The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20
History of Missionary Operations on the Group
History of Missionary Operations on the Group.
Though the islands were discovered ninety-two years ago, it was only in 1839 that the first attempts were made to evangelise them. In that year Messrs. Williams and Harris landed on Eromanga, but were at once killed on the beach. In 1842 Messrs. Turner and Nesbit, from the London Missionary Society, settled on Tana. At the end of seven months an epidemic, for which they were blamed, broke out, and they were forced to flee. In 1848, Mr. Geddie from Nova Scotia, landed on Aneityum, and was the first to obtain a permanent footing on the group. In 1852, he was joined by Mr. Inglis from New Zealand. In 1857, Mr. Gordon, from Nova Scotia, settled on Eromanga. In 1858, three Missionaries, and in 1860, a fourth, resumed the work on Tana, and in l864, one was located on Faté, one on Eromanga, and one on Aneityum. In addition to these Missionaries, some of whom have died or been killed, and several of whom have been but a short time on the field, and therefore able as yet to do but little, there have also been a few native teachers, on an average about six. The effective European Missionary staff may be estimated at about three. Well then these three Missionaries and six teachers have been at work for a number of years printing, teaching, preaching, and civilizing. They have had to contend against an unhealthy climate, diversity of language, the superstitious fears of the natives, and their cruelty and ignorance. What are the results of their labors? Has much, little or nothing been accomplished? I have five answers to this question.
1st. The whole group has not been evangelised. We have been working six islands only—viz., Aneityum, Tana, Futuna, Aniwa, Eromanga, and Fate. Only one-fifth of the group is occupied, four-fifths are yet untouched, at least so little has been done that it is hardly worth mentioning; only one-thirty-seventh of the New Hebrides Natives have the Gospel preached to them, thirty-six-thirty-sevenths hear not, for they are without a preacher; indeed, only one-fiftieth of the group is fully and efficiently worked.
2nd. On Tana no progress has been made. Three primers have been printed, some of the Gospels have been translated, and four missionaries have labored there—two in 1842 for seven months, and two from 1858 till 1862, but they had all eventually to flee. We page 10 can scarcely say that there we have a single convert to Christianity. It is true that we have obtained a good deal of local knowledge, and and that we have still a hold on the island by means of the residence on it of three Aneityum teachers, but that is about all No living Mis-sionary is there, but the bodies of four members of the mission—two adults and two infants—rest there till the resurrection.
3rd. On Aniwa and Futuna we have made some progress. These islands are worked by teachers. On them both we may have fifty Natives, who abstain from work on Sabbath, attend worship on that day, put on clothing, and have abandoned the grosser heathen customs.
4th. On Eromanga and Faté we have made considerable progress. On the former there are 200 converts, seven of whom have been baptised and admitted to the Church. The most of these 200 attend school and can read, and all of them attend Church. The following books have been printed:—a primer, catechism, hymn book, Life of Joseph, Jonah, and Luke. At present there is one Missionary and a few teachers on the island. The Missionary came out in 1864, and is brother to Mr. Gordon, killed there in 1861! On Faté there are a Missionary and three teachers. The first efforts for its evangelisation were made in 1845. Band after band of teachers was taken to it, but they either died from the climate or were killed. Six years ago the work took a favorable turn. A primer and hymn book have been printed, and there are about 150 converts, sixty of whom are Church members. Applications have been made to the Missionary by several districts for teachers,—a proof that the island is opening up for the Gospel.
5th. On Aneityum, the first island to be permanently occupied, the work has been very successful. The whole population (2100) is professedly Christian. They have given up their idols, and now worship God-heathen badges, such as long hair, paint and ornaments, have been laid aside,—heathen practices, such as feasting, dancing, wearing no clothes, and These inflicted on infants, the sick, the old, the insane, the women, widows and strangers—have been abandoned. They no longer carry arms, and the several tribes formerly hostile, engage in war no more. Husbands and wives can now occupy the same end of a building and eat together, and their superstitions about disease, rain-making and tabu have been uprooted. Polygamy no longer exists, and marriages are solemnized in public. There are fifty schools attended by eighty per cent., and nine churches attended by ninety per cent., of the population. All except the old and very young can read, and many can write and cipher. Family worship is generally observed, and there are 500 church members. The New Testament has been printed, with several books of the Old, and other minor publications. Several Aneityumese act as teachers on the heathen islands. In six years they have exported 10,000 lbs. of arrowroot, and during the last two years 5,000 lbs. of cotton. Life and property are as secure as in this country. Having lived there, I can speak from experience.
But let me not mislead you by statements such as these. Un- page 11 derstand me. I do not say that these 2,500 (the number of converts now alive on the group) are all changed in heart. This is more than takes place in the most favoured lands. Nor do I say that Christianity among them is as fully developed and as firmly consolidated as among British Christians; but this I do say, that a great outward change has taken place on them all, and that not a few by their consistent lives show that a change of heart has taken place as well. The contrast between these converts and their heathen brethren is most marked, and requires to be seen to be appreciated. These Christianized spots, but especially Aneityum, are oases in the New Hebrides moral wilderness. In these results we have a noble reward, and we are ready to go forward.
And now I stand before you to plead the cause of the other islands, nearly twenty in number, still in deepest darkness. I ask you for the means of Christianizing and civilizing them. If you and others will only assist in the way I shall point out, we are confident of success. If you ask me, What are the prospects for these other dark islands? I reply in the words of Judson when he was questioned about Burmah, and say—If the Church of Christ in the Australasian Colonies will only bestir herself, "the prospects for them are bright, yes, bright as the promises of God, which shall all be fulfilled," for "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
Remember, I do not say that we shall meet with no opposition or defection. Why should missionaries not have trials, since they are met with by men in all spheres of labour? The merchant has his failures, and so have the farmer, the sailor, the physician, and even the minister. When you shall hear of such things in connection with our work, jump not to the conclusion that we have run unsent, or that Christ has forgotten His "Lo, I am with you alway." If His promise appear to be a dead letter by His servants fleeing for their lives or falling under the tomahawks of the heathen, it is a dead letter only on account of human imperfection. The missionary work, it ought ever to be remembered, is a human work to a great extent. It is carried on by men, frail and erring, not by angels—among men the most degraded and depraved, not among the redeemed in glory—in the use of human means, e.g., printing, teaching, and preaching, not by miracle from heaven—and on earth, this vale of tears, not in heaven where all is perfection. Being human, this work must have vicissitudes; being connected with earth it must have its pains as well as its pleasures, its foul winds as well as its fair. We read (Ps. cxxvi.) that in going forth to sow God's Word in the waste places of the earth we shall do so with tears (remember that), but (forget not this) we shall doubtless, yes doubtless, come again with rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us. Occasional trials and reverses are not incompatible with ultimate success—success on earth I mean. Why should people be so clamorous for results on the heathen field? Why expect us to make converts as if to order? Our Christianity (how imperfect it is!) is the growth of many centuries. Because our labours fail for a time in page 12 some places, are we to fold our arms and say, The time is not yet? Because many of the Maories have abandoned Christianity and returned to heathen barbarities shall we declare the Gospel to be powerless, and cease extending it over the world? God forbid! For what if some of them do not believe, shall their unbelief and not the commission of Christ be our rule of duty? There must be room for unbelief: some will reject the counsel of God against themselves. Besides, the Gospel has been extinguished among whites as well as among blacks, not only in the case of modern missions but in lands evangelized by the Apostles.
The remedy for these other dark islands is the Gospel; not the arts and sciences merely, not civilization merely, not secular know ledge merely, far less Mohammedanism and polygamy which some recommend us to try. Some of these things are a good but not the good these islanders most require. In the Pacific, civilization will follow the Gospel, but not precede it. Our experience goes to prove that if we would affect the body we must do it through the heart—the rudder of the man. "Out of it are the issues of life." I regard the Gospel, therefore, as the chief agency to be employed. And is it not adapted to remove the evils which exist among these Natives? It brings light to remove darkness, and truth to be the substitute of error; it replaces superstitious fears by an assurance of the mercy of God. By the atonement, it effects a reconciliation between God and man; and by subduing selfishness and cruelty it puts men right in their relation to their fellow men.
How then can this remedy be conveyed to the New Hebrides? Neither by ship, nor post, nor telegraph, far less by miracle. It can only go by men and women who will take it in their hearts, in their mouths, and in their hands. Yes, that it be disseminated we require four-instruments, viz., Missionaries, Teachers, a Mission Vessel, and the power of the Holy Spirit. These constitute