« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
MEMOIR OF CORNELIUS, AN AGED NEGRO,
ASSISTANT IN THE BRETHREN'S CHURCH AT ST. THOMAS,
THE following instructive and affecting narrative is extracted, in the Third Volume of the Periodical Accounts of the Brethren's Missions, from the Diary kept at the Settlement of New Herrnhut, in the Danish Island of St. Thomas in the West Indies.
The Negro Brother Cornelius has not left any written account of his Life, though often encouraged to do it. As he was well able, he might have furnished a very interesting narrative, being one of the oldest members of this Congregation, and for many years a faithful labourer among his own nation. He possessed an uncommon share of humility; and, whenever spoken to in that view, used to say " I am not worthy that any thing should be said concerning me: I am a sinner, and the chief of sinners: in me there was and is no good; and all I have is what Christ has given me, according to His great mercy, by which He saved my soul. This alone is worth speaking of."
About fifty years ago, he was powerfully awakened by the simple testimony of the Brethren's Missionaries concerning the death and atonement of Jesus. He grew concerned about the salvation of his soul, and felt a great desire to attend their public ministry, and their private instruction in the Christian Doc. trines. It was some time, however, before he could resolve entirely to renounce the world and its heathenish ways.
It happened once that he attended a merry-making of his countrymen. Even into this house of riot, the Lord, as the good Shepherd, followed His straying sheep; and so ordered it, that our late Brother, Frederic Martin, passed by, and, being made at April, 1823.
tentive to the uproar, looked in at the door, and immediately espied his scholar Cornelius. He beckoned to him to come out; and, in a friendly but serious address, represented to him, that it was not becoming for one who had declared that he would give his heart to our Saviour, to attend such meetings as these. "Here," said Br. Martin, "the Devil has his work, and you have assured me that you will not be his slave: but now I discover that your heart is still in his power; for you still love the vanities of the world, and the company of the children of disobedience, in whom he rules. It would, therefore, be better that you left off coming to our meetings and to the school." This offended him greatly; and he thought- What is that to the White Man; and what do I care for him?" However, his amusement was spoiled for that time; and he returned home much displeased, and resolved never more to visit the Brethren or attend their meetings. But his heart was not at rest; and his convictions grew so strong, that he could not sleep at night: the address of the Missionary sounded continually in his ears; and followed him with so strong an impression, that he altered his mind and visited him. Being received, not, as he feared, with displeasure, but with great cordiality, he was exceedingly affected; and related, with many tears, what had passed in his soul.
This gave Br. Martin occasion to converse freely and closely with him; and Cornelius now made a solemn promise to surrender himself entirely up unto Him, who had shed His blood to redeem him.
June 1st, 1749, he was baptized by Br. John de Watteville, Bishop of the Brethren's Church, who was at that time on a visit to the Mission in St. Thomas; and, on September the 27th, he was admitted to the Lord's Supper. Ever since that period, he remained faithful; and made daily progress in the knowledge of him self, and of the love of his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He had an humbling sense of his innate depravity; but cleaved so closely to our Saviour, and relied so firmly on His atonement, that all who spoke with him were encouraged and edified. He soon began to preach Jesus, as the Friend of sinners, to his countrymen. In 1754, he was appointed an Assistant; and has ever since served
the Lord and the Congregation, in various ways, with great zeal and faithfulness.
God had blessed him with a remarkable share of good sense and many talents. He had learnt the business of a mason well: and had the appointment as master-mason to the Royal Buildings; in which employ he was esteemed by all who had any thing to do with him, as a clever, upright, and disinterested man: he laid the foundation-stone of each of the Six Chapels belonging to our Missions in these islands, which are all built of stone. He was able to write and speak the Creole, Dutch, Danish, German, and English Languages; which gave him a great advantage before all the other Negroes.
Till 1767, he was a Slave in the Royal Plantation, now belonging to Count Schemmelman. He first purchased the freedom of his Wife, and then laboured hard to gain his own . liberty, which at last he effected, after much entreaty and the payment of a considerable ransom. God blessed him and the work of his hands in such a manner, that he also, by degrees, purchased the emancipation of his Six Children.
In his free state he still sought to serve the Lord, among the people of his own colour; and spent whole days,
and often whole nights, in visiting
As a proof of his gift in this way, we give the following Discourse delivered by Cornelius to the Catechumens at New Herrnhut:
My dear People
Moses lifted up a brazen serpent in the wilderness; and all that were bitten by the fiery poisonous serpents were obliged to go and look at this brazen one, if they would be well: this happened long before our Lord and God appeared as Man in the world; but it referred to Him, and to His bitter death on the Cross. When, therefore, He was in the world, St. John
pointed to Him, saying, Behold the Lamb
of God, and the Man of Sorrows, who is to be hung upon the Cross! He it is, that can heal all those that are bitten by sin, as by a poisonous serpent. Whoever looks to Him with a believing heart, is made whole. He has taken away the sin of the world, and died for us. All men may now come to Him; even the poorest, the most sinful and wretched. He receives all, even the very worst. Let no one think himself too far gone, and that He will not receive him.
My dear People-If any human creature were too bad, then, indeed, He could not receive any one of us, for we are altogether a very bad people. In the Old Testament, He commanded His Prophets to say concerning us-In that time shall the present be brought to the Lord of Hosts, of a people scattered and peeled—a nation meted out and trodden under foot-to the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts, the Mount Zion: and again, The Gentiles shall come to His light, and to the brightness of His rising." He will even have Negroes, and He will receive them gladly.
My dear People-Let every one of you, therefore, come just as he is. He only desires to have your hearts. I myself feel that I am very poor and needy; but, on this very prayer-day, I have experienced His grace in my heart, and felt His love toward me., This He gives me daily to feel; and every one of you may enjoy the same favour. All depends upon this one thing, that we give ourselves wholly to our
MEMOIR OF CORNELIUS, AN AGED NEGRO.
Saviour. We cannot divide our hearts between Him and the world. The only way is, to give them wholly unto Him: therefore, surrender yourselves up with your whole heart. He will have mercy upon you, grant you to know His love and grace, and freely impart to you all that He has purchased for you upon the Cross.
We can say with truth, that he was by no means puffed up by the excellent talents which he possessed. His character was that of an humble ser. vant of Christ, who thought too meanly of himself to treat others with contempl. To distribute unto the indigent and assist the feeble, was the delight of his heart; and every hungry, suffering, and perplexed soul found in him a generous and sympathizing friend and faithful adviser.
In the year 1796, his Wife departed this life very happily; after which he sought to be free from all outward concerns, and gave up his business to his eldest son. The infirmities of old age increasing upon him, he ardently longed to depart and be with Christ. During the last three years of his life, he was exceedingly worn down by a constant cough and pain in his side, and the time of his final release appeared to him to be put off too long. His great activity and cheerfulness of mind suffered by it, and sometimes it would seem as if his faith and courage failed. He complained now and then, with great earnestness and many tears, that he did not feel his love to the Lord Jesus so fervent as formerly; and once, as he was reading and meditating over that text of Scripture, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love, he exclaimed, "Ah! I have also left my first love," and could not immediately be comforted.
Whenever any of us visited him, the conversation soon turned spiritual subjects, and all hearts were melted. All our Brethren and Sisters, who often called to see him, expressed how much they were edified and blessed by their interviews.
November 26th, 1801, word was sent to us that he was considerably weaker, and begged to see a Missionary. One of us immediately went to his house. After some conversation concerning the love of our Saviour, the comfort to be derived from His sufferings and death, His gracious
help in the severest trials of this life and the most grievous temptations, Cornelius exclaimed, “Ah! I ought served my Saviour better: but I to have done more, and loved and firmly trust that He will receive me in mercy; for I come to Him as a poor sinner, having nothing to plead but His grace, and the righteousness through His blood." Being assured, that, in this situation of heart, he might with full assurance and cheerfulness rest on the gracious promises of our Saviour, and would ob. tain the end of his faith, even eternal life, he begged that his children might be called, that he might once see them all together, to take a final leave of them.
This was done and his children, with several grandchildren, assembled round the bed of their sick father. He now once more exerted all his strength, sat up in the bed, uncovered his venerable head adorned with locks as white as snow, and addressed them thus:
I rejoice exceedingly, my dearly beloved Children, to see you once more together, before my departure; for I believe that my Lord and Saviour will soon come and take your Father home to Himself. You know, Dear Children, what my chief concern has been respecting you, as long as I was with you-how frequently I have exhorted you with tears, not to neglect the day of grace; but to surrender yourselves with soul and body to your God and Redeemer, and to follow Him faithfully! Sometimes I have dealt strictly with you, in matters which I believed would bring harm to your souls, and grieve the Spirit authority to prevent mischief: but it was of God; and I have exerted my parental all done out of love to you. However, it may have happened that I have been the case, I beg you, my Dear Children, to sometimes too severe. If this has been forgive me. Oh forgive your poor dying