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TO THE SUPERINTENDENTS OF SUNDAY SCHOOLS.
FURTHER ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE SUCCESS OF EFFORTS TO SUBVERT IDOLATRY, AND TO INTRODUCE THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUE GOD.
BRETHREN, beloved of the Lord ! you occupy a position of high honour and awful responsibility. Next to the ministers of the glorious gospel, there is no class of men to whose labours a more solemn importance attaches; indeed, the superintendents of large schools exert, whether for evil or for good, a far greater influence than the pastors of small congregations. The true interests of all nations demand the creation of a thoroughly missionary church in England, for the generation to come. In this most momentous work, a very important place is assigned to you. At this moment, a very large portion of the church of the next age is in your hands; and to what extent it shall be missionary, depends very much upon your spirit and procedure. By the good hand of your God upon you, every school in Great Britain may become a nursery for missions. In order to the efficient prosecution of this object, it is necessary that your own hearts, to the greatest possible extent, should be imbued with the spirit of missionary enterprise. O brethren! drink deep into the well-spring of life. Be clad with zeal, as with a cloak! Study every means to promote the enterprise of the world's salvation in the hearts of your teachers. Let your school libraries be stored with all the varied existing missionary literature in our language. Endeavour to promote, to the uttermost, the study of it among the teachers and senior scholars. Devise suitable methods of bringing the main facts to bear upon the whole school. I shall endeavour, in a subsequent letter, to suggest the best plans for effecting this ; and, in the mean time, I invite your attention to the following facts, illustrative of the beneficial tendency of the gospel of Christ.
Of all the South Sea characters sketched by Mr. Williams, few are more interesting than that of the spiritual beggar, Buteve. One hardly knows whether more to admire this man's temporal or his spiritual industry. Both his hands and feet were eaten off by a disease which the natives call kokovi. Notwithstanding this calamity, he contrived to raise food sufficient for the support of himself, his wife, and three children. He walked on his knees, and he tilled his ground with an instrument called the ko, which he pressed firmly to his side, and resting the weight of his body upon it, pierced the ground, and then, scraping out the earth with the stumps of his arms, he clasped the plant, placed it in the hole, and filled in the earth. The weeds he pulled up in the same way. With this afflicted creature, Mr. Williams, one evening, fell in, and held the following dialogue. While the missionary
was walking along, Buteve, getting off his seat, proceeded on his knees to the middle of the pathway, and shouted, “ Welcome, servant of God, who brought light into this dark island; to you are we indebted for the word of salvation.” In reply, Williams said, " What do you know of the word of salvation ?" The Martyr's account of the dialogue is as follows:-“ He answered, “I know about Jesus Christ, who came into the world to save sinners.' On inquiring what he knew about Jesus Christ, he replied, “I know that he is the Son of God, and that he died painfully upon the cross, to pay for the sins of men, in order that their souls might be saved, and go to happiness in the skies.' I inquired of him if all the people went to heaven after death. • Certainly not,' he replied; only those who believe in the Lord Jesus, who cast away sin, and who pray to God.' “You pray, of course?' I continued. “Oh yes,' he said, “I very frequently pray as I weed my ground and plant my food, but always three times a-day, besides praying with my family every morning and evening.' I asked him what he said when he prayed. He answered, “I say, 'O Lord, I am a great sinner; may Jesus take my sins away by his good blood; give me the righteousness of Jesus to adorn me, and give me the good Spirit of Jesus to instruct me, and make my heart good, to make me a man of Jesus, and take me to heaven when I die.' 'Well,' I replied, “that, Buteve, is very excellent; but where did you obtain your knowledge ?' •From you, to be sure: who brought us the news of salvation but yourself?' • True,' I replied; but I do not ever recollect to have seen you at either of the settlements, to hear me speak of these things; and how do you obtain your
knowledge of them?' Why,' he said, as the people return from the services, I take my seat by the wayside, and beg a bit of the word of them as they pass by ; one gives me one piece, another another piece, and I collect them together in my heart, and, by thinking over what I thus obtain, and praying to God to make me know, I understand a little about his word.' This was altogether a most interesting incident, as I had never seen the poor cripple before, and I could not learn that he had ever been in a place of worship. His knowledge, however, was such as to afford me both astonishment and delight, and I seldom passed his house, after this interview, without holding an interesting conversation with him."* It is not easy to conceive of any thing more interesting than the spectacle presented by Williams and Buteve, while holding the conversation here recorded. How deplorable an object was the one ! What a benefactor to that object was the other!
A missionary meeting of the southern Islanders presents to the moral eye a sight at once sublime and beautiful. Such a meeting is in itself a trophy, and to the missionary a triumph, while the speeches of the natives are a species of deposition on the subjects of idolatry and Christianity, of the most interesting and gratifying character. I shall here set forth the substance of several addresses on one of those occasions, as they were minuted down at the moment by Mr. Williams.
First Speaker.—“My friends, let us this afternoon remember our former state—how many children were killed, and how few were kept alive; but now none are destroyed. Parents now behold, with pleasure, their three, five, and even their ten children, the majority of whom would have been murdered, had not God sent his word to us. Now hundreds of these are daily taught the word of God. We knew not that we possessed that invaluable property, a living soul. Neither our wise ancestors, nor any of our former gods, ever told us so. But Jehovah caused compassion to grow in the breasts of the good Christians of England, who formed a society, purchased a ship, and sent missionaries to tell us that we had souls-souls that will never die; and now we are dwelling in comfort, and hope for salvation through Jesus Christ. But do all the lands of darkness possess the same knowledge? Do all know that they have never-dying souls?—that there is one good, and one bad place for every soul after death? Do all know that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners ? No! some are worshipping idols ; some are killing themselves, and others their children. Then let us send them missionaries to teach them the good word which we have been taught.”
* Williams, p. 54.
How direct to the point is this speech! There is not one stray observation. The speaker seems to have felt as if the souls of the murdered innocents hovered about the meeting! His heart recoils with horror, as he calls to mind the hosts of babes butchered in the days of darkness! His reference to the new doctrine of the soul is very affecting. How touching and pungent his exclamation relative to the employments of benighted men, at the moment in which the meeting was being held !
Second Speaker.—“Praise to God well becomes us ; but let it be heart-praise. All the work we do for God must be heart-work. We were dwelling formerly in a dark house, among centipedes and lizards, spiders and