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AMERICAN MISSION STATION AT OODOOVILLE, IN THE JAFFNA DISTRICT, CEYLON.
[Prepared by the Rev. Miron Winslow.]
The engraving on the opposite side represents the church and dwelling-house at Oodooville, one of the stations of the American mission in Ceylon. The former is 125 feet in length and 28 in breadth. At the farther end about 30 feet is taken off for a study and vestry. The walls are of brick, plaistered and whitewashed. They are low, and the roof is covered with palm-leaves. There is a decent pulpit. The natives sit on mats on the floor, which is of hard cement, and rises gradually toward the front door, so as to bring all the audience in plain view of the preacher. In a little tower, on the east gable-end, forming the front, is hung a small bell.
The front of the house, which is about 45 feet in length, is on a line with that of the church; but a verandah, or piazza, of ten feet projects forward; from which you look out upon a garden containing roses, jessamine, and myrtle, with figs, oranges, limes, pomegranates, and grapes. There are also in the enclosure cocoanut, areca-nut, mango, jock, and other fruit trees; which afford a pleasant shade, as well as agreeable fruit. The floor of the house is of cement, like that of the church, and there is no ceiling between it and the roof, which is tiled. There are no chimneys, and no glass windows. On the north side, in the midst of young cocoanut trees, are the buildings of the female central school, and on the west is a bungalow for a native preacher.
The Scenery .Around.
In front is an extended plain, which in one direction is open as far as the eye can reach, being only intersected here and there by low live-hedges of prickly pear and other shrubs. In one part of this plain the natives around burn their dead. The fires of the funeral pile are frequently seen from the house; but the distressing thought is not here awakened, as has been the case in most parts of India, on seeing them, that the living widow may be burning with the dead husband. During the rains, when the small dry grain is growing, this plain is clothed with rich verdure. On the borders, now ..., projecting into it or in the midst are native villages, which being assemblages of gardens, with large fruit trees of different kinds, or palmyra groves, appear almost like peninsulas or islands, the plain being open and level like a sea. The low mud houses of the natives are so embosomed in the groves as not to be seen at a distance, and the foliage of the trees, always een, gives constantly a cheering and lively aspect to the scene. The village of odooville is behind and on either side of the station; and the principal road from Jaffnapatam to Tillipally and the sea beyond, passes not far from the station in front. In travelling along this road the appearance of the house, in the midst of the garden, and the white front of the church, with its small tower rising among the green foliage of the trees, is very picturesque.
History of the Church and Premises.
This was a station of the Roman Catholics, when the Portuguese had possession of the island. They first built the church and house more than two centuries and a half ago. A little less than a century later, they were repaired by the Dutch, who attempted by governmental influence to introduce the Protestant faith into Ceylon, and succeeded in making many nominal converts. The Rev. Dr. Baldeus, one of the Dutch ministers, states that “in 1663 there were of Christian men and women in the kingdom of Jaffnapatam 62,558, not including the slaves whereof there were 2,587;” and he adds “the number of children in the schools in 1661 was 18,000.” Of the Oodooville station he says—
“About an hour from Telipoli (Tillipally) stands the church Oodewil, in a great plain, with an adjacent large stone house, formerly the habitation of a Franciscan friar. The soil is very luscious here, and fertile in rice, naceng, and other vegetables. The school-boys amount to 600, and the auditors to 900 or 1,000.”
The Dutch divided the whole district of Jaffna into parishes, and erected or repaired thirty-two churches; but for all these they had never more than three or four ministers, with some native assistants, and, perhaps, a schoolmaster at each church, Eventually they had only one minister, who made a visitation once a year, to celebrate Imarriages, baptise such children as could repeat the creed, the ten commandments, and a small catechism, and administer the Lord's supper. There was a strict union between church and state, and an assent to the Helvetic confession of faith was necessary to holding any office of profit or trust under government. The number of nominal Christians, therefore, became large; but they had little knowledge of Christianity, almost no instruction being given even to the children in the schools, who were only prepared for the visitation of the minister; and still less did they feel the power of the gospel. They were at heart idolaters; and when the English took possession of the island in 1796, and allowed the natives the free exercise of their own superstitions, the churches were immediately deserted, and left to go to ruins; the heathen temples were rebuilt; and almost every vestige of Christianity was soon lost. There is now and then an old man to be found, who will acknowledge that he was baptised; but he is ashamed to have it known, has probably forgotten the name given to him in baptism, and has no knowledge of Christianity, except an imperfect recollection of the “Dutch catechism.” The revolt to heathenism was doubtless the stronger, because the natives have constant intercourse with the heathen on the continent, speaking the same language, from whom they descended.
Occupation by the Mission.
This station was taken up in 1820. The “large stone house” had then become a small brick one, and as brick walls are more perishable than stone, they were . much broken by the intruding banian, and covered with ivy. Both house and churc had stood a quarter of a century without a roof and no wood or iron-work remained about them. They were overgrown with briars and thorns, among which were serpents and scorpions, and were supposed to be the residence of evil spirits. Near the house stood a flower-tree to which, it was said, according to the custom of the natives, many evil spirits had been nailed up. When sickness prevails in a village, which they think is caused by an evil spirit, they offer bloody sacrifices to allure the spirit, and these getting him into their power, they conduct him to some cross-road or forest and let him go, or nail him up to a tree with various ceremonies. At Tillipally there was such a tree, which Mr. Spaulding, contrary to the remonstrances of the natives, cut down. They said the air, that night, was filled with the noise of the spirits thus let loose, and as his horse died soon after, they affirmed that these spirits had killed him, not having power over the missionary! Their dread of evil spirits, which they suppose fill the air, keeps them in constant fear, as they have no idea of a superintending providence. They are in slavery to Satan—lying in the arms of the wicked one.
The church was covered in 1824, when it was dedicated to God in presence of a very large native congregation of the most respectable people in the neighborhood.
Commencement and Progress of the Schools.
.Native Free Schools.—An account was given of these, in the Quarterly Paper No. 19. They have prospered at this station, so that for several years there have been from 15 to 20 schools; and from 600 to 800 scholars, about 100 of them girls. The first was commenced under a tamarind tree, the boys sitting round the master on the ground, and making the letters of the alphabet with the finger in the sand. At first their books were all made of strips of the ola, or palm leaf, on which they write with an iron stile; but now they have printed books, especially tracts and portions of the Scripture. About half of the schoolmasters, who were at first all heathen, have become Christians.
Boarding Schools for Boys and Girls—were commenced here as at the other stations with difficulty. For some time none could be induced to brave the ridicule of living with Christians. At length several boys from a school in one of the neighboring villages, combined to keep each other in countenance, and came in a body to be received, bringing a man with them to act as cook for the establishment. Of these Mrs. Winslow wrote at the time, Sept. 22, 1820–"The last week, I may well call the pleasantest of my missionary life. On Monday morning one of our day scholars came with twelve boys to live with us. Soon after, a respectable man
brought two sons, and gave them to Mr. W. and myself with much ceremony. He placed a hand of each in ours and said, “They are no longer my children but yours, you are their father and mother.' I could not but say to Mr. W., as we looked at them to night, seated cross-legged on the floor, each with a plate of rice and curry before him, ready to help himself with his right hand instead of a spoon or knife, as soon as a blessing should be asked,—could our friends at home see these children some of the best feelings of their hearts would be drawn forth.” The boy who came at the head of this company afterwards received the name of Rufus W. Bailey. He has been for two or three years a member of the church, and a useful assistant in the mission. Girls could not at first be induced to attend at all, as it is disgraceful for a female to learn to read and write. One small girl, the daughter of a domestic, came and lived with her mother. Then two girls from the immediate neighborhood came occasionally, as day scholars, to learn to sew. One night it was so stormy that they could not go home, and one of them, being very hungry, ventured to take her supper with the children at the station. Her father was a priest at a “devils'-temple” near the mission-house. He was very angry; but his daughter having thus, in some measure, lost caste he agreed in compliance with her earnest desire to give her up to the missionaries. She was named Betsey Pomeroy; was the first convert in the school, and is now a christian wife and mother. In 1823 there were here 32 boys and eight girls fed, clothed, and educated at the expense of the mission. Female Central School.-This school was formed in 1823, the boys being sent to other stations and girls taken in their place. It commenced with 29 pupils. The number continued about 30 or 40 for several years. There are now more than fifty girls connected with it, from six to sixteen years of age. One half of each day, they are under the immediate direction of the missionary's wife, who superintends their sewing, and examines them in some of their studies. In the morning, at sunrise, they are assembled in the church for prayers, and in the evening with the mission family. They take their food, which is “rice and curry” twice a day and rice and buttermilk once, after the native fashion, with the hand, from a brass plate placed before them on the floor, and their dress is in the native style (a strip of cloth round the waist, a yard wide and a yard or two in length) except that all the larger girls wear also a calico jacket. From this school, 24 have already joined the church none of whom have disgraced their profession. Twelve of them have been married to Christian husbands, and are shedding around them something of the light and loveliness of a Christian example in the midst of benighted neighborhoods, where the heathen wife is the slave rather than the companion of her husband, not being allowed to eat with him, but after him; not to walk beside, but behind him; and is always exposed to be beaten at his pleasure. To elevate the female character and to bring forward intelligent christian wives and mothers is a most important means of introducing Christianity among these heuthen.
.Allention to Religion.
In 1821, a little more than a year after the station was formed, a few adults became serious. One of these was a respectable woman from the neighborhood. She soon gave evidence of receiving the truth in the love of it. Three other adults also embraced Christianity. These four were received to communion at the same time, on Sabbath morning, April 21st, 1822, in the presence of a large native congregation. The sermon and most of the addresses were in Tamul. It was affecting to see the candidates, who had often prostrated themselves before dumb idols, after giving their assent to the articles of faith, come forward to the communion table, and kneel down to receive baptism in the name of the living God, some of them weeping; and then to see three of them bring their children, five in number, and dedicate them to the Lord.
In the revivals of religion, at all the stations, in 1824 and 1830, this station shared. At the close of the former, when a part of the converts were received, to the number of 41 at one time, 10 were from this station. After the latter 34 were admitted at a communion season held here, in presence of many heathen. In all, down to o there had been received to the church 54 natives, and 33 children had been
* Memoirs of Mrs. Harriet L. Winslow now publishing.
October 20, 1834. We started about eight in the morning, the bishop proposing to find a servant in a village near the city. He must be an ecclesiastic and able to read, because two at least are required in saying their prayers, there being frequent responses; besides, he would like to perform mass at Tabreez occasionally. We rode about twelve miles across soil but little cultivated, the mountain closing down near the lake. There the plain of Oormiah begins to expand towards the southwest to a vast extent. It is almost perfectly level, extremely fertile, highly cultivated, irrigated by several streams, and covered with gardens, orchards, and villages. The city is quite to the southwest extremity of the plain. It was nearly dark when we reached it. The bishop conducted us directly to the Nestorian corner of the city, and gave us rooms for lodging in the church, and took an adjoining one
for himself—The church is a large edifice, built of stone and brick, situated on an elevated spot, but all, save the roof, sunk in the ground. The building is divided into several small apartments, all of which are entered by very small doors. The church itself is a room of considerable size. We found in it no images or pictures; but its entire walls are most untastefully, not to say ridiculously, hung with old shawls, pieces of calico, etc., of every conceivable color and description, for the purpose of ornament. The church is surrounded by a very ancient grave. some of whose stones are very arge, and all are inscribed with Syriac characters. In the centre is a beautiful fountain, surrounded by wide-spreading shade trees. The city of Oormiah is the ancient Thebarma, and is said to be the birthplace of Zoroaster. It is situated on an elevation of ground, about ten miles southwest of the lake, and within about ten miles of the mountain. On eve side are gardens of vast extent, o ed and interspersed with shade trees of such size and in such numbers as to give the whole vicinity much the appearance of a great American forest. It is encompassed by a high wall and a broad deep ditch. The number of its inhabitants is about twenty thousand. Vast multitudes, some say one half of the population, were carried off by the plague that raged here four years ago. Of the inhabitants about fifty are Jews," two hundred are Nestorians, (the Nestorians reside mostly in villages near,) and the
* The language of the Jews, in Oormiah, so much resembles that of the Nestorians, that the two people can very well understand each other. This Jewish dialect is seid to differ considerably from the one spoken in Turkey. The language common to all classes in this province is a Taitar dialect of the Turkish.
rest are Mohammedans. There were a few Armenians formerly in the city and in the provinces, but they followed away the Russians. The city, within, has a very venerable and rather inviting appearance. It has much broader streets, more shade trees and gardens, and a greater air of general comfort, than any city I have seen in Asia. In the extensive bazars, we noticed some of the best fruit I ever beheld. European cloths and other goods have also found their way there to a considerable extent. On our arrival at the city we were informed that the patriarch, Elias, was in a village four miles distant, but was expected to depart the next day. I therefore despatched our Armenian attendant immediately to apprize him of my being in the city, and of my wish to visit him. 21. The Armenian returned, saying that the patriarch would deter his departure one day for the sake of seeing me. About the same time Mar Gabriel, the bishop resident in the village of Ardishai, called to visit me. He is a young man, about twenty-five years of age, of a careless air, yet of a pleasant, intelligent, energetic countenance. I stated to him the object of my coming here, and he responded a most hearty welcome and pledged his own utmost co-operation, in the accomplishment of that object. “The priests of the city, in whose church we then were, do not receive me,” he said, “with much cordiality, as you probably noticed. Being metropolitan of this province, I recently excommunicated them for marrying men to two wives; which you know,” he added, appealing to me, “is forbidden in the gospel.” Sanctioned lygamy is not prevalent among the estorians. I gave Mar Gabriel some of my New Testaments and spelling-books, with which he seemed exceedingly delighted, and he departed, uttering some comlaints against the Mohammedans. The R. are all very ready to ascribe their present degradation to Mohammedan oppression; and, to a great extent, it is unquestionably true that they are sorely oppressed. Besides being wantonly stripped of their honest earnings, seizure of their children and coercive conversion of them to the Mussulman faith, are not unfrequent. Two instances of this kind had just occurred in neighboring villages. In one, a young girl of noted attractions was seized by twenty armed men, carried to the city, and delivered to a Mussulman, who, hearing of her beauty, had wished to marry her, but
could not while she remained a Christian. Thus torn from home and friends, she was frightened into a profession of the faith of the prophet, and compelled to become the wife of a Mohammedan. The bishops of the province were endeavoring to rescue the girl, but had little expectation of success. Here, you know, “Judgment is turned away, backward, and justice stands afar off.” In the other instance, a boy of sixteen was seized and compelled to profess himself a Mohammedan. As soon as an opportunity occurred, he absconded, fled into Russia, and renounced his Mohammedan profession. On the road to Oormiah we overtook this boy, slyly making his way home. Under our protection, he reached his native village, but was in constant apprehension of losing his life. Mr. Haas, being pleased with his appearance and compassionating his condition, brought him to Tabreez with him. In addition to these seizures, Persian law holds out a very strong though diabolical inducement to nominal Christians here to become Mohammedans. The act of professing the Mohammedan religion, entitles a Christian to the immediate possession of all the property belonging to his family relatives. Notwithstanding the force of this motive, however, to the unsanctified heart, the horror" of abandoning the Christian faith is so great, that instances of voluntary conversion to Mohammedanism are rare. The Nestorians informed me, that they had procured a repeal, so far as they were concerned, of the statute above referred to respecting the tenure of property from Abbas Meerza sometime before his death; but that the governor of Oormiah, or his secretaries, had always so managed as to prevent their deriving any benefit from the repeal. I found it ex
* An old widowed Armenian woman, in Tabreez, who has been for some time a nurse in my family. had carefully accumulated $400, by washing for European gentlemen. Her son, a prodigal fellow. importuned her for the money; but she refused to let him have it, until, to secure it at any rate, and retaliate on his mother, he professed himself a Mohammedan. He was immediately hailed as a monster, at every turn, by his own people; besides, the act itself, on more consideration, so frightened him that he recanted, gave up his pursuit of the money, and came back to the Christian faith. Being liable to lose his head for the recantation, and unable to conceal himself longer, he fled a few weeks ago into Russia. Persian policy, may be well illustrated by perusing the history of this old woman's money. She committed it to a female relative for concealment. A son of this relative learning where the money was deposited, stole the whole sum. The owner arraigned him before the governor of the city, who recovered the money and punished the thief; but said that an old wash woman had no right to be the possessor of so much money; he therefore took one half to himself and restored her the other. This happened last weak.