Project Canterbury

A History of the English Church in New Zealand

By H.T. Purchas

Christchurch: Simpson and Williams, 1914.

Chapter XV.


Many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray.
--S. Matt. xxiv. ii.

WITH the departure of Bishop Selwyn, the Church which he had governed entered upon a new phase. It was no longer one in the sense in which it had been one. It still had a general synod, and it soon elected another primate. But no primate could be what Selwyn had been to the Church. He had watched the beginnings of every diocese, and had shepherded in person every settlement before it attained to diocesan status. The general synod was no real substitute for the influence of such a personality. It meets but once in three years; its numbers are small; its powers are limited. The real life of the Church has lain in the dioceses, and it is in diocesan histories that its own subsequent history must be found. [It is to be hoped that such histories may soon be taken in hand. That of the diocese of Waiapu has already been compiled by J. B. Fielder, Esq., and I would wish to express my obligations to him for lending me the manuscript of his work.]

But the change went deeper still. Hitherto the Church had tried in various ways to exhibit the Christian life in some visible polity or order. But the spirit of competition and commercialism had been too strong for her. The "smash" of the war period left the Church too weak to attempt to mould the forms of the nation's life. All that she had strength to do was to proclaim the old message to the individual soul; to gather together the faithful for worship and instruction; and to act the part of an ambulance waggon in the rear of the industrial march. Her influence may have been really stronger than before: it probably has been so; but it has been indirect, and it has been unseen. Humanitarian legislation owes more to Christian teaching than its authors generally admit, and it is by the humanitarian legislation of the last twenty years that New Zealand has chiefly influenced the world. Selwyn's successor in the primacy was Bishop Harper, of Christchurch; his successor in the episcopal see of Auckland was Dr. W. G. Cowie; his successor in the work of nation-building and social organisation was--with whatever difference and at whatever interval--Richard John Seddon.

But this lay in the future. The immediately succeeding phase of colonial life presents the same contrast with that of the Selwynian period as does the Hanoverian regime with that of the Stuarts. It was the period of immigration and of public works. New men came to the front--men who did not know the indebtedness of the colony to the missionaries. New ideas flowed in by every mail, and, spreading rapidly from mind to mind, drew away many from their earlier faith. The reign of Darwin had begun.

But, however it might be with the immigrant, the Maori remained a religious being. Strange, fanatical, repulsive, as might be the forms which his devotion took, he was still a believer in a world of spirit. Selwyn had hoped that this ingrained religiousness would have acted for good on the colonist. Of such influence there is little trace. The drawing together which might undoubtedly be seen before the war, had given place to a movement in the opposite direction. Here again Selwyn's departure was significant. There never came another who looked upon Maori and pakeha with the same equal and comprehensive love.

An incident from the days before the war may serve to show what, under happier circumstances, the Maori might have done for his European brother: Sir George Grey, Bishop Selwyn, and an English visitor were travelling along the east coast, near Ahuriri. In the course of the day they had been talking to the natives about the duty of reserving certain of their lands as educational grants for the benefit of their children and of posterity. In the middle of the night they were woke up in their tent by a deputation of these natives calling to Sir George Grey, and asking him whether he himself acted upon the plan he recommended to them, and whether he gave tithes, or any portion of his worldly goods, to the Church of God. The governor was bound to admit that he had not done so in the past; but undertook to do better for the future. The result was that he bought and gave a piece of land in Wellington as a site for a church. Bishop Selwyn added an adjoining section, and the English visitor still another; and thus the diocese acquired what it had long sought for in vain--a central site for its cathedral church, diocesan offices, and bishop's residence. [This was the Hon. A. G. Tollemache, who afterwards added another section of city land for an episcopal endowment.]

The diocese in which the two races are brought into closest and most equal relations is, of course, that of Waiapu. The reconstruction of this shattered portion of the Church was brought about indirectly by the same zeal on the part of Governor Grey for securing educational reserves for the Maoris.

We have seen that Bishop Williams was driven from his home in 1865, and compelled to take refuge with his brother in the north. For seven years Waiapu was left without a synod, and, in one sense, it never received its bishop back at all. Some months after the bishop's departure, his house at Waeranga-a-hika (near Gisborne) was the scene of a fierce battle. The Hauhaus held the adjoining pa, and the bishop's house was used as the fortress of the British troops. After seven days' siege the pa was captured, but the episcopal residence and the college were in ruins. The bishop remained for two years in exile, and his restoration was at last brought about in an unexpected way.

In the same year (1853) as that in which he received the shock of the Maori's midnight question, Sir George Grey induced the Rev. Samuel Williams to leave the school which he was carrying on for Hadfield at Otaki, and to move across the island to Hawke's Bay. Here he gave him 4,000 acres at Te Aute for a Maori school, and the natives of the district gave a similar amount. The country was covered with bush and fern, the land yielded no rental, and there were no funds for the school. At last, Samuel Williams took the work into his own hands. In order to create a school he must begin by farming the land. After several years of experiment and of anxious labour, he succeeded not only in bringing the school estate to a condition of productiveness, but in giving a valuable object lesson to other settlers. Now he could begin the school; but who was to help him in the work of instruction? His thoughts turned to his uncle, the dispossessed bishop, who, on his part, was seeking some new base from which to begin his work over again. In response to his nephew, the bishop brought his family to Hawke's Bay in 1867, and was at once prevailed upon by the people of Napier to take charge of their vacant parish. Bishop Abraham, of Wellington, in whose diocese Hawke's Bay was situated, gladly availed himself of the episcopal visitor for work among the Maoris. The position was a strange one, for here was a bishop living outside his own diocese and working in an adjoining one. The general synod of 1868, however, set matters right by transferring Hawke's Bay to the diocese of Waiapu. Bishop Williams made Napier his new headquarters, and the diocese took the bilingual character which it bears to-day.

Not so soon or so happily settled was another trouble which took its rise in the same siege of Waerenga-a-hika in 1865.

The fight at this place was well-nigh the end of Hau-hauism, for the British bullets laid low many a misguided enthusiast who relied on the prophet's promise of invulnerability. But amongst the Maoris who fought on the British side was one Te Kooti, who was accused--unjustly, as was afterwards proved--of traitorous communication with the enemy. For some days he was kept a prisoner in the guard-room in the bishop's house; he was then deported with the Hau-hau prisoners to Chatham Island. They were promised a safe return in two years on condition of good behaviour, and, by the testimony of all witnesses, their behaviour was exemplary.

But Te Kooti had no kindly feelings towards his captors. He fell ill on the island, and imagined himself the recipient of a new revelation. In fact, his mind was constantly dwelling upon the Old Testament, especially the imprecatory psalms and the prayers of the Jews during their exile in Babylon. His book of prayers contained two collects which show the grandeur and the fierceness which he drew from these Scriptures. Here is the prayer for the deliverance of the exiles: "O GOD, if our hearts arise from the land in which we now dwell as slaves, and repent, and pray to Thee, and confess our sins in Thy presence, then, O Jehovah, do Thou blot out the sins of Thy own people, who have sinned against Thee. Do not Thou, O GOD, cause us to be wholly destroyed. Wherefore it is that we glorify Thy Holy Name. Amen."

A fiercer note is struck in the collect "For deliverance from foes":

"O Jehovah, thou art the God who deliverest the people repenting: therefore do Thou listen hither this day to the prayer of Thy servant concerning our enemies. Let them be destroyed and turned to flight by Thee. Let their counsels be utterly confounded, and their faces be covered with sadness and confusion. And when Thou sendest forth Thy Angel to trample our enemies to the earth, through Thee also shall all their bones be broken to pieces. Glory to Thy Holy Name. Amen."

Such being the intensity of Te Kooti's feelings, it is not wonderful that he quickly won over the 300 disillusioned Hauhaus who were imprisoned with him on the island; nor that, when the two years were over without any word of release, they should have become restless and discontented. The wonder is that when at last they overpowered their guards and took possession of the island, they should have acted with the moderation which they showed. They sailed back to New Zealand in a schooner which they had captured, and Te Kooti always averred that at that time he did not intend to interfere with anyone. It was during the months following, when he. was pursued among the mountains, wounded and famished, that the savage reawoke in Te Kooti. In November, 1868, he and his men made a sudden onslaught upon the settlers of Poverty Bay, and massacred every man, woman, and child whom they met. Driven once more to the mountains, he was hunted from place to place by the loyal Maoris, but he was never captured; and for years his sudden murderous raids struck terror into the homes of the colonists. The "king" Tawhiao would have none of him, but at length the government of the day thought it wise to grant him a pardon, and the old outlaw ended his days in peace.

His doctrines are still held by many of the Maoris in the Bay of Plenty and elsewhere. They are called "Ringa-tu," from the practice of holding up the hand at the conclusion of their prayers. They observe the seventh day as their Sabbath. Some have introduced the name of our Saviour into their worship, but "Jesus Christ is to them a name and nothing more, and their children grow up in heathen ignorance."

The phenomena of Hauhauism and of the Ringa-tu certainly suggest the question whether it was wise to translate the whole of the Old Testament into the Maori language. It can hardly be a mere coincidence that Maunsell's translation was finished and published in 1856, shortly before the troubles began. Tamihana, it is true, is said to have read his Bible in English, but his followers must have been for the most part dependent on the Maori version. Even the Hauhaus, though professing to abjure the white man's religion altogether, were dependent on the white man's book. "From the Bible," wrote Lady Martin, "which was their only literature, they got their phraseology. The men who excited and guided them were prophets; Jehovah was to fight for them; the arm of the Lord and the sword of the Lord were on their side, to drive the English into the sea."

Through the providence of God, the people of Israel were led step by step from the rude violence of the days of Joshua and the Judges to the spiritual religion of the prophets and the revelation of love in Jesus Christ. With the Maori the process was reversed. The Old Testament was kept back to the last. Having begun in the spirit, they were sought to be made perfect in the flesh. What wonder if, when they took into account the whole course of the white man's dealings with them, they should have become convinced that the missionaries were sent before to tame their spirits so that the colonists might follow and take their land?

The condition even of the loyal Maoris after the war was an unhappy one. Bishop Selwyn always spoke with thankfulness of the fact that not one of the native priests or deacons had faltered in his attachment to the Christian faith or to the British crown. But, with the exception of Heta Terawhiti, they were unable to penetrate into the King Country, or to do much in any way to rouse their countrymen to fresh exertion. Nor were the white missionaries more successful. They were now elderly men, and they seem not to have had the heart to make fresh efforts. Morgan had died in the year 1865; Ash-well returned to his station after some years; but Dr. Maunsell remained in Auckland as incumbent of Parnell. One or two efforts were made to effect an entrance into the King Country, but before proceeding far the missionary was always turned back. Those Maoris who had fought on the British side were seldom the better for their contact with the white man. Drunkenness became prevalent among them, and altogether the after-war period presents a sad picture of apathy and decline.

Nor can it be said that up to the present time there has been any general revival. But cheering symptoms may be noted. The King Country, which long remained closed to the missionaries and to all Europeans, is now open in every part. The old "kingship" is still existent, but it is now perfectly orthodox. At the installation of the present holder of the tide (in 1912), the Maori clergy were present in their surplices; hymns such as "Onward Christian Soldiers" were sung; and a descendant of Tamihana "anointed" the young chief by placing the open Bible upon his head. North of Auckland, and on the north-east coast, a steady pastoral work has been carried on continuously by native clergy and layreaders under the supervision of English archdeacons. On the Wanganui River, numbers of lapsed Maoris have returned to the Church; while in the Bay of Plenty and around Rotorua, a great improvement has been manifest during the last few years--an improvement largely due to the efforts of Goodyear, Bennett, and the native clergy.

But, on the whole, the Maori of to-day is difficult to reach. He has seen too much to be easily moved to wonder. When Marsden rode his horse along the beach at Oihi, the natives were struck with admiration at the novel spectacle. To-day the missionary, mounted perhaps on a humble bicycle, may meet his Maori parishioner driving the most expensive kind of motor car. Kendall acquired great influence over the native mind by exhibiting a barrel organ which he had brought from England: if he had arrived to-day he might have been invited to listen to a selection of modern airs from a Maori-owned gramophone.

The chief hope lies in the education of the young. The government primary schools are doing much throughout the country, many of their teachers being trained in religious high schools and colleges. Of these the Church has a fair number. St. Stephen's School at Parnell, Auckland, still carries on the work begun by Selwyn at St. John's. It is a technical school with 60 boarders. A similar institution for girls is the Queen Victoria College in the same city.

The Te Aute estate in Hawke's Bay, so successfully managed by Archdeacon Samuel Williams, supports a secondary boarding school and college, which exert a great influence among the high-born Maoris. From this institution has sprung the "Young Maori" party, which has done much to raise the standard of living in the pas. A kindred institution, supported by the same endowment, is the Hukarere School for girls at Napier. This is perhaps the most influential of all the agencies for the advancement of the Maori.

The old Waerenga-a-hika College lay desolate for many years after the war, but is now revived as an industrial and technical school. Similar institutions have been established in the diocese of Wellington, at Otaki in the west, and at Clareville in the Wairarapa. In the South Island there is a boarding school for girls at Ohoka in the diocese of Christchurch.

There is nothing in the nature of a university college for Maoris, but at Gisborne stands the theological college of Te Rau, where candidates are trained for the ministry of the Church. From its walls many promising young clergymen have come. Thirty-three are now at work--19 in the diocese of Waiapu, 10 in Auckland, and 4 in Wellington. These with 17 other Maori clergy make up a total of 50.

The religious future of this fine race is shrouded in uncertainty. Mormonism is strong in some districts, and competes with the tohunga (medicine man and priest) in drawing away many of the unstable from Christian influence. The bright hopes of Marsden and of Selwyn have not yet been realised, but many saintly souls have been gathered in, and a faithful remnant still survives to hand on the light.

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