Christianity Among The New Zealanders

By the Right Rev. William Williams, D.C.L.     Bishop of Waiapu.


IT may seem to many persons a most unfavourable time for publishing to the world a book on Christian Missions, but more particularly one which professes to give an account on Christianity among the New Zealanders.  For some years every mail from New Zealand has been the bearer of intelligence respecting a war, during the course of which there have been many events recorded, showing the Maoris to be a bold and brave people, ready to fight to the last for what they consider to be their rights: but they do not tend to give a very favourable impression of the Christianity which that people are said to have received. But more particularly the development of the Hauhau fanaticism with all its horrid rites, and the cruel murder of poor Volkner, has given too much reason for the public to ask: "Is this the Christianity of the New Zealanders? Have the large sums of money spent upon this work during fifty years, and the labours of your Missionaries  -  valuable men who would have done good service in any other occupation produced no better result? Surely it has been a mistake to think of civilizing, and of bringing over to Christianity, a race of savages, doomed by the Almighty to be shut up in utter ignorance! How much better to have bestowed these efforts in improving the condition of our own countrymen at home! "Such are the sentiments which continually meet the eye in many of the public prints, while the infidel thinks that he is able to refute the Christian by an appeal to the results of his own labours.

It is for this very reason that this little work, which was contemplated some years ago simply as a record of the past, is now given to the world, to show that those who embarked in Missionary labours have not failed in that which they undertook, and are ready to challenge a fair and calm investigation into the history of their proceedings.

The early records of Christianity lead us to expect such events as have transpired in the New Zealand Church. First, our Saviour warned His disciples that many who heard the word gladly would by and by be offended. Then, as the Churches became established in different Provinces of the Roman Empire, we find St. Paul marvelling that the Galatians were so soon removed from Him that had called them into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel; and after a further lapse of time, we gather from the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Lesser Asia, that their religion had begun in those early times most seriously to degenerate from its original purity. Yet there was an abundant harvest of first-fruits, and great multitudes of true believers had been received into the Church. The dominion of Satan had been invaded, and his anger, being stirred up to the utmost, became developed in fierce persecutions, under which many sealed their faith with their blood, and in subtle temptations also, which drew aside the great bulk of professors from the simplicity of the truth.

What have we found in New Zealand but the counterpart of this? There has been a national recognition of the Christian religion; but, while there have been many nominal professors, we have undoubted evidence that large numbers of sincere Christians have been gathered into the fold of Christ. In the meantime, at the very period when the Gospel was beginning to gain a hold upon the people, there came the colonization of the Country, with all the manifold temptations and changes of circumstances introduced by a new race of men. The increase of settlers led to a greater demand for land, of which there was abundance in the country unoccupied; but, as might have been expected, quarrels have arisen, some of which have been the fault of the natives, but a large proportion had their origin in our own mismanagement. The effect of all this has been most prejudicial to the progress of Christianity. The Romish priests have made use of this state of things to procure for their tenets a favourable reception, saying that they have no connexion with the English or with the English Government; and hence the notion which has been impressed upon the natives, that the Protestant Missionaries were sent by the Queen to prepare the way for the colonists. But what is the result? That, notwithstanding all these adverse circumstances, there is still a large number of faithful Christians. It was the command of our blessed Saviour that the Gospel should be preached to all nations, and it is in compliance with this command that missionary labours are carried on in the present day. God has blessed those labours to a greater extent than we had ventured to hope, and, notwithstanding all the trials and discouragements and opposition of the evil one, the Christian knows that the kingdom of Christ will be triumphantly established, and that "He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet."

In preparing the following pages, a large portion of the information has been gathered from the publications of the Church Missionary Society, and much also from personal observation.

For most of the drawings which are inserted in this book, I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev. J. Kinder and the Rev. T. B. Hutton, to whom I wish to express my great obligation.


© G.S. Williams 2003 onwards All rights reserved