Project Canterbury


By James W. Stack

Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, N.Z.
Melbourne and London: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1909.

Chapter XI. Conclusion

The perusal of any record of Christian life amongst the Maoris must suggest the question to any thoughtful reader, acquainted with the history of the people, What caused them to exchange the law of hate for the law of love?

There were men in our Lord's day who attributed His miracles to Beelzebub, and the manifestation of His Spirit's indwelling Presence on the Day of Pentecost to drunkenness; and there are like-minded critics of God's work amongst mankind at the present day who refuse to believe that any improvement in the character and conduct of men is caused by a Divine Power outside them, influencing their hearts and minds--they attribute every improvement in conduct to motives of self-interest. Like Job's accuser of old, they will not allow that any human being can "serve God for nought." Critics of this kind, who saw the Maoris transformed from ferocious cannibals into kind-hearted Christians, attributed the change to bribery. They slanderously asserted that the [94/95] missionaries bribed the Maoris with blankets and axes to change their ways; and perhaps there are still some who believe the slander.

It would be useless to try to convince such persons of the true meaning of the facts which they misinterpret--facts which, to all who are not wilfully blind, prove that God the Holy Spirit is still present in the world, creating new and contrite hearts in all who are willing to submit to His gracious influence.

It is true that the Maori presentation of the "Christ-life" at the present day is very faulty; but, to judge it fairly, it ought not to be compared with the presentation of it found amongst nations like our own, who have enjoyed the light of Christ's teaching for fifteen centuries, but rather with the heathen standard of life, which the Maoris forsook less than a century ago; and then the marvellous improvement in the character and conduct of the people will be seen and acknowledged, and any doubt removed regarding the divine origin of the change which took place in them, when, in obedience to the inward promptings of the Holy Spirit, they substituted the law of love for the law of hate.

It was the Holy Spirit who taught the Maoris the sanctity of human life, which as heathens they destroyed without compunction. It was He who influenced them to give up blood feuds, which their national code of honour required them to perpetuate. And it was He who drew those between whom [95/96] blood feuds existed to kneel together at the Lord's Table in peace and charity with all men. It was He who made them willing to give up cannibalism, slavery, and polygamy, and infanticide, and to abolish the religious system which was the mainstay of the dignity and power of their chiefs.

The Maoris grasped the truth that to follow Christ means not only the renunciation of sin, but a life of self-sacrifice, and it ought never to be forgotten that when they embraced Christianity, the rangatira class (gentry), which comprised the whole of the freemen, did what the rich young man in the gospels would not do--they gave up all to follow Christ. They gave up their "tapu" and "mana," by which their power and dignity were maintained, and voluntarily surrendered their power to their Christian teachers; they gave up their wealth, and reduced themselves to the rank of the poorest by setting at liberty their slaves.

The Maori gentleman, to prove his sincere acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Master, dismissed the tillers of his fields, the hunters and fishers of his preserves, the servants of his household, and degraded himself to the rank of a slave, by allowing one of that infamous class to eat food placed upon his head, which was the sacred shrine of the divinities he worshipped, and whose favour he for ever forfeited by this insult. The rangatira submitted to this degrading [96/97] ceremonial to enable the slaves to participate with him in Christian ordinances, which they would not have dared to do otherwise.

Men who had ruled powerful communities and distinguished themselves in times of peace and war, and whose influence extended far beyond their own tribes, humbled themselves as little children before their own slaves, and often submitted to be taught by them the first principles of the new faith.

If the lives of Maori Christians are not at this day as satisfactory as they ought to be, let us bear in mind that the fault lies in a great measure at our own door.

When the convert from heathenism accepted with childlike faith the precepts of the gospel, he tried to act up to them. But, when brought into contact with European Christians, he observed that many of them trampled under foot the precepts he had been taught to obey, and scoffed at the Bible, which he had been taught to respect. And this discovery caused him to doubt the truth of the new religion he had adopted, and to relax his efforts to comply with its demands.

But it was not to this cause alone that the spiritual declension of the people was due, it Avas equally so to political causes; for, when they discovered that all the countrymen of the missionaries did not attach the same value to the things for which they themselves had given up so much, they also discovered that the result of the Treaty of Waitangi, by [97/98] which they had transferred the sovereignty over their country to the British Crown, was that they were being deposed from their position as lords of the soil, and deprived of all political power, and that they were being tied and bound by laws which they had no part in making. And this discovery filled them with resentment, which found expression in John Heke's attack upon the flagstaff station at the Bay of Islands in 1845, and in the Land League and King Movement, which led to the Taranaki and Waikato wars in 1859 and 1863.

The way those wars were conducted by the Maoris proved the reality of their conversion to Christianity; for, when their fiercest passions were aroused, instead of reverting to the cruel methods of savage warfare, which they had always practised up to within ten years of their first hostile encounter with the English, they adhered to the humane methods of civilised warfare, and, by their chivalrous behaviour towards their foes, won their respect and admiration.

Reference to their conduct on a few special occasions in time of war will suffice to show that a New Spirit had taken possession of the people, who were once proverbial for their ferocity.

After hostilities began at the Bay of Islands, Lieutenant Philpots and a midshipman, while walking along the beach, were seized by Maoris lying in ambush, who, instead of killing [98/99] them, contented themselves with disarming the lieutenant, who carried a brace of pistols; and, after examining the weapons, they kept one, and, while handing back the other, cautioned that officer to take more care of himself in the future, and then they allowed him to return to his boat with his young companion.

The Maoris in quite another part of the country, when at war with the English, displayed the same desire to spare the lives of those who were opposed to them.

It was the duty of a naval officer named Holmes to patrol the Whanganui river, and, whenever his boat came within musket shot of the enemy on the bank, they invariably called out before firing: "Stoop, Holmes!" wishing to give him a chance to escape being shot.

During the raid on Wellington by the forces of the heathen chief Rangihaeata in 1846, when his men attacked the blockhouse at the Hutt, and killed Allen, the brave bugler-boy--who, after his right hand was chopped off, took the bugle in his left, and sounded the alarm before he was tomahawked,--Major "Richmond, the popular leader of the English community, was allowed to pass and repass unharmed at all hours of the day and night by the enemy ambushed along the Wellington road. Whenever his white charger was seen, the word was passed along: "Don't fire! It's Richmond."

While the attack on Rangiriri, a fortified [99/100] pa on the Waikato, was proceeding, a British officer, who was mortally wounded during an assault which failed, kept begging for water. The supply within the pa was exhausted and none could be got without crossing the English fire, and procuring it from the river. One of the enemy, moved with pity, got a calabash, and sprang over the earthworks, in full view of our troops, rushed down to the river, filled it, and ran back through a shower of bullets, none of which, fortunately, hit him, though, sad to say, the wounded officer whose thirst he relieved recognised his dead body lying close to him, when the place was captured by our troops soon afterwards.

It was at Rangiriri that a written order from the Maori commander-in-chief to the defenders of the place was found on one the slain. It contained, amongst other things, the following direction: "If any English fall into your hands be kind to them. ' If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.'"

An eye-witness of the assault on the Gate Pa, in the Bay of Plenty, tells how "the rebels fought like demons [why "demons"? why not heroes?--their conduct towards their enemies, according to the writer's own showing, was the reverse of demoniacal], and the struggle that took place between them and the attacking party under General Cameron was one of the fiercest in the history of the Maori War."

[101] "Early in the morning of April the 20th, 1864, the 'pa' was entered, and the dead and wounded of both sides were found thickly strewn about the breach. In addition to Colonel Booth, who was found lying mortally wounded in the spine, Lieutenant Hill of the CuraƧoa, the senior surviving officer from the wreck of the Orpheus, was lying dead, surrounded "by a large number of our dead and dying. As I have previously mentioned, the rebels behaved towards our wounded with the greatest consideration and humanity. During the early hours of the night Colonel Booth called one of the rebels to him, and begged for a drink of water. Taking a calabash, the young man went outside the 'pa' to the swamp, and, at considerable risk to himself, fetched the water to the sorely wounded colonel." [Rawiri-Puhiraki.]

It is true that acts of savagery were sometimes perpetrated during the wars with the English, but they were condemned by the real leaders of the people, who abhorred such deeds as much as we did. They were either the work of irresponsible persons, or of fanatics like the Hauhaus and Tekooti and Titokowaru. And it is just as unfair to charge the Maori people with the guilt of those crimes as it would be to charge the citizens of London with the guilt of the atrocious murders which are committed from time to time by residents in that city.

[102] It is a remarkable fact that the Maoris generally showed great reluctance to break off friendly relations with their English fellow Christians, even after hostilities had begun. They begged that the fighting might be confined to the particular part of the country where the quarrel originated, and that it should be treated as a duel between the Government and the Maoris opposed to them, and that the rest of the population, both Maori and English, should remain on friendly terms with each other. Bishop Selwyn and the missionaries favoured this idea, and continued during successive campaigns to act as chaplains to both sides, passing from one camp to the other, to hold divine service, or minister to the sick and wounded, or to bury the dead. But, as the political differences between the two races increased, ill feeling on both sides became more embittered; the same forces came into play which have produced the religious differences that exist between the several races that people the British Isles. The Maoris felt that they could not continue to use the same forms of prayer as the English, and to invoke the ruin of their own cause; that they must devise some other way of approaching God, independently of their English teachers, whose interests had become antagonistic to their own; and Hauhauism and Te Whitism were the outcome of their efforts to attain their object.

When refusing to receive the ministrations [102/103] of Bishop Selwyn and the missionaries, they said: "You cannot ask God to bless your countrymen's arms, and then come and intercede with God for us. If you cannot stay altogether with us, confine your ministrations to your own people. Pray for them, and we will pray for ourselves, and God will judge between us."

The so-called apostasy of the Maoris from Christianity ought rather to be called a falling away from orthodoxy, and secession from all English forms of worship.

Hauhatiisni was an incongruous mixture of heathen and Christian teaching--of sense and nonsense; but its central idea was the worship of "God, good and gentle." The first hymn used in worship consisted of five verses, each formed by a threefold repetition of the initial line. It began:

God, good and gentle,
Father, good and gentle,
God the Son, good and gentle,
God the Holy Spirit, good and gentle,
Glory be to Thee, O Lord most High,
Glory, glory, glory.

[Vide papers relating to Hauhau religion laid before House of Representatives, November 29th, 1864.]

Even the hated Te Kooti made the Psalms his battle-songs, and marched to meet our forces reciting the 46th Psalm, "God is our refuge and strength."

Te Whiti preached the doctrine of passive resistance to the Government, because Christ's followers were forbidden to use violence.

[104] Though surrounded by hundreds of his adherents, Te Whiti allowed the Colonial troops under the Hon. Mr. Bryceand the Hon. Mr. Bolleston to enter his pa at Parihaka and to apprehend him and all his people, without offering the slightest resistance.

Those who are trying to induce their fellow Christians to take part in the work of evangelising the heathen can point with confidence to the humanising influence which Christian teaching has had upon the Maori race, and the permanent good that it .has done amongst them.

The future prospects of Christianity amongst the natives of New Zealand are more hopeful now than they have heen since the great estrangement from their English fellow Christians fifty years ago. During that period the Maoris have passed through painful and humiliating experiences. What they dreaded, and what they staked their all upon the battlefield to prevent, has happened, and they have lost their existence as a separate nation. But what they lost has been amply made up to them by their adoption into the British confederacy of nations; and they are beginning to realise the privilege they now possess of sharing in the noble heritage of British citizenship.

The Treaty of Waitangi, which the Maoris of the past generation denounced as a "trap" devised by the missionaries and their countrymen to rob them, is found by their descendants [104/105] to be the charter of their rights, which friendly foresight made for their protection, before they were capable of protecting themselves.

So far from being robbed of their lands, the Maoris of to-day find that in spite of all the hard words and blows exchanged between the two races about the disposal of them, the reduced area of land left in their possession far exceeds in value the sum for which their fathers would gladly have parted with the whole country. The Maoris find, moreover, that the great personal sacrifices made by the first converts in obedience to the divine command, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," are being literally rewarded; the children are "receiving manifold more in the present time" than their fathers gave up. It is because they are professing Christians, and not because of their mental qualifications or native virtues, that the Maoris hold the unique position among coloured races of being treated as comrades by the English inhabitants of New Zealand, who are proud to bear their name, and that their common country should be known as Maoriland.

Whatever positions of dignity the heathen fathers gave up for conscience' sake have been restored tenfold to their Christian offspring, who find that all honourable careers in Church and State are as open to them as to the English inhabitants of the Dominion. [105/106] And it is gratifying to know that the Maoris are taking advantage of the privileges accorded to them, and that some of them are to be found amongst the clergy, and in the medical and legal professions, and in both Houses of Parliament, and even in the Ministry amongst the advisers of the Crown.

But the most encouraging and hopeful sign of all, for the future well-being of the native race, is to be found in the association formed by some of the Te Aute College students in 1897. What its aims and objects are may best be learnt from the speeches made by its founders at their first conference. (The speeches were made in English, and are not coloured by translation.)

"Our object," said Mr. Wiripa, "is to follow and maintain a high standard of life,. by inculcating Christian principles, gentlemanly feeling, and high moral ideas."

Mr. Poutarewa said that there was no doubt that their race had deteriorated, and the fact called loudly for reform; and the only way to accomplish it was by religious education.

"We want the Maoris to be strong, not only in intellect, but in morals; we want to make men and women of them, not mere clever puppets, moved and controlled by loose and evil influences. . . .

"We want the Bible in our schools. I think that we are amongst the most inconsistent set of people on the face of the earth, inasmuch as this Book of Books is found in our [106/107] two Houses of Parliament and in every Court of Justice in the land; we swear by it, and yet will not let our children read it in the schools. Such inconsistency is enough to make the angels weep. . . .

"If there is a cure for the present discreditable state of things it lies with us Christians--the State cannot be expected to do it."

Mr. Ngata, M.A., said that their people required to be taught that the idleness and listlessness which characterised them must be cured.

"We are a small people in a remote corner of the world, though, by God's grace, under the shelter of the British flag. Yet even to us has come the messenger of the nations, crying aloud the gospel of work, work, work. 'Work with all the might, with all the power of brain and muscle.' That gospel is final--absolute; there is no alternative for us but to accept it. For if the Maori people does not accept it, and soon, then, as surely as heaven is above us, it will die from off the face of the earth.

"Time was when circumstances permitted our people a happy and even a healthy existence, with the minimum of labour. . . . Then the pakeha came and brought a new and a strange and a restless civilisation. Through a century that civilisation, which is based on industry, has borne us along breathlessly, till to-day our existence depends on the readiness with which we can adapt ourselves [107/108] to it. To-day we find we must be industrious as the English are. . . .

"I had rather die of overwork than live a life of aimless yawning, useless and purposeless. Let us work, work, work, and let death find us in harness, working, working, working!"

Mr. Kohere, after deploring the absence of good home influences among their peoj)le, and the tactlessness of many of their native clergy, and their seeming inability to raise the spiritual tone of their people, said:

"I did not mean we should all be parsons, though more of us might have joined the ministry, but I do mean this--that we should all consecrate ourselves to Christ and to His service. ... I mean that we should place ourselves in such positions as will enable us to be more helpful to our race, and more useful to our God. ..."

"Though the Maori Church is in a backward state, I feel that there are going to be brighter days yet for her. Brothers, again I repeat that, during this Conference, we should, with one mind and heart, 'make Jesus King'; and when we go home, with Him controlling our whole being, we shall, in His strength, endeavour to get others to enlist in the army of the Cross, and then, in His strength, we shall go forth to conquer."

May we not hope that the dissatisfaction felt with the existing state of things in the Native Church, and the aspirations after a [108/109] higher standard of life amongst its clerical and lay members, expressed by the young men whose words have just been quoted, indicate that the Holy Spirit is moving in a special way on the scene of one of His greatest triumphs amongst mankind; and that it is He who has generated this "divine discontent" in the hearts of His servants, and that He will revive His work amongst the Maoris, so long hindered by their lukewarmness and unbelief; that, having "begun a good work" amongst them, "He will perfect it"?

Reader, pray that it may be so.

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