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- Life of John Coleridge Patteson - 50/144 -
example he used in the unkind and ignorant popular cry against the occasional return of colonial Bishops. For, be it remembered, that dire necessity was not drawing Coleridge Patteson to demand pecuniary assistance round all the platforms of English towns. The Eton, and the Australian and New Zealand Associations, supplemented by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and his own family, relieved him from the need of having to maintain his Mission by such means. All these letters are occupied with the arrangements for raising means for removing the Melanesian College to a less bleak situation, and it is impossible to read them without feeling what a difference it made to have a father who did not view giving to God's work as robbing his family.
On the 13th of August, Patteson was on board, preparing for the voyage; very cold, and eager for the tropics. The parting voice in his farewell letter is: 'I think I see more fully that work, by the power of God's Spirit, is the condition of us all in this world; tiny and insignificant as the greatest work of the greatest men is, in itself, yet the one talent is to be used.'
It was meant to be a farewell letter, but another followed in the leisure, while waiting for the Bishop to embark, with some strong (not to say fiery) opinions on the stern side of duty:--
'I feel anxious to try to make some of the motives intelligible, upon which we colonial folk act sometimes. First. I think that we get a stronger sense of the necessity for dispensing with that kind of courtesy and good nature which sometimes interferes with duty than people do in England.
'So a man placed as I am (for example) really cannot oftentimes avoid letting it be seen that work must come first; and, by degrees, one sympathises less than one possibly should do with drones and idlers in the hive, and feels it wrong to assent to a scheme which lets a real work suffer for the sake of acquiescing in a conventional recognition of comfort, claims of society, &c.
'Would the general of an army say to his officers, "Pray, gentlemen, don't dirty your boots or fatigue your horses to succour the inhabitants of a distant village"? Or a captain to his mates and middies: "Don't turn out, don't go aloft. It is a thing hard, and you might get wet"?
'And the difference between us and people at home sometimes is, that we don't see why a clergyman is not as much bound as an officer in the army or navy to do what he is pledged of his own act to do; and that at home the 'parsonage and pony-carriage' delusion practically makes men forget this. I forget it as much as any man, and should very likely never have seen the mistake but for my coming to New Zealand; and it is one of the great blessings we enjoy.
'There is a mighty work to be done. God employs human agents, and the Bible tells us what are the rules and conditions of their efficiency.
'"Oh! but, poor man, he has a sickly wife!" Yes, but, "it remaineth that those who have wives be as they that have none."
'True, but the case of a large family? "Whosoever loveth child more than me," &c.
'Second. The fact that we live almost without servants makes us more independent, and also makes us acquainted with the secrets of each other's housekeeping, &c. All that artificial intercourse which depends a good deal upon a well-fitted servants' hall does not find place here. More simple and more plain and homely in speech and act is our life in the colonies--e.g., you meet me carrying six or seven loaves from town to the college. "Oh, I knew that the Bishop had to meet some persons there to-day, and I felt nearly sure there would be no breakfast then." Of course an English person thinks, "Why didn't he send the bread?" To which I answer, "Who was there to send?."
'I don't mean that I particularly like turning myself into a miller one day and a butcher the next; but that doing it as a matter of course, where there is no one else to do it, one does sometimes think it unreasonable to say, as has been said to the Bishop:--"Two thousand pounds a year you want for your Mission work!" "Yes," said the Bishop, 'and not too much for sailing over ten thousand miles, and for educating, clothing, and feeding some forty young men!"
'I mean that conventional notions in England are preventing people from really doing half what they might do for the good of the needy.
'I don't know how this might be said to be a theory tending to revolutionise society; but I think I do know that there is a kind of religious common sense which comes in to guide people in such matters. Only, I do not think it right to admit that plea for not doing more in the way of almsgiving which is founded upon the assumption that first of all a certain position in society must be kept up, which involves certain expenditure.
'A barrister is living comfortably on £800 a year, or a clergyman in his living of £400. The professional income of the one increases, and a fatter living is given to the other, or some money is left them. What do they do? Instantly start a carriage, another servant, put the jack-of-all-trades into a livery, turn the buttons into a flunkey, and the village girl into a ladies' maid! Is this really right? They were well enough before. Why not use the surplus for some better purpose?
'I imagine that we, the clergy, are chiefly to blame, for not only not protesting against, but most contentedly acquiescing in such a state of things. You ask now for something really demanding a sacrifice. "I can't afford it." "What, not to rescue that village from starvation? not to enable that good man to preach the Gospel to people only accessible by means of such an outlay on his vessel, &c.? Give up your carriage, your opera box; don't have so many grand balls, &c. "Oh no! it is all a corban to the genius of society.
'Now, is this Scriptural or not, my dear father? I don't mean that any individual is justified in dictating to his neighbour, still less in condemning him. But are not these the general principles of religion and morality in the Bible? There are duties to society: but a good man will take serious counsel as to what they are, and how far they may be militating against higher and holier claims.
'August 24.--Why I wrote all this, my dearest father, I hardly know, only I feel sure that unless men at home can, by taking real pains to think about it, realise the peculiar circumstances of colonial life, they will never understand any one of us.
'I have written Fan a note in which I said something about my few effects if I should die.
'One thing I should like to say to you, not as venturing to do more than let you be in full possession of my own mind on the matter. Should I die before you die, would it be wrong for me to say, "Make the Melanesian Mission my heir"?
'It may be according to the view which generally obtains that the other three should then divide my share. But now I would take what may seem the hard view of which I have been writing, and say, "They have enough to maintain them happily and comfortably." The Mission work without such a bequest will be much endangered. I feel sure that they would wish it to be so, for, of course, you know that this large sum of which you write will be, if I survive you, regarded simply as a bequest to the Mission in which I have a life interest, and the interest of which, in the main, would be spent on the Mission.
'But I only say plainly, without any reserve, what I have thought about it; not for one moment putting up my opinion against yours, of course, in case you take a contrary view.
'We sail, I hope, to-morrow, but the Bishop is more busy than ever.
'Again, my dearest Father,
'Your loving and dutiful Son,
'J. C. PATTESON.'
The history of this voyage was, as usual, given in a long letter for the Feniton fireside; but there was a parallel journal also, kept for the Bishop of Wellington, which is more condensed, and, therefore, better for quotation.
The manner in which the interest in, and connection with all English friends and relations was kept up is difficult to convey, though it was a very loveable part of the character. Little comments of condolence or congratulation, and messages of loving remembrance to persons mentioned by playful names, would only be troublesome to the reader; but it must be taken for granted that every reply to a home packet was full of these evidences that the black children on a thousand isles had by no means driven the cousins and friends of youth from a heart that was enlarged to have tenderness for all.
'Lat. 9° 29' S.; Long. 163° S.E. "Southern Cross:" October 9, 1859.
'My dear Bishop,--We are on our way from Uleawa to the Santa Cruz group, having visited the Loyalty Islands, Southern New Hebrides, Banks Island (2), and Solomon Islands.
'The Bishop so planned the voyage as to run down the wind quickly to the Solomon Islands, and do the real work coming home; not, as usual, beating up in the open water between the Santa Cruz archipelago, Banks Islands and New Hebrides to the east, and New Caledonia to the west. We are thus able to visit Vanua Lava on the way out and home also; and as we meant to make the Banks Islands the great point this voyage, that was, of course, great gain.
'We touched at Norfolk Island.... Going on to Nengone we found everybody away at the distant yam grounds, and could not wait to see them.
'At Lifu, the first thing that shocked us was John's appearance: one of those fatal glandular swellings has already produced a great change in him. He looked sallow and weak, and I fear ut sit vitalis. He spoke to me very calmly about his illness, which he thinks is unto death, and I did not contradict him.
'We had much private talk together. He is a fine fellow and, I believe, a sincere Christian man. Then came the applications to us not to desert them, and letters enumerating all the villages of Lifu almost without exception, and entreating us to suffer them to be connected with us, and we had to answer that already two missionaries from the L. M. S. are on their way from Sydney to Lifu, and that it would do harm to have two rival systems on the island. They
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