“The isles shall wait for His law.”
By that “Law” for which in the vision of the prophet the isles were to wait must be understood the revelation of love and mercy set forth to the world in the incarnation, sufferings, death, and exaltation of the Divine Redeemer …
… carried on in its progress towards completion, and rendered effectual to the individual soul, by the Holy Spirit in the Church. It implies at once the inward spiritual agency described by our Lord as a “kingdom within us,” …
… and what must ever be its outward expression and embodiment,–the kingdom of Christ visible here on earth, His Mystical Body, the blessed company of all faithful people, His Holy Catholic Church.
The whole history of that far-distant group of islands with which we are concerned is an exemplification of the prediction, “The isles shall wait for His law.”
Two men, John Young and Isaac Davies, the former a Liverpool shipwright, fell into the hands of the chief of Hawaii–one who had an intense wish to raise his people to the level of those strangers who, he saw, were so far beyond himself in the power which superior knowledge always gives.
They took up their permanent abode with him, and became his chief advisers. Dissatisfaction ere long sprung up in the mind of Kamehameha,–for that was the name of the chieftain,–with the then existing religious system …
… and when Vancouver, after repeated visits to the islands during several years, finally took leave of them in 1794, he begged the captain to procure teachers from England to instruct his people in the faith of Christ.
That unhappily was not a missionary age. It was a time of unreality and spiritual deadness in the Church of England: “the love of many had waxed cold;” and it is not therefore to be wondered at, though sadly to be regretted, that such an opportunity was lost.
Had it been seized, how different from the actual one might have been the religious history of the various achipelagoes of the Pacific!
After the death of Kamehameha, still in a state of heathenism and unbaptized we find his successor Rihoriho issued an edict abolishing idolatry and the old religion. This met with some opposition; a battle was fought, but victory proved on the side of the reforming party.
And it was when the way had been thus remarkably prepared that some Congregationalist Missionaries visited them from the United States of America.
They were not permitted to land till the king had assured himself by consultation with Mr. Young that they would speak of the same God and Saviour as the English missionaries, whom they had been in vain expecting for the quarter of a century, which had then elapsed since the petition made to Vancouver.
Christianity under this form made rapid progress among the people. Rihoriho and his queen came over to England in the year 1823, and, it will be remembered, died in London. The accounts of his visit mention how the royal party attended the services of Westminster Abbey, with which they were much pleased.
May we not regard the series of applications which have reached our Church from these islands during seventy years or more, as a significant commentary on the prophet’s words, “The isles shall wait for Thy law?”
And now in more recent times, when the group has assumed an importance it had not before, when the developement of its productions with various forms of trade has collected in Honolulu a foreign population …
… when a system of national education has brought the Hawaiian into a comparatively advanced state of civilization, when, too, Christianity, in the form of Congregationalism or the Roman Church, has become nominally the religion of the islands, the cry for help has again reached our shores, and this time has not boon heard in vain.
The circumstances of the origin of the mission are too well known to need any detail of them on the present occasion. Nor need I remind you of several features in the work itself not without interest to the Church generally:
… how that we have here the first instance of our Reformed Church being invited by an independent sovereign to plant itself in his dominions; how, too, by the formation of this new diocese the only link is supplied which was wanting to make the girdle of her influence encircle the globe.
It is, however, rather on the nature and objects of the work to be done, than on its general aspects I ought now to dwell.
All who visit the islands bear testimony to the sad want of moral purity among them, no doubt in part due to the licentiousness of European and American sailors and others.
In touching accents the King lately complained to his Legislature, “Our acts are vain unless we can stay the wasting hand that is destroying our people. I feel a heavy responsibility in this matter” …
… accordingly he has encouraged by all the means in his power the institution of boarding schools for the education of native girls, taking them from home at an early age and raising them by the training of the ladies to a higher appreciation of their dignity as women.
The Sisters of the Sacred Heart have opened such schools in connexion with the Roman Church, and defective will be our machinery if no similar provision is made by us for furthering the same object.
As an English Mission, it is hoped, we may render valuable aid to the cause of primary education in the islands. It is in contemplation to give a more industrial and practical character to the system pursued in the State Schools, and gradually to bring about a displacement of the Hawaiian for the English tongue throughout the native population.
How inadequate the old language is as a vehicle of thought or moral training appears from the fact that there are no words in it whereby to express hope, gratitude, or chastity. …
The King says, “The importance of substituting English for Hawaiian schools I have already earnestly recommended and in again bringing the subject under your attention, I would touch upon a matter which I think of equal importance, and that is the raising the standard of elementary education in the Common Schools.
This latter object may be secured by the institution of Normal Schools, as recommended by the President but combined with the teaching of the English as a general thing throughout the kingdom, it must place the object beyond a peradventure.”
The foreigners centred there for the purposes of trade and agriculture, chiefly English and Americans, containing many professedly members of our Reformed Church or others who are willing to unite with her … will have to be tended and fed with Christ’s holy Word and Sacraments.
In the national jealousies, too, which usually prevail in a centre of resort such as this–one owing its independence to the forbearance and protection of its more powerful neighbours,–we have reason for care and circumspection.
The interest felt by the present very intelligent, high-principled, and even accomplished King in the realization of an English episcopate, the clinging on the part of the islanders from the first to England as the country to supply them with a religion they could trust …
… the co-operation of the English and many of the American residents in preparing for the reception of the mission, the baptism of the Prince of Hawaii, our own beloved Queen standing, by proxy, as the sponsor, with which ceremony the Church will, so to speak, be inaugurated–these are all hopeful signs.
When, too, I consider the warm sympathy and support extended to the Mission by my countrymen and fellow-churchmen during the months that have elapsed since my consecration,–shown by their liberal contributions no less than in the hearty prayers they have ever been ready to offer for its success …
… there is indeed reason “to be of good cheer and take courage.” For those loving tokens of interest and sympathy how can I ever be grateful enough?
And now, on the eve of departure with those brethren who have thrown in their lot with me, and are devoting themselves to this arduous enterprise, I have to ask you, on their behalf as well as my own, a continuance of your Christian sympathy and your prayers.
Surely religion is not all psalm-singing and gloom. While the heavy of heart and the unforgiven are welcome to groan and lament that over their souls no gladness and light have arisen …
… yet we would like to see merriment and rejoicing, in those whose spirits are so attuned, exhibit themselves especially on those great Christian occasions so eminently calculated to invite the mind to joy, thanksgiving, and gladness, such as Christmas Day, Easter Sunday, and Ascension Day.
We notice that this land is said to have been converted to Christianity … We would like to see Borne of the old-world secular festivals introduced, such as “May Day” for instance, to be celebrated with national sports, jubilee, and bonfires through every village and hamlet in the country. Were this properly taken in hand, it could not fail of the best results.
As it now is, the nation, as such, has no festival either religious or social, but gropes in the ashes of the past for some stray ember of a half-forgotten “mele,” which it chaunts with fear and trembling, lest its sound may provoke the ban of the preacher or the rebuke of religious martinet.
“Such were our reflections on seeing the bonfire on Monday last, and we turned away in sadness.” (This post includes portions of ‘A Sermon Preached at the Farewell Service of the (Anglican) Mission to the Sandwich Islands, in Westminster Abbey, July 23, 1862’ by the Right Rev. the Bishop of Honolulu.)
King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma were responsible for bringing the Anglican Church to Hawai‘i. This invitation culminated in the consecration of Thomas Nettleship Staley at Lambeth Palace on December 15, 1861 as Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of Honolulu. The first services of the church were held in Honolulu on October 12, 1862, upon their arrival.
Initially the church was called the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church but the name would change in 1870 to the Anglican Church in Hawai‘i. In 1902 it came under the Episcopal Church of the US.
This summary is from portions of a Sermon preached at the farewell service of the Mission to the Sandwich Islands in Westminster Abby, by Thomas Nettleship Staley, July 23, 1862. (The image shows St Andrew’s Pro Cathedral, called the English Church (built in 1866,) which was the temporary cathedral until St Andrews Cathedral was finished (1886.))