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This was not the work of a day; nor indeed could the country be said to enjoy a state of tranquillity much before the general peace in 1763. But after this the repairing of the ravages occasioned by war, and the regulation of the financial and judicial affairs of a country so newly enjoying the advantages of British rule, would naturally occupy the attention of those to whom Provi. dence had now confided the country ; and the distresses for a long time felt through the interruption which commerce and agriculture had experienced, and particularly the dreadful famine in 1769, would add much to the labor and difficulty. It is there. fore no wonder that our countrymen were able at this period to pay little attention to the languages of India. The knowledge of them, however, is essential to its mental and moral improvement: without an inter-communication in point of language, lit
tle can be done for the improvement of any country, and the idea I of creating this intercourse by teaching the mass of people a new
language, if not completely hopeless, is of such distant promise that generations must pass away before any thing of importance can be effected,
The situation of Bengal moreover, was such as to render the Gospel indispensably necessary. Idolatry had been tried in its fullest extent, and through a system of no common kind,-a system which in the doctrine of the metempsychosis, holding out immediate punishment for crimes, had brought future threatenings home to every man's feelings,--but wholly in vain as to the prevention of sin. Mahometanism had exerted all its power, and had only added to the general corruption. It was light which was needed, that light " which maketh manifest.” But in what way could this approach the native mind so as to become the free choice of the people? No compulsion could answer the purpose : this had been fully tried in the case of Mahometanism, which the most powerful coercion could never render the religion of the populace in Bengal. The gospel must therefore hecome the free choice of the common people before it can perform its work on the mind, and
produce those sacred fruits which bless mankind. Till the popular languages were laid open, however, this was impossible; and to the usual impediments respecting the acquisition of languages and the diffusion of knowledge through them, were added an almost unconquerable reluctance to communicate instruction in those who alone were able, the learned among the Brahmans, together with the want of a printed character. But Providence gradually removed these obstacles, and fully opened the way for the promulgation of light.
As early as the year 1776 the mind of Mr. Nathaniel Brassey Halhed was strongly turned to the study both of the Bengalee and the Săngskritŭ languages, possibly from feelings by no means unfrequent among European scholars at that period, a boundless but unfounded admiration of the sacred writings of the Hindoos. The fruit of his studies appeared in the year 1778, in a grammar of the Bengalee language, which although imperfect, as might have been expected to be the case with a first attempt, evidently disa plays much of research, and still more of a classical taste; and will long endear his memory to the lovers of Indian literature.
But if Halhed merits our thanks for thus opening the door to Indian literature, he deserves them still more for instilling a love to those studies into the mind of his friend Wilkins. To Mr. Charles (now Dr.) Wilkins, we are indebted for the application of the art of printing to the Bengal language-the result of which on the destinies of India, it must be left for eternity fully to develope. The idea once realized in his mind, no labor could des ter, no difficulty discourage him; he originated the models, prepared the materials, and shared the manual labor with his native assistants while he directed their operations. Among the first spe. cimens of his typographical skill, was his friend Lalhed's Bengalee Grammar, which, but for him could not have seen the light, at least in this country. To this fount of Bengalee types, he added others in the Nagree and Persian characters; and thus com
pletely opened the way for the ultimate diffusion of knowledge throughout India.
If these means were now provided in the course of an all-wise Providence, the desire to employ them was kindling in the minds of men peculiarly adapted for the arduous work of explaining the languages and literature of India. In the latter end of 1783 arrived in India, Sir William Jones, a name deservedly dear to every friend of literature. Eminently prepared by his previous studies, and fired with the desire of adding to his other acquisitions a knowledge of the language of the gods," he began the study of Súngskritủ through the medium of the-Moogduboodh; and attained a degree of proficiency therein, which astonished the 66 twice-born” themselves. To him we are indebted pre-emi. nently for subduing the reluctance of the Brahman to communicate instruction. The sum he gave his pundit, if common fame may be relied on, almost exceeds belief. Five Hundred Rupees monthly is the sum which the natives affirm he gave his instructer in the sacred language, Ram-lochun, a pundit of the Vydya or medical cast, who died at Nuddea a few years ago. If this were really the case, still the result was worthy of the liberality. The reluctance is completely subdued : at the present moment, a multitude of teachers in that language could be obtained for a twentieth part of the sum with which he is said to have purchas.ed the labors of his instructor,
The efforts of Sir William Jones were by no means solitary ; others at the same time cultivated either the Súngskritù language, or those of Arabia and Persia ; and a publication which as early as 1785, issued from the press at Calcutta, in two volumes quarto, under the title of the “ Asiatic Miscellany," contains, among much of inferior value, a number of pieces which sufficiently mark the increasing taste for the cultivation of Indian Literature. The work is enriched indeed with two or three pieces by Sir Wil. liam Jones himself.
But one of the most important services that Sir William Jones rendered to India, was, the formation of the Asiatic Society, in the year 1784. Of this Institution the nature of our work precludes any thing beyond a cursory notice; but it was here that the kindred minds which then adorned India, rallied round the ile lustrious founder, seconded his labors, and began those Researche es, which have so much attracted the attention of the learned in Europe, and thrown such light on the languages, literature, and antiquities of India. If it be said that the discoveries made in this way fell far short of previous expectation; while we acknow. ledge the truth of this remark, we aver, that this was unavoidable. More was expected than could be realized, particularly by those who were dissatisfied with Divine Revelation. Many of the learned, especially in France, felt certain that in these recondite Brahmanic records, facts would be found which would completely invalidate the Mosaic account of the creation, and demonstrate the age Moses allots to the world to be a mere span, compared with its real age as found in these records. Disappointment of course followed examination; and the empty casket is now treat ed with contempt and neglect, because when opened, it did not disclose to view that which was never deposited therein! Yet is the discovery of its real emptiness nothing? Is it of no value to religion that infidels are driven from their last refuge? that infidelity is now able to point to no unexplored writings on earth,
and say “ There lies my defence. Examine these, and then boast of the Scriptures if you dare ?" Such then was the service rendered to the cause of religion by those who unlocked the stores of Sungskrit literature, while they opened the way for the translation of the genuine Revelation of God into the various dialects of India, and its ultimate dispersion throughout Eastern Asia. ,
To this the establishment of the College of Fort WilLIAM will be found to have contributed in a high degree. A happy day for India was the day in which Lord Wellesley fomed the plan of that College. Its giving a new impetus to the almost expiring studies of
the natives themselves, its removing every thing formidable from the study of Indian languages, and securing a competent knowledge of them among gentlemen stationed throughout India, are, in their ultimate consequences, sufficient of themselves to entitle the Founder of this College, and those who have since so ably patronized and conducted the Institution, to the gratitude of the latest posterity. The time, the attendant circumstances, its collateral, and even its oblique effects, all mark the hand of an all-wise Providence. In the co-adjutors and companions of Sir William Jones, Lord Wellesley, (then Lord Mornington) found those who were capable of realizing his enlarged plans; and in the Asiatic Society, the College of Fort William has constantly found its ablest supporters and its brightest ornaments.
One of the very
It is our business however, to notice particularly the effect which these events had on the introduction of knowledge among the natives. In this, the grand means must of course be the word of God; and the opportunities afforded by these various leadings of Providence both for translating
and printing the Sacred Scriptures, were such as to excite the warmest gratitude. men who had assisted Wilkins in the fabrication of his types, applied to the missionaries at Serampore when they had resided there only a few months; and though he died in about three years, it was not till he had instructed a sufficient number of his own countrymen in the art; who, in the course of eighteen years, have prepared founts of types in fourteen Indian alphabets, a number capable of printing the Scriptures in nearly every dialect spoken from China to the Persian gulf. To enlarge further on this subject, would be improper We proceed to notice, as most intimately connected with this subject,
The Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society.