Project Canterbury

Colonial Church Histories: New Zealand

Containing the Dioceses of Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson, Waiapu, Wellington, and Melanesia.

By Henry Jacobs

London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1887.

Part I. The Missionary Period.


Native Agency--Taumatakura--His Success--Removal of Rev. W. Williams to Turanga--Great Advance in that District--Ripahau--Rauparaha of Otaki--His Son and Nephew--Learning to Read under Difficulties--Strange Reading Party at Kapiti--Visit of the Cousins to the Bay of Islands in search of a Missionary--Mr. Hadfield volunteers--Is settled at Otaki--Waikanae to share his services--Station formed at Wanganui--Retrospect of Missionary Period--Beginning of a New Era--The Year 1840--Treaty of Waitangi--British Sovereignty Proclaimed--Systematic Colonisation Church Society for New Zealand--Proposal to appoint a Bishop--Maori Superstitions--Origin of the New Zealander--Character of their Religion--Atua--Karakia--Tohunga--Te Reinga--The Tapu--Concluding Remarks--Value set on the Holy Scriptures.

It is truly refreshing to turn from the scenes of carnage we have just noticed to the many instances recorded at this period of the eager and growing thirst for knowledge among the natives in almost all parts alike, and of the spread of the Gospel among fresh tribes by the spontaneous and almost unaided exertions of some of their own countrymen. To relate one or two typical instances, as before. Among the party of East Cape natives taken to their homes by the Rev. W. Williams in January, 1834, after having been under instruction at the Bay of Islands, there was a liberated slave named Taumatakura. He was not thought to have taken much interest in Christian teaching, and was not even a candidate for [76/77] baptism, but he had learned to read and write at the school at Waimate. He was fired, however, with a desire of imparting to his countrymen such knowledge as he possessed. "His educational apparatus," writes Archdeacon L. Williams, in his memoir of his father," [Footnote: New Zealand Church News, July, 1878.] consisted of some scraps of paper, upon which he had written some short prayers, hymns, and texts of Scripture. Taumatakura was held in high estimation, and his bits of paper were regarded by many with superstitious veneration, being credited with some of that power which the charms of the old tohungas (priests) were supposed to possess; but he was not too mean an instrument for God to use for the purpose of quickening the yearnings of the people after clearer light." Another circumstance tended greatly to increase the growing reverence for Taumatakura. Being urged to join a war-party in an expedition against a pa at Cape Runaway, he consented, but on certain conditions: "I will go," he said, "if you will attend to what I say to you. When we come to the enemy's pa, if we kill any people, you are not to eat them; neither must you wantonly break up canoes which you do not care to carry away, nor destroy food which you do not wish to eat." Arrived at the pa, Taumatakura led the assault, with musket in one band and Testament in the other; and, though the bullets fell thick as hail around him, he was not hit. When tidings of the successful efforts of this humble Maori to improve his people had reached the ears of the Church at the [77/78] Bay of Islands, they chose six volunteers from among their Christian natives, five of them being connected with that part of the island, to be stationed in that neighbourhood, and towards the end of October, 1838, these six were taken by sea to the East Coast by the Rev. H. Williams,[Footnote: Describing this voyage in a report to the C.M.S. Henry Williams says, that at all the pas, both at East Cape and at Turanga, "the demand for books was great and general; and it was truly distressing to be obliged to turn away without the means of giving relief. I distributed in the course of my journey 500 slates, and a few early lessons and catechisms. Books I had none."] and three of them placed at Waiapu, and three at Turanga, or Poverty Bay. [Footnote: The thriving town and port of Gisborne, where the Ven. Archdeacon L. Williams resides, in charge of a training college for native candidates for the ministry, is now the chief centre of this district.]

These men were visited in the following April by the Rev. W. Williams, in company with the Rev. R. Taylor, [Footnote: The estimable author of a well-known book entitled "Te Ika a Maui"--"The Fish of Maui"--as the North Island was called by the Maories, as supposed to have been fished up from the depths of the sea by the god Maui. (Wertheim & Macintosh, 1855.) and both were much struck with the result of their six months' labours. After this visit the work, by the grace of God, prospered yet more, and it was soon seen to be necessary that a missionary in holy orders should be stationed in this neighbourhood. William Williams was selected for the post, and Mr. Taylor was appointed to take up his work at Waimate. It was in December, 1839, that Mr. Williams removed with his family to Poverty Bay. [78/79] At that time there were about 1,500 natives in the habit of meeting regularly for Christian worship in that district, the fruits of the unassuming efforts of the faithful Taumatakura. The removal of the Rev. W. Williams thither forms another notable epoch in the history of the New Zealand Mission. No other European could at that time be spared to assist him in what he himself described as "his parish of two degrees and a half in length, and containing 36,000 souls;" but he had the help of zealous native teachers, now amounting to twenty in number; and in a little more than a year and a half the number of regular worshippers in the districts of Waiapu and Turanga, to which the six teachers had been sent in 1838, had risen to about 8,600; upwards of 800 adults and about 340 children had been baptized; and there were upwards of 1,300 catechumens. Moreover, at Turanga, the natives at their own expense built a spacious church, 90 feet long by 44 in width. "So mightily grew the Word of the Lord and prevailed."

These circumstances are only rivalled in interest by those which led to the formation of a famous station much further south, at Otaki, which bears a somewhat similar relation to the present diocese of Wellington, that the station at Turanga does to the diocese of Waiapu. In this instance a yet humbler instrument, a liberated slave, under the providence of God, was the originator of the great work. This was Ripahau, otherwise called Matahau, a southern native, who, after living for some years in the Bay of Islands, set off overland for the south in quest of his relations. [79/80] He stopped at Rotorua on his way, because he had relations there also, but at length reached Otaki, where lived the savage warrior, Te Rauparaha, a man worthy to be ranked in fame for conquests and deeds of blood with Hongi and Waharoa. The curiosity of young Rauparaha, his son, a youth of great intelligence, who seems even before this to have lost faith to a great extent in the superstitions in which he was reared, was intensely excited by the advent of this stranger from the north, and by the tidings he brought of the teachings of the missionaries, their efforts for peace, and the customs of the Christian natives of the Bay of Islands. He was possessed, above all, by the wish to acquire the wonderful art of reading. His cousin and bosom friend, Te Whiwhi, shared all his eagerness, and their zeal reacted upon Ripahau, who at first was less in earnest than they were, but now gladly imparted to them all the knowledge he possessed. Presently the two friends were joined by ten other young men, and these twelve besought Ripahau to teach them to read. But, as he had only one book - a copy of the Prayer Book - and no slates, the difficulty was great. They obtained, however, a small supply of paper from some neighbouring whaling stations, and upon scraps of this Ripahau wrote texts of Scripture, and selections from the prayers, and every syllable of what he wrote was very soon spelt over, and committed to memory. By-and-bye a party arrived from Rotorua, bringing with them another Prayer Book, an elementary catechism, and a fragment of the Gospel of St. Luke, the remainder of which had been used for cartridges. This was truly a Godsend, and the zeal of young [80/81] Rauparaha and his friends was kindled afresh. But, meeting with much opposition from some of their people, they took Ripahau across to Kapiti, or Entry Island, that they might study with him in quiet. They fed and clothed and read with him there for nearly six months. To quote the words of the young chief himself:--"We learnt every day, every night. We did not lie down to sleep. We sat at night in the hut all round the fire in the middle. Whiwhi had part of the book, and I part. Sometimes we went to sleep upon the book, then woke up and read again. After we had been there six months, we could read a little very slowly." The cousins next resolved to set out for the Bay of Islands to obtain, if possible, a missionary priest to come and live at Otaki. Old Rauparaha did his utmost by remonstrances and by scheming to defeat their purpose, but in vain. Arrived at the bay, they first saw Mr. Henry Williams, who was so struck with their simple earnestness that he volunteered to go himself; but it was decided that he could not be spared from his old sphere of labour. They went on to Waimate, where Mr. William Williams was still living, with whom was then residing the Rev. O. Hadfield, assisting in the work of the school. He heard the earnest conversation of the two young natives with Mr. Williams, but could only partially understand it. When it was explained to him after they had left, he at once started up, saying, "I will go; I know I shall not live long, and I may as well die there as here." At first it was not thought prudent that he should go; but the desire grew upon him, consent was given, and it was finally arranged that Henry Williams should [81/82] accompany him, and establish him at Otaki. Accordingly, on the 21st October, 1839, they set off together by sea from Paihia, and in the following month arrived at Port Nicholson (the former name of the present capital of the colony, Wellington), whence they started overland for their destination. On their arrival they found the old chief Rauparaha engaged in a deadly feud with Te Rangitaake, [Footnote: The full name of this chief in after years, when he had been baptized, was Wiremu Kingi (William King) Te Rangitaake, and he is the William King, whose name is inseparably associated with the Taranaki war of 1860. He was a man deservedly held in high esteem by colonists and natives alike.] the chief of the neighbouring pa of Waikanae, the quarrel having arisen over the distribution of the price given by the New Zealand Company for the purchase of the site of Wellington. Rauparaha had been the aggressor, and had recently been defeated with a loss of seventy of his men, in an attack upon Waikanae. As had happened often before in similar cases, the arrival of the missionaries at a critical moment opened the way to reconciliation, which was welcomed by both parties. But they were very nearly falling out again upon the question which was to have the new missionary under his protection, Rauparaha laid claim to the whole honour and benefit attached to this coveted position, on the ground that the missionary had been secured through the agency of his son; on the other hand, the Waikanae natives had given a much-warmer welcome to the teaching of Ripahau than Rauparaha's people in general had done. This difficulty was finally settled by an agreement that Mr. Hadfield should have one house at Otaki, and another at Waikanae, and divide [82/83] his time equally between the two places. On the 4th December Ripahau, to whom Te Rangitaake had given his daughter in marriage, was baptized by Mr. Williams by the name of Hohepa (Joseph). After further instruction the young chief and his cousin received the same sacrament at the hands of Mr. Hadfield, Rauparaha taking the name of Tamihana (Thompson), and Te Whiwhi that of Henare Matene (Henry Martyn). On the 5th December, Henry Williams bade adieu to Mr. Hadfield, leaving him quite alone among his new flock, and himself set off alone on his homeward journey overland, "more than 300 miles," he says in his journal, "through the heart of the island--an entirely new road, not yet explored by Europeans." He finally reached his home on the 18th January, 1840, "having accomplished," says Mr. Carleton, "a travelling feat which, in New Zealand, was as yet unmatched."

On leaving Otaki, before striking inland, he had visited several pas on the Wanganui river, and had been so much impressed by the need of a resident missionary priest in that quarter, that he was resolved to remove thither himself, if the object could not be otherwise accomplished. A station, however, was formed there in April, 1840, the first who took charge of it being Mr. Mason, who was drowned, unfortunately, in the river Turakina in February, 1843. [Footnote: Mr. Hadfield also nearly lost his life in the attempt to save him] At a later period the post was occupied by the Rev. R. Taylor, who was settled there until his visit to England in 1855, when his place was [83/84] supplied for a time by the Rev. Arthur (now Archdeacon) Stock.

We must now draw towards the close of the first division of this history. We have seen how the light of God's truth, kindled by one faithful man, shone at the first in the midst of thick darkness, and "the darkness," it may be truly said, "comprehended it not." We have anxiously watched the light, as it flickered, and often well-nigh went out. Then we saw it spring up afresh, and burn more and more brightly and steadily. Then it spread abroad north and east and south and west, till it illumined the whole land; and the wicked spirits of cruelty, revenge, cannibalism, witchcraft, enslaving and debasing superstition, were abashed and shrank into corners, unable to endure the growing light. Where before, from that land of darkness and cruel habitations, there went up only the shriek of terror, and the wail of stark despair and helpless misery, now in many a quarter was heard the ring of the church-gong signal--for bells they had none as yet--and the voice of worship and joyful songs of praise. We have seen the foundation of the New Zealand Church firmly laid on the only true Rock, faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the Living God: the work of building up is now about to begin; a wise master-builder must be sought for, who, under God, and by the guidance of His Holy Spirit, shall build up an enduring structure on that sure Foundation. It is not that the missionary period has closed; far from it; but the period of organisation is about to begin.

In many ways New Zealand was entering on a new [85/86] era at the point of time at which we have paused in our history. The year 1840, which saw William Williams fairly settled at Poverty Bay, and Octavius Hadfield at Otaki, will be for ever memorable as the year in which the famous treaty of Waitangi was signed, and thereby the sovereignty of New Zealand ceded by its principal chiefs to the British Crown. In May of that year British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand was formally proclaimed by the first governor, Captain Hobson. [Footnote: At first New Zealand was a dependency of New South Wales, and Captain Hobson was Lieutenant-Governor under the governor of that country, Sir George Gipps; it was not till May, 1841, that New Zealand was proclaimed an independent colony, and Captain Hobson became its first governor. He died at Auckland, September 50, 1843.] From that year also dates the commencement of the systematic colonisation of the country, the first body of colonists under the auspices of the New Zealand Company, who sailed from Gravesend in three ships, having arrived at Port Nicholson early in 1840. Side by side with this colonising movement, and in part arising out of it, there had sprung up in England a Church Society for New Zealand, composed of a body of zealous churchmen outside the C.M.S., who, while deeply interested in the spread of Christianity among the native race, foresaw the certain upgrowth of an English population in the land, and were intensely anxious to see a branch of the Church, modelled on the catholic principles of the Mother-Church of England, and whose work it should be to mould both races into one, set on foot in the country [85/86] at the earliest possible date. Their leading idea was to bring about the appointment of a bishop; for given a carefully chosen bishop, with a sufficient equipment to start with, they believed that everything else, essential to the development of a living branch of Christ's Holy Catholic Church, would follow in due time. The happy prevalence at that juncture in the highest places of the Church of England of the same sound views on Church Extension resulted in the establishment of the Colonial Bishoprics Council, formally instituted in April, 1841, and amongst the thirteen countries specified by the Council, as those in which the need of the episcopate was most urgent, the first in order of urgency was stated to be New Zealand. [Footnote: See "Memoir of Life and Episcopate of George Augustus Selwyn, D.D." By the Rev. H. W. Tucker, M.A., vol. i., p. 62. (Wells Gardner, 1879.)] We reserve for the next part the record of the appointment and consecration of the bishop, proposing to conclude this with a brief account of the religion, if such it may be called, or, rather, the superstitions of the pre-Christian Maori, which have been so often alluded to in the preceding history.

The native New Zealanders, whose primal origin was probably Malayan, and who, according to the unvarying traditions handed down from their ancestors, which there is no reason to dispute, came from Hawaiki, or Hawaii, not more than five or six hundred years ago, driven forth by fierce internal dissensions, are closely connected in language and superstitions with the Sandwich Islanders, and other Polynesian tribes. They believed in no Supreme [86/87] Being, neither did they worship any god or idol. They had neither temple, nor altar, nor, in the ordinary sense of the term, any priesthood. They had, it is true, numberless atua, or divinities, to whom they assigned the creation of the various objects of nature, and the operation of natural causes. Every disease, for example, had its own atua. The spirits of their departed friends, or enemies, seem also to have been included under this general term, which was used by them, in short, to signify any hidden cause, or mysterious power; but they did not venerate or worship these unseen agencies. Their religion, on the contrary, if such it can be termed, was wholly of a defensive character, [Footnote: The writer is indebted for this expression to his friend, the Ven. Archdeacon W. L. Williams.] consisting in efforts to protect themselves against the enmity of the atua. The Karakia, or prayer, which they addressed to the atua, was of the nature of a charm or incantation, by means of which they endeavoured to ward off his baneful influence. But in their dealings with the atua they sought the aid of the tohunga, or priest--yet not so much priest as sorcerer and necromancer. These tohungas, whose whole lives were spent in making themselves adepts in all the arts of solemn and cunning imposture, had enormous influence with all classes of the people. They pretended to perform miracles, to foretell future events, and to call up the spirits of the departed; they were consulted as oracles, when the tribe was about to go to war, or to engage in any other [87/88] important undertaking; and their answers, like those of the Delphic Oracle, were sometimes cunningly ambiguous, sometimes had a tendency to work out their own fulfilment, and sometimes were so strangely fulfilled as to suggest the idea that they were actual inspirations of the evil one. The belief that they had power to kill any one they pleased by witchcraft was universal, and was confirmed by the undoubted fact that those who thought themselves bewitched, oftentimes actually died of terror. The tohunga would occasionally work himself up into a state of frenzy, that by his cries and horrible contortions he might strike awe into the beholders.

Something like a spirit of true reverence was not wholly wanting to the New Zealander. He venerated the head chief of his tribe, whom he called ariki, or lord; and he venerated the spirits of the tribe's great ancestors. He believed without questioning in a future state. There is a Cape at the extreme north of the North Island, called Te Reinga, or The Leap; to this it was believed that the spirits of the departed made their way on their exit from the body, and that thence they plunged into the sea, to enjoy thenceforth in another state the pleasures they most coveted on earth. Their nearest approach to worship was made in their occasional addresses to the spirits of their ancestors, whose aid they invoked as that of powerful living friends, and to whom they made offerings.

But the superstitions which had the strongest and most pervading influence on their daily lives were those connected with the tapu. The word means "holy," and the influence of the tapu doubtless [88/89] sprang from, and was a corruption of, the spirit of reverence. But in its extraordinary and grotesque developments it had become an intolerable bondage. The ariki, or head chief, of a tribe was the main centre in which the force of the tapu resided; inferior chiefs were lesser centres. The dwelling, the clothes, but, above all, the head of a chief, was tapu; if a man partook by accident of food which had been cooked for a chief, he did so at the peril of his life; sometimes the ground around him was made sacred, and he might not be approached; a certain road was tapued, and it must be avoided; at another time it was a river, and no canoe might leave its banks. One never knew how, or when, he might infringe some tapu, and men lived in constant dread of the vengeance they might bring upon themselves from the atua in consequence of such infringement. It may be easily understood how a crafty tohunga would play upon these fears, and turn these superstitions to his own advantage; for he, and he alone, could remove the tapu, or neutralise its effects, by the power of his Karakia, for which he knew how to exact sufficient payment. [Footnote: The reader who desires more information respecting Maori legends and superstitions, would do well to consult "Christ and Other Masters," by Archdeacon Hardwick. Fourth edition, pp. 399-414 (Macmillan & Co.); and the authorities referred to by him, especially "Polynesian Mythology," by Sir George Grey; and "Te Ika a te Maui," by the Rev. R. Taylor. He will also find much reliable information given in a very amusing style in a singular book entitled "Old New Zealand," by a Pakeha Maori. (Auckland: Creighton & Scales, Queen Street, 2nd ed., 1863.)]

[90] So gross was the darkness which shrouded the people of this fair land, so heavy the burden of misery under which they groaned, so fast riveted the chains by which they were tied and bound, before the Gospel of the God of love was preached among them; and such were some of the difficulties which the heralds of that Gospel had to encounter. We have seen in the foregoing pages how large a measure of success was vouchsafed to their labours; we have seen the fruits of five and twenty years of zeal and patience, and self-denying devotion; we may aptly conclude this chapter with an anecdote borrowed from Bishop Williams' interesting book, [Footnote: "Christianity. Among the New Zealanders," p. 286.] which illustrates the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, when brought home to men's hearts by the working of His Holy Spirit, to emancipate the heathen from their strongest superstitions. The desire to possess the Scriptures was the same in every part of the country. A case occurred at Taupo, the most inaccessible and secluded part of the island. Captain Symonds, R.N., was travelling through the country with a party, and wished to ascend the snowy mountain of Tongariro but the natives opposed it, on the ground of its having been made sacred by their forefathers; and because, if the tapu were violated, some evil would befall them. 'They offered us gold,' remarked the old chief; 'had they brought us some Testaments, we would have consented to their going up the mountain. Tell the strangers that, if they return in the summer, and bring Testaments with them, the tapu shall be removed.'"

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