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In the discussions concerning the promulgation of Christianity, some writers have confined their views intirely to India, merely, it is supposed, because India is connected, by political relation with Great Britain. India however contain's but a small part of the nations which seek the Revelation of God. The Malayan Archipelago includes more territory and a larger population than the continent of India. China is a more extensive field than either; and is, in some respects, far more important. The Romish Church has maintained a long and ineffectual contest with that empire; because it would never give the people, “the good and perfect gift," the Bible. It further degraded the doctrine of the Cross by blending it with Pagan rites.
The means of obtaining a version of the Scriptures in the Chinese language, occupied the minds of the superintendants of the College of Fort-William, at an early period. It appeared an object of the utmost importance to procure an erudite Professor, who should undertake such
a work; for, if but a single copy of the Scriptures could be introduced into China, they might be transcribed in almost every part of that immense Empire. Another object in view was to introduce some knowlege of the Chinese Language among ourselves; for although the Chinese Forts on the Tibet frontier overlook the Company's territories in Bengal, there was not
person, it was said, in the Company's service in India, who could read a common Chinese letter.
After a long inquiry they succeeded in procuring Mr. Joannes Lassar, an Armenian Christian, a native of China and a proficient in the Chinese Language, who had been employed by the Portuguese at Macao, in conducting their official correspondence with the Court of Pekin. He was willing to relinquish his commercial pursuits and to attach himself to the college, for a salary of £ 450 a year. But as the order for reducing the establishment of the College was daily expected, this salary could not be given him. The object however was so important, and Mr. Lassar appeared to be so well qualified to execute it, that they thought fit to retain him at the above stipend in a private character. He entered immediately on the translation of the Scriptures into the Chinese Language, and this
work he has continued to carry on to the present time. But, as his services might be made otherwise useful, they resolved to establish a class of youths under his tuition; and as they could not obtain the young civil servants of the Company for this purpose, they proposed to the Baptist Missionaries that Mr. Lassar should reside at Serampore, which is near Calcutta, on the following condition : that one of their elder Missionaries, and three at least of their youths, should immediately engage in the study of the Chinese Language. Dr. Carey declined the offer, but Mr. Marshman accepted it, and was joined by two sons of his own, and a son of Dr. Carey; and they have prosecuted their studies with unremitted attention for about five years.
In the year 1807, a copy of the Gospel of St. Matthew in the Chinese Language, translated by Mr. Lassar, and beautifully written by himself, was transmitted to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Lambeth Library.---Since that period a considerable portion of the New Testament has been printed off from blocks, after the Chinese manner.
The proficiency of the Chinese pupils has far surpassed the most sanguine hopes which were previously entertained, and has been already publicly noticed. His Excellency Lord Minto, Governor-General of India, in his first annual Speech to the College of Fort-William, has recorded the following testimony to their progress in the language, and to the importance of their attainments.
“ If I have not passed beyond the legitimate " bounds of this discourse, in ranging to the extremity “ of those countries, and to the furthest island of that “ vast Archipelago in which the Malay Language pre“ vails, I shall scarcely seem to transgress them, by " the short and easy transition thence to the language " of China. I am, in truth, strongly inclined, whether “ regularly or not, to deal one encouraging word to the “ meritorious, and, I hope, not unsuccessful effort, “ making, I may say, at the door of our College, though “ not admitted to its portico, to force that hitherto “ impregnable fortress, the Chinese Language.---Three “ young men, I ought indeed to say, boys, have not “ only acquired a ready use of the Chinese Language, “ for the purpose of oral communication (which I under- stand is neither difficult nor rare amongst Europeans « connected with China) but they have achieved, in
a degree worthy of admiration, that which has been “ deemed scarcely within the reach of European faculties
or industry; I mean a very extensive and correct 66 acquaintance with the written Language of China. " I will not detail the particulars of the Examination “ which took place on the 10th of this month “ (February 1808,) at Serampore, in the Chinese Lan
guage, the report of which I have read, however, “ with great interest, and recommended to the liberal “ notice of those whom I have the honour to address. “ It is enough for my present purpose to say that these “ young pupils read Chinese books and translate them ; “ and they write compositions of their own in the “ Chinese Language and character. A Chinese Press “ too is established, and in actual use. In a word, if “ the founders and supporters of this little College have “ not yet dispelled, they have at least sent and ad“ mitted a dawn of day through that thick impenetrable “ cloud : they have passed that Oceanum dissociatilem, “ which for so many ages has insulated that vast Empire from the rest of mankind.
“ I must not omit to commend the zealous and persevering labours of Mr. LASSAR, and of those “ learned and pious persons associated with him, who “ have accomplished, for the future benefit, we may “ hope, of that immense and populous region, CHINESE “ VERSIONS in the Chinese Character, of the Gos
PELS of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, throwing open “ that precious mine, with all its religious and moral “ treasure, to the largest associated population in the o world.”*
When this Chinese class was first established, it was directed that there should be regular public Examinations and Disputations, as at the
* See College Report for 1808.