Missionary Among The Cannibals
( Originally Published 1902 )
ALL of the Presbyterian churches of Newburg, N. Y., united in a service in the Calvary Church to listen to a missionary address by the venerable John G. Paton, of the New Hebrides. The Scotchman, seventy-six years old, arose to speak. His long hair and whiskers were white as the driven snow, the deeply bronzed face emphasizing their whiteness. A feeling of profound reverence for the man was expressed in the faces of the large audience as he began : " I have been laboring in the New Hebrides for forty-two years, and my presence here tonight is an evidence that my interest in that field is unabated. The first two missionaries that went to those islands were killed, cooked, and eaten by the savages. A settlement of teachers was made in the middle of the island group, and though they were at first kindly received by the inhabitants, they were afterwards slain—men, women and children—and their bodies devoured by the cannibals. That island now, thank God, is a Christian island. The people wear clothing, practice the useful arts, ask a blessing at the table, have family prayers, attend church service, live correctly and affectionately with one another and enjoy the blessings of a Christian civilization. No part of the world, perhaps, has presented greater obstacles to the introduction of the Gospel than the New Hebrides. The workers had died and been killed off, till at one time I was the only one left in the whole group of islands. Today they are greatly encouraged. We have seen three thousand of these man-eaters converted to God. One of the missionaries translated a portion of the Scriptures, and the people were so much pleased with it that they clamored for the whole book. The missionaries had no money for the purpose, and the natives instituted a fund, to which they contributed for thirteen years, which grew to be six thousand dollars, with which they published a translation of the whole Bible. Portions of the Sacred Scriptures are printed in twenty-two different languages of the islands. My two sons and one daughter are in this mission field. My son Prank, a man of culture and education, left a professorship in a college to go to that dangerous field, and if he and I had not been miraculously defended we would, ere this, have furnished food for the cannibals. He and several teachers were left among four thousand cannibals. The chief would have nothing to do with them till, one day, he came to my son and implored his aid in rescuing the three daughters of his brother, who had been taken on board a French trader to be sold into slavery. My son, by petition and threat, rescued them, and the gratitude of the chief knew no bounds. He became a convert, and was a powerful agent in spreading the work among the natives. Only recently a savage pointed a rifle at my son and put his front finger on the trigger to shoot, when the chief implored the man not to fire, and seeing that the man would not be checked, he rushed in between my boy and the gun and took the ball through his own body and fell to the ground. My son and another missionary went to the chief and found him weak from loss of blood, and expecting to be taken by the savages and devoured at one of their feasts. When the missionary saw his condition he began to weep over him. The chief said, ` Missionary, don't weep over me; I am happy.' `But you are suffering,' said the missionary. The chief said, ` I am suffering pain, missionary, but I am suffering no pain compared with what our dear Lord Jesus suffered for me when he died on Calvary.' And the Saviour whom he loved soon after took him to his bosom. The fire-arms and rum of civilized nations, including your own, make our work much harder—in fact, give us now most of the trouble we have. Great Britain has prohibited her traders from selling gunpowder or drink, and I have just been to Washington to see President McKinley and Secretary Hay, to see if the United States will not take a similar stand against the sale of firearms and rum."
The audience was stirred to the depths by the earnest recital of the struggles and tragedies of the work in the New Hebrides, and a collection was taken in its behalf.
There are no people on earth so savage that they cannot be tamed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are no circumstances, however unfriendly, which can eventually defeat those workers who are determined to carry the Gospel to the lost. The martyr spirit is in the world, in the missionaries who die for the savages, and in the native converts who die for their Lord.