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But lawless man the anvil dares profane
SATIRE XV. This dreadful picture, as applied to the savages of Polynesia, is not an exaggeration. How fearfully was the prediction of Hesiod, in relation to parents and children, verified ! By the practice kukumi anga, one of the most atrocious sights imaginable was exhibited. On a son reaching manhood, his first duty was to fight his father, and, in the event of victory, he immediately took forcible possession of his farm, and drove away his vanquished parent in destitution, to shift for himself or die in the woods ! In all respects worthy of this and still more inhuman was the ao anga, by which the friends of a husband, on his death, came and seized his house, food, and land, turning adrift the mourning widow with her helpless offspring. Let us contrast the former practice with the precept, “ Honour thy father and mother ;' and the latter with the declaration that “
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is, to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction.” Such was the condition of the people of the isles, such their destitution of humanity. The question is, What was the effect of the gospel of Christ upon them? In the emphatic words of Scripture, it changed the hearts of all who believed it from stone to flesh. In proof of this, I offer the dying declarations of Tuahine,—the very first plebeian convert of Tahiti. A day or two before his death, he thus wrote to Mr. Williams :
Raiatea, November 11th, 1827. “Oh, dear Friend,—May blessing attend you and your family, through Jesus Christ our Lord. I have
written this letter on the day that my body is completely destroyed with sickness. I am convinced of the near approach of death, for I perceive that my illness is very great. The 11th of November is the day on which I write : I write with great difficulty, for
my eyes are now dim in death. My compassion for my family is very great; I therefore write in death to you, my dear friend, about my family. We do not belong to Raiatea, neither myself nor my wife ; we both belong to Tahiti ; but, from love to the word of God, and attachment to you, our teacher, we have forsaken our lands, and now I am about to die. It is death that terminates our close connexion. This is what I have to say to you, my dear friend, about my family : do not let them remain at Raiatea ; take them to Tahiti, in your own large boat ; convey them there yourself; let no one else. They belong to Papeete : there are their parents and their land. My perplexity is very great occasioned by my dear family crying and grieving around me.
They say, 'Who will convey us back to our lands? I refer them to you ; replying, “Mr. Williams is our friend.' We miss you very much in my illness, and grieve greatly at your absence. dear friend, let me entreat you not to forget my dying request. Do not follow the custom of my countrymen, and say, when I am gone, ‘Oh, it is only the command of a corpse. This is what they say, and then seize his little property. I have been endeavouring to lengthen out my breath to see you again, but I cannot; my hour is come, when God will take me to himself, and I cannot resist his will. Perhaps this is the time the Lord has appointed for me. And now, my dear friend, the great kindness you have shown me is at an end ; your face will not see my face again in the flesh—you and I are separated. Dear friend, I am going now to the place we all so ardently desire.
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and your family!
“ TUAHINE. “P.S.—Take care of my family."
• My compassion for my family is very great ; I, therefore, write in death to you, my dear friend, about my family.” What language! What pathos! What parental tenderness! How marvellous the power that can fill the savage breast with such a flood of benevolent emotion! Shall we compare this pattern of tenderness with the white-inan monster who perished in the Navigators' Islands ? This man shared in all the native wars ; he slaughtered his fellow-creatures with his own hands, by the hundred ; he had the heads of his victims invariably cut off, and ranged before him during his meals ; he often seated himself upon a kind of stage smeared with blood, and surrounded with the heads of those whom he had slain ; and in this state his followers used to convey him on their shoulders, with songs of savage triumph, to his own residence !* Or shall we compare him with the mingled mass of Polynesian parents, prior to the introduction of the gospel ? Contrast the unutterable tenderness of this man for his family with the Martyr's account of the prevalent crime of infanticide. “ The modes by which they perpetrated ihis deed of darkness were truly affecting. Sometimes they put a wet cloth upon the infants' mouth ; at others, they pinched their little throats until they expired : a third method was to bury them alive ; and a fourth was, if possible, still more brutal. The moment the child was born, they broke the first joints of its fingers and toes, and then the second. If the infant survived this agonizing process, they dislocated its ankles and the wrists ; and, if the powers of endurance still continued,
* Williams, p. 120.
the knee and elbow joints were then broken. This would generally terminate the tortures of the little sufferer ; but if not, they would resort to the second method of strangulation."* To this pandemonium practice the Gospel of mercy has put a perpetual end,
a large portion of the Isles of the South. Those all. powerful principles which God has most wisely and graciously implanted in the parental bosom, have experienced a glorious resurrection. What you, Sir, observe of society in Europe, with one or two verbal alterations, may be truly affirmed of it in Polynesia :-" The many wheels of its intricate inechanism are beginning to revolve, and a complicated mnovement, continually accelerated by fresh impulses, is bearing along the world from its wintry and torpid position, and bringing it under the influence of serener heavens and an awakening spring. All the genial powers of nature are being unlocked, and the better feelings that have long slumbered in the breast of man are being roused into life.”+
To the foregoing beautiful illustration of a dying husband's love to his wife and a parent's to his children, we may add the following of a people's love to their teachers. Mr. Williams, after a residence of twelve months at Rarotonga, intimated his intention to leave the mission of that island in the hands of others, -a communication which elicited a most interesting display of sensibility. For more than a month prior to his departure, groups of the people collected, in the cool of the evening, around the trunk of some gigantic tree, or beneath the shade of a stately banana, and sung, in plaintive strains, the stanzas which they had composed to express their sorrow at the anticipated separation. On the evening of his departure, several thousands accompanied him and his friends to the beach ; and as
* Williams, p. 148.
+ Advancement of Society in Knowledge and Religion, pp. 296, 297.
the boat left the shore, they lifted up their voice, and, with one heart, sang,
Kia ora e Tama ma
That is, “ Blessing on you, beloved friends ; blessing on you in journeying on the deep!” This they repeated at brief intervals, till the little bark was removed beyond the reach of the sound. What a scene among a people so lately buried in the lowest depths of barbarism ! It affected Mr. Williams and his friends to tears.* Nothing in the naval history of England, from the days of Anson to Duncan, of Hood to Codrington, can, in point of moral beauty, be compared to it. What a contrast to the drunken rejoicings and tumultuous huzzas of the populace of Chatham and of Portsmouth, on the embarkation of England's murderous armaments in the sad days of her anti-Christian as well as suicidal glory!
The Martyr of Erromanga records a fact which speaks volumes on the subject of moral sensibility. While smarting under a domestic trial, he wrote to Makea, apprising him of the circumstance ; and the chief, col. lecting all the people of his settlement, accompanied them to Nagatangiia, to condole with the missionary under his affliction. “ No individual,” says Mr. Williams, came empty-handed; some brought mats, others pieces of cloth, and others articles of food, which they presented as an expression of their sympa. thy. A few of the principal women went in to see Mrs. Williams, laid their little presents at her feet, and wept over her, according to their custom. The affection of this kind people remains unabated. In a recent visit paid to Rarotonga by my esteemed colleague, Mr. Barff, he perceived that the congregation of three thou
* Williams, p. 44.