Life and Work of Samuel Marsden
In July, 1823, we find Mr. Marsden again taking ship and embarking for New Zealand; his intention being to visit the stations of the Church Missionary Society, and to arrange its affairs. Since his previous visit fresh causes for anxiety had appeared. In consequence of Shunghie's misconduct, the natives were now alienated from the missionaries; they had become indifferent to education and agricultural improvements; and the Gospel, it was too evident, had made little progress hitherto. Shunghie declared that as to himself, “he wanted his children to learn to fight and not to read.”
The Maoris about the settlement insisted upon being paid for their services in fire-arms and ammunition. “Since Shunghie's return,” writes one of the missionaries, “the natives, one and all, have treated us with contempt. They are almost past bearing; coming into our houses when they please, demanding food, thieving whatever they can lay their hands on, breaking down our garden fences, stripping the ship's boats of everything they can. They seem, in fact, ripe for any mischief; had Mr. Marsden himself been amongst us, much as he deserves their esteem, I believe he would not escape without insult; but the Lord is a very present help in time of trouble.”page 143
Amongst the missionaries themselves certain evils had appeared, the growth of a secular and commercial spirit, which had injured their cause, and threatened to frustrate the great end for which the mission was projected. Mr. Marsden heard of these untoward events, and hastened his departure, full of anxiety, but not abating one jot of his confidence in the final triumph of God's cause. What his feelings were his own journal testifies:—
I am still confident that this land of darkness and superstition will be visited by the day-star from on high. The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. O Lord, let thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. I have suffered so much annoyance and persecution for some time past, from unreasonable and wicked men, that I am happy in leaving the colony for a little time, in which I have experienced so much annoyance. In reflecting upon the state of New Zealand there are many things which give me both pleasure and pain. I am happy the Church Missionary Society has not relinquished the cause, but has sent out more strength to carry on the work. Many have been the discouragements from the misconduct of some of the servants of the society; but I am confident that the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, will in time subdue the hearts of these poor people to the obedience of faith.
He was accompanied on his voyage by the Rev. Henry Williams and his family, who now went out to strengthen the New Zealand mission, of which he soon became one of the most effective leaders. One of Bishop Selwyn's page 144 first steps when he was appointed Bishop of New Zealand was to make Mr. Henry Williams one of his archdeacons.* Could Mr. Marsden have foreseen the course which awaited his companion, how would his soul have been cheered! But it was for him to sow in tears, and for others to reap in joy. The field was not yet ripe for the harvest; other men laboured, who now sleep in the dust, and we of this generation have entered into their labours.
Mr. Marsden was not mistaken in his estimate of his new companion. Indeed, he appears to have been very seldom mistaken in the judgments he formed about other men. “I think,” he notes, “that Mr. Williams and his family will prove a great blessing to the society. I hope he will be able to correct and remedy, in time, many evils that have existed, and also to set an example to the rest what they as missionaries should do.”
This was his fourth visit to New Zealand, and though in some respects it was painful, yet in others there was ground for joy.
* The biographer states in the original work (p. 169) that Archdeacon Henry Williams afterwards was “designated to a New Zealand Bishopric in a district inhabited exclusively by Christianized Maoris.” This is an error. It was Archdeacon William Williams who became the first Bishop of Waiapu.
Yet he had a painful duty to discharge. Firm as he was and lion-hearted when danger was to be met, his nature was very gentle, and his affections both deep and warm; and he had now to rebuke some of the missionaries whom he loved as his own soul, and even to dismiss one of them.
Of those whom he had been obliged to censure, he writes thus:—“They expressed their regret for the past, and a determination to act in a different way for the future. Some, I have no doubt, will retrace their steps, and will be more cautious and circumspect, but I have not the same confidence in all. Some express sorrow, but I fear not that which worketh repentance.”
Again he remarks: “Missionary work is very hard work, unless the heart is fully engaged in it. No consideration can induce a man to do habitually what he has a habitual aversion to. The sooner such a one leaves the work the better page 146 it will be for himself and the mission.” But though compelled to blame, he did not forget to sympathize. “The present missionaries, though some of them have erred greatly from the right way, yet have all had their trials and troubles. Some allowance must be made for their peculiar situation, and their want of Christian society, and of the public ordinances of religion.”
Several chiefs, among whom was Tooi, warmly took up the cause of the missionary who had been dismissed. The conversation which followed is a beautiful illustration of the too much forgotten Scripture which tells us that “a soft answer turneth away wrath,” while at the same time it presents an interesting view of the Maori mind and character at this critical period of their national history:—
Tooi, addressing me, said a missionary had informed him that day that he was going to leave New Zealand, and the chiefs wished to know whether this person had been dismissed for selling muskets and powder to the natives. To this I replied that Mr.——was directed by the gentlemen in England who had sent him out as a missionary, not to sell muskets and powder; that it was not the custom in England for clergymen to sell muskets and powder; and that no missionary could be allowed to sell them in New Zealand.
As several of the chiefs present had been at Port Jackson, I observed that they knew that the clergymen there did not sell muskets and powder. They knew that I had not one musket in my house, and that they had never seen any when they were with me. They replied, they knew what I said was page 147 true. I further added we did not interfere with the Government of New Zealand; they did what they pleased, and the missionaries should be allowed to do what they pleased.
Tooi said that this was but just, and observed, “We are at present in the same state as the Otaheitans were some time back. The Otaheitans wanted only muskets and powder, and would have nothing else, and now, as they knew better, they wanted none; and the New Zealanders would care nothing about muskets when they knew better, which they would in time.” All the chiefs acquiesced in the observations Tooi made.
I was happy to find their minds were so enlarged, and that they had begun to take such proper views of the subject. I said, Tooi's remarks upon the conduct of the Otaheitans were very just, and told them that the Queen Charlotte brig, which had sailed from the bay the preceding day, belonged to the young king Pomare; that the Otaheitans had sent oil and various other articles to Port Jackson, and that they had received in return, tea, sugar, and flour, and clothing, as they wanted these articles, and that the New Zealanders might in time have a ship of their own to procure sperm oil, spars, etc., which they might sell at Port Jackson, and many of them were able to kill the whales, having been employed on board the whalers. When they got a vessel of their own, they would soon be equal to the Otaheitans, and give over their cruel wars. They expressed much pleasure at having a vessel of their own. After some further explanation the chiefs were satisfied that Mr.——had violated our laws and had brought all his distress upon himself.
The conduct of the natives confirmed the impression which Mr. Marsden had previously formed, and which their subsequent history page 148 down to the present day entirely sustains, that they are a noble race of men, of considerable mental capacity, of great perseverance and enterprise, who never lose sight of an object upon which they have once set their minds; powerful reasoners upon any subject that has come within their knowledge; possessed of a quick perception and a natural sagacity, which enables them to form a just acquaintance with human nature as it presents itself before them. Who would not wish that they too may form a happy exception to the rule which seems in every land to condemn the native population to waste away before the advances of European enterprise? Who would not desire that the Maori tribes may long be a great and powerful nation, protected, but not oppressed, by English rule?
Mr. Marsden now paid a visit, at Whangaroa, to the Wesleyan missionary station there. Over the Wesleyan missions he, of course, had no control or oversight, such as that with which he was entrusted towards the missions of the London Missionary Society in the South Sea Islands. This, however, did not prevent his taking an affectionate interest in their affairs. He found Mr. Leigh, the founder of their mission, very ill, and invited him to return with him on a voyage of health and recreation to Port Jackson; and having taken leave of the Church Missionary brethren with solemn and affectionate counsels he embarked on the 6th of September, 1823, with feelings which he thus describes:—page 149
I now felt much pleasure in the prospect of a speedy return to my family and people, and being very weary with various toils and anxieties, both of body and mind, I longed for a little rest, and retired to my cabin with much thankfulness and comfort. I had cause to be thankful for continual good health during the period I had been in New Zealand, as I had not lost one day. I felt great confidence in the Rev. Mr. Williams, and I doubt not that God will prosper the work, and raise up a seed in this benighted land to serve Him; for many shall come from the south as well as the north, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God.”
But his bright visions were overcast. Like the first and greatest of Christian missionaries, it was ordained that he, too, “should suffer shipwreck and be cast upon a desert island.” His own journal gives us the story of his danger and deliverance.
Sunday, 7th.—This morning we weighed anchor. I spent some time this day reading the Scriptures with the Rev. S. Leigh. Our subject for contemplation was the 1st chapter of St. Paul to the Romans. The weather was very threatening and stormy; the wind from the eastward and strong, blowing directly into the mouth of the harbour. We lay in Korororika*, now called Russell. Bay, on the south side of the harbour, and had to sail along a lee rocky shore. In working out with the wind dead on the land, the ship being light and high out of the water she would not answer her helm, and twice missed stays. The lead was kept continually sounding, and we soon found ourselves in little more than three fathoms water, with a rocky bottom and apage 150 shoal of rocks on our lee, and it was then high water. When the captain found the situation we were in, he immediately ordered to let go the anchor, which was done.
When the tide turned the ship struck, the gale increased, and the sea with it; a shipwreck was now more than probable; there appeared no possible way to prevent it. The Rev. Mr. Leigh was very ill, and felt the disturbance much, Mrs. Leigh also being very ill. I requested the captain to lend me the boat to take Mr and Mrs. Leigh to the nearest island, where we arrived very safely, the island being but two miles distant.
The natives expressed much concern for us, made a fire, prepared the best hut they could, which was made of bulrushes, for our reception. I requested them to send a canoe to Rungheehe†, to inform Mr. and Mrs. Hall of the loss of the ship, and to bring their boat to assist in bringing the people to land. At the same time, I desired they would tell the natives to bring a large war canoe. The natives for some time alleged that their canoe would be dashed to pieces by the waves, but at length I prevailed upon them. They had between five and six miles to go, through a very rough sea.About three o'clock, Messrs. Hall, King, and Hanson arrived in Mr. Hall's boat, and a large war canoe with natives; they immediately proceeded to the ship, and we had the satisfaction to see them arrive safe, and waited until dark with the greatest anxiety for their return. The rain fell in torrents, the gale increased, and they had not returned; we lay down in our little hut full of fear for the safety of all on board. The night appeared very long, dark, and dreary. As we couldpage 151 not rest, we most anxiously wished for the morning light, to learn some account of them.
September 8th.—When the day arrived we had the happiness to see the vessel still upright, and driven nearer the shore. No boat or canoe from her; the gale still increased; about mid-day we saw the mainmast go overboard. The natives on the island screamed aloud when the mast fell. I concluded they had cut away the mast to relieve the vessel. We spent the rest of the day in great suspense, as we could not conjecture why all the passengers should remain on board, in the state the ship was in.
At dark in the evening Mr. Hall returned, and informed us that the bottom of the vessel was beaten out, and that both her chain and best bower cable were parted; and that she beat with such violence upon the rocks when the tide was in that it was impossible to stand upon the deck; at the same time, he said, there was no danger of any lives being lost, as he did not think the vessel would go to pieces, as she stood firm upon the rock, when the tide was out. He said, the passengers on board had not determined what they would do, or where they would land as yet; they wished to wait till the gale was abated. Mr. Hall's information relieved us much; as it was now dark, the wind high, and the sea rough, we could not leave the island, and therefore took up our lodgings in our little hut.
The natives supplied us with a few potatoes and some fish. My pleasing prospect of returning to Port Jackson was at an end, for some time at least. I was exceedingly concerned for the loss of so fine a vessel on many accounts, as individuals who are interested in her must suffer as well as the passengers on board, and spent the night in reflections on the difficulties page 152 with which I was surrounded; while the raging of the storm continued without intermission.
Tuesday, 9th.—At the return of day we discovered the ship still upright, but she appeared to be higher on the reef. I now determined to return to Kiddee-Kiddee* in Mr. Hall's boat with Mr. and Mrs. Leigh. We left the island for the missionary settlement, where we arrived about nine o'clock. Our friends had not heard of the loss of the ship until our arrival, as there had not been any communication between the different settlements in consequence of the severe weather. We were very kindly received by the brethren; I informed them in what situation we had left the ship, and requested that every assistance might be given to land the passengers and luggage.
The wreck was about twelve or fourteen miles from the settlement. Four boats were immediately sent off; Mr. Hall's boat took the women and children to Rungheehe, and two of the boats returned with part of our luggage, and we went to the station of the Rev. Henry Williams. All the brethren rendered every aid in their power. The boats on their return brought the welcome news that all was well on board, and Mr. Leigh did not appear to have suffered much injury from the wet and cold he endured on the island, though in so weak a state. Divine wisdom has no doubt some wise ends to answer in all that has befallen us. The word of God expressly says all things shall work together for the good of them that love God, and the Scripture cannot be broken.We cannot see through this dark and mysterious dispensation at the present time; the why and wherefore we must leave to Him who ordereth all things according to the counsel of His own will. As the gale continued with unremitting violence, if we had gonepage 153 out to sea we might have been cast on shore under more dangerous and distressing circumstances. Our shipwreck has been a most merciful one, as no lives have been lost, nor anything but the ship.
The shipwreck of the Brampton—for that was the vessel's name—occurred on the 7th of September, and in consequence Mr. Marsden was detained in New Zealand until the 14th of November, when he returned home in the Dragon, and arrived at Sydney in the beginning of December, 1823. The interval was not lost; for he seems to have been one of those who gather up the fragments of time, and turn to the best account the idle hours and spare moments of life. He drew up some excellent rules for the guidance of the missionaries and Christian settlers in their intercourse with the shipping which now began to visit the Bay of Islands.
He encouraged the erection of a schoolhouse for the natives. “The foundation,” he says, “must be laid in the education of the rising generation. The children possess strong minds, are well-behaved and teachable. They are capable of learning anything we wish to teach them.” During his detention he also addressed a circular letter to the missionaries respecting a grammar in the Maori language, pointing out the necessity for adopting some more systematic method both for its arrangement and pronunciation. This led to a new vocabulary of the native language, and in a short time to a new method of spelling.page 154
But even Mr. Marsden, with all his sagacity, did not penetrate New Zealand's future, nor foresee in how short a time the well-known and familiar sounds of English towns and villages would be transferred to that still savage island, superseding even in Maori lips their native designations.
Lastly, a political object occupied some of Mr. Marsden's time and thoughts. The incessant and desolating wars which the native tribes waged against one another were, he saw, the great obstacle to the progress of New Zealand. The missions were always insecure, for the country was always more or less disturbed. Civil war is, under all circumstances, the bane, and, if persisted in, the ruin of a country; add the ferocity of New Zealand warfare, its cannibalism and its undying spirit of revenge, and nothing more was wanted to degrade the finest country under heaven into a very pit of darkness.
* Probably Wai-ata Rewa.
At length he returned home, accompanied by six New Zealand youths, whose eagerness was such that they gladly promised to sleep upon the deck rather than miss the opportunity. Mr. Leigh, the Wesleyan missionary, was also his fellow voyager. Mr. Leigh's opinion of Mr. Marsden and his labours is highly gratifying, and not the less so as coming from one who belonged to another society.
“The shipwreck,” he says, “which we have experienced will, I have no doubt, prove favourable to the reputation of the New Zealanders. For several days we were in their power, and they might have taken all that we had with the greatest ease; but instead of oppressing and robbing us, they actually sympathized with us in our trials and afflictions. Mr. Marsden, myself, and Mrs. Leigh, were at a native village for several days and nights, without any food but what the natives brought us; what they had they gave us willingly, and said—‘Poor creatures! you have nothing to eat, and you are not accustomed to our kind of food.’ I shall never forget the sympathy and kindness of these poor heathens.
“I do hope that the Rev. S. Marsden will be successful in his endeavours to put an end to the frequent wars in New Zealand. I have heard many natives and chiefs say: ‘It is no good to go to fight and eat men; we wish to cease from war, and retire to some peaceful place.’ I pray God that this object may be soon effected among this people. The Christian world, and especially the Church Missionary Society, will never be able fully to appreciate the valuable labours of the Rev. Samuel Marsden. His fervent zeal, his page 156 abundant toil, and extensive charity in the cause of missions, are beyond estimation. May he live long as a burning and shining light in the missionary world!”