Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Evangelist

Religious Provision In The Colonies

Religious Provision In The Colonies.

To the Editor of the New Zealand Evangelist.

The New Zealand Company, as a body, have been justly accused of indiscriminate hostility to the Missionary establishments of these Islands, on account, no doubt, of the opposition which their members, for the most part, gave to the Company's scheme of buying up the land, to carry out their colonization schemes. In the heat of this opposition they accused the Missionaries, indiscriminately, of grasping at as much land as they could for themselves: calling them Land sharks: and thus doing all they could to lower them in public estimation. A change, however, has come over the spirit page 220 of one (at least) of that body, whose individual hostility was formerly most prominent. Mr. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, in his recently published work on Colonization, has drawn such a picture of the state of religious provision for our Colonies, that it deserves the perusal and consideration of all classes. However we may differ from the writer on other parts of his work, we must in this, award to him much praise; praise qualified only by our regret, that he should, (with his usual adroitness,) turn the supineness of the Established Church, into an offensive weapon against the Colonial Office, between which we cannot see there is any fair connection.

As Mr. Wakefield's book is not likely to fall into the hands, but of very few of your subscribers, I have sent you the whole of what he has written on the subject. All that he has said regarding the Wesleyan Missionaries is fully borne out by the results that have attended their labours, not only in New Zealand, but in the different groups in the Pacific Islands; where, next to the agents of the London Missionary Society, they have been the fearless Pioneers of Christianity.* But I think he has not done justice to the labours of the ministers of the Episcopal Church; at least in the New Zealand Islands. To say that here the clergymen of the Establishment are “men of inferior order as respects accomplishments and wisdom” would be an insult, for it is notoriausly otherwise; and although they have been justly chargeable with trafficking in land, some years ago, such practices have long caused.

I remain &c.,

W. Swainson.

page 221

“Let us mark,” observes Mr. Wakefield, “what our present colonization is, as respects religious provisions. It is nearly all make-belief or moonshine. The subject of religious provisions for the Colonies figures occasionally in speeches at religious meetings and in Colonial Office Blue Books; but whatever composes the thing itself—the churches, the funds, the clergy, the schools, the colleges—appear no where else, except upon a scale of inadequacy that looks like mockery. If England was twice as large as it is, and ten times as difficult to travel about, then one bishop for all England would be as real a provision for the Episcopacy of our Church at home as there is in Upper Canada or indeed in any of our more extensive Colonies; it would be not a real, but a sham provision. Let us pursue the example of Upper Canada. If the one bishop is a mockery of Episcopacy, still, it may be said, there are clergymen of the Church of England in sufficient abundancy. I answer, there are indeed clergymen, but they are not clergymen of the Church of England. They differ from clergymen of the Church of England: they are not supported by endowments which would enable them to be the leaders, rather than the servants, of their flocks: they are not otherwise qualifies to lead any body: being men of an inferior order as respects accomplishments and wisdom. The ministers of a church, whose system of discipline is based on endownent and dignities, they have no rank, and no endowments. Men of mark or promise in the church at home, would not go there; those who do go, are men of neither mark nor promise. Even these are so few in proportion to the great country, as are of course the churches likewise, that out of the towns, it is ten to one that a Church of England emigrant misses his own church altogether, so he joins some other denomination, or, what is more common, perhaps, soon really belongs to none. Thus, what is called an extension of the Church of England in Upper Canada, consists of a single bishop for half a dozen England's, as respects the means of Episcopal action: of a few dependant, half-starved, make-shift clergy, and of, for the greater part of the colony, nothing at all. The Roman Catholic Church is not much better off. Mainly dependant for the subsistence of its priesthood on the voluntary contributions of poor Irish emigrants: it is a starved church like the other: whilst, like the other again, it is a church of endowments, but unendowed. What that is, you may judge by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, of which I assure you that both the Roman Catholic Church and Church of page 222 England in Upper Canada have frequently reminded me, by the contrast between the theory of Government and their actual position.

The Church of Scotland, by reason of the comparative homeliness and democracy of government, is in a less false position in the colonies; and it acquires more easily a far greater resemblance to its mother Church. It never leads colonization, (with the exception, however, of what the Free Church of Scotland is now doing at Otago in New Zealand;) but wherever Scottish Settlers abound, the Scottish Church grows after a while into a position of respectability and usefulness; of very marked respectability and usefulness as compared with that of the great Churches of Rome and England. It is, however, behind another Church which alone in the colonies performs the functions of a church, I mean the Wesleyan Methodists. Oh! but this not a Church! Isn't it? At any rate it has all the properties of one. It has a profound and minute system of government, which comprehends the largest, and takes care of the smallest objects of a Church. It has zeal, talents, energy, funds, order and method, a strict discipline, and (consequently) a conspicuous success. But our concern with it is only in the colonies. There it does not wait, as the other churches do, till there is a call for its services, and then only exhibits its inefficiency; but it goes before settlements; it leads colonisation; it penetrates into settlements where there is no religion at all; and gathers into its fold, many of those whom the other churches neglect. This church alone never acts on the principle that any thing is good enough for the colonies. Whether it sends forth its clergy to the backwoods of North America, the solitary plains of South Africa, the wild bush of Tasmania and Australia, or the forest and fern plains of New Zealand, it sends men of devoted purpose and first-rate ability. It selects its missionaries with as much care as the Propaganda of Rome. It rules them with an authority which is always in full operation; with a far stretched out arm, and with a hand of steel. It supplies them with the means of devoting themselves to their calling. Accordingly it succeeds in what it attempts. It does not attempt to supply the higher classes of emigrants with religious observances and teaching. It does for its own people, who are nearly all of the middle and poorer classes; and above all, it seeks, and picks up, and cherishes, and harmonizes the basest and most brutish of the emigrant population. In the colonies generally it is the antagonist, frequently the conqueror of drunkenness, which is the chief bane of colonial life. It makes war upon idleness, roguery, dirt, obscenity and debauchery. In the convict colonies, and those which are infected by them, it is the great antagonist of Downing Street, whose polluting emigration it counteracts, by snatching some, and guarding others, from the pestilence of convict contamination. If it had the power which the Church of England has in our legislature, it would put a stop to the shame of convict colonization, open and disguised. For it is truly a colonizing church; it knows that in colonization, as you now, so shall you reap: it acts on this belief with vigour and con-page 223stancy of purpose, that puts the other churches to shame, and with a degree of success that is admirable considering that its first “centenary “was only held the other day.

After the Wesleyans, I should award the first rank in point of efficency to the two Churches of Scotland, but especially the Free Church; but merely because in the colonies it is becoming the only Church of Scotland. Next come Independents, Baptists, and other Dissenters from the Church of England. Then the Roman Catholics, whose lower position arises from no want of zeal or organization, but solely from the poverty of the bulk of the Catholic emigrants. And last of all figures the Church of England which, considering the number and wealth of her people at home, and her vast influence accordingly, can offer no excuse for neglecting her colonial people, save one only, that in consequence of her connexion with the state, she is in the colonies, subject to the Colonial Office, and therefore necessary devoid of energy and enterprise.**

I will not meddle here with the causes of the inadequacy of religious provisions for our colonies, still less with the means of removing them. My only object here has been to shew that the actual state of colonial provisions for religion, is well calculated to deter the better order of people, and especially the better order of women from going to live and die in a colony.”

* One of the most interesting Missionary narratives we have ever perused, is that of the Rev. Walter Lawry, Chief Superintendent of the Wesleyan Missions in the Pacific, during a visit to the Friendly and Feegee Islands in the year 1847. Independent of the deep and absorbing interest which every Christian must feel in the main object of the voyage, we were really delighted with the animated sketches of the natives, and the picturesque descriptions of the scenery of these sunny islands, which the accomplished author has every where dispersed through the narrative, so different from the dry details to which such journals are usually confined. We finished the perusal with much regret, astonished at our former ignorance, and wishing that the talented and truly Christian author would permit his entire journal to be published. Why cannot this be done? At present, these delightful and instructive “extracts” are only to be found scattered in the “Wesleyan Missionary Notices” of 1848 (New Series, vol. 6.) W. S.

** How this connection of “Church and State,” can possibly influences the energy and enterprise of the ministers sent out here, is altogether inexplicable, and I believe that in regard to number, there are nearly, if not quite as many ministers of the Established Church in New Zealand, as there of the Wesleyan Connection.—W. S.