Fifthly. The direct and indirect labours of the mission aries as already specified, amidst schools, preaching, printing, and circulating books, constant conversation, visiting, travelling about from village to village, administering medicine, (though on a limited scale,) and the introduction of numerous useful arts by the missionary artisans, all helped to produce the result under review. And to these causes may be added the fact of natives visiting England for education, and then returning to their own country; of several youths being apprenticed to different trades in Mauritius, and of others spending a few years on board British men of war, most of whom are now residing in Madagascar and diffusing intelligence among their countrymen.

And these various circumstances, it must also be remembered, were acting not upon a dull and sluggish, but on an enterprising, ambitious, and partially civilized people, prepared therefore to take advantage of such a fortunate concurrence of affairs, and to advance rapidly in the career of social improvement. Their natural habits of inquisitiveness and social intercourse, not to say loquacity and impertinent curiosity, were also favourable to the rapid developement of the elements of social improvement, when once imbibed. In such a state, each one is anxious to exhibit his superiority, and therefore communicates his newly acquired and often imperfectly formed ideas to others; mind is thus exercised, invention is put to the stretch, and knowledge is augmented and extended. It is a deeply interesting crisis in the advancement of society, when men begin to become conscious of the superiority and dignity which knowledge



bestows, and learn to look back on their own former state of credulity and ignorance with wonder and regret. Often with ardour and ingenuousness are the questions then reiterated, as if with men just awakening from long slumber, “Where shall wisdom be found ? where is the place of understanding? where are the materials for thinking ? all this new to us, put us in the way to become wise." Such were the questions literally put again and again to the missionaries in Madagascar.

It may be just added that Imerina, the principal sphere of the operations of the mission, presented, from the state of its population, a highly favourable field for its exertions; its population is dense as compared with many other parts of the island, though small as compared with its capabilities. Of its number of inhabitants some idea may be gathered from the fact that its largest kabarys or public assemblies may contain about eighty or a hundred thousand persons collected from those residing within a distance of about two or three days' journey from the capital. This presented a large body of people, therefore, of easy access, and all stationary, residing in towns and villages, mostly within a few miles of the capital, while the capital itself might contain about twenty thousand of the number.

Various circumstances of encouragement and discouragement occurred in the history of the mission, which it has not been deemed necessary to specify. The brief sketch now presented is sufficient to prove that its labours were not without success; and, were it even possible to entertain the fear that no future harvest would spring from the past culture of the soil, that which has been already

[blocks in formation]

reaped is more than sufficient to indemnify the cost. The Scriptures are in the language of the island-the standard of the cross has been unfurled-souls have been converted, idolatry and superstition have received a wound, and there are not a few of the natives that believe in Jesus, and who, amidst much tribulation, are holding fast their integrity, and are pressing into the kingdom of God.




Unfavourable circumstances affecting the progress and prospects

of the Mission, and indicating the spirit and intentions of the native government, prior to the Edict for the suppression of Christianity in February, 1835.

The queen of Madagascar, although possessed of a masculine determination of mind, amounting often to an inflexible obstinacy, has never given any indication of superior intelligence. She is slightly acquainted with the elements of reading and writing, but never availed herself, even during Radama's life-time, of any means to become familiar with the instructions conveyed by the European teachers among the people. She was always known to be deeply attached to the superstitious customs of the country, and to have cherished a great veneration for the national idols, and their worship. Though rather intimate with the missionaries who first resided at the capital, and in the habit of visiting them and their families, she evinced no disposition to embrace the religion they taught. Her accession to the throne was carefully exhibited to the people as the act of the guardian idols. They, it was said, had placed her on the throne of her ancestors ; and of course, being taught this doctrine herself by interested parties, she came under obligations to sustain the authority of the idols, to patronize their worship, and to encourage those who were regarded



as the interpreters of the wishes of these divinities. For the service rendered to her, the idol party naturally expected her countenance and support in return. One of the hereditary guardians of the principal idol Rakelimalaza, at the time of her accession, was Rainiharo, and he was appointed, ostensibly by command of the idol, to remain with the new sovereign, while his prepossessing manners seem to have won for him a large share of her good graces. Two parties were thus soon formed at the court, consisting of Rainiharo and his friends, who were evidently anxious to maintain the system of idolatry, and Andriamihiaja and his friends, who sought to extend education, and to carry out and enlarge the measures commenced by Radama. The jealous opposition of these parties lasted about two years, when the idolatrous or anti-liberal party prevailed. They proceeded at first with much caution and reserve, only giving signs of their determination to oppose Christianity just in proportion to the gradual increase of their power and influence in the country. The fate of Andriamihiaja has been already described.

It would be difficult to point out any one single act of the Christians which operated as the immediate cause of the fierce persecution which has been raised against them; but the queen and her principal officers, it was soon found, were evidently unfavourable to this new religion, and therefore to the means of its extension in the country. The character of the native mind, as indeed of the human mind at large, was opposed to the purity of the doctrines and precepts of Christianity; while the national pride was mortified, and an extreme jealousy of foreigners

« VorigeDoorgaan »