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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

But his thoughts were drawn towards New Zealand


The

great need of the mission was a higher class of workers. This need was now to be supplied--in fact, the preparation for its supply had been quietly going on concurrently with the mission itself, though in a different quarter of the globe.

One of the last actions of the great war which was coming to an end when Marsden proclaimed his message of peace in 1814 was the capture of an American frigate in the West Indies. The prize was being towed to a British port when a terrific gale sprang up, and in the midst of the confusion the prisoners attempted to retake the ship. The danger of the situation drove one of the officers to serious thoughts, and on the conclusion of peace he resigned his commission and resolved to enter the service of a higher monarch. For some years he lived quietly in England on his half-pay allowance, but his thoughts were drawn towards New Zealand, a part of the mission field which seemed to offer the greatest peril and the greatest need. The news that the C.M.S. were about to equip a ship for their station in that country seemed to him a call to a post where his nautical skill would be of service. He volunteered to take command of this vessel without pay. His offer could not be accepted, because the project of the ship had already been abandoned, but the Society accepted the lieutenant as one of their missionaries. All arrangements were made for his setting out, when news arrived from the Antipodes that the settlers would

probably soon be driven out of the country. This was no time to be sending out fresh workers. But the candidate was not cast down. He studied surgery, and bided his time. The Society was now coming to the conclusion that lay catechists were undesirable, and it ordered the lieutenant to stay for two years longer in England, and to prepare for Holy Orders. He was now a married man, and could not go up to a university, but he studied at home under the direction of a clerical brother-in-law who had first turned his attention to foreign missions. In 1822 he was once more ready, and had received the orders both of deacon and priest when tidings came of Hongi's first raid. The Committee offered to send him to some quieter part of the world, but he earnestly pleaded to be allowed to adhere to his original purpose. Thus it was that Henry Williams reached New Zealand, at the age of thirty-one years, arriving just in time to save the mission and to give it a new beginning.

The character of the man thus providentially trained and guided is a factor of the utmost moment in our history. He brought to the mission just those qualities of leadership and power in which it had hitherto been deficient, and he was joined somewhat later by a brother whose milder and more intellectual nature supplied what was wanting in his own. Drawn from the professional class, the brothers Williams of course stood for a higher culture and a wider knowledge than could be expected of the settlers who were hitherto in the field. These advantages were by no means unappreciated by the Maoris, but the quality which impressed them most immediately was the personal force and dauntless spirit of the elder man. "He is a _tangata riri_" (i.e., angry man), said a hostile Maori; "he shuts his tent door upon us, and does not sit by our sides and talk; he has the _Atua_ upon his lips, and we are afraid of his anger." He could hold at arm's length two powerful men who were struggling to fly at one another's throats. He soon won the name of "the man with the iron thumb," from the fact that on one occasion, while he held in his hand the key of his study door, he felled to the earth the leader of a gang of bullies who were bent on doing him bodily injury. On another occasion a number of angry natives crowded in upon himself and a companion as they were building a boat. After standing their interference for some time, the builders seized, one a broken oar and the other a stout stake, and after a sharp fray, in which the arm of the carpenter was broken in two places, the intruders were driven from the spot.


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