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AMoNG the groups of the South Pacific Ocean which long since received the Gospel, are numerous small islands, containing populations so limited as to preclude them from the advantage of a resident European Missionary. All the instruction consequently conveyed to these little communities has been through the medium of native teachers, with the exception of the casual visits of the Missionaries; and those visits, owing to the peril of the navigation and other obstacles, occur only at uncertain and often lengthened intervals. Under such circumstances, it can be no matter for surprise that the inhabitants of these secluded spots have made but limited advancement, either in the arts of civilization or in religious knowledge; but it is, nevertheless, a gratifying fact, that the message of a Saviour's love has, to a greater or less extent, been made known to them, and that Christian churches and schools for the young have been established in their midst.
About the middle of 1850 the Rev. G. Platt, of Raiatea, found an opportunity of paying a visit to Maupiti, one of the smaller islands of the Society group; and as the state of religion among the people of these remote and primitive settlements is but little known, we trust the fol
lowing extracts from his journal will not be unacceptable:—
DEPARTURE FROM RAIATEA.
“June 15th, 1850.-Having procured a small boat, I left home for Maupiti, to hold the anniversary of the Society. The moon went down before we got round the point of Borabora, and we got twice into perplexity. As it was dark, we could not perceive our distance from the reef, and the wind being rather against us, we were carried into the bubble of the current, formed by the receding wave from the reef, before we were aware, and perceived the breakers close upon us. The men, however, pulled lustily at the oars, the boat answered quickly to her helm, and we got clear.”
LANDING AT Bon ABORA,
“16th, Sunday.—We reached this island before day-break. Two whale-boats passed us in the harbour. Strangers, who had been on a visit to Maupiti, told us that the People were waiting for us. As soon as it was light we went ashore, and attended the early prayer-meeting. Surprise and pleasure were expressed in many countenances at my unex. pected arrival. In the forenoon I was glad to see a good congregation, including many
young people, to whom I spoke from 1 Tim.
fair weather, and I have had reason to be thankful for several providential deliverances. Last year Mr. Barff and I could not approach it, but had to be taken over the reef on the opposite side of the island, under a lee, in canoes. Another time a shark made a leap at me in this same passage, but happening to strike the head of the boat, he fell over on his back and disappeared. My soul would praise the Lord for his goodness. On the present occasion we had scarcely made good our landing, when the wind increased to a gale. After the salutations of the people, I begged them to leave me alone for a short time, in order to obtain a little sleep, as I had been exposed all the previous night in an open boat, and cannot now sustain fatigue as in my younger days.” PASTORAL VISITATION. * 19th-This morning I had public worship, and addressed a good congregation, from Isa. xliv. 20. In the evening several persons presented themselves as candidates for communion, among whom were two backsliders, who professed repentance for their evil conduct. The others declared that they were seeking the salvation of their souls, and desired to have a place among the people of God. A few also submitted difficult passages which they had met with in reading the Scriptures, and sought an explanation of them. “20th. —Kept principally within doors by stormy weather: had a Bible-class in the morning, and afterwards attended the children's school, where there was a good attendance, considering the great amount of sickness that prevailed. In the evening held a churchmeeting, when about half the members were inissing through sickness. “21st.— Bible-class this morning. In the afternoon a church-meeting again, after which a number of candidates were examined and received. Yesterday and to-day fourteen have been admitted to communion, and two restored, making a total of sixteen,and two deacons chosen. May their future lives and conversation witness the sincerity of their profession! Their knowledge is but limited, as they never had an European teacher, with the exception of occasional visits from ourselves, and a short residence of the late Mr. Rodgerson among them during the war in Borabora. “23rd, Sunday. — This morning went
to the early prayer-meeting, which was well attended, both by adults and children. After breakfast went to the school, rather more than sixty young people being present. I distributed to such as could read some children's hymn-books. May they sing with the spirit and the understanding! In the forenoon I spoke from John xix. 37, and administered the ordinance of the Lord's Supper; many absent, from the prevalent sickness. In the evening I spoke from Acts xx. 21, and baptized thirteen children. May they be indeed a seed dedicated to God! It was a day of fatigue; may it redound to the glory of God and the good of souls!
“24th. — After lessons we took a walk to the old settlement, to view once more the site of the former chapel, where my first efforts were made among these people more than twenty years ago. I should not have recognized the place but for an old tree, a horse-chestnut, which stood near the fence. Large breadfruit trees had grown up on the site, and the cocoa-nut trees planted at the four corners by Messrs. Tyerman and Bennett had been partly cut down. We visited the pool they dug for water, and built round with stones, which remained, and is likely to remain, as a memento of their visit to this little spot in the midst of the ocean.
“25th. – In the evening took a stroll along the beach, to view the luxuriance of vegetable growth on this formation. It exhibits a mass of solid rock, consisting, to a considerable extent, of pudding-stone, the trees and plants forcing their roots into the soil of the crevices. The entire formation seems very various; it produces two kinds of stone, which are not at present known on any of the larger islands. The plants and trees are the same as on the other islands, but not so large."
“ 26th. — Early this morning a prayermeeting. After breakfast prepared for the anniversary. A little food was prepared, when they rang for worship. I went and addressed a pretty large congregation, from Jer. xvi. 19. After which I read in the Acts of the Apostles and in Timothy, in reference to the choice and work of a deacon. Then two persons were set apart for the office, by prayer and laying on of hands. May God
also set to his seal, and make thein eminently men of God! After dinner we had the public meeting of the society, when some good speeches were delivered, and resolutions adopted embodying the leading ideas of the resolutions passed by the Borabora Auxiliary, of which they consider themselves as & branch. The collection was twenty-three dollars and upwards. It is small, but their means are limited. May God accept this mite to be used for his glory!
“ 27th. — The people preparing for the children's feast. After lessons I took a walk, and received forty-three dollars odd for the Bibles we had sent to them, besides one dollar three-quarters, and some oil, received afterwards."
MEETING OF THE CHILDREN. “ 28th.—This day was set apart for the children's festival-a fine day and a delight ful time for them-all seemed happy. After breakfast I collected the young people in the chapel, while the parents and teachers were arranging the tables. We sang a hymn, and I gave them a word of exhortation, as also to the parents who were present, and concluded with prayer. The children adjourned to the tables, which exhibited a great variety, both in the arrangement and in the food: some were spread with white table-cloths, some with print, and some with leaves, some heaped with food, and some portioned out according to the number of children in the classes. While at table two of the deacons addressed
them with much energy and effect. After dinner they walked in procession up the settlement. (See Engraving, page 1.] I counted upwards of sixty as they passed, some being absent from sickness and other necessary causes. On their return we re-entered the chapel, and after singing and prayer, they came forward in classes, threw in their little subscriptions, amounting to about eight dollars, and then repeated the chapters they had committed to memory. After a little conversation among the teachers, we concluded by singing and prayer. In the evening held a catechetical meeting with the people."
FAREWELL SERVICES. “ 30th, Sunday.-- In the morning attended the early prayer-meeting. Sickness still prevails, though decreasing. Those who are sufficiently recovered to crawl out to worship, have violent coughs, so that at intervals, especially at the close of a chapter or prayer, there was general coughing, which rendered it impossible to speak, so as to be heard, till the fit was over. In the forenoon I spoke from Isa. xlv. 14, and baptized an infant. A fair wind having sprung uprather rare circumstance at this time of year-and the frightful little opening of the harbour being smooth, we had the evening service at an early hour, so that we might get well out to sea before dark. A good breeze soon sent us quite clear, and next morning we arrived in safety at Raiatea."
MEDICAL MISSION IN CANTON. While the servants of Christ, labouring at the outposts of this vast empire, have too often had occasion to deplore the impenetrable apathy with which the natives listen to the message of mercy, it is, nevertheless, a subject for thankfulness that the messengers themselves have almost uniformly been treated with urbanity and respect. There is, however, a marked exception in the case of Canton. The inhabitants of this great commercial capital having been brought into frequent and injurious collision with Europeans, their prejudice against them is excessive and indiscriminate. This state of things has proved a serious hindrance to the progress of the Gospel. The Missionaries, finding it impracticable to obtain suitable residences beyond the limits of the British and American
factories, have been restricted in their labours, nor can they appear in the streets of the native city without exposure to popular insult. In these circumstances the Medical Mission has proved itself an invaluable pioneer in breaking down the force of prejudices, apparently insurmountable by other means. For upwards of three years, in the very heart of the city of Canton, Dr. Hobson has been enabled to minister to the physical maladies of thousands of the population; and while engaged in these benevolent labours, he has enjoyed an immunity accorded to no other Missionary agents, and has also been enabled, by means of the oral instruction of native evangelists, and the distribution
of books, to scatter far and wide the knowledge of Divine truth. In the following letter, bearing date 20th August, ult, Dr. Hobson feelingly describes the trials and difficulties under which his labours have been
carried on :
“I am thankful to tell you that, through Divine mercy, I and my family have continued in the enjoyment of good health since I last wrote to you, and have been preserved also from the direful calamities of fire, pestilential fevers, attacks of robbers, &c., which have happened to some of our neighbours. I am often distressed and dispirited at the painful exhibitions of misery, disease, and vice, that so frequently come before me, arising as they do, for the most part, from the effects of sin, idolatry, and ignorance, for the removal of which all human aid would seem to be contemptibly inadequate. If I had no hope in the fulfilment of God's promises, and faith in the infinite importance and certain truth of the blessed gospel, I should long ere this have been utterly overpowered by the distressing and discouraging circumstances that attend the Christian Missionary, in endeavouring to undermine and destroy the complicated and universally-spread system of idolatry that exists in this the most ancient and densely populated country in the world. Probably, every Missionary thinks that his position is more unfavourable than one removed at a distance; and often, very often, I imagine that this place is the hardest and most trying of all. I had myself no conception of the difficulties of the Missionary work till I had resided here some time, and been taught by bitter experience how deceitful, proud, and selfsatisfied the Chinese are. In their native villages and towns you see them in their natural element. In Hong-Kong, and places
where a higher and foreign power reigns, the Chinese prove accommodating, and even servile; but in their own cities, and surrounded by their own people, they are bold to speak out what is in their heart. I observe, however, a considerable difference even in this between the natives of Shanghae and those of Canton. Fear and less rooted prejudice control the tongue of the northern Chinese, and outwardly they are obliging, civil, and even respectful; but here, to a foreigner, they are the most rude and uncivil of all people. This, united to an unsufferable self-conceit, and extreme contempt for, and dislike to strangers from all nations, makes the position and labours of a Christian Missionary so peculiarly distressing and difficult. But still, with all these disadvantages and opposing obstacles, I have no wish to leave my post, and never in all my life have I felt a deeper interest in the conversion of the heathen than now, and it has been growing ever since I have been placed among them, in one of their greatest cities. This is the prevailing feeling of my mind, and then all my duties are for the most part pleasant; but I am free to confess, at times my faith and zeal seem all but extinguished from the result of circumstances above named. Hospital, or rather dispensary practice, is very enervating to the strength, and gives but little satisfaction to an European practitioner, from the difficulty of bringing all the appliances of his art to bear upon the successful cure of diseases in a foreign land, and with such small resources at his command; but it serves one good end—in drawing large congregations for the Christian teacher to address, and producing generally a good impression (to those who think at all) in favour of that religion we come to teach them. In other cities and places open to the Christian Missionary in China, there appears to be no great difficulty in gathering congregations together; but here, shut out as we are, in a great measure, from mixing with the people in the streets, public places of resort, and private houses, healing of the sick seems an almost indispensable adjunct to Missionary labour. Not because (far be it from me to think so) the blessed and glorious gospel is deficient in power, or needs to depend upon science and art for its success; but, owing to the prejudice and darkness of the heathen mind, no Chinese has the slightest concern to come and hear it. Hence the necessity and value of combining the practice of the healing art with the preaching of the gospel, to attract their sensual minds to something that is directly and manifestly beneficial. Without this auxiliary I could not have occupied this place, or maintained my position; nor could I have succeeded in getting large and frequent audiences in my house. I am still unable to rent the front—that is, the street-side—of the hong, and have therefore no command of the principal entrance; and consequently I cannot use a gong, or bell, invitation-cards, or other expedients, to attract my neighbours and passers-by. I am convinced the few that could be gathered together would, without a hospital, form a most discouraging auditory, as was clearly evidenced in the case of Mr. Burns, at Tak-Hing-Kae, and is constantly felt by others who are or were similarly circumstanced. But, as you have already seen from my letters, there has never been any want as regards attendance, or the slightest trouble in collecting persons from different quarters, as the general number averages from six hundred to eight hundred a week all the year round, occasionally one thousand a week. The difficulty lies in getting any of these to give serious attention to the solemn and momentous truths delivered to them, either by the living voice, or by the printed page. The gospel, especially on the Sabbath-day, is preached with much earnestness and fidelity
by the venerable A-fa, and both he and the Tract Society's colporteur are engaged all the time, during hospital treatment, inexhorting the sick, explaining the truth, and solving doubts by familiar conversation with those around them. On the Sabbath, Leang-a-fa preaches from a portion of the Gospels, but, on the week-days, it is thought better to speak from one of Milne's ‘Willage Sermons, or from some selected piece from the Scriptures, or tracts printed by the Lithographic Press. In either case, every person has the tract to be explained and commented on put into his hands. “I have now been a resident in the western districts of Canton for more than three years, and I suppose that not less than seventy thousand, including those who do, and those who do not return, have been here during that period. In the hospital alone at least sixty thousand tracts, large and small, have been distributed, and one thousand sermons, or prepared addresses, have been delivered to the assembled audiences; but the only apparent fruit is the conversion of heart and life to the Christian faith of six persons, two each year. The gospel is heard, but no one believes it; it excites no remark, and produces, so far as we know, neither impression nor inquiry. It is often a common observation by us, that we meet with no such questions as– What is faith ? Are these things so 2 What must I do? And we still wait to hear that any tract has been of use to lead a poor, guilty sinner to Christ. In the hospital the books are received, and of course politely, and perhaps, in some cases, carefully read; but we have evidence that, in the public streets and shops, they are frequently torn to pieces and used for waste paper. Very frequently they will not be received. “I am also often pained to witness the inattention and perfect indifference to those truths which we regard of such solemn import, proving how true it is their ears are dull of hearing, and their hearts gross and blind, so that they do not see or understand. I feel how little we can do for them : but it is comforting to know we can pray for them, and look up continually for the blessing of God and the saving influence of His grace. I mentioned two had been admitted this year into Christian communion. One of these had