The New Zealand Evangelist
Superstitions still among the New Zealanders.
Notwithstanding the saving effects of Missionary influence and instruction, superstition still exists in New Zealand. An interesting young man named Isaiah, has lately departed this life at Wangaehu, near Wanganui, who has been for some time taught in our schools, and who died without giving any account of his state page 136 and feelings. His relations are but partially enlightened. It has been the custom from time immemorial on the death of any one to bury his property with him; and on this occasion the sisters of this young man buried with him five Testaments, one Church Prayer-book, one Wesleyan Hymn-book, his pipe and several sticks of Tobacco, putting all with him into his coffin! They will not give up their foolish superstitions, which tends to perpetuate the ignorance which still exists. The following is another instance. There have lately been some violent outbreaks of water from subterraneous caverns in the vicinity of Wangaehu, sweeping all before them into the sea, which the natives attribute to an eight-legged crocodile, which they call a Taniwha, and say the monster is one of their tupunas, i.e., ancestor. Though these are strange phenomena yet they are natural, and may be accounted for by the following facts:—The Wangaehu river is fed by snow from the Tongariro mountain. This river winds its way through a tract of land, the soil of which is nothing but gravel and pumice stone. The bed of the river is the same, and shallow from the mouth to the source. This being its state, when there is a heavy fresh from the mountain, much water escapes in its passage to the sea, and its reservoirs are filed. Its being pent up, accumulating, and then escaping suddenly, accounts for its subsequent effects. The natives say that in a late outbreak of water, the Taniwha drifted on shore near Manawatu, was cut up and a part eaten by those who found it adding that they were all ill who had partaken! It is, however, evident that such things as crocodiles, or alligators, did exist formerly in great numbers on this island. The Wangaehu district has been buried by pumice stone and other matter, driven from the Tongariro mountain. If such creatures did exist, they have been buried beneath, and are likely to be thrown up by such outbreaks in a petrified or fossilized state, and so give rise to these superstitions which are a great hindrance to the progress of Christianity.
An old man, a priest, who resides at Waitotara, near Wanganui, continues to deceive the people by pretending to heal the sick. When the invalid can be taken to him, he or she is ready with an offering, without which no good can be effected. He then plays the part of a Ventriloquist, (like Papahurihia in Hokianga) and makes the supposed god, of whom he is the priest, to speak from over his head, which is understood to be his seat! The words used are generally such as are only understood by tohungas,, i. e. priests, who pretend to interpret to the supplicants according to their several cases. Like the oracles of old they pretend to decide for life or death,—though at times, being too sanguine as to the recovery of the person, or through malice too wishful for the individual's death, they expose themselves by giving a wrong answer. When the patient cannot be carried to the priest, some one is deputed by him or her, to take an offering of tobacco, or some other article known to be in requisition, and to make enquiry of the priest, who pretends to offer apart to the god, with an invocation for his aid, stating that the individual will recover. If the person returns and page 137 finds the invalid is dead, the priest attributes it to some fault in the offering, or sin in the one who brought it! &c. A case occurred not long since. A young woman was taken ill. Her husband after some time applied to the oracle, an old priest, who assured him that his wife would recover. The silly man believed him, and came back with joy; but his joy was soon turned into sorrow and disappointment, for on arriving at his house, he found her dying! This is only one of a number of cases, by which the people are deceived by the old ritenga maori, i. e. native custom.
On Sunday, October 22nd, the spacious and substantial Wesleyan Methodist Chapel lately erected there, was opened for Divine Service. In the forenoon the Rev. Mr. Laury, General Superintendent of Wesleyan Missions in New Zealand, conducted the preparatory services of prayer and praise, and the Rev. J. Watkin of Wellington, preached with his usual eloquence and power, from Mark 16. 15. 16.: “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature,” &c. The collection after the service amounted to £30. In the evening, the Rev. J. Wallis, of Wangaroa, on the West Coast, near Kawhia, occupied the pulpit. His text was from Psalm 48. 13,: “Consider her palaces.”—The pecuniary result of the day was £52, while a previous Tea Meeting, held with reference to the Chapel, swelled the amount to upwards of £150. On the 23rd, the accounts of the Chapel were submitted to a Meeting of friends, when it appeared that there had been raised from all sources, the noble sum of one thousand pounds!! There would not be more than three hundred pounds of debt on the Building, and God willing, that would be paid within two years from the time of opening, so that the Wesleyans of Auckland have now a large and elegant Chapel, a commodious School House, Vestry and other accommodations for the orderly celebration of Divine Service, and Education of Children, and nearly free from incumbrance. We rejoice greatly in the prosperity of the Metropolitan Settlement, and by God's grace, will try to follow so good an example, as to Church and Chapel accommodation, though we fear it will be “non passibus æquis.” Our letters from thence make no mention whatever of earthquakes; so we happily conclude that the disasters have been more local than were at first imagined.
On Sunday, Oct. 15th, the heavens presented a very agitated and stormy appearance. In the former part of the day there were several slight and partial showers. The phenomena in the afternoon, and at the close of the day were striking, and attracted general attention—the setting of the sun particularly so. The rising of the moon was not less remarkable—a brilliant and variegated page 138 cloud had the appearance of a pillar supporting her. Still there was a perfect absence of anything like serious alarm. But landsmen and seamen, the colonist and the native, all apprehended a gathering storm.
Universal sleep had fallen on both man and beast. Our settlement was in its state of characteristic quietude. The sky was serene, the elements as yet were still, the usual land-breeze but softly blew, when between 1 and 2, the whole town, with few exceptions, was aroused from peaceful slumber, by a violent earthquake. Great difference of opinion exists as to the continuance of this shock. Some say that it only lasted two or three minutes; others prolong its duration to ten minutes. Both these opinions are opposite extremes. There certainly was an unceasing shaking for the space of from five to seven minutes. Before the dawn of day, and during the whole of the day, slighter tremors were felt;—in fact the earth seemed to be for a considerable time in a state of constant oscillation. On Tuesday afternoon a second violent shock occurred—a third on Thursday morning, between four and five—and from that time to the present date (Nov. 15,) slight vibrations have been frequently felt. From the motion of liquids, it was the prevailing opinion, that the shocks came in the direction of North-east. As to the motion sometimes it was undulation, at other times pulsation.
A vivid light, resembling the reflection of flame, was seen in a Southern direction, on the night of Tuesday and Wednesday. A hope was now warmly cherished by many, that some unknown and long inactive volcano had burst out; that the pent-up air or fire would now find vent, and that the earth would soon again be still—others supposed this phenomenon to be the Aurora Australis.
This part of New Zealand has from time immemorial, been subject to occasional earthquakes; but no one of the Europeans who have been longest resident amongst the Natives, nor the oldest of the Natives themselves have ever felt any of equal severity to the recent ones. But though we in this settlement have considered them severe, yet it is certain that we have had them less violent than either Wairau, Cloudy Bay, or Wellington. Several chimneys both in town and country, were shaken down. The houses of Messrs. Campbell, Foy, and the late Mr. Thompson, and the Wesleyan Chapel, all being brick buildings, have sustained slight damage—other brick buildings remain quite uninjured.—Great alarm prevailed. We have already stated that with few exceptions, the inhabitants in the town left their beds. This fear was not partial. The timid and the brave, the heedless and the thoughtful, the illiterate and the educated, the pious and the profane, male and female, young and old, were more or less the subjects of it. A recurrence of shocks on the second night, being forboded, those whose dwellings are of brick felt some uneasiness about retiring to rest. Many persons for two or three nights, took but little sleep. Our degree of alarm however was not at its climax until Thursday evening, between 6 and 7 o'clock. The heavens now gathered blackness—the air was the scene of contending storms—the dark page 139 clouds were skirted with light and red—hail-stones of a prodigious size were falling—a rumbling noise resembling thunder was being heard—slight shocks were occurring—the greatest fear and consternation now seized many; but we are thankful to say that this period of alarm was only of short duration. The sky soon became clear, and the remainder of the night was tolerably fine.
It was thought by many that God's great mercy in sparing us from death, and our habitations from ruin, most imperatively called for special acknowledgement; accordingly, Monday 23rd was observed, by a considerable number, as a day of Thanksgiving. Three public meetings for prayer and praise were held in the Wesleyan Chapel, one at 7 a. m., the second at 12, the third at 7 p. m. The congregations were all large; in the evening we were very full. A sense of the Divine presence rested upon us, and we felt it good to call upon the Lord. Considerable anxiety was felt by many, in behalf of the other settlements, and on the arriving of the painful intelligence from Wellington, the greatest sensation was produced; and it was thought that a more general and formal recognition of the Divine hand was called for. His Honor Major Richmond, was called upon, and solicited to issue a proclamation for a general Fast day. His Honor did not feel at liberty, literally, to comply with the request; but he most cordially approved of such an observance, and promised that all Government offices should be closed, provided a day were thus set apart. The Ministers of the different Churches were unanimous in the matter, and Wednesday the 1st Nov., was fixed upon, and July announced on the previous Sabbath. The day arrived. All the Churches were unusually well attended—numbers were in from the country. It was a day the services of which, will never be forgotten by many who were privileged to join in them. The whole town suspended business—every shop was closed, and almost every hand unemployed.
But while its observance was so general, there were a few who scoffed and ridiculed. Such persons belonged to one of two classes. They were either unread, illiterate men, and thus unacquainted with the moral and natural causes of earthquakes, or they were, if not so ignorant, so morally depraved as to be devoid of all right feeling. But it is recorded with most sincere gratitude, that the greatest good is likely to result. Many of the most careless have been awakened—are turning to the Lord, and giving themselves to the Church by His will. It may be that the impressions of some will be evanescent and short-lived, as was the goodness of Judah and Ephraim of old, “passing away like the morning cloud and early dew!” yet no doubt can be entertained, but that real, deep, and permanent good has already been done. May the Lord still preserve and prosper us.—Amen!
Wellington.—Notes of November.
Accustomed as we are to sudden and striking contrast in atmo-page 140spheric phenomena, never have we experienced it more, whether in degree or extent, than during the last two months. In October God seemed to let loose upon us all the elements of destruction,—to commission winds and waves, storms and earthquakes, to expend their fury—to summon heaven above, and earth beneath, to bear witness to the power and greatness of God, and the weakness and littleness of man; the records of the month told of little but disaster, calamity, ruin, and death; much of evil felt, and still more feared. But happy are we to say that a change, sudden, general, and delightful has come over our prospects. If the last month of Spring left us gloomy and desolate, sitting like the weeping prophet amid the ruins of his country, bewailing our blighted hopes and ruined prospects; the first month of Summer came to us as the messenger of good, arrayed with peace, smiles, and blessings. The storms have passed away and their ravages disappeared. “Weeping endures for a night but joy cometh in the morning.” In the one month God taught us how soon he can take away; in the how other suddenly and fully he can restore. For a full month now the weather has been delightful, and vegetation has advanced with unprecedented rapidity. Heat and moisture have been abundant, and their effects in the vegetable world have been truly astonishing. From the earth being thoroughly saturated with the heavy rains of October—from the unusual amount of solar heat that has followed—from the extent to which the atmosphere has been surcharged with electricity—from the frequency with which the surface of the earth has been moistened with refreshing showers and copious dews—and, if the deductions of science are correct, from the quantities of carbonic acid gas and ammonia that have escaped from the bowels of the earth, in consequence of the violent and long continuance of the earthquakes, affording nourishment to plants—all the elements of vegetable life have been supplied in remarkable abundance, and the effects are everywhere commensurate to the causes in operation. The full flowing mantle of Nature is, through its whole extent, of the darkest, deepest green; the dense forests are everywhere arrayed with the rankest foliage; the wild wastes and the cultivated fields are alike covered with the freshest verdure; every garden is become a wilderness of sweets; the flowers are prodigal of fragrant, lovely blossoms; the fruits are expanding with nectareous juices, and all the standing, staple productions that minister to the daily wants of the table, in quantity and quality never were surpassed. There is every appearance of an early and abundant harvest. God is not leaving himself without a witness but by doing good, and giving us rain from heaven and a fruitful season, he is filling our hearts with food and gladness. In the animal world all is life and enjoyment; the herds and flocks are luxuriating in the rich pasturage, and in their peaceful looks and playful gambols evince the happiness that God is diffusing among all his creatures. The insect tribes are springing up in myriads. The Bees are pouring forth their infant colonies in great numbers, and with more than their proverbial energy, prosecuting their peaceful labours during the livelong day, and making honey while the sun shines. The scenery is every where page 141 enchanting. To those who have moral courage to spring from the bed of sloth, to leave broken slumbers and distempered dreams, and sally forth to meet the meek-eyed, rosy-fingered Morn, pleasures pure and elevating are prepared; every sense is regaled; wood and water, hill and dale, earth and sky, are robed in beauty and delight the eye; the sweet but short-lived, tinkling music of the woods falls melodious on the ear; while the air, though not laden with balmy odours, is fresh, soothing, and invigorating; and if there is either piety or poetry in the soul, it must be a high source of enjoyment to witness and contemplate the matchless displays of teeming beauty and varied happiness that everywhere meet the eye of those who at present go forth in the morning to gaze, or wander abroad at even to meditate, upon the works, and ways, and wonders of the Lord.
While Summer with its genial and reviving influences has produced such a mighty and delightful change over the whole face of nature, it was to be expected that Man would participate in the general feelings of reuovated life and joy, and so it has been.—Despondency and fear have given way to confidence and hope, and listless apathy to well directed application. Since the heavy shocks ceased, and the tremors have been slighter, fewer, and farther between, the settlers almost on eand all have set about the repairing of their dilapidated dwellings without hesitation or delay; rising with the emergency and displaying all that fertility of invention, that energy of purpose and celerity of action, which are in general so conspieuous in those whose powers of self-reliance have been developed and cultivated by the circumstances in which they have been placed, and the training through which they must pass, in the first struggles of a newly established colony; ruins are disappearing, chimneys are springing up, and houses are rising perfect and complete in all directions. Industry like the philosopher's stone turns all it touches into gold; its power is more than tha tof magic; its changes are realities not illusions. Augustus found Rome built of brick and left it built of marble, but this was a work of forty long years; in nearly as many days, at least the most of the smaller olay and brick ruins will be replaced by houses of wood.
Re-Opening of Places of Worship.
The congregations that lost their places of worship, have been exerting themselves with praiseworthy activity in reviving the materials out of the rubbish, and constructing either permanent or temporary buildings in which to worship God. The Primitive Methodists saved the most of the materials of their chapel, and by dint of great activity in two short weeks they had another Chapel erected, not quite so large as their former one, but equally neat, more substantial, and when opened, with as little debt upon their shoulders as when the other was thrown down. The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was a much more extensive ruin, and more difficult to manage; but with their characteristic energy the congrega-page 142tion set to work, and in three weeks they had their large school house rebuilt, and fitted up for a place of worship to accommodate them till they have time and opportunity to erect a permanent building. The Independent congregation have obtained the use of one of the New Zealand Company's buildings as a school room, and at present meet for public worship in the house of Mr. Matthews, Lambton Quay. As their Chapel stood in an inconvenient locality, they purpose to erect their next place of worship in some more central part of the town. The new Episcopal Church in the Hutt was opened on Sabbath the 5th. It is an elegant and commodious building. Church accommodation is being rapidly provided for all denominations. Most happily all the religious rivalry in this settlement is a rivalry of doing good, of providing the means of religious instruction; rarely has there been as much religious activity and as little religious animosity and contention in any community. Spirit of love and peace continue to breathe into our souls the spirit of brotherly love! The Churches continue to be well attended, and although the spring-tide of excitement occasioned by the earthquake has abated, we hope that the salutary religious impressions will be permanent in many cases, and that our goodness will not resemble Ephraim's and prove like the morning cloud and early dew, or the seed that has been sown like that which fell among the thorns.
The impressions produced upon the minds of the natives by the late awful visitation, though not so easily perceived by the general observer as that produced upon the European population, has been extensive and salutary, though in many cases superstitious beliefs have been mixed up with their ideas, yet those of them who know and profess the Gospel, have not failed to mark the finger of God in the fearful concussions with which we have been affrighted. They ask “What can this mean? Formerly we had one or two shocks and all was over, but at this time we have had shock after shock, so fearful and so many, that we never saw the like. Is not God angry? Many of those who had given up the profession of Christianity have returned to associate with their fellow worshippers. Their religious assemblies have been crowded and attentive, and there is evidently a revival among them as great as has taken place among the colonists.
During the whole of the month slight tremblings and occasionally a rather smart concussion have been felt almost every day, but none of them such as either to cause danger or excite alarm. The earthquake was not felt at Auckland, and only very slightly at Tarauaki, Nelson, and other places at a similar distance from Wellington. From all we can learn there appears to be no doubt that the shocks were most severely felt at the south entrance of Cook's Straits. We are truly glad to find that our neighbours have either entirely cscaped or suffered so much less than we have dono. We rejoice for their sakes and for our own. We are thus fully assured page 143 that the agency at work has been very limited, and that we must have been very near the centre of the movement. The earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755, shook one fourth part of the continents in the old world, and was felt over one twelfth part of the entire Globe. Every well in Britain was affected by it. The earthquake in Chili in 1822, by which St. Iago, Valparaiso, and other places were greatly injured, was felt simultaneously throughout a space of 1200 miles from North to South. So far as we heard, not a well in this settlement has been affected by the shocks, and when this earthquake, the most severe that has ever been felt in this district, has been evidently so limited in extent, it is a strong proof that the volcanic agencies at work are feeble, and therefore such visitations are not likely to occur frequently, and still less probable that the next will occur in the same locality. If the agencies at work had been deep seated, powerful and violent, their force would not have diminished so much within such a limited space. The volcanic agency resembled a small thunder cloud that may be violent in the locality where its force is expended, but is little felt beyond that single spot. From all our experience we must conclude that earthquakes in this country are limited in effect and fluctuating in appearance, and the next one may probably be in some locality where this one has been very little felt, but as the causes in operation are so much beyond the knowledge of man, and though regulated by laws as fixed and uniform as any other that God has imposed upon matter, yet as these are known only by himself, it is right for us to speak of probable events connected with earthquakes with extreme caution.
During the height of the excitement caused by the earthquake, when life and property were in so much danger, a feeling of despondency came over the minds of many. It was thought the settlement was ruined for all time coming. A few persons left this place partly on that account, and it is possible that when accounts of this visitation reach home, some intending emigrants may be deterred from coming to this settlement, but if the earthquakes are their only obstacles, let them not be deterred for a single day on that account, unless they are afraid to come to a place where God's mercy has been pre-eminently displayed in the preservation of it, where he has kept us as in the hollow of his hand. With no wish to shut our eyes on the losses we have sustained, or the dangers we have escaped, we see no grounds for misgivings for the future on account of any calamity that comes directly from the hand of God. We fear no evil but sin, but we fear its daily ruinous effects upon the community far more than the occasional calamities sent by God's providence. We dread the effects of intemperance, for example, for one year, more than the earthquakes for half a century. In times like the present we are apt to look at the dark side of the picture; this is not right; we ought to look at both; at our advantages as well as our disadvantages, our fair prospects as well as our heavy losses. We may be over-sanguine, we may be too easy about page 144 the future; we certainly have no sympathy with those who would doubt and distrust the mercy and goodness of God, as revealed in his word and displayed in his son. We are not
To cast the fashion of uncertain evils;
But when an equal poise of Hope and Fear
Does arbitrate the event, our nature is
That we incline to Hope rather than Fear.”
Earth is not Heaven, New Zealand is not Paradise. Every place has its draw-backs; some of one kind, some of another, but we have certainly not more here than falls to the average share of other places that have perhaps fewer advantages. We have a soil containing the richest elements of fertility; a climate salubrious to a proverb; water in abundance, the best and purest on earth; wood in plenty and variety; droughts are unknown; snow is seen only on the tops of the highest mountains; frost is rarely seen, and then only slightly felt; we are equally removed from the extremes of heat and cold; thunder and lightning are rare; it is not oftener than once or twice in the year that we have a thunder storm, and, then the clouds are so high and distant that when the peals roll over our heads, there is more of the sublime and less of the terrible than in almost any region of the globe. The weather is, upon the whole, vastly better for most occupations than in Britain: a fortnight or three weeks will often cover all the time lost by bad weather in out-door occupations for a whole twelvemonth.
We have often high winds, occasionally heavy rains, once or twice a year a slight earthquake, but so slight as often not to be observed; we have had an alarming and destructive visitation, and we may have a return of a similar kind, but this is an extraordinary and not a common occurrence. All the danger and loss of life and property have been caused by the falling of buildings. In all countries men learn to construct their dwellings on the principle best adapted to resist the most hostile elements around them. The three principal forces to be resisted here in house building are high winds, battering rains, and earthquakes; the last is the force most difficult to be estimated; but from all that can be gathered from experience, observation, and tradition respecting the causes now in operation, there is nothing serious to be dreaded in future; and if buildings are kept low, sufficiently braced and bound together, and kept always in a proper state of repair, we need dread very little real danger from earthquakes, but may in this way safely commit ourselves to the care of a wise, watchful, and merciful providence. Let no one, however, suppose, because all danger from the earthquakes seem to be over, that they may therefore return to wickedness or continue in sin; for no law in the universe is more fixed and certain in its operation, than that sooner or later sin is always followed by suffering and misery, while holiness always leads to happiness and joy.Printed at the Office of the "Wellington Independent," corner of Willis Street and Lambton-quay.