John G. Paton: Pioneering In The New Hebrides (Part 4)
Taken from Pioneering in the New Hebrides, autobiography of John G. Paton (1824-1907), edited by his brother James Paton. Copyrighted and printed 1898 by Fleming H. Revell Company.
In Perils Often
"Dangers again darkened round me," wrote John G. Paton as he continued in his missionary efforts among the natives of the island of Tanna in the South Pacific. By God’s grace Paton had been delivered already from some vicious attacks by natives vehemently opposed to his Gospel ministry. He writes of some further experiences:
"One day, while toiling away at my house, the war chief, his brother, and a large party of armed men surrounded the plot where I was working. They all had muskets besides their own native weapons. They watched me for some time in silence, and then every man leveled a musket straight at my head. Escape was impossible. Speech would only have increased my danger. My eyesight came and went for a few moments.
"I prayed to my Lord Jesus, either Himself to protect me or to take me home to His glory. I tried to keep working on at my task as if no one was near me. In that moment as never before the words came to me, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do’ (John 14:13), and I knew that I was safe.
"Retiring a little from their first position, no word having been spoken, they took up the same attitude somewhat farther off and seemed to be urging one another to fire the first shot. But my dear Lord restrained them once again and they withdrew, leaving me with a new cause for trusting Him with all that concerned me for time and eternity.
"Perils seemed, however, to enclose me on every hand, and ending my life was frequently attempted. I had to move about more cautiously than ever, some days scarcely daring to appear outside my mission premises. I have ever most firmly believed and do believe that only when we use every lawful and possible means for the preservation of our life, which is God’s second greatest gift to man (His Son being the first), can we expect God to protect us or have we the right to plead His precious promises."
One morning John Paton learned to his horror that six or seven men of the island had been shot dead in preparation for a great feast. He writes of that day: "Information had reached me that my teachers and I were also destined victims for the same feast, and sure enough we espied a band of armed men, the killers, dispatched towards our premises. Instantaneously I had the teachers and their wives and myself securely locked into the mission house. Cut off from all human hope, we set ourselves to pray to our dear Lord Jesus, either Himself to protect us or take us to His glory.
"All through that morning and forenoon we heard them tramping around our house, whispering to each other and hovering near window and door. They knew that there were a double-barreled fowling piece and a revolver on the premises, though they never had seen me use them, and that may under God have held them back in dread. But such a thought did not enter our souls even in that awful time. I had gone to save and not to destroy. It would be easier for me at any time to die than to kill one of them.
Kept in Peace and Safety
"Our safety lay in our appeal to that blessed Lord who had placed us there and to whom all power had been given in heaven and on earth. He that was with us was more than all that could be against us. This is strength, this is peace: to feel, in entering on every day, that all its duties and trials have been committed to the Lord Jesus and that come what may, He will use us for His own glory and our real good!
"All through that dreadful morning and far into the afternoon, we thus abode together, feeling conscious that we were united to this dear Lord Jesus, and we had sweet communion with Him, meditating on the wonders of His person and the hopes and glories of His kingdom. Oh, that all my readers may learn something of this in their own experience of the Lord! I can wish them nothing more precious.
"Toward sundown, constrained by the Invisible One, they withdrew from our mission house and left us once more in peace...For many days thereafter we had to take unusual care and not unduly expose ourselves to danger, for dark characters were seen prowling about in the bush near at hand, and we knew that our life was the prize. We took what care we could and God the Lord did the rest or rather He did all – for His wisdom guided us and His power baffled them."
Of another time of peril he wrote: "One day about this time I heard an unusual bleating amongst my few remaining goats as if they were being killed or tortured. I rushed to the goat house and found myself instantly surrounded by a band of armed men. The snare had caught me. Their weapons were raised, and I expected next instant to die.
"But God moved me to talk to them firmly and kindly. I warned them of their sin and its punishment. I showed them that only my love and pity led me to remain there seeking their good and that if they killed me they killed their best friend. I further assured them that I was not afraid to die, for at death my Savior would take me to be with Himself in heaven, and to be far happier than I had ever been on earth; and that my only desire to live was to make them all as happy by teaching them to love and serve my Lord Jesus.
"I then lifted up my hands and eyes to the heavens, and prayed aloud for Jesus to bless all my dear Tannese, and either to protect me or to take me home to glory as He saw to be for the best. One after another they slipped away from me, and Jesus restrained them once again.
"Did ever mother run more quickly to protect her crying child in danger’s hour than the Lord Jesus hastens to answer believing prayer and send help to His servants in His own good time and way, so far as it shall be for His glory and their good? A woman may forget her sucking child, ‘…yet will I not forget thee,’ says the Lord (Isa. 49:15). Oh, that all my readers knew and felt this, as in those days and ever since I have felt that His promise is a reality and that He is with His servants to support and bless them even unto the end of the world!"
(To be continued)