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BY ADAM CLARKE, LL. D. F. A. S.
"Therefore, seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not - For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," 2 Cor. iv. 1, 5
A Compendium of Scriptural Knowledge: Containing a General View of the Contents of the Old and New Testaments; the Principles of Christianity derived from them, and the Reasons on which they are founded: with Directions How To Read Most Profitably The Holy Bible Originally drawn up for the instruction of two High Priests of Budhoo from the island of Ceylon. By Adam Clarke, LL. D. F. A. S.
"Thus saith the Lord; Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls," Jer. vi. 16.
The following tract was originally drawn up, as the title expresses it, for the instruction of two high priests of Budhoo; of whom a few words may be necessary. In the year 1818, when the Hon. Sir Alexander Johnston, chief judge, of Ceylon, was obliged to return to England on account of his lady's ill health, the two priests in question, Sree Goona Munhi Rat'hana, and his cousin Dherma Rama, high priests of the temple of Doodandhuve, near Galle, in the island of Ceylon, applied to him with earnest entreaties to permit them to accompany him to England, that they might study Christianity in the place where it was properly understood, and where the people lived according to its precepts. This strange proposition, coming from two high priests of considerable learning, who by such a step must cut themselves off from all the emoluments of their temple for ever, and from all their acquaintance and kindred, did not a little surprise him. He saw plainly that they must be sincere,; and their readiness to abandon all secular good, without the smallest prospect of gaining any thing in return but spiritual advantages, was the proof. They had for a considerable time suspected the sufficiency, and even truth, of their own religious system; and having met with the New Testament, printed in Cingalese by the Wesleyan missionaries at Colombo, they carefully read it; and were greatly struck with the benevolent character and wisdom of Christ, and the dignified simplicity and purity of his religion. But, as they only saw divine things through a glass darkly, they did not like to avow their doubts and suspicions on the system of Budhooism, till they had examined the subject more minutely, and consulted the teachers of Christianity on the various doctrines it proposes.
After much hesitation, Sir Alexander consented to take, them under his care: - and on their arrival in England they were kindly received by the Wesleyan Missionary Society, who, in conjunction with Sir Alexander, desired me to undertake their instruction. I did so; and in doing it encountered many difficulties, which, because the good hand of my God was upon me, I surmounted; and, after twenty months' instruction under my own roof, I was fully convinced that they were sincere converts to the Christian religion, and that their minds were under a very gracious influence. At their own earnest desire I admitted them into the church of Christ by baptism.
Expecting that they might soon return to India, and being well aware that there were several points of Christian knowledge on which their information must necessarily be imperfect, I thought it best to embody and systematize those instructions which I had frequently given them, that they might be able at all times to have recourse, to them, and be the better qualified to speak with their enemies in the gate, of whom they expected no inconsiderable, numbers both in rank and learning. I have done what I intended, and made a copy for each to take with him on his journey; not having even the slightest thoughts of committing it to the press: but their own entreaties, as well as those of several judicious friends, who thought it might be useful as a tract for the foreign missions, and a profitable manual to many at home, have induced me, my own judgment on the whole concurring, to give it by means of the press a wider circulation.
That I see nothing in the Holy Scriptures but what is consistent with what is commonly called the orthodox faith, will not surprise those who know me: -- I quarrel with no man on account of the peculiarities of his religious creed; I believe my own to be the truth of God; and am, as I have long been, a hearty well wisher to all mankind, a servant of the church, and a friend to the public.
London, May 9th, 1820