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Edited by the Revd. Benry A. Shultz.
Letter from br. Buchner, Jamaica.
"" Lichtenthaeler, Jamaica. ...
RECOLLECTIONS by Bishop Spangenbcrg
DELAWARE Indian Mission,
HOME MISSION Anniversary. - -
The lVwnge of this publieation is, one cent to any part of the State of Pennsylvania ana iy2 cents to any place in other states over one hundred miles from Bethlehem.
PUBLISHED (MONTHLY) FOR TBE CHURCH OP THE UNITED BRETHREN
Apply to "The Editor of the Moravian Church Miscellany," at Bethlehem
V 5 h»mi ?'?ler' No- 522 Houston st- York, and to
Revd. Edw.Rondthaler, No. 74 Racest. Phila.; Lancaster,
Moravian Church Miscellany.
NO. 5. MAY, 1851. VOL. 2.
Fairfield, Oct. 22nd, 1850.
"It may not be unnecessary to state, that the Brethren's Mission in Jamaica comprises thirteen stations at the west end of this island; each station consisting of various buildings—a church, a school, and dwelling-house with out-offices. With each station a congregation is connected, living within a circle, the diameter of which is, in most cases, about 20 miles. Besides the principal stations, we have 17 school-houses, and out-station schools in connection with them, making the number of churches 13, and of schools 30. The number of negroes and colored persons in connection with our church amounts to 13,388 persons, young and old. Among the white population, we number only one family as members, though many others, attend our ministry regularly.
In entering upon a review of the state of our Mission, it is necessary that I should briefly advert to the state of the island. You have heard of the ruin that has spread over the land, in consequence of the failure of the staple products, coffee and sugar. This alas! is too true. Many estates have been abandoned, and the negroes have become free-holders and producers themselves; but as yet, to little apparent advantage. Poverty and idleness have been the consequence of the want of employment; and poverty interferes with the regular attendance at church and school, and cripples our exertions, and idleness is the parent of many vices. We do not, however, hear lately of so much suffering and discontent, as we did some time ago, and there seems to be some hope of the returning prosperity of the island. Great efforts are made to introduce the cultivation of cotton, and I hope they may succeed. I have said so much to introduce a few remarks on the influence which the want of employment and their becoming freeholders has had on the character of the negroes in general. It has, in the first place, called forth in them a consciousness of independence, and in some instances rather a proud and undue feeling of importance. If this feeling is not sanctified by Christian experience snd self-knowledge, it is an evil that is to be dreaded; and I understand that this is a complaint which is very general
Another evil, which has fearfully grown during the latter yearsv is the love of strong drink. The negroes were formerly almost proverbial for sober habits. It is very different now; and though it is still an uncommon thing to see a drunken negro, rum-shops have everywhere multiplied, and the land is cursed with them.
Symptoms of another change in the feelings of the people you may perceive in their bearing towards the church and their minister. That the religious excitement in the first years of freedom should continue, nobody could expect; but now many manifest an indifference that is grievous, and the words of the minister, his opinion, his decision, are very frequently not received with due attention and respect. In many, this proceeds from an ignorant notion, that they know all about religion, that needs to be known, as well as their minister. This is certainly singular; but proud ignorance and presumption are so nearly related, that one often does not know which surpasses the other. Nevertheless, a habit has been established among the people of visiting the house of God, and in our church a habit and a very strong desire to visit the minister at the regular speakings, so that our churches are filled every Sunday, and we have every opportunity of seeing the members of our flocks. Another change, which is very perceptible in many parts of the island, is a returning faith and practice to and in Obeah. This has been so glaring and grievous, that the grand jury, at the last sessions, in St James, handed in a presentment, in which they earnestly prayed the legislature to interfere, and to enact more stringent laws to counteract it. Of this evil nobody can form an adequate idea, until he has witnessed it. All that ought to be ascribed to the will, the judgment, or the blessing of God, is ascribed to an evil supernatural agency, and a negro, who once believes that he is "Obeahed," withers away like a dying tree, and dies in a short time. It is rank heathenism and idolatry.
Sad and discouraging as is the foregoing statement, you would be mistaken, were you to give way to the impression, that this is the character of all our negroes and that they are all alike. No, thank God! they are not all alike; the Wor.d of God continues to prove itself the power of God unto salvation to this day. And now, let me place, in opposition to the above, the tokens for good, and the cause for rejoicing which we have.
You will find in our churches everywhere a number of truly converted negroes; men, whose religion does not consist in words only, but who live up to their profession. Especially among our helpers, or national assistants, you will meet with very worthy men; and I could point out a few amongst them of a very superior character; men, of whom I have heard the minister say: "You are more righteous than I." Such men are truly a help to us. The authority which these helpers have, is, indeed, no longer what it was formerly; but if their superiority was, or might have been, an inducement to pride, at the present day they find full scope for the exercise of the counteracting christian virtues, meekness, patience, and love. And further, I have found at all times, that the number of those members who will give their support to the minister and helpers, exceeds the number of them that are indifferent and careless. We have, therefore, no such feeling, as if we were losing ground, but in every good word and work, we can with confidence appeal to our helpers and to the majority of our 'congregations, knowing that we shall meet with a hearty response from them.
Another ground for not losing courage lies in the experience of the latter years. When we began clearly to perceive the evil tendencies of the times, we feared that there might be a great falling away in our congregations; not only that we should often be called upon to reprove and chasten, but that many would withdraw themselves from our pastoral care, being content to visit the nearest churches, and no longer submitting to church-discipline. Our experience has taught us, that the hold we have on the better feelings of our flock, does not allow them to throw oflf the yoke of love so easily. We have, indeed, often to reprove, to suspend, and to exclude members, but in most cases, we find them still submitting in humility; if not at first, they return ere long with en expression of sorrow, and a promise of amendment; there ha? not, therefore, been so great a falling away of the members attending our ministry, and we may hope, that if we succeed in keeping our ground at this time, our congregations may be the more firmly established. The storm that shakes the tree, if it does not overthrow it, only tends to make it strike deeper root.
The year 1850 has not been unfruitful: our mission has certainly been advancing. Of this a number of events, which deserve to be chronicled, will convince you. 1st. We have established this year in our congregations, a congregation-counci], which attends principally to the collection of church contributions, and the temporal necessities of each station. Hitherto the council has answered our expectations, and promises to be of still more importance. 2nd? We have begun to keep half-yearly conferences with our teachers, in which opportunity is given to all to contribute, from their experience, towards the further improvement of our schools. This likewise promises to be a most useful regulation. 3d. We have opened fifteen new out-statien schools, which our kind friends of the London Associatie-n have engaged to support; a very important and beneficial extension of our missionary labors. 4th. A diacony has been established in Jamaica for the support of the mission. 5th. Our native agency has been enlarged by the reception of br. Thomas at New-Carmel, as assistantmissionary.