The New Zealand Evangelist
Biographical Sketches.—No. V — The Rev. John Hunt, Late Missionary in Feejee.
Biographical Sketches.—No. V.
The Rev. John Hunt, Late Missionary in Feejee.
The subject of the following Memoir was an able and indefatigable servant of Christ, in connexion with the Wesleyan Branch of the Church Universal, and spent the years of his useful Ministry in that group of Islands called Feejee, first, as we believe, brought to the notice of Europeans by Capt. Bligh, by whom they were discovered when he was making his wonderful voyage of nearly 4000 miles in an open boat, small and crazy. The group lies between 16° and 21° South Latitude, and between 177° and 178° East Longitude. The Islands are very numerous, and the population is not small, supposed to be somewhere about three hundred thousand; it would be much greater if it were not for the frequency of war, and the abominable practice of cannibalism, which prevails among the people to a great extent. They do not practice it to indicate revenge in its excess, but from a decided preference of human page 226 to all other kinds of flesh whatever. Among these savages the subject of the following notices laboured for some years, and with a gratifying measure of success. It is the Gospel that humanizes the savage; it is Christianity which leads to the true civilization.
The frequent use of the second person in the following narrative, is accounted for by the fact that it is given in the form of a Letter addressed to the gentleman who was Professor of Theology in the Academy in which Mr. Hunt received his Literary and Theological training:—
He was born June 13th, 1812, at Hykeham-moor, near Lincoln. During his youthhood he had impressive views of the providence of God, and grew up in the fear of the Lord.
His convictions of sin were full. He deeply repented. Under the instructions of the late Rev. J. Smith, he trusted fully in Christ for his personal salvation; and being justified by faith, he then had peace with God. This was in the eighteenth year of his age.
His piety became deep. The love of God was perfected in him. He early became, what he continued to be, a man of simple, ardent, believing prayer—agonizing with God for blessings on himself and others.
He became a diligent reader of the Bible at an early period of his Christian course, adopting—what he has frequently practised since—the invaluable plan of choosing a passage for each day's meditation; by which he kept his mind engaged, and obtained a knowledge of the Word of God which was the result of deep thought.
After having preached the Gospel with acceptance and success for about four years, at the Conference of 1835 you will remember he entered the Institution at Hoxton. You are aware of the im provement he there made, by hard study, extreme diligence—often, as I remember, rising at four o'clock in the morning—and never entering into trifling conversation, or wasting time. He must then have fully adopted as his guide, what he has to the last day of his life fully practised, The Twelve Rules of a Helper.
Among many Institution principles which he carried out, one deserves prominent notice and full remembrance—his willingness to communicate instruction and render help. Most cheerfully would he labour hard, and even write for the use of his brethren?
You have had no student more faithful to the invaluable instructions which you reiterated again and again—that we were to continue in those studies which were there commenced. He gave himself fully to them; his profiting was known to all men. His diligence told well on himself; and his constancy, seriousness and full devotedness—without a word from him—was the most cutting reproof to those of us who had not got into the same plan of strict.page 227
application to useful study. He was always employed—never triflingly so; and that is one grand reason of his effecting so much.
You know well that he not only had a sound mind in a strong body—but that his capabilities were more than ordinary. Yet, it was dint of application—hard thinking, and constancy in good employment that made him stand most conspicuously far before and above his brethren—both in the Institution and since he left it.
His general spirit and application every one saw and felt in the Institution; but I had a nearer view of him within the sides of a ship during a long voyage, and at places where we landed before we arrived at our destination. If, under any circumstances, a man can have a plausible excuse or reason for relaxation, surely then he might. But not so with brother Hunt—he was always at work and he had entered so fully into his duty, that it became his delight, and he could not be happy without fulfilling it. Every day learning something useful—in every place doing something good. So far from desiring to rest, he could not be persuaded to it. He must be on full stretch!
In entering on his work in Feejee in January, 1839, he went on in his usual way of entire consecration—only turning the direction of his mind and efforts to the work he then commenced. He quickly learned so much of the language as enabled him to preach and converse.
After remaining only six months at Rewa, he removed to a new Station, where he was called to work without the tokens of good which would have satisfied him—conversions from sin to holiness. However, though he could not there see what he longed for, he was determined to do what he could. With his colleague he made much progress and proficiency in the language, which was made to tell considerably, when correctness and extensive knowledge were so much needed afterwards. There too he learnt many lessons of patience and resignation in the extreme sufferings of Mrs. Hunt, and the death of his only son, his then only child.
In 1842 he removed from Somosomo to Vewa. Here he lived, laboured and died, and here his remains are deposited.
He nobly laboured in building two good Mission-houses.— Through the respect which the Foreigners who reside in Feejee had for Mr. Hunt, several of them volunteered to put up the frame of a wooden house free of expense to him or the Mission.
In 1845 a blessed revival of religion took place at Vewa—when many became the accepted and regenerated children of God.
His preaching both in native and English was most excellent. All his sermons were well studied and well arranged in his mind before preaching or writing. He thoroughly understood—fully explained—and most faithfully applied God's holy Word. He was a good and faithful Minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto he had attained. He studied to show himself approved into God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, righlly dividing the word of truth.
He translated nearly the whole of the New Testament—which page 228 has been well printed. It is esteemed by all his brethren as a most excellent version.
He prepared a Course of Christian Theology in short sermons, comprising the Evidences, Doctrines, Duties, and Institutions. This has been a very useful book to the local preachers. In the plan and in some of the matter he was indebted to you; but every part was really his own by diligent study and personal investigation. During the last year he has been preparing a much enlarged edition of this work, which he had nearly finished. This we hope soon to print: so that he, being dead, mayyet speak sound words to the edification of the Feejeean Teachers for ages to come; and that we who remain, and those who may come, may derive much assistance in this, as well as in many other things, from his invaluable labours. His thoughts are very good; his language is thoroughly Feejeean, and well understood by the natives. He obtained an extensive knowledge of the Feejeean language, and had a peculiar aptitude to translate, write and speak most intelligibly. He delivered these lectures to several students five days a week, at six o'clock in the morning, during the last few months of his life.
His career, though short, has been pre-eminently good and bright. He gained much influence and esteem everywhere, and with almost everybody. In his intercourse with chiefs, heathen and christian people, captains of ships, foreigners, his brethren—every one—he was most happy, and successful in doing good to an immense extent. The effects of his life, voyaging, prayers, preaching, conversations, are on a broad basis, and will doubtless tell much as long as Feejee exists.
He has left considerable MSS. in Journal, Outlines, Sermons, etc., and we have copious letters which he wrote to his brethern. At Mrs. Hunt's request, Brother Lyth and I have consented to arrange Memorials and Remains; which we purpose forwarding to Mrs. Hunt, for her additions; and we hope you will prepare the whole for the public. We are desirous that something should be published respecting him; and we are willing to do what we can, as we have had a long intimacy with him.
On the ninth of August and some days previous, brother Hunt had most severe attacks of spasm and inflammation in the bowels—and it was feared that his life would then be finished. However, ardent prayer was made by the Church without ceasing for him; and the Lord sanctified the means used to the alleviation of his sufferings.
On the 6th of September I arrived at Vewa by the Wesley from Lakemba. I found brother Hunt able to sit on the sofa, and walk over the room with a stick; but very much shattered by his frequent attacks, and continued disease.
On the 7th I had a long conversation with him. He spoke of his very severe attack of illness. After the removal of the paroxysm on the 9th of August, he entered into a full consideration of his state. He said:—“I had most humbling views of my own nothingness and uselessness, which distressed me: until it came to my mind powerfully as if the Lord had spoken it to me, ‘Are not ye page 229 my work in the Lord? If I be not an apostle unto othera, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.’ After that, the Lord would not allow me to reproach myself, but manifested himself to me in a surprising manner, and I seemed overwhelmed and filled with the love of God. My will was completely lost in God's will.” At the same time he said, “I feel my work is done. When you used to write to me about my translating the Old Testament, and said that I should doubtless feel the same about it as about the New Testament, I never did—I never could. I desired to finish the revised and much-enlarged edition of the Sermons on Christian Theology.”
On the 17th I read, at brother Hunt's request, the ninth and tenth of Hebrews. After prayer he said—“Paul gives such a view of the work of the Saviour in those two chapters as fills me with such admiration of, and feeling about, the Saviour as I cannot express. I feel Him a perfect Saviour. I never had such views and hold of the Savior as I have in this illness.”
On the 25th he said, “I have comfort—constant comfort—but I have not joy. I desire a greater manifestation of God's love; but perhaps I could not bear more in my weak state. I leave myself in the Lord's hands, to do as he sees best. I am safe in his hands.” He had then been a week confined to his bed, and was very much reduced.
On the 26th he was easier, but very weak I read the 17th of John and prayed. He was much engaged in devotion during prayer. Towards the close he began to weep. After we arose from our knees his weeping continued and increased; until at length he burst out, crying aloud, “Lord, bless Feejee! Save Fee-jee! Thou knowest my soul has loved Feejee. My heart has travailed in pain for Feejee.” Mrs. Hunt and I were gratified with the outburstings of what always filled his heart; but we knew his great weakness would not admit of such exertion. We therefore tried to prevent him. I said “The Lord knows you love Feejee. We know. The Feejeean Christians know. And the heathens of Feejee know it. You have laboured hard for Feejee when you were strong. Now, you are so weak, you must be silant. God will save Feejee. He is saving Feejee.” For a short time he wept low; but again, unable to suppress his powerful feelings, he wept and called aloud, with great vehemency, grasping me firmly with one hand and lifting one up, “Oh let me pray once more for Feejee! Lord, for Christ's sake, bless Feejee! Save Feejee! Save thy servants!—Save thy people!—Save the heathen!—in Feejee.” His full heart was overpowered, and he would gladly have agonized beyond his strength, as he had long laboured, on behalf of Feejee: but we insisted upon his giving up and being easy.
On the 28th he said “For two days I can think only of Paul's language, ‘I am in a strait betwixt two.’ 'For me to live is Christ.’ If needful for my family and the Church I shall be raised tip again. I have no choice. I am resigned to the will of God. I am more, I love the will of God. He ru es.” I said “If we ruled, we should keep you; but He knows best.” He rejoined page 230 “Yes. He is my ruler, my proprietor. He will soon make it up in many ways.”
On the 2nd October he said, “I have no anxiety. I trust in Jesus, and feel he is mine; and I wait the end. I await the word of relief, or release. I do not believe in either: but I feel a very little would decide for either. I leave all with the Lord.”
At daylight on the 4th we found brother Hunt exceedingly weak. We assembled around his bed. He said “How strange! I cannot realize that I am dying; and yet you all look as if I were.” “Well; if this be dying, praise the Lord.”
At his request brother Lyth read the 14th of John. He engaged with his wonted earnestness in prayer. He desired again and again to be left alone. His mind which retaimed all its vigour to the last, was fully engaged, his eyes uplifted, and his lips moving. I said “The Lord is faithful and helps you.” “Yes;” he replied.
About one o'clock, he said,—“It is a solemn thing to die—very solemn.” I said, “Mr. Wesley, in dying, clung to Jesus—and you do.” “Yes”—he replied, with solemnity—“I cleave to Jesus, and am right. I have nothing else to look to. He is all I have to trust in. If I look from him I am in a vortex—have doubts and condemation. But I have full faith in him. I have peace and pardon through him. I have no disturbance at all.”
His whole soul was engaged with the Lord. He criecl aloud, “O Lord, my Saviour! Jeans!” more than usual earnestness marked his countenance. Shortly after this wrestling with the God of all grace and consolation, his complacent smile bespoke gratitude and joy. Then he appeared to be engaged in meditation. Again he spoke: “I want strength to praise Him abundantly! I am very happy.”—About eight o'clock in the morning, after being informed of the approach of death, he said to Mrs. Hunt, “Oh for one more baptism!” She now asked him—“Have you had a fresh manifestation?” He said “Yes! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus!” Then added, I don't depend on this [significantly shaking his head.] I bless the Lord, I trust in Jesus.”
Soon after he exclaimed—“Now he is my Joy. I thought I should have entered heaven singing ‘Jesus and salvation!” Now I shall go, singing ‘Jesus salvation and glory—eternal glory.”
He then settled down, saying very many times, “Hallelnjah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
He delivered messages to the chiefs, people, his brethren and sisters: prayed for his children, desiring them to obey and imitate their mother: affectionately commended his much beloved partner to the guidance of Divine providence; prayed for God's blessing on a faithful servant who had been with him ever since his arrival in Feejee: and then desired me to pray.
About three o'clock, p.m., he grasped me, and turned on his side; and, after breathing with difficulty for about twenty minutes, his spirit departed to eternal blessednes.
Even at the hour of death we were astonishingly upheld—all of us. Our hearts were drawn heavenward. We seemed to go with him to the portals—and finding ourselves left to mourn, our first page 231 thoughts were concern for ourselves—and as with one heart and voice we cried,
“O may I triumph SO, When all my warfare's past.”
The natives flocked to see the remains of their beloved Minister. A neat coffin was immediatety made, covered with black calico, on which was inscribed—
Rev. John Hunt
Slept in Jesus.
October 4th, 1848,
Aged 36 years.
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
Rev. XIV. 13.