confessed, that he begged for his support as well as to repair the idol, as people would readily give alms for such a purpose.

From the Journal of William Cooper's Reader.

Reading in the way-side, several Brahmins passed, and stopped their ears, walking speedily away; but some others said, "This is a new doctrine—we must hear it," and sat down on the grass, and heard patiently. After reading, they said, "Well, rich people, we think, may be very religious, and walk in a good way." I said, that the richest of the world often prevent men from regarding these things, and the rich are often very poor as to heavenly treasure. Therefore, through grace obtained by prayer, we are made partakers of Christ's salvation. I gave a tract on conversion, exhorting them to read it often carefully.

Read to several young Brahmins, who listened attentively. One said, "I have often wished to walk in a holy way, but lusts and passions rise up and prevent." I said, none are good by nature; we must seek a new nature: obtaining this, sin will appear abominable, and we shall strive against our spiritual foes; and, going on in the way marked out by the Holy Saviour, we shall obtain salvation.

Met some persons in the way of Karupoor, and asked them if they knew who God was, and what worship he requires of men? They said, "We know nothing about Him, neither desire to know Him. We worship Menachee Ammon*[3] at Madura." I said, she did not create you—neither does she preserve you, but this our merciful God in Christ does, though you know him not. I explained why the Redeemer came into the world, &c. to which they made no reply.

I saw a Roman Catholic praying at the tomb of his relations, and showed, from the Scriptures, the folly and sinfulness of praying for the dead, and praying to images and saints. He said, "Yesterday the robbers stole our priest's property; and he took the image of St. Anthony, and put it in the sun, and flogged it to make him restore the property; ought we not therefore to worship the saints?" I said, No, they are only God's servants, we must worship Him alone.

Passing by a heathen temple, I saw a great multitude in the Compound, shouting and making Poojah.*[4] I spoke to some, and asked if they were not acting like children in making such gestures, &c. before a mere image. They said, " All men have some religion, and we have ours." Observing some of them had the mark of Seeva, and some that of Vishnu, on their foreheads, I I spoke a long time on the folly of the different sects among the Hindoos, and showed there was but one God, one heaven, and that all mankind were of one family, and should seek salvation in Jesus, the only Saviour; many heard with attention, and apparent acquiescence.

Speaking to a poor low caste man about redemption, he said, " You should not tell these great things to me, because my caste is low, tell them to the high and learned people."[5] I showed him that the Gospel was intended for the poor as well as the rich, and that many of the former had believed in it, and found salvation. Those who are of high caste in God's sight, are the wise and the good. Then he listened with pleasure to what said, and I spoke of the joys of heaven, which the penitent and believing would obtain. He seemed amazed at what he heard, as the tidings were certainly new to him.

Journal of the Inverkeithing's Reader.

I addressed some of my neighbours, who were assembled together, and showed them that the homage paid by them to images is a reproach to the holy name of God, &e. who is the Lord of all creatures. I exhorted them to believe the Gospel, and showed them, that the despisers of it would be condemned. When I read a tract, a young man present derided, and another seemed to listen with more attention, but he doubted the truth of future rewards and punishments. I observed that kings and governors never suffer their laws to be broken without punishing the offenders, much less will God pass over the evil and good actions of his creatures.

Discoursing with a bazaar man on the heinous sin of idolatry, showing that all men are sinners, and that the rites and ceremonies of the heathen could not take away sin, he seemed to listen with very little interest, and asked me a number of vain questions. I offered him a tract, which he declined to receive, saying, that he had no time to read. After leaving this place, I fell in with several people, who, to my surprise, listened with great attention. One asked, how sins were to be pardoned? I, of course, spoke of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; a woman likewise was very attentive. It was an interesting meeting to me, and I hope to them. I left them with an earnest exhortation to embrace the Gospel, which had been explained to them, observing, the time past was long enough for them to have remained in darkness.

As the Schoolmaster of Karupoor was reciting the poems of an ancient monk on the vanity of the world, and the misery of those who seek it in preference to the eternal God, I explained to him that we are by nature ignorant of our heavenly Father; and though we might hear or read good moral instruction, yet our corrupt nature is averse to follow it, and that the Holy Christ must renew our minds by his grace. I exhorted him and his family to embrace the Gospel. "Hereafter (he said) that must be done."

Two or three persons were sitting together and hearing a heathen story read; when they had done, I asked them what instruction they obtained from what they bad been hearing? They replied, that it was an account of a giant who was a great murderer, and when he could not contend successfully with a stronger giant, he fell at his feet, and implored pardon, which was granted. So we must pardon those who beg for it, and fall at our feet. I asked if the book told any thing about the holy attributes of God, atonement for sin, &c.; they said, "If the book was attentively read, it would explain also these things." I acknowledged there were some good moral lessons found in some of their books, but they also contained many immoral things, such as the thefts and adulteries of Krishnu, Seeva, &c. Besides, the heathens were very guilty of making indecent pictures to assist men's corrupt minds to do evil. These things undid all that was good in their religion, and led men to eternal destruction. As we were discoursing, the number of persons gradually increased. One man replied in favour of idolatry with much noise and warmth. I proceeded to show them that idolatry was the root of all evil, and a great dishonour to the God of heaven, and mentioned the love of God, in giving up his Son to be the Saviour of sinners. They contended that the idols were representatives of God, as the Dewan (prime minister) represents the king. One man put his hand on his breast, saying, "God is here," meaning that the soul is God. Others said, "Idolatry is supported because many obtain their living thereby." I mentioned several things to point out the vanity of their customs, to which they were silent.

Some of the heathen boys, in one of the schools, asked for tracts to read to their parents, which I gave them, with advice to read them carefully.

On the Sabbath (Dec. 18,) visited the little congregation at Teruvesaloor, and discoursed with them on our Lord washing the feet of his disciples; twenty-three people were present; who listened attentively.

I examined the Karupoor scholars, in Dr. Watts's first catechism, and explained to them the signification of some words which they did not understand, particularly that God was a spirit. I conversed with them concerning idolatry, and asked them whether it was proper to compare the God, who is a spirit, to idols, male and female deities, &c. The boys answered, No. Then, I said, why do you worship these idols with your parents? The boys answered, that they ought to follow the customs of their forefathers, and have such images, to be conformed to the world.

I met a man at Karupoor school, who told me that he wished to become a Christian, on purpose to get a living, because his hard labour was quite insufficient to maintain his family. I said, that he was not to be commended for forsaking the customer of his forefathers, and embracing another religion merely for a living, instead of seeking eternal happiness for his soul. Moreover, he spoke some immodest words; then I advised him not to speak so. He replied, that "even Christians, who are long acquainted with Christianity, speak as bad as the ignorant heathens do." I told him true Christians would not do so.

I conversed with a respectable old man at the English school-room, who was present at the examination of the scholars, concerning the parable of our Lord respecting the unfruitful fig-tree, and asked him whether he ever seriously reflected on his past life? He said that "from his infancy, his life was unspotted." I repeated the Ten Commandments to him, and enquired of him whether he had perfectly obeyed them? He then acknowledged he was guilty of idolatry, and other sins. I advised him to pray that the Lord would enlighten his understanding, which was entirely clouded by heathenish superstition, that he might discern between good and evil.


*[1] Perhaps he was more afraid of sudden vengeance and punishment than grieved for offending God. [back]

[2] This person afterwards came to me, and received the Gospel of Matthew, which I exhorted him to study with prayer and humility. [back]

*[3] Wife of Chokalingam, and a celebrated goddess of that place [back]

*[4] Heathen ceremonies [back]

[5] A common excuse of the lower castes, who have always been taught by the Brahmins that the Vedas are not intended for them, and that it is even criminal in them to become acquainted with their religious books. [back]

Digital Publication Details

Title: “East Indies. Combooconum”

Subtitle(s): “Extracts From the Journals of Native Teachers, Employed in the Vicinity of Combooconum” | “From the Journal of William Clapham's Reader” | “From the Journal of William Cooper's Reader” | “Journal of the Inverkeithing's Reader”

Creator(s): Anonymous; William Clapham's Reader; William Cooper's Reader; Inverkeithing'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_025020

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, William Clapham’s Reader, William Cooper’s Reader, and Inverkeithing’s Reader. (1826) 2022. “East Indies. 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_025020_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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