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A History of the English Church in New Zealand

Highly endowed as the Maori was in many respects


The anxious and self-accusing spirit which appears in this passage deepens as the soul passes under the awe of the sacramental presence. "My Teacher," writes another, "I have been many moons thinking about the holy feast which Jesus Christ gave to His disciples, and told everybody to eat it in remembrance of Him. It is not a natives' feast; for in New Zealand everybody eats as much as he is able, and as fast as he is able; but this is a feast of belief. If my body were hungry, I should not be satisfied with a piece like a crumb, nor with a drop that will go in a cockle shell; but my soul is satisfied, my heart is satisfied, though it be a crumb and a drop. The thoughts within me yesterday were perhaps right, and perhaps wrong. I said to myself, I am going to eat and to drink at a table placed before us by the Great Chief of the world. I must be very good, and must make myself good within; or, when He sees me, He will show that He is angry. And then I thought, I will not think anything that is not right, nor do anything that is not straight to-day; and then, God will see that my heart is becoming good. But, Mr. Yate, perhaps you will, and perhaps you will not, believe it: I thought no good thoughts, and I did no good works all day; and yet I was still, and not angry with myself, no, not at all. Now, my Teacher, you say what I am to do, before the next day of the Lord's Supper. I think I must pray to God for a new heart, and for His Holy Spirit."

This honest confession agrees with the observations of many outside observers of the change wrought in the Maoris by their new religion. Not all received the "new heart." Indeed, to judge from the accounts of men like Wakefield and Fox, the old heart was hardly touched by the new doctrines. The Christian Maoris were blamed for covetousness and insolence, for dishonesty and lying. "Give me the good old Maori who has never been under missionary influence," was the feeling of many of the colonists. It was the same complaint as is heard in every mission field. But calmer and more unprejudiced observers give a different verdict. The Bishop of Australia reported: "In speaking of the character of the converted natives, I express most unequivocally my persuasion that it has been improved, in comparison with the original disposition, by their acquaintance with the truths of the Gospel. Their haughty self-will, their rapacity, furiousness, and sanguinary inclination have been softened--I may even say, eradicated; and their superstitious opinions have given place, in many instances, to a correct apprehension of the spiritual tendencies of the Gospel. Their chief remaining vices appeared to me to be indolence, duplicity, and covetousness."

In mentioning these three prevailing vices, the bishop lays his finger upon faults which the lover of the Maori has still to deplore. His tendency to indolence shows that Marsden's insistence on industrial training was sound in theory, though not easy to carry out in practice. Highly endowed as the Maori was in many respects, he found it hard to copy the white man in his regular and even life of toil. The Maori was in fact the Greek of the south. Intellectually he was brilliant, and his memory was nothing short of marvellous. Somewhat later than our period, an English surveyor on the west coast of the South Island was disturbed in his camp by a party of Maoris who had come from Ahaura in the valley of the upper Grey. They had never seen a white man before, but they had picked up some knowledge from other Maoris who had come overland from Port Cooper. During the night, "they commenced the recital of the morning service; before morning they had repeated the Litany four times, the whole version of the Psalms, three or four creeds, and a marriage service, and then the whole morning service again."[4] Men who could do this might surely be expected to be equal to anything. Altogether, the unfolding of the Maori nature at this time was such as to arouse the highest hopes for his future greatness. To the friends of the mission in England it seemed as though the angels' songs over a repentant nation could be almost heard. Their orators, like Hugh Stowell, indulged in rhapsodies over the isle "now lovely in grace as she is beauteous in nature"; and even a philosophic thinker like Julius Hare could give it as his deliberate opinion that, for many centuries to come, historians would look back to the establishment of a Christian empire in New Zealand as the greatest achievement of the first part of the nineteenth century.


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