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ABYSSINIAN LADIES. The Abyssinian Mission has so long ceased to appear in the Reports of our Society, that perhaps some of our readers may have almost forgotten that we have had a Mission in that country. Such, however, is not the
As long ago as 1811 the Committee formed the project of establishing a Protestant College in Malta, which might in time exercise an influence
upon those decayed Eastern churches which are to be found on the shores of the Mediterranean, such as the Greek, Armenian, Nestorian, and Coptic. Out of this plan the Mission to Abyssinia arose.
On the arrival of the Society's first Missionary in Malta in the year 1815, he found that a native of Abyssinia, resident in Cairo, had for some time been engaged in translating the Scriptures into Amharic, the language chiefly spoken by his countrymen. This at once suggested to the Committee the thought of extending their operations to Abyssinia. They considered it as an indication of God's good will and pleasure, and, after a time, selected two young men from their Islington Institution, who had received their first education in Bâle, and appointed them to commence the Mission in Abyssinia. These two men were the Rev. Samuel Gobat, now Bishop of Jerusalem, and the Rev. Christian Kugler. They went, in the first instance, to Egypt, intending to make their way through that country into Abyssinia. This was in 1826; but it was not till 1829 that they arrived at the port of Massowah, a name which is now much more familiar to British readers than it was thirty-nine years ago.
Mr. Gobat left Mr. Kugler on the coast, and, by the directions of the Committee, proceeded inland as far as Gondar. Here he remained for about a year, and then retraced his steps towards the coast, meeting his comrade on the road. Mr. Kugler was unfortunately killed by an accident* shortly afterwards; and about this time the state of the country was so disturbed as to compel the solitary Missionary to leave it. He therefore returned to Europe early in 1833, but was back again in Abyssinia in two years more, and was this time accompanied by another Missionary, Mr. Isenberg.
We have not space to describe the various changes that took place in the Mission during the next few years. It must suffice to say that Mr. Gobat's health soon failed, and that he had to return to England ; that Dr. Krapf afterwards went out, and resided some years in the country; but that, through those internal dissensions which have so long prevailed in Abyssinia, he was compelled to leave, and that the Mission was finally given up in 1843.
Of the customs of the women of Abyssinia Mr. Gobat thus wrote in his journal, after he had spent some years in the country. a child is born, it is immediately taught to drink lukewarm butter with a little honey. This seems to have been customary with the Jewe. (Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.' Isaiah vii. 15.) After the age of six or seven years the children are considered as servants. The girls are occupied in managing the little affairs of the house, and begin to fetch water as soon as they can walk steadily : at the age of eight or nine years they begin to fetch wood from the mountains. "The daughters of the higher class learn nothing but spinning and managing the affairs of the house : there are, however, a few ladies who can read.
“ The following is the course through which young persons desiring to
“ As soon as
account of this we must refer our readers to the “Gleaner" for Junc.
be instructed “are led. After they know how to read, they learn the Gospel of St. John, then some of the Epistles of St. Paul, and some of the Homilies of St. Chrysostom; after these the Psalms and some Prayers. In this way the greater part of their time is spent in learning to sing, and all this in an unknown tongue.
“When the Abyssinians arrive at an advanced age, most of them become monks or nuns, and if they have any possessions they deliver them over to their children, who support them till their death."
From the accounts we have received of the political and religious state of Abyssinia, as given by those who took part in the recent expedition, we can hardly look upon the country as inviting us to fresh Missionary effort at present. It is
clear that there is so much religious degradation, combined with such an absence of any firm government, as to render the work of the Missionary most unpromising and very perilous. The atmosphere of a decayed Christianity, so sadly depressing to the Missionary, is often considered to be far more hostile to his work than any form of idolatry.
GATHERED FRUIT. WOULD our readers like to know something of what a Tamil clergyman is enabled to do among his brethren of South India ? His name is the Rev. James Cornelius, and the district in which he resides, among the native-Christian flock entrusted to his charge, is called Sivagasi.
First let us hear what he says of himself and of his district,
I am a native Christian, born of parents who were converts to Christianity. For about fifteen years I have been preaching the glorious Gospel of the blessed God to Christians and heathen. For the last seven years I have been an ordained minister of Christ in my humble sphere. The Mission District in which I am at present labouring is, I think, the poorest, and has been the least successful in the circle of the Tinnevelly Mission, and let the facts connected with my work, which I am going to put down, speak for themselves. I think I can introduce them by saying that, during the last year, I have seen and heard much to encourage me in my work, much to prove that the Gospel I preach is the power of God unto salvation, much to shew that the ignorant, superstitious and deceitful Hindus of this district are under the converting and sanctifying influences of the word of God.
In my district there are 327 Christians and 473 inquirers, making a total of about 800 souls under my care. These 800 people are scattered in twenty-one Christian villages and assemble for divine service in thirteen churches, or rather prayer-houses.
Now for the points of encouragement to which he refers. There can be no greater encouragement than to find that the Lord is using a congregation on earth as a place of training and preparation for those who shall be heirs of the heavenly inheritance, so that
there is a process of transplanting going forward, from earth to heaven.
Last year several Christians died in my district. The catechists and I often went to see them, and minister comfort and consolation to them in their last moments. Four of them, I am sure, died in the Lord. Their life as Christians was exemplary, for they endeavoured to their utmost to adorn their profession. I always looked upon them as true Christians, and belief was confirmed when I attended their death-beds. As many Christians and myself were edified by the manner in which they glorified Christ in their last moments, I beg to add a short account of them.
The name of the first was Arulanandham. He was about sixty years old. Though called at the eleventh hour, yet he soon showed that he had felt the power of the Gospel. His diligence in learning his lessons, his regularity in attending the means of grace, his repentance and faith, which I could not but observe every time I saw him, induced me to baptize him at once. He was also soon admitted to the communion. While a heathen he was a notorious drunkard, so much so, that his name was a proverb for drunkenness. After he joined us he totally gave up that sin, and often used to say in a feeling manner, “ How thankful I ought to be to the Lord, who called me to know Him in my old age, and who gave me grace to give up that great sin of mine.” Some months before his death he lost the use of his sight. This, however, did not trouble him much. Though his village was about a mile to the west of the place , where the cathechist resided, yet every Sunday he would ask one of his sons to act as his guide, and would come to the Church long before the £ervice commenced. Even the heathen would go to him to make
their differences and to have their quarrels settled. He made use of these opportunities in speaking to them about the Lord Jesus.
When he was very ill, he asked one of his sons, who was able to read, to sit by him and 'read to him out of the Bible. As he lay on his death-bed, he would ask 'the catechist to read to him, “the story of the woman whom our Lord called Dog," "that part which spoke of the penitent thief," "the story of the woman who washed our Lord's feet with her tears,” “the story of the woman who sat at our Lord's feet, and listened to his teaching,” &c. This was the way in which he pointed out the parts of Scripture he liked best. Before he died, he expressed his unwavering confidence in the redemption of the Lord Jesus, and said that he had no doubt that He who had compassion on his soul in his old age, would keep him on his dying bed, and take him to Himself. A few moments before his death, just as he was about to breathe his last, he sent for his wife and children, advised them to cling to the Saviour, and not to give heed to the persuasions of the heathen; and then, like the patriarchs of old, blessed them. Thus lived and thus died this true disciple of the Lord Jesus. The catechist, when speaking about him, said that his example used often to stir him up to diligence in his duties.
The wife of the abovementioned Arulanandham was like-minded with him. She was baptized, and admitted to the communion with her husband. Ever gentle and meek, she was always careful not to give
offence to anybody. She was very kind to the catechist and to the Christians whenever they went to see her. Though ignorant, yet it was soon evident that she was more than a mere nominal Christian. Like her husband, she was very regular in her attendance on the means of grace. In one thing she excelled very many Christians. Before sowing her lands, she used to pray for a blessing, and vow unto the Lord so much for every kottei out of her produce ; and when the harvest time came, before taking any thing to her house, she would very carefully measure the grain she had vowed unto the Lord, place it on the heads of her sons, and bring it to the catechist. The catechist, speaking about this, remarked that her countenance at the time used to shine with the joy and cheerfulness that possessed her inmost soul. She survived her husband only a few weeks, and soon joined him in the realms above. As she was about to die, one of her relatives asked her if she was going to leave her children. Her answer was, “If I had been bitten by a snake, as I was returning from the church last Sunday, and had died, what could I have done for them then ? I commend them to my God and my Saviour : He will take care of them.”
A young woman, by name Rachel, shall be my third example. When very young she used to attend our service with her sisters. For some months she used to walk six miles every Sunday to be present at divine service. Her wish to read the Bible for herself was so intense, that she bought a First Tamil book, and would go five miles to receive a lesson from a schoolmaster who promised to teach her. In this way she soon learned to read. She knew a great many passages of Scripture by heart, and would speak to the heathen freely about her Saviour. Whenever she heard or saw any thing wrong in the family, she was the first to reprove her parents and sisters, and would come and tell it to the catechist, begging him at the same time to advise them and to pray for them. When she was put out of the congregation for marrying her deceased sister's husband, she was uneasy, begged often to be taken back, for she said, “How long is my child to remain unbaptized, and we without the holy communion ?" and when she was at last received into the church, no one can express her joy, which gave vent to many thankful expressions. But her end was near. Small-pox had so disfigured her body that her friends soon gave up all hopes of her recovery.
When she saw her sisters crying, she reproved them, and said, “Don't you know that I am going to that Saviour who loved me and gave himself for me ?" To her husband she said, “My sister, your former wife, died of this
The heathen may try to upset your mind : don't listen to them, keep close to the Saviour. I have fought my fight, I have finished my course, you will also soon follow me; only be a true Christian.” When one of her sisters, pointing to her only child, asked if she was anxious about her, she said " No. When the cow dies does she furnish her calf with grass? My Saviour will take care of my child.” With such confidence and faith she fell asleep. Her example seems to have been very beneficial to the heathen and Christians who knew her.
Vedhamanikkam, of Melkarandhei, whilst a heathen, was a stageplayer. At first he seems to have joined the Christians from worldly notives, but it was not long before he tasted the goodness of God in his