The early church in Hawaii

Daily Reading for November 28 • Kamehameha and Emma, King and Queen of Hawai’i, 1864, 1885

In 1860 the King and Queen sent a request to the British Government for a Bishop and clergy to be sent out to them. After considering the claims of the Congregationalist form of church government, hitherto the only one officially recognised in the island; after weighing the matters which were wanting in them—the comparative dreariness and heaviness of their services to . . . a people, who were gradually, it seemed, being attracted to the Church of Rome by the greater relief to ear and eye afforded by the services of that Mission—they came to the conclusion that the Church of England had the form of worship which would be most suitable to them, together with the great truths held in common with other Protestant bodies, which the Romish Church could not give them. In 1862 Bishop Staley was sent out to Hawaii as Missionary Bishop of Honolulu.

But just before his arrival, the joy of the King and Queen had been changed into mourning; the little prince, now four years old, had been attacked by disease of the brain, and had died after a few days’ illness. He was their only child—they never had another. In the trial the sympathy of the Bishop and his wife was very grateful to the bereaved parents, and thenceforth to the King, who, if not a professedly religious person, had for some time been living respectably, and steadily attending to the duties of his office, became a true and earnest Christian man. He devoted himself to his royal duties more assiduously than ever, and spent his spare time in translating our English Prayer Book into Hawaiian. But a tinge of sadness was thenceforth cast upon his mind. . . .

On one occasion . . . the King and his party attended a little meeting-house of the Congregationalists, served by a native preacher, who preached a strong Calvinist sermon, in which his zeal outran his discretion, and, no doubt, involuntarily caricaturing the doctrines of his teachers, he descanted at large upon the subject of eternal punishment, apparently losing sight of the general drift of the Bible, and of the aspect in which our Father in heaven is there presented to us. The King could not bear to think that his people should be taught no better ideas of the truth than this, and he announced that he would hold another service in the afternoon. The chapel was crowded with natives, and the King, putting on a white surplice, mounted the pulpit, and preached another kind of sermon, taking for his text the words, “Jesus wept.” Instead of trying to terrify his hearers into holiness of life by startling imaginary descriptions of future punishment, the King spoke of the love of God constraining us, and of the hope and of the incentive to goodness which that idea gives. He spoke from his own experience, and his people listened in awe and reverence. That evening he had the first attack of a disease which a few months later released him from a life which had become very weary to him. He died on the 30th of November, 1863, watched over by his devoted wife with tender care to the last.

From “The Four Kamehamehas” in Mission Life, Vol. VI (March 1, 1869).

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