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PREPARATIONS FOR THE SABBATH,
foresight in managing affairs during the day, we still wondered where and how we were all to be lodged for the night. Without any bustle, and seemingly with little difficulty on the part of Mrs. Crook, sufficiently commodious births were found for every one of us—thirty-two persons, young and old; and a peaceful night followed a gladsome day.
Sept. 28. We went on board the Tuscan again this morning, for some packages which we wished to be conveyed to Matavai. In setting out, we were delayed some time, while the natives who were to accompany us to the latter place collected their provision of cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit for the Sabbath, as they were not to return hither till Monday. This (our Friday) was their Saturday, and it is the universal practice of all the Christian natives of these islands to prepare their Sunday's food on the last day of the week. Not a fire is lighted, neither flesh nor fruit is baked, not a tree is climbed, nor a canoe seen on the water, nor a journey by land performed, on God's holy day; religion—religion alone—is the business and delight of these simple-minded people on the Sabbath.
The men having laid in their stores, we proceeded in Mr. Ellis's boat on our little cruise along the coast. Where we could see the bottom of the water, the ground was covered with the most beautiful corals, of different colours, and singularly diversified forms; sometimes rising so near to the surface that our keel grazed upon their crests; then again we sailed over depths unfathomable to the eye. Towards evening we landed safely at Mr. Nott's, in Matavai Bay.
Sept. 30. On Friday night we retired to rest, but waked not till Sunday morning, though the interval allowed for sleep had not been longer than usual! This was the consequence of a miscalculation by Captain James Wilson,
FIRST SABBATH AT MATAVAI.
and the first Missionaries who settled here. Coming from the east, and keeping up the reckoning with which they set out, they gained a day, instead of dropping one, not bearing in mind that as London comes under the meridian ten hours earlier than Tahiti, which is 150° of longitude to the west, the day, at the latter place, is proportionably later. Some inconvenience has been suffered from this mistake, since the intercourse with Europeans has become more frequent than formerly here; but not so much as to induce the Mi onaries to correct it, at the hazard of occasioning worse confusion in the minds of a people to whom it would probably be difficult to make the change intelligible.
This has been to us, at Matavai, a Sabbath of peculiar enjoyment and sanctity. At sunrise, we went to the chapel on the beach, near Mr. Nott's house-a neat structure, having bamboo walls, thatched with palm-leaves, furnished with benches made of bread-fruit-tree planks, and capable of holding about four hundred persons. It is now used only as a school and prayer-meeting house. On our arrival, we found the place filled with natives, of both sexes, and various ages. They were all kneeling, while one of them was offering up prayer in the most fervent and devout manner. Scarcely a head was lifted up when we entered, and stepped as softly as might be to a place near the person who was officiating at the time. When he had finished his address to the Deity, he gave out a hymn, which was sung with much animation by the people. He then read a portion of St. John's Gospel, many of those who were present producing their Testaments, and following his voice with their eyes on the words of the book. Another prayer was then offered up, and the assembly departed, in the most quiet and becoming order, to their
FIRST SABBATH AT MATAVAI.
homes, after having continued together about an hour in this spontaneous service, for none but natives were present, except ourselves—two strangers, who coming into their meeting under such circumstances, though we understood not a word that was sung or said, yet were constrained, by evidence which we could not mistake, to confess that of a truth God was in the midst of them; and so, falling down, we felt that we could, with them, worship Him who is no respecter of persons, but who accepteth those, in every nation, that fear him, and work righteousness.
After breakfast, at nine o'clock, we accompanied Mr. Nott to public service, in the greater chapel over the river. This we found filled with a silent, decorous, and neatly clothed congregation, of nearly six hundred persons; many of the females wore bonnets of the English shape, and other parts of European dress. Mr. Nott preached from the words, “ Sanctify them through thy truth.”—John xvii. 17. And what indeed but the truth, the truth of God-could have sanctified such a people as they were, within this generation--yea, less than seven years ago ? The audience were exceedingly attentive, and appeared to join heartily in songs of praise, and silently to engage in prayer with the minister. We dined at Mr. Wilson's, whose house is hard by; from whence, learning that some native teachers would catechise the children, we returned to the chapel; and there witnessed a scene at once exhilarating and affecting. About sixty young persons were on their knees when we entered, while a chief of the district was praying with them. During the catechism which followed, the questions and answers were repeated to us in English, when we were gratified to observe that the former were well adapted, and the latter, for the most part, intelligent and satisfactory. At four o'clock there
was public worship again. Mr. Wilson preached from Heb. ii. 3: “ How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?” After the morning native service, Mr. Tyerman addressed us from Luke xiii. 7: “ Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground ?”—and Mr. Jones, in the evening, from Numb. xxiii. 23 : “What hath God wought !" We closed this first Sabbath among these Christians of the Gentiles with edifying conversation, in company with Mr. Nott and Mr. Wilson, our host. What we have witnessed and recorded now we believe to be a fair exemplification of what occurs every Sabbath here, and at all the Missionary stations in these parts. Oh, that every friend of this cause at home could see the things that we have seen, and hear what we have heard, and feel what we have felt, this day, of the presence and power of God to heal, revive, yea, newcreate, the souls which sin hath fatally wounded, and exposed to the second death!” How would their zeal, their faith, their hope, their love be increased, and their labours, their prayers, and their sacrifices, multiplied in proportion !
While going to Mr. Wilson's, in the morning, we conversed with Mr. Nott, who has resided here from the commencement of the mission, on the subject of infanticide, and learned, with horror, that it had been practised to an extent incredible except on such testimony and evidence as he, and the brethren on other stations, have had the means of accumulating. He assured us, that three-fourths of the children were wont to be murdered as soon as they were born, by one or other of the unnatural parents, or by some person employed for that purpose-wretches being found who might be called infant-assassins by trade. He mentioned having met a woman, soon after the abolition of the diabolical practice, to whom he said, “ How many
children have you?” “ This one, in my arms,”
“ And how many did you kill?” She replied, Eight !” Another woman, to whom the same questions were put, confessed that she had destroyed seventeen! Nor were these solitary cases. Sin was so effectually doing its own work in these dark places of the earth, that, full as they were of the habitations of cruelty and wickedness, war, profligacy, and murder, were literally exterminating a people unworthy to live; and soon would the “ cities have been wasted without inhabitant, the houses without a man, and the land been utterly desolate.” But the gospel stepped in, and the plague was stayed. Now the married, among this Christianized population, are. exceedingly anxious to have offspring, and those who have them nurse their infants with the tenderest affection.
Oct. 1. We visited Mr. Crook. In the afternoon, as we were walking round the head of the beautiful harbour, we observed a man and woman stitching together the parts of a canoe, which had been previously shapen from planks of the bread-fruit, and fitted together. The thread used for this purpose is called nape by the natives ; by the English, cinet. It is prepared from the fibres of the cocoanut husk, and platted into small cords, remarkable for strength and durability. Holes are bored, two and two, about an inch apart, with two feet distance between each two; these, in the pieces to be fastened together, being opposite each other, and wide enough to allow the cinet to be drawn three or four times through. The couple whom we saw at work proceeded very deliberately; when the cinet was passed through a hole, it was pulled tight by means of a short stick, whereby a strong purchase was obtained ; and while this was employed on one side, a stone was used on the other to beat the cord flat, that it