« PrécédentContinuer »
felt offended with his parents, he left them without ceremony, attached himself to another family in an adjacent or remote district, and remained for months without visiting his father's house. To restrain these fugitive habits, and train their children to regular industry, was one of the duties inculcated on Christian parents; yet the children could but ill brook any restraint. I have seen a
child, not more than six years old, strike or throw stones at his mother, and the father would oftentimes be scarcely more regarded. And notwithstanding all the instructions they have received, that important duty, the proper management of children, is still very imperfectly understood and practised.
The mothers appeared anxious to influence the minds of their children, and gain their respect by kindness. The fathers sometimes had recourse to harsher measures. Hoibu had two sons, that were a source of great trouble to him. One of our number went one day into his house, which was a native dwelling, with no other ceiling than the inside of the roof, the ridge-pole extending along the centre, about twenty feet from the floor. After talking some time with the man, the visitor heard something rustling in a long basket of cocoa-nut leaves at the top of the house, and, looking up, saw the legs and arms of a boy protruding from the basket. On inquiring the cause of this, Hoibu said, the boy had been disobedient, and, in order to convince him of his error, he had first talked to him, and then put him into the basket, and, passing a rope over the ridge-pole, had fastened one end of it to the basket, and, pulling the other, had drawn him up there, that he might think on his disobedience, and not be guilty of the same again.
He was informed that it was rather a novel mode of punishment, and that it was hoped he would not keep him there long. He said, no, he should lower him before the evening. A similar mode of punishment may, I believe, have been used in some of our public schools, in which a kind of large birdcage has been substituted for a basket; but of this Hoibu had never heard. The invention was his own, and it was scarcely possible to repress a smile at the ludicrous appearance of the suspended boy.
Although the training of their children, and other domestic duties, which the females were now called to discharge, were important matters of inquiry, there were others, more deeply interesting, frequently brought forward at their meetings. Some of these questions regarded the children who were born since the gospel had been introduced, and who they were most anxious should share all its blessings; others frequently referred to such as they had murdered under the influence of idolatry. Sometimes a mother would, in enumerating the crimes of which she had been guilty, recount the number of her children she had destroyed, and with anguish relate her struggles of affection, or pangs of remorse, and the distress she now felt; observing, that their images were ever present to her thoughts, and, as it were, constantly haunting her paths, so that she was afraid even to retire to the secret places of the bushes for private prayer, lest their ghosts should rise before her. such individuals would say, they feared there was no hope of mercy for them, that they had repeatedly committed the premeditated murder of the innocent, and would perhaps repeat the scripture declaration, that no murderer hath eternal
life abiding in him, and ask, "Ought I go to Jesus Christ for pardon? were any murderers of their own children ever forgiven?"
While some would ask such questions as these, or state them as the exercises of their own minds, there were others who would speak of the cruelties of which they had been guilty, with a want of feeling that has appeared to border on insensibility to their enormity. Many, however, especially those who were most sensible of the mercy of God through Christ, would on these occasions expatiate on the amazing forbearance of Jehovah, in sparing such merciless creatures as they had been. They would also express their astonishment at the love of Christ in dying for them; and the abundance of his compassion, in continuing to send them the intelligence of his salvation, and, after they had long disregarded it, not only forbearing, but making them willing in the day of his power; melting their hearts, drawing them with cords of affection, and now causing them to rejoice in his love shed abroad in their hearts.
Occasionally they would, in most affecting strains, allude to the anguish which the sight of their neighbours' children produced, by recalling to remembrance those whom they had destroyed. The contrast they often drew between their own childless and desolate condition through their former cruel practice of infant murder, and that of those happy parents who, under the reign of the Messiah, were surrounded by their children, was touching and painful. These were topics that could not be discussed without emotion, either by those who brought them forward, or by those from whom direction and advice were sought.
There was another matter connected with this,
of scarcely inferior interest, and that was the state of those infants after death. Are their spirits, they would say, in outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth-or are they happy? In reply to this, they were informed, that though they had not sinned, they had suffered death as the effect of Adam's transgression, yet that there was reason to hope and believe they were interested in the covenant of redemption, the condition of which the Lord Jesus Christ had fulfilled, and that therefore they were happy.
It is impossible to conceive the satisfaction of mind which this opinion has inspired in those who had been guilty of the destruction of their offspring, though they were still sensible that the final condition of the murdered infants did not diminish the criminality of the unnatural deed.
In reference to this point, they would often ask whether they should in heaven know those they had been acquainted with on earth, and especially if there they should recognize the children they had destroyed. In reply, they were informed, that from all that was said on the heavenly state in the scriptures, there was reason to believe that friends on earth would know each other there, and that it was probable christian mothers would meet their children.
These were not mere speculative inquiries, the parties had a deep personal interest in them; and Mrs. Ellis has been greatly affected in witnessing the emotions with which these discussions have been carried on. I can readily suppose it altogether impossible to conceive of the rapturous expectation with which a christian mother, childless and desolate from her own cruelties, would by faith anticipate meeting in a world of spirits the
children she had murdered in her days of ignorance on earth, and joining with them to celebrate the praises of Him who had snatched them from the region of sin ere they had felt its bitter contamination, and by whom she had been brought to share redemption from its curse.
This opinion was not given simply to afford alleviation to the distressed feelings of such unhappy parents, but because it did not seem opposed, but rather favoured, by the word of God, agreeable to the benevolent character of the Deity, and adapted to enlarge our views of His compassion, without affecting His other attributes. We could, therefore, adopt the language and sentiments of the poet, in the belief that,
"The harp of heaven
Had lack'd its least, but not its meanest string
The meeting of the females was closed with prayer by one of the natives, who, if a mother, would give the child, she had perhaps been nursing in her lap, to some one sitting by.
prayers were marked by deep spirituality and strong feeling; and, I believe, these meetings were among the seasons of most intense and painful, or joyous and hallowed emotion, ever experienced. The individual engaging in the devotional exercise has sometimes, from the strength of feeling, been unable to proceed, and tears alone have afforded relief.