Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER IV.

The Mission.

SHINE, mighty God, on Britain shine,

With beams of heavenly grace;
Reveal thy power through all our coasts,

And shew thy smiling face.

When shall thy name, from shore to shore,

Sound all the earth abroad,
And distant nations know and love
Their Saviour and their God?

Psalm lxvii. 1-3.- Watts.

If the love of Christ, above everything else, does not constrain us to engage in the missionary work, surely, instead of finding happiness, of all persons we shall be the most miserable. -Gordon Hall.

D

THERE was a Christian officer of the British Navy, whose attention had been especially directed to the South American Indians. He was peculiarly prepossessed in favor of the Araucanian tribes in Bolivia and La Plata, and at great personal hazard he undertook repeated journeys of exploration among them. His object was to discover an opening for the introduction of the gospel; but he found them so suspicious of strangers, and on every side so hemmed in by Spanish Popery, that he was shut up to the conclusion that little could be effected till the local governments became more tolerant, and a better understanding was established betwixt the independent Indians and their white neighbours.

However, one region appeared more practicable. This was the extreme south of the American mainland. There were no Romish priests in Patagonia, and scarcely any commencement of European settlements. The Patagonians were a race of good capacity; and should the truth once find a lodg

ment amongst them, it was hoped that it might be thence transmitted to the northward, without needing to cross the barrier which Popery had thrown around the coast.

Full of his benevolent project, Captain Gardiner came to England. He succeeded in indoctrinating with his views a few friends, and inspired them with a measure of his own enthusiasm. So intent was hę on the execution of his plan, and so secure of its ultimate success, that he was willing to devote to it not only his life and his property, but he proposed to take with him his wife and family, and establish his future home in Patagonia.

Meanwhile, a small committee was formed at Brighton, with Sir Thomas Blomefield as the treasurer; and in December 1844, Captain Gardiner, accompanied by Mr Hunt, a missionary catechist, set sail for Cape Gregory. But the experiment failed. The inveterate thieving propensities of the natives, and the daily increasing risk of violence, rendered a longer sojourn on shore impossible; and after a month of anxiety and danger, the Captain and his companion were glad to take refuge on ship-board, and return to England.

What he had experienced at Cape Gregory, convinced Captain Gardiner that it would not be safe for any missionary party to put itself entirely in the power of the natives. And, therefore, he proposed a scheme which he hoped would secure them in case of danger. He recommended that a

decked boat should be provided, into which the missionaries might retreat when needful; and, as farther researches had led him to prefer Tierra del Fuego to the Patagonian mainland, in this vessel they would be able to follow, from island to island, the migrations of the restless inhabitants.

Early in 1848 a trial was made; but so imperfect were the means at the disposal of Captain Gardiner, that he found it impossible to persevere. Accordingly, he again returned to England, nowise daunted by his repeated disappointments, and confident of triumph could he only command the requisite appliances. But two apparent failures were trying to the zeal of his most sanguine supporters, and the mission was not of that magnificent kind which lays hold of romantic sympathies. There was little attraction in a few dim and oozy islets away at the world's end; and, to many, the very name of a “Patagonian” mission suggested a sort of pious Quixotism. Besides, it was not unfairly argued, Why waste the Church's resources on a handful of savages, when the millions of India and China have such a prepollent claim ?

But the South American Indians had seized the imagination and the heart of Captain Gardiner, and he would allow his friends no rest till they gave him a fair and final opportunity. Far away as Fuegia was, and few as were its hungry barbarians, he could plead their relative importance. Guiana excepted, of all that mighty continent no

« IndietroContinua »