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He dwells at large on the separation of the Hindoos into castes, and the actions by which they are liable to loss of caste. “ He proves,” says the Abbe Gregoire, in a memoir drawn up by him on this subject, " that the institution had no place in the ancient system of theology, and that it is a subsequent invention. At the head of this institution is the caste of the Brahmins, who have raised themselves to the highest possible dignity by investing their birth and quality with fantastic splendour; representing themselves as gods upon earth ; the Brahmins are in India what the members of an oligarchy, and the feudal lords, are in Europe, but still worse, and that is saying a great deal. They have broken the ties of social life, not only by the separations formed by the castes, but by isolating, as it were, the members of the same family from each other; a Hindoo who affects great rigidity cannot share his dinner with his brother whom he is visiting; and if the brother touch any of the provisions of his guest, the latter must instantly throw away what remains, and even destroy the utensils in which it was contained."*
Great, however, as is the antipathy of the writer to the system of caste, he is yet careful not to forfeit his own by the neglect of any of those rules by which it is preserved. The reason he gives for this is, that its loss would take away his rank and influence, the opportunity of intercourse with his countrymen, and the power of pursuing his plans of reform and improvement.
Whatever may be the antiquity of the great mass of the Hindoo superstitions, it is a curious fact, as stated by the Abbe Gregoire, that, although from the intercourse of the natives of India with the Asiatic Mussulmans, and the European Christians, it might be thought that they would have adopted more enlightened notions of religion, and perhaps simplified their religious observances, yet many of their ridiculous dogmas, and childish and barbarous ceremonies, were introduced since the middle of the last century. This is more especially the case with the natives of Bengal, whose faith differs in some essential particulars from that of the inhabitants of Behar Tihroot, and Benares. They have left their ancient worship for an idolatry denominated the religion of the Tantras, in opposition to that of the Veds. In the mean time, the labours of Rammohun Roy do not seem to have been altogether fruitless. He was not deceived in supposing, that the curiosity which strongly inclines all men to pry narrowly into what is concealed from
* Monthly Repository, vol. 15. p. 5.
them with the greatest care, would be a sufficient motive with his countrymen to read eagerly the Vedant, now first given to them in their own language. He informs us, in one of his works, that numbers of the most enlightened and honest of his countrymen, had been satisfied of the folly of idolatry, and had reformed their religious conduct accordingly.
He now began to study more carefully the Christian scriptures. His assent to the system of religion taught in these writings, was for a long time withheld on account of the doctrine of the trinity, which he then supposed to be one of its chief tenets, but which he could not believe. In a preface to the work before us, written by Dr. Rees, it is said, “ that this doctrine appeared to his mind quite as objectionable as the polytheism of the Hindoos." We like fair play among controversialists; and deem it our duty to say, that this expression seems to have been used by the learned writer without due reflection. Rammohun Roy, it is true, speaks of this tenet as an insuperable obstacle to his belief in christianity; and it is not improbable, that the arguments against the Hindoo plurality of deities, pursued, to their farthest extent, by the zeal of one who had himself been a convert from that dangerous and debasing error, and who saw and deplored so many of its consequences among his countrymen, might have, in his eyes, an apparent application to the notion of a trinity. Still, it is impossible, that a man of his logical and discriminating mind, should not have seen the prodigious difference between the idea of three persons in the divinity possessing the same nature, and the same attributes, and actuated by the same will, and that of the innumerable family of superior, subordinate, and warring deities, that people the Hindoo heaven. He determined, however, to satisfy himself as to the question whether this doctrine was actually taught in the Old and New Testament, and after a diligent perusal and examination of these writings in their original languages, he thought that the passages in which it was supposed to be inculcated would bear a different construction, and with this persuasion he became a believer in the Christian religion. In 1818, the Baptist mission at Serampore, who had great respect for the abilities and learning of Rammohun Roy, deputed Mr. Adams, one of their missionaries, to discuss personally with him the points of difference between their respective creeds. The learned Hindoo, however, proved himself too subtle for the learned European, and instead of being convinced by his arguments, found means to bring him over to his own views of the subject. In 1820, he published, with translations into Sanscrit and Bengalee, a little volume, entitled the
Precepts of Jesus, the Guide to Peace and Happiness. This is the first of the tracts contained in the volume before
and is a compilation of the teachings of our Lord, separated from the history of his life and miracles. We give the following extract from the preface:
“ Voluminous works, written by learned men of particular sects, for the purpose of establishing the truth, consistency, rationality, and priority of their own peculiar doctrines, contain such a variety of arguments, that I cannot hope to be able to adduce here any new reasonings of sufficient novelty and force to attract the notice of my readers. Besides, in matters of religion particularly, men in general, through prejudice and partiality to the opinions which they once form, pay little or no attention to opposite sentiments, (however reasonable they may be,) and often turn a deaf ear to what is most consistent with the laws of nature, and conformable to the dictates of human reason and divine revelation. At the same time, to those who are not biassed by prejudice, and who are, by the grace of God, open to conviction, a simple enumeration and statement of the respective tenets of different sects may be a sufficient guide to direct their inquiries in ascertaining which of them is the most consistent with the sacred traditions, and most acceptable to common sense. For these reasons, I decline entering into any discussion on those points, and confine my attention at present to the task of laying before my fellow-creatures the words of Christ, with a translation from the English into Sungskrit, and the language of Bengal. I feel persuaded, that by separating from the other matters contained in the New Testament, the moral precepts found in that book, these will be more likely to produce the desirable effect of improving the hearts and minds of men of different persuasions and degrees of understanding. For, historical, and some other passages, are liable to the doubts and disputes of free-thinkers and antichristians, especially miraculous relations, which are much less wonderful than the fabricated tales handed down to the natives of Asia, and, consequently, would be apt at best to carry little weight with them. On the contrary, moral doctrines, tending evidently to the maintenance of the peace and harmony of mankind at large, are beyond the reach of metaphysical perversion, and intelligible alike to the learned and to the unlearned. This simple code of religion and morality is so admirably calculated to elevate men's ideas to high and liberal notions of one God, who has equally subjected all living creatures, without distinction of caste, rank, or wealth, to change, disappointment, pain, and death, and has equally admitted all to be par
takers of the bountiful mercies which he has lavished over nature, and is also so well fitted to regulate the conduct of the human race in the discharge of their various duties to God, to themselves, and to society, that I cannot but hope the best effects from its promulgation in the present form."
Not long after the publication of this tract there appeared some strictures upon it in “ The Friend of India," a periodical work under the direction of the Baptist missionaries, of which Dr. Marshman is the editor. These strictures were written by the Rev. Mr. Schmidt, and were followed by some remarks by Dr. Marshman, in which he terms the compiler of the “ Precepts” “ an intelligent heathen.” This, as might be expected, was the prelude of a controversy. Rammobun Roy published “an Appeal to the Christian Public in defence of the Precepts of Jesus.” He seems to have taken great offence at the epithet of beathen, bestowed on him by Dr. Marshman, for we find him thus commenting upon it. It is due to Dr. Marshman to say, that he afterwards disclaimed all intention of using this term in an invidious sense.
" I should hope neither the reviewer nor the editor can be justified in inferring the heathenism of the compiler, from the facts of his extracting and publishing the moral doctrines of the New Testament, under the title of " A Guide to Peace and Happiness"--his styling the Precepts of Jesus, a code of religion and morality-his believing God to be the author and preserver of the universe-or his considering those sayings as adapted to regulate the conduct of the whole human race in the discharge of all the duties required of them.
“ Neither, I trust, can his separating the moral sayings of Christ from the mysterious dogmas and historical parts of the New Testament, under the impression, that these are liable to the doubts and disputes of freethinkers and anti-christians, with which this part of the world is unfurtunately filled; nor his opinion that this simple code of morality would be more likely to attract the notice and respect of such men, and to guide their minds into the paths of peace and happiness, than if presented to them in conjunction with other matter against which their education has taught them to revolt: justly subject him, in the opinion of the most orthodox Christians, to the epithei applied io him by the editor. If they do, I cannot see how the same condemnation can be spared to numerous publications of extracts from the Old and the New Testaments, made and sent forth by several Christian authors, under various designations, and for different purposes.
“ With respect to the latter mode of seeking evidence, however unjustified the editor may be in coming to such a conclusion, he is safe in ascribing the collection of these Precepts to Rammohun Roy; who, although he was born a Brahmun, not only renounceit idolatry at a very early period of his life, but published at that time a treatise in Arabic and Persian against that system; and no sooner acquired a tolerable knowledge of English, than he made his desertion of idol worsbip known to the Christian world by his English publication-a renunciation that, I
am sorry to say, brought severe difficulties upon him, by exciting the disa pleasure of his parents, and subjecting him to the dislike of his near, as well as distant relations, and to the hatred of nearly all his countrymen for several years. I therefore presume, that among his declared enemies, who are aware of those facts, no one who has the least pretension to truth, would venture to apply the designation of heathen to him; but I am sure, that the respect he entertains for the very name of christianity, which the editor of the Friend of India seems to profess, will restrain him froin retorting on that editor, although there may be differences of opinion between them, that might be thought sufficient to justify the use towards the editor of a term no less offensive. The editor, perhaps, may consider himself justified by numerous precedents amongst the several partisans of different Christian sects, in applying the name of heathen to one who takes the Precepts of Jesus as his principal guide in matters of religious and civil duties; as Roman Catholics bestow the appellation of heretics or infidels on all classes of Protestants, and Protestants do not spare the title of idolaters to Roman Catholics; Trinitarians deny the name of Christian to Unitarians, while the latter retort by stigmatizing the worshippers of the Son of man as Pagans, who adore a created and dependent Being. Very different conduct is inculcated in the precept of Jesus to John, when complaining of one who performed cures in the name of Jesus, yet refused to follow the apostles ;-he gave a rebuke, saying, “ He that is not against us is on our part:" Mark, ch. ix. ver. 40. The Compiler, having obviously in view at least one object in common with the Reviewer and Editor, that of procuring respect for the precepts of Christ, inight have reasonably expected more charity from professed teachers of his doctrines.-pp. 102--105.
A reply to the“ Appeal" appeared not long after in the Friend of India, and this reply produced a "Second Appeal," from the pen of Rammohun Roy. Both the appeals are given in this volume. The controversy, however, has not rested here. There appeared in the Friend of India an answer to the “Second Appeal," and this led to Rammohun Roy's “ Final Appeal,”! printed in 1823. It is grateful to observe the candour and good temper with which this controversy has been carried on on both sides. The Hindoo writer begins his Second Appeal with the following honourable testimony to the manner in which it has been conducted by Dr. Marshman.
“The observations contained in No. I. of the Quarterly Series of The Friend of India,' on the Introduction to "The Precepts of Jesus,' as well as on their defence, termed · An Appeal to the Christian Public,' are happily expressed in so mild and Christian-like a style, that they have not only afforded ine ample consolation for the disappointment and vexation I felt from the personality conveyed in the preceding Magazines, (Nos. 20 and 23.) but have also encouraged me to pursue my researches after the fundamental principles of Christianity in a manner agreeable to my feelings, and with such respect as I should always wish to manifest for the situation and character of so worthy a person as the Editor of the Friend of India."--p. 145.
After all, the day when one religious reformer could call ans Vol. I.