Page images
PDF
EPUB

Archdeacon Robinson, in 1830, visited the town of Tinnevelly, and wrote the following lively sketch of Mr. Rhenius's effective ministrations amongst the heathen natives :

“While the people were assembling in the chapel, I had an opportunity of witnessing Mr. Rhenius's method of addressing the heathen ; we were walking round the splendid cloisters of the great pagoda of Varunnen, and were followed by many hundreds. His lively and perfectly native mode of address, as well as the Auency of his language, attracts them wonderfully. The Brahmins crowded around them with eagerness : and as we stopped occasionally at an angle of the building, a question led to a remonstrance of the folly of this stupendous idolatry, thus convicted and exposed by their own replies, till his remarks assumed gradually the form of a more general discourse, addressed to the multitudes around; while the pillars, the sides of the tank, and the pavement of the cloister were covered with eager listeners, who were hushed into the most breathless silence. He is bold, impressive, vivid, cheerful in his whole appearance, happy in his illustrations, and a master not only of the language, but of their feelings and views.”

In the course of October, in the same year, 1820, the Rev. Bernhard Schmid arrived at Palamcottah to be a fellow-labourer with Mr. Rhenius. For the space of ten years he diligently employed his talents in the Tinnevelly district, and now, in Germany, is doing all in his power to aid the cause of Missions.

For the 6th of October, 1820, is the following entry in Mr. Rhenius's Journal :

“ Opening a letter from Mr. Caemmerer this morning, I read thus : 'My dearest brother, this is the first letter I write to you at Palamcottah; yet not with joy or pleasure, but with grief of heart. My dear Schnarre is no more! Just now I come from the burial ground, where I had the heart-rending duty of committing his remains to the earth. I could not possibly get a greater shock by any other intelligence than by this. My dear brother Schnarre no more! What shall we say to these dispensations of our God ? A few months ago brother Schræter was called to his eternal rest. Now also Schnarre, long my companion - fellow-student--fellow-traveller-and fellow-labourer! One labourer less in this wilderness. O! how I wish to have been with him in his last days and hours. But he is gone to glory, he rests from his labours, from establishing and enlarging the kingdom of God in his own soul and in those of his fellowcreatures. Now he rests ! Nothing will now obstruct his love to the Saviour; his following the Saviour-his praising the Saviour with a pure heart; nothing keep him from being holy as God is holy! Now the turn is mine. I am the last of those who studied together, in Berlin, in 1811. Where my body of clay will rest, I know not. Let it be wherever the Lord please. Only may my soul be found with him. Therefore, my soul, watch and pray! Be ready. Do diligently what thou hast to do, whilst it is yet day to thee in this land of the living, and at last go into the blesssed mansion prepared for thee by thy gracious Redeemer! Amen."

But he was spared; and though the subsequent periods of his life were attended with greater and more numerous trials than he ever before experienced, his labours also were more abundant. From the year 1820 till 1835, he quietly and steadily prosecuted his

* In the Appendix to the Report of the Church Missionary Society for 1827-28, No.Ill. page 150, there is a long and interesting article on the successful labours of the Tinnevelly Mission, written by Mr. Rhenius himself, in reply to some strictures which had appeared in the public journals.

Missionary labours, except with the interruption of an occasional visit to Madras. His name became identified with Tinnevelly, and the people of this district, we may say, universally venerated him as their father in Christ Jesus.

While the Mission enjoyed this unprecedented degree of success, and called forth the public eulogies of the advocates of the Church Missionary Society, the German brethren, and especially Mr. Rhenius, suffered much from the harassing differences on church polity which existed between them and their employers.

“ From the beginning of my missionary career, in connection with the Church Missionary Society,” says Mr. Rhenius, in a letter to the compiler of this article, “I had no other rule for my spiritual ministrations but the Word of God, simple and plain as it is in the Bible. I soon saw that this would not agree with the tenets of the Church of England; but as there was no compact between me and the C. M. S., and as I was sent out by them to make known the unsearchable riches of Christ according to his word, I did not feel it my duty to separate from the Society, but simply to go on conscientiously in my work. If the Society (thought I,) is not pleased with this, then let the onus of separating be on them and not on me.”

Events, resulting in part from the success of the mission, and partly from the growing influence of evangelical churchmen, brought on the crisis which Mr. Rhenius had long foreseen, the mournful details of which we shall now recite with as much brevity and fairness as possible.

The appointment of Mr. Rhenius and his non-episcopalian associates to labour for the Church Missionary Society, was in accordance with the precedents of the elder missionary institutions of the Establishment, who not only employed Lutheran brethren as Missionaries, but, before there was an Anglican Bishop in India, allowed their German Missionaries to ordain natives according to the usages of the reformed churches.

Dr. Middleton, the first Bishop of Calcutta, was not empowered to ordain native Christians; and it is stated that he sanctioned their ordination by the hands of the German Presbyters, as Archbishop Wake bad formerly done. When, however, Bishop Heber went out to the Anglo-Indian See, he took with him His Majesty's Letters Patent for ordaining natives, and thus the episcopal power was extended so as to reach every case connected with the Missions of the Church of England throughout British India. In 1828, the Mission at Tinnevelly had grown to such an extent as to render the European brethren quite unequal to the discharge of their ministerial duties; and therefore native assistance became indispensable to carry them on, particularly in the administration of Baptism and of the Lord's Supper. Mr. Rhenius, having long witnessed the advantages resulting from the successful ministrations of the Word by native converts, felt, that if they could be intrusted with that more difficult part of ministerial service, they might be safely employed to administer the Lord's Supper to the people to whom they had already dispensed the Word of Life, and to baptize those whom they had been mainly instrumental in bringing into the fold of Christ. They accordingly communicated to the Society at home their wish, and under date August 28, 1828, they received the following reply from the C. M. S. Committee:-" The application of Messrs. Rhenius and Schmid to be authorized to ordain a native according the rites of the Lutheran Church, has occasioned me surprise; as we should have thought that they would have been aware that this was a step to which it was not probable that the Committee would give their sanction. As the Church of England is regularly organized in India, and the Bishop of Calcutta is empowered to confer Holy Orders on natives, the Society would naturally present to him any candidate for ordination that may be raised up at any of its stations within the Indian diocese.

In the following year Mr. Rhenius wrote again on the subject, and not wishing, we suppose, to wound the Committee by an explicit statement of his objections, urged that ten years had elapsed since a bishop had visited Palamcottah, and that a speedy episcopalian ordination of the native catechists was out of the question. And then asked, “ Shall the congregations remain on that account without the full benefit of the ministry? To this we frankly reply, no; because Providence bas provided us with the means of ordination, though not exactly the same in form as that of the Church of England.”

Bishop Turner being expected to visit Madras, it was proposed that the native candidates for ordination should meet him in that city, and this measure compelled Rhenius and his associates for the first time openly to express their objections to the ordination of the Church of England, under various heads of doctrine and forms, and to urge, that if the bishop could not allow of any modifications, they should be permitted to perform the act " in their own way.The proposals that Mr. Rhenius devised to meet the exigency appear to have been as follows-first, that the bishop should ordain them either on the Bible (as he himself was ordained) or with such modifications of the subscription as he felt it to be essential to truth. This was rejected. Secondly, if this could not be, that they might be allowed the same privileges as the elder Societies had allowed their Missionaries. This was not allowed. Thirdly, that the native teachers might be permitted, not only to preach, but to administer the ordinances without ordination at all. This could not be sanctioned. No ordination of native brethren, therefore, took place at Madras at that visitation, and the whole matter was again referred for the final decision of the Society at home.

In August 1831, the Committee reiterated, in a long and temperate paper, their objections to the request of Mr. Rhenius, which mainly consist of an exposition of the altered circumstances of the Society in consequence of the appointment of a bishop for India, with adequate powers. True, their position had changed, but not the position of the Missionaries, and consequently, in June 1832, Mr. Rhenius wrote to them as the Committee have determined not to accede to our request, and as I cannot conscientiously accede to their determination, so necessity seems to be laid upon me to reqnest for a change in our connection." Still he was most reluctant to sever the tie which bound him to the Society, and therefore proposed to visit Europe, to retire to Madras to prosecute his translations, or to join some other Missionary Society.

The parent Committee preferred the former, and Mr. Rhenius was preparing to visit England, when there arose not only in Tinnevelly, but from the christian public throughout India, so decided a protest against his return, that lie abandoned his purpose; " while the Corresponding Committee at Madras, was prepared gladly to assent to his remaining, on any terms, not involving a compromise of the principle on which the Society found it imperative to act.” Accordingly it was understood that the ordination of the Catechists by the Bishop was not to be pressed, while the Missionaries retained their objections to it, and Mr. Rhenius hoped that nothing would again "occur to disturb them in their work, or to clash with the principles of the gospel.

Although this excitement appeared thus to subside, there were other circumstances yet latent, that soon produced more extended excitement, and more mischievous results.

In 1832 the Rev. H. Harper, Senior Chaplain at Madras, published in that city a small pamphlet in defence of the Church of England, entitled “ The Church, her Daughters, and her Handmaids.” A copy of this work was sent to Mr. Rhenius by its author, with a challenge to him to review it, accompanied with a promise, that if Mr. R. would do so, his article should be inserted in the Madras Christian Observer, which Mr. Harper conducted.

The episcopal assumptions of this clerical writer stirred Mr. Rhenius's spirit, and strengthened his objections to that episcopalian ordination which was required for his native converts. He did revien it, and claimed of the reluctant editor the insertion of his paper, according to his promise. This was not done. Mr. Rhenius with much frankness sent hoine a copy of the review to the parent Committee and they did not notice it. At length, in 1834, he was induced to publish it at Madras with this title, “ Review of a Work entitled the Church, her Daughters, and Hand-maids, by C. T. E. Rhenius, Missionary, Tinnevelly, 1834.” In this tract he impugned the episcopal government, ritual, formularies and discipline, and closed the whole with the following stringent passage.

“ In conclusion, for what I have said on the various assertions of the writer respecting the constitution and form of the Church of England, it appears then that her doctrine is not entirely built upon the prophets and apostles, and therefore is not altogether evangelical ; that her government is not altogether apostolical ; and that her Liturgy is not an extract from the best primitive forms, for, as for the latter, there were none, and as for the former, it has been shown that the apostles taught nothing of three distinct orders of ordinary officers in the Church, or of raising one bishop or presbyter over another, in rank, dignity, emolument, or greatness; they thought nothing of constituting secular kings and governments to be the heads and arbitrators in the Church of Christ; they taught nothing about making crosses, wearing peculiar vestments, and changing them during divide service; or about excommunicating those who do not regard them, nor about any other particulars, which I have excepted against before. All these things rest, in my opinion, solely upon human authority, and are relics of the anti-christian Church of Rome.

X. S. VOL. III.

L

This publication naturally excited general attention, and became the subject of protracted newspaper discussion in the Madras journals. It reached England, together with other documents, early in 1835, and the Committee of the Church Missionary Society felt themselves compelled to pass the following resolution :

“ That adverting to the long period during which the Rev. C. T. E. Rhenius has been connected with the Society, to the strong sense which the Committee entertain of his piety, zeal, devotedness, and unwearied labours, and to the large measure of the Divine blessing with which those labours have been honoured and prospered; the Committee learn with the deepest regret and distress, the publication in India, by Mr. Rhenius, of his tract entitled A Review,' impugning as it does, the government, ritual, formularies, and discipline of that Church with which he stood connected as a Missionary of this Society; and that, afflicting as it is to them to dissolve their connection with one, whom on many grounds they highly honour and esteem, yet they feel bound, in consistency, as attached members of the Church of England, to take this very painful step, and to declare that the Missionary relation, which has hitherto subsisted between the Society and Mr. Rhenius, is at an end.”

While every reader will acknowledge the subdued and christian phrase in which this sentence of excision is couched, yet it must be seen that an act of cruel injury to the cause of Christ was inflicted by it; and that a primitive and most devoted minister of Jesus was virtnally sacrificed at the shrine of apostolical succession. Worldly prosperity is a sore trial to religious communities as well as to individual Christians. The adherents and members of the Church Missionary Society had been for years a despised and neglected party in the Establishment, but by a combination of circumstances on which it is not necessary to enlarge, they unexpectedly found several of their clerical brethren elevated to the episcopal throne, and other high places in the Church, which produced a remarkable change in the notions of many respecting its government. Clerical irregularities were no longer held to be so venial, as they once had been, ecclesiastical etiquette was more strictly maintained, and the consecration of the Rev. Daniel Wilson as Bishop of Calcutta, was an event which conciliated many minds. In the excellence of the man they forgot the odiousness of the system, and though there were some calm and wise enough left who could foresee that the episcopal discipline in India was not only destitute of provisions conducive to the extension of the missionary work, but actually presented obstacles to its enlargement; so that every step, properly missionary, was to be adventured upon by transgressing the strict boundaries of ecclesiastical discipline, still multitudes of churchmen looked with affection to Bishop Wilson, and thought that the man who could not submit to that liberal, zealous, and warm-hearted minister, must be incorrigible indeed !*

• The influence of the hierarchical system upon the characters of good men, is well illustrated by the change which has come over the present Bishop of Calcutta, since his elevation to the Episcopate. We beg our readers' attention to the following illustration, not, we assure them, to assail the individual, but to expose the system. On the 10th of November, 1814, the Rev. Daniel Wilson, M.A. then the unbeneficed minister of St. John's Chapel, Bedford Row, addressed from the pulpit of St. Bride's Church, London, two

« PreviousContinue »