« ForrigeFortsæt »
number express satisfaction that they can live together in unity, and even cultivate the benevolent affections one towards another.
The following remarks made by an active minister in those islands, present an outline of the happy effects produced by Christianity, which cannot be charged with the slightest exaggeration :-“In reference to Rarotonga, I cannot forbear drawing a contrast between the state of the inhabitants when I first visited them in 1823, and that in which I left them in 1834. In 1823, I found them all heathens ; in 1834, they were all professing Christians. At the former period, I found them with idols and marais; these, in 1834, were destroyed, and in their stead there were three spacious and substantial places of christian worship, in which congregations, amounting to six thousand persons, assembled every Sabbath-day. I found them without a written language ; and left them reading in their own tongue the “ wonderful works of God.”—“ I found them without a knowledge of the Sabbath ; and when I left them, no manner of work was done on that sacred day. When I found them in 1823, they were ignorant of the nature of christian worship; and when I left them in 1834, I am not aware that there was a house in the island where family prayer was not observed every morning and every evening. I speak not this boastingly; for our satisfaction arises not from receiving such honours, but in casting them at the Saviour's feet.”—“ What has been said of Rarotonga, is equally applicable to the whole Hervey group; for, with the exception of a few at Mangaia, I believe there does not remain a single idolater, or vestige of idolatry, in any one of the islands. I do not assert that all the people are real Christians; but I merely state the delightful fact, that the inhabitants of this entire group have, in the short space of ten years, abandoned a dark, debasing, and sanguinary idolatry, with all its horrid rites; and it does appear to me that, if nothing more had been effected, this alone would compensate for
all the privations, and labours, and expense, by which it has been effected.'
The latest reports from the Hervey Islands confirm the anticipations to which such facts had given birth in the mind of every one who takes an interest in the condition of the heathen. In Rarotonga, the christian churches present an animating aspect, both as it respects their character and growing numbers. Education is eagerly sought both by the aged and the young; and the moral character of the people, which, but a few years ago, was equally loathsome and terrific, is now generally marked by the pure influence of Christianity. In that church, one of the most consistent members, and an active evangelist, was in the days of his youth a cannibal; and at another station, where the natives lately met to form a missionary society for the improvement of those islands in the Pacific which are still as wretched as their own once was, a christian chief appeared as an advocate in the cause of religion and humanity, who, in the dark days of heathenism, was a great warrior, and generally appeared with human flesh appended to his shoulder as a badge of honour. “ I have lived,” said he,“ to behold a new and wonderful thing—the gathering together of the people to send the word of the true God. It is true, we formerly used to assemble, but it was either to plan attacks of murder, or to flee from attacks made by the enemy. We then met in fear, with hearts filled with envy and malice, and dared not assemble our wives and our children ; but now the darkness has fled, and the light of the true sun has shone upon us, Jesus the Lord from heaven. The spears of our wars are lost, and we hold in our hands the sword of the Spirit, the word of the Lord : we bring with us our wives and children, and feel that our hearts are filled with love one towards another. We not only love those of our own sentiment, but we love all, and are loved by all; and above all, this day we have met to show the
* Missionary Enterprises, p. 574.
gospel to those who are, as we were, living in darkness, having no God and no hope; this is a new and a wonderful event brought about by the great love of the Almighty."*
It deserves to be mentioned, that the proportion which the number of communicants bears to the large congregations who attend divine service is very
small. Indeed, it was not until the missionaries had laboured ten years among the heathen of Cook's Islands that a church, in their sense of the term, was regularly constituted, or any natives admitted to the more solemn sacrament. Even then, not more than six were thought sufficiently instructed to commemorate with due knowledge and devotion the death of the Redeemer. At present, the members may be stated at three hundred, most of whom have been regularly catechised and watched with a vigilant eye by the several ministers, whose cause and character are felt to be at stake. Concerning Ngatangiia, the superintendent writes that the congregation amounts to about eighteen hundred, and that since the formation of the church in 1833, a hundred and sixty-eight baptized persons have been received into its fellowship. Of these, twenty-two have been removed by death, and seven have been sent forth as native teachers. The schools, including those held on Sunday, contain a thousand children; and in the adult seminaries, the number under instruction is three hundred and eighty. At Titikaveka, another station in the same island, the congregation is not less than seven hundred; the children at school are four hundred and ninety, and the adults upwards of two hundred. At Avarua, a third station, the congregation amounts to thirteen hundred; the members to ninetyone; the young pupils are five hundred and ninety-nine; and the older ones are rated at four hundred and ninety. The congregation at Arorangi is given at eleven hundred; the communicants fifty-six ; the children under
Forty-seventh Report of the Missionary Society, for the year 1841, p. 4.
instruction five hundred and twenty, and the adults four hundred and fifty-five. Similar statements might be given illustrating the progress of divine knowledge and civilisation in Aitutaki, Atiu, Maute, Mangaia, and Mi. tiaro. In the smaller islands, indeed, all the inhabitants are Christians; give due heed to the ordinances of religion; and manifest an eager desire to have their children instructed in the principles of their creed, as well as in the arts which minister to the happiness and embellishment of social life. *
The attention of the reader must have been arrested by the fact, that the blessings conveyed to the natives of Polynesia are not confined to benefactions of a purely spiritual nature, but have extended also to commerce, manufactures, and general improvement. It is indeed manifest that, while the missionaries devoted their best energies to the instruction of the people in the truths of the christian faith, they have at the same time been anxious to impart a knowledge of all that is calculated to increase their comforts and elevate their characters. It is maintained, with considerable force of argument, that until a people are brought under the influence of religion, they have no desire for the arts and usages of civilized life. The English teachers were in Otaheite many years, during which they built and furnished houses in the European style ; but though the natives saw these, not one of them imitated the example. As soon,
however, as they were brought under the influence of Christianity, the chiefs and even the common people began to erect neat cottages, and to manufacture bedsteads, seats, and other articles suited for domestic accommodation. The females had long observed the dress of the missionaries' wives ; but as long as they continued heathens, they greatly preferred their own, and there was not a single attempt at imitation. No sooner, however, were they converted to the laws of the gospel, than they all aspired to the possession of a gown, a bonnet,
Forty-fifth Report of the Missionary Society, p. 14-16.
and a shawl, that they might appear like christian women. In a word, while the islanders were under the influence of their superstitions, they were bound by a feeling of torpor from which no stimulus was found sufficiently powerful to rouse them, until the new ideas were imparted to their minds by European evangelists. Hence there is reason to expect that the experience of a few more years will remove all doubt as to the fact that missionary enterprise is the most effectual means that has ever been employed to advance the social, civil, and commercial, as well as the moral and spiritual interests of mankind. *
All their pursuits, indeed, in their unconverted state, were regulated and inspired by a religious feeling. Even their most atrocious crimes, human sacrifice and infanticide, had a reference to the authority of the gods and the practice of their deified chiefs. The sanction of heaven was supposed to warrant the darkest scenes that clouded the intercourse of their countrymen in their heathen state; hence, when they adopted a new faith, they were prepared by their former association of ideas to admit a change of habits, extending even to dress, food, and habitations. One style of apparel suited the pagan votaress; another was required as more suitable to the christian worshipper.
* Williams' Missionary Enterprises, p. 581.