The diary of Reverend David Cargill Part 19

The first iTaukei missionary Josua Mateinaniu returns to Lakeba with a handful of converts. Reverend David Cargill continues his translations of the Holy Bible and is delighted that there are more converts.

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 in 1977.

Sunday, August 21, 1836

This morning I preached in English from the fourth verse of the third chapter of Colossians. The congregation consisted of the members of the mission families, with the captain, supercargo and mate of the Active, and another Englishman, who resides on the island.27

Sunday, August 28, 1836

The people who composed the congregation both in the forenoon and afternoon listened with close attention, while I read to them and explained a part of John’s first epistle. We are encouraged to expect this desirable event from the progressive increase of our society and congregation. Very frequently one and another turn their back from idolatry and listen to the sound of the Gospel trumpets. May the effects of the Gospel in these ends of the earth, very soon put to silence the cavilling heathen ad convince every individual that “the excellency of the power is of God and not of us”.

Monday, August 29, 1836

This day I finished my translation of the three epistles of John into the Tonguese language: May the Lord make them a blessing to all who may read or hear them.

Tuesday, August 30 1836

Translated 19 verses of Mark into the Feejeean language, and 12 of Jude into Tonguese. In the afternoon, attended the female school and then visited the sick.

Sunday, September 4, 1836 preached in English in the morning, and in Tonguese in the afternoon and baptised Mr Cross’ child.

Sunday, September 11, 1836

Preached to more than 200 people, who behaved with great reverence and listened with attention to the word of truth and life. At the close of the service married three couples.

Sunday, September 18 1836

Prevented from preaching through indisposition.

Tuesday, September 20, 1836

Finished the translation of St Mark’s Gospel into the Feejeean language.

Thursday, 22 September 1836 Completed my first attempt to translate St John’s epistles into the Feejeean language.

Friday, September 23, 1836

Spent most of the day at my translation of St Mark’s Gospel into the Tonguese language. Was informed that the bodies of the crew of the Active’s boat were not eaten, but thrown into the sea.

Sunday, September 25, 1836

This has been to me a happy day. The congregation this morning was more numerous than any assembly I have yet had the pleasure of addressing on this island. Our little Bethel was crowded to excess; between 150-200 persons who could not obtain admission on account of the smallness of the chapel were seated outside on the grass, this accession to our numbers has been occasioned by the arrival of 300 or 400 Tonguese from the leeward island of Feejee. Many of them have embraced Christianity through the instrumentality of Joshua (Josua Mateinaniu), an accredited preacher whom we sent among them 10 months ago. He has acted with great zeal and fidelity. All are very anxious for books: some of them will part with almost anything they have in order to procure a portion of the word of God. I spoke to them this morning about the penalty annexed to the transgression of the divine law. I saw but few countenances which were not characterised by seriousness and attention. At the close of the service, the banns of marriage of two couple were published ad four couples were united in marriage. Many Feejeeans and heathen Tonguese surrounded the chapel and behaved respectfully. The signs of the times are favourable and we are encouraged to hope that the day is not very remote when the influence shall be extended to every individual of the great population of this group of islands. May the Lord of Hosts hasten that happy day!

Saturday, October 8, 1836

This afternoon the schooner Pearl touched at this island. I received much information from the master and crew respecting the Feejee Island and their inhabitants. They state that the islands are numerous – large and in general thickly inhabited: that it is impossible to form accurate conjecture of the amount of population but that if far exceeds 120,000; that the people of different districts wage incessant wars with each other and that frequently whole towns are depopulated; that the victors feast on the bodies of their enemies and that frequently living children are hung up in a basket at the mast head of their canoes as trophies of victory. Their degradation and wretchedness are manifested by the callousness with which they sometimes meet death. They related an anecdote respecting two men, who lived on the island of Ovalau and who when they had seen an English ship were so surprised and delighted, that they exclaimed “We have lived long enough now, we have seen a white man’s vessel; let us go home and die”. It is said that they returned without delay to their settlement in the interior and immediately caused themselves to be choked.

A similar circumstance is related of an old man, who being weary of life, caused his wife to be put to death and then requested his friends to strangle him. They complied with his request with great alacrity and cheerfulness, but their first effort merely occasioned suspended animation. On his recovery, he said “You are making a fool of me”. They made a second attempt to terminate the existence of the wretched man. That also failed. He then caused a grave to be dug anf the body of his wife being put in the grave, he placed himself by her side and at his own request was buried alive. So lightly do they esteem that life which millions of words could not prolong. But notwithstanding their ignorance and barbarity, we are told that the chiefs of the principal Island are anxious to have missionaries among them that their wars may be terminated and that they may live in peace and mutual confidence.

It is said that those chiefs who are to be first visited by us, think themselves honoured and that the jealousy of others will probably be excited. But we cannot go in at all the “open doors” which he who walks among the golden candlesticks is setting before us, until our numbers are greatly increased.

Before a year had elapsed, Cargill and Cross had realised that conversion of the Fijians would be a slow and individual process until a chief more powerful than Tui Nayau took the first step. Tui Nayau himself expressed this opinion and suggested that Tanoa at Bau be persuaded to embrace Christianity. Reports of the influence of Tanoa and of the large population of Rewa were the reasons for the decision to station Cross there. Lakeba did not like to “lead the way”.28 A growing realisation of the size of Fiji (hence more souls to be converted) and the relative conveniences of the Tonga mission (more supplies, better communications, a larger staff and control over the Fiji branch) led to further pleas for assistance.

We are about to commence a new station in the leeward group of the Feejee Islands. I am appointed to remain at Lakemba. If the Brethren in the Friendly Islands do not send us two additional missionaries, I shall be alone. This will be a trial for me. For although I have a little thirst for the pleasures of solitude, yet I delight occasionally to taste the delights of society. As iron sharpeneth iron! At least 100,000 souls are perishing in Feejee for the lack of knowledge.29