« AnteriorContinuar »
The Syrians—Number of Christians in Travancore— The first intro
duction of Christianity to the Malabar coast–The legend as to St. Thomas-Not invented by Roman Catholics-King Alfred's Embassy Knâu Thômâ — Cosmas's account - Frumentius Eusebius on Pantænus-Dr. Burton as to the term India'-St. Thomas or St. Bartholomew ?-Syrians' connection with EdessaSyrian annals--Mar Gabriel's account—St. Thomas the Apostle of Edessa--Respect due to the Syrian tradition as to St. Thomas —Two classes of Syrians—Were the Syrians of Malabar ever Nestorians ?-Nestorian and Jacobite bishops - Doctrines of the modern Syrians—Their liturgies—Reform.
In entering upon a sketch of the Syrian Church, which is so interesting a feature in this part of India, my reader will naturally first inquire as to the proportion this band of Christians bears to the whole population of Travancore. The caste, or race, of Syrians forms probably not less than one-sixth of the population. But they are now divided into Syrians and Syro-Romanists, the latter comprising those Syrians who became Papists in the time of the Portuguese under the terrible oppression of Menezes, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Goa. There are at the present time not less than 120,000 Syrians in Travancore and about as many Roman Catholics, nearly all of whom
Number of Christians in Travancore.
are Syro-Romanists. Among the nearly 10,000 Christians in the missions of the Church Missionary Society, probably not less than 5,000 are from the Syrians. The Christians of all denominations form not less than onefifth of the population ; for we must add to the above about 30,000 converts from among the heathen in the missions of the London Missionary Society in South Travancore. I think we shall not be far wrong if we take the present population of Travancore as 1,400,000, of which 280,000 are professing Christians.
It will be perceived also that the province of Travancore, though small, being about 160 miles long by an average of 40 in breadth, is densely populated. It contains not less than 200 to the square mile. And if we leave out of the calculation the mountainous, and therefore very thinly populated portion of the country, the strip of land between the more hilly parts and the sea will be found to carry a population of from 300 to 400 to the square mile.
How was Christianity firet introduced into Malabar ? I have already hinted that I incline to accept the tradition of the Syrians themselves, that the gospel was brought to the coast in the first instance by the apostle St. Thomas, as at least as worthy of acceptation as anything that can be said against it. Mr. Hough, the most voluminous writer on Christianity in India, has given his verdict against the popular belief. And it seems to be the fashion
of Church historians to follow in his steps. authority of the English Church said to me one day, • Oh, it is only a legend got up by the Jesuits.' Sir John Kaye, in Christianity in India,' published in 1859, says, “ There is really no authority in its favour to divest it of all the attributes of fable. But what is ó authority'in such a question? There are, it is true, no historians of the Western Church who distinctly say that St. Thomas preached in Malabar ; else there would be, probably, no controversy about it. But this is a case for the sifting of collateral evidence. And for this we summon the authorities of the west as well as the east. And if we can show on good authority that there is a high probability that St. Thomas did preach in India, it is all we need for the support of our legend.
The Roman Catholics have not invented the legend. Maffeus may indeed have added to the tale his embellishment of miracles, but the tale itself was Indian. The legend of St. Thomas's martyrdom in India was known in our own country so far back as the ninth century. The account, as given by Gibbon, of the visit of the ambassadors of King Alfred to the shrine of St. Thomas, we cannot blot from history. Sir John Kaye says, This story is related on such good authority that I am slow to pronounce it apocryphal. It would seem to be at least partly true.' And even if we suppose, with some, that the