« PreviousContinue »
missionaries were mortified to find, that, after years of labour, they had not gained a single proselyte to the truth. On this they resolved to change their measures--and, as a last desperate experiment, they gave up all their preparatory instructions, and made one great and decisive step onward to the peculiar doctrines, and these too couched in the peculiar phraseology of the Gospel. When simply told in scripture words of sin and of the Saviour, the effect was instantaneous.
There was something in the hearts of these unlettered men, which responded to the views and tidings of the New Testament. The demonstrations of natural religion fell fruitless and unintelligible upon their ear; but they felt the burden of sin and of death; and pleasant to their souls was the preacher's voice, when it told that unto them a Saviour was born. They live on the very outskirts of populationand beyond them there is nothing seen but a wilderness of snow, and nothing heard but the angry howling of the elements.
Who will say that the enterprize is chimerical now, that a christian people have been formed in a country so unpromising, that the limits of the visible church have been pushed forward to the limits of human existence, and the tidings of good will to men have been carried with acceptance to the very last and outermost of the species?
24. The discovery that was made by the Moravians was converted by them into a principle which they carried round the globe; and which ever since has been the fertile source of their marvellous success in the work of evangelizing the
heathen. They now learned that it was impossible to antedate the message of the Gospel in any land, and they availed themselves of this Greenland experience in all their subsequent operations among the Esquimaux of Labrador, among the Indians of North America, among the negroes of the Danish and the Dutch and the British colonies, and lastly among the Hottentots of South Africa. As the effect of their peculiar yet powerful moral regimen, villages have arisen in the wilderness; and we now behold men of before untamed and savage nature, as if by the touch of miracle, completely because radically transformed—living in gentleness together, and tutored in the arts and the decencies of a civilized people. Many there are, who nauseate the peculiar evangelism which lies at the root of this great moral and spiritual change, yet are forced to admire the beauteous efflorescence which proceeds from it—just as there are many who can eye with delight the graces of a cultivated landscape, yet have no taste for the operations of the husbandry which called it into being. Certain it is that Moravians have become the objects of a popular and sentimental admiration among men, who could not tolerate the methodistical flavour as they may term it, of a Moravian Report--a thing just as possible, as that they might feel a most exquisite relish for their music along with a thorough distaste for their hymns. The fruit and the flower are both pleasing to the eye of Nature, with many to whom the culture is offensive, and who could not look upon it without the revolt of Nature's enmity to the truth as it is
in Jesus. And therefore it is, that they look only to the one, and contrive to overlook the other. And accordingly Moravians have of late, become the objects of very general request, as well as general admiration. Their services are every where sought after. It was a most substantial testimony in their favour, when the West India planters found the best results from their preaching and discipline, in the good order and fidelity of their slavesproving of the most degraded and oppressed of our species—that still there was a moral nature within, which felt the adaptations of the Gospel and could respond to them.
25. This seems the best plan for the adjustment of the question, whether the first attempt should be to christianize or to civilize-or which of these ought to have the precedency of the other. The Moravians themselves have innocently given rise to a delusion on this subject. The result in their converts has now become so striking and so palpable—they have at length succeeded in raising so beauteous a spectacle, as that of christian and well-ordered villages, in what were before the frightful haunts of prowling and plundering barbarians—there is something so inexpressibly pleasing in the chapel services, and the well attended schools, and the picturesque gardens, and the snug habitations and prosperous husbandry of reclaimed Hottentots, that Moravians are now extolled by sentimental travellers and eloquent writers as an example, nay as a reproach to all other missionaries.
And they have supposed, perhaps naturally enough, that what was foremost in exhibition was
also first in time—that the Christianity, in short, was a graft upon the civilization, and not the civilization a graft upon the Christianity. There were none more hurt and scandalized by these eulogies than the Moravians themselves—and they have actually penned a vindication of their method, not against the censure of malignant enemies, but against the praise of mistaken admirers. The whole history, in fact, of their success, we may add, the whole history of christianization since the days of the apostles, goes to prove, that whereever the faith of the Gospel arises in the mind, it is rooted and has its deep foundation in the workings of that moral nature which is common to all the species—and that it springs not from su un a layer as that surface-dressing of civilization, by which one part of the species is distinguished from another. And so it is, that they begin with the topics of sin and of the Saviour at the very outset of their converse, even with the rudest of nature's wanderers—and they find a conscience in them which responds as readily to their sayings, and with less of presumption and prejudice to obstruct their efficacy, as in the lettered Mahometan or demi-civilized Hindoo. It is true, they also attempt, as all other missionaries do, to initiate into the arts and industry of Europe from the very beginning of their enterprise—and the two educations of religion and humanity go on contemporaneously together. It may, in some instances, be difficult to assign what the precedency is in the order of time, but as to the precedency in the order of nature, or in the order of cause and effect,
It is a message
there is no difficulty. It is not the previous civilization which makes way for the Christianity—it is the previous incipient Christianity which makes way for the civilization.
This is the strict philosophy of the process. Christianity does not wait for civilization—it is civilization that waits and follows with attendant footsteps on Christianity. In a word, the message of God to man may be delivered immediately to all men. alike to the barbarian and the Greek—and here, too, as in every thing else, there is the fullest harmony between the declarations of the Gospel itself, and the findings of experience.
26. This explains that very prevalent misconception, in virtue of which it is, that while in the West Indies more especially, and indeed throughout a great portion of British society, there was such demand and admiration for Moravians, there -was along with it some years ago so strong a remainder of dislike and even of derision for all other missionaries. The reason was simply this. The Moravians were the oldest of all our modern Protestant missionaries—and they had time to work up a more conspicuous result as the evidence of their labours. They also, went through the very ordeal of contempt and of bitter calumy which other missionaries had still to undergo—and must continue to endure, so long as the Christianity of the attempt stands out more nakedly to the eye of worldly observers; and the mantle of civilization is not yet sufficiently thickened to cover it from their view. There
be even still a rawness in the more recent village of Bethelsdorp,