“Confessions of an Idolater”

BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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THE following account of an idolater, given by himself, is worthy of perusal. It very clearly shows the unhappiness of being such; the vain hopes and expectations of obtaining from idols what they are unable to grant; the greediness of the priests; the expense attendant on the sacrifices; and the bitter disappointments which are the portion of worshippers. It also shows the growing influence of Christianity in heathen lands, and the welcome refuge which the gracious Saviour affords to poor weary and heavy-laden sinners. We have extracted it from the journal of Mr. S. Crowther, jun., one of the native agents at Abbeokuta.

June 21, 1853—An idolater called this morning at my house at Igbein before 8 A.M., and inquired after me. After he had found me, he told me that he came for peace, and not for war, and that he was sent to me by his Obatala (a god composed of white beads, cowries, &c.). As I perceived that he wanted medicine, I sent him up to Ake to wait for me. After my arrival at Ake I inquired into the reason that his Obatala had sent him to me; "for it is a marvellous thing," said I, "to hear that Obatala sends his worshipper to one connected with the true God." He replied, "I do not know how or why it is thus, but so it is; and let this not prevent you from hearing me, for I had long thought of Obatala's conduct towards me, which has been altogether strange, and before he had consented to send me to you I had almost given him up." He proceeded: "I am an Obatala worshipper, as you see by my white dress. I have been his servant from childhood, and he promised me health, wealth, and a good number of wives and children. I do not believe any one has been so faithful to him as I have been: I have sacrificed goats, sheep, and pigeons without number to Obatala, and I was glad when every thing was going on well with me. I was and am still a farmer: I got a good deal from my farm, and afterwards I was able to support a wife and a child. I then increased my sacrifices: I had an Ifa priest to divine for me; but after some time my wife died. I inquired at the hands of Obatala the reason, and he attributed it to the insufficiency of sacrifices. I redoubled my sacrifices. After a year or less my child also died, my only daughter"—here he spoke with much feeling. "I again inquired, and Obatala's answer was as formerly. I again redoubled my sacrifices. Not long after I fell sick of rheumatism. I would not ask any more of Obatala, as I could not spare money then to make sacrifices, but intended to keep the little I had in hand for the doctors who would cure me. I called in an Ifa priest to divine, and he told me that he would undertake my cure—with a good remuneration, of course: but this I cared not for; I wanted to get well again. However, after one year's trial without any good effect, for I became worse instead of better, I called the priest, and asked him the reason why I did not get better. He told me that Obatala wanted sacrifices, but did not wish me to use any medicine for my cure. It was then that I thought of the unreasonableness of Obatala's answer; for how could I have expected to get well without means? I then told Obatala that I wanted to make a trial of another doctor, for I had already been told of you. Obatala at first would not consent to my going to the Oibos,* lest I would believe theirs"—that is, embrace their religion. "However, I did not give Obatala rest, for I inquired over and over for a recommendation, until I got him to agree to my coming to you; and here I am now without any more property than what you see on my body. Tell me all about your religion, and what I should do; and upon my own words I am bound to believe and do it: but I also want your assistance with respect to my complaint."

I explained to him accordingly the principles of the Christian religion, and pointed him to Jesus Christ, who, I told him, was evidently drawing him, by the lovely cords of His Holy Spirit, to Himself. I called a communicant of the Ake church, who entered the room at the end of our conversation, to explain the love of Jesus to him, and the folly of idolatry, and thereby to confirm all that I had told him. The woman spoke, from the true feeling of her heart, the truths of the Christian religion, and the folly, as well as the destroying tendency, of the Obatala worship, as also the cruelty and deceitfulness of the babbalawos; for she herself, she added, had been an Obatala worshiper, but now she was thankful that she was a member of Christ's church. After our long conversation I administered medicine to this sick man, and he went away full of gratitude and joy. Before he left, he desired me to tell him whether it would be lawful for him to attend the church under the state of sickness in which he was, and whether he should at once throw away his Obatala. I told him that the church is a place where all the sick, both of body and soul, are to lay their complaints before Jesus, the true and good physician; and that he would find many like himself there. I also advised him not to act immediately from the impulse of the moment, by throwing away his Obatala, but to attend always God's house of prayer and hear His word, and compare His worship with that of Obatala, and then make his choice.

Since then, this individual has been regularly attending our church.

* White men. [back]

Digital Publication Details

Title: “Confessions of an Idolater”

Creator(s): Anonymous; S[amuel] Crowther, jun.

Publication date: (1854) 2022

Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE

Critical encoding: Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, Jocelyn Spoor, Adrian S. Wisnicki

One More Voice identifier: liv_026027

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, and S[amuel] Crowther, Jr. (1854) 2022. “Confessions of an Idolater.” Edited by Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, 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_026027_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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