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The diary of Reverend David Cargill - Part 7

Sikeli Qounadovu
Sunday, December 10, 2017

REVEREND David Cargill receives an invitation from a Fijian chief to preach the gospel to the islands. He had to weigh his options knowing the Fijians were cannibals.

This is the account of the late Reverend Cargill from the book The Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843, edited by Albert J Schütz and published by the Australian National University.

Sunday 9 March 1834

Preached this forenoon in English on "Grieve not the spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption". And in the afternoon conducted the native service at Makave. I spoke from Matthew 3-2. Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The discourse was simple and short. I had previously translated it into Tonguese with the assistance of Brother Turner. I am very anxious to be able to discourse to the natives about divine things, and am resolved to spare no pains to acquire the language. May the divine blessing accompany and back to my feeble efforts!

Thursday 20 March 1834

This day, we were visited by the brother of the king of Feejee, and its European name is Keppel Island. It was discovered by Dutch explorers in 1616, the first of the Tonga group seen by Europeans. The cloth, ngatu, was not woven but pounded from the bark of the paper-mulberry tree. The visitor was the elder brother of Tui Nayau, the local chief of the island of Lakeba. In no way was he the "king of Feejee", since there was at that time no paramount chief.

He expressed a desire for the establishment of a mission among his countrymen. We were informed that the king himself would favour such an undertaking, if it were conducted by a regular missionary, although he would give no countenance to native teachers. We were told that some time ago, they had a feast, when 200 men and 100 women were cooked and eaten! They are said to be worse cannibals than even the New-Zealanders. But the Gospel can humanise and convert them. May Providence soon open an effectual door for the instruction of these heathens! The arrival of the ship from Feejee aroused in the missionaries an interest that had been kindled some years earlier but not allowed to grow. Turner was the first to react. He wrote: Lakeba, the Island from which the vessel has come is much more civilised — and for many years has been at peace. I am of the opinion that we would be safe there. There are some hundreds of Tonguese on the Island to whom a missionary could be immediately useful who understood the Tonguese language. I am of opinion that when any do go one should go who has been some time in these Islands. As many of the Feejeeans can talk and understand the Tonguese. The old chief who has been named Takai has become religious. He attends the chapel. I am fully persuaded the set time is come to favour Feejee. O that we could to thither. Lord hasten the day, I shall not have any objection to accompany any brother if it be agreeable to the Committee and the brethren. Tho' I am far from thinking myself the most fit. But I am willing to go anywhere to do what I can.

You require your missionaries to communicate interesting facts connected with their work and respecting the people amongst whom they live and labour, and although the subjects of this communication do not fall precisely under the above description, because not connected with my present mission, yet I hope they will not be altogether unacceptable, as Feejee is to be occupied by us — tho' at present we are unable to enter the open door of this large and enlarging mission. You are aware, I doubt not, that some Tahitian teachers were introduced into Feejee a considerable time ago under the protection of a chief of small power and note whose name is Takai. They have in connection with their patron been of some use, some of the Feejeeans of Lakeba having renounced idolatry, and they with the Tahitians are now resident on an Island called Oneata, which is at a short distance from Lakeba. It is said that they have been driven from the last mentioned Island in consequence of their Christianity, but if it be so, we know that it shall like the apostle's bonds be for the "furtherance of the Gospel". The natives of Feejee, like most others of the natives of Polynesia, dislike being instructed in Christianity by persons of the same colour with themselves, and tho' the objection seems puerile and grounded in foolish prejudice or pride, yet it exercises as the most powerful influence and which nothing but the power of God can remove. Many of them look with disdain on a native teacher, and regard with indifferences or something worse his communications, who would give all attention to the instruction and reverence the person of an English Missionary. This I know to be the case in the Islands of Feejee most contiguous to us, and where our First attempts at evangelisation must be made. It is highly probable that if English missionaries could proceed thither that a very general turning from "idols to the living God" would be the blessed result, a circumstance earnestly to be desired. For heathenism in Feejee is what it is everywhere: a tremendous evil, a curse and, perhaps its domination there is more grievous and more productive of evil than in some other parts of the heathen world. They have "gods many" but a holy God they know not. Their gods are monsters of crime, as far as morals are concerned, inflictive of evil as for power. They are the objects of dread, not of hope; they know not the "Father of mercies and God of all grace". This is the knowledge they need to make them wise and to make them happy, and this knowledge the Gospel will supply.

To be continued….

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