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may be awarded, therefore, to that great missionary, as the representative of his brethren in every clime, must, according to their respective measures of individual desert, be divided among the whole of the beloved and venerated body.
My position relative to the superiority of moral greatness to every other kind of greatness, will necessarily lead to comparison and argument ; for, although, in Britain, there are, happily, not a few who yield a cordial assent to that position, yet greater, by a thousand-fold, are the multitudes who listen to it only with disgust and derision. I shall, therefore, endeavour to sift the claims of their respective views, and duly to estimate them, taking the Martyr of Erromanga as the subject of comparison and the standard of reference.
TO THE. TEACHERS OF SUNDAY-SCHOOLS.
ON THE SUCCESS OF MISSIONARY EFFORTS TO SUBVERT IDOLATRY,
AND TO INTRODUCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD.
HONOURED labourers in the Lord's vineyard! next to the teachers of day-schools, you possess the power of promoting the cause of missions. The moral training of the most important portion of the rising race, is largely in your hands. The youthful heart, unhardened and unpreoccupied, is subjected to your influence ; and, while you pour into it the lessons of gospel knowledge, with that knowledge you may daily blend the subject of Christian missions. You may show, that the claims of the heathen are, in another view, the claims of Christ, and that his glory and kingdom are inseparably bound up with their conversion and salvation. You may realize the honour and felicity of rearing a generation of missionary supporters and advocates, such as the world has not yet seen. You may deeply engrave upon the youthful breast the doctrine, that, next to the duty of personally receiving the truth, is the duty of diffusing it. In furtherance of this great work, it is indispensable that your own minds should be most amply stored with the literature of missions. To this end, you will do well to read, with the utmost care, all the missionary biography to which you can have access; all the missionary history that has appeared, missionary reports, periodical accounts, and general works upon the subject. For purposes of Scripture-illustration, of the most striking and appropriate character, apart from the spirit of missions, these sources will yield you an inexhaustible supply. They will, indeed, render you more service than all commentaries and critical apparatus, and all the encyclopædias, united. This is one of the best methods of training a missionary church. To the following illustrations of the great truth, that the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation,” I now beg your serious attention.
The isles of the South present peculiar advantages for the correct estimate and profitable contemplation of man's fallen condition. Their surfaces are small, and their population is limited, as compared with the great continents of the earth; circumstances singularly favourable to accurate views and deep impressions. The mind feels itself capable of dealing more effectively with the question under these small insular exhibitions, than on the expanded empires of the East. Idolatry, in Polynesia, may be viewed either as a crime or as a calamity, the latter being at once the fruit and the punishment of the former. In the light of a calamity it is more palpable and impressive to the common observer, than in that of a crime; since it is spread as a covering over the face of the Pacific Ocean, dyed in colours of the darkest hue, and traced in all possible or imaginable forms of wretchedness. The original state of Poly
nesian society, considered as the result of idolatry, displayed it as the most heinous enormity conceivable or practicable by man. In the economy of Divine Providence, the measure of penal infliction never exceeds that of moral desert; and the former may, therefore, be considered as the measure of the latter. Now, if we take an island of the South Seas, MANGAIA* for instance, was there wanting a single ingredient of consummate, unmitigated wretchedness? In that wretchedness, then, behold the measure of its people's sin.
Viewing Polynesian idolatry simply as a source of calamity, and merging the fact of its sin in the sight of God, we must consider it as incomparably the greatest disaster that could have befallen the islanders on this side of eternity. The boundless system of creation supplies no similes that even approach the dread reality. The highest efforts of fancy are impotent to furnish illustration or analogy. The dissolution of matured society into its primary elements; the extinction of schools and colleges and all the lights of Christian knowledge; the utter loss of all literature, all science, and all art; the annihilation of commerce, the cessation of agriculture, the destruction of property, and of every element of social comfort: all this complication of distress among an island of Christians, which should leave them nothing but the knowledge of God in their hearts and in their Bibles, would still leave them in a state of incalculable wealth and of ineffable felicity, as compared with the people of MANGAIA. Where the knowledge of God is lost, all is lost that is essential to the happiness of man. It is difficult for youth, without the
• Williams, p. 21.
aid of images, to form any conception of such a calamity. If you can conceive of a peopled planet rushing from its orbit, and shooting away into regions of the deepest night, severed at once from the sight, and rule, and vital influence of the glorious sun, and remaining poised and buried in the shades of those dismal regions, you may imagine a slight analogical resemblance to the dreadful position of Mauke and Mitiaro* before the arrival of Mr. Williams; and the more than mortal or angelic might, which, grasping such a planet, and snatching it from the dominion of the shadow of death, should replace it in its own orbit, to behold the beauty and glory of the sun, to obey his laws, to enjoy the light, life, and felicity which he alone can impart, would perform an act in some degree resembling the deeds achieved by the Martyr of Erromanga.
But we must not confine our views to the earthly calamities by which idolatry was distinguished in Polynesia; for this is only a matter of comparative importance. Time, with whatever trials and tortures it may be attended, soon passes over each successive generation of mankind; but unpardoned guilt survives the wreck of the sepulchre: it marches onward to eternity, followed by punishment, as substance by shadow. The condition of the idolater is not improved beyond the grave. By exchanging worlds, he obtains knowledge ; but his misery still cleaves to him as a girdle. Living without God, he dies without hope, and awakes beyond the flood, only to descry the certainty, the intensity, and the perpetuity, of his sorrows! The degradation of the idolater then receives the stamp of eternity. Between
• Williams, p. 23.