1832 Revival at Waimea, Kaua‘i – Missionary Herald, Boston November 1833
Extracts of a letter from Peter Johnson Gulick, written on the island of Kaua‘i to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston. At the time the first major revival in the Hawaiian Islands was underway at Waimea on the westside of Kaua‘i. It would another five years until the Great Awakening of Hawai‘i reached the Big Island in 1837 led by the preaching and evangelism of Titus Coan.
Special Attention to Religion at the Station.
Oct. 25, I832. Early in May an increase of the spirit of prayer was evident in the members of our native church. They began to assemble at the dawning of the morning for united supplications at the throne of grace. And so anxious were some to be in season, that they would rise up “a great while before day.” At first their meetings were weekly, or at least at intervals of some days; but finally, of their own accord, they were held daily, and this, too, before they had heard of the morning prayer-meetings in America. Their separate locations rendering it inconvenient for them to assemble in one place, at our suggestion they met in small companies as circumstances favored. A number of persons who had apparently been a long time under conviction, seemed now to assume a more decided character. Previous to the 2Ist of May, when we embarked to attend the general meeting, fifteen individuals of this class afforded pleasing evidence of a change of heart.
On our return to this place, June 29th, the operations of the Holy Spirit were manifest, and a few interesting cases of hopeful conversion had occurred during our absence. As soon as I had opportunity to converse individually with the inquirers, the number of whom was considerable, I found there was a depth and pungency in their convictions, which I had never before witnessed at the islands, except in a few cases. And for the space of two months the work continued to increase, both in power and extent. Indeed we have most cheering evidence that the Spirit of God is still in the congregation, for new cases of conviction, apparently deep and thorough, occur daily. We have reason, however, to fear that the work upon the conscience, is somewhat less powerful now, than it was a month since. The most striking scenes have been witnessed in the room from whence I address yon. Here I received the anxious inquirers, one by one; and although every thing calculated to excite sympathy was carefully avoided, still for two days in succession my room was literally a bochim (the place of weeping). Some of them entered the room weeping, and were for a while apparently unable to utter a word, or to think of any thing except their own fearful condition. Others, after a few words of conversation, would burst out into aloud and passionate crying, like little children in deep distress. Some were seized with a kind of convulsive trembling; and in a few cases, overcome by their feelings, they fell prostrate on their faces, and lay for a length of time weeping in a most affecting manner. And what, in my estimation at least, renders this work the more remarkable is, that many of these very persons, who now felt so deeply, have for years been in the habit of hearing the most solemn and alarming truths in the Bible, without the least apparent emotion.
But now, without any special cause of excitement or alarm from us, they are thus deeply affected. Our public assemblies, however, have been still, and solemn, and remarkably attentive to the messages which were delivered. Persons from almost every part of the island have been brought to a sense of their lost condition, and are now rejoicing in hope. From the pagan priest down to the humblest devotee of superstition, all classes, and every age, except the very young, have felt (as we are fully persuaded) the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit. Among them may be seen the decrepit, the blind, and the deaf; persons whose heads are white, and their limbs feeble with age; and one at least, who was an adult when captain Cook visited these Islands, and several others who appear to be as old as he. Indeed there are many, now numbered with the converts, who were so besotted by a long continuance in their heathenish state, and whose faculties were so benumbed by age, that at times we were | ready to doubt whether enough of divine I truth could be communicated to their understandings to effect the sanctification of their hearts. But our unbelief is silenced.
One of those who wept aloud in the most passionate manner, had previously obtained hope; and to the question, why do you weep? replied, “It is the recollection of my sins.” Another, not less affected, in reply to the same question said, “It is the great love of Christ.”
You may desire to know what means have been and are used for the advancement of the Redeemer’s kingdom here. You will have learned from other sources, that since early in May the care of this station has devolved on me, Mr. Whitney having left at that time for Oahu, and being subsequently appointed on the deputation to the Society and Washington Islands. Previous to his embarkation, he spent one Sabbath and preached two sermons here, from which several date their first serious impressions. One of these discourses was a funeral sermon for Kaahumanu, the other a farewell address. While my health permitted, (which was only a few weeks,) we had a lecture on Wednesday afternoon,two sermons on the Sabbath, and some attention was paid, during the intermission of public worship at noon, to the Sabbath-school. We had also a daily prayer-meeting (except on the Sabbath and Wednesday,) which was established in July, and has been sustained with the assistance of church-members. In this meeting a few verses are sung, a portion of Scripture is read, a few plain and pointed remarks are made, and the service is closed with prayer. We meet near evening, this being the time in which the people are generally at leisure. The numbers attending vary from 500 to 1,200, and average about eight or nine hundred.
I have generally been able to attend this meeting myself. Native members assist in the prayers and in conversations, especially one man named David, who appears to be humble, and to possess an extraordinary knowledge, for one in his circumstances, of the human heart.
Owing to my ill health, I have found it necessary to direct the inquirers to go first to David; and those whom he supposes to be thoroughly awakened, are sent to me at appointed seasons; to others, he gives such directions as he deems appropriate from the New Testament, pointing them to some particular passage.* By this arrangement my own labor has been chiefly bestowed where I judged it was most needed. When 1 consider the means used, or rather the want of means, humanly speaking, to carry on the work, I am constrained to feel that it is the work of God, not of ourselves; and to exclaim, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”
*This method I suggested, and have also pursued it pretty constantly myself. After convening a little while I usually dismiss them with their attention directed to a passage of Scripture. Both in public and in private we have endeavored to persuade them to read the word of God much, and to study and pray lunch over it; assuring them that it would he more useful to them, than going about to converse with their neighbors, and that if they were Christians they would prefer this employment.
they may be entitled to it on its first arrival. Others again, who have worked for us, have refused to take their wages, being determined to have us indebted to them when the Testament shall arrive.
During two months of the summer, Mr. Gulick was favored with the medical skill and Christian counsels of Doct. Chapin, which are thankfully acknowledged in the letter.
Our people manifest a high regard for the word of God; and those whom we consider pious, appear cordially to engage in every duty which they believe it enjoins upon them. They are very eager to possess the New Testament in one volume. It is now all in print, but in five detached ports. So anxious are many who have all the parts, to have it in one bound volume, that they take off the covers from the Gospels printed in American, and embodying the several parts, make the old covers, enveloped in a half-dressed kid skin, serve for the whole. Others, hearing that an edition of the whole is ere long to be printed, are anxious to deposit money with us beforehand, that in the middle of July, a society was formed in this congregation, consisting of church-members, and persons propounded, whose object it is to assist the needy in our own vicinity, and aid in disseminating the Scriptures and publishing them among the destitute. A strong propensity to trust in works having formerly been manifested here, it was deemed not advisable to propose the subject to any other than the above-mentioned persons. A few serious persons, however, in the neighborhood, having heard what was doing, and desiring to contribute, were not refused. From the free-will offerings of the society, in paddles, mats, kapas, fowls, turkeys, pigs, &c., with a little money, fifteen dollars in cash have been realized, and produce to the value of about ten dollars is not yet disposed of. The whole amount will probably be appropriated to the support of the mission to the Washington Islands, should our brethren enter that field.
As I have not seen any thing of intemperance in drinking here, since becoming connected with the station, except in the case of a foreigner or two, (and of late the laws against vending strong drink have been so thoroughly executed that even they could not get intoxicated,) I have made no efforts to establish a temperance society. I have scarce a doubt, but the whole native population of this island would willingly join such a society.
In the year past a new and very substantial meeting-house, in native style, has been erected at this station. It is I55 feet long, by 48 broad, with seven double doors, each eight feet wide and ten high; made—nails, hinges, and all—and hung, entirely by natives.
We would gratefully acknowledge the kindness and courtesy we have experienced from the only ship-masters, who have touched here this fall; viz. capt. T., of ship Cadmus of New Bedford; and capt. B. of the Ann of Nantucket. Their conduct was obliging and friendly throughout. Capt. T. informed us, that last spring he touched at Nukuhiva, one of the Washington Islands, where he was very kindly received, and obtained plenty of fresh provisions on reasonable terms. He said, moreover, that Kapne, the king’s guardian, urged him to use his influence with his countrymen to procure missionaries for that island; and said if they would come, he would build them good houses, take off the tabus, and in short do every thing to render them comfortable. Capt. T. had also the testimony of a capt. B., of New Bedford, who, being ill, had left his ship and spent a month, or more, on that island. He said that although he was entirely in their power, their conduct towards him was uniformly the most kind and obliging imaginable.
Nov. 2. Since the preceding pages were written, 60 persons, many of them newly awakened, have been conversed with by Mr. Bingham, and myself. Mr. Bingham, having heard of the state of our congregation, and the urgent need of more laborers at this time, arrived here night before last, and is now engaged conversing with the anxious. He just now remarked, that he did not see how the present state of feeling could be accounted for, without attributing it to the Spirit of God. Indeed the divine sovereignty has been strikingly displayed I in some cases that have occurred here. Persons come from distant and almost inaccessible parts of the island, where I have good reason to believe the gospel was never proclaimed by an ambassador of Christ, most deeply distressed from a sense of their sins. Frequently they can give no definite account of the origin of their convictions; I but as they often express it, they were j afraid on account of sin, and their soul and : body trembled; therefore they come here to inquire after salvation. And numbers, when they have obtained hope, take up their abode in our vicinity, and hiring their relatives also. Enough, however, is manifest in this dispensation of mercy to convince us, that the dealings of God toward this people do not release Christians from their obligations to ‘preach the gospel to every creature.’ For a vast majority of the cases of conviction and hopeful conversion are found at this station and one other place, where nearly all the missionary labor that has been bestowed. And I may add, that for these two places (the latter being an hour’s ride east of us) and for villages from I one to three hours nearly west, the labors of three evangelists are urgently needed, : and, for aught I can see, are likely to be so I a long while to come.
I did hope to be able to speak, before closing this, somewhat definitely concerning the numbers awakened, and the hopefully converted during this season of refreshing; but it is scarcely practicable in the present state of the work.
The use of tobacco, has been greatly diminished at our station, but is still a nuisance, the extermination of which demands, and we intend shall receive, more systematic and vigorous efforts from us.
Nov. 5. When the preceding sentence was penned, I supposed my letter was about finished, but the increasing interest in eternal things manifested in the congregation, it constrains me to add a few words. Yesterday morning Mr. Bingham preached; the house was crowded; the audience nearly 3,000, and attentive and solemn.
The transactions of yesterday seem to have given a new impulse to the work; and from conversation with some and reports concerning others, we are encouraged to hope, that what we have already witnessed, is but the first fruits of a glorious harvest for the earner of Christ. Deborah, who is now making a visit here, says the people tell her they cannot find secret places for prayer. When they go out on the plain by night, every where they find persons on the same errand. Indeed their circumstances in this respect are certainly very unfavorable; but when the Spirit of God rests upon them, they find both time and place for prayer notwithstanding.
The extracts which follow, are from Mr. Gulick’s journal.
Aug. 22. Maheha, a female, said, “I think I am a brand plucked out of the fire. I have been a murderer. I wished my former husband dead, that I might be married to another.” From further conversation I ascertained it was this secret wish, not an open act, for which her conscience now condemned her. This is one characteristic of the confessions which I have latterly heard; they have, far more frequently than in former times, referred to the state of the mind and heart. The sin of unbelief, procrastination, and others of that class, are more commonly included.
An aged female, in confessing her sins, besides enumerating other gross crimes, said, “I am a murderer. I killed my father by beating him on the head with a wooden vessel.” Another said she had taken the life of her own child. Indeed almost all of them, past middle age, are, by their own account, guilty of the vilest crimes; and many too, who are comparatively young, are wise to do evil, and old in iniquity. It is enough to chill one’s blood to hear their confessions; and still more painful, to reflect on the state of society which these indicate.
It may not be improper to say a word with regard to the character of the sermons, which nave been delivered within the last six months. Repentance and faith are the duties, which I have always endeavored to make prominent, urging upon all their obligations to the immediate performance of these; at the same time aiming so to deliver the messages of salvation, that at the close of each, I could honestly say concerning my hearers, I have preached Christ unto them.
In our daily meeting for religious exercises, the Gospel by John was read in course; and the remarks on the occasion were confined to those passages which speak most explicitly of Christ and the duty of all to believe in and obey him. This also has been the nature of the texts, almost constantly selected for the Sabbath and Wednesday. The thought has sometimes occurred to me, “Your people will get tired of hearing the same things in substance continually, and perhaps in consequence neglect the house of God, and the means of grace.” But the answer was always at hand; “Very few of the people have yet repented and submitted to Christ, and until they have they will do nothing else with the right spirit; nothing that will avail them at the judgment seat of Christ.”
Thus it seemed necessity was laid upon me, whether they would near or whether they would forbear, to insist chiefly upon these great themes. Accordingly, when Joshua’s resolution has been the text, I have endeavored to impress it upon the hearers that, if they would imitate Joshua, they must begin with repentance, and every duty must be done with a believing heart.
Mr. Bingham has spent a week with us, and has been instant in labors, in season and out of season; and I doubt not some, I hope many, will have occasion to bless and praise our dear Redeemer throughout eternity for sending him here, and aiding him by his Spirit on this occasion.
We are very anxious to obtain cuts to aid in making school-books for this people; and had I time to write, I believe I should urge you to call on the benevolent in our beloved country, to remember the poor islanders in this particular.