The New Zealand Evangelist
Most of our readers, we believe, are more or less acquainted with the cruel persecutions which the Queen of Madagascar has waged against her Christian subjects. From the report of the London Missionary Society, of May last, we select the following pleasing intelligence:—
“From the report of last year, the members of the Society would learn with joy, that over Madagascar, after her long night of toil and suffering, the morning star had risen; and the directors are now enabled to cheer them with the additional assurance that “the day is breaking.” The only son of the Queen, and her successor to the throne, who has just attained to manhood, has continued to afford to the persecuted followers of Christ, the most conclusive evidence that he is a faithful brother in the Lord. In defiance of the laws, which pronounces slavery and death upon the Christians, the youthful convert assembles with them for worship in their plaoes of retreat; and when their lives and liberties are threatened, he employs all means in his power to warn them of impending danger, and to effect their rescue. He has been more than once reported to the Queen by her chief officer as a Christian; but the love of a mother has prevailed over the spirit of a Pagan persecutor, and the life of the Prince has been spared, The characteristic attachment of the Malagash to their offspring and near kindred, has been strikingly over-ruled for the preservation of this hopeful youth. “Madam,” said the Prime Minister, when recently addressing the Queen, “your son is a Christian; he prays with the Christians, and encourages them in this new doctrine. We are lost, if your Majesty do not stop the Prince in this strange way.” “But he is my son,” replied the Queen, “my only—my beloved son! Let him do what he pleases; if he wishes to become a Christian, let him! he is my beloved son!”
“But, in a manner still more striking, the heart of the very man who was thus the accuser of the prince, was subsequently overcome by the power of affection. Being informed of a meeting of Christians in the capital, he sent his nephew, (of whose conversion to Christianity he was ignorant,) to take down the names of all those who were thus, contrary to law, met together for religious worship. The nephew, without making any objection, went to the Christian brethren, and told them the object of his visit, begging them instantly to break up and go home, lest his uncle should do them harm. When the young man came back, the uncle inquired; “And where is the list?” “There is none.” Why have you disobeyed my orders? Young man, your head must fall; for you page 158 show that you also are a Christian.” “Yes,” he replied, “I am a Christian; and, if you will, you may put me to death; for I must pray!“At these words, the feelings of the severe and cruel enemy gave way to those of kindness and compassion, and he exclaimed—“Oh no, you shall not die!”—and thus the affair dropped, and the Christians were delivered.
“You must not, however,” adds our informant, “think that persecution has ceased. Sometimes the goods of the Christians are conflscated, their wives and children sold into slavery, and themselves reduced to perpetual bondage; whilst others (seven in number,) have been east into chains. Those who escape can only meet for worship during the night, or in solitary caverns, or in the deep recesses of the woods; and even there they may be troubled by spies, sent by the Government, who immediately take down the names of those they thus find congregated together. But, thanks to the prudent mediation of the prince, things do not in general proceed further. In the midst of these perils and obstructions, the number of disciples is increasing. One of the native Christians thus writes;—“Oh, send us spelling books—we have none left, and many come to us to learn to read.” “Do not forget” says another, “to send us Bibles, Tracts, Hymn-Books, Bunyan's Pilgrim, as well as some Catechisms.” The prince restrains his mother from doing us harm; he comes regularly with us into the woods on Sabbath to pray, and sing, and read the Bible; and he often takes home with him some of us to explain to him the Word of Truth.”
“While these facts will constrain the friends of the persecuted church in Madagascar to rejoice, they admonish us to rejoice with trembling. The life of the prince, and the salvation of the church have no safeguard but the special providence of God. May that wall of fire continue round about them; and may the Lord show mercy to their enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and turn their hearts,!”
The Rev. W. J. Kipp in his Christmas Holyday in Rome, speculates thus as to the probable fate of the Imperial City. The same view was taken by an eminent writer more than twenty years ago. “But what is to be the destiny of Rome? Is she to be the centre of Christendom, and age after age the place to which pilgrims from every land shall direct their steps? Is she entering on a new dominion—the third cycle—in which she is to rule the world by Arts as once she did by her Arms, and then her Faith? There is another thought which has in it something affecting and solemn. The malaria is increasing, so that large portions of the city, which a century ago were famed for their salubrity, are now uninhabitable. At the Lateran, the Pope has been obliged to leave his palace, and the humble dwellers around him their abodes, so page 159 that the tall grass waves in those wide squares, and an unbroken silence has taken the place of the hum of busy population. The enemy is stealthily creeping on, its presence betrayed by no external sign, but there seems to be a fresh and delicious atmosphere, which they who breathe find death. No human sagacity can detect it in the transparent air, nor any human means arrest its progress. An invisible and mysterious agent, it expels man from the region over which its wing is spread, or he remains only to wither and die.
But if such continues to be the history of coming years, how strange must be the destiny of the Imperial City! Its people will gradually retire before this destroying Spirit, and seek in other spots the safety denied them here, until once more the Seven Hills become as silent as they were before Romulus encamped upon their heights. Then it will remain, like the city of which we read in Arabian fable, whose inbabitants in a moment were turned to stone, so that the traveller wandered in amazement through palaces and halls, where none came forth to meet him, and no sound was heard but the echo of his own steps. Its mighty monuments will stand, like those of Pæstum, waste and desolate in their grandeur. Spring, and summer, and winter will pass over the forsaken city—the hoariness of age gather on its marble columns and stain its gilded walls—and Nature, spreading her luxurance over them and wreathing them each year with a thicker drapery, thus silently yet surely reclaiming her dominion—until at last all which we now gaze upon will only harmonize with the wild and dreary Campagua around.
But would not this be a fit conclusion to the long and eventful career of the Mistress of the World? There seems a strange and mysterious awe lingering about her, which forbids the thought that she should fall by human agency. If, after surviving wars and sieges and conflagrations, she must at last be numbered with Nin-eveh and Babylon, and those cities of the Elder World whose names only live in history, let there be no proud conqueror rejoicing over her end! Let her not be crushed and humbled by the violence of man, but thus pass away “without hands,” so that the hour can scarcely be marked in which she ceases to exist!
Mazzini—one of their own exiles—thus describes his native land. “In Italy nothing speaks. Silence is the common law. The people are silent by reason of terror, the masters are silent from policy. Conspiracies, strife, persecution, vengeance, all exist, but make no noise; they excite neither applause nor complaint; one might fancy the very steps of the scaffold were spread with velvet, so little noise do heads make when they fall.”