Patteson, John Coleridge

Patteson, John Coleridge, an English divine, whose life was one of remarkable self-denial, unremitting labor, and repeated exposure to perils by land and sea, was born April 1, 1827. His maternal great-uncle was the celebrated Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His father, judge Patteson, was a lawyer, unsurpassed in his day. Under his immediate supervision John Coleridge was trained until ready for Eton. He was then a bright, conscientious, painstaking boy, "ever ready for fun, but never for mischief." He was the leader in his class and of his playmates. In 1845 he entered Merton College, at Oxford University, and distinguished himself as he had at Eton. In 1849 he obtained at Merton College a classical second-class, and subsequently a fellowship. After the examination for his degree he went abroad and traveled, in the companionship of a family whom he served as tutor, in Germany and Italy. In 1853, after his return home, he was ordained for the priesthood, and was made country parson at Alfington. He had not been there long when he encountered bishop Selwyn, of New Zealand, who was home on a visit, and who induced him to return with him. On March 29, 1855, they sailed from Gravesend together. Patteson went without parade of feeling or many words. First at Auckland (New Zealand), and later at Norfolk Island, and still later at the island of Mota (Banks's Islands), bishop Selwyn was supporting a missionary college, whither he brought youth from Melanesia for civilization and mental and religious training. In this work principally Patteson assisted until 1860. when the Melanesian company was transferred to Kohimarama, near Auckland, and he was placed in charge. A short time afterwards Patteson was rewarded for his faithfulness by promotion to the episcopal dignity as bishop of the Melanesian islands. From this time he directed and conducted the annual voyages of all the missionary operations in those islands, though, of course, with the full counsel and support of bishop Selwyn, both as his primate and as the original pioneer. The facility with which Patteson learned the languages of the islands, which is mentioned as remarkable, afforded him blessed opportunities for efficiency, and he lost none of them, as we shall presently see. He reduced the different dialects to writing, obtained a printing-press and types, and printed the grammars of nearly thirty of their. He also prepared translations of portions of the Scriptures, and rendered hymns into the tongue of Mota, which, remarks Sir W. Martin, "are described to me by competent judges as of singular excellence." He also comprehensively considered, as appears from many passages in his letters, the principles on which the numerous tongues of that region might be placed in mutual relation. Even the eminent philologist, Prof. Max Muller, bears warm testimony to the great attainments and capacities of bishop Patteson, whom he affectionately esteemed. There was no office or function, however high or however humble, to which bishop Patteson could not turn, and turn effectively, his mind or hand. An adept in early life at games, exercises, and amusements, his gift of corporal versatility thus acquired fitted him for handicraft and labor of all kinds. Almost amphibious in his habits, he became, while disliking the physical conditions of sealife, a hardy seaman and an accomplished navigator. When ashore he was farmer, gardener, woodman, porter, carpenter, tailor, cook, or anything else that necessity demanded and his large experience taught. In higher regions of exertion he was, amid the severest trials of epidemic dysentery or typhus, or in the crisis of some dangerous visit to an untried island, physician, surgeon, and the tenderest of nurses, all in one; without ever intermitting his sleepless activity in the most personal duties of a pastor, or the regular maintenance of the more public offices of religion, or abating his readiness to turn to that which was evidently the most laborious and exacting of all his duties, the duty of the schoolmaster, engaged upon the double work of opening the understanding of his pupils, and of applying the mental instrument thus improved to the perception and reception of Christian truth. Mota, one of Banks's Islands, was recognized as the missionary headquarters of Melanesia. From this place excursions were frequently made to the different Melanesian islands for the purpose of reaching their inhabitants, and preparing them for Christianity. Such visitations were always attended with great peril. Besides the danger of shipwreck, was the hazard in approaching islands where the temper of the inhabitants was either unknown or known to be fierce, or islands whose inhabitants had been recently ill-used by other Europeans. In April, 1871, bishop Patteson set out again on such a voyage of visitation. On Sept. 16 he found himself off the Santa Cruz group. He had long been anxious for the planting of the cross among its savage inhabitants, but he was aware also of the many obstacles in his way. The natives, by reason of the capture of many of their number annually by the traders from Australia, whither they were virtually carried as slaves, had become very distrustful of the whites. But the danger this time was much aggravated, though the bishop was unaware of it. The traders had painted their ship like the bishop's, and had enticed a number of the Melanesians to go on board the vessel, and had thus carried them off. Though the bishop had visited before at Nackapu, the natives mistook the last visit also to have been made by him, and therefore they were no sooner in a position to revenge the loss of their friends than they embraced it. As the missionary party came near to Nackapu four canoes were seen hovering about the coral reef which surrounded the island. The vessel had to feel her way; so, lest the men in the canoes should be perplexed, bishop Patteson ordered the boat to be lowered, and when asked to go into one of the native boats, as this was always found a good mode of disarming suspicion, he did it, and was carried off towards the shore. The boat from the schooner could not get over the reef. The bishop was seen to land on the beach, and was seen no more alive. Eventually his body was recovered. The placid smile was still on the face; there was a palmleaf fastened over the breast, and when the mat in which the body was wrapped was opened, there were five wounds. All this is an almost certain indication that his death was the vengeance for five of the natives. The sweet, calm smile preached peace to the mourners who had lost his guiding spirit, but they could not look on it long. The next morning, St. Matthew's Day, the body of John Coleridge Patteson was committed to the waters of the Pacific, his "son after the faith," Joseph Atkin, reading the burial service (Life, 2:569- 571). We are fully conscious that no summary can do justice to the character and career of bishop Patteson, but we trust that enough has been given to set forth an outline of the man. In bishop Patteson were singularly combined the spirit of chivalry, the glorious ornament of a bygone time; the spirit of charity, rare in every age; and the spirit of reverence, so seldom seen in our day. He was eminently and entirely an English Churchman. But, while he was an Anglican, the ductile and thoughtful character of his mind preserved him from all rigidity and narrowness. His indulgence in judgment of men overleaped all boundaries of opinion. He evinced his liberality most clearly in his refusal to set up rival missions. He corresponded with a Wesleyan missionary on a subject of common interest to both. He declined applications for pastoral care from the people of Lifu, where the agency of the London Missionary Society had existed, but had for some time been suspended, on learning that two missionaries were on the way from Sidney. In that same island, too, he attended (in 1858) the service conducted by a native teacher acting under the society, and only officiated himself when he had found from good authority that there would be no objection. His costume on this occasion was only distinguished by a black coat and white tie, and he pursued the manner of service common among the Presbyterians and Dissenters, though employing freely the language of the Prayer-book in his extempore prayer. "I felt," he says, in his diary, "quite at my ease while preaching, and Joseph (his companion) told me that it was all very clear" (Life, 1:166). See Miss Yonge, Life of John Coleridge Patteson, Missionary Bishop of the Melanesian Islands (Lond. 1874, 2 vols. 8vo): Life of Bishop Patteson, published by the (London) "Christian Knowledge Society," and republished at New York in 1873. See also the Spirit of Missions, Jan. 1872, p. 58; The (Lond.) Quart. Rev. Oct, 1874, art. vi.

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