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CENTENARY OF SELWYN., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 81, 5 April 1909
CENTENARY OF SELWYN.
A MAKER OF CHURCH HISTORY. THE EMBODIMENT OF ZEAL, ELOQUENCE, AND MORAL HEROISM. Of all the great and lofty minds whom the Church of England has sent out to propagate the teachings of Christianity among the wild places of the earth, George Augustus Selwyn, first. Bishop of the Anglican province of New Zealand, stands in many ways pre-eminent. A man combining indomitable courage and untiring energy with the Christian fervour of an early apostle, his was by nature the task to achieve the spiritual conquest of the lurking savage and the reckless civilisation of the young world. In the truest sense he was a priest one whose physical Christianity was ever ready to impel homage when less sturdy ethics would have lacked utterly to reach the primitive material of his objective. Had he lived seven hundred years earlier, his earnest virility would probably have found content and occupation in the struggles of Christendom against the Saracen Empire; had he lived in the daj-s of the Great Reform, his final message may not inconceivably have been delivered from the stake of a martyr, but his undoubted metier was that of a proselytising worker in now and untrodden fields, and in New Zealand and' Melanesia he found that scope for Ids great talents and spiritual industry that, as Gisborne in his "New Zealand Rulers and State=men" says, have left ineffaceable footprints on the sands of time in the early colonisation of New Zealand. It was impossible that such a man as Bishop Selwyn, possessing a keen foresighteduess in conjunction with an impetuous and somewhat hot-headed temperament, should confine himself entirely to the spiritual side of his mission im a country still largely dominated by the turbulent influences of two races, and one of them untamed savages, being at either end of a balance that might, at any moment be lost in chaos. And his actions aud attitude have in many quarters been severely criticised as an interference between the Government and the Natives.
"But it cannot, however, be rightly held," says one writer on the subject, "that the head of a spiritual mission to an uncivilised race should stand passively aside while the civilised power is inflicting what he conscientiously believes to be a gross injustice, involving what is held to be the welfare and perhaps the existence of that race. There is no doubt that in New Zealand there was a widely-spread and deeply-rooted feeling in the minds of many native tribes that civilisation would despoil bhem of their lands and make them slaves, causing a great falling-off from Christianity, and a partial insurrection. Under these circumstances, it was not only the right, but the duty, of missionaries to protest against a polity which, in their opinion, tended to bring about | or intensify such consequences. Bishop Selwyn was not one who would shirk his duty. He was no common man, and his mind was cast in no common mould. His great characteristics were force, zeal, eloquence, courage, aud moral heroism. His niain defect was an impetuous temper which occasionally made him dictatorial and indiscreet." HIS ADVENT TO NEW ZEALAND. George Augustus Selwyn was born a hundred years ago to-day at Hampstead, his lather being an eminent lawyer, and after a brilliant college career at St. John's, Cambridge, he was elected a ! fellow, and for a while became a private | tutor at his old school, Eton, ln IS4I the newly-formed Colonial Bishoprics Council desired a man to send as bishop to regulate the work of the few missionaries of the Church of England in the recently-formed colony of New Zealand, and Selwyn was chosen, lie arrived at the Bay of Islands, and made Waimate his' first headquarters. From here he travelled all over his scattered diocese, by water as it offered, but often tramping day after day, through storm and fine weather, in his zealous ana earnest determination to reach every outpost of his diocese. When he stayed at a settler's house, his great desire was to give no trouble, and he would always insist on carrying"j.his own travelling bags, making his own bed, and, if he could manage it surreptitiously, washing his own clothes. In his own home he kept open house: everyone was welcome, aud knew that no formal invitation was needed. "I give good advice, but bad dinners,'' was one of the Bishop's remarks to his guests, the badness being only a synonym for plain roast and boiled. It was at Waimate that John Richardson Selwyn first saw the light, being born there on May 20, 1844, and his principal companions were the little Xitive Maori and Polynesian boys, whom his father used to bring home for instruction at the college he founded for the purpose, St. John's, aftiir his old alma mater at Cambridge. For it was an inadvertent error of the Colonial Offlce in drawing up his bishop's letters patent, assigning to him a diocese stretching from 50 degrees south latitude to 34 degrees north, that tempted Bishop Selwyn to seek for converts further atield, and led him on his voyages among the Melanesian Islands. His first batch of boys I from Polynesia for Christian instruction was remembered by John Selwyn as arriving when ha was five years old. "I remember my father returning one midnight from a cruise among the islands in the schooner Undine. ily mother," he relates, "was aroused by the Bishop's voice exultingly exclaiming 'I've got them.' The 'Them' turned out to be five little savage boys, the first of many who afterwards were brought in by the Bishop to become in time the native clergy in Melanesia." In another passage he writes: "My boyhood, alas, can remember little of my fathef. 1 can remember him suddenly appearing in the middle of the night, fresh from one of those voyages which led to so much daring and which were the forethought and foundation of the Melanesian Mission. I* can recall the dingy cabin of his little schooner, crealcing and groaning in a gale of wind off the coast of New. Zealand, and a figure in wet and sticky oilskins coming down from a long watch to see how my mother and 1 were faring below." Ifl 1846 St. John's College was removed to Aucsland through some difficulty with the owners, and Auckland became the Bishop's headquarters. ESTABLISHING THE CHURCH CONSTITUTION. In 1854 Bishop Selwyn was the chief factor in initiating an destablishing a representative church constitution for the Church of England in New Zealand, whereby the church was endowed with, and has since enjoyed, the great privilege of representative self-government. This was obtained by the labour and influence of Bishop Selwyn from the local Parliament, and was of itself an achievement which commands undying recognition from the communion in New Zealand, and constituted a lead that still remains an" eminently successful precedent for the Episcopal Church in the Mother Country to emulate.
In 1807 Bishop Selwyn returned to England, summoned to attend the first Lambeth Conference, and 'he was with great difficulty persuaded, at the request oi Queen Victoria, to accept the vacant bishopric of Lichfield, after having spent a quarter of a century in New Zealand "He spared no effort and personal risk to save life and property, and to restore peace," writes a critic "Take him all in all, Bishop Selwyn was a man of whom New Zealand, where he worked as no other man could work for a quarter of century, should always be proud." He died April 11, 1878, and lies buried in the churchyard of Lichfield Cathedral.
Associated -with the centenary celebrations, a great public meeting will be held in Auckland on Ascension Day, May 20, at which his Excellency the Governor will speak. '
CENTENARY OF SELWYN., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 81, 5 April 1909
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