Page images
PDF
EPUB

are already debtors to that ancient people. They have preserved the manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures incorrupt, during a long series of ages, and have now committed them into our own hands. By their long and energetic defence of pure doctrine against anti-christian error, they are entitled to the gratitude and thanks of the rest of the Christian world. Further, they have preserved to this day the language in which our blessed Lord preached to men the glad tidings of salvation, Their Scriptures, their doctrine, their language, in short their very existence, all add something to the evidence of the truth of Christianity.

The motives then for printing an edition of the Syriac Bible are these :

1. To do honour to the language which was spoken by our blessed Saviour when on earth.

2. To do honour to that ancient Church which has preserved his language and his doctrine.

3. As the means of perpetuating the true Faith in the same Church for ages to come.

4. As the means of preserving the pronunciation, and of cultivating the knowledge of the Syriac language in the East; and

5. As the means of reviving the knowledge of the Syriac language in our own nation.

L

On the author's return to England, he could not find one copy of the Syriac Bible in a separate volume for sale in the kingdom. He wished to send a copy to the Syrian Bishop as an earnest of more when an edition sliould be printed.

The Syriac Bible is wanted not only by the Churches of the Syrian Christians, but by the still more numerous Churches of the SyroRomish Christians in Malabar, and by the Nestorian and Jacobite Christians in Persia, Armenia, and Tartary, and by the Maronite Christians in Syria, in the Island of Cyprus, in Tripoli, and many other places, all of whom use the Syriac language in their Churches.

DR. KERR'S ACCOUNT

OF THE

SYRIAN CHRISTIANS.

In the year 1806, the government of Madras sent the Rev. Dr. Kerr, the senior Chaplain at that Presidency, to Malabar and Travancore (before Dr. Buchanan went thither) to investigate the state of the Syrians and other Christians in those countries. The following is an extract from his official Report, presented to Lord William Bentinck, the Governor of Madras, which was printed soon after his return.

“ In the creeds and doctrines of the Christians of Malabar, internal evidence exists of their being a primitive church ; for the supremacy of the Pope is denied, and the doctrine of transubstantiation never has been held by them. They also regarded, and still regard, the worship of images as idolatrous, and the doctrine of purgatory to be fabulous. Moreover, they never admitted as sacraments, extreme unction, marriage, or confirmation. All which facts may be substantiated, on reference to the Acts of the synod assembled by Don Alexis de Meneses, Archbishop of Goa, at Udiamper, in the year 1599.

The Christians on the Malabar Coast are divided into three sects. I. The St. Thome or Jacobite Christians. II. The Syrian Roman-Catholics. III. The Latin Church.

66.I. The St. Thomò Christians still retain their ancient creed and usages, and consider themselves as the descendants of the flock established by St. Thomas, who is generally esteemed the Apostle of the East. Their ancestors emigrated from Syria ; and the Syro-Chaldaic is the language in which their church-service is still performed. They admit no images within their churches, but a figure of the Virgin Mary, with the child Jesus in her arms; which is considered merely as an ornament, and not a subject of idolatrous worship.

66 It has been believed that these Christians held the tenets of the Nestorian heresy, and that they were obliged to leave their own country in consequence of per

L &

secution. However, it appears that the creed they now hold denies that heresy, and seems to coincide in several points with the creed of Athanasius, but without its damnatory clauses. The service in their Church is performed very nearly after the manner of the Church of England ; and when the Metropolitan was told, that it was hoped that one day an union might take place between the two churches, he seemed pleased at the suggestion.-In some of their churches, divine service is performed in the Syrian and Latin ritual, alternately, by the priests of the Christians of St. Thomas, who have adhered to their ancient rites, and those who have been united to the Church of Rome. When the latter have celebrated mass, they carry away the images from the Church, before the others enter. The character of these people is marked by a striking superiority over the heathens in every moral excellence; and they are remarkable for their veracity and plain dealing. They are extremely attentive to their religious duties, and abide by the decision of their priests and Metropolitan in all cases, whether in spiritual or temporal affairs. They are respected very highly by the Nairs; and the Rajahs of Travancore and Cochin admit them to rank next to the Nairs. Their number, it is generally supposed, may be estimated at seventy or eighty thousand. The direct protection of the British Government has been already extended to them ; but as they do not reside within the British territories, I am doubtful how far it may be of use to them. To unite them to the Church of England would, in my opinion, be a most noble work; and it is most devoutly to be wished, that those who have been driven into the Roman pale, might be recalled to their ancient Church ; a measure which it would not be difficult to accomplish, as the country governments would be likely to second any efforts to that purpose. Their occupations are various as those of other Christians; but they are chiefly cultivators an artizans : and some of them possess a comfortable, if not a splendid independence. Their clergy marry in the same manner as Protestants. Their residence is entirely inland.

“ II. The Syrian Roman-Catholics are those who were constrained, after a long struggle, to join the Latin Church, and who still continue in her pale, though distinguished from her in this, that they are allowed, by a dispensation from the Pope, to perform all the services of the Church of Rome in the Syro-Chaldaie language.

“ They live under the authority of the Metropolitan of Cranganore, and the Bishop of Verapoli. The RomanCatholic Syrians, it is thought, are much more numerous than the members of the original church. Their clergy, four hundred in number, * are spread through the ancient churches ; and, by retaining their language, and acting under the direction of the Church of Rome, they leave no means unessayed to draw over their primitive brethren to the Latin communion. There are said to be eightysix parishes of Roman-Catholic Syrians subject to the dioceses of Cranganore and Verapoli. Their congrega

* These four hundred Syrian Romish priests here mentioned, as well as the clergy of the primitive church, will require four hundred copies of the Syriac Bible. The Malayalim Bibles for the priests and people are printing at Bombay. The three classes of Christians mentioned by Dr. Kerr, in this Report, speak all the Malay-alim.

« PreviousContinue »