Page images
PDF
EPUB

who observed, “ that if this was the same, he “ did not wonder at Nadir's contempt of it."

The number of natives, already professing Christianity in Persia, and who are prepared to receive a translation of the Scriptures, is very considerable. They consist of four or five classes, viz. the Georgian, the Armenian, the Nestorian, the Jacobite, and the Romish Chris. tians. The Georgians have the Bible in the Georgian language, which was printed at Moscow in 1743; but the language is not so generally cultivated among the higher ranks as the Persian. It probably bears the same relation to the Persian, which the Welsh does to the English. The Armenians have a version of the Bible in their own proper tongue; but the copies are few in number. The Nestorian and Jacobite Christians use the Syriac Bible; but it is yet more rare than the Armenian. There are, besides, multitudes of Jews in Persia, who, as well as these different classes of Christians, commonly speak the vernacular language of the country.

The Persian language is known far beyond the limits of Persia proper. It is spoken at all the Mussulman Courts in India, and is the usual language of judicial proceedings under the British Government in Hindostan. It has been

called “ the great Eastern language of corres" pondence and state affairs ;"* and is to be estimated as next in importance to the Arabic and Chinese, in regard to the extent of territory through which it is spoken, it being generally understood from Calcutta to Damascus.

Here, then, is a language spoken over nearly one quarter of the globe, the proper tongue of a great kingdom, in which an attempt has already been made by royal authority to obtain a translation of the Christian Scriptures, and where there are, at a low computation, two hundred thousand Christians ready to receive them. Many of the Persians themselves would read the Bible with avidity, if presented to them in an inviting form. The cause of the little jealousy concerning Christianity in Persia, compared with that which is found in other Mahomedan States, is to be ascribed to these two circumstances—first, that Christianity has always existed in Persia, the Christian natives forming a considerable part of the population ; and secondly, that the Persians themselves profess so lax a system of Islamism, that they have been accounted by some Mussulmans a kind of heretics.

* See Richardson's dissertation on the Persian Language.

It will form an epoch in the history of Persia, when a version of the Old and New Testaments shall begin to be known generally in that country. But the narrative of Nadir Shah's attempt sufficiently proves that no ordinary scholar is qualified to undertake it. The author of such a translation must be a perfect master of the Arabic language, the mother of the Persic, and familiar with the popular and classical Per sian. He must, moreover, have access to the Scriptures in their original tongues.

Such a person, we think, has been found in Sabar of Arabia, who is accounted, by competent judges,

to be the first Arabic scholar of the age.”* He has been employed, for nearly four years past, in translating the Scriptures into the Persian and Arabic languages, in conjunction with Mirza Fitrut of Lucknow, and other learned natives. Mirza is himself a Persian by descent, and a man of liberal learning among his countrymen. He visited England some years ago, and was afterwards appointed a Persian teacher, and a translator of the Scriptures in the College of Fort-William. These versions by Sabat and Mirza are conducted under the superintendence

* See Report of Translations by Rev. Henry Martyn, hereafter quoted.

of the Rev. Henry Martyn, who is himself an Arabic and Persian scholar, and skilled in the original tongues of the Sacred Scriptures, He is a chaplain to the Honourable the East India Company, and is now stationed at Cawnpore in Bengal, where his learned coadjutors also reside. The Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, translated by Sabat into the Persian Language, have already been printed : and 800 copies are stated in the last Report, dated May, 1810, to have been deposited in the BIBLIOTHECA BIBLICA, at Calcutta, for sale.

THE ARABIANS.

ARABIA was the country in which St. Paul first opened his heavenly ministry. “When it pleased God,” saith that Apostle," who called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heatlien ; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood; neither went I up to Jerusalem, but I went into ARABIA.” Gal. i. 17. Christianity flou. rished very extensively in Arabia, during the first centuries. History informs us, that “ the disciples of Christ had filled its provinces with the Churches of God ;** and frequent mention is made, in the early. monuments, of the Bishops of Arabia.t This early influence of the Gospel in that region might be expected, for- Arabia adjoins Palestine; and the climate of the country, and the manners and customs of the people, are nearly the same. I

There are some circumstances which remark. ably distinguish Arabia ; a recollection of which, in connexion with others, ought now to draw our attention to it. Arabia and the neighbouring regions were inhabited by the first generations of men. There it pleased the Creator first to reveal himself to his creatures ; and there the Son of God assumed the human nature. In Arabia, the faculties of the human mind attain to as high a degree of strength and vigour, even at this

* Θεου γαρ Εκκλησιων οι Χριστου μαθηται τας χωρας ταυτας Enàngwoavo Procopious Gaz. XI. 14.

† See them enumerated in Beveridge's Canones Conciliorum. The Bishop of Busorah was present at the Council of Antioch in a. D. 269.

+ Ομορους δε οντας τους Ιουδαιους εικος και πρωτους το κηρυγμα δεξασθαι. .

Being neighbours of the Jews, it was likely that they should first receive the Gospel. Proc, ubi supra.

« PreviousContinue »