“‘What Have I to Do Any More with Idols?’”

BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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THE apostle Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, reminds them of the effects produced amongst them by the preaching of the gospel, when they "turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for His Son from heaven." The same happy consequences attend, at the present day, the faithful preaching of the gospel. The world continues to despise such efforts; but "the weapons of our warfare are … mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds" of prejudice and long-confirmed superstitions, and the Lord's work is going on, even amidst difficult and discouraging circumstances. A leading journal in the metropolis, indeed, tells us that they who co-operate in the Missionary efforts now being put forth for the evangelization of distant lands may unmake a few idolaters, but rarely make a Christian. Confessedly, the idolaters which have been unmade are by no means few. They are very many. Whole nations have cast away their idols: this every one knows who has ever thought it worth while to look into the subject. And if there be many that have renounced idolatry, who shall take upon him to say that there are few real Christians among them? Is it not much more credible that they are in earnest than otherwise? If an individual gets a new garment we can understand his casting off the old one. If an individual has found a better faith and a better hope, we can understand his surrendering his idols, and enduring patiently the taunts and persecution of relatives and former friends, rather than violate the convictions of his conscience, or become again the abject worshipper of idols which he has learned to despise. Yet these are the circumstances in which he has learned to despise. Yet these are circumstances in which our converts from heathenism are being continually place. We find them sufferers for conscience' sake. Yet they act openly. If it were merely that, having lost faith in their idols, they had ceased to have any religion, they would be careful to keep their change of opinion to themselves, and conform themselves, whatever they thought, to the popular superstitions rather than suffer inconvenience from it. But this they do not. They not only cast away their idols, but profess Christ before men, and persevere in doing so, although subjected to much loss and inconvenience. But there are many, at the present day, as sceptical of the conversion of the heathen as the Athenians of old were of the resurrection of the dead; and to such persons we may well say, as Paul said to the Athenians, "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?"

The following account of a poor heathen led to see, under the illuminating influence of the gospel, the vanity of idols, and the preciousness of Jesus as a Saviour, is taken from the journals of Mr. James White, one of our native catechists at Lagos, in the Bight of Benin, a place where Missionary work has been only recently commenced, and where it is carried on, as yet, amidst very much of difficulty and discouragement—

April 6, 1853—Having been requested by one of my Sunday-scholars, by the name of Ige, to come and take away her idols, and informed that she had obtained her mother's and husband's consent, because they had contributed towards procuring them, I went, accordingly, with Mrs. White, two of our converts, and our school teacher, to her house. We found that she had assembled her relatives together, and we read and prayed with them; and after encouraging her, she brought me her Shango, Elegbara, Osoyin, Obatala, and Ifa. Notwithstanding the violent opposition of her enemies, she stood firm and undaunted in her faith, as the following narrative will show.

Her priestess having heard that she renounced idolatry, paid her a visit, with a hope of reclaiming her. "I have heard," said she, "that you have become a book-woman" (Christian). "Yes," Ige replied, "I have served idols long enough, and I now determine to try this new mode of worshipping God." "I beg you," said her priestess, "not to do so, else we shall no longer be friends." "Though you may hate me on this account," continued Ige, "yet I love you, and would recommend to you this new religion." "Are you mad?" said the woman. "You may think me so," replied Ige; "but I pray that you will one day become as mad as myself." After this discourse, Ige gave her something to eat, which she accepted; but first of all offered a pinch of it as a thankoffering to Ige's Shango, that was in one corner of the house; upon which Ige exclaimed, "How have you robbed me of my right! Instead of thanking me, your benefactress, you have given my praise to another: so," continued Ige, "we have given God's honour to idols." The priestess, having nothing more to say, left her, wondering at the mighty change that had taken place in her.

A Sierra Leone emigrant, who lately arrived here, found the same firmness and resolution in her, which distinguishes her character. A very grave old man, indeed, he is; and has perhaps never once attended church in his whole life, though he was located in a place where the sound of the gospel incessantly invites sinners to accept of a Saviour's dying love. He was once at my house, where he met Ige learning her Primer. He said nothing, but went to Ige's mother, to question why she had allowed her daughter to go to a white man's house, "for I see they have brought the same lies that they teach in Sierra Leone: but who will ever believe them?" Then, putting his hand into his pocket, he produced his Ifa. "See," said he, "I have just come from white man's country. This is what took me there and brought me back again." Ige, who was then present, silently listened to him till he had done, and then answered, "Though I have never gone to a white man's country, yet I am not a stranger to all our idolatrous system, for I was one of its votaries, and I know that white men do not practice such lies and frauds as we do; and since I have not discovered any thing but the truth in all they say, I am determined to believe their teaching." After a warm debate on both sides, Ige remained invincible, and the old man went away ashamed.

Nor has Ige been satisfied with her own escape from the degradation of idolatry, but with earnest solicitude has laboured for the emancipation of her friends. And she has been helped in such efforts, because they are according to the mind of God. About a month afterwards, her husband Jongono brought his idol to our catechist, without having been asked to do so. What led him to do so? Are we not reminded here of Peter's exhortation to Christian wives in his First Epistle, iii. 1? "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives." No doubt in that way Jongono has been led to seek instruction. It has not been because of the persuasion of the Missionaries, but by the conversation of his wife. No doubt her bearing and deportment showed that she had not merely cast away her idols, but that she had got something far better; something that made her happy and peaceful in herself, and kind and obliging to others.

But this is not all. The circle of her influence has been extended beyond her own family and connexions. Our Missionary at Lagos, the Rev. C. A. Gollmer, writes—

July 9, 1853—One of our young neighbours—one of our Lagos converts—came, with his wife and his aged father, to deliver, unasked for, their orishas (gods) to me. The old father brought his Ifa, with all the accompaniments, some of which were rather the worse for wear and tear, which, with other signs, indicated long service. The old man said, "For many years I have worshipped these, and put my trust in them; but I now know they cannot save. No! God alone can save, and therefore I desire to put my trust in Him and His Son Jesus Christ." B.'s wife brought her orisha, called Buku: it consisted of a red dyed cloth covering and head tie, necklets, armlets, and anklets of white cowries strung in strings, and a broom for sceptre; and this, B. said, she had worshipped for the last six years, and spent about fifteen heads of cowries upon it, but in vain. "And where is your orisha, B.?" I inquired. "I have none," he replied. The truth is, he was half a Mahommedan before our arrival, which accounts for his not having an orisha. B. is a very clever and handy young man: I found him very serviceable in building the Mission-house: he assisted carpenters and painters, and did well: he has ever since been more or less about us, when he heard God's word. A short time ago B.'s wife went to Ige, one of Mr. White's converts, her companion Shango worshipper, to see whether it was true that she had given up her orisha and taken the white man's book. Ige's kind invitation to join her in God's service, as they before were joined in the devil's service, affected her, and soon after she came for a primer, and attended Sunday-school and our services regularly: and B. and his wife to-day begged to be received into the candidate class for baptism. The old father I knew personally, having passed and repassed his house three or four times a-day for about three months, whilst building the house, when I spoke a friendly word now and then; but I was not aware of what was going on in his heart. B. informed me that, when he returns from church, he tells his father all the word of God he has heard; and so he now, with us, believes that there is no salvation but in Christ, and therefore desires, at the brink of the grave, to retrograde in heart and turn to Jesus Christ. We rejoice at this free renunciation of the devil and confession of the Lord, and pray that grace may be given them to continue faithful unto the end.

How wonderfully Christian influence, real Christian influence, extends, and propagates itself from heart to heart! Reader, there are other idols besides material idols. In countries like our own, where we are blessed with the light of Protestant Christianity, men do not place their idols in their house, on an altar, to worship before them. They would be ashamed to do so. But they have idols in their hearts. There, in secret, they set them up, and serve and worship them; and very ugly idols they are too, and lead men to do very ugly and evil things. May the eyes of poor sinners be opened to see the preciousness of Jesus, that they may be willing, after Ige's example, to give up the sins which they have loved and served, and, counting all things loss for the excellency of His knowledge, diligently occupy themselves in persuading others to His service!

Digital Publication Details

Title: “‘What Have I to Do Any More with Idols?’”

Creator(s): Anonymous; James White; C.A. Gollmer

Publication date: (1854) 2022

Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE

Critical encoding: Kenneth C. Crowell, Dino Franco Felluga, Cassie Fletcher, Kayla Morgan, Jocelyn Spoor, Adrian S. Wisnicki

One More Voice identifier: liv_026026

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, James White, and C.A. Gollmer. (1854) 2022. “‘What Have I to Do Any More with Idols?’” Edited by Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, Kayla Morgan, and Jocelyn Spoor. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-amd/liv_026026_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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