« VorigeDoorgaan »
plications, with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save him from death. (Heb. v. 7.)— The Children's Friend, No. 66. p. 140.
BARMEN MISSIONARY SOCIETY.
1. Achter Bericht der Missions-Gesellschaft zu Barmen. Vom
1 September 1827, bis 1 September 1828. Eighth Report of the Barmen Missionary Society. 1827–8. 2. Das Missions-Blatt. Herausgegeben von der Missions
Gesellschaft zu Barmen. Dritter Jahrgang. 1828. Missionary Paper. Published by the Barmen Missionary
Society. Third year. 1828.
It is very desirable that the state of religion on the Continent should be both viewed and represented in its true light. We hardly see our way in this business. If convinced that all was wrong, it would become us to say so, whoever might stand ready to contradict us. If persuaded that all was right, we should be happy to declare our conviction, whatever storm the declaration might bring about our heads. But we confess ourselves at fault. It is usual for the writers in our literary periodicals to speak as if they had every sort of information of the best kind, and were the competent judges both of those whom they review and of every person and thing besides. This sort of assumption, however, we are more anxious to expose than to imitate; and therefore though we happen to have before us, in one shape or another, about fifty times as much information upon the present subject, as is possessed by many reviewers upon subjects on which, profiting by their incognito, they speak with most impudent confidence, as if they knew every thing and a little more-we content ourselves with proceeding to offer a short account of the papers at the head of our article, and such remarks as we feel ourselves prepared to make, upon the important subject of Continental Christianity.
At page 218 of Mr. Haldane's lately published work, which we should no more think of reviewing than we should a bursting bomb, we find it remarked by Wolf, who was often happy, though sometimes unfortunate, in his estimate of character, “There are excellent people at Elberfeld, BARMEN, and Dusselthal.” Some of these excellent people, we are inclined to hope, are concerned in the Missionary Institution at the secondnamed place. Connected with it is a Tract Society, of which we have lately heard a very good character, from a quarter that we can trust: and we hope soon to have an opportunity of enabling our readers to judge, by a specimen, for themselves. As to the Missionary Society, we have looked over its report
with satisfaction. On the list of its Directors stands the pious Krummacher, from whose truly delightful sermons we gave some interesting extracts in our last Number. He is not, we understand, the only minister of the Reformed or Calvinistic church
the list, and we hope his liveliness will be deemed no impeachment of his orthodoxy. The pupils of this society, who formerly, as it appears, went to Basle, now remain, by an altered arrangement, during the whole of their time at Barmen ; whether with any interruption of friendly feeling between the two institutions, we have not discovered : and the first Barmen Missionaries, with the Divine blessing, are destined to proceed shortly to South Africa. The sale of the Missionary Papers amounts to 13,000 : the government of Prussia granting that facility to the transmission of religious publications, up to a certain number, by post, which is granted by the English government only to that kind of periodicals, which Apollyon no doubt agrees with Mr. Brougham in styling the “best instructors.' The Missionary Papers are four pages small quarto, and appear once a fortnight. The annual charge is only ten groschen, or about one shilling and three-pence; and the profits are devoted to the Missionary cause.
As the chief object of these papers is to convey Missionary intelligence, they are no very decisive indications of spirit or doctrines. So far as we have looked at them, we certainly liked their tone on the whole; and a translation of one, relating to the Gipseys, is here subjoined. It is the twelfth number, somewhat curtailed, of the series for 1828, bearing date June the 2d. We allow some sentiments of which we disapprove to stand, that we may state our objections.
While our pages record so ma particulars, both melancholy and cheering, concerning the Heathen world, many of our readers may have asked themselves, with profound interest, But how far are we from the people of Greenland, of New Zealand, or of Otaheite? And when they hear of the thousands of miles, of the wide oceans, of the numerous dangers and difficulties of the voyage, they may feel surprised, that Christian love can extend its Samaritan bond of neighbourhood so far. This however is the characteristic of the kingdom of God, that it knows no limits. For, ever since our Lord Jesus Christ performed in person the longest of all missionary journeys, namely, that from heaven to earth, in order to seek and to save that which was lost, every one who has received his Spirit believes, that the one eternal
Gospel, of the Saviour of sinners, belongs to the sinners of Africa and of the East Indies, as well as to the sinners of Europe; and that those who have the light are called to kindle it throughou the world, for those who have it not. When a neighbour's house takes fire, we run to assist, because it is a neighbour's, and because our own house is in danger.
But when the fire is at the other end of the town, or at a distant hamlet, the moment the alarm-bell is heard we run with equal speed, from cordial compassion, to see what we can save. Ought Christians then to hear the alarm-bell, whose sounds, coming over the sea, tell us of the Heathen's wants and desire for help, and to say, while they stand lingering on the shore, It is too far ?
* But,' says the world, we ought sometimes to leave thé Heathen of more distant regions to their fate, and think of the Heathen of our own country.' As to the first part of this speech, it is merely an evasion and subterfuge, because they have no interest in the matter. But with respect to the second,-Very good : we may enter upon this at once. And, if any man have a mind to this work, be is hereby invited to interpose, with heart and hand, with affectionate nurture and with the word of God, for the Heathen in Germany.
Heathen in Germany?- That is, comparatively speaking : Christians, who have nothing of Christianity but baptism and the name, and therefore are not much better than heathens.'- No. But men for the most part actually unbaptized, and all living without Christ: men of Heathen extraction, like those of Africa or the East Indies.
Many perhaps of our readers have seen a family of such persons travelling about, husband, wife, and children together, with tawny complexion, and generally with torn, shabby garments, getting a livelihood as musicians, jugglers, fortune-tellers, tinkers, &c. while their long black hair, and their strange appearance, at once informs us, that here they are not at home. Of these Gipseys,'
Egyptians,' “ Tartars,' or ' Heathens,' as some call them outright, we now proceed to speak.
The Gipseys made their appearance in Germany, for the first time, in the year 1417, and, in the greatest misery, passed through various dictricts and places in troops. Their leaders, who were not however better clothed or better mannered than the rest, often called themselves Dukes and Counts. Their course was from East to West: but from what part of the East they came, and why they had wandered away from their own country, no one knew. When asked, they said that they were Egyptian Christians; that their forefathers would not receive the Lord Jesus, when, being yet a child, he fled to Egypt with his parents; and that for this sin they were condemned to wander, and perform a sorrowful pilgrimage for seven years. Great compassion was felt for the poor people: they were taken care of and clothed, and the Emperor himself, and many princes, gave them passes, and ordered that they should be every where well received. But facts soon exposed them : their assumed sanctity gradually disappeared : and their debauchery, their deceit, their idle and wandering habits, and their importunate mendicity, soon made them generally disliked. But, once there, it was not so easy to remove them. In Austria, it was attempted to bring them to agricultural habits, but with no great success. There was no bringing them into the order and relations of civilized life. Some years since, their habitations there were wretched huts, like the dens of wild beasts. Winter alone brings them into houses. In summer they prefer lying about in the forests. Agriculture they hate, and can only be kept to it by compulsion. They prefer working as smiths, mend old pots and pans, and manufacture rings, nails, &c. for sale, from iron and other metals. They never work, however, but when want compels them. In the Austrian dominions, there may be as many as 150,000 Gipseys. There are also many in Russia and Turkey. In Christian countries they generally profess themselves Roman Catholics ; in Russia they hold with the Greek church, and in Turkey are Mohammedans. But in their hearts they are Heathens, and they never join any church, except through external inducements. It is conjectured, with tolerable confidence, especially in consequence of an examination of their peculiar speech, that they are of East-Indian origin, and belonged to the lowest class of the heathen of those parts, the caste of the Pariabs. Probably the ravages of war, occasioned by the Mongols towards the end of the fourteenth century, drove them from their own country.
Many of these strangers wandered also into parts of the Prussian dominions. Their wretched condition, which was indeed prejudicial to society, induced Frederick II. to forbid their wandering about, and to uire that they should live together in villages. But how difficult it is to bring men of such wild habits even into a state of external order. Oh, too little do we know and prize how much we owe to the precious Gospel, even iu respect to things external ; and what a blessing it is to us, that from childhood we have known the holy Scriptures!
Concerning the present state of the Gipseys in Nordhausen, a Christian friend writes thus, to the Berlin Society for promoting Christianity among the Heathen.
* Esteemed friends in Christ,-I am constrained by Christian charity, hereby to call your attention to a heathen race, which has hitherto been overlooked and disregarded. I mean the Gipseys, who dwell in the neighbourhood of Nordhausen and Bleicherode, in the village of Friedrichslohra, and in the adjoining part of the forest : and who, according to their own statement, amount to three hundred. In the course of a journey which I made, towards the close of last autumn, I received much information concerning the life and habits of these unfortunate people; in consequence of which I directed my course towards them, and visited them for the first time in this place. I was shocked and grieved on beholding their distressed, neglected, and rude condition ; but still more, on hearing the account given of them by the neighbouring inhabitants. Their usual occupation is stealing, begging, and fortune-telling. The last is practised only by the females ; who find their profit in it, by means of fraud and artifice of every kind. The Prussian government, indeed, has issued some strict regulations concerning them. But since the inhabitants, as I learned, have much reason to dread their practices (for the Gipsey is very vindictive), these regulations are not very punctually executed. The greater part of the Gipseys profess the Roman Catholic religion. This however is merely to answer inquiries; for they come not in any way into .contact with the Roman Catholic church, except that now and then they bring their children to be baptized, for the sake of the presents from the sponsors; and this indeed, from the same motive, for the most part frequently, at different places. The greater number remain unbaptized, being born in forests, and consequently withdrawn from all authoritative inspection. The families crowded together in Friedrichslohra lie, in winter, in houses which they occupy apart, with the aforesaid inhabitants of the forests, totally without clothing, in every corner of the house where there is room; and the greatest immorality, and even incest, prevails amongst them. Some of them occasionally leave these abodes of horror, in order to procure support for themselves and for the rest, by begging, robbing, and poaching. It is remarkable that on no occasion of this sort, has a Gipsey been apprehended and brought to justice. They must, therefore, be very cautious and adroit. In spring, the whole body go abroad into the neighbouring forest and plain, where they pitch their huts by remote villages, sheepfarms, &c. and disturb the whole neighbourhood; while, at the same time, the place where they are is secured from all other beggars, as well as from every theft.
I obtained access, also, by means of a messenger, to those lying in the forest; and it produced in all of them an indescribable astonishment, when I entered into a friendly conversation with them, which soon introduced the one thing' which is needful.' Old and young, great and small, crowded round me, to hear from me that which, they assured me, had never been addressed to them before, inasmuch as they were universally treated with harshness and severity. Yes, some of those dark visages were suffused with tears, when I set before them their external and spiritual misery. Ah, beloved friends, since this district is Prussian, I trust that I shall not ask in vain for these unfortunates, when I hereby beseech you to take charge of them, soul and body, and to send them Evangelical help and comfort as soon as possible. Unquestionably, circumspection will be necessary; and regard must be had to the improvement of their external condition. As every Gipsey is thoroughly averse to labour, this will make assistance so much the more difficult. It must therefore be a true mission-station, in which every one, who applies bimself to it, should be provided with the means of alleviating as much as possible their external sufferings, and of furnishing them with the needful support. To this end, not only will those Christians open their hearts and hands, who shall contribute their mite to it as they do already contribute to many other Christian societies ; but those also will surely join them, who object to sending their money across the sea as after an uncertain hope, since they have now an opportunity of contributing to the conversion of the Heathen in their own country. I feel convinced, that, with the Lord's help, the attempt to bring these unfortunates to the Christian church will succeed.
. It is extraordinary that the Gipseys have continued amongst us so little regarded by all civilized people, when, according to public statements, above a hundred thousand of them are to be found in Europe. The greater number of these reside in Spain, Russia, and Austria. In general they are very shy, as they are every where treated with severity; and even in me they at first saw a spy of the police, ull hy conversation I had won their confidence. I found the tawny band in the forest at their dinner, which consisted of a dead swine, which they invited me to partake of. This, however, I declined. All such food they devour with eagerness. I offered them, for their perusal, a publication of the Prussian Tract Society : but only one of them could read, and all the rest listeoed with earnest attention. Each wished for a similar tract at my departure, and received one. They have a language of their own, which they use amongst themselves; and according to the statements of the persons inhabiting those parts, some of them are occasionally absent for a considerable time, while others, who are unknown, come. It is apparent, therefore, that they are in connexion with those at a distance from them. Most of the Gipseys are hearty, powerful persons. He in particular, who could read, might be called handsome. I was particularly struck by a very aged female amongst them, who both by gestures and words expressed her joy, when she heard that for her salvation also the Son of God came into the world and died.
• To your Christian love and discernment, I leave the rest, adding only this observation, that should you propose to establish a mission in this quarter (which under the Caristian government of Prussia is not likely to be impeded), a preacher of salvation may find a residence at the estate of Oberspier, which is distant a four hours' journey, with the proprietor, Carl Zahn, who has offered all assistance; and that at Nordhausen also there are many Christian friends, at the head of whom stands a nail-maker, Freybe by name. The Lord grant his blessing to all your determinations in this matter! It yet is day, therefore will we work.'
In consequence of this intelligence, the Barmeu Missionary Society felt itself induced to send out two pupils of the seminary, on a visit of inspection, for some weeks, to Friedrichslobra, in order, by means of them, to obtain further information concerning these poor people; and especially to ascertain whether a school might not be established there for the neglected children, and a beneficial effect be thus produced on the adults. Many prayers attended the two pupils, who some days since, under the Lord's protection, returned safe to the seminary.