Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.

Chapter IX.

ADJUSTMENT. (1843-1844).

Unreconciled antitheses are prophecies and promises of a larger future.

WITH Bishop Selwyn there appeared in New Zealand a type of churchmanship which was new to the Maoris, and even to their teachers. Much had happened in the mother country since Marsden and the brothers Williams had left it. The Oxford, or "Tractarian," movement had drawn men's minds to the thought of the visible Church; the old Missionary Society, which had been founded under Queen Anne "for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts," had recovered from its low condition, and was once more doing active work among British colonists; the study of Christian antiquity was being zealously pursued, and many young churchmen were enthusiastically bent on imitating the ascetic lives of the saints and hermits of the past.

Selwyn himself did not belong to the Tractarians, but he admired them from afar, and he was influenced to a great extent by the same spirit. The key to much of the subsequent history of the New Zealand Church may be found in a spectacle which might be seen at Kerikeri in the year after the bishop's arrival. At this place was a large and solid stone building, which the missionaries used as a store: here, in an upstairs apartment, the bishop arranged his library. Passing among "bales of blankets, iron pots, rusty rat-traps and saws," he loved to enter his retreat, in which there was nothing "colonial," but where he could feast his eyes on "ancient folios of Commentators, Councils, and Annals of the Church,"--St. Augustine "standing up like a tower," and St. Irenaeus "with the largest margin that I ever saw." Not that Selwyn spent much of his time over these treasures--his life was too fully occupied for that--but he knew pretty well what they contained, and he shaped his policy accordingly. The missionaries had been men of one book: Selwyn was a man of many books. He knew his Bible, it is true, with the intimate "textual" knowledge of the most old-fashioned divine, and he had a marvellous skill in calling up the appropriate verse on all occasions. But he interpreted it in the light of Christian antiquity. Pearson on the Creed, with its patristic citations, was ever at his hand. This, with his Bible and his Prayer Book, constituted his working theological equipment. Every doctrine, every argument, every rule, was clearly conceived and arranged in his mind, ready for immediate use.

Upon the shelves of the Kerikeri library reposed one volume of special interest. This was Marsden's copy of Hooker's "Ecclesiastical Polity," which had been publicly presented to the bishop on his arrival in Sydney. Selwyn already knew his Hooker almost by heart, but the gift stood as a token of the spiritual relationship which united these two great men. Yet their "polity" was not altogether the same. In his appreciation of the "catholic" aspect of the Church's heritage, the bishop failed to realise the value of the local catholicity which had been evolved by Marsden and his fellow workers. He could find no place for the Wesleyan mission in his scheme. Always courteous to its leaders, he yet could not continue the old communion with them. From this change of attitude the logical Maoris drew conclusions which soon brought sadness to the bishop himself. Up and down the country, but especially in Taranaki, where the spheres of influence met, the converts were violently perturbed. A savage burst of sectarian fury broke out. Each small community was divided against itself, and its Christianity, like that of the Corinthians, evaporated in bitter party feeling. In one pa a high fence was built through the midst to divide the adherents of "Weteri" (Wesley) from those of "Hahi" (the Church).

Controversy and division were not the only foes which hindered the building of the new Jerusalem. The angel of death hovered near and smote down the workers with relentless hand. At Wellington the bishop had buried the remains of his student, Evans; but he had ordained to the priesthood the Rev. J. Mason, the new missionary at Wanganui. Within a few weeks this excellent man was drowned in the Turakina River. Nor did the sad tale end here. On reaching home after his journey the bishop was confronted by the wasted face and hollow cough of one who was to have been the principal of the college he was founding at Waimate. This was the Rev. Thomas Whytehead, a man of beautiful and saintly character, whom the bishop had looked to for spiritual support and inspiration. He was indeed the St. Barnabas of the little community as long as his life lasted, but in a few weeks he passed away from earth, and his remains were buried in the Waimate churchyard. Like the Barnabas of old, he laid his money at the apostles' feet by bequeathing all his private fortune to the bishop for the purposes of the college, and he left as a legacy to the whole Church the touching hymn for Easter Eve:

Resting from his work to-day.

His monetary gift proved of great value, for with it was afterwards acquired the estate at Tamaki, upon which the present St. John's College stands; but still more precious to the Church is the "sweet fragrance of his memory."

Whytehead's bequest was only one manifestation of the spirit which actuated the community throughout. The members lived with the bishop in one of the old houses at the Waimate mission station. He himself paid into the common fund the whole of his episcopal income of £1,200, and drew out as his proper share only £500. The farm was worked on communistic principles. Teachers and students must all take their share in manual labour. Lectures on Greek and Latin must be given in the intervals of ploughing, or printing, or teaching Maori children to read or hoe or spin. Each "associate" received a fixed salary; all profits went to the support of the institution.

The reasons for this insistence on manual training were twofold. Like Bishop Broughton, Selwyn had observed that "throughout the whole mission the delusion has prevailed that the Gospel will give habits as well as principles." He began, in fact, as Marsden had begun, with a strong insistence on the industrial side of education, for the sake of developing in the Maori a well-ordered and diligent character which the white man would respect, and with which he might co-operate in the building up of a united nation. The fervour and the teachableness of the Maori were to help the religion of the Briton: the energy and industry of the Briton were to balance the dreamy nature of the Maori.

But, secondly, the community thus organised on primitive and Christian lines was to be a spectacle and an example to the world. Selwyn did not read his Bible or his Fathers with the interest of a mere student. In the background of his thought lay the Socialist and Chartist movement, which was even then preparing for the explosion of 1848. The Church must show the true principle of brotherhood in active operation, and he hoped to attract to his community young men from the English universities, who were going over to Rome through discontent with the comfortable worldliness of the mother Church. "I have at command," he wrote, "a rill of water, a shady wood, a rocky cave, and roots of fern, for every one of these would-be anchorites." But the would-be anchorites found no attraction in the hard work which New Zealand offered, and the bishop's college was recruited chiefly from the grey-haired missionaries or their sons. From these he replenished the number of his clergy, which had been reduced by the drowning of Mason, and by the withdrawal of two other priests to England. His first ordination was that of Richard Davis, the farmer-catechist, in June, 1843; while in September three more students were admitted to the diaconate (Bolland, Spencer, and Butt), and thus at least for a time the ranks were filled.

With the ordination of these students closed the first session of the college. The bishop had arranged to spend each winter with his students, and each summer in travelling about the diocese and planting out those whom he had ordained. During the first term he had often found time to hold large confirmations at or near the Bay of Islands, as well as to open the new church at Auckland; now with the spring he set out on a journey even more far-reaching than that of the previous year. His route lay at first through the interior of the island, and intersected his former line of march. His object was to visit the Taupo and Upper Wanganui missions, which he had not as yet seen, and afterwards to lift the veil which hid the farthest south.

The first stages of his journey were marked by some memorable experiences. Near Lake Tarawera, "on turning a corner of the valley, we saw before us what appeared to be a large waterfall, apparently 50 feet in height and about the same in width. As we came nearer we were surprised to hear no noise of falling waters, but still the appearance was the same in the moonlight. In a few minutes we found ourselves walking upon what had appeared to be water." The bishop had in fact found the famous White Terraces, which were afterwards destroyed in the eruption of 1886. After leaving one of his deacons (Spencer) at Lake Taupo, the bishop and his party were weatherbound for a week in the mountains near the head waters of the Wanganui, and were reduced to very short rations. In order to get canoes, Selwyn inflated his air bed, and placing it on a frame of sticks he sent two of his Maoris sailing down the stream upon it, and was thus able to make known his plight to the settlements below. When a canoe at last arrived, the weather changed, and the descent of this beautiful stream was in every way a joy. From far above Pipiriki, Selwyn landed at every pa, and held service or catechised the natives. Sunday, November 19th, was a time of special interest. "A more lovely day in respect of weather," he wrote, "or one more full of interest in respect of its moral circumstances, or of pleasure from the beauty of the scenery through which I passed, I never remember to have spent. It was a day of intense delight from beginning to end: from the earliest song of the birds, who awakened me in the morning, to the Evening Hymn of the natives, which was just concluded when I reached the door of the native chapel at Ikurangi."

The remaining weeks of the year 1843 were spent amongst the "Cook Strait settlements," in most of which good progress was evident. At Nelson a church and a neat brick parsonage had already been built, while at Wanganui the Maoris had resolved to pull down their brick church and to build a larger one in wood. Wellington was still the unsatisfactory spot. No English church had yet been begun, and the sense of grievance was still strong.

However natural such feelings might once have been, they were surely inexcusable now. For since the bishop's last visit, Wellington had contracted such a debt to the missionaries as should have changed its grievance into gratitude. The New Zealand Company had made its great blunder in attempting to take possession of the Marlborough plain without buying it from its native owners. The result had been the Wairau tragedy, in which 19 white men had been killed by the Maoris under Rauparaha and Rangi-haeta. The effect of this deed of blood was quickly felt in other parts. Up every river valley the news was passed that the Maori had at last turned on the pakeha, and had beaten him in open fight. The crafty Rauparaha, fearing a terrific act of vengeance on the part of the white men, resolved to forestall any such danger by driving them out of the country. He felt certain of his own Ngatitoas, but between them and Wellington lay Waikanae, where Hadfield's influence was strong, and where Wiremu Kingi, the father-in-law of Ripahau, was chief. To Waikanae accordingly he steered his boat. Still wet with the salt spray of the strait, and faint from long exertion, he pleaded with such power and pathos that he almost won over these tribesmen to his daring project. The situation was a critical one. Not a moment was to be lost. Hadfield ordered the bell to be rung for Evensong; the assembly thronged in to prayers; and for the time the excitement calmed down.

But the danger was not over. All through the long winter night, Rauparaha was busy in trying to induce Wiremu Kingi to join him. He proposed to attack Wellington and destroy every man, woman, and child. "Let us destroy the reptile while we have the power to do so," he argued, "or it will destroy us. We have begun: let us make an end of them." Kingi was firm, and declared that it was his intention to live at peace with the pakeha. When daylight came, Rauparaha made one more effort: "At least remain neutral," he pleaded. "I will oppose you with my whole force," said Kingi, and the disappointed warrior steered his canoes northwards.

Even now he did not give up his scheme. Forming his camp on an islet in the Otaki River, and taking up a bold attitude, he endeavoured to secure the assistance of the Ngatiraukawa tribesmen. But Hadfield had followed him along the coast, and now brought his great influence to bear on the natives as they were gathered on the river bank, Rauparaha's passionate eloquence failed of its effect, and he saw that the game was lost. With that rapid decision for which he was renowned, this Maori Napoleon now seized what seemed his one remaining chance of safety: he crept submissively to Hadfield, and applied to be received as a candidate for baptism. Somewhat to the amazement of his white friends, Hadfield accepted him as a catechumen, and the two men actually became fast friends.

Thus was white New Zealand saved by Waikanae Christianity; and Waikanae Christianity was due, under GOD, to an invalided Oxford undergraduate, a Maori slave, and a little girl with her Gospel of St. Luke!

But what of Rauparaha's son, Tamihana, the man without whom Hadfield would not have come to the district, nor Ripahau been converted, nor Tarore's gospel brought into use? This zealous man was engaged at the moment on an enterprise very different from that which his father had contemplated. Four years before, he and his cousin had gone to the extreme north to find a teacher for themselves; now they had gone to the extreme south in order to teach others. Travelling in an open boat for more than one thousand miles, these two intrepid men had coasted down the east of the South Island, and had visited all the pas in what are now Canterbury and Otago. Their lives were in jeopardy, for the very name of Rauparaha was enough to arouse a thirst for vengeance among people whom that conqueror had harried and enslaved; but the earnestness of the young men was so transparent that they were received peacefully in every place, and their message was welcomed and accepted.

Such were the tidings which the bishop heard when he reached Otaki. Rauparaha himself was an "enquirer" into the Christian verities; Rauparaha's son had evangelised along the line which he himself was about to travel, and, moreover, was willing to proceed thither again with the bishop as his guide and companion.

With the same Tamihana, then, and nine other Maoris, the bishop left Wellington on January 6th, 1844, in a miserable coasting schooner. When opposite Banks Peninsula the little vessel was forced to put into the bay of Peraki for supplies, and as a strong contrary wind sprang up at this juncture, Selwyn determined to walk to Otago instead of going on by sea. Through this change in his plans, he seems to have been the first white man to discover that Lake Ellesmere was a freshwater lake, and not an extension of Pegasus Bay. It was at the point where the hills of the Peninsula slope steeply down to the end of the Ninety-Mile Beach that the traveller realised this fact, and it was from this point that he gained, at sunset, his first view of what were afterwards to be known as the Canterbury Plains. With his Maoris he spent his first night on shore at a small pa which then stood at the outlet of Lake Forsyth. After a supper and breakfast of eels, the party proceeded next day along the shingle bank which separates Lake Ellesmere from the sea, and at Taumutu found about forty Maoris, some of whom could read, and "many were acquainted with the Lord's Prayer, the Belief, and portions of the Catechism." Here then was the first evidence of Tamihana's previous visit. The service which the bishop held at this place next morning (Jan. 11) may be looked upon as the beginning of Church of England worship in the province of Canterbury.

At Arowhenua more than 100 Maoris were found, but these showed the effects not only of Tamihana's instruction, but also of Wesleyan teachers from the south. The melancholy result was the division of the pa into two sections, who plied the bishop with questions on denominational distinctions. The same uncomfortable state of things was found in almost every village as far as Stewart Island, and detracted much from the pleasure of the tour. At Waikouaiti, 100 miles farther south, the bishop visited a Wesleyan missionary, Mr. Watkins. He was the only white teacher who had as yet visited this portion of the country, and he entertained his guest for two days in friendly fashion. He was inclined to resent the intrusion of Tamihana into his district, but admitted in conversation that, owing to weak health, he had never been able to visit many of the pas himself, and that he had been so scantily supplied with literature by his Society that he could not circulate books. The bishop felt that the ground had certainly not been effectively occupied before Tamihana's visit, for all the Maoris attributed to him the beginnings of their knowledge of the truth. He therefore declined to recognise a Wesleyan sphere of influence in these regions, but the parting between himself and this lonely missionary was thoroughly friendly on both sides.

At Moeraki, Selwyn had again taken to shipboard, and learned from some of his fellow passengers much of the romantic history of the southern whaling stations. He was able also to fill in his map with the names of capes and other coastal features as they came successively into sight: "In the company of these men I soon found the whole of the mystery which had hung over the southern islands passing away; every place being as well known by them as the northern island by us."

The whaling stations of Stewart Island and of the opposite mainland supplied a curious field for missionary effort. Though Christian marriage was unknown, the whalers appeared to be faithful to their native partners, and uniformly anxious that their half-caste children should lead a more regular life than they themselves had known. In a considerable number of cases the bishop pronounced the Church's blessing over these irregular connections, and he distributed large numbers of simple books for the instruction of the children.

A fortnight soon passed by amidst this interesting community, and, after reaching the farthest inhabited point at Jacob's River, the bishop was able to make a quick run by sea back to Akaroa, which he reached on Feb. 14th. Here he evidently felt himself to be on alien soil, for though he thoroughly appreciated the ceremonious politeness with which he was received on board the French corvette, he does not seem to have held any service on shore, nor performed any episcopal act. He was more at home with a godly Presbyterian family whom he found at Pigeon Bay, and complied with their request to conduct their evening prayer.

By the end of the month he was back in Wellington, where at last there appeared some hopeful signs. A new governor (Captain Fitzroy) had just arrived, who helped him to secure a better site for a church; and a new judge, "who spoke very co-operatively on church matters." At Auckland he consecrated St. Paul's Church, and was pleased to find his projected church at Tamaki already taking shape. Such "a solid venerable-looking building" refreshed his spirit" amidst "the wilderness of weather-board;" and he had another "delicious day" in his library at Kerikeri before he finally arrived at Waimate. He was escorred home on March 21 by a procession of the members of the college and the schools, amounting in all to full 50 souls, and found everything in such good order that he requested his English friends to waste no more compassion upon him for the future.

6Selwyn had an Englishman's love for a stone building, and always spoke of the wooden churches of the country as "chapels." Yet some of these despised buildings (e.g., those at Kaitaia and at Russell), which had been built before his arrival, are still in existence and in regular use; whereas his "solid" church at Tamaki, which he looked upon with so much pride, very soon proved dangerous, and is now a picturesque ruin.

Everything seemed to promise fair for the second term of the college, but troubles arose in an unexpected quarter. The Home Committee of the C.M.S. paid one half of the episcopal stipend, and of course recognised the spiritual side of the office. But they would not give up their jurisdiction over their agents, nor allow the bishop to place them where he would. As nearly all the clergy in the country belonged to this Society, such a restriction would have left the bishop with but little real power. Selwyn was the last man in the world to acquiesce in such an arrangement. The result was that the Society refused to grant him a renewal of his lease of the buildings at Waimate, and it became necessary for the bishop to look elsewhere for a site for his headquarters.

This unhappy breach made no diffeicnce to the loyal support which the leaders of the mission on the spot had always given to their chief. Rather it drew them closer to him. "I am sorry, very sorry," wrote Henry Williams, "to learn the way in which the good bishop has been treated by expulsion from the Wai-mate. How could this have taken place? Who could have given consent for such a movement?" His brother and Hadfield were equally distressed. Selwyn, on his part, seemed to be determined to bind the missionaries to himself more closely than ever. Four of them he associated with himself on a translation syndicate, which sat regularly from May to September to revise the Maori Prayer Book. At the end of the college term there came what may be called a climax of fellowship. At a notable service in the Waimate church on Sunday, September 22nd, Henry Williams and Brown of Tauranga were installed as archdeacons; then followed an ordination, in which many of the lay catechists whose names have come before us in the first part of this work were admitted to the diaconate. Chapman, Hamlin, Matthews, Colenso, and C. P. Davies all received the laying-on-of-hands; the sermon was preached by Henry Williams, and the church was crammed with a devout and interested congregation. "It was grand," writes Lady Martin, "to hear the people repeat the responses all together in perfect time. It was like the roar of waves on the beach." On the next day the Maoris, hearing that the bishop was about to leave them, made a public protest with eloquent speeches and warlike gestures. Archdeacon W. Williams calmed their excitement by drawing a diagram on the gravel, and asking whether it was not fair that the bishop should live in the middle of the diocese instead of at either end.

One more act of unity was consummated before the final leave-taking. On the Thursday of that week, the bishop held a synod, at which the three archdeacons, four other priests, and two deacons were present, its object being to frame rules "for the better management of the mission, and the general government of the Church." This little gathering attracted much notice in England, on account of its being the first synodical meeting which had been held in modern times; but in itself it was hardly more imposing than the old meetings of the missionary committee, which had often been held in the same place. The great point to be noticed is that it was marked by complete harmony and loyalty. As yet there was no breach between the leaders in New Zealand. The bishop and his party left the north on a hot October morning a few weeks later amidst general regret. Lady Martin tells how the little Maori children came swarming out into the lane to see the last of the departing household. The words of their hymn echoed the feelings of the elder folk:

Oh that will be joyful,
When we meet to part no more!

O Bishop! O Missionaries! Pray, as you never prayed before, for the grace of the Holy Ghost to keep you united still.

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