Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

New South Wales. They were intelligent men, ready to adopt English manners and customs, and he became deeply interested in them and in their countrymen, and longed, above all things, that Englishmen should bestow on them the best blessing which they possessed themselves—the knowledge of the word of God. But most people, both in New South Wales and in England, thought it a hopeless undertaking “ The New Zealanders," said they, “will not suffer missionaries to settle in their country; or, if they do, they will soon take offence at their teaching, and murder them.” Mr. Marsden, however, persevered, and at length induced the Church Missionary Society to make the attempt. The first men whom the Society sent were experienced mechanics, able to teach the natives to build, and farm, and exercise various useful arts: they were well instructed in the Scriptures, and prepared to act as catechists and schoolmasters as soon as they should have acquired the language of the country. After much entreaty, Mr. Marsden prevailed upon the governor of New South Wales to give him some months' leave of absence, that he might go with the missionaries and help them to begin their work. Not long before, an English ship had been seized by the natives at Wangaroa, and all the passengers and crew murdered, and the governor was afraid that a similar fate would befal Mr. Marsden and his companions. But they were not afraid themselves, or, rather, they were willing to incur danger, and, if it must be so--death, in the service of their Heavenly Master. The vessel touched first at Wangaroa, that they might learn, if possible, why their unfortunate countrymen had been

destroyed by the savages. The chief who had taken the lead in the work of slaughter came to meet them, attended by a large body of warriors, and Mr. Marsden and an English gentleman who was with him remained on shore to hear what they had to say. The chief explained that the commander of the vessel had grievously ill-used him on many occasions; in revenge, he had enticed him on shore and murdered him, and had also put to death all who were on board the ship, excepting a woman and two or three children. By the time the chief had finished his story the evening was far advanced; and the warriors, sticking their spears into the ground, and wrapping their mat garments more closely round them, were about to lie down and take their night's rest. The chief invited his visitors to do likewise, and accordingly they lay down beside him on the ground, and slept without fear; and the morning found them in perfect safety. But it was a curious scene which they saw on awakening.

“ An immense number of human beings,--men, women, and children, some half naked, others loaded with fantastic finery,—were stretched about them in every direction; while the warriors, their weapons lying beside them, were either peeping out from under their mats, or shaking from off their dripping heads the heavy dew that had fallen during the night.”

Mr. Marsden now proceeded to Rangihoua, on the Bay of Islands, the abode of a chief named Duaterra, whom he knew, and who had promised him to befriend the missionaries. Here they landed two days before Christmas, 1814. Duaterra contrived to fit

[ocr errors]

66

up a place in which Divine service could be performed, and acted as interpreter when Mr. Marsden preached. The whole population of Rangihoua came together, and listened quietly; and Mr. Marsden, taking for his text St. Luke ii. 10, “ Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” entreated them to take all the pains they could to understand the “good tidings" which their English teachers would tell them, because they came from the great God, the Maker of them all.

The New Zealanders had no idols--they believed in a number of spirits; and, in particular, that there was one mighty spirit who caused their death, or any great calamity which befel them, and who sent the wind and thunder; they thought of him with fear, but not with love. They believed also in an evil spirit, whom they called Wiro, and who delighted, as they thought, in seeing men miserable. Children, when a few days old, were always taken to a priest to be dipped or sprinkled with water, and have a name given to them: and they had some old traditions, preserved from their forefathers, which seemed like a dim, confused remembrance of the first creation of man. They had also a singular custom called tapu. If anything was tapu, it might not be used or touched. Sometimes men and women were pronounced tapu, and then they could not take any food in their own hands, but were fed by others until the priest removed the tapu by various ceremonies and prayers. All persons who touched a dead body were tapu until they had dipped themselves in water several times.

At the end of three months, Mr. Marsden returned to New South Wales, having seen the missionaries settled, as he hoped, in peace and safety. But for some years they had hard work to keep their ground. Although Duaterra had received them kindly, a great many of the people were quite averse to their remaining in the country. Terrible threats were uttered against them, and they knew what it was to have two or three hundred yelling savages come rushing upon them with clubs, and spears, and loaded muskets. The bravest hearts trembled at such times, not for themselves, perhaps, but for their wives and children. But they trusted in God, and He kept them safely, and raised them up a protector in the person of a powerful chief named Hongi. Hongi had visited England, and received much kindness there: he had been to court, and the Prince Regent had made him many valuable presents : and when he was about to return to his own country, everything that he desired for himself or his friends was given to him. From that time to the day of his death, Hongi was a firm friend to the English ; and he watched day and night for the safety of the missionaries, when he thought any of his countrymen were likely to attack them. He was, almost to the last, a man of war; but his dying words were, “ Let the missionaries sit in peace; they have done good-they have not done any harm.” And they did “sit in peace," although their protector was dead, for a great change was coming over the people. One thing which showed this was, that no one was put to death when Hongi died. Hitherto it had been the practice of the natives to kill one or more slaves at the death of their masters, because the New Zealanders thought that the spirits of the dead would wish for the same service and attendance in

one.

the next world that they had been used to in this

The missionaries had often remonstrated with them upon this cruel practice, but in vain. Many a poor slave had they seen killed ; and, as Hongi was so great a chief, they feared that many would be sacrificed to do him honour. To their surprise and delight, not one was put to death.

During the first years of the mission, their great grief had been that no one would give heed to the Word of God: some mocked at it, but the greater number would not listen to it at all. Sometimes a party of natives would come into the mission chapel and sit quietly for a while, and then start up in the midst of the service, with the cry of “That's a lie! that's a lie! who will stay to hear what that man has to say ? Let us all, all go !" But now there were many who listened attentively.

In the year 1822, the Rev. Henry Williams had come out to New Zealand, and had been joined a year or two afterwards by his brother. Other clergymen, also, and catechists had been added from time to time; and the missionaries had schools in which a good many of the native children were instructed. As soon as they were able to speak to the people in their own language, they went about constantly teaching and trying to persuade them to receive the Gospel. Already one chief man named Rangi, whom they had instructed by means of an interpreter, had believed and been baptized in 1824; but, for the most part, their words were like bread cast upon the waters,they found it " after many days."

.

« PreviousContinue »