Images de page

have you brought them to me for? I do not want them." (The sentiment had often been circulated, that the receiver of stolen goods was as bad as the thief.) "You had better take them home, and, if you have stolen any from your own countrymen, return them; and when the ships come again from which any of the goods have been stolen, take them back, together with a present to the captain or the carpenter, expressive of your desire to make restitution." They all said-"Oh, no, we cannot take them back; we have had no peace ever since we heard it was displeasing to God, and we shall have no peace so long as they remain in our dwellings; we wish you to take them, and give them back to the owners whenever they come.” Such was the power of conscience, that although they were even tools, which the natives value more highly than gold, and although Mr. Nott requested them to take them back, he could not persuade one of them to do so; they left them all with him, to be returned to their owners. They went even farther than this: some had stolen articles from one of the Missionaries at Eimeo. They fitted up a canoe, and with the first fair wind undertook a voyage upwards of seventy miles, for the purpose of carrying back what they had taken.

In the island of Raiatea, a native, walking on one occasion towards the mountain, discovered a hen's nest, with a number of eggs in it, at the root of a tree. He eagerly seized the prize, put the eggs in the native cloth he wore, and proceeded with them to his house. On the way, he recollected the commandment-"Thou shalt not steal," and though he had found the nest far from any habitation, in the midst of the woods, and did not know that he had robbed any one except the hen,

yet he knew the eggs were not his; and so powerful was the impression of the impropriety of the action, that he returned to the nest, and very carefully replaced the eggs.

A similar course was pursued by a native with whom I was once travelling across the island, with regard to a pocket-knife that he had picked up, but afterwards threw down, near the same place, simply because it did not belong to him.


These facts are most pleasing and decisive illustrations of the power of Christian principles. every individual is not influenced by them. These were Christian men; there are others who are such only in name, and who are addicted to the practice of pilfering and theft, especially at those stations near the harbours which are the most frequent resorts of shipping, where the temptations are greatest, and the influence of foreign intercourse most injurious. Nevertheless, when we consider that they were formerly, as every navigator by whom they were visited has testified, almost a nation of thieves-that Hiro, the god of thieves and plunderers, occupied a place in their mythology, and had a temple and priests-we cannot but admire the operation of Christian principles in producing, in such a number of instances, a conscientious regard to justice and honesty. It was, there is reason to believe with many, the result, not of an apprehension of detection, but of a strict regard to moral rectitude, and the declared will of Him who said, "Thou shalt not steal.”

Towards the close of the year 1820, Mr. Davies left Fare, to supply the station at Papara, in Tahiti, which had been destitute of a Missionary since the decease of Messrs. Tessier and Bicknell. The management of the press, supplying the books for

the whole of the Leeward Islands, the superintendence of the schools, promoting the civilization of the people, attending the religious meetings, together with our pastoral duties, now pressed so heavily upon us, that we found some assistance requisite. This we necessarily sought among the converts, and were happy to find four persons, members of the church, suitable to act as assistants, whom we proposed to the church to elect as deacons. Diaconi is the term by which they are designated; not, however, selected from any strong predilection to the term, or any extraordinary importance attached to it, but because a scriptural term, and one more easily assimilated to the idiom of their language than some others.

On the 15th of February, 1821, they were set apart in the church to this office, by an address from 1 Tim. iii. 10. and prayer for the blessing of God upon them. Auna, Taua, Pohuetea, and Matatore, were the persons selected, and so long as I continued in the islands, we found them consistent Christians, and valuable coadjutors in managing the temporal concerns of the church, visiting the sick, attending the prayer-meetings, &c.

Religion was now almost the sole business of the people at Fare, and the adjacent districts; and although the meetings were frequent, many continued to visit our dwellings, sometimes by daybreak; and often, after we had retired to rest at night, one or two would come knocking gently at our doors or windows, begging us to give them directions, or to answer their inquiries as to the thoughts that distressed their minds. No time, no place, appeared to them unappropriate; and whether they sat in the house, or walked by the way

---skimmed the surface of the water in their light canoe, or laboured in the garden-religion was the topic of their conversation. Their motives

were various, and probably often of a very mixed character. Some were influenced by a desire to be thought well of by their neighbours; many wished to be baptized without feeling the necessity of, or more earnestly seeking, that spiritual purification which it signified; and others, perhaps, considering church-membership as the highest Christian distinction they could gain, desired to be admitted to the communion, as an end of their profession, rather than a means of higher spiritual attainments.

Such individuals, we deemed it, on all occasions, necessary to caution with the greatest distinctness and fidelity. But while these were the motives by which we have reason to believe many were influenced, there were others who certainly acted from different feelings, who were unable to rest under a sense of guilt and its fearful consequences; who desired to hear more about God, his mercy to sinners, and the love of their Saviour, that their burden of sin might be removed; while some, desirous of expressing their sense of the goodness of God, were anxious to be informed what they might do to promote his praise. I cannot look back upon this period of my Missionary life with indifference; nor can I contemplate the state of the people at this time, without believing that the Spirit of God was powerfully operating upon the minds of many. Of this, their subsequent lives have afforded satisfactory evidence. Instability is one of the prominent traits of Tahitian character; and did we not believe in a higher agency than their own purposes or principles, we

should fear that many would abandon the profession they have made, and return to their former course of life.

Although the advantages resulting from frequent meetings for religious conversation were too obvious to allow us to withhold every encouragement; and though, under the present circumstances and feelings of the people, they were peculiarly so; yet, as many of the communicants, and several who were desirous of uniting with them, were females, there were many things in reference to which they needed advice, but which they did not deem suitable to introduce at a public meeting. Mrs. Barff and Mrs. Ellis, therefore, being able to converse familiarly in the native language, proposed to meet the female members of the church, and those of their own sex who were desirous of joining them, once a week, for general conversation, and mutual spiritual improvement. This was an interesting meeting; it was held alternately at our respective habitations, Mrs. Barff and Mrs. Ellis both attending. It commenced with singing a hymn; a prayer was offered, and a portion of scripture read. After this, the most unreserved conversation followed, on religious subjects, the training of their children, and other relative duties connected with the new order of things which Christianity had introduced.

Parental discipline among the people, prior to their reception of Christianity, had been remarkably lax. The children were their own masters as soon as they could act for themselves, and the restraint which the mother could impose was trifling indeed. Such, indeed, was the abundance of provision, that the maintenance of a child was a matter of no anxiety to any one. Hence, if a boy

« PrécédentContinuer »