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GENERAL REMARKS ON THE HISTORY OF MISSIONS IN THIS AGE.
THE operations of Christianity are always radically the same, because they flow from its essential character, and its relations to human nature; yet it makes some difference whether it is received amongst nations to whom it was previously quite unknown, either plunged in barbarism or endowed with a certain degree of civilization, proceeding from some other form of religion, or whether it attaches itself to an already existing Christian tradition. In the latter case, it will indeed have to combat the same reactions of the nature of the old man, which, whilst they manifest themselves undisguisedly amongst nations to which Christianity is quite strange, are yet also to be met with under a Christian disguise where a Christian tradition is found. And even with those nations amongst which Christianity is now received, a class of men may ever be found who, in their condition of barbarous recklessness, have remained almost totally estranged from its influence, and in reference to whom our missionary, activity is still needed, so that the distinction between home and foreign missions is in this respect just.151
In foreign missions, we should distinguish between the different conditions of the nations to which these missionary labours are directed, whether they are quite uncivilized, or whether they already possess a certain indigenous civilization. The principle of Christianity must always manifest itself as a reforming principle; whether it becomes to savage nations—by being engrafted into the wild stock of the natural man—the germ of all the human training needed by them,—or whether it introduces a new spirit into an already existing civilization. In this latter case, Christianity will find a point of contact in the previous national culture, but must purify, enlighten, and reanimate it, by that higher spirit of life which is lacking in all which is not born of the Spirit. In the former case, it will itself first communicate to the wild stock of human nature, the impulse and the energy for all kinds of civilization, corresponding to the individual characteristics of each nation. The latter operation we have seen in the first appearance of Christianity; the former is exhibited amongst the nations of Germanic descent, in which Christianity prepared the way for the whole of the characteristic civilization of the Middle Ages.
Whilst, among the ancients, the existing opposition between nations seemed invincible, and civilization was deemed to be the privilege only of certain tribes,—Christianity, on the other hand, distinguishes between that which is founded in the original nature of man as it came from the hand of 152God, and that which has proceeded from sin. It teaches us to perceive that, whilst all nations are of one blood, and, by this common origin, have all received the same nature destined to be conformed to the image of God; so, by means of redemption and regeneration, what has proceeded from the corruption of sin, may again be restored in all men, and the cause of all opposition and division be overcome. And Christianity, as will more and more be seen in the “History of Missions,” is able actually to accomplish that which it sets before it as its ideal-goal and requirement; and even whilst the intellectual gifts of nations and individuals remain unchanged, to communicate, nevertheless, the same: higher life to all,—to awaken, in all, the consciousness of that in which alone the dignity of man consists, and to lead to its realization. But how has Christianity brought this about? What was the characteristic of the process of culture everywhere carried on by it? It is contained in the words of the Lord, that the new wine must not be poured into old bottles—a new piece must not be added to the old garment, but all must be made new. There is the same law in the education of nations as in that of individuals. It is the nature of Christianity not to mould and reform from without—not first to combat barbarism and vice in individual outbreaks; lest the evil spirit which is cast out, should return with seven other spirits worse than himself, and the last state of that man be worse than the first. (Luke xi, 26.) Christianity does not begin with forcing 153the old nature into an outward propriety or moral restraint; nor with intruding on nations a civilization shaped in a foreign mould, as has been the case with other attempts at civilization, which have consequently repressed free individual life, and so contained in themselves the seeds of decay; but by attaching itself to, or first calling forth, that consciousness of sin by which humanity feels itself separated from God, it imparts to those who had arrived at this consciousness, the joyful tidings of redemption; and from the appropriation of this, the new life of faith and love develops itself in a Divine life—the opposite to all barbarism and decay, and the source of all true civilization.
Athanasius speaks of this operation of Christianity, at the time when this new creation first began to manifest itself amongst those tribes of Germanic descent which had been brought by war into contact with the Roman empire. “Who amongst men,” he said, “would ever have been able to conquer so large a portion of the earth; to penetrate amongst the Scythians, Ethiopians, Persians, Armenians, and Goths, who dwell beyond the ocean, and preach to them of the vanity of their idols, of virtue and purity of morals—who but our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘the power of God;’ He who not only proclaimed salvation through his disciples, but was also able to move the minds of men amongst those nations to lay aside their barbarous customs, no more to honour their national gods, but through Him, to honour the Father. For in ancient times, 154when the Greeks and barbarians were given to idolatry, men waged war against each other, and were fierce to their kindred; no one could travel by land or by sea without a sword in his hand, because there was irreconcilable hatred amongst them all. Weapons were amongst their necessaries of life, and the sword instead of the staff was their indispensable stay. But now that the nations come over to the doctrine of Christ, they lay aside in a wonderful way, with truly contrite hearts, these savage customs, and no longer plan war, but all tends to peace. Who is it that has effected this, or who is it that has bound together those who hated each other? Who else but the beloved Son of the Father, the common Saviour of all, Jesus Christ, who, because of his love, has suffered. all things for our salvation? For, from the beginning, the peace was proclaimed which was to proceed from Him: ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more’ Isa. ii. 4. And this can no longer seem incredible to us, since we see the barbarians, to whom rudeness of manners was habitual as long as they sacrificed to their idols, and who could not remain an instant without their swords, as soon as they receive the doctrine of Christ, turn from war to agriculture, and instead of arming their hands with weapons, clasp them in prayer; instead of waging war against each other, arm themselves against Satan and his forces, and 155contend against them by virtue and purity of morals. This is a monument of the Divine power of the Saviour; and to this is added yet this further marvel, that for Christ’s sake they despise death, and die as martyrs for him.”
Jerome also, in his time, when men of the nation of the Goths, who were regarded by the Greeks and Romans as barbarians incapable of civilization, laid questions before him about the interpretation of Scripture, and a zeal for the study of the Scriptures was diffused amongst these wild tribes, (as we now see a similar zeal amongst the Australian tribes, in whom Christianity has produced a germ of civilization,) sees in this fact with Athanasius a fulfilment of this promise in Isaiah: “Who would have believed that the barbarous tongue of the Goth should search the primitive Hebrew Scriptures, and that, whilst the Greeks sleep, or quarrel with one another, Germany should seek to fathom the Word of God. Now I experience the truth, ‘that God is no respecter of persons:’ but in every nation he who feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted. of Him Acts x, 34, 35. The finger which managed the arrow becomes soft enough to guide the pen; the breast of the savage warrior is changed to gentleness.” Then he quotes the above-cited passages of Isaiah, and adds these words: “‘The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid. The cow and the bear shall feed together, and their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox,’ 156Isa. xi, 6, 7. “Not,” adds Jerome, “that simplicity shall become savage, but that the savage shall learn simplicity.”
As such results could only flow from Christianity, so through Christianity alone could the impulse and the power be given to carry Divine light to savage nations. What was it that impelled men to leave their country and their kindred, in order to expose themselves to all kinds of difficulties and perils amongst savage nations? It was the sense of the love of the Redeemer, which constrained him to exchange his glory for the wretchedness of men, and to yield himself up to death for sinners. The sense of this love constrained them to show similar love to their brethren who were still estranged from God, and to risk all in order to impart to others that salvation in which they partook only by grace.
It is precisely because Christianity works from within to mould the savage nature in all its parts—because therefore it did not give anything ready-made to the nations, but imparted to them the first germ of Divine life, from which all must develop itself freely and therefore gradually, that it bad long to contend with the barbarism which it was thoroughly to overcome. In the frequently vain complaints of the barbarism of certain ages of the Church, it is forgotten that the true dignity of man does not consist in the harmonious development of all the spiritual and moral faculties of his nature, but in the reception of that Divine life into the 157 depths of the soul, from which, indeed, when it has thoroughly penetrated the stock of human nature from root to branch, this harmonious development necessarily springs, but which can exist amidst the predominant mass of barbarism, and even propagate itself in the midst of the torrent. Thus, amidst the most barbarous ages, we find operations of the genuine Christian spirit or manifestations of that Divine life such as we have already seen in the previous portion of this history, and which we shall not entirely miss in any of the subsequent ages. That fire which the Saviour came to enkindle amongst men, has since then never ceased in any age to burn with a more or less bright flame. It could never be entirely quenched by the power of the spirit of the world. The living water of the Holy Spirit flows with more or less admixture through all the centuries. The highest and deepest things in humanity having in heaven their origin and their end, remain exalted above the changes and chances of time—ever the same—and all who have a portion in them feel and know themselves to be one with the band of believers in all times and in all places. Therefore the idea of progress, which belongs to the region of mutable things, can have no place here.
We must, moreover, not forget that the rude Northern races were to diffuse their barbarism over the visible Church, in order in their turn to be remoulded by it, a result which, in consequence of the freedom of man, could only be attained in this way.158
Christianity can indeed be propagated in a few generally comprehensible doctrines, which are preserved by the power of God in the minds of men. These doctrines, as is shown by the experience of recent times amongst Hottentots, Greenlanders, and Negroes, as also by the experience of earlier ages, are such as to find access even amongst those deficient of all kind of civilization; for everywhere there lies hidden in man something akin to God, which can only be awakened to consciousness by the revelation of its source,—can only be released from its veil of corruption by the breath from above. Ire-wens was able to appeal to the fact, that without paper and ink, the doctrine of salvation could be written by the Holy Spirit on the hearts of those who were unacquainted with letters, and could not have received any doctrine in writing.
But experience also teaches that Divine truth has never been able to propagate itself continuously, when the written records have not been added to the oral preaching; those records from which every age and every individual may draw afresh the living truth in its purity, and appropriate it in its characteristic and applicable form. By the propagation of these records, the Divine contents could be preserved from all falsifications; or, if these had arisen could be purged from them. Certainly all which has proceeded from the operations of pure and genuine Christianity, all which in all ages has been thought, and purposed, and done, and instituted in the true Christian spirit,—is inwardly linked 159together; all the operations of the Holy Spirit in the life of humanity, form one great invisible chain, and it must ever give us a holy joy when we can recognise the links of this chain in history, and in this sense trace a Christian tradition in all times and places in which the Gospel has been preached. But this operation of the Holy Ghost, this Christian tradition flowing from it, is never, and nowhere, pure and untroubled, but is everywhere, and at all times, disturbed by the mixture of the flesh, and of that which is not Divine. Everywhere, and always, we find in tradition the Antichristian beside the Christian, as every one must in himself, in his inward and outward life, be conscious of the same mixture, and what is seen in a small scale in the life of every individual Christian, is seen on a large scale in the life of the whole Church. We are thus always in danger of confounding the Christian with the unchristian, what is of the flesh with what is of the Spirit; if we have not in the Divine Word, which mirrors to us purely the operations of the Holy Spirit, a trustworthy source of knowledge, a sure testing principle, a fixed rule, by which, as in our own souls, so also in the traditions of the whole Church, to separate that which is of God from that which is not.
And the experience of all ages teaches us further, that Christianity has only attained a firm and living growth, when, according to its essential tendency, if working vitally, it bears with it the germ of all human civilization, however gradually this 160may be developed. Christianity could not last amongst a nomad tribe, as is evidenced by the history of the Arab races, amongst others. It could indeed there, as in all other cases, find access; but if it really obtained a firm footing, it must bring about a complete revolution in the whole mode of living. Wisely, therefore, did the first Christian teachers of the barbarous nations, impart a knowledge of letters with that of Chris- tianity, for the sake of Christianity itself, and also to be the germ of all future culture for the people and the country. Thus, in the fourth century, the admirable Ulphila invented an alphabet for his Goths, and gave them the word of God in their own language. Patrick gave letters as well as Christianity to the Irish; he imparted to his scholars the little store of knowledge which he possessed, and also zeal for the attainment of more. The convents of Ireland, insured by its isolated position against the ruin which fell on the rest of Europe, became schools where, in quiet solitude, religion and science were cherished in close connexion with one another, and from which both Christianity and the germs of scientific culture were transplanted into other countries; as Abbot Alcuin, while he exhorted the Irish monks to make further efforts, “that through them, and from them, the light of truth and science might be spread over all parts pf the world,” also reminded them that, in old times, the most learned teachers had come forth from Ireland to Britain, France, and Italy, 161and had thereby brought great gain to the Church. If other religions, reposing on a blind faith, had cause to fear the light of science, which revealed the untenable nature of their doctrines, Christianity, on the contrary, both in its first efforts to penetrate the spiritual life of humanity or of a nation, and in its reappearence in new purity and glory, entered into an alliance with scientific culture. It was thus at the Reformation, that work of God for the restoration of the Apostolic Church, Luther says beautifully, in a letter to Eoban Hess, in 1523: “I see that there never has been an especial revelation of the Divine Word, when God has not first prepared the way by the resuscitation of languages and sciences, as by the forerunning of John the Baptist.”1313 See Luther’s Briefe herausgegeben von Dr. de Wette, B. II.
When the Christian Church was founded in England amongst the Anglo-Saxons, many of all ranks were seized with such a thirst for knowledge, that they visited the cells of the Irish monks, who shared with them in Christian love their spiritual and temporal goods, giving them daily maintenance, books, and instruction without recompense. In the second half of the seventh century, an admirable old man, Theodore of Cilicia, who brought sciences with him from Greece, made a progress through all England, as Archbishop of Canterbury, with his friend Abbot Hadrian, and sought to gather scholars around him. The instructions which were 162thus communicated to the English Church were soon after collected together by Bede, that simple and thoughtful as well as inquiring and scientific priest and monk. This man, who shone as a light for his own and subsequent times, says himself of his life since his seventh year: “I have used all diligence in the study of the Holy Scriptures, and in the observance of the conventual rules, and the daily singing in the Church; it was ever my joy, either to learn, or teach, or write something.”
The last days of this man, who is a model of a true Christian teacher, and met his death as he was exercising his calling amongst his devotedly attached pupils, is described to us by Cuthbert, who was one of them. He mentions how Bede passed the last weeks of his life in a sickness, which brought him to the grave, A. D. 735, in his sixty-third year. We will let the scholar himself speak: “He lived joyfully, giving thanks to God day and night, yea, at all hours, until the Feast of the Ascension; every day he gave lessons to us, his pupils, and the rest of his time he occupied himself in chanting psalms. He was awake almost the whole night, and spent it in joy and thanksgiving; and when he awoke from his short sleep, immediately he raised his hands on high, and began again to give thanks. He sang the words of the Apostle Paul: ‘It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’ He sang much besides from the Holy Scriptures, and also many Anglo-Saxon hymns. He sang antiphons according to our and 163his custom, and amongst others this one: ‘O King of glory, Lord of power, who this day didst ascend a victor above all the heavens, ‘leave us not orphaned behind thee, but send to us the promised Spirit of the Father. Hallelujah.’ And when he came to the words ‘leave us not orphaned behind Thee,’ he burst into tears. And in an hour he began to sing again. We wept with him—now we read—then we wept—but we could not read without tears. Often would he thank God for sending him this sickness; and often would he say, ‘God chasteneth the son whom he loveth.’ Often, too, would he repeat these words of St. Ambrose: ‘I have not lived so that I should be ashamed to live amongst you; yet neither do I fear to die, for we have a good Lord.’ Besides the lessons which he gave us, and his psalm-singing during those days, he composed two important works:—a translation of the Gospel of St. John into our native tongue, for the use of the Church; and extracts from Isidore of Seville; for he said: ‘I would not that my pupils should read what is false, and after my death should labour in vain.’
“On the Tuesday before Ascension Day, his sickness increased, his breathing became difficult, and his feet began to swell. Yet he passed the whole day joyfully, dictating. At times he would say: ‘Make haste to learn, for I do not know how long I shall remain with you, whether my Creator will not soon take me to himself.’ The following night he spent in prayers of thanksgiving. And 164 when Wednesday dawned, he desired us diligently to continue writing what we had begun. When this was finished, we carried the relics in procession, as is customary on that day. One of us then said to him: ‘Dearest master, we have yet one chapter to translate; will it be grievous to thee, if we ask thee any further?’ He answered: ‘It is quite easy—take the pen and write quickly.’ At three o ‘clock he said to me: ‘Run quickly, and call the priests of this convent to me, that I may impart to them the gifts which God has given me. The rich of this world seek to give gold and silver and other costly things; but with great love and joy will I give to my brethren what God has given me.’ They all wept, chiefly for that he said, that in this world they should see his face no more. But they rejoiced in that he said: ‘It is time that I go to my Creator, I have lived long enough, the time of my departure is at hand, for I long to depart and be with Christ.’ Thus did he live till evening. Then that scholar said to him: ‘Dearest master, there is only one passage left to write?’ He answered: ‘Write quickly.’ Soon the scholar replied: ‘Now this also is written.’ He answered: ‘Thou hast well said. It is finished. Raise my head in thy hand, for it will do me good to sit opposite my sanctuary, where I was wont to kneel down to pray; that sitting, thus I may call upon my Father.’ So he seated himself on the ground in his cell, and sang the ‘Glory to Thee, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;’ and when he 165had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed his last breath.”
We have already spoken of the various modes of conversion: whether effected in a purely spiritual way, proceeding from within outwards, by an impression on the inward nature; or whether men, in whom the needs of the higher life were not yet felt, were led from the corporeal to the spiritual, from the outward to the inward, from the earthly to the Divine. As regards the latter, great results were often prepared by trifling circumstances, which, nevertheless, gained a peculiar significance by a certain concatenation of events,—results which, without such a concatenation, without this connexion with other operations of a higher nature, could not have ensued. How important was the great draught of fishes in leading the apostle Peter to Christ! and thus, also, the earlier and later history of missions, teaches how, by trifling outward events, much was often done towards the conversion of individuals and of nations. It made, indeed, a great difference, whether the outward impulse led to a true inward conversion, or whether the result remained merely external.
Clovis, the pagan king of the Franks, was destitute of all special interest in religious subjects; he lived after the customs of his fathers, without troubling himself about religion. His gods were only known to him as mighty beings, whom he feared, and whose help he sought to win in his wars. Looking at religion from this point of view, the misfortunes 166of the fallen Roman empire were to him a proof that the God of the Romans was no mighty being. But he espoused the pious Christian princess, Clotilda of Burgundy. She often spoke to him of the nothingness of his gods, and the power of the God whom she worshipped. Clovis constantly combated her with his argument from the impotence of Rome. But, doubtless, even more than her discourses, must the example of her pious life have impressed the heart of the rough heathen; that influence of daily intercourse which leaves at last even the roughest not wholly unmoved,—the example of her confident faith and prayer,—although the king may himself have been unconscious of the impression, and have resisted all her exhortations. She obtained permission to have her first child baptized. But when soon alter the child died, Clovis was thereby confirmed in his unbelief. The pious mother did not suffer herself to be misled by this, but rather expressed her joy, that her babe was counted worthy to pass in the robes of innocence into the assembly of the blessed. Clovis permitted her to have a second child baptized. It fell sick, and Clovis prophesied that it too would die. But Clotilda prayed fervently and trustfully for the deliverance of her child. When the child actually recovered, she told her husband with joyful assurance, what her prayers had obtained. She employed yet another means, seeking to bring together everything which could contribute to change the mind of her husband. 167From ancient times, many churches which had been built on the graves of holy men, especially of martyrs, had been famed for the marvellous cures of various diseases, particularly nervous diseases, which had been effected there. Whether it be, that especial answers to prayer were there experienced—for the love of God meets the longing of the pious heart, even when it is mixed up with erroneous ideas—as in the woman with the issue of blood, (Luke viii, 44;) or that the agitation of religious feeling exercised a strong influence on the condition of the body; or whether, as was sometimes undoubtedly the case, deception was practised about these cures: however this might be, Clotilda spoke from sincere conviction, when she directed the attention of her husband to such cures effected at the tomb of Martin, bishop of Tours; and the less he was able to explain them, the greater the impression they must have made on him.
It was in reference to this, that Nicetius, bishop of Treves, wrote thus in the year 561, to Chlodeswinde, queen of the Lombards, the granddaughter of Clotilda: “You have heard from your grandmother Clotilda, how, after her arrival in France, she converted king Clovis to Christianity, and as he was a man of great acuteness, he would not rest until he ascertained the truth of these miraculous cures. As soon, however, as he recognised the truth of what had been related to him, he bowed himself down humbly on the grave of Martin, and was immediately baptized.”168
But it was another circumstance which gave the first impulse to the wavering mind of Clovis. In the battle of Zulpich, against the Alemanni, A. D. 486, his army had become entangled in a perilous situation; in vain had he called on his gods for help. Then he; turned to the God of the Christian, called on him for aid, if he were indeed Almighty, and vowing to become a Christian. His victory was to him a proof of the might of the God of the Christians, as, formerly to Constantine, his victory over Maxentius and Licimus. Remigius, bishop of Rheims, whom he now sent for, was easily able to find access to a mind already so prepared. As he related to him the history of the Passion of our Lord, the king exclaimed: “If I had been there with my Franks, I would soon have chastised those Jews.”
Such outward providences and impressions might often, in leading the heathen to recognise Christ as a mighty Being, prepare them also to receive Him as the Redeemer from the misery of sin; and whilst at first they only learned to place Him as a new god beside their old gods, they might at length learn to know him as the only true God, and the Almighty Creator.
Anschar, the apostle of the North, who was sustained by. no earthly power in the preaching of the Gospel, often experienced the help of God in difficult situations, by means of outward circumstances, which made a powerful impression on the heathen. When, in 823, he had undertaken his second missionary 169 journey to Sweden, he found at first an unfavourable feeling produced on the heathen, by the representations which had been made to them of the indignation of their gods against the worship of a strange God. An assembly of the people was held to deliberate on this question, and it had a great effect on this assembly, when an old man stepped forth and said: “Hear, O king and people! It is already known to many amongst us, that this God can afford great help to those who trust in him, for many of us have proved this in perils at sea, and in manifold dangers.” With this we may compare what Adam of Bremen says of Sweden, in the second half of the eleventh century. “When they are pressed in battle, they call on one amongst the many gods whom they worship for aid, and to him, if they are victorious, they afterwards especially devote themselves, giving him a precedence over the rest. But they already declare the God of the Christians to be mightier than all , they say that the other gods often deceive, but that this God manifests himself on all occasions as the surest defence.”
Whilst Otho, bishop of Bamberg, the apostle of the Pomeranians, was labouring in 1124, for the first time, towards the foundation of the Christian Church in Stettin, he succeeded in converting and baptizing a man of high rank in the nation, called Witstock. Although his knowledge of Christianity was as yet by no means pure, this man had nevertheless a firm and strong faith. The image of the 170 excellent bishop, whom he saw labouring with such self-sacrificing love and such a firm trust in God, seems in particular to have left a strong impression on his mind, as the Saviour is wont most powerfully to manifest himself in the lives of those who have truly received him, and by his image engraven on them to win others to himself. After his conversion, Witstock would only wage war against the heathen, his unenlightened zeal seeking thus to manifest itself. In one battle he was taken prisoner, with many others, carried off to the still heathen island of Riigen, and there put in chains. During his imprisonment, he found his strength and consolation in prayer. One night when he fell asleep after fervent prayer, his revered bishop Otho appeared to him in a dream, and promised. him help. This cheered him much. He was afterwards liberated by many remarkable providences. He looked on his deliverance as a miracle; as a witness to the holy life of Otho, and to the Divine origin of Christianity. It was to him a call from God to bear witness amongst his countrymen for the God who had so delivered him, and to labour for the propagation of his worship amongst them. On his return, he caused the skiff in which he had escaped to be suspended at the gate of the city as a constant memorial of his deliverance, and a testimony for Him who had so delivered him.
When afterwards the bishop reappeared amongst the people of Stettin, who had for the most part 171relapsed into idolatry, Witstock said to him, in reference to this skiff, “This boat is the witness to thy holy life, the confirmation of my faith, and the proof that God has sent me to this people.” And he was the especial instrument in again preparing the way for the preaching of Bishop Otho, and in leading back the apostates to the Lord. A beautiful contrast to the indifferent and careless Clovis is found in Edwin, the pagan king of Northumbria, during the first part of the seventh century. His marriage with a Christian princess from the kingdom of Kent was, with him, as with Clovis, the first step to his conversion. But Edwin was more susceptible of religious impressions, and more disposed to meditation on Divine things. He first renounced idolatry, and remained a long time in a state of indecision. He caused himself to be more fully instructed in Christianity by Bishop Paulinus, who had accompanied his wife, conversed much on religion with those of his great men whom he deemed the wisest, and was often seen alone, lost in deep musings. At length he assembled the great and the wise of his people for a last consultation on the great subject.
In this assembly one of the nobles arose and said: “It seems to me to be, in this earthly life of ours, with regard to what is uncertain to us, just as if, when ye were sitting at table in winter with your officers and servants in the well-warmed hall, whilst wind and snow were raging outside, a sparrow came and flew swiftly through, from one opening 172to another. Whilst it is within, it is not touched by the wintry tempest; but when the brief moment of repose is over, it soon vanishes from our eyes, returning from the storm to the storm. Thus is this earthly life of man only visible, as it were, for a brief moment, whilst of what has gone before, or of what shall follow, we know nothing whatever. If, therefore, this new doctrine brings us something more certain, we shall do well to follow it.”
Bishop Paulinus, who was present at the assembly, was then asked to make a statement of the Christian doctrine, and the chief-priest himself declared afterwards: “Long already have I known that what we have worshipped is nothing, since the more zealously I sought for truth in that religion, the less I found it. Now, however, I confess openly that the truth, which is able to confer on us the gift of life, salvation, and eternal happiness, has been made manifest to me in this discourse.”
And when the question was proposed, who would be the first to commence the destruction of the temples and altars of the idols, this priest offered himself for the service. “For,” said he, “who is better fitted than I to destroy that which in my foolishness I worshipped, now that wisdom is given me from the true God?”
As a contrast also to Clovis and Constantine, may be adduced Pomare, the first Christian king of Tahiti, as he is described by the English missionaries.173
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