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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 II. The Period of Organisation.


Arrival at Paihia--Mutual First Impressions--Residence at Waimate--First Appointment of Archdeacon--First Visitation Tour--Death of Mr. Evans--Return to Auckland--Death of Rev. T. C. Whytehead--First Confirmation--Financial Arrangements--Peace-making--Ordinations--The Rev. Oct. Hadfield.

On the 16th June, the bishop left Auckland for the Bay of Islands, and reached Paihia after dark on the l0th. His first meeting with Henry Williams was characteristic. Mr. Williams was engaged with his Bible class, when a card was brought in to him, bearing on it the words, "The Bishop of New Zealand on the beach." On going down he found the bishop, Mr. Cotton, and another dragging up a boat in which they had come from Cape Brett, steering for the house by a pocket compass. Mrs. Williams in her journal says:--"The bishop's manner was most prepossessingWhen summoned to tea, both the bishop and his chaplain seemed surprised at the long tea-table of the two families of Williams, set for twenty-four." In short, he took all hearts by storm. All were alike struck with admiration of his abilities, and especially his proficiency in the native language, and all alike captivated by the singular charm of his manners and conversation. Henry Williams gave him his [106/107] unreserved confidence. Writing to his brother-in-law on the 24th June, after the bishop had been staying in his house for some days, he says:--"I have seen very much of this good man during the few days of his sojourn amongst us. We have spoken freely upon various subjects in connexion with the mission, and it is very remarkable that in no one instance have we had a contrary idea. He so fully enters into our views upon all missionary points, that I am at times under some apprehension of forgetting that he is our bishopI must say that I am quite afraid to say how delighted I am." The bishop's own first impressions were equally favourable. In a letter to the Secretary of the C.M.S., he says:--"I hope this letter will have put you in some degree in possession of my feelings towards the natives, and towards the mission. If you have gathered from it that I have imbibed the strongest regard for the native people, and a very high regard and esteem for the members of the mission in general, you will have drawn a right conclusion from this very imperfect statement of my real feelings." In a sermon preached at Paihia, in 1842, he says:--"Christ has blessed the work of His ministers in a wonderful manner. We see here a whole nation of pagans converted to the faith. God has given a new heart and a new spirit to thousands after thousands of our fellow-creatures in this distant quarter of the earth. A few faithful men, by the power of the Spirit of God, have been the instruments of adding another Christian people to the family of God. Another Christian Church has arisen here, in the midst of [107/108] one of the fiercest and most bloody nations that ever lived, to bear witness to the power of sin over the heart of unregenerated man." (Carleton's "Life of Henry Williams," vol. ii., p. 53.)

On St. John Baptist's Day, the Tomatin arrived at the Bay of Islands, bringing Mrs. Selwyn, her little boy, [Footnote: Now the Rev. William Selwyn, of St. John's College, Cambridge (B.A., 1862), Vicar of Bromfield, Salop.] Mrs. Martin, and the rest of the party, with the exception of the Rev. T. Whytehead, who had remained behind at Sydney under medical advice. The bishop then fixed his head-quarters for the time being at the mission station at Waimate, and took his wife and child thither together with the students; but he himself resolved to set off at once on his first visitation tour. Accordingly, leaving Mr. Cotton and Mr. Dudley at Waimate with the students, and having settled a plan of work and study for them in his absence, he left on the 5th July for Auckland. Here the church, afterwards known as St. Paul's, a brick building in the Early English style, built to accommodate about 600 persons, was in course of erection. "Auckland now contains," writes the bishop to the S.P.G. in a letter dated July 29th, "a population of 1,900 persons, of whom more than 1,100 are registered as members of the Church of England." Here, as elsewhere for the most part, he displayed remarkable sagacity and far-sightedness in the acquisition of sites and endowments for Church purposes. "I am now," he says in this letter, "off the harbour of Auckland in the Government brig [108/109] Victoria, bound to Wellington and Nelson. On board with me are the Rev. R. Cole, for Wellington; Rev. C. L. Reay, missionary for the South-Western district, and Mr. Evans as my travelling companion." In the same letter he writes as follows:--"One of my first public acts has been the appointment of the Rev. W. Williams to be Archdeacon of the Eastern district. In taking this step I have acted upon the strongest recommendation of the Bishop of Australia, confirmed by personal intercourse with him at the Bay of Islands. Archdeacon Williams is a man universally beloved, and one who, during twenty years of residence in a savage country, has lost nothing of that high tone of feeling which distinguishes the best class of English clergymen." Further on he adds, "My plans are now so laid that, God willing, I hope to have seen every settlement, and every clergyman and catechist in the country before the end of the year. The practical wisdom and administrative power of the bishop are conspicuous in every line of this letter; a quotation from its opening sentences will show the largeness of his views and the magnanimity of his spirit:--"have now been two months in New Zealand, and from the first day of my landing until now have seen, day after day, more and more reason to be thankful, on the part of the Church, for the establishment of the bishopric of this colony, and for myself, that I am allowed to share in so great and hopeful a work. I find myself placed in a position such as was never granted to any English bishop before, with a power to mould the institutions of the Church from the [109/110] beginning according to true principles; and I earnestly desire the prayers of the Church at home, that I may be enabled clearly to discern that truth, and consistently to follow it."

On the 21st August he arrived at Nelson, where he settled the Rev. C. L. Reay. Crossing the Straits to Wellington, he was distressed to find that both Mr. Cole and Mr. Evans, whom he had left there, had been attacked by typhus fever, and had been at death's door. They were thought to be now slowly recovering. This hope was realised in the case of the former, but not so as regards Mr. Evans. And now another feature of Bishop Selwyn's many-sided character was brought into prominence. He took upon himself the nursing of his young friend and travelling companion, and this is the pathetic tale which Chief Justice Martin, who joined him at Wellington early in October, writes to his wife, under date October 10th, 1842:--[Footnote: "Life and Episcopate of G, A. Selwyn," by H. W. Tucker, vol. i. p. 125.] "The bishop was watching and tending as a mother or wife might watch and tend. It was a most affecting sight. He practised every little art that nourishment might be supplied to his patient; he pounded chicken into fine powder, that it might pass in a liquid form into his ulcerated mouth. He made jellies, he listened to every sound, he sat up the whole night through by the bedside. In short, he did everything worthy of his noble nature. It went to my heart."

On the day on which these words were written, the [110/111] bishop left Wellington to travel overland to New Plymouth, having Mr. H. St. Hill for his travelling companion. Visiting on his way Waikanae and Otaki, the stations of the Rev. O. Hadfield, whom he describes as "a most valuable and zealous missionary," and preaching to larger or smaller assemblages of natives almost every day, [Footnote: He had been supplied, before leaving England, with a large number of copies of the Gospel of St. Matthew in Maori, and of these he gave one to every Maori whom he met, as long as the stock lasted.] he arrived on the 18th October at Wanganui, where he was received by the Rev. Mr. Mason, whom he had ordained to the priesthood shortly before at Wellington. He spent the 17th, the anniversary of his consecration, in a tent on the sand hills, south of Wanganui, having been detained, while a horse was being fetched for him, in consequence of an inflammation in the heel from continuous walking over flat sands. He thus describes this tenement in a letter to his mother, who, however, did not live to receive it, having died, by a remarkable coincidence, on the anniversary just mentioned:--"You would be surprised with the comparative comfort which I enjoy in my encampments. My tent is strewn with dry fern or grass; my air-bed is laid upon it; my books, clothes, and other goods lie beside it; and though the whole dimensions of my dwelling do not exceed eight feet by five, I have more room than I require."

On the 28th he reached New Plymouth, the third of the New Zealand Company's settlements, and being joined by Judge Martin on the 31st, they [111/112] selected together sites for churches. "I am much gratified," the Bishop wrote, "by the disposition of the people of this settlement, and will endeavour to meet it by zealous endeavours to promote their spiritual well-being." Returning by sea in the Government brig Victoria to Waikanae, he ascended the beautiful river Manawatu by a canoe, as far as it is navigable, and then struck across the country on foot towards the east coast. On the way he was met by appointment by Archdeacon W. Williams and the Rev. W. Dudley, [Footnote: It may be as well to mention, to prevent confusion, that the Rev. William Dudley, here and previously mentioned, was but very remotely related, if at all, to the two archdeacons of the same name, father and son, so well known in the dioceses of Christchurch and Auckland.] and on the 16th November, they arrived together at Ahuriri, the port of the present town of Napier, in Hawke's Bay. They reached Turanga (Poverty Bay), the archdeacon's station, on the 25th, to hear the unwelcome news that the chapel, a fine building of native workmanship, capable of holding 1,000 persons, had been blown down. On the 27th, a congregation of quite that number assembled amidst the ruins and the Venerable W. Williams was duly installed as Archdeacon of Waiapu, in the face of the congregation in the course of the service. The Bishop (to use his own words) "preached to them from Acts xv. (vs. 16, 17), on Christ repairing the breaches of David's fallen tabernacle, that the Gentiles might seek the Lord." [Footnote: See "Annals of the Colonial Church, New Zealand," p. 46. S. P. C K. 1847.]

[113] He then visited in succession the stations of Mr. Stack and Mr. Wilson, catechists, at Rangitukia and Opotiki; that of the Rev. A. N. Brown at Tauranga; of Mr. Chapman and Mr. Morgan, catechists at Rotorua and Otawao on the river Waipa; of the Rev. B. Y. Ashwell at Kaitotohe; of the Rev. R. Maunsell at Mareatai at the mouth of the Waikato; and, lastly, of Mr. Hamlin, catechist, on Manukau harbour, and reached Auckland at length on the 3rd January, 1843, with his one faithful attendant Rota (Lot), [Footnote: Afterwards ordained deacon by Bishop Selwyn, being the first Maori admitted to holy orders. He was trained at Otaki, the mission station of the Rev. O. Hadfield, and baptized by him.] carrying his bag, his raiment being in such a dilapidated state, that he was fain to make his way to the judge's house "by a path avoiding the town," passing over land which he had bought for the site of the cathedral--"a spot," writes the bishop, "which I hope may hereafter be traversed by the feet of many bishops better shod, and far less ragged than myself."

A few days later, the sad intelligence reached him of the approaching decease of his dear friend, the Rev. T. C. Whytehead, who had arrived from Sydney during his absence. Hastening home to Waimate, he not only found him still living, but was permitted to enjoy nearly ten weeks of his society; for he did not die till Sunday, the 19th March. His death was a sad blow to the bishop; it was as though he had lost his right hand; for he was to have been the [113/114] principal of his Theological College, and his Examining Chaplain. [Footnote: This noble-minded man, and worthy coadjutor of Bishop Selwyn, not only declined from the first to receive any remuneration for his services, but in his will directed the repayment of the sum of £100 granted by the S.P.G. for his outfit, and left also the sum of £681, "to be applied to the purposes of the Anglican Church in New Zealand at the discretion of the bishop." This bequest was added by the bishop to the fund for the endowment of St. John's College, which had been opened at Waimate before Mr. Whytehead's death with seven students.]

On the 25th February, a few weeks before this sad event, the bishop had held his first Confirmation, at which no less than 325 natives were confirmed "and a more orderly, and, I hope, more impressive ceremony," he writes, "could not have been conducted in any church in England." On the following Sunday, 300 native communicants assembled at the Lord's Table, some having come two days' journey for the purpose.

In a letter dated November 3rd, 1842, the second written to the S.P.G. in the course of his first missionary tour, the bishop developed his plans for the financial organisation of his diocese. It is needless to say, that they were eminently sagacious and far-seeing. His first object was to obtain, by the assistance of the Society, landed endowments--"to go on from year to year" (to use his own words), "endowing the Church in perpetuity in the new settlements, as fast as they arise." While these endowments were gradually acquiring value, he depended, for the stipends of the clergy, in part upon the Society's grants; but not wholly so, for it was a [114/115] leading principle with him that the support of the clergy should be derived partly from endowments, and partly from voluntary contributions. In the several settlements where there was a bank, he had already opened one general account, called the Archdeaconry Fund, to receive private contributions, and collections made at the offertory. The fund was vested uniformly in five trustees--the bishop, the archdeacon of the district, the senior minister, and two laymen, one selected by the bishop, the other by the archdeacon; and the proceeds "to be applicable to the building and endowment of churches, schools, and parsonage houses; and to the payment, in part, of salaries of clergymen." The sentence which follows is interesting as showing the origin of a system which, as regards surplice fees at least, has held its ground ever since in New Zealand. "I hope to bring all dues, such as surplice fees, Easter offerings, &c., into this fund, that they may be looked upon as dues of the Church, and not as gratuities to particular clergymen for services performed." A brief extract from a letter to the same correspondent (the Rev. Ernest Hawkins, Secretary of the S.P.G.), dated, "St. John's College, Waimate, July 6th, 1843," exhibits two other principles of a more profound character, by which his whole inner life, and the administration of his diocese, were unvaryingly directed--dependence on Divine Grace, and reverence for Christian antiquity. After gratefully acknowledging the confidence reposed in him by the Society, in not fettering him by stringent regulations, but allowing him latitude in the disposal [115/116] of the funds they entrusted him with, he says, "I trust that I shall be enabled to follow, not any fancies of my own, but the best models of antiquity, and that I shall be guided by a spirit of dependence upon Divine Grace; to which end I desire the prayers of my friends and the Church at home."

Returning to the chronological order of our narrative, we find, in a letter of the bishop, dated March 22nd, 1843, the record of an incident, which shows how thoroughly he took up the old line of conduct of the missionaries as peace-makers, and illustrates at the same time the habits of the Christian natives with regard to the observance of the Lord's Day:--"Immediately after the funeral of Mr. Whytehead, I was obliged to set out to our northernmost station, Kaitaia, to endeavour to pacify two parties of natives, whose quarrels threatened to involve the northern portion of the island in war. I was not very successful; but, happily, no outbreak occurred during the week that I spent among them. In this journey I saw the natives entirely in a new character, and in a less favourable point of view than in my former journey. Still there was something, even in their warfare, which showed the influence of religion. I arrived on the Saturday, and immediately took up my position midway between the hostile camps, in a field of Indian corn, which had been partially destroyed. From this neutral ground I opened my communications with the rival chiefs. On the next morning, Sunday, the whole valley was as quiet as in the time of perfect peace, the natives walking about unarmed among the cultivations, it [116/117] being perfectly understood that neither party would fight on the Lord's Day. Going early in the morning to one of the pas, I found the chief reading prayers to his people. As he had just come to the end of the Litany, I waited till he concluded, and then read the Communion Service, and preached to them on part of the Lesson of the day:--"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." I spoke my opinion openly, but without giving any offence; and the chief, after the service, received me in a most friendly manner. This, you will say, was an unusual combination: a New Zealand war-chief reading prayers, and an English bishop preaching; but you must not at present judge us by the ordinary rules of Church discipline." ("Annals of the Colonial Church, N.Z.," p. 63.)--We may take occasion to mention here, that the last known case of cannibalism occurred at Tauranga, in the year 1842, the perpetrator being a savage chief named Taraia. [Footnote: See Dr. Thompson's "New Zealand," vol. ii., p. 55. The atrocities perpetrated by Kereopa and others at the first Hauhau outbreak in 1865 were, however, of the nature of a return to cannibalism.]

On Trinity Sunday, 1843, Mr. Richard Davis, catechist, was ordained deacon, the service being conducted in the native language, in the presence of 400 Maories, of whom no less than 310 remained to receive the Holy Communion with the bishop and clergy. Mr. Davis was appointed to the station at Kaikohe, ten miles from Waimate. On the 24th September, three more students of St. John's College, Waimate, were ordained, namely, William Bolland, [117/118] of University College, Oxford (a friend of Mr. Whytehead), Seymour W. Spencer, and H. F. Butt. In the following November Mr. Spencer was settled by the bishop himself at Rotongaio, a station on Lake Taupo, Mr. Bolland at New Plymouth, and Mr. H. F. Butt at Nelson, as assistant curate to the Rev. C. L. Reay. [Footnote: This well-known and most estimable clergyman (the Rev. H. F. Butt) was afterwards master of the Bishop's School at Nelson. In 1857 he was put in charge of the Wairau district, the centre of which is Blenheim. He was made Archdeacon of Marlborough in 1870. He retired from clerical duty in 1885, still residing with his family at Blenheim, where he died, respected and beloved by all who knew him, not longer ago than December, 1886.] The closing days of the year 1843 were spent by the bishop at Otaki and Waikanae with Mr. Hadfield, from whom he parted on the second day of the following year, "regretting," to use his own words, "that our duties permit us to see so little of one another; for he is a man whom I value much, and have endeavoured to mark my esteem by appointing him rural dean of the district of Wellington and Taranaki." Earlier in the year 1843, he had appointed the Rev. A. N. Brown to be Archdeacon of 'Turanga. We may fitly close the record of this year with a characteristic anecdote of the bishop, which shall be given in his own words, recorded in the "Annals of the Colonial Church, New Zealand," p. 82. "When I form my plan for the summer, I write down all the days in my journal, with D.V. against the name of the place which I hope to reach on each day. If I succeed, I add a D.G. to the name. Almost all my marks of D.V. have this year been so changed into D.G."

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