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In perusing the twentieth number of “ The Friend of India," I felt as much surprised as disappointed at some remarks made in that magazine by a gentleman under the signature of “ A Christian Missionary," on a late publication, intitled, “ The Precepts of Jesus ;" and also at some observations of a similar nature on the same subject by the Editor of that publication. Before, however, I attempt to enquire into the ground upon which their objections to the work in question are founded, I humbly beg to appeal to the public against the unchristianlike, as well as uncivil manner in which the Editor has adduced his objections to the compilation, by introducing personality, and applying the term of heathen to the Compiler. I say unchristianlike manner, because the Editor, by making use of the term heathen, has, I presume, violated truth, charity, and liberality, which are essential to Christianity in every sense of the word. For there are only two methods by which the character of the Compiler as a heathen, or as a believer in one true and living God, can be satisfactorily inferred. The most reasonable of the two modes is to confine such enquiries to the evidence contained in the subject of review, no mention of the name of the Compiler being made in the publication itself. Another mode, which is obviously inapplicable in such discussions, is to guess at the real author, and to infer his opinions from a knowledge of his education or other circumstances. With respect to the first source of evidence, the following expressions of the Compiler's sentiments are found in the Introduction. " A notion of the existence of a Supreme Superintending Power, the author and preserver of the harmonious system, who has organized and who regulates such an infinity of celestial and terrestrial objects, and a due estimation of that law which teaches that man should do to others as he would wish to be done by, reconcile us to human nature, &c.”
“ This simple code of religion and morality, (meaning the Precepts of Jesus,) is so admirably calculated to elevate men's ideas to high and liberal notions of one God, &c.” “ so well fitted to regulate the conduct of the human race in the discharge of their various duties to God, to themselves, and to society,” and “ so conformable to the dictates of human reason and divine revelation, &c.” These expressions are calculated, in my humble opinion, to convince every mind not biassed by prejudice, that the Compiler believed not only in one God, whose nature and essence is beyond human comprehension, but in the truths revealed in the Christian system. I should hope neither the Reviewer nor the Editor can be justified in inferring
the heathenism of the Compiler, from the facts of his extracting and publishing the moral doctrines of the New Testament, under the title of “ A Guide to Peace and Happiness”—his styling the Precepts of Jesus, a code of religion and morality—his believing God to be the author and preserver of the universeor his considering those sayings as adapted to regulate the conduct of the whole human race in the discharge of all the duties required of them.
Neither, I trust, can his separating the moral sayings of Christ from the mysterious dogmas and historical parts of the New Testament, under the impression, that these are liable to the doubts and disputes of freethinkers and antichristians, with which this part of the world is unfortunately filled ; nor his opinion that this simple code of morality would be more likely to attract the notice and respect of such men, and to guide their minds into the paths of peace and happiness, than if presented to them in conjunc_ tion with other matter against which their education has taught them to revolt; justly subject him, in the opinion of the most orthodox Christians, to the epithet applied to him by the Editor. If they do, I cannot see how the same condemnation can be spared to numerous publications of extracts from the Old and the New Testaments, made and sent forth by several Christian authors, under various designations and for different purposes.
With respect to the latter mode of seeking evidence, however unjustified the Editor may be in
coming to such a conclusion, he is safe in ascribing the collection of these Precepts to Rammohun Roy ; who, although he was born a Brahmun, not only renounced idolatry at a very early period of his life, but published at that time a treatise in Arabic and Persian against that system ; and no sooner acquired a tolerable knowledge of English, than he made his desertion of idol worship known to the Christian world by his English publication—a renunciation that, I am sorry to say, brought severe difficulties upon him, by exciting the displeasure of his parents, and subjecting him to the dislike of his near, as well as distant relations, and to the hatred of nearly all his countrymen for several years. I therefore presume that among his declared enemies, who are aware of those facts, no one who has the least pretension to truth, would venture to apply the designation of heathen to him; but I am sure, that the respect he entertains for the very name of Christianity, which the Editor of the Friend of India seems to profess, will restrain him from retorting on that Editor, although there may be differences of opinion between them, that might be thought sufficient to justify the use towards the Editor of a term no less offensive. The Editor perhaps may consider himself justified by numerous precedents amongst the several partizans of different Christian sects, in applying the name of heathen to one who takes the Precepts of Jesus as his principal guide in matters of religious and civil duties ; as Roman Catholics bestow the appellation of heretics or infidels on all classes of Protestants, and Protestants do not spare the title of idolators to Roman Catholics ; Trinitarians deny the name of Christian to Unitarians, while the latter retort by stigmatising the worshippers of the Son of man as Pagans, who adore a created and dependent Being. Very different conduct is inculcated in the precept of Jesus to John, when complaining of one who performed cures in the name of Jesus, yet refused to follow the apostles :-he gave a rebuke, saying, “ He that is not against us is on our part:" Mark, ch. ix. ver. 40. The Compiler, having obviously in view at least one object in common with the Reviewer and Editor, that of procuring respect for the precepts of Christ, might have reasonably expected more charity from professed teachers of his doctrines.
The Compiler of the Precepts of Jesus, will, however, I doubt not, give preference to the guidance of those Precepts, which justify no retaliation even upon enemies, to the hasty suggestions of human passions, and the example of the Editor of the Friend of India.
2. The Editor of the Friend of India and the respected Reviewer, both not only disapprove absolutely the plan adopted by the Compiler in separating the moral doctrines of the books of the New Testament ascribed to the four Evangelists from the mysteries and historical matters therein contained, but even blame him as an injurer of the cause of truth ; and for such disapprobation they assign several reasons : first, The Reviewer says, the supposition of the moral