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Although the subsequent conduct of Pomare was a matter of the deepest regret to his best friends, yet there was something in the ceremony unusually imposing; and the emotions associated with it, must have been intense and interesting, especially to the two elder Missionaries, who had performed the rite. He had been identified with the chief events of their lives; upwards of two and twenty years had rolled by since the providence of God first brought them acquainted with him on the shores of Matavai; and in connexion with that interview which memory would, probably, present in strong and vivid colours on this occasion, they, perhaps, recollected the opinion formed of him, by the humane commander of the Duff, that he appeared the last person likely to receive the gospel. Yet amid the thickest darkness that had ever veiled their prospects, through him the first cheering ray of dawning light had broken upon them: he was their first convert; in every difficulty, he had been their steady friend; in every labour, a ready coadjutor; and had now publicly professed that his faith was grounded on that rock whereon their own was fixed, and his hopes, with theirs, derived from one common source. What intense and mingled hopes and fears must have pervaded their hearts! what hallowed joy must they have felt in anticipation of his being with them an heir of immortality, chastened with appalling, and not ungrounded fears, that after all he might become a cast-away.
Numbers, both adults and children, were subsequently baptized in the Windward Islands, but it was not until some months after, that the ordinance was dispensed to any in the Leward or Society group.
It was in Huahine that the first, from among those who had renounced paganism in the Leeward Islands, were
thus initiated into the outward church of Christ. Huahine was a new station, and few of the inhabitants, when we landed, knew much more of Christianity than its name. Fifteen months had elapsed since our arrival, and during that period, we had made the doctrines and general precepts of the gospel the topics of our discourses, among a people who had every thing to learn. Many of them now came forward, declaring their desire to become altogether the disciples of the Saviour, to make a public profession of faith in him by baptism, and to seek instruction in all his will. We found that, had we been so disposed, we could no longer defer the rite, with regard at least to some of those who applied.
Anxious that it should be on their part a reasonable act, and that, before being received, it should be understood, we proposed to meet one afternoon every week, with those who desired to be baptized. At this meeting we endeavoured to instruct them in the nature, origin, design, and subjects of the ordinance, together with the duties of those who should receive it. There was no wish on our parts to baptize by stratagem, as some of the popish Missionaries have done, but we sought to make the people well acquainted with the matter in all its bearings.At the first weekly assemblies, between twenty and thirty of the most promising of the converts attended, afterwards the numbers exceeded four or five hundred.
In the instructions given, the Scriptures, and the Scrip. tures only, were our guide; and we endeavoured to inculcate the doctrine as we found it there, and as if it had never been controverted. Our warrant for its adminis.. tration we derived from our Lord's commission to the first Missionaries, which was also our own. In its nature, we instructed them not to consider baptism as possessing any
saving efficacy, or conferring any spiritual benefit, but being on our parts a duty connected with our office, and on theirs a public declaration of discipleship or proselytism to the Christian faith; designed to teach all, their moral defilement in the sight of God, and their need of that washing of regeneration, and spiritual purification, which it figuratively signified.
The duties of those who desired it were also inculcated, and the necessity that existed not only for their renunciation of every open idolatrous practice, and attention to instruction in the principles, but a deportment accordant with the precepts of Christianity, and the conspicuous situation in which this very act would place them, before those by whom they were surrounded. We also informed them, that it appeared to us from the Scripture, that the ordinance was designed for believers and their children, and therefore directed that, as they desired them to be brought up in the Christian faith, they should dedicate them to Jehovah by baptism. It was found necessary, at the same time, plainly to caution them against supposing there was in baptism any thing meritorious, or on account of which they would receive any special blessing from God, other than that which would follow general obedience to his word. This was the more requisite, as there was reason to apprehend, that from the influence of a system in which strict observance of rites and ceremonies, without regard to motive or moral character, was all that was necessary, they might rest satisfied with having received the mere external declaratory rite. We also endeavoured carefully to avoid holding out any prospect of distinction, or temporal advantage, as an inducement to the people to apply for baptism, but constantly and plainly represented its observance as only an
act of obedience to Him whom they professed to desire for their Master and their Lord, and who had promised that his people should be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
This weekly meeting was designed to answer another purpose, that of affording us the means of judging of the sincerity of the candidates, as well as of imparting to them necessary instruction. After several months had been
occupied in devoting one afternoon in the week to their instruction, it was deemed proper to baptize a number of candidates, and two of their children.
It was now necessary to determine upon the mode: this had never appeared to us the most important part of the matter. We should not have objected to immerse any individuals who had themselves desired it. But as the Scriptures are not decisive on this point, and though it is stated that Philip and the Eunuch went down to the water, or into the water, yet it was not in this act, but in the application of water in the name of the Trinity, that we considered baptism to consist: in such application, it is not stated that the Eunuch was immersed. Hence, we did not explain this, or other passages of similar import, as signifying immersion-and consequently the converts did not desire it. But had one of our own number thought it right to have administered this rite by immersion, I do not think we should have said he acted wrong in so doing. In this respect, however, there was no difference of opinion, and consequently a perfect uniformity of practice prevailed. With regard to the other modes, we did not think it was very material whether we poured or sprinkled the element upon the individual.
The 12th of September, 1819, was fixed for the baptism of the first converts in Huahine. It was also the Sabbath, A suitable discourse was delivered in the
morning to a numerous congregation, who thronged the chapel. Mr. Davies, being the senior Missionary at the station, officiated, assisted by Mr. Barff and myself.
The climate in the South Sea Islands is remarkably fine, the weather warm, the streams abundant, and the waters clear as crystal; and, had we been disposed to perform the service in the open air, under the shade of a spreading grove, we had every facility for so doing. The converts might have been led into the river, and, standing on the bank or in the stream ourselves, we might have applied its waters to their persons, using the words prescribed. On such occasions, the most delightful scenes of which it is possible for imagination to conceive, would have been presented; scenes similar perhaps to those often witnessed by the disciples in the days of the apostles; and for the sake of effect, and the associations they would have awakened, I have sometimes for a moment wished we had. But the wish has only been momentary, for whatever might have been the impression of such a scene, or the emotions enkindled, they would not have been attended with any valuable practical result. On the present, therefore, and every subsequent occasion, the rite was administered before the whole congregation, in the place of worship.
During the ordinary morning worship, the approved candidates sat in front of the pulpit. At its close, they kept their places, and, after imploring the divine blessing upon the service, we proceeded to its performance. Their profession of faith in Christ, and desire to be instructed in his word, had been received at a preceding meeting; and it was only necessary now, after a short address to the whole, to ask the name of cach adult, and the parents the names of their children.