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Early in the year 1821, in order to cultivate the most affectionate and profitable intercourse with our people, we proposed, in addition to visits in times of sickness, to pay to each family a pastoral visit, for part of an evening, once a month, or at least once in the course of two months. Mr. Barff and myself, dividing the families between us, were enabled to accomplish this. We were received with kindness by the parties, and it was our study to make these visits advantageous. The time was not spent in the useless recital of the passing reports of the day; we addressed ourselves to each indidual, when circumstances admitted, directing and encouraging them in their adherence to the Saviour, or inviting them to Him, and concluded our visit by uniting in prayer for the blessing of God upon their household, &c. We trust these domiciliary visits were beneficial; they were often cheering to our own minds. Some of the many happy hours I have been privileged to spend in Missionary occupations have been those passed in the native families on such occasions. Here we sometimes saw the household virtues, the endearments of social and domestic comfort, cherished-shedding their benign, elevating, and purifying influence upon a family, the principal members, and sometimes the greater part, of which were enjoying that blessing which maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow, and were preparing to join the family of the redeemed in the abodes of blessedness.
Associated with these delightful duties, there were others equally needful, but less pleasing, which we were called to discharge, in connexion with the infant church we had been honoured to gather. These were acts of discipline, in the
dismissal of those who, by their conduct, had disgraced the Christian profession. On these occasions, we presented to their consideration the direction of the scriptures, and the duty of the church resulting therefrom; and when it was necessary to dismiss an individual from fellowship, it was always done with solemn prayer and most affecting regret.
We were not called to this painful duty soon or often. One or two instances occurred before I removed to the Sandwich Islands. They were, however, exceedingly distressing, especially the first, which preyed so constantly upon the mind of the individual, that, though fully convinced of his fault, and the propriety of the proceeding, he never recovered the shock he received. It was exceedingly painful to those who could no longer, without dishonouring the Christian name, allow him to be identified with them, to separate him. He soon offered every evidence of deep and sincere penitence, and was affectionately invited to return to the bosom of the church: but although he came again among them, a cloud ever after hung over him; and a disease, aggravated by mental anxiety, attacked his frame, and soon brought him to the grave.
Christian churches were formed upon the same or similar principles in the Windward or Georgian Islands, some months before this was established in Huahine. From the peculiar local circumstances of the people, the churches in Tahiti have been exposed to greater trials than that in Huahine has yet experienced, especially those formed in stations adjacent to the anchorage of shipping. In the vicinity of these, the baneful influence of foreign seamen is most destructive of moral im
provement and Christian propriety; and it is probable that there is more immorality among the inhabitants, and more disorder in the churches, at the stations which are the resort of shipping, than in all others throughout the islands. Still the churches there, have not been, and are not, without some indication of the Divine care and blessing.
Subsequently, churches were formed in Raiatea, Tahaa, and Borabora, which have in general prospered. As their constitution and proceedings resemble those of Huahine, it is unnecessary to detail their origin or progress. I have selected that in Huahine, not because it is superior to others for its order, or faith, or the piety of its members, but because it was that of which I was, with my esteemed colleague, a pastor, till the providence of God called me to another field of Missionary labour-and because it was planted in the station at which I spent the greater part of the time I resided in the South Sea Islands.
I have also been minute, perhaps too much so, in detailing its nature, order, and discipline. This has not arisen from a desire to give it undue prominency, but because it forms an important epoch in the history of the people, and is a matter of considerable interest with many who are concerned in the extension of the Christian faith throughout the world; I also conceived the patrons of the South Sea Mission entitled to the most ample information on the subject.
It has not been my object to exhibit the plan and order of this, or the other churches in those islands, as models of perfection, nor to claim for them any degree of excellency which others, formed and regulated differently in some minor respects, might not possess; but simply to narrate
our own views, and consequent proceedings, in reference to measures which will be regarded with indifference by few, whatever may be their peculiar opinions as to the plan we have pursued. From all, I would ask fervent prayer, that whatever has been contrary to the will of God may be amended, and that what has been agreeable thereto may continue to receive his blessing. The church of Christ in Huahine, as well as those in other islands, has had its trials. Some of its members, as might be expected, have departed from the faith and the purity of the gospel. And among the professors of religion in this and the other islands, some, designating themselves prophets, have declared that they have received special revelation from heaven. They have pretended that they were inspired by the spirit of John the Baptist, the woman of Samaria, or the apostle Paul, not to supersede the gospel, but to add something to it. The declarations of their visions and dreams have been the most absurd imaginable. Several of these visionaries, of both sexes, were persons of doubtful morals, and some have become profligate. The Missionaries are of opinion, that a desire to exempt themselves from the moral restraints of the gospel, has been the secret but principal motive by which they have been influenced. This appears confirmed by their declaring that when the mind was under the influence of the spirit by which they pretended to be inspired, they could not commit sin, as whatever they did during those seasons was the act of the body alone, and was not a moral delinquency. Their injurious efforts were met in a becoming manner by the great body of the people, and the greater part of those who were drawn away have manifested their
penitence, and returned to a more sober way of thinking, and to a deportment strictly honourable and virtuous. The instances of this defection have not been numerous; and I am gratified to know, that the greater part of those united in fellowship are increasing in knowledge of the scripture, and stability of Christian character; that a number of young persons, several from the Sunday schools, have joined it; and that, though formed by sixteen individuals in the spring of 1820, it contained, in the autumn of 1827, nearly five hundred members.