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some ANIMADVERSIONS on the TINNEWELLY MISSION HAVING APPEARED IN A CAL
Messrs. Rhenius and schMid ADDREssed A Lettelt to the
Rev. D. schMid AT THAT PLACE, UNDER DATE of AUGUST 7, 1827, IN REPLY TO THose ANIMAdversions; From A copy of which Letter, the following Account of The MISSION HAS BEEN TAKEN.
DEAR BROTHER, Little did we think that our humble labours in this distant part of the world would have been canvassed in the Calcutta Newspapers. To satisfy your various inquiries, we shall give you a simple and concise statement of the commencement and progress of the work of Conversion in these parts, and of its present state. First, however, we would premise, that the Tinnevelly Provinces, of which Palamcottah is the fort, contains about 700,000 inhabitants, comprising all Castes, excepting the Cshatriyas, of whom there are very few. The Soodras are the most numerous Caste. Of these again the Pallers and Parriars are the most numerous, and form the lowest class; higher than these are the Shanars, that is, the cultivators of the Palmira-tree, who are also very numerous, particularly South of Palamcottah. Next in number are the Brahmins, then the Moormen, or Mahomedans. A more particular account of this subject you will find in the Church Missionary Society's Report for the year 1828–1824, in the Appendix, p. 226. At the latest Survey of the District by the Company's Servants, in 1820, there were found in this Dis. trict, according to the lowest calculation, about 22,000 Native Christians, of whom about 18,000 were Roman Catholics, and 4000 Protestants, belonging to the Tanjore Mission. Among these are many
Soodras, but most are Shanars and Parriars. About 30 years ago, one or other of the Tanjore Missionaries used to visit about here; also the Rev. Mr. Ringletaube (who at first belonged to their Society, but afterwards attached himself to the London Missionary Society, and who had a Mission establishment South of Tinnevelly, in Travancore.) used to travel about and superintend these Congregations. He left this country about ten years ago; and since then, no European Missionary looked after them. They were superintended at first by two Native Country Priests, and latterly by one only, sent out from time to time by the Tanjore Missionaries, with numerous Native Catechists for their Assistants. For some years previously to the end of 1820, the Rev. Mr. Hough, Chaplain of the Station, used to take a very lively interest in the welfare of these Congregations in particular, and in the spread of the Gospel in this district in general, by establishing Schools, and distributing Tracts. In 1820 we arrived in Palamcottah. We found Christianity at a low ebb, whether we looked to the Christians or to the Heathen. The Christians, from whatever cause, knew very little of the spirit of the Gospel; and their conduct, with the exception of heathenish idolatry, differed very little from their heathen neighbours. The Heathen, particularly the Brah. mins, were very shy of us, and would hardly come near us. In the Schools which Mr. Hough had established within seven miles round Palamcottah, we found it difficult to introduce printed religious books; and were threatened with the breaking up of the Schools, should we do so; however, as we thought that in Missionary Schools Christianity should be taught, we did not relax in this measure, and had by degrees the happiness to see the native prejudice removed: so that in about a year's time our books were (as they still are) most eagerly read and learnt by the Heathen Boys, who not unfrequently read them to their Parents also. Other Heathen Villages afterwards requested of their own accord to have Schools established : in some cases we complied with their request. We made it, however, a point frequently to visit all these Schools; when we catechized the Boys, and preached to the people, who used to come in numbers together, first doubtless from curiosity, but by degrees from a desire to hear the Christian Vedam and to receive books. Early in 1821, we made a tour through the district southward, visiting several of the Tanjore Mission Congregations, but principally preaching to the Heathen, and distributing Tracts, which we found were most eagerly received by them. Such excursions we repeated as often as our other engagements permitted. As we had given up an English School in the town of Tinnevelly, we turned the School-Room into a Chapel, and went thither every Wednesday Evening to preach to all that might come together. We had generally a pretty large number to hear: they were of course all Heathen, attracted by curiosity; but not a few of them used afterwards to repeat their attendance, in order to hear and dispute. Many Tracts were distributed there, not only to the inhabitants of the town, but also to many from other parts of the district, who, as we afterwards noticed, had, when
passing by the Chapel at the time of preaching, stept in. We have visited places more than sixty miles distant from Tinnevelly, where we found people acquainted with Christianity, who, upon inquiring, mentioned that they had heard of it, and received a book in Tinnevelly, or in other places which we had visited. The eagerness with which the people received Tracts at the Tinnevelly Chapel, not only when the thing was new to them, but also afterwards, must have been witnessed, in order to credit a description of it. In the mean while we set a Seminary on foot. When we arrived in Palamcottah, Mr. Hough had already 8 or 9 Soodra Boys in readiness to commence with 5 in 1821 other Boys were added: but as the Christian Youths, from the persuasion of their Parents, would by no means abandon caste, which we thought it our duty not to allow in a Christian Institution, the Seminary was soon broken up.
. It was commenced in 1822 again with
new Boys ; but several of the former also returned, confessing their folly in relinquishing so great a privilege, for the sake of caste. This Seminary was composed of various Castes; Soodras, Valloovers,Shanars, and Parriars, of from eight to twenty years: several were of Protestant Parents, others Roman Catholics, and the rest Heathen, who were received under the condition that they should submit in all things to Christian principles. Our greatest aim, in the first place, was to inform them of the truths of the Bible, and to engage their hearts to abandon all sinful practices, and become true Christians. They were instructed also in Tanjul Grammar, in Geography and History, in English, &c. Our exertions were soon crowned with success by the great Head of the Church. A change of character was seen in many of these Youths in the first year: the many inquiries which they made, of their own accord, about many points referring to the Scriptures, and to an experience of the truths contained therein; their aversion to all kinds of immoralities, &c.; convinced us of their having become the subjects of Divine Grace, and removed all doubts as to their fitness for reception into the Christian Church. Accordingly, we had the pleasure of baptizing of
them, * In December 1822, 1 Young Man. - August 1823, 4 ditto - January 1824, 9 ditto.
- December 1824, 1 ditto.
Hitherto only one of them has disappointed our expectations: all the rest behave in accordance with their profession, at least as much as any equal number of Boys in Europe, if not more so. Another Young Man was equally promising and fit for Baptism; but he died, whilst in the country, before the ordinance was administered to him.
Of the other Seminarists, who were born of Christian Parents, there were 6, over whom we could likewise rejoice; and their understanding of the Scriptures, their proficiency in other useful knowledge, and their correct conduct, gave us the pleasing hope of seeing them hereafter usefully and efficiently employed among their countrymen. In order to this, we always took a number of them along with us in our missionary excursions in the country, to let them sec our method of dealing and conversing with the Heathen, and to make them by degrees read Tracts and the Scriptures to the people and converse with them: their desire to impart to others the knowledge of the Truth, as far as they knew it, was very conspicuous. If any question their fitness for this work, we request him to consider, that such lads as had been instructed for about 2 years in what was necessary for them to know, and who received that knowledge with a diligence and desire by no means surpassed by European youths, would naturally know a vast
deal more than the Heathen yea, than the Brahmins themselves. This was also acknowledged by the Heathen ; and it was curious as well as pleasing to observe how large crowds of people, Brahmins included, would listen to these young messengers with pleasure, and receive Tracts from them. Brahmins even called them to their houses, and made them read our books to them and argued with them. On the Sabbath-days, we preached regularly in a large School-room near our compound, close to the high road; where usually a number of Heathen passengers stopped, and placed themselves at the doors and windows to hear. While the preparations for planting the Gospel standard in this part were going on, the divine power of the Gospel shewed its effects also in some grown-up people more immediately around us. We had two Christain Men from Tanjore in our service, whom we employed at first as Tamul Writers, on a very small salary ; in fact, they had come to us in quest of employment: they had but little real knowledge of Christianity ; and as to any experience of its power, they had none at all, as they afterwards themselves confessed. One of them actually formed a design of leaving us in quest of a better salary; but, as he afterwards told us, he was restrained from it by the effect a discourse, one Sunday Morning, had upon his mind; which made him resolve rather to stay and enjoy Christian instruction for the salvation of his soul with a small salary, than be without it with a larger. After about two years, we observed in them a more steady character, and an evident desire after divine things; and we employed them in more important business. Opportunities occurring, they by degrees acquired confidence to speak freely to us when it appeared plain that old things had passed away with them also, and that their minds had been changed. This was proved by their voluntary confessions of their former sins, by their seeking rest for their awakened consciences, by their love to the Word of God, and by their truly moral behaviour. One of them in particular had before been given to pilfering when employed by other Gentlemen: to them he now, freely, and of his own accord, confessed his sins in letters, and begged their pardon. They shewed afterwards a scrupulousness in dealing justly and uprightly even in little things, when they might have taken advantage without any one discovering it; which fully proved that they were actuated by true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Having given for a length of time full proof of their regeneration, they were employed in more important offices in the Mission, and are to this moment our joy, and highly useful to their countrymen. They were of the Soodra Caste; and by them several other Natives were persuaded of the truth of Christianity; who, shewing true repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, were subsequently baptized. In 1824 we were encouraged to form a Tract Society, in conjunction with the Missionaries in Nagercoil (about forty-five miles from here, southward). This Society consists, besides ourselves, of Natives, and carries on its business in the native language. Up to this time, 76,400 Tracts have been printed, and have been mostly distributed in these parts, among all classes of people. In the same year, and in 1825, the elder Seminarists felt themselves encouraged to go out in groups to the festivals of the Heathen, for the purpose of making known the Gospel to them. This, of course, we encouraged, with due caution. As on such occasions people resort to these places from all parts of the country, the knowledge of Christianity spread widely, both by their conversation and by the Tracts, of which no small number was distributed. The atten.
tion of the people to the subject was in consequence so much roused, as to make people come from far to us and ask for books; even Zemindars sent for copies of them. We ourselves repeatedly made journeys into the country, and embraced every opportunity to speak with the Heathen i and as our preaching in the Schools in Tinnevelly, and in the School. room here in Palamcottah, was usually attended by unany Heathen, the knowledge of the Gospel could not but spread very widely. The happy consequence of all these exertions, in the first place, was, that, in March 1822, a Heathen Schoolmaster of the high Soodra Caste, and a Heathen Woman of low Caste, with 2 Children, were baptized; having given sufficient evi. dence of a change of mind. The two Children are now dead. The Soodra Man continues not only in the profession of Christianity, but is happy in the faith, and conducts himself as behoves a Christian. He is already aged, and waits with desire for the time of his release from the fetters of the body. He is still actively employed in the Girls' School. The woman also holds fast her profession ; but her conduct has not always been conformable to the Gospel ; however, we wish that many European Christians would shew the same contrition for their errors that she has done. In August 1823, 5 Men and 3 Children were baptized in Tiroopoolangoody, a Village about twenty miles from this, south-east : they were Parriars : their history is detailed in various Missionary Publi. cations. We purchased a piece of ground in the Village, and built a School, or House for Prayer, upon it. They had signified their wish for Baptism more than two years before that; but as we think it our duty to be very cautious in admitting candidates to this sacred ordinance, we kept them thus long waiting; during which time they not only learnt more and
more the nature of the Gospel, visited Palamcottah frequently to attend Divine Service on Sundays, and rejected Idolatry and other heathenish practices, but also endured very great afflictions from their heathen neighbours, whose maltreatment brought at last their aged mother to the grave. In October 1823, two men arrived from Semberkoodiyirooppoo, a village about twenty miles south of Palamcottah, requesting to be instructed in Christianity: they had been persuaded to make this application by some Native Christians of the Tanjore-Mission Congregations in Warleiyadi, with whom they stood in connection. This request was of course granted, and occasioned several journeys in that quarter, both of ourselves and our Native Assistants; on which occasions Tracts and parts of the Scriptures were distributed. In one of these journeys, our Head Assistant went to Satankoollam, a large town further south, whilst there were many people gathered together for the market; to whom he read Tracts, exhorting them to leave their vanities, and to turn to the Living God. He had hardly left them, when fifteen persons (Shanars) signified their wish to renounce Idolatry, and receive Christian instruction. Some ° deputies of them came afterwards to us in Palamcottah, and shewed that they were in earnest. Shortly after, we paid them a visit; when a large part of the town assembled together, to see us and to hear the Word of God. Twenty-one Families declared themselves willing to be instructed; for which purpose we sent them, in the beginning of 1824, a Teacher. Both these new Congregations, in Semberkoodiyirooppoo and in Satankoollam, had, in the mean while, to endure various troubles and injuries from the Heathen. Providentially, the Collector took notice of their complaints, and rendered justice to the Christians. This favour shewn to them, if it can be called a Javour, seems to have made a great
impression upon the surrounding Villages; and from these two causes, viz. the spread of the knowledge of the Gospel, and the justice rendered to the Christians, it was, we believe, that, from time to time, more people in various other Villages, shook off the yoke of Idolatry and applied for Christian instruction; so that, in September 1825, the Villages in which this had been done amounted to 125, and the Families to more than 1000. They had been all Idolaters, and were, with few exceptions, Shanars. When the number of Catechumens so remarkably increased, we were under the necessity of looking out for Teachers, and for a Compendium of the Principles of Christianity which they might teach. The latter was soon printed in a small Tract : and as for the former, we had no other resource but the Seminary. In it were seven Young Men of the description mentioned above, whom, though they had not yet finished their studies, yet,as they possessed the most necessary qualifications for this work, we selected and sent out ; allotting several Villages to each, among which they itinerate during the week; and on the Sabbath all the Catechumens of every Teacher assemble together at his principal Station. When the number of such Villages increased, these Teachers were of course not sufficient: we therefore turned our eyes to the new Congregations, from among whom we selected such men as knew how to read and write, had distinguished themselves by their intelligence, shewed a real desire of learning the Word of God and of saving their own souls, and appeared apt to teach others. Them we took to Palamcottah, joined them to the Seminarists, and gave them special instructions, such as we judged necessary to enlighten their minds and to enable them to instruct others: a part of their time they spent also in the Central School, to learn the mechanical part of the work of teaching others. In the mean