MISSIONARY ANNALS. (A SERIES.)
A STORY OF ONE SHORT LIFE, 1783 to 1818.
BY ELISABETH G. STRYKER.
CHICAGO: WOMAN'S PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF FOREIGN MISSIONS OF THE NORTHWEST, Room 48, McCormick Block.
COPYRIGHT, 1888, BY WOMAN'S PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF MISSIONS OF THE NORTHWEST.
PAGE I. ANCESTRY—BIRTH—BOYHOOD—CONVERSION . . . . . . . . . . 7
II. COLLEGE—THE HAYSTACK—EFFORTS TO SPREAD THE INTEREST IN FOREIGN MISSIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
III. OBOOKIAH IN HAWAII—IN AMERICA . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
IV. THE SANDWICH ISLANDS WITH AND WITHOUT THE GOSPEL . . . . 20
V. MILLS AT ANDOVER—THE AMERICAN BOARD . . . . . . . . . . 22
VI. AN APOSTOLIC JOURNEY IN THE UNITED STATES . . . . . . . 25
VII. MILLS' SECOND TOUR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
VIII. THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY—THE UNITED FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
IX. THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY—MILLS, AS ITS AGENT, VISITS AFRICA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
X. THE LAST JOURNEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
As I write, I have in my mind a row of intelligent boyish faces. Manly souls look through bright eyes. My heart responds to the beats of affection beneath jacket and cut-away.
I see also a row of girlish faces, in which Christian and womanly graces are dawning. I feel the warmth of pure young hearts beginning to swell with generous desires.
These are my real friends. Beyond them I see rows and rows of boys and girls whose sympathies and interest I would gladly claim.
Those among us interested in the young people, the boys and girls of our Churches, somewhat realize the lack of material wherewith to stimulate and nourish these young workers. The apiarist studies the nature of the insect which must yield him its sweets, and discovers that "the nature of the cell and the food affects the difference" in the bees. We have long watched our boys and girls, and either we do not care what they yield, or we are dull not to notice that what surrounds them and enters into their minds, is surely deciding their natures. White clover honey can only be made from white clover blossoms. What they read and what they may be induced to read concerns us as mission workers. Individual tastes make many by-paths in the field of literature, but the girls all enjoy the windings of romance, and the boys delight in the highway of adventure. "But," they say or think, "Missions, their history and progress are so stupid, they have no decent heroes and heroines. We like Robinson Crusoe, and Little Women, and the Arabian Nights!" But do we not know that the stories of the lives of some of our missionaries, well told, may stand side by side, upon the book-shelves and in the hearts of our young people, with the pages of De Foe and Louise Alcott? Many a boy and girl, charmed by the life and fortune of some unreal, and oftentimes unworthy, hero, has attempted to make copy in his or her own life. Missionary lives are not lacking in the spirit, adventure and romance which are so fascinating. With these ideals in their minds, may we not expect followers of the Judsons, the Moffats, the Fiskes and the Rankins?
The writer, who has humbly undertaken to re-tell an old tale, is neither a De Foe nor an Alcott. She finds she can borrow neither of their pens. Her own, conscious of its inexperience, finds its only relief in the fact that the story is its own strength.
SAMUEL J. MILLS.
Our country is quietly enjoying the benefits of a great activity. Foreign Missions are still feeling a noble impulse, and the origin of this force was, under God, in the heart and brain of Samuel J. Mills.
It is a name known to us, but a history almost forgotten. Only upon the shelves of some antiquarian, or in the undisturbed library of some old homestead can a volume be found bearing the title "Mills' Memoirs." Take it down, blow the dust from the leaves yellow with sixty-seven years, and you will find the narrative related in the stately, old-time style, and somewhat laudatory and expansive.
He had no son, as Adoniram Judson had, gladly to record the details of his busy life. The writer was Dr. Gardiner Spring, who laments having failed in the attempt to obtain what appeared to him to be important information. We are thankful to him for gathering even these rare fragments.
From a sketch of Salmon Giddings, the Damon Memorial, a letter from a relative of Mills, and the life of Henry Obookiah have come a few incidents and facts, but mainly in the record of Dr. Spring have we found our Story of One Short Life. Such hid treasure should find the light, even though quarried by unskillful hands.
Biographies are apt to seem discouraging, in the beginning; the attention being riveted upon the supposed hero, meets with a shock in finding it has been following the history of his great-grandfather. The scattered energies are then directed upon the grandfather, only to meet with a second delay. Again recovering, and following the father's fortunes, the son, the subject of the work, is at last introduced.
The great-grandfather of our hero must be brought in just long enough to answer one question. He was once asked, "How did you educate four sons at Yale College, and give each a profession?" His reply was, "Almighty God did it, with the help of my wife." The grandfather (of our hero) was drowned while some of his children were still young. His widow, committing their babes to the God of the fatherless, especially offered for His service, a son named Samuel John. He became a minister, and for many years was settled in Torringford, Connecticut. He was eminent for his ability and character. Mrs. Stowe said of him—"He was one ingrain New Englander. Of all the marvels that astonished my childhood, there is none I remember to this day with so much interest as Father Mills." This was the name by which he was extensively known. His wife was a woman exemplary and devout.
Being assured that the three preceding generations were commandment-keeping, we shall see how the Lord showed mercy unto the fourth. Almighty God and a true mother secure for many a man's sons, not only education, but large efficiency and honor.
The seventh child, born April 21st, 1783, in this Torringford home, was a son, named after his father, Samuel John. The child grew to be a mighty instrument in God's hand, which He in His wisdom selected, knowing the fineness of the material with which he dealt. That we too may know something of the tempering of the steel, we are permitted a reverent glance into that pious mother's bosom. Before the birthday came she continually dedicated the little life beneath her heart to the God who is pleased to accept such gifts. During all his childhood he received the most careful Christian training. Nourished in such a home-garden, and shined on by such mother-light, we cannot wonder that the child grew toward the Sun, and that the roots of religious character struck deep and spread wide.
When but a little child he showed an unusual concern of conscience. At fifteen the town in which he lived was greatly aroused and revived. His friends and acquaintances received the blessing, and he was deeply interested, but the revival passed, leaving him with a bitter, rebellious feeling in his heart.
About this time, one fine cold winter morning, a merry sleigh load drove from his father's house. He, with his brothers, sisters and cousins, about eighteen in all, went to spend a few days with his uncle in West Hartford. Samuel had recently come into the possession of a fine farm. He was gay and ambitious. His companions fearing his good fortune might make him feel a "little too high minded," sought to tease him. The evening before their return, after eating nuts and apples, they agreed to have a little singing. They struck up "Hark, from the Tombs a Doleful Sound," to the tune, Bangor. They sang it slowly and solemnly, now and then casting at him glances from their mischievous eyes. He sat a silent listener, while their song, sung in fun, made an earnest impression of which he could not rid himself.
Soon after his farm was sold, and at eighteen he determined to go to Litchfield and study in the Academy. As he was leaving home, his mother's anxious heart could not let him go without enquiring for his soul's health. Other mothers know the pain she suffered, when he told her "for two years I have been sorry God ever made me." She replied to him as her wise heart prompted her, and sent him on his way. She went where all mothers of boys must so often go, to her knees, alone with God.
He had not gone far on his journey when he met a Friend. It was the Good Shepherd, whom that mother's urgent prayer had sent searching for the wanderer. It was as if he had met Christ in his path. He looked up at the great trees and down at the blossoms, and in everything saw God. He became so impressed with the perfections of the Holy One he had so long resisted, that he lost sight of himself. He sat down in the woods to wonder and to pray. It was not until some time after that he realized any change in himself, and not until he returned from Litchfield did his father perceive it. His conversion was thorough. Not only was he turned about,—his face God-ward instead of self-ward,—but he was impelled toward "those sitting in darkness." In his childhood, from his mother's lips, he often heard stories from the lives of Brainerd, Eliot, and other missionaries. He heard her prayers for them and their great undertakings. Once he heard her say, "I have consecrated this child to the service of God as a missionary." Now it was his joy to follow those noble examples, and to fulfill his part in the plans of God and his mother for him. His parents approved of his determination, though the thought of separation tore their hearts. His mother said to him, "I cannot bear to part from you, my son." When he reminded her of her vow, she burst into tears, and never after made complaint. To his father he said that he could "not conceive of any course of life in which to pass the rest of his days, that would prove so pleasant, as to go and communicate the gospel of salvation to the poor heathen."
This desire to spread the Gospel grew to be a sublime purpose, and from it he never wavered. He set about his plannings, with this supreme end in view. Thanking God for his own salvation, he laid his life in God's hand, imploring Him to use it for those who had as yet no knowledge of that mercy. The Lord took him from the plough, as he did Elisha. He left the field for the college.
COLLEGE—THE HAYSTACK—EFFORTS TO SPREAD THE INTEREST IN FOREIGN MISSIONS.
He entered Williams College in the spring of 1806. During his first visit home in June, he connected himself with his father's church. A college course means to some young men four years of frolic, or worse. To others it is an opportunity to cram knowledge, that shall by-and-by astound the round world and they that dwell therein. To one, at least, it was the time for choosing "smooth stones" for his combat with the giant adversary, whom he was brave enough to meet alone, if need be, "in the name of the Lord of Hosts."
As a scholar he was not brilliant, but as a Christian he was "a bright and shining light." To serve God was the highest aim of his life. First of all, he served Him upon his knees. He used to pray often and earnestly, alone and with others. He pursued his studies for the after use he might make of them, not for his own accomplishment. As he visited his friends in their rooms, and walked with them through the groves, the subject dearest to his heart was oftenest the theme of his conversation. To one friend he said: "Though you and I are very little beings, we must not rest satisfied till we have made our influence extend to the remotest corner of this ruined world."
His life was so consistent, his disposition so sweet, his manners so winning that every one was his friend. Those who had been unfaithful to their vows were reproved, and those opposed to religion were induced to follow his example. During his first year there was a revival, which seemed to come in answer to his earnest prayers. Many of his comrades became Christians, and so earnestly that they laid aside or sanctified their old ambitions, and prepared to spread through the earth the fire kindled by this devoted youth.
A mission band of boys were examined as to their knowledge of Samuel Mills. "Where was he born?" asked the leader. "Under a haystack!" replied a small boy. Had the question been, Where was the American Board of Foreign Missions born? the answer would not have been so far from the way. Its baptismal naming came some years later, but under a stack of hay in a meadow, near Williams College, it was born, nursed and prayed over.
About fourteen years earlier foreign missionary organization had begun across the Atlantic. On this side, the attention of Christians had been occupied with their new homes and the needs of the destitute near at hand. There were societies of domestic missions; but no scheme to touch hands God-blessed with hands idol-cursed, had ever been devised before the Lord of both put it into the heart of Mills. "God called him out of the midst of the bush." The bush was this haystack, but the place became "holy ground." The Lord said: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people, and have heard their cry." "Come now, therefore, and I will send thee."
This commission filled his soul. He gathered a few of his friends in a grove, to tell them his convictions and his hopes. What was his surprise and joy to find that the "Angel of the Lord" had appeared to them also. A sudden thunder storm came upon them here, but his retreat, his place of safety, was near by. He led them under the haystack, and there they talked together, and with God. And there they continued to meet through two seasons, and finally formed themselves into the first Foreign Missionary Society of this continent. Its object was "to effect in the persons of its members a mission to the heathen."
From the spot where the haystack once stood, now rises a marble shaft, bearing aloft a globe, underneath which is inscribed:
"THE FIELD IS THE WORLD."
"The Birthplace of American Foreign Missions, 1806."
SAMUEL J. MILLS, JAMES RICHARDS, FRANCIS L. ROBBINS, HARVEY LOOMIS, BYRAM GREEN.
At every commencement, the college president leads to this monument a procession of alumni, students, and guests. Prayer is offered that the spirit of missions may still prevail at Williams, and that the traditions of the past may be maintained.
In these years public opinion was decidedly opposed to the enterprise of these young men. Even good men thought their zeal extravagant and expected it soon to subside. In order to arouse sympathy and a right sentiment, they devised various means. They discussed their projects with Christian people. They distributed missionary sermons. A list was made of the names of distinguished ministers, to whom these young men made frequent visits, urging their suit. Among them, the first to take fire, was Dr. Worcester. With one of them, Dr. Griffin, Mills asked to be permitted to study theology. Said the Doctor: "I had always refused such applications, but from the love I bore to him, I agreed to criticise one sermon a week. After that exercise he would commonly sit and draw letters very moderately and cautiously from his pocket, reading passages to me on some benevolent project. At length I perceived that studying divinity with me had been quite a secondary object, that his chief object was to get me engaged to execute his plans. As soon as I discovered that, I told him to bring out his letters and all his plans, without reserve."
Mills became convinced that they could not expect help from the Churches unless the number was increased of young men ready to devote their lives to this cause. He and his friends then separated for the purpose of establishing societies in other colleges. Mills went to Yale, hoping there to find kindred spirits. This was not the case, but God had sent him for another purpose, and that to know Obookiah, a heathen boy from the Sandwich Islands. This acquaintance greatly increased his zeal.
Sometimes a little seed, wafted by the wind, is borne far from its mother plant to take root in a foreign soil: but its fruit may be returned whence it came. This little lonely heathen child, blown by seemingly cruel and adverse winds, was tossed upon our Christian shores by the good hand of God. The ship which brought him touched other and idolatrous lands, but he was not to put his feet down till they could be planted in the right place.
That his life touched Mills' life, both being quickened, is perhaps reason enough for giving here a portion of Obookiah's history and that of his native land, if there were not another reason, and that the opportunity, here afforded, of following a stream of influence to its sea.
OBOOKIAH IN HAWAII—IN AMERICA.
Henry Obookiah was born in Hawaii, about the year 1792. When about twelve years old, two parties contending for dominion, disturbed the peace of the island. He alone survived the persecution of his family. He was captured and carried home by the man who killed his parents, but finally made his way to an uncle. Though he was well treated, he suffered from loneliness. He said of himself, "When I was at play with other children, after we had made an end of playing, they return to their parents: but I was returned into tears, for I have no home, neither father nor mother. Poor boy am I."
He determined to go to some other country, and forget his sorrow. The captain of an American vessel showed him kindness, and consented to take him on board. He brought him to America, and took him to his own home in New Haven. Henry was a clumsy, stupid-looking boy at this time, his appearance not revealing the undeveloped depths of his nature. He made the acquaintance of some of the students at Yale College, and of the Rev. E. W. Dwight. These friends becoming interested in his welfare, offered to teach him. He accepted their aid with avidity, and made wonderful progress, at the same time becoming more and more lovable and attractive.
A fun-loving disposition soon showed itself. He had great difficulty in pronouncing the letter r, giving it the sound of l. Every day his teacher tried to help him, saying, "try, Obookiah, it is very easy." This seemed to amuse the boy greatly, though as yet he could not express himself in English. Some time after, when he could speak more readily, he was describing to his teacher some of the customs of his native land. Clasping his hands together, and adjusting his thumbs, he formed a cup which he raised to his lips to show how his countrymen drank from a spring. His instructor tried to do the same, but before he could reach his mouth with his hands the cup would be inverted so that the contents, had there been any, would have been spilled. Obookiah laughed heartily and said, "try, Mr. Dwight, it is very easy!"
One day he mimicked the gait of some of his friends so cleverly, that there was no mistaking whom he intended to personate. His teacher then mocked his own awkward style, when he exclaimed several times: "me walk so?" Being assured that it was true, he rolled upon the floor until his mirth exhausted his strength.
After being instructed about the true God, idol worship seemed to him ridiculous. He said, "Hawaii gods! They wood,—burn. Me go home, put 'em in a fire, burn 'em up. They no see, no hear, no anything." Then added, "We make them. Our God," looking up, "He make us."
After Mr. Mills arrived in New Haven he became a friend of Mr. Dwight's, and being often in his room, occasionally heard this boy recite. He became greatly attached to him, and began to cherish a plan for his future. He wanted to see Obookiah a Christian, educated, and then a missionary to his native land.
One evening Mr. Mills had not been long in Mr. Dwight's room, when Obookiah came in with a very gloomy face. He said he had no place to live; Mr. —— didn't want him any more, and Miss —— had threatened to take away his new clothes. Mr. Mills told him he would take him to his own home, and that he had clothes enough for both. This cheered the poor, disconsolate fellow, who soon went with Mr. Mills to Torringford, and was placed under the "care of those whose benevolence was without a bond or check, or a limit to confine it." Here he spent a part of the year 1810, and was treated wisely and affectionately. Mrs. Mills taught him the Catechism, and her son Jeremiah assisted him in his studies. At different times, and frequently, their house was his home.
He became gentle and refined in his manner, a Bible-loving, earnest, prayerful Christian. His friends who had been so careful in the training of his mind and heart, had not neglected his hands. He was taught much that was useful and practical, particularly in farming. He surprised all by the quickness and eagerness with which he learned. He was both inquisitive and acquisitive to a remarkable degree. He persisted in knowing and getting, that he might impart what he had gained to his own countrymen. To return to them for their enlightenment, was his consuming desire.
He visited many families, and many of the churches of New England, always creating a deep interest in his mission. Many people who had affirmed that the heathen could never be reclaimed from their low estate, were forced to change their opinions after seeing and knowing Obookiah, and were inspired to pray and give for his and other unevangelized races.
The presence of Obookiah in this country, as well as of other heathen youth, together with the desire to educate some of our own Indians, led to the formation of the Foreign Mission School, at Cornwall, Mass. This school was under the care of the American Board ten years. Its pupils were from many different nations. In 1826 it was discontinued, for by this time the missions were able to educate the young at their several stations.
Obookiah was pursuing his studies here, when, in the beginning of the year 1818, he was stricken with typhus fever, and suffered several weeks. On the 17th of February, 1818, he shook hands with all his companions present, and with perfect composure addressed to them the parting salutation of his native language, "Alloah o e"—"my love be with you."
Mrs. Stone, in whose house he died, and who cared for him with Christian kindness during his sickness, said, "This had been one of the happiest and most profitable periods of her life; that she had been more than rewarded for her cares and watchings by day and night, in being permitted to witness his excellent example, and to hear his godly conversation."
Almost immediately after his death, missionaries, inspired by his life, hastened to accomplish his cherished purpose, the establishment of a mission in the Sandwich Islands. Mills was far from home, but returning at the time, not knowing Obookiah had died, he said to a friend, "If it please God that I may arrive safely, I think that I shall take Obookiah and go to the Sandwich Islands and there I will end my life."
From that day to this, missionaries and missions, schools, churches and Christians have multiplied, till all those islands name the name of Christ.
THE SANDWICH ISLES WITH AND WITHOUT THE GOSPEL.
"Surely the isles shall wait for me."
The missionaries found upon these islands naked savages, without books, education, or courts of justice. The people were slaves, governed arbitrarily by chiefs. It was a nation of debauchees, thieves and drunkards. There were no marriage laws. Two-thirds of the children born were destroyed. If an infant was ailing or troublesome, the mother scooped a hole in the ground, covered the child with earth and trampled out its life. The aged and infirm were taken to the brow of a precipice and pushed over. The sick were removed to such a distance that their groans could not annoy, and left to die. The insane were stoned to death.
God opened the way for the missionaries by a revolution which did away with idolatry, but did nothing for the uplifting of society. Some of the noblest specimens of our American manhood have devoted their lives to these desolate, far-away creatures. The mention of one will suffice as a sample of the salt that purified those bitter and filthy waters.
When he stepped on shore at Hilo, in 1832, it was to stay till his work was finished—and he lived beyond the three score and ten. Such a life is a rebuke to the restlessness of many modern workers. For forty-two years he labored patiently in pressing himself and what he knew upon Hawaiian youth—nearly a thousand in all—many of whom are now pastors, leading lawyers, men of affairs, missionaries to Micronesia, and the men who stand for righteousness in the native churches. Great events and advances in science were exciting his native land, but he worked on, struggling for things unseen and eternal. Amid uninspiring surroundings, and performing many menial duties, he led a high spiritual and intellectual life, not seeking honor, but service—thereby gaining honor, and the "rest that remaineth."
As for the results of such consecration, wisdom and work, the facts are a marvel in history. Any prophecy in regard to them would have been thought a wild dream. These islanders have taken their place among the Christian nations. Marriage is considered honorable, the family established, as well as schools, churches and a government, whose constitution ordains that "no law shall be enacted at variance with the word of the Lord Jehovah, or with the general spirit of His word."
In proportion to the population, there are more readers than in Boston. The proportion of true Christians is as great as anywhere in Christendom. They are decently clad, their homes are comfortable, even sometimes going so far as to possess a melodeon and a sewing-machine! They have progressed in agriculture, commerce, the industries, literature and the arts. It is a regenerated nation.
The American Board has erased this mission from its list and transferred all responsibility to the Hawaiian Evangelical Association.
MILLS AT ANDOVER—THE AMERICAN BOARD.
From Yale College, Mills went to Andover to study theology. Soon after entering, his dear mother died. His grief was passionate. He mourned for the loss of her face, her voice, her prayers, but not as one "without hope."
At Andover he met some of his former friends, and found new ones whose hearts the Lord had stirred—Newell, Judson, Nott, Hall, Mills! Names to shout at the sleeping saints of this our day! Lives to uphold to the view of our self-pleasing generation! These men organized a second missionary society, similar to the one at Williams. They met to pray and plan. Their prayers were answered and their plans resulted in the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
If the objections made to their plans were here rehearsed, the arguments would sound very familiar; they are the same, in spite of their repeated death-blows, that array themselves against the plan of missions to-day. The assailants of this cause are not students of history. There is no such thing as opposition, or even indifference, to Christian missions, unless there is ignorance behind it.
These young men succeeded in gaining the sympathy and alliance of some of the prominent pastors, and the professors in the seminary. To the annual meeting of the General Association of Massachusetts, at Bradford, June 27, 1810, they presented the following paper:
The undersigned, members of the Divinity College, respectfully request the attention of their Reverend Fathers, convened in the General Association at Bradford, to the following statement and inquiries:
They beg leave to state, that their minds have been long impressed with the duty and importance of personally attempting a mission to the heathen; that the impressions on their minds have induced a serious, and they trust a prayerful, consideration of the subject in its various attitudes, particularly in relation to the probable success and the difficulties attending such an attempt; and that after examining all the information which they can obtain, they consider themselves as devoted to this work for life, whenever God in his providence shall open the way.
They now offer the following inquiries, on which they solicit the opinion and advice of the association. Whether, with their present views and feelings, they ought to renounce the object of missions, as visionary and impracticable; if not, whether they ought to direct their attention to the Eastern or Western world? Whether they may expect patronage and support from a missionary society in this country, or must commit themselves to the direction of a European society; and what preparatory measures they ought to take previous to actual engagement?
The undersigned, feeling their youth and inexperience, look up to their fathers in the church and respectfully solicit their advice, direction and prayers.
ADONIRAM JUDSON JR. SAMUEL NOTT JR. SAMUEL J. MILLS. SAMUEL NEWELL.
The names of Rice and Richards were struck off "for fear of alarming the Association with too large a number."
This paper was referred to a special committee, who indorsed the sentiment and submitted a plan to the association, which was carried into effect by the appointment of a Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
After much exertion and inquiry at home, Judson was sent to England to learn if help could be expected from the London Missionary Society. He found that society willing to take the young men under its care and support, but not ready to assist the new Board.
The American society soon received aid within its own boundaries, which was a far better beginning than to be dependent upon outside resources. Mrs. Mary Norris, the wife of one of the founders of Andover Seminary, bequeathed thirty thousand dollars to the Board. God's Spirit generally revived the churches, opening the eyes and hearts of His people, their purses as well, though not many of the latter were well filled in those days.
God only has a full record of the anxious courage and faith which was exercised by the supporters, managers, and appointees of the Board during those first struggling years. Under the care of this board Mills and his friends placed themselves, and by it most of them were sent out in the year 1812.
AN APOSTOLIC JOURNEY IN THE UNITED STATES.
From the first throb of his Christian life, the heart of Mills beat like a soldier's. He called out the recruits, captained the forces, and died in service—a hero! In his student days he had a compelling influence upon his classmates, and even then showed signs of generalship in his faculty of organizing. The establishment of the Foreign Mission School was largely consequent upon his suggestions; in the formation of the American Board he was one of the foremost personal instruments.
Studies finished, his heart firm in his lofty purpose, highborn schemes began their struggling claim for his attention. The world with all its lands stretching their help-beckoning fingers, was persuading him. Over the home land, his and ours, he turned his penetrating glance. He saw occasion for vast concern, and here was his first response. To go first, opening the way for others through the tangled wilderness, was his design, his master-plot. That "divine ferment" at Williams College worked the good of home, as well as of foreign, missions.
Having chosen a companion-spy, the Rev. John Schermerhorn, soon after his graduation in 1812, he went to view a goodly land, which he desired to have the people of God go up and possess. This tour was undertaken under the patronage of the Connecticut and Massachusetts Home Missionary Societies. Heretofore these societies had prayed and wept over young missionaries sent to the uncivilized wilds of Western New York! The plan of Mills and Schermerhorn was to travel through the wide territory lying between the great lakes and the Gulf of Mexico, to learn the moral condition of the inhabitants, and scatter what good they might.
The map of this region, as published in Morse's school atlas of 1823, is curiously different from the maps of the present day. The state and territorial lines have been altered, those green, pink, and yellow blanks have become densely freckled and wrinkled, by the dots of cities and towns, and by the complicated tracery of railroads.
These travelers did not telegraph their intended arrival, nor sleep and dine their way to their journey's end, on the "Flyer," and then rest in some palatial hotel at last. Each mounted his horse, taking with them by way of baggage all that was necessary for the trip,—tent, provisions, clothing and Bibles. They plodded through miry swamps, they climbed up and down almost perpendicular ledges, and cut their way through canebrakes with a hatchet. When they had creeks to cross they swam their horses. At night they camped, often in the rain and sometimes without food. More than once they were serenaded by Indian war-whoops and the howling wolves. Stopping at town or settlement they were made cordially at home in hut and cabin. In some places they perceived bright prospects, the germs of future cities, and were often urgently besought to stay and preach the gospel permanently.
They found everywhere the Sabbath profaned, only a few good people in any one place, and Bibles rare possessions. In some places the people were longing for the Gospel. In all the leading towns they formed Bible societies, and everywhere preached and distributed Bibles, which were gladly received.
From Nashville they went down the Cumberland and Mississippi with General Jackson and fifteen hundred volunteers. In New Orleans they gained the consent of Bishop DeBury to distribute the Scriptures in French to the French Romanists, who made up three-fourths of the population of the state. They found no Protestant church in the city. They here organized a Bible society, and remained several weeks to preach and to hold prayer-meetings.
MILLS' SECOND TOUR.
In the year 1814 Mr. Mills having obtained the assistance of some of the eastern Bible societies, and having chosen as companion the Rev. Daniel Smith, started on another tour through the South and West. They went laden with Bibles and the prayers of Christian friends. They went through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. In all these states they found the people "exceedingly destitute of religious privileges," and a "lamentable want of Bibles and missionaries." They found "American families who never saw a Bible, or heard of Jesus Christ." There was only one minister to ten thousand people if equally placed; but there were districts containing from twenty to fifty thousand "without a preacher." These men were light-bringers to this "valley of the shadow of death," as Mills called it. They found English soldiers, French Romanists, colored slaves, our own dear countrymen, greedy for the bread of life.
They traveled more than six thousand miles; they passed through a variety of climates; they endured "perils in the city, perils of the wilderness, perils on the rivers and on the sea," that they might cast that bread upon the waters which you and I are finding after many days.
Mills arrived for the second time in New Orleans, soon after the celebrated battle of January 8, 1815, and cheered many hearts by his coming. He visited the soldiers in prison, the sick and wounded in the hospitals; kneeling on the bare floor where they lay, he prayed and talked with them, sang for them, and gave them Bibles; he preached in camp. The Philadelphia society had given him a quantity of French Bibles. The people were clamorous for them. They thronged the distributor's door, and remained even after the notice had been given that no more could be had until the following day. They came sometimes from great distances. In one week a thousand copies were given away. In one instance a Romish priest assisted in this work. The bishop acknowledged the deplorable state of the people, and preferred their having the Protestant version to none at all.
When these adventurers in Christ's kingdom visited St. Louis, they found it a place of two thousand inhabitants,—"a tumble-down French village,—built mainly of wooden slabs and poles set vertically, and well daubed with mortar mixed with straw, though there were many log houses." In a school-room they delivered the first Presbyterian or Congregational sermons ever preached on the west side of the Mississippi. They were gratefully received, and had crowded audiences. The people would gladly have supported either one could he have stayed.
But the immediate duty of these explorers for souls was to return to the churches which had sent them out, to report what they had discovered, and to beg that men be sent to these waste places which were waiting to be made to blossom. All New England was roused to effort by their appeal, and the next year ten or twelve men responded to the summons.
In 1848 the word "gold" was whispered in California and heard all over the world. The gold-hunters pressed forward from every corner of the earth. It was not thought a hard thing to turn one's back on home, friends and country, for the sake of gold, though that glittering promise was, to most of those who searched, like the bag at the end of the rainbow, and all the riches of this world "make themselves wings." "The promises of God are sure," and the riches which He bestows are everlasting; and yet to the call, gold and glory, young men answer by the thousand, while to the cry, Christ and a crown, they respond by the dozen! "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve."
THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY—THE UNITED FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY.
During these two missionary journeys the heart of our apostle was swelling with the woes of the sin-bound, and his brain contriving for their release. Upon his return he settled in New York state, and spent two busy years in working out his purposes. While waiting for their maturity he was most of the time in the large cities, particularly New York. Here he spent what might have been leisure, in visiting the poor in the neglected districts. He also wrote many letters; and in the churches, and everywhere, and upon everybody, urged attention to the world's great needs, and their great duties. As the result of this planning, waiting and working, he was permitted to see formed the American Bible Society, and the United Foreign Missionary Society. On the subject of city evangelization, he advanced ideas which we at this striving time might well study.
The entire destitution of religious privileges which Mills had witnessed in the West and South, and the great desire of the people for the word of God, with their inability to supply themselves, made him eager for the formation of a National Bible Society, which should be large enough and strong enough to supply such great want. He had some hope of having the matter brought out at the general assembly of the Presbyterian church; but it was thought best to have it come about through the existing Bible societies, rather than have it bear the features of any denomination.
The matter was kept constantly before influential people by this indefatigable man, and at last on the 8th of May, 1816, delegates from the different Bible societies of the United States convened in New York city, and resolved unanimously "to establish, without delay, a General Bible Institution, for the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment." Before closing their sessions a constitution was adopted, managers elected, and an address issued to the people of the United States, informing them of the project, and inviting their sympathy and cooperation in this benevolent scheme.
This was a great day to Mills, and those who saw him, sitting apart, watching with intense eagerness the deliberations of the convention, long remembered his delighted face. But how must the resources and usefulness of this society have exceeded even his fond hopes!
As its first depository, it shared the office room of its agent. From time to time it was forced to move to larger quarters, until the year 1853, when it located permanently, in its well-known building, The Bible House, on Astor Place, New York city. This edifice is of brick, six stories high, and occupies a solid block. In its first year, the society received $37,779, and issued 6,410 volumes; in its seventieth year (1886) its receipts were $523,910, and it issued 1,437,440 volumes. In the Bible House, the working force—manufacturing and executive—numbers about 250. The auxiliaries which directly and indirectly center in this society, number about 7,000.
From this great tree and its many branches, the leaves have been sent for the healing of nations. There are now but few countries where there are any impediments to the free circulation of the Scriptures. In our own land the society has afforded relief to its feeble auxiliaries, has supplied destitute Sabbath-schools, has endeavored to place the Bible in the common schools, to distribute it among soldiers and seamen, to furnish hotels, steamboats, railroads, and humane and criminal institutions. By it, the Bible has been circulated among immigrants, the destitute poor, the freedmen, the Chinese, and (in the Douay version) among Romanists. At four different periods the society has made exploration among the states and territories, to search and supply the destitute. Proportionately the number of families without the word of God is much smaller now than when the society was organized, notwithstanding the enormous growths in population.
The society has attempted to send the Bible to all the inhabitants of the earth, accessible to its agents. It has established depots in almost every place where the American churches have missions. It circulates the Scriptures in more than eighty different languages and dialects. In 1856, in compliance with a special request, and by means of a special gift, the Society's Imperial Quarto English Bible, bound with extraordinary care, enclosed in a rosewood case, and accompanied by a courteous letter, was sent to each of the reigning monarchs and other chief magistrates of the world.
Before the art of printing, the Bible was the most expensive book in the world. So late as the American Revolution, in its cheapest edition a volume could not be purchased for less than two dollars. This society now furnishes a copy of the entire book for twenty-five cents. It has made the Bible the cheapest book in the world.
Mills, anxious to see every wheel set in motion for the advancement of Christ's kingdom, was restless because of the inaction of the Presbyterian church in the cause of Foreign Missions; again by his personal influence upon prominent men, another plan was matured. A committee was appointed by the General Assembly to confer with committees from the Dutch and Scotch churches, and a new society was formed, called the United Foreign Missionary Society. After a few years of efficient service this society was merged with the American Board, yielding to it its name and affairs.
While so busy with these schemes just referred to, Mr. Mills was collecting all possible information in regard to South America. He desired to have the way opened for a mission in that country, and was willing to go himself to make the needed investigations. But it was seven years later when the American Board sent the first men to that field.
In spite of these great enterprises, which must have been so absorbing of time and energy, this busy man found opportunity and strength to search out the squalid back streets of New York, and to go from house to house of its wretched inhabitants, giving sympathy, speaking words of Christian love and instruction, and where they would receive them leaving the word of God and good books.
THE AMERICAN COLONIZATION SOCIETY—MILLS, AS ITS AGENT, VISITS AFRICA.
Abraham Lincoln, when a young man, made a journey into the South. Of all the impressions which those new scenes made upon him, the one deepest and strongest was that of slavery. It filled him with loathing, but kindled a zeal which never slumbered, until it cost his priceless life.
It was such a spark which became a fire in the breast of Mills. What he saw and what he heard, during those southern tours, made him a willing martyr for the sake of Africa's sons and daughters. Their degradation made him ready to endure all things if only he could pierce the black cloud overshading them. His first effort resulted in a school, called the African School, for training young colored men to teach and preach to their own race. He then lent essential aid in the formation of the American Colonization Society.
This society was composed of noble-minded men whose pitying attention was fastened upon the bondage, afflictions and heathenism of their black brothers, in this so called free land.
Their aim was to furnish a refuge, in their own country, for those who were emancipated here, and it was their hope that such a scheme would do much toward the abolition of slavery.
Their first effort was the collection of information: first, in regard to the condition of the slave here, that they might enlist general sympathy in their work. In a letter written by Mr. Mills about this matter, he said: "State facts. Facts will always produce an effect, at least on pious minds. You can easily possess yourself of facts, the bare recital of which will make the heart bleed." From the extensive observations he had made in the South, and by having the subject so long in his mind, he was very ready to "state facts," and did so in every time and place. The information needed, in the second place, by the society was in regard to a suitable location for the colony, and the methods which would be required to obtain it. Mr. Mills was made their agent.
He chose as a colleague, to share his responsibility, the Rev. Mr. Burgess. After some months of preparation they left America, planning to visit England first for information and assistance and then Africa, for the accomplishment of their errand.
His father says of the "good-bye" which he bade him, at the time, that "he enjoyed peculiar peace of mind, committing himself entirely to the guidance and protection of the Almighty." He, who had endured so many hardships for Christ's sake, knew in whom he trusted.
After about two weeks' sailing, they encountered a fearful storm and had need of all their faith. The wind blew furiously for thirty-six hours. The captain ordered the masts cut away and the decks cleared. He remained on deck, calmly giving orders, until they were driven almost upon a ledge of rocks. Despairing of any safety in the ship, he abandoned her, taking his children with him in a small boat. Some of those left on board the ship, in their agony of peril, were in the cabin, beseeching the mercy of Him who rules the violent sea. Others were on deck, where Mr. Burgess, praying aloud, commended their souls to God.
All unexpectedly, a counter current bore them into deeper water, past the rocks. All exclaimed, "It is the work of God!" A gloomy night they spent tossing on the sea, but in the morning quiet came. The mate assumed control, and by using what crippled forces they could command, they found their way to a harbor of France.
From there they proceeded to London. They were cordially received by a number of distinguished men and officials. Among them Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Zachary Macauly, the former governor of Sierra Leone, who introduced them to the Duke of Gloucester. They met everywhere with Christian sympathy, and the kindest offers of service. Having obtained letters to the governors of colonies in Africa, they left England for the west coast, February 3, 1818.
This voyage was a pleasant one, and brought them in about thirty days to the mouth of the Gambia. They anchored near the village of St. Mary's, and went to inspect this and other settlements. They made the acquaintance of the governors and the Europeans, everywhere gathering useful and pertinent facts.
They proceeded south, visiting towns and villages, and calling upon the kings and head men. On these occasions they were received in the "palaver house," by the chiefs arranged in true African style, regardless of taste. One was described as wearing "a silver-laced coat, a superb three-cornered hat, blue-bafta trousers, considerably the worse for wear, and no stockings or shoes." The insignia of royalty were a silver-headed cane in one hand, a horse-tail in the other. Before the palaver could go on, the hosts must receive presents, and as their guests had oftenest been slave traders, rum and tobacco had become essentials.
By means of interpreters they made known their friendly feelings, and that they had come from America. "That wise and good men had agreed to help the black people who wished to come to this country; that the design was a good one, and would promote the best interests of the black people both in America and Africa; that if they would sell or give tracts of their unimproved lands, the people who came would introduce more knowledge of the arts and agriculture, would buy such things as they had to sell, and would sell to them such things as they wanted;" that the children were to be educated; that they had come as messengers of peace and good tidings, bringing no weapons in their hands—that they did not desire war.
They found that African kings knew the art of being slothful in business. They seemed to have no idea of dispatch, but would talk for hours without coming to the point. In general their reception was cordial, and, in some instances, more than that. Land was offered them in five different places. Their greatest obstacle was the unsavory reputation of the white men who had preceded them,—the slave-traders and merchants,—men who had been gross, violent and rapacious. One of the natives who saw Mr. Mills and Mr. Burgess in prayer, said he "never knew before that white men prayed!"
They found that the natives would not be unwilling to give up their superstitions, and were gratified at the prospect of education for their children; that they would be glad to have God's word, and the pure religion it teaches. One old man with white hair and beard, wished for this good time to come at once; he wanted to know more about God's book before he died.
The observations and inquiries which had been so conscientiously made by the agents, enabled them to report to their society that the project was both practicable and expedient. After due consideration of the instructions and recommendations of experienced foreigners, and the details of exploration, which this report furnished them, the society thought it most wise to proceed with the undertaking.
After seeking needed individual and governmental aid, and perfecting so far as possible the organization, the first colony was sent to Africa in 1820. They endured the discouraging vicissitudes which are generally incident to new settlements, and in a few years success seemed certain.
In 1847 LIBERIA became an established free republic. The constitution is modeled upon our own.
THE LAST JOURNEY—BRIG "SUCCESS," FRIDAY, MAY 22, 1818.
"We have taken an affectionate leave of the clergymen, the civil officers, and the colonists of Sierra Leone. We are embarked for the United States, by way of England; and the continent of Africa recedes from our view."
This is the last entry in Mills' journal. Three months had been spent in Africa; months of unsparing toil, under a scorching sun, amid depressing pagan scenes. But the undertaking had been reasonably successful, and tired bodies had been upheld by grateful hearts.
On shipboard once more, with faces turned homeward, opportunity came for fatigue to assert itself. The strength of Mills, never great at the best, began to fail. A deep spirituality, which had possessed him through all the journey, grew stronger and stronger. And as they were wafted, day by day, nearer home, it became evident that his spirit, too, was nearing its desired haven. Fever burned his body; but at last eternal health claimed his soul. Under a glowing sunset, he was buried, to wait until the sea surrenders its dead.
The one great desire of his life, "to sit in some quiet corner and teach the perishing," was unfulfilled; but God through him had sent, and yet sends, many teachers to many far corners.
Thirty-five years, only, of mortal life was allotted him in which to accomplish so much; yet it was time enough,—not because of his uncommon gifts, but because he knew the secret of well doing. He did not attempt to be the origin—the source, but gloried in being the channel through which God poured His great thoughts. No time was lost by obstructions; the dredge that kept the channel free was prayer—private, social, public, constant prayer, not for himself, but for God's glory.