תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

transmitted to the Elders' Conference of the Unity a very remarkable account of the manner in which the study of the gospel of St. Matthew

was, under the Divine blessing, made the means of conversion to two Saisangs (nobles or princes) of the Mongolians. The account is as follows:

“Having finished printing the first edition of the gospel according to St. Matthew in the Calmuc language, copies of it were sent to Siberia, to the civil governor of Irkutsk, Nicolai I. Treskin, a counsellor of state to his Imperial Majesty, which he most judiciously directed to be distributed among the Selenginskish Mongols and the Chorinian Burats.

As the above mentioned governor, on distributing the translated Gospel, had required an opinion of the Princes of these people respecting it, they took all possible pains to understand its contents; which proved a very difficult task, as the Calmucs have a new, improved, and much more distinct manner of writing, invented by Arran Dschimba Chutuktu, but formed after the pattern of the Mongol letters; whereas the other Mongol tribes have retained the ancient characters, which have also been the original of the Mandshurish letters.

The commission to decypher the Gospel was now given to two Saisangs of the Chorinian Burats; who so diligently applied themselves to the work, that they were soon enabled generally to explain its contents to their superiors. This excited so much curiosity, that the Head Lama of the mongols, and the prince of the Chorinian Burats, each among his own people, of their own accord, made a collection amounting to upwards of 11,000 rubles, (5501.) which they placed at the disposal of our Bible Society, on condition that the Gospel of St. Matthew, and, if possible, other books of the NewTestament, might be translated into their language, and printed in their characters.

This gave occasion to several conferences, to consider how their wish might be complied with; and, at length, the matter being referred to a sub-committee, of which I was appointed a member, I proposed to send for one or two learned Mongols or Burats, to undertake the work; which being unanimously approved, Prince Galitzin sent a requisition to this effect to the civil governor at Irkutsk.

The choice of the Chiefs of the Horde fell upon the two Saisangs who had been already employed. The elder is called Saisang Nomtu, chief of the tribe of Chuwahshay, of about 3000 males ; and the younger, Saisang Badma, chief of the Charnagay tribe, having above 3000 males.

The two Saisangs soon set out from the Chinese frontier for St. Petersburg, and arrived here in the beginning of December, 1817. Passing through Moscow, they had the honour to be presented to the emperor, who encouraged them, in the most condescending terms, to proceed in the work. Here the Bible Society furnished them with a suitable lodging; and the care of them was committed to me. They likewise brought recommendatory letters from the upper chiefs to me, expressing the great and anxious concern which they felt for the welfare of the two Saisangs; and declaring that they were the best and most sensible men among their people.

Having regulated their affairs in their new station, they commenced their labours with unbounded zeal. Before they began their translation they formed extracts of parts of different chapters, the meaning and spirit of which they could not understand. These they brought to me, and begged for an interpretation, which I gave them in the best possible manner I was able to do.

Here appeared the work of the Spirit of God, by the power of the gospel. They listened with silent attention : their countenances became serious: they gave no particular signs of approbation; but said, in a solemn tone, full of gentle emotion, that they now understood it. They visited me twice or thrice a week, always bringing their work with them; and at each visit I perceived their progress, not only in the knowledge, but also in the personal application of the gospel. The work of the Spirit of God in the hearts of these men having originated altogether with Himself, I left the whole entirely to Him, without intermeddling in the least.

I noticed with delight their growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ; contenting myself with explaining such passages of scripture as they could not understand, and giving my advice only when it was asked for. They were more especially pleased with those passages in which our Saviour declares his readiness to receive sinners, inviting the weary and heavy laden to come unto Him, and promising to give them rest. They were also forcibly struck by His parables; among others, by that of the householder who hired labourers into his vineyard, giving to those who came in the evening the same wages as those received whom he hired in the morning; which they regarded as having a special reference to themselves and their nation. The promise of Jesus, that before the end of the world, the Gospel shall be preached, for a testimony unto all nations, made a deep impression upon them. Some time ago they related, without any suggestion on my part, that whenever they prayed to their gods, as they have been accustomed to do, they felt very great uneasiness, as if they were committing sin. Another time they spoke as follows :-“We have been zealous followers of the doctrines of Shakdshamuni, and have studied the books containing them attentively; but the more we studied the more obscure they appeared to us, and our hearts remained empty. But in perusing the doctrines of Jesus we observed the reverse : for the more we meditate on his words, the more intelligible they become; and, at length, it appears as if Jesus himself were talking with us.” Many speeches of this kind, all bearing testimony to that life among the dead, of wbich our Saviour speaks, John v. 25, occurred during my conversation with these men. It would be taking up too much time to enumerate them all.

I had frequently remarked that there seemed to be something upon their ininds which they were on the point of disclosing; but

.

[ocr errors]

that they always suddenly checked themselves, and entered upon other subjects. A short time ago they brought me their translation of the 21st, 22d, and 23d chapters of St. Matthew. After we had completed the revision and correction of these chapters, they were, contrary to custom, quite silent; for, in general, they had various questions to propose, and required many explanations. At length I broke silence, by saying: “Well my friends, what have you to say to me to-day?" Upon this, the elder of the two, after an evident conflict with himself expressed himself thus : “We have lived in ignorance, and have been led by blind guides. We have followed the precepts of Shakdshamuni (the Fo of the Chinese) without finding rest. "By God's mercy we have been chosen to translate the gospel of bis Son into our language; and, for this end, have been brought into connexion with you. You have illustrated the things unintelligible to our darkened minds, in a direct and satisfactory manner. We acknowledge Christ Jesus to be our God and Saviour, and are determined to know none other; we have, therefore, made a resolution to leave our former superstitions, and to adopt the Christian faith.--What advice would you give us?” The young Saisang confirmed all the elder had said, as expressing his own sentiments.

This address was quite unexpected to me. I answered, that I certainly approved their determination, considering it as wrought in them by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, and as demonstrating the power of that gospel : but I asked them if they had duly reflected on what was required of a disciple of Jesus; that Christ does not promise his followers earthly happiness and honours, but rather reproach among men; and that he calls those blessed, who, for his sake, willingly and gladly submit to unmerited reproach. I reminded them, further, that this step would cause great sensation among their friends, and perhaps give much offence : I begged them, therefore, to examine themselves, as in the presence of Jesus, whether they were free from everything that might prevent their becoming his entire property; for that He, who, in order to redeem fallen man, in mercy offered himself as a sacrifice once forever, and who thereby purchased us unto himself by his bitter sufferings, blood-shedding, and death, could not accept a heart devoted half to him, and half to sin and the world. The worst of all would be, if, after having become members of Christ's family by baptism, they should again choose to return to the old way; either on account of persecution and affliction, or out of levity and indifference.

They replied, that they had well considered these things; and that the words of Jesus himself, on this subject, had caused them no small anxiety and struggle. They mentioned, particularly, the parable of the sower, and the different kinds of ground upon which the seed fell; also the words of Jesus, Matt. X. 37, 38, likewise our Saviour's address to the youth, who would first go and bury his father-Let the dead bury their dead: further, what he says of himself—The foxes have holes, the birds of the air hare nests, 8c. But they declared that it was their firm determination to be followers of Jesus, and to share in his reproach, if that were their lot; though they, at the same time, did not deny their wish that such trials might not befall them too soon, on account of their weakness in the faith. They said, the esteem in which they were held by their friends, and their iníuence, were considerable ; and that it was their sincere desire, that many of their nation, being convinced, like themselves, of the truth of the gospel, might turn to Jesus; that they did not intend, as yet, to inform their friends of the change that had taken place with them; in order to prevent, as much as possible, all mistakes and prejudices during their absence; for that their nation imagined that, as soon as they became Christians, they must become Russians: (of which both they and the Calmucs have great horror :) that this idea was dreadful even to THEM, personally, for they did not wish to forfeit their nationality. They therefore hoped that the emperor would grant to them, and to all who might be converted, liberty as to their manner of life, so far as is consistent with the precepts of the gospel; and, more especially, that faithful teachers might be sent to their nation, to point out to them the truth, and to guide them in the way of salvation.

I approved their plan; but begged them to be quite passive, and take no steps on their part, but merely to state their ideas candidly to me, knowing that I loved them, and would therefore willingly do allin my powerto serve them. As to the teachers whom they wished to have employed among their nation, measures would be taken to procure them; but that they should not forget to apply, in all their concerns, to Him, who loved them far more than men could love them; who had begun the good work in them, and would complete it, if they only obeyed his voice in all things; and who would find means to remove all external difficulties, if it were his will.

After this, I had two or three conversations with them, in which ve spoke on several of the principal points of the Christian faith. These conversations gave them great pleasure : but they inquired, why I had not told them all this sooner.

I answered : “ You are, as yet but babes in Christ; and, with such, the pure milk of the gospel agrees best : as you grow in grace you will be able to bear strong meat, and will also receive it. But always recollect our Saviour's significant words-Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. All of us, without exception, have frequent occasion to become as little children again.; if we neglect doing this, we may indeed become learned divines; but we lose the spirit of the Bible, which reveals unto us our insufficiency and defects, and directs us to Jesus. You would thus be in danger of becoming such men as you have found the Pharisees and Scribes of old to have been, and now know a great number of your own Lamas to be in your own country.

Before I conclude, I will add a few words concerning their translation of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in the Mongol language.

According to my insight and knowledge of the language, their translation is the best that can be procured. No European could have execúted it so well ; nor will any one be able to do it for a long time to come. These persons are not only most profound scholars in their vernacular and learned dialects, insomuch that they could explain the meaning of many words and phrases to me in a way in which I have sought for in vain among the Calmucs; but they are well versed in the language of Thibet, and can read the Thibetan characters with as much ease as the Mongolian. They immediately understood me when I spoke Calmuc with them; but, in the beginning, I found a difficulty in comprehending their meaning, partly

on account of the great difference of dialect, and partly because they introduce so many guttural sounds in accented syllables.

I conclude my report with a fervent wish that this nation, and especially these two awakened Saisangs, may be an object of the serious deliberations of the Elders' Conference of the Unity, as well as of the prayers of all my brethren and sisters to whom the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom is precious. The harvest in the immense regions of the Russian Empire is truly great, but few, very few are the labourers. Surely the fervor which fills my soul, while I am writing this, will likewise inspire those who read the report.

1. J. SCHMIDT. St. Petersburg, March 7, 1818.

MISSION AT MADRAS.

From the Missionary Chronicle, May, 1818. Extract from the Journal of Mr. Knill, Madras, August 21,1917.

This day a learned and interesting Brahmin called upon me. He converses fluently in four languages. Our conversation was on religion. I followed him, but he took shelter in all the old subterfuges of his forefathers. I found I could not do any thing with him. I felt very much for him. We drew closer together, our discourse was applicatory--we approached the dying bed, and stood on the thresbold of eternity. I told him my views of myself as a sinner, and on whom my hopes were built for eternity--the tear started in my eye -he perceived it, his eye rolled, his lip quivered. I kept up the application. He shook : I said, What will become of your precious soul! O Sir, your soul, your precious soul ! You have no atonement, you know nothing of a satisfaction suited to the character of Him whom we have offended. Jesus Christ alone can make atonement. He has made it, and obtained eternal redemption for all that believe. O friend! think of this, I beseech

you. His countenance was altered. I was astonished and delighted, yet knew no further. A gentleman entered, and our conversation ceased. I left him, but pray that God may never leave him. He is a most interesting man. My heart

« הקודםהמשך »