The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1
Affairs of the Year in Bau
Affairs of the Year in Bau.
Affairs in 1854.
In anticipation of the "Dragon's" departure for Australia, I hasten to record an account of the trials through which our people have passed during the last year, from which you will be enabled to understand the position which Christianity is now assuming in Feejee.
The Methodistical year was ushered in under the genial rays of political prosperity. But, alas! the portentous clouds of civil war and internal dissension soon enveloped us in political darkness. A pseudo-Priest is inspired, and tidings of woe are announced, in consequence of the late profession of Christianity. Another, late the High Priest, becomes the shrine of the great and much-feared God, and declares that the King and his Chiefs are to be punished in a signal manner for their presumption in imputing frailty to the Feejeean deities. The King demands an apology from the Priest, and then whips him publicly, to evidence that he no longer fears the would-be gods of Bau. The populace are amazed—they are soon alarmed.
Three towns, within two or three miles of the city, beat the drum of rebellion. A number of influential Chiefs, including two of the King's younger brothers, abscond in a war-canoe and join the enemy, whilst it is rumoured that they have arranged with certain Chiefs in the city to assassinate the ruler, so soon as they can bring an army within sight of Bau. Whole districts soon join the rebels, and Bau itself, for the first time since the bloody revolution of 1837, is placed in a state of defence. The kingdom of Rewa now initiates the aggressive, assisted by the Bau rebel Chiefs, and the ruling party in Ovalau. The King of Rewa sends a letter, warning the Missionary to leave the city, as it would soon be burnt, and he feared that he would be unable to protect us from the ruffian warriors.
A Sabbath Disturbed by Suspected Treason and Open War.
And there is cause for alarm. A hostile army is hastening to the rendezvous at Kambah. On the Sabbath the troops are disembarking at Thautata, two miles distant. This is noticed by all; but other thoughts engross the attention. The King's cousin, whose father was killed by the present ruler, is expected to massacre the King, in revenge, either at chapel or on his way to it. The Missionary himself trembles for the issue of that eventful Sabbath. The family is removed to Vewa, and the dawning of the Lord's-day is awaited in a state of the most anxious suspense. With the death of the King there will probably be a relapse into Heathenism, and there will certainly be a fearful slaughter in the town. The bell is rung. But the demon of fear stalks in every street and lane, and no one appears. After a time a few men approach slowly; but they are armed, and they sit down outside of the chapel. Presently the King arrives, accompanied by an armed guard, and then his cousin, at the head of a similar force, enters the building. The service is commenced; but every man eyes his neighbour, none the Preacher. We pray. A man belonging to the King remains standing as sentry with a loaded musket. The service is short, the congregation is dismissed, and so far, thank God, the crisis is over. But the disembarkation of the hostile army is continued. Is it lawful to disperse their fleet on the Sabbath? By all means; never allow your enemy to land on your own coast when you can prevent them. A fleet of twenty picked canoes is despatched, and succeeds in scattering the hostile naval armament, page 20 and thus separating the enemy's forces and preventing the union of the two divisions.
A few weeks afterwards the enemy attacked a town five miles distant, but were repulsed with severe loss. The Bauans engaged in public prayer before they made the charge, and completely routed the enemy. This engagement was regarded by the populace as a trial between the gods of Feejee and Jehovah, and afforded them more proof of the truth of our religion than all the works ever written on the evidences of Christianity would do.
Simultaneously with this, the Bau party, headed by the King's cousin, who now took a decided part with the reigning Chief, and who assured the Missionary that he would no longer endeavour to take revenge for the death of his father, gained (as they say, by prayer) a great victory at Koro, where the rebels had obtained possession of one half of the island. A town, well fortified with a stone wall and cannon, was taken after an assault of three days, and all its inmates were spared, although some of the besiegers were clamorous for their extermination. Several hundreds on both sides lotued as the sequel of this expedition, and peace was established at Koro, all the other towns being spared on the condition that they would become Christians.
Soon after this, the Bau Chiefs assembled in council, and decided upon seizing, by a coup de main, the canoes belonging to the rebel Chiefs. But, in consequence of the King being advised to forbear a little longer, the order was countermanded. Although this step originated with the King, yet the common people, secretly encouraged by mischievous Chiefs, blamed the Missionary for the measure which, as they thought, deprived them of very considerable plunder. The Chief of the Lasakauans asked why our house should not be burnt for this act of interference, as he termed it. This was sufficient encouragement to stimulate his wicked men to annoy us, which they did in their own effectual way. They spoke openly of stoning the Missionary and they robbed our premises almost hourly. A constant discharge of stones was kept up for several evenings. Two attempts were made to enter our house by night, but were frustrated. The King intreated us, with tears in his eyes, to endure this harassing persecution, it being out of his power to protect us at the time. "You are suffering," said he, "because you uphold my authority. Those who ill-treat you are traitors who desire to deliver me into the hands of my enemies."
The King of Rewa again sent, urging our departure from Bau, or he would not be answerable for the consequences.
Our own King made offers of peace to his old adversary, which were rejected with scorn. "We shall see," said he of Rewa, "whether Jehovah your God, who is 'a Spirit,' can save the body of Thakombau."
A spy taken in the act of bribing the people of Nakorowau was recommended to lotu, and escorted in safety to his own town. A few months ago he would have been clubbed and eaten.
A few days afterwards the King had a conference with one of his rebel brothers, and freely forgave him; but he refused to submit to his authority,
Mediation of Captain Denham, of H.M.S. "Herald."
The King then accepted the invitation of Captain Denham, and went on board H.M.S. "Herald" at anchor at Ovalau, and publicly offered to meet all those who had grievances to make; but none of the rebel party came near.
Thus closed 1854. Although the King's proposals for peace were rejected in every instance, yet we had cause for gratitude to Almighty God for the partial change which Divine grace had effected in this modern Nebuchadnezzar.
Affairs in 1855.
A stormy blast burst upon us with the new year. The rebels prohibited us from visiting some of their towns, and a Teacher whom we had sent in the boat with letters to Mr. Moore was very roughly treated. On every side the enemy advanced to destroy Bau and Christianity.page 21
But man's extremity is often God's opportunity. When all was lost but faith, the King of Rewa suddenly died. And he died so far deprived of the faculty of speech, that he was unable to bequeath the war as a legacy to his followers,—a bequest which would have compelled them either to conquer or be utterly vanquished before they surrendered.
A treaty of peace was immediately made with the kingdom of Rewa, one of the articles of which was freedom of conscience at Rewa in matters of religion.
The Bau districts, however, still remained in a state of hostility. Upon my visit to Kambah, I found the people engaged in strengthening the fortifications, and preparing to renew the strife.
Soon afterwards King George arrived from Tonga, on a friendly visit, accompanied by many of his principal Chiefs. He and his court sympathized heartily with the Bauans in their sufferings, and we soon heard that the combined forces were to attack the enemy's stronghold, Kambah, unless it submitted, upon summons, to the authority of the King. A herald was despatched; but his mission was fruitless. All the Heathen oracles predicted the destruction of the Christian "powers that be," and the Heathen waited with impatience for the day in which Christianity was to be "upset." Both sides prepared for the conflict. The enemy sent a body of five hundred picked men to assist the Kambans, and sought by costly sacrifices to propitiate their numerous deities; whilst our people endeavoured to humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.
Kambah was assaulted and taken in a few hours, and the Lord mercifully preserved our Teacher and his little flock, who were in the town. The Bau side only lost twenty men, whilst the Heathen suffered a loss of two hundred killed, and a great number of prisoners. The result of this victory was the almost instant submission of all the disturbed districts, with the exception of Ovalau, whither the King's rebel brothers fled for refuge, and still refuse to submit to his authority.
In the midst of these wars our trust has been in Him who has said, "Be still, and know that I am God." Upwards of seven thousand have embraced Christianity during the year; we behold Satan fall "as lightning." His strongholds are being razed to the ground. The "stronger than he" appears, and will "overcome him." The day of the Lord's power is dawning, and the Gospel trumpet shall soon be sounded throughout the length and breadth of Feejee.
You will, perhaps, hear from Mr. Moore of his own misfortune. Just after peace had been proclaimed between the two powers, some wicked men, who were opposed to the peace, and who, perhaps, suspected our esteemed brother of having killed the King of Rewa with his medicines, set fire to his premises at midnight. The fire awoke Mr. Moore, and his bed was in flames in two or three minutes afterwards. The natives intended to massacre our brother and his family; but the Lord restrained them. When they arrived at Bau, the poor children were in their night-clothes, and the excellent Mrs. Moore was without bonnet and shoes! They have lost everything. Such is Feejee! No one could have paid more attention to the late King than did Mr. Moore. He personally administered the medicine, and supplied the most suitable food; he even went so far as to wash and dry the King himself, lest the King's attendants should be negligent, and bring on a relapse.
Of ourselves, we may say that, during the past year, we have been familiar with danger at home and abroad. More than once have we seen, from our own residence, some poor creature, sometimes a member of our congregation, killed, and carried off to be cooked and eaten. If we have gone a mile or two from home, we have sometimes heard a bullet whizzing over our head. For months we had reason to apprehend injury by night from the hand of the incendiary. At all hours of the night have we been aroused with tidings of impending danger. But our trust in the good Providence of God has been unshaken; whilst we must admit the inroads which these extraordinary excitements have made upon our constitution.page 22
"Brethren, pray for us."
Providence has now opened out an extensive field for daily preaching in this Circuit. "Faith cometh by hearing," "and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?" We are now entering upon our more legitimate work,—that of preaching the Gospel to these perishing, but redeemed, creatures. Who will pray that our labours may be abundantly blessed? We have descended into "the well," who is holding "the rope?" British Methodists will not, cannot, dare not, forget those whom their piety and liberality have sent to Feejee. Do you ask us, individually, what each Missionary wants? Our answer is but one, We want the prayer of faith.