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Octavius Hadfield

Letter written by Octavius Hadfield to a brother February 6, 1846

To a brother.

It is impossible to make a bold stand against the infidel if inferior to him in mental acquirements, if unacquainted with the past history of the world, especially since the Christian era, if unable to point out to him all the difficulties and obscurities with which physical science is still encumbered, notwithstanding his most common objection to religion is that it has so many obscurities. I make these remarks because there are several clever infidels in this part of the country, and I fear none of our clergy feel competent to encounter them. I, when in health, never shunned the contest, but still I could not help feeling that the more learned one is, the firmer and more confident tone one may take in the contest. But besides encounter- page 188 ing infidels, a missionary, to be efficient should be able to enter into the modes of thought of an uncivilised people, and this is more necessary than is generally supposed. Those who come as missionaries furnished only with a knowledge of the Bible, and with ideas formed in a civilised school, will be prone to judge harshly of a people like these, and to condemn prematurely most, if not all, of their maxims and habits; and this is a fault into which not only missionaries but those entrusted with the government of the country have followed. I have always endeavoured to investigate their language and their customs, etc., with this idea uppermost in my mind, that they belonged to the genus man, and consequently that if their language, customs, etc., were investigated according to the fundamental laws which guide thought in the human mind, these must be found to guide theirs. Our rulers have endeavoured to enforce laws without any investigation of their previous customs, endeavouring to mix what will not amalgamate, and missionaries have too frequently pronounced an unqualified condemnation of all their customs without any distinction, and I think in many cases erroneously.