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Dayspring in the Far West
Sketches of Mission-Work in North-West America

By M. E. Johnson

London: Seeley, Jackson and Halliday, 1875.

Chapter X. Results of Missionary Teaching

Results of Missionary teaching, as exhibited in the hearts and lives of the Converts.--Obstacles in the way of Missionary progress.

WE have now seen that the small seed planted at Red River fifty years ago, has grown into a goodly tree, whose boughs overshadow the land. We have visited the Mission stations in the fertile basin of the Saskatchewan, (the swift-flowing river) around the sterile shores of Hudson's Bay, and the still more desolate coasts of the Polar Sea. We have seen scattered here and there little communities of Christian Indians gathered around the Mission station, dwelling in neat cottages, cultivating their little gardens and farms, neatly and comfortably clothed, diligent in their daily work, constant in their attendance in the house of God, reverently worshipping Him, and lifting up their well-tuned voices to the praise of Him who died to redeem them. We have now to show what effects the Gospel has produced in the hearts of these once degraded savages. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." We have abundant evidence to show that such fruits are produced by these dwellers in the wilderness, yet it is not a story of unmingled success; there is a dark side as well as a bright side to the picture. The faithful minister of Christ often plaintively asks, like the prophet of old, "Who hath believed our report?" while sometimes he mourns sadly over those who did run well, but who have turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them. Nor is this a new or strange thing; it was so in the days of the early Church. St. Paul wrote to the Galatian converts, "Ye did run well, who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth?" The angel was commissioned to write to the Church of Ephesus, "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love;" and as it was then so it is now, so it will ever be till the time when the Lord shall come to claim the kingdoms for His own; "the tares and the wheat must grow together till the harvest." But He who gave the command, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," has been faithful to His promise, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." His "word has not returned unto Him void;" "Instead of the thorn has come up the fir-tree," and "instead of the briar has come up the myrtle-tree."

A recent traveller in British North America relates the following incident:--"Every evening, as we proceeded down the Winnipeg, as soon as the necessary preparation had been made for passing the night, the whole party, in number seventeen, and with three exceptions, all either pure Indians, or partly of Indian origin, assembled for prayers. Appropriate hymns were sung; the Indians all joined; and as night closed in, it had a strange effect in that unbroken wilderness, to hear the anthem rising above the din of the rushing torrents, and to see the children of the forest bent in prayer, where so lately they had been accustomed to invocations of another kind."

At a meeting held in St. John's schoolroom in 1860, where Bishop Anderson presided, Lord Southesk stated that in the Rocky Mountains he fell in with a party of Assini-boines who maintained family prayers; they assembled at the sound of a bell, and engaged in singing and prayer. They asked his lordship for Christian instruction, and he left with them several passages of Scripture. These people had not seen a Missionary, but had obtained a knowledge of the Gospel, and of writing in syllabic characters from another Indian, who had been instructed by a Wesleyan Missionary many years before.

It may here be mentioned that the great advantage of the syllabic characters is this, that the Indians learn to read them very quickly, and are then able to instruct others without the aid of a European.

"A nice intelligent fellow," wrote the Rev. D. B. Hale, in 1868, "called to-day to see me. He is most anxious for baptism. I asked, 'Why do you wish to be baptized?' He replied, 'I have often heard the ministers tell us that Jesus Christ died for us, but I never thought that I was a sinner until a little while ago. Now I know I sin every day, but I know too that Jesus washes away my sin every day. I want to be baptized because I love Christ, and wish to join His church.' "

Bishop Machray, who visited the Mission Stations on James Bay in 1868, received from a candidate for confirmation the following answers:--To his question, "What was promised for you at your baptism?" "That I should forsake all sin; try to do what is right; believe what is written, and conform myself to God's ways." "Can you keep these vows by yourself?" "No, I cannot do it. I try all I can, but sin is so very strong within me, that it often masters me." Another was asked "What has Jesus done for you?" the reply was, "He came into this world to dispense that which is good. He died for me, and now intercedes for me." Another Indian, in reply to the same question, said, "I cannot tell you exactly as it is written; for although I read it again and again, and hear it again and again, I find it snatched away from me, and I forget it; but I know that Jesus died for my sins, and I know that if I ask Him, He will give me His Holy Spirit to make me holy." "When," says the Bishop, "the service of the Lord's Day was over, and the Communion Office finished for the second time that day, and the Indian converts were going away, many of whom had come to the Lord's Table for the first time, some few of them lingered behind to say still a few words. One of them, Thomas Chewapunash, said to me, as he held out his hand in farewell, "I was intending to go off before now, but I cannot leave until you go. My father is waiting for me up the river, but I know he will be very glad to know that I have seen you, and have been confirmed; it will gladden his heart." A Matawakumme Indian said, "I try all I can to do what the book teaches me, although I know I fail a great deal sometimes; and I try likewise to teach the Indians I come in contact with. I tell them the good things I have learnt out of the book." George, who is the eldest son of the old chief of this place, said, "Truly, truly, I am glad that you have come here, and that I have seen what has been done to day; but still I feel a little afraid, because I know I am so sinful, lest I should offend God, in whose hands I have placed myself to-day."

"Another evening service in English, with a closing word of admonition, finished the services here. This will be a visit long to be remembered--a bright and cheering spot for the memory to return back upon. What a work God has been pleased to accomplish in this place. How sad were the hearts of these Indians when the light of the blessed and glorious Gospel of Christ was first made to shine upon them! "

At one of Mr. Horden's visits to Rupert's House, four Indians acknowledged that they had put to death with their own hands, aged relatives, because they were an incumbrance. Now the Indians who have embraced the faith of Christ are as careful of their aged relatives as the civilized white man.

The Rev. J. Horden, writing from Moose Fort in 1871, says, "My work here has now assumed quite a pastoral character; heathenism, as a system, with all its abominations, has departed, and our difficulties are those of more settled communities. Our cry now is, 'Awake thou that sleepest in the bed of indifference, formality, and all those things which deaden Christian life; assume your responsibilities, enjoy your privileges.'"

Again the effect of faith in the heart is manifested by these Christian Indians in the hour of death. The Rev. H. Budd, himself a firstfruit of the Indian people, writes from Cumberland:--

"I went to visit a poor woman who has been suffering a long time; she suffers patiently and submissively. Asking her whom she trusted in, she replied, 'None but the Saviour.' 'Have you any fear of death?' 'Not while the Saviour is with me.' 'What is the Saviour to you?' 'He is everything to me.'"

"In one of the tents," writes Bishop Machray from Moose Fort, "I found an affecting instance of Christian resignation and cheerfulness amid long and heavy sufferings. The sick person was a woman of the name of Anne Checko. In reply to my remarks, she said, 'Truly, I have been a long time ill, and have suffered much; but Christ has been my comfort. I look up to Him, and He gives me help; were it not for that I should sometimes be very miserable.'" "I never forget Jesus, and He never forgets me;" said a sick and aged woman to Mr. Kirkby. "I am a poor unworthy creature, but Christ died for me," said another. A young man nineteen years of age was laid on a bed of death. "His pale and wasted countenance," said Mr. Kirkby, "beamed with joy and gladness as I entered the house. His Bible, some tracts, and another little-book I had lent him, lay on the bed beside him. He had just read the I4th of St. John, which I explained. On asking him whether he did not feel a little uneasiness, or even discontent, in seeing his young companion going about full of life and activity, he replied at once,' Not at all; God has laid me here, and He does all things well. I just leave myself with Him. If He is pleased to keep me here, I am quite content to stay. If only He will save my poor soul, that is all I desire, or feel anxious about.' Before I left him, he asked me with tearful emotion and simplicity whether I thought him worthy to partake of the Lord's Supper, as he was so anxious to fulfil that, the last command of his Saviour. I assured him that the only qualification needed was to feel our sinfulness, and Christ's willingness to save--a desire to look out of self and to be found in Him; and as I had no doubt of these being his desires and feelings, I would gladly come down to administer it on Sunday."

An aged man, whom Mr. Kirkby visited, on hearing his pastor's voice, asked his son to raise him up, that he might once more hear from his lips "how good Jesus had been to him." "Precious was the testimony," adds Mr. Kirkby, "which he bore to the power of the Redeemer's Grace, and the comforts of His love."

These are only a few instances selected out of many, many others. Multitudes have received the Gospel message into their hearts, and become new creatures in Christ Jesus. Archdeacon Cowley, writing from Red River in 1871, says, "Morally and spiritually the white man may learn lessons of wisdom from many a poor Christian Indian."

Mr. Kirkby, describing his journey from Red River to York Fort in 1870, speaks thus of the boatmen:--"They were nice fellows the whole of them, and rough and hard as the work was, we never heard an unkind or angry word from one of them the whole way," (the distance was 800 miles, and took a month to accomplish,) "and no matter how tired they might be of an evening, they never thought of sleeping without first of all having their devotions. Try and picture the scene. We are on a lake, it may be the sun is shedding its beautiful tints on the placid water; in a little bay, or beside a rocky islet, four boats are drawn up, four fires are smoking; on one side a little canvas tent is pitched, and in front of it thirty-eight dark, sunburnt men are sitting on the ground. From the tent-door a hymn is announced, and then 'Hart's' 'Martyrdom,' 'St. Bride's,' or the 'Old Hundredth,' in which, with their soft, musical voices, they all at once join and sing so sweetly. Then comes the chapter, after which all, with almost Eastern reverence, bow before God in prayer. And this they do morning and evening by themselves. Immediately after prayers we used to go into the tent, and the men each one-took his own blanket and pillow, and lay down upon the ground, or the rock all about the tent, and slept as soundly as if in a bed and house. Of the Indians at York Fort," he goes on to say, "I cannot tell you much now, but what I have seen rejoices me much. There are about 100 adults here at present, all of whom seem to love the ordinances of God's house. They all have their hymn-books, prayer-books, and Bibles, which they read well. I have prayers for them in the church every evening, and appoint one or other of three men (who arc capable of doing it) to conduct the service, and give a .short exposition of what they read, and they do it nicely. One old man kindles up as he goes along until he becomes warm and eloquent, both in words and thoughts. Last night the young man who offered the concluding prayer fairly sobbed and cried, until the little church became a Bochim. On Sundays we have the usual morning and evening service, the former at 7 a.m., the latter at 3 p.m.; and then, for the forty or fifty Europeans who are here, I have service in English at n a.m., and 7 p.m. But besides this place there are Churchill on the north, and Severn and Trout Lake to the south, also under my care, and these must be visited as often as I can go. At the former there are a good many Chipewyans and Esquimaux that I wish to see; and the Indians of Trout Lake are thirsting for the Word. They have never yet been visited by a Missionary, and still they have managed, by the aid of a Christian Indian from Severn, to learn to read the Bible, and are daily holding simple religious service among themselves. Surely such faith and patience God will richly bless."

"A Plain Cree on the Qu'Appelle," says Professor Hind, "once astonished me by producing a short notched stick, and after regarding it for a while, turning to one of the half-breeds, asked if the day was not Sunday. The seed sown often starts into life, after lying dormant for years, and produces a great variety of fruit. It is bread cast upon the waters, which shall be found after many days."

From Devon, Mr. Budd writes in 1872:--"I am thankful to be able to say, that if the Devon Indians are improving in their temporal condition, they are, I humbly trust, no less improving in their spiritual. If we may judge of the tree by its fruit, I witness enough to make me hope that they are growing in the Divine life, and increasing in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour. An increasing thirst for the Word of God is manifest by their regular attendance on the preached Word; their punctual attendance on all the means of grace; as well by the labour and toil they will take in travelling so far in the cold and snow to be present at each returning Sacrament day. Christ Church tells that the population in Devon is growing; it is sometimes full to overflowing. The regularity of the responses in the services, and the hearty singing, show that the congregation understand and value the services. I made a visit to the Pas Mountain Indians in October last. I have never had more encouragement from any set of heathen Indians since I have laboured among them for these thirty years. The Cumberland House Indians have begun to build houses for themselves like the Devon Indians. Here they assemble on Sundays, and as many of them can read in their own language, they have their books, both Prayer-book and the New Testament, and can hold regular services among themselves."

From Matawakumme, Mr. Horden writes in 1872:--"We have a church here neatly fitted up,, and having everything in it for the proper and decent conduct of Divine service. There, day by day, during my visit of eleven days to the station, almost every individual at the place came to learn, to pray, to hear; and there is scarcely one person, with the exception of the old people, unable to read either in English or Indian. No less than twenty-three partook of the Communion, more than one-fifth of the whole population." Matawakumme, it will be remembered, is an out-station of Moose Factory, only visited from time to time by the Missionary.

Yet, as we have intimated, there have been times of darkness and discouragement, when the heart of the Missionary has fainted within him. One of the chief drawbacks to Missionary work has been the sale, or exchange of intoxicating drinks by the traders for furs. "Drink," writes a Missionary, "has proved a stronger foe than idolatry." "Take away the fire-water," said an Indian, "and I will learn to pray." Happily, the sale or barter of intoxicating drinks is now strictly forbidden by Government in the Indian Reserves. Archdeacon Cowley thus writes from Red River:--"In our local parliament the whole land known as the Indian Reserve, except about two miles frontage, was reaffirmed, and set apart for the exclusive use of the poor natives of the country. This I view as a great and precious boon, absolutely indispensable to the Indian's welfare, if not to his existence, in the presence of the foreigner. Another point, almost equally essential, was secured, viz. that no licence for the sale of intoxicating drinks should be granted on the land so reserved. In every other respect I wish the Christian Indian to be treated and held as other settlers; and to this desire we hope to educate all our people who are not already up to the mark. Many are acting nobly, and it would be difficult for a stranger to decide where the half-breed clement ends, and where the Indian begins. In both the school districts of the Indian settlement the people are taxed for the support of the schools, just as the settlers exterior to the Indian Reserve are by themselves, and the two schools are thrown open to the inspectionof the superintendent of Protestant schools. Incorporation with foreigners seems to be the way in which God will preserve the Indian. That our people are educated up to the practicability of this upon equal terms, is due, under God, to the labours of the Church Missionary Society, introducing and sustaining among them the glorious Gospel of our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

The Indian Reserve, here mentioned, extends northwards along the banks of Red River, and is sufficiently extensive to allow 160 acres of land for each family of five persons.

A formidable obstacle to the progress of the Gospel in North West America exists in the strenuous efforts madeby theRoman Catholic priests to imbue the minds of the native population with Romish error, and so win them over to their church. This influence has been attended with some discouraging results in the Mackenzie River district. The Rev. W. D. Reeve, who succeeded Mr. Kirkby at Fort Simpson in 1869, has suffered much anxiety on this account. His position has been a peculiarly trying one. He is the single Protestant Missionary in a district in which there is a well organized band of Romish Missionaries, some of whom speak the language with fluency, while Mr. Reeve, until quite recently, has laboured under the disadvantage of having to acquire a difficult dialect, without the aid of an efficient instructor.

At Fort Youcon, however, the Rev. Robert Macdonald has found much to encourage him, in the desire manifested by the Indians for instruction. Numbers of them have received it into their hearts, and testify their appreciation of its blessings by endeavouring to live according to its precepts. La Pierre's House, distant 600 miles from Fort Youcon, Peel River Fort, and Rampart House on the Porcupine, are also important Mission stations in this district. Mr. Macdonald itinerates from one to the other, collecting the Indians together at each, instructing them in the way of life, and seeking to build them up in the faith of a crucified Saviour. The steamers placed by the American Government on the Youcon and Porcupine enable him to reach these distant points with less fatigue and less loss of time than formerly, when the Missionary was dependent on his own means of locomotion. Mr. Macdonald is thus able to become better acquainted with the Tukuth people, and many and sad are the proofs with which he meets of the degraded state of these heathen tribes, and of the cruel bondage of sin and Satan under which they lie.

Yet we despair not. The day has dawned on these far oft lands. "The sun shines," was the exclamation of an Indian on entering for the first time a newly-erected house of God: truly, it already shines, and ere long the hills and valleys of these far-off lands shall be bathed in its noontide glory.

In our next chapter we shall ask our readers to accompany us to the village of Christian Indians at Metlakatlah, on the western side of the Rocky Mountains, where a work has been accomplished which has excited the astonishment and admiration of all who have seen it or heard of it.

This Mission completes the zone of Missions with which the Church Missionary Society has now encircled the world.

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