Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Without looking further, therefore, to higher and stronger grounds of public policy and Christian morals, we see it to be extremely desirable that a period should be put to this unhappy, expensire, and threatening warfare, and on this account assent cordially to the suggestion, made in your last number, that the subject be now taken up.'

-pp. 102, 103.

There are yet other and far higher reasons for the discontinuance of this traffic, reasons that make it imperative upon every follower of Christ to use his utmost efforts for its abolition. They cannot be better detailed than in the emphatic language of one who speaks what he has seen and heard.

• It has been told, and it shall be rung in the ears of the Britislı public, again and again, that opium is demoralizing China, and becomes the greatest barrier to the introduction of Christianity which can be conceived of. Not only are the wretched victims of the indulgence themselves impervious to remonstrance, and callous to all feeling ; not only must we despair of the conversion of an opium-smoker, almost as much as if his doom were already sealed; but the difficulty of convincing others of the truth of Christianity, and of the sincere intentions of Christians, is greater, in proportion to the extent of the opium trade to China. Almost the first word uttered by a native, when urged to believe in Christ, is, 'Why do Christians bring us opium, and bring it directly in defiance of our laws? That vile drug has poisoned my son-has ruined my brother-and well nigh led me to beggar my wife and children. Surely, those who import such a deleterious substance, and injure me for the sake of gain, cannot wish me well, or be in possession of a religion that is better than my own, Go, first, and persuade your own countrymen to relinquish this nefarious traffic, and give me a prescription to correct this vile habit, and then I will listen to your exhortations on the subject of Christianity.''*

We should not do justice to our subject if we were not to revert to the counterpart evils resulting from the growth and transit of the drug in our East India possessions. About one half of the produce of India is grown in Malwa, a province under British protection. This opium pays a duty to the Company on passing through its territories. That grown in our own territories is exclusively monopolized by the Company. The ryots are compelled to cultivate it.

• Advances are made by Government, through its native servants, and if a ryot refuses the advance, the simple plan of throwing the rupees into his house is adopted ; should he attempt to abscond, the peons seize him, tie the advance up in his clothes, and push him into his house. The business being now settled, and there being no remedy, he applies himself, as he may, to the fulfilment of his contract.''

* Medhurst's China.

26.

-p.

The poppy requires the very best soil for its culture, and thus displaces those plants which produce the staple articles for food.

Another writer informs us, that the ryots are compelled to give • up fixed portions of their lands (and of their labour) for the cul'tivation of the poppy.' He says the compensation made by the Honourable Company, on its own estimate, after passing through numerous grades of employés of the Government, is reduced to a fifth before it reaches the unhappy and oppressed peasant.

In consequence of being obliged forcibly to cultivate this highlytaxed drug, the peasant is constantly exposed to a suspicion of retaining some part of the produce for private sale ; the surveillance of the police is, therefore, especially directed to these unhappy creatures; and the oppressions which they are subjected to in this way surpass belief. They are exposed to every sort of annoyance, which the ingenuity of the authorized plunderers (the police and the custom-house searchers) can devise, in order to extort bribes. The privacy of their miserable abodes—the sanctity of their females, is intruded upon by these harpies of Government; and no redress can be given by the Government, unless they abolish the production of this accursed drug.'

-pp. 162, 163.

Similar evils depend on the transit of opium to the coast.

* I have already said, that the right of search is entrusted to characters such as I have described. Therefore all goods passing the main artery of India—the Ganges—are exposed to it. Now, this right is not in any way used to protect the Government; it is held out by the custom-house officers as a means of extorting bribes. This tax upon goods is made in every search-house established along the line they have to travel. Nor are merchant-boats alone subjected to these extortions. They fall heavily upon mere travellers—especially pilgrims, and those who travel with their families. The latter usually have a separate apartment for their wives, sisters, and other females, which the officers threaten to enter, under the pretext of suspecting that opium is concealed there, and we know that a respectable Hindoo would sacrifice all he has in the world, rather than expose his wives to insult from these miscreant searchers.

• The same system of extortion exists upon goods and persons conveyed by land, whenever they come within the limits of inland customhouses.

• To sum up the curse consequent on this right of search, which springs from the Government trade in opium, I may say they are as follows: The exactions and corruptions ; the grievous delay; the insolent exercise of low, ill-paid authority ; the interruption of communication, by shutting up ferries, roads, and routes ; the distress and ruin resulting from false seizures and confiscations; (got up by the custom-house people to blind the Government ;) the diversion of trade into channels less impeded; the advancement of price of all goods, by reason of these checks and annoyances ; and, worst of all, the demo. ralization of the habits of all parties connected with, or exposed to the influence of, these oppressive and unjust measures. And we must either submit to all these evils and hinderances—the happiness and prospects, eternal as well as temporal, of the inhabitants of this large and wealthy tract of a country, teeming with industry and fruitfulness : or annihilate the right of search,—which, as it is exercised, is replete with every curse that can be inflicted on millions of our unoffending fellow-creatures, whom, by the laws of God and man, we are bound in every way to protect and comfort.'—pp. 166–168.

All that remains for us to do is to show that the remedy we demand, viz., the suppression of the Opium Trade is within the powers of government and parliament. We know that under ordinary circumstances an illicit trade cannot be suppressed, but this is evidently an exception, since the East India Company are the sole growers, and in the first instance, the sole merchants of the drug. They can relinquish its cultivation themselves, prohibit it in their subjects, and prevent its transit through their territory. The British Government can also direct its officers at Canton to discountenance the traffic, and place all dealers in opium beyond the pale of its protection. Our commercial interests, our Christian duty, and the common principles of humanity, imperatively demand this at our hands; and all this is within the power and prerogative of parliament.

Art. VIII. The Life, Times, and Characteristics of John Bunyan,

Author of the Pilgrim's Progress. By Robert Philip. London: George Virtue. 1839.

NO
O name is more widely spread than that of Bunyan. Wher-

ever there are readers, his Pilgrim's Progress' is to be found throughout the civilized world, and in all its various languages. It is on this work his vast fame is founded; for his other productions added no more to his reputation than the . Pa

radise Regained' did to that of Milton." Perhaps no book has ever been so universally read, or has given exquisite pleasure to so many, and such widely different minds. It delights equally the profane and the pious; the brightest genius, endowed with the learning of all ages, and the simple and unlettered cottager; the old man and the little child. It is especially remarkable in this, that being an allegory, written for the express purpose of pages

conveying religious instruction, it should, on the one hand communicate spiritual benefit in a high degree to serious readers, and, on the other, charm and fascinate the most thoughtless by the mere interest of its fable; and thus at once possess the seemingly incompatible qualities of a religious book and a romance. While elder Christians sit down to its perusal for the hundredth time, and still discover new beauties, and grow wiser as they read, the child of four or five years old fastens on its with an avidity unknown before-sleeps with it under his pillow at night, eagerly begins again to read with the first light of morning, and makes it his companion through the day. It has exercised a most energetic influence on multitudes of our race in two very different ways. For while, perhaps, it has contributed to make more true Christians than any other book in the same space of time, excepting the Bible, it has also been most potent in generating a love of reading in infant minds, and in drawing forth the powers of latent genius.

While we must have regarded the Pilgrim's Progress' as a splendid monument to the genius of its author, had it been written by the greatest scholar of his age, our admiration is increased when we remember that it was the production of a travelling tinker, without education, and whose early years were spent in low and profligate society. For such a man to have produced an allegory far surpassing in beauty and interest those of Dante and Spenser, written in a singularly pure idiomatic English style, and extorting the admiration of critics who are themselves masters in prose and poetic composition; all this presents Bunyan to our view as a prodigy of genius such as the world has seldem seen. . We are naturally curious to know the life of a man so great; to trace the progress of his mind from the period of his first emerging from clownish ignorance till it reached its maturity: and the dissected mind of Bunyan presents as much to instruct the Christian as to interest the mere literary reader. He has himself laid it bare to our view, detailing without concealment its terrible struggles with temptations of no common form or fierceness. But while the auto-biography of Bunyan will always be the most valuable part of his memoirs, by whomsoever they are written, we cannot help regarding it as a specimen of morbid anatomy, which we can hardly contemplate without a feeling of pain. Although it is impossible to pronounce him insane, in the usual sense of the word, at any period of his life, and thus his case bears no direct analogy to that of Cowper; it is equally impossible to deny, that in the earlier part of his religious life his mind was in a diseased condition. And as he does not himself seem to have suspected this, it is very important to the reader that his own statement should be accompanied by a judicious and discriminating commentary. To execute such a task well, no small portion of wisdom is requisite. Piety alone is not a sufficient qualification ; and the soundest and most sober judgment which has never felt the terror of the Lord,' is inadequate to the achievement.

On the awful and mysterious subject of diabolical agency there is great danger of adopting erroneous opinions. Some minds which are inclined to superstition, perhaps from want of being early trained in habits of regular and patient thought, attribute to the direct operations of Satan certain thoughts and dispositions which arise naturally from themselves. With such persons every unholy emotion, and very often mental processes which are not in themselves wrong, have an infernal origin. Nor does the possession of great powers of mind always prevent this; for Bunyan frequently regarded as heavenly monitions, or suggestions of Satan, words that suddenly presented themselves to his mind; but which may be accounted for as supplied by memory, or by that principle of association which has so powerful an influ. ence on all our thoughts. The tender conscience of Bunyan, now doubly tender, because wounded and inflamed by the arrows of conviction, shrumk under the gentlest touch. No wonder that it was tortured even to agony by some questions which were not unnatural in his circumstances : and that he was startled at what he deemed blasphemous thoughts, questions against the very being of a God, and of his only beloved Son, and whether there were in truth a God or Christ, and whether the Holy Scriptures were not rather a cunning story, than the pure word of God.' Yet we cannot discourage a sober and serious inquiry into the evidences of Christianity : for he who is seeking salvation ought to know the grounds of his hope ; nor can the hope be rational that is not founded on inquiry and conviction. Such an examination of the evidences of divine truth, pursued with candor, with earnestness, and with prayer, must always lead to the cordial reception of the gospel. The Scriptures themselves direct us to prove all things; and the prophecies, the miracles, and the multiplied appeals to human testimony on behalf of religion, all concur to prove that God does not demand a blind compliance even with his own will, but that he addresses himself to the reason of mankind. But if the inquirer be unsatisfied when sufficient evidence has been adduced, then he is in a high degree guilty: for such a state of mind can result only from the influence of sin which blinds and prejudices the understanding against the reception of truth. We cannot sympathize with the inorbid sensitiveness of Bunyan, when he regards a rational and honest inquiry into the truth as a blasphemous suggestion of the devil; neither can we trace a direct supernatural agency in the communication of many of those texts of Scripture which moved him so powerfully. When a mental operation can be accounted for on the common

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »