"The Star in the East"

A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. James,

Bristol, England, Sunday, February 26, 1809


Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D.

New York: Williams & Whiting, 1809


"For we have seen his Star in the East, 

and are come to worship Him."

Matt. ii.2

Born in a small village, Cambuslang near Glasgow, Scotland, Claudius Buchanan (1766-1815) distinguished himself as chaplain and vice-provost of Fort William College, Calcutta, India.  Marquis of Wellesley and the officers of the East India Company established The College at Fort William, April 10, 1801, to instruct the Company's English junior civil servants for three years in the languages of the Far East.   As evident from a book published at the Serampore Mission Press, the College had a bookplate and stamp.

At the age of sixteen, Buchanan entered the University of Glasgow, but left two years later.  After working in various positions from age eighteen to age twenty-five, Buchanan enrolled in Queens College, University of Cambridge in 1791.  At the age of twenty-nine in 1795, he earned his B.A. degree and became an ordained deacon in the Church of England that same year.  Though he studied theology as his primary subject at Queens College, he earned prizes in both mathematics and classics.  Queens College regards Buchanan as an eminent graduate as "author of Christian Researches in Asia, and for ever memorable for his unceasing efforts to propagate Christianity in the east."  

In 1796, Buchanan was ordained as a priest in the Church of England and received an appointment as an East India Company chaplain to Bengal.  Later, Buchanan received two Doctor of Divinity degrees: one from the University of Glasgow and another from the University of Cambridge.  Buchanan died in 1815 at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, England.  In 1817, Hugh Pearson, M.A., of St. John's College, Oxford, published Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D.

In India, Buchanan and William Carey became friends, and Buchanan and the Fort William College Provost, Rev. David Brown, recommended that Carey be appointed as a professor at Fort William College in 1801.  In a letter to Dr. Ryland on June 15, 1801 (recorded in Eustace Carey, Memoir of William Carey, D.D., Boston, 1836; Page 302    Page 303    Page 304    Page 305    Page 306), Carey rehearsed his appointment to the College as a lecturer in Bengalee and Sanscrit.  Carey's work at Fort William began on May 4, 1801.

In 1807 at Fort William College, the position of vice-provost, along with several faculty appointments, was discontinued.  As a chaplain in the East India Company, Buchanan could participate in direct religious efforts.  During 1807-1808, he toured south and west India during which time he investigated Hindu social practice and the Christian churches already established in those areas.  Of particular interest to Buchanan was the translation of the Bible into the languages of India for the purpose of missionary outreach.  Returning to England in 1808 after an eleven year residence in India, Buchanan, in 1811, published the notes of his travels in India.  

Buchanan was a contributing figure in the 1813 Parliamentary struggle over the conditions of the East India Company's charter renewal.  Buchanan and others, including William Wilberforce an eminent social reformer and member of Parliament, 1780-1825, were leading voices for the establishment of an Anglican episcopate in India and freedom for missionary outreach in India apart from the East India Company's control.

In his 1809 sermon "The Star in the East," Buchanan reveals his long-held view that Christianity should pervade the world.  The similarity of Buchanan's theology--particularly Bible translation as a means of Christian missions--to William Carey's theology is evident.  The popularity of Buchanan's sermon is documented in Pearson's Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D.  (p. 340) and was reprinted in The Works of the reverend Claudius Buchanan, LL.D Comprising His eras of light, light of the world, and star in the east to which is added CHRISTIAN RESEARCHES IN ASIA: With notices of the Translations of the Scriptures into the Oriental Languages (Boston: Samuel T. Armstrong, 1812).


Near the conclusion of the sermon, he says, 

Let us now recapitulate the evidences noticed in this discourse, which encourage us to believe that the time is come for disseminating the knowledge of Christianity in the heathen world.

1.  The facility with which Christianity is propagated generally in Asia, wherever the attempt has been made.

2.  The peculiar success that has attended our own endeavours to promote the religion of the Bible.

3.  The conversion of illustrious persons in Asia, by means of the Bible alone.

4.  The translation of the Bible into almost all the languages of Asia; promising, as it were, a second promulgation of Christianity to the East.

5.  The general contemplation of the prophecies in Europe and Asia.

6.  The general commotion among the bands of infidelity, who are hostile to the design, both in Europe and Asia.

7.  The consent of good men, in all Christian nations, to promote the design.  And,

8.  The preservation of our own country, to carry on the work, amidst the ruin or infidelity of other nations" (Page 31 Page 32).

"The Star in the East"

A Sermon Preached in the Parish Church of St. James,

Bristol, England, Sunday, February 26, 1809


Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D.


Front Cover    Title Page

Page 3    Page 4    Page 5    Page 6    Page 7    Page 8    Page 9   Page 10   

Page 11    Page 12    Page 13    Page 14    Page 15    Page 16    Page 17   

Page 18    Page 19    Page 20    Page 21    Page 22    Page 23    Page 24   

Page 25    Page 26    Page 27    Page 28    Page 29    Page 30

Page 31    Page 32    Page 33    Page 34    Page 35    Page 36



For a critical review of Buchanan and his sermon, see:


Karen Chauncey, "The Star in the East: the Controversy over Christian Missions

 to India, 1805-1813."  Historian (Spring, 1998).





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Created:    December 3, 2001        Updated:    June13, 2003