« AnteriorContinua »
The Moravian Church at Herrnhuth solicited by a variety of
incidents and persons, to plant a Mission in Greenland - Arrival of the first Missionaries in that country- Their letters to the European brethren-- Various hardships-Mortality among the natives—Sickness of the Missionaries—Gloomy prospectsArrival of three helpers—Voyages of discovery—The Christian deportment of the brethren strikes the savages—Their stupidity- They visit the brethren with mercenary motives— Selfdenying devotedness of the Missionaries.
FROM the sketch which has been given in the preceding chapter, of Mr. Egede's labours, the reader will perceive that the salvation of the Greenlanders lay near the heart of that good man; and doubtless he had offered many fervent prayers on behalf of a people for the
promotion of whose salvation he had forfeited so much, and endured such extraordinary privation, suffering, and toil. But still no fruit of bis labours appeared, and he was at times reduced to the deepest distress and despondency.
While the prophet Jeremiah was pouring forth his complaints, as he sank in the deep mire of the dungeon, he little thought how Ebedmelech was interceding with the king for his release; and it was thus, while Mr. Egede could see no ground of hope in all around him, that God was preparing instruments for the answering of all those prayers which his servant bad offered to him on behalf of the Greenlanders: this work of God we are now to unfold, in relating the origin and progress of the Moravian Mission.
In the year 1728, a great awakening took place among the masters and students of the University of Jena. By reading the Holy Scriptures together, and especially the Prophets, many of them were led to reflect upon the glorious promises made to the church, in reference to the conversion of the Gentiles in the latter days. Some of them expressed a desire to assist in this work:
ORIGIN OF THE BRETHREN'S MISSION. 47 and one, in particular, communicated his thoughts in writing to the congregation at Herrnhuth,* and offered himself to the service of Jesus among the Negroes.
The opportunity, however, for carrying these good purposes into effect, did not present itself till the
year 1731, when Count Zinzendorf, a nobleman, whose devotedness in the cause of Christ, more than bis rank, rendered him a distinguished member of the Moravian Church, attended at the coronation of King Christian VI. in Copenhagen. At that time he saw two baptized Greenlanders, and heard with pain that the Mission in Greenland was to be abolished for various reasons. Moreover, a baptized Negro, called Anthony, contracted an acquaintance with his domestics, and telling them how he came to the knowledge of the truth, he at the same time informed them, with sorrow, that he had still a sister in St. Thomas's, one of the Carribbee Islands belonging to the Danes, who also longed very much to learn Christianity (as he expressed it) but bad neither time nor opportunity for it, and therefore she often besought the great God to send somebody to shew her the way unto him. About the same time, Christian David, another member of the brethren's church, being on a journey, had found in the hands of a noted divine a short account of the mission to Greenland. He sent the brethren an extract from it, and endeavoured by a letter to animate and encourage them to undertake a mission to that country.
A short time after, the above-mentioned Anthony obtained permission of his master to visit the congregation at Herrnhuth ; and such an effect was produced by his artless representation of the wretched condition of the Negro population, and by the earnest desires which he expressed for the salvation of his sister, that two Missionaries were sent to St. Thomas's, August 21, 1732.
The visit of this poor converted Negro also proved the occasion of the Mission to Greenland; and here we are reminded, how God delights to achieve his purposes by instruments which man despises.
- He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dung-hill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord's, and he hath set the world upon them." We shall perceive, not only in the origin, but also in the whole progress of this mission, a striking illustration of this principle.
* A Moravian settlemept which stands on the estate of Count Zinzendorf, in Upper Lusatia.
We have seen that Christian David had endeavoured to excite the brethren at Herrnhuth, to undertake a Mission to Greenland : his words had made a deep impression on one of the congregation, named Matthew Stach, but, as he was a young and inexperienced person he endeavoured to suppress the desires which he felt to carry the Gospel to the heathen, considering them as presumptuous. But, when this young man heard the determination of the brethren to go to the West Indies, the desires which he had in vain striven to extinguish broke out afresh; he ventured to disclose his mind to a friend, and was not a little strengthened to find that the same thoughts had been working in his mind also. Believing the Saviour's promise, -“ If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven,” Matt. xiii. 19. Matthew Stach and his friend immediately retired to a wood close to the spot where this conversation concerning their mutual desire to bear the gospel to the Heathen took place, and kneeling down before the Lord, they besought his direction and guidance. Upon this,” says Matthew Stach, “our hearts were filled with an uncommon joy, and we omitted no longer to lay our mind before the congregation in writing, with perfect resignation as to which tribe of heathen our call should be to, though we felt the strongest tendency to the Greenlanders.”
For a long time, no answer was given to this proposal by the congregation ; at length, however, it was decided that Matthew Stach, his cousin Christian Stach, and Christian David should go to Greenland, the latter, in consequence of his advanced age, to remain but one year.
There was no time spent in needless equipment, for these faithful men had nothing but the necessary clothing which they carried upon them, and the congregation from which they were sent, consisted chiefly of
TRUST IN GOD.
49 poor exiles, who had not much to give them. These men of God, however, were not moved by such difficulties, which to ordinary men would have appeared insurmountable obstacles ; they believed that the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof, that he had called them to this work, and would both conduct them to Greenland, and maintain them in it. An event, which happened the day before their departure, enlivened their faith—a friend, who was tutor to a gentleman's children at Venice, sent some money to the congregation at Herrnhuth, which enabled the brethren to pay the expense of the journey of the intended Missionaries as far as Copenhagen.
Here they were received with much love by the friends to whom they were recommended, particularly by Professor Ewald, a member of the worthy college of missions, and the king's chaplain Reuss. But their proposal of going to Greenland appeared very romantic and ill-timed to many, because no one could yet tell whether the former Mission and trade to Greenland, which was reduced as it were to the last extremity, would be anew encouraged, or at last totally abandoned ; wbich latter was the more probable. Under these circumstances, carnal wisdom had many discouraging probabilities and embarrassing questions to suggest-how should the brethren get to Greenland ? and, supposing they could be conveyed thither by the ship that might be sent to bring back the few people still engaged in the mission and traffic (though even this was uncertain), still how should they subsist when they were there? They might in all probability be murdered by the savages, or perish with hunger, or die by some contagious disease, as most of the colonists did three
before, The prospect was indeed gloomy, but the Brethren were still and quiet, looking with composed and steady confidence to Him who had incited them to this enterprise, and expecting his aid to execute it. After some time they heard, that, notwithstanding all obstructions, the king had consented that one ship more should go to Good-hope ; and that also, at the same time, the first Lord of the bed-chamber, Pless, had persuaded a merchant, one Mr. Severin, to send a trading vessel on a trial to Disko Bay. The latter was soon ready, and
was to sail by the first opportunity. Some friends advised them to go in her. After considering all circumstances maturely, they came to a resolution to let the merchant-ship sail, and to wait for the king's ship.*
Being thus come to a determination concerning the measures they would take, they applied to Lord Pless for a passage in the ship which was about to sail to Greenland. At first their application did not meet with the most cordial and ready hearing ; for this Lord, according to his peculiar penetration, and undisguised openness, started many difficulties, both when alone with them, and in the presence of other ministers. It must certainly have appeared very strange to this gentleman, who well knew how little the learned, indefatigable, faithful, and honest Egede had effected among the heathen, that
persons should expect any success.
But, notwithstanding, when he was once convinced of the good foundation of their faith, and the uprightness of their intentions, he regarded them with extraordinary love and confidence, presented their written petition with pleasure to the king, and seconded it to the utmost of his power.
In pleading the Brethren's cause, this nobleman is said to have recommended them to the support of the king by this reason among others, that God has in all
* At first sight, one might imagine it had been better, if the brethren had settled in quite a new place. But the wisdom of God seems herein to have adapted itself to the weakness of his children. For, first, as the brethren were all three illiterate men, and as the Greenlanders were at first very averse to any intercourse with them, it would have been almost impossible for them to have learned the Greenland language in a strange place, where they would have had no assistance, since it proved very difficult for them to learn it when aided by the faithful instructions of Mr. Egede and his children, who had grown up among the Greenlanders. Secondly, they could not have the means of subsistence, because they understood neither fishing nor hunting, and if they got no provision from Europe, (as experience during the following years shewed might be the case), they must either have starved, or returned back by the first ship. Not to mention the danger of life that three unarmed, defenceless people, would be pos among savages, who were still continually apprehensive of revenge from the Europeans for the murder of the old Norwegians, and who besides had a strong appetite for thieving, of which many a mariner has since had painful experience.