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every Christian was bound, no less by duty to God than to man, to render obedience to their laws, to respect and maintain their authority, and to pay them every due homage. We also told them, that in the church of Jesus Christ, which was purely a religious association, so far as distinctions among men, from dignity of station, elevation of office, fame, or wealth, were cerned, all members were brethren; and that Christ himself was the only spiritual chief or King; that his influence or reign was not temporal, but, like his authority, spiritual. The only distinction recognized in a Christian church, we informed them, regarded those who acted as officers, and that such distinctions only prevailed in what concerned them as a church, or voluntarily associated religious society, and did not refer to their usual intercourse with the community of which they were members, and in which they were governed by the ordinary regulations established in civilized society. The exercise of any civil power in matters purely religious, we did not think would be advantageous to the latter; and even if such had been our opinion, we could find in the New Testament no example or precept to authorize such proceedure.
The duties which those who united in church fellowship were required to perform towards each other, towards those desirous of uniting with them, and to the careless or irreligious, were also fully and frequently brought under their notice, together with the paramount duty of every Christian to endeavour to propagate Christianity, that the Christian church might become a kind of nursery, from which other churches might be planted in the extensive wilderness of paganism around,
Next to this, the institution, nature, design, administration, and uses of the Lord's supper, were familiarly explained, that they might understand, as far as possible, the engagement into which they were desirous to enter, and the observances connected therewith.
The Lord's supper, or sacrament, we regarded as analogous to the passover, symbolical of the death of Christ as a propitiation or sacrifice, of which event it was commemorative; that it was designed to perpetuate the remembrance of His death, even to the end of time, and was to be in faith participated by all who build their hopes of admission to the heavenly state on His atonement.
Having been for some months engaged weekly in imparting this kind of instruction to those who had expressed their desire to receive the ordinance of the Lord's supper, the month of May was selected for forming the church. Sixteen individuals, who in the judgment of charity we had every reason to believe were sincere Christians, then met us, and, after imploring the blessing of the great Head of the church, offering a suitable address, and receiving their declaration of faith in Christ, and desire to enjoy the privileges of christian fellowship, a voluntary association was formed, the right-hand of fellowship was given, and they recognized each other as members of the first church of Christ in Huahine.
We did not present any creed or articles of faith for their subscription on this occasion. Sensible of the insufficiency of all mere human writings, however excellent, to restrain the mind, or control the opinions of men, we thought it best to dispense with them, lest the bare assent, or subscription to certain articles of faith, or doctrines of truth,
should be substituted, as grounds of confidence, for an experience of the influence of those doctrines on the heart. Their names only were entered in a book kept by the Missionaries for that purpose, and called the Church-book. This little meeting was held in the chapel at Fare, on Friday evening, the 5th of May, 1820: and it is hoped that what was done on earth among the disciples of Christ below, though it may be dissolved by death, will be realized in his presence above, and endure through eternity.
On the following Sabbath, May the 7th, an unusual number attended the large place of worship. Mr. Davies preached in the forenoon, from Luke xxii. 19. In front of the pulpit, a neat table, covered with white native cloth, was fixed, upon which the sacramental vessels were placed. These had been furnished from England. Wheaten bread was an article of diet that we did not very often obtain ourselves, and which the people seldom tasted: we should have preferred it for this ordinance, yet, as we could not, from the irregularity and uncertainty of our supplies at that period, expect always to have it, we deemed it better to employ an article of food as nearly resembling it as possible, and which was at all times procurable. From these considerations, we felt no hesitation in using, on this occasion, the roasted or baked bread-fruit, pieces of which were placed on the proper vessel.
Wine, we were also thankful to possess for this purpose; and although we have sometimes been apprehensive that we might be under the necessity of substituting the juice of the cocoa-nut for that of the grape, or discontinuing the observance of this ordinance, (to which latter painful alternative,
some of our brethren have been reduced,) we have been providentially favoured with a sufficiency. Over the elements placed on the table, a beautifully white cloth had been spread, before the accustomed service began. When this was over, although it was intimated that any who wished might retire, no one left the chapel. Mr. Davies, the senior Missionary or pastor of the church, took his station behind the communion-table; Mr. Barff sat at one end; and I took my seat at the other.
When the communicants had seated themselves in a line in front, we sung a hymn. The words of institution, viz. passages of scripture containing the directions for the observance of this hallowed festival, &c. were read, a blessing implored, and the bread, which was then broken, handed to each individual. The wine was next poured into the cup, a blessing again sought, when the wine was handed to the communicants. After this, another hymn was sung, a short prayer offered, and the service closed.
I have been thus particular in detailing the order observed on this occasion, as affording not only a correct statement of our proceedings at this time, but also a brief general view of the manner of administering this sacred ordinance in the different Missionary stations throughout the islands.
It would be impossible to give any thing like an adequate description of my own emotions, at this truly interesting service. The scene was worth coming from England to witness, and I trust the impression was as salutary as it was powerful and solemn. I am also quite unable to conceive what the feelings of our senior colleague must at this
time have been. He had been many years among the people before any change in favour of Christianity took place, and had often beheld them, not only ignorant and wretched, sunk to the lowest state of debasing impurity, and accustomed to the perpetration of the most horrid cruelty, but altogether given to idolatry, and often mad after their idols.
Our joy arose, in a great degree, from the delightful anticipation awakened in connexion with the admission of the anxious multitude, who were waiting to enter into, and, we hoped, prepared of God to participate in, all the blessings which this ordinance signified, and in reference to the eternity we hoped to spend with them, when we should join the church triumphant above. His joys, however, in addition to those arising from these sources, must have been powerfully augmented by the recollection of what those individuals once were, and the many hours of apparently cheerless and hopeless toil he had bestowed upon them, now so amply, so astonishingly rewarded.
A state of feeling, almost unearthly, seemed to pervade those who now, for the first time, united with their teachers in commemorating the dying love of Christ. Recollection, perhaps, presented in strong colours the picture of their former state. Their abominations, their reckless cruelty, their infatuation in idolatry, the frequent, impure, and sanguinary rites in which they had engagedtheir darkened minds, and still darker prospects— arose, perhaps, in vivid and rapid succession. At the same time, in striking contrast with their former feelings, their present desire after moral purity, their occupation in the worship of Jehovah, their hopes of pardon and acceptance with him,