« PreviousContinue »
increased. A little Agricultural Association was instituted, composed of the farmers and the best informed inhabitants, while the pastor himself received the gold medal of the Royal Agricultural Society of Paris. The result of all these varied efforts was a considerable improvement in the moral and social condition of the people.
His spiritual and educational labours were not neglected in endeavouring thus to benefit his people. From the first he felt that the grown-up people, blinded by prejudice, would never repay his reforming exertions so well as the rising generation, and therefore he laid him. self out to make sure of the young. He determined to build a new school-house, and so completely were the people gained over, that he succeeded in erecting in each of the other four hamlets a school-house at the expense of the inhabitants. He instituted infant schools also, “probably the very first ever established.” A woman was employed to direct the handicraft, and another to instruct and amuse the little ones. Oberlin himself gave the religious instruction in all the schools, and on the Sabbath afternoon the children met in the church to sing the hymns they had learnt, and to recite the religious lessons acquired during the week. The scholars of all the five villages assembled once a week in Waldbach, to excite a feeling of emulation between the schools. The older children were taught not only reading, writing, and arithmetic, but the elements of science, astronomy, geometry, geography, history, the different races of mankind, their religions and forms of government, with the duties of public officers, and the usual forms of accounts, bills, and other documents used in trade. Singing was taught in all the schools, and drawing to the advanced classes. His schools have in all probability seldom been equalled, and very rarely, if ever, surpassed. A letter, dated March 11th, 1793, gives a summary of the work done during the pastorate of M. Oberlin :-“ During the space of nearly thirty years, in which M. Oberlin has been Christian pastor of this canton, he has completely changed it. The language is, from an unintelligible patois, altered into pure French; the manners of the people, without degenerating, are civilised; and ignorance is banished withont injuring the simplicity of their character. Many of the women belonging to his parishes, trained for the purpose under his paternal care and instruction (and called conductrices), assist him in his occupations. They teach reading, writing, and the elements of geography, in the different villages where they reside, and through their medium the children are instructed in many necessary things; but, above all, have the seeds of religion and morality sown in their hearts. The excellence of these schools is so well established and appreciated, that girls of the middle ranks are sent to him from different parts, and the title of a scholar of Pastor Oberlin is no less than a testimonial of piety, cleverness, and gentle manners.”
Oberlin's conduct during the terrible French revolution, was peculiarly generous. Although like the rest of the clergy of Alsace, he was deprived of his income, he was not imprisoned with them, and, since the Ban de la Roche afforded a suitable asylum for refugees, his house was offered as a shelter to persons of various religious persuasions. At the time when religious assemblies were forbidden, and all religious teachers were deposed in the name of liberty by the decrees of the National Convention, Oberlin complied with the letter of the mandate, but most .
effectually evaded its meaning. There must be no minister, but a popular orator was to inculcate liberty and heroism; there must be no gathering at church, but the citizens were to meet as a club and denounce all tyrants. Very well, Oberlin was elected the popular orator, his congregation met as a club, the orator in veighed against that old tyrant the devil, and proclaimed the liberty of the children of God. Surplice and bands be had long before laid aside as a vain distinction, and there he stood, as a man among men, exhorting his people to rise against the only “tyrants” they had to complain of in their peaceful valley, “ the tyrants of ill-will, impurity, selfishness, and impiety in their own hearts.” Republican infidelity would have wrong the neck of the innocent dove had not the prudence of the serpent averted its wrath. Upon the re-opening of the French churches in 1795, Oberlin. having been during the Revolution disestablished and disendowed, so much rejoiced in his liberty that he resolved henceforth to continue his ministerial labours without a fixed and enforced salary, or even the usual collections, leaving it open for those who could afford it to send in such sums or provisions to the parsonage as they could spare. Thus by becoming one of themselves, sharing their trials and poverty, and relying upon their love to him for support, Oberlin was increasingly endeared to his parishioners. Poor as they were, none were mendicants, and all idle beggars who came from neighbouring communes were tanght to work for their sustenance. To enable him to remain in his loved sphere of activity, and to sustain his benevolent institutions, Oberlin undertook the education of the sons of gentlemen, and the children of several foreigners of distinction were committed to his charge. He became the corresponding agent for France of the British and Foreign Bible Society at a time when Paris was not open to that institution, and through his exertions depositories were estab. lished in different parts of the country, and more than ten thousand copies of the New Testament put in circulation. His parish also became “ the cradle of Ladies' Bible Associations,” and the three active ladies whose names are, through their labours, necessarily associated with the memory of their minister and friend, did much for providing the poor with the Scriptures, and making them deeply interested in their contents.
The population of the Steinthal greatly increased during Oberlin's pastorate. On his first arrival, there were not more than one hundred families ; but in a few years it increased to five or six hundred, constituting in all three thousand souls. It was fortunate, therefore, that he had been enabled to introduce so many trades into the district, and to open up channels for the purchase and disposal of their goods. His general activity must have been marvellous. He rarely rode on horseback, still less in the inside of a carriage, and " was accustomed, till prevented by increasing infirmity, to climb the steepest summits of the Vosges, or penetrate through pathless snows, regardless of cold or danger, in order to visit the sick, and administer religious consolation to the dying ; often, too, after all the varied and arduous duties of the day, would he travel to Strasburg in the night, to procure medicines, or to obtain assistance or information from his friends in that city, that not a day might be lost to the interests of his beloved Steinthal.” How greatly he lived in the esteem of his affectionate people may be gathered from
the earnest solicitude with which they regarded him. The villages were too far apart to permit his preaching every week in all of them, but the peasants came in turns with a horse every Sabbath morning to fetch him, and to take him to their homes where they might lovingly entertain him, and children and parents regarded him as their “dear papa Oberlin." Their respect for him was unbounded, and their tributes of affection were touching to witness. His ministry was clearly evangelical, his expositions of “the dear Bible” (la chère Bible) very simple, and his exhortations very fervid. Some of his opinions were a little fanciful, and a few unscriptural, but these did not interfere with his clear views of the gospel.
It was on the 5th of June, 1826, that the inhabitants of the Ban de la Roche turned out to witness the solemn funeral of their departed minister. They had previously, amid the pouring rain, walked to the parsonage to gain a last look, through a glass lid on the coffin, at the features of their “dear papa.” Mayors, magistrates, ministers, Romish priests, all the school children (chanting as they went along) followed the good man's remains to that bourne from whence no traveller returns. The grief was general, and even those who could not assent to his doctrines, bewailed the loss of so estimable a philanthropist.
The 31st of March, 1867, was a fête day with the inhabitants of this mountainous region--it was the anniversary of Oberlin's arrival, one hundred years back, at the Ban de la Roche as its pastor. All the Protestant pastors of the neighbourhood were invited ; business was suspended ; manufacturers showed all hospitality to strangers; and the roads were covered with vehicles which brought visitors. All did honour to the memory of the man who spent fifty-nine years in the secluded district to promote the spiritual and earthly interests of the people. Oberlin's name is now extinct, but there is a grandson on the female side, and he occupies Oberlin's pulpit in the sweet little church of Waldbach. Sacred melodies were sung on this festive occasion, a Parisian pastor, M. Vernes, who had written Oberlin's life (the book is now scarce), gave a suitable address, in which he pointed out the chiet characteristics in the life of the man whose memory all revered. “In his character as pastor” he observed, “ you behold religion, not as a something standing apart from the life; it is the leaven which mingles itself with all and leavens the whole lump. In his ardent love, he embraced misery in all its varied forms, that of the soul and of the body alike. Instead of losing his time by groaning over them, he preferred to attempt their cure. Like his divine Master, he knew how at once to comfort the sick and multiply the loaves ; but it was with moral maladies above all he concerned himself.”
Oberlin's life and work teach us this lesson—that a village pastor can be a hero, as many such men have been. It is not alone in the large congregations that ministers do a great work; God be praised for the number of holy men, obscure to fame, whese lowly deeds and quickening words are no more known to the world than were Oberlin's in his day, but who live in the hearts of many to whom they have been both as the arousing messenger and as the “still small voice” of God in consolation. Their memory is blessed, and succeeding generations shall give them their meed of praise.
Lapland and the Bapps.
THE custom of spending two months in the summer of cach year on the
I Continent is becoming so general among the professional and so-called "genteel” and “independent" classes, that to be better acquainted with the beauties of our own tight little island than with the wellbeaten paths of Switzerland and North Italy would be very unfashionable. Tourists there are by the thousand; and, curiously, three-fourths of their number are elderly people, and one-half women, many of the persuasion commonly denominated “unprotected” and, therefore, better qualified to protect themselves. These elderly travellers are known to be more amiable, cheery, and companionable than those of younger years; and if occasionally oppressed by a sense of being “ done” by sleek waiters, bland hotel proprietors, and pertinacious touters, they find their revenge in successfully resisting other overcharges, and impressing offenders with the dignity attached by providence to the Britisher. We hope that the cause of religion has been somewhat served through this migration of English and American folk in the summer months; but perhaps even Christians are apt to forget their obligations while on search for pleasure. Many have been able to converse with the inhabitants of the countries through which they have passed, or in which they have stayed ; and we have met with not a few instances in which godly men and women have made special efforts among the superstitious or ignorant classes who need enlightenment on the religion of Jesus Christ. Much more might be done in this direction. The visit of a lady to France a few years ago resulted in the establishment of an agency, which, before the present lamentable war, was largely useful in making French peasants acquainted with the Scriptures. No Christian should forget to obtain a number of New Testaments, or portions thereof, before venturing upon his tour; for he may thus scatter broadcast the seeds of divine truth. When opportunities occur to our wealthy brethren to make themselves personally acquainted with such efforts as Mr. Oncken's in various parts of Germany, Sweden, and Norway, and to render encouragement by presence and voice, they should not be neglected. It is thus the Christians of Great Britain may give to struggling evangelistic churches that sympathy and pecuniary assistance which our godly and self-denying brethren so richly deserve.
Sweden and Norway are not now new fields for tourists. English travellers are well known in those latitudes. But what of Lapland ?
Where is Lapland ? we think we hear a reader ask.
Good reader, you ought to know what you were taught at schoolthat it is the most northerly country of Europe, bounded north by the Arctic Ocean, south by Sweden, east by the White Sca, and west by Norway and the Atlantic Ocean. In length it is three hundred and thirty miles; its scenery is agreeably varied, its climate not so cold as has been stated, but cold enough for reindeer and bears.
"A pretty land to recommend to summer tourists,” do you say, “where you may be eaten up by bears!”
In the face of such a remark, and of others very similar, we have
the testimony of an intelligent lady and gentleman, who in 1869, resolved to spend their two months' holiday in Lapland. Captain Hutchinson's sanity was more than questioned by his friends; and he was adjudged to be far gone when he spoke of taking his somewhat delicate wife with him!! “All right," said one wag, “if you will go, give my love to the North Pole.” They went, and the worthy captain, in a most interesting and unpretending little volume has told the world how he got on, and how he fared.
Preparations of divers kinds were made, and numerous odds and ends collected, such as fishing rods, artificial flies, a muzzleloader, a box of medicines—for every man aims to be his own doctor when travelling; insect powder which was not required, with a number of articles brought home marked “ ditto," a patent lotion for mosquitoes that might have been as valuable if applied to the boots instead of the face; mosquito curtains (a coarse bobbin net), brooches, rings, and pins, for the Lapps from that repository of golden-toys, the Lowther Arcade; and so on. After having undergone the usual fleecings and other trials incidental to leaving England with decency and self-respect, the travellers arrived in safety at Calais, and from thence went by Brussels to Kiel, and so by boat to Sweden. At Stockholm, the captain did a wise and commendable thing, he bought a number of Swedish Testaments at the depôt of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and his observations on this subject we gladly quote: “ English travellers little know how much God's Word is valued in those lands where there is no facility of purchasing it, or how few of the people whom they meet with every day have ever had a copy in their hands. I well remember the delight of a powerful young Norwegian who, on receiving one, after having rowed us some distance, far away in the interior, said that he would sooner have it than any money. Also, my astonishment one day when driving through the heart of the Black Forest, to see a man seated by the roadside, so eagerly reading a book that he was deaf to all that was passing around him; and on my asking what interested him so deeply, he replied “The Gospel of St. John,' which an Englishman whom he had been driving in a carriage had just given him."
At Rathan, which consists of a dozen wooden houses, with an inn and a telegraph office, a government school inspector told the following story, which is one of the blackest deeds of ingratitude we ever remember to have read :-During the war between Russia and Sweden, when the Gulf of Bothnia was covered with ice, a party of Russians made a foray across on their sleighs; and half-dead from exposure to the severe weather, they arrived at Rathan, where their enemies hospitably nursed and fed them until they were recovered. But no sooner were they strong and hearty than they rose upon their preservers and put them to death! An iron cross placed on a hillock marks the spot where the Swedish colonel and his men lie buried—the victims of this inhuman slaughter.
The town of Lulea is situated upon an island in the upper part of the Gulf, and this was the starting-point for Lapland proper. Lulea, which consists of two thousand inhabitants, seems to be a model town. It has neither prison, magistrate, policeman, nor soldier, nor are either