As mentioned in my last post, I waned to write a little about John G. Paton and the impact that he had in the New Hebrides in the mid to late 1800’s. Instead of quoting bits and pieces from one of my favorite chapters, I figured I would just post the entire chapter – yes, it’s that good! Without ruining the story (because you guys have to get this book and read it), I will briefly write that John G. Paton left Tanna after 4 years, and after a series of events landed on the island if Aniwa not to far from Tanna. There he would spend over 40 years ministering to the cannibals, and over time, basically the entire isalnd gets saved, radically saved. The following talks about the first communion that was held at the church with local Aniwa believers participating. My prayer is that the Lord would impress on your heart those that still today have not heard about Jesus, but yet so need Him to deliver them from their bondage to sin. That we would be praying for the Lord to thrust out laborers into this harvest field of unreached peoples – all 1.8 billion of them!
And this leads me to relate the story of our First Communion on Aniwa. It was Sabbath, 24th October, 1869; and surely the Angels of God and the Church of the Redeemed in Glory were amongst the gieat cloud of witnesses who eagerly ” peered” down upon the scene,—when we sat around the Lord’s Table and partook of His body and blood with those few souls rescued out of the Heathen World. My Communicants’ Class had occupied me now a considerable time. The conditions of attendance at this early stage were explicit, and had to be made very severe, and only twenty were admitted to the roll. At the final examination only twelve gave evidence of understanding what they were doing, and of having given their hearts to the service of the Lord Jesus. At their own urgent desire, and after every care in examining and instructing, they were solemnly dedicated in prayer to be baptized and admitted to the Holy Table• On that Lord’s Day, after the usual opening Service, I gave a short and careful exposition of the Ten Commandments and of the Way of Salvation according to the Gospel. The twelve Candidates then stood up before all the inhabitants there assembled ; and, after a brief exhortation to them as Converts, I put to them the two questions that follow, and each gave an affirmative reply,” Do you, in accordance with your profession of the Christian Faith, and your promises before God and the people, wish me now to baptize you ? And,—”Will you live henceforth for Jesus only, hating all sin and trying to love and serve your Saviour ? “
Then, beginning with the old Chief, the twelve came forward, and I baptized them one by one according to the Presbyterian usage. Two of them had also little children, and they were at the same time baptized, and received as the lambs of the flock. Solemn prayer was then offered, and in the name of the Holy Trinity the Church of Christ on Aniwa was formally constituted. I addressed them on the words of the Holy Institution—I Corinthians xi. 23—and then, after the prayer of Thanksgiving and Consecration, administered the Lord’s Supper,—the first time since the Island of Aniwa was heaved out of its coral depths ! Mrs. McNair, my wife, and myself along with six Aneityumese Teachers, communicated with the newly baptized twelve. And I think, if ever in all my earthly experience, on that day I might truly add the blessed words—Jesus ” in the midst”
The whole Service occupied nearly three hours. The Islanders looked on with a wonder whose unwonted silence was almost painful to bear. Many were led to inquire carefully about everything they saw, so new and strange. For the first time the Dorcas Street Sabbath School Teachers’ gift from South Melbourne Presbyterian Church was put to use—a new Communion Service of silver. They gave it in faith that we would require it, and in such we received it And now the day had come and gone! For three years we had toiled and prayed and taught for this. At the moment when I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of Cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer’s love, I had a foretaste of the joy of Glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus Himself.
On the afternoon of that Communion Day, an open-air Prayer Meeting was held under the shade of the great banyan tree in front of our Church. Seven of the new Church members there led the people in prayer to Jesus, a hymn being sung betwixt each. My heart was so full of joy that I could do little else but weep. Oh, I wonder, I wonder, when I see so many good Ministers at home, crowding each other and treading on each other’s heels, whether they would not part with all their home privileges, and go out to the Heathen World and reap a joy like this— ” the joy of the Lord.”