“A Negro Clergyman at Nazareth”

BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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A Negro Clergyman at Nazareth.

WE mentioned some months ago that the Rev. Henry Johnson, one of the Sierra Leone Native clergy, was studying Arabic in Palestine, with a view to cope with the active Mohammedan emissaries who are trying to spread their blighting faith—if such a fatalistic system can be called a "faith"—in West Africa. Mr. Johnson has spent most of his time in Jersualem, where he could have competent teachers; but he lately made a tour northward to recruit his health. His impressions of Nazareth and the Mission there will interest our readers:—

Night had closed in upon us when we arrived at Nazareth. Nothing could have been more lovely than the peculiar brilliancy of the moon that night. She wanted but wo days to the full. Our way being diversified by alternations of hill and dale, the ride proved extremely interesting. Now, the moon is shaded by a hill, now she bursts upon us with increased lustre, and so she continued playing at bo-peep with us as it were: the effect was strikingly beautiful. At about a quarter past seven P.M. I was safely lodged under the hospitable roof of Mr. Zeller.

Nazareth impressed me most favourably. I could wish I had had a longer time to spend there, that I might have studied for myself the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and form my own theories and conclusions. But this I hope yet to do at some future occasion.

I made no excursions to places which are easily accessible from Nazareth, as, not being sufficiently strong, I did not consider it prudent to yield to the temptation, lest I should have a relapse. The next best thing I did was to ascend with Mr. Zeller and Mr. Huber one of the hills by which Nazareth is encompassed, and from the highest point I gained a most delightful panoramic view of a large extent of country. Mount Tabor, raising majestically above other hills, first attracted my attention. Then at a distance I saw Mount Gilboa. From another point I could take in nearly the whole range of Carmel. The great plain of Esdrealon, reaching far, was distinctly visible; and several places were pointed out, but I could not exactly take all in at the moment, confused as I was by the new character in which the Bible history appeared to my wondering gaze.

During my stay I had an opportunity of seeing together many of the members of Mr. Zeller's congregation. His Sunday Bible-class was converted into a kind of missionary meeting, at which I was present to give an account of the work of the Society in West Africa. The meeting was quite packed, and all seemed much interested in hearing the accounts I gave of the wonders which God has wrought by His servants amongst a once degraded people. Mr. Huber, formerly a missionary at Badagry, interpreted my address. Mr. Huber still retains a strong affection for Africa; and never is he more interested or more communicative than when conversation turns upon Missions in West Africa.

The earnest attention paid by the people to the address—their hearty and harmonious singing—their devout attitude when prayers were being offered up—all struck me forcibly, and convinced me of the real work that is being carried on at Nazareth, amid discouraging influences of various kinds. On another occasion I met the women of Mr. Zeller's sewing-party, to whom I made a few remarks.

The day before I left I was privileged to see another most deeply interesting department of the Society's work. I accompanied Mr. Zeller to the schools to witness an examination of the children. First of all I was taken to the Preparandi students. They were examined in Scripture, grammar, and geography. I was quite pleased to observe how thoughtfully they answered the questions put to them. Evidently they had been taught to think before speaking, and hence they appeared to know what they were about. After a good hour's catechising, they took up their violins, and three of them performed most creditably on the instrument.

We went next to the boy's day-school. There were nearly 100 children present, the countenances of many of whom wore marks of high intelligence. The examination was conducted partly by Mr. Zeller, and partly by the native deacon and the schoolmaster. It was soon manifest to me that Scripture was the children's forte. The first class astonished me by giving, with hardly the slightest perceptible hesitation, the con- tents of each chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. It is a fact which I fancy many who are older than they can never perform with even an approximate readiness. Of course everything was done in Arabic. Pointing out places on the map of America was another branch of their performances. To make matters short—the children showed off most creditably, and no one could have witnessed the examination without feeling inclined to give a just need of praise to the teachers, who have evidently been doing their doty. As an old school- master myself, I know the nature of the difficulties which have first to be overcome before pupils are sufficiently presentable to the critical eye of strangers. We finished by paying a visit to the infant school. I have already said that I was pleased with Nazareth; I was not at all disappointed at its appearance.

At Nazareth He was brought up who came down from heaven for our salvation. That retired spot was well suited to Him for preserving an absolute obscurity while the period of preparation lasted. I tried now and then to abstract my thoughts from present local surroundings, in order to fix them upon scenes and objects painted by the imagination as probably those amid which He had lived and moved. I did not require adventitious aids such as those with Franciscan monks were ready to supply out of the Church of the Annunciation (so called) to kindle emotion, or to deepen a pious and reverential feeling for the home of the despised Nazarene. I came away after a brief stay of three days, full of thankfulness for the privilege I had enjoyed of visiting a spot which, for sacred associations, takes its rank among such places as Bethlehem and Capernaum and Jerusalem—places which have derived their importance principally from events that occurred in them at various periods of the Saviour's life.

As regards the Society's work which is being carried on by their faithful missionaries, I can speak, with my limited means of observation, in terms of the highest encouragement. Considering the adverse influences at work, one is surprised to find that instead of being altogether neutralised, the work is daily gaining a fresh accession of strength. Schools are a great instrument of good in Mission work, as I can testify from experience; and therefore I look forward without any misgivings to the future of the work at Nazareth. The instruments which are being imparted to the children are solid in character, and much leavened with the moral teachings of a pure Gospel, and therefore, under God's blessing, success must follow. I do not pretend that there is not much to discourage the heart of the earnest missionary. It will not be supposed that I have been de- scribing a Utopian state of perfection. No; on the contrary, the object of my remarks is simply to show that there being so many features of hopeful interest apparent, efforts should be more earnestly and willingly put forth to extend and consolidate the work, both at Nazareth itself and in the out-stations, that so, instead of being confined, the blessing may reach the many thousands who are still ignorant of the redemption wrought out long ago by the Saviour in this land of His birth, His sufferings, and His death.              HENRY JOHNSON.

Digital Publication Details

Title: “A Negro Clergyman at Nazareth”

Creator(s): Anonymous; Henry Johnson

Publication date: (1874) 2022

Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE

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

One More Voice identifier: liv_026042

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, and Henry Johnson. (1874) 2022. “A Negro Clergyman at Nazareth.” Edited by Kenneth C. Crowell and Cassie Fletcher. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-amd/liv_026042_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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