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242

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS OF A CONVERTED PRIEST.

came upon him, and trembling, that made all his bones to shake;" and down from his station he leaped with precipitancy, crying out, “ I dare not do it—I dare not do it.”' He was so troubled that he left the scene as hastily as he could, dreading a second judgment, and declaring that if he did such a thing he should die immediately. We were much affected, and regretted having inadvertently brought him into such terror and peril, while we could not but admire his conscientiousness. At the further end of this huge mass stood a small marae, twelve feet by seven, long and broad. This, we were told, had been built on the occasion of making an arii; that is, adopting into the royal family a person of inferior birth. Ceremonies were then observed, which the worst words in our language would be abused in describing.

When the house of Oro had been erected, several human sacrifices were slain, and every pillar that supported the roof was, as it were, planted in the body of such a victim, having been driven, like a stake, through it into the ground. There had been fourteen grand occasions, when human sacrifices had been thus offered, within the remembrance of the old priest. As he enumerated these, he took a piece of taro leaf in his hand, a shred of which he tore off and threw upon the ground, to mark each, when he mentioned it in order.

. In surveying this wreck of Satan's throne, melancholy retrospection carried our spirits through the dark ages which had passed over these lands, while they were full of the habitations of cruelty and wickedness; when one generation went, and another came, without change, or hope, or possibility of deliverance, till the messengers of mercy, with their lives in their hands, and the love of Christ and the souls for whom He died in their hearts, appeared upon

ORO'S IMAGE BURNT.

243

their shores to preach liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison-doors to them that were bound.The idols, the temples, the bloody rites, the detestable profligacy, the gross ignorance, the spiritual slavery, and the personal abasement, of the people, have all disappeared; and, however imperfect yet, society is advancing in genuine civilization; and, however deficient, still the church of God is growing in grace, and in the knowledge, practice, and enjoyment, of pure and undefiled religion. Those of the natives whose habits were formed under the old atrocious system, in contemplating the transformation, not in themselves only, but in all things around them, scarcely know how to reconcile the former and the present state of things; it is to them as though the one or the other must be a dream; yet by bitter remembrance and happy experience, " the wormwood and the gall” not less certainly were their portion once than “ the milk and honey" are now. In their prayers and discourses they love to contrast the two states. They compare

the present after long and murderous wars—to an abundant fruit-harvest, after famine and drought—to undisturbed, refreshing sleep, after days and nights of toil, and watching, and distress.

When the altars were overthrown, and the idols burnt, the image of Oro, which made this place hideous, was also demanded by the regenerators of their country, that execution might be done upon it. The old priest, seeing his craft in danger, but determined to cleave to the hope of reviving it till the last, hid his god—a shapeless log of timber—in a cave among the rocks. Hautia, however, was not to be trifled with, nor could such a nuisance as the pestilent stock, to which human beings had been sacrificed, be permitted to exist any longer on the face of the earth,

to peace,

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PICTURE OF A PARTY ASLEEP.

lest the plague of idolatry should again break out among its reclaimed followers. He insisted upon its being brought forth, and committed to the flames, in the presence of the people, who had but the day before trembled and fallen down before it. This was done; but still the priest himself held to the superstition of his fathers, though he had seen their god consumed to ashes by mortal man with impunity; and he ceased not to spurn at the religion of the strangers till the signal event already mentioned, when blindness fell upon his outward, and light upon his inward, vision. One of the largest stones of this dilapidated marae was taken away, a few weeks ago, to Tare, and there placed over the grave of the young heir to the kingdom of these islands, the son of Mahine, formerly mentioned. Near this marae there are two stones, one upright, the other prostrate, the only remains of a very ancient structure of a similar kind. They are both basaltic fragments, of irregular angular shape; but whence they were brought we could not learn. To these dumb blocks divine honours were accustomed to be paid, and prayers offered, by the fanatic priests and the deluded multitude.

The night-quarters, in the house where our servants, and those who accompanied us of their own accord, were lodged, presented a singularly grotesque spectacle after they were all laid down to sleep. Each spread his mat on the ground, and threw himself upon it, apparently at random, but perfectly at ease; heads and feet lying in all directions. Some made pillows of their mats, some made pillows of their neighbours, and some did without pillows at all. If it had rained down sleepers through the roof upon the floor, they could hardly have fallen more unpremeditatedly, or been more whimsically disposed; yet all slept soundly, as though, having nothing to do but

CONVERTED SHARK-WORSHIPPER.

245

the group:

to sleep, each was making the best use of his time; their coverings were the native mantles which they wore in the day: yet ludicrous as the spectacle at first view appeared there was not the slightest indecorum observable among

Sir Joshua Reynolds has remarked that all the positions of children are graceful, because they are unconstrained; the same may be said of the unconscious acts and attitudes, sleeping or waking, of people like these, who follow simple instinct in whatever they do. Nature herself might have put her children to bed here, having given them such pliancy of limbs, and healthiness of frame, that, as they sunk down, so they lay, in sweet, untroubled, and profound repose.

Dec. 30. Being Lord's day, the usual services, in Tahitian and English, were duly performed, and devoutly attended. At our evening prayers we could not but observe how differently the very ground on which we were kneeling, singing, and offering supplications at a throne of grace, had been but lately occupied. Our house stands upon part of a marae, which was dedicated to the worship of the sharkfit representative of him who is the prototype of all idolsthe devourer, the destroyer! This was a family marae, and the owner, who had often prayed and sacrificed here to the most voracious of things that swim, was present with us at the worship of the Father of all mercies. He informed us that, according to the traditions of his fathers, a horrible monster once worked its way upwards through the solid ground. As it approached the surface, the people were alarmed at the convulsion of the earth beneath their feet; and while they were flying on all sides a huge shark reared its head, and opened its jaws, through the cleft soil, on this very spot. In commemoration of so great a prodigy, the ancestors of our informant had built the marae, which came

a

[blocks in formation]

into his possession by inheritance. He had, however, desecrated the shrine, or rather consecrated it to a better purpose, having converted it into a dwelling for himself and his family, now acknowledging the true God.

Sharks are numerous about this coast, and they were formerly worshipped from fear; indeed, the fear that hạth torment was the mother of devotion here, as it is in every other heathen land. Large oblations were frequently offered to them by the priests who served at their altars. We are assured that numbers of these ravenous animals were so far tamed in this bay that they came regularly to the beach to be fed with fish and pork, which were provided for them in large quantities. This marae being situated very near the lagoon, a shark once worked his way through the sand, and took personal possession of his temple, the water flowing in with him; whereupon, the reservoir thus formed being properly dammed up, and from time to time replenished, he luxuriated in his sanctuary, and daily received his food from the devotees who flocked thither. Whenever the natives, in their canoes, encountered a shark at sea, they endeavoured to propitiate him by throwing out some of the fish which they might have caught; and such offerings were so acceptable to these divinities that the latter would follow the boats to the shore, and gradually became familiar enough to wait till their portion was dealt forth to them. Nevertheless the ungrateful sharks, having a god of their own—" their belly”—never failed to sacrifice even their worshippers to that idol when they could catch a stray man, woman, or child, in the water, or on the beach, near enough to be seized and carried into the deep.

Dec. 31. To-day we explored the neighbourhood of this bay. About a furlong from the head of it is a cliff, nearly perpendicular, seven hundred feet high, according to our

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