II. The Love of Christ Animated His Missionary Labors
During the course of the long sea voyage, he was much impressed by the appearance of the heavens in the southern latitudes. When he gazed for the first time upon the Southern Cross in its mystic beauty, he wrote in his Journal: "My best enjoyments in time, and my prospects beyond the grave, center in the cross, which is the emblem of redeeming love."
He was thinking of the love of Christ and of the text: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
On October 17, 1847, after a journey of more than 20,000 miles, the vessel sailed into the harbor of Pango-pango [Pago Pago] Samoa. While awaiting transportation to Eastern Melanesia, Geddie devoted six months to the study of the Samoan language. This knowledge would be of great value to him in communicating with the Samoan teachers who had already been settled on several of the Melanesian islands.
At Tanna the natives were shy and sullen. Inquiry revealed that an Erromangan, who had come to Port Resolution with a sandal wood trader, had landed the previous day and was promptly killed, roasted and eaten by the Tannese. Many Tannese had fallen into the hands of the Erromangans and been eaten, and many Erromangans had suffered a similar fate on Tanna.
At the island of Efate they approached the place where, a few months earlier, the ship British Sovereign had been wrecked and the crew of not less than twenty-two persons had been killed and eaten. Deeds of brutality were not restricted to black men alone. Geddie saw the place where three white men, engaged in the sandal wood trade, had on slight provocation shot about one hundred natives. He also saw the cave into which about one hundred other natives retreated for shelter and where they were smothered by the fire which the white traders built at its entrance. Similar wanton deeds perpetrated throughout the Pacific created much hostility toward all white men, interfered seriously with missionary operations and engendered a passion for revenge which often led to attacks on innocent missionaries and, in numerous instances, to their martyrdom, as in the case of John Williams, Bishop Patteson and others.
Geddie, "the father of Presbyterian missions in the South Seas," landed on the island of Aneiteum [Aneityum], of the New Hebrides group, in 1848. When the John Williams sailed away, the missionaries felt for the first time the stern reality of being abandoned on an island surrounded by a barbarous people from whom they had much to fear and with whom they had little, if anything, in common. But were they despondent? "Though severed now from those with whom we could take sweet counsel," wrote Geddie, "we are not alone. We have His promise, at whose command we have come hither, 'Lo, I am with you alway.'"
Mr. and Mrs. Geddie were soon engrossed in learning the Aneiteumese tongue. The difficulty of the task was increased by the fact that the language had not been reduced to writing and no dictionaries or books of any kind were available. After mastering Aneiteumese, the first assignment was to reduce it to writing and then to print some materials to help enlighten the people.
What was the force that impelled John Geddie to live in circumstances so desolating and that sustained him amid scenes so harrowing? And what was the message with which he expected to touch and transform a people so debased? In one of his home letters he wrote: "The love of Christ sustains us and constrains us. My heart pants to tell this miserable people the wonders of redeeming love." And when the epochal day arrived on which he was able to preach to the natives for the first time, what was the momentous theme of his discourse? "I thank God," he wrote in his Journal, "that I have been spared to see this day when, for the first time, I can tell perishing sinners of the Saviour's love." Again he said: "If ever we win these benighted islanders, we must draw them with cords of love. I know of no power that is adequate to transform their lives except that which transformed my own life, namely, the power of the living Christ who 'loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.'"
Telling perishing sinners of the Saviour's love!
Drawing benighted islanders with cords of love!
Transforming savages by the wonders of love!
Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins!Revelation 1:5 is the text and the love of Christ the theme that animated his fervent labors amid the desolation and abominations of barbarism.
This biography has been used by permission of http://wholesomewords.org/. It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.