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"The Apostle of the Indians of Guiana"
A Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Rev. W.H. Brett, B.D.
For Forty Years a Missionary in British Guiana

By the Rev. F.P.L. Josa
Rector of Holy Trinity, Essequibo

London: Wells, Gardner, Darton and Co., 1887.

Chapter XII.

The Bishop's Opinion of Brett's Work--S.P.G.--A Coincidence--Appointed Chaplain--B.D.--Presentation by the County of Essequibo in 1874--Clerical Assessor--Presentation by the Clergy in 1879--Same by the Laity--Address from "Anna Regina" School.

IT will hardly be necessary to state that the long and unwearied exertions of Mr. Brett were not left unnoticed by the Bishop, the clergy, and the faithful laity. It is well known that every one respected him, and that many resorted to him for advice. We have it on good authority that many vexed questions on church policy and other matters were submitted by the Bishop to his judgment--the judgment of one whom he fully appreciated and greatly loved. We shall quote some of the remarks that were made in public by the Bishop concerning him.

In one of the charges to the clergy of the diocese the Bishop thus spake:--

"Considering the serious disadvantages which the stations, with one exception, in connection with the S. P. G. have laboured under, in having been for so considerable a period almost unattended to by any clergyman, and the total abandonment of one of the most promising of their missions, through the serious illnesses of those who had the early charge of it, I was glad to find so little to cause feelings of despondency; and it was no insignificant proof; if such were wanting, of the faithfulness with which the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached amongst the aborigines in the extreme northern boundary of the colony.

"Nor can I forbear to mention the important event of the translation of two of the gospels into one of the Indian languages. I shall never forget the impression conveyed to my mind when I beheld the unaffected and, I believe that I may add, holy joy which lighted up the countenances of these simple and interesting people when they beheld with their own eyes and handled with their own hands the precious Message in their own language. I could realise to my mind through what I saw the feelings which must have overspread the countenances of the early Christians when they met together to read an Epistle from one of the apostles.

"Great indeed has been the satisfaction of my rev. brother, lately a missionary in connection with the S. P. G., when he witnessed the realisation of his toilsome and anxious work; and yet must it in truth have been a labour of love, in behalf of a long-neglected tribe of the early possessors of this soil.

"I have no doubt that this good work will present another great advantage. Roving as do our Indians from place to place, and carrying with them one of these blessed volumes, they will be as so many heralds of salvation.

"May the knowledge of these facts stimulate us all to greater exertions on behalf of all the heathen nations who are already in our land, and who are lik to congregate in much larger numbers. As they seek a resting-place here in quest of earthly gain, may they find the true El Dorado, and in faith look unto 'the city that had no need of tile sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.'"

And later his lordship, having requested Mr. Brett to preach a sermon on behalf of the missions of the Church, delivered on the same day a charge, in which he said:--"The missionary outposts of the colony continue to be an inexpressible source of comfort to me Well indeed may our rev, brother, who has this morning so ably instructed us in our duties and obligations, as he is entitled to do, take courage in the future prosecution of a work in which he occupies a foremost place! Well may he take courage, and raise the notes of joy only fit for so solemn realities, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men!' I had lately the privilege of witnessing with him at the station in the Pomeroon the greatly increasing association of tribes who formerly punished each other with rancorous hatred, and even one time, until they became Christians, were estranged from each other, but are now united in peace and love. At the Moruca Station, too, there is everything to encourage us to lend a helping hand."

Thirteen years later the Bishop thus spoke:--

"Foremost amongst the points of interest which arrested my attention I may place our mission-fields. Never during my experience has there been such a promising harvest as they now present; never before, as I believe, have there appeared such signal marks of the triumphs of the gospel of Christ. It was no gathering only for the day when some 2000, composed of five distinct tribes, assembled together to meet the chief ruler of this colony at our most distant northern outpost about two years ago. Steadily were the heathen flocking in before that time; steadily have they been coming to us since that day--a day which will doubtless long be remembered by these simple and interesting races for a gracious act of condescension and kind consideration.

"I cannot more clearly demonstrate what I affirm than by mentioning a fact which was communicated to me a little more than two weeks ago by the worthy catechist at the Waramuri Mission--that some 60 persons, adults and children, were waiting at that time to be baptized, and 16 couples to be married, at the approaching visit of the superintending clergyman."

Besides the above loving words of the Bishop in his public charges, there are to be found many other allusions to this truly great missionary in almost every report of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts--a Society that has nursed the mission-work of the Church in the diocese of Guiana for the last fifty years, and is still helping the diocese by a grant of £800 per annum. In giving a review of the work of the diocese in a report supplied by the Bishop to the above-named Society in 1881 his lordship thus wrote:--"Mr. Brett was rewarded by seeing the ferocious Caribs, the gentle Arawâks, and the homicidal Acawoios dwelling together in harmony and kneeling down side by side in their house of prayer without terror or even suspicion: an all but literal fulfilment this of Isaiah's prophecy, 'The wolf shall lie down with the lamb."

Of Mr. Brett's linguistic attainments the Bishop thus wrote in the same report:--" There can be very little doubt that the extension of Christianity among the aboriginal Indians has been powerfully promoted by the circulation of cards containing the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, and some elements of Christian truth printed by the S.P.C.K., and illustrated with vignettes depicting some of the striking events recorded in the Bible." And once more, in the same report, he adds:--"However, when we cast a retrospective glance over the interval that separates us from the time when William Henry Brett (clarum et venerabile nomen) arrived in the colony we may well say, 'What hath God wrought!'"

The members of the venerable Society above alluded to, having heard of the death of the subject of our Memoir, thus record their estimate of his work in the report of 1885--"He may be declared without exaggeration to have been the means under God of converting four nations who, in their pagan state, lived in perpetual warfare among them selves."

The Bishop, it should be mentioned, showed the appreciation of his labours by nominating him as his chaplain in January 1870, an appointment which (at the Bishop's request, when he left the diocese) he retained until his death, and of which lie was justly proud, always regarding it as an especial mark of the Bishop's affection and esteem.

In 1878, at the request of the Bishop of Guiana, His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury (the late Dr. Tait) conferred on Mr. Brett the degree of "B.D." in recognition of his scholastic attainments and long and eminent services as a missionary.

The laity evinced their appreciation of his great merits, and showed him every attention and all respect and honour. Thus when Mr. Brett was leaving on a visit to England in 1874 he was presented with a pocket Bible, a loving ad dress, and a purse of money amounting to more than £70, a portion of which, it was stipulated, was to be spent on a silver tea-pot and an engraved inscription.

The address on the occasion was as follows:--

"To the Rev. W. H. BRETT, Rector of the Holy Trinity, Essequibo.

"REV. AND DEAR BR0THER,--We, the undersigned members of the vestry of the parish of the Holy Trinity, in our own names, and on behalf of your parishioners and other friends, have to express sincere regret that you are about to leave us for England after thirty-five years' service in this colony as a missionary and minister of the gospel in connection with the Church of England. Your unwearied exertions, attended with many privations, amongst the Indians cannot be too highly appreciated, and your ministrations in the churches of this parish have been in unison with your exemplary life and conversation.

"As a token of the esteem and love we have for you as a man, as a Christian, and as a minister of the gospel, we beg respectfully to present you with this address, accompanied with a bank order for 350 dollars and a list of the subscribers. These we put into your hands, praying your acceptance of them, with the sincere wish that you may be spared to come back again with body and mind invigorated for the discharge of your arduous and responsible duties; and in bidding you a kind farewell, we remain," &c., &c.

This address was signed by the Sheriff, and other officials of the county, the leading planters, and a great many of his parishioners, including coolies and Chinese, the signatures in all being 119. The clergy also greatly respected him, and they appointed him as their clerical assessor in 1873; and when he retired in 1879 they also presented him with a sum of money for the purchase of a handsome gold watch and chain, and thus affectionately addressed him:--


"REV. AND DEAR BROTHER,--Before you leave the diocese in which you have laboured for nearly forty years we desire to wish you a respectful and affectionate farewell.

"It is not granted to many clergymen in a tropical climate to continue their labours almost uninterruptedly, as you have done, for the long period you have spent in the diocese of Guiana.

"But your ministry, we feel, is not to be noted by the measure of years alone.

"We cannot forget that you were one of the early pioneers of the Cross among the aboriginal inhabitants of the colony, that you dedicated the best years of your early manhood to the work of evangelising the Indians of the Pomeroon and Moruca rivers, exercising your ministry under circum stances that would have driven many even faithful and stout hearts almost to despair. Nor can we omit to place on record our sense of the obligation which the whole diocese is under to you for your translations into several Indian languages of portions of the Bible and Prayer-book, &c. By these your name will be remembered long after those to whom you are personally known shall have passed away.

"The flourishing condition of these missions at the pre sent time is due, under God, to the self-denying energy of their founder. And while we regret exceedingly that you are compelled to resign your position in the diocese in con sequence of broken health rather than from the infirmities of age, we feel a pride in testifying that the cause of your ill health can be traced to the exposure and privations to which, as a true missionary of the gospel, you willingly subjected yourself for so long a period in your Master's cause.

"That you may yet be spared many years to enjoy your well-earned retirement in the mother-land, and that your example may encourage younger men to 'spend and be spent' in the work you leave behind you, is the earnest prayer, rev, and dear brother, of your affectionate friends in Christ."

The laity presented him with a Bible and a Prayer-book and a cheque for £340. On the same occasion addresses were presented to him by the members of the various congregations; but we have room for one only of these, which was sent by one of the schools under his pastoral care--the children of the Anna Regina school. It ran as follows:--"REVEREND SIR,--We have heard with very great grief that you are about to leave us for England, with no probability of your returning to the colony; and we therefore take this opportunity of tendering you our humble thanks for the spiritual care and paternal affection which you have shown us as pupils of Anna Regina School.

"Young as we are, we cannot but reflect upon the tender ness which has always characterised your conduct towards us, and we shall ever remember the kind manner and pleasant humour in which you have imparted to us the most useful and instructive lessons.

"We trust, Sir, that the good impressions you have always endeavoured to make upon our minds whilst catechising and examining us in Scripture lessons will never be effaced, but as we grow older we may, by our 'life and conversation,' show that we benefited by your earnest teachings.

"In conclusion, we wish you, Sir, a safe and pleasant passage to England, and hope that you may long be spared to enjoy the fruits of your unintermitted and indefatigable labour.

"We beg to be, Rev. Sir,
Your most humble and dutiful servants,"
(Signed by over sixty scholars, Creoles, coolies, and Chinese).

"July 16, 1879."

To this Mr. Brett sent the following reply

"DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS,--I thank you very much for your kind and loving address to me on the eve of my departure for England.

"There has been no part of my ministerial duties which I have taken greater interest in than the hours spent in imparting religious instruction to the lambs of the flock. I trust that you will profit by the lessons you have received, and by those which I trust you still may have given to you.

"Pray to God to make you good men and women as you grow up and enter into life. In this way you will give comfort and satisfaction to your teacher, your minister, and your parents, and prepare yourselves for the life of the world to come.

"I trust that your master will be able to communicate to me, from time to time, tidings of your progress in all good things, and in knowledge, not only human and worldly, but divine.

"Your faithful pastor,
"W. H. BRETT."

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