The diary of Reverend David Cargill – Part 5

In February 1834 Reverend David Cargill travelled to Vavau, the huge number of converts was an inspiration to his work.

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.

Friday February 7, 1834

We arrived in the Bay of Vavau late on Monday evening, but did not come on shore until Tuesday. As I despatched a letter to Brother Turner to acquaint him of our arrival, he lost no time in coming off to us to bring us ashore. (James Watkin had been Nathaniel Turner’s colleague some years earlier. Later, he continued his ministry in New Zealand.)

Early on Tuesday morning we reached the mission station. We believe it is that part of the mission field where Providence has called us to labour. May the Lord qualify us for the work! On Wednesday afternoon I accompanied Brother Turner to the chapel, when he preached, I suppose, to about 400 people. The chapel is a noble edifice and will hold, if I calculated rightly about 800 people. It is one of the largest chapels in the district. In Vavau there are 10 or 11 chapels. After service we waited on the king to request ground to build my house upon: but as he was then waiting for a favourable wind to sail with many of his people to visit the King of Tonga, and as he expected to return in two or three weeks, he wished us to put off the building of a house until his return. No work of importance can be accomplished here without the King. I am in consequence under the necessity of living with Brother Turner until the King’s return. On Thursday morning Mr Turner met the Leaders and exhorters, (about 60 in number — but many are with the King) to enquire how their numbers conducted themselves and explain any subject which they did not properly understand. My ignorance of the language disables me from understanding the people and acquainting myself with their knowledge of Christian doctrine and their attainments in religious experience. But with the blessing of God on my own exertions and the suggestions of Brother Turner who has hitherto been my tutor, – I hope this inability will be soon removed.

(Cargill did not approach his language-learning task haphazardly. In a letter to London, he described the methodology he used: I am trying to form for myself — (as a help for my learning) a small vocabulary of the language. When I hear a word, I write it until I have grasped its importance and then place it with others in a sort of alphabetical order, that I may recur to it).

Sunday February 9, 1834

About 7am, the bell was rung for the native service. The chapel was full and the people attentive, serious, I gave out a hymn and read.

(Taufa’ahau, whose title was Tui Kanokupolu, became George Tupou I. He was known as the ‘King’ of H a’apai (Lawry 1850:238) but became ruler of Vavau and in 1845, Tui Tonga.)

A little attention will enable any one in a short time to read the language, as every letter is sounded. The vowels have a broad sound, like those of the Continental languages. Brother Turner explained and enforced the rules which had been read. After the native we have an English service; we had a motley congregation — two Englishmen — two Frenchmen and one New Zealander beside ourselves. In the afternoon about 3 o’clock Brother Turner preached to the natives and in the evening we had a short prayer meeting. Those of the natives who prayed, spoke with great freedom, and apparent feeling. How pleasing is it to the Christian mind to think that they who a few years ago were treacherous savages, are now praying to the true God and enjoying His love in their heart. What is to me a striking proof of the greatness of the change which has been affected among them, is a remark made by the captain of the vessel which brought us here.

“How different they are now from what they were when I was here before: then we durst not let them on board, lest they should take the vessel from us; Now; they are not like the same people; they appear so mild, you can do anything with them.”

Monday February 10, 1834

This morning we met the leaders again, who had now brought with them the delinquents of their respective classes, to have their cases examined. The leaders are very vigilant, strict and do not connive at the most trifling misdemeanour.

Most of the cases were not of a very serious nature. For example, a rat had eaten some of the corn of an old man, who was provoked to utter bad wishes upon it. This leader heard of his warmth and brought him among the other delinquents. Most of them were dismissed with a reproof, very few were suspended. There was no appointed time to try the offenders, it is probable that on the commission of the fault, the leader would bring the party to the missionary and frequently interrupt and consume time. But by the prudent appointment a certain time, all the cases are dismissed. In the evening I attended the prayer meeting with Bro Turner. About 300 were present. The people seem to value the means of grace. May they improve them as they should.

To be continued…

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