“Sick and Dying Christians in Yoruba”
BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press
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Sick and Dying Christians in Yoruba.
IN nothing is the power of the Gospel of Christ more manifest, when truly received into the heart, than in its effect upon the sick and the dying, giving patience and submission to the former, and to the latter an assured hope of a glorious life to come. We have been deeply impressed with quite a succession of accounts of happy Christian deaths in the Yoruba Native Church, which occur in recent journals received from the Native agents at Lagos, Badagry, Abeokuta, and Ibadan. A few of them are collected together in the extracts. It will be observed that, in one or two cases, only the fact of death is mentioned, and not the circumstances of it, but in these very cases there is a brief account of the departed one's useful life, and we include them purposely to show that the faith of these humble Negro Christians is not a faith without works.
Mr. Samuel Johnson, Native catechist at Ibadan, mentions the case of a man named Moses Anwo:—
February 5th, 1874.—The breathing was low, and together by his dying bed we waited. He fainted away several times during the night, and about 3 a.m. his happy spirit took its flight to live with his dear Saviour, whom he loved and served to the end of his days. He was buried in the afternoon at 4 p.m., by Mr. W. S. Allen.
This young man was very promising, and his loss is greatly felt by us. By the mother's side he was of the royal seed of the Ijesha crown, but was a native of Efon Aye. He passed his boyhood in slavery, when wars and devastations wasted their country, till he became a youth. It was at this period of his life that he made an acquaintice with Mr. George Vincent, who was a Scripture reader at Ilesa, and by whose preaching he was converted. From a bitter animosity against the Christian religion, his mother, after redeeming him, had him removed far off, thus depriving him, as she thought, of the advantage and opportunity of serving God. But she was happily mistaken. The seed sown had taken deep root in his heart, and he bravely endured severe persecutions from his mother and relations with an unflinching faith. At length he was condemned to be imprisoned for life in the king's dungeon. A bundle of whips was ordered, and his back being excoriated by the scourge, he was thrown into the dungeon. Mr. Vincent, as a faithful teacher, applied for his release, which was granted him. For many years he lived with his teacher, till the war broke out between the Ibadans and the Ijeshas, in 1868-69. He was kidnapped when sent with a letter by Mr. Vincent for the Rev. D. Hinderer, and was taken to Oyo, from whence Mr. Hinderer kindly sent to redeem him. He had since been living with us. He had a good talent, and, for his short stay with Mr. Vincent, had acquired a knowledge of broken English, and could read the vernacular and English tolerably well. He was baptized here with the Moses, by the Rev. D. Hinderer. He spent a useful life here amongst us, adorned his profession by his example, and died regretted by all.
Mr. Samuel Cole, Native Catechist at Abeokuta, thus writes of the wife of an old and faithful brother catechist, whose name is well known to all friends of the Yoruba Mission:—
February 14th, 1874.—Mrs. Goodwill, after a long illness, expired this night about 8.30 p.m., just after I had read a portion of Scripture to her, and prayers were offered thrice that day, as she wished me to do. I asked her a few days ago whether she had hope in Christ. Her reply was, "All my hope is in Christ, my Saviour." "Do you believe in Him?" "Yes, I am waiting for Him. When He comes He will take me into His bosom up to heaven." Just before she died she rose up from her bed, and kneeled down, but they could not hear what she was saying. All the attendants were looking at her, her daughter holding her, and asking her what she wanted. She said, "Nothing," and threw up her hand. She knelt down about ten minutes, then she lay down gently, and bade them good-bye by shaking her hands with them, and expired without saying a word.
Of another, Mr. Cole writes:—
March 7th, 1874.—Visited Lucy Detuke with Joseph Somefu, her neighbour, again. She is an old, infirm member of our Church, her hands and feet being swollen up, and she was very low. I asked her, "Where is your hope?" She replied, "In God, my Saviour." "Do you put your trust in Him?" "I do, He is my Saviour, and He has taken away my sins." "As you are at the brink of death, do you believe that if your soul be taken away you will be accepted?" "I believe that I shall be accepted by faith in His name." I offered up prayer for her, and committed her to the hand of God.
The Rev. T. B. Wright, Native Pastor of the Faji Church, Lagos, writes:—
Two of our members have been removed by death this year: one, Phebe John, the wife of the late Mr. John, a Scripture reader at Ibadan; and the other is Daniel Tambariki, a very popular man here, as well as at Abeokuta. He is famous at Abeokuta for deeds of bravery in war. At Lagos he shall be long remembered by both the heathen and Mohammedan population of the town, who all got to be familiar with him, by his untiring anxiety to get them all, if possible, under the saving knowledge of God. He reckoned it a duty incumbent on him to be going from house to house (without being particularly asked), throughout the days of the week when his business would allow, and also on Sundays, in the mornings and afternoons before service hours, telling the people the great folly there is in remaining in heathenism, whilst God has sent a light to them to better their immortal souls; showing them they could not be as happy as he was, as no other religion in this life can make one happy as the Christian religion. He was a man, although austere in appearance, yet amicable in disposition, so that he was much beloved, and was deeply lamented by all, both heathen and Christian. He was an Egba, of Igbore tribe, and on embracing Christianity was so persecuted by his relatives, and the authorities of his tribe, that he escaped hither, and the Rev. C. A. Gollmer allowed him to reside in the Mission compound, where he was with his family for a long time. During this later years he was sorely afflicted in his family circle by the deaths of his wife and eldest son, which occurred one year after another, and he only outlived the last for a year.
The Rev. Samuel Pearce, Native Pastor at Badagry, gives two cases, the former of which is one of exceptional interest;—
The year which I now hold in review opened upon us with sore trials. The Lord was most graciously pleased to beckon home to the heavenly rest two of His dear children from our midst.
- 1. Maria Ekidan, a most zealous and devoted sister, left us rather bruptly for the world above, as if saying still to us, "Thus a Christian ought to live, and thus to die." She was an Egba, converted by the ministry of the late Rev. Thomas King, at Abeokuta. It was her zeal for the glory of God, and her love for souls, which made her a resident of this place. She came here some time before the outbreak in Abokuta, of 1867, and though she paid two or three visits to her relations in that place, yet she returned again as if to spend her remaining life here. She had often signified to me how strongly the incredulity of Badagry resembled hers in her heathen state, and that nothing short of infinite mercy could save her; that as a heathen she was so much bigoted and fierce, that nobody dared to speak a word to her about God, and that she did much to hurt the cause of God, hated and persecuted all who aban- doned their idols and became Christians. Therefore, after her conversation, she exclusively appropriated the term "Elese" to her christian name, Maria, and thus was commonly known as "Maria Elese," i.e., Maria the sinner, and as an object of mercy she was also called "Omo Alanu," i.e., a child of the merciful, which latter name she applied to all Christians. She lived with us here as a petty trader, and was a blessed example to our little flock of how to "be diligent in business, serving the Lord." We were always indebted to her for wise counsels in adjusting cases that may arise among the converts. She was a staunch reprover of sin wherever it was found, and a great lover of truth and holiness, and had ample oppor- tunity by her vocation of testifying of the love of God in Christ, to all classes in the streets of Badagry, and as if this was her sole object, wilst she travelled about to sell, she went from house to house, so that in the heart and outskirts of the town she was known not so much as a trader, as "Mammy Oniwasu," i.e., mammy the preacher, so intent was she on her Master's work. She did preach to all, rich and poor, old and young, male and female, heathens and Mohammedans. She was ripe for glory, and as an especial honour conferred on her, it was remarkable how silently but triumphantly she passed through death. On a Friday night she turned in complaining of earache. She was missed at early prayers next morning, quite an unusual thing, and when we felt it our duty to force open her door and awake her, she was quite unconscious of all we said or did; but every time we disturbed her, she would bow and kneel in a praying posture, and then quietly lay down to sleep again, and thus she never spoke one word more to man, as if she was ordered to be silent after having spoken so much during her lifetime. On Sunday night, November 16th, 1873, which was the third day of her illness, she breathed her last. Her remains were interred in the Christian burial ground, in the after- noon of the following day, in the midst of bitter lamentations from a concourse of people, who were either Christians, Mohammedans, or heathens. After her burial, I learnt that she had left two hens in chare of one of her god-daughters, with instructions to rear them up for God, and the proceeds to go to the repairs of the house of God.
- 2. On the 7th May also our ranks became thinner by the removal from this scene of troubles of our dear Eliza Afresi, the old Popo convert. For some four or five months before this event she became quite disabled by weakness, and subsequently was blind from extreme age. All her heathen relations had forsaken her, because she could not have been so old as to survive her generation unless she was a witch. And since she embraced Christianity she became more hateful to them—to that extent that many of the Popo fetish devotees would not meet her by the way without spitting at her. During her confinement in a room, Paul Akibode, her landlord, with his wife and household, took the greatest possible care of her, and never suffered her to want. I particularly observed this per- sonally, with heartfelt gratitude to God. I visited her often, and found her very patient in her confinement. Once she said, "I am not alone, my Saviour is with me, and always sits by me when nobody is in the room." On another occasion she assured me, "I live by prayer; it strengthens me as food is to the body." Though so old, yet her reason was not impaired almost to the last. Two days before her death, Paul Akibode informed me that she sang out joyously, "My eyes are open! my eyes are open!" and was in a state of ecstacy to the last, calling our late sister loudly and repeatedly, as if she saw her. On the following day she was heard singing loudly, "Olugbala, Juo il obba mimosti," i.e., "O Saviour, Thou are the holy King, &c.," a song of praise composed by the late Maria Ekidan. I met her singing it on the morning before her death, with a rather fainting voice. But before my return the next morning her enraptured spirit had taken its flight.
The Rev. D. Williams, Native Pastor at Abeokuta, writes:—
April 7th, 1874.—I visited a convert of mine, an old woman and a steady communicant, on a dangerous sick-bed, from which she never afterwards rose up. She also possessed not the least fear of death, which she frankly confessed to me during my conversation with her in these few following words:—"I have no fear of death at all. I depend on Christ, who sacrificed Himself for me. I am ready to go with Him." On being asked whether she was a sinner, she replied in the affirmative. Then I directed her to enter into the Ark, that is, Christ, and she will be safe. I prayed for her, and left her to God.
April 11th.—Visited Sarah Coker again. I began my subject of conversation with the following question:—"I hope you do not entertain any doubt in your faith in Christ, and your hope of heaven." She replied, "Doubt! never. One who doubts cannot go straight to God. Since I left Sierra Leone I have never once worshipped idols, but I only hope for forgiveness." In my reply I assured her that Jesus is ready to forgive any penitent sinner. I prayed with her.
These narratives cannot but deepen in our minds a sense of the reality of missionary work, of the mighty power of Divine grace upon the poor and the unlearned even in benighted Africa, and of the simple faithfulness of our godly Native clergy and catechists, on whom the entire ministrations of the churches to which these converts belonged have fallen during the past few years. And even to ourselves, it must surely be an additional cause of glad anticipation, that in heaven we shall meet with Maria Ekidan, and Moses Anwo, and Daniel Tambariki.
Digital Publication Details
Title: “Sick and Dying Christians in Yoruba”
Creator(s): Anonymous; Samuel Johnson; Samuel Cole; T.B. Wright; Samuel Pearce; D. Williams
Publication date: (1875) 2022
Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE
Critical encoding: Kenneth C. Crowell, Dino Franco Felluga, Cassie Fletcher, Kayla Morgan, Adrian S. Wisnicki
One More Voice identifier: liv_026048
Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Cole, T.B. Wright, Samuel Pearce, and D. Williams. (1875) 2022. “Sick and Dying Christians in Yoruba.” Edited by Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, and Kayla Morgan. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-amd/liv_026049_HTML.html.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
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