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CALCUTTA CHRISTIAN OBSERVER.
1.- Visit to the South African Missions. Next to his personal interest in the Redeemer's kingdom and in the blessings of his salvation, there are no subjects so dear to the heart of every Christian, as the extension of that kingdom, and the wide diffusion of those blessings. As soon indeed as we become acquainted with the value of our own souls, we begin to place a due estimate on those of others; and in proportion as we grow in conformity to the image of our Saviour, we imbibe the spirit, and enter into the views of Him, who briefly but emphatically declared of himself, “ The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."
We read in the Acts of the Apostles, that when Paul and Barnabas passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles, " they caused great joy unto all the brethren ;” and it is in the hope that similar tidings will excite similar feelings in the hearts of many in this country, who“ pray peace
of Jerusalem,” that the following account of some of the Missions in South Africa has been drawn up. The writer is painfully conscious of his inability to do justice to the subject; he is well aware how little he is qualified to offer those remarks which would make his narrative as interesting or valuable as he could wish : and nothing would have induced him to attempt the description of so large and interesting a field of Missionary success, but the belief that he is perhaps the only one in this country who has lately visited it
. Such as it is, he submits his account to the candor of the readers of the Calcutta Christian Observer, and will rejoice if any thing in it should prove of the slightest value to those who are laboring in the same cause here, or be the means of exciting any feelings of gratitude towards that God, whose power and grace were so remarkably displayed in many of the scenes it records.
During a residence of eighteen months at the Cape of Good Hope, I made two journeys into the interior, during which I travelled twice over nearly the same ground; visiting, after an interval of a few weeks, the same Missionary institutions; and possessing during my last journey a great advantage over the first, in having acquired a sufficient knowledge of the language, to enable me to converse pretty tolerably with the people ; while from the hymns and services being full of Scripture quotations and allusions, I was able to follow them without much difficulty, so as to understand the greater part of what was said. The two journeys together occupied about eight months; at all the stations I stopped some little time, remaining at none less than a couple of days, and, at the more interesting spots, extending my stay to a week, ten days, or a month at a time. The languages spoken at the stations within the colony are Dutch and English; the latter is chiefly confined to the instruction of the young; divine service and intercourse with the older people are conducted entirely in the former. At those stations I visited beyond the colony, being in Cafferland, Caffer was of course the principal language ; but few of the Missionaries being able to speak fluently in the Caffer, Dutch was the medium through which they preached, an interpreter conveying their discourse to the people in their own language. The devotional part of the service was generally conducted by the interpreter; care being always taken that he was a man of decided piety; and if possible, of superior intelligence. Before seeing its operation, I confess I was prejudiced against the use of an interpreter, thinking it would slacken the zeal of the Missionaries in their endeavours to acquire the language, when they found they could address the people, with so much less labor, through an interpreter. After seeing its working, however, I found that, though the plan certainly has its disadvantages, it is attended with much unquestionable benefit. The Caffer language being quite unwritten, and consequently requiring much time for its acquisition, this arrangement enables the Missionary to enter without delay on the most important part of his labors; and thus, instead of having to wait, discouraged by the length of time, and by the feeling that, till he has acquired the language, he has done and can do nothing, he is enabled at once to preach the glad tidings of salvation. The time too, which the interpreter requires for his part of the duty, gives opportunity to the preacher for recollection; and this, in extempore preaching, to a congregation some of whom have never before heard the Gospel, is, I should think, no slight advantage. It may be thought that the length of time required, being in fact that of two sermons, would render the service tedious: but if any of my readers are disposed to think so, I only wish they had been present with me ‘at many a discourse delivered in this manner, where the word of
God was indeed “as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces," and the “ strong crying and tears” of numbers present testified that the Gospel had to them not come in word only. It must not be supposed that the acquisition of the Caffer language is at all neglected: on the contrary, a Grammar is just being published by the Wesley ans; a few of the Missionaries can speak it, and one very promising young man, a Moravian, appeared to me to be readily and completely understood in it. I am not aware whether the use of an interpreter has been adopted to any extent in this country; but I should think the employment of catechists, as such, would, especially on their first arrival, be a great saving of strength to Missionaries, and would not only put it in their power to commence at once preaching the Gospel, which is surely a point of the first importance, but would also greatly tend to the improvement of the native teachers. From the habit of constantly hearing and giving expression to a variety of discourses, they would, it might be hoped, gradually store their own minds with valuable matter, and thus in due time, according to their respective abilities, become themselves, “ scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, bringing out of their treasure things new and old.”
I would wish in this paper to be understood as speaking solely of the London Missionary Society's Institutions. The Church Missionary Society has not established any Missions in South Africa ; and though the Wesleyans are assiduously laboring in that field, and I rejoice to say with marked and eminent success among the Caffers, I saw little or nothing of their institutions*. The United Brethren also, as is well known, have long established Missions in the Cape of Good Hope : but though I visited four out of their five stations, I do not wish to enter on any description of them ; partly because their system and plans are already well known, and partly because from various causes I was unable to acquire that personal knowledge of them, which would warrant my doing so.
The stations of the London Missionary Society, which I visited, were Bethelsdorp, Theopolis, Graham's Town, Kat River Settlement, Buffalo River, Hankey, Pacaltsdorp, and Zuirbraak. Of these the Kat River and Buffalo River are beyond the Colony; and there is no question that amongst them all, the Kat River is by far the most interesting, both in a religious and moral point of view. It would require indeed almost a volume to give any thing like an adequate description of it, and I feel, that
view I can present within the limits of this paper will, at the best, be very partial and imperfect. I have enumerated the Missions in the order in which I visited them during my first journey, in which
The Glasgow Missionary Society has also several stations in Caffer. land, two of which I saw; but they were quite in an incipient state, so that I need not allude further to them.
I went by sea to Algoa Bay, within nine miles of which Bethelsdorp is situated. If the reader however will just reverse the order, commencing at Zurbraak, he will have the route I took on my second journey ; and were I called upon to advise any one starting for the first time, and anxious to see the effect of the Gospel, pot only in saving, but in civilizing, to the best advantage, this last would be the route I would recommend, as he would then witness a gradual improvement in the Hottentots, as he successively visited each institution, from Zuirbraak to the Kat River.
The Institutions within the Colony are composed almost entirely of Hottentots; an occasional Caffer, Bechuana, or Bushman, being found at those nearer the frontier. I am sorry to say, that from not having kept memoranda at the time, I am unable to give the exact numbers at the different institutions and schools ; but my memory will serve me I think pretty accurately, and I will endeavour to be rather within than beyond the number. On the books of the institution, there are at Zuirbraak about 350; at Pacaltsdorp, about 400 ; about the same number at Hankey ; at Bethelsdorp, about 1200 ; Theopolis, I am uncertain of, and at the Kat River settlement, which consists of about 40 locations, with ten or twelve families in each, there must be in round numbers between 4 and 5000*. At each of the stations I have mentioned there is a Missionary, and at most an English school-master, who conducts the instruction of the elder boys and girls. The Missionaries with their families reside in the midst of the people, with whom they live on the most easy and pleasing terms. 'The demeanour of the people towards them was invariably as far as I could judge respectful, while that of the Missionaries on the other hand was obliging and kind; altogether such as is dictated by Scripture, and calculated to promote confidence and good feeling. Infant schools too have recently been established at all the stations, carried on generally by the daughters of the Missionary, who have also at some of the institutions a sewing school for the elder young women.
The infant schools are very flourishing, and to those who know any thing of this admirable system, I need hardly mention the delight of the children in attending them. They can scarcely be kept away, when necessary repairs of the room, or any other cause prevents them from meeting : and on the half holidays, they may be seen in groups, repeating their hymns and exercises in the open air. They learn English in most of the schools, and with great success.
At the larger schools the instruction is chiefly in English, though partly in Dutch also. Reading, writing,
* I have said on the books of the Institution, because many of the families are in turns away, labouring on the farms of the neighbouring Boors, or otherwise employed; while a very few, who have never resided on the institutions, have liked to continue their names on the books, in order to have an asylum in case of any necessity.
arithmetic, history, and the knowledge of the Scriptures, are taught; and at the school at Philiptown, on the Kat River, conducted by a son of the Missionary, the young people have made a really surprising progress. The delight of the parents in the advancement of their children is very great; and their interest, and the zeal of the pupils, are kept up by periodical public examinations. At all the stations, divine service is conducted twice or thrice on the Sunday by the Missionaries themselves; the people beginning the Sabbath by a prayer-meeting of their own. Adult schools are also kept on this day. I was much struck by the answer given by two or three very old people, who had attended the schools Sunday after Sunday, for many years, without much apparent success, and who, on being asked why they persevered, replied, that as there was singing and prayer, (the schools opened and closed with these,) God must be present. and they liked to be any where, where they were sure of finding Him. 6 Lord, I have loved the habitation of thine house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth.” It ought to be added, that many of the old people are very anxious to acquire the power of reading for themselves. It is no unfrequent sight to see little fellows, of five or six years, teaching the alphabet to grave old seniors of sixty or seventy: At most of the institutions there is also a service on every week day evening, at which either the Missionary, or a member of the church qualified for it, delivers a simple exposition and prayer; besides this, the more pious have regular family worship, and frequently on getting up in the early morning, my ears have been saluted with the sound of a hymo from some poor hut. The discipline observed is of course that of the Independents; the deacons and church consist entirely of natives, who exercise, under the Missionary, all the powers belonging to each. The Lord's Supper is administered every month ; and generally on one afternoon of the week, there is a meeting for those who are desirous of becoming communicants*. Temperance societies too have been formed at all the stations, and with great advantage at many; indeed, the number of well authenticated instances of confirmed drunkards being cured of their odious vice by these societies is very great, and furnishes a strong testimony in their favor. Wine, being as cheap, and almost as pernicious as spirits, is included in the engagement made by the members; and in order to set a good example, the Missionaries and their families entirely abstain from the use of both, so that St. Paul's well known determination is not yet quite a dead letter. Collections for the poor are made on Sundays; and it is a
* It may be well to remind those who, like myself, are members of the Church of England, that among Dissenters the attendants on Divine Ser. vice are distinguished as church and congregation, and that the former alone attend the Lord's Supper, being, or being supposed to be, living members of the body of Christ.