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idols, refused to have their names written down at that time.”
Nor do the missionaries themselves make any attempt to conceal that their success at first was very limited, and their prospects far from encouraging. They admit the accuracy of the representation made by a traveller several
years after they had commenced their labours, that the congregation in Otaheite did not exceed fifty persons. At the conclusion of divine service, Otoo the king asked the stranger whether it was all true that the preachers taught. The latter replied in the affirmative, assuring him that it was strictly so, according to his own belief, and the conviction of all the wiser and better part of his countrymen.
“ He demanded of me where Jehovah lived : I pointed to the heavens. He said he did not believe it. His brother was, if possible, still worse : they said it was all falsehood."* Indeed, nothing is more remarkable in the characters of the meritorious men who first visited the southern hemisphere with the gospel in their hands, than the perseverance which they have manifested in defiance of much suffering and repeated disappointments. That many who received the truth from their lips were not duly qualified for the full appreciation of its benefits cannot be denied ; but no one who has perused the record of their exertions, perils, and afflictions, will ascribe the deficiency to any defect of zeal on their part, wherever they were permitted to exercise their ministry.
Under such impressions, both in regard to the sincerity of the missionaries and the good they have effected, it is not without pain that we advert to less favourable opinions entertained by writers whose sentiments cannot fail to have much weight with the public. One, after relating that he had been present at a religious assembly in Otaheite, enters into a comparison of the present state of the island with what it was before the introduction of Christianity, and arrives at a conclusion
* Turnbull's Voyage round the World in the Years 18001804 (3 vols 8vo, Lond. 1805), vol. iii. p. 10.
very unfavourable to the wisdom andeven to the motives of the English teachers. The religion they have established is not, he maintains, that which is revealed in the New Testament, while it has, according to his views, been the fertile source of contention, deceit, and hypocrisy. Having gained over to their doctrine the chief ruler of a district, “ the conversion acted upon the peaceful population like a spark thrown into a powder magazine, and was followed by a fearful explosion. The old temples were destroyed ; every memorial of the former worship defaced ; and whoever would not adopt the new creed was put to a cruel death. With the zeal for making proselytes, the rage of tigers took possession of a people once so gentle. Streams of blood flowed; whole races were exterminated ; and many resolutely met the death they preferred to the renunciation of their ancient faith. Some few escaped by flight the recesses of the lofty mountains, where they lived in seclusion, faithful to the gods of their ancestors." True Christianity, he remarks, and a liberal government, might have soon given to this people, endued by nature with the seeds of every social virtue, a rank among civilized nations. Under such a blessed influence, the arts and sciences would soon have taken root, the intellect of the natives would have expanded, and a just estimation of all that is good and beautiful would have refined their manners and ennobled their hearts. Europe would soon have admired, perhaps envied, Otaheite; but the religion taught by the missionaries is not, he repeats, genuine Christianity, though it may possibly comprehend some of its doctrines but half understood by the teachers themselves.
The same author admits, indeed, that the teaching of the missionaries has, with a great deal of evil, effected some good. It has abolished heathen superstitions and an irrational worship, but he maintains that it has introduced new errors in their stead. It has restrained the vices of theft and incontinence, but it has given birth to bigotry, hypocrisy, and a hatred of all other modes of faith. It has put an end to the avowed sacrifice of men,
but many more human beings, says he, have been actually sacrificed to it than ever were to their heathen gods. The bloody persecution instigated by the missionaries has performed the office of a desolating plague. “ I really believe,” he concludes, “ that these pious people were themselves shocked at the consequences of their zeal ; but they soon consoled themselves, and have ever continued to watch with the most vigilant severity over the maintenance of every article of their faith. Hence the former industry, and the joyous buoyancy of spirits, have been changed for continual praying, and meditating upon things which the teachers understand as little as the taught."
Similar opinions given by other maritime adventurers have been re-echoed by the public journals; and an impression has been very generally produced, that the European teachers have to answer for more evil than will ever be compensated by their most zealous services. Alluding to Otaheite, one of them observes, that “this fine romantic island appears, morally speaking, to be in a most deplorable condition. The missionaries have contrived to obtain an entire ascendency, but their labours have as yet been productive of little good.” It is maintained that these pious men have overshot the mark which they ought to have aimed at; and, by attempting too much, have failed in that which, with more patience and less ambition, they might have accomplished. They have ostensibly succeeded in christianizing nearly the whole population, who have been generally inspired with contempt for their former superstitions. But, it is alleged, that, in eradicating these, they have failed to substitute any better principle in their stead ; and that the only effect produced by the change has been to degrade our religion to the level of the most brutish idolatry, without making the slightest advance towards raising
* Kotzebue's Voyage round the World in the Years 18231826 (2 vols 12mo, Lond. 1830), vol. i. p. 159.
their unhappy proselytes to the rank of Christians. Hence the authority to which we now refer maintains, that the people are still as much barbarians as ever they were : nay, that they are worse, having borrowed from civilisation nothing but the vices by which it is dishonoured, and exhibiting in their character a deplorable union of all that is most corrupt and profligate in the two opposite states of society which are thus brought into juxtaposition. Drunkenness is universal ; the late king died of intoxication, and numbers of the degraded people terminate their existence in the same way. The effects of this indulgence upon savage natures, and the scenes to which it gives rise, may be easily imagined. The immediate consequence is, the most abject wretchedness, together with all the crimes which invariably belong to the lowest condition of human existence. It is justly remarked, that the first step towards civilizing a people is to form them to habits of industry, and if possible to create in their minds a desire to better their condition. But nothing of this kind, it is asserted, has as yet been seriously attempted. The missionaries seem more disposed to act the part of legislators than instructors of the Otaheitans. They have, says their accuser, been at infinite pains to get up a mock parliament; but hitherto they appear to have found no leisure for the more obscure and humble labours which can alone prepare a people for receiving political institutions.*
To those who have read with any degree of attention the several records of missionary labour in the South Sea, it must be manifest, that the Russian commander, besides yielding to a strong prejudice by which, perhaps unconsciously, he had allowed his mind to be warped, has fallen into some important mistakes. For example, his
Edinburgh Review, vol. liii. p. 217. It is deserving of notice, that most of the leading periodicals have formed unfavour. able judgments respecting the character and doings of the South Sea missionaries. Not only the journal now quoted, but also the Quarterly Review and the Westminster have assumed a hostile attitude towards those painful labourers.
statement that Christianity was established by force in Otaheite, derives no support from any authentic narrative. By what means, it has been asked, could a few unarmed men, encumbered with their wives and children, dependent at every moment for their lives upon the disposition of the inhabitants towards them, so far influence the king of the island and his adherents to adopt a system of religion opposed to all their hereditary opinions and habits, as to induce them to engage in its propagation, and the others to submit to its precepts ? The missionaries, as their own journals show, were long exposed to violence and rapacity. Turnbull, who dwelt many months at Matavai some years after their arrival, relates that, besides the numerous sufferings they endured at the hands of the natives, they encountered many hardships and dangers inflicted by their own countrymen. Certain Europeans, at that time resident in the island, instead of assisting these worthy persons in their forlorn situation, took a malicious pleasure in counteracting their efforts, in misrepresenting their views, and even in stirring up the inhabitants to the most furious outrages. After remarking that the preachers lived together in the greatest affection, and presented an example of unremitting industry, he adds, “ their situation is by no means so comfortable as many of their friends may be inclined to imagine. Their life is a life of contest, hardship, and disappointment; like their holy master, they have to preach to the deaf, and exhibit their works to the blind. *
Facts, which cannot be contested, will be found to prove, that Christianity, so far from being planted in the islands of the South Sea by violent means, was introduced through much patience and tribulation. The missionaries were the victims, not the authors, of persecution, which they sustained with fortitude, and, if occasion offered, requited with kindness. In the summer of 1815, certain idolatrous chiefs at Pare and Matavai joined
* Voyage round the World, vol. ii. p. 85.