Page:A Lady's Cruise in a French Man-of-War.djvu/143

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
119
A WONDERFUL CHANGE.

century the whole group had been evangelised, and a self-supporting native Church, with native pastors, established. It is now extending its operations among the islands in the north-western part of the Pacific, between the equator and Japan. These are collectively described as Micronesia, on account of their extremely small size, the majority being simply low atolls, few of which rise more than ten feet above the level of the ocean.

The south-western isles of the Pacific, which come under the general name of Melanesia, are chiefly in the hands of the English Church Societies, and of the Presbyterian Mission.

The countless large groups which occupy the south-east of the ocean, and are generally described as Polynesia, have been almost entirely Christianised by the London and Wesleyan Missions.

Shortly after Captain Cook's discoveries had first drawn attention to the existence of these unexplored regions, the London Mission, which includes men of all the evangelical sects, began its work by sending men to the Marquesas, the Society Isles (Tahiti and Raiatea), and to Tonga.

Of the sad fate which befell the first Tongan missionaries, I have already spoken. Three were murdered, and the rest compelled to fly for their lives. Some years later, the Wesleyan Mission ventured to reoccupy the field, when they found the people somewhat penitent. They were able to establish themselves under the protection of some friendly chiefs, and ere long had the satisfaction of knowing that Christianity was striking firm deep roots in the soil which at first seemed so unpromising.

Truly marvellous has been the growth of the tree thus watered by the blood of those brave pioneers. Eighty years have elapsed since their martyrdom, at which time there was not one isle in the whole Pacific which was not steeped in debasing heathenism and cruel wars. Now, throughout Polynesia, idolatry is a thing of the past; none of the present generation have even seen the wood and stone gods of their fathers: infanticide and murder are probably less common than in Europe, and a reverent obedience to all Christian precepts a good deal more apparent than in civilised countries. On upwards of 300 isles (where in the early half of this century no boat