« ПредишнаНапред »
MISSION IN THE PROVINCE OF TINNEVELLY, SOUTHERN INDIA.
In commencing a sketch of the life and labours of this eminent missionary of Christ to the heathen, we feel that we are entering upon an imperative yet delicate task. Devoted as he was to the extension of the gospel in British India, his name must be honoured by every Christian; and persecuted as he was for asserting the principles of christian liberty, his memory will be cherished by every consistent nonconformist.
A debt of gratitude is therefore due to his worth, which our independent position will enable us faithfully to discharge, while we assure our readers that we shall “ speak the truth in love”-“ Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice.”
Much of the following Memoir is transcribed from one published at Madras in June last, by the German brethren, to which, however, we have made large additions, which appeared necessary to complete the narrative, taken from pamphlets, reports, and private letters of unquestionable authority.
CHARLES THEOPHILUS Ewald Rhenius was born on the 5th of November, 1790, at the fortress Graudens in West Prussia. His father, Otho Rhenins, was an officer of infantry in the Prussian army, and died when his son Charles was but six years old. Besides Charles, one elder brother, a younger brother, and a sister were thus early deprived of an affectionate parent. The care of four orphans thus devolved upon their mother, and most enthusiastically did her son speak of the affection, the faithful and anxious love with which she ever watched over the welfare of her children. N.S. VOL. III.-Vol. XXII.
Till the year 1804, Charles visited the Cathedral school at Marienwerder. The three following years he spent at Balga, near Königsberg; but, in the spring of 1807, was invited by an aged uncle to his estate near Memel, in order to assist him in the management of its concerns. Of this uncle, the departed always spoke with the greatest pleasure; for it appears that while he resided with him, real piety took deeper root in his heart and attained to a degree of strength before unknown. Of his reception at Bachmann, his uncle's estate, Charles writes thus; “ be received me with the love of a father, and I enjoyed the rights of a son.
These particulars of his early life, and others mentioned in this brief notice, are extracted from some papers written by him many years ago. The following passages are translated from the German.
“ The year 1807, was memorable as being that, in which I was directed to the knowledge of divine things. It would be too long to relale fully the circum
One word of our Saviour I found verified again in my own experience, viz. : 'the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.' This word, together with the precept, 'follow me,' was the means of producing a saving change in my soul. * The grace of God in Christ Jesus began now to dwell in my heart, and enlightened me with the pure light of the gospel : after which the sweet truth penetrated me-God became man, and died for man. It was then I could fully appreciate the word in John iii., ' God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. The Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, who had manifested himself to me as the true God and life eternal, found a free entrance into my heart, and impressed me with the firm resolution to follow him.' Daily I improved in knowledge of myself, seeing my extreme sinfulness—I improved in the knowledge of the love of God towards poor sinners, and of the redemption which had been effected through Christ. And thus was I confirmed in my resolution by that blessed Spirit, to whom I committed myself, to follow Jesus, and in future to depart from iniquity—and to dedicate to him my soul and body with all their faculties for the practice of righteousness. To sum up all in a few words, a lively faith in Christ Jesus was began to be wrought within me.”
After some remarks as to the vanity of relying for justification on conduct merely moral and externally correct, he proceeds,
“ I now found, in the gospel, words of eternal life which pointed out the way of communion with my Creator and Redeemer. I discovered a force in it which overcame and cast down all carnal reasoning, and I found it confirmed by my own experience that Jesus Christ is God and Lord, no less than he was man. I could not understand it; but I could believe it; and this faith had been kindled in me by the power of God. I felt my heart longing for the things above, where my Saviour reigns. I felt enjoyment in him, and in the meditation of his love during the silent hours of retirement. I knew what was truth, and desired to be but truth myself.”
We extract a few more lines, connected with the same subject, which show the ardour of that devotion which has since distinguished
“What more shall I say of these happy circumstances of my life? They are too momentous to be described by me--attended with too many consequences to make it possible for me to tell them all. What shall I say of him who has wrought this in me?—who has commenced so good a work? To praise him as he is worthy, I am yet too imperfect - too much polluted with sin. This humbles me indeed before my God, but it causes me also to experience the healing power of my Saviour, which is despised and denied by the world ; and I
have a firm confidence, grounded upon his word, that his loving mercy will bring me nearer and nearer to that happiness which consists in being made alike to Jesus. His name be adored and glorified. And, even if all the world, out of ignorance and malice, should rise up against him, truly my experience shall furnish me with strength not to deny that he is Lord, and God over all for ever and ever.”
He appears to have desired, at a very early period of life, to devote himself to the ministry of the gospel, and he patiently waited
upon the Lord for an opening into it. Whilst indulging this expectation, he met with several accounts of Missions and Missionaries; and the perasal of them seems at once to have led him to decide on his course. After consulting with his uncle, whom alone he let into the secret, he applied for admittance into a Missionary institution which had been lately established in Berlin, of which the Rev. John Jänické was principal. He kept his intention as secret as possible. To no one of the members of his family did he reveal it-indeed his design would have been scarcely intelligible to several of them, and he probably feared that attempts would be made to keep him from his purpose. On his way, therefore, from Bachmann to Berlin, he told his beloved mother that he was going to study theology. This seemed to satisfy his brothers, but she had some misgivings respecting his real intention. My dear child,” she said to him, “ only do not go over the sea."
The reply was,
“ what am I to do, if the Lord should order it so ?” This obscure intimation of his views, was alike painful to parent and child; neither was desirous of dwelling on so distressing a subject; and a few minutes after this conversation, Charles started for Berlin, where he arrived on the 6th of May, 1811.
On the 7th of August, 1812, he was ordained in the Reformed Church, without subscription to the Augsburg or any other confession of faith, but upon the Bible alone, and in the course of that month, left Berlin for England. Here he was taken into connexion with the Church Missionary Society, and committed to the care of the Rev. Thomas Scott. Of the seventeen or eighteen months which he spent in England no regular journal can be found. But it appears that his parent, and especially his brothers, were greatly annoyed at his getting away from them by stealth; and most impassioned letters did he receive from them, endeavouring, by the mention of all that was dear, and by alluring prospects, to divert him from his determination. He was not, however, to be so moved.
On Friday, the 7th of January, 1814, a special general meeting of the Members of the Church Missionary Society was held at Freemasons' Hall, London, Lord Gambier in the chair, when the Committee publicly took leave of Mr. Rhenius, of a second Lutheran, and of two episcopally ordained clergymen. Mr. Rhenius, in replying to the instructions of the Committee, and the address of Dr. Buchanan, said, “ With pleasure and reverence we mention the Director of your seminary, (Rev. T. Scott.) We have often had occasion to wonder at his indefatigable exertions in the cause of God, especially in his old age, and to take an example from his ardent christian love to all mankind. ** It is no little encouragement to us to reflect that our great countrymen, Zickenbalg, Swartz, Jænické, Gerickè, and others, have laboured in the field we are sent to cultivate ; and that the venerable Dr. John, the zealous Mr. Kolhoff, are now labouring therein, and we are sent to enter in their labours."
He and the Rev. J. C. Schnarre were the first Missionaries to India, after the renewal of the H. E. I. Company's charter in the year 1813. They sailed from Portsmouth on board the Marquis of Huntley, on the 22d of February, in company with a fleet, consisting of other East Indiamen, and of several ships of the royal navy. The journal, written by the Missionaries during their voyage, shows that they had scarcely a single person on board who could much sympathize with them. The passage, though attended with difficulties or dangers, now scarcely known, was, on the whole, a prosperous one; and, on the 4th of July, 1814, they anchored in safety before Madras. Messrs. Schnarre and Rhenius were heartily welcomed to the house of the Rev. Marmaduke Thompson, then one of the chaplains at the Presidency. From him and other christian friends they experienced much kindness, for which they express in their journal their humble thanks to the Lord. A fortnight after their arrival they proceeded to Tranquebar, to which station they had been appointed by the parent committee. Here they zealously applied themselves to the task of learning the Tamil. The following we find in the journal for the 24th of December, 1814:
“ Seeing our servants spend the evenings in an idle manner, (and our circumstances greatly encourage this habit,) I thought of reading to them, in the Tamil language, something out of the Testament, especially as we now celebrate the nativity of our Lord. This I thought would also be of great advantage to me in the Tamil. I have therefore begun the practice, and make also some remarks on what I read. It is true my Tamil speaking is yet very poor ; however, such exercises serve to improve me therein."
But, in January, 1815, for reasons which are not stated in the journal, Mr. Rhenius was removed from Tranquebar to Madras. Here he again joyfully resumed his labours, as he hoped this would be a “ permanent station.” In the schools he was diligently employed nearly every day, and commenced his translation of the Scriptures into Tamil, taking for the groundwork the version of Fabricius. He also made many excursions into the country, to Tripassore, Chittoor, and among the Jaina sect. He was instrumental in establishing the Tract Society, and a Tamil Bible Society; and apparently the Lord's blessing rested upon his varied labours.
At Madras Mr. Rhenius found Messrs. Loveless and Knill, the Missionaries of the London Society, towards whom he manifested the sincere affection of christian brotherhood. He united with them in acts of public worship, and on one occasion took part in the ordi. nation of a brother Missionary. These acts of mutual recognition, so likely to cheer the hearts of Missionaries abroad, and to excite christian brethren at home to cultivate the same spirit, were published in the Transactions of the London Missionary Society.
These proceedings attracted the notice of the Church Missionary
Committee, who felt themselves justified in communicating their sentiments to Madras in the following terms :
“The Committee have noticed, in the communications made to the London Missionary Society, the participations of Mr. Rhenius and Mr. Schmid in public religious acts with Missionaries of that Society. It is the constant endeavour of the Committee to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace,' and in all things wherein they can consistently act and unite with other Christians, gladly and unreservedly to do so. But in all public acts, strictly religious, the way of consistency and peace is for each body to engage in its own.
We are all supposed conscientiously to prefer our own views of discipline as well as doctrine: while therefore we may heartily pray for the success of a minister sent forth by Christians, according to views different from our own, it is not real charity that would lead us to take a public part in the authoritative sending forth of that minister ; but rather betrays a want of due estimation of the nature and import of christian discipline; and while we may call down, most sincerely, the blessing of God on a place of worship erected among the heathen by Christians who differ from ourselves, real charity will rather lead us to abstain from public acts on the occasion.
“ The English and Lutheran churches mutually acknowledge each other, and they may unite in the manner in which you are united with us, in perfect consistency with the principles which we have stated.
“ The Committee do therefore desire, that it may be regarded as a settled principle of the Society, that its Missionaries manifest a consistent regard to the discipline of the Church with which they are connected, in abstaining from participation in the public religious acts of other bodies, while they cultivate the most friendly feelings toward all real Christians, and by every kind of affectionate intercourse and good offices, prove themselves the disciples of one common Master."
These discussions led eventually to the removal of Mr. Rhenius from Madras to Tinnevelly. In a letter to a friend, dated Oct. 23, 1833, he
6 You know that not only now, but for many years past, we had to combat about the spirit of formality, which we saw was hostile to the spirit of christian liberty...... It was on this account, and because we would not suffer ourselves to be cramped into the narrow chair of the Church of England Rubrics and Canons, that we were moved from Madras to Palamcottah, in 1820.”
As Mr. Rhenius had been honoured with tokens of success at Madras, we are not surprised to find him writing thus :
“ I left, therefore, Madras for Palamcottah this day, June 2d, much affected, but much comforted, knowing that the Lord reigns, and that he will turn this also for good. Oftentimes does the word occur to my mind, what I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.' The Mission affairs I left in the bands of Mr. Bärenbruck. My separation from dear brother Schmid was particularly affecting to both of us. The Lord bless him and comfort him abundantly!”
It is impossible to recite the many proofs of the success with which his labours in Tinnevelly were honoured. In less than fourteen years one hundred and twenty native catechists were trained for usefulness by him and his German associates. The Gospel was statedly proclaimed in 261 small towns and villages; 10,000 natives were either baptized or fully instructed in the christian faith. The influence of idolatry greatly declined throughout the province, and not a few became sincere and devoted converts to the truth as it is in Jesus.