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Our first measures in supplying instruction, are claimed by the Protestant Christians of the Island of Ceylon. And a more urgent case could scarcely have presented itself to an Assembly meditating designs for the honour of Christianity. There is this further encouragement, that the subject may be entered upon with facility. The country is the King's. The difficulties of a mixed government do not present themselves.
It will appear to the Imperial Parliament, by reference to the Ceylon Government;
That Ceylon contained, by computation in 1801, “ three hundred and forty-two thousand Protestant Christians ;” and that there are only three English Chaplains and three Protestant Missionaries in the whole island;
That the old Protestant Churches (some of them spacious buildings), of which there were formerly thirty-two in one province alone *, have mostly fallen into ruins; and that those which stand, are occupied, at pleasure, by Romish priests from Goa, who are assuming undisputed possession of the island ; and
That, from want of Protestant instruction, the secession to the Romish communion, and to the idolatry of the Idol Boodha, is, as might be expected, very great, every successive year.
Besides the Christians of Ceylon, our late conquests have placed under our dominion and superintendance the Protestant Christians of Java, and of the other isles of the Malayan Archipelago. Their number is so great, that they cannot too soon engage the attention of the Legislature, particularly as they may become, by our means, useful instruments of confirming and extending a pure Christianity in the Pacific Ocean. The honour of religion demands, that these our new subjects should not be so long forgotten, as the Christians of Ceylon.
The native Christians of the Archipelago were first Roman Catholics. They afterwards became Protestants of the Dutch Church. But, for many years, they have been almost entirely neglected by either communion. In some islands, there is no minister of Christianit yat all; so that it may be expected, that, like the Protestants of Ceylon, they would be willing to submit themselves, for their spiritual benefit, to any form of Ecclesiastical Regulation, which the English Government should choose to appoint.
THE NATIVE CHRISTIANS IN INDIA OF ALL DEN
The native Christians in India, including Protestants, Syrians, and Roman Catholics, are very numerous. The number of those in Ceylon and Hindostan alone (excluding Java and the other Isles) has been lately announced to us, by “An
Appeal,” which was made at the seat of the Supreme Government in Bengal, “ in Behalf of Nine “ Hundred Thousand Native Christians who want “ the Bible*.” The justice of this Appeal was acknowledged, and a liberal contribution was promptly made, by the inhabitants of that generous settlement; but the supply was, as might be expected, in no way adequate to the demand, which requires a fund both extensive and permanent.
The same Appeal is now humbly preferred to the Imperial Parliament. That the Parent State, having subjected 900,000 Christians to her dominion, and finding them generally destitute of the Charter of their Faith, will consider it a duty to promote measures for supplying it, we may reasonably expect. If, indeed, we were about to dissolve our connection with them, and to transfer them to some other power, there might be some ground for the delay. But Government has no intention, we presume, of resigning its authority over these Christians. If, then, we expect a long and happy union with them, and if we look for loyalty and allegiance from a knowledge of moral duty, let us make some provision for supplying them with the Code of Christianity. We speak not now of the duty of affording Christian instruction by teachers and preachers; but of that simple, primary, and more obvious duty, easy of execution, and not liable to objection, the distribution of the Holy Scriptures among our Christian children. That they ought to be supplied from some quarter, we think there is no man in this kingdom will deny.
* See “ Christian India; or an Appeal on Behalf of “ 900,000 Christians in India who want the Bible.” By Henry Martyn, B. D. Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, and Chaplain to the Honourable the East-India Company in Bengal. Calcutta: printed. Sold by Cadell and Davies, Strand, London.