Page images

against them and waiting for the success of his proposal. He undertook to go round to the best minded and most wealthy of his acquaintances in Bergen; he urged upon them, even if there should never anything be gained in the trade with Greenland, even if they foresaw that everything they risked in the attempt would be lost, yet they would never regret having sacrificed a small part of the superfluity which Providence had given them, in an undertaking which aimed at the spread of knowledge and the happiness of their fellow-men, while, after all, it might prove useful to their native land. He besought and entreated so long that some of them promised to supply something towards the enterprise. As soon as he had succeeded 80 far he sketched out a plan and asked each of these to subscribe upon it what he was willing to give. He subscribed his own name for 300 dollars* -all he had—and then sent it round to the Bishops, clergy, and to any others whom he thought might help him.

Example generally has more power than oral persuasion, and in the greatest undertakings it is often only necessary for success that one man should begin it with zeal. Before Egede expected it he saw a subscription of 10,000 dollars. Some had subscribed one, some two hundred dollars, others more, everyone according to his ability. As soon as there was money it was easy to arrange the rest. A ship was bought, which was intended to winter in Greenland; the crew were engaged, victuals were provided, and all things necessary for erecting a building in the land were got on board. Two other ships also were freighted, the one for whale-fishing, the other to bring news back. The company gave Egede the oversight of the arrangements for the trade and all that pertained to it, and the King, who was pleased with his activity and perseverance, appointed him as missionary, with a yearly stipend of 300 dollars.

Now Egede had reached the end for which he had watched and worked, and sacrificed quietness and peace for fully ten years. He was filled with joy, hastened the departure, prepared everything, went on board with his wife and four children, and set sail in the month of May, 1721. After sailing two months he approached the coast of Greenland. The nearer they came to the land the more difficult the journey became. Floating ice met them; the ships were surrounded, and their course impeded; the crew became disheartened, and wished to turn back again; but Egede, although not a man accustomed to the sea, encouraged them to work themselves through, and himself put his hand to the work. Then they took heart again, pushed through the difficulties, and landed at last. They at once began, under Egede's direction to build themselves a house of boards, stones, and earth for a winter shelter.

As long as this work lasted they had no time for any intercourse with the Greenlanders. Egede only strove to show himself friendly towards them, to take away their fear and to win their confidence. But as soon as the building was finished he began to work towards his real purpose. The Greenlanders had first sought him from curiosity, now he sought them out of love for them. He generally travelled out to them and, as he saw that they especially liked his children, he

* A Danish dollar is about half-a-crown.

often took his two sons with him, and even stayed the night through in their miserable huts to learn their language and to know their customs.

He found them just as wild and unpolished as he had heard them described, and saw in their mode of living and their manners, much which manifested a deplorable ignorance, and was opposed to true religion and decency. Then he felt it to be the more important that he should teach them what was right and true. But he could not speak with them, as his language was quite different from theirs. He did not, however, allow the time to pass by quite unimproved. As often as he saw anything in their conduct which was wrong or indecent he gave them to understand his displeasure by signs, but always with a friendly and manly gravity. The Greenlanders gradually came to regard him with veneration and friendly feeling; they also manifested a desire to see something better than that which he reproved in them. In order in some way to satisfy their longings he caused his eldest son, who had learned to draw, to sketch certain biblical stories ; these he showed and explained to them by signs, until at last, both by taking notice himself and by continuing the intercourse between his children and the young Greenlanders, he learned so much of their language that he could explain his thoughts to them in speech.

Thus Egede laid his plans for the spread of religion and morals in Greenland. But while occupying himself with that object he at the same time kept his eye upon trade. As a wise man, he saw that the mission could not exist without commerce, nor could commerce live without profit. He, therefore, took time to travel round the country, to examine its natural condition, to learn what it produced, to seek the lost trace of the old colonies and the best places to found new ones, and the best bays for fishing.

In this way he spent his two first years in Greenland, without having anyone near him that either could or would share the toil and care with him. The crew of the ship that had followed him from Norway, and the other which a year after brought a new supply of victuals and relieved the first crew, generally were mere onlookers; and he was well pleased if they would but be quiet and spare him their reproaches and useless complaints.

After these two years he received help and support. The King ordered several ships up and sent Egede a minister as helper. A while after a third minister was sent, and year after year new plans and expeditions were made, for Frederic IV. was determined to push forward the colony with zeal, and did not consider that to be lost which was employed in winning a country for the State, in opening up new means of living, and in using the advantages which the Dutch and others had long, without the slightest right, employed for the supply of their wants. All these things were every year new encouragements for Egede, and he used them as an honest man. He did not care to roll the burden off his shoulders upon others; he instructed his fellow-workers; and whether he lay still in the colony, or travelled about, all his care was bent upon drawing the Greenlanders, both young and old, to himself, that he might speak to them of the true God and his worship, and reprove their superstition and brutality. The Greenlanders' wild and unstable mode of living, their ingrown

prejudices, with the depravity of the Danish crew, and other things laid constant hindrances in his


But as he never wearied in working against them, he came nearer to his mark step by step. Gradually the Greenlanders became attentive, heard him gladly, and at times felt what he said to them. Many of those who lived around the colony were enlightened, were baptised, and allowed their children also to be instructed and baptised; yea, the people from the highlands came down to seek him, and besought him to travel up to them, to tell them also about God and the Creator.

With the same earnestness he continued to watch over trade. Were new buildings to be erected he was there to choose the place. Was a new experiment made in fishing or any other useful thing, he was there to see that nothing necessary for success was overlooked, or he travelled after the expedition to examine whether the information of the others was true. Were journeys undertaken to gain knowledge of the land, he gladly was leader and guide. And he was in part necessary in such journeys, for the Greenlanders respected him more than all the others. It even happened once that, as some of the Danes drew near to a coast where they had not yet been, the Greenlanders flocked together on the shore, armed with bows and arrows, to chase them away ; but as soon as Egede showed himself, and some in the multitude recognised him, they not only took them on land, but invited them to their huts, and were willing to show both him and his company their way.

But just as everything was prospering as it never prospered before, a change took place which threatened to destroy the whole enterprise. Frederic IV. died, and there were a new ruler and new ministers, and there was also a new policy with regard to Greenland. Christian VI., indced, quickly sent ships up, but it was to put an end to the trade and the colony instead of helping them. They brought the command, that as the King intended entirely to break up the colonisation, everything must be brought back that had been taken there, and the crew return. But should Egede, or anyone else, have the desire to stay they should be free to do so, and in that case food and other necessaries should be left them for one year, but more they must not expect.

That was a thunderstroke for Egede. For ten years he had striven to get to Greenland; other ten years he had watched, and travelled, and laboured there, partly alone, partly with help, simply in the hope of benefiting men and spreading God's glory. Only now he began to see some fruits of all his toil. Trade had begun to live, religion to find approval.

Besides the many adult Greenlanders who had accepted the revealed doctrine, above 150 children were baptised and under instruction.

And now all that was to fall into ruins, trade to be destroyed, and the poor people again abandoned to ignorance and heathenism.

The only thing that still gave him a spark of hope when he heard the King's command proclaimed was that it was permitted to anyone who had the desire to stay. But that spark soon was extinguished ; for what was added to the permission was so hard that no one, either of the other missionaries or of the ship's crew, could have any inducement to risk leading a miserable life far from their native land. Egede,

indeed, tried to persuade some, but in vain ; all were bent upon packing up and returning.

They began to get the ships ready, and to consider what each should hold. Egede looked on, was sorrowful, and in doubt what to do.

In the meanwhile he saw that in Copenhagen they had not made an exact calculation of all that in former years had been brought up to Greenland for building, fisheries, &c. The ships had orders to bring it all back, but they had not room for it all. They had, therefore, to decide to take in what they could and to leave the rest. When Egede heard and saw this he sent in a written memorial to the officers of the ships and to others in authority. He urged upon them, that if the buildings and other things were to be left, and everybody departed, doubtless everything would either be taken away or destroyed before ships could come the next year to fetch it, and thus the King would lose considerably. If, on the contrary, they would leave him but ten sailors, he would himself remain the winter over, and watch orer the things; and in order that they might be without responsibility, he further offered, not only to gain in the meanwhile by trade and fishing what would pay the King all the expenses, but that he himself would compensate the chiefs to whose companies the ten men to be left behind belonged, in case any one of them should die. They consulted together about this proposal. It was so directly to the advantage of the King, and so well founded upon true disinterestedness, that they feared to refuse it; and as at length ten men were found who could be persuaded to stay with Egede, they gave them permission on the condition which he had proposed. Then all the others took ship, bade Egede farewell, and departed.

Egede saw their departure without repenting of his decision. He was glad that he might live for his Greenlanders at least one year longer. The rest he left to Providence, which he hoped would find means for the times to come. Meanwhile he, on his part, determined to do all that was possible.

As soon as he could he set his ten men to work. He first sent them out in boats to gather winter food for himself and for those that were with him. Then he let them travel further around to gather in bacon, fish, and other goods for a store, with which he could at least defray the charges for which he had made himself responsible to the King. His second son, Niels Egede, whom so far he had only used as a catechist, he now also sent with the boats as a merchant to trade with the Greenlanders. This trade was carried on the whole winter through. When they had got as much together as the boats could hold they turned back, unloaded, and then went out anew.

He himself worked almost solely for religion. He visited the Greenlanders and they visited him. He preached to them, and they heard him with gladness, and often testified to him their thankfulness for having been willing to stay with them. With all these occupations the winter proved neither long nor wearisome, for if he lacked countrymen, he did not lack men or friends; and these were so much the dearer to him, as he himself had helped them to right living. And he found himself so gladdened among them that had the Government persisted in its first resolution he would, perhaps, have dared even the utmost before he would have left them.

But so hard a trial he did not encounter. The next summer a new

ship was sent off, which brought more food, more people, and the order that trade and the mission should be continued, although with less expense than before. This infused new life into Egede, and he could again hope that his toil might bless and benefit later generations.

From that time trade and navigation to Greenland was never quite broken off, nor did the mission lack support and progress. Old Egede stayed there for two years longer, nor did he leave the land or his new-formed parish until his eldest son, Povel Egede, whom a few years before he had sent down to Copenhagen to study, had been called and sent to him as a helper. Only then he asked for his dismissal, and left the work he had commenced in the hands of his son, not because he himself was weary of it, but because he was old and feeble and no longer able to bear the hardships which for so many years had wasted his forces. He travelled down to Copenhagen, and was superannuated with a yearly pension of 500 dollars, for which he had to instruct the new missionaries in the language of Greenland. And this he did faithfully until his eldest son took his place. His second son, Niels Egede, lived for awhile after in Greenland, where he accomplished much that was useful for his country and for commerce.

Egede's wife, too, deserves to be named here with admiration and reverence. She had a strong soul for looking dangers in the face, and a willing soul to share them with her husband. Instead of giving way to the delicate feelings which nature has planted in woman, and which habit fosters, she hardened herself against them. What he resolved she regarded as law, and if he at times began to bend under the burden of his toilsome occupations (and how easily could that happen-man is but man), she never increased the inquietude of his mind by womanish complainings, but incited him to courage and perseverance. He often experienced this, but especially at that time, so sorrowful for him, when he had to choose between leaving Greenland and all his work, or remaining behind almost alone; then she herself encouraged him to decide as he did, and preferred long continuing care to comfort. She sacrificed her strength and her life in Greenland, and died there in the same year that Egede had resolved to leave the land.


“This woman was full of good works, and almsdeeds which she did."-Acts ix., 36.

The character of woman, as developed in the sacred writings, is on the whole exceedingly fair and honourable. Undoubtedly she was "first in the transgression,” and is “ by nature the child of wrath,” eren as man. But there is an instinctive delicacy, a natural love of purity, and a peculiar susceptibility of tender and compassionate emotion in her breast, that is much akin to piety and true religion.

« PreviousContinue »