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The Navigators' Archipelago is, with the single exception of the Sandwich Islands, the largest and most populous in the Pacific, and will no doubt, in the course of a few years, rise into considerable importance. As they lie in the vicinity of the Friendly Islands, the Fijees, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and numerous smaller clusters, intercourse between them could be easily maintained, and thus a civilizing influence might be exerted upon the myriads of ignorant heathen who dwell between the Samoas and the coast of New Holland. In a word, whether we view that insular region as a scene for commercial enterprise, a field for scientific research, or a sphere for the exercise of christian benevolence, we must necessarily regard it with feelings of the liveliest interest.
A few years ago, a wish was expressed by the inhabitants of Australia, that government would form a settlement at one of the South Sea Islands, where ships might refit and obtain provisions without being exposed to danger. Were such a station determined upon, it is clear that the Navigators' group is the most eligible place for its establishment. Its central situation, the excellence of its harbours, the abundant supply of water, and the great variety of timber, ornamental and useful, are important advantages, and such as could hardly fail to ensure its prosperity. Besides, the vast extent of unoccupied land deserves consideration, when viewed with reference to a future colony. In the several valleys, there are thousands of acres of the richest soil, entirely uncultivated; indeed the portion of improved land is said to be comparatively small, for as the fruits grow in abundance without labour, the people display little care or ingenuity in agriculture. So fertile is their glebe, generally speaking, that coffee, sugar, cotton, and every other tropical production might be raised in these islands to almost any extent; and as they abound with springs and lakes, machinery might in many places be worked with the greatest facility.
When Williams visited the Navigators', in his character of missionary, he had with him a converted chief named Fauea, who, enriched with the possession of much practical good sense, proved a very useful guide to the brethren. Addressing his naked countrymen, he said, “ can the religion of these English be any thing but wise and good ? Look at them, and then look at us; their heads are covered, while ours are exposed to the heat of the sun and the wet of the rain ; their bodies are clothed all over with beautiful raiment, while we have nothing but a bandage of leaves round our waists; they have clothes upon their very feet, while ours are like the dogs’; and, besides, behold how rich they are in axes, scissors, and other property, while we have nothing." This reasoning, which was felt and fully understood, prepared the simple natives to listen with attention to the lessons now about to be given to them. On the other hand, he requested the teachers not to begin their labours among the ignorant pagans by condemning their canoe races, their dances, and other amusements, to which they were much attached, lest, in the very outset, they should conceive a dislike to the religion which imposed such restraints. “ Be diligent,” said he, “ in teaching the people to make them wise, and then their hearts will be afraid, and they themselves will put away that which is evil. Let the word' prevail, and get a firm hold upon them, and then you may with safety adopt measures which at first would prove injurious." This considerate convert wished that his rude Samoans should first be taught to reflect, or as he expressed it, to be made wise, being satisfied that they would soon afterwards consent to relinquish the puerilities of their contemptible superstition.
Proceeding under the direction of such leader, the missionaries soon found their toils rewarded by an unusual degree of success. The chiefs of Savaii and Upolu not only facilitated all their arrangements for the introduction of the gospel, but extended to them at once protection and encouragement, moved principally by the representations of Fauea, who had witnessed the happy effects of even an imperfect civilisation at the Friendly Islands. He described in glowing language the triumphs of Christianity at Tongataboo, where Tupou, the most powerful man in the country, had embraced it; and also at the Hapai cluster, where all the people had become believers. In particular, he assured his wondering auditors, that those who held this marvellous faith could communicate their thoughts to oneanotherat the greatest distance; a fact which, so well attested and so forcibly delineated, had immense weight with the natives who crowded to the teachers' houses to learn this mysterious art. Still the missionaries were disposed to question the purity of Fauea's motives ; regarding him as an ambitious aspiring man, who promoted their designs chiefly on account of the temporal advantages which would result from the introduction of the new doctrines among his ignorant people. He had also penetration enough to see that his family would be raised in public estimation by the alliance which he had formed with the English, and that his own name would be transmitted to posterity as the person who had conducted the messengers of knowledge and improvement to their shores. But whatever his views or character may have been, it is admitted that his zealous persevering endeavours greatly forwarded the designs of the christian teachers.*
After an absence of nearly two years, Mr Williams returned to Savaii, and found that the gospel had met with a very general acceptation among the rude inhabitants, who had followed in this respect the example of their chiefs. Malietoa, the sovereign ruler of the larger islands, gave instructions to one of his sons to build a chapel, while he himself was engaged in a sanguinary war with certain neighbours who had inflicted an injury on his family. Peace being restored, he resolved to open the house of prayer with due formality ; but not knowing what effect the change of religion might have on the fortunes of his house, he called his children together, and informed them that he was now about to profess, in a
* Missionary Enterprises, p. 357.
public manner, his belief in Jehovah, and to take part in his worship. With one accord, they approved of his determination, and assured him that they would all follow the same course. But to this he objected, declaring that if they did so, he would adhere to the old system; adding, as a reason, that perhaps the native gods might be angry with him for deserting their altars, while it was doubtful whether the deity lately revealed to his knowledge had power to protect him against the effects of their wrath. He therefore proposed that he alone should try the experiment, and if he sustained no injury, his sons might then join him in the new ceremonies. “ If Jehovah can shield me, you may with safety follow my example ; but if not, I only shall fall a victim to their vengeance ; you will be safe.”
In this good resolution he was confirmed by a chief of Rarotonga, who, in an eloquent speech, described the happy results which, in his own island, had flowed from the profession of Christianity. Now,” said he, enjoy happiness to which our ancestors were strangers ; our ferocious wars have ceased ; our houses are the abodes of comfort; we have European property ; we possess books in our own language ; our children can read ; and, above all, we know the true God, and the way of salvation by his Son Jesus Christ. This alone can make you a peaceable and happy people. I should have died a savage had it not been for the gospel.”*
The congregation, collected by Malietoa, amounted to seven hundred, all of whom appeared eager in their desire to become acquainted with divine truth, so far as their simple minds could comprehend it. On Sunday, divine service was commenced with a hymn, which was sung by the teachers only. One of them read a chapter in the Otaheitan New Testament, which he translated
* Missionary Enterprises, p. 431. The orator in this case was Makea, who had accompanied Mr Williams from the Hervey Islands to witness the triumphs of the new faith, and who on this occasion had his dark figure vested in a red surtout, presented to him by a missionary's wife.
as he went along, and then pronounced a prayer with great warmth and fluency. The discourse which followed was heard with the most profound attention; and although the appearance of the audience was singularly uncultivated and grotesque, it was impossible to view them without feelings of the deepest interest.*
It is obvious, that in most cases of conversion at the Navigators' and other islands, the change was not effected by any intelligible appeal either to the reason or the conscience. Disgusted with their native idolatry, and alarmed by the appalling demands which it occasionally made upon their lives, they lent a ready ear to any teacher, however little qualified by knowledge or experience, who could tell them of a more powerful god and a less sanguinary worship. Nor were they blind to the advantages of civilisation and to the comforts with which it is always associated. “ It is my wish,” said one of the chiefs, “ that the christian religion should become universal amongst us. I look at the wisdom of these worshippers of Jehovah, and see how superior they are to us in every respect. Their ships are like floating houses, so that they can traverse the tempest-driven ocean for months
* When the teachers were asked why they had not taught the people to sing, they replied that they had begun to do so, but as the females sang the hymns at their dances, they had thought it better to desist. For a similar reason they deemed it expedient to administer the ordinance of baptism in private, being apprehensive that the people would imitate the form among their children, as an antidote against the influence of evil spirits, storms, or earthquakes. Among the
sons of the word,” as the converts were called, the missionaries observed two English sailors, who boasted that they had in their train no fewer than two hundred proselytes. Being asked how they effected their object, one of them said," why, Sir, I goes about and talks to the people, and tells 'em that our God is good and theirs is bad ; and when they listens to me I makes 'em religion, and baptizes 'em.” “ You baptize them !” said the querist, how do you perform that ?" “ Why, Sir," the sailor answered,
I takes water, and dips my hands in it, and crosses them in their foreheads, and in their breasts, and then I reads a bit of a prayer to 'em in English.” “ Of course," remarked the other," they understand you?” “ No,” he rejoined, " but they says they knows it does 'em good.”—Þ. 421.