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The Life of John Wilson
Chapter VII. Zand. Scholarship and the Parsee Controversy


1836-1842
ZAND SCHOLARSHIP AND THE PARSEE CONTROVERSY.

Degree ol D.D. from University of Edinburgh—First Marriage in Native Church of Bombay—Dr. Wilson first English Scholar to master Zand Texts —Fall of the Persian Empire—Migrations of the Parsee Fugitives—Sanjan and Nausaree, “a City of Priests ”—First Parsee Settlers in Bombay— Frater Paulinus on the Lingua Zendica—Anquetil du Perron’s Adventures —Professor Rask’s visit to India—Dr. Wilson’s first Zand Studies in 1831 —Origin of the Parsee Controversy—An Unhappy Editor—“Goosequill” and “Swauquill”—The Parsee Sects—Dr. Wilson’s Lectures on the “Vandidad”—The Parsee Sanhedrim enter the Lists—Dr. Wilson’s Work on “The Parsi Religion”—First Zand and Palilavi types—Conversion of Dhunjeebhoy Nowrojee—Hormasdjee Pestonjee follows—Persecution of Framjee—Writ of Habeas Corpus—First Vindication in India of Civil and Religious Rights of the Natives—League of the Parsee Priests against the w Missionaries—Hormasdjee receives his Wife and Daughter at last.

When, on the 7th July 1836, Mr. Wilson wrote that pleasant letter to his old friend and benefactor, Mr. J. Jordan Wilson, in which he expressed satisfaction at “Mr. Duff’s elevation to a Doctorship” by the vigorous University of Aberdeen, and hinted that his own policy of vernacular preaching would probably lead the Modern Athens to pronounce him a “babbler,” like Paul, he was about to be surprised by the receipt of the parchment diploma from his own University of Edinburgh, of D.D., or “Sacrosanctse Theologise Doctor.” The learning and the piety of his native country were as ready to mark with academic approval the six years’ career of the young scholar who preached and wrote, in season and out of season, to wise and simple, in the vernacular and classical tongues of Western India, as to honour the briefer and more brilliant work of his fellow-missionary who, in Eastern India, had begun an intellectual as well as spiritual revolution which was already affecting even Bombay itself.

Dr. Duff, driven home by an almost fatal disease, was restored to feed the flame of apostolic Evangelism in the churches of great Britain and America, so that soon Bombay and Goojarat, as well as Madras, Nagpore, and Calcutta, were to see the result in new missions and fresh missionaries worthy of such pioneers. Dr. Wilson, in spite of the comparative solitude of bereavement, and not unfrequent sickness from overwork and exposure, was to be enabled to carry on his loved work among the people of India without interruption till the close of 1842. Thus, at every successive period the gifts and the labours of each supplemented those of the other, while specially adapted to the local peculiarities of the provinces and the communities to whom they gave their lives; and both combined to form an almost perfect ideal of Christian evangelisation among the races of the East.

Certainly the diploma of the University of Edinburgh, as it was given to Wilson after the old fashion, long before the modern and most desirable custom of bestowing such academic degrees personally and in public had originated, well described his previous function as a teacher of divine Theology, and could hardly confer on him any new power or virtue in that capacity. The interest of the already yellow parchment lies rather in the names of some of the men who signed it, among whom we find, besides Principal Baird, such medical professors as Alison and Traill, Ballingall and Syme, and Sir Robert Christison still spared to the city; Thomas Chalmers and David Welsh; Sir William Hamilton and James D. Forbes; Macvey Napier, and that other John Wilson, who taught poetry, criticism, and all the humanities, under the name of Moral Philosophy. Never before, and probably never since, has the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, even when conferred by the University of Edinburgh, had so honest a significance as this, which was signed on the 4th of May 1836. He thus acknowledged it, in a letter to Professor Brunton, which also gives us some glimpses of the progress of female education and society :—

“Bombay, 10th September 1836.—I received your letter of the 28th May, on the fiftieth day after its date! I am quite overwhelmed with your kindness ; and I shall not attempt to express my sense of the obligations under which it has placed me. The diploma was unexpected by me ; and I fear that it will prove only a generous payment in advance for work which may never be performed. I desire to view it, however, as a new call to cultivate personal humility, to abound in the proclamation of the Gospel, both by writing and speech, to the perishing multitudes around me, and to unfold for the compassion of the benevolent, as opportunities otfer, the systems of transcendental speculation and gross superstition, which exercise such a destructive sway in the regions of Asia. I have already used my new title in a Persian pamphlet which I have just published, entitled liaddi-i-Dln Musahndni, or Refutation of Muhammadanism. My grateful acknowledgments are due to the University of Edinburgh.

“The School for Destitute Poor Native Girls now contains fifty-five scholars, who are all making satisfactory progress. The eldest of the two girls connected with it, whom I lately baptized, has been married by me to one of the Brahman converts, and this, the first virtuous uniou of natives formed in the bosom of the Protestant Church in Bombay, promises to promote the happiness of both the parties. The marriage was honoured by the attendance of several friends of the mission, and by many natives. I embraced the opportunity which it afforded me of entering into a contrast between the injunctions of the Christian Scriptures and the Hindoo Shastres relative to the treatment of females. The Parsee inhabitants of a street in the neighbourhood of the mission-house have placed under me the whole disposal of the juvenile population, including sixteen girls, for instruction through the medium of Goojaratee, a circumstance which has afforded me the highest delight. Altogether, there are upwards of 180 girls educating in connection with the mission.”

To his discussions with Brahmans and Moulvies, Jains and Jews, in the central seat of Bombay, and in many of its districts and feudatory principalities, Dr. Wilson had added that which proved to he the most important of all. Alike as a scholar and a missionary, his writings on the Zand language and literature, and his spiritual and social influence 1 among the Parsees, take the highest place. He was the first English scholar to master the original Zand texts, according to the admission of the “irritabilegenus” of pure Orientalists, as represented by the late Dr. Haug, who would in no wise give due credit to his German rival, Spiegel, the present able representative of Zand scholarship in Europe. And Dr. Wilson was the first missionary to educate and admit to the | Christian Church two converts from the faith of Zoroaster, who still adorn the Free Church of Scotland and the Baptist Church respectively, as ordained ministers.

The Parsees, the people of Pars or Fars which the Creeks called Persis, after having ruled Western Asia from the Black Sea to the Indus from before Kai Khoshru, or Cyrus the Great, fell victims to the same intolerance which they had shown against every other faith, whether idolatrous or Christian as in the case of the long-suffering Armenians. In A.D. 658, Yezdijird III, the last of the Sassanian kings, saw his army spoiled of its sacred banner, the jewelled apron of Kawa, on the fatal field of Kadseah. That palladium gone, a few years more left the empire of Cyrus extinguished at Naha-vand, not far from that capital of Hamadan, to which the Jewess Esther has given an immortality greater than that of Cyrus or of Artaxerxes her husband. The mound is still seen at Toorkman Merv where Yezdijird found a grave after miserable wanderings, while all of his surviving host who did not apostatise bore with them the sacred fire to the hills of Khorassan. Thence tlie Kaliph Omar and his successors drove them south to the sea, to the caves of Ormuz of which Milton sings, though its wealth and splendour were of later date and Portuguese origin, on to Diu off Kathiawar, and so to Sanjan in Goojarat. There, in 717, they found an aslyum for three centuries, and became partially Hindooised. For, explain it away as their Anglicised descendants may, “the fair, the fearless, the valiant, and the athletic Parsees,” obtained protection from the Rana Jaclao by a denial of thatjvery monotheism from which, in its Muhammadan form, they had fled, and which in controversy they now claim to hold. In sixteen distichs of corrupt Sanskrit, drawn up after some days of deliberation, they professed to worship the sun, the five elements, Hormuzd, chief of the Suras or angels, and the cow; and described their ritual and customs. Regarding them, evidently, as only another sect of Hindoos, the Rana assisted them to build their fire-temple, and there they continued to flourish, sending forth settlements to the neighbouring districts. As the Muhammadan power grew in Western India their old enemy found them out, and they fled with their sacred fire to the jungle of Wasanda from the assault of Sultan Mahmood Begoda of Ahmedabad, in 1507, though not without showing a courage in defence of their Hindoo protectors worthy of their fathers. When the danger passed by they sought a resting-place in that Goojaratee town of Nausaree, where Dr. Wilson found their earliest temples and MSS. during his northern tour. Surat was not far off, and thither not a few Parsees carried their intelligence and enterprise to the service of the European traders. Sir Nicholas Waite’s Parsee broker, for instance, still lives in the early annals as a clever but by no means honest fellow. The family of Ardeshir Dhunjeesha of Surat was founded by a Parsee whose ability made him the favourite of the Great Moghul at Agra, and enabled him to obtain commercial privileges for his English friends. Muncherjee Seth did similar service to the Dutch. As Surat rose into importance Nausaree became, what it still is, the city of the Parsee priests. At an early period the community attracted the attention of Kerridge, the English Governor of Surat; and in 1616 he urged Henry Lord, the first English chaplain there, to study thoroughly the religions of both Hindoos and Parsees. Lord’s rare little quarto was used by Sir Thomas Herbert in his valuable work; and by the French traveller Bernier, in his letter to M. Chaplain, on “Lord’s Discovery of Two Foreign Sects.”

When Bombay became English, and was opened as a free city to all the native communities of Western India, Asia, and Eastern Africa, as we have seen, the Parsees were the first to take advantage of English rule there. Three years after its settlement, Dr. Fryer found, on the top of Malabar Hill, “a Parsee tomb (or tower of silence) lately raised.” Indeed, one Dorabjee Nanabhoy had held office there during the Portuguese occupation, and his services were found invaluable when the English took possession. His son drove oft* the Seedee pirates, and received the hereditary distinction of Patel or lord of the fishermen whom he led on that occasion, an honour still valued by the family, who have become great merchants from China to London. The English shipwright who built the East India Company’s vessels at Bombay tempted one Lowjee to leave Surat, and his descendants have, ever since the foundation of the dockyard in 1735, held the position of master builder. The great and wealthy clans of Shet Khandans, Dadyshets, and Banajees, still trace their prosperity to the happy day when their ancestors settled under the Company’s flag in the Fort of Bombay. It was in 1780 that a Dadyshet built the first of the three fire-temples in the island. The latest census shows that the whole Parsee community under British rule number 70,000, of whom a third are in the city of Bombay. There are some in Persia.

For a community with such a history, language, and sacred literature, whose influence, in spite of their comparatively small number, was half a century ago far beyond that j i of the leading men of all the other races and sects in India, nothing had been done in a high educational sense before Dr Wilson’s arrival in Bombay. Save a few of their priests, they themselves were ignorant of their sacred books. The little that Lord had been able to communicate to Europe regarding them in the beginning of the seventeenth century had been independently followed up by a Jesuit missionary, whose undoubtedly rich contributions to early Zand and Sanskrit scholarship Dr. Haug overlooks in his history of the researches into the sacred writings and religion of the Parsees. John Philip Werdin, born of peasant parents in 1718 in South Austria, went out in 1771 to the Malabar coast as Frater Paulinus, devoted himself for fourteen years to the study of Sanskrit and Zand, as well as the languages of South India, and returned to Rome, from which, when secretary to the congregation of the Propaganda, he issued at least twenty great works, mostly quarto volumes, on the classical languages, literatures and customs of the peoples of India.

Not less a polemic than Paulinus was Anquetil du Perron, the young theological student of Paris, who first brought the Zand texts to Europe, and translated them, after a fashion, j into French. Stumbling on a manuscript of the Yandidad in I the king’s library, one of the few probably brought to Europe by Bourchier or Dr. Eraser, he abandoned the church for the life of a private soldier, that he might find his way out to India. He sailed in the French expedition of 1715. Knowing Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian, he set himself to Sanskrit, and such a study of the people as could best be made during long journeys on foot from Chandernagore to Pondicheri on the east coast, and from Mahe to Surat on the west coast. At Surat the support of the French government enabled him to fee Dustoor Darab, one of the most learned high priests of the Parsees, to instruct him in both Zand and Pahlavi, and to sell him manuscripts. Suspecting that he was being deceived, as later scholars like Wilford were, by the Brahmans, he bribed other priests also, till he was satisfied as to the honesty of Darab. For six years, during which he collected a hundred and eighty MSS. in all the sacred languages of the country, he pursued his researches, and then he determined to settle at Benares for the composition of a work on the whole history, literature, and antiquities of India. The fall of Pondicheri to the English arms forced him to return to France. He visited Oxford on the way, where he laid the foundation of a quarrel with Sir William Jones, and so led the learned of Europe into the error, which Dr. Wilson was the first completely to dissipate, that Zand, instead of being the elder sister of the' Sanskrit, was a monstrous impossibility—an invented or forged language. "Trance honoured the scholar, as, since Colbert, she had always persecuted the soldiers and statesmen who would have given her an eastern empire, and in 1771 he published his Zend-Avesta. The Revolution drove him into that obscurity which alone was safety, and when he died in 1805 he was occupied on a new French edition of the Viaggio of his old rival Paulinus. A century before, Hyde had published his learned apology for Zoroastrianism, in his Historia Religionis Veterum Persarum eorumque Magorum, but he could not read the MSS. of which he professed to give a criticism. Du Perron's manuscripts, the dictations of Darab and the other priests, as still to be found in the National Library of Paris, and, above all, the two quartos of his Zend-Avesta, became the stream from which all subsequent scholars drank, till the Danish Rask and the Scottish Wilson went to the fountain-head.

In the course of a philological tour of Europe, Africa, and Asia, the Scandinavian scholar Rask visited Bombay to study Zand. In 1826 he used the collection which he had purchased for the Copenhagen Library in the production of his small work on the age and genuineness of the Zand language. In that he justified by new proofs the conclusions of Paulinus and Du Perron as to its relation to the Sanskrit, but refused to follow the latter in his conclusions as to the antiquity of Zoroaster. For Rask was the first to make out the law of the transposition of sounds with which Bopp’s name is connected. Five years afterwards Dr. Wilson, prompted by the scholar’s enthusiasm, but, along with that, by the more consuming fire which inflamed all his life, thus wrote to the secretary of the Scottish Missionary Society, the first of his draft letters which we can find specially referring to the Parsees:—

“Bombay, 24th July 1831. ... I have now regularly delivered a lecture on Systematic Theology on Wednesday evenings during the last sixteen weeks. My audience, which consists partly of Europeans and partly of Natives, has heen respectable. Ten of my lectures were devoted to the consideration of the testimony which is afforded by the light of Nature to the existence, attributes, and moral government of God ; and to the duty and destiny of man. Two of them were occupied in forming an estimate of the discoveries of the light of Nature, and in evincing the possibility and desirableness of a direct Revelation.

I am at present engaged in the consideration of the inquiry, Where is a direct Revelation to be found'? and I have spent four evenings in the discussion|of the claims of the Parsee religion. I have been requested to publish my observations upon it; but I have agreed only to the present printing of such of them as refer to the “Vendidad Sade,” which is the most authoritative work acknowledged by the followers of Zoroaster. I intend, God willing, to comply with the wishes of my friends by preparing a work embracing an analysis of all the sacred books of the Parsees, a particular view of their religious history so far as it can be ascertained, and a description of their manners and customs.

I have for a long time been prosecuting inquiries connected with these subjects ; and I have lately procured some documents which throw great light upon them. When I last wrote to you I had not the intention which I now avow ; but many circumstances have conspired, and especially the encouragement which I have received from some of my friends to whose judgment I bow with deference, the readiness of the natives to make communications to me—the probable usefulness of the work in leading them to inquiry and in assisting future missionaries—which they have hitherto withheld from other Europeans, have led me to come to a determination on the subject. I have access to most of the books published in Europe which treat of the Parsees. There is one little work which I cannot find here which I should like to see. It is The Sacred Oracles of Zoroaster, published in Greek, at Amsterdam, in 1689. It is not considered genuine ; but some of the passages which I have seen objected to as inconsistent with the opinions of Zoroaster appear to me to be consonant with them. If you should see a copy advertised in any of the catalogues, I shall feel much obliged to you if you will purchase it for me.”

It was not till 1833 that there appeared the Commentary on the Yasna, or Parsee prayer-book, based on Neriosingh’s Sanskrit translation, by Eugene Burnouf. Nor was it till 1841 that the other Danish scholar, Westergaard, arrived in Bombay, where he was long Dr. Wilson’s guest, and received that self-sacrificing assistance which enabled him to give to the world the first complete edition of the still extant text of the Avasta, “translated with a dictionary grammar, etc.,” in 1852-54. There were two men in Bombay on Dr. Wilson’s arrival who further stimulated him to vindicate the reputation of the capital in which most of the Parsees were to be found. Sir John Malcolm, in one of his earliest addresses to the Asiatic Society there, had declared that, in the first instance, Bombay must be specially looked to for an elucidation of the ancient Zoroastrian faith. Mr. William Erskine, son-in-law of Sir James Mackintosh, and historian of Babar and Hoomayoon, had frequently contributed to its “ Transactions ” papers on the ancient religion of Persia, which, indeed, had led the king of Denmark to send Professor Bask to India.

The occasion of Dr. Wilson’s first encounter with the I Parsees was his publication in 1831 of a review of the work of Elisaeus 011 the History of Vartan and the Battle of the Armenians, containing an Account of the Religious JVar betiveen the Persians ancl Armenians, translated by that accomplished Christian Jew, Karl Friedrich Neumann, who had just visited China, and who died at Berlin a few years ago. It was necessary for the critic to give a very brief and general account of the religious works of the Parsees, and not without the hope that the statement would rouse some apologist on the other side. Two weeks after a Parsee appealed to the editor of the Samachar, a respectable Goojaratee newspaper, to say whether, as the writer believed, the account of the Parsee religion was incorrect. “Do the Shets,” he asked, the respectable native gentlemen, “ and those skilled in the knowledge of our belief, intend to say nothing in refutation?” The cautious editor declined the challenge for himself, but added, “if it be thought advisable by the intelligent of our tribe, we shall give it a reconsideration.” This led Dr. Wilson to acknowledge that he was the author of the review, and to declare his willingness to publish whatever might be written in reply to it. “Tell me your whole mind. . . .You say that we reproach the Hindoo and Parsee religions, but j we declare only what is true respecting them. We reason, but we use no violence. We enter into discussion that truth may appear, and we say to all, ‘Inquire.’ The unhappy editor did not like the trouble of such rationalism. “Permit us, permit us to follow the road on which we have been travelling, for at last all roads meet in one point; there is 110 Kedeemer of any,” he said. “If our friend the writer, John Wilson (may the grace of God be upon him!), is desirous of drawing us into a discussion of this character, we plainly say to him that it is not suitable to us.” But “if any pundit, religious officer, or intelligent person of one of the castes to which he has referred should fulfil his wish, we are perfectly indifferent in the matter, and feel neither joy nor sorrow” In the next number Dr. Wilson slew the slain delusion with the same kindly but uncompromising sympathy thaF marked all his relations with the natives.

All native Bombay was talking of this new challenge, when a bold printer, who had issued the prospectus of another journal, promised to publish and circulate gratuitously all that should be sent to him on either side till he could establish his paper. So Nowrozjee Mobed Darabjee— a moled being the middle priest, as a dustoor is above him and a herhad below him—printed on excellent paper a series of pamphlets in royal quarto form. The champion of Zoroaster signed himself, “ Nauroz Goosequill,” which he changed to “Swanquill,” when he realised that he exposed himself to the'Jocular charge of being a goose. It was sometimes to Dr. Wilson a matter of doubt whether his opponent was in real earnest as regards much which fell from his pen. Goosequill’s denial \ that the Cosmogony, which Dr. Wilson had exposed, was one of the Darsee scriptures, brought down upon him his co-religionists, and the most sacred of all, the Dustoor Eduljee Darabjee, who had translated it into the vernacular Gooja-ratee. Believing the would-be defender of Parseeism to be a Sadducee of the opposite sect of the Kadmees, the high priest became a challenger in his turn. Goosequill was t equal to the work of destruction, and exposed the puerile ' book in a style which astonished the community, who had ' accepted it as a popular digest of their faith. It was not difficult for Dr. Wilson to intervene at this stage, and show that all his objections to the Cosmogony applied to the Van-didad. His reply covered sixteen chapters, which appeared in as many numbers of the Goojaratee paper, and these he afterwards condensed into a lecture on the Yandidad, which he delivered to both natives and Europeans, and published at their request.

Had not Gibbon, with all his desire to exalt Zoroastrianism at a time when his knowledge was necessarily imperfect and not derived from the texts themselves, confessed that “ in that motley composition, dictated by reason and passion, by enthusiasm and by selfish motives, some useful and sublime truths were disgraced by a mixture of the most abject and dangerous superstition ”?

The discussion was now anxiously taken up by the Parsee Sanhedrim, known as the Punchayat—etymologically, council / of live—a body of from fifteen to twenty members, empowered by Governor Hornby in 1778 to deal with purely tribal offenders to the extent of beating them with shoes. The Dustoors attacked Dr. Wilson’s lecture in the Jam-i-Jamshid, the reformers and Dr. Wilson replied in the Har-Jcdrah and Vartamam The former adopted the position that the names of the dual principles of good and evil in the Zoroastrian system, Hormuzd and Ahriman, are purely parabolical : that they have an esoteric meaning not intended for the ignorant, and that the childish and worse than Talmudic-miracles ascribed to Zoroaster are as well authenticated as those of Christ. One of Dr. Wilson’s brief rejoinders contains this passage, of striking significance in the light of the conversion of the two Parsee young men soon after :—

“It appears wonderful to the Zoroastrian that God should have so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. If he will inquire into the evidences of Christianity, which are neither few nor small, he will find that what is wonderful in this instance is also true. If the Zoroastrian will reflect on the nature of sin, he will perceive that it is an infinite evil; that no efforts of his own can of themselves remove that sin which has been already committed; and that, if salvation be obtained at all, it must be through the merit of a divine substitute. Christ, he will find on inquiry, delivers from the punishment of sin, and saves from the power of sin, all those who put their trust in His name. Men’s works are imperfect in every case, and in many instances positively sinful; and if the Zoroastrian looks to his works for his acquittance, he will find himself miserably disappointed. The danger of trusting in our self-righteousness I have exposed at length in my lecture.” The Zoroastrian boastingly said, “With regard to the conversion of a Parsee you cannot even dream of the event, because even a Parsee babe, crying in the cradle, is firmly confident in the venerable Zartusht.” “The conversion of a Parsee,” I allow, “is a work too difficult for me to accomplish. The conversion of any man is a work too difficult for me to accomplish. It is not too difficult, however, for the Spirit of God. It is my part to state the truth of God; and it is God’s part to give it his blessing.”

For some five years after these early attacks on Dr. Wilson’s Vandidad Lecture the controversy almost ceased. But in 1840 a quarto of 268 pages appeared, bearing this title, “Talim-i-Zurtoosht, or The Doctrine of Zoroaster, in the Goojaratee Language, for the Instruction of Parsee Youths, together with an Answer to Dr. Wilson’s Lecture on (the) Yandidad, compiled by a Parsee Priest.” The avowed author was Dosabhoy Sohrabjee, a respectable Moonshee, well known to the native and European communities of Bombay. He confessed himself the hireling of the Parsee sanhedrim. He adopted the old line of representing Ahriman, the evil principle, as a mere personification of the evil qualities inherent in man, and the sacred fire adored in the Yasna ritual as only a centre of worship. His advocacy was soon disowned by the high priest of the large Rasamee sect, Dustoor Edal Daroo. Agreeably to the “orders,” and at the expense of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, he published the Maujazat-i-Zartoshti, or, The Undoubted Miracles of Zoroaster, in 127 quarto pages. The author, who had lived for many years in a state of seclusion at the principal fire-temple, expounded the Zoroastrian faith to aid its followers in their discussions with the Jud-din or Gentiles. Dr. Wilson describes him as having to a considerable extent escaped the untoward march of intellect in his seclusion, but as most creditably preserving his temper.

A third assailant of the Vandidad Lecture, in the same year, 1840, was one who signed himself Kalam Kas, and proposed a series of questions under the title of Nirang-ha. So stupid was he that some of the respectable Parsees begged Dr. Wilson not to hold them responsible for the writer’s ignorance. The fourth attack, in English as well as Goojaratee, was the Hadie-Gum-Rahan, a guide to those who have lost their way, written by Aspandiarjee Framjee in 1841, at the special request of a rich Shet, Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy, Esq. Of this last Dr. Wilson remarks—

“Its appeals to the Zand writings are pretty numerous, but the translations and interpretations made of them are much more inaccurate than those of Anquetil du Perron, on which, nine years ago, when I published the pamphlet on which its animadversions are made and before I devoted myself seriously to the study of the Zand, I was almost wholly dependent for my knowledge of the sacred books of the Parsees. The author, when he finds my arguments insuperable, generally retreats, like Dosabhoy, into a parabolical sanctuary, which his imagination has called into being as a dernier place of resort for Zoroaster and his foiled followers. In the ruins of this sanctuary, if I mistake not, he has found a place of sepulture.”

This is a fair illustration at once of the stage in Zand scholarship reached in 1841 by Dr. Wilson, of the keen yet well-tempered strokes which he dealt at error which debased man and sought to dishonour God, and of the tactics of his priestly assailants. It was not as a scholar, however, but as a Christian apostle, that, as we have before seen, he rejoiced to raise and to engage in the controversies which should let in the true light. Hence, believing it “ manifestly desirable that the Parsee system should be exhibited in the light of Christianity, and,” as he modestly expresses it, “with a view to aid in this attempt,” he left as a legacy to India when illness drove him home at the close of 1842, and he presented to his native country and to Europe, his greatest work, “The Parsi Religion : as contained in the Zand-Avasta, and propounded and defended by the Zoroastrians of India and Persia, Unfolded, Refuted, and Contrasted with Christianity.” The volume, long since out of print, was published by the American Mission Press of Bombay from the first Zand and Pahlavi metallic types cast in the East. The Rev. Dr. Allen sent forth from the foundry of that Press for Western India, as Carey, Marshman, and Ward had produced at the Seram-pore Press long before for all India and China, the first metal types for the regeneration of the East. But it was in 1778 that the earliest critical student of Sanskrit, the Bengal civilian Charles Wilkins, cut with his own hand the types from which the elder Halhed’s Grammar was printed, and then a set of Persian types. “He gave to Asia typographic art,” may well be written on the tomb of Wilkins, the friend of Sir William Jones.

The Parsi Religion soon brought down on its author, as we shall see, the highest honours of most of the learned societies of Europe, while the lofty honesty, unalterable kindliness and even warm affection of its author for the Parsees as individuals, established his position more firmly than ever in Bombay. Dr. Hyde’s Latin work, on the other hand, published more than a century before, though very much an apology for Zoroastrianism, was so ill received that he is said to have boiled his tea-kettle with nearly the whole impression.

In 1833 the “Zoroastrian” controversialist had flung the taunt, that the conversion of a Parsee was not to be even dreamed of. In 1835 the central college of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was opened by Dr. Wilson, then the only Scottish Missionary in Bombay, and in 1839 three Parsee students made their spontaneous and very solemn statements previous to receiving Christian baptism. This was the result of Dr. Wilson’s work, and especially of the Yandidad Lecture ; and this accounts for the sudden outburst of controversy against it.

Dhunjeebhoy Howrojee was sixteen years and a half old, or six months beyond what was supposed to be the legal age of discretion. His mother was living, and his nearest male relative was an uncle. Hormasdjee Pestonjee and Framjee Bahmanjee were above nineteen ; the former was married and the father of one child. The case occurred in the island of Bombay, within the jurisdiction of the purely English law as administered by the Supreme Court and English barrister judges. The most suspicious or hostile could allege no such i motives as worldly gain or advancement, for the youths belonged to the best families and were the most intelligent in the college. Altogether, whether we look at the position of the converts, at the character of their teachers, or at the conceited intolerance of the community who believed that a change of religious belief from the doctrines of Zoroaster was as impossible as it would be impious, it was well that the question of religious toleration and civil liberty should thus be tried for the first time in the history of British India and of Asia.

Yery slowly had the Court of Directors been compelled \ by the public voice of England through Parliament to concede, first in 1783, English tribunals with jurisdiction over all within the Presidency cities of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, and then in 1813 completed by the charter of 1833, to withdraw the restrictions which prevented the ministers of the Christian faith alone from peaceably preaching and teaching. How, six years after that charter, and four years after Lord William Bentinck had taken the first step to protect I Christian converts from the loss of all their property as well as their families, and the Court of Directors had issued orders that its Government should no longer support Hindoo temples and Muhammadan mosques—which orders were not obeyech— it fell to Dr. Wilson to vindicate the civil and religious rights of the natives of India above sixteen years of age. The similar cases that have occurred since, in the Supreme or High Courts, as well as in the ordinary territory subject to Indian law, have raised issues of greater moment, and have been on the whole attended with less scandal than are involved in the occasional suits between Roman Catholics and Protestants in this country, as to the rights of conscience of minors. In spite of urgent appeals from both Christians and non-Christians to the Government of India for a declaratory law on the subject, jurists like Sir Henry S. Maine have not found it possible to go beyond the English precedents, which leave it to the judges in each case, after examination of the minor, to decide what is the age or stage of discretion short of sixteen. Unhappily, in states like Mysore, where English precedents are not recognised, oppression of the most atrocious kind may take place without a remedy, as in the case of the well-educated woman, Huchi. Even before the Queen’s tribunals there may be a failure of justice from an ignorance of procedure in the lower courts, as in a more recent Lucknow instance, that of the widow Keroda. But in the Dhunjeebhoy trial the age of sixteen was passed, and it only remained for the judge to satisfy himself of the fact. Then too, as in so many other instances, the defeated bigots—for so they must be called while all allowance is made for parental, caste and superstitious feelings—carried off and vilely treated Framjee, so as effectually to prevent his baptism, though not to alter his convictions.

Dhunjeebhoy was not the first Parsee who had sought baptism. Like all the Scottish missionaries, Dr. Wilson kept inquirers longer under observation and instruction than those of a more ritualistic custom think it right to do, thus presenting an extreme contrast to the wholesale baptism of crowds by Xavier as described by that c apostle ’ in his letters. Dr. Wilson’s official communications to Dr. Brunton thus tell the story :—

“Bombay, 6th October 1838.—On the 9th of last month, after I had administered the ordinance of baptism to two children of the converts, I had the satisfaction of enrolling in the list of catechumens the names of five new candidates for admission into the Church—two Mussulmans, one of whom is a Sayad, or reputed descendant of Muhammad; two young Catholic Armenians, and one young Hindoo. A Parsee, the first who has intimated his wish to be baptized in Bombay, appeared along with them, but I declined to allow him to come forward at present on account of his very partial knowledge of Christianity, and my ignorance of his character. I have been obliged, for reasons which will immediately occur to you, to give him shelter in my own house; but respecting liis case in a spiritual point of view, I am not yet able to express a favourable opinion. A short time will probably cast some light on his feelings and motives. I have reason to believe that he is a fair specimen of a considerable class, whose connection for some time past with the Zoroas-trians has been maintained more by the strength of their social arrangements than by regard to their religious tenets and practices.

“1st November 1838.—You will be deeply interested to learn, what I rejoice with trembling to state to you, that there are several hopeful symptoms of the true conversion to God of one of the most advanced and promising Parsee pupils of our institution. He morning and evening reads the Scriptures and prays with Johannes Essai, our Armenian monitor; and he has expressed to me his wish to be baptized. He gives a very simple and satisfactory account of the origin and progress of his impressions and convictions. Were we now to receive him into the Church he would immediately be removed from our care and protection. By remaining in his present position he is exposed to many temptations, and he will be in danger when his views and feelings become known to his relatives. A gracious Providence may soon enable us to come to a decision respecting his case. When an open step is taken there will be a great commotion among the Zoroastrians, of whose pride and power you can scarcely form an idea. They are mightily incensed at present on account of the man whose case I mentioned to you last month; and they have, alas ! succeeded in frightening him into heathen compliances.

“You will see, I doubt not, in the English papers, the declaration of war against Afghanistan and Persia. It is not my province to make on it any comment. I only express the hope that the covenant of offence and defence entered into with Runjeet Singh will ere long prove favourable to the introduction of the Gospel among the independent Sikhs.

“7th May 1839.—Intelligence of these defections from the faith of Zarthust having spread among the native community, the clouds began to gather. Our first concern, of course, was the personal safety of our dear children in the faith ; and we lifted up our hearts in prayer that they might be preserved from all danger. On the evening of the 28th of April they were all with me in the mission-house, Ambrolie, engaged in devotional exercises; and Hormasdjee and Framjee on parting with me said that they had great apprehensions as to their treatment by their connexions. I offered them an asylum should they see reason at any time to place 'themselves under my protection. Dhunjeebhoy remained with me to assist me in examining some Goojaratee manuscripts, and as it was too late for us when we had concluded our business to proceed to my bungalow on Malabar Hill, where we have generally slept since the commencement of the warm season, and where Dhunjeebhoy had been staying for some days with the view of assisting one of our friends in her studies, we mercifully resolved to rest in the mission-house. All was quiet during the night, but the morning showed too plainly that the elements had been put in motion by the fears and alarms of the families more immediately connected with the youth. One messenger came after another calling 'on Dhunjeebhoy to return to his friends ; and one attempt after another was made to decoy him from my roof. Different bands began to collect near my premises, and different persons were seen to be on the watch. We were informed that there was great consternation among the Parsees in the Fort; and we had the most serious apprehensions about Hormasdjee and Framjee, who lived in that locality. When they were at their height the former made his appearance with a man carrying his clothes, and declared that he had heard that Framjeee had been put under restraint by his friends, and that he himself had made a narrow escape. I had scarcely given him the promise of protection when two Parsees rushed into the room in which he was sitting, laid violent hands upon him and me, and attempted to carry him off by force. My domestics had some difficulty in overpowering them, but we ultimately succeeded in freeing my house from their unlawful intrusion.

“The baptism of Dhunjeebhoy took place under the protection of the European and native police, on the evening of the 1st of May. . . . Hormasdjee was baptized by me in the mission-house on Sabbath last. ... On the preceding Saturday I was served with a writ of habeas corpus with reference to Dhunjeebhoy, and a rule nisi with reference to Hormasdjee. The affidavits which I lodged apparently completely upset the design of our adversaries, but as they solicited time to answer them my counsel consented. The case will again be heard in about eight days. Thousands of pounds have been subscribed to distress us, and if possible to destroy our glorious cause; but our righteousness will speedily shine forth clear as the noon-day.

“20th May 1839.—Notwithstanding all the wrath, persecution, bribery, and perjury practised by our opponents—of which the enclosed affidavits will give you too sure evidence—a decision has been pronounced in our favour on the writ of habeas corpus commanding me to bring up the body of Dhunjeebhoy Nowrojee; the rule nisi, in the case of Hormasdjee Pestonjee, has been abandoned by the parties in whose behalf it was granted, without a hearing ; and both the interesting converts are now living under my protection, in the undisturbed enjoyment of all the means of grace which are fitted to enlighten, comfort, strengthen, and purify their souls.

“The judgment of Sir John Awdry, you will perceive, decidedly acquits me of ‘ the imputation of clandestine proceedings; ’ and less than this it could not possibly have done. In common with the whole Christian community of Bombay, you will be grieved to observe that in the conclusion of his verdict he has expressed himself so indefinitely regarding the effects of intrusting the education of youth to our charge. What, I doubt not, he intended as a mere statement of his opinion, supposing himself, for the moment, to hold the principles of a Parsee, has been construed and held up by many of them as an expression of his own view of the right and wrong of the change of religious principle ; and the most injurious effects, which I am sure no man will more regret than Sir John himself, will, I fear, be the consequence.

“We now clearly understand that all questions connected with the personal liberty of the Parsees will be determined, within the bounds of the island of Bombay, by English law and not by Hindoo law or their own variable customs ; and we are far from being sorry to find that this will be the case. The writ of habeas corpus, as in the prosecution now closed, will secure the liberty even of minors when in danger ; the only circumstance which would lead us to interfere with the parental control, is actually proved. Another form of prosecution, at the instance of the minors themselves, will secure for them the right of choosing guardians after the age of fourteen years. No very great difficulties will, we trust, be experienced connected with other 'transactions in which we may be afterwards engaged. Our dispensation of the ordinance of baptism, in any case, must of course stand on moral, and not on legal, grounds, which we see vary in the case of Hindoos, Mussulmans, and Parsees. When we see that the Holy Spirit has performed His work in any soul, we must not refuse to acknowledge it by declining to baptize in His name, and that of the Father and the Son.

“We have had some tidings, on which we think we may depend, of Framjee Bomanjee, the other dear convert whom the Parsees succeeded in apprehending. On the morning of the 29th of April he was carried before some of the members of the Parsee Puncliayat, who used all their influence to induce him to renounce Christianity. That he yielded neither to the threats nor promises which were addressed to him, is proved by the fact that when he returned to his father’s residence all the female members of the household were heard beating their breasts and making lamentations as if he had died. It is said that a few days ago he was removed from Bombay, and sent under a convoy along the road to Nausaree, in the south of Goojarat; and that at Banganga he was tied to a date tree and cruelly beaten. I am just about to dismiss a trusty messenger in search of him; and it is not improbable that, if necessary, I myself may go in disguise to the place where he is said to be. He has completed his nineteenth year, and appeared to be much under the influence of divine truth.”

The Hon. Mr. Farish was interim Governor, and because of his Christian character and work as a private citizen, he also became an object of suspicion and attack. In a letter to Mr. Poynder, Dr. Wilson thus defended him from misrepresentation:—“Although the Hon. Mr. Farish would not shrink from the responsibility of any of his acts as a private Christian, it so happens that he took no share whatever in the instruction of the Parsee converts; that his class in the Sundaj^ School, which met in the Town Hall before he was Governor, has consisted entirely of professing Christians; and that the troops were called out by the Government on the requisition of the superintendent of the police, who very properly considered his civil establishment inadequate to the preservation of the peace.” Sir Charles Forbes laid all the papers in the case before the Court of Directors, which transmitted them to Sir James Rivett Carnac, the new Governor. He was rash enough to declare, on landing at Bombay, that he would give neither official nor private countenance to educational or ministerial labours calculated to interfere with the native religions. Dr. Wilson personally experienced from him, as from all the Governors, “ much politeness and attention,” and hoped that a knowledge of the country and its needs would make him a successor worthy of Sir Robert Grant, whose sudden death had added private as well as public sorrow to Dr. Wilson’s many cares in the year 1839. Anticipating an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council against Sir John Awdry’s judgment, and desirous that the question should be debated on its merits in both Houses of Parliament, Dr. Wilson submitted the papers to Lord Glenelg, the worthy son of Charles Grant, to Lord Bexley, and to Sir George Sinclair and Mr. J. C. Colquhoun, members of the House of Commons. Meanwhile poor Framjee, after being kept for weeks under restraint by the Mobeds of Nausaree, was allowed to return to Bombay, with the confession that they could not break his attachment to Christianity. There he was strictly watched, so that he could not even write. At last, seven months afterwards, Dr. Wilson informed Dr. Brunton—

“I had an interview with Framjee Bomanjee. He had secreted himself in a cellar below our Institution, and took means to call my attention to him. Our conversation lasted about an hour ; and I received from him a particular account of all the treatment which he has received, and of his present feelings and purposes connected with Christianity. His perils are imminent; but he says that, through God’s grace, he will yet enter the Church. He conveyed to me some special warnings, and I fear that there is too good ground for them. One of the sons-in-law and a nephew of Framjee Cowasjee, one of our principal persecutors, occasionally visits me as a professed inquirer. His case I do not yet understand. There are several very influential Parsees here, in whose friendship I have every confidence ; and they will give our Institution their aid as soon as they can do so with safety.”

The Parsee panic spread to Poona, whither Dr. Wilson went for rest, and Mr. J. Mitchell’s mission-school there was also emptied for a time. The course which the Punchayat finally resolved on was the most foolish they could have selected. An appeal to the Privy Council would have raised and settled many still undecided questions of importance as to minors, discretion, and the age of majority under English law and for non-European British subjects, which must have led to wise legislation, and have prevented subsequent and still existing cases of persecution and hardship. But, as is usual in such cases, they sought and found an English officer to take payment as their agent in London, and they caused to be drawn up a document which soon proved so notorious as the Anti-Conversion Memorial, that it was scouted by every newspaper in India save their own. To the document, after several months canvassing and misrepresentation, the Parsee priests obtained the signatures of only 2115 persons, who professed to ask Government to prohibit the establishment of missionary schools, to fix the age of discretion for all natives at twenty-one, and to deny to such natives above twenty-one as might become Christians, wife, children, and heritable property, while fining them for the support of the families thus to be denied them. Sir James Rivett Carnac’s Bombay Government, and Lord Auckland’s Government of India, neither favourable to Christian missionaries, fell back on the position of neutrality, which would have been impregnable if the Bishop of London had not in the previous session of Parliament shown, amid the applause of the Peers, that the East India Company was neutral only to Christianity, while still saluting idols and administering temple and mosque revenues. The Bombay Government pointed out the inconsistency of the Parsees’ request with their professed desire for education.. The Government of India declined to pass enactments at variance with Lord William Bentinck’s Regulation 7 of 1832, with the rights of civil and personal liberty, and the principles of the British Parliament. Dr. Wilson’s duty was difficult; he had to enlighten British opinion, but above all to reason in the spirit of the very toleration for which he pled with the misguided leaders of the Parsees. He did both in an able resume and exposition of the principles and the custom of toleration in British India, which may still be read with advantage side by side with the noble state-paper on the same subject which Lord Lawrence wrote after the close of the Mutiny of 1857, when he was Chief Commissioner of the Punjab.

In a brief Journal, kept for a few weeks at the end of this conflict, we obtain these glimpses into the daily life of Dr. Wilson, whose indomitable courage and vigorous constitution enabled him to pass through depression and sickness, still abounding in the work of his Master.

“2d June 1839.—Considerably indisposed. Letter to Mr. Little on tlie improvement of the death of Mr. Graham. Preached at the Poors’ Asylum. Examined the male boarders of the mission. Read account of the persecutions in Persia, given by Socrates and Theodoret, etc. Visited twice the house of Bai, the convert, to administer medicine and pray. Confined a good deal to my couch.

"4th.—Attended the examination of the Byculla Schools, where Sir James Carnac delivered his maiden speech, which, as far as missions are concerned, was very unpromising. When I heard him uttering great swelling words of vanity on this subject, which he does not understand, I thought of Him Who has on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, “King of kings and Lord of Lords,” and felt that our cause was safe, even though all the powers and principalities of earth and hell were to combine against it. Attended the Institution.

“5th.—Attended the Institution. Delivered an address in Marathee to my domestics and 40 girls of the Schools, in connection with the death of one of the boarders of the School for Poor and Destitute Native Girls, which took place in the morning, and delivered a lecture on the Testimony to the Divinity of Christ furnished by the Old Testament. The girl was six years old, and distinguished for her intelligence. When I told her to trust in and pray to Christ, she nodded assent, while the little tears rolled down her cheeks. Her disease was cholera.

“6th.—Much distressed ; but obtained some relief- after visiting Malabar Cliff.

“8th.—Attended the public levee of Sir James Carnac, because I view it a duty to render him official respect, and because I have no wish to nurse his prejudices against missionaries. Visited my sisters at Malabar Hill, who comforted me much in my afflictions.”

The numbers in the schools slowly returned to their former level, and even rose higher, though the Parsees long held aloof. While continuing his aggressive work with no less zeal and courtesy than before, Dr. Wilson soon proved that he had conquered the Parsee community not only by the weapons of discussion but by his lofty charity and his unconquerable disinterestedness. They trusted him; all of them who knew him loved him; and their merchant leaders, and even some of their most sacred priests, were his warm friends to the day of his death. In the field of Truth he knew no compromise; in the region of a courteous charity he was, like a greater, all things to all men that he might win some.

The growth of toleration has been so very slow in Christendom that we need not be surprised if persecution for conscience’ sake died hard among the Parsees even under English law and British rule. Not till 1843 did Hormasdjee succeed in rescuing his wife and daughter from the Punchayat. His wife they had married to another man, although she was believed to be desirous to live with her Christian husband. Such a case is now provided for by a law which permits divorce only after two years, during which the convert has failed to influence his wife. As the daughter grew up to girlhood her father applied to the Supreme Court, which at once made her over to him. This raised the ire of the Parsee leaders for the last time. Mr. Nesbit admirably managed the case, for Dr. Wilson had left Bombay on his first furlough. We must follow the course of his history till his departure for Syria and Europe.


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