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where connexions, character, health, and all the other considerations which affect the interests of man are known to exercise the greatest influence, the victim of intemperance is seldom seen to achieve his emancipation from its ignominious thraldom. It will not therefore surprise any one to learn that in this respect reformation has not been complete. Pomare, the first royal convert, it has been already noticed, fell a sacrifice to that debasing habit, which, notwithstanding his full conviction of its evils, he could never entirely overcome: and at one period, so dreadful were its ravages that, but for the check interposed by our sanctifying religion, the whole race would probably have been exterminated.*
The triumph of the gospel has been more conspicuous in regard to that leading virtue which is the pledge and safeguard of domestic comfort, the foundation of all regular society, and the source of all the endearing relationships of life. No one can read the descriptions of the early voyagers without a mixture of compassion and disgust at the licentious scenes introduced into their narratives ; and, though the writers in general may not have been disposed to darken beyond necessity the shades of the picture, some of them were constrained to declare that the “ excesses were incredible.” To the first missionaries, accordingly, no bar appeared so insuperable as the loose notions which every where prevailed in regard to the requisitions of the seventh commandment. The effect was the same on the minds of the early converts themselves, and clouded their anticipations as to the success of the new religion. “ You may,” said one of the more intelligent among them, “induce the people to discontinue murdering their infants, offering human sacri. fices, and practising demon-worship. You may induce them to burn their idols, embrace your faith, attend your prayers, learn your books, and possibly even refrain from drunkenness and theft; but the preservation of female virtue, union in marriage according to christian
Vindication of the South Sea Missions, p. 88.
precepts, and conjugal fidelity, will never be obtained.” On this important point, however, where reformation was the most hopeless, success has been the most complete. No sooner was the authority of the Redeemer recognised, even through the somewhat obscure medium in which his character and offices were conveyed, than the more offensive of the abominations disappeared; the virtue of chastity was inculcated and maintained ; christian marriage was instituted, and the inviolable obligations of the bond piously acknowledged. This change, it is added, has been, under the Divine blessing, effected entirely by the exertions of christian missionaries, not only without any external assistance, but in the face of the determined opposition of many from whom they might have expected both countenance and aid.
Nor have the teachers confined their benevolent views to spiritual benefits and mental improvement; they have also introduced many useful arts, and instructed the natives how to profit by the rich gifts which Providence has bestowed upon them, in a fertile glebe and most genial climate. Besides the culture of the sugar-cane already mentioned, they have taught the best methods of producing crops of tobacco, coffee, cotton, and other valuable commodities, to which the soil not less than the temperature of the atmosphere is remarkably favourable. They have, moreover, made them acquainted with most of the mechanical arts. In Otaheite more especially are found persons who can prosecute with considerable success the trades of carpenter, mason, smith, turner, cottonspinner, and weaver. It is readily admitted, at the same time, that industry and the love of labour are not a spontaneous fruit among the islanders of the South Sea. Turnbull, who knew their characters well, remarked long ago that, if their land is fertile and their sky serene, their physical temperament is so indolent as to render these natural advantages totally unproductive. The missionaries, he remarks, possess a public garden, very well stocked and cultivated, and the greater part of them a private one not much inferior. It seems natural to
imagine that its beauty and utility would have acted as a stimulus to the natives to imitate their exertions ; “ the indolence of the Otaheitans is beyond the cure of any common remedy.'
But it is admitted, even by those least friendly to the missionaries, that the spirit of religion, combined with a desire to improve their secular affairs, has roused many of them from theirconstitutional torpor. Kotzebue narrates, that when his frigate entered the bay of Matavai, numerous boats, laden with all kinds of fruits, provisions, and other articles of merchandise, put off from the shore. With their wares on their backs, the natives climbed merrily up the sides of the ship, and the deck was soon transformed into a busy market, where all was fun and frolic. Alluding to their houses, he relates, that among the thickets of fruit-trees were seen the dwellings of the happy inhabitants of this great pleasure-ground, built of bamboos and covered with large leaves, standing each in its little garden ; “ but to our great astonishment, the stillness of death reigned among them; and even when the sun stood high in the heavens, no one was to be seen. At length we obtained, from the boat sent off to us at break of day with provisions, an explanation of this enig
The inhabitants of Otaheite were celebrating the Sunday, on which account they did not leave their houses. The loud prayer reached my ears as I approached their dwellings; all the doors were closed, and not even the children allowed to enjoy the beauty of the morning.” On this occasion the author notices two facts which illustrate very favourably the beneficial effects of missionary labour; namely, that though above a hundred of the inhabitants were on board his ship, nothing was stolen, and that on the first day he saw no females. He adds, “when we were afterwards occa
Turnbull's Voyage, vol. iii. p. 18. Captain Beechey observes (Narrative, vol. i. p. 213), “ that the indolence of these people has ever been notorious, and has been a greater bar to the success of the missionaries than their previous faith.”
sionally visited by the women, they always behaved with the greatest propriety."
Mr Hoffman, who was naturalist to the expedition, observed among the natives an instance of similar respect for the Lord's-day. Having undertaken a journey into the interior of Otaheite, to visit the wonderful lake of Wahiria, he procured an escort consisting of such individuals as were acquainted with the route. The following day being Sunday, Tauru, immediately on rising, repeated a long prayer, and then read a chapter of the New Testament, of which at least one copy was to be found in every hut.” After a good breakfast, the philosopher wished to proceed, but his guides were not to be moved, and threats and entreaties were equally unavailing. They assured him that a continuation of the journey would be a profanation of the Sabbath, a crime for which they would be punished, should it come to the knowledge of the missionaries. The next morning they made no objection to setting out.*
Such facts prove that the gospel has not been preached to the Georgian islanders altogether in vain. In some cases, no doubt, there may be found among them, as elsewhere, the form of godliness without the power; and their zealous king was not the only native of Otaheite whose conscience permitted him to combine the worship of Jehovah with a relaxed code of morals. But such discrepancies, it will be admitted, occur in all christian communities; and in justice to the new converts of the Pacific, we must not insist upon applying to their conduct a higher standard than to other nations at a similar period of advancement. The religion of Christ in these days operates not by a miraculous agency, but by an appeal to the reason and the heart; hence the point which every candid inquirer will endeavour to determine, with a due reference to the previous character of a recently converted people, is, whether Christianity has really accomplished that degree of improvement which
* Kotzebue's Voyage round the World, vol. i. p. 212.
experience in similar cases would have led him to expect. On this equitable ground, the patrons of missions are willing to have their pretensions decided and their labours measured, more especially as they respect the change effected by their means throughout the insular habitations of the great South Sea.*
There is no fanaticism, it is believed, in the persuasion, that to Britain has been intrusted by Divine Providence a greater extent of power than ever belonged to any nation, whether in ancient or modern times, with the view that she may carry to the remotest parts of the earth the pure form of Christianity which she professes, and the equal laws whereby the happiness of her people is secured. It has been well said, that she is not more eminent for her prowess in arms, her success in commerce, and her rank in science, and in all the arts which minister to the embellishment of social life, than she is for her exertions in diffusing the light of knowledge and of heavenly truth over the world. Animated by motives of the purest nature, thousands have been found ready to unite their counsels and contribute their property to send to others the invaluable gift which they themselves have received from above. Under the influence of such desires, and encouraged by such protection, devout men have gone forth on the embassy of mercy to some of the most savage nations of the globe. At a distance from friends and country, exposed to the rage or caprice of the barbarians whom they wished to save, they have endured privations and encountered dangers which the attainment of no merely human object would have supplied courage to sustain. They have named the name of the Redeemer where it was never heard before : they have added new regions to the geography of Christianity; they have increased the number of its triumphs, and brightened the splendour of its victories.
Nor has their enterprise been unproductive of good, or unattended with cheering hopes. Over regions of
• Vindication of the South Sea Missions, p. 69.