Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Introduction

It has been my endeavour in the ensuing narratives to bring together such of the more distinguished Missionaries of the English and American nations as might best illustrate the character and growth of Mission work in the last two centuries. It is impossible to make it a real history of the Missions of modern times. If I could, I would have followed in the track of Mr. Maclear's admirable volume, but the field is too wide, the material at once too numerous and too scattered, and the account of the spread of the Gospel in the distant parts of the earth has yet to be written in volumes far exceeding the bulk of those allotted to the "Sunday Library."

Two large classes of admirable Missions have been purposely avoided,--namely, those of the Jesuits in Japan, China, and North and South America, and those of the Moravians in Greenland, the United States, and Africa. These are noble works, but they are subjects apart, and our narratives deal with men exclusively of British blood, with the exception of Schwartz, whose toils were so entirely accepted and adopted by the Church of England, that he cannot but be reckoned among her ambassadors. The object, then, has been to throw together such biographies as are most complete, most illustrative, and have been found most inciting to stir up others--representative lives, as far as possible--from the time when the destitution of the Red Indians first stirred the heart of John Eliot, till the misery of the hunted negro brought Charles Mackenzie to the banks of the fever-haunted Zambesi.

We think it will be found that, so far from being the talking, exaggerating, unpractical men that the critical and popular mind is apt to suppose, these labourers were in general eminently practical and hard- working. They seem to us to range themselves into three classes: one, stirred up by the sight of the destitution before their eyes, and quietly trying to supply those needs; one, inspired by fervid zeal to devote themselves; and one, selected by others, taking that selection as a call, and toiling as a duty, as they would have toiled at any other duty set before them. Each and all have their place, and fulfil the work. The hindrances and drawbacks are generally not in the men themselves, nor in the objects of their labour, but first and foremost in the almost uniform hostility of the colonists around, who are used to consider the dark races as subjects for servitude, and either despise or resent any attempt at raising them in the scale; and next, in the extreme difficulty of obtaining means. This it is that has more than anything tended to bring Mission work into disrepute. Many people have no regular system nor principle of giving--the much-needed supplies can only be charmed out of their pockets by sensational accounts, such as the most really hard-working and devoted men cannot prevail on themselves to pour forth; and the work of collection is left to any of the rank and file who have the power of speech, backed by articles where immediate results may be dwelt upon to satisfy those who will not sow in faith and wait patiently.

And the Societies that do their best to regulate and collect the funds raised by those who give, whether on impulse or principle, are necessarily managed by home committees, who ought to unite the qualities of men of business with an intimate knowledge of the needs and governments of numerous young churches, among varied peoples, nations, and languages, each in an entirely abnormal state; and, moreover, to deal with those great men who now and then rise to fulfil great tasks, and cannot be judged by common rules. Thus it is that home Societies are often to be reckoned among the trials of Missionaries.

But we will not dwell on such shortcomings, and will rather pass on to what we had designed as the purpose of our present introduction; namely, to supplement the information which the biographical form of our work has necessitated us to leave imperfect, respecting the Missions as well as the men.

Of the Red Indians who first stirred the compassion of John Eliot, there is little that is good to tell, or rather there is little good to tell of the White man's treatment of them. Self-government by the stronger people always falls hard on the weaker, and Mission after Mission has been extinguished by the enmity of the surrounding Whites and the corruption and decay of the Indians. A Moravian Mission has been actually persecuted. Every here and there some good man has arisen and done a good work on those immediately around him, and at the present time there are some Indians living upon the reserves in the western part of the continent, fairly civilized, settled, and Christianized, and only diminishing from that law of their physical nature that forbids them to flourish without a wilderness in which to roam.

But between the long-settled States of America and those upon the shores of the Pacific, lies a territory where the Indian is still a wild and savage man, and where hatred and slaughter prevail. The Government at Washington would fain act a humane part, and set apart reserves of land and supplies, but the agents through which the transactions are carried on have too often proved unfaithful, and palmed off inferior goods on the Indians, or brought up old debts against them; and in the meantime mutual injuries work up the settlers and the Red men to such a pitch of exasperation, that horrid cruelties are perpetrated on the one side, and on the other the wild men are shot down as pitilessly as beasts of prey, while the travellers and soldiers who live in daily watch and ward against the "wily savage" learn to stigmatize all pity for him as a sort of sentimentalism sprung from Cooper's novels.

Still, where there is peace, good men make their way, and with blessed effect. We wish we had room for the records of the Bishopric of Minnesota, and the details of the work among the Indians; more especially how, when a rising was contemplated to massacre the White settlers all along the border, a Christian Indian travelled all night to give warning; and how, on another occasion, no less than four hundred White women and children were saved by the interposition of four Christian Indian chiefs. Perhaps the Church has never made so systematic an effort upon the Indians as in Minnesota, and it is to be hoped that there may be some success.

For the need of system seems to me one of the great morals to be deduced from the lives I have here collected. I confess that I began them with the unwilling belief that greater works had been effected by persons outside the pale of the Church than by those within; but as I have gone on, the conviction has grown on me that even though the individuals were often great men, their works lacked that permanency and grasp that Church work, as such, has had.

The equality of rank in the ministry of other bodies has prevented the original great founders from being invested with the power that is really needed in training and disciplining inferior and more inexperienced assistants, and produces a want of compactness and authority which has disastrous effects in movements of emergency. Moreover, the lack of forms causes a deficiency of framework for religion to attach itself to, and this is almost fatal to dealing with unintellectual minds.

On the whole, the East Indian Missions have prospered best. Schwartz was the very type of a founder, with his quiet, plodding earnestness, and power of being generally valuable; and the impression he made had not had time to die away before the Episcopate brought authority to deal with the difficulties he had left. Martyn was, like Brainerd before him, one of the beacons of the cause, and did more by his example than by actual teaching; and the foundation of the See of Calcutta gave stability to the former efforts. Except Heber, the Bishops of the Indian See were not remarkable men, but their history has been put together as a whole for the sake of the completion of the subject, as a sample of the difficulties of the position, and likewise because of the steady progress of the labours there recorded.

The Serampore brethren are too notable to be passed over, if only for the memorable fact that Carey the cobbler lighted the missionary fire throughout England and America at a time when the embers had become so extinct that our Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had to borrow workers from Denmark and Germany. Indeed, Martyn's zeal was partly lighted by Carey, though the early termination of his labours has forced me to place his biography before that of the longer-lived Baptist friends--both men of curious and wonderful powers, but whose history shows the disadvantages of the Society government, and whose achievements were the less permanent in consequence. The Burmese branch of their work is chiefly noticeable for the characters and adventures of Dr. Judson and his three wives, and for the interesting display of Buddhism in contact with Christianity. According to the statistics in an American Missionary Dictionary, the work they founded has not fallen to the ground either at Moulmein or Rangoon; while there has also sprung up a hopeful English Church Mission in the same quarter. The last thing I saw about it was a mention of the neatness and dexterity of Burmese girls as needlewomen.

Samuel Marsden may be called the patriarch of Australasian Christianity. There is something grand in the bravery of the bullet-headed Yorkshireman, now contending with the brutality of the convicts and their masters, now sleeping among the cannibals of New Zealand. His foundations, too, have received a superstructure on which we cannot dwell; because, happily, the first Bishop of New Zealand is not yet a subject for biography, and the Melanesian Mission, which has sprung out of it, has not yet seen its first generation.

The Polynesian work, of which John Williams was the martyr and the representative man, has chiefly been carried on by the London Mission. It has always been a principle with the Missionaries of the Anglican Church, whose centre has been first New Zealand, then Norfolk Island, never to enter upon any islands pre-occupied by Christian teachers of any denomination, since there is no lack of wholly unoccupied ground, without perplexing the spirit of the natives with the spectacle of "our unhappy divisions;" and thus while Melanesia is for the most part left to the Church, Polynesia is in the hands of the London Mission. Much good has been effected. The difficulty is that, for want of supervision, individual Missionaries are too much left to themselves, and are in danger of becoming too despotic in their islands. At least such is the impression they sometimes give to officers of the navy. French aggression has much disturbed them both in Tahiti and in the Loyalty Islands, and the introduction of Roman Catholic priests into their territory is bitterly resented. On the whole, observers tolerably impartial think that the civilization which these married teachers bring with them has a happier effect as an example and stimulus to the natives than the solitary ascetic priest,--a true, self-devoted saint indeed but unable to win the attention of the people in their present condition. In India, where asceticism is the test of sanctity even among the heathen, the most self-denying preacher has the best chance of being respected; but in those luxurious islets, poverty and plainness of living, without the power of showing the arts of life, get despised. If the priests could bring their pomp of worship, and large bands of brethren or sisters to reclaim the waste, they might tell upon the minds of the people, but at present they go forth few and poor, and are little heeded in their isolation. Unfortunately, too, the antagonism between them and the London Mission is desperate. The latter hold the tenets perhaps the most widely removed from Catholicism of any Protestant sect, and are mostly not educated enough to understand the opposite point of view, so that each party would almost as soon see the natives unconverted as joining the hostile camp: and precious time is wasted in warrings the one against the other.

The most real enemies to Christianity in these seas are, however, the lawless traders, the English and American whalers and sandal-wood dealers, who bring uncontrolled vice and violence where they put in for water; while they, on the one hand, corrupt the natives, on the other they provoke them into reprisals on the next White men who fall in their way. That the Polynesians are good sailors and not bad workmen, has proved another misfortune, for they are often kidnapped by unscrupulous captains to supply the deficiency of labour in some of the Australasian settlements. Everywhere it seems to be the unhappy fact that Christian men are the most fatal hinderers of God's word among the heathen.

Yet most of the more accessible of the isles have a resident missionary, and keep up schools and chapels. Their chiefs have accepted a Christian code, and the horrid atrocities of cannibalism have been entirely given up, though there is still much evil prevalent, especially in those which have convenient harbours, and are in the pathway of ships. The Samoan islanders have a college, managed by an English minister and his wife, where teachers are educated not only to much good discipline, but to much real refinement, and go forth as admirable and self-devoted heralds of the Gospel into other isles. They have furnished willing martyrs, and many have been far beyond praise. One lack, however, seems to be of that definite formularies, a deficiency which leaves the teaching to depend over much on the individual impressions of the teacher.

The chief remnants of cannibalism are to be found in the New Hebrides. The leader of the attack on John Williams is still alive at Erromango, and the savage defiant nature of this people has never been subdued. They belong more to the Melanesian than the Polynesian races. The first are more like the Negro, the second more like the Malay. The Melanesian Missions are in the charge of the Missionary Bishop, John Coleridge Patteson, who went out as a priest with the Bishop of New Zealand in 1855.

The New Zealand story, as I have said, cannot be told in the lifetime of the chief actor in it. It is a story of startling success, and then of disappointment through colonial impracticability. In some points it has been John Eliot's experience upon a larger scale; but in this case the political quarrel led to the rise of a savage and murderous sect among the Maories, a sort of endeavour to combine some features of Christianity and even Judaism with the old forgotten Paganism, and yet promoting even cannibalism. It is memorable, however, that not one Maori who had received Holy Orders has ever swerved from the faith, though the "Hau- Haus" have led away many hundreds of Christians. Still, a good number remain loyal and faithful, and hold to the English in the miserable war which is still raging, provoked by disputes over the sale of land.

The Melanesian Mission was begun from New Zealand; but whereas the isles are too hot for English constitutions, they can only be visited from the sea, and lads are brought away to be educated for teachers. New Zealand proved too cold for these natives of a tropical climate, and the college has been transplanted to Norfolk Island, where Bishop Patteson has fixed his head-quarters. One of his converts from Banks's Island has received Holy Orders, and this latter group seems in good train to afford a supply of native ministers to islands where few Englishmen could take up a permanent abode.

The African Missions would afford much detail, but want of space has prevented me from mentioning the Rev. George Leacock, the West Indian clergyman, who gave up everything when already an old man to pave the way of the Gospel in the Pongas. And the Cape still retains its first Bishop, so that it is only on the side of Natal and Zululand, where the workers have passed away, that the narrative can be complete. But the African Church is extending its stakes in Graham's Town, Orange River, Zululand, and Zanzibar; and while the cry from East, West, and South is still "Come over and help us," we cannot but feel that, in spite of many a failure, many a disappointment, many a fatal error, still the Gospel trumpet is being blown, and not blown in vain, even in the few spots whose history, for the sake of their representative men, I have here tried to record. Of the Canadian and Columbian Indian Missions, of the Sandwich Isles, and of many more, I have here been able to say nothing; but I hope that the pictures of these labourers in the cause may tend to some understanding, not only of their toils, but of their joys, and may show that they were men not easily deceived, and thoroughly to be trusted in their own reports of their progress.

CHARLOTTE M. YONGE.

March 16th, 1871.


Charlotte M. Yonge

Sorry, no summary available yet.