« PreviousContinue »
escaped being corrupted. “If any thing," says a modern historian of these churches, “can consign to perpetual infamy, the name and progress of this barbarian, surely it must be the destruction of so many ancient and invaluable documents of the Christian church."
These measures produced, however, only a temporary submission in the Christians of St. Thomas, as they are usually called, for the greater part of them proclaimed eternal war against the inquisition, hid their books, fled to the mountains, and sought the protection of the native princes, who had always been proud of their alliance. In 1806 and 1807, the Rev. Dr. Claudius Buchanan visited these churches, and found many thousands of these Christians, not subject to the papal jurisdiction. "Acting,” says he, “as our librarians, they have preserved the Holy Scriptures, during the dark ages, incorrupt in the sacred Syriac languages; (and) they have presented an ancient and valuable manuscript copy of the Old and New Testaments to the English church.” This, with many other valuable MSS., was presented by Dr. Buchanan, to the Public Library at Cambridge."
The illustrious Akbar, emperor of the Moguls, who, from the vicinity of his empire to the Portuguese settlements in India, seems to have formed an exalted opinion of the King of Portugal, wrote a letter to him in 1582, desiring him to send him a Translation of the Scriptures into Arabic, or Persian, and also a learned person to explain the Christian religion. As this letter, addressed by a Mohammedan to a Christian sovereign, may justly be deemed a curiosity, beside its intrinsic (44) Geddes' Hists of the Church of Malabar, pp. 132–174. Lond.
Haye, 1724, 8vo.
worth, the reader is presented with a translation of it, from the pen of Mr. James Fraser, author of The History of Nadir Shah.
A Letter from the King of Kings to the Ruler of the Franks. (or Europeans.)
“GLORY inconceivable to the TRUE KING, whose dominions are safe from the disaster of decay, and his kingdom secure from the calamity of shifting. The wonderful extent of the heavens and earth is but a minute part of the world of his creation, and infinite space but a small corner of bis production. A GOVERNOR who has regulated the order of the universe, and the management of the sons of Adam, by the understanding of kings who exercise justice. A DECREER, who, by the ties of love, and bonds of affection, has implanted in the various beings, and several creatures, the passion of inclination and union, and the affections of mutual tendency and society.”
“And praises unbounded, an offering to the pure souls of the company of Prophets and Apostles, who walked in the truest paths, and directed the rightest ways, in
general and particular."
“It is well known, that (with those who have stored themselves with knowledge, and studied nature,) nothing in this lower world, which is a mirror of the spiritual one, is preferable to love, or more sacred than friendship. In that they ascribe the economy and right disposition of the world to affection and harmony. For whatever heart the sun of love shines on, it clears the whole soul from the darkness of mortality; and how much more is this requisite in princes, the good correspondence of whom is the cause of happiness to the world, and the people therein. For which reason it has been my earnest and entire endeavour, to promote and confirm the ties of friendship, and bonds of union among God's creatures, especially among the high rank of kings, whom God, by his favour, has peculiarly distinguished from the rest of mankind; particularly with his* royal majesty, who is endowed with intellectual knowledge, is the reviver of the ordinances of Jesus, and stands in no need of praise or description. Our neighbourhood of with that renowned prince, making an alliance and friendship more indispensably necessary; and as a personal conference is impracticable, on account of many obstacles, and several weighty reasons, the want thereof can only be supplied by embassies, and a mutual correspondence. Since it is certain, that these only can make up the loss of a personal conversation and interviews ; we hope they will be mutually carried on, without any interruption, that the affairs and desires of each may be manifested to the other."
“ Your majesty knows, that the learned and divines of all nations and times, in their opinions concerning the world of appearance, and the intellectual, agree in this, that the former ought to be of no consideration in respect to the latter; yet the wise men of the tirnes, and the great ones of all nations, toil much in perfecting themselves, as to this perishing and showy state, and consume the best of their lives, and the choicest of their time, in procuring apparent delights, being swallowed up and dissolved in fleeting pleasures and transitory joys. The most high God, merely through his eternal favour and perpetual grace, notwithstanding so many obstacles, and such a world of business and employment, has disposed my heart so as always to seek him: and though he has subjected the dominions of so many powerful princes to me, which to the best of my judgment I endeavour to manage and govern so as that all my subjects are contented and happy; yet praise be to God, his will and my duty to him, is the end I propose, in all my actions and desires. And as most people, being enchained by the bonds of constraint and fashion, and regarding the customs of their ancestors, relations, and acquaintances, without examining the arguments or reasons for it, give an implicit faith to that religion, in which they have been bred up, and remain deprived of the excellency of truth, the finding of which is the proper end of reason; therefore at times I converse with the learned of all religions, and profit by the discourses of each. As the vail of a language interposes betwixt us, it would be expedient you would oblige me with such a person as could distinctly relate and explain the above affair. It has also reached my fortunate ears, that the Heavenly Books, such as the PentATEUCH, Psalms, and Gospels, are put into Arabic and Persic: should a translation of these, or any other books, which might be of general benefit, be procurable in your country, let them be sent. For a further confirmation of our friendship, and securing the foundation of affection and unity, I have sent my trusty friend, the learned and honourable Seyd Mazuffer, whom I have particularly favoured and distinguished. He will communicate several things personally to you, in which confide. Always keep open the doors of correspondence and embassy; and peace to him who follows the guide."
* By his Royal Majesty is meant the king of Portugal. + The Portuguese conquests on the coast of India made them neighbours,
“Written in the month | Ribbi al-avul, 990."* It is doubtful whether this letter, and the ambassador, proceeded any further than Goa. But whether they reached the place of their original destination or not, it is certain, that after some years, GERONIMO (or Jerome)
* Abdallah Khan, prince of Tartary, in his Letters to Akbar, (copies of which were in Mr. Fraser's possession,) calls him to a severe account for being so fond of the Bramins, or Indian priests, and so indifferent to the Mohammedan religion, which he professed.
+ April, 1582.- This emperor, Mahammed Akbar, took to himself the title of Jilal o din, which signifies the Aggrandizer of Religion, He died at Agra, October 13th, 1605, aged 63. . 45) Fraser's
History of Nadir Shah, pp. 19–18. Lond. 1742, 8vo.
Xavier, a Jesuit, undertook the translations of the books requested by the emperor. This ecclesiastic, with the best opportunity he could have desired of presenting the sovereign of the Moguls with a faithful transcript of the Holy Scriptures, and of impressing his mind with the conviction of the purity and excellency of the Christian Revelation, basely prostituted his talents to the purposes of superstition and bigotry, and produced a work only calculated to induce the contempt of so intelligent a monarch. By the assistance of a Persian scholar, named Molana Abdal Settor ben Kassum, or according to Dr. A. Clarke, in his Introduction to the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, p. xviii. Moulanee Aboos Sitar, a native of Lahoor, he made a HISTORY OF Christ, compiled out of the Gospels, and from the Protevangelion of James, and other popish legends, and presented it to the emperor, in 1602, who, as might be expected, is said to have smiled at a work so disgraced with fables. The original MS. formed for the emperor's use, was brought from the East by Mr. James Fraser. Geronimo Xavier was also the author of another similar work, in Persian, entitled The History of St. Peter. Transcripts of these works having fallen into the hands of the learned Orientalist, Lud. De Dieu, he published them, with Latin translations and notes, and a Grammar of the Persian language, at Leyden, 1639, 4to.
Disgraceful, however, as these compilations were to the Catholic missionaries, they did not prevent the emperor from acting with a candour highly praiseworthy. Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador at the court of Akbar, thus describes the more than tolerant conduct of that monarch, in a letter dated A. D. 1616. “Before the inundation of Tamerlane, these countries were governed by petty Gentile princes, not knowing any religion, but worshipped according to severall idolatries, all sorts of creatures. The descendants of him