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In the discussions concerning the promulgation of Christianity, some writers have confined their views entirely to India, merely, it is supposed, because India is connected, by political relation, with Great Britain. India, however, contains but a small part of the nations which seek the Revelation of God. The Malayan Archipelago includes more territory, and a larger population, than the continent of India. China is a more extensive field than either; and is, in some respects, far more important, The Romish Church has maintained a long and ineffectual contest with that empire ; because it would never give the people, "the good and perfect gift,” the Bible. It further degraded the doctrine of the Cross by blending it with Pagan rites.
The means of obtaining a version of the Scriptures in the Chinese language, occupied theminds of the Provost and Vice Provost of the college of Fort-William, at an early period. It appeared to them an object of the utmost importance to procure an erudite Professor, who should undertake such a work; for, if buta single copy of the Scriptures could be introduced into China, they might be transcribed in almost every part of that immense Empire. Another object in view, was to introduce some knowledge of the Chinese Language among ourselves; for although the Chinese Forts on the Tibet frontier overlook the Company's territories in Bengal, there was not a person, it was said, in the Company's service in India, who could read a common Chinese letter.
After much inquiry, they succeeded in procuring Mr. Joannes Lassar, an Armenian Christian, a native of China, and a proficient in the Chinese language, who had been employed by the Portuguese at Macao, in conducting their official correspondence with the court of Pekin. He was willing to relinquish his commercial pursuits, and to attach himself to the college, for a salary of £450 a year. But as the order for reducing the establishment of the college was daily expected, this salary could not be given him. The object, however, was so important, and Mr. Lassar appeared to be so well qualified to execute it, that they thought fit to retain him, at the above stipend, in a private character. He entered immediately on the translation of the Scriptures into the Chinese Language, and this work he has continued to carry on to the present time. But, as his services might be made otherwise useful, they resolved to establish a class of youths under his tuition; and as they could not obtain the young civil servants of the Company for this purpose, they proposed to the Baptist Missionaries, that Mr. Lassar should reside at Serampore, which is near Calcutta, on the following condition : that one of their elder Missionaries, and three at least of their youths, should immediately engage in the study of the Chinese Language.
Dr. Carey declined the offer, but Mr. Marsham accepted it, and was joined by two sons of his own, and a son of Dr. Carey; and they have prosecuted their studies with unremitted attention for about
In the year 1807, a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew in the Chinese Language, translated by Mr. Lassar, and, beautifully written by himself, was transmitted to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, for the Lambeth Library, as the FIRST FRUITS of the Chinese Institution in Bengal.-Since that period a considerable portion of the New Testament has been printed off from blocks, after the Chinese manner.
The proficiency of the Chinese pupils has far surpassed the most sanguine hopes which were entertained. His excellency: Lord Minto, Governor-General of India, in his first annual Speech to the College of Fort-William, has recorded the following testimony to their progress in the language, and to the importance of their attainments.
“ If I have not passed beyond the legitimate bounds ss of this discourse, in ranging to the extremity of those “ countries, and to the furthest island of that vast
Archipelago in which the Malay Language prevails, “ I shall scarcely seem to transgress them, by the short " and easy transition thence to the language of China. “ I am, in trath, strongly inclined, whether regularly “ or not, to deal one encouraging word to the merito“ rious, and, I hope, not unsuccessful effort, making, " I may say, at the door of our College, though not « admitted to its portico, to force that hitherto impreg“ nable fortress, the Chinese Language. Three young “ men, I ought indeed to say, boys, have not only
acquired a ready use of the Chinese Language, for “ the purpose of oral communication, (which I under6 stand is neither difficult nor rare amongst Europeans " connected with China) but they have achieved, in a “ degree worthy of admiration, that which has been “ deemed scarcely within the reach of European facul66 ties or industry;
mean a very extensive and correct “ acquaintance with the written Language of China.
I will not detail the particulars of the Examination “ which took place on the 10th of this month (Febru“ ary, 1808,) at Serampore, in the Chinese Language, " the report of which I have read, however, with great “ interest, and recommended to the liberal notice of " those whom I have the honour to address. It is “ enough for my present purpose to say, that these young
pupils read Chinese books, and translate them ; and “ they write. compositions of their own in the Chinese " language and character. A Chinese PRESS too is “ established, and in actual use. In a word, if the “ founders and supporters of this little College have not
yet dispelled, they have at least sent, and admitted a “ dawn of day through that thick impenetrable cloud : “ they have passed that Oceanum dissociabilem, which “ for so many ages has insulated that vast Empire from or the rest of mankind.
" I must not omit to commend the zealous and perse“ vering labours of Mr. LASSAR, and of those learned and
pious persons associated with him, who have accom“ plished, for the future benefit, we may hope, of that “ immense and populous region, CHINESE Versions in “ the Chinese Character, of the GOSPELS of Matthew 66 Mark, and Luke, throwing open that precious mine, “ with all its religious and moral treasure, to the largest « associated population in the world."
When this Chinese class was first established, it was ordained that there should be regular
* See College Report for 1808.