Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

of the new faith has been occasionally stained by the wild enthusiasm of savage life, as well as by a certain degree of irregularity of conduct among some of the converts. But, on the whole, there has been a gratifying advance both in religious knowledge and in the several arts which minister to the social improvement of mankind. The residence of an English consul in Otaheite is itself a proof that the natives are no longer what they were in the days of Cook, or even of Captain Bligh. Industry is now supplied with a stimulus; the wants of the simple inhabitants are increased; their ambition is elevated; and they have now learned to aspire to an imitation of the dress, luxuries, and manners of the most enlightened people in the world. The master of a vessel lately on that station remarks, that “it is one of the most gratifying sights which the eye can witness on a Sunday in their church, which holds about five thousand, to see the queen near the pulpit, and all her subjects around her, decently apparelled, and in seemingly pure devotion. I never felt such a sensation of the real good of missionaries before. The women are all dressed in bonnets, after the fashion of some years back. Their attire is as near the English as they can copy.”—“ They have a good code of laws. No spirits whatever are allowed to be landed on the island; therefore the sailors have no chance of getting drunk, and are all in an orderly state, and work goes on properly. No boat is allowed to be on shore after nine o'clock; constables are stationed at different places to pick up all stragglers; and offenders are compelled to work on the public roads."

Scottish Missionary Register, vol. xxi. p. 32. As a contrast to the pleasing picture contained in this communication, we may refer to a " Letter addressed to the Directors and Friends of Bible

and Missionary Institutions in Great Britain and Ireland.” The depravity therein described is appalling, arising chiefly from the introduction of spirituous liquors. A chief addressing a missionary "on behalf of the natives of these islands and himself,” says, “I hope he will go to Britannia and beg the people to have mercy on us ; and then go to America and beg the people there also to have mercy on us ; because it was these countries that sent the poison amongst us."

"*

The Georgian Islands, in the year 1838, appear to have been exposed to considerable alarm by the attempt to establish by force a Roman Catholic mission in Otaheite. Two priests who had landed were compelled to re-embark by the special orders of the government, which properly claims to itself the power of regulating all intercourse with foreigners. This step was deeply resented by the commander of the French frigate Venus, who adopted some strong measures against the queen and her councillors. About twelve months afterwards, a second infraction of national rights was perpetrated by Captain La Place of the Artemise, a ship of sixty-four guns, and a crew of 460 men, under circumstances of peculiar aggravation. On her voyage to the Sandwich Islands she struck on a reef about four leagues from the port of Matavai. The hull sustained so much damage that it was not without great difficulty she was brought into Papiti harbour to be hove down for repairs ; and eighty of the natives were employed at the pumps, day and night, for more than a month. When she was again afloat, the commander convened a meeting of the chiefs, for the professed purpose of thanking them for the kind assistance they had rendered in repairing his ship and protecting his property ; but in reality to demand the abrogation of their law prohibiting the erection of chapels, and the instruction of the people in the Roman Catholic faith. With this requisition they were forced to comply, as La Place declared that he would fire upon the town, and lay waste the island in case of refusal. The Artemise then proceeded to the Sandwich group, where the captain exacted from the king and his people twenty-five thousand dollars for a similar offence, the refusal to receive Romish missionaries; threatening, at the same time, to carry war throughout their country, unless the laws prohibiting their admission were instantly repealed.

It is well observed, that had benevolence rather than the spirit of proselytism been the motive, there were other islands where paganism, accompanied by all the horrors of savage life, still prevails to a fearful extent. In such scenes the charity of the French might have been nobly exercised; but from the day of their landing they became ministers of strife, assuring the people that the missionaries had long been teaching them a false religion, and that they themselves were come to make known to them the true and only way to heaven.*

Notwithstanding these efforts on the part of the intruders, their success has been very limited. The fine levied by the commander of the Venus rendered the papists extremely unpopular, both among the natives and foreign residents; and hence in Otaheite, as well as in the Marquesan Islands, where the allurements of catholicism have long been exhibited before the uninstructed and volatile inhabitants, and where presents have not been withheld to win their esteem, the first triumphs of popery, it is asserted, are yet to be achieved.

In the Hervey Islands, the progress of true religion, accompanied with a desire for knowledge, is most gratifying. At Rarotonga, the largest of the cluster, the churches present a cheering aspect, both as regards char

Report of the Missionary Society for the year 1840, p. 6. The directors state, that “they have not failed to make prompt communications on the subject to her Majesty's government in this country. These have been met with courteous attention ; and it is hoped that measures are in progress to prevent the recurrence of proceedings as unworthy of a brave and generous nation as they might be fatal to the peace and prosperity of the Tahitian community.”

The influence of popery on the natives of those islands in the Pacific in wbich it has obtained, was forcibly represented to an officer of the same society a short time ago by a Swedish gentleman who had made several commercial voyages in that distant sea.

"In the voyage preceding the last, 1 landed at Gambier's Island to trade for pearls ; the natives received me kindly, and under the inducement of a fair remuneration they assisted me in my object, and it proved successful. Before my next visit, a Catholic bishop with several priests had settled in the island, and as soon as it was made known by them to the natives that I was a Protestant, or one not of the true church, they refused to trade with me, compelled me to leave their port, and, in their own language, execrated me as a heretic.”-Report of Missionary Society, p. 8.

acter and increasing numbers. Education is earnestly sought, as well by the aged as by the young; and the morals of the people, which, only a few years ago, were loathsome in the extreme, are now marked by the pure influence of Christianity. The Samoan or Navigators’ cluster affords a spectacle no less impressive; a rapid advancement in civilisation, knowledge, and religion. The schoolmaster finds constant employment, and the press is incessant in its labours; but both, it is said, lag behind the wishes of the converts. Their attendance, too, upon divine worship is so regular, that the chapel, which contains about a thousand, is usually well filled.

The Society Islands still retain the principles received from the early missionaries; and though in all cases the seed has not produced sixty or even thirty fold, it nevertheless continues to manifest the powers of vitality, and to prove its heavenly origin. At Huaheine, the congregation, which amounts to about eight hundred, show a growing attachment to the means of grace; and it is gratifying to learn that the increase is, generally speaking, from amongst the young, who, in proportion to their years, advance in knowledge and piety. At Raiatea, the average of the christian flock is four hundred and fifty ; the communicants being now a hundred and fifteen. The means of instruction, both in schools and through the medium of the press, are sedulously applied, all being directed towards the advancement of the social interests and eternal welfare of the people at large.

From the Marquesas, the reports are less favourable than could be wished. It is confessed that the missionary at Santa Christina has not yet been favoured to behold any fruit arising from his self-denying labours. His work continues to be peculiarly a work of faith ; for if of the good seed sown by him has taken root, there is no visible result to attest the fact. The people still manifest the same indifference to the gospel which they have always shown, and even seem insensible to the advantages they would derive from a knowledge of some of the useful arts, which he has endeavoured to teach them. Early

any

in 1839, “ ten more Romish missionaries” landed at his station, from whence three of them subsequently proceeded to Nuhiva. The others have taken positions in various parts of the island ; and the imposing ceremonial of their worship, their insinuating manners, and their skill in working on the self-interested motives of the people, have produced some effect. Still it does not appear that, since the arrival of these zealous teachers, any general movement has taken place in their favour, whilst the religious instruction communicated by the Protestant minister is at least as well received as formerly.*

By an arrangement, to which allusion has been made in a foregoing chapter, the Friendly Islands were consigned to the charge of the Wesleyan Missionaries, who have prosecuted their labours with a considerable degree of success. The chief of Vavaoo, who had assumed the title of King George, issued, about three years ago, a code of laws, in which, though there is a deep tincture of barbarism, we can trace the connexion between Christianity and the improvement of social life. In the first statute, he joins together murder, theft, adultery, and the retailing of ardent spirits. Suicide, or even the attempt to destroy life, is prohibited under a severe penalty ; and “ should one die from taking poison, he shall not be buried in the Christians' burial-ground, or as a Christian.” He directs that all his subjects shall attend to the duties of religion towards God; that they shall keep holy the Sabbath-day, by abstaining from their worldly avocations, and by attending to the preaching of the word. It is added, that should any man “ come to the chapel for the

purpose of sport, or to disturb the worship; should he insult the minister, or disturb the congregation; he

* Missionary Report for 1840, p. 10-18. We refrain from entering into details relative to the Austral and Paumotus Islands, in both of which groups the gospel has been some time received, and the principles of industry established. The building has not yet assumed an imposing appearance, nor raised its turrets into the air; but the foundations, trust, are so deeply laid, that neither accident nor violence will remove them.

« ForrigeFortsæt »