Page:Madagascar - Phelps - 1883.djvu/89

This page has been validated.

MADAGASCAR.

87

island, using, for this purpose, funds that had been especially donated many years before, and which had not been diverted to any other object. Mr. Ellis embarked again for Madagascar in November, 1861, having concluded arrangements by which he was to be followed in a short time by a corps of six missionaries.

The Christians who had endured so long a persecution and were still alive, now came forth from their hiding places, from prison and places of torture, and the people were astonished to see what a considerable number had escaped with their lives. Subsequent events showed that there must have been some 7,000 Christians in the island. Some of them could not walk, from the enfeeblement occasioned by the heavy fetters with which their limbs had been loaded. The King told them to write to their friends in London, and to tell them that King Radama II. reigned, and that whoever wishes to come up can come.

Mr. Ellis arrived at Tananarivo about the middle of June, 1862, and was received with great cordiality by the King, officers of the government, and pastors and members of churches. Thirty miles from the capital he was met by a large number of Christians from there. As the two parties approached each other, the party from the capital commenced singing praises to God, in which the party with Mr. Ellis joined until they met and halted. The welcome extended to the English missionaries was of the warmest and most impressive kind. Hundreds crowded their doors continually, and thronged the churches on the Sabbath from an early hour in the morning till late in the afternoon.

Romish priests and sisters of mercy were present at the capital urging their peculiar views upon the people; but the preference for the protestant ideas, books, and modes of worship was evident and decided. The King gave assurance of perfect liberty of conscience to every one to worship as he pleased. He opened the prison doors and set the Christian captive free. He dispatched messengers to recall the remnant of the condemned ones from remote and pestilential districts, to which they had been banished, and where numbers had died from disease and exhaustion, occasioned by the rude and heavy bars of iron with which they had been chained, neck and neck together. He sent to remote and hostile tribes presents and messages which made them his fast friends; and he abolished the tangena, sikidy, and other idolatrous usages.