The public meeting held in the First Church last evening was not largely attended. The subject was 'Christian Missions.' The Moderator (the Eev. G. Hall), who presided, said that for nearly thirty years he had labored as a missionary in one of the largest cities in India, and it was not until his health utterly gave way that he e.une to seek a new sphere of Übor'in this land. The principal business of the meeting was to hear from Mr iUnncrman an account of his visit to the New Hebrides mission field.
The R'jv. VV. Bannerman spoke for nearly an hour aud a half on the subject allotted to him. Ho said that he had expected to be able to present the report of the Mission Committee in connection with his recent visit, but by an unfortunate mistake that report had not been returned from the printer, and he would there Lie have; to go on without it. The islands comprising the church's missionary field were widely scattered—extending over f; apace of nearly 300 miles, different languages were spoken upon thorn, and in not a few instances two distinct languages were spoken on the same island, so that the inhabitants on the one side of the island could have no connection by speech with the inhabitants on the other side. Missionary work at the New Hebrides was conducted by seven or eight branches of the, Presbyterian Church, who were all acting in union. Those churches were the Free Church of Scotland, Presbyterian Churches of Nova Scotia, Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia, New Zealand, and of Otago and Southland. He had had the pleasure of meeting all but three of the representatives of these churches, and had visited the mission fields of ten missionaries. Special attention had, however, been given by him to the islands occupied by their own three missionaries, The different missionaries carried on their work very much in the same way, and if he told of the work of their own missionaries he would give a very good idea of the manner in which the othei missionaries werecarryingou the work. He might however, say that throughout all the islands occupied by missionaries there was progress such as to give the churches engaged in these missions abundant cause to thank God and to take courage. There were in all seventeen Presbyterian missionaries, whose work extended over a group of twenty or thirty islands that differed considerably in size and population. The missionaries from the Church of Otago and Southland had, perhaps, the widest field, for Mr Milne's labors extended over seven islands. Many of these islands within the last ten years were altogether heathen and cannioal, and now in Mr Milne's field there were five islands altogether Christianised ; whilst on the other two there was but a comparatively small number of heathen, the Christians far outnumbering them, and amongst the heathens cannibalism had altogether ceased. Mr Michelsen had three islands, and on these there was but one small village that was still heathen. He (Mr Bannerman) had visited these three islands, going to twelve villages, in all of which Mr Michclsoji had charge, with the assistance of Native teachers. On Sunday he conducted service in two or three of these villages, leaving the rest to the Native teachers. As showing the interest taken in the work of the missionaries in these islands it might be mentioned that, at a single day's notice, a congregation of upwards of 000 persons had assembled, not one of whom six years ago was other than heathen and cannibal, and from many of whom Mr Michelsen's life was daily in danger; and amongst these GOO there was such attention and apparent devotion and joining in the psalmody as to show that their Christianity was indeed a reality. In several villages he had had the privilege of addressing congregations numbering from eighty to 200, and he learned that the attendance was the same whether the missionary or a Native teacher conducted the service. A remarkable oontrast this was to what took place in more civilised communities when an elder tool: the service. It was the service itself that the islanders paid respect to. Mr Milne had morning school, superintended by himself, early after sunrise on five days a week. The ordinary work of the school was of course secular, but each day's lesson in secular subjects was accompanied by a Scripture lesson, which old and young learned, so as to ba able to give answers when called on. Afternoon school was held at about four o'clock, and at this the chief leßSon was in writing. During the week regular prayer meetings were held, at which the attend ance was large, oonsistiug of well nigh every individual of the village, young and old, men and women. On the day following the prayer meeting there was Bible class, attended by almost the entire population. On one island that he visited sixty-four Natives and thirteen children presented themselves for baptism in the presence of a congregation numbering 500, and after the baptismal service the Lord's Supper was dispensed to 131 communicants. Next day a service was held for the celebration of marriage, when no fewer than seven couples were united in wedlock. On one island he took part in celebrating no fewer than nine marriages at the one time. Mr Milne had now no fewer th?n 400 in full communion with the church, all having passed a thorough examination. The missionaries at the New Hebrides were not keen to baptize Natives so as to give an appearance of success, but kept candidates for a longer time than many people would deem necessary. Mr Milne had a heavy task in educating Natives for the work of teaching, and it would be well if the Synod were to arrange with the Northern Church in providing him with a teacher of English. The church should specially consider that this work of training teaoherß was a heavy expense for Mr Miln9 to maintain. As to the position of the French in the New Hebrides, he might say that the French were making every possible effort to get not only a footing on the islands but to get possession of them. The Mayor of Noumea, by the direction, it was understood, of the representative of the French Government on the island of New Caledonia, visited one inland with the view of encouraging a movement towards French occupation. On that island the French Company, as it was called, had considerable property, although there were few Frenchmen on it or on any other. A petition was got up, strange to say, by the influence of an Englishman, a representative of an Australian newspaper, with the view of asking the French to take possession of the New Hebrides. This was signed, it was said, by upwards of forty British subjects and by others. It so happened, however, that there were not forty British subjects in all these islands, aud of the British subjects on the island there were seventeen missionaries, not one of whom would sign or did sign the petition, and he never met on any of the islands a British subject v/hq had signed it. That would show the value of the petition. The French Government had started several prirsts on the islands, but none of them had acquired the language, and had no followers among the people. He did not think, if the IJatives were consulted, there was any chance of the islands feeing annexed to France, nor was fchera much opportunity of the annexation of the islands if Britain was true to the interests of those Natives, and took into consideration that it was British Christians alone that had done anything for the civilisation and Christianising of the islands. He trusted that Britain, both for the sake of Australia and New Zealand, as well as for the Natives themselves, would takp caro that the New Hebrides did not become what the ji'rench evidently meant them to be—a place where they might locate their convicts, and so give some relief to tha State of New Caledonia and other places they had set apart for their criminal population. He had heard that there were some Frenchmen who had come to these islands, but how they got there he could not tell, The presence of these men would not be good for the Natives, and they might easily make their way from theseislauds to Victoria and to New Zealand. The attention of the Australian and New Zealand Governments should be directed to this danger. He also desired to express the conviction that gre»i injustice had been done to the Natives by the way in which the men-of-war had inflicted punishment upon them for injury dope to white men without ascertaining whether white, men were not the wrongdoers in the firat instance. In concluding, Mr Bannerman said that the Christianising of the islands had had the effeot of making the men take their share of the work of producing food, instead of leaving it all to
the women ; and another important result was the stopping of the constant warfare that had existed between village and village. The speaker intimated that Mr Milne would visit Otago in the month of January in the Dayspring. In answer to questions, invited by the speaker, Mr Bannerman said that the labor traffic was still being carried on, and was very injurious both to the temporal and spiritual interests of the Natives. Many of the finest young men were drafted oIF to Queensland never to return, and many of those who did return were diseased and afflicted and were useless. It was found, too, that it was more difficult to turn to Christianity those who had been away to Queensland as laborers than those who had never left their heathen land. The Queensland Government had passed an Act prohibiting the further importation of Kanakas, but the planters of Queensland were doing their utmost to get that Act rescinded. Polygamy was common amongst the heathen, but no polygamist was allowed to receive the Christian ordinance of baptism. Many of them professed Christianity, but were not received into the church. They were not baptised unless they put away all their wives but one. Tho drink traffic had reached the islands through the labor traffic vessels. The British law provided that no one should supply the Natives with firearms or drink or ammunition ; but the French, Swedish, and other European traders were not placed under tho same restriction. He regretted that in the convention made between France and Great Britain it had not been agreed to jointly prohibit the supply of j ammunition, firearms, and drink to the Natives. A trial would be made with ateam communication with the islands, but it would, he thought, be necessary to have a small inter-insular steamer entirely under the control of the mission for the convenience of missionaries, and for the distribution of goods and mails at the island at which they would be left hy the trading steamer. The Rev. Mr Beattie and Mr Jack (the deputies from the Northern Presbyterian Church) also addressed the meeting. BiBLE-RKADISCI IX SCHOOLS. The Synod resumed at 10.15 p.m., when Dr Copland (the convener) presented the following report of the Committee on Biblereading in Schools : Tho Committee regret to be obliged to report that, although they have given their best attention to the work entrusted to them, their eff>rts have been as yet unsuccessful. A meeting of the Committee was held, in conference with the Biblc-io. Schools At sociation of Invercargill, and it was agreed to secure, if possible, tho reconsideration of the subject during the session of Parliament which has recently closed. Accordingly a number of the members of Parliament who have taken an active interest in this subject were communicated with, and in reply they expressed their willingness to do what might be in their power to bring the question again before Parliament and endeavor to obtain legal sanction for the reading of the Bible in the public schools, with the provision of a time table and a conscience clause.
During the ression they endeavored to carry out their purpose, but from tho great interruption to the progress of public business in the House, such an opportunity was never obtained.
A Bill was introduced hy Mr Tanner, at the request of the members who are favorable to the object in view, but opportunity for the second reading could not be obtained. It will, however, he again brought forward orrly during next session.
The main provision of the Bill is that the Hcbool Committee of any school district " may sanction the daily reading, with or without comment, of a portion of the Bibleia the public school or schools in such district within school hours; and such reading shall be in accordance with the schedule attached to this Bill. When comment is allowed the instruction given must bo cf a strictly unsectarian character, suited to the capacities of the children, who may bo questioned thereon." It is further provided that such reading shall take place at the beginning or ond of the meeting of the school, and "anyFcholar may be withdrawn by his or hor parent or guardian during such reading, without forfeiting any of the other benefits of tin school."
The schedule referred fo presents the selection (f the portions which may be read, which has been taken from tho report of the Parliamentary Commission in England. These extend over all tho principal parts of both the Old and New Testaments, and while affording sufficii'ntly copious and various portions for reading during the whole period of the school course, they omit such chapters and passages as are less adapted for public reading, especially by the young. The provision which is afforded by this Bill is moderate and reasonable, and does not interfere with the rights or liberties of any who object to it, and it is left in tho discretion of the school committees, who moji; closely represent the parents of the school children, to determine whether they shall avail themselves of such provision or not. Such a measure, if p-.esDd, would, we believe, tatisfy the desire of these who have been agitatng for tho reading of the Biblo ever tince the present secular sys'em was introduced, and would contribute much to the consolidation of the system of education on a national basis.
Tho Committee recommend the Synod to instruct the Presbyteries, in the event of this Bill not being passcl into law by the present Parliament, to appoint deputies to visit the districts within the bounds before the next general election, and in co-operation with the various denominations, seek to excite such interest in the subject a3 may lead tho peop'e to press upon the attention of candidates for election to Parliament the propriety of supporting a Bill to secure the rl-vily reading ef the Bible in the schools.
Further, tho Committee r commend the Synod to communicate with the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand, suggesting that similar steps should be taken by it throughout the country within its bounds. '1 Ije Committee desire to record their thanks to those members c-f Parliament who have heartily endeavored to secure Bible-reading in the sohools especially the Hon. Mathew Holmes, Messrs Fulton, Downie Stewart, Allen, Mills, J. M'Keczie, Dr Hodgkinson, and others.
Although sucoess has not been achieved, the Committee feel assured that progress has been made towards it. On oocaßion of the last vote taken on the subject in the House of Representative?, a larger number declared themselves in favor of Bible-reading in the schools than at any time sinco the present secular system was introduced. Of the twenty-four members representing Otago, sixteen are favorable : and in the Upper House it is almost certain that a Bill for this purpose would be readily passed into law if previously adopted by the Houße of Representatives. The Committee indulge the hope that if the proposed Bill should not be adopted by the present Parliament, the awakened interest of tho people throughout tho colony will secure the restoration of the Bible to the sohools by tho new Parliament, aud so remove the stigma which has so long been attached to our system of education.
In speaking to the report, Dr Copland said that the demand for Bible-reading in schools had been persistently made by the Presbyterian Church of Otago and Southland for the last ten or eleven years, and, looking at the matter upon any reasonable ground, the wonder appeared to him to be that there should bo so much difficulty in getting-such a demand complied with. In nearly every other civilised country provision was made for religious instruction. In Great Britain, out of 2,000 school boards, only about seven had not sanctioned Biblereading in the schools under their oare, The London School Board required that half an hour daily should be devoted to Biblical instruction, and had recently arranged that the inspectors should conduct systematic examinations in religious subjects in the schools under their jurisdiction. Mr A. C. Bego moved the adoption of the following deliverance :—" That the Synod adopt the report, record itj> thanks to the Committee, and especially the convener; express its regret that the object aimed at—the daily reading of the Bible in the public schools, under provision of a time table and conscience clause —has not yet been secured j instruct the Committee to use such efforts as may appear advisable to ascomplish the end in view ; instruct the presbyteries of the churoh, in the event of a Bill sanctioning Bible reading in the schools not being passed into law by the present Parliament, to appoint deputies to visit tho various districts within their bounds, and in co-opera-tion with other denominations to press upon the people the importance of doing what they can to obtain legal sanction for Bible reading in schools ; and further, instruct the clerk of Synod to communicate with; the moderatqr of the general Assembly af the Presbyterian Church cf New Zealand, suggesting on behalf of the Synod the desirablanesa of similar measures being adopted by that church within its bounds." In speaking to the motion, Mr Begg would like to emphasise the faot that they had
obtained the victory in Otago on the question of Bible-reading in the public schools. The only way for the Legislature to save the national system of education was to grant this request for Bible-reading in schools. By so doing they would raise up a bulwark against the encroachment of the Roman Catholics; while if, an Act was passed to give aid to Catholic schools, within a few years the national system would be destroyed. It had been Raid that teachers would object to Bible-reading in schools, but he believed that it was a libel upon the teachers to suggest that any considerable number were of that opinion. There might be a few teachers who called themselves Freethinkers, but no infidel had any right to be a teacher in a public school. They might as well allow a thief access to their sates as to allow a Freethinker to be a teacher.
The deliverance was unanimously adopted, and the Synod adjourned at 11.30 p.m., to meet again at 3 p.m. on Monday next.
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PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD., Evening Star, Issue 8054, 2 November 1889
PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD. Evening Star, Issue 8054, 2 November 1889
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