Page images
PDF
EPUB

of June, 1820. The morning after their arrival in Bencoolen roads, they received an invitation from the governor, sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, assuring them that preparations had been made for their immediate accommodation.

When asked his opinion as to the number of missionaries necessary for the island, he said he had written to the Rev. Dr. Ryland, requesting him to send as many as he could; adding, that there should not be fewer than two or three at any place, to render their labours effective; particularly at Sumatra, where, he observed, there were three millions of sonls perishing in ignorance and misery, none of whom were strongly prejudiced in favour of their false religion, and by far the greater part were completely destitute of all ideas of a religious nature.

The governor having hinted the expediency of visiting some of the northern parts, Mr. Burton obtained a passage in a gentleman's boat to Nattal, and, in his way, touched at Padang, which he reached in five days.

“ This place,” he says, “is the grand entrance to the Mengamcabow country, formerly the seat of the universal government of the island, where the Malayan language is supposed to be spoken by nearly a million of people; and presents, I should suppose, a much more extensive and interesting field for a Malayan mission than any other part of the Archipelago.

“ On one occasion sir T. S. Raffles recommended us to direct our attention particularly to the Batta people. He thinks them in number about five hundred thousand; and it is certainly a very curious circumstance, and to a missionary. among them a most encouraging fact, that of a people who are fully proved to be cannibals, more than one half should be able to read and write ! With such a door already open, what might not be effected amongst them ? At how many quarters,-in how many ways, do the strong holds of Satan lay here exposed to our attack ! Their alphabet is the most simple I have seen, and will be particularly easy to print.”

of the religion of the people called Battas, the following concise account was drawn up by Mr. Prince, of Nattal, at the request of sir T. S. Raffles :

“ The present religion of the Battas is a compound of the most ridiculous and barbarous superstitions, founded on human depravity. They do not, however, worship images; but believe in the existence of certain deities, whose attributes bespeak the existence of a better race of people than the present.

Their names and descriptions are as follow :

“ Dee Battah assee assee, the creator and father of all, who appointed three brothers-Bataragourou, Seeree Padah, and Mahalabloolan, his vakeels or agents, to instruct mankind.

" Bataragourou is the god of justice, and is described literally under the following character : · Fish in the wears* he will restore to their element; property forgotten, he will return; a measure filled to the brim, a just balance, and upright judgment

are his.'

“ These are the principles Bataragourou was appointed to instil into the minds of mankind, but

* Nets of twigs.

the Battas acknowledge themselves strangers to their adoption. • Seeree Padah is the god of mercy :

" He will repair the clothes that are torn, give meat to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, health to the sick, relief to the oppressed, advice to the weak, and shelter to the friendless.'

“ Mahalabhoolan soon quarrelled with his br thers, separated from them, and set up the practice of tenets directly opposite to theirs; hence he is described as "The source of discord and contention; the instigator of malice and revenge; the inciter of anger; the source of fraud, deceit, lying, hypocrisy, and murder.'

5s Of these three brothers, you will not wonder that the last is most powerful, or that he has most adherents. The Battas acknowledge that they apply to, and beseech him, when they have followed any of those vices, and they also acknowledge that petitions are very rarely offered to the other deities. They naine a fifth, ‘Naggahpadonah, who is said, like Atlas, to support the world, which they describe to consist of seven folds beneath, and as

many above.

“A

person called the Dattoo, who is skilled in every sort of superstition, is the only resemblance of a priest among them. Every village has one of these. The only ceremony practised of a religious nature, as far as I can hear, is the custom of invoking the shades of their ancestors. This is done at pleasure, in prosperity or in adversity. The process of the ceremony is as follows :

“ A wooden mask is made to represent the features of the deceased; this is worn by a clever fellow, who is dressed in all the regalia of a rajah, and he is worshipped as the living representative of the departed object of their regard.

A feast is made in honour of the dead, which lasts for three days. The performer exercises all the authority that his skill suggests, and mixes his sayings with prophecies suited to the wishes of the audience.

“ The influence of the dattoo over the deluded Battas is such, that they will engage in no undertaking, however trifling, without first consulting him. He expounds all their religious books, and, according to his interpretation, a day is chosen as propitious to their object, whether that be a snit, a journey, or the cominencement of hostilities.

- The moral conduct of these people appears to be influenced by all the vile passions of an irregular and irritable constitution. Truth is seldom regarded, when in the way of their interests or feelings: and honesty is never founded on principle, but on the fear of detection. The general tenor of their lives has obliterated the recollection and practice of the laws of Seeree Padah and Bataragourou, and they have no priesthood, no rajah to recal them, or to reprove their obstinate adherence to the principles of Mahalabhoolan, who is certainly no other than the devil.

“ I am sure,” adds Mr. Prince, in concluding his account, “ that christian missionaries would find an ample field for their labours among this people; for it is not ignorance of what is virtuous and good, but, as they themselves acknowledge, natural depravity, that must be assigned as the principal cause of their present deplorable morals.”

During the absence of Mr. Burton, the care of a school, which had been established at Bencoolen, rested entirely with Mr. Evans; but, as his strength proved inadequate to the united exertions of conducting that establishment and of studying the native language, he resolved, on the return of his colleague, to remove to Padang. Early in the spring of 1821, at the suggestion of some British and American gentlemen visiting that place for commercial purposes, he commenced the celebration of Divine worship on the sabbath, and the attendance was more numerous than could have been expected. The Dutch resident also appeared friendly to the formation of schools among the natives, and a few children were collected and placed under the care of Mrs. Evans.

In a communication, dated January 2, 1822, the missionaries write, “ We regret that we have not been able, during the last three months, to accomplish all that we anticipated. Unforeseen difficulties have much impeded our progress, both with respect to the press and schools. To render efficient the Malay departinent of the press, we need, at least, one good Malay compositor; but this is still a desideratum. Several Malays have, at different times, entered our service, for the purpose of learning to compose; but no sooner did they perceive that this acquisition required a little mental exertion, and a moderately close application to business, than they left us in disgust. So averse are Malays to every thing that requires diligence and attention, that out of a number who entered the office, only one remains, and as he is far from being an efficient workman, our Malay printing proceeds but slowly. A Scripture tract, containing the history of the creation of the world and the fall of man, will, we hope, soon issue from

« PreviousContinue »