Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

castle upon

sentences of the Scriptures; so early did the all-wise God, foreseeing in hin the future translator of the Bible, begin by this bias to prepare him to relish that holy but laborious task.

He united himself with the Scottish church in the year 1798. From this time he seems to have been constantly animated with that unconquerable spirit which raised him above a thousand early difficulties, and characterized his subsequent life. Hitherto he had followed the humble occupation of his father, that of a boot-tree maker in New

Tyne. But about two years after his conversion to the Lord, prominent marks of the genuineness of that change began to appear. He felt springing up in his heart new and ardent desires to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and promote the best interests of his fellowmen. These desires he indulged till they became a part of his existence, ripening into a design so fixed, that neither the dissuasions of friends, nor the impossibility of marking out any definite

way

of its accomplishment, could divert him from his purpose.

To compass this design of being useful, he saw it was necessary first to get knowledge; but his resources were small, his days were spent in manual labor, and his first application for instruction was discouraged by the clergyman to whom he applied. About 1801, he placed himself under the private instruction of the Rev. Mr. Laidler, of Newcastle, to acquire the Latin language. To this pursuit lie devoted his mornings before six o'clock, and his evenings after seven or eight; and this course he continued for fourteen months. In the beginning of 1803, his situation was changed so as to promise the attainment of his wishes—he was received into the theological seminary at Hoxton on the north of London, where he spent a year and a half assiduously pursuing his studies. At this time, the first desire of his heart which had long been concealed from others, and had scarcely been owned to himself, was declared ;—this was to become a missionary of the gospel. The thought ever dwelt on his mind; he endeavored to weigh every side of the question ; proposed it to his friends, brit they pressed him to stay with them; his father wept and prayed over him, unwilling to part with him, yet afraid lest he was doing wrong in opposing his departure. Robert was his youngest child, the joy and rejoicing of his heart, and he lived to see him honored among the churches of Christ. But after the death of his mother, Robert obtained his father's consent to his wishes. Accordingly he now determined in the strength of the Lord to surrender himself to his service, was accepted by the London Missionary Society, and in 1804, at the age of twenty-two, was removed to their seminary at Gosport. There he continued under the instructions of that eminent man of God, the Rev. David Bogue, till January, 1807, when he was ordained as a missionary to China.

Many and many an age had the millions of this empire appeared on the stage of life, and groped their dark and cheerless way down to the gates of death,“ having no hope, and without God in the world Generation after generation here had risen, flourished, and passed away quite unknown to the western world. Their exploits were

corded indeed, and their maxims treasured up, but in an unknown tongue. So distant and distinct seemed they, that one could scarcely avoid imagining them the fabled inhabitants of another world, or of some fairy land. But the spirit of primitive missions was returning to the western churches, and enlightened Christians could not rest satisfied while the Divine Revelation was withheld from the first and the greatest of nations. The benevolent spirits of that day, who

projected this mission, and most of whom now rest from their labors, did not suffer the general ignorance respecting China, nor the prevalent prejudices against missionaries, to divert them from their purpose, till they succeeded in planting their agent in Canton. The following extract from his instructions, dated London, Jan. 20th, 1807, will exhibit the leading object of the Missionary Society in this enterprise :

“We trust that no objection will be made to your continuing in Canton, till you have accomplished your great object of acquiring the language; when this is done, you may probably soon afterwards begin to turn this attainment into a direction which may be of extensive use to the world; perhaps you may have the honor of forming a Chinese dictionary, more comprehensive and correct than any preceding one; or the still greater honor of translating the sacred Scriptures into a language spoken by a third part of the human race.”

This extract records the origin of the first British establishment in China for religious and literary purposes ; it was unofficial, voluntary, noiseless, devised and executed by a few pious and enterprising individuals. On the 31st of January, 1807, Mr. Morrison embarked for China by way of America, where he stayed twenty days, and then reëmbarked alone in the American ship Trident for Canton. During that brief stay, he made the acquaintance of some active Christian friends; which together with his subsequent correspondence, contributed to that lively interest ever felt for him in America. He received from Mr. Madison, then secretary of state, a letter of introduction to Mr. Carrington, American consul at Canton, requesting for him all convenient aid in his literary pursuits. On the 4th of September he reached Macao, but had no sooner landed than he was ordered away by the Portuguese, through the jealousy of the Roman Catholics. Compelled to come to Canton at once, the letter alluded to procured him attentions from Mr. C., and several other gentlemen ; and he was received into the factory of Messrs. Milner & Bull of New York. His first appearance in Canton though not cited for imitation, can not be uninteresting to all who knew him. At first he ate in the Chinese fashion, became an adept with the chopsticks, dining with his native teacher. He imitated the native dress also, let his nails grow long, cultivated a queue, and walked about the hong in a Chinese frock and thick shoes. His mode of living too, was rigidly economical; he lived in a go-down, which was his study, dining, and sleeping-room; an earthen lamp gave him light, and a folio volume of Henry's Commentary set on end, screened this lamp from the wind. Here he studied day and night at the language, but having little help from teacher or books, with success not proportion

ate to his toil. His Chinese habits were soon laid aside ; for though he meant well, yet as he often afterwards said, he judged ill. At the close of 1808. with all the British he was obliged to go 10 Macao, in consequence of the arrival of troops from Bengal. Here he was so unwilling to expose himself to public notice that he never walked out; in consequence of which his health began to suffer. The first time he ventured into the fields was by moonlight, under the escort of two Chinese. Yet during all this time he was silently studying the language : and so anxious was he to acquire it, that his secret prayers to the Almighty were offered in broken Chinese.

From the commencement of 1809, his circumstances were materially changed; on the 20th of February, he was married to Miss Mary Morton, eldest daughter of John Morton, Esq. "The same day he accepted the appointment of translator to the East India Company, as assistant to Sir G. T. Staunton, to whom he liad been introduced by a letter from Sir Joseph Banks. This arrangement secured for him a permanent residence in China, contributed to his own pecuniary support, and enabled him to devise liberal things for charitable objects, and public institutions. Henceforward his life and actions have been so public that little remains unknown, and withal so even and uniform as scarcely to leave any other marks of the lapse of time, than those made by some domestic occurrence, or the publication of some new work.

The vicissitudes of domestic joy and sorrow fell to the lot of Dr. Morrison With a heart eminently fitted to find happiness in the busom of his family, he was for months annually separated from them, it being often necessary for him to be in Canton, while his family remained at Macao. Death early entered his family; in 1811, he buried his firstborn child on the diry of its birth. IIe had to dig the grave with his own hands on a hill on the north of Macao, in doing which he was at first forcibly interrupted by the Chinese. In 1815, Mrs. Morrison was driven by lingering disease to seek a cooler climate, and leaving her husband in China she sailed with her two children for England. After an absence of five years she returned with health improved, but as it appeared, returned but to die in her husband's arins; for the next year she was suddenly taken from the world. Her two orphan children returned to England, whither the father followed thein in 1824, having completed the dictionary of the Chinese language and the version of the Scriptures. He here enjoyed a grateful relief from his incessant labors, in the solaces of friendship and Christian communion. While in England he was married to Miss Eliza Armstrong, daughter of W. Armstrong, Esq. with whom he reëmbarked in 1826 for China, which he was to leave no more. With his own health declining, he was obliged by Mrs. M.'s continued debility to part once more and for the last time with his family. In December last, Mrs. M. and six children embarked for England, leaving his eldest son with him in China.

In his public capacity as connected with the E. I. Company, he ever sustained the character of an able and faithful translator. 'The

portant labors.

duties were at first extremely oppressive, owing to his own imperfect knowledge of the language, and his want of confidence in the native assistants. The perplexing hours spent in his new duties were not relieved till further acquaintance with the language taught him that their intercourse was mutually intelligible. He was early the only translator, and during twenty-five years till the late expiration of the Company's charter, he held this station. Twenty-three years he was in actual service, in which time, amidst the occurrence of innumerable difficulties and collisions, he has sometimes been the only means of communication with the Chinese government, when property and life were at stake. In the ambassy of Lord Amherst to Peking in 1816, Mr. Morrison was attached to the suite as one of the translators, in which duties he bore the principal part. And on the recent arrival of Lord Napier in China as chief British superintendent, he accepted the appointment of Chinese secretary and interpreter under his Lordship. It was in the discharge of those new duties that he came to Canton, to die on the spot which had been the scene of his most im

In the department of letters, the name of Morrison is extensively known.

From the time when in his youth, he sat down in the British Museum to copy a "Harmony of the Gospels” in Chinese, till the day of his death, it may almost literally be said, the study of the language was his prime object. In the study or on a journey, on land or water, he hardly remitted this attention. While we stood looking on his just breathless body, next to personal grief for the loss of a revered friend, arose an insuppressible regret, that such long accumulating knowledge was to be of no more avail to the world. But we thank God that it is not all lost. He has left to us, in his dictionary, the results of many years of toil; and to the Chinese, a more imperishable memorial in the version of the Holy Scriptures. When Dr. M. began to study this language it is said there was but one Englishman who understood it.

Many men doubted the possibility of acquiring it, and its capacity for expressing the truths of the Christian religion. Having no grammar, and but a partial copy of a manuscript Latin dictionary, he commenced the task, with the same spirit which had sustained him in mastering the Latin, during the hours due to repose and recreation. Experience of the want of aids in learning the Chinese, doubtless confirmed him in the design speedily to prepare facilities for future students.

His great work in this department is his English and Chinese Dictionary; not indeed as a specimen of perfect lexicography, but an astonishing proof of ability and industry, and as all later students know, eminently useful. This extensive work was published at the expense of the East India Company, reserving for themselves one hundred copies ;-an expense of £12,000. It consists of three parts, comprising six large quarto volumes, and 4595 pages. The Chinese and English part contains about 40,000 words. The first volume was issued at Macao in 1816, and the whole was completed in 1823.

Besides the dictionary, Dr. Morrison published several minor phi

lological works. His Grammar of the Chinese Language was finished as early as 1811, and was also published under the patronage of the E. I. Company. There is also a volume of Chinese and English Dialogues; a View of China for Philological Purposes; with several minor works; and lastly, in 1828, a Vocabulary of the Canton Dialect in two volumes. These various works procured him the esteem of learned nien, and the reputation of a benefactor of mankind. The University of Glasgow in 1817 gratuitously conferred upon him the degree of Doctor in Divinity. Ile was also a fellow of the Royal Society, member of the Royal Asiatic Society, &c.

The Anglochinese College at Malacca owes its origin to Dr. Morrison, who at first devoted £1000 to it, and gave £100 annually for the first five years from its commencement. lle was subsequently a liberal contributor to its funds. Since laying the foundation stone in 1818, the institution has found generous patrons in Southeastern Asia, England, and elsewhere. Its chief object is the cultivation of Chinese and English literature, and the diffusion of Christianity in this part of the world. Dr. M. being then resident in China, it was the

part of his beloved colleague, Dr. Milne, to superintend the erection of the college, and carry into effect their mutual plans regarding its establishment. Froin the beginning of its operations till his death in 1822, Dr. Milne was principal of the institution, and its increasing success justified the cherished hopes of its departed founders. By his early death, the college sustained a loss at the time irreparable; though its usefulness, if not extended, has continued. But the present prospects are more favorable than ever, and we can not but indulge the hope, that under the present experienced principal, the Rev. John Evans, this institution will exceed in usefulness the hopes of its benevolent founder. Dr. Morrison held the office of president of the college from its commencement till his death.

But besides all these, there was another work in the completion of which our revered friend had nore heartfelt delight than in all others; that is, the translation of the Bible into the Chinese language. Compared with this, he regarded them only as subsidiary and preparatory; but this was connected with the dearest and best interests of men in this world and the next. Having early been blessed with an extraordinary relish for these holy oracles, and resting on them his own and only hopes for eternity, he justly regarded the opening of Divine Revelation to the inillions of the Chinese language nations, as a high honor to himself. Dr. Morrison brought with him to China, a Harmony of the gospels, and some other portions of the New Testament which been translated into Chinese probably by some Roman Catholic missionary; the Acts of the Apostles he first revised, and published in Canton. From these he proceeded through the whole New Testament, and revised it so early as 1813. His complete success in printing the Scriptures in China gladdened his heart, and the thrill of joy which he felt in his own bosom was immediately caught by thousands of Christians, who were praying for the good of China. In the translation of the Old Testament le bure the chief

« ZurückWeiter »