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A brief survey of the history and results of Missions in this Colony will form the subject of the present chapter. To the pioneers in any important enterprise special honour must be paid ; and in this case it belongs to the Moravian Missionaries. In the year 1737, George Schmidt, a member of the society of the Unitas Fratrum, which as yet numbered but a few hundred persons, left Holland for the Cape, for the purpose of establishing a Mission among the Heathen. He is described by Latrobe as "a man of remarkable zeal and courage,” and was thus eminently fitted for so arduous an undertaking. On his arrival in the Colony, at that time in the hands of the Dutch, he settled in a beautiful valley, called Bavian's Kloof, “ Baboon's Glen," where he founded a Mission village, to which the Governor, Jansens, afterwards gave the appropriate name of Genadenthal, “the Vale of Grace.” Here he collected a congregation of Hottentots, to whom, not without success, he proclaimed the word of life ; and, after a few years, he returned to Europe for the purpose of obtaining additional labourers. But the important work was for a season retarded ; for the Dutch East India Company imbibed the notion, that to propagate Christianity among the Hottentots would be injurious to the interests of the Colony ; and hence he was not permitted to resume his labours ; nor was it until the year 1792 that the prejudices of the Company were overcome, and the Mission recommenced. Schmidt had then entered on his rest; but three other Missionaries, Henry Marsveld, Daniel Schwinn, and John Christian Kuehnel, caught his spirit, and succeeded him in his toil; and coming to Genadenthal, they found that the seed scattered fifty years before had not been lost ; for though the place had become a perfect wilderness, and scarcely a vestige remained of the premises erected by its Apostle, yet an aged woman came to them whom he had baptized, and called Helena and presented to them the New Testament he had given her, which she had carefully preserved in a leather bag.
The Moravian Missionaries are eminently worthy of the eulogium pronounced upon them by the late Dr. Chalmers, and seem to partake largely of the spirit of the illustrious Count Zinzendorf. In Southern Africa they have been remarkably successful in their attempts to evangelize and civilize the Heathen. These two objects they have invariably combined, and some of their institutions are perfect models of what Missionary settlements ought to be. How absurd is the notion of some sceptical philosophers, that the Hottentot is wholly incapable of advancement! Facts dieprove the truth of the allegation. On one of the stations of the Moravian Brethren, Elim, is a spacious church, erected solely by Hottentots taught at Genadenthal, under the superintendence of the resident Missionary; and near the latter station is a wooden bridge over the river Zonder-einde, constructed chiefly by the same class of persons. At present the Moravians have within the colonial boundary six or seven principal settlements, in which between four and five thousand persons, belonging to different native tribes, are receiving Christian instruction; and every year their Reports contain records of the most cheering character, illustrative of the power of the Gospel on the heathen mind. “The emancipated slaves" at Genadenthal, observes one of the Brethren in 1841, “ seem animated by an uncommon desire after spiritual blessings : there is a fire in their hearts which has not been kindled by man, but by the Spirit of God. Freedom appears, by the divine blessing, to have awakened in their minds the feeling that they are beings who belong not to time only, but to eternity. “The chains, said one of them, were on my limbs from infancy; I could not come to the house of God, but was obliged to live like a brute. Now God has broken my chains, and I am here ; but my heart is quite a blank. I am old, and can understand but little. My God, let but some drops of heavenly dew fall upon my barren soul!' The station designated by the singular name, Hemel-en-Aarde, “ Heaven and Earth,” situated near Caledon, is an hospital for lepers, supported by the Government; leprosy being not uncommon among the coloured population of South Africa. This fearful disease (the elephantiasis of the Greeks) is one of the most distressing to which man is subject. I have seen persons suffering under it whose appearance was frightful to behold. The countenance is contorted, the eyes glare, the limbs are often eaten away, so that the patient loses his fingers and his toes, and not unfrequently his arms and legs, and the whole frame is covered over with red and livid spots. The complaint is considered hereditary, but not contagious. *
It was in the year 1799 that the celebrated Dr. Vanderkemp, who for many years had served as an officer in the Dutch army, arrived at CapeTown, accompanied by the Rev. Messrs. Kicherer, Edwards, and Edmonds, in the capacity of a Missionary of the London Society, then recently formed. He took with him a letter of introduction from the Directors of the Society, addressed, “To the faithful at the Cape of Good Hope, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and unite in building each other up in their most holy faith.” It was presented first to the Ministers of Cape Town, belonging to the Lutheran and Dutch Reformed Churches, who read it from their pulpits to their several congregations. A copy of it now lies before me. It is a beautiful document, and sets forth the objects which the Missionaries had in view in going to the Cape, in brief but very expressive terms, whilst it solicits on their behalf the countenance and support of the Ministers and their flocks. The request was responded to; and a society was then formed under the designation of the South-African Missionary Society, the object of which, as stated in its Rules, was “to promote the extension of Christ's kingdom here among the unenlightened in this Colony, and Heathen both within and without the same, by all means which shall be within its reach.” The entire plan of the Society was laid before his Excellency, the Governor of the Colony, and received his approbation.
But the narrow views at that time prevalent in the Colony prevented the Society from carrying out its plans. Shortly after its formation, its agents were forbidden by the Commissary-General to administer the sacraments, and were permitted to hold religious services only " after the manner of fellowship-meetings." Nearly all its operations were therefore, for some time, suspended. With the Moravian and other similar Societies, it had to pass through a fiery ordeal ; but the trial was the means of testing its sincerity, and of placing it on a surer and more excellent foundation. Prayer was offered up at the throne of grace, and at length there dawned a brighter and more auspicious day. The Batavian Governor, Jansens, who entered upon his office in 1803, took a more favourable view of the Society's operations, and, it would seem, of Missions to the Heathen generally ; and
* In the Memoirs of the Rev. R. M. M'Cheyne, there is an anecdote related to the effect that Moravian Missionaries enter the Lazar-house in South Africa for the purpose of preaching to the wretched inhabitants, and are never again permitted to come out. I never heard that this is the case, nor do I think the statement correct. The leper hospital in Port Elizabeth was visited weekly by nearly all the Ministers resident in the town; and no fears were entertained of taking the disease.
the Directors were allowed to prosecute their zealous and important labours. They erected a chapel in Cape Town for the use of the slaves. They established meetings on the week. day evenings for the catechetical instruction of the children; and in various ways they sought to benefit the benighted Heathen, and to spread the glorious tidings of the Cross. The Society is still in active operation, and supports several schools in CapeTown, one of which is conducted in the evenings by a few enterprising and devoted ladies.
But we must return to Dr. Vanderkemp. With his companions, he proceeded into the interior; and it was agreed that Messrs. Kicherer and Edwards should commence a Mission among the Boschmen, (Bushmen) whilst he and Mr. Edmonds should visit the country of the Kaffirs. He went into Kaffraria, and attempted to establish a Mission with the people of the Chief Gaika; but the way was not yet open for the introduction of the Gospel into that part of South Africa, and the Doctor returned into the Colony, where, amidst an almost overwhelming tide of opposition from the Dutch inhabitants, he laboured to convert and civilize the Hottentots. In 1801 he was joined by two additional Missionaries, Messrs. Van der Lingen and Read, who still survive; and having obtained a grant of land froin the Governor in the neighbourhood of Fort-Frederick, (now Port Elizabeth,) he established a native settlement, which he called Bethelsdorp, or “the Village of Bethel,” where he taught the Hottentots to construct their own dwellings, and to cultivate the soil. This spot I have often visited. It presents signs of industry, evidences of advancement; but it is situated in a very unfavourable locality, and possesses no resources for permanent prosperity. Vanderkemp died in 1811, uttering with his latest breath the impressive words, “ All is well.” He “rests from his labours, and his works do follow him.” Many of the natives of South Africa revere bis memory; and by the name Jankanna, he will be long remembered.
The London Society has been extending its operations both within and beyond the Colony, from that time to the present. And it is but justice to state, that in the holy warfare against Heathenism and superstition, it has won many laurels and gained many triumphs; for, though some of the acts of its agents have been frequently subjects of controversy, and have awakened feelings hostile to the spirit of Christian charity, yet the Society, as a whole, has been the instrument of extensive good; and if it has not effected changes in the moral and social condition of the tribes of Africa so great as it anticipated, it has done its share in the important work, and is worthy of the esteem, the admiration, and the support of all the churches of Jesus Christ. Its stations within the Colony are upwards of twenty, of which several are interesting native villages. The Kat-River settlement has recently been pronounced, by certain persons in authority, a failure ; but they made their reports respecting it just after its inhabitants had suffered extensive losses in the war; and when the Governor, Sir Harry Smith, rode through part of the lands some few months ago, and saw the cultivated grounds, and the corn waving in the wind, and numerous other signs of industry and improvement, he said, “Is this a failure? Then the whole world's a failure.” It should be remembered, however, that the elevation of a people so dark and degenerate as the Hottentot tribes of Africa, is necessarily a slow and gradual process; and to expect that they can be transformed at once into a highly civilized community, is as foolish as to imagine that a city like London could be erected in a single day. One would like to hear the term “ civilization," which has become a sort of household word, defined ; to know what it really means ; to understand what does, and what does not, constitute a nation worthy of being called civilized. I suppose it will be admitted that there are degrees of civilization; and certainly I have witnessed in Southern Africa many, belonging to different native tribes, considerably in advance of hundreds of the poorer classes in this country. And this as the result of Missionary operations.
The condition of the Hottentot population of the Colony was, for a considerable length of time, one of hardship and oppression. Ostensibly the Hottentots were free, but in reality they were in a state of the meanest vassalage. Their territory and their flocks having alike passed into the hands of the Colonists, they themselves became their servants, or rather they might be called their serfs. The laws of the Dutch Government did not suffer them to be sold ; but save in this respect, they were as much enthralled and as cruelly treated as the slaves themselves. Barrow, and other writers, have undoubtedly exhibited the case in the very worst light; but whoever examines the evidence adduced, must be fully satisfied that it was high time for justice and humanity to interfere, that measures might be adopted for the rescue of the oppressed from the grasp of violence and wrong. Representations on the subject were accordingly made in England by the Rev. Dr. Philip, and several other philanthropic individuals, and Buxton, Mackintosh, Brougham, and Lushington, stood forth nobly as the advocates of the Hottentots, and urged the Home Government to pass an Act by which the aborigines of the Cape Colony should be placed on the same footing, and be protected by the same laws, as the rest of the free population of that portion of our empire. Sir George Murray, the Colonial Secretary, concurred in the views of Mr. Buxton and his friends; and ere any debate took place in Parliament, an Order in Council to this effect was issued in July, 1828.
Meanwhile, and before the intelligence was received from England respecting the Order in Council, a similar measure was adopted in the Colony, by the passing, under the direction of General Bourke, the acting Governor of the 50th Colonial Ordinance, which received the cordial approbation of the Ministers of the Crown at home. That this measure was important to the interests of Hottentots generally, as well as in its bearings on Missionary operations in particular, will now be admitted by all. It gave the Hottentot an opportunity, which, except in some instances, he did not before possess, of connecting himself with one of the Missionary institutions, and of listening to the joyful tidings of the Cross. And many availed themselves of the privilege, and doubtless derived considerable benefit. But the measure proved inefficient : it did not go far enough. It placed the Hottentot under the same laws as the Colonist; but it did nothing towards providing him with a suitable home; it gave him no right of propriety in the soil; it left him to wander through the length and breadth of the land, without any certain dwelling-place in which to rest. Hence vagrancy ensued with all its evils; and through this practice, the country and the colonial towns are infested with numbers of idle, drunken, half-clad natives, who are literally the pests of society, and whose influence on the rising population of the Colony is of the most demoralizing kind. Nor will the evil ever be remedied, except by strong legal enactments, and especially by the establishment of native settlements on which this class of persons shall be located by the Government as the bona fide proprietors of the soil, and encouraged in habits of industry and sobriety. Were the admirable plans suggested by the Rev. W. B. Boyce, in his Notes on South-African Affairs, * adopted, the Hottentot race might yet be rescued from oblivion, and elevated to the rank of a respectable community. How important is it, even to the interests of the European population, that in a Colony like the Cape, the coloured inhabitants, just emerging, as they are, from barbarism, and, unless truly Christianized, ever disposed, even in the midst of civilized society, to return to it again, should be kept under wholesome subjection and restraint! But even in Graham's-Town, the authorities permit the most disgraceful scenes of rioting and drunkenness to be transacted with impunity, the effects of which are pernicious to all classes.
There was another event which has had an extensive influence on the Colony and its Missions,—the Act which emancipated the slave in all the possessions of the British Crown. It set free in South Africa upwards of thirty-five thousand persons, the Malays not included, of whom many had originally been captured in the Mozambique Channel, and on other parts of the coast. Thus, after the term of apprenticeship had expired, another class of individuals were at liberty to wander abroad; but, generally speaking, they were much more industriously inclined than the Hottentots, and they are now among the best household servants the Colonists can obtain. Many of the native congregations in the various towns and settlements are formed, in part, of emancipated slaves; and the efforts of Christian Missionaries both of the London and the Wesleyan Societies on their behalf have been rewarded in numerous instances by sound conversions to God, and not unfrequently have they witnessed the most happy and triumphant deaths. We rejoice in the fact that British slavery is extinct,—that in Africa, in the West Indies, and in all our colonies, civil liberty is enjoyed by all ; but it remains for the Gospel to burst the fetters of the mind ; and never must we consider our work accomplished until we see the slaves of sin, both black and white, emancipated from the bondage of “the Prince of the power of the air," and introduced into the liberty of the sons of God. The Missionaries of the several Societies labouring at the Cape recognise this principle ; and to whatever classes of the community they can gain access, they joyfully proclaim to them the word of life.
But the slave-trade still exists. Accursed system ! who can contemplate it without feelings of indignation? I have seen in Table-Bay, and at the Island of St. Helena, slavers captured by Her Majesty's cruisers, which, when taken, were crammed to suffocation with human beings, stolen from their country and their homes. Many of these poor creatures have been carried to the Cape, and the class of liberated Africans is already very numerous. The adults find employment, if they are willing to work, and the children are usually apprenticed as servants for a certain term of years. We should deprecate the abandonment of the cruising system ; yet nothing would put so powerful a check on this horrible traffic, as the establishment of a line of Missionary institutions along the Western coast, from Senegambia to the Congo country. When will the justice, benevolence, and Christianity of Great Britain effect a work like this?
The first Wesleyan Society ever formed at the Cape consisted of a number of pious soldiers, whose regiments were there performing service. The pages of this Magazine for the years 1813 and 1814, contain several letters addressed to Dr. Coke and other individuals, by two or three of them,
the Page 129, &c. Recent events have proved that the facts stated, and the principles advocated, in this excellent volume are founded on the impregnable rock of truth.