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General view of a Christian church-Uniformity of procedure in the different stations-Instructions from England-Preparatory teaching-Distinct nature of a Christian church-Qualifications and duties of communicants-The sacrament of the Lord's Supper--Formation of the first church of Christ in the Leeward Islands Administration of the ordinance-Substitute for bread-Order of the service-Character, experience, and peculiarities of the communicants-Buaiti-Manner of admitting church members-Regard to the decla rations of scripture-Instances of the power of conscience-Appointment of deacons-Improvement in parental discipline-Great attention to religion.
WHILE the Lord of Missions was thus thinning our ranks, he was shewing us that the work in which we were engaged was not ours, but his; that though the agent was removed, the agency under which he had acted was not thereby impeded. The pleasing change we had observed among our people every year, increased during the present in an astonishing manner, and we had the high satisfaction of witnessing the formation and organization of the first church of Christ in the Leeward or Society Islands. It took place early in the month of May, and shortly after the opening of the new chapel.
Although we did not experience that difficulty which, from the peculiar circumstances of the Mission and the people, had attended the first administration of baptism, we regarded it as a matter requiring grave and prayerful deliberation. We felt that our proceedings would influence the views and conduct, not only of those by whom we were surrounded, but perhaps of future generations. A foundation was now to be laid, on which, so far as order and discipline were concerned, the superstructure of the Christian church in that island was to rise in every succeeding age, and by which it would certainly be affected in many important respects. Anxious therefore to begin. aright, we sought, and trust we received, Divine guidance, endeavouring to regulate our proceedings altogether by the directions of the sacred volume. It was, however, difficult to divest ourselves entirely of those views of the subject which we had imbibed from the writings of men.
A Christian church we considered to be a society of faithful and holy men, voluntarily associated for the purposes of public worship, mutual edification, the participation of the Lord's supper, and the propagation of Christianity: the Lord Jesus Christ was regarded as its spiritual Head; and only such as had given themselves unto the Redeemer, and were spiritually united to him, members. These were our general views. In England we had belonged to different denominations, and, however adapted the peculiarities in discipline, of those communions, might appear to the circumstances of British Christians, we did not deem it expedient to take any one altogether for our model. It appeared to all more desirable, in the existing state of the people, to divest the churches we might be
honoured of God to plant among the Gentiles, of every thing complicated or artificial, that they might be established in the purest simplicity of form, and, as far as possible, according to the directions of revelation. Had any been pertinacious of their peculiarities, they had now the fairest opportunity of acting accordingly.
General good, however, was our object; and that line of procedure, which, as a whole, we could unitedly pursue, in closest accordance with scripture, and at the same time with greatest advantage to the people, was more desired by every one, than any peculiar views on minor points. I believe it is from the paramount influence of these feelings, more than from any other cause, that such uniformity exists. There was no agreement previously entered into among the Missionaries, but those of each station were left, with the people around who might be brought to a reception of the truth, to assume for themselves such form of constitution and discipline, as should in their views be most accordant with the word of God; and yet I am not aware, that in any material point there is the smallest difference among them.
As the subject had long been one of considerable anxiety, we had written to the Directors of the Society for their advice. They in general referred us to the New Testament. Several persons, however, interested in the progress of truth among the islands, wrote to the Missionaries individually, and also communicated their views to the public through the medium of the Evangelical Magazine. Among others, the Rev. Mr. Greathead, whose views of church government were rather peculiar, wrote very fully. His plans were at first adopted by one or two of the Missionaries;
yet the free admission, not only to baptism, but to the ordinance of the Lord's supper, of such persons as sincerely desired to receive the same, without requiring evidence of their being true spiritual converts to Christ, threatened great irregularity and confusion; it was therefore discontinued.
In our public instructions, we inculeated on those who, we had reason to believe, were under the decisive influence of the Spirit of Christ, the duty of commemorating his dying love by that ordinance which he had instituted, and by which his disciples were to shew forth his death till he should come.-Those who had been baptized, now desired to be more particularly informed how, and in what circumstances, they were to observe this injunction of the Lord. We, therefore, proposed to devote one afternoon every week to the instruction of such as, having been baptized, desired to be united in church-fellowship. Fifteen indi
duals attended the first meeting, and were afterwards joined by others. We met them regularly, and endeavoured to instruct them as fully and familiarly as possible in the duty of partaking of the sacrament; the nature, design, and scriptural constitution of church-fellowship; the discipline to be maintained, the advantages to be anticipated, and the duties resulting therefrom.
Next to the personal piety, which in churchmembers is considered indispensable, it appeared most important to impress the minds of the people with the distinctness of a Christian church from any political, civil, or other merely human institution. In the system of false religion under which they had lived, and by which their habits of judgment had been formed, the highest civil and sacerdotal offices had been united in one person.
The king was generally chief priest of the national temple; and the high-priesthood of the principal idols was usually held by some member, or near relative, of the reigning family. On many occasions of worship also, the king was the representative of the god. The chiefs and the gods appear always to have exercised a combined influence over the populace. The power of the gods often seemed only exercised to establish the authority of the king, who was by the people regarded as filling his high station by lineal descent from them, while the measures of the government as often appeared to be pursued to inspire fear, and secure acknowledgments for the gods. Hence, when human sacrifices were required, the priest applied to the king, and the king gave orders to provide the victim. Since the kings and chiefs, as well as the people, had embraced the gospel, and many had taken the lead in propagating it, and had uniformly adorned it by their example, the people sometimes said, that had their chiefs been idolaters or wicked rulers, it would have been improper for them to have interfered in any matters connected with Christianity, but that now they were truly pious, it accorded with their ideas of propriety, that in the Christian church they should, as Christian chiefs, be pre-eminent.
We told them they had not imbibed these ideas in a Christian, but in a pagan school; that the authority of their kings and chiefs was exerted over their persons, and regarded their outward conduct; that they held their high station under God, for the well-being of society, and were, when influenced by uprightness and humanity, the greatest blessings to the communities over which they presided. We also stated, that in this station