THE RESTRAINING HAND IN THE SOUTH SEAS
“In perils by the heathen.”—
2 Corinthians 11:26.
Someone has said that the record of early missionary achievement in the South Seas should be written in letters of starlight. Wonderful transformations were wrought in those island fields by the power of the gospel. Again and again the hand of God was stretched forth to save His servants from enemies who could not understand why they were powerless to carry out their savage purposes.
Mission work in Aneityum, in the New Hebrides, was begun by native teachers in the early forties. One of them has told, in his simple way, how God delivered him and his associates while on a visit to the heathen in the inland districts. They were met in the forest by a party of warriors with clubs and spears.
The account continues:
They said that they had heard of us; they well-knew what we were trying to do; they knew that their gods were as true as ours. And that they were come out to kill us.
“One of our party, who well-knew their language, told us they were quite sincere in their intentions, and inquired what we should do. ‘Shall we fight with them, he asked, ‘and thus try to defend ourselves?’ To which I replied, ‘No, friend; let us do nothing. Let not our hands be upon them. God is with us; let us trust in Him, and He will either save us out of their hands or strengthen us to bear the trouble.’
“While we were thus talking, some of the heathen party ran upon us, five or six of them upon each of us.
Only one of our party made any resistance; the other two sat still upon the ground. The heathen soon became afraid; they were as children, yea, like dead men before us. Being thus left uninjured, we praised God, and proceeded on our journey.
“God’s power and love were with us that day. We thought of His word, ‘He is a present help in trouble.’
He was our refuge and shield. He alone is God; there is none else.”—
Gems from the Coral Islands, Gill.
In those same days some Rarotongan teachers were set ashore on Efate, in the New Hebrides. Some time before, wicked sailors had robbed and killed some of the islanders; and, in retaliation, a party of twenty-one stranded sailors had shortly before been killed and eaten. But for the love of souls the teachers were willing to be left among these savages. Gill’s account tells of opposition that quickly developed:
“Determined to prevent the further spread of the ‘new religion,’ thirty armed savage warriors came from a distant settlement in the bay, to the place where the teachers resided; and, in company with a few of the most daring there, they determined to put an end to their lives. They were as lambs among wolves, but an invisible hand was their defense; and not a hair of their head was then injured. For many days the warriors continued their schemes and experiments to strike the fatal blow, but all without success; and they returned home, declaring it a wonderful thing, and as an evidence of a power that they could not under-stand, that the teachers, without weapons, should escape from their hands.
“Again and again these wicked men came in contact with the teachers; more than once they actually raised their hatchets, but their arms were restrained.
They trembled and could not strike.
“Some time after, another party from another district set out on the same bloody errand and determined that they would not suffer a defeat, as their neighbors had done. Many canoes were ‘fitted out, in which not less than sixty of the most savage of heathen warriors set off on their murderous expedition. Could we have seen them skirting the shores, passing quickly along to the spot of their expected conquest, we should have heard their profane war song, already chorused with shouts of victory; we should have seen them whirling their paddles and their spears in the air, dancing about, as the limits of the canoe admitted, with diabolical fury, as their bloodthirsty desires seemed even already gratified . .
“But God was near to save. The party had not proceeded more than two thirds of their journey before they were overtaken by a storm; their canoes were dashed in pieces, and the whole company returned to their homes, more unsuccessful and more humbled than those who had gone before.”
The scene shifts to New Caledonia. Teachers were settled upon the island, and converts were increasing. Chief Mathuku, of the neighboring Isle of Pines, or Kunie, one of the wildest and most powerful chiefs in Polynesia, had again and again sent word to New Caledonia that the Christians must be driven out. Finally he sent the message, “If you do not kill the teachers, I will come and kill them, and you too.” He came with canoes full of warriors. Taunga, the leading
“The people of our settlement wished us to flee to the mountains and hide ourselves; but we said, ‘No; Jesus is our mountain; and we will fly to Him.’
“On the day appointed, it was arranged that nine or ten of the heathen savages should come to the teachers’ house and commence an angry discussion about the resurrection of the dead.
“As the discussion advanced, one of the party, pointing to some graves near, demanded of the teachers in an angry tone of voice, When will these men live again?’
“With mingled positiveness and kindness, the teachers replied, ‘They will live again at the end of the world. Jesus, the Son of God, will come, and all who have lived will live again, and will be judged. Those who love Him will then live with Him in heaven forever; but those who love Him not will live in everlasting fire.’
“ ‘By this we know you are deceivers,’ rejoined the heathen; ‘and we are going to kill you.’
“Upon this four men rushed forward, armed with hatchets; and one of them seized Noa’s right arm in his left hand, and raised his hatchet to strike the fatal blow. Another stood behind Taunga with his weapon over the head of his intended victim. The teachers bowed their heads and calmly resigned themselves into the hands of God. All was ready. It was as though the deed was already done. But strange to relate, the man at whose nod the hatchets were to fall, silently signified, ‘Not yet;’ and the solemn crisis turned in favor of the devoted teachers. A positive, yet unseen Power was there.
“The company dispersed; and the ‘men of Jehovah’ were left under the experience of emotions similar to those of him who said in former days, ‘Now I know that God hath sent His angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod.’ ”—
No wonder these faithful converts to Christianity, who placed their lives in daily jeopardy for the love of Jesus, came to know that their God Jehovah was able to deliver. “He alone is God,” they said; “there is none else.”
"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the sun."
Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6